Tag Archives: Chuck Dog Fluffy Pants

Christmas Card 2012

Every year since 2000, our Christmas card photo has involved a statue wearing a Santa hat. The first eleven photos are here. Last year’s photo is here.

We took the 2012 photo during our Thanksgiving trip to Erie, where the world’s best Christmas card statue lives. I don’t see how we can possibly top this one. Because nothing says “Merry Christmas” like Jesus in a Santa hat. Nothing says “I’m going to hell” like the cursing I did in front of Jesus when I realized I’d forgotten the wireless remote for the camera (the photo shoot can’t go smoothly, it’s part of the tradition).

My brother-in-law doesn’t believe this is Jesus. He’s convinced it’s Copernicus. But I assure you, there is a statue of Jesus at Gannon University and we put a Santa hat on it. I’m a little disturbed that my brother-in-law thinks we are weird enough to put a Santa hat on Copernicus, but lie and say it’s Jesus. But now I feel the need to find a statue of Copernicus for a future photo.

Santa hat difficulty: easy, except for the arctic wind that kept blowing the hat off Jesus’ head.


We gonna party like it’s your birthday.

Breaking My Stride

I knew what I wanted. I had pictured tears of relief and pride at the finish line of my first half marathon, but my eyes stayed dry. My words were salty instead. “If I ever talk about doing that again, punch me in the face.”

I also muttered obscenities regarding the measurement accuracy of the infinite last tenth of a mile. Several of my toes burned, a painful reminder of my idiotic decision to walk on the beach in my running shoes the day before.

But mostly, I felt an exhaustion that said, two hours, 34 minutes, and 27 seconds is too long to do anything not involving popcorn or a horizontal position. I didn’t want to quit running, but I wanted to be faster, to release my inner cheetah. While I’d never run a pace even close, I set a goal of a 30-minute 5K.

On my speed-work days, I worried my inner cheetah was a tortoise. But the race I’d chosen was perfect:  on the trail where I usually run, night-owl friendly start time (11:30am!), and fall weather (I’m a delicate flower).

Keeping my pace felt effortless the entire first half. At the turnaround point, I thought, I have this. Then I learned something new about my trail. It’s not completely flat. The second mile and a half was all uphill. I’d never noticed the incline before, but pushing this foreign pace made it obvious.

Running began to feel like wading through mud. I wondered if I’d be able to finish, let alone beat my goal time. As I wrestled with myself, I noticed my husband on the side of the trail, my dog sitting at his side. I hadn’t expected to see them until the finish line. Chuck’s tail started wagging when he saw me approach. I felt a burst of adrenaline and my pace quickened. I prepared to give them a wave as I passed. I had no time to spare.

Then Chuck darted right into my path, plopped himself down, and looked up expectantly at me for the obligatory doting.

Although I did have to slow down to avoid crushing my dog, I didn’t have to stop, shouldn’t have stopped. But I couldn’t resist my fluffy muffin.

I missed my goal by 28 seconds. I like to blame it on Chuck. He broke-a my stride.


Seriously, could you resist that face?

This post was inspired by the RemembeRED writing prompt: to write, in 400 words or less, about an unfulfilled goal beginning with the words, “I knew what I wanted.”

I’ve run four more 5K races since Chuck’s anti-Matthew Wilder interference and the trend is going in the wrong direction. I bought Run Less, Run Faster since I want to run faster and I can also totally get behind running less. I’m hoping it helps.

Write on Edge: RemembeRED

Photo Friday: Christmas Card 2011

Last week, I shared our previous Christmas card photos. This year, I wanted:

  • an easy statue for Santa hat purposes (so our runner-up will have to wait until a year I feel like packing a gopher grabber and a step stool),
  • a short commute (so the perfect statue in Erie was out of the question),
  • not to get mugged or worse (actually, I want this every year. Sorry Baltimore, but “Homicide: Life on the Street” was set there for a reason–when the first page of Google results about our statue of interest in Baltimore includes an article about a stabbing in broad daylight nearby, that means no).

So we went back to the scene of 2008. Across the street from Winston Churchill is the Kahlil Gibran Memorial Garden. The statue is a bust so it was easily accessible for the hat. He also has some special meaning for us…sort of. We had planned to use “On Marriage” from The Prophet at our wedding. We thought we liked the message (which seemed to be about avoiding the fate of the Beautiful South song “We Are Each Other.”) We thought the officiant would bring it and he thought we would bring it. Wedding FAIL. I wonder if Gibran wrote something “On Stupidity.”

