Friday, March 31, 2006

Irony-of-the-Month Club

So a few weeks ago I stumbled across a website called, a free service in which you can receive emails with a 5-minute excerpt from a current book, and by the end of the Mon/Fri week you've read enough of the book to decide whether you want to borrow or buy. Lovely idea, really - online book sampling and this particular site has a nice homey feel provided by its gracious hostess, Suzanne Beecher.

You can choose from the major genres, and choose to join more than one club. For reasons not particularly clear to me at the time, I initially signed up for the Good News club. Not because I'm really into writing of a Chicken-Soup-Gets-Religion bent, but I do keep an eye out for things my mom might enjoy, and the initial selection was a piece set in Pennsylvania among the Amish. (Which I generally avoid reading about too because it's tough to take, having lived around them for so many years - makes me uncomfortable to see that life romanticized when so many animals live lives of torture in their dominion.)

Anyway. That was the selection when I joined. On a Thursday. Which meant I was already three excerpts behind before I started. Then it's like I'm compelled to go back and catch up the missed samples and it all becomes an(other) item on the to-do list which, like all the other items, is behind before it even gets on the list. Go to guilt, go direclty to guilt, do not pass go... This is like growing up Catholic without all the trouble of learning catechism. I fretted awhile over whether to add back reading to my backlog, and I let that title go and figure I'll just look forward to the next week's read.

The excerpts are sent with a subject line that denotes the genre and the current title. So I open my mailbox the following Monday and I see

Subject: Good News - Dachau

I'm sure it's a very inspiring story (based on a true story of a priest in Nazi Germany) but gas chamber is just not what I think of when I want good news. I skim a little and I let that go.

One or maybe two more weeks have passed and I have no idea what titles my club is reading. I am collecting unread portions of virtual books to match the piles of actual unread books that are weighing down most horizontal surfaces in my house. At least I'm consistent.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

This cup's for Shane

I'm just playing at Blogthings because life is too sucky to write about right now. Don't worry, I will divulge at some point just not now. So since Shane brought up the Coffee Quiz, I had to check it out. I rarely drink black coffee but I guess that's why they say you are what you eat, and not what you drink. Which at this moment makes me

Peg the Godiva Double Chocolate Cheesecake

I am a Black Coffee

At my best, I am: low maintenance, friendly, and adaptable
At my worst, I am: cheap and angsty
I drink coffee when: I can get my hands on it

My caffeine addiction level: HIGH

Monday, March 27, 2006


This is the Average Price At Which I Would Sell Out, according to the Blogthings website. I went there this morning because the discerning professor Dephal posted the "What Kind of American English Do You Speak?" quiz, but quickly descended into more important things like my Beer Personality.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Torture, the sequel

So tonight Pili worked on me for another hour and I'm happy to say that my neck is not nearly as screwed up and actually neither is my back. At least tonight there were no moments where she had one hand through my shoulder blade and one hand through my pectorals and damn near met in the middle somewhere around my left lung. However, she found enough wrong with both my hips and both my shoulders to make up for all of that. I only came off the table twice. (She says calmly "Now I will encourage you, Peg, to exhale through this rather than breathing in so sharply..." as though possibly I was operating under a strategic plan.)

She's great. I was dismayed at how much was wrong with my shoulders but then I wonder if Piranha Puppy had something to do with all of that. Also I've carried a ton of stress the last few days. I have been instructed that some upper body strengthening will help my triceps stop relocating my shoulder blades to places they don't ordinarily belong and that that should help the pain. In the meantime I am very well acquainted with the four large nerves that run from sacrum to hips and from scapulae to elbows: Ow. Ow. Ow. and Ow.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Pal Joey

This rambunctious 8-month-old came home with us last night to spend the weekend, as we had to clear FOP dogs out of boarding care to make space for incoming spring break clients. This little boy has impossibly soft fur like a rabbit's and teeth like a piranha's. My plans to get a lot of computer projects done this weekend have succumbed to monitoring The Puppy Channel - All Puppy All The Time. (Hey, how come I'm out here on the deck and you're inside the house? Let's playplayplay!)
He and Hunter played well last night but it was exhausting for Hunter when Joey just wouldn't stop - he's fascinated by Hunter's tail and keeps biting it, and last night had decided if Hunter wouldn't play, maybe stomping on him really hard would make him change his mind. Hunter's doing a good job of laying down the law as needed, and of course I am giving him some breaks from the onslaught as well. Joey has also very much enjoyed playing through the fence with Zoe and Angel next door.
But this little guy has a lot of good skills already - no housetraining issues since he got here, and he slept without a sound from 11 pm to when I was ready to get up around 6:30 this morning. I was happy to see that he does in fact have an OFF switch - here he's snoozing by my side. He's a fast learner and eager to please. He has a trial adoption starting on Monday. Sleep well, little man. (Please.)

