The Unintended Guest Post

This exchange between my husband, Ace, and my college roommate, Jessicca, amused me.  They hash out logistics of an upcoming trip to the Bay of Fundy.  I post mostly to give you a peek into my marriage ; )


Ace writes:

“Jessica:  I don’t know how informed you are about the most recent version of our plans.  As currently conceived, we would rely upon you heavily.  Not sure how comfortable we all are with that idea.  I will paint a picture in which you carry a heavy burden for you to consider as you walk the hills of Scotland, such that we might alter them as you see fit.

In the days leading up to the trip, Anne and/or I contact you frequently with ‘ideas’(ie demands) for materials which we might find useful along the coast of NB, but which are inconvenient to carry on an airplane.  The ‘ideas’ will surely include pillows for Anne (unless I convince her that a place capable of sleeping 10 will have enough pillows…), coolers, foodstuffs, beach towels, etc, etc.

[Date redacted] sees Anne/[Ace/The Big E] enjoying restful flights to St. John, arriving at 8:08 pm.  Meanwhile, Jessica has stuffed her vehicle with pillows, etc, and has driven long, hot, difficult miles in summer vacation traffic, located an obscure house, and is still expected to pick Anne et al. up at the airport, providing taxi service to the pile of Maine pillows.

You will then be expected to participate in a variety of activities, with a quarrelsome bunch of people who hate the sun, but also hate rain, and hate wind.  The adolescent may be the most agreeable of the bunch which says a lot, but all will claim they are carsick.   There will then be several days of excessive running about, at the expense of your vehicle, and patience.

Just when you can’t stand another moment, dreaming of your quiet ride home, you realize that the entire bunch now plans to accompany you back across the wasteland we midwesterners know to be Northern Maine.  When you should be unpacking, washing your clothes and freeing you mind, they will still all be there, right on top of you for another 36 hours—starting [date redacted]!  They will expect accommodations of all types.  Then, they will demand unreasonably early transportation to the Portland air transit facility, with hardly a thanks, the morning of [date redacted].

You have several options which could minimize difficulties.  Some of those options will alter the plans we need to make on our end.  So please let us know if you would rather opt out altogether (eg an oversees walking trip suddenly emerging offers an excellent escape route).  Let us know if you would rather meet us in NB at a time or place different from the proposed such that we could arrange alternate transport upon arrival.  Let us know if you think a second car would be useful in any event (I see some obvious advantages), such that you could avoid an airport run at a difficult time in unfamiliar environs.  Let us know if we should book motels/cars/etc for the brief Maine portion of the intrusion, including the Portland airport motel the night before our flight.  I will cease listing the options for the sake of brevity, trusting you to make your desires and demands known.

I know it sounds like more fun than you had considered possible, hope your wild anticipation will not blunt your hills of scotland experience.  [Ace]”

Jessicca’s response:

“Dear [formal name redacted],

Barring any unforeseen incidents (such as asteroids striking the earth) I would be delighted to join your expedition to the wilds of NB. Maine is not bad in summer to drive as long as I avoid route 1 from June until September so up 95 I shall go and the Expedition has Sirius XM radio so I have entertainment. Pillows I have in abundance and the aforementioned Expediton has tons of space so we are good there. I can also bring coolers, umbrellas, tents, ponchos, hats, books, games, or anything else you might like that will not fit in the overhead bin of the plane.

And the true reason for my agreeing to come (as you should already suspect) is to spend time with The Big E so happiness abounds in my world.  As for sun, rain and wind I will bring sunscreen, my new raincoat and my sturdy Maine build (very hard to blow me over).  I have managed to navigate across the US not once but 5 times without getting lost and have driving three times to the wilds of Northern Ontario so I should hopefully find the house in NB and the airport.  If not then you, my friend, are out of luck.

Friends are always welcome at the Farm or my house in Raymond even when they are tired, cranky and smelly after trekking the shores of the Bay of Fundy. I love to travel and see new places and my goal in life is to say yes to as many cool, interesting things as possible… YES count me in and hopefully I prove to be a not too annoying travel companion. Enjoy your week and I am sure we will talk soon!


Jessicca Grover

Globe Trekking former roommate of Anne Lippin”

Ace chimes in once again:

“Excellent, we will being forwarding an updated list of need weekly until departure, perhaps daily toward the end.

More importantly, what is the origin of the second “c”, or perhaps the first “c”, in Jessicca?  Surely one should pronounce your name Jes-sic-ca, not jess-i-ca?  If Anne hadn’t scolded me for misspelling your name, I would have forever gone on believing your typing skills were lacking, but not thought the less of you for it—knowing that poor typing skills are closely associated with genius.  [Ace]”

Jess says:

“The second c is all mom plus when you say Jessicca with a maine accent it sounds like 2 c’s.”


Musical Moment





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Lucky, Lost

I met two old friends (old as-in long-time friends, and old as-in can we talk about our aching joints? Srsly?) on Friday at the Como Conservatory.  We were supposed to see the spring show and instead discovered that the spring show was being dismantled.  We sat down on a couple benches after making a penny wish and discussed our kids and our parents and mostly our in-laws.  It’s a mess.

