Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Naughty Puppy

(Thank you all so much for your positive response about the clicking through to see the blog.  The things you wrote about me and my writing had me floating around all day yesterday with this beatific smile on my face. Thank you so much.

The response has been overwhelmingly positive so I will continue to do the short feeds and ask you all to click on the title to take you to the full blog.  I apologize to those of you who said it was too much trouble and I understand I may lose you as readers.  You're always welcome to come back, though!)

So, we have this puppy.
Oh look, a puppy.  (Or, maybe not.)

Okay, so he'll be two in February and therefore technically not a puppy anymore but he's a LABRADOR and some of them, like some people I know, NEVER GROW UP.  Plus, I defy you to be in our house and not call him a puppy. It's just...well, what we call him to differentiate from our other dog, The Idiot Scout.

At any rate, we have this dog named Austin, who is technically not a puppy but who is very, very naughty. But smart, you know.

And he really wants to sleep on the couch, which is not allowed.

I have fought this battle before --this coming up against the wiles of the four-footed friends.  My old dog Sydney was the champion of this kind of naughtiness--I used to come down and she would be  ON HER BACK on the couch and not moving.  The puppy, at least, hears me coming and gets down and then lies on the carpet and acts all innocent.  Last week, I took some stuff to my car on my way to get Jane from school and came back in for my sunglasses.  The dog was ALREADY ON THE COUCH.

I don't know what you mean about "couch."  Here I am on the floor.  What is this couch of which you speak?

He KNOWS he's not supposed to get on the couch.  He forgets himself on occasion and I catch him starting to hoist himself up until he recalls that this is Officially Against the Rules or I bop him on the head, whichever comes first. Because Austin leaves a lot of black hair on the couch, which is the chief reason he's officially not allowed on the couch in the first place. I say "officially" because if I wander down in the middle of the night, I will find the dog on the carpet and a decidedly warm couch cushion.

My cleaners came on Saturday and we had an open house on Sunday and then my parents arrived and I was determined to NOT do my daily couch vacuuming.

So, because I am all tricky like this, I loaded the couch with stuff aimed at dissuading an adorable but naughty puppy from getting on the couch.  It looked like this:

Yes, there is huge irony at work:

So, what did the puppy do?

He slept here:

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Click on This Title!

(Still experimenting with the feed thing. Would you all hate it if you had to click to read the blog? Would you actually do it? Tell me honestly because I don't want to make things less convenient for you.  I'm trying to get some quantifiable numbers just in case I ever want to allow advertising or, um, get a book deal and need to prove my vast readership.)

There has been a flurry of activity at the Cooper Clubhouse lately because I am all about the holidays this year.  ESPECIALLY Thanksgiving, which I love with a passion anyway.

So, first I had some old business to attend to:

I finished Tara's socks and sent them off to her.  I am particularly proud of them because A) did NOT run out of yarn (for, like, the first time EVER) and B) it's good knitting.  There's a feeling when you know the knitting doesn't contain any...well... creative fixes. I guess maybe that feeling is pride.  They're good solid socks, knit with love and good craftsmanship.  I'm proud of them and I hope Tara will feel the love when she wears them.

Next, I have been dialing in my Thanksgiving recipes.  I've been baking bread like a MAD WOMAN because, y'all, I just discovered that you can make dough in your bread maker and then bake it yourself and it will look like bread you totally threw your shoulder out kneading but your shoulder will actually be intact.  The other thing I've discovered is that most people, regardless of their political or socio-economic status, or their stance on the new TSA regulations (my stance would be appalled), LOVE BREAD.  (Except for those who cannot eat wheat and/or gluten and to them I mean no offense.) (And I'm sorry I can't share my bread with you.) I've been giving it away like crazy because I am trying to avoid the pre-Thanksgiving roll. (Get it?? Get it??)  (Oh, hush.) Anyway, I've given it to my yoga instructor and to Jane's drum teacher and we've eaten a good deal of it and I think I've finally dialed the recipe in.  Tomorrow I am going to make some and try putting a pan with an inch of water in it in the bottom of the oven to help "steam" the bread and hopefully create a nice crispy crust.
This is the first couple of loaves.  The others didn't last long enough for pictures.

