Saturday, December 30, 2006

Trail Dog

Duke is a mountain goat.

I don't mean that literally, but the dog just loves to hike and there's no stopping him. He just goes and goes and goes. Pretty amazing for a miniature dachshund, huh?

Duke is the smallest of my dogs and runs on pure nervous energy. It's not that he's a barker or that he's neurotic or anything, he just seems perpetually wound up. He rarely relaxes and when he does, you can still see him twitching every 30 seconds or so.

Duke is one of the only dogs I've ever seen who can smile. He smiles in greeting, usually, and if you don't watch carefully, you're likely to miss it. Smiling is accompanied by much wiggling of the hindquarters and vocalizing about whatever it is that is making him so happy - like cheese. Or the prospect of a hike.

Duke just loves to hike and nothing slows him down. On general walks he stays right next to me but when hiking, he plays scout and runs off ahead or takes the rear and makes sure I don't get attacked by a bear or something. He's stepped on foxtails, sharp rocks, and pointy cockleburrs - he just keeps going, hobbling on 3 legs if necessary. I'd like to think he looks at me like the lion looked at Androcles when he removed the thorn - but it's hard to tell with Duke. He usually looks wide-eyed and nervous. Once he tangled with some red ants - they bit him on the paw, rear-driver's side... he didn't even pause. Just hitched up the back end and kept going.

Sometimes I wish I could get inside that little dog's head and figure him out.

When he was a puppy, he lived with Connie and Dave out in Mojave. They had this plan to breed and sell miniature dachshund puppies and Duke was to be the stud. No sooner had they adopted Heidi than the two of them took off for an 8-day adventure in the Mojave Desert. They crawled back to civilization without having learned their lesson - because after birthing 2 litters of pups, they up and did it again. Sadly, Heidi did not return that time and Duke was a bit worse for wear when he hobbled back to the Mojave spread. His hindquarters were very sensitive and he developed a slight hitch in his back leg.

When Connie and Dave moved to Antelope Acres, Duke was penned up and miserable. Dustin and I would often go out to the house when Connie and Dave were up in Washington - to take care of the plants, the house, and Duke. The sight of that little dog peering through the gate, praying for somebody to throw a ball for him really stuck with me. So when Connie and Dave decided to put Duke up for adoption because they couldn't pay him enough attention, Dustin and I leapt at the chance.

Duke seemed to remember Augie Doggie - one of the pups from Heidi's first litter. Even though he was, by all accounts, a terrible father to the puppies, Augie quickly forgave him and they became best friends. As long as Augie gets to be in charge, that is.

Sometimes I take just Duke out for a hike - in compensation for getting picked on by Seamus or bothered by Little Beans. He was the one I took when I first discovered the Pacific Crest Trail in San Francisquito Canyon. He really seems to strut when he is by himself.

I think his favorite hikes are with me and Augie - the two of them run off ahead, side by side, father and son - enjoying life and thinking about whatever trail dogs think about as they run up the trail toward the sun.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

On the Topic of Christmas Bows

I'm wrapping presents today and started ruminating about bows. I wonder how many people really THINK about bows? I think bows get shortchanged.

I love bows, especially the real fancy ones that are tightly looped. Deep reds and greens make me salivate but I appreciate a good white, cream, silver, and gold bow too. Cheap bows annoy me. Why bother?

Some people THROW bows away after unwrapping a gift. I have never understood this. It's not like they wear out or anything - they are perfectly good!

I always dive for the bows and save them, but not after hawking out the situation to make sure the recipient isn't saving bows too. It's not very classy to snatch a good bow away from a bow-saver. It can get kind of embarrassing. I've recycled some bows several times. This is a matter of great pride.

You have to divide your bows into categories before wrapping. Some people, like my father-in-law, get the cheap bows because NOTHING in his house is allowed to hit the floor in the form of trash and bows fit this category. He just stuffs them in the bag and I learned long ago not to complain. (Just dig 'em out later.)

Some people KNOW you recycle bows and just remove the bow and hand it to me. This is quick and easy. Other people have to be told to give me the bow. If they put the bow in the box with the gift, I've learned to ask if they save bows too. Especially if it's a really, really GOOD bow, because they may not realize what they have. Heaven forbid they return home, stack the box and throw away the bow!