My one friend wants a shih tzu.  Her husband doesn’t.  They wonder back and forth if their lifestyle is compatible with canine ownership.  She really wants a shih tzu.  Or a retired greyhound.  But really a shih tzu.

I left the Conservatory, heading for home along Lexington Parkway.  Lexington is a fantastic thoroughfare for roadkill, like one of the best.  One of my finest specimens, Matilda the Baby Raccoon, came from Lexington.  So you can imagine my distress when I saw what appeared to be a dustmop darting right across the four lanes of traffic.  I watched the little dog make a beeline for the Great Dane on the other side, the Great Dane attached to a leash being held by a woman with a baby in a stroller.

Well, that looks challenging, I thought.  I pulled onto a sidestreet.  The woman, the baby, and the Great Dane asked if the dustmop was my dog.  Nope, I said, I just thought you might need some help.

We used the Dane for bait, attempting to lure the dustmop away from Lexington.  I tried my best koochie-koochie voice and it worked.  The dog came over.  I reached for it, it feinted, I koochied, it came back.  I grabbed the mop’s scruff, realizing I might get bitten.

The dog didn’t bite.  I tucked her/him under my arm.  I’ll take care of her/him, I told the Great Dane.  And the lady.  And the baby.

We drove back up Lexington.  The stinky dustmop settled right in, gazing out the window for a time, then snuggling down on the passenger seat.

Can I tell you exactly how much I love my vet clinic?  We pulled in fifteen minutes after closing time and Erik, my favorite tech, scanned the mop for a chip.  No chip.  No collar, no tags, no chip.  We clucked over the matted fur, the curved nails, the intact testicles, the goobery eyes that made sight a real challenge.

I confessed that I was sorely tempted to clean him up and present him to my friend, the one who really wants a shih tzu.

We gave the doggie a one-year rabies shot and a nail trim.

Ace was not particularly surprised to see a stinky dustmop in the backyard, making friends with Chester and Fergus.  “I manifested a shih tzu,” I said.  I gently cut the hairs and goobers from around his eyes.

Life goes on and I had an appointment to keep.  I named the mop Max, Max the Mop, and he went on my errands, mostly content to sit in a kennel in the front seat.  Upon our return, we posted on the Humane Society Lost-n-Found page.  I scanned the Lost section and spotted “Lucky” who looked suspiciously like Max.

Heavy sigh.  I really wanted Max to have a happy ending with my friend.  I really did.  I called the number on Lucky’s listing.  Phone out-of-service.  Great.  I sent a message with my landline.

Max and I settled down on the stoop to give him a haircut.

A child called me, maybe 12 or 13.  He described how his sister had been crying for an hour at the loss of Lucky.  Lucky escaped exactly where I found Max.  I’m pretty sure I have your dog, I said.  Drat.  We agreed that I would drop off the doggie when I picked up The Big E from school.

My friend K called while I trimmed the mats from around Max’s paws.  K is a social worker.  I bemoaned the fact that I had to return Lucky to a family that didn’t trim his nails or brush his fur or clean his eyes.  K reminded me to have a bit of empathy.  Focus on the kids, she said.  When you return Lucky, make sure the kids look healthy and cared for.  Fine.  Harrumph.

I finished trimming all the matted fur from Max’s paws and back and face.  Then I gave him a nice bath.

When I walked up to the house on Lexington Parkway, the Roadkill Mecca of St. Paul, two kids burst from the door.  “Lucky!” they exclaimed.  And one plucked the little dog from my arms.  The kids looked well-fed.  They had clean clothes and made appropriate eye contact.  They smiled and thanked me.

I asked if Lucky ever goes to the vet.  Yes, they said.  We’re planning to get him a rabies shot this summer.  I gave them the rabies tag and certificate.

Does Lucky have a collar? I asked.  He did, but it got lost.  I show the kids my phone number, printed on the rabies certificate.  If you ever want help getting him a collar or tags, I said, just give me a call.

Have a nice life, Lucky.  I walked away.


Musical Moment

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Im Augenblick

Sunday morning.  The phone next to our bed rings at 7:16.  The ringer’s turned off.  I normally sleep through a downstairs ring but I pick up.

Ace, who left for work at 6:45, informs me that he just got rear-ended on Highway 65.  The cops are on their way.  The guy who hit him is “plowed.”

“Plowed?” I ask.  “You mean drunk?”  On Sunday morning at 7:16 am.

Yeah, he’s drunk.  And ten seconds later he jumps back into his huge red truck and leaves the scene.  Ace was rear-ended.  The truck has no front license plate.

“Are you okay?”  I’m still trying to process what amounts to way too much information.

“I think so,” he says.  He can’t shake the idea that he shouldn’t be okay.  Ace was at a dead stop on Highway 65 at a red light.  The truck plowed into him full speed, at least 60 mph.  The impact imploded the back end of our 2011 Subaru Outback, sending a shower of glass along Ace’s neck, and pushing his car all the way across the intersection.

The cops arrive and we hang up.

Ace and I talk regularly about the risks of an hour commute each way, the nasty stretch of road known as Highway 65.  Wouldn’t it be great if he could walk a few blocks to the clinic on Grand Avenue?  We put him in a Subaru for safety and mileage.