Thursday, March 16, 2006


What does it mean when one is forbidden to view one's own blog? Yet I can write in it. I can act upon the stage of my life but am not permitted to view that which is created. Or maybe it just means my browser sucks.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Movie: Memoirs of a Geisha

Breaktaking cinematography, yes. Powerful performances by well-known and lesser-known Asian actresses, yes. Surprising consistency between character as played by young girl and as played by grown woman, yes. Presence of the marvelous Ken Watanabe, yes.

(yes oh yes)

er, sorry

Ending of movie where lovers finally fall into each other's arms, yes... for 4-5 seconds until the brain catches up: it's because he chose her to be a geisha based on their brief encounter when she was only nine years old for pete's sake... Ending of movie, no, not so much.

PS: The venerable Mako is in this, like he's been in everything Asian for approximately 14 generations. Honestly he's got to be 400 years old (okay maybe 70-something), plus for the last 15 years he's had to carry every role that Keye Luke would have done too. And he still rocks.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Band of brothers

Once upon a time, there was a little girl and she had three big brothers. The first brother was much older. He was kind and protective of his little sister. The third brother was just a few years older. He was a fun playmate, but when they were small, they used to fight a lot too.

The brother in the middle was not like the others. He wasn't so much older that he was like a caretaker. And he wasn't so much younger that he was a rival. He was funny but not a showoff. He was smart but not a star. He was the brother in the middle.

Once when the little girl had just turned 14 years old, the brother in the middle was in a bad car accident. A very bad accident. It hurt his brain and it broke his skull and it smashed his chest. He didn't wake up after that. He was in the hospital for seven days, and then he died.

The little girl was sad. And a little scared. Because when she saw her brother in the hospital, they had shaved off most of his shaggy beard. With his wavy hair down to his shoulders, and because he was so badly hurt that it made him look much smaller than he really was, it didn't look so much different from her own self lying there. All of a sudden she realized that she was more like the brother in the middle than anyone else. She had always been.

That story happened 30 years ago today, and the little girl is all grown up now. But she never forgot him, and now she smiles when she catches a glimpse of him in the mirror. And she tells him a lot of things that she didn't have a chance to say.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Movie: Walk the Line

Michele and I escaped to the Bear Tooth last night to eat fantastic food and catch this movie before it leaves town. (This theatre experience makes you feel smug and smart for being so far behind on moviegoing...)

We were just entranced. I know that Reese is the one who took home the big statue for her performance, but Joaquin Phoenix didn't portray Johnny Cash - he was Johnny Cash. I love it when someone nails that kind of portrayal without it being mimicry. It wasn't a robotic impersonation - it was a translation of the essence of a man. I would love to see him play this role again in 30 years. For me the most evocative parts were the way he captured the soft, loving, yearning soul with such tenderness. Johnny Cash always impressed me as sort of a tough bastard constantly on the verge of tears. That's what I saw last night.

The music was wonderful, as well as the almost throwaway presence of so many famous people who were just 'part of the tour.' Thing is, Phoenix and Witherspoon are actually better vocalists. John and June were peerless in their delivery of a song but they weren't singers. So a few times I wanted Reese especially to have a little more of June's edge in her voice - she was just a little too sweet - though Joaquin had a fascinating handle on Johnny's ability to stay just a hair's breadth off of a pure tone. Reese doesn't have quite June's substance of physical presence but the open smile and the few moments of anger she displayed caught her beautifully. I grinned the first time I saw Joaquin walk - I don't think I ever thought of Johnny Cash having a distinctive walk (at least not like, say, John Wayne) but when I saw it last night I thought oh my god, he does and how did he nail that? Robert Patrick's performance as the impenetrable father made me just want to kill him through the whole movie - what a compelling, maddening portrait.

The story was engrossing and I could have watched it all over again then and there. Very jumpy in places for timeline - jarring, actually - I wanted to say hey wait, back up there and finish that. But it was easy to be drawn back into the next chapter. I wouldn't have wanted to have cut any of the pivotal moments in this incredible first-half-of-a-life in an incredible life. It was especially interesting to see the prison concert, having only just watched the actual concert on TV recently.