The more often you recycle your bows, the cheaper they get to use. If you take the cost of the entire bag of bows and divide it by the number of bows in the bag, you get the FIRST price. But then the price is HALVED each time you recycle it. Pretty soon your bows are costing you fractions of a penny and this HAS to be good for the universe.

If you buy bows one year but don't use them all, you will have them for the following year. Finding a bag of last year's bows is ALMOST as good as getting a bag of bows free! After all, the cost of the bag is depreciated from last year - so it's much cheaper.

Packages with good bows don't need ribbon - ribbon is redundant. The only time you should use ribbon is if you're curling it - and you have to work pretty darn hard to make a curling ribbon "bow" look half-way decent. A well-done curly bow is a work of art.

Bows should be dead-on center of the package - not placed in some obscure corner, throwing off the balance of things. Especially well-done curly bows. They need to cascade JUST SO.


Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Franky's Gift Tag

Yesterday, the kindergarten kids made beaded necklaces for the mothers for Christmas. Once this fine jewelry was completed, the kids brought their creations over to one of the middle school helpers for wrapping. (We went through an entire roll of tape. More tape is better when you are five.)

The final link in this process was the creation of a gift card for Mom. The kids would dictate what they wanted to say on the card, Lupita would write it out on a white board, and the kids would copy it. (Except for Jasmine. "YOU write it," she ordered me.)

All the kids at the table were hard at work copying their personalized greetings:

"Merry Christmas Mom."
"This is for you, Mom."
"Feliz Navidad, Mami."
"Happy Holidays Mom."
"I love you Mommy."

So Lupita asks Franky what he wants to write on his mother's gift card.

"Happy Halloween," replies Franky.

"But Franky... it's Christmas," reminds Lupita.

Franky is unfazed and doesn't miss a beat.

"I'm okay with that."

Sunday, December 10, 2006

No Tip for the Newspaper Dude

Here is the note I plan to enclose in the fake Christmas card lodged into my L.A. Times when it arrives sometime this week:

Dear Newspaper Dude:

I am in receipt of your thoughtful and obviously "personalized" Christmas greeting and I bet you think that my response includes a cash gift, in acknowledgement of your "service" this year. I am a generous person and considered enclosing a crisp $10 bill - but cannot for the following reasons:

1. Despite my numerous pleadings to you, my "plastic wrapped" paper continues to land in the sprinklers at least 2 mornings out of 7. The plastic wrap does little good. Why do you bother? Call me a tree-hugger.

2. Despite my numerous pleadings to you, the paper ends up UNDER one of my vehicles at least once a week. This means that I, in my work clothes, must get down on my hands and knees at 6am on these currently frosty mornings, to shimmy under a vehicle to retrieve my paper. I don't like having to do this. Call me a wimp.

3. Wet papers are messy and often unreadable. My calls for replacement papers always mean that the readable version won't arrive until AFTER I've left for work. You know darn good and well I leave the house early - because when you deliver my replacement - I AM NOT HOME. Doofus. Call me cantankerous.

4. AND.. at least once a month my paper doesn't show up at all. This may not seem much to you - but I pay $52.00 every other month for this service and do appreciate timeliness. Call me picky and unreasonable.

When you remedy these issues I will enclose a cash gift commisurate with your improved service.


Friday, December 08, 2006

Poinsettia Parts?

We have been making My Poinsettia Book in class, one page per day. This is part of our ELA and ELD lessons for the week.

Today, the kids had to cut out 4 poinsettia leaves from construction paper and glue them onto the page, then add the cut-up text: The leaves are green.

After several reminders, Dominique finally came over to my table and began cutting out the leaves. After gluing down the text, she arranged the leaves artfully on the page. I asked Dominique to come over to me and read the book to me - so I could check the correctness and her developing concepts of print. I noticed that she had glued the arch-shaped scraps from her cut-out leaves to the opposite page.

"Dominique," I asked patiently. "What part of the poinsettia are these?"

Dominique carefully caressed each one and then looked at me seriously, as if she felt very, very, sorry for me.

Then she leaned over and whispered: "The eyebrows."