Slowly, Slowly

I had a dream I thwarted a bank robbery with my mad shooting skills. I have no mad shooting skills in real life, of course (that I know of), but in the dream I disarmed one of the robbers and shot the others and was the hero.

And it got me thinking that one of the appeals of action movies is the unbridled confidence. Your body can do these things. You will hurt the right people. You can keep going. A certain kind of swagger that signals “I know what’s going on and have control of the situation.”

I don’t think I’ve ever had that swagger.

I am slowly feeling more myself. I find the whole thing embarrassing. I was explaining to S. earlier that it’s both the embarrassment of finally admitting I’m not heading in the direction I want to be heading and the embarrassment that it’s taking this much to try to get me back on track. And I don’t know why I can’t be the same level of kind and understanding to myself as I would be if this were a friend going through this.

I mean, I do have friends on these same medications and I don’t really think of it at all. I mean, I do now because I have questions and they have answers (turns out the drymouth is totally normal). But in general, I think it’s good that they…

Oh shit. Okay, I think I just realized part of it, too. I find it embarrassing that my friends all realized there was a problem and had the guts to go get help. I am embarrassed that I suffered for so long, with it slowly getting worse, because I was chicken. And I guess, too, that I feel like this is a lot to go through if it doesn’t work. I’m afraid, too, of it not working.

God, this is depressing. Please tell me your thoughts on cockapusses…oh, shit, or was it octacocks? below.

What to Say?

Last week, little kids died coming home from school on a bus whose the parents of those children had been complaining about since practically the beginning of the year. Last night, Gatlinburg burned. We’re waiting to hear if anyone has died. It seems impossible that everyone could have survived. The video has been so scary.

And it feels like there’s a rush to say something, to know what to say, and I don’t. It’s horrific. It’s just horrific.

Uncle Walt, No Help

Maybe I should have turned to Mark Twain. I reread Song of Myself last night and it was no comfort. Walt’s ability to find value in everyone is moving and his desire to embrace everything–good and bad–is a challenge in the best way.

But this time through I felt troubled by his insistence that everything that was happening to anyone was happening to him. I wonder about the impulse to believe that one can know everything there is to know, that one can appreciate the plight of someone else without experiencing it. I go back and forth on this. I think empathy is important. I think imagining ourselves in others’ situations is important. I also do think we all would be better off if we watched each other as if we all have value and listened the same.

But I still come away from it feeling like the 29th bather part of the poem is the honest critique of the poem’s approach. You can observe. You can imagine yourself splashing in the water. You can even feel connected to the other bathers. But what connection do they have to you?

A good poem changes meaning as you change. Song of Myself is still one of my very favorite poems. I remember reading it for the first time in college and being blown away by it. I didn’t even know a poem like that was possible. I didn’t know something “that old” could be so interesting and invigorating. I remember stanza upon stanza just breaking my brain and I loved talking about it.

I loved reading it again in grad school, with a professor who would spend the whole class discussing one word choice, the implications of that particular word, as if we could reach transcendence by thinking hard enough, by cracking the poem open.

And I survived my first lonely months in Nashville by reading it out loud to myself. I’ve loved it every time I’ve reread it over the years.

This time, though, I realized what a profoundly lonesome poem it is. Which, I suppose, is an insight for our troubled times.


Lord, I want to nap all the time. Slip myself under a warm blanket and just sleep. And this is better than it was! Now I just want to nap. I am not napping.

No, instead, I’m going to turn myself to Walt Whitman this evening. I will report back if I learn anything hopeful.

The Hardest Afghan I’ve Ever Made

I’ve made afghans that were like endurance tests and I’ve made afghans that forced me to learn a lot of new skills. I’ve never before made an afghan were I was like, whew, I will NEVER do that again. Until this one. But it’s done and it looks great, except for the weird ripples, which I am just thinking of as ruffles. But look at that awesome border!

And I think it does look like the picture my cousin’s daughter drew.


For Christmas for me, the Butcher had his DNA done at They advise you to have a relative of each gender do it, to try to pick up on everything from both sides of the family, so I may have mine done at some point.

But, it turns out that we’re pretty boringly white. It has us at 31% “Europe West,” which is Germany/France, northern Spain/Great Britain; 25% Scandinavia; 22% Ireland; 9% Iberian Peninsula; and 9% Great Britain.

