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Best Doggone Dog

December 21, 2012
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My dog Roper is fanatical in his devotion. He has committed himself to my care in both body and mind. Most people would probably say this about their dog, but does your dog run into walls because he must keep one eye on you at all times? Does your dog come in from outside and search for you desperately? Roper does.

Roper and I met when I responded to a Little Nickel ad in Walla Walla, WA. I was a college student, with a delinquent boyfriend, living in an apartment with a strict no-pet policy. So of course, I wanted to get a dog right away. When I contacted the breeder with the Little Nickel marketing strategy, she gave me a few details about the litter of puppies she had, and described the parents. She also offered to meet me the next day with two of the male puppies.

In a Jack in the Box parking lot, a little girl pulled two dirty puppies from the backseat of an old Kia. I picked one but I don’t remember how. These clearly were not AKC recommended breeders but I’m not one to turn down any puppy, regardless of his obvious low-breeding.  I put Roper in the backseat and pulled away, knowing almost nothing about him except that “this one likes toys”. We were both quiet on the way home. In fact, all the rest of that day he didn’t make a peep. In the night, I couldn’t stop checking to see if he was still breathing.

First Night Together

First Night Together

So began my life with Roper. Except now, he’s waking up in the middle of the night to check if I’m still breathing.

Roper’s training started with the fundamentals, remnants of the Positive Puppy Training course my mom and I took our golden retriever, Sally, to when I was nine (the method is so effective, it took just under six years for her to know, “stay down!” and refrain from broadsiding and rendering you incapacitated at the beach). Roper learned so quickly that I ran out of tricks to teach him in about a week. I had to google new resources, that’s how smart he is.

I believe Roper knows he is this smart. Other dogs are like a joke to him. He is detached in his dealings with Rodeo, his Chihuahua brother. Rodeo has the mental faculties one would expect from a dog the size of a Taco Time crisp burrito and Roper just doesn’t have time for this.

Roper and Rodeo

Roper and Rodeo

As devoted and intelligent as Roper is, he does have flaws. I’m not immune to the dog owner mortification we all feel sometimes.

Roper is a licker. Anytime, anyplace, anyone. It makes no difference. You’re there, you’re getting licked.  He also occasionally nips at quick-moving children. Toddlers morph into sheep before his eyes and his herding instinct cannot be contained. Rest assured, he’s never bitten anyone. Except for a neighbor cat who tumbled around with him in the bushes. (I later made him come with me to find this cat and confirm that it was unharmed).

The only other time he shows bad behavior is when we are forcibly separated. At the vet’s office, I preface the visit by warning them that I must be in his direct line of vision at all times. As long as I am, he makes it through. As is the nature of all of his neuroses – as long as nothing is threatening me or his protection of me, he can be brought to see reason. If he believes there is a threat, he can’t.


To be on the safe side, Roper tends to overestimate danger. While he loves my SO, he always has one circumspect eye on him. If Brandon moves suddenly, or raises his arms, or trips, Roper immediately vocalizes his disapproval. He yowls and howls, he whines, he yips. He physically places himself between us. Even if I’m the offender, playfully roughhousing Brandon and giving him a few pinches, Roper is still on my side. Brandon remains the bad guy, no matter what.

Wikipedia defines codependency as “being excessively preoccupied with the needs of others.” Roper is codependent. Unlike Harry Potter, who can’t live while Lord Voldemort survives, my dog can’t live if he doesn’t ensure I survive. It can be wearing, this devotion (I sometimes hear him sigh deeply and lean against the door while I’m in the bathroom), but mostly it’s comforting.

I always have someone waiting for me. Always a buddy at my side. Literally, at my side. Like, irremovably. I’m never alone with my Roper.


Finding Kinship in Kin

December 12, 2012

Researching your family history is therapeutic.

O'Donoghue Family Crest

O’Donoghue Family Crest

Three months ago I started a family heritage project. I woke up one morning and thought, all of the memorabilia – the pictures and the letters, the memories that are stored in a Rubbermaid – it has to be preserved. It didn’t begin as a mission toward self discovery. It was more of a realization that some things, important things, are irreplaceable. This includes the relics of your ancestors.

