Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Perils of Doggie Bath Day

“Someone smells like a dog.”

“Why are you looking at me?”

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Our dogs are pretty clean, overall. They don’t have many chances to get dirty, although in our old house Sophie managed to find stinkbugs in the basement with alarming regularity. She’s smart, though, and soon made the connection between rolling in the latest Eau de Canine perfume and going straight into the tub, do not pass go, do not collect $200.

Our philosophy behind having clean dogs is pretty simple. We like petting them without getting grime on our hands, and we prefer that the house not smell like dogs.

So today was Doggie Bath Day. As soon as I said the word “bath,” Sophie went stone-still and tried to melt into the couch. She knows what that word means – she can even spell it – and she wants no parts of it.

Shiloh followed me right upstairs and into the bathroom, because he doesn’t know what ANY words mean. He watched me hook up the spray hose to the shower head. He observed me getting out a stack of towels. Being a good sport with a bad memory, he even jumped into the tub, wagging his tail.

He endured the first round of water and soap with equanimity. “Hmmm,” I could see him thinking, weighing his options as I lathered up his back. “This doesn’t seem TOO bad. It’s kind of like getting petted, only with bubbles. Odd but strangely compelling.”

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When I moved on to his head and neck, however, the situation deteriorated rapidly. He went from gentle and amiable to panic-stricken in seconds, even though – and here’s the interesting part – nothing unusual happened. I did not spray gallons of water directly into his eyes or ears. I failed to squirt dog shampoo up his nose. We were not suddenly menaced by a gigantic wall of water. There was no gelatinous ooze monster with teeth like razor blades emerging  from the drain. 

“Good boy, Shiloh! Good, good boy. That’s right, you’re a good HEY STOP! NO! STAY IN THE TUB! No no no no Shiloh what are you OUCH! NO! NO CLIMBING ON MY HEAD! COME ON, BOY, GOOD DOG AIIIIGGGGHHHHHH!”

Afterwards, I dried him off, mildly stunned. He even gave me his paws, probably out of sheer embarrassment. I squelched downstairs, dripping, to inform my husband that he was on deck to wash Sophie. I was done.

There were two spots – one on my shoulder, one on the side of my shorts – that weren’t soaked. Muscles I didn’t even know I had ached from keeping Shiloh in the tub. In direct defiance of basic anatomy, I somehow got water in my spleen.

Doggie bath time isn’t fun for ANYONE.

Sure, there are local places that wash dogs, but Shiloh hates them. Despite the attentions of caring, gentle staff who genuinely love dogs, he struggles and wheezes and sounds like Darth Dog to the point that even Sophie feels sorry for him. Last time we took him, she toddled into the washing area and laid down on the rubber floor mat in a surprising show of solidarity.

It didn’t help, of course, but it was still cute.

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So I’ll wash Shiloh at the house, and he’ll remember halfway through every bath that he hates getting baths, and I’ll get soaked, and he’ll get embarrassed. And Sophie will hope against hope that Shiloh continues to go first, and that we’ll somehow be distracted into forgetting that we have two dogs. At least as far as bath-time is concerned. Dinner time? That’s a whole different story.

And we’ll ALL keep our eyes open for a gelatinous ooze monster with teeth like razor blades emerging from ANY drain.

You know, just in case.

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Filed under dogs, humor, laughter, Shiloh, sophie, Uncategorized, writing

A Name By Any Other Name

nametag“You have a boy’s name.”
“Did your parents want a boy?”
“Your last name is spelled wrong.”

I have a unique name. I love it now, but I didn’t always.

“Michael-Anne Rubenstien, get in here this instant!”

For starters, I think we’re negatively conditioned as children to fear our full names. I don’t know about you, but getting called by my full name meant Significant Trouble. The kind with Consequences.

My name has a couple of other interesting complexities. First, it’s hyphenated. You have no idea how difficult this concept is for people to grasp.

“How do you spell that?”
“Michael hyphen Anne.”
“I’m sorry?”
“M-i-c-h-a-e-l hyphen A-n-n-e”
“Hyphen?”
“Dash.”
“Oh.”
I occasionally toy with the idea of throwing in an umlaut, just for laughs.

My nickname – Mickey – brings another layer of hilarity to the mix.

