Bracketology: Zoe picks

College basketball is not so much a sport at my house as it is religion. The husband is a Kentucky fan and I am a Kansas grad which has, on occasion, rendered the household somewhat tense.

I didn’t get my bracket in in time this year (the play in games are stupid in my not so humble opinion) so I am only playing along at home. I will say that I called the Vanderbilt and Louisville losses. The SEC will always screw you over* no matter how good they looked during the season and Louisville had it coming. But I digress.

Zoe, my 11 year old Sheltie/shepherd, has an incredible streak in predicting the ultimate winner.

Zoe, thinking deeply about her bracket choices

This year, I was presented with her bracket which I confess had some interesting calls:

Zoe apparently plans to win it all

Zoe has declared that the first three rounds are “boring”, “napping” and “whatever”.  Suddenly, in the final four, Daddy will battle it out with some steaks, and she and Bess will meet in a match that she will, of course, win. Ultimately, apparently Zoe wins it all.

Bess and Zoe battling it out: there can be only one.

I guess next year, we’ll have to do an official dog March Madness. Their bracket calls could not be any worse than mine.

*except for Kentucky and Florida, who are usually reliable for a run to the Sweet 16.

I sold my house to Philistines

I have always prided myself on my eye for garden design. As the owner of multiple Victorians, landscaping with an eye to the classic cottage garden is pretty much de rigueur. I love old roses with hollyhocks, iris in the spring under-planted with candytuft, and a profusion of color all season long from cosmos, zinnias, salvia and a host of other flowers. When I turn 60, I plan to don an ill-fitting flower print dress and a floppy gardening hat and I will retire to the front porch of my house with a mint julep in one hand and a shotgun in the other as all Southern women of a certain age are constitutionally required to do.

Our old house when the garden was still young

Over the years we were there, our garden grew into something that people made a point to drive and walk by to see what was in bloom. It was a destination.

Spring getting started

The roses bloomed and the flowers lasted all season from very late February until some years past Thanksgiving.

Old roses and iris

My plans for the garden grew with each year until inevitably, I ran out of space.

Roses in their full glory

The flowers spilled out onto the sidewalk and would not be contained.

Screaming hooker pink roses tumbling over the picket fence

Of course, it could never last. The time came when we sold the house to move to a bigger one down the street. I knew that the dismantling would occur, although the owners swore to love the garden with all the care I had given it. Inevitably, change came. I forgave them for their lack of awareness that one does not paint a Queen Anne baby shit brown. When they added the monstrosity of an addition to the back which culled the garden in the back, I understood.
But today, my friends, was too much.
The entirety of the garden was dug up and replaced with $8.99 a gallon juniper shrubs planted precisely twelve inches apart by their soul-less hack of a landscaper. Juniper? I weep for the inhumanity.
I sold my house to a pack of Philistines.

The horror, the horror.


I have no reason to live

I have long subscribed to the theory that I am bulletproof and immortal. This despite multiple orthopedic surgeries which I have largely lumped under the heading “design defects” which have no real impact on my immortal status.  So on Monday when I could not stand up straight due to stabbing pain in my stomach, I forced myself to visit the doctor. Since I had spit up blood and no one having met me could ever accuse me of wasting away from consumption, it was a fair guess that I likely had an ulcer. I’m no rocket scientist (I went to law school which pretty much excludes extra smart people), but it kind of seemed obvious that this was an ulcer since I don’t have a flask in my desk drawer and despite my claims that my liver fled to live with Keith Richards years ago where it’s less toxic, my drinking days are largely now the stuff of myth.  The ER doc was less than amused by my self-diganosis and insisted on “tests”.

The tests included the following:

1) Stabbing me repeatedly in both arms and hands (which sucks epicly) attempting to take blood.

2) Realizing I am a lawyer and have no blood.

3) Stabbing me again for good measure because the nurse just realized I’m a lawyer.

In the end, the learned doctor determined I have an ulcer.  Thank you Captain Obvious. Aside from forcing me to take medicines, he laid down the following edicts:

1. No alcohol. I argued that no self-respecting lawyer can make it through to Friday without a martini?. He did not care about my problems.

2. No chocolate. I protested this was un-American and he told me to suck it up.

3. No caffeine. I attempted to rebel at the thought of no morning Red Bull, but could not stand up straight to kick him in the balls.