I started on, where right away I found the names of my great grandparents on both my mom and dad’s side and started uploading and connecting their documents to their profiles. Amazingly, also lists their addresses at different times of their lives. If you find yourself in a wet, dark, moldy country (Seattle) and can’t for the life of you understand why you’re there and can’t seem to leave, keep in mind that you may be drawn to it because you’re forefathers and their relatives all lived there too. It’s like a force field.


Eric, I miss you.

Family heritage projects also bring things into perspective. My 3rd great grandfather, Daniel Donoghue, who busted his butt to come to this country from Ireland by way of Canada, had four children under the age of 6 die in the winter of 1882. There is a  cemetery of  Donoghue children in Muskegon, MI. It really brings into question the period of depression I suffered when I found out that True Blood, my favorite TV show, wasn’t airing again until Summer of 2013 (and this release date is tentative. Tentative!?). 

Out of all the factoids I discovered, this one resonated the most: my great grandfather, Ray Donoghue, changed his profession at least once every ten years. This is reflected in the decennial US census. Ray was a jitney driver, a mechanic, a county clerk, and a “ship master”, among other things. I believe if the census was performed more frequently, more of his careers would be listed.When I pieced this together, something inside of me clicked. I said to myself, “Oh.”Oh. That’s why I’m this way.

My weakness is that I’m unreasonably independent. My major goals in life are to be autonomous and to make enough money to sustain the lifestyle I want. In that order. Which means that I would tolerate being underpaid if I could at least be self-governing.

Ray Donoghue, rebel, ship master, 5' 2'' tall

Ray Donoghue, rebel, ship master, 5′ 2” tall

I like to work but I want to do it on my terms. And I have many ideas about how to do this. Many ideas. Which is where I think my life and my great grandfather’s life intersect. I’ve stuck with the job I have, but in my head I am constantly planning my “Be Your Own Boss” career. One week it’s a freelance writer, the next it’s a teacher with summers off, and a few weeks later I’m creating a logo template for a doggie daycare business.

Over the years, I’ve shared with Brandon all of these new career goals. A few months ago, I was describing to him the diagnostic sonography business, a 12 hour, 3 day a week job (four days a week to yourself!?). He turned to me and said, “That sounds great. You should pick something and just stick with it.” Which is not unreasonable, but until he said that, it had not occurred to me that having a partner in life, with indecision as plentiful as mine, is probably stressful. From his perspective, on any given day I might be planning my second stint as a student, or calling property management companies with warehouses that allow pets. You never really know what I have in the works.

And if I’m honest with myself (and with Brandon), I can’t change that. Like Grandpa Ray, my career longevity might reflect poorly in the census, and maybe mixed interests are unappealing to employers, but this is who I am. I’m a woman inventing a life for herself that allows some room to breathe. When I explain this to Brandon, he gets it. Not like Grandpa Ray probably would have, but he does get it.

Finding your ancestral soul mate reassures you. Learning that those who came before you weren’t afraid to live the lives they wanted, under tougher circumstances than what you face, gives you courage.  You realize it’s ok that you’re a non-conformist. You were meant to be this way. It’s in your blood.

Ouch. Just ouch.

October 18, 2012

It’s been a while, blog.

When I started, my goal was to write once a week. But I don’t stick to that with any regularity. And because of my All-or-Nothing pathological thinking, when I do not stick to a goal of regularity (or any goal) it makes me want to throw in the towel all together. So, rather than feel good about getting back to it, I feel weird about writing because I’m not adhering to one extreme or another – writing with regularity or not writing at all.

But alas, I’m back to it. Just consider yourself lucky that I’ve overcome my maladaptive perfectionism to bring you this gem below.

My absence is due to several recent life events, some self-inflicted, some luck of the draw. Or un-luck of the draw, as the case may be (and is).

Firstly, and most prominently, we experienced a tragic event in our family about a month ago. Going into detail in this blog post feels wrong in a way, so I’ll save the story for a different time, but in the past few weeks I’ve self-educated in the field of counseling. And I’ve opened my own practice. I have one client, my significant other. And the sessions are frequent. My conclusion is this – if you’ve been traumatized, don’t seek therapy from your spouse. Go to someone certified, so that if they mess you up mentally, at least you know they’re doing a professional job of it.

