Introducing Oscar the dachshund

A thing I like to do when I feel miserable is look online at old dachshunds that need homes. I know. It’s a terrible idea and, of course, I end up feeling way, way worse. If I really feel like I hate myself, I look up old dachshunds who need homes who are also cart dogs, aka dachshunds with back problems who need wheels to get around. Yes, I know. I have issues.

Anyway.

So last week I was looking up dogs and crying, when I discovered this nice old man, Oscar. Below is his picture from the rescue people. Look at Oscar. LOOK AT HIM.

 

 

The rescue agency was going to be at an adoption event on Saturday in Minneapolis. So we debated. And we went. And, well, obviously, we got him. How could we not? He’s 12, he has 3 teeth, he’s kind of cranky… he was built for us. Also, look at him. His tongue is always hanging out of his mouth because he has hardly any teeth and a mouth full of stitches. He’s adorable.

Oscar’s story is that someone abandoned him recently at a human society. He was immediately put on the euthanasia list because of his age and his severe dental issues. Almost all of his teeth were rotten and he was a mess. The rescue people swooped in and fostered him. When we met him, he was about a week out from a really extensive surgery to remove all but three teeth. He was scared. Not only had he been abandoned (and likely not treated great prior to that), but he’d been at a foster home for a while, and now was in a pet store where three random humans were beaming at him and telling him they were in love.

We brought him home, worried that Edward and Billy would be furious. They are good dogs. They like other dogs, are not aggressive, and really posed no actual concerns other than the fact that we had been their people, and their people ONLY, for nearly 14 years. The meeting went great. All three instantly got along. All three went outside together, ate together, and slept in the same bed. It turns out he is not cranky at all. Not even a little. He was just standoffish with us at the event. He is, in fact, a completely loving and sweet little dachshund whose tail never stops wagging.

There is not a lot we can do in life to really truly feel like we’re helping anyone. But if we can give this senior dachshund, a dog the shelter was about to put down because they felt he was unadoptable, a nice retirement full of love, snuggles, and tons of attention, we will feel like we’ve done something good in this world.

Now, please enjoy some pictures. If you live around us, come visit. He is very friendly.

 

 

First meeting in the pet store.

 

A night in the life of Anxiety Brain

I literally cannot remember a time in my life that I wasn’t completely anxious all the time. I mean, I’m medicated (and have been for 22 years), and have a bunch of tools to use thanks to cognitive behavioral therapy, so it’s tolerable, but my brain is still an anxious brain. All the time.

Here is how my brain works:

Last week, our neighbor’s cat died in our yard.

I know.

Here’s the story:

Matthew discovered a dead cat in our yard. He texted me at work and was like, Um, what do I do? I suggested he call animal control to see if they could remove it. It didn’t have tags or a collar and we didn’t know what to do. But as I thought about it, I thought, Hmm, I only know one neighborhood cat that I sometimes see out. I texted Matthew. Is it gray? It was. Check if it’s the across-the-street neighbors’. Naturally, at 1 pm, no one was home. I told him to hold off on animal control until we talked to the neighbors. If it was their cat, I wanted them to know and not just have us say, Well, some gray cat was here, dead, but now it’s gone. Maybe it was yours? We’ll never know.

Yeah.

Anyway. Matthew was on a conference call when Callum got home from school. Before Matthew could stop him, Callum went out to play and found the cat. I pulled in to find him sobbing in the driveway. I also pulled in directly behind the neighbor. So, I went across the street to have literally my first ever conversation with these people. Long story short, it was their cat. It looks like it just curled up and died–nothing appears to have attacked it etc. So at least it was peaceful, right? But that’s not much help.

So. I have pet death on my mind. That night, Billy starts acting funny. He’s crying to himself nonstop. He is a grumbling, grunty old man, but he doesn’t cry. He cried for HOURS. He kept me up until 3 a.m crying. Around 1 a.m, I thought, Holy shit, my dog is totally dying. Animals know. He’s dying. I’m in bed with him and he’s dying. Edward is snuggling him SO HARD right now because he knows his brother is dying. I can’t sleep because what if I do and Billy dies and then I’m in bed with my dead dog and I missed being there for him and so on times infinity.