The end result of this is that I have survived for an entire four days on entirely healthy, non-caffeinated substances. I would cheerfully roll a nun for a Red Bull right now. They tell me this is part of a “lifestyle change”. I’m not sure I see a continued reason for living without caffeine, chocolate and vodka.

I am one step away from “Help I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up“.

Elegy for Stella, 1998 to 2011

Stella was the very first pet that came into the Harrison household. As is the case with most cats, she found us.  She strolled into our lives on Christmas Eve at my sister’s home in Kansas. There wasn’t really much debate about it. We just loaded her up and drove her home to Tennessee, because early in our marriage, Troy and I were insane like that.

Stella at 12 weeks old

Stella came home to a new world full of interesting things. She excelled at stalking and biting my bare toes while I was hanging out on the sofa and she pretended we couldn’t see her when she hid in a laundry basket to spring out at us. We played along with her like the delighted kitten parents we were.  Then we decided she needed a friend. Holden arrived a few months after she did. Stella instantly hated him and spent the first week hissing and growling. Troy negotiated the tuna armistice of 1999 over a bowl of tuna fish which they were forced to share and there was peace across the land, or at least, the Harrison household.

Stella's first mortal enemy, Holden

Years later, Holden got his own cat, Etta, who graced us with her presence for nine years before we lost her to cancer.

Even our pets have pets

Stella put up with the cats, but the worst surprise of her life came in the form of our first dog, Zoe, followed quickly by Floyd. Zoe lit up when she saw Stella, and Stella never really knew what hit her. After Zoe and Floyd, then came Baxter, Bess and Sunshine.  Somehow, Stella managed to make them all behave.

Zoe and Floyd as babies - tormentors of Stella

Stella was not just the apex predator in the household. Stella was the model citizen who taught every dog who was Queen. More than 300 foster dogs have passed through our doors over the years, and every one of them has been schooled by Stella. Stella taught them all that cats are to be treated with respect and that no one gets to sleep on her Daddy but her. If you have one of our foster dogs, it is thanks to Stella that they know how to behave with cats. Stella bit Chloe on the nose as recently as Sunday morning for daring to disturb her sleep.

Stella lording it over the pack

 Stella had been with us for so long with no health issues that we came to consider her immortal and eternal.  This afternoon, we were reminded that we have all of our animals only on loan for a short time and that the day will come when we have to give them back. This day was made even back on the day when a tiny little kitten crawled onto our lap and purred. Today, we had to give Stella back. Although our hearts are broken, we did the right thing in not being selfish and trying to hold on to her for ourselves. Stella has already given us everything she had and it was time to give the gift back. Stella left us today and although we are broken at the loss, we know we are luckier for having had her in our lives and we would not trade a moment of it. God speed Stella and we’ll see you on the other side.

Stella, 1998 to 2011

Athletic apparel catalog models must die

It’s that time of year when Troy and I start planning the vacations we will take. On the agenda this year, kayaking in Congaree National Park  in South Carolina, possibly a quick trip to kayak in the 10,000 Islands in late March, a trip to Yosemite in June for a week to hike (and die) and then Zion National Park in September where I am determined to hike the Subway before I keel over and hang up my hiking shoes. I am trying to talk Troy into kayaking the Na Pali coast in Kauai in July but Troy is not jazzed about it. With all these impending trips, it’s time to start ordering outdoor clothes for the season.

If you ever want to feel totally inadequate, a quick scan through the Athleta catalog should do it. Exhibit A:

Seriously? Who is this chick and why is she trying to scratch the back of her head with the sole of her foot?

Let’s look at this. This woman has an ass you could bounce a quarter off of. I hate her and I don’t even know her. She’s probably really sweet. I tried this pose tonight and all I got for my trouble is a badly pulled hamstring and a bruise from where I fell over and hit the dining table. Fortunately, Troy had already gone to bed when I tried this.

Sure, she can do this, but if she had a 40DD chest, it would add a little challenge.

This woman is perky even upside down. That’s unfair to the rest of us. Someone needs to hold her hostage and force-feed her twinkies. I started to try this one but was greeted by four very curious dogs who are not helpful yoga partners. I gave up and poured a martini. Fuck it. I’m wearing a rash guard and khaki shorts this year.