In some ways, this differs from what I know of our family history. Hulda Anderson, my great-great grandmother, came over from Sweden. She married a guy who came over from Germany. Their daughter married a guy whose parents came over from England. The Riches were British way back, but had been in America for centuries.  Clayton Rich, my great grandfather, married an Irish woman. So, my mom should be 1/4 Great Britain, 1/4 Irish; another 1/4 Great Britain; 1/8 Swedish; 1/8 German, with some Dutch we know of thrown in there.

My dad’s family is also pretty well-known, except for the Phillipses, though I have some educated guesses about them, and I think they were originally British. So, my dad’s side of the family should be the Robinsons–came over from England–1/4 British; the Sanborns–old American family, but originally from England–1/4; the Phillipses, probably English, 1/4; and the Heistands, who were originally German–1/4.

So you can see why I expected to find a lot more Great Britain in the mix. Maybe the Butcher just takes after my mom a lot? Or, my working hypothesis is that, if you look at the places you find people with our DNA and the places you find the Germanic tribes, you’d find those were the same places. We could be old Saxons or even older members of the Lower Rhine Groups and the people they fucked.

Anyway, fascinating. But as of yet, no help in contextualizing the Phillipses.


Yesterday was the first day in two weeks that I haven’t felt the gentle cocoon of a nap wrapping around me every single second of the day. I still feel like my mind is very still in ways that I feel uncertain about. I mostly experience my head as this storm of ideas that, when I need to write, I just surf down, seeing what connections are being made. I trust that something is always happening in there.

I have spent a lot of time lately staring off into space, waiting for those connections to get made and they’re not quite happening or not happening very quickly. I can also sense that is changing, so I’m not yet worried that I’ve lost my mojo or something. But it’s quieter in here, like the nap cocoon has receded physically, but maybe not mentally.

So, I haven’t told my parents and I don’t know why. I mean, on the one hand, it’s not their business, so it’s not a big deal. But I have now lied to them about it and let the lie go two conversations. My dad asked me if I’d read his Christmas letter and I lied and said I haven’t been getting on the computer at night lately and then when he called last night and asked if my cutting off of electronic devices had helped my sleep, I said I hadn’t been doing it long enough to tell. But really, I’m just napping on the couch under the afghan I’m trying to crochet.

I’m not opposed to lying to my parents, for many reasons, but I am not sure why I’m lying now. Which goes back to the cloud in my head. Certainly, way down in my brain somewhere is the reason, but I can’t get to it.

Though now that I’ve slowly written this all out, I think that it’s because, in part, I don’t want to hear that I just didn’t try hard enough. It’s amazing, when you think about it, that I have a master’s degree, a good job in a field I love, a side hustle writing for the Scene, and enough short-story sales under my belt to qualify me for the SFWA, plus a bunch of friends I adore, a bunch of afghans that make me happy, and my hobby of going around looking at things AND YET everything wrong with me is supposedly because I don’t try hard enough. If I just tried harder, I could be thin and pretty and married and not be afraid of heights and open stairwells and so on. I’m just kind of embarrassingly lazy and unwilling to work on my problems, as identified by others.

I think, fundamentally, I can’t do this part–where it’s weird and uncomfortable and I’m kind of uncertain about what’s going on in my brain–while also having to ward off the usual bullshit.

And my parents aren’t monsters. There’s a good chance that, if I told them, they’d not chastise me for not trying hard enough to fix this through sheer force of will. But I’m still protecting myself.

The Hill We All Roll Down

As you know, Sonnyboy is trying to learn to roll down the hill, for some reason known only to him. We have had a few successful rolls, but they are terrifying. Except today he positioned himself on a less-steep part of the hill and rolled down it and then looked at me with a big doofy grin and came over for head scratches.

I’m trying to understand this without anthropomorphizing it too much, but I also find this incredible. Not the rolling part. I can’t even be sure he really understood he was on a less-steep part of the hill. And I’ve just taken as a given that he for some reason wants to learn to roll down the hill and I am, in effect and pun intended, rolling with it.

But why would he come for head-scratches? I don’t want him to roll down the hill (I also don’t not want him to roll down the hill, of course. I’m just a curious bystander to the rolling.) so I’m not giving him any verbal commands. Sometimes he rolls behind me, so I don’t even think he’s picking up on something visual I’m doing. I’m not cuing him to roll down the hill, I don’t think. It’s purely something he does for himself that only involves me because I’m on the other end of the leash and need to try to keep him from tangling himself in it.