It was probably just as well, as a more recent read made me giggle like a 12-year-old:

    “Fill each other’s cup, but drink not from one cup.”

This is good advice, I hate sharing.

    “Give one another of your bread, but eat not from the same loaf.”

Now this just seems inefficient and wasteful, a married couple should easily be able to share a single loaf of bread.

    “Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each of you be alone,
    Even as the strings of a lute played by Sting irritate Tracy.”

OK I made that part about Sting up. It’s actually “Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.”

    “Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.
    For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.”

Huh. I would have thought only the heart containers in the Legend of Zelda can contain your hearts.

    “And stand together yet not too near together:
    For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
    And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.”

And the trees are all kept equal by hatchet, axe, and saw!

My apologies to Mr. Gibran. His words on marriage are still lovely, but I’m done berating myself for not thinking to bring them to our wedding.

Hopefully he will forgive me for poking fun and for placing a Santa hat on his bust at his Memorial Garden. Various of his quotes are engraved at the Memorial site and my favorite was:

“That which sings and contemplates in you is still dwelling within the bounds of that first moment which scattered the stars into space.”

Whoa, I think he understood Einstein’s theory of time considerably better than I did.



Photo Friday: Christmas Card Retrospective

It’s the holiday season (so whoop-dee-doo and hickory dock) which means I’m down to one blog post a week. I haven’t run since Saturday either. Merry Christmas!

Our annual Christmas card photo shoot is a wrap, but it seems a little early to post it. So this week, I thought I’d share the history of our little tradition. Are you ready for 11 years of Christmas card photos?

Living in the D.C. metro area, there are shitloads of cool statues and I suggested we include a picture of us with a different statue in our Christmas cards each year. Dave suggested putting a Santa hat on the statue’s head. Brilliant. Let’s do this thing!

2000 – Fala

Fala is my all-time favorite presidential pet. He’s probably in my top five favorite dogs ever. Love him. When the FDR Memorial opened, I visited with a friend who kept going on about FDR and his four terms and bandying about phrases like “our greatest president,” and I was all, “Look! Doggy!” Sorry, Mr. President, but your dog is the best part of your memorial.

Santa hat difficulty: easy

2001 – Albert Einstein

This statue, outside the National Academy of Sciences, is awesome. And you are supposed to climb all over it. Also great because Dave’s a physicist and because as we all know, Einstein was never wrong. This was the first time I remember creating a little scene with our photo shoot (think this was the year some bystanders asked to us to borrow our hat so they could take a picture with Einstein-Santa too).

Santa hat difficulty: slightly challenging

2002 – Party Animals

This was the only year we did the photo shoot during summer. And since we were traipsing all over the city taking pictures of this public art project anyway (there were 100 elephants and 100 donkeys), we decided to take and use multiple shots. Here are a couple of favorites.

Santa hat difficulty: easy

2003 – Kermit

This statue was our first outside D.C. Kermit is actually part of the Jim Henson Memorial at the University of Maryland in College Park. We took many shots with us and the whole statue, but the best, by far, were of us and Kermit. Sorry, Jim. This year is my favorite.

Santa hat difficulty: easy

2004 – George Mason

Who’s a fluffy muffin? This was our first Christmas with Chuck. Chuck is the prettiest member of our family, but he’s not always the most cooperative model. This year also marked our switch from film to digital. I had never heard of George Mason before moving to Virginia. But down here, everything is named after him (if it isn’t named after Lee).

Santa hat difficulty: easy

2005 – Screw Propeller Guy (John Ericsson)

Dave started pitching the “Screw Propeller Guy” as an option right after Fala. I held Dave off as long as possible, because a.) who the hell was going to care about Screw Propeller Guy and b.) I wasn’t sure we could do it. I couldn’t come up with a better idea in 2005, so Screw Propeller Guy it was! Getting up to his level was interesting. We learned Chuck doesn’t like to be picked up.

Santa hat difficulty: challenging

2006 – Teddy Roosevelt

We had Teddy on our radar for years and actually visited his island several times to practice. He’s pretty fucking big. Had to Photoshop the hat and it was so painful I vowed never to do that again. Decree: all future statue heads must be theoretically reachable by tall husband, possibly with gopher grabbing device and step stool assistance. This was our depth of field masterpiece. Getting statue and us all in focus would be a nightmare every year after.

