Giddy up ba-oom papa oom papa mow mow

Photo from

Friday morning. 6:45 a.m. Driving slowly through the dark up a snowy mountain road in Colorado. I’ve just dropped Cara off at the Park n Ride because she’s got to go to work down the mountain but we didn’t get her snow tires on ahead of this snow and it’s one thing to crawl to the Park n Ride but another to venture out onto the 285 Frozen Speedway, so she’s catching a ride down with a coworker.

And I’m thinking of my childhood in Louisiana. I think we had snow maybe four times growing up — and calling it snow is being overwhelmingly generous. Sleet. Wintry mix. Just enough to make a 12-inch snowman that was as much dirt and grass as it was snow.

But here I am thinking of being a young boy in Louisiana. A very young boy. And all my cousins on MawMaw’s side.

Because Willie’s Roadhouse on SiriusXM is playing “Elvira,” by The Oak Ridge Boys. If you’ve somehow lived your existence having never heard this song, give it a listen.

What I associate the most with this song is being at my Uncle Charles and Aunt Brenda’s house. Uncle Charles was my godfather, my parrain as godfather’s are called in Cajun French. And his and Aunt Brenda’s house was always wild and free-wheeling; it felt like almost anything was allowed.

The first of many instances where this memory gets shaky is I don’t remember which house of theirs this was. There were a few. 

I’m pretty sure it was the early 1980s. I seem to remember a record player shaped like a jukebox in one of the rooms off the left side of the hallway. But I can’t guarantee that the jukebox-shaped record player existed. 

But I remember the kids standing around it. I’m there. My brother Brian is there. And Uncle Charles’ children Jonathan (older than me) and Amanda (younger than me). Maybe Christine, my other first cousin, is there. I can’t remember if the younger cousins had been born yet. 

We were probably arguing over which songs to play. And none of them were exactly pop hits. At that age we liked what our parents and grandparents liked. We were suckers for oldies and gimmicky songs and gimmicky oldies. The Coasters doing Yakety Yak comes clearly through the years, with the kids shouting the “don’t talk back” part. “My Dingaling” by Chuck Berry. “Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road” by Loudon Wainwright. And the somewhat frightening “They’re Coming to Take Me Away” by Napoleon XIV.

But “Elvira,” man. That song was it. For two reasons. For me at any rate. The first was the the “giddy up ba-oom papa oom papa mow mow” part. Pure artistry. 

The second was, well, Elvira. Yes, that Elvira. Mistress of the Dark, Elvira. I don’t know where I would have seen her, what late-night TV weirdness MawMaw and PawPaw would have had on at their house. Or Uncle Charles at his. I doubt we would have seen her at our house. Aside from the early bedtime at home, we didn’t have cable. And this was pre-VCR (for us, at any rate). 

So I probably didn’t know anything at all about Elvira other than that she was hot. I might have been eight or nine and didn’t have much of a concept of such things, but I knew that Elvira did something to my brain and parts further south. Elvira and Olivia Newton John. Opposite ends of the spectrum. (Which might have something to do with my fascination many years later with Julie Bowen and Sofia Vergara on “Modern Family.”)

At any rate, I thought the song was about Elvira. So a killer tune with a killer visual. Hard to resist.

Of course, it turns out the song was written about her. In fact, it wasn’t an Oak Ridge Boys original. It was written in 1966 by Dallas Frazier and he named it after a street in East Nashville. (The Oak Ridge Boys version, however, had the distinction of going platinum.)

Where am I going with this? Absolutely nowhere. It’s a memory and that’s where they go. You’re driving down a snowy road as an adult, 1,800 miles from where you grew up, and a song transports you back 40 years to a memory of you singing it with your cousins and your godfather’s house.

And, knowing what I know about memory, this one could be very far from reality. I guess I could call up my cousins and ask, but I’m not taking the risk of being confronted with a “Nah, Kenny, the record player was a little piece of crap on a folding table. And we were listening to ‘I Love a Rainy Night’ by Eddie Rabbit. That was our jam.” Or, worse:  “What? I’m pretty sure that never happened. What are you even talking about?”

