Throwback Thursday

March 17, 2009 — Saint Patrick’s Day

I spent a lot of my childhood growing up in a nicotine-stained bowling alley, and it was there that we found our dog. Dogs were common  at this particular bowling alley. Even the owner frequently brought “her babies” to work with her— two Miniature Schnauzers and a Scottish Terrier. So, it didn’t feel strange at all to see a Labrador pup on the counter one day, and it didn’t feel strange at all sliding him off the counter and walking out with him either.

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Admittedly, I tried calling my mother before I chose the pup, but she wasn’t answering her cell phone. (This was a pretty normal occurrence, too.) I called her boyfriend, Steve, to see if they were together, but they weren’t. When I told him that I was about to be a new dog owner, he laughed and said: “It’s better to ask for forgiveness than for permission.”

My friend, Summer, and I sat in a truckbed drinking sweet tea from large Styrofoam cups and talking about names outside of the bowling alley. We made a diamond with our legs and let the pup play between us. Mostly, he just slept. The street lights hissed a brownish gold, and we could hear the men smoking outside the bowling alley door threatening and laughing at each other.

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I wondered then what this pup would be like when he grew old. I wondered if he would be like my family, become like us, strangely attached to our anger and pride and fear. I watched the sunlight drag across the pavement and wondered then too what it was like to take a child from a mother you’ve never seen.

Women (and Dogs) in Secularism III

I am finally back from the Women in Secularism III conference. You check out photos from the conference over at Bruce F Press Photography. (I am in the background of several of these shots. See if you can find me!)

When first talking to some of my friends about the Women in Secularism conference, I noted how odd and exciting it was for me to be attending a conference unrelated to literature or creative writing. One friend said, “Well, really, it’s all about finding your people.” To say the least, the women present at this conference were definitely my kind of peIMG_20140522_182447ople.

In addition to thought-provoking panels and discussions, there was unsurprisingly a dog presence at the conference.

Amy Davis Roth, owner of Surly-Ramics, spoke on multiple panels and sold some of her necklaces in the storeroom. She makes ceramic necklaces that feature science-orientated subjects among other topics. I bought a dog necklace (pictured above) and later found out that she even does custom pet designs over at her Etsy shop. Her jewelry features messages like “Think” and “This is what a humanist looks like” or art prints of microscopes, organic matter, fossils, atoms, space, Darwin illustrations, depictions of iconic artists, and more. Her jewelry and ceramics are the perfect gift for the pro-science advocate.

I couldn’t get over Amy’s inviting and vibrant personality. See, here is a photo of Amy measuring her personality:

panel1Source: Bruce F Press Photography (Panelists, left to right)
Melody Hensley, Amy Davis Roth, Amanda Knief, and Debbie Goddard

It’s huge!

Feel free to browse around her Etsy Shop, Surly, to look over her products, talent, and pricing. If you want to check out some of Amy’s paintings, you can read this article at Mad Art Lab that talks about her exhibit at the American Atheist Art Show.

Another inspiring speaker, Amanda Knief, was present at the conference with her dog, Sagan. (Carl Sagan fans, unite!)

Sagan12Source: Amanda Knief’s Twitter Account

Knief and Sagan were championing the table for American Atheists at the conference where Knief works as managing director. Come to find out, the American Atheists’ 2015 National Convention is in my back yard Memphis, Tennessee. The conference is scheduled from April 3-5, 2015 at the Peabody Hotel, and you can bet that I will be in attendance.

I will post more soon about the conference, which was an overload of inspiration. For now, I am going to settle in with a copy of Bright-Sided by Barbara Ehrenreich, another speaker present at the conference, and get ready to grill out some steaks. The Women in Secularism III conference was the perfect beginning to my summer.

A Winter Passing

I have been taking an informal break from blogging and answering questions recently.

In the last month, I learned that one of my dogs had died. The news hit me heavier than I would care to admit. I know I have mentioned my dog and shared photos of Bandit before (x). I took this particular photograph before setting out on the cold, bright morning of our last walk together:

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I have thought deeply about our last walk, tried to recall what thoughts burdened my mind that day or what birds we saw in passing, but I can’t seem to remember anymore.

During his final years, Bandit contracted pneumonia. He never fully recovered and stayed on regular medication during winter months. He also seemed to have arthritis though it was never formally diagnosed by a veterinarian. We watched him age in ways of peace. We watched him stop chasing cars and youth. Australian Shepherds, a bloodline of herders, the working cattle dog and time-honored instinct to nip ankles, a dog who could have defeated Achilles. We watched him shepherd closer to home as a porch dog in the autumn of life. My father told me Bandit died in his sleep on a Friday.

The sadness of Bandit’s death has hit me in different degrees. He was always a vocal dog. Bandit would howl at the sirens of ambulances veering down a distant road. He would say his version of I love you and pull back his teeth to smile, writhing all over, exposing both gum and chipped tooth, upon our arrival home. Bandit looked terrifying when he did this, and his mimicry made us  laugh more than anything else. For the first few nights after his death, I listened to the sirens in Clarksville and remembered his shameless howl. Even now, alone in my apartment, I struggle to write about Bandit, his adventures, and the all too familiar sentiment that it is hard to lose a friend.