Santa hat difficulty: impossible

2007 – The Awakening

We took this mere months before this statue was moved from Hains Point in D.C. to National Harbor in Maryland, which might as well be the moon given how inconveniently located it is. So I’m glad we fit this in while the statue was still in the city. I hated all of the shots of us with the head. I loved the hand shot, but that didn’t convey the statue. So this was the only year we printed a double-photo card.

Santa hat difficulty: easy

2008 – Winston Churchill

Mr. Churchill stands astride the boundary between U.S. property and the British Embassy. So I felt reasonably assured the British wouldn’t come running out with guns when we stuck a Santa hat on Mr. Churchill’s head. Of the many photos we took, Dave, Chuck, and I were in focus in exactly none of them. I took the best shot and did my best to sharpen us in Photoshop.

Santa hat difficulty: moderately challenging

2009 – Charles Buls

Our first international entry! We took the Santa hat and a mini tripod (explaining the awkward angle for this one) on our trip to Belgium. The only bummer is that Chuck couldn’t be in it. Buls was a former mayor of Brussels and there is a dog with him but it’s very hard to tell from this weird angle and once you see the dog it sort of looks like he’s humping the mayor’s leg. Oops.

Santa hat difficulty: technically easy, but pretty embarrassing (some older Belgian ladies seemed amused by us)

2010 – George Washington

We took this while visiting my family last Thanksgiving. The statue is next to the Eagle Hotel in Waterford, PA. I had always thought this was the only statue of Washington wearing a British uniform but I just found something arguing he’s actually in the militia uniform of Virginia. Whatever, he’s carrying out a British order, so there. 

Santa hat difficulty: challenging

2011 – ?????


Care to make a guess about this year’s Christmas card photo subject? Hints: he’s in D.C. and is very close to a previous subject.

I’d love to hear any suggestions for photos in the D.C. area or elsewhere (I’m still kicking myself that we didn’t do Jimi Hendrix while on vacation in Seattle). Tune in next Friday for our 2011 photo and holiday greeting.

Photo Friday: National Family Pajama Night

Flipping through the Company Store catalog a few weeks ago, the picture below caught my eye, along with an explanation of “National Family Pajama Night.”

The text said, “The best memories are often the ones where your child reminds you of those special moments long after the original smiles and laughter. This fall, plan a special night for your family creating new memories on National Family Pajama Night. Saturday, November 19th, 2011.”

I don’t think we are the family the Company Store had in mind.

Yeah, special moments with your child, blah, blah, blah. Whatever, look at the cute golden retriever. Wearing PJs.

National Family Pajama Night was on! We were going to make some mother fucking memories up in here.

I briefly considered ordering a matching set of family PJs, as the Company Store clearly intended. However, Dave and I couldn’t agree on a style and Dave also gingerly reminded me of the incongruity of my wish to retire early and the purchase of new, matching PJs when we already own PJs. Well, except Chuck. So we ordered doggy PJs for Chuck. Besides the joy of dressing Chuck in PJs, why was I so excited about this event?

National Family Pajama Night would give me an excuse not just to stay at home and cocoon as is my preference (logy means sluggish, after all), but to celebrate it. We weren’t just going to stay in and lie on the couch watching TV, as usual. Oh no! We were going to rock the staying in: wearing comfy PJs, renting a movie, eating popcorn and homemade two-batter brownies. Slumber party, y’all!

I “liked” National Family Pajama Night on Facebook and checked out the daily “memory-maker” ideas. I briefly considered fort building, but then decided our couch is a perfectly good fort as is. We opted out of the homemade play-doh making and playful puppet show as well.

We started off with a photo session, documenting Chuck’s angst. I should probably feel guilty about this, but I giggled the entire time. What good is having a dog if you can’t use him for entertainment?

I needed to step in and stuff Chuck into those PJs. We followed the Company Store’s sizing chart, but they obviously didn’t account for Chuck’s generous circumference. He’s pretty busty, just like his Mama. He’s a brick house, as I like to sing to him. Chuck looked like an adorable sausage for the 3 minutes we made him wear the PJs.

Our first choice of pre-movie cartoon warm-up (Charlie Brown Thanksgiving) was blocked on streaming video, but we made do with Aqua Teen Hunger Force on DVD. Then we watched Blue Valentine and ate brownies. I’d like to provide a deep, insightful review of the film, but I never really got over the first few minutes. Someone really should have warned me about the dog. Seriously, I didn’t give a shit what happened to anybody after that.

Recipe and pictures of the two batter/Twix-studded brownies coming soon.

Photo/Video Friday: Water

I’m still mourning my beach vacation.