So I’ll just enjoy my memory the way I see it. 

Giddy up ba-oom, yall. Giddy up ba-oom.

Below Deck Colorado: What Lurks Under Our Feet

A mule deer under the deck

Up here in the mountains of Colorado, things have been moving about below our feet, sneaking about in the night, brazenly making themselves comfortable during broad daylight. Sometimes we catch glimpses. Sometimes we hear noises. But how to prove it? Put a game camera under the deck.

So in this edition of Wheaton’s World of Wildlife, we’ll meet the animals that make themselves comfortable under our deck.

Let’s start with something exciting. A bear! He (or she) has only come through twice. And hopefully this bear doesn’t set up a den during the winter. Fun fact: Bears don’t actually hibernate; they go into torpor. “The main difference between hibernation and torpor is during torpor, the animal is able to wake up quickly to avoid danger, or if the opportunity exists exit the den to feed.” Put another way, if the temperature climbs mid-winter and you’ve left your garbage out, guess who’s coming to dinner.

Next up is a gray fox. Interestingly, you are much more likely to see with your own two eyes the red fox as the gray is smaller, more timid, a little shy. I’ve seen footage of red fox under the deck, but I must have deleted that from the memory card. Oh well. Here’s a gray fox.

Tired of mammals? How about a magpie. This guy’s showed up this summer and is dividing his time between hanging out under the deck and the dog run on the other side of the house.

Okay. Back to the mammals. Do deer hang out under the deck? Oh yes, deer love it under there. (These are mule deer, for those interested in the specifics.)

Here’s Deerdra, having herself a little lie-down.

And here’s Deerdra and friends at rush hour.

But it’s not just the ladies who hang out under there. Here’s Bucky.

Wild animals aren’t the only ones passing through. This black cat, who hails from lord knows where, is a fan of the spot.

But who is the absolute Captain below deck? Who can be spotted every day and every night, hanging out, checking out his turf, murdering mice and other little rodents? This orange badass, the neighbor’s cat.

Myth Busters: Australian Shepherd Edition

Ruby, our Mini Aussie.

Myth: The Australian Shepherd was invented by Vito Von Trembleflurb in Squinkleburra Australia in 1893. Trembleflurb crossed two of his herding dogs with a kangaroo, a koala, a sheep, a crocodile, and three species of Australian spider. His goal? To create a wooly vegetarian guard dog that could spin silk and herd itself. After three months of lovingly raising his creation, the animal trapped Trembleflurb in a web, drained him of all his blood, and escaped into the outback where, legend has it, it lives to this day.
Fact: “Developed in California in the 19th century, it is claimed the breed descends from a variety of herding breeds including collies imported into California alongside sheep imported from Australia and New Zealand, the breed taking its name from the former. Originally used solely as a herding dog, the Australian Shepherd has become one of the most popular companion dog breeds in North America.” Source.

Myth: The Australian Shepherd was actually invented in 1985 by Arnold Schwarzenegger and was meant to be called the Austrian Shepherd. Between the general geographical ignorance of Americans and the overwhelming popularity of the 1986 film “Crocodile Dundee,” the rest was history. Disheartened by this failure, Schwarzenegger would turn his full attention to acting where he found moderate success before entering politics.
Fact: Please see previous fact.

Myth: Because of its roots in California, the Australian Shepherd is chill af bro.
Fact: The Australian Shepherd is, in fact, not chill.

Myth: The Australian Shepherd sheds heavily throughout the year.
Fact: The Australian Shepherd sheds heavily twice a year. For six months.

Myth: The Australian Shepherd is known as the cowgirl’s lapdog of choice.
Fact: The Australian Shepherd is known as the cowboy’s herding dog of choice. Jeez. Figure it out.

Myth: Much like the giraffe, the Australian Shepherd flies around at night on the leathery wings of a bat.
Fact: Australian Shepherds do not fly.