This event listed above, has been the most un-balancing by far. But there have been a couple of other things too. Like, I’ve decided to sell my horse which accomplishes goal number 3 on my Dirty Thirty list, but not in the way I anticipated. Also, I’ve been inspired to consider going back to school. This has happened before and always occurs just before some crucial application deadline for whatever program I’m interested in. So I always feel the need to jump on it immediately or be forced to apply for the next program year (usually at least two years away).

Then, there’s the problem that lingers in the forefront of my mind. It inhibits all creative writing. It makes me a less effective self-taught counselor. It even has the power to change my personality.


Kneeling Desk for Non-Profits

If you’ve had this, you know the pain. If you haven’t had this, you don’t know and can’t know. It’s that bad. I’ll still try to describe to those who don’t know and can’t, because I like to talk about it. I like to recreate it for others. Make innocent bystanders, people I know and strangers, listen to the details of vivid pain.

Firstly, the cause. Picture raw bone resting on raw nerves. That’s pretty much it. The underlying cause though, I think, is genetics. My siblings and I, although fair of face and sound of mind, are the proverbial equivalent of Snow White’s apple. Externally benign and succulent (just kidding). Externally, everything appears to be in order, a Leonardo Da Vinci if compared to art. Realism. Inside, it’s also a work of art. But a different artist. Picasso. The pieces are there, but in a unique arrangement. Maybe my siblings would disagree, but I think they wouldn’t.My doctors, chiropractors, massage therapists – the arsenal of qualified and expensive professionals I have amassed – confirm to me this loss of the genetic lottery. They don’t say it outright, but statements like these make me wonder:

“Let me just put my hands on your body… oh wow…. do you also experience (insert another pathology here)… because your hips/wrists/ankles/pelvis/neck… this just doesn’t feel quite right… wow.”

A fellow employee, who also happens to be a massage therapist, reiki master, acupuncturist and kinesiologist, offered to help me yesterday. Which is extremely nice of her, because we’ve never spoken. Standing beside me and slightly holding her side to my side, she hooked her thumb and index fingers together and pulled them apart several times. I went along with this – pain makes you open to just about anything. She told me later that she took my body’s energy into her body (“Crap! Could you have asked me first?”) and determined that one pelvis is tilted askew. I’m not surprised. Simply another example of how my genes express themselves.

There’s also a chance my equestrian past has come back to bite me, literally, in the butt. At my first visit to the chiropractor, he asked me about any traumas which could have caused the bone on nerve situation.

I told him that no, there hasn’t been anything, which is why this is so unfair (I repeat this all the time, “this is so unfair.”)

“So you haven’t been in any car accidents? No falls? Nothing like that?”

“Nope and nope.”

“No skiing crashes, no horseback riding?” He looks at me pointedly.

“Oh. Well yes. I’ve ridden horses my whole life.”

“Uh, yah, then that’s it.”

Standing Desk for Non-Profits

Oh. Of course begging my parents to drag me and my horse to all the shows, making them cheer for those third place “wins”, subjecting them to heat and dust over a three-day weekend, was not to go unpunished.Perhaps my greatest lament in all this is the money spent. A team of health care providers comes at great cost. While I’m quite willing to pay people to say things like, “oh your poor hip”, “let’s fix this poor pelvis”, and  “oh poor you”, there are things I am more willing to pay for, like Thai food takeout three nights a week.

With this in mind, I’m now self-studied in orthopedics and I’ve prescribed a novel solution to this diagnosis. High impact exercise. Running. I hate running, it hurts me. Throbbing shin splints, searing lungs, sore thighs. But running is pain, in lower case. It is not Pain, with a capital P. And during my prior stints as a runner I have to admit that while I was in pain, I was never in Pain. Sciatica lingered in the background, but it didn’t run my life.

So I’m tightening up my laces, pocketing my pepper spray, and leashing my dog. This is getting cured.

Just Shut Up

August 6, 2012

If you’re in a relationship, do you let your partner say whatever they want? Or do you give them a dirty look when they say something you disagree with? Do you allow them to take conversations in directions that make you uncomfortable? Or do you steer them away from stating certain topics and opinions?

At the beginning of my current (four years together – go us!) relationship, I found myself on eggshells whenever I brought my SO around family and friends. There was a part of me that feared the verbalized thoughts of my boyfriend, especially around people whose opinion of my relationship really mattered to me.