Next round of thoughts: Billy will be dead by morning. Do I tell Callum Billy died and then he has to stay home and miss his field trip or do I tell him after? Wait, that will scar him forever, keeping it from him. God. Do I have to go to work? I’ll be a wreck. Plus, we have to take Billy to the vet to be cremated. Oh my god, what will Edward do without his brother? How will any of us go on? Why is life so terrible? What is the point of all this, anyway? We’re just completely insignificant specks of dust on a planet in one of one hundred billion galaxies. Everything is meaningless (this, oddly enough, is the thought that always calms me).

Billy didn’t die. Obviously. He stopped crying, slept, and was his usual wild and weird self in the morning.

My brain will take any thought and follow it all the way through to its most horrible conclusion. I do not have passing thoughts. I just have thoughts that pile up and wait to be fully explored so I can completely uncover all of the horrors that might be waiting for me. There are no happy endings. There is no “maybe everything will be okay.” There is only CATASTROPHIC THINKING! OBSESSIVE RUMINATION! That’s my brain’s specialty. Neat, huh?

This is why I sleep listening to television shows on my phone all night long–so if I wake up, I already have some other chatter in the background to grasp onto rather than the first stupid thought that leaps into my brain. Nighttime is Anxiety Brain’s favorite time to come out and play. It’s the perfect free time to really dig deep into exploring all the terrible things that could happen in life. And they’ll certainly happen if I don’t worry REALLY HARD about them. This will either keep them from happening or at the very least prepare me to deal with their eventuality.

I like my brain for all the nice things it allows me to do and think and create. But I don’t like that it can take a really innocuous thing, like my dog crying, and three minutes later have me very seriously thinking about where I will keep his ashes.

What I wouldn’t give to be able to pluck my brain out at night and send it through some sort of cleaner that scrubbed away all this kind of garbage while I slept unbothered. Someone get on inventing that.

My life motto.

Twin Cities Book Festival

This past weekend was the super fantastic Twin Cities Book Festival. Don’t know what that is? Here, go learn! It’s a great event full of interesting books, awesome speakers and panels, and tons of book people. I was trying to remember why we missed last year, but it was because I was speaking at NerdCon. We had a great time this year wandering around, picking up books and literature about organizations of interest. The whole event is also a total exercise in avoiding eye contact, as many of the vendors are very eager to talk to people, which is FINE, but is not my thing unless I’m interested. I was, however, very glad to bump into all kinds of area writers and to meet cool new people, too.

Anyway.

Here are some pictures of the day.

 

 

I took this picture to make sure to remember to order this book.

We bought one of these tiny accordion-fold zines for my artist brother.

 


An important debate Matthew instigated.

 

We were Carrie-less for this event, but Sajidah and Peter did great!

I was so glad to get to meet S.K. Ali in real life after lots of Twitter interaction. She was lovely. Her book is wonderful, too.

This was another good panel.  Make sure you read Malinda Lo’s recent blog post about LGBTQ YA by the Numbers: 2015-16. Also, her new book is FANTASTIC. I took a picture of this book cover because I feel like that’s the face I’m always making. Also, so is Sam Weir.

I also finally get to meet Rachel Gold IRL. She approached me and said she was pretty sure I was who she thought, but she’d peeked at my socks during the panel and that solidified her hunch. My brand on Twitter is fun socks, books, mental health, and donuts. Truth in advertising.

I can’t wait to read both of these.

Of course we bought this. OF COURSE WE DID.

Looking forward to our next Rain Taxi-sponsored event in a few weeks!

Super gigantic book sale

I dug deep into what tiny bit of energy I’ve been able to hang onto and made it to the Half Price Books giant clearance sale at the state fairgrounds on Friday and Saturday this past week. Callum and I were off work/school on Friday and Matthew took the morning off. Nerds like to be first at book clearance sales. We weren’t first. Not even close (though in the first 200, as we got free tote bags!). Friday was more chill there—busy, but not jammed. We were there for two hours. I was hunting down specific books for work and also just content to rifle through tons and tons of books rather aimlessly. When we went back Saturday, it was MUCH busier. People were taking it upon themselves to pull unopened boxes down from the stacks along the walls and start sifting through them. I used Saturday’s return visit to get some childhood favorites for some flashback reviews. Though I paid for it by being desperately exhausted after we left, we had a blast. Here are some pics from our visits!

Tell me your favorite words

I’m writing this on Saturday, day 9 of enjoying this horrible virus that has made my body its captive. No, I’m not dramatic about it at all. Though I dragged myself to work every day (sorry, coworkers!), I came home and went directly to bed, sometimes sleeping for 14 hours at a shot, sometimes reading and feeling sorry for myself, sometimes just being in bed, waiting for this to magically go away. I am a terrible patient, usually. Usually, I am desperately ill and still like, But my to-do list! I should clean. And run errands. And be productive. But this round of illness, I said hell no to all that business and went to bed.

