There is a pink monkey arm sitting on my desk.

One of my college creative writing teachers used to challenge us with a daily exercise that I still try to occasionally use.  (For you young whippersnappers out there – yes, I still remember those days – I’m not as old as you think.)  She would have us look at our desks, find the first thing that didn’t seem to belong, and write about it.  Now since my desk has everything from art supplies, to technical accessories, to tools and sewing materials, finding something out of place is a little more challenging.  However, there is one item that really doesn’t belong – the pink monkey arm.

Now, for all my animal loving friends, you know me well enough to realize that this isn’t a real monkey arm.  I have six cats, one dog, a fish named Clem, and a visiting puppy – so there is no way I would have a real monkey arm on my desk.  Nope!  This one belongs (belonged?) to a pink furry dog toy.  Since it arrived at our house, it has been very neatly amputated from the rest of the monkey and became a toy independent of its original owner.

In truth, there are a lot of disemboweled, dismantled, disarticulated (like that word – I just had to use it somehow), unstuffed, unhinged, and just plain undone stuffed animals in our house.  Our pit bull, Victor, is a lover of all things soft, furry, and filled with fluff.  Fortunately, he is smart enough to know the difference between a stuffed toy and his kitty friends. For one thing, the kitty friends fight back when they are done being carried around in his mouth.  Oh, don’t worry, they are never in danger from him – trust me, he is ruled by the cats.

It’s possible that what you know about pit bulls you have learned from the cruel, horrible, nasty, mean, may-they-be-strung-up-by-their-nether-parts until the auto-flush toilet apocalypse* dog fighting promoters. Let me try and change your mind by formally introducing you to Victor, our four year old pit bull.  The designation “pit bull” actually refers to more than one breed.  Pit bull breeds share certain physical characteristics and were originally a cross breed between mastiff type dogs and terriers – giving them the speed and strength to take down a bull or bear (not something we really need on a daily basis now.)  This also gave them both the intelligence and the desire to please that makes them the perfect animal for those cruel, horrible, nasty, mean, may-they-be-strung-up-by-their-nether-parts until the auto-flush toilet apocalypse* dog fighting trainers to use in their cruel, horrible, nasty, mean, may-anyone-attending-be-strung-up-by-their-nether-parts until the auto-flush toilet apocalypse* dog fights.  Victor is proof of this.  All he wants to do is please you.  His is not, nor ever has been a fighting dog.  We adopted him from a pit bull rescue out of Delaware (Faithful Friends Adoptions) when he was a puppy.  Our older dog had just passed and our remaining dog, Mela, was in need of a new friend.

Victor was sent home with his little blue blankey that had been in the kennel with him.  It has since been tattered and torn, but still a few hearty pieces, tied into knots, remain.  When we got him home, he was so small that he could be batted around the floor by Yasashii (an 8 pound cat when wet.)  In fact, it was a favorite game for both of them. Now Victor does the batting, but Yasashii is still very much in control.  Somewhere along the way, he started finding little stuffed toys around the house and would bring them to us.  He will meet you at the door with two or three stuffed in his mouth, tail thumping on the floor loud enough to drive the band.  The phrase “get a toy” sends him running in circles to pick up as many as possible.  He then proceeds to shove them at you with his mouth, all sloppy and wet, until the side of your leg is equally sloppy and wet.  The more he likes you, the more toys go into the mouth, the more you need a shower just to clean the slop.  (But oh, I do love it so!)  Over the years, the toys have become so tattered they are just remnants of their former furry shapes – identifiable only by color or a distinctive ear or limb.  Things now brings us full circle to the pink monkey arm sitting on my desk.

I learned a valuable lesson with that arm.  No matter how sweet, intelligent, or docile an animal is, if you play tug with a pink monkey toy, whatever you do next, do not (I repeat DO NOT) put the cleanly amputated pink monkey arm on your finger and pretend it is a puppet.  You may find you have a very cleanly amputated pink finger to sit on the desk next to the arm.  Lesson learned. Writing class is over.  Have a good day.