It’s not that Brandon is inappropriate. Well, actually yes, sometimes he is. But most of the time he’s extremely polite, charming, and quiet.  It had more to do with the baggage I carried from prior relationships then it did with the man in my present relationship. And on some level, I think I knew this. Still, he has a lot of opinions and ideas that I disagree with. And I had a strong urge to control the words coming out of his mouth.

In private, I would use the Parental Appropriateness Meter in my mind to evaluate what Brandon said to me. For instance, if I felt he said something a little too conservative, a wee bit too right-wing, I would promptly correct him. If he made an over-generalized statement, and I can think of a few, I would bring up every possible contradictory example possible. I was training him. That’s what I thought.

Over time though, I relaxed. I began to see that the things I might have construed as embarrassing, our friends and family found highly entertaining. For instance, when he talks about the time he cut down the fir tree in his neighbor’s yard for Christmas, my friends laugh. When he shares his stance on gun ownership with the dearest members of my family, they can identify points in the argument that they agree with.

It wasn’t that I started to change my mind about the things he said. A lot of it still embarrassed me. It was that I realized the crazy things he states as facts make him who he is. Why would I want a boyfriend who only says what I want him to? How blasé would that be?

The other part of it is this: I have faith in our family and friends; faith in them to respect another’s perspective, to not pass judgment as quickly as my Parental Appropriateness Meter. My friends and family aren’t jerks, and because of that, they love Brandon because he’s a good man, not because he might make a few outlandish comments.

Last week, I read This is Not the Story You Think It Is, by Laura Monson. It’s amazing. It also reminded me that in relationships, we have to will ourselves to let go, and let the other person just be. As hard as that is. (Brandon would never say half the BS that woman’s husband did in the book, though. If he did, well…)

Having said all those nice things, I’d like to say this about one night when Brandon literally mortified me.

I had recently taken a course in medical terminology and filled him in on the part of the female anatomy called the mons pubis. It’s not that risqué, but I won’t describe it. Just look it up yourself. Brandon misunderstood it, intentionally or not, I’m not sure, and pronounced it mom’s pubis. He then used this term several times during a long evening we had at a friend’s dinner party. JU, if you’re reading this, you might remember this night, but probably not with the clarity that I do.  Needless to say, he was the subject of a lot of “training” that occurred on the long ride home from this dinner party, although it was much less subtle then the training I’ve described above.

Now he knows.

Dirty Thirty: The List

July 22, 2012

There are 1,128 hours until my next birthday. Normally I wouldn’t care, wouldn’t even be thinking about my birthday until the day before. But lately, I’ve been practically driven to distraction by the fact that I’m approaching the other side of my third decade.

By this next birthday, according to all basic mathematics, you can round my age up to thirty. That’s right. When people try to guess my age and I’m not around, they’re going to be saying, “She’s thirty-ish.” (The truth is most people believe that twenty-five rounds up to thirty, but I’ve chosen not to calculate things this way for the past year.)

It’s not that I think thirty is old. I don’t. I’ve known a lot of people who’ve survived the transition from twenty-nine to thirty. My sister is forty and smokin’ hot. I’m also well aware that there are people reading this who find it laughable that a twenty-six year old person is having aging anxiety. I understand that twenty-six year olds are still babies in the grand scheme. But, the thing that scares me about turning thirty is the difference between what I thought I would have accomplished by then and what I will probably actually have accomplished.

In an attempt to remedy the panic, I decided to create a list. Inspired by the Bucket List, a movie and now a movement for those wanting to accomplish their dreams before the end of their lives, my list has been modified. It’s not things to do before I die, but things to do before I turn thirty. The Dirty Thirty List. I thought it was an original idea, but after Googling it I’ve discovered that it isn’t. There are lots of people doing this. Which just proves my theory that there isn’t an original idea in the world. Whatever it is, Google already knows about it.


Yes, some of the ideas on my list are the most painful things I could think of. I’m going to try to get in the most wicked shape of my life. I have four years to train. I can do this. Maybe even by Autumn. That’s how motivated I am.


 I was working on this one before, but I need to stick to it. Got my audio CDs on hold at the library.


