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Three degrees of celebrity dog whispering

Marci RichYou never can tell what each day will bring. One morning you’re driving to New York City to join the audience of Katie Couric’s new talk show as a member of her blogging crew, the next thing you know, Rigby Sue Sarandon, one of Susan Sarandon’s two sweet puppies, interrupts her grand entrance to make a beeline for you.

Once upon a time, no canine grapevine was quite as effective as the “Twilight Bark,” the alert system popularized by Disney’s classic animated film One Hundred and One Dalmations. But as social media has changed for humans, it stands to reason that the ways in which household pets communicate across great distances have also undergone a paradigm shift. Although I didn’t know it yet, something was afoot, and I suspect that Sandy, our Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, had a paw in what it was. She’s not much of a barker, but she does have her own Facebook page

…and the Sarandon dogs — Rigby Sue and Penny Lane — each have their own Twitter accounts. (Sandy has been clamoring to get on Twitter. She wants to parody the Honest Toddler by calling herself the Candid Spaniel, thereby cashing in on the adorably snarky tot’s popularity. I told her not to obsess over the commercial aspects of her brand — that she should instead focus on her art. She walked away from me.)

I imagine that somehow — whether by status update or tweet — a communication chain commences. Rigby (whom Sarandon acknowledged on national television has CelebrityDogWhisperer (2)addiction problems — perhaps to Twitter?) ignores the stage manager’s directions and scrambles over to where I am sitting. Just as she is about to dive into my arms (I’m sure that was her intention), an ABC official scoops her up and carts her back to her owner. Rigby, although our time together was brief, I will always remember you…

Just as I will always remember another celebrity dog whom I happened to meet (by coincidence? by canine social media intervention?) less than four hours later.

After taping ends, my husband and I leave the ABC Studios in midtown Manhattan and drive across the George Washington Bridge toward Tappan, the hamlet where he grew up. We are spending the night with one of John’s old school chums and his wife. In residence at Mike and Mary Jane’s are two dogs. One belongs to their adult son. The other, Ka’ala, is even more tenuously related — her owner is the best friend of their adult daughter. Ka’ala and I really hit it off. She brings me toys to inspect, sleeps outside our room that night, and is the first to greet me in the morning (after John, of course).

Now as far as I know, Ka’ala is not wired into social media.

But her owner, Hayden Panettiere, star of the new ABC musical-drama Nashville, is.

Imagine the scenario: Sandy is posting status updates on Facebook, the Sarandon pups are tweeting and Ka’ala, sensing — with the innate sixth sense of the canine — the chain of coincidence, logs into Hayden’s Twitter account to follow the action.

Is there a new Disney animated film somewhere in this scenario? Pixar perhaps? Pete Docter, call me.

So, to recap, let’s all play Three Degrees of Celebrity Dog Whispering!

Ka’ala is owned by Hayden Panettiere, who stars in Nashville, which was created by Callie Khouri*, winner of the Academy Award for her screenplay Thelma & Louise, the iconic film starring Geena Davis and…

… Susan Sarandon, owner of Rigby Sue and Penny Lane. Rigby Sue made an enduring connection with…

The Midlife Second Wife, owner of Sandy.

Wait — what? The Midlife Second Wife is not a celebrity? Look, please do me a favor. Don’t let Sandy know.

*Callie Khouri is also of Lebanese descent, and so am I, on my father’s side. But that’s another blog post.

— Marci Rich

Marci Rich blogs at The Midlife Second Wife and The Huffington Post. She won a BlogHer Voices of the Year award in 2012, the same year The Midlife Second Wife was named one of the top seven blogs for women 50-plus by The Huffington Post. This essay, complete with numerous celebrity dog photos, also appears here.

Signs you might be raising a Mark Twain character

Abbie Gale1. You keep old rusty nails in your pocket and pretend to find them all over the yard to try to scare him into wearing shoes.

2. When you pick him up from school, he climbs into the backseat and says in his sweet I’m talking to a critter voice, “Oh, there you are! I have been looking all over for you!” He is NOT talking to YOU. That has you wondering WHAT you have been driving around with inside of your car, unaware.

3. You use a potato scrub brush on him AFTER he has showered. You wait until after he showers so that all the debris falls off and you can easily identify the leaches and remove them before using the firm potato brush. You never want to accidentally make “leach jelly” again.