*See previous blog entry for more information on this inevitable coming.


Victor & Nutmeg


& Jasper


& Baby Bella


& Me


& Yasashii


& Gabi


& Mike


Yasashii, Gabi, & a Very Small Victor

Why do people cringe when I say I have a cunning plan?

I think I have finally arrived at the point in my life where I understand and accept that I am not a normal person. (I know this must come as a surprise to many of you.) I see the world the same way everyone else does, but somehow it’s translated differently in my brain. Information enters in the normal way, but then it’s twisted into a pretzel, braided into rope, tied into knots, cut apart, reattached, and then smoothed out with an iron. In doing so it becomes something entirely different. This is where my life diverges from the norm. This is also the moment when my cunning plan frequently becomes a harebrained scheme.

You might ask what the difference is between the two? Very simply, it’s the outcome. A cunning plan is eventually successful. A harebrained scheme often ends with expensive mistakes, band aids, multiple trips to the hardware, grocery, art, or computer store, and/or an eventual visit to the emergency room. I think a key to understanding the difference between the two also requires understanding how I came to see the world in this unique way.

For my view of the world, I thank my dad. He also sees things with different eyes. (We may be the only father/daughter team to have both fallen off a house roof. Not together, you understand, but years apart. (I’ll save that story for another time.) Dad has taught me how to look at something and really see the parts and not just the whole. It’s sort of the difference between seeing the forest or the trees. I see a problem and identify the issue instead of simply trying to find a solution. For example, if the problem is the can opener doesn’t work, the solution may be to get a new one. In my eyes, the can opener doesn’t work because the gears have rusted over time and use. My solution involved taking the can opener apart, cleaning the rust, sharpening the blades, oiling each part, and putting it back together. This outcome would qualify as a cunning plan. However, my outcome ended with doing each step again, and again, and a couples of steps a third time. It also involved cutting my finger with the knife I was using to scrape off the rust, slipping while sharpening the blade and putting a gash in my palm, losing the gasket that sits between the gears, needing to run to the hardware store for a new one, putting a butterfly bandage on the cut finger, using superglue to close the gash in my palm, and wiping up the oil I spilled (only after I slipped and found myself sitting on the floor). This categorizes it as a harebrained scheme. (In all fairness though, the can opener works great again.)

I live for the next cunning plan. I walk through stores looking at items and thinking about other ways they might be used. My coworkers think I have a doctorate in using ordinary items in unusual ways. Recently a cunning plan included oversized light bulbs from work, wire, semi-aquatic plants, expanding soil, lots of water, a grabber sort of thingy, a turkey baster, and ladybug shaped buttons from a kid’s outfit. Put it all together and you have a hanging terrarium! Voila! A successful cunning plan.

As I sit here thinking, I am struggling to remember my last harebrained scheme. Is it possible I have blocked it from my mind? I have an ace bandage wrapped around my left wrist that attests to the fact that something went wrong lately. I believe that involved new roller blades, three beers, 11:30 at night and our pit bull looking down at me from the chair as I landed on the floor. (His tail thumping rapidly showed he thought it was a great cunning plan.) At any rate, I am fortunate to have a partner who is willing to put up with my harebrained schemes, put a stop to the more dangerous ones, and drive me to the hospital when I can’t do it myself.

Side note: Mike has learned the difference between a bad cut and a really bad cut. When her hears damn, ouch, shit, or other creative curse words – he knows to ignore me. When he hears hhhhhhu (sound of a quick inhalation of breath), he comes running. It’s a fine distinction, but an important one none the less.

Henry Ford once said, “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again – this time more intelligently.” I think I would like that on my tombstone. It’s better than, “She died a stupid death. If only she had used the ladder and not the set of stacked chairs.” Ah well, on to the next cunning plan.