But somehow, for some reason, he must think that rolling down the hill is rewarding to us. He must think that I would want to pat his head in this moment because I am pleased. Maybe? I definitely feel like the thing that is happening is some sense of “we” between he and me is being created. He’s doing this thing that makes him happy and that must please us.

I think that Sonnyboy only understands at a very rudimentary level when we’re displeased with him. And even then it has to be immediate and loud. “No!” when he steps on your foot will get him to back off from stepping on your foot. But “no!” when you find him eating garbage seems only to confuse him.

So, I’m fascinated by this, because it seems to be some level of recognition that if he does this thing, I will have feelings about it.

It Must be America

Yesterday I went over to Coble’s and delivered the peacock afghan. Both she and her husband said that it looked better in person than it had in pictures–“even more beautiful”–and it always did because I could never get the duller green to photograph right. It always looked more brown than it actually is.

I haven’t read a book since September. I haven’t been able to find comfort in it. I have been thinking, though, that maybe now is the time to go back to Song of Myself. We aren’t anywhere Walt Whitman couldn’t have guessed we might go and yet he still found ways to love this place.

But I spent the weekend having good conversations with people I trust and crocheting and napping, glorious napping.

How Can I Keep from Singing?


The ripples are killing me! I think they might somewhat resolve in the wash, but I blame those three rounds of back-post-double-crochet, where you can see the afghan already not taking on a square shape. But I think the weight of it will eventually pull those rows straight. We’ll see. If it were wool. I’d figure blocking would fix it. But one drawback to acrylic is that you have to live with a certain amount of “I do what I want!”

I’m liking it, though and I think I’m almost done. I mean it’s for a kid. It doesn’t have to be huge.

So, on the other matter, the crazy-pants matter, I have decided I do notice a difference, aside from the fact that, if I sit down for too long, especially in a sunny spot, like right here on the couch, all I can think about is napping. No, also, I feel like singing again in the mornings. I’ve made up a song for the dog. I tried out a Lana Del Ray-ish version of “Wild Rover.” I realized I knew all the words to Liz Phair’s “Polyester Bride.” I have thoughts about All Them Witches.

That’s nice. I missed that.

Remember Reagan?

The truth is that I don’t, really. I remember being afraid we would die in a nuclear war he started. I remember thinking that there’s no way he’d let Genesis air that video more than once. I vaguely remember him being shot. I don’t have a sense of what it was like for adults. To what extent did people know he was suffering from Alzheimer’s? I mean, obviously, no one said it. I can’t even remember if we had a word for it, then.

But I don’t have a sense of how public the fact that he couldn’t do his job was. Any my impressions and again, based on me being a child, is that it wasn’t apparent at least, not until his second term.

I have been thinking a lot about my dad, lately, seventy-one years old. He’s not senile or anything. He’s just an older version of himself. He worries a lot about dying. If you talk to him too late at night, he sometimes isn’t very with it, though I am not either, so fair enough.

Everything else aside, conflicts of interest, whatever, if my dad were president and there were a way for me to sit in on his every meeting to make sure I knew what was said, I would. Especially if I saw my dad surrounding himself with some of his friends. And my dad and I are on the same side politically! I think my dad would mostly support and advocate things I liked.

But I’d be in there because I don’t think he could cut it and I know he wouldn’t dare tell me I couldn’t be.

I’ve been thinking about that a lot over the past day or so–from which direction the push to have Ivanka sitting in on meetings is coming. What it means about Trump’s ability to do the job. What that means for us.

My Excuse

Sometimes this week, I’ve felt guilty or like I wasn’t doing my part because I just can’t spend all day thinking about all the ways this is going to be terrible and then railing against them on social media. But I can’t do that and function in the world.

And I realize that may be “normalizing” but…I don’t know. I don’t really have any good conclusion. I am afraid. And the dog needs to be walked. So, what do you do, but walk the dog? Laugh with friends? Go on?

A Difficult Thing


I made this whole inner part to the third square before I realized I had accidentally base-13ed a square I needed to have base-12. I didn’t bother to frog it. I just turned it into a hat for the dog. He found it far, far less amusing than I did.