 

After reading three books yesterday, my eyes started to give out, so I decided to instead make a list of some of my favorite words. Sometimes my brain completely spins out thinking about how there are only 26 letters in the alphabet and they make up alllllll these words (and putting the words in certain orders creates books and conversations and ideas and discoveries and and and!). My whole life I’ve had favorite words—and words I absolutely hate (don’t even get me started on pamphlet).

Here’s the list I made of some of my favorites:

 

If you’re reading this, chances are we know each other in some capacity. And if that’s true, chances are our interests overlap in some very important ways (I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess books/libraries). So I assume you’re a word person, right? So, tell me your favorite words! Tell me on Facebook or Twitter. Send me running to the dictionary. Give me something new to try to casually work into conversation. Maybe later we can talk about words we hate (I mean, seriously, look at that lump of consonants in the middle of pamphlet. mphl. So gross).

Recent reads

Still sneaking in some reading beyond what YA I review for TLT or need for research. I’m also reading chapter books like a mofo, now that I work at an elementary library. I tweet about them and did quick Post-it Note reviews of them on TLT, but didn’t include them here, since I’ve read SO MANY lately. I’ve also read a giant pile of picture books in the past few weeks.

What adult books have you read and liked lately?

 

The Windfall by Diksha Basu

Probably circa 15 years ago (dear lord), my pal Leo Landry said to me something along the lines of, “Your ideal book is about a gay Indian girl and there’s glitter on the cover.” My reading tastes do not change much, so that statement still holds true. I love fiction set in India, so when this colorful cover caught my eye, I snapped it up. Anil and Bindu Jha come in to a LOT of cash when Anil sells this website. They move across Delhi to a fancier neighborhood, which brings new pressures and drama with it. Their son Rupak is having his own issues in America, where he’s supposedly working on his MBA but really is struggling (and secretly seeing a white girl). A fun if sometimes really slow comedy of manners.

 

Class Mom by Laurie Gelman

I read almost this whole thing on a plane ride to San Francisco. It was a totally fun, quick read. Jen is in her late 40s and has two college-age daughters and a kindergartner. She gets roped into being the class mom and, unsurprisingly, finds herself embroiled in lots of classroom/parental drama. She’s exchanging (possibly?) flirtatious texts with an old high school crush, training for a mud run, and trying to solve the mystery of a perpetually absent mom. This was funny and really easy to get completely roped into.

 

I Know What I’m Doing — and Other Lies I Tell Myself: Dispatches from a Life Under Construction by Jen Kirkman

In the early summer, I read Kirkman’s other book, I Can Barely Take Care of Myself: Tales From a Happy Life Without Kids. This second memoir picks up a few years after the previous one, looking at Kirkman’s life post-divorce and exploring how, even in her 30s and 40s, life is still very much a work in progress. She’s hilarious, even when tackling serious subjects.

 

No One Cares About Crazy People: The Chaos and Heartbreak of Mental Health in America by Ron Powers

Pretty self-explanatory title, right? Powers writes about the history of mental health care (or “care,” as all too often is the case), detailing the horrific past treatments (or failures to treat), the current debates, and how far we still have to go in getting accessible, compassionate, adequate treatment for all. He pairs this historical and research-based narrative with a personal one—his two sons have/had schizophrenia, with one son eventually dying by suicide. Though often dense and occasionally meandering, this extensive look at the disastrous history of mental health care is fascinating and enraging.

 

The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and Peoples Temple by Jeff Guinn

YOU GUYS. Holy crap. For about 10 days, this book was my life. Every night while Matthew made dinner, I would recap the day’s reading for him. I read the last 40 pages out loud to Matthew and Callum. This book was RIVETING. It’s a super detailed and dense look at life inside the Jonestown cult. I really had no idea at all about the group’s deeply socialist perspective and works. Guinn goes all the way back to Jones’s parents, telling readers about them and their marriage, then takes us through Jim Jones’s entire life, from being an odd but charismatic child to his strong dedication to racial and economic equality to the eventual drug-addled, paranoid, power-hungry demagogue that I thought I knew all about. I knew nothing. I seriously want to read this book a second time already. If you’re into cults (as I am), or just like a really great but really slow-going nonfiction read, check this out. Guinn’s Manson book is now in my library queue. GAH.

