girls doing dishes

I am not working so I’m pulling at this heavy, gold bedspread. It has a seam that needs to align with the top of the mattress. Once I heave that into place, I cram two pillows under one side of the fabric which folds back from the top. I do a lap to the other side of the king -sized bed and cram two more pillows under what I think is brocade but I don’t really even know.  The overall overwrought nature of the thing is nothing I would have voluntarily invited into my life. But I am not working. Therefore, it is mine to tug at.

There are some business-y things to do. But laundry left in the dryer seems more immediate so I fold it. After all, there is no arrival or departure time. Therefore, I am available to tidy up.

Lillian and Delilah have been romping around in their new waterfront yard. But they’re staring in the window now, wondering how I could possibly come home from my morning run, to this beautiful place and be crabby. Their puzzled little mugs at the window make me laugh and I let them in and feed them.

After that, I empty the dishwasher.  The pit in my stomach returns.

I’m stacking cups and I can feel the little black swirl forming over my head. I try to breathe it away. But it is determined. It sees the reality. It knows I am available. It knows that I am repulsed by my own being. It knows that I am becoming a housewife.

It’s dinner time and I’ve made us a healthy meal. I ask Jon about his day negotiating with real estate owners, sellers and buyers. He tells me what went on in the office. He makes it all seem easy.

He asks about my day. I wrote a few emails. A heron landed in the yard. The girls have been chasing bunnies. They ran circles around the pond then ambushed me when I walked out on the deck. I don’t like that gold brocade bedspread. I hear the words coming out of my mouth. How did I go from, “I interviewed Colin Powell today,” to doing play-by-play of my dogs’ antics?  I think that I am not the woman he fell in love with, nor am I the person I used to like.

How in God’s name could this have happened?

If I give myself a break for a second, I know exactly how it happened.

It happened like this. I was working on my own as a writer/producer, running my own company. I met Jon.  I had a weak financial moment and took a full time corporate job, rendering me unable to keep up my own business. Jon and I got engaged.  In just six months’ time the corporation decided to “go in another direction.” I went back to my own company, which now needs re-building.

We bought a house. Somewhere between combining households, planning a wedding and starting my business almost from scratch, I lost the person who once silenced a room full of Marines with a single phrase, the person who chased an ambassador through the lobby of an embassy, who – long ago – asked then-Senator John Edwards to declare his presidential aspirations to me, on camera. It was a Sunday and I was severely under-dressed. “C’mon, declare your candidacy to the girl in the shorts and the t-shirt,” I said. At least he laughed.

I pray that this house-wifing is only a phase.  If you were one of the people annoyed by the Hillary Clinton “stay home and bake cookies” comment, this probably irks you. But know this: I am very, very bad at baking cookies. House-wifing is just not me.

Colonel (ret.) Greg Gadson starts talking about stepping into the unknown.

I hear Greg say this because I am transcribing interviews I did with him and COL (ret.) Chuck Schretzman about their longtime friendship. About how Chuck supported Greg when he lost his legs in Iraq and now Greg is in the rock position, while Chuck learns to cope with a horrible diagnosis. I am typing and typing and it feels futile because this project – this supposed, eventual documentary – has no funding and few prospects. It is labor intensive with no promised reward. It is a great story. But we don’t know, exactly,  how it ends.

Greg talks about searching for a “waypoint,” following the loss of his legs.  Chuck calls his diagnosis an “opportunity” to say goodbye properly. To do it well. They each have received gifts, they say.

I reach down and scratch Lillian’s head. Delilah gives me her signature poke in the shin.  The typing makes me have to stretch my legs. I walk into the bedroom. The gold brocade has vanished.

My gifts, my opportunities, are more subtle, I decide. I have been given love. I have been given time. As I wrestle each to its unfamiliar core, I struggle to pin down the possibilities.

I go back to my desk, and settle into my own unknown.



It’s about fifteen degrees outside late on a Sunday afternoon and we’re giving the dogs a quick run in an open field behind the local high school.  We’re heading back to the car when both Lillian and Delilah run into the woods.