Groundhog Day is the most romantic holiday ever

February 2 is Groundhog Day. For most people, this is a day where you watch a middle-aged guy in tails and tophat grab some poor, confused fat rodent from his den and expose him to the glare of cameras for the sole purpose of predicting how much winter is left.  This is of course, pointless, as winter in Pennsylvania is most assuredly going to last another six weeks.

I always root for the groundhog to bite his handler.

On the heels of Groundog Day is Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s is a made-up holiday which exists for the sole purpose of selling cards, chocolates and flowers in the dead of winter when there is otherwise no compelling reason for anyone to buy roses, chocolate or greeting cards. Troy and I do not do Valentine’s Day. Instead, we celebrate Groundhog Day. What could possibly be more evocative of enduring love than a holiday which elevates a rodent to national prominence?

The Harrison household is not rife with sentimentality or overwrought declarations of undying love. That’s not our style.  We don’t hold hands or write poems or anything of the sort.  When Troy was heading off to surgery and they had drugged him to the gills, the nurse asked him if he wanted to kiss me before he was wheeled off and he looked at her all horrified and said, “No, we’re married.”  Ah, the romance.

I may not get jewels, flowers or chocolates on Groundhog Day (or any other day for that matter), but I have something much better. For those who think Troy has no romance in his soul, they are mistaken.  The flower triptych is the most romantic set of drawings ever done, and they were drawn for me. He had me at Rotten Day.



He’s deranged, but he’s perfect for me. Happy Groundhog Day to everyone.

Cooking with Susan

As I have mentioned in the past, my parents were largely indifferent to my survival as a child and I was left to fend for myself a good bit.  Once in a while, my parents would realize that some portion of our upbringing was likely to bring shame upon them and they would take some step to remedy our filial deficiencies.  For my sister, my Mom realized that she had some natural inclination toward crafty things and so Susan was taught to sew. I got an F in home ec in 6th grade because my bean-bag frog was found wanting by Mrs. Chapman, the home ec teacher.  However, since I had exceptionally good grades, my parents were generally content to let things like my lack of artistic and/or domestic talent slide. By the time I got to college, my Mom realized she had failed me in that I had absolutely no domestic skills: my house was a wreck, my buttons were stapled on as a needle and thread were beyond my abilities, and the contents of my refrigerator included an ancient package of frozen pollock and condiments. Something had to give.  The solution: send me to culinary school, in Italy. And so it came to pass that I mastered the art of cooking. In Italy. Some would call that overkill.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, my sister married and had kids. Sadly for them, Susan’s culinary talents were absolutely non-existent. Susan called me one night to ask me for the recipe for meatloaf. I gave her a recipe. Two hours later she called back for advice. This is a near-verbatim transcript of the conversation:

Susan: Hey, the meatloaf came out kind of weird.

Me: What do you mean by ‘weird’?

Susan: Well, the cheese on top kind of blew up and then deflated like a sad balloon over the meatloaf.

Me: I don’t recall telling you to top the meatloaf with cheese.

Susan: Well, after I poured the meat in the pan, it looked kind of sad so I thought I should cover it with cheese.

Me: Poured?

Susan: Well, I didn’t want to touch the meat and egg mix with my hands like you told me so I put it in the blender. Then, I only had a 13×9″ pan so I took the brick out from under the leg of the sofa and covered it with tin foil and put the brick in the pan to make it smaller like a loaf pan. Once I poured it into my new loaf pan, it looked sad, so then I thought, “cheese fixes everything” so I cut cheese slices and used the torch to seal the edges of the cheese over it so I wouldn’t have to look at the meat-like liquid. Now the cheese has blown up and burned and is floating in a sea of grease.

Me: That’s not sad, that’s tragic.

Susan: How do I fix it?

Me: Open the trash can lid and deposit the contents of the pan there. Then pick up the phone and call for pizza.

I still cannot sew and Susan still cannot really cook. Susan is now divorced (probably not related to her cooking and more related to his tendency to date girls young enough to say things like “Who is Prince?” with a perfectly straight face.)  However, I think Susan really just needs a keeper before she poisons anyone. If anyone wants to marry a 40-year-old menace in the kitchen, let me know. 

P.S. to Susan: You can thank me later.

Williams-Sonoma: purveyor of kitchen tools and adult implements

I have a wedding to go to in two weeks and my friends are registered at Williams-Sonoma.  Scrolling through the kitchen tools section, this gem popped up:

A stainless steel butt plug, with teeth

I wish I knew who wrote the copy for this product because they deserve a huge shout out for managing to get such a staid institution to publish something so sublimely subversive.