As I write this, I'm listening to the American IV: The Man Comes Around album, which has been on my constant-play rotation for 18 months. I am brought to tears in places, every time I listen to it. What voice he once had is beyond recapturing in this album, and the result is pure heart - what he always delivered, whether in his robust prime or in the thin decline of age. He put himself out there and from all walks of experience we were drawn by his joy and anguish and self-revulsion and redemption. Whatever the state of his life, he sang it without apology and he laid it bare always. There wasn't any not-knowing this man. It's the authenticity that made him, and what makes this movie. In Ray we learn a lot about the man's life. In Walk the Line, we go inside the man's soul.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Art imitates life

Sometimes a little too keenly for comfort. Last night I placed a copy of Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking on my bedboard for an evening someday when I might actually have time to read. Below the back-cover photo circa 1976, my eye drifted to three stark lines that hit me with blunt force:

Life changes fast.
Life changes in the instant.
You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends.

When that happens to someone you know, you don't really expect to see it quite so literally captured in print.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Damage report

Tuesday night's massage was not exactly about total relaxation as Kari had intended. It's sure a different experience when you're injured instead of just being pampered. Reminds me of the work that Penny's friends at the clinic did on me when I dislocated my sacroiliac joint - oh, don't remind me... the drive to Vermont for that lovely week on Lake Champlain with Penny and Amy. Beautiful, wonderful, memorable - but damn near killed me to drive up there, as my back had been dislocated for a month at that point and I didn't know it. (Er, "didn't know it" means I didn't know specifically what was wrong. I definitely knew it.) I had tons of referred pain as the massage therapist worked on me...and then when they put my joint back in place, suddenly all was well.

Not so this time. Pili spent the whole hour working mainly on my left arm and the left side of my back. As I think of it, very much like the guys at the body shop did in inventorying the damage on my car, checking connections, noting what might be fixable. A few times the pain that shot through me just made me blur, feeling that I was losing my hold on the room and I wasn't headed to a happy place.

We just spent that hour figuring out what was wrong. Turns out most of the damage that I thought was all through my back is almost entirely confined to the left side and in the neck. Which is where she did the best, most encouraging work on me. Other than some residual soreness, my neck really feels pretty okay, and the reason I noticed this was that when I got home afterward, it occurred to me that my head had stopped hurting.

My head has been hurting awfully for the last six weeks, day in and day out, from the neck injury. I have lived with chronic pain, particularly in two epochs of my life that both lasted a couple of years. So I think that I am tough and I push through it and I endure. I think I just plain forgot in this last month how you just can't be yourself when you're in unrelenting pain. I feel like a different person. A still injured and probably still sorta bitchy person, but I went home that night, did my epsom salt bath like I was ordered, went to bed and felt...relief. No headache. No sense that everything is just wrong.

Next morning I felt like I'd been in an accident all over again - dang, that girl has some strong fingers, and there are places that just couldn't be fixed but are sure bruised from trying. I can't face that again for a couple of weeks but have a followup appointment to see if more progress can be made.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

A meeting on the bridge

Gryphon died six years ago today, on a day exactly like this one - bright, clear, dazzling sun on fresh snow but a growing promise of warmth in the air. I have carried the moment of his passing and the burden of his absence for thousands of breath-struggling hours and thousands of miles. A scrap of paper I stuck to my monitor back then has never been disturbed since. It reads:

"And when he died the Loneliness Bird laid three cold stone eggs in my heart. And nothing was ever the same again." - Bryce Courtenay, The Power of One

Nothing has been the same, but something important has changed. This year I have encountered a spirit guide in the animal world. I haven't talked about it much - partly because it's intimate and large beyond my understanding. Well, okay, also because some people think you're nuts if you start talking about voices from the beyond, let alone that of a dead dog.

She has shown me some pieces about herself, but her impact has been more about the ways of communicating, with animals, with people. And she has entirely changed my perception of death. She has made it no more than a matter of being willing to follow her through that veil, if I can see it that simply.

Early one morning a few weeks ago, somewhere between asleep and awake, I found Gryphon, on a level like nothing I've sensed since he died. Powerful in its tangible manifestation. It was like I knew it was a semi-dreamstate, but that that was only because my mind needed to create some physical dimension in which to place us both. (A nearly empty house, that I don't recognize.) He was in the doorway as I entered, I passed through with a rising realization of joy, crossed into the next room and put down whatever I was carrying. He followed behind as I crossed the room. My legs left me and I sank down along a wall as he came into my arms - I could feel his warmth and strength and his heartbeat, dug my fingers into all of his wonderful texture, and felt his kisses on my face just like the day he died, and just then my alarm clock went off.