Myth: The Mini Australian Shepherd was created in 1998 when Minnie Driver’s chihuahua escaped and hooked up with Crocodile Dundee star Paul Hogan’s collie.
Fact: The Mini Australian Shepherd is just a smaller version of the standard Australian Shepherd. The Mini stands for miniature. I guess I have to spell out everything. Bonus fact: Ruby is a Mini

Myth: The Australian Shepherd comes in a host of colors, including Black and Blue Cobbler, Strawberry Meringue, The Full Cherry, Brown Overcoat, Black and White and Tan All Over and more!
Fact: According to AKC breed standards, the Australian Shepherd comes in “Blue merle, black, red merle, red – all with or without white markings and/or tan (copper) points, with no order of preference.” You’ll note that they put the blue merle first, so make of that what you will. You’re most likely to see “tri” versions of these variations: Blue merle with white markings and copper points, red merle with white markings and copper points, as well as the black and red tri. The red tri is sometimes called a brown tri, because to normal human eyes, they are brown.

My friend Jim Mitchem’s red tri, Quill, and black tri, Rocket. Despite being three months younger than Ruby they are now bigger.

Myth: The nickname for the Australian Shepherd is the Sheepie.
Fact: Come on’, dude. It’s the Aussie. Just like the people. Although human Aussies are from Australia and, as we’ve establish, the dogs are not.

Myth: The Australian Shepherd is perfect for first-time dog owners who are, overall, on the fence about dog ownership but think having a cute, fuzzy pup with personality might be fun. The breed is also great for folks whose hobbies include watching a lot of TV, sitting in front of a computer all day, sleeping in, going to work and expecting to return home to a house that isn’t destroyed.
Fact: From this hilariously understated AKC description: “They’re the picture of rugged and agile movers of stock. Aussies exhibit an irresistible impulse to herd, anything: birds, dogs, kids. This strong work drive can make Aussies too much dog for a sedentary pet owner. Aussies are remarkably intelligent, quite capable of hoodwinking an unsuspecting novice owner.”

Myth: The Australian Shepherd is just a dog like every other dog.
Fact: No they are not.

Meet Ruby

As I sit here typing, it’s a cold Monday morning in October. Seven a.m. Nineteen degrees out. First bit of light coming into the sky. We’ve yet to light the first fire of the season, so I’m bundled up on the couch and I have a seven-month old miniature Australian Shepherd pawing at me for attention and play time. She finds the laptop a stupid distraction that is diverting my attention from where it rightly belongs.

This is Ruby. And anyone who knows us in real life or follows me on social knows all about her. If you thought I was a little overboard with Lucy and Sylvie, well then. Having a puppy turned me into one of those people who, upon having a child, act like that child is the first to breathe the earth’s air and that the entire world must be fascinated with it. Except with a puppy.

We didn’t mean to get a puppy this year. After losing Sylvie in March of last year and Lucy right before Christmas, we were just too heartbroken. And emotionally exhausted from a year’s worth of taking care of sick dogs. In fact, the last post I wrote for this here blog site was in January of this year, marking the anniversary of the trip to the vet in 2021 that was the beginning of Sylvie’s end.

Not having dogs also meant we might be able to hop in the car on a whim and travel the state we’ve been living in now for four years.

What little thought we’d given to getting another dog was basically, “Maybe next year. Maybe a rescue. Maybe something Sylvie’s size. Definitely something that won’t shed.”

Now I’m covered in the hair of a 32-pound dog that is very much still in puppy stages.

How did THAT happen?


It’s not a happy story. I’ll be upfront about that. We love this dog to death already and it’s hard to imagine life without her. But how we got her is the sort of story that should be preceded with the phrase “trigger warning.”

Michele Scott was a local woman who bred mini Aussies. She also worked at the local Safeway and cleaned houses. We were one of her clients. Every other week, Michele would show up and she and I would shoot the shit about dogs or drinking or whatever. Her two dogs went missing for about two weeks once and not surprisingly she was extremely distraught. But she found them one day roaming the countryside as if they were on a grand vacation. Her first visit back after Lucy had passed, she just knew upon walking in. I think dog people are keyed into that sort of thing.