“Like the mouse?”
“Like the mouse.”
<muffled giggle>

“Oh Mickey, you’re so fine!”
“Yes, thank you. You’re very clever.”
“You’re so fine you blow my mind, hey Mickey!”
“Please stop.”

I’ve gotten mail for Michael A., Michaelan, Michaela, Michelle and Nikki Riverstein, Rubenstein and Rubinstein. The best spelling ever still goes to Hallmark, who once sent me a xochiGold Crown card in the name of Xochiquetzal Rubenstitn. It’s like the person entering the information just gave up and started typing with their face.

I was accepted to one of my top college choices as a male. I appreciated their willingness to welcome me as a student even though they lacked confidence in my ability to specify my own gender on the intake forms. Whenever I call to get information about my accounts – banks, phone, insurance – I’m invariably told that my husband will need to call back himself. This happened long before I was married.

I had a language professor in college who insisted I was spelling and pronouncing my own name wrong. Both the first AND last name. Wrong wrong wrong.

“You are not a boy, therefore your first name is Michelle.”
“Okay. In French, it sounds like Michelle.”
“No, I mean it should be Michelle.”
“Well, I’m not sure what to tell you.”
“And you are either spelling or pronouncing your last name wrong.”
“My parents will be delighted to hear this.”
“You do not amuse me.”

When I married and changed my name to Gomez, I thought things would be easier. Forms with little boxes for first and last name would no longer run out of spaces. I wouldn’t have to debate people on the spelling of my last name.

“Name?”
“Mickey Gomez.”
“You do not look like a Gomez.”
“What does a Gomez look like?”

Now I receive mail written in Spanish, especially during election season. I’ve been invited to serve on a variety of boards seeking my cultural perspective. I’ve received mail for Mickey Goomes, Micket Gomer and M. Gonzalez.

I’ve been forced to the realization that I will never be free of name explanations, but such is life. In this age of babies named Hashtag and Apple, my name doesn’t seem quite as complicated anymore. But it is still unique. And you know what? I love it.

Sincerely,

Michael-Anne “Mickey” “Mickety” “Xochi” “Hey You” Rubenstien Gomez

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Filed under humor, laughter, Uncategorized, writing

The Windy City versus the Hairbrush of Doom

Recently I traveled to Chicago for a conference. I was honored by the request to give a presentation, so despite the fact I’d rather run myself over with my own car than fly these days, I found myself on a plane to the Windy City.

Make no mistake. I knew it was called the Windy City before arriving.  That’s why it was that much more surprising to discover, once I’d arrived at my hotel and was freshening up, that I’d forgotten to pack a brush.  OR a comb.

An adventure – how fun! I walked off, a spring in my step, to find the nearest drugstore.

Because I am directionally challenged at the best of times, forty-seven blocks later I staggered into a Walgreens, absurdly grateful for the air conditioning and even the slightest respite from the glaring sun.  Confronted with what seemed to be thousands of hair brushes, I opted for a round one made out of metal and space-aged polymers and ceramics and maybe even dark matter with extra ions and little nubs on the ends of the bristles.  It was also slightly heavier than my normal hairbrush, a seemingly unimportant factor that I would soon deeply regret.

It appeared to work in the manner of a normal hair brush that afternoon, and again that evening. Not a problem. A seamless transition, or so I thought.

The next morning, I got up early to get ready for a full day at the conference. As I was innocently drying my hair – still half asleep and waiting for my coffee to kick in – IT HAPPENED. The brush got stuck in my hair.

When I say the brush got stuck in my hair, I can see you rolling your eyes and thinking, “Please. What’s the big deal? Unroll it and get on with your life.” And normally I’d be right there with you.

This time, however, I was dealing with the Evil Hairbrush of Extreme Malevolence. In seconds, it had twisted every single strand of hair on the left side of my head firmly around it, and it was. Not. Moving.

For the first time in my life, I was quite literally dumbfounded. I moved on to stunned and slipped quickly into shock. The brush would not move. I tried conditioner. I tried water.  I tried loosening the hair strand by strand.  I looked up solutions on the internet.  Phone a friend seemed to be a top pick, but I was in a strange city and there was no one to call. Using chopsticks to somehow gently pry the hair away from the core of the brush seemed like a viable option, but oddly enough I’d failed to pack chopsticks for a two night stay.  In desperation I began to cut the little nubs off the end of the bristles with my travel nail clippers, just to feel like I was doing something. They scattered like depraved cookie sprinkles across the gleaming bathroom vanity and floor.