4. You realize you probably don’t have to make him wear a life jacket in the deep end of the pool anymore when you see him swim across the pool holding two plastic cups together with a collection of bees he caught inside. Little boys will always travel the shortest distance to show their mom something cool.

5. He makes you promise you won’t call his teacher before he tells you what is in his pocket that he found at the school playground.  You have to promise you won’t tell her because you NEED to know what is in his pocket.

6. You keep an IV antibiotic drip bag on hand because you know the CDC (Center for Disease Control) is going to have a hard time figuring out if the salmonella came from what he has caught and kept in his pockets or the raw eggs he keeps blowing out all over your house. I made the mistake of telling him we cannot keep eggs because they will rot.

7. He gets invited to his older brother’s friends’ slumber parties as a “special dinner guest.” He is the only boy and I need to pick him before they go to bed. When I ask him how it went, he replies, “Disgusting. All they did was carry me around arguing over who was going to marry me.”

8. He has begun his own “Hillbilly Hand Fishing Academy for Kids” in your backyard pond, and the “country club kids” have the classes booked.

9. He lobbies for new “pets” by hacking into your FaceBook and Pinterest page and “likes” and “pins” “veiled chameleons” and “alligator snapping turtles” so now your friends think you have lost your mind.

10. You ask him what he did with all the butterflies he caught and he says, “Oh, they are in my underwear drawer” and runs off after another one.

11. You’re getting fat because you are trying to keep him in recycled plastic containers to make “habitats.”  No one wants to open a drawer and have something fly out. Also, how much sherbet can one woman eat? A lot. I would say enough to house a half a dozen turtles, two dozen tadpoles and something that no one has yet identified, but he is sure it will turn into “something.”

12. He builds a robin’s egg incubator in his nightstand.

13. When you tell him he is going to burn the house down with the nightstand egg incubator, he tries to hatch a goose egg with his stuffed animals.  Now you have a stuffed leopard that is going to have to raise a goose if he is successful.

14. Another mom calls to tell you she can’t figure out what she is more disturbed about concerning what her daughter told her. (You dread these frequent phone calls.)  One, that her daughter informed her with great delight that she was your son’s “number three girlfriend” or that her daughter is four years older than your kindergartener. When you confront your son to teach him that girls are not objects, he replies, “OK, but don’t tell her there are TWO number three girlfriends, alright?”

15. You have your own stash of cereal, cookies and chips because you KNOW where his hands have been.

16. You ask him to wash the car and when you come out to see how it’s going, you find the neighbor kids doing it instead.  When you yell out for your son, he answers, “I’m over here in the shade playing the bongos so they have music to work to.” You notice he also has a toad sitting on the top of his bare foot.

— Abbie Gale

Abbie Gale is a humorist and writer who blogs at All That Makes You. She is also a REAL country club “housewife” raising three future cast members of Jacka$$ or just any Mark Twain character. Her husband is a breast doctor who requests she keeps her cleavage covered when he is at home, as it reminds him of work.  She is a loud-mouthed Midwesterner transplanted into a southern, gated country club community.

Watching the clock

Lisa CarpenterI admit it: I’m a compulsive clock-watcher.

As a freelance writer working from home, I don’t watch the clock in the sense that I eye the hour hand as it makes its egregiously slow move from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. so I can exit my cubicle and enter my real world. No, though I’ve served my time in such positions, my current compulsive clock watching is of a less regular — albeit still compulsive — sort.

A sort that sometimes makes me believe I just might be a little off balance.

Or maybe not. Perhaps other perfectly balanced folks watch the clock in the very same ways.

For instance, when I hear odd noises outside my home, something unusually loud or menacing in my neighborhood, my first instinct is to look at the clock. I confirm the time on the clock just in case I end up being interrogated by some in-your-face detective — or in-your-face reporter — questioning the exact moment I heard the shake, rattle and hum that preceded the irrefutable proof by explosion that my next-door neighbor was playing Walter White.

Ya never know. It’s best to be prepared.

Similarly, when I hear menacing sounds inside my home, the shake, rattle and hum sounds from my — as one friend calls it — Stephen King boiler, I quickly glance at the clock so I know the precise time I knew the house was gonna blow. Yes, I do realize it would be too late if that truly was the case, but again, ya never know and it’s best to be prepared.