Let’s Make Fred Phelps Invisible

I was going to write a follow-up today about the last of the Florida kayaking adventure, replete with hilarious details about Japanese people canoeing in chiffon dresses and Kayaking with Eurotrash. However, unless you’ve been a castaway on an island without cable, you know what happened in Tuscon this past weekend. The events are horrifying enough and don’t need elaboration here. What has caught my attention is the news that the infamous Fred Phelps is planning to picket Christina Green’s funeral to protest the “idolatrous blasphemers”. This is a WTF moment in our shared history as Americans. Seriously, who protests the funeral of a nine-year old shot to death by a madman to promote an anti-gay agenda?

I grew up in Kansas near where Fred Phelps got his start. Fred was just a local menace then and he liked to hang out on Gage Boulevard with his small band of ragtag followers (mainly his own kids) to protest homosexual activity in the park. I have to say I was surprised that he picked this location because I never thought of the park as a hotbed of homosexual activity. Topeka is not a glory hole in every public bathroom kind of place.  Everyone pretty much ignored Fred and he stuck to his tiny little corner. As was inevitable, one day Fred finally got national press. Game on for Fred. Since then, Fred is everywhere. I blame the press.

Fred picketed the wedding of a friend of mine in college who got married at the University of Kansas chapel. We asked him to not ruin her day and he said we should be grateful he was there to remind her of her place. Nice. Fred should be grateful she didn’t take a swing at him with a tire iron because Kristi packed a punch and no jury in the land would have convicted her of the crime. (Seriously, in the early 1990s, a nice middle-aged woman lost her mind one day and tried to run over him and his protesters on Gage Boulevard. The trial was removed to my hometown and she was acquitted).

Fred is a parasite that feeds on press ink. The only way to stop the monster is to ignore the monster. To borrow a line of reasoning from Douglas Adams, if you can’t see him, he can’t see you and he will implode under the weight of his own obscurity. Knowing as I do that the press can’t help itself and will report on Fred until he finally drops dead, the only thing we can do to stop Fred is to refuse to read, speak or think about Fred. That’s why I’m announcing my campaign to ignore Fred. No counter-protests, no lawsuits, just a complete and total lack of acknowledgment of his very existence. Without us, Fred can’t exist. Please join me in a pledge not to speak about, read about or acknowledge that Fred exists. If we stop reading it or watching it or talking about it, the press will stop covering it and Fred will wither away into insignificant dust. Please politely and rationally refuse to engage in dialogue about him or God forbid you should find yourself near him, with him. The sooner we all stop giving him a forum to spread his twisted message, the sooner he’ll go away. If you need help making your mind go blank, the next time someone says “Fred Phelps”, instead of seeing a rabid, foaming-at-the-mouth freak in your mind, think of Elvis. Elvis is easy to conjure, he was kind, and were he still alive, I like to think the King would throw down some serious kung-fu moves on Fred and send him on to his everlasting reward. I look forward to the day when Fred is a distant bad dream.  I’ve created a petition here:—the-pledge-to-ignore-fred/ You can sign it, pass it on to your friends and then forget you ever signed it and passed it on. Join me, please.

Do it for Elvis.

UPDATE: He who shall not be named through his mouthpiece has announced he will not picket the girl’s funeral in exchange for a radio interview with a Canadian radio station and a TV interview with a local televsion station in Tucson. While I appreciate their efforts, that’s blackmail and they have just caved in. Now Phelps will picket at the site of the attack and at the Judge’s funeral.   Game on Fred. We can’t see you.

Attention Yankees: please come get your weather

Dear Yankee friend,

I realize the news has been occupying all our minds recently, so perhaps it has escaped your attention that your weather is out of your back yard. While you were watching the news, your weather sneaked out and has found its way down South. While we appreciate the bracing air and fluffy fat snowflakes visiting, we are unaccustomed to cold weather and don’t really own coats. Since Tennessee shares a snow plow with the State of Alabama and the Alabama people are hogging it so they can clear their streets in time to get people to bowl game parties, we are left to fend for ourselves here in Nashville and it is kind of sucking. If it would be OK, would you mind coming down and getting your weather? We would really appreciate it.


The South

The Parthenon has snow on it. Actual real live snow.


PS from Baxter:

Dear Yankee, no rush. The snow is awesome.