Monday, March 18, 2013

If Loving You Is Wrong

Sometimes it's a guilty pleasure, maybe the desire for the unattainable, or just an obsession with a bad boy.  Many of us have had at least one love that we know is wrong, but just can't seem to quit.  I have three.  The objects of my affection may never reciprocate my feelings, and while I know it's wrong for me to care for them so, I just can't--no won't--live without them. And my husband isn't even jealous.

First I will come clean and admit that I love my dishwasher.  Before you start googling "human/dishwasher love", let me state emphatically that this is a spiritual love and not anything base or, ahem, dirty.   Most of the places I've lived as an adult had either no dishwasher or the cheapest model available, possibly purchased on a street corner in the dead of night and very likely from a third world country (whose inhabitants had no idea why we crazy Westerners couldn't just wash our dishes by hand).  One of these could barely even be called a dishwasher--dish rinser would have been a more accurate term.  It absolutely would not wash off peanut butter--this had to be hand washed first and then put in the dishwasher, thereby negating the purpose of this appliance.  The model we have now, a Bosch (which those of you in the know will recognize as the Cadillac of dishwashers) will clean pretty much anything.  I like to test it every once in a while to see its devotion to me and my dirty dishes.  Lasagna pan?  Sure.  Old moldy coffee cup that's been sitting in the back of my husband's work truck for a month?  Clean.  Knife with peanut butter on it?  Hallelujah!  I believe!!  My dishwasher is that love that gives you everything you ask for and never lets you down.

My next love is as big of a shock to me as it was to my teenage daughter.  Who would think that a middle-aged mother of three would fall so hard for the rap song  "Thrift Shop" by Macklemore?  The first time I heard it I was just flipping through radio stations, went past it, then had to go back.  But then I knew:  we were meant to be.  It has a catchy beat, quirky lyrics and will get stuck in your head before you can say "I'm gonna pop some tags." By a Seattle-based rapper, the song and video do not talk about drugs or contain half naked women (which seem to be the staple of the rap world), although I'm sure "your grammy, you aunty, your momma, your mammy" would not approve of some of his language. But that's part of the fun of this song--I get to remember the me that could use swear words with impunity. Now my kids looked scandalized when I sing along with "I'm in this big ass coat."  Thrift Shop is that bad boy we've all fallen for--sure he's fun, but you can't take him home to meet the parents.  Or you kids.

This last love has left me so conflicted, I can barely say it here.  I love Amazon.  While this local company lets me purchase everything from rain boots to MP3 downloads from the comfort of my own laptop, delivered to my door in two business days, I am wracked with guilt every time I log in.  In my former life I was a bookseller at Elliott Bay Book Company a well-respected, independently owned bookstore.  Many independent bookstores are slowly being forced out of business by competition with huge companies, who can bargain for higher discounts and therefore offer lower prices.  This sounds all well and good to the consumer (competition is good, right?), but when you consider these smaller bookstores are staffed by real live people who actually have a say in what appears on their shelves (as opposed to say Costco, who has a corporate book buyer determining their stock), Amazon is the devil.  But I love Amazon!  It all started when I got a Kindle for Christmas a couple years ago--I was hooked after the first ebook download. I can read, play games, stream movies, search the internet and then toss it in my purse and take it with me.  The Kindle was my gateway drug.  Soon I discovered all the wonders that had to offer.  Not just Kindle books (which I download for free from the library), but clothes and shoes and toys and and ipod cases and movies and...Oh, I was hooked big time.  But what about my bookseller friends?  Was I being disloyal?  Was I shopping them out of a job?  It doesn't count if I don't order my books there, right?  I'm very likely going to bookseller's purgatory, where the none of the books have spines and you receive 20 cases of  Donald Trump's rewrite of "Pride and Prejudice."  Amazon is that boyfriend that showers you with attention, but treats your friends like shit.

Barbara Mandrell, that country songstress who rose to fame in the 1980's, knew the turmoil a heart goes through when your love is forbidden. 

Your mama and daddy say it's a shame
It's a downright disgrace
Long as I got you by my side
I don't care what your people say

If loving you is wrong, I don't want to be right.




Wednesday, March 6, 2013

A Dog's Life

Many of us have memories of a favorite pet from childhood.  My family's dog Ralph came to us when he and I were both one.  My mom said that during my toddler years he would follow me around the yard, guarding me from trouble.  Of indeterminate parentage,  Ralph taught me the unconditional love only dogs can offer.  He made me a dog person before I even knew what it was to be a person.

Yet, if you had told me that I would one day spend what roughly equals a mortgage payment on medical bills for my current dog, I would suspect you'd been dipping into the kitty's catnip.  However,  I recently financed (yes, financed) cancer treatment for a dog who only cost $250 brand new, straight off the show room floor (complete with new puppy smell).

Granted, this is not just any dog.  Jack is a 6-year-old yellow lab who is known and loved by the entire neighborhood. He was named after the dog in Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House series and the main character from the book I, Jack by Patricia Finney.  As a puppy he loved nothing more than chewing up anything left unattended:  shoes (especially if they were new), the kids' toys (several Polly Pocket dolls lost limbs one summer afternoon) and even the pump hose while it was still attached to swimming pool, thereby flooding  the entire backyard with water.  Luckily for us all, he grew into the best dog ever.   He knows how to sit, spell (W-A-L-K) and when to act ashamed ("Uh-oh, Jack, what did you do?").  He is a bird dog extraordinaire--pheasants and ducks alike quake at the mere mention of his name.  He is the giver of kisses and the healer of broken hearts.  Jack is a good dog. 

So when we found the lump on his lip the size of a blueberry and the vet mentioned the dreaded C word, I was more than a little upset.  I knew Jack couldn't stay with us forever.  Maybe one day when he could no longer keep up with the younger dog retrieving the birds, after our son went off to college, when our girls had grown past the age that a snuggle with the puppy boy made a bad day a little brighter, I knew we'd have to let him go.  But not yet.

My husband's parents were originally farmers.  Any animals they had served a purpose:  cats killed mice, dogs kept away coyotes, pigs were bacon.  My husband always told me he'd never let a dog sleep in our house--they'd be in a kennel outside.  Today our dogs each have a memory foam bed next to the fireplace.  He always said that he wouldn't pay large amounts of money to keep a dog alive--he'd just go back across the street and buy another lab for $250.  Yet we agreed that Jack was too good of a dog to let go without a fight.  And this kind of fight costs roughly the same as our house payment. 

Yesterday the vet removed the tumor, took chest x-rays and an aspiration of his lymph node to see if the cancer has spread.  Now we wait and see if our future holds a dog named Jack.  And while we make payments on his medical bills, we love him and spoil him and let him give us as many kisses as he wants. 

When the day comes that Jack is no longer a happy dog, when going for a walk no longer makes him wag his whole self with excitement, when his body no longer lets him enjoy this life, I will have to let him go.  That is what good pet owners do.

Jack is the dog our kids will remember their whole lives.   He will be the dog that sets the benchmark for every other pet they ever own.  When they come back to visit us as grown ups and we reminisce  about the old days, I know Jack will come up with every other memory.  Remember when we first got Jack and his coloring was so much like Sam's we said they were brothers?  How about when he was a puppy and used to stand on top of the dining room table?  Or how he ate half of that birthday cake and then got sick all over the house?  Now that was a good dog.