I started crying like Woodstock in the old Peanuts cartoons – tears flingling themselves horizontally from my eyes.  It was clear to me I wasn’t going to be able to fix this one on my own. And because the heavy brush was stuck about a half-inch from my scalp, I figured I was returning home with a buzz cut and the mother of all headaches. I called the Concierge.

“Um. Hi. I kind of have a problem. I have a (muffled sob) brush stuck in my hair.”

“I’m sorry?”

“A hairbrush. It’s stuck in my hair. I need help.”

“Would you like me to send up someone from Housekeeping?”

I blinked. Housekeeping? Were they going to Windex the brush free?

“No, I think I need to call a salon or something. Is there one in the area?”

“Yes, there’s one a couple of blocks away.”

She gave me the number, and I called, hoping against hope that they’d be open and someone would be available.

“Hello?”

“Um, hi. The Concierge at the Blackstone gave me your number. I have an emergency. I’m a guest at the hotel and I’m here for a conference and I somehow got a brush stuck in my hair.”

“Are you a client?”

“No, I’m visiting from out of town. It’s kind of an emergency. I can’t walk around with a brush stuck in my hair.”

“Hmm.” She sounded bored.  “Let me ask the lady.”  She put me on hold.  After about five excruciatingly long minutes, during which I began wondering if Housekeeping would deliver scissors, she returned to the line. “The lady, she says come in.”

“Oh thank you! Thank you so much. I’ll be right <click> in.”

Now I had a whole new problem – was I really going to walk through the hotel and down the street to a yet-unknown destination with a brush sticking out from my head? I grabbed a giant scarf and wrapped it around my hair, pretending that the metal brush didn’t make the scarf bulge alarmingly in a way that instantly made the phrase “deformed unicorn” leap to mind.  I opted for sunglasses instead of my regular glasses.  Even in this city where I knew very few people, I decided to sacrifice vision for anonymity.

I made it to the posh lobby without incident, and sidled up to the Concierge station. A woman in front of me was negotiating for a pedicure.  I waited as patiently as I could, feeling like I was standing under a neon sign flashing *FREAK! CAN’T BRUSH HER HAIR!* on and off for the entire world to see.  I tried and failed to NOT wish horrible, debilitating nail fungus upon the long-winded yet reasonably innocent woman standing between me and directions to the salon.

Because I was still in shock, the Concierge had to repeat the directions four times.  Even then, walking out into the bright sunlight, slightly dazed, all I remembered was right, two blocks, then left. Or maybe right. Surely it couldn’t be that hard to find.

In the end, I only went about twelve blocks out of my way.  I finally walked up the steps to the salon with a strange mixture of relief and trepidation, tried the handle only to discover that the door was locked. I knocked quietly. No response. I knocked slightly louder, trying desperately not to offend anyone who might be able to help. Someone finally let me in.

A kind-looking woman walked over to greet me and motioned me to a chair. “Take off the scarf,” she said. I slowly unwound it, eyes fixed on my lap. She blurted out, “Oh my god!” and I burst into silent tears, bottom lip quivering.  “You’re going to have to shave it all off, aren’t you?” I sobbed quietly, like this was the worst thing that has ever happened in the history of the universe. All sense of reason and perspective had left the building at a run about an hour before and were still gaining speed somewhere off in the distance.

“Let’s see what we can do.” And she went to work.

Thirty minutes later, the brush was free. She tried  to hand it to me but I averted my eyes and made useless flapping gestures with my hands. “I don’t want to touch it, I don’t even want to see it. I think maybe you should shoot it or burn it.” I said this earnestly, then asked her how much I owed her.

“Don’t worry about it, ” she said. “Just no more crying. You need to smile more.” And she patted my arm.  Then she explained how to pick out a brush that was NOT the Unholy Hairbrush of Impending Doom.

So I gave her a watery smile and an enormous tip, and sent her flowers the next day.  I may have even promised to name all future houseplants after her (it didn’t seem right to promise to name future dogs after her), but things got a little fuzzy there at the end.  I was free!