 

God is Disappointed in You by Mark Russell, Shannon Wheeler (Illustrator)

For an atheist, I sure read a lot about religion. Or maybe it’s because I’m an atheist that I read a lot about religion. Matthew was listening to this book on audio and dying of laughter, playing me his favorite parts. While I’m a huge fan of podcasts, I have never been able to listen to books on audio. My brain wanders and I don’t absorb the words the same way. Maybe it’s because I know there’s a book out there and I’d rather just read it. Who knows. Anyway. This hilarious cut-to-the-chase version of the bible will leave you howling… unless you have no sense of humor about religion. Then this book is probably not for you. Bonus: the audio is read by the fab James Urbaniak (Arthur from Difficult People, the best show ever to exist ever EVER).

 

Sourdough by Robin Sloan

Lois’s life as a software engineer in San Francisco changes when she orders some soup and sourdough bread from a new restaurant. Not long after her addiction to this delicious food starts (and she stops living off of Slurry, a gross nutritional gel), she begins baking bread, too, using the starter the restaurant’s owners give her. It opens doors for her she never knew she needed, giving her a hobby, connecting her with people, and eventually pushing her toward new ideas at work and a new lease on life. Weird, funny, and completely engrossing.

Dachshund pictures galore

I have often said that probably the only reason I have so many followers on Twitter is because of Edward and Billy. Come for the books, stay for the dachshunds. It was kind of Billy to recently entertain everyone by getting stuck inside of a sweatshirt sleeve. He provides quality content to my Twitter stream.

Please enjoy these pictures of my dogs–because we can only spend so many hours a day looking at things online that enrage us.

 

Their best recent picture is clearly this one:

Edward: Brother, let us arrange ourselves in visually pleasing classic dog positions so when our mother appears she will find us very refined and charming.

Billy: Nailed it.

I put this dog bed here because sick little Billy often sits in the middle of the stairs, not sure where he wants to be. I moved it from a spot where usually only Edward uses the dog bed. Clearly he was a bit irritated that I moved HIS bed. No sharing.

Sometimes my dogs have to FaceTime my mom’s dogs. Chester was too busy to come to the phone (he was sleeping). Henry always tilts his cute little head when he hears us. And see my dogs up in the corner? Raising a ruckus. They had a lot to tell him.

Okay. Less writing, more doggy pictures, right? Here you go. 

 

I am not too old for a blanky

On Live from the Poundstone Institute a few weeks ago, they talked about a 2010 survey that said 35% of adults in Britain sleep with a teddy bear or other comfort object. There was some giggling. All I thought was, only 35%? What’s wrong with people? 

The second-longest relationship in my nearly 40 years of life is with my baby blanky (the longest being with, of course, my mother). My Oma (grandma, my dad’s mom) made it for me before I was born. Here she is finishing it (she’s on the right):

 

I have slept with my blanky nearly every night of my life. The only nights I did not were when I was a child and my parents would pack it for me so I could go to my grandparents’ houses, and I’d pull it out of my packed bag to drag it around the house and then forget to grab it again. I still remember just sobbing when my grandma suggested I sleep with a towel in place of my absent blanky. Unacceptable.

My blanky went with me to college. My blanky traveled around England and Sweden with me. It was at the hospital with me when Callum was born. Every night, I sleep with it tucked under my head. When I’m sick, I still drag it around the house with me. I like to put it in the freezer and then hold it to my head when I have migraines. The ultimate show of my love for Callum is that I have allowed him to snuggle with it in bed at various points (though I always go back in and snag it once he’s sleeping). The dogs pretty much do whatever they want in this house, but I absolutely draw the line at Billy trying to nest in my blanky, which he will try to do the second he spies it.

In my teen years, Oma would say she fully expected me to drag that thing down the aisle if I got married. She passed away about a year ago, but right up until the end she noted, nearly every time I talked to her or saw her, that she would’ve made that blanket out of something stronger if she knew I’d still be sleeping with it as a grown adult.

