It’s a rainy Sunday in LA. It’s the perfect day for staying home and making a big mess of bacon-wrapped food.

The sky is a deep gray, both of my Boxer boys are asleep, and I’m listening to country music while waiting for my grocery delivery.

I realize this makes me a bit of a contradiction. While I have somewhat of a down-home sensibility, I am also a spoiled Angelino, and I can’t bear entering a grocery store on a Sunday. The parking lot situation alone is reason enough to stay home — never mind the LA drivers who are blinded by a bit of rain on their windshields.

That leaves me over-spending on Sauvignon Blanc and prosciutto so I don’t have brave the “elements” (read: a light mist and LA drivers) to make dinner.

Last month, I declared 2019 as the year of productive creativity, so I’m going to get back to my novel outline while I wait for my groceries to arrive.

But first?

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Dog yoga

It’s not nearly as cool as goat yoga, and it involves a pose George invented called, “Barking Dog.”

It’s so relaxing living with Boxers… but I wouldn’t change it for anything.

More on today’s recipes later.

 

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George Joseph (Or it’s Not 1999)

It’s 2019 now. I realize this isn’t news to anyone — I’m merely pointing out that 1999 was 20 years ago.

Also?

Prince’s single (and album) by the same name will turn 37 this year.

Now that we’re all thoroughly depressed and feeling terribly old… want to hear what I did this NYE?

I rang in the New Year on my couch watching Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire with both of my Boxers snoring on my legs.

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OK, maybe only Georgie was using my person as a pillow, but you get the idea.

I had planned to make myself a lovely filet mignon, but I was so tired by the time I got home from work that I settled for broccoli, champagne, and Trader Joe’s gouda mac and cheese. (I saved the steak for another night.)

We snuggled as the dogs watched their namesakes do battle with evil.

On the topic of namesakes, this is now going to be a terrible segue to the origin of Georgie’s name. (I did promise that story here after all….)

OBVIOUSLY, Albus was named for the greatest Headmaster of Hogwarts of all time, and I have frequently thought he should have a little Harry Potter as a buddy.

When I met the new nugget, I knew pretty quickly he wasn’t a Harry, however.

We spent 12 hours together before I dubbed him “George.”

After careful observation, his spunk and spirit reminded me of George Weasley. (George is one half of the Weasley Twin Duo who wreaked havoc at Hogwarts and went on to create their own joke shop.)

His middle name, Joseph, is a sadder story I’m afraid.

Shortly after rescuing George, I learned that my dad’s youngest brother James Joseph had passed away fairly unexpectedly.

His neighbor visited his home in hopes of borrowing a tool. The neighbor knocked on the door repeatedly and received no response. It had been snowing in their Northern Michigan town, and he observed there weren’t any footprints outside my Uncle Jim’s home.

When his persistent knocking proved fruitless, he contacted the local authorities. Officers arrived on the scene to find my dad’s youngest brother dead in his bead. He had died peacefully of natural causes.

While a peaceful death is always preferable to a painful or contracted one, death is still difficult for those left behind. I wanted to honor my Uncle Jim and felt that George should share the same middle name.

I don’t have human kids, after all so it seemed like the right thing to do. Plus my Uncle Jim was an animal lover.

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George Joseph means business.

I’d like to think my Uncle Jim is proud of him.

 

New Baby Nugget (Or I RESCUED!)

So… I have news… belated news, but news nonetheless.

Albus and I have a new baby.

Hes’s super skinny…

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and he likes to sleep on Uggs.

See, three weeks ago Malibu and Ventura County were on fire. I was sitting on my couch watching college football while looking at images of the devastation of the Woolsey fire, and I wanted to do something. The air outside my place was hazy and full of smoke. My social media sources were filled with photos of horses dangerously close to the lapping flames, evacuated goats on the beach, and the Malibu Wines giraffe was left in harm’s way.

I knew there were so many animals I couldn’t save, but I wanted to do SOMETHING.

On an impulse, I googled “Ventura County Shelter.”

On the first page of their site, I saw the image of an emaciated Boxer. He had been surrendered that day. I said a prayer asking God to open the door if it was in his will for him to be mine and to close it if it wasn’t right.

I set out to meet the sweet dog called “Snoopy.”

The freeway to Ventura County was closed because of the fires but I found backroads to lead me to the shelter.

The voice of Jim Dale reading “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” on audiobook soothed me as I drove past plumes of stifling smoke as well as green fields yet untouched by the fire’s destructive appetite.

I arrived at the shelter only to be told they were closed for adoptions because of the fire. The woman behind the counter said I should come back the following day at 1 pm. She also cautioned me that Snoopy had stomach issues and they were a factor in his surrender.

Never one to give up, I showed up the next day, right on time. I had traversed the same backroads again, as the fires were still raging and conventional routes were unavailable.