And then in February of this year, I received a text from our mutual friend Jeannie asking if I’d seen Michele. It was a Monday. Valentine’s Day, in fact. Michele hadn’t been heard from since Thursday morning. She’d left our house on Wednesday afternoon. In real life, a story with that sort of beginning rarely has a happy ending. And this one didn’t either. It wasn’t long before Michele’s ex-boyfriend, a piece of shit with a long record and a restraining order, was found driving her car. He claimed she’d left for a last-minute vacation. That’s not what happened at all. He killed her and dumped her body in a ravine.

To this day, I’m not really sure how to process what happened. Michele and I were not close. But she was a person I knew who was taken out of the world too soon by an act of violence committed by the worst of us, the sort of person who should have been in jail years ago. I could go on, but it will just turn into a rant or make her story about me.

Like I said, Michele bred mini Aussies. And quite a few of the people at her memorial apparently met her through the dog community. At the time of her death, Michele’s dog was pregnant. I didn’t think anything of it at the time. Why would I?

How it happened

In March of this year I received another text from Jeannie saying that Michele’s dog Como had had a litter of ten puppies.

That’s nice, I thought. How cute. And then didn’t give it another thought.

In April, I was sitting alone at home while Cara was in Austin on a business trip. I received another text from Jeannie.

“Ken we have puppies from Michele’s dog that will be ready for homes on the first of May. We wanted to offer them to people that knew her first and I thought you guys might be interested. … We have 5 puppies still available. 2 Blk Tri Males, 1 Blue Merle Female, and 2 Blue Merle Males.”

I didn’t know what any of those things meant. We were not in the market for a dog. And Cara, I figured, was going to want some sort of poodle mix. But I have a hard time just telling people no.

My response: “Let me talk it over with Cara. Do you have a pic of the female?”

Reader. She did have a picture.

This was the very first image we saw of Ruby.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out how this story ends. Cara returned from Austin. We sat at the dinner table like actual adults and had a ridiculous conversation about pros and cons and the fact that I’d be doing the heavy lifting. And came to the conclusion of “I don’t know. Maybe we can go see her.” We were barely even fooling ourselves at this point. I even said, “If we go see this dog, we’re going to get this dog.”

Guess what happened. The only surprise is we didn’t leave with two dogs.

Ruby came home with us on May 8. It has been, as they say, a trip. I’ve never had the responsibility of taking care of a puppy. We had no experience with this breed.

The good news is she’s extremely smart and eager to please. We’ve had a few friends over who have Aussies and they’ve all remarked on how mellow she is for the breed. To be clear, she’s mellow for the breed, not necessarily mellow. That said, she gets along great with other dogs, even while on leash. As much as I loved Lucy and Sylvie, those are not things that could have been said of them. They were leash aggressive and hated bikes, cars, runners, balloons, and basically anything that moved.

In fact, she likes other dogs so much, we’ve toyed with the idea of a second one. We’ve left her at Jeannie’s house a couple of times. Jeannie has a houseful of dogs, including the one other female from Ruby’s litter, which she named Michele. Ruby and Michele love each other.

The thing is, I don’t know if I can deal with the puppy stage again. Or getting a shelter dog that turns out to be a complete antisocial asshole.

It’s been downright easy with Ruby. We’ve even been able to take her to a bar and just sit outside for hours without her acting the fool.

Though she does like to act the fool.

So far, her only issue is she’s not great in the car. It’s hard to tell whether it’s stress, motion sickness or both. She threw up quite a bit at first. That’s mostly stopped but there’s always a chance. It doesn’t help that we live in the mountains with tons of curvy roads. We’ve got the small matter of a drive to Louisiana coming up, so we’ll see how that goes. Hopefully with some practice she’ll get over it and we can take her on road trips.

But yeah. We got a dog. I finally wrote a blog post about it. I’d get into all the emotions involved along the way, but dog people know instinctually, the rest will never understand. And besides, she wants to go for a walk.

The Black Dog (and the white one too)

Facebook reminded me this morning that on this day last year, we brought Sylvie home from an overnight at the vet.

On the Saturday night, she’d had an episode. I heard a fall and woke up to find her on her side. The carpet underneath her was wet. We took her to the regular vet on Sunday, and they suggested we take her to the emergency vet, where she was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension and sent home with meds that we hoped would work.