I think the thing that is hardest about these squares is that each one is unique. You don’t learn much that aids you in the next from the one you’ve just done. But I think I’m going to sew the four squares together and then just build an enormous border on it, until it is the size I’d like it to be. It’s for a child, so it doesn’t have to be huge.

The thing I most dislike about crocheting, though, is the sense I have that it’d be much easier if I had basic math skills. Everything is a story problem I’m going to not know how to solve except for trying it, failing, and fixing it. Possibly there’s a metaphor for life in there.

Slowly Rewiring

So, the doctor says that the drug works differently on different people. If you find it keeps you awake, you should take it in the morning. If it makes you sleepy, you should take it with dinner. Okay, but when then is the safest time to try to take it the first time?

I picked evening, figuring both that anxiety is a kind of weird alertness and that it’s an easier thing to recover from if you can’t sleep at night than it is if you’re falling asleep during the day.

And whoa, I have been sleeping. I think I could easily sleep ten hours a night. But I’m having vivid, crazy dreams. Like just jumbles of random semi-connected things. When I compare them to the dreams I had been having lately that were so literal and so real I mistook them for reality, I feel like my mind is resuming a kind of lightness.

Maybe I’m being overly hopeful because I just really want this to work. I still had problems in the convention center yesterday, with the big open balconies, so yeah. I mean, I know it’s not even been a week and that’s not enough time. But I’m just saying. I may be noticing things that aren’t actually happening yet.

In unrelated news, this kid’s afghan is hard as heck! I messed up the third square so bad I’m just going to have to abandon it and do a new one. I have set myself a hard task.

A Person in the World

My friend from high school, the Man from GM, who no longer works at GM, which feels like a testament to how long this blog has been around–the Butcher is no longer a butcher; the Man from GM no longer works for GM–is here on a visit. It’s complicated. Not in a fun way, but just in the “this is the guy your dad thinks you should have married” way and in the “I am really nauseous from the new drugs and can’t really concentrate on anything more than that” way.

I feel incapable of being my best self, I guess is what I’m saying and the situation calls for a kind of relaxed generosity of spirit I’m having a hard time mustering, because I really just want to eat like four thousand Tums and go back to bed.

This, too, shall pass. I adjusted to the metformin. I’ll adjust to this. But damn.


Something Beautiful

I really love how this turned out. The border, though, god, it took so long! I whooped this thing up in about a month and the border took a week! A week! One fourth of the time to do this whole afghan was the motherfucking border. But it turned out really lovely.


Did I tell you guys about my next afghan? It’s still a little nebulous. I’m trying to translate a picture my cousin’s little girl drew into afghan squares. That part is going surprisingly well, at least so far. But the four squares are not going to make an afghan. So, I can’t decide the best way to enlarge it into something she can use. Still, look at how it’s going!



I think the thing that kills me–and it kills me about myself, too, so I’m not sitting on a moral high ground here–is everyone’s talk about resistance, about fighting, about standing up to this. And I have to say that it reminds me of all the gun nuts who “need” guns because they need to be able to stand up to the tyranny of the government.

And I just don’t see how it’s supposed to work, the fighting. There is no authority to appeal to. No one recently elected who can be shocked into changing their ways. We don’t even know if we will have a government like we are used to having or if Trump will be an autocrat with no respect for traditions (very likely) or if he’ll get bored and/or overwhelmed and go play golf while Mike Pence runs things (also seems possible) or what.

I don’t know. I think it’s important to just say “no.” But I also think that there are types of pushing back that grant legitimacy to the thing you’re pushing against. Think of it this way. Say your neighbor builds a high concrete barrier in your back yard to keep from having to see you. Is standing there all day trying to push it down effective? Or is seeing that it’s only six feet wide and going around it effective? I mean, obviously, the barrier is a problem that needs to be dealt with, but there has to be some balancing on our parts between addressing it and getting on with our lives.

Since the wall is on your property, you can spray paint “Fuck you” on the side of it that faces your neighbor’s house. Make them sorry they put the wall up every day until you get it taken down.

I guess what I’m thinking about is that this election is supposed to be a punishment for a lot of us. We are supposed to be sorry we crossed the Trump voters and we’re supposed to get ready to be a lot sorrier.

I think then the most important thing is to not be sorry, to not accept our punishment as something we “earned,” to not try to appease the punishers by trying to figure out what we’ve done wrong and to promise to never do it again. Or to even give the appearance of doing that.