I start gathering my thoughts and my car keys.  1) Figure out if Ace is actually injured.  2) Call the insurance company.  3) What to do about his work day?  There is no automatic “sub” system in his hospital practice.  If he can’t work, we have to find someone who can; It’s not like he can call in and say, “Hey, sorry.  Please let my patients know I can’t make it in.  I just had a near-death experience.”

He was at a dead stop, rear-ended full speed.  Physics suggests he shouldn’t be okay.

Ace calls back.  He needs to get to work.  He gives me the address of the towing company.  My dad and I leave in two vehicles.

We meet in the parking lot snowbank of Qwik Trip, across the road from the closed offices of the towing company.  He stands next to the debris he salvaged from the car: a pile of reusable shopping bags, a window break/seatbelt slicer, Minnesota winter emergency supplies, two hockey sticks.  I walk to Ace and embrace him, kiss him, tell him I love him.  His eyes are wide.  Imagine you’re all calm and casual, cruising down the street.  A red Lamborghini screams alongside, fire arcing off the metal.  Death catches your eye, cocks his head, coolly assessing.  Nope, not this time.  He peals off onto the open road.

Ace describes the man, how he staggered from his truck.  “I’m sorry,” he slurred.  “I just broke up with my girlfriend.”  He could barely walk, but got back in the cab and took off.  They apprehended him a few miles up the road.

“I’m glad they caught the –“ my dad hesitates, as if looking to see if my mom is present.  “Asshole,” I suggest, as my dad completes the sentence with “bastard.”  (sorry Mom)  We’re both spitting mad.

As a physician, I believe in the disease model of addiction.  My sympathy for the heartbroken man who could’ve killed my husband ended the second he stepped into his truck.  Don’t turn your own disease into someone else’s tragedy.

“Take ibuprofen now,” I say, knowing Ace is hopped up on epinephrine.  He’ll only feel the full effects of this at the end of his shift.

I ride home in my dad’s Subaru.  He tells me of the time an “old man” pulled right out in front of him.  My dad, age 15 and on a bike, was tossed up onto the guy’s hood.  The driver, an Eau Claire “stranger,” put my dad in the car and drove him to the hospital, waited while  the doctor checked him out, paid the bill, and repaired the bike.

Dad drops me off at home.  My mom checks in by phone, reminding me that her father was rear-ended by a drunk driver in the dead of night on his way home from working overtime.  She started waking up when her father was due home and staying awake until he arrived.  Safe.

I call the hospital where Ace works and chat with the floor manager.  Yes, they heard what happened.  I describe the scene in more detail and ask her to shove some ibuprofen down Ace’s throat.  “We’ll hogtie him,” she assures me.  “And make sure he doesn’t do anything stupid,” I say.  “We’ll try,” she replies.

Working after such an experience might be considered stupid.  What can he do?

I spend the next three hours on the phone.  The deputy who helped my husband supplies me with the other driver’s full name, date of birth (two weeks after Ace’s, including the year), license plate, and insurance name and policy number.  I inform American Family Insurance that their policy holder is currently in the county jail.  They will attempt to contact him for ten days to get his side of the story.  If they can’t reach him, they’ll proceed with their own investigation and decide whether they’ll accept liability.

How could they not accept liability?  We went to inspect our impounded car today and found the red truck’s front license plate – fully embedded in our car’s rear bumper.

At the end of it, I have a probably-totaled car, a huge unanticipated vehicular expense, a lengthy insurance investigation, and a living breathing husband.

In five years, maybe I’ll look at Ace and say, “Hey, remember when that drunk driver could’ve killed you on Highway 65 four days after 17 students and teachers were mowed down by an angry 19-yr-old with access to an AR-15?  I’m so grateful that our lawmakers finally tackled gun reform as well as addiction treatment and support.”

A gal can dream.


That’s the back of the guy’s license plate, embedded in our Subaru’s rear bumper.


The back of the car performed EXACTLY as it should, caving in and dropping down. You can see how the rear of the car is mashed up against the tires.


The interior seating area is quite well-preserved – plenty of room to survive. No airbags deployed.


Again, you can see how the back of the car tilted down. The rear doors are unusable.


Ace and Sparkle. Final goodbyes.


The front still looks great!


Musical Moment

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Timber Target

I don’t like football.  I don’t get football.  At several points in my life, various males have attempted to explain the “down” system in a way that made any sense whatsoever.  They failed.  To me, football is the American equivalent of the gladiator ring.  We can’t condone fighting to the death but we can allow boorish fans to revel in blown ACLs, ripped rotator cuffs, and the chronic head trauma that leads to Swiss cheese brains.

Super Bowl LII provided the perfect opportunity for me to do my Target shopping.  It just so happens that Justin Timberlake visited my TargetIMG_4645 in the days leading up to LII.  This video dropped Friday, inducing a frenzied rush of JT fans screaming “Aardvark!!!!!”


smiling, dressed for Target


second minivan on the left #RockStar

Super Bowl Sunday was COLD.  I wore my Minnesota Suit and Tie and drove my SexyBack minivan to JT’s Target.  Got me some rock-star parking (Not a Bad Thing).  Contrary to popular belief, the Midway Target in St. Paul isn’t a Filthy, understaffed warehouse full of cheap, household Supplies.


empty aisles


it’s winter, people




no shrine?