 

My blanky is still in one piece. Matthew’s mom added  ribbon around the edges probably 15 years ago or more to help preserve it. Most of the little animal appliques have come off. I have them in a box. I am not a particularly sentimental person. I don’t put much emotional value on things. After my dad died, I only took one thing to remember him—a tiny metal figure of someone playing the trombone. But my blanky… my blanky is different. It kind of feels like that tissue paper-thin thing is the repository of my childhood, my family, my emotions, my everything. Whenever I hear stories of some parents taking away their kid’s blanky (or whatever other lovely they have), I think, YOU MONSTERS. Also, wtf? Who cares if your kid likes to sleep with a blanket?

This is what my beloved blanket looks like these days. I’d say it’s pretty well preserved for being almost 40.

Do you sleep with a blanket or special stuffy? I want to know. I need to know who the cool kids are. Tell me on Facebook or on Twitter

A deep dive into nonfiction books on addiction

A few weeks ago I hit a wall in the novel I’m writing. I needed a little distance. I like to think of that time as me sending it to camp—look, I love you, but you need to go away from me for me to like you again. Or maybe to some intensive therapy, where someone else could say, mm-hmm, things here are looking maybe promising, but have you considered trying this? In other words, I sent it to my agent. But I couldn’t just sit around not writing something, so I started a new novel, which is the one I’m currently giving my attention to. I know. That other novel came back from camp and I was like, oh, hey, I guess I’m glad to see you, but I’m kind of giving all of my attention to this novel now. Catch you in a few months! (It’s probably a good thing I only have one child, huh?)

Anyway.

This new thing has no real title, but I’m calling it Teenage Mutant Nightmare Friendships. It’s about disintegrating friendships, porcupines, meth, and a water park.

Yep.

While I’ve been writing this, I’ve been thinking a lot about these quotes/lyrics:

Just the old blood
Rising up through the wooden floor again
Just the old love
Asking for more again.
Minnesota, The Mountain Goats

 

“The past is never where you think you left it.”—Katherine Anne Porter

 

And I’ve been listening to this song a ton:

 

Anyway, here are some of the books I’ve been reading as research. I know a lot now about dopamine and addiction. I also desperately, desperately wish more people understood that addiction is a chronic disease and not a choice/behavior/moral failing. What a different world we would live in if people could understand that and if more people could get effective medical treatment for intervention and recovery. 

Actually, first, before I show you the books, please observe how useful dachshunds can be. Look at them research for me!

Scenes from a California Vacation

We just returned from our vacation to California. We stayed in Windsor, with my cousin. Windsor is just outside of Santa Rosa and looks like a California version of Stars Hollow, the town in Gilmore Girls. We also ventured to Northern California for a weekend stay at a refurbished logger’s cabin in Elk Meadow. It was a fantastic time. Here are some pictures from our trip.

 

While we were in CA, the dogs were on vacation in lovely St. Peter, Minnesota. We’ll check in with them later.
Me packing: Hmm, what black t-shirts should I bring?
No MacGregor vacation is complete without stopping at a bookstore or two.
MacGregors also need candy stores.
Callum and I could live here. SO. MUCH. CANDY.
Honestly, same.
This basketball game is getting out of control.
I opened our bedroom window to see this dude just feet away.
Pretty okay view with my morning coffee.
Solitary elk.
55 elk enjoying their breakfast.
Guess what? More elk.
Callum contemplates the ocean.
The ocean. Good thing I captioned this one so you’d know.
Down at the beach in Trinidad.
Trinidad.
I am solidly an indoor person, but there just might be something to this whole outdoors business. Kind of pretty.
I resisted my juvenile urge to kick this over.
Fern Canyon. Cool to walk through, terrifying to drive to.
Apparently there is a Big Tree here in this forest of Redwoods. Go fig.
Some big trees, but not THE Big Tree.
Callum contemplates the trees.
Nice face, guy.
Oh, nature.
Let’s check in on the dogs. Here is Billy, looking quite refined.
Edward enjoys the sun.
These flowers are called Naked Ladies. We never got tired of saying, “See the Naked Ladies?”
Librarians on vacation visit libraries. Of course we do.
Librarians around the country are glad that dang eclipse is over with.
Children’s room at the library.
We hit up the Friends of the Library sale.
I laughed at this sign every time we passed it.
Such a specific house rule.
Again, a rather specific sign. Year of the Woman Accordion Festival.
BLERGH. GROSS. DUMB STORE IS DUMB.
Dachshund check: All is well.
Feels like home.
We never stopped marveling at how different CA looks from MN.
So cool.
Another bookstore, this one in Santa Rosa.

 

Okay, but can this animal relief area be for humans who desperately need some relief via doggy snuggles?