“Girls, come!” I yell, holding a chunk of cheese.

Lilah runs toward us immediately, but Lilly does not.  I call her again. I feel the cold metal parts of her leash burn into my fingers. The sun is close to setting.  It’s going to be a damned long, cold night’s search in the woods if she does not come back, I think.

And suddenly there she is, bounding toward us.

“She would have had to find us in the car,” Jon comments, reading only parts of my mind. I would never have returned to the car without her. Truth be told, he wouldn’t have either.

I may be the only person in the world who thinks the romantic comedy, “Must Love Dogs” wasn’t enough about the dogs. If the plot of the movie had been true to its title John Cusack would have fallen in love with Diane Lane and Mother Teresa, which was the name of the Newfoundland she was sitting. Mother Teresa needed a bigger role. Any single female dog owner knows this.

Lillian and Delilah have squatting rights, which have less to do with their potty training and more to do with their time in service.  It was they who kept me safe, loved and warm through many a lonely weekend. They are the ones I struggled to train. I am the one they struggled to teach.

Jon understands this.

Here is how I know:

One September evening, I was very late for our dinner date. There were several complications. I’d been delayed leaving work, there was an accident on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and I’d just had a dysfunctional sweat gland removed from the bottom of my foot, (yeah I didn’t know there were any there either) making it really uncomfortable to walk. All of this culminated in a plan for me to drive my Volkswagon to the top of the Naval Academy Bridge and pick up Jon, who had gone for a walk, rather than sit at the bar waiting.  As I pulled up he motioned me to get out. Which I did, under protest. It’s a busy bridge. But it’s a beautiful view.

We gazed for a minute over the Severn River and beyond, to our beloved Chesapeake Bay. Then Jon dropped to one knee and asked me to marry him. It wasn’t like this thunderbolt thing. It seemed a natural, wonderful step in our exciting new journey. The ring fit perfectly.




Happily coupled and full of our great news, we went on to a long celebration dinner, then home to call my mom.

But before I picked up the phone, there was one more thing Jon thought to do.

He reached into his bag and pulled out two collars, each embellished with a bit of bling. And he kneeled down and buckled them around each furry neck- Delilah in hottie red, Lillian in a sleek black number.

We are what Verizon refers to as a “bundle,” and what car sales people say “comes standard.” My girls are the batteries that are included. And we have gotten incredibly lucky.

So far this blog has been mostly about our encounters in dog parks, visiting elderly people, and generally getting into trouble. It’s been a lot about what my girls have taught me about other people and about myself. I’m counting on them through this next adventure.

Dogs and One Man in Particular

I’m leashing up the girls, who are dancing.  Lillian flails into the air like Eddie Van Halen while Delilah trots around the living room.  I work the clasp on Lilly’s collar, but it’s challenging because her tail is wagging her head. Delilah runs under the kitchen table. I coax her out while Lilly noses through the closet apparently choosing her morning pooh bag. I finally get them each assembled and head for the door. But I have a small pit in my stomach.  It’s been a while since I’ve done this alone.

Said the single girl.

I hate to suggest that my big bundles of hairy joy are anything other than angelic, but in the face of a squirrel, cat, or bunny neither voice- command nor leash is reliable. I worry that I can’t keep them entirely safe at worst -at best, at least out of trouble.  What works best is a one person per dog situation.

I’ve managed to duck this topic for a while.

I have a boyfriend.

His name is Jon.

He helps with the girls tremendously. He helps with my whole life tremendously.

It’s comforting. And it’s terrifying.

Because I think I may be losing my single girl life skills. I may be getting SOFT.

The girls and I had been a pretty tightly knit threesome for the better part of four years. We went to school, the park, on visits and occasionally, on dates together. And I managed. It was not always well-choreographed, but we generally got in and got out.