I also watch the clock when I awake in the middle of the night. Especially if I’ve awakened because I need to make a quick potty run. If I glance at the digital clock on the dresser and the time is between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. — the “witching hour,” per too many scary movies and my youngest daughter — that potty run is ran especially fast and usually ends with me pouncing back into bed as quick as can be so anything that might reside under my bed won’t grab me and pull me down there with it or lick my tootsies like in the spooky stories shared by my slumber party gal pals decades ago.

Sometimes the nighttime clock watching occurs when I awake with a funky feeling and am absolutely positive one of my daughters — or grandsons or siblings or parents — is hurt or sick or being visited by a bogeyman of some scary sort. I quickly note the time so I can later say, “I just knew something was up.” (Only rarely has such a feeling prompted me to actually call the one I was feeling funky about thankfully.)

The compulsive clock watching also occurs when one or more of my daughters visits. More accurately, when one of my daughters leaves after having visited. See, I request a text when they’ve made it home — especially because the two who visit regularly are young women living on their own more than an hour from my house and I need to ensure they made it there safely. And soundly. And without any accidents or carjackings or spooks or sexual predators hiding inside once they’d opened their front door. Ya truly never know. So I watch the clock and anxiously await their text or call.

And, of course, I’m a compulsive clock-watcher when I’m with my grandsons. Not the entire time; just the last 48 hours or so before our time together ends. It’s then that I start tallying our remaining hours relative to the remaining activities, games, fun I packed into my Grandma Bag or planned in my head. More important is the tallying of how many hours I have left to add to my collection of hundreds of photos from our visit as well as how many hours I have left to hug and adore and absorb my dear Mac and Bubby in person.

Upon considering this last example, it’s when I watch the clock in dread of my limited time left with my grandsons that seems to be the only reasonable compulsive clock watching I do.

(But then again, the clock watching I do so I know to run like mad when visiting the restroom during the witching hour seems pretty darn reasonable to me, too.)

— Lisa Carpenter

Lisa Carpenter publishes the Grandma’s Briefs website, where she shares bits on life’s second act and strives to smash the outdated “grandma” stereotype. Her “The grandma in a box” post was named the 2013 BlogHer Voices of the Year People’s Choice selection in the humor category. Lisa also is a freelance writer, with credits including, Boomeon, The Huffington Post and more. Connect with Lisa on TwitterFacebook and Google+ as well as on Grandma’s Briefs.

Thanking the Academy

Janie Emaus“I’d like to thank my first husband for allowing me to find him in bed with the lead singer in his band. It helped me write the dark moment in this screenplay.

And thank you to the doctor who took me off my hormone pills so that I could have all those hot flashes and sleepless nights, giving me time to write while everyone else slept  peacefully in their beds.

And finally, thank you God, for the aging process. For turning my firm, young body into one with wrinkles and spots. You’ve given me the incentive to keep working at my craft with the hopes of earning a living at it in order to purchase all those expensive anti-aging creams.”

I can’t tell you how many times, I’ve pretended to stand at the podium in front of the audience giving a speech such as this.

Well, of course, I wouldn’t really say it quite like the above. But I probably would thank everyone I’ve known in my life. Coming a close second if not surpassing Sally Field in her famous 1985 speech, “You like me.  Right now, you like me.”

I’d have to wear flat shoes because these days I can’t walk too well in heels anymore.  Which means I’ll have to get the right dress to complete my look.

I’ll need a high neckline because sometime last year, my “real” neck disappeared and I haven’t been able to find it.

I’ll have to have a long talk with my hair because like a spirited teenager, it has a mind of its own. And I don’t want it acting too wild on my big night.

And someone other than myself will have to apply my makeup because although I can see quite well up close, I’d hate to scare my fans in the balcony.

Right now, you might be thinking: Is she serious? She really thinks might win an Academy Award?

My answer — you never know.

But I do know one thing. If I stop working toward that goal, if I stop dreaming, I’ll never give my well-rehearsed acceptance speech.