I’ll close this entry, my study of grief, with what I think is whispered too often or sometimes not enough. A familiar phrase said across the living room couch during the night with my hand buried in the dark fur of his back: Lie down, lie down.

Question: Cats vs. Dogs

[Dog-faced Atheist] Ask
I think it’s surprising that you consider yourself more of a dog person than a cat person. Why is this?

My love for dogs defies most logic. When I was younger, I was severely injured by a Shetland Sheepdog, but never developed a fear involving the animal. I think there are several things about dogs that people could stand to learn from, e.g. selflessness, perspective, and so forth. It’s all been said before. During workshops and discussion, I often slip into speaking about dogs in relation to writing and literature. Maybe it’s the Chekhov in me.

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I have owned cats over the years, and I like them equally. (I am particularly fond of manx.) One of my favorite writers, Haruki Murakami, has featured cats throughout the body of his work. For an example or solid read, check out his available short story “Town of Cats” in The New Yorker.

As far as my personality goes, I would presumably be placed in the category of a “cat person.” Stoic, introvert, intellectual, quiet, et al. Dogs, however, are good for people like me. They pull me away from isolation. They provide an excuse to go outdoors and become more visible. Have you ever thought about how walking alone has developed into a suspicious activity or signal for concern? (Cue: unavoidable damsel in distress analogy.) Frequently, if I am walking by myself, someone will pull over/stop, question what I am doing, if my car has broken down, etc. If I am with a dog or group of dogs, whether leashed or not, the activity becomes entirely normal. Just a walk in the evening.

Though I remain a skeptic by large of communities and their surrounding ideologies (a trait Murakami and I share), I am a person who believes in community and its inherent value to survival. Dogs push me further in that direction. As far as mental health is concerned, dogs are like a type of medicine or as writer Mindy Friddle would say “grump antidotes.”

Q&A Session

Apologies to anyone who has submitted a question to my ask box. For the past couple of months, I was under the false impression that I would receive a notification if anyone chose to write and send me a question. In the coming week, I am going to attempt answering the accumulated questions. (There aren’t many.) If you would like to add  to my available content, please feel free to take a moment and submit a question.

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Bandit pleads the fifth.

As long as the questions are appropriate and relevant to the content of my blog, I will try working through a thoughtful response. Remember: I stick to blogging about writing, dogs, and atheism. While I am interested in theological concerns and discussions, all the current questions in my ask box pertain primarily to atheist’s response. I would love to see some questions about writing, dogs, or other correlating topics.

Click here to access my ask box. All submissions have the option to remain anonymous. Thank you, dog-faced readers!

Eat Hats

Happy Christmas, bloggers!

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This morning, I went walking with the dogs and tried to take some photos of them in a Santa hat, because I thought it might be cute or something. You know, good for the ol’ social networking scene. Talk about a bad idea. We had this problem where the white, fluffy end of the Santa hat looked like a toy ball, and that was just too exciting for those three to handle. To say the least, the hat was destroyed. Next year, I will try some antlers and see if that’s a better fit.

How were your holidays? Any favorite gifts? Dog shenanigans?

Positivity Week: Day 5 and 6

Positivity Week Prompt

Day 5: Your Impact
What positive impact (or impacts) do you hope to leave behind when you go? Do you hope that positive impacts you leave behind will change the world for the better?

Growing up, I felt continually oppressed in East Tennessee. I carry the suffering of place with me everywhere I go, but I do not have active plans to change the social landscape there.

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National Cemetery by Natalie
Greeneville, Tennessee

What makes an act eternal? The generation or articulation of new thought, creation of an outlet, and/or reduction of suffering? I am an inherently selfish person, but I long to act in meaningful ways. I do not know if I will ever impact the place where I grew up, and I think to theorize on this possibility suggests a willingness to adhere to the philosophy of determinism.

This past summer, I worked and taught playwriting at the Appalachian Young Writers’ Program at LMU. I am not sure if I impacted someone during my time there, but I know the impact such organizations have had on me. I may one day change the mountains of East Tennessee, but for now, I will exist within the act of throwing stones.

Day 6: Something Funny
Share what makes you laugh. And I mean, really laugh to the point where your face hurts, your stomach hurts and you’re crying. There is nothing better than a good laugh.

Basset Hounds are the silliest dogs in the world. They are basically the floppy, depressed versions of Corgis. The Eeyores of the dog world. I love their long ears, thick paws, and layers of love. (Layers of love being just another way to talk about wrinkles.)

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Photo by Rob Carr

Ever see a Basset Hound run or look at one of their “beauty shots” from dog shows? It’s absurd. Too much.

The first dog I ever wanted was a Basset Hound. Later, I would live across the road from a family who owned one named Flash. The hilarity of his name only increased when the family bought a sleek Weimaraner, who would occasionally trample or hurdle Flash during his pursuits. From my window, I would watch Flash leisurely walk up and down the side of the street and laugh. Sometimes, Flash would start trailing a scent and run into a mailbox or bicycle.

Basset Hounds are loud, messy, gassy dogs, and they make me smile.