I have wept every time I've thought of it. With grief and gratitude both. I have hurt so badly for six years in missing his integral presence in my life, and now am finally beginning to perceive a reality in which he is not gone. And nothing was ever the same again.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Progressive birthday

My birthday was Friday, and by that point I was so shot that I only wanted to go home and die, which I pretty much did in a stupor on the couch all evening, wrapped in a blanket and with Hunter curled up with me. So it was just as well that my little birthday blessings came in smaller pieces. Went for a late-night nosh with Michele on Thursday night. Nancy sent me these lovely flowers at work on Friday, such a day-brightener. Deeta's got my number with those Barnes & Noble gift cards - I had only just had fun spending the last one she gave me so now I've got a backup. On Saturday, Keith called - JD is up from Cordova and was in a cooking mood and TC and the boys were over, so I spent the evening there as the token female, drinking TC's margaritas and doing my share of eating. They'd made beer-can chicken with Alabama barbecue (mayonnaise/vinegar/cayenne drench) , wilted spinach with bacon dressing, blue cheese potato salad (Oh. My.) and peanut butter pie. My arteries are another year older and another millimeter clogged after that. Worth it for sure. They sent me home with a card and a grocery sack containing DIY gin and tonics. On Sunday it was over to Dirk & Kari's for soul-soothing chicken and dumplings and a surprise birthday bouquet and ice cream cake. Kari gave me a lovely card about friendship and family, and inside there was a gift certificate for a massage which is scheduled this evening. After these weeks of physical pain, I am really looking forward to that. On Monday, George & Becky stopped in with a bag full of birthday surprises, and Marjorie left a gift certificate in my mailbox at FOP and a voicemail that said "Don't spend time thanking me, just go take a nap."

So it was a leisurely birthday trickle, just about the speed this old girl can manage anymore. I'm so grateful to have good people who love me.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

My day in court

So yesterday turned out to be hell on wheels - critical month-end tasks for one job, major public relations event for the other job, and in the middle of it a summons to court. I would not want to know what my blood pressure was once I went past red-faced and heaving, into white and lacking feeling in my extremities....

But it was interesting to listen to the cases being argued ahead of mine. My cop was involved in those prior cases so I knew he was going to be there for mine - a big relief when he hadn't returned my phone call and the other witness had vanished too. Anyway, we prevailed and she was found guilty, 4 pts on license and $90 fine +$10 fee. Fine/fee suspended if she takes a defensive driving class by May 1. This would also reduce the points from 4 to 2.

I went on Courtwatch and researched her traffic offenses (eight including this one). Alaska's limit is 12 pts in 12 months, or 18 pts in 24 months. (which is scary when you think of how dangerous that allows people to be and still be valid) Her offenses in the last year are:

6/1/2005 - Speeding 10-19 mph over - 4 points, $152 fine
6/1/2005 - Driving without proof of insurance - fine, no points
6/23/2005 - Speeding in a school zone 10-19 mph over - 6 points, $154 fine
1/31/2006 - Failing to yield and hitting Peg - 4 points, $90 fine

So that's 14 points in eight months, and the 2 point credit won't help her avoid a license suspension. Of course one of her prior offenses is driving without a valid operator's license, so the roads are no safer as a result.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Saints on wings

This gorgeous puppyboy was the evening's project for several of us last night. He's with his new parents back in my old Pennsylvania stomping grounds, just 45 min or so from my family. If you saw the last issue of the FOP newsletter with Bubba's touching story (see page 5), this young'un is going to that home and couldn't be luckier for it. He traveled on his first birthday which is Gryphon's birthday too. Good karma, or good dogma anyway.

The airline arrangements for giant dogs are horrendous for such a long flight, but Michele and new mom Laurie persevered to find the one option that could work. At one point a frustrated Laurie asked husband Chad HOW in the world do giant breeds travel? "As puppies," he said.

PS: The story about Bubba launches FOP's grief project, of which I am very proud. It was a gift to get to know Laurie and Chad in preparing this outreach. As I wrote the accompanying brochure, I just felt blessed - like the words came out with no effort and all I had to do was write them down. We've helped almost 20 families so far and I'm so glad we are reaching these people who need support in their pain.