Sunday, July 29, 2012

Crazy Dog People

I love dogs. You’d think I wouldn’t, having been flattened by a German shepherd
when I was 11, but I don’t blame his momentary lapse in judgment on the entire species.

We had a revolving door of strays and rescues in our house growing up. Each dog came with his own dysfunction, some personality defect that, sooner or later, was deemed intolerable by my father, Mr. Clean, and off he went. Poop on the rug? Dad’s not happy. Ate the birthday cake off the table? Really not happy. Scratched a hole right through the door?


Benji, the springer spaniel, spent more time in the air than paws on the ground. It was like living with a giant rubber ball that hit you in the head and licked your earlobes. Joey the cocker spaniel, preferred the taste of shoes and purses over hambones. Sash, the standard poodle, spent his days making booger art on our bay window. Tanya, the German shepherd, loved the cool freshness of toilet water and a tasty afternoon bite of the legs of the paper boy and mailman.

And then there was Beagie, the foster beagle, who showed us who was in the HOUSE. He had it out for upholstery: chewing it here, puking on it there and lifting his leg to it everywhere. He’d wait until
you’d found your sweet spot of sleep and then bark like a buzz saw. Just when you’d drift back, he’d reignite. I’m pretty sure he was laughing through it all. And during the day, we’d find him under the covers of my brother’s bed, head on the pillow.

Oliver the airedale, restored my faith in canines. He was BFF material – at your side, head on your leg, patient eyes -- but he was stubborn like wet denim. When he decided he had walked enough in the snow, he cemented his hind legs in the bank.

At home, he kept one eye on the door, never missing an opportunity for a prison break. We spent half his life scouring neighborhoods and corralling him back into the car.

The one thing Oliver taught me was to never back down. The kids and I have been holding our ground all these years in a campaign to adopt a dog. Hubs wasn’t having it.

Then one day we saw him on Petfinder. His name was Charger -- 15 pounds of marshmallow curly, face like a polar bear cub.
It was as if there were no other dogs to be had.

We showed Don the photo, fully knowing he’d say no. And he did. But what we didn’t expect was the faint smile that made its way across his face. There was the crack in the door.

I presented my case: kids are 15 and 13. They have waited long enough. He doesn’t shed. We’re getting a dog.

Before he could take back the, “Do what you want,” I had an appointment with Bichon FurKids Rescue. Charger was available.

For years, we told our friends that we wanted a dog that didn’t bark, bite, beg, jump, growl, whine, drool, lick, shed, eat your shoes, scratch the door, pee in the car, chase the repairman, drink from the toilet, poop in the house, sniff your crotch or hump your leg.

They laughed and suggested a stuffed dog.

Apparently the order we placed was well received by the doggy adoption gods, because Charger is all that. One hundred percent sweetness. Better behaved than anyone in this house.

Every day, my kids fight over who had the dog first, as if there aren’t enough hours in a day to share him.

My husband says I have crossed over from dog admirer to crazy dog lady. I don’t think that’s fair at all. He says I talk about Charger to family, friends and anyone who has ears. Hey, people seem very interested in seeing the Charger photo album. And then there’s the video collection.

What my husband won’t admit is how his heart has doubled in size. I caught him saying to Charger, “Do you know how much I love you?”

It’s been 7 months since Charger became a part of our family. And we realize now, that we needed him even more than he needed us.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Bad Boss, Bad Boss, Whatcha Gonna Do?

Ask anyone you know about the worst boss they’ve ever had and guaranteed, you’ll be there for three hours wishing you hadn’t asked that question. Just thinking about your worst boss is kerosine to the blaze that already exists in your belly.

Why are bad bosses so ubiquitous and good bosses as rare as a well-dressed shopper in Wal-Mart?

Those of us who have been the doers, the producers of actual *work,* know all-too-well what it feels like to be under the stiff palm of a little Napoleon.

And it makes you wonder: how/why do people like this rise to such ranks? They have no business interfacing with the public in general, let alone directing their co-workers.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve had a few good bosses. But the bad bosses, the Michael Scotts of the corporate world, are plentiful, and they did more to contribute to the holes in my stomach than annual revenue.

And you don’t have to be a fan of the TV show, “The Office,” to have heard about the lead character, Michael Scott. He is a composite of all of our bad bosses, checking off every personality defect in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

He's known for his humility: “Would I rather be feared or loved? Easy, both. I want people to be afraid of how much they love me.”