When I arrived, I was again told they closed for adoptions. I offered another silent prayer. I reminded the volunteers they had told me to come today — at this time. I also said I couldn’t come again tomorrow because I had to work.

They consulted with one another and agreed to let me meet him. Again, they reminded me of his stomach issues. (Stomach, whatever. I didn’t care.)

I had boiled chicken in my purse in anticipation of meeting the little man.

They set him loose in the enclosure and I asked him to sit. He obliged immediately. I offered him a bit of chicken. Ravenous, he took the chicken so aggressively it seemed like he might take the tips of my fingers off.

I told them I wanted him — stomach problems and all.

They agreed to let me take him home for a mere $65.

$65 to save a life.

I would have paid so much more than that.

There’s so much more I want to say about him and his integration into my home, but I’ll save that for another post.

For now I’ll just say, I love the little guy.

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You’re HOME, George Joseph!

Your brother and I LOVE you!

More on the origin of his new name later….

 

It’s Election Day (Or I Miss Phil)

Whatever your political affiliation, Election Day can be tense. There are only winners and losers; there’s not a lot of gray when it comes to the polls.

Two years ago, Phil and I were upset about the presidential election results… and we had I’m-sad-about-the-election sex. (It seemed like the best way to get through the night, to be honest.)

I find myself missing him today.

I know God has someone else out there for me to love, and most of the time I’m not wallowing, but I would be lying to myself… and more importantly, I’d be false to Phil’s memory if I didn’t admit I wish he were with me tonight. I’d even settle for within a text’s reach.

Anywhere on earth would suffice, actually.

I know he’s in heaven with a whole new perspective on earthly concerns like elections, but I’m feeling a little selfish tonight and I miss my friend.

Went big with the beard

You should be here, dickhead.

So that’s what’s on my mind.

Love to all of you.

I’m going to drink some wine while listening to country music now.

Fruit Baskets and Other Thoughts (Or Please Help Luis)

I grew up in Michigan. I went to college in Michigan. During the summer after my freshman year of college, I lived in Santa Barbara, California.

The reason for my relocation?

I was recruited to sell books by a Nashville-based publishing company. I ran my own business cold-calling clients by selling books door-to-door.

They weren’t encyclopedias; they were study guides that were essentially like having a teacher’s guide for subjects ranging from English to algebra, and the books spanned kindergarten through high school advanced placement levels.

I carried a 25-pound case on my back and biked through the city of Santa Barbara six days a week, working 80-85 hours per week. To this day, it remains one of the most challenging AND rewarding experiences of my entire life.

(I’ll tell the story of my visit to the ER another time.)

While, I was handsomely compensated financially for my efforts, the lasting reward of that job was the human aspect: the people whose lives I touched, the people who also touched mine.

After selling the books, I personally delivered them to each family at the end of the summer, and showed each individual how they could access the information inside.

I lived in a primarily white and privileged neighborhood in the San Roque district of Santa Barbara that summer, but I canvassed every neighborhood in the city, regardless of its socioeconomic status. I spent weeks in a Hispanic neighborhood in the city. I remember “white” people warning me not to venture into the Hispanic neighborhoods — especially since I was carrying cash.

I didn’t listen.

I’m incredibly glad I didn’t.

Those “dangerous” Hispanic neighborhoods brought me the most joy that summer. I was welcomed into so many homes, and my hosts fed me lavishly. I met warm, honest people with an incredible work ethic and a strong sense of family — the kind of generous, caring people who made me feel at home even 3,000 miles away from my own.

These were people working two and three jobs to support their children.

I will never forget a white man telling me later that summer the “lazy Mexicans were ruining everything.” I was livid. I wanted to shout at him and storm out the door.

I wish I had.

I regretted not doing so that night when I went to bed, and I still regret it to this day. I’d like to think I would do that now.

One of my clients was a gardener in the neighborhood where I lived. We would wave at each other every day as I rode off for work, and I will never forget the day I sat down with his sons to show him how to find their algebra answers.

Sure, it was a business, but for me it was a service.

My dad flew out from Michigan, rented a car, and helped me deliver the books. He was by my side as I delivered the books to the families and showed them how to use them.

That summer is one I will never forget, and neither will my dad.

20 years later, I find myself managing a sports bar.

Most of our cooks are from the state of Oaxaca in Mexico and so are our busboys. I can honestly say the same warmth and generosity of spirit exists with our staff that existed in the families I met in Santa Barbara half a lifetime ago. We have staff who have been loyally serving for more than 25 years.

Luis is one of those men.

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Here were are mugging for the camera.

Luis has hand washed dishes, stocked produce, and bussed tables faithfully for the San Francisco Saloon for more than 30 years. He rides the bus to work each day.

Now he is experiencing a life-threatening health issue.

In his absence, a few of us have stepped up to do his job ourselves, and I know I speak for all of us when I say it is incredibly hard work. It is the hard, thankless work that often goes unnoticed and unappreciated.

