Old Dogs, New Tricks, and the Thing About Broken Fences

Peter brought two black Labrador retrievers to our family. He adopted my kids; I adopted his dogs. It’s a big happy mess of laundry and baseballs and kibble.design

Sam is truly perfection incarnate. I do believe that if he could make his mouth obey, he’d carry on full conversations with us. He has the cognition of a four-year-old, and he communicates better than some men I dated back in the day. Sam is pure loveliness.

Murphy has been mine all along, and he’s happy to have some big guys around. He’s the baby of the crowd, and he cries when we put him to bed early.

Lily is 13 years old in dog years, which makes her very, very old in people years. She’s kind of… shall we say… over it. This whole thing of transplanting her home during her retirement years was not part of her plan. She comes when she wants, listens if she feels like it, and feels like she’s just too old to people please. Been there, done that. She looks at us like, “Hey, if you need me, you can come and… you know what? Just don’t need me.”

Lily hates to be contained. She would just like to be in charge of where she is at all times, so if we attempt to hold her captive, she’ll bust right through our plan. She operates doorknobs and latches, you guys. Lily doesn’t mess around. We joke that she’s the Brains and Sam is the Muscle, and if Lily wants out, she’ll put him up to her escape.

So we came home to find that Lily had torn apart the fence in the backyard again. She plows through these layers of wood like they’re toothpicks, leaving splinters on the ground. It’s not the first time, but more like a pattern. Peter and Tyler have built and rebuilt several panels in the fence. Actually, he now stores planks of wood for the next round of Lily-proofing.

Feeling discouraged, I wondered aloud if we could please do something to help her be safe, or at least to keep the boundaries of the yard in tact. I offered several suggestions, each of which might only work on a dog with less fortitude. It’s all a little too late, and she’s a very determined old broad, but couldn’t we do something?

He pointed to me gently, and he said, “Ah, but the bond your son and I have over the reconstruction of this fence? You can’t put a price tag on that.”

This man… True enough.

And then in a loud voice, “Tyler,” he said, “Get the power tools.”

You win, Lily. The end justifies the means. And I’m all about an ending that brings these guys closer. So have at it, girlfriend.

Sloths, Stereotypes, and the DMV

It was Official Name-Changing Day, since it turns out that changing my relationship status on Facebook doesn’t actual count as an actual marriage. So I reserved some hours in the morning to get after this task.

I was wholly committed to refusing stress and negativity. No, I will be peaceful and joyful, and I will lean into as many of these four hours as necessary to make my way down the CandyLand path to getting my name changed.

Scratch that. It’s not CandyLand. It’s Chutes and Ladders.

Honestly, Social Security was a non-event. I only waited about 25 minutes in the rows and rows of people all facing the screen in silence that tells us all the questions the Social Security Office will not answer under any circumstances. So life giving, all the capital letters and bold fonts.

But I got it done. Social Security: [x]. Next stop: DMV.

I started most logically with the office closest to my home, which is of course one that doesn’t do driver’s licenses. (Again with the all caps and bolds.) Not a problem for me, no sir, I thought, since I’m not doing stress and negativity today. Off to the DMV that’s 20 minutes south of here. Good thing I’ve got some good podcast situations to join me in the car.

I checked in at the kiosk at the DMV. I was number 260, and they were on number 231. Good thing I’m not doing stress and negativity today, I thought. I even brought a book. Because of course I did.

I had just opened my book when I heard an omniscient voice. “Customer #260, please come to Suite 143, Counter D2.”

Wait. I think that’s me. What room am I in? More importantly, is this a suite? Are any of these really suites? Let’s be honest with ourselves, DMV. I mean, really.

Using my skills of deduction and map reading that I learned in second grade, I deduced that I was in “Suite” 141, and I saw that 143 was across the hall. As I walked the seven steps across the hall, the omniscient voice repeated herself. “Customer #260, please come to Suite 143, Counter D2.”

Right. Got it. Here I am.

There was one person at the counter, so I took a seat. She finished hers, and I expected them to call me up next. Because I am a rational human being who thinks logically. But the woman behind the counter addressed something insanely important at her computer screen instead. Type, type, type.

So it’s just me sitting here now. Silently. Type, type, type.

But I’m not doing stress and negativity today, so this is no problem. I’ll wait.

Type, type, type. Maybe 45 seconds passed. Then she said, “Ma’am, what’s your number?”


She looked at her screen. “We deleted your number.” She went back to her computer screen. Type, type, type.

“What? Why?”

“Because we called it twice.”

“I came as soon as I heard you.”

“Well, we called you twice.”

“And I came immediately.”

“Not the first time.” Type, type, type.

“It was less than two minutes ago, and I’ve been sitting here for one and a half of those minutes.”

Type, type, type.

“We called you. Twice.”

I’m not doing stress or negativity today. And it’s a blasted Good Thing.

“Ma’am, I’m here right now.” In front of you. As a living human being. And, by the way, I choose to believe you are a human being as well. Maybe we could be humans together, even though you called me twice. And I was apparently irresponsible in my inability to travel slower than light speed at your beckon.

Type, type, type. “Fine,” she said.

At which point I stepped forward. She didn’t even have to tell me twice.

And that’s when I learned that the Social Security Department needs 24-48 hours to change my name in the system, so consider this your public service FYI: if you take off one day of work to change your name, it will not be enough days.

She asked me to come back in 24-48 hours. Or we’ll see if I ever come back, because there are worse things than having a former name on one’s driver’s license for longer than the summer of the wedding.

This is how sloths are cast in animated films as DMV employees. Because stereotypes are legitimate.

It’s such a good thing I wasn’t doing negativity.

