Working from Home (With Dogs)

By Anita Garner

These aren’t my dogs. They belong to my daughter, Cathleen and granddaughter, Caedan Ray, and I’m babysitting them.

They’re both rescues. I believe Charlie’s some kind of terrier mixed with other stuff.  Benny’s chihuahua and something else. I can testify that Benny is mostly mouth.  You look at this tiny body and wonder where does that big sound come from?

Charlie Brown came from a shelter years ago. She was named by four-year-old Caedan at Christmas time.  Benny came later and Cath insisted it was her turn to choose the name. If you know how much Cath loves Benecio del Toro, there’s where you’ll find the answer.

I’m a writer working in an office in the far corner of the house.  I don’t speak dog as well as Cath and Caedan do.  Here’s a glimpse of my average work day.  This is not an exaggeration.  Don’t even ask about the day the garbage trucks come, three different trucks for three different bins.

Every time you see the word “Benny” below, please know these are very loud barks.  Charlie has a small woof, but is equally insistent about pawing the leg of the person in the desk chair.

Benny – MAIL!

I get up and check the mailbox.  Nope.

Benny:  I MEANT MAIL TRUCK IS JUST AROUND THE CORNER AND MIGHT BE HERE SOON!

Charlie:  Paw paw paw on the knee.

Me:  What?  Do you need outside?  I open the door.  Nobody goes out.

Benny: WOMAN WITH A STROLLER OUTSIDE!

Me.  Benny, please be quiet.

Charlie: Paw Paw Paw

Me:  Do you need outside?  Up again and open the door.  Nope, she was asking for a friend.  It’s Benny who needs out and gets Charlie to ask me.  Benny goes out and immediately runs back in to say,

Benny: BOY ON A SKATEBOARD!

Me:  Please be quiet.

Benny: DOG WALKING BY!  WAIT!  IT’S TWO DOGS AND A PERSON!

Me.  Benny, stop.

Charlie: Paw paw paw on the knee

Me:  You don’t need out.  Benny doesn’t need out.  The mailman isn’t here.  It’s okay for other people to walk around the neighborhood.  WHAT?

Charlie: Skips out to the kitchen.  Woofs by the fridge.  Translation:  Do we have any more of those tiny carrots in the veggie crisper?

Me:  Here ya go, Charles.  Here ya go, Ben. Good doggies.

Even Pinocchio would be impressed by the number of whoppers people tell their dogs.

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The Leisure Seeker

By Anita Garner

When we named this website a long time ago, I’ll bet we thought we’d write more about aging than we actually do.  It turns out Dave and I are both fortunate to still be busy doing stuff, but we’re also aware this aging thing is happening, even when we’re not writing about it.

When I was young, aging was an abstract notion.  Nothing to do with me.  I knew old people.  I liked them.  They reminded me I’d be old someday.  If I had given it more thought, I’d probably have hoped to look more like Helen Mirren.

Aging and how it’s represented in the world is a crucial issue to me now.  It comes with a set of complications I’m not sure we really experience until it happens to us, to someone in our family, to friends whose lives are changed forever by what they can’t do.

Along comes my book club – first one I’ve joined in decades.  My turn to host is coming up.  I choose The Leisure Seeker, by Michael Zadoorian, and not just because it was turned into a movie with Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland.  The movie’s good. The book continues to percolate around in my head and heart.

It’s about this couple who find themselves old and with no choices.  But they make a choice anyway and we’re off with them doing what they decided to do about it.  Road trip. Route 66 plays a big role, and that resonates for me.  I spent years of my childhood on that road.  These two aren’t pretending they’re young.  They’re just taking one last shot at deciding for themselves how they’ll be old.

I read up on Michael Zadoorian. He’s a writer who loves radio, works in advertising, and has  driven every bit of Route 66 that still exists.  He writes with compassion and elegance and truth.  I’ll be reading his other books now.

Michael Zadoorian
writer of mighty fine books

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The Way You Make Me Feel

By Anita Garner

We’re not supposed to judge, but of course we judge.  Sometimes it’s to set standards for ourselves, even if we don’t declare it that way.  Sometimes it’s simply based on a feeling we get around certain people.

Aren’t we always forming judgments?  Don’t we have to, in order to establish values?  And if we stick to ours, sometimes we can’t stick with a relationship. When I leave you, if I feel slightly soiled because of the things you said or the way you treated people or just the way you are in the world,  that begins to feel like a reflection on me and my choices.

Some people work hard to make us feel good about ourselves because it’s good for business.  I have no quarrel with that.  Professional niceness goes a long way.  I’m always going to prefer to sit in the section of the coffee shop where the server smiles and seems glad to see me.

A few years back, a close friend had stopped driving so I took him on his errands. He insisted on doing business in person with people who knew his name.  If they weren’t working when we stopped by, he asked about their schedules and said he’d return when they were there.  If they were busy with someone else, he’d wait.

He wanted only to be with people who made him feel good, who greeted him, remembered him.  We drove around so he could hand them his bank deposit, pay his bills in person, wait in the line at Safeway for his favorite checker.

The people who make me feel good about myself don’t have to do it with flattery. That only works some of the time.  If it always worked, we’d never learn any other approach to interactions. If that worked, every stranger with a sales pitch would be our new best friend.

I like to listen to how people treat others.  Some people do it so well they create behavior that actually leaves behind calm and positive feelings.  It’s aspirational on my part. I want to be more like that more often, so I need to be around it.

When I leave wondering why I’ve spent time with you, it diminishes my opinion of my own values and eventually I’ll need to eject myself from the relationship.  I can’t always get away from the source of the discomfort, but I can limit my exposure by raising an emotional barrier.

Maybe it’s not just you.  Maybe it’s not just me.   But it’s definitely me with you that has to change.

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