That rather sums up the way I’ve lived.  I purchased my home alone. I chose and paid for my automobiles by myself. When I turned 40 I went to Wyoming to see the Teton mountains, solo.

Now Jon and I are home shopping together. He helped me pick out Betty Blue Bug, my cute new Volkswagon.  He tends to make the travel arrangements – I pretty much just get in the car.

He makes everything so much easier. And still it’s so hard to let go.

What if I forget how to buy a home, purchase a car or get on an airplane by myself?  What if I forget how to be alone?

I’d become so good at filling my Sunday afternoons with single silhouette biking or kayaking. If I don’t have a friend at an event, I make one. I’m an expert at walking into parties unaccompanied.  I’ve fixed toilets, pumped out my flooded the crawl space and hunkered down in power outages with only Home Depot to back me up. I’d even convinced myself that my life was better that way.

One day last summer I was lamenting out loud my concerns not only about my hollowed out checking account, but my career which was swirling down the toilet.  Jon reached over and took my hand.

“I’m here,” he said quietly.

It was nice to hear, but honestly, how could I ever really expect another person to take me on.

Last weekend I had the occasion to visit the Emergency Room at Anne Arundel Medical Center, and then to spend about a day and a half in their care.

I’m fine.

Jon spent those 30 or so hours sitting in a chair in my room and running back and forth from the house to get me things and check on the girls.  About the first thing we did once I was sprung was “suit up” (Jon’s words) Lillian and Delilah and head out for some playtime. It was a beautiful day and we’d heard the Quiet Waters Park dog beach was re-opened.

Jon got ahead of me as we walked down the asphalt path, Lillian on one side, Delilah on the other, both spread the length of their leashes. He looked like a dog-plane. A happy, bouncing dog plane.  We stepped onto the beach where the girls started their sand spin, Lillian quick to violate the park boundaries and Delilah soon splashing in the stagnant seaweed.

We laughed and called them to us. They sweetly obeyed. I breathed in the South River air. And then. I let it go.

jon-with-girls-on-jetty                         Lillian and Delilah enjoying some bonding time with Pappa Jon.



I am not overweight. But I have potential.

I weeble between sizes, threatening to burst some, to swim luxuriously in others.

I am a triathlete. I exercise maniacally. This does not cause me to lose weight.

I struggle to understand how my thick-skinned, saddle-bagged, slightly paunchy and mostly menopausal body can fight off the need for a new wardrobe.

This just isn’t fair, I scream silently at the closet.

This evening we are getting ready to go to Hospice. I throw on a comfortable skirt. Lilly puts on her “Caring Canines” vest. Delilah dons her pink pirate collar, ready to stand look out. Both are trim and clean and cut like body builders. Sometimes I check under their bed for free weights.

Lilly and I chat with a bunch of folks outside, then head to the dementia wing. There are a few live ones in there tonight. There is one man who worked at the Department of Defense who clings to a notebook, babbling about filling out forms. He keeps pointing to lists of nonsensical things. I think, It’s not the dementia.

We make our way into the next room where we meet Ron. He shifts restlessly in his chair behind his tray table.
“Can you see the dog, Ron?” I ask.
Ron looks down, pleased. He reaches to pet her. He surveys her four, then my two.

And he says,
“You have some REALLY nice legs!”
“Oh, well, thank you, Ron.”
“Really HEALTHY looking! I bet you can really RUN on those.”
“Uh, well, I do run.”
“I bet you DO.”
“I like bike riding too,” I offer.
“Yeah, I bet you can REALLY get up those hills. I bet you can really PUMP up those hills!”

I laugh and we move on. We make a lot of folks giggle, Lilly passing out kisses and nosing about in crumb-carrying crevices.

Then, as we walk to the car I feel my stride. It is strong and bears the weight of determination and hope. It has held and trained 190 pounds of Ridgeback. It has climbed the mountain of network news, rounded the cones of overbearing bosses and skated to the edge of unemployment. It is entrepreneurial. It is resilient. It is aging and fighting and girlish and confident.

It is mine.