For some reason mini golf seems very decadent to me, maybe because it’s such a useless activity. You know we had excess leisure time available because we played mini golf not once, but twice. The second time was on this cool (although completely mosquito infested) real grass course. I beat Dave both times. I felt proud of this achievement and started to think I should take up golf in my retirement. But when I mentioned my victories in an email to my father-in-law, he didn’t allow me to savor my triumph very long (“anyone can beat Dave at golf!!!”).

I managed to run a couple of times. I ran right on the beach, which I’ve never done before. It felt noticeably more difficult, but the view made up for it. I was very amused by what my Garmin running watch portrayed as my running route when I uploaded my information. Having added running on water to my resume, maybe my dream job can be founder of an independent religious movement.

I got a glorious amount of sleep during the vacation. Sadly, the solid eight or more hours a night didn’t seem to make much of a dent in my sleep deprivation.

Our house was on the ocean side of the Outer Banks, so each night I thought about getting up to take sunrise pictures. Each morning I rolled over to find the sun shining right in my eyes. Oops. So the sunrise photo shoot was the morning we left. The results were just OK. I’d hoped the sunrise would be as pretty as sunsets are. I mean, aren’t they the same thing in reverse?

I wasn’t super impressed. I don’t think the lack of clouds in the sky helped, as it was just a sea of orange with nothing breaking it up. But since I hauled my ass out of bed before the crack of dawn and burned my retinas (and probably my camera lens too) for this, I’m sharing one of the pictures. I like it because it looks kind of creepy.

What I enjoyed most about our week away was walking on the beach together. Chuck had never been to the ocean before, and I don’t know how many more chances we’ll get to take him. It kept reminding me of that Little House on the Prairie episode (“The Odyssey“) where Laura and Albert take off on a cross-country journey to California with some dying kid who you’ve never seen before this episode even though there are only 15 people in Walnut Grove (red shirt!) so he can see the ocean before he dies. Don’t think I didn’t cry when I watched the video of the last scene linked above.

Lastly, Chuck is not a water dog and it is very cute.

Photo Friday: Vacation!

The schmaltz around this here blog surrounding Dave’s birthday and our anniversary has gotten pretty thick. But I can’t help myself, I’m writing about Dave again. Don’t worry, this is quick and not schmaltzy.

We went on vacation last week and I couldn’t believe the difference in our packing lists. Prize (the No Shit Award) for first correct guess as to which one is Dave’s…

No seriously, check out Dave’s packing list.

When I saw it, I couldn’t help but wonder aloud, “Are you still working on this?” Nope, he was done. I wish I could be as carefree as “yep, just need some ‘sox’ and my guitar and I’m all set.” Instead, I agonize over whether we are forgetting anything. Say, for example, Dave’s toothbrush, which somehow didn’t make his list.

Since these are lame photos and since our vacation was wonderful and worth documenting, here is our little family self-portrait at the beach. I wasn’t going to bother trying to get a shot of all three of us, but then was inspired on our last night by the enormous family (at least I assumed they were family because there is no excuse for the matching outfits otherwise) doing a self-portrait at sunset. Can’t tell you how many tries this took. We really suck at self-portraits. My camera doesn’t seem to want to focus on us. And trying to get Chuck to look at the camera when we are behind him is always fun. At some point, in my haste to get into position after setting the timer, I accidentally slammed my knee down on the sand way. too. hard. What a great photo that was.

Where’s your favorite vacation spot? First week back after vacation’s a bitch, no? Any ideas for easing back in more smoothly, because I seriously want to run to the hills and not come back?

Photo Friday: Vaseline Glass

When we were in Ohio in June, the menfolk in Dave’s family spent a day golfing at their annual tournament (the winner receives a trophy depicting a golfer and a toilet and is expected to display it proudly). During the golf tournament, I tagged along with the ladies for a trip to the Tiffin Glass Museum.

The Museum displays vintage pieces in one room and items for sale in a small adjacent room. Luckily for my wallet, the pieces I liked most were all in the “not for sale” part of the Museum. Tiffin Glass was one of the producers of color-changing “Neodymium glass,” which they unfortunately called “twilight,” even though it has nothing to do with 100-year old vampires living as teenagers. Twilight glass changes color under different light. The museum docent demonstrated that twilight glass looks lavender under incandescent light and ice blue under fluorescent light. He told us people used to buy it thinking it was blue because most stores use fluorescent light and then be upset when they got their piece home and found it to be lavender. 