— Janie Emaus

Janie Emaus believes that when the world is falling apart, we’re just one laugh away from putting it together again. She is the author of the time travel romance, Before the After, and the young adult novel, Mercury in Retro Love. She has an essay in the best-selling humor anthology, You Have Lipstick On Your Teeth and is proud have been named a 2013 BlogHer Voice of the Year. To read more of Janie’s humor, you can find her every week In The Powder Room. To learn more about her crazy life, visit her website


Doug CloughLike rings of a tree tell its age, the appearance of a spill on laminate or carpet give clues to its lifespan.

Still moist? Less than a half-day old.

Tacky? Somewhat less than a day.

Dark in appearance and dry to the touch? Up to two days old.

A dark ring and light-colored in the center? Approaching fossilization.

Mike Rowe is negotiating a spot with me to appear on Dirty Jobs. The topic? Spillology.

My knowledge-journey began when our youngest poured a glass of grape juice and proceeded downstairs to the family room. There was more purple-stained carpet between the kitchen and his destination than beige.  Now that he’s 12, he can juggle a drink with his feet, a bag of Cheetos in the one hand and his laptop in the other; visitors gawk in awe when they step into our foyer and witness the aftermath.

His 16-year-old sibling is a hunter and trapper and, in the art of carpet-staining, is not to be outdone. After checking numerous traps over 20 miles of creek bed, he heads back to town wearing boot soles like the underside of his truck — covered with a half-inch of mud; to his credit, he occasionally — when I am watching — takes them off before entering the house, maybe.

Nonetheless, the efficient lad chooses to put them on in his room the next morning, donning them from his room to the kitchen to the living room and out the front door again. I’ve never actually seen this happen; like the young hunter himself, I’ve acquired the ability to track based on the hardened mud-prints of this male mammal’s camouflaged boots.

I once asked the trapper to clean the mud off of his boots prior to wearing them in the house; he used a towel from the downstairs’ bathroom to erase the top layer of the encrusted mess. The white hand towel is now a tie-dyed light and dark brown perma-design after six, bleach-filled washings; I live under the illusion that it is not lingering raccoon poop.

Just this morning, the same woman who bought new white bathroom towels, left her coffee on top of the laundry hamper. At lunch, evidence of coffee spillage — most certainly less than a half-day old — pooled on the open-air slats, dripping on a new and formerly lily-white towel. She claims I am the culprit; furthermore, she is wrong — her children did not get this behavior from anyone strange.

My bride hasn’t asked for new carpet since we brought our families together in 2011. But it only makes sense that she’s given up on that wish. After all, why would she want to replace the evidence daftly displaying our family’s talent, up to and including how long that partially eaten slice of pizza has resided under the sofa?

For my sanity if nothing else, I have decided to embrace this mild imperfection of family life. After all, our situation exposes all I have to be grateful for in my life: a Labradoodle who has a nose for three-day-old pizza and my newly acquired tracking skills.

— Doug Clough

Doug Clough writes a column for the Ida County Courier in Ida Grove, Iowa, called “From our backyard…”  His work has appeared in Farm News, The Iowan and Boating World, and he served as a travel scout for Midwest Living. “I am a father of a salad bowl family (aka ‘blended’), a customer service manager, the possession of my Labradoodle and — in a former life — an English teacher. Someone has to enjoy that mix; it may as well be me,” he says.

If loving him is wrong,
I don’t want to be right

Lisa NewlinI’m in an abusive relationship. No, I’m not abusing my husband, at least not physically.

The relationship I’m talking about is a love affair — a forbidden affair, but one I can’t terminate no matter how much I try.

The object of my affections? Fro Yo.

For those of you not familiar with this fine establishment, it serves various flavors of frozen yogurt along with a toppings bar of every thing from gummy bears to crushed-up candy bars.

You serve yourself as much frozen yogurt as you want, and then load it up with as many toppings as you want as well.

It’s basically diabetes in a cup.

It’s perfection.

How is Fro Yo abusive, you ask? He seems so sophisticated with his trendy concept and welcoming rewards card. Don’t be fooled. That’s how he gets you.

You see, Fro Yo is abusive because he knows I need him. He knows I can’t live without him. Who can, really? Well, I supposed lactose-intolerant people could totally live without him. Whatever.

He’s so smooth and cool and he knows it.  Not only is he aloof and confident, he’s also literally smooth and cool.  He’s cold, actually.  He’s kind of a bad boy, and I like it.