JT + FP 4evah

The Body Count in the store was low, with aisles as empty as the Blue Ocean Floor.  A huge display of bikinis assaulted me, taunting me to Pose in front of the Mirrors.  Not My Style. I walked the Five Hundred Miles to the back of the store, Fascinated by the thought that Justin Timberlake breathed the very air around the Man of the Woods display.  I Can’t Believe It.  There’s no shrine.


JT + RP ≠ TL b/c AL + RP = 4evah


FP ingredients = GMOs, pesticide, and petroleum byproducts #GetANewSnack

I asked the Target tech dude (who looked like he’d rather be Livin’ Off the Land) for the straight scoop.  What went down on Friday?  Give It To Me!  Tech dude said JT came in on Friday, shot some video, spent some Money, walked around, and Nothin’ Else

Hm, I thought.  I Can’t Stop the Feelin’ that I’m not getting the True Colors of the situation, the Holy Grail of investigative journalism.  The self-checkout helper dished the real Sauce.  That Girl said the whole thing was a scam.  Timberlake arrived on Monday, spent a couple minutes surrounded by security in the back of the store, signed exactly five albums, posed with a cart filled by someone else, and left.  4 Minutes max.  Did he at least Say Something, take some Super Bowl Selfies with fans?  Nope.  Well, Cry Me a River.


no longer smiling #SallowFace

#Sadface.  JT, you had a chance to Rock Your Body with good Minnesotans, folks acquainted with The [actual] Woods, people who would give you the several feet of personal space you deserve.  What Goes Around…Comes Around, dude.  We can see the Signs, stare right through your web of Flannel deception.

Sure, we’ll be nice, Role Model Minnesotans.  But Ain’t No Doubt About It, you can anticipate a lukewarm, passive-aggressive reception Until the End of Time.


Musical Moment

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Flee, Fly, Flu, Flum

Hey!  It’s flu season.  Again!  I blogged about this three years ago and I think it’s worth an update.


Disclaimer: I am not your doctor.  I am not trying to give you medical advice.  If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 911 now.  Now!  Thank you.


Tis the season.  Everyone has “The Flu.”  Unfortunately for health care providers everywhere, “The Flu” represents at least four different situations in our culture.

1) The Flue.  Let’s get this one out of the way as it’s the least confusing.  Anyone with a woodburning fireplace has A Flue.  The great news is, flues aren’t contagious!

2) Which brings us to the next The Flu, as in Influenza, as in THE REAL DEAL FLU!  This is the bad one.  It isn’t actually one at all but many.  Sorry.  There are a three types of the influenza virus that afflict humans.  Ya got yer influenza A and yer influenza B and yer influenza C.

But influenza A is further divided into subtypes: influenza A H(1-18)N(1-11).  In other words, there are 19 different possibilities of H protein and 11 different possibilities of N protein on the surface of the influenza A virus.  To put this in mathematical terms would require me to relive something involving factorials and I’m not going there.  Suffice it to say that nature can produce many H + N combinations for our respiratory pleasure.

The joy doesn’t stop.  There can be many strains of a certain subtype.  Remember H1N1 from 2009?  That was a new strain of influenza A H1N1.  Vaccine wizards try to predict which strains, subtypes, and types will be particularly important in upcoming flu seasons and tailor “The Flu Shot” to those strains.  Sometimes they get it right.  Other times not so much.  Don’t get too mad at them – remember that factorial situation.

How does The Flu Shot work?  Most of the shots contain dead flu viruses.  ”Inactivated” is the slightly more pleasant term.  So I get my shot and my immune system picks up the dead viruses and says, hm, we have an intruder.  (Technically, we have three ((trivalent vaccine – this year containing an A H1N1, an A H3N2, and a B)) or four ((quadrivalent vaccine – everything above plus another B)) intruders.)  Let’s make antibody weapons directed against this intruder!  It takes a couple weeks for me to really build up my antibody arsenal.  When someone with The Flu sneezes on my face and I get exposed to real live virus, my immune system recognizes the intruder and my antibody weapons are ready to be deployed.

To put this in perspective, our bodies are exposed to thousands of new “intruders” each day as we eat and breathe and live.  Most of us can easily handle a couple more.

FluMist, the nose spray flu vaccination, is made up of “live attenuated” virus.  Think of it like a scorpion with its stinger removed.  No don’t.  That’s creepy.  Think of it like a barberry bush with the thorns removed.  Never mind.  Don’t think of it at all because the CDC says DON’T GET IT THIS SEASON BECAUSE IT ISN’T EFFECTIVE ENOUGH!

Influenza A is currently running rampant according to my charming husband and this helpful yet alarming map.  If you lived in Guam or Washington DC during the month of December, good for you.  It’s January now though, and all bets are off.

This flu season ushered in a particularly nasty strain of Influenza A.  Over thirty children have already died in the United States.

The match between the strains in the vaccine and the strains we are seeing “in the wild” isn’t perfect.  However, the vaccine can still help your body identify and attack the intruder.  Think of it like a family resemblance.  The vaccine contains a specific strain of influenza A(H3N2).   [Ms. Richardson, the flesh-eating zombie who lives next door.]  You contract a slightly different influenza A (H3N2).  [Hey!  You look a lot like Ms. Richardson!  Really?  You’re her sister?  I thought I sorta recognized you…  Are you a zombie, too?  ACK!!!]