Yesterday, we had the house cleaners for the first time in several months. I so love the cleaners. I love them and I would like to make them many loaves of bread.  I love them so much that I usually feel the need to clean the entire house before they come in hopes that they will come to my house and spend all of their time doing things like applying courtesy stripes and toilet paper points.  (Also? Scrubbing the toilets and dusting, because I really loathe those jobs.) 

We haven't been having the cleaners come lately in a general belt-tightening effort, but we are having an open house today (did I mention our house is STILL on the market? Yes, it is.  Although sometimes we go for whole months without noticing that fact because there is so little activity in the housing market and no one is coming to see our house.  We have had a few offers but they've been nowhere near what we paid for the place and since we're not in a big hurry, we are waiting for the market to come back up.  (Oh, please, FSM, let it come back up!) On my good days, I think that this is just inevitable and on my bad days I think that I will grow old and die here.

After the Open House today, on Monday, my PARENTS ARE COMING FOR THANKSGIVING! I am very excited about this, despite the fact that I feel terribly guilty that they will be undergoing the TSA's new invasive (and almost certainly unconstitutional) search methods.  My mother doesn't seem very concerned.  Since she's got two artificial hips and a fake knee (my brother hopes she'll leave her spare parts to him when she's gone--he wants to build a go-cart), she's used to getting felt up by strangers.  I dunno, if a woman will go through those kinds of excruciating joint-replacement surgeries, is she really going to say "Oh, what the heck?" and carry explosives to blow up an airplane? But there is no arguing with an agency in full-on panic and retreat mode.  (Guess what, guys? You keep that stuff up and it will be hard to tell who exactly the terrorists are. Just sayin'.)

Okay then, I have some bread to bake.  And a house to sell.  And then, I will tell you how yoga is changing my entire life and how much I love it and how I miss it when I can't go... and you will wonder who the heck is writing my blog these days.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

For My E-Mail Subscribers

If you are a subscriber of my blog, you received what is called a "Short Feed" via e-mail today. I'm experimenting with the concept in order to send people to my blog website so that I can get an idea of my actual readership numbers. I know that sounds very organized and self-promotional, but just put it down to the whole body-snatching, zombie thing taking over my life (I swear, it's the YOGA --it's changing my life!) and go about your day. I was kind of hoping there would be some verbiage to tell you to click on the title to go to the blog and read the rest of my scintillating prose but alas, it was not so. Here's a link if you missed it: On the Couch Again...(Sing It With Me, Y'all)

Also, my foot is feeling great now, so thanks for your words of support. Maybe I don't even need this dang foot--I just need YOU!


(Also otherworldly is this rash of exclamation points. Yoga is a powerful,  powerful thing.)

On the Couch Again...(Sing It With Me, Y'all.)

I'm on the couch again, having a bad pain day and kind of bummed about it.

HOWEVER, this does allow me to get y'all all caught up on our pumpkin picking, visitor, Halloween madness. (Click on the pictures to embiggen and appreciate my HTML coding prowess!)

First, we had Fall color.  I do so love the seasons.  

(These photos were taken out my front door.  Isn't it amazing??)

Ana (12) earned her orange belt at Tae Kwon Do.

Then we went pumpkin picking.  In the past when we've done this, we've driven out to the Hamptons and experienced actual, real, picking of the pumpkins off the vine. Hence, when we saw the sign that said, "U-Pick Pumpkins" at a farm near Coop's work, we thought we knew what that was all about.

It turns out that "U-Pick Pumpkins" really means...well, "you select pumpkins after we've picked them and carted them into a large field."  Kind of like choosing from the big box at Home Depot, only you get to pay $0.70 per pound for all of that atmosphere.

Yeah, well. WhatEVER.

Then we had the actual Halloween extravaganza.

Jane is a gummy bear,  Austin is the devil and Ana?  Ana went as her dad, circa 1982. Rush t-shirt, letter jacket, Baylor hat and his very own vintage parachute pants.  (Yes, he still has all of those clothes.  What?)  Could quite possibly be the best costume ever.