I know what you’re thinking. Is it just mind games?  How is he physically abusive to you?

Um, it’s called a brain freeze.  Ever had one?  Pure.  Pain.

And yet, I want more.  I want more of the brain freeze.  I want more of the headache.  I want more, more, more!

It’s not all whipped cream and crushed candy bars, though.  There’s a dark side to Fro Yo.  He requires constant attention or he pouts and has a meltdown.

He also makes me feel bad about myself.  Sure, there’s the ecstasy of the time we spend together, but when it’s over, I drive home with my head hung in shame, kicking myself for being so gullible and giving in to his seductive ways.

As if I don’t feel bad enough about my overindulgence, there are the stains he leaves on my shirt, and the indigestion he leaves in my chest that remind me of our dirty deed.

I try to hide our relationship with my husband, but I think he knows.  He can smell Fro Yo when I walk in the door, and I know he can see remnants of our night together in the corner of my mouth.

My husband looks away. He doesn’t want to know.

However, despite all of the turmoil Fro Yo brings to my life, every time he calls my name, I come running.  Well, not so much running because I’m physically not capable of running.

This is yet another example of the permanent effects Fro Yo has on me.  He has such a hold that he affects my joints and my (in)ability to engage in cardiovascular activities.

Why can’t I stop?  Maybe Robert Palmer is right, and I’m addicted to love. I probably am.  Or maybe, just maybe, I’m addicted to lactose.

Either way, I don’t care. If loving him is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a hot date with a cool guy….

— Lisa Newlin

Lisa Newlin is a humor blogger who plays an unconvincing lawyer in real life. She shouldn’t be allowed around sharp objects, anything breakable or anything with carbohydrates. She prefers dogs over most people, and food over most everything. Her blog,, will make you feel better about your own life. It will also remind you that vodka is the answer to everything, except if the question is “What should I throw on this fire?” Then the answer is definitely NOT vodka. She’s also one of the co-authors of the bestselling new humor anthology, You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth.

Days of whine and snotty noses

Sherri KuhnI saw you in the grocery store just yesterday. Yoga pants stained with something white, a not-so- perky ponytail riding a bit sideways on your head, and quite possibly wearing the same shirt you wore the previous day.

Our paths converged somewhere between the cold cuts and the feminine-hygiene aisle. Not so different from each other, really. A time-warp was all that separated us; two mothers from the same universe, living in different times.

Three little ones escorted you on your journey, each lending a hand by grabbing random objects from the lower shelves and tossing them into the cart, slapping each other when you weren’t looking, and begging for stuff you refused to give them. In a failed attempt to separate them you placed one in the cart, which immediately created a King of the Cart feud.

Major sticking-out of their tongues ensued, along with a few more slaps (from the King of the Cart) and a few sneaky kicks. The whining came back full force, along with some tears for good measure. The King was removed from the cart and made to walk amongst the peasants (formerly known as his brother and sister) again.

Noses were runny, crankiness was high, and undoubtedly everyone was hungry.

It was, after all, the witching hour for grocery shopping. Four forty-five on a Monday evening.

Oh, you brave soul.

I was shopping alone, picking up a few things for a meal to be cooked using an actual recipe. In my cart? A nice bottle of wine, some flowers for a friend, and some dinner ingredients your little helpers would most certainly spit out onto their plates.

Your cart was piled high. It held the very essentials of life for the under-5-year-old crowd: graham crackers, GoGurt, fruit rollups, milk, fish sticks, Lunchables, Cheerios, juice boxes, applesauce and cookies. No wine, no bouquets of flowers; not an artisan cheese or gourmet cupcake in sight.

And at that moment when our eyes met and we nodded each other’s existence?

I wanted to take you by the shoulders and tell you that it would be OK. To yell over the hysterics and whining of your little helpers so you could hear my message loud and clear.

To tell you that these days of whine and snotty noses won’t last. Really, I promise they won’t.

One day you will shop alone, without helpers. You will buy real food again; possibly even some flowers for the table, and nobody will beg you for candy or gum. You will make a meal and eat it in one sitting, without cutting anyone’s food or making a second meal for the picky one. You may even have pleasant dinner conversation with your spouse.