As we get older, our immune systems get older, too.  They don’t get as excited about the flesh-eating zombie next door.  Folks over the age of 65 can get a couple souped-up versions of the vaccine: 1) a high-dose vaccine [a whole den of zombies] 2) an adjuvanted vaccine – the vaccine inside a base of squalene oil [like a zombie with flames shooting out of its orifices – highly noticeable].

The Bottom Line is you should get a flu shot.  Now.  Posthaste.  And next year do it in October.  If you don’t want to do it for yourself, do it for the sake of the infants under six months who can’t get vaccinated.  Or the elders who don’t get bent out of shape about a couple zombies.

3) So how about The Flu, like The Stomach Flu, like I’m-Puking-And-Pooping-And-Miserable Flu.  Well, technically that isn’t flu at all.  Depending on your circumstances, it could be “food poisoning” (which isn’t really poisoning, but ingestion of food-borne microbes such as campylobacter and salmonella) or viral gastroenteritis caused by any one of a number of fecal-to-oral transmitted viruses.  Norovirus, the virus-formerly-known-as-Norwalk, is the big offender in this country.

Yup, you read that right.  Fecal, as in POOP, to oral, as in EAT POOP.  Ace and I both learned a scintillating saying in medical school: “If shit were red, the world would be pink.”  Just let that one sink in for a minute.  The moral to the story is: WASH YOUR HANDS.

4) Finally, we come to The Flu.  ”I have a touch of The Flu” is what your neighbor says when he has a runny nose and slight cough.  Folks, you cannot have a touch of the Actual Flu.  The Actual Flu doesn’t touch you, it bowls you over, leaving you prostrate and begging for mercy.  Your neighbor’s “touch of The Flu” is likely a viral upper respiratory infection, caused by one of a group of constantly mutating viruses.  Hence, no vaccine).  Common causes of The Common Cold include rhinovirus, parainfluenza virus, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

People know that “a touch of The Flu” will excuse them from work, uncomfortable social obligations, and cooking duty.  ”A touch of The Flu” begs sympathy and chicken noodle soup.  ”I have a cold” and you can just join the club.  Buck up!

If you schedule an appointment with your Minnesota doctor for symptoms of a viral upper respiratory infection during the months of December or January, s/he is likely to be sicker than you are and more than a little peevish from a vexing combination of stress (it’s nearly impossible for doctors to just “call in sick”) and lack of sleep.

That is all.


Musical Moment



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FOS – the Fruits Of the Spirit


Love, joy, kindness, faithfulness, and what?

The Fruits of the Spirit rot,

Forgotten and maligned, sin-sick expendable culture.

With instant gratification, easily bruised egos

Spar from the anonymity of screens.

What can we do to help?

Remind everyone to eat their fruit!

Be kind.  Be faithful.  Be love.


Musical Moment

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The Best of 2017


Rafa snuggling with Chester

My beloved Pomeranian, Rafa, died last May of heart failure.  Naturally, I assumed Ace would be just fine with the immediate procurement of another Pom.  Not so.  Turns out Ace enjoyed the relative dearth of barking.

I continued my daily Petfinder searches.  Quietly.

Dear Universe, please send me a Pomeranian.  The Universe had other ideas.

Rafa came from Second Chance Animal Rescue, a lovely 501(c)3 organization in the Twin Cities.  My Henry and Teddy also came from Second Chance.  I hooked up my parents with Second Chance’s Torrey (aka Freaky) over ten years ago.

Screen Shot 2017-12-31 at 10.39.57 AM

Teddy and Henry.












After Rafa’s death, I took all of his heart meds to a Second Chance adoption event and gave them to the program director.  I might’ve mentioned that I was in the market for a Pomeranian.  It’s possible that I wrote down my name and phone number.

Roughly three days later, the program director called and asked if we could foster a Pomeranian.  The dog was about nine years old with multiple medical problems and had been removed from an abusive situation.  Oh, and the dog was a biter.

I played the Child card even though The Big E spent his whole toddlerhood as Henry’s chewtoy.

Shortly (very shortly) thereafter, another Pom needed a foster home.  The dog’s human mother had dementia and was no longer able to care for a pet.  Great! I said.  Remarkably, Ace agreed.  The devil you know…

More info emerged and the situation muddied.  The Pom was a barker and liked to bite folks who got too close to her human.  #Suboptimal.

Cheryl lives two blocks from us and happens to foster for Second Chance.  She mentioned to me that she had a darling Yorkie she thought my parents should meet.  I stopped by and took “Newton” for a little walk.  My parents loved him.  (“If he actually looked like a Yorkie we’d be seriously tempted.”)  My son loved him.  My Labrador Retriever loved him.  My husband tolerated him.

At which time I pulled the Great Switcheroo of 2017.  I asked Cheryl to trade; we would foster Newton and she would foster the barker/biter.  She agreed.

I wanted a Pomeranian.


This is a Pomeranian.


This is a Pomeranian.


