Zoey Speaks Spanish

zoeparascope         My New Pad

This morning I sit in an Adirondack chair on my new patio. My coffee mug stating, ‘Witches Practice Safe Hex’ is on the armrest. Steam lifts from the rim and blows away. Silver haze rings the Wasatch Mountains in the east, separating the serrated peaks from its base. The sun is rising and throws shadows of my pen across the page. Birds chirp. Traffic hums on a nearby highway. A machine in the distance is gnawing on metal, and geese honk a hello, bodies sagging, wings pumping, as they struggle to fly north.

I rest in the middle of a paver stone patio my husband and I have worked on over the last two weekends. We’ve tamed the once dirt hill with cement squares patterned like a Van Gogh eddy from his Starry Night. The stones are a mixture of purples and sand tones surrounded by seven pots ready to be filled with green beans, carrots, cherry tomatoes, and fresh basil. Of the pots, four white line the front of the piazza and the three lining the back are blue, resembling teal packages from Tiffany’s.

It’s chilly, 48 degrees Fahrenheit. But the sun seeps into my face and the coffee I sip rolls down my throat and distributes warmth throughout my body. Zoey, my pet Chiweenie, investigates the new hardscape. Because of the chill, I forced her into a pair of puppy pajamas, a humiliating one piece made of fuzzy plaid. She’s a Californian dog and freezes in the mildest temperature drop. Zoey, her allergy-laden voice sounds like a veteran smoker, barks at a Magpie bold enough to rest on a fence post.

Zoey was part of a city pound exchange from the Los Angeles area. Her behavior suggests she was kept most of the time indoors and was never socialized. She dislikes being outside if not going on a walk. She hates the feel of grass and prefers the sidewalk. Zoey is mean to those who visit our house. She’s aggressive to all other dogs. She goes insane over adult males and hates little kids the most.

However, whenever I walk her, and we pass a Hispanic woman, Zoey’s tail wags, her mouth curves and she starts to prance up to her with a happy shake of her rump. It happens all of the time. In general, no one can get near my dog unless they happen to be a middle-aged Mexican woman. Then Zoey will allow her to pet her on the head and scratch her under the ear. It took me six months before Zoey would let me do that! Zoey’s behavior towards Latin females makes me think that my dog’s original owner must have been a Spanish woman.

We didn’t choose our Chiweenie, Zoey; she chose us—actually she chose my husband, Brian. He and I went to Petsmart to look at the pound puppies up for adoption. It had been six years since our family Chihuahua had suffered a massive heart attack and died in my arms. I hadn’t dared to get another dog. I loved my Benjamin Thomas, and he was irreplaceable. But here I was with my husband, looking at the prospect of a second pet.

I had gone the day before with my daughter, Lorrin, who fell in love with the black Chiweenie with the giraffe neck, showing indifference to people overall. I had hopes of a puppy who seemed happy and liked to snuggle if one at all.

When Brian and I returned to Petsmart the next day, the black Chiweenie was still there. Brian walked over, and the dog stood up on her hind, legs, front paws raised out to him. He leaned over the cage and scooped her up. Zoey had chosen her new home centered on the man who picked her up—it’s ironic because she goes berserk whenever Brian covers his baldhead with a baseball cap. I don’t know if it’s because she hates men in hats or if she simply finds wearing hats inside the house as rude. Either case, we brought Zoey home, and it has been rough ever since.

We knew very little about our new pet. She was house broken. She was probably around four years old. And she was given the name of MIM, which turned out to be the brand of the crate she was transferred to Utah in. Zoey was more comfortable on the end of a leash and was ecstatic when we put a collar and dog tags on her, bowing and prancing, shaking her head so that the tags slamming against each other making a magical chime. We also noticed Zoey didn’t understand us. She’d stare at us trying to grasp what it was we were saying to her.

One day, one of my kids suggested that perhaps English wasn’t the language she understood. That maybe, being from L.A., and more than likely from an apartment, our dog only knew outside tethered to a leash and commands in Spanish. It was an interesting thought. So we tried it. Brian called Zoey and asked, in Spanish, if she had to go outside to go potty. Zoey’s ears lifted. She looked at Brian and then looked at our back door. My husband got excited.

“But what if it’s the inflection in your voice she’s responding to and not what you’re saying?” I asked. So Brian said the words again in English using the same inflection. Zoey stood, ears poised, waiting to understand the command. Then, in a very flat tone, Brian said the word, “Banjo?” Zoey stood and walked to the back door. Apparently, our new puppy spoke Spanish.

It has been over a year and a half living with our crazy mutt. She has gotten used to Utah’s rain and snow, although, she hates both. I don’t have to ask her, in Spanish, if she needs to pee. Instead, she comes and pats my leg when she needs to be let out. She’s an unusual dog. I often wonder who the people were who raised her.

Was it a Hispanic family who taught her commands in Spanish and pierced her left ear for an earring? Did they let her sit on their lap behind the steering wheel and again at the dinner table during meals? How long ago was it before my dog went by the name of Zoey and had to put up with silly P.J.’s and owners who won’t let her sit at the dinner table and who know how to drive a car without her aid? Who knows?