Wanting to marry the person you love is not wrong. Not wanting to marry anyone is not wrong. It’s not wrong to want to use the bathroom in public. It’s not wrong to move away to go to school. It’s not wrong to not speak English. It’s not wrong to be poor. It’s not wrong to need medical care. It’s not wrong to be fine and excited that we had a black president. It’s not wrong to be sad that we didn’t get a woman. It’s not wrong to be appalled and disgusted that people voted for the guy endorsed by the KKK who now don’t want you to see them as racist. And on and on.

The Obama years and the social gains we made during them are not evil and we are not wrong for enjoying them.

I feel grim. I feel angry. But solemnity is a proper response to seriousness and we live in a dreadfully unserious moment. I’m not arguing that we shouldn’t be mindful, but I keep thinking that taking this so serious grants a level of legitimacy to it that it has no right to.

We have to laugh in the face of this. It’s our civic duty.

I Went!

I went to the doctor. I described my life. She said there’s no need to be embarrassed. Anxiety is very common. She thinks I have general anxiety disorder, which I was going to argue against, but then, like, I can’t use the stairs without having a panic attack, so I guess I’m arranging my life a lot so that I don’t notice that I have this thing that affects me all the time, which is nuts, but okay.

So, she’s going to do what she can for me, which is basically sertraline every day and alprazolam for when I’m having a panic attack, so that I don’t, you know, get stranded in rural Tennessee again.

If this doesn’t help–though I am wondering how I’ll judge “help;” I guess I’ll have to wait and  see–then I get to go to a psychiatrist who specializes in anxiety who can either prescribe other drugs or work with me to develop ways to retrain my brain or both.

But I had to laugh when she was describing all the ways these drugs would help me because it sure as shit seemed like I could get the same effect from becoming a pothead.

Anyway, I was embarrassed and it was horrible, but it was also fine and I’m glad I gutted up and did it.

But I also want to say, just for the sake of thoroughness and trying to understand myself, that I think I was avoiding this because, at some level, I have internalized my dad’s belief that some forms of mental stuff is just because you’re soft and a baby. And I am soft and a baby, so I kept waiting to work up the strength of will to get over it.

But I told the doctor, too, that the hardest part about the panic attacks–which you guys know–is the feeling that I can’t integrate what my senses tell me–everything is fine, look, you are not falling–with the sense that I am, in fact, falling and going to die. And, you know, obviously, I don’t want to die, especially not in a really unpleasant way, so if all it took were willing myself to be better, I would have done it before now.

So, that’s that. Victory is mine. I have a mental illness, which I kind of knew, considering the panic attacks, but I also got to be in denial about because I never had a doctor say it to me. The upside is that I guess this means I don’t have to break myself of the habit of saying crazypants or lunatic or nuts or whatever, because now I’m just reclaiming the terms, which is good, because I can’t give up lunatic, because I love the idea of the moon reaching in you and pulling at you and making you do things. The moon, the inescapable hypnotist.

Ha, I should write a story called “The Inescapable Hypnotist.” Not tonight, though.


Today I get to go talk to my doctor about my panic attacks. I am, as you can imagine, very anxious about it. I’m hugely embarrassed, just in general, and I am mortified that, as a part of talking about my general anxiety, I have to thread the needle through talking about how stressful it is that people make jokes about people wanting to shoot me while also not being paranoid about being shot.

Like, how is this a life? Why would someone do this?

The Butcher wants me to get a gun “in case” and that’s making me more stressed. And yet, I admit, it’s tempting.

I try not to miss Sadie much or at least not to dwell on the missing of her much, because dead is dead and it’s not good for either of us to stand too long at that door. But I did feel a level of “Sure, try to fuck with me. That will go well for you.” when she was around that, bless his heart, I don’t feel with old Sonnyboy here, who is sad today because it was too cold this morning to practice his boss hill-rolling skills.


I guess the things I want to say are this: this isn’t the fault of third-party voters or lack of minority turn-out or discontent with the economy. This is the government white people–men and women–want. It’s one they enthusiastically at every level have voted for. And that I think the rest us white people need to face honestly and squarely.

For as long as I’ve been an adult, most people I know have scoffed at the idea of whiteness being an affirmative identity in the United States (by “affirmative” I just mean something that people recognize as being a definable thing). It was “invisible.” It was “the default.”