Michael is pompous, inappropriate, bigoted and incompetent, with a complete lack of self-awareness. He’s an attention-feeding juvenile who lives to ridicule others, usurp credit, self-promote and make up new rules that only benefit him.

We have worked for people like this.

I’ve had supervisors who’ve taken ownership of my ideas and insisted on correcting my writing – incorrectly. Bosses who've yapped the day away about their frenzied social lives, adventure vacations and shopping expeditions. These same ones often strolled in around 10, left after lunch and would ask you to come in on
the weekend of your best friend’s wedding. I’ve taken the blame for my bosses’ mistakes and been reamed for failing to do jobs I was never assigned.

When I was in high school, I worked afternoons in an office for a man my father’s age who badgered me regularly to join him for lunch and dinner. One lunch and I knew we weren’t there to discuss my next project for the company.

Another boss sat me down and told me I needed Jesus to deliver me from my lifestyle: living in sin with my boyfriend. Jesus must have been on my side, since she was demoted shortly thereafter and I was then truly “delivered.”

And I’ll never forget my first day as a writer for a computer magazine. No introductions. No tour of the building. I was assigned to an office with glass walls and a desk. No computer.

I felt like the new goldfish. The staff peered in at me, as if waiting for me to do a number from A Chorus Line or a mime or something. My new boss, a rotund man with a megaphone voice, tossed a stack of past issues on my desk along with paper and pencils and barked at me to write a piece about the company.

I nodded.

“Can you give me some idea of the scope of the piece?” I asked
as he turned away.

“You’ll figure it out.”

An hour later, after scanning the magazines and staring blankly at the white-lined paper, I edged into his office for some clarification. He shot out his arm, pointing to the door and roared, “JUST START WRITING!”

My first day, my first hour, my first dictator.

I slid back into my seat and looked out the glass door. An assistant met my eyes, gave me a sad smile and a tipped head.

Just before noon, he lumbered in to examine the draft. He practically gave it an MRI while shaking his head.

“This is NOT what I’m looking for! You need to START OVER!”

A few minutes later, he left for lunch. I approached his assistant.

“I just want to know one thing,” I whispered.

“Sure.” she said.

“Has there been a revolving door of people in my position?”

She nodded slowly.

I went back to my desk and wrote on a piece of paper: “It’s no wonder you can’t keep a writer in this position. No one with a brain could tolerate you.”

I placed it on his desk and walked out.

The Golden Rule is all but lost in corporate America. Instead, the culture dictates, “Treat others the way you feel like treating them at any given moment. As long as you’re the boss.”

And as long as there are jobs for people, not robots, there will be bad bosses. They are a thorny part of life we wish we could avoid, much like fungus, the Kardashians and shoes that give off a fart noise when you walk.

Remember, a bad boss can alter the way you see yourself. Over time, it feels like an abusive relationship. That’s because it is.

Michael Scott once said to his team, “You should never settle for who you are.”

And I’m telling you, you should never settle for another Michael Scott.

Who's the worst boss you've ever had? (No names, please.) Please one up me with your own Michael Scott saga.

Saturday, July 14, 2012


The sun made its first appearance in months, weaving its way through the pines of the Berkshires. There we were, baby-oiled college sophomores, lined up like matchsticks on our towels. I glanced down at my blue-flowered bikini and cringed. It was too small. I was too curvy, too white, too exposed.

I was a size 3.

The mind has a way of duping us women and girls. The way airplanes stream banners over beaches, mine said, “Not Good Enough.” It was the inner subtitle of my life.

Three guys and a frisbee invaded our turf. I knew them by name but their presence turned me to stone.

My friend, Amy, darted over to join the game, with no concern over her parts that spilled a little here and jiggled too much there. She leaped and intercepted the disk. She wrestled for it. She exploded with laughter.

I wanted to be Amy in that moment. She was body electric. In the game. And I was on the sidelines.

I took myself hostage that day, as I have throughout my life, anchoring myself to a safe place, drawing a curtain over my imperfections, building a fortress against potential failure.

It was two decades later before I realized that playing it safe was a barrier to really living. While joining the circus or playing the bagpipe are not on my bucket list, I have added a few less than daunting challenges.

I know this: Each time I gin up a little Amy in me, I emerge emboldened, like one post up on a rock climb. Perhaps it’s human nature to avoid that which causes us fear. But I believe it’s also human nature to kick fear’s ass.

I’m no longer a size 3, and I wouldn’t attempt a bikini. But the difference is -- now I’d grab that frisbee and run.