Keep The Change, Ya Filthy Animal

"What right have you to be dismal? What reason have you to be morose? You're rich enough."
- A Christmas Carol

In my annual watch through of all of the Christmas movie classics, you know, the movies like Elf, Home Alone 1 and 2, Die Hard, It's A Wonderful Life, Christmas Vacation, and A Muppet Christmas Carol, I noticed something (and no, that list is in no particular order).

I noticed that it's easy to care about money as much as Scrooge does. That it doesn't take much to stop letting yourself be swept up in the magic of the holidays like pretty much all of the humans in Elf. That it's easy to be annoyed at the people you love the most like Home Alone and Christmas Vacation.

That I've seen all of these movies once a year for so many years and maybe I haven't learned everything they had to teach me.

Ebenezer Scrooge just wanted to make enough money to provide for a nice life for him and his fiancé. Clark Griswold just wanted to have a Merry Christmas with his family. Kevin McCallister just wanted to be left alone. George Bailey wanted to see the world.

It is all too easy to let our everyday desires get in the way of not just a lovely holiday, but a nice life. Scrooge didn't get what true richness was. Clark didn't know what made a family holiday special. Kevin didn't realize how lonely being alone would be. George couldn't possibly imagine what it would be like to see a world without him in it.

May we all remember what is really necessary for happiness, and as we learn this about ourselves, may we find ways to make the world a little better.

Merry Christmas.

A Short Story I Want to Remember

There are two things you need to know for this story to make sense. The first is that Maisy loves toys. I'll attach a picture of her because it's cute and hopefully it will illustrate my point.

She is the sweetest thing.

She is the sweetest thing.

Maisy loves her toys so much that a game of fetch is more regularly a game of keep-away, with her being the one keeping away. She'd have the ball (or rope, etc) and she'll hold it in her mouth near you, but if you try to reach for it, she'll back off or run away or let you play tug-of-war even though it's just a tennis ball, but she won't let you have it.

The second thing to know is that I was sad on Monday night. It doesn't quite matter why I was sad, it's just a part of the story.

I go to bed feeling sad and expect that to be the end of my night. I'll be in bed for a while, thinking, but pretty much any notable thing that would have happened already did.

Except that Maisy hopped up on the bed before I fell asleep, her tennis ball in her mouth. She walked over to me and very carefully set the ball right on my chest, then she curled up next to me and just watched me.

It's probably dumb to ascribe human emotions to dogs, but I swear it felt like she was thinking "This makes me happy. Maybe if I give it to you, it will make you happy."

So that's how I fell asleep. A dog curled up next to me and her tennis ball on my chest.

A Milestone, Kind of

This is for Daniel, who tells me I don't blog enough anymore.

As of now, I am averaging 10,000 words a month in the novel I'm writing. That means, as of yesterday, I am just over 70,000 words. There's really just one problem with the whole thing.

I realized at about 40,000 words that what I was writing would never, ever see the light of day. I'm not talking about "first draft problems" or things that can really be fixed with any amount of editing. I'm talking about fundamental problems with the story I'm writing. This story can't be recovered except to be entirely replanned, rewritten and I don't mean like a second draft. It would be more like using scraps, fragments, of this story to tell an entirely new one.

So that's nearly half of my writing that I've now written knowing I would never show a soul. So what's the point?

This is the first time I've ever tried to write a novel. I've told myself for years that I couldn't do it. I didn't have what it took to write something so long, so involved. Even though I'm going to "waste" a lot of time and writing (though how can you really consider any of it a waste?), I think it's better for me to actually finish the thing than it is to start over and still not know that I can write a novel.

I think anything over 100,000 words will feel like a success. At this rate, that's October. From there, I can start a new novel, a better novel. One that I actually take some time to plan out. 

In case you're wondering, the biggest failure of it right now is related to story movement. Characters aren't forced to act enough. It's something I'm working on, but it's how I know the story isn't salvageable. There's 70,000 words of inactivity when there should be the threat of ... whatever closing in at all times.

I'm going to get there. I'm going to become more like the writer I want to be. For now, that means finding a sentence or two a day that might say that this experiment has been worth it.

Let He Who Is Without Pain Pass The First Stone

So I'm on my couch, where I've been for over a day now, waiting out the time until I pass a kidney stone. When you word it like that, it sounds like no big deal, but I have to say this is, as far as I can remember, the largest medical situation of my life. 

So it's July 4 and I'm talking on the phone with my mom and she's telling me about someone who had stomach pain and I suddenly get this sharp pain in my own. I hurry off the call and tell her I have to go to the bathroom, but I think I knew right away that this wasn't going to be a bathroom trip.

I laid on the bed for a while, hoping the pain would pass. You see, I've got healthcare that doesn't pay a thing until I reach the $6500 and I knew an emergency room trip would be expensive. It became clear pretty quickly that waiting wouldn't make the pain go away.

We went to a MedCheck first, which may be called a ReadyMed or something like that where you're from. You can go in and get checked out by a doctor without an appointment without huge emergency room fees. I wasn't there for more than 5 minutes before they referred me to the ER.

The long story short, I suppose, I have a kidney stone and for about 20 agonizing minutes in the hospital, I experienced the worst pain I've ever felt. Not that being at home has been particularly great either, but thank goodness for pain medication.

I know now that I could have theoretically not gone to the ER. Kidney stones are very rarely dangerous long-term. I don't know what I would have done if I had been in that level of pain for any more time. 

I tell you all of this to say that when it comes to a person's health and receiving care for it, it doesn't seem right to have to decide if it's going to be worth the cost.

Fur and Fireworks

When we adopted Maddy two years ago, my wife and I noticed right away that she was scared often. She's a big dog, something like 85 pounds right now, so seeing her climb to the top of the back of the couch to try to hide from thunder or the boom of fireworks is cute and sad in a way that's hard to articulate. You know she has nothing to be scared about, but you'll never able to convince her. You just have to sit with her while she shivers.

Last year, in an attempt to teach Maddy how to be a better social dog, we added another dog to the family. Melody is boisterous and playful and not afraid of much of anything, except for getting in trouble with us. When we first got her, she would run away every single chance she got. She also broke out of her crate more than once, ripped up some carpet in one of our rooms, and even chased a neighborhood dog around its own yard when she slipped out of her harness.

Today, we added a third dog to our house. We're calling her Maisy and she's already captured the hearts of every single person we've come across. She's a lot smaller than the other two dogs we have, but she's only 5 months old, so time will tell if we become an exclusively big dog house.

Here she is with some high-octane charm. (Her leg is shaved because she was just spayed and they had to use anesthesia)

Here she is with some high-octane charm. (Her leg is shaved because she was just spayed and they had to use anesthesia)

Now you might ask yourself, and maybe rightly so, why we'd try to add another dog when we've got our hands full already. Besides the obviously "look at that face" answer, I think I have another one.

Melody doesn't run away anymore. Maddy doesn't hide wherever she can when the winds pick up and a storm starts coming. By just loving them as best as we can, we're healing them, even just a little. It's obvious to say, but I know they're doing the same for us.

And when you have that, it's hard not to want more of it.