But there was another, even cooler, dual-colored glass there. Vaseline glass looks yellow normally, but turns neon green under black light because it contains uranium. Although my sister-in-law was disappointed to find out that the vaseline glass salt cellars she wanted to buy weren’t actually made by Tiffin Glass, she decided to get two anyway.

In the car on the way home she read the tag on the glass and said that the manufacturer (Mosser Glass) was located in Cambridge, Ohio.

“That’s where Chuck came from!” I exclaimed.

“Well, then you should definitely have one of these,” my sister-in-law generously offered.

So that was really nice of her. I really should have just bought a piece of this glass myself, since I was so impressed with it. I was just stymied by the black light part. But I got a cheap little handheld black light and here are the photographic results!

Just my Canon Speedlite flash:
Vaseline Glass

Under black light:

Vaseline Glass Black Light

Chuck Dog Fluffy Pants

Seven years ago we adopted Chuck, my fluffy muffin. Since we don’t know when he was born, we celebrate his birthday on the anniversary of the day we brought him home.

I have always wanted a dog. But my Mom can’t stand to be around animals, which meant no dog for me. When Dave and I bought a townhouse after we got married, I thought I could finally get a dog. Wrong. Dave was against getting a dog. He worried our new house was too small and yard-less. Also there was that being responsible for another living creature thing.

My longing for a dog got so bad that I would sometimes cry if I saw a cute dog when we went out. I held firm. Dave simply needed to be convinced.

I had been looking at Petfinder for a couple of months already before Dave finally agreed to meet some dogs (“How convenient! I happen to already have a list of possible dogs!”) in 2004. All spring and summer, I searched, filled out applications, got friends to serve as references, and promised a kidney to various rescue groups and shelters. The requirements to adopt a dog here were unbelievably stringent. There were home visits.

I wanted cute and fluffy and for some reason cute and fluffy seemed to correlate with separation anxiety issues. We both work full-time. After months of rescue groups and shelters saying no way to our adopting the cute, the fluffy, the separation anxiety-ridden, and several meetings with dogs who could take or leave us, I finally found Chuck.

The pictures were poor quality, but in them the sun lit him from behind and he looked like a fluffy angel. Key phrases popped out from the description: “…barely tops 30 lbs (including the fluff)…beautiful brindle coat and thick mane…uniquely gorgeous….infectious smile…barely a year old…good humor…foster says “to know him is to love him”…excellent for a first-time dog owner…moderate energy…non-destructive…housebroken…no signs of any separation anxiety.”

I stayed up until 1AM filling out the application. When the woman who had rescued Chuck came over for the home visit, Chuck’s Foster Dad brought Chuck along too.

Chuck was charming. He seemed happy to meet us. He had clearly been learning to give paw, because he continually pawed at us while we pet him. It was super cute. He soaked in our attention like it was his job.

Dave is not a very demonstrative person. He was petting Chuck, but I couldn’t tell what he was thinking. I was relieved when the rescuer suggested we take Chuck on a quick walk to discuss things in private.

When Dave didn’t say anything, I asked, “What do you think?”

Quintessential Dave, he replied, “About what?”

“About Chuck,” I said with exasperation.

“Oh, I love Chuck!”

So it was settled. We were adopting Chuck.

When we first got him, we spent a lot of time staring at him, doting on him, and being blown away by how cute he was. I thought it was the newness of it, that we’d get over it. But we’re both still overwhelmed by how adorable he is at least once a day. When we’re out walking him, people often stop to comment. In fact, Chuck seems surprised when people pass him by without doting on him.

Even my Mom is a closeted Chuck fan. When we visited her last Christmas, I know she thought I couldn’t hear her, but I totally overheard her tell a friend on the phone that Chuck “is a beautiful dog.”

Over the years I have taken a boatload of Chuck pictures. Here are some of the best photos of our first seven years with Chuck. Happy birthday, Chuckle Puppy! We love you!

Photo Friday: Master Butcher

Our dog Chuck is made almost entirely of fluff. The summer months here are horribly uncomfortable even for those of us in the family not coated in fur, so we get Chuck a summer cut each year. Every single year I am heartbroken by the result, as the fluffier Chuck gets, the happier I am. But the groomer really outdid himself this year. I had no idea how little Chuck there actually was without fur, nor did I want to find out. It took three full days before I could even look at him without wanting to cry. He looks like his fur has been inexpertly Photoshopped off.

I keep trying to get a picture that adequately portrays the butchering of the fluff, but Chuck isn’t cooperating. This picture isn’t great, but at least he looks appropriately miserable.