Thoughts from the bark

You might remember that a while back, over a year ago, I blogged about Milo, the newest four-legged member of our family. Milo is still with us, but it has been an interesting year with the beast whom I refer to as my project dog.

Milo is quite possibly the best, easiest dog we have ever owned. He is reasonably well-trained. He is extremely easy-going and not demanding. But he has one little issue. Actually, it is one giant issue. He is aggressive. Fear aggression. Mostly towards people but sometimes other dogs. And when the 65 pound, out-of-control, barking, biting, monster comes out, it is a scary thing indeed. But with people he likes (all 15 of them at last count) and dogs he trusts (both of them), he is passive, roll over and rub my belly sweet.

For the first nine months or so that he was with us, we were very conscientious about working with him. Every walk was a training walk. We kept his life as structured as possible and tried to be absolutely consistent with him. We worked with a trainer. Thanks to some marvelous, patient folks at our vet, we can board him and have him doctored there. We can and do walk him around people and other dogs, but we are careful to maintain some space around him, keep him under control, and not allow others to approach him. At some point, I felt like I had done all that I could do. I didn’t have the wherewithal to become a true dog trainer. As one of our neighbors told me when I was lamenting that he is much, much better, but we still don’t trust him, “Milo is just Milo. You can’t expect him to be something else.”

Still, he generally works with our lifestyle and we will keep him as long as we can, although that might not be quite as long as his natural life. Our vet, trainer, and any other dog people we know have assured us that, quite frankly, we are Milo’s only hope for a normal cage-free life at this point. I have come to terms with the fact that we adopted a security dog instead of a family dog.

And now that I have all THAT out of the way, I can tell you about his latest quirk that has us laughing and shaking our heads.

Milo is a coward. This is at the heart of his aggression issue; his ‘fight’ instinct is stronger than his ‘flight’ instinct. Unless he’s not clear about what he needs to fight (odd sounds, sudden movements), and then he becomes a cowering pile of fur. A few days ago, Milo decided he was afraid of the kitchen. Milo’s food and water bowl are in the kitchen. The outside door that Milo uses is in the utility room, adjacent to the kitchen. We never crate-trained Milo, but we did kitchen-train him, confining him to that one room when we were sleeping or out of the house. It is supposed to be his safe, happy place.

Maybe it started last week when a glass fell off a shelf and shattered. Milo wasn’t in the kitchen at the time and I calmly barricaded him OUT of the room while I cleaned it up. I think now he is expecting a loud shattering noise to happen whenever he goes in the kitchen. Or maybe it is because I moved his food bowl onto a tray. This is a dog who does not like change. Or maybe he is like the child who is convinced that there is a monster in the closet and there is not much you can do to prove the negative. It would not surprise me to learn that this dog has a vivid imagination. So we’ll continue to coax and bribe him to traverse the kitchen to go for a walk, and we’ll laugh as he comes in and snatches a bite or two of food before retreating. And we’ll hope that this is just a phase.

You really want me to come in the kitchen?

That treat better be worth it.



The daily prompt on WordPress today is “Dancing.”

I’ve never been much into dancing, but still the word conjures up lots of happy memories. And one dance moment shines brighter than all the others.

D#1 at age seven, the official photograph from her first dance recital. She and her friends danced “ballet” to The Teddy Bears’ Picnic and did a tap dance routine to Happy Feet (which the parents called Funeral Feet; there wasn’t a smile in the bunch because they were concentrating so hard.) True confession: this costume is hanging in a closet upstairs. Don’t know what I’m saving it for, but I’m not ready to get rid of it yet.

It makes me tick

I’m a great list maker. One, because I forget things if I don’t write them down, and two, because nothing motivates me like being able to tick things off as DONE. Grocery lists, to-do lists, gift idea lists, xmas cards sent and received lists, calendars events in list form, and my favorite… hubby-do lists for the weekends. Lists are what keep my life organized.