They didn’t. After a week of almost normal behavior, she started a slide and after weeks of heartbreak, we said goodbye to her on March 3, 2021. The grief was crushing. I knew it would hurt — indeed back in the good old days I’d joked that when the time finally came, I’d need a full week off of work — but was surprised at the intensity. I almost wished for an office job so that I had somewhere to go other than the house, the house that I’d spent pretty much every single day in with Sylvie and Lucy since moving in. I’d been working from home since before COVID. Now the house was a little quieter.

But I had Lucy to keep me company.

Then her kidneys started to go. We put her on medication. It seemed to help some. But her appetite fluctuated wildly — as did her tastes in food. I think I first really became concerned in July when we brought home a bison bone full of marrow from the local steakhouse just to see what she would do. No interest. She’d have good weeks and bad after that. It never got as bad as it did with Sylvie but toward the end we couldn’t leave her alone in the house because she was blind and deaf and a little disoriented. We said goodbye to her on December 20, 2021.

So that was basically 2021 was full year of dog-related depression. (Fun fact: “the black dog” was used as metaphor for depression as early as 65 B.C.) I couldn’t even tell you if COVID (in general; I’ve yet to catch it) and the other nonsense have had any impact on me because it’s been hard to see beyond what’s immediately in front of me: the prospect of a dog-less house becoming a reality.

I’d say it’s one of the main reasons I haven’t been writing much. But that might be bullshit. I didn’t write much the year before. In fact, I wrote more last year. Granted, pretty much everything I wrote last year was horror and it doesn’t take a shrink to figure that one out. The book I’d promised myself to finish, I couldn’t get my head around. I’ve got the plot — sort of — but I don’t know if I want it to be half-ass funny or just full on gross and disgusting.

Many writers will tell you that they grapple with this sort of stuff and are forced to ponder an age-old question. Am I not writing because I’m depressed or am I depressed because I’m not writing?

After much thought, I can tell you the answer is: probably both!

This isn’t going to became sad dog dad blog on the regular. Hell, I haven’t written here enough for it to be anything on the regular. Maybe I’ll start. Or I’ll start and get bored with it. After all, there’s only so much I can write about staring out the window or editing pieces about programmatic advertising. I guess I could go into every excruciating detail about my runs, especially the ones on the treadmill. “Yesterday, while still staring at the wall, I hit my stride at mile two …”

We’ve lost our crazy little Lucy

When Sylvie got sick earlier this year, we put a nightlight in the bedroom room to make it easier for her to see at night. After she passed in March, we kept the nightlight in place because Lucy had gone mostly blind and the light helped her get around too.

Last night we slept without the nightlight. The room was so dark, so quiet, so still. Empty.

That’s how this story ends and I just wanted to get that out of the way. On Monday, we said goodbye to Lucy after months of illness took their inevitable toll. Cara and I are both broken-hearted. Living in a house with no sound of little claws tippy-tapping across the wood floor was unimaginable.

When we bought this house, the first “improvement” we made to the thing we’d just spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on was to install the least-ugly baby gate we could find at the top of the stairs leading down to the basement. Like the nightlight, this was done mostly for Sylvie’s benefit. While she could make her way up and down carpeted stairs, she did not have a 100% success rate and we didn’t want one of her failures to happen while we were around.

Having installed the gate, we went down to Denver the next weekend to buy furniture and supplies for our lovely new house. When we returned home, Sylvie was the only dog greeting us noisily at the door. Lucy was greeting us noisily as well, but she was doing so from the stairs to the basement. On the wrong side of the gate. Apparently she’d jumped – or knowing Lucy, fallen – through the banister onto the stairs. So the second improvement we made to the house we spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on was the installation of this ugly-ass netting to prevent Lucy from plummeting to her death.

When we replaced the deck on this house, we were happy to be getting new railing that would be up to code and impossible for the dogs to slip through. Within the first three minutes of being introduced to the new deck, guess who walked right through the railing. 