I skipped down the street, puffy-eyed, tender-scalped, dehydrated from stupid amounts of crying, horribly frizzy and totally unstyled hair streaming behind me in the furnace-like summer breezes of the Windy City.  And for that moment in time, I was blissfully and ridiculously happy.

Here is the Happy Hairbrush of Lesser Drama, which I bought on the way back to the hotel:

The presentation went well. Thankfully, it was the NEXT morning, although I am still haunted by the thought of session feedback survey results saying, “Presenter did well overall but seemed distracted by an odd shape on the left side of her head under her scarf. For some reason, it made me think a little of a deformed unicorn.”

Timing really is everything.

###

59 Comments

July 30, 2012 · 9:38 pm

Eye of who?!

In light of recent political events, it occurred to me that a certain type of small aquatic amphibian might need a bit of a PR boost.

Newts already have it tough.  Ever since Shakespeare, folks have been trying to use their eyeballs in potions.  They shared their name with a doomed character in the movie Aliens.  J.K.Rowling used the letters to stand for “Nastily Exhausting Wizarding Test”, and who likes tests?  Really, they’ve been in need of some positive public relations for quite some time.

I happen to like newts.  So while people can be forgiven for confusing them with the man of the same name running for the GOP candidacy, I thought I’d give them a little help:

“I am a small aquatic amphibian, and I approve of this message.”

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Increasing the Volume

I’m going to be a bridesmaid in my cousin’s wedding.

I’m pretty excited, as you can imagine.  She picked out gorgeous bridesmaid dresses, in direct defiance of tradition.  The fabric doesn’t look like upholstery.  It’s not electric blue.  It doesn’t lace up on the outside like Wonder Woman’s bustier.  It’s fluttery, flattering, a lovely color, and firmly in the “will wear again” category.

And it’s strapless.

There are many phrases that describe me, some of which could even be said in polite company, but the phrase “amply-endowed” is not one of them.  In light of this, I’ve never been a huge fan of strapless anythings, mainly because I am not a huge fan of flashing friends, family, and total strangers as a result of simply exhaling.

Last week I went for my alteration fitting.  I changed and went out to stand next to a bride, who was also getting fitted.  She was covered in swaths of fabric and looked lovely.  I looked like a stick insect in a handkerchief.  The seamstress came out, eyeballed me critically from all angles, put pins up both sides and said, “Okay?”

“I just don’t want it falling off.” I explained.

“Falling off?”

“You know.” I mimed jumping up and down. “It’s not like I have a lot holding things up.  I was hoping maybe we could just staple it to my body for the ceremony.  Do you think that would work?”

“You’ll be fine.”  She patted my shoulder and left.

The bride had a friend there for moral support.  When I went to schedule the appointment to pick up my dress, she followed me out.

“Excuse me,” she said. “You know, if you’re really worried about it, there are ways for you to… increase the volume.”  She made a spinning motion next to her chest.

“Increase the volume?” I echoed stupidly.

“Yes,” she says, “increase the volume. Victoria’s Secret sells these bras with gel inserts.”

“Oh!”

Now I’m not a big fan of Victoria’s Secret, ever since they changed from chamber music, mahogany and brass to neon, excessive pink and club music.  Neon is no one’s friend in a dressing room.

“I appreciate it, but I’d be worried that it wouldn’t work.”  She looked skeptical.  “You know,” I explained, “the dress would still fall down only now I’d have my… increased volume flailing all over the place.”  I made an energetic spinning motion with both arms in front of my chest. “Thanks, though!”

Anyway, here’s hoping I don’t embarrass my cousin at her wedding, ample cleavage or not.

And that the ceremony doesn’t include jumping jacks.  Or excessive gravity.

Photo credits:  Some rights reserved By forgetfullo

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Driving Music

A couple of weeks ago I was driving home from an evening event: windows down, cool breeze alternating with pockets of warm air left over from the summer-like day, heady scent of just-bloomed honeysuckle wafting in and out of the car.

Suddenly a song starts playing and I’m transported back to a summer during college, driving these same roads, and it’s like no time passed at all.

I take music pretty seriously.  Certain songs are more powerful even than scents in placing me inside a memory – a certain day, a certain place – it’s like I’m there.