Hummingbirds, Pennies, and Verizon Texts

On the day that Robb died, my mom’s phone became Grief’s Grand Central Station. She spent the whole day on the phone, letting people know what had happened, updating people on what would happen next, and fielding travel arrangements from friends and family all over the country who were immediately routing their holiday flights unexpectedly through Denver.

Everybody called Polly. They called, texted, asked, checked, double checked, and confirmed with Polly. She was glued to her phone because it was the only sure fire way that anyone could get to us.

In the middle of it all, she got a random but insistent text from Verizon: Her statement was available online. It’s a random thing, not noteworthy even remotely, but it stood out that day as the only meaningless thing that happened. Yes, thank you, Verizon. Your updates hardly matter right now.

But the thing is, those Verizon texts began to show up at the most important times, always interrupting something profound.

On my children’s birthdays, as they turned a year older and we sang Happy Birthday and they blew out their candles, my mom’s phone would beep with a notification: Verizon.

At my book release party, I read an excerpt from a chapter to a crowded room, and my mom’s phone vibrated with a notification: Verizon.

At Tucker’s football game, he would throw a touchdown pass and my mom’s phone would go off: Verizon.

Tyler would perform his musical on opening night. Notification at intermission: Verizon.

People who have lost someone they love often tell of a way their loved ones seem to send love notes from heaven to here, how there are little odd consistencies that are too predictable to be coincidence. A song that plays like a whisper on the wind. A hummingbird that lingers in the way those jittery, bashful birds never would. A penny facing heads up on the sidewalk. Things that show up over and over again with timing that’s too unbelievable, too consistent, too intentional, and too perfect to make sense. It’s like someone’s saying hello to you in their own little way.

These Verizon texts became our family’s whimsical belief that Robb was saying hello. Because why not? And because it would be just like him to find a technological blip to hijack for himself. We felt like it was his way of sending a thumbs up. His way of saying, “Hey, you. I see you. And I approve.”design

On my wedding day to Peter, we had a window of time between the backyard wedding and the dancing reception when we traveled to a few places for some off-site photos. We went to a park in town and of course Starbucks. My brother and his wife drove us around town to our various destinations, and when we finished the photos and our frappuccinos, we headed over to the reception to dance the night away as a brand new husband and wife.

Just before we got out of the car, my groom in his tuxedo and me in my sparkling gown, Peter checked his phone.

“That’s weird,” he said. “Verizon just texted me.”

Of course they did. Or, of course he did.

Hey, you. I see you. And I approve.


When Fear Is All Around

What a terrible week of the worst things.

I keep writing and deleting. Drafting and scrapping. Typing and backspacing. I don’t know what to say. Fear is all around and that makes me question everything, especially the next word out of my mouth.

In that way that I do when it’s all too much, I’ve chosen one person for my thoughts, one angle for my empathy. I read about one of the officers killed last night, a brand new husband of just two weeks. I cried for his bride today, horrendously widowed days after she became his at all.

And I’ve cried for my friends raising children whose skin makes them a target, for my fellow moms who protect their children under their whiteness with the knowledge that it isn’t enough.

I cannot… I just “cannot” so many things.design

Fear is all around. I feel it.

I read all of the ‘Do not be afraid’ Scriptures, but I just don’t like being told what to do. I feel guilty for not obeying, for not feeling faith and peace.

Here’s what I know. Every time God says, “Don’t be afraid,” it’s only the first part of his sentence. Every time he reminds me not to fear, he gives me a reason why.

“Do not be afraid, for I am your shield, your very great reward.”
(Genesis 15:1)

“Do not be afraid. God has heard.”
(Genesis 21:7)

“Do not be afraid, for I am with you.”
(Isaiah 41:10)

“Do not be afraid, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
(Joshua 1:9)

And so I am claiming both halves of the sentence. If I do my part, please do yours, God.

I will not fear, because you are a shield around me. You can protect and restore my children, my community, the people of this nation and the world.

I will not fear, for you have heard the things I say out loud and the cries I groan alone.

I will not fear, because you are with me in ways I cannot understand.

I will not fear, because you are with me wherever I go.

Lord Jesus, come quickly. And if you choose not to come yet, if you choose not to deliver us from this, then please show us you are near.


All my love to you,
Dallas and Louisiana,

And to you,
moms and dads,
husbands and wives,
and everyone afraid.

Not Your Mama’s Fireworks

We went to see the fireworks last night, all of us decked out in neon-glow-in-the-dark jewelry because my mom brings the fun and we know how to have it.

Peter’s sister Jamie is an administrative powerhouse, and she’s literally in charge of all the fun things that happen in our city.  Pretty much the queen of our suburban world.  After overseeing the day’s red, white, and blue festivities, she showed us to the best seats for the fireworks.  And just before the fireworks, she gave us 3D glasses to wear to enhance the experience.  It’s good to know people.

Believe you me, the glasses enhanced the experience.  I’ve never been high, but I suspect that watching fireworks through 3D lenses might be close to the LSD experiences that songs are written about.

The lights!  The prisms!  The rainbows!  The waterfalls in the sky!  Oh my great-day-holy-goodness-heavenly-days!

Our cheering was out of control.  My parents, my children, my husband – all of us.  I mean, were I not so swept away the whole experience, I would have been embarrassed by our sheer volume.  But I was too blessedly mind-blown.IMG_3371

I didn’t realize until later that not everybody was wearing the 3D glasses.  That’s when the embarrassment settled in, when I realized that we alone were having eye-gasms all over the open field.  We were losing our freaking minds over the whole thing in a very verbal way, while everybody else was simply enjoying your standard wonder over annual fireworks.

Here is where I insert a small sorry-not-sorry apology to the people seated in the tri-county area.

Sorry about that.

God bless America.