You handsome dog, you.

My dad turns 70 today, and there aren't too many people for whom I can find everything I need for the perfect 70th birthday gift at Fleet Farm. Perhaps I need to find new people.

He's a handsome dad. This buddy of his, however, has seen better days. Dad asked my sister- in-law to get a picture of him and Zeke before Zeke passes. He's got a few visible masses on his legs, his eyesight is failing him, and he moves like the old worn out dog he is. He's not too crabby, though. You can still set his tail wagging by giving him a little love....just like people, right?

I don't even really know how we acquired Zeke. That's how life sometimes works on the farm. A dog wanders onto your property, nuzzles your hand, and their home is secured until someone calls around or you get a tip over coffee about someone missing their dog at the local quick-mart. No one called, and years later dad is still feeding Zeke. Zeke is an outdoor dog, which means he sleeps in the garage or out by the horse barn when it is warm outside.  He still gets treats like day old donuts from the convenience store or coveted meat scraps from holiday meals.  But he does not mingle with the riffraff indoors, which has always seemed like a smart move to me. I like a guy who chooses his battles and the other mongrels who rule the indoor roost have never been worth his trouble.

 Zeke's been secure in his job, keeping my dad company as he putters on his tractors and attends to other outdoor pursuits. Zeke cavorts and frolics in the great outdoors, ripping apart soccer balls and other grandchild toys, preferably the newest ones,hauling around dead animals that he deems fun to play with, trying to engage the other mongrels in an outdoor romp, and otherwise keeping dad in his sights when he needs the occasional love pat.

This picture request was just one way of prepping for the anticipated loss of an outdoor friend.

But my dad, the real handsome dog, has miles to go before he sleeps. We have some hills in South Dakota to explore, a few more fires to build, and it's not quite time to let the motor oil run dry....he's got that gift card from Fleet Farm to use!

Happy 70th Birthday, you handsome dog, you.

What are you thinking?

I've been quiet about the gun control issue because I just don't really have any good answers. I don't like to speak out or up until I feel adequately informed about facts and clear about my personal ideas 

Also, I am not a gun owner. I have little experience with or interest in guns. Truth be told, I don't even really care for Nerf guns. But I am not naive enough to think that I should suggest banishing guns simply because I don't like them.  That would be nonsense.

And that is exactly what I think the conversation should not include....nonsense.

For example, the NRA did not consult their most reasonable members, or me, because they released this ad.  We already know that every single president, Democrat or Republican, and his family, as well an other high ranking officials and their families, are fully protected by the Secret Service, all of whom carry some pretty powerful heat. This point is not in line with the issue at hand....unstable people getting a hold of guns that harm innocent people.

And so I feel uncertain because I just want this conversation to be one upon which we start with the common ground, which is something that has to be done for the sake of our kids and our own feelings of personal safety.  Starting from positions of extreme (They want to take away our 2nd amendment rights! and Guns kill! Ban them all!) never seems to work. People get mad, accuse, and react before an exchange ever occurs.

Some might argue that the president is reacting to Sandy Hook and gun owners will be the ones paying for it. 

But, these things keep happening because we haven't learned our lesson. Albert Einstein said it best:  "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results." 

In order to stop this horrific trend, we must do something differently and because those could have been our kids or grandchildren or students or nieces or nephews or neighbors.  I would argue that they were.  Anyway you look at it, we all have an iron in this fire.

So as I see it, nothing our president seems to be seeking seems unreasonable. It doesn't seem like asking for stricter and more uniform background checks is a bad thing. Responsible gun owners are not going to be affected by the changes since they have nothing to hide. If you do have something to hide or something amiss, a pause to clear the uncertainty seems just fine to me. From what I understand, which I admit isn't a lot because the laws vary from state to state, is that it can take me more time to purchase a fireworks pack or prescription strength Tylenol from Target than it does to purchase a gun in some states. That does not make sense.

As set our by the second amendment, people have the right to bear arms. I freely admit to never having once considered this. The notion of needing to protect myself or my family with a gun is as foreign to me as the Chinese language. I might be clear about where I personally stand in this conversation, but it is not the same as being naive. With each Columbine and Sandy Hook, we are charged with a responsibility to move beyond our personal agendas to do something not only different but better with sense and sensibility.

Our kids do not need to live in fear, especially at school.  

I personally need to learn more. I need to remain thoughtful and open. I need to talk to my legislators because, quite frankly, they need our help. It's easy to forget, but we do get to set the agenda our elected officials carry out. Now is the perfect time to be reminded of this since many are up for re-election in 22 months.

Mostly though, I need to be a part of a solution.  I don't think my conscience could bear to do otherwise.

If nothing else motivates us, our conscience is a good place to start. You know, that inner sense of what is right or wrong in one's conduct or motives, impelling one toward right action? (thanks, Mr. Webster)

I think that's why it's so compelling to all of us now. We feel weighted by our conscience. At the same time, we are baffled by all the prongs and complexities of the issue at hand. 