Lucy had many nicknames, but “little turd” (said affectionately, of course) was a prominent one, deployed frequently when she was doing something that seemed designed to bring about her own demise. Like launching herself off of stairs and couches or wherever she happened to be perched. I often said there was something catlike about Lucy, but unlike a cat, she almost never stuck a landing. She preferred bellyflop, face-plant, and head-first neck-cruncher to boring old feet-first. Earlier this year, after her eyesight started going, I opened the door to let her into the garage and instead of running down the steps like she always did, she jumped – right into the door of Cara’s car. 

Lucy also liked climbing under things. Like the couch. Or the bed. Or the bar. Or a car. Or a wooden stove that had a fire blazing in it. She also liked getting stuck in things and places. Like between the mattress and the headboard. Or inside the TV stand. This was before my time, but according to Cara, Lucy once got her head stuck in the hubcap of a car. 

How? Who knows? But that was a question Lucy often prompted. “How did you even do that?” As in: “How did you even open up that box of chocolates and eat so much that you ended up spending a night at the emergency vet? You crazy little turd.”

Lucy’s philosophy in life seemed to be “Fuck around and find out.”

Things Lucy did not like after finding out about them: baths, snow, wearing clothes, wearing shoes, animals walking in her yard, people walking in front of her house, people walking into her house. Me. At first. 

Take it off

When I first visited Cara’s home years ago, both dogs loudly made their displeasure known. Sylvie calmed down soon enough. But Lucy, I think, barked the entire time I was there. And if I left a room, she’d follow me into the next one to bark at me there.

She was a barker and I’d have put her in the Little Yappy Dog Championships if there were such a thing. Granted, Sylvie usually started the barking, but Lucy would continue the barking. She would not be outbarked. She was five pound of fury.

When they first moved to New York, they barked at people walking in front of the apartment. Which is an issue when you live in New York because there are always people walking in front of the apartment. So we hired someone to help us train them. If you had any interaction with Sylvie and Lucy during their New York days, you realize that this did not work at all. One thing the trainer recommended was walking them twice a day and taking them to the dog park to wear them out a little. On the way to said dog park, the trainer noted that Lucy seemed super smart and somewhat bossy and was likely going to take over the joint. And she did. Or she tried too. She was fearless at first. Yipping and yapping at all the other dogs. Until one day she was rolled onto her back by an overeager puppy half her age and three times her size. But still we went. Well, the three of us did. Cara couldn’t handle the stress. And we only went to dog parks that had a dedicated section for the little guys. There, Lucy could pick on dogs her own size. Or yell at them. Though the weirdest dog park memory I have of her is becoming obsessed with a Chihuahua-Yorkie puppy that was about the size of a bird and licking the poor thing until it was soaked to the skin.

Lucy could be a challenge. And I think that’s why people liked her. Oh, sure, they SAID they’d take Sylvie over Lucy because Sylvie was easier to deal with. But everyone feels flattered when the crazy chick picks them. 

Lucy eventually came around to liking me, of course. In fact, she went through a phase after we moved into this house where slept between my legs or curled up in the curve of my stomach or  tucked tight under my armpit every night. I’m a restless sleeper, but I tried not to be, suffering through an aching back or contorting myself ever so slowly so as not to wake her. 

Because it meant she loved me as much as I loved her, which was a lot. 

Things Lucy loved: Me. Cara. Cara’s mom. Cara’s dad. My mom. Aunt Julie. Chris, her dog sitter. And, probably above all else, Sylvie. Which was fitting, since Cara originally got Lucy to keep Sylvie company, much to Sylvie’s initial annoyance. But Sylvie came around. How could she not?

This has been a hard year for us on the dog front. They say when you have two dogs you have twice the love. This is very true. But you’re also in for twice the pain. And we lost both of them this year. Sylvie got sick at the end of January and died at the beginning of March. Lucy got sick in June and slowly declined for the remainder of the year. I have a lot to say about all this, but I can’t trust myself to write about it without sounding mad or crazy or depressed, all of which I am.

All I will say for now is, man did we love that little dog. She had a great life. We spoiled her rotten. Up until the very end. We became better (definitely more patient) people because of her. And now the house is so quiet, so still. Empty.