My dog Zoey is a Princess, a foreigner in a land of rules. She’s part of a new family that forces her into sweaters to go for walks around the block. And although I believe she was loved once in L.A., she’s loved once more, in a place that gets cold and wet and with people who don’t speak her native tongue. She is loved and I think she at least understands that.


The Fog

IMG_3852I’m in the midst of being consumed by a brain-melding fog. A slight haze is normal for me off and on, but today, I’m so fogged over that if I was a car I’d only be able to see the road a foot in front of me.

Fog happens when a) I’ve been stuck inside too long during those gray winter months b) when I’ve been stressed out for too long or c) if I’ve worked out hard.

Today’s fog is from yesterday’s work out. For the last four weeks, I’ve been nursing a pulled calf muscle. Yesterday was the first time I really worked out hard, and yes, I went back to kickboxing.

My kickboxing routine is as follows: wake up and start talking myself into going to the gym while fixing breakfast and sending family members out the door. Then my anxiety sets in; anxiety while I’m stuffing myself into compression pants and a sports bra. Anxiety while pooling together anything I may need at the gym (finding a clean water bottle and adding ice, hoping my wrist wraps don’t reek, an empty gym bag and those pesky boxing gloves). I’m anxious driving to the gym, timing it just right so that I am not too early or too late for class. And finally, anxiety once the “warm up” starts.

Warm Up! Ha! It’s not what it sounds like. It’s not a gentle stretch wrapped in a fuzzy blanket and cozy socks and a leg massage. Nope. It’s fifteen minutes of sprints, incline pushups and sit-ups plus hideous things called Burpees and jump squats or mountain climbers (the worst of the go-nowhere types of reps. Worse than the treadmill or stationary bike. You are head down, butt, back, and legs parallel, clawing your way to nothingness!) Oh you’re warm after fifteen minutes, believe me!

I think the name needs to be switched to Gravity Combat or the Echelons of Hell. It’s more appropriate than the ol’ bait and switch of “warm up.”

I bet the idiom of ‘no pain, no gain’ is probably running through the minds of every poor sap sweating on the floor doing Russian twists! For me, it’s more like ‘more pain, less brain.’

So why do it? Because it’s hard! Because when it’s over, I feel triumphant. And because when every ounce of energy is spent, after sprinting, punching, and kicking through sixty minutes, I feel so damn good!


Flyers Beware

kitty-hawk-1148039 (1)I hate to fly. I mean, I’m downright phobic about it—that airplane thrust as it takes off—stomach dropping to my knee pits. It’s horror marked by g-force. And then there’s the pull when we land where my stomach leaps back into its rightful cavity, but then my brain threatens to burst out of my forehead.

I’m amazed how often someone assures me that I only have to worry about the takeoff and landing part of flying. Yeah. I know. Let’s not forget the middle part where the plane might drop from the sky for the sheer reason that man was not meant to fly, and neither was a hunk of metal weighing seventy-five tons or more. With that said, every once in a while I take a plane because I like how much faster I get from A to Zee-vacation destination.

Years ago, I hopped on a small plane going to Minnesota which led to an even smaller plane as I headed to Iowa to visit my sister, Lindsay. The plane was terrifyingly tiny with a layout of two seats, an aisle, and then two more seats per row, making eight rows, total.

Two things happened that made the journey worse; A, my seat was directly on the left wing and for some reason, where dry ice was stowed, and B, the person sitting next to me. She was an older lady who spoke the entire thirty-minute flight. I don’t mind the jabbering passenger because it takes my mind off of plummeting from the friendly skies. However, it was the subject matter that was worrisome. The first thing the woman said as she strapped herself in was, “Do you believe in God?”

“Why?” I asked.

“Because I dreamt last night we were going to crash.”

Wait? What?

For the next half-hour the woman to my right went on and on about death, dying, and airplane crashes. When I tried to change the subject, she ignored me. When I told her I was an aerophobic, she said, “Yeah, me, too,” and kept right on talking. Not even when thin vapors of dry ice rose up through the cracks in the floor, freezing our feet and legs did the woman stop. Nor did she stop when I closed my eyes and started counting aloud to drown her out. I knew then I was going to die on that flight, my consolation being that at least the woman next to me would too.

There are millions of people who are afraid of flying, and their reasons vary from crashes to terrorist threats, but now there’s two new fears added to the mix; the possible flight delay and the flight attendant? Yep. I’m not talking about a steward bumping the drink cart down the aisle, smacking unsuspecting elbows as he goes. I’m referring to what’s been going on recently in the news, and it’s happening even before takeoff!

There’s screaming to contend with, not by two-year-olds whose ears have popped with the drop in air pressure, but by a grown man being dragged down the aisle by the flight crew forcing him to give his paid seat to airline heads who refused to wait their turn.

Or the frazzled woman, an infant in each arm, trying to get on the plane only to have the flight attendant yelling and yanking her stroller away and then turning on another passenger who stood up for the woman.

Remember the two teenaged girls that were turned away from the gate for wearing leggings? It seems that the old advertisement, “Come fly the friendly skies” should now include, “as long as there isn’t overbooking, you don’t have infants, and if your apparel meets with our approval.” What’s going on? Is flying taking the place of mid-afternoon traffic on the turnpike? Is this what travelers can expect—runway road rage?