Ok, that’s not exactly true. IF I actually had a good system for making and keeping and updating lists, it would probably be a good a motivating and organizational tool for me. Historically, lists have worked as well as anything. Except for maybe those hubby-do lists, they never work as well as I would hope.

Honestly, I’m a pretty lazy person. It is hard for me to find motivation to do…to do…well, oftentimes to do much of anything. A few years ago the husband ordered me a custom wall calendar from Despair, Inc. They are the geniuses behind the line of demotivational posters and swag that was created in response to the proliferation of motivational posters and swag embraced and overused by corporate america in the last few decades. The husband was able to choose a unique poster for each month of the year. For January, he chose this one:

I Hear the Call to Do Nothing and Am Doing My Best to Answer It

Then he chose the same one for February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, and December. He knows me so well.

Enter Habitica. Habitica is an online and app based gamified taskmanager (their words). I also saw it described as a sticker chart for gamers. It is an RPG game where you choose a character type and create an avatar. Then you earn game rewards and improve the attributes of your character by completing tasks in your real life. You can earn additional rewards and experience by banding together in a party and completing quests like the Attack of the Mundane and Terror in the Taskwoods. It sounds really hokey when I try to explain it. In fact, the daughters were using it for at least a year before they convinced me to give it a try last spring. But you know what? It works for me. I am not the demographic that Habitica was created for. I am not a video gamer (too old) nor an RPG fan (not quite nerdy enough in college, believe it or not), but something that turns to-do lists, daily chores, and habits I want to work on (both more good and less bad) into a game, well that falls right into my wheel house. You can also set it up to “spend” your game-earned gold on real world rewards. For example, when I buy myself flowers for the house, I deduct some gold from my Habitica account thereby assuaging all guilt at buying myself little happy presents.

Don’t let me be your guide to Habitica. If it sounds remotely like something that you might want to try, find a 20- or 30-something-year-old to ask about it. The Habitica developers didn’t create this with someone like me in mind. It’s not the life-preserver in the canoe in the aspiration poster, but it is another tool to paddle with.





WIPs, FOs, and IPs

I’m struggling (once again? as usual?) to get into a solid exercise and healthy eating routine. As I age, it becomes harder and harder to get the physical body back into good working order after every break from the routine, no matter how short. I’ve found that my reading muscles get out of shape quickly, too. I have to exercise my brain to get it back into deep reading shape; skimming headlines, flitting about the internet, and scrolling thru my twitter feed do not use the same reading muscles as a good novel or non-fiction tome. So despite having finished a solid book of non-fiction essays and started on a great novel, I remain in a bit of a reading funk.

Fortunately I’ve been able to direct a decent amount of energy into knitting lately so I thought it was a good time to share my current WIPs, FOs, and IPs.

WIPs (Works In Progress)

This years Crackerjack panel is almost complete as the Astros have only 4 games of regular season baseball remaining. I have already dug out the contrasting color that I use to indicate the post-season wins and losses since the beloved ones have clinched the ALWest and will be playing in the ALDS starting next week.

I’m also working on a scarf for a niece. (I am assuming that neither she nor her mother is a reader of TFTB, I do hate ruining surprises.) She requested green, but I thought this yarn looked so fun to work with that I couldn’t resist. And there is some green in there…

FOs (Finished Objects)

I’ve finished two projects in the last month. The first is a baby blanket knit on “commission” for D#2 who has too many friends having babies at the same time for her to keep up with handknit gifts.

And since the daughters are of the age that their friends are having babies, I am obviously at the age where my friends are becoming grandparents. So since the dreaded shower invitations keep arriving, I have come up with a cute handmade gift to accompany a book or two and a gift card. I think the crowns are more practical than a hat (at least in Houston), cuter than the usual headband, and appropriate for both sexes.

