Thursday, December 13, 2007


There's a new barista at my Starbucks. Well, she's new to that Starbucks but I know her from somehwere. She's in her late 40's, has black curly hair with some gray, and a heart-shaped face. She has a lilting accent I cannot identify (a little hispanic a little Indian?)and speaks in sing-song. I know her from somewhere but I can't quite place her. She's not a mom from my kids' schools. Not the gym. Maybe she was a checker at the Dominicks.

As I'm standing there trying to remember how I know her she sees me and recognition lights up her face. "How are you?" she asks as if we are old friends. Damn. Still don't know. "How is your little one?" she asks. Ah, finally a clue. When someone says my "little one" I know they mean Lilly because as my youngest, she is the only one who ever traveled solo with me. So she must be someone I knew when I used to run errands with just Lilly which narrows the timeframe down to the two years that she was an "only child" while her brother and sister were in school but before she started school.

"Oh she's great!" I answer. "She's in fourth grade now."

She smiles happily. "Bring her in some time."

The next three times I go to Starbucks we more or less repeat this scene and yet I still cannot place her so one day, after I drop my two oldest off at school early and have some time to kill before Lilly has school I say, "Hey, come to Starbucks with me and see if you remember who this lady is. I'll buy you a hot chocolate." Reluctantly, she agrees.

As soon as we walk in and get in line I see the barrista's face and my knees almost buckle. I do not know why but for some reason I feel like crying. I shake my head and swallow a lump in my throat, still not sure why this woman has this effect on me.

When it is our turn to order she smiles at Lilly and says in her delightful accent, "So sorry, no Forty-Niners today!" and BAM! it hits me and I know who she is. She is the waitress who served us every Tuesday at Walker Brothers' Pancake House that whole terrible time when Lilly was going through and then recovering from chemo. When she was bald and pale and couldn't eat a thing she could always choke down a few bites of her favorite pancakes--Forty-Niner-Flapjacks.

This lovely lady was the waitress we had every week who would say to Lilly, "The usual?" and bring the plate out with a flourish and a smile, knowing Lilly would only take a few bites and then she would have to wrap it all up to go. She always smiled when she saw us, always watched Lilly carefully, always served us like royalty.

There were a lot of angels in our lives during that time, five years ago,--friends, neighbors, family, church members, school friends. But there were more, these stranger-angels who helped us along and I don't even know their names like this barista. Once when Lilly had just lost all her hair we went out for dinner. It was a good night, we were laughing and having fun and when Jeff went to pay the bill the waiter said, "There is no bill sir, the gentleman who just left paid it for you." We have no idea who that generous person was, this stranger-angel.

I am thinking about all these angels again as I order my latte and a hot chocolate and I smile down on Lilly's head. When I look up I catch our stranger-angel smiling broadly at Lilly, still remarking about how tall she's gotten and how long her hair is and I say a little prayer for all the angels in our lives.

Merry Christmas

Friday, December 07, 2007


Don't be impressed, she almost never remembers to signal.

There was a movie in the sixties called "Charly" (based on a book we had to read in high school called "Flowers for Algernon) about a mentally challenged man who, through some Hollywood scientific process, was given the oppportunity to become "normal". His intelligence grew and grew until he was a genius, learning languages and devouring books. Unfortunately, the science was faulty (go figure) and he learned (according to Wikipedia) that " the neural enhancement is only temporary, and he too is doomed to revert to his original mental state. He records his struggles to find a way to stop the decay until he realizes the futility of his situation. Charlie's writings gradually begin to reflect the recession of his intelligence. He becomes depressed when he realizes that he can no longer understand his own proof – the pinnacle of his genius phase. By the end of the story, Charlie's brain has returned to its initial state." (Hey, I just realized that story is probably a metaphor for life in which we start out dumb, gain knowledge, and the pretty much lose our memory little by little)

Anyhoo, I was thinking of this movie because I realize that sort of like Charlie, my brain is deteriorating, --not because I had a Hollywood brain operation but because I now own a dog and my my dog-hating brain is slowly morphing into the crazy putty that is a dog-lovers' brain.

So like Charlie, who journals as he loses his intelligence, quick, before I lose all my good sense, I will give you some insight into the dog world while I can still remember what it's like to be a dog-hater. I'll try to explain some of the stuff that dog-haters worry about so you can understand why people love dogs so much.

Let's address the obvious things:

HAIR: You're wondering why a normally clean person would put up with all that goddamned hair in their house, on their couch, on their clothes, and in their car, arent' you? I know, you gag a little when you see a dog hair floating around anywhere near where you are going to eat. I know, because I was like that too. Well, let me explain. These buggers are hairy. It's really that simple. I now vacuum my house every single friggin day at 5:00, have two lint rollers laying around and one more in the car and there is still hair all over the place. So, unless I'm going to shave her, there you have it.

JUMPING: Before Molly I absolutely hated going to people's houses who have dogs because they jump on you. They jump up and put dig their sharp claws into your lets and slobber on you--yuck! Well, I still hate that but now I have a dog that does it too! It turns out that it's really, really, really, really hard to train them not to do that. They are so desperately needy. They dont' jump on us all day, they save that for the new person at the door. They just want you to love them (like that girl in college who stalked Jeff). They are needy, needy, needy. Short of a taser or as my father likes to say "a good swift kick with a boot" (both methods of discipline I am loathe to employ) it is difficult to break this habit. It requires immense discipline on the part of the owner. Even more than discipline than PARENTING requires for god's sake. My kids are much, much better behaved than this silly animal and they almost never jumped up on the UPS man when he comes to the door anymore but as for Molly, well, I'm not sure we've made any progress on that front.

WET NOSE: Yes. They have one and it is always wet and they always insist on sticking it on your bare leg. Unless I cut it off, (the nose not the leg) I see no solution for this one.

SMELL: You know that "wet dog smell"? I thought that was just when they were wet or dirty. No, they pretty much smell all the time except when you bring them home from their expensive visit to the "dog groomer". Good lord.

BARKING: People talk, dogs bark. That's life. Luckily, we have a quiet dog by nature so I am VERY happy to report, if you come over you will not be subjected to endless yapping or barking. (You will however be jumped on and covered with hair, but hey, stop by any time).

In short a dog is just as much of a pain in the ass to own as it would appear to those not owning a dog.

So why do dog-lovers love their dogs so very much? Well, like all great love it isn't very rational. She is a great companion to the children and very sweet and that does make up for a lot of the hair and other crap.

Still, the benefit to nuisance ratio is not tipping in Molly's favor.

But for now we'll keep her because she's the cutest little snookems who loves da mama, now don't you, my little pookie wookiee---

Help me, my mind is turning to mush. Before you know it I will dress her in a Santa hat and let her take food out of my mouth....aaaagghhhh I can't remember why I hate dogs...I need an operation to restore my brain......