It seems to me that the apex of all the airplane angst rests on the attendant, not necessarily the attendee. What happened to accommodation training? What happened to during a crisis, keeping one’s heads, instead of smashing them?

Is there a direct correlation between less legroom and the jamming in of more seats? What about in the hike in ticket costs and paying for amenities that used to be free (I’m bracing for when it’ll cost five dollars to use the toilet)? And then there are more flights, happening more often? Could it be that the liaisons who juggle flight captains and consumers are simply worn out? I think so. It might explain why the airline mediators seem to be clutching on to policy so tight and why procedure has become paramount while the patron’s well being is secondary; Rules equals life-preserver?

And what about delays? If your plane is deferred, you are sequestered, either ten hours in an airport without food or drink or you are taken hostage inside the aircraft, also without food or drink. Forget finding a nearby hotel. Forget trying to hop on another flight. You’re trapped—think extended family Thanksgiving or a daughter’s regional dance recital—you’re stuck until released.

It used to be that delays were due to bad weather, backed up plane traffic, a canceled flight or bomb threat. Now there’s the concern that a passenger, after waiting for thirty minutes on the tarmac will have to pee—flight over!

I know there’s always going to be something to worry about whenever I fly. But is it really worth all this drama? I wonder if the Wright brothers knew that there was more fear in flying than taking a running leap off a hill in Kitty Hawk?

Perhaps we should all just throw caution to the wind and drive to our destinations—or as far as we can. Of course, we’d probably have to take more time off to do so, but then again, I don’t know who wouldn’t benefit from an extended holiday. Besides, I’d rather be vacationing than raging in the sky or on the ground any day.





When At Daybreak

bridgeMy dog, Zoey, and I like to walk to Daybreak Lake not far from my house. The route we take is always the same. We go on an asphalt path that cuts through rolling hills and is edged by wild grasses. The black top changes to a sidewalk that weaves in and out among candy-colored houses and beneath the shade of ash and maple trees.
At the lake, the water dampens the sound of traffic on the highway below, and we hear the twee-twee-twee of a Heron or sharp call of a Dark-Eyed Junco.
Today, some ducks had hatched and waded in a current breaking against the boulders. Toddlers in strollers leaned out to watch the ducklings bathe. Others tore pieces of bread and tossed them out for feed.
We go across a wooden bridge that arcs and expands the width of the lake, and then take a returning route past beaches with sun-bleached docks. Before we go, my dog and I must stand between towering willows that sway to the rhythm of the waves.
Here, I taste the wind on my lips and soak the sun into my skin. The sight surrounding me catches my breath and holds in my heart. I am amazed at the world and that once again my route is the same; whenever I go to the Lake, I am home. When I leave, I am reborn.

Auf Widersehen, Dear Friend


The Blue Cornflower of Germany
The Blue Cornflower of Germany

Horst Prison turns ninety-seven years old today, and I’m speaking at his funeral.I have been working on Horst’s fascinating life for the last two years. He was an ex-German soldier in WWII. He was captured by Russians and kept in a slave-labor camp for five and a half years. It was a year ago today that I went to his birthday party and met more of his family. I am so grateful for having the opportunity to research, to learn, and to try and understand a point in history. I am proud to have been included in the Prison family’s life and to gain their friendship. Auf Wiedersehen, Horst!



If you would like to read the Historical Sketch (it is merely a fraction of what he went through) I’m giving at his funeral, I’m posting it under Short Stories. Horst’s life was amazing! He will be greatly missed!

The Little White House: An Observation

IMG_3919A little white house with fish scale shingles running down its gables sits on the corner overlooking the Salt Lake Valley. It is a Victorian style complete with a turret, lead-etched windows and a dark wooden door inlaid with glass.
The house is situated on a pie-shaped lot so that the front porch faces the point. English boxwoods outline the lawn and stripe the ash washed fence separating the front yard from the back.
I noticed the house years ago because among the economic-sized Colonials and modified Cape Cods, its Victorian lines and roof points stuck out like a prominent nose. I liked it.
Sometimes on my morning walks, I take my psycho-puppy off our regular loop and lead her down one side of the house and then the other. I don’t know why.
For the past ten months, a For Sale sign has swung from real estate gallows pounded in the house’s front yard. It’s a lovely house, and I was sure someone would snatch it up quickly. But no one had.
Over the last year, I’d walk by it, sometimes twice a day, and it became a beacon of sorts—the little white house left vacant on the corner—as if it waved at my little black dog and me as we passed, “Come buy me! Come buy me!” it’d say.
Yesterday morning, the puppy and I hurried by it once more. Dark gray clouds were gathering in the sky, and the temperature fell. The route by the Victorian happened to be the swiftest way home before it rained.
I noticed a U-haul in the driveway pinned between a jeep with Colorado plates and a two-car garage packed to the ceiling with cardboard boxes. The For Sale sign was pulled, and the hole plugged with sand.
The empty house was no longer that. And then I realized the little white house wasn’t mine anymore.