This is a Pomeranian.









This is NOT a Pomeranian.







During our brief stint as a “foster” family, I renamed Newton, ordered up a dog tag with his new name and our address, applied for a lifelong St. Paul pet license, and bought him an adorable faux-leather jacket.

But I want a Pomeranian!  Ace did not want a Pomeranian.  Ace announced that he did not want another dog but if he had to have another dog, let it be this dog.

I signed the adoption papers.

Fergus is not a Pomeranian.  But he’s perfect.  He loves his human and canine brothers.  He rarely barks.  He helped me study for my medical Board exam.  He snuggles.  He sleeps at my feet and in the morning when I’m waking up, he comes up and sits on my chest.  He’ll even wash my face.

IMG_4378 2IMG_4051IMG_3996 IMG_4384

















I’m planning to sew Fergus a Pomeranian suit for halloween. IMG_4057






I set my intention.  I asked the Universe for a Pomeranian.  The Universe supplied me with the only small dog my husband could tolerate, and maybe even love.

Musical Moment


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The Seven Banned Words of Trump

I thought he was kidding.  My husband asked, “Hey, did you see that tiny blurb in the Star Tribune about Trump banning the CDC from using certain words?”  What?  After nearly a year of madness, I shouldn’t be surprised.

According to multiple news sources, the Trump administration informed the Centers for Disease Control that they can’t use “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based,” “science-based,” “vulnerable,” “diversity,” and “entitlement” in next year’s budget documentation.

The reasons for this latest assault on Reason, Science, and Humanity were not stated.  They don’t need to be stated.  The Narcissist in Charge is merely continuing his fascist, anti-choice, racist, opinion-based, homo- and transphobic agenda.

12,000 people work for the CDC.  I guarantee that the least intelligent CDC employee is smarter than the president.  Geez, what a nightmare.  But just in case the CDC workers wish to focus less on linguistics and more on science, I’ll offer up some substitutions for easy insertion into documents.

Instead of “transgender,” try “queer.”  Related but not necessarily synonymous, this quick-change will certainly produce some headscratching amongst the anti-facters.  For added effect, be sure to utilize “queer” in other contexts, as in “The color of the acid bath looked a bit queer after we dipped Trump’s head in it.”

“Fetus” is a very specific medical term that describes the post-embryonic, pre-newborn products of conception.  I suggest using a code-word to throw off the #AlternativeFacts folks.  “Gerbil” could work well.  Embed some links that toss readers out to #TotesAdorbs home videos.  Here’s an example: “A gerbil is not a person.”

“Evidence-based” and “science-based.”  Hm.  What to do.  Heaven forbid that any aspects of policy and budget should involve actual facts.  As an initial management strategy, try “facts derived from scientific study” or “data discerned from the rigorous systematic evaluation of prospective randomized controlled trials.”  Might do the trick.

“Vulnerable”?  #seriously?  I think of this in the context of the “vulnerable adult.”  Why would you want to put a muzzle on discussion of vulnerable adults?  Fortunately, we have a plethora of synonyms available including “at-risk,” “endangered,” “susceptible,” “exposed.”  Upon further reflection, perhaps Trump banned this word b/c he can’t bear the thought of ever being vulnerable.  For a narcissist, vulnerability is unthinkable.  The opposite of great.  Very bad.

“Diversity” is a lovely word, reflecting the enormous amount of variation, heterogeneity, multiplicity, assortment, mélange, range, and multifariousness.  Vive la différence.  The CDC could simply substitute “la différence” for “diversity”; Trump would probably ignore it, thinking it was a reference to cheese.

I had to research why the CDC might use the word “entitlement.”  Ooh!  I get to quote Wikipedia!  “An entitlement is a provision made in accordance with a legal framework of a society.  Typically, entitlements are based on concepts of principle (‘rights’) which are themselves based in concepts of social equality or enfranchisement.”  Here are some sentences that can replace the word “entitlement” in next year’s budget:

“Trump hates children.”

“Trump hates libraries and public schools – #TooSocialist #Sad”

“Trump thinks the ‘unalienable rights’ apply only to rich white men.”

“Trump would kill your pet bunny and force an indentured servant to turn it into golf club head covers.”

It’s only right that the Trump administration be banned from using seven words.  Turnabout is fair play.  Might I suggest:

1)   fake

2)   pussy

3)   God

4)   all superlatives, particularly “huge,” “tremendous,” “epic,” “great,” “Great,” & “Great!”

5)   Hillary

6)   Clinton’s

7)   Emails


Musical Moment

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Holiday Decorating on a #TaxBill2017 Budget

Welcome Gentle Readers!

Today we will explore how to create a festive and inviting home environment even as we start in on a new gastric ulcer courtesy of #TaxBill2017.

1) Caloric Requirements:

During the halcyon days of the Obama administration, many of us managed to pick up a few extra pounds during the month of December.  Ho ho ho! and a bottle of rum, indeed.  Due to the constant activation of our collective renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system under the current administration, please anticipate heightened caloric needs.  We estimate that the average “liberal” adult will require additional daily calories in the following approximation: 4″ x 5″ section of ginger bread house (preferably heavily decorated with corn syrup frosting and petrochemical gumdrops), hot toddy (1), Four Calling Birds, 1/3 Costco tub of Nutella, 24 ounces eggnog (spiked), and a handful of candy canes purloined from a co-worker’s desk.

