I hate Chihuahuas. So I got one.

Chihuahuas are snippy, arrogant, loud, spastic, mean dogs. All they do is lounge on laps and bite people. But I fell in love with a little dog at the pound and was amazed when I discovered she was a Chihuahua.

We had mourned our Boxer dog for several months and felt ready for a new puppy. This time we decided to get a smaller dog so our daughter, who has special needs, could have a friend and help care for the puppy. My husband and I went to the pound and took a fluffy, funny, terrier type dog for a walk, but the dog wouldn’t stop barking. Deciding against a dog who never shut-up, we found two bouncy, playful, long legged dogs in a pen. One of them seemed sweeter than the other, so we took her out for a walk. The poor girl was so timid she didn’t know how to walk and insisted on being held the entire time we were outside. I wasn’t sure about this dog, but there was something about her that encouraged me to give her a try. The pound thought she was a terrier mix with “some Chihuahua.”

We adopted her and two days later I brought her to the vet for a check up. “What kind of dog is she?” I asked.

“She’s a Deer Chihuahua,” the veterinarian said.

“A what?” Did she actually say my new dog was a Chihuahua?

Deer Chihuahua. Image from the Central California SPCA

A Deer Chihuahua is a larger type of Chihuahua with long, deer like legs, long face and large ear. They are considered closer to the original size of the breed, even though they’re not as popular as the tiny, Tea Cup or Apple Headed Chihuahuas. In fact, Deer Legged are not allowed in dog shows or wanted by breeders. The Deer Chihuahua is the sweeter of the breed, with friendly, playful dispositions and boundless energy.

My friends think it’s hysterical I own a Chihuahua. I can’t help but laugh too. Me, lover of Boxers and other large breeds, scoffer of tiny dogs in purses and anything else Paris Hilton does, owns a Chihuahua. My daughter is delighted, and even my husband who dreams of owning a Great Dane is enraptured with our cuddly, goofy puppy. We named her Novella.

Novella is about 1 years old, but already has had a litter. She was a stray the pound picked up and from the looks of her, she probably escaped a “puppy mill.” Animal Shelters are full of Chihuahuas because people think they’re adorable little dolls, but when those dolls pee in the house or nip someone’s fingers they get dumped. Because Novella is the long legged Chihuahua and not the tiny type of her breed, she was probably not wanted by whoever bred her.

Happily, she’s settled in and no longer thinks she’s a lap dog. She’s a typical puppy, who right now is trying to eat the swing. Gotta go. There’s a torn up seat cushion flying across my yard.

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The Politics of Mardi Gras Beads

Not only was my trip to New Orleans during Mardi Gras fun and fascinating, it was also educational. I learned about hierarchy and power through the glorification of strands of beautiful, plastic, beads.

photo by Ronald Losure via Panaramio

Mardi Gras beads come with rules. The beads with the name of the Krew throwing them are more desirable than just plain beads, even if the plain beads are a more beautiful color. And the ones with medallions are even more valuable. People will brawl over a strand of gold beads with a Bacchus medallion. I kid you not. A woman gouged my hand with her long, lethal finger nails to snatch a strand of beads from me. But there is also a wild camaraderie in the crowds begging for beads and people will often congratulate you for  catching a good one. Someone draped with 20 pounds of beads is viewed with cheerful respect (25 pounds is not an exaggeration. Real Mardi Gras beads are heavy!). The Krews earn respect by the amount and variety of beads they throw.

The cost of those beads determines who gets to throw them. The wealthy can afford a seat on a float in a Krew while the poor either march in one of the marching bands or stand on the road begging for beads. Young, blond women get the most beads because most of the riders on the floats are wealthy, white men. Not all, and the Krews are becoming more egalitarian as times change in New Orleans. Sadly, I witnessed two young black girls, probably about 10, become heartbroken when they weren’t thrown beads like all the other, whiter children. I talked with their grandfather who explained how black people get fewer beads. He grew up in New Orleans and was now in his late 60’s; his entire family has dealt with the reality and now his granddaughters were feeling it first hand.

The power of the beads extends throughout the French Quarter. Bourbon Street is notorious for young women showing their breasts for strands of beads. This year, the police were writing tickets to anyone who bared her breasts, but women still did it. On one night, I stood on a balcony far above the chaos and watched the people beside me toss beads at partiers below. One young man had a huge strand of large beads and he waived it above the crowd like a fisherman waiving bait at a trout. A young girl stood below him and danced for the beads. He demanded she show her “tits”. She didn’t want to, but the young men she was with on the street coaxed and teased until she hesitantly lifted her shirt. Everyone cheered. The man on the balcony smiled and then tossed her a strand of thin, cheap beads, not the ones she had shown her boobs for. He laughed at her disappointed face. I turned to him and said, “Wow. You’re an asshole.” He called me a bitch. I walked away before I hit him with his giant strand of plastic beads.