Initially when Lou’s daughter told us he needed a few weeks off, I set out to make him a fruit basket because his diet has been restricted of late.

My coworkers stepped up to contribute, and I assembled a nice basket.

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Fruit

Like duh.

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Fruit with a card.

Per usual, my helper didn’t exactly help.

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He was too busy throwing shade.

He isn’t into anything that doesn’t involve meat — or scratches on his big, boxy Boxer head. (I love him anyway.)

Nevertheless, I persisted.

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I finished the basket off with a bow.

(Duh.)

I brought it to Luis yesterday, and I met his wife for the first time. Though she doesn’t speak a word of English, and my Spanish is lame at best, I was blessed to spend time with them. She made me feel welcome, and she even gave me gifts.

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The basket was made in Oaxaca, and the bag is meant for grocery shopping.

I left their home wanting to do more.

Luis was admitted to the hospital hours after I left his home.

The state of California limits us as his employer to only 40 hours of sick pay, despite his 30+ years of loyal service.

That is why I created a GoFundMe for his family. I want to do more for my hard-working friend than a basket full of bananas. While I’m grateful to my coworkers for chipping in for fruit, I want to up the ante.

In less than 24 hours, I am proud to say we are already at 40% of the goal. I would love to demolish that goal.

I know there are many worthy causes, so no pressure… I will obviously still love you even if you don’t contribute, but here’s the link just in case: HELP THE RAMOS FAMILY.

OK, that’s all.

Goodnight.

 

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Bobby’s Birthday (Or I make another gift basket)

My friend Rob’s birthday was yesterday, so I set out to make it special. I conspired with his girlfriend, Mary, to make sure I picked up all of his favorite movie theater candy, and the boys chipped in as well — including Albus.

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He picked out the golf balls at Dick’s.

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There were a lot of options. 

I wanted to package the goodies in a practical way, so I picked up a collapsable organizer from Marshall’s.

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Here’s the pre-assembly situation.

I put a bow on the bag because everything is better with bows — even gifts for boys. (I think I’ve said that before, but you can never say it too many times.)

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Every item in here has a story, naturally.

For example, Rob loves sloths, so I bought one for him. I used my glue gun to put the AMC gift card in his hot little sloth hand. The weird man ballerina box contains Australian sour gummies. I made the Twinkle Toes sign because Tim calls everyone Twinkle Toes, and he was one of the boys who chipped in for the gift. (Matt was the other.)

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It seemed like the right thing to do.

Tim, Rob, Matt, and I are all dog people, so a card mocking a cat seemed like the right choice.

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Larry, Daryl, and Anita are our aliases.

Basically, we think they’re terrible names, so we call each other by them as a form of demented endearment.

Okay, that’s all for now. I’m blasting some Danzig and breaking out my book outline.

Bye!

Bubbas and Baby Nuggets (Or New Baby Gift Baskets)

I’m writing again — and not just on my blog. I’m back to figuring out the story points of my novel. Outlining is the tedious, necessary part I don’t always love, but you can’t build a house without a floorpan any more than you can write a decent story without figuring out its structure first.

So there’s that….

There’s also this:

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The Bubba made a gift basket for his Auntie Nicole.

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Okay, I did most of the work.

He doesn’t have opposable thumbs after all.

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But he took most of the credit.

(Like boys do.)

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In his defense, he did help with the clean up… of chicken scraps on the floor.

He excels at eating meat off of all surfaces (even linoleum).

Wanna see why he we made the basket?

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Because Albus has a new nugget of a cousin.

She is divine.

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And I got to hold her.

Because new moms have their hands full with breastfeeding, diaper changes, and watching nuggets sleep, I figured I should feed Nicole.

I made two kinds of tuna salad, a chicken salad, pasta bolognese, and buckeyes. (I don’t approve of anything that could be construed as pro-Ohio — particularly when I’m making a gift basket for a fellow Michigan alum, but peanut butter is just meant for chocolate — so I rationalized that Wolverines devouring Buckeyes is metaphorical… or something.)

Recipe links are here:

Green Goddess Tuna Salad (I omitted the tarragon because we don’t get along terribly well.)

Tuna and Artichoke Cooler Pressed Sandwiches (Meaghan and I used this recipe for Katy’s baby shower years ago. It’s divine.)

Pasta Bolognese (Full disclosure: I skipped the veal and used 3/4 lb of ground pork and 3/4 lb of ground beef because veal makes me cry — and because bolognese needs extra meat.)

Buckeyes (There are millions of variations of this recipe. The key is using some Crisco in the chocolate to help it melt evenly.)

I’ll do a proper post on the curry chicken salad another time, as it is my mummy’s recipe and can’t be found online.

Tim and I ate the rest of it for lunch on Monday. (It was a hit. #likeduh)

Now, it’s time to get back to my outlining. (Barf)

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