At the same time the people who participate in the general public discourse were advancing this line of thinking–and I don’t think they were completely wrong. I do think that one trait of whiteness is that white people can be steeped in white culture without having to consciously decide that’s what we want.–racists and white nationalists were talking about white culture and defining it and shaping it and their ideas about what it means to be white permeated out into the broader white culture. Whiteness defined by white racists.

So, the lesson I take from this is that every white person was raised up, to some extent, in a white culture heavily shaped by white racists and, since those of us who would like not to be white supremacists have stupidly neglected to think that whiteness was anything other than a non-thing, we don’t have a way of understanding ourselves that isn’t racist (though, in fairness, it’s hard to imagine with white America’s history, what that could have looked like). And as such, now is not the time for me, a member of the group that wants this, to run myself to the front of the parade that doesn’t want this. Obviously, part of white supremacy is believing you should be a leader, that your proper place is at the front of any movement. We should resist that urge.

I am afraid.

I have fielded calls in the past from dear friends, from my own mother, asking me if this comment or that comment at Pith was a veiled threat, if I was in danger. And I have said that I don’t think that’s the majority of people and I don’t think anyone would act on that.

But it is the majority and they will act. Am I important enough for them to act against me? No, probably not. But am I an easy enough target? That I don’t know.

And even in typing that paragraph, I want to cry and roll my eyes at the same time. It seems ridiculous. We don’t live in a country where people bother with third-rate pundits at the alt.weekly. At least, that’s what I think. But I didn’t think we’d elect Donald Trump and here we are. So, I don’t really know how to process this, except to be afraid.

And I am afraid for my friends who will lose their health insurance and who could see their marriages broken up. I’m afraid for the people who will be assaulted and brutalized. I am afraid of the mob. I am afraid of the fever dreams of white Christian America and how they will play out for me and the people I care about.

And I feel despair because I see so many people who are like “We’ll just do the work and hold the line” and I want to know to what authority you’re appealing when you think the work matters or the line matters. The people that hate us?

Which, also, please, don’t tell me now is the time for coming together and healing. You don’t get to hate me and then expect me to love you. You can hate me, but I will hate you back.

I know this happens. I know it happened after Reconstruction. I know my great-grandmother was a star athlete in high school and my mother was told if she ran more than two miles, her uterus would collapse. There’s always backlash. This is backlash.

It still stings.

Here We Go

I remember watching the election in Charleston, South Carolina, and how anxious I was. I ordered room service and the woman who brought it up to me, a black woman, seemed surprised to find that I was hoping Obama won. They weren’t allowed to talk about the election where guests might overhear.

When he won, a small group of hotel employees came to my door and we quietly cheered.

I doubt I was the only Obama supporter in the hotel, knowing the conference I was there for, but I was the one they knew about.

I am nervous for today. But I try to keep in mind that the view from my window is not the only view.

Weekend of Mulling

I didn’t spend much time mulling this weekend, but I spent a lot of time doing things I will need time to mull over.

And when I got home yesterday, there was a fire in my fireplace. It made me so happy.

I’m almost done piecing this afghan together and then I get to put on its fancy border. It feels like it’s gone very quickly, this afghan, but I also feel like I ended up with more time than usual to work on it, so maybe it hasn’t been that short a time, just worked differently. Each square took me somewhere between an hour and an hour and a half to do, so right there, that’s 30 to 50 hours.

This morning, when I walked the dog at our usual time, it was gloriously light out and so I got to see the look on the dog’s face when he pitched himself down the hill in an effort to roll/wiggle down it. And this morning, he managed a complete roll–on his feet, down on his back, feet over body, back on his feet–which he seemed uncertain about because, while he clearly wants to get down the hill without walking, wiggling on his back down the hill is slower and I think he feels more in control. Rolling down the hill? I can tell he has mixed feelings about it. The rolls he does that take him down the hill instead of across the hill face always seem to freak him out a little.

Today, he rolled down the hill, one complete roll, and he came up from the roll with this look of grim determination–or, I mean, let’s be frank, as much “grim” “determination” as this goofball can deliver–on his face, like “Okay, yeah, I got this.” I spoke some encouraging words to him and he did seem to shake it off and look up at me with a happy smile.

But I have to tell you, I found myself really moved by it. I’m kind of tearing up right now just trying to write about it. He is a simple dog. When we got him, he didn’t understand wooden floors and he didn’t know how to run. I’m partially convinced that he doesn’t understand “no” because he’s never been allowed to do things, so how can he comprehend not doing them?