We can't let that bog us down because it's clear we all have at least one brick to lay on this long and winding path to a better way... even if we aren't quite sure what that way might be. My advice is simply to pick up the first brick.

Put on your Friday Pants!

Some people like to celebrate the end of the week with a drink. 

Me, I whoop it up by ordering or making pizza.

But Thing 2 gets his weekend groove on by wearing what we have dubbed his "Friday Pants".  He starts talking about them on Wednesday because they need to be RTW (ready to wear).

"Are my Friday Pants ready?" he asked me Wednesday morning through a muffled mass 
of pillows and blankets and stuffies. From the whiny tone, his emergence from this warm heap did not seem imminent and I could sense a difficult morning brewing.  So with a cheerfulness I did not feel, I injected drama and flair into my voice as I explained how GREAT it was to be on TOP of the MOUNTAIN of Wednesday and the view downhill to Friday was FREE AND CLEAR!!!! It was not the time to mention there would be one more swimming practice, 3 more rounds of homework, and a dreaded spelling test. All these parts were left out because the end goal was making it to the bus ON TIME without starting another round of woe. Some mornings you really do have to work harder than others.

This perked him up enough to get out of bed (Score 1 for Mom, extra points for guile) and begin the quest for his Friday Pants. He expressed concern that his Friday Pants weren't in his drawer or anywhere in his room and he hoped that meant they were in the washing machine.  

I probably don't really need to point out that this is the only time he expresses any awareness that I am Queen Laundress and that I alone hold the key to his Friday Pants happiness. Once, when he was around 5 and craved order, he discovered a love of matching and folding socks and I felt a brief flash of hope. This lasted two weeks and my dreams of a willing laundering compatriot were dashed yet again. Thing 1 flirted with me as well to no long-term rewards on my part. So, at least in this area of domesticity, I must rule with an iron fist.  Or two.

"No, " I said, "but they will be."

"Good. And you know, I should change the name to Weekend Pants because I don't really like to get out of them until you make me on Monday."

My chirpy reply of " 'Tis true my little Friday Pants King!" earned me a fantastical eye roll. I double dog dare all of my reader's children to top that eye roll. But everyone in this little house is well aware of much he does not like to divest himself of his Friday Pants until Monday morning.  But we do have standards. Sometimes. If we leave the house, or 24 hours has passed since he's changed them, or there will be visitors or, and most importantly, when they fail the crucial sniff test. This dilemma is dealt with on an 'as needed' basis.

To the outsider, these Friday Pants look like your average charcoal grey sweat pants. To Thing 2, they are perfect. They are not double layered, they are not made of some sort of windbreaker-like material, they are not so fleecy that he sweats, and they have no itchy scratchy tag or terrible holes. The drawstring cannot be seen and they are long enough and thick enough and just everything enough to be considered Friday Pants.

It always has been and always will be the little things that mean the most.

Or, maybe not so little.

If you haven't already, I hope you find your own version of Friday Pants... no matter their size.


Everyone is either fired up about their New Year's resolutions or steadfast in their avoidance of making them.  As always, I tend to fall somewhere in the middle.  The benefit to getting older is that if you have been paying attention to yourself and you listen to yourself, you really can set yourself up for success because you recognize exactly what you are working with.

Like many, the past has found me operating on an all or nothing basis and I then cut myself little slack when I inevitably fail. But by nature we are imperfect and the best we can do is to learn how to work with those imperfections.What I am finally learning now is how to treat myself when plans go awry. Which they will.  Anne Lamott calls this Plan B. I have learned to always have a Plan B, Plan C, and even a Plan D. 

I now like the new year for it's possibilities, not for all the change THAT MUST OCCUR.  To that end, I am easing into the new year with things I would like to accomplish and little tasks that point me in the right direction.  

Example:  I would like to write a book.  This is big, but what I can do is write everyday and I have found a useful guide with some writing prompts that help me when I get stuck. The largest hurdle for me here is that I have to write everyday and it is an entirely selfish act. I am making no money, filling no tummies, or improving the lives of anyone but myself. When you have operated in the mode of caretaker for most of your life, this is hard.


I do believe that my words are why I am here so I have to give them life somehow. I am slowly inching toward this and over the last two years, I have gathered  a supportive staff, whether they realize they are part of it or not. There are moments when I can feel such goodwill directed towards my words that I feel humbled into a peaceful silence and the only option for me is to get out of my own way and write.  

And so I do.

At this point, I just have to have some sort of faith that what I put out will somehow come together. I haven't given myself a lot of constraints because the end is so far way. And in some respects, I don't even know if there is an end. For now, all I can say is I am writing and that is just fine. My golden rule is that I must write everyday and add two minutes to the amount of time I am writing everyday. After that, anything goes.

Here's to progress and a new year that brings you whatever it is you need and hope for.