2) Set the Bar – Low, and with adequate glassware:

I’ve noticed an alarming trend amongst legitimate lifestyle bloggers, who hold that minimalism, not cleanliness, is next to godliness.  These paragons of style espouse KonMari-ing and Swedish Death Cleaning as a way of life.  Regular, everyday life.


Leave those doors open! Let people see how you really live!


Never, ever de-clutter your kitchen when entertaining. The stacks of dirty dishes allow guests to fully relax and regenerate their self-esteem.

I’m here to tell you, there is nothing more stressful than walking into a friend’s home for a holiday gathering and noting that everything is in perfect order, with nary a whiff of clutter.  This year, especially this year, I plan to help our guests feel more at-home, and perhaps even domestically-enabled, by leaving our clutter pristinely intact.

3) Making Due – Bootstraps Decor:

Some families celebrate Christmas by hacking down living, breathing trees, strapping them to their cars like slaughtered game, slapping them in shallow bowls full of chemical-laden water that their macerated phloem and xylem can’t even slurp up, and discarding them within a couple weeks like last year’s iPhone.


This year’s Christmas tree – “Brass Buckle”

Why not use one of the houseplants you’ve killed over the past year instead?  I happened to kill a charming specimen early this fall, a miniature evergreen Japanese Holly called “Brass Buckle.”  It survived outdoors from May through September thanks to consistent rainfall.  I replanted it as a land/water bonsai, so charming, and brought it inside, whereupon I completely forgot about it.


Nothing could be cheerier than red-n-orange Nerf mega-darts! Candy wrappers, found on various horizontal surfaces, add a whimsical element.

The dead specimen makes a perfect miniature Christmas tree!  I simply decorated it with found objects and gave it a light dusting of artificial snow.  #SoFestive!


Even the family dog can help decorate! Here, a light dusting of Chester fur completes the snowy scene.








I’m sure most of you have seen the photos of Melania Trump’s Christmas decor at the White House.  You, too, can create a lovely DIY version of the Hall of White Branches With Ominous Ceiling Shadows!  I chopped down some of our existing shrubbery and propped it up on the front porch at jaunty angles.




Wickermare Before Christmas?

The suspended wicker furniture adds the necessary element of foreboding so integral to FLOTUS’ vision.


That’s the limit of Holiday Cheer I can muster at the moment.  Please chime in with your ideas for how to make the season bright.


Musical Moment

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Dear Al Franken

He corners me in the stairwell, away from the other kids.  “Show me what’s under your underwear,” he demands, “or I’ll hurt you.”  I’m scared and ashamed.  I lift my skirt and show him the edge of my underwear, trying to appease him.  He traps me another time and after that I quit wearing dresses to school.  I tell no one, already internalizing the potential fallout of an accusation.  I am six.

We’re in England for my dad’s work during Queen Elizabeth’s Silver Jubilee.  I attend part of a school-day with the daughter of my father’s colleague.  We glue colored tissue to flat paper crowns.  Love live Queen Elizabeth the Second!  I, the foreigner, am paraded around the room with my crown.  Some older boys snicker and talk.  I hear their words and see their crude motions and I’m not quite naïve enough to miss their sexual intent.  I am seven.

We stage a talent show at sleep-away church camp.  I wear my leopard print pajamas and dance around to music from The Pink Panther.  A male counsellor, college-aged, says, “You’re so cute, I could make kittens.”  I am nine.

My mother takes me to a self-defense workshop at a Catholic church near our house.  Kick them in the groin, poke them in the eyes.  “Don’t yell rape; yell fire,” they say.  No one wants to get involved in a rape.  They teach us to fear the stranger in the woods.  They don’t teach us to fear the priest, the babysitter’s boyfriend, the friend of the family.  I am ten.

We’re visiting distant cousins in California.  The boys are systematically chasing the girls, capturing them, and swinging them by their arms and legs before tossing them into the pool.  I shrink behind the pool furniture.  They try to come for me and I say, “No,” shaking my head.  They come anyway and drag me to the side of the pool.  I’m hanging by my arms and legs – it hurts to have your entire weight suspended by your hands and feet – and I feel helpless.  And resigned.  It’ll be over soon.  They toss me into the pool.  I am eleven.

The practice studio sits at the very back of the music store, down a dark hall, behind a closed door.  My drum teacher is strange.  I have a pretty high tolerance for strange.  One day, he tells me a joke.  I don’t recall the lead-in.  The punchline is “A black cherry,” a double whammy of racism and misogyny.  I tell my teacher that it’s not appropriate for him to say things like that to me.  I am twelve.

A friend of my family, a single man around thirty years old, tells my parents that he would want to date me if I were older.  I am thirteen.

I take the bus to driver’s ed in the summer, all the way to the flat expanse of Bloomington.  I’m carrying a LeSportsac purse.  It’s white and square and I love everything about it except the color.  I get off the bus, headed west on 90th, and sense someone behind me.  I glance over my shoulder.  There’s a man behind me.  He’s moving closer.  I glance again and the sun reflects off the metal he holds in his hand.  He’s gaining on me with apparent intent.  I dash across the street and rush into the driver training building.  Even then, I’m doubting my own senses, my own story.  Was he really following me?  Was it actually a knife?  I call my parents from the office phone.  I am fifteen.