The hundred dollar pillow

When you hit a certain age, a number of activities you once engaged in as a youth start to cause you physical pain. Activities like running, yardwork, household chores, sitting down, standing up too fast, and sleeping. 

Yes, sleeping. In fact, the sleeping thing might be the most insulting. All you want is a few hours of silent slumber to recuperate from that muscle you pulled while tangling with a fitted sheet, and the sleep itself is causing harm. Your back hurts. Your hips hurt. Your neck hurts.

As someone who had minor back surgery years ago, I know how to handle the back and hip issues. It requires a daily routine of fairly easy core exercises. So I just live with the pain because hell if I’m gonna do core exercises.

But the neck pain was something I didn’t want to live with. It made me grumpy. OK. It made me grumpier. And a grumpier Ken is no fun to live with. 

Clearly the thing to do would be to go out and buy a better pillow. But I’ve watched over the years as Cara tried this pillow and that pillow and then this other pillow. The bed in one of the spare rooms is currently buried under a three-foot drift of pillows. If you ever sleep over and don’t like the pillow you’re initially given, just ask. We have about 67 backup pillows. 

I tried my head on a few of those and none seemed much better than the other. 

This might be due to the fact that Cara sleeps either on her back or her side. I sleep almost entirely on my stomach. (Yes, I know this is not great for my back, but it is what it is)

But recently I came across pillow reviews for stomach sleepers and the best pillow for stomach sleepers was deemed to be a Sleep Number pillow.

That made a certain kind of sense. The folks who make mattresses that can go up, down, sideways, that can get puffier or flatter, hotter or cooler, float around the room like a magic carpet, well, those folks could probably put all their science and technology into a pillow that could work for me.

The pillow is called The PlushComfort Ultimate. How awesome does that sound? Pretty awesome. Like maybe there was some nanotechnology or artificial intelligence involved. 

So it was off to the Sleep Number store at the mall. (Fun fact: The mall is home to three mattress stores and a Tesla store. Sleep Number is for those who like precision and maybe numbness. Tempurpedic is for those who like to sweat their asses off at night sleeping on acoustic foam. Amerisleep is for those who want to sleep on a mattress made of flags that plays the Star Spangled Banner all night. Tesla is for those who want to sleep in a car.)

By the time we made it to Sleep Number, we’d hit about 600 other stores, and I was getting a little hangry. Still, I managed to hide my disappointment when the technology of this PlushComfort Ultimate pillow turned out to be the slumber equivalent of three kids in a trench coat. Apparently, Sleep Number has gone around to every grandmother’s house in the country and scooped up those 20-year-old flattened out pillows Mawmaw has hanging around in the back room. Then they’ve put three of those into one pillow shell. When it comes to adjusting your pillow height, the Sleep Number solution isn’t some sort of magical hydraulic system, it’s … unzipping the shell and taking out one of those flat pillows. Or maybe two! Go nuts! 

So of course I bought the damn thing. For $89.99. I’m calling the Hundred Dollar Pillow because I’m dramatic and bad at math. And if they’d had the king size in stock I probably would have bought the stupid thing for twenty bucks more.

In my defense I was desperate for a solution AND they were having a buy one, get one half off sale, and Cara needed a new pillow and, honestly, I’m both a sucker and someone who has a hard time saying no to a salesperson once I’ve engaged.

Anyway, I got the pillow home and the first night decided to sleep with all three of the inserts ini there. It seemed a little high but I thought my giant watermelon of a head would flatten the thing out during the night. But my head was no match for the PlushComfort Ultimate. Indeed, the pillow put up such a fight against being mashed down, my ear hurt the next day. So I removed one of the inserts, which resulted in the $89.99 pillow feeling a lot like a Mawmaw pillow, but who was I to question the technological geniuses at Sleep Number? 

And guess what? The damn thing worked. 