Except for Jane's, maybe.  Because people got such a kick out of it.  And the making of it was really fun because my friend Kate (Dr.Kate from the comments) was in town and came over and I promptly covered her in green fuzz.

Here she is constructing the head of Jane's costume.

For which she received a hand-knitted pair of socks, taken off of my very own feet, because I am all classy like that.

Standing in first position for the blog.  Y'all, the woman rocks.

The very best part of Halloween for me, though, came when Jane, dressed in full gummi bear regalia, met up with her new classmates at the town Halloween parade.  They were so glad to see her and wanted her to march with them so much that they started CHANTING for her.  As you know, the switch to the new school has been full of motherly angst for me.  To see her so accepted and so happy and so ...100%-taking-over-the-world JANE was an indescribable blessing for me.

It almost made up for the rude woman poking Ana in the back to get her to "GO! GO!" in the crowd along the parade route. I'm not sure what the woman wanted Ana to do (leapfrog?) but if I had seen it, she'd be missing her rude index finger right about now. Do NOT freaking touch my child. I think we've established how I feel about that.

In other news, one of Jane's goldfish died.  Like her mama, she processes things on paper.  UNlike her mother, she can actually draw.
Must I always, ALWAYS, be the straight man?

The garden is about done for the year, except Jane has found an accidental pumpkin.  I think it will freeze before it ripens but still, it's a wonderful thing.

It's November which means NaNoWriMo, and I am really really far behind in my book.  Which is as usual, for me.  JANE, on the other hand, is well over 8,000 words into hers.  Also as usual.

At least *I* got a sweatshirt out of the deal.

Shown here with Edward the Male Model.  (Rowr.)

It's taken me so long to write this blog post that I'm off the couch, feeling well and heading for yoga, which is my new favorite thing.  No, seriously, on Monday, OF MY OWN VOLITION, I did a little cross training with weights and the exercise bike to make myself stronger.  I know, I know...clearly, I've been body-snatched.

(Here's what happens when I try to do yoga at home.

And this? This is just a gratuitous picture of my gorgeous older daughter.

Have a great day!

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Things Happen for a Reason, OHHMMMM

I was in the middle of a very detailed blog post about October and autumn and pumpkins and Halloween when, oops, I ran out of space in my Blogger account and was denied any more picture-uploading privileges until I paid a small fee and waited ever-so-patiently for my privileges to be restored.

So I muttered some choice words and went to take a yoga class.

My first yoga class since we moved to Long Island in early 2008, actually.

I think it may have changed my life.

If you follow this blog, you know that I've been trying to make some changes lately. I decided that I've been living with a victim's mindset for almost four years now since my reconstructive foot surgery and (oddly enough) nothing has gotten better. Maybe it was time to get off the dang couch and try something new.  So, I went off of my lobotomizing anti-depressants, I stopped drinking alcohol (mostly --still like a glass of wine with friends sometimes), I've been trying to start a meditation practice, and I've been adding some exercise daily.

I KNOW --what the heck?  I'm trying to embrace MODERATION-- a kinder, gentler way of living, rather than my usual "run head-on into a brick wall at full speed, get up and do it again" approach to life. What has gotten into me?

Enter the yoga class. I'd been thinking about taking a yoga class for a while, but I was sort of scared to walk into some place I didn't know, given my disabled foot and all the explaining that I have to do before I can undertake anything physical. (Seriously, if there was any justice in the world, people would either be disabled OR shy but not both.)  However, I knew and was already impressed with the man who was going to teach the class because, y'all, it's hard not to be impressed with a guy who can balance his entire body on one forearm.  It turns out that he's also really knowledgeable and really gentle about encouraging those of us with recalcitrant appendages that will NOT bend, thank you very much.  (Okay, maybe that's just me.) His name is Chris Gates and he's the founder of the place when my older daughter Ana (12) takes Tae Kwon Do.

I love this place. Seriously.  I'm not sure how they've built something so special in a strip mall in Greenlawn, New York, but it's remarkable. Out of all of the places we've sent our children for their various lessons and sports and music and other extracurricular classes, this one has the most unique vibe to it. It seems like a lot of places, particularly sports places, hire people who are good at the SPORT but not so great with the KIDS. 