But somewhere along the way this year he seems to have formulated an idea–if rolling is fun, rolling down the hill would be super fun–and he has set out to acquire the skills he needs to make this happen. He has been learning to roll, then roll completely over, while also figuring out how to navigate down the hill without using his feet. All of these things have been fun. He takes great joy in them. But the times he has rolled down the hill accidentally I can tell have been scary as fuck for him.

But he keeps doing it and today, no, it wasn’t fun, but it wasn’t freak-out scary for him. And I swear, I don’t think I’m anthropomorphizing–I think the look he gave me when he got down the hill was pride. He did the scary thing he wanted to do and it wasn’t as scary as it had been.

And I find this marvelous, in both senses of the word. I love it and I marvel at it. Not the rolling. But watching this dumb, dumb dog slowly, over many, many, many days, months of days, practically a half year of days, formulate an idea, imagine himself doing something and then slowly make a plan for it and to work on that plan even when a component of it is scary as hell.

How does this even happen? I mean, we take it for granted. But he could not brain. When we got him, he literally could not brain. And now he has at least in this instance a sense of himself doing something I don’t think he’s ever done before. In other words, a sense of himself and a level of imagination and a desire. I mean, it’s not just that he’s problem-solving. That blows me away, considering he’s stymied by “there was a piece of pork chop in your hand and you opened your hand and where is the pork chop?! You are holding out your finger and thrusting it toward the ground. Is the pork chip stuck to your finger? Alarm! Where is the pork chop?!!!??!!!”

But it’s also that he understood he had a problem. I’m amazed that we’ve spent so long on step two, which indicates he has hope for a resolution, because I cannot understand what has happened that allows him to see that step one–I have a want and I can figure out what this want is–exists.

One thing that I admire and find confusing and lovely about dogs is that they are not human. Their brains don’t work like ours. You own a dog and you live with an inexplicable mystery that wants to sleep on the couch with you, for some reason, even though you haven’t even brushed your teeth yet. You live with a dog, you live with something that will, at heart, always be a stranger to you and yet, unlike stranger-ness in humans, it’s exactly the dog’s stranger-ness to you and your stranger-ness to it that allow you to care about each other.

So, I don’t know what’s going on in old Sonnyboy’s head. But I think there has, at least in this one way, been a paradigm shift for him and he has developed some sense of anticipation and, in order to do that, some sense of himself and of planning that I just genuinely don’t think he had before.

And I am in awe, such awe, to be witnessing it. I am seeing a new thing slowly coming into being. It’s extraordinary.


I have said this before, that I always expected that I would someday get married to a man who went down to the bar to sit with his friends and complain about how much he hated me while I sat at home on the phone talking to my friends about how much I hated him, and, though I love y’all, I have often felt like the people I’ve said this to have assumed it was just some sad quirk of my head.

I had coffee today with a woman who grew up in the same town I did. I said that to her and her eyes filled with tears.

“Yes,” she said, “that is how it was.”

Which, I mean, I knew. I knew. But to hear someone else say it…

Nice Things

–I only have four more squares to complete on this afghan. Each square takes like an hour and a half, so it’s not going to be quick, but the squares are so big it’s also okay that it takes so long. I really love the pattern, too. It’s very satisfying.

–My next afghan is going to be me trying to replicate a picture my cousin A.’s daughter drew. Should be fun and I’ve being studying up on a crochet technique called Persian or something. I mostly ignore names of crochet techniques because they all strike me as vaguely exoticizing. And yet, I still call it an afghan, so… whatever. The point is that this is a technique for using two different color yarns in the same round without having to cut and tuck a lot of ends, which, as we all know, is my mortal enemy. Anyway, I’m excited. But I’m also hoping that she’ll like it. I’m going to make something very similar to what she put on paper but whether what she put on paper is what was in her head, I don’t know.

–My fireplace is ready to go, if it ever gets cold.

–I had such a nice lunch with nm yesterday and we got the giggles the way you do when it feels like you’re on a swing at the outmost point of its arc.

–I am kind of thinking of committing to writing a story a month next year, just for the habit of it.

–I’m ready for a really hopeful piece of pop culture. I’m ready to feel some hope in our culture, too, but small steps.