I’ve never really stopped being a horse-girl and I’ve managed to keep my horse, but he’s been on summer break at my parents and I realize now that I need to use him or lose him. If he’s going to be in my life I want to ride a lot more and do horse shows. If I’m not going to do those things, he needs to be with a family who will.


I have the least faith in myself about this one. It’s just so painful, like psychological torture, to stick with a story idea and write and write about the same character. I really want to do this though. This is happening.


I like the job that I do now, but I would love to create my own work schedule and maybe open a business. I would love to work outside or have the flexibility to be outdoors during the day. Or, possibly make #4 into a career. This will continue to be a work in progress over the next several years, but I’d like to have a good start by the time I’m thirty.


This is so important. My plan is to visit at least four or more countries in the next four years. And stay at each for at least one week.


I got this idea from Life 2.Oh and thought it was neat. My parents are go-getters though. I don’t think they’re going to be waiting around for me to save enough money to help them get bucket list stuff accomplished. Also, there aren’t near old enough to have a bucket list. So, maybe this one can be slightly modified to: Make family and friends an absolute priority. This makes it on to all my to-do lists.


Through a series of DIY projects. I don’t want to hire someone and have them come in and make my house into a grown-up escape. I want to slowly create pieces and moods with love and toil so that they’re special. (Actually, I want Brandon to create pieces and moods – with my direction.)

My plan is to take small steps (or a small step) each day to achieving at least one of these Dirty Thirty goals. I only have 36,192 hours and counting.

The Reluctant Bride

June 25, 2012

Every few months, I go through a marrying stage.

First of all, I love weddings. Free food, free entertainment, mild to moderate inebriation and dancing – all of my favorites. I’m lucky because I am in my mid-twenties, which turns out to be the age when you can attend a wedding or wedding-related event nearly every weekend during the months of April to October. The problem is these events make me wonder, “should I be taking that next step?”

One of these…

This thought leads me to start pondering my own wedding, were I to have one. Then I start creating boards on Pinterest (mostly with diamond rings, some flowers in mason jars, and lacy dresses). Then I start carefully observing my significant other. Most recently, the impending arrival of a friend’s wedding prompted me to ask Brandon, “Do you think we’ll want to do that soon?”

Most typically, at least in the past, he’s always answered, “Maybe not next year but the one after.” I like this answer. It soothes me. It’s not next year, there’s still plenty of time, no rush. Even as the years have passed and he has continued to tell me “not next year, maybe the one after”, it hasn’t bothered me.But this most recent time, when I asked him about any wedding thoughts he might have, he asked me to print off all of my favorite engagement ring styles and give them to him in a list.

Wait. What?

I was not expecting that. And for a long time, I didn’t have the gumption to give him this list. There is a list. I created one once while I was home alone and I had just finished watching The Notebook. So it does exist, I just can’t bring myself to pass it on. I keep meaning to print it. But every time I go to pull it, I feel slightly panicked.

What kind of right-minded woman is unable to give her man a shopping list for EE Robbins when he asks for one? I’ll tell you. The kind that questions and is usually spooked by social norms and expectations.

For the past few days, I’ve analyzed it, and it’s clear: by doing the wedding thing, I’m conforming to societal institutions and traditions that I’ve been trying to defy since I was small.  Conformity is hard for me. Doing the thing that “everyone else is doing” has never been appealing. For instance, halfway through first grade I decided to never go back. Follow the crowd of seven-year olds from the playground to art class to nap time? Not my cup of tea.

…and a few of these.

This strong sense of independence has been the one resilient thread that has stuck with me throughout my life. That’s why, the idea of having a wedding, wearing the dress, cutting the cake, throwing the bouquet, asking the drunk guest to leave, is overwhelming to me. It’s too mainstream.

But do I want to miss out on the whole life experience all together? The life event that my friends are making look like a new and great adventure?


No, and the person I’m with is the one I want to continue to be with. There’s no way I want to be an old lady, alone in my duplex, without the companionship and secondary income of a partner. But, it’s not right for me. It’s not right for me right now. Someday it will be. I hope.

Can Brandon continue down the path of non-conformity with me? Last week, when I cautiously said , “Let’s not plan a wedding anytime soon,” he said, “Ya, of course not. I don’t think we need to.” To which I wanted to respond, “Why the hell did you want the engagement ring list then?”

But instead I said: “Good.”

The two of us at a recent (beautiful) wedding.