I started considering driving music – what is it? How is it defined?  It’s not just a favorite song – I have plenty of favorite songs that I don’t consider to be “driving music”.  It’s not necessarily upbeat, or slow, or in-between.  Some are songs I know all the words to, the kind that beg me to sing-along.  Others call for reflective listening.  They vary based on mood: some evoke joy, some sadness, some nostalgia.  But I’ve noticed that there are certain songs in my music library that automatically call for windows down, arm outside, hand snaking up and down in the air currents no matter when I hear them.

Here they are, in no particular order:

Cuts You Up – Peter Murphy
Susquehanna Hat Company – Too Much Joy
Until I Fall Away – Gin Blossoms
Trail of Tears – Guadalcanal Diary
Bittersweet – Hoodoo Gurus
Take Back Everything – Salt Chunk Mary
ZZQ – Blue Mountain
In the Blood – Better Than Ezra
When You Were Young – The Killers
Recurring Dream – Crowded House
Thomastown – Not Drowning, Waving
Windfall – Sonvolt
Witchdoctor – Sidewinders
Wolf Like Me – TV on the Radio
Yesterday Girl – Smithereens
Wolves, Lower – REM
Girlfriend – Matthew Sweet
Solsbury Hill – Peter Gabriel
Windmills – Toad the Wet Sprocket
Wagon Wheel – Old Crow Medicine Show
Bedlam Bridge – Midnight Oil
Achin’ To Be – The Replacements
Dead Heart (alternate) – Midnight Oil
I’d Run Away – The Jayhawks
Love in a Trashcan – The Raveonettes
Cannonball – The Breeders
Darker Days – The Connells
Marker in the Sand – Pearl Jam
Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters – Elton John
Singing in My Sleep – Semisonic
Sun Gone Down – House of Freaks
Ain’t It Strange – Driving’ N Cryin’
Santa Maria Street – Sand Rubies
Nosebleed Section – Hilltop Hoods
Mighty KC – For Squirrels
I’m Not Over – Carolina Liar
Lone Star Song – Grant Lee Buffalo

Please feel free to add yours in the comments below. Thanks, and happy listening!

Photo credit: AttributionNoncommercialNo Derivative Works Some rights reserved by mallix

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To Mama With Love

Three generations - me and mom and grandma.

An amazing friend of mine started an organization called Epic Change. It’s one of my very favorite nonprofits, because they partner with folks in communities to help them achieve needs identified by the actual community.  This is different from the approach taken by some nonprofits, which is to go into communities with their own idea of how to “fix” things.

Community voice is spectacularly important, yet so often overlooked and undervalued when it comes to “helping others”. It’s one of the first things I noticed and admired about Epic Change, that they truly listen to those on the ground, the ones who live in the communities seeking change.

I could go on and on about their successes – Tweetsgiving, building a school and tech lab in Tanzania, the Twitter Kids – but I’d like to focus on an initiative happening right now in honor of Mother’s Day – To Mama With Love.

To Mama With Love is a collaborative online art project that honors moms across the globe and raises funds to invest in remarkable women who are transforming our world.

The donation you make goes to support Epic Change, and specifically supports the efforts of four extraordinary womenMama Lucy Kamptoni (Tanzania), Suraya Pakzad (Afghanistan), Maggie Doyne (Nepal), and Renu Shah Bagaria (Nepal).

You can create a heartspace to honor a special mom in your life.  And, trust me, the impact will go far beyond wilted flowers or a soon to be empty box of chocolates.  (Of course, just to be on the safe side, I created heartspaces AND got some chocolates.) You can include photos, quotes, a special note and even video.

The goal is to raise at least $65,000 USD to invest in Mama Lucy’s secondary school in Tanzania, Renu & Maggie’s schools in Kathmandu & Surkhet, Nepal, and Suraya’s women’s shelter in Afghanistan.  Over 95% of the funds collected through donations for heartspaces will be invested directly into the efforts of these remarkable women.

I made one heartspace for mom and another for grandma.

Would you consider honoring a special mom in your life this Mother’s Day by taking part in To Mama With Love?  Would you share the link (http://www.tomamawithlove.org/) and help spread the word?  I would certainly appreciate it, as would the incredible folks at Epic Change and the inspiring women doing what they can to make the light shine a little brighter in their corner of the world.

Thank you.

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