IPs (Imagined Projects)

I try not to buy yarn without a specific project in mind. I am not always successful. In contrast, I am practically compulsive about saving patterns via Ravelry and Pinterest, most of which I will never make. Sometimes, it all comes together. Here is some yarn that I have scheduled for some projects to get on the needles soon. (One is actually already a WIP, but for a regular reader of TFTB and, like I said above, I do hate ruining surprises.)

All-in-all I’m feeling pretty good about my knitting projects of late. Although as I was pulling together the yarns, patterns, and needles for these IPs, I uncovered a WIP that has been in the works for over 2 years and two IPs that I never got around to casting on. Good thing my knitting muscles are in top shape these days.

Sorry, not sorry

A few weeks back we cleaned out the game closet. First, let me say that it makes me immensely happy to state that we have a game closet in our house. Who wants to store coats or linens or brooms in a closet when you can store GAMES? (Or jigsaw puzzles. We have a different closet for those.)

Once spread out, the contents of said game closet covered the family room floor and tables (the keepers) and also the dining room table (the giveaway pile). We honestly did get rid of a lot of games, though I know we kept some that we’ll likely never play. We kept some classics that I just felt we should keep. We kept some kids games just for the sake of the happy memories. We kept plenty of party games even though we pretty much never entertain and play group games anymore. We jettisoned games that we never really enjoyed, games that were too similar to another game that we like better, and games that were no longer in playable condition.

There was no marital strife involved. One ‘yes’ vote was all it took to keep a game. Two ‘no’ votes sent it to the to-go pile.

And deep in the bowels of the game closet, a treasure was found.

Mountain Climb is a game that I bought for the kids from Hearthsong. Back in the day, this catalog company was known for high quality, unique, and classic toys and games. Google tells me they are still around with an updated website that doesn’t at all resemble the quaint catalog I remember.

The daughters didn’t really care for Mountain Climb. I’m not sure it was ever played after that Christmas break of so many years ago, but the husband plucked it off the dining room table saying, “I think I liked this one. Let’s hang on to it until we read the rules and try it once.”

Before you can fully appreciate the joy that this game brings to me, you need to understand how much I like the game Sorry! In Sorry!, each player (2, 3, or 4) has four colored tokens and the goal is to get them around a board from START to HOME. On a turn, a player draws a card which indicates how they can move one of their tokens – usually forward the same number of spaces as the number on the card, though some numbers allow special moves. Basically, that’s it, except that if your token lands on a space occupied by another player’s token, that player has to move his token back to START. Proper etiquette requires you to always say (shout, exclaim, etc.) SORRY! when this happens, usually accompanied by a sweeping motion of your token to clear the space. Yup, it’s really simple. Yup, it’s for ages 6 and up. Yup, there’s almost no strategy, although there are choices to be made on most turns. But everybody has an equal shot at winning and it never struck me as inane as some kids’ games.

One of my better parenting moments was instituting family game nights when the kids were in elementary school. Monthly for close to a year, and then occasionally afterwards, we had a family game night. Dad was required to be home on time. Friends weren’t invited. Pizza and a special dessert were served. We took turns picking what game to play next and we solemnly vowed to willingly play whatever game was picked. I’m sure I picked different games, but the daughters remember me always picking Sorry!

Back to the present day. Husband read the rules for Mountain Climb and said, “It’s 2-person Sorry!” At that point he was ready to donate it and I was all like, “Let’s play!”

Each player has five tokens that travel up the wooden board in a straight line. The goal is to get all five of your tokens to the top of the board. Token movement is determined by the roll of die. Basically, that’s it, except that when your token lands in a hole occupied by a token of the opposing player, you get to push his token out of the hole and he has to restart it at the bottom. We have not yet determined what is considered proper etiquette when this happens – various exclamations of glee are currently being used. I’m hooked. It’s small, aesthetically pleasing, doesn’t take long to play, and I’ve won a solid 80% of the games played against the husband.

Sadly for all of you, Mountain Climb is no longer sold. And I’m not parting with it.