But at Chris Gates' place, I love the emphasis on mutual respect and discipline, without being all militaristic and overly officious. (Y'all know how I usually have this negative knee-jerk reaction to that type of authority.) I love that there are enormously high expectations of the students, but that there is also enormous positive reinforcement.  I love the fierce loyalty that the instructors show to Chris and each other. I love that there is understanding of where each student is on the journey to health and strength and self power, and that the instructors manage to custom-fit the curriculum to match each student's needs. Somehow, they've created a very safe, nurturing atmosphere where, not only is it okay to ask for help, it's okay to OFFER it.  I think this is very unusual and Ana is truly thriving there. She's developed a lot of self confidence and I've seen her step outside of her Quiet to really reach out to other students --both child and adult.  This is powerful stuff.

I like to go there with Ana and sit while she does Tae Kwon Do, just to absorb that positive energy.  I would have liked to have signed up to take Tae Kwon Do myself (there's another mother-daughter team there) but the fact that I can't stand on my left foot, nor kick anything with it, seems to make that impossible.  The classes have a lot of strength training and calisthenics --squat thrusts and these kicking stance combination things that are beyond my physical limitations.

But I CAN, it turns out, do a very slightly modified form of the Dharma Mittra Yoga that Chris has just started offering at his studio. (If you click on that link, there are a few videos of Sri Dharma Mittra doing his yoga practice. I'd really like it if you could just envision ME doing yoga that way instead of picturing the reality, which is...um...well...different from that. Thanks.)

Anyway, I made it through the class without doing anything REALLY embarrassing and I felt so GREAT afterward that I just had to marvel at the mind/body/spirit connection.  I'm not sure why yoga has this effect on me, but after every class I've ever taken, be it Hatha, Ashtanga, Bikram or now Dharma Mittra, I have had this amazing sense of calm and well-being.

And, frankly, it's been missing in my life lately because the chronic pain from my foot seems to have ratcheted up a notch.  Ana asked me last night, "I don't understand.  You had the surgery to fix your foot.  Why does it still hurt?" Which is a good question, even if the answer to it isn't one that very many people can accept, me included.

The answer is that Western medicine, as amazing and miraculous as it is, simply can't fix everything.  I think there is this pervasive idea that if things go wrong with us mechanically, a doctor can fix them --that's how things are supposed to work.  Unfortunately, it's just not true.  In my case, the doctor restored my ability to walk but was unable to remove the pain I have with every step. In fact, every doctor I have seen so far has told me, in various words, that this may just be as good as it gets.  I get a lot of suggestions for new doctors from people after I tell them this and I guess I should try to find the energy to get yet another opinion, another MRI, another perspective. It's just exhausting, though, to get my hopes up again and go through the rounds and rounds of appointments.  I feel like I could better use that energy to explore some alternative pain management strategies.  (Well, I did ask about just cutting the damn foot off, but my doctor said that elective amputation wasn't an option.)

In the meanwhile, I keep thinking that part of what I'm supposed to be learning from this adventure with chronic pain is how to dwell in another sort of...head space, somewhere above the extreme noise level that is unbroken pain. I want to explore how to find the discipline to go there when the pain gets bad. (Okay, I probably shouldn't post this because it sounds so...hippy-dippy, free-love and pot brownies.  People.  I'm NOT going to shave my head and start handing out leaflets at the airport, nor am I going to begin every dinner party with a rousing version of Kumbaya or anything.) I'm just trying to find a way to live with this pain without it becoming my whole life, if that makes sense. And yes, I wish someone had an answer to my foot effed-uppedness, too, so that I could continue with my formerly happy, if more shallow, life withOUT chronic pain. But there ya go.

I'd also like to win the lottery.

Anyway, that's my story of how blog failure can change your life and how you can find meaning even in the most minuscule of technology failures. 


PS: I seem to be spending a lot of time on Facebook these days.  If you are similarly addicted and would like to find me, here's a link: Barb Cooper