I saw you glance at my cart and look back at me a second time. I think you even smiled a bit bigger.

Maybe you realized that I was you, not so very long ago.

You moved on to finish your shopping before one of the children ate one of the others.

I hope there was a bit more spring in your step.

But I suddenly found myself wistful for Cheerios, a snotty nose to wipe, a helper to ride in my cart, maybe even a fish stick.

Because I was you, not so very long ago.

— Sherri Kuhn

Sherri Kuhn is a freelance writer, copy editor, blogger, grammar junkie and social media addict. She loves playing with words, editing and writing articles about everything from nail polish to parenting topics. On her blog Old Tweener she writes from the heart — with an occasional side of sarcasm and humor. With a son in college and a daughter in high school, she always has something to write about. Her writing has been featured at Huffington Post, SheKnows, AllParenting, Moonfrye, Mamalode and BlogHer.  She was chosen as a cast member for the 2012 Listen to Your Mother show in San Francisco. Sherri lives in Northern California with her family and crazy yellow lab.

How about a cookie instead?

Alisa SchindlerMy 4-year-old son has this weird little obsession — with my boobs.

No, I’m not like that New Yorker magazine mom. The only thing my boobs do these days is hang, and I mean hang, around. But for Julius, it’s one of his many infatuations, right up there with gummy bears and Pokemon cards.

All my boys are full of mommy love, which I unabashedly encourage and soak up, but Julius shows his love a bit more ‘tangibly’ than the others.

Every night after the bedtime books and tickle-back is completed, there’s another ritual of events that must transpire before I can leave his room.

“Kiss, mommy,” he demands, pursing his little, chunk lips for me to kiss.

“Hug, mommy,” is the next request, and he wraps his little arms around me, squeezing tight.  I love it, but I know what’s coming. He’s been doing it for well over a year now, and I brace myself.

Somewhere in the middle of his innocent little hug, there’s a boob grab. He does it quick, knowing exactly what he’s doing. When I gently reprimand, he looks at me with those big brown eyes and says, “I can’t help it mommy. I just love your boobies!”

What to do. What to do.

I’ve tried to distract him from his infatuation. At two and three, it was still cute and could be waved away as toddler silliness; but once Julius crept over the four-year mark and his hugs began to have a groping feel to them, I’ve tried, unsuccessfully, to get him to stop.

So far, these are the techniques I’ve employed.

Threatening – I say, almost daily. “Julius, if you try to touch my boobs, I’m not going to snuggle in bed with you anymore.” The little rat always promises. Do not trust a rat.

Negotiation – “If you can go a week without trying to touch my boobs, I’ll take you to the toy store.” Apparently, Julius does not need more toys, or chocolate or extra Wii time. He’s got plenty, thank you.

Transference – Every time Julius goes for the boobs, I place his hands around my waist. He kind of likes it and will squeeze happily for a bit, saying, “Oh, it’s squishy, like your boobies.” Thanks kid.

Reason – We had the discussion about private parts. How he has his and I have mine. Julius’s response? “You can touch mine, if I can touch yours.” Sheesh. I’m in trouble with this one.

Although, his fascination to touch my boobs is annoying and will soon border on really inappropriate, right now, it still makes me smile. I know he’s almost five, but as my youngest, he still seems like such a baby; and even though my 7- and 10-year-old are very loving, I can see the day in the not-too-far future, where I am no longer the center of their affections. There will be girlfriends, then wives, (poo poo) and I feel the pain of that already, years into the future. I can only hope that they’ll still want to give their mom a squeeze, although a hug will do just fine.

Just last night, Julius, the teenager in a 5-year-old body, gloated, “Mommy, I know how to touch boobs.  You go in for a kiss, and then you get ’em!” He smiled mischievously, like a boy who knows a big secret. And I guess he does.

— Alisa Schindler

Alisa Schindler is freelance writer who chronicles the sweet and bittersweet of life in the suburbs on her highly entertaining blog Her essays have been featured on and as well as in the book, Life Well Blogged. She is a member of “Yeah Write,” an online community for writers, where she has won the Jury Prize multiple times in the group’s weekly essay writing contest.  She has just completed her first novel that she feels comfortable showing to someone other than her mother.

Reflections of Erma