Now, if you’re a stomach sleeper, I’m not suggesting you run out and spend a stupid amount of money on this pillow. That said if you, like me, are having issues and spend most of your nights trying to sleep in a bed on a pillow, investing in a good pillow might make sense. Even if the pillow only lasts a year, it works out to four bucks a night for better sleep. (You can trust me on this one. I used a calculator.) But if this is too rich for your bedhead, the problem might be that you’ve been using a pillow that’s too big and too firm. So maybe go down to Mawmaw’s house and see if she has a couple of them old striped down pillows hanging around. Give that a shot.

Oh no! The sex-traffickers are back at Target

Looks like it’s time to hide your kids and your wife. According to the never-wrong news source, “Some Lady’s Facebook Post,” strange men are once again following families around the clothing department of Target with an eye toward throwing them all into a white van in broad daylight.

I don’t know what it says about social media, but it’s sort of annoying that even these sorts of stupid, divisive, uninformed, mostly-fake memes, have to be recycled every few years. Can we not get something new to freak out about?

This hysteria seems to have originated in Oregon back in 2017, where some woman took a picture of a guy and claimed she and her family were being stalked. Or, wait, maybe it started in California that same year, in an Ikea. Nothing came of either case. 

These posts are typically the result of an overactive imagination mixed with some old-fashioned racism (a lot of the posts I’ve seen claim the guys “look Mexican”) and straight up narcissism.

Here’s the truth, lady. NOBODY WANTS TO KIDNAP YOU OR YOUR KIDS. They’d probably return yall after half an hour even if they did. 

Not to let facts intrude into social media fantasyland, but this is the exact opposite of how trafficking works. According to Lara Powers who wrote about this at the time, “I have encountered thousands of child sex-trafficking cases in the United States. I have never seen, read or heard about a real sex-trafficking situation in which a child was abducted by traffickers in broad daylight at a busy store under a mother’s watchful eye.”

Maybe a creep did follow you around the store. I worked in retail and there were plenty of creeps, some of whom even liked to pleasure themselves in the dressing room. But that’s a far cry from sex trafficking.

If your child is going to be trafficked, kidnapped, or sexually assaulted, the number one contenders are:

  • Your ex
  • Your current
  • Your priest or pastor
  • A teacher or coach
  • QAnon members
  • The leader of the gang you didn’t know your child was in
  • Assorted scumbags who’ve inserted themselves into foster networks
  • The Florida congressional delegation

You need some sort of power-dynamic in play and, more often than not, trust of some sort. The rando in Target has neither of those things.

What I find (almost) funny about this is that the same person who will immediately (and sometimes repeatedly) smash the share button on these Facebook posts is the exact same person mad at the media for “spreading fear” and “being divisive.” This isn’t the media. This is you. You are spreading fear and being divisive. You are the fake news.

And don’t get me started on the inability to do basic risk assessment. “Even after 700,000 people have died of a disease, I think it’s worth the risk to send little Sally to Saint Anti-Masker’s Church of the Unvaccinated. That’s just freedom and common sense. And look, I’ve heard the rumors about the youth-group leader who drifted into town with no backstory and that weird bracelet on his ankle, but he seems SO nice. … We all know the real danger is walking around Target on a Monday.” 

None of this makes me pro-sex trafficking. And I sincerely apologize if you, like Nicki Minaj, have a friend’s cousin who was kidnapped from the underwear section at Target. Truly, I do. 

Enjoy your shopping. 

What a horrible thing to wake up to

After my first trip to the bathroom last night, I returned to bed and was dozing off to the sight of our dog Lucy snuggled up tight in Cara’s arms. And then I heard this. (Turn your sound up.)

I think it was a fox. There’s an outside chance it could be a mountain lion. They both make wretched sounds at night, the sort of thing that makes your sphincter clinch. Noises that make it easy to see where early horror stories originated. I’ll tell you this, if I was a pioneer back in the day, or Native American before then, and had to listen to this at night without the benefit of being on the second floor of a house with nice sturdy walls, I might have just thrown myself in a river rather than try to sleep through that every night.

And the audio here doesn’t remotely do it justice. Whatever it was was off to the southwest, but it sounded like it was right outside the window — right outside all the windows.

Special bonus track: If you listen really closely, you’ll hear an elk right around the 16-second mark. It was off to the north somewhere.