Al Capone Part 2

June 14, 2012

Per the advice of my significant other, and probably my mental health therapist, if I had one, this is the last I will speak of the convuluded housing situation I was wrapped up in until recently.

Living as the tenant of a lawbreaker wasn’t all bad for a while. The position actually had some leverage. Like for the months of April and May, I didn’t even pay rent. My landlord had no checking account, so I think it’s safe to say my deposit money was gone. Rather than take a chance on whether that money would be returned to me, I simply told my landlord that I planned to not pay for the month of April. What’s he going to do? His property is in foreclosure, he’s being sued for $1.5 million, and he owes the government $140,000.

Al Capone

Not that I would have abused this newly found position of power, but it was nice to be able to say, “this is how it’s going to happen, capeche?” and then not worry about the response. Then, in May, when we still hadn’t found a suitable house to flee to, we simply didn’t pay rent because we had no idea where to send it. We didn’t send it to the DOR, because we hoped to leave any day and didn’t want to lose a month’s worth of rent. We couldn’t send it to my landlord for fear that the DOR would somehow see that payment. So we just didn’t pay. Then there were those few precious moments when we thought we might be able to stay. When we thought that maybe throwing all of our items and their duplicates (turns out we have two of everything) into a storage unit, while finding some short term housing for us and our dog children, would not be necessary. This temporary denial, that perhaps we could work things out at our current house, came after a few weeks of panicking, desperate Craig’s List scouring, and a First Time Home Buyers class with free beer. Brandon and I had decided we needed to slow down, and figure out exactly what was going on.

I contacted the lawyer for Chase Bank. If you missed it, we found out Chase bank was suing our landlord. After giving me the legal spiel (the person I spoke with couldn’t give me any advice, she couldn’t be held liable, she didn’t know that much) the lawyer told me that they are only three months into the process of foreclosing on the property, and that it would likely be another nine months before it’s over. When I asked her if my lease had to be honored (the term is through August) she gave a non-committal “mhh-hmm.” Which, coming from a lawyer, is as good as gold to me. To verify though, I called landlord/tenant services and explained the very complex situation. I spoke with another lawyer, who said only this, “the lease must be honored. Continue to pay and send your money wherever they tell you.”

So, on the 30th of April, Brandon and I dutifully sent our rent payment directly to the Department of Revenue. Namely, Special Agent Carlos. Would he be a good landlord, we wondered. Would he be responsive? Would he fix the septic tank issue in my back yard to which a hose and bright yellow extension cord runs from the front of the house? Probably not. At least we’ve bought some time, we thought to ourselves.

When I filled our old landlord in and let him know we sent our payment to our new landlord, the state of Washington, he was not pleased. Apparently, by the time we made the decision to stick it out a while longer, to send our money to Carlos, our old landlord had rented our place. There is a lease, and it is technically illegal for the unit to be rented to someone else, but at this point we asked ourselves – when does the stress of staying outweigh the stress of moving? Do we really want to enter into legal territory over a rental property that is caught in a real estate triangle between the owner, the bank, and the DOR? No. Enough is enough, we decided.

So there we were again, panicking and scouring Craig’s List. And we did find a place – a very sweet, charming bungalow within walking distance to the library and dog park – but not before one more twisted interaction with the fabulous Al Capone of landlords.

Cute miniature garden at our new house. Symbol of hope.

Sometime last year, Brandon proudly brought home a free, used bowflex. The thing weighs three hundred pounds and man-handling it from his truck into the house was the closest thing to a workout we ever derived from it. So, when we moved, we left it on the porch for a friend of Brandon’s to pick up. It was the last little loose end. When his friend came to get the beast, however, he backed his truck up to the porch and became stuck, ripping the grass up in the process. He forgot to mention it to us but our ex-landlord remembered. I felt terrible about the grass and, deciding that even though he’s an a-hole we don’t have to be, I sent him an email letting him know that we were willing to help repair the grass or at the very least buy some seed and drop it by. After receiving my email, the man called Brandon directly and told him that he wasn’t able to talk to me anymore, that he is only willing to work with Brandon. The reason for this no-contact request? In his words: because I scare him.

Me, the 120 pound Irish blonde scares the tax evader with a restraining order and six lawsuits against him.

I scare him.