I’m at the allergist, doing my annual check-in.  Yes, the injections are going fine.  No, I haven’t had any bad reactions.  Yes, I’m taking the phenylpropanolamine (even though it makes me feel blue).  No, I don’t want any prednisone.  The doctor moves in to examine me, pressing his groin tight against my thigh.  I try to scoot sideways, subtly.  Is he just leaning?  Am I over-reacting?  The next year, it’s the same story.  And the next, I’m ready, my leg safely out of the way.  I am a teenager.

The youth group from church goes on a mission trip to San Francisco.  We frolic at the ocean despite the freezing temperatures.  I’m wearing a modest bikini that I found on clearance at Marshall’s.  Behind my back, I hear a group of boys comment on my swimsuit.  “Too bad she doesn’t have the body for it,” they say.  I am fifteen.

I’m a senior at South High School.  A junior flirts with me, loans me his fuzzy jade green sweater.  It smells like soap and boy and fits me like an enormous dress.  He gives me a Woolrich stuffed sheep for Christmas.  I know it costs $25 and I think it’s way too much for him to spend and he does it anyway.  We hang out at City Center, listen to U2, and kiss.  “Whenever you’re ready,” he says.  I’m not ready.  He doesn’t push.  I am seventeen.

I’m a freshwomyn at Oberlin College.  I meet a boy.  It’s autumn and the fog is so beautiful in the evening.  We walk and talk and play Rachmaninoff for each other.  We wind up in my dorm room.  We’re kissing and he keeps trying to get up my shirt.  I push his hands away.  “No.”  He stands up abruptly, “I’ve heard enough ‘no’,” and storms out of my room.  We never speak again.  I am eighteen.

One of my patients is scheduled for a complete physical.  We chat about his medical history.  I hand him a gown and step out of the room so he can change.  When I come back in, he is completely naked and aroused, sitting on the exam table.  I offer him a gown.  He declines.  “You can wear a gown,” I say.  Do I step out and ask my nurse to accompany me?  A colleague later tells me that she saw my patient for a physical.  “Why?  I say.  “He just had a physical.”  The story is exactly the same.  The story repeats again in the ER with yet another young female physician.  I contact the tech assistant for the Electronic Medical Record.  I describe the situation, that we need a warning to pop up on the patient’s chart: Do not see this patient without a chaperone.  The tech assures me that he’ll look into it.  When the patient returns to clinic, I confront him.  “I know what you’re doing and you have to stop.”  I never see him again.  I am thirty.

In my five years at Hiawatha Clinic, two of my patients come to me for help after they are raped.  I encourage them to call the police.  Both decline.  One was raped by her drug dealer and is afraid that she’ll be prosecuted.  The other was roofied on a college campus in the Twin Cities.  I write a scathing letter to the president of the institution and hear exactly nothing back.

After the Leann Tweeden story breaks, I find myself embroiled in a Facebook discussion.  Most of the participants think that what you, Al Franken, did, really wasn’t that bad.  And for a woman to even bring up such allegations is an insult to women who were actually raped.  I’m speechless.  These are “progressive” people, arguing for “Levels of Wrongness,” excusing your inexcusable behavior.

Eventually I find my voice in the discussion.  “From the US Dept of Justice: ‘Sexual assault is any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. Falling under the definition of sexual assault are sexual activities as forced sexual intercourse, forcible sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling, and attempted rape.’”  There is pushback in the Facebook conversation, so I add, “Our culture has so normalized the objectification of women, that we even question ourselves – ‘Did he really just rub his groin against my thigh? Maybe he was just leaning?’ [recognize that story, reader?] Regardless of the ‘degree of wrongness,’ it’s wrong. And women should feel safe to speak up, to break the Cycle of Wrong.”

Women are speaking up.  Finally.  Every woman has a story.  Every woman has been harassed.  In the United States, someone is sexually assaulted every 98 seconds.  That means 92 people have been assaulted since I sat down to write this post.

I’m fortunate.  What happened to me was “not so bad,” par for the course for any girl in this country.  Still, the memories I shared above are crystal clear, formative experiences in my childhood and adolescence.

I voted for you, Al.  Twice.  It’s time for some House (and Senate) cleaning.  We hold our children to higher standards than we hold our elected officials.  Let’s systematically sort through and eliminate (metaphorically, of course) everyone in government who has committed sexual assault.  Cull the ranks.  If we systematically sort through and eliminate everyone in government who is guilty of sexual harassment, how many men will remain?

I don’t know what to tell you, Al.  On the one hand, you’re pretty good, one of the few glimmers of hope in a bleak political landscape.  You seem to care about issues that I care about.  Your recent track record suggests that you value and respect women.  On the other hand, you appear to have committed sexual assault.  Twice.  You made your bed and now you have the pleasure of lying in it.

So I say shake it down, shake it all down.  Rattle the skeletons.  Hold everyone to the same standard of human decency in this era of a pussy-grabbing president.


Musical Moment

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