The fight for beads was more intense this year because of the dockworker’s strike in Los Angeles. The city of New Orleans had ordered an extra shipment of beads from China, but the container holding millions of strands of beads was stuck in the LA harbor while the dockworkers and the port fought over a labor contract. That meant many of the people in the crowds were from other Krew’s hoping to fill up their bead stock before their parade the following day. No Krew wants to be known as stingy with beads. A group of women in matching yellow t-shirts held a large basket hoop with a box attachment to encourage bead throwers to aim for them. I was told they were from a rival Krew.

After four parades and numerous tours around “the Quarter” I had about 40 pounds of beads to haul home. I tried giving some away but was told by my husband (a native of New Orleans) “No!” Our beads were our booty, something to brag about and hang proudly in the window of our living room. The more you have, the better.

I wonder what will happen to the shipping container of beads now that Mardi Gras is over?

New Orleans at Mardi Gras is a Southern Gothic Tale in Technicolor

from Krew of Muses gallery

Why is New Orleans so beautiful? Because the city is unique, fascinating, tragic, dramatic, eccentric, violent, happy, upbeat, decrepit and alive. There isn’t a street in that entire city that doesn’t tell a story. The people who live there take pride in those stories, and want to tell their own. Hell, they’ll go out of their way to make their own, the more fantastic the better. Music is a part of life and the food is all their own. The people of New Orleans know how to live while staring death in the face.

And oh my does that city know how to party! I spent my first Mardi Gras season in the French Quarter last week and came home hungover, dehydrated, exhausted and with a fat lip from getting hit in the face with a bag of beads thrown from a Bacchus float. Translation: I had one of the best times of my whole life.

Krew of Muses

The parades alone are worth the 2000 mile trip. The floats are decked out in brilliant colors and manned by Krew members who throw jewel colored beads into the crowd. My favorite was Muses, which is a more bohemian parade. The Krew of Muses is one of the newest Krew’s in town, but their gorgeous floats and fun marching bands have become a City favorite. Bacchus is an older, traditional Krew, and their floats are monstrous! Trailers pull gigantic floats depicting children’s literature, such as Harry Potter and Where the Wild Things Are. The music in the parades is performed by high school and college marching bands, and those kids can rock. Even at the end of the five mile parade route, the drums still pounded and the horns shook the ground we stood on.

The French Quarter is a mix of beauty and filth. Bourbon street is a mess, packed shoulder to shoulder with young, sex starved drunks hunting for beads. It made me think of Spring Break with an open bar. Not my scene at all, but the people watching was fantastic. I liked the side streets and neighborhoods off the Quarter where locals like to celebrate. Costumes and masks were the preferred attire, otherwise people liked to go mostly naked.

Bourbon Street

My husband is from New Orleans. We’ve planned to go for years, but circumstance and money kept stopping us. But this year we said “screw it” and bought our hotel room and flights. It’s one of those things you have to do, even if you think you can’t afford it. Adventure is important, and the beauty of New Orleans showing off her splendor is worth the price. She is proud of her Krews and music and food and happy to share it with you. She’ll also scam you out of your last dime so keep a hand on your wallet. New Orleans isn’t a polite princess waiting for you to dote on her; she is a Queen looking for a good time and someone to party with. Life and Death walk hand in hand, and if you say hello, one of them will buy you a drink.

A Pornographic Elastic Heart?

First, watch this video

Then tell me, what is it about?

Is it truly pornographic?

There are so many stories portrayed in this one dance piece, which is why I love dance so much. The movement of an arm and the twirl of a head can shout a hundred words in an instant. In this video, I see a father and daughter trapped by expectation and patriarchy, fighting each other for understanding. The father is hoping to tame his daughter so she stays with him and does what he needs her to. The daughter is trying to break him down, destroy him if need be, so they can both be free. That’s just one story.

Another story is a man fighting his inner demon. If he can only tame it, he’ll have peace. But at the end, even when demon is calmed, the man is still trapped. The grief on his face is heartbreaking.

It’s sad that the only thing so many people can see is a man in skin colored trunks trying to seduce a little girl. Is it the color of his trunks, or her tunic, or that he’s a grown man in a cage with a child? I agree, all of those things could make you uncomfortable, but is it impossible to see beyond the visual and give the art a chance?

The Elastic Heart video is brilliant because it is complex, daring, and controversial. It tells a story we can all feel, while challenging us to feel more.

Art requires fearlessness, not just from the artist, but also from the person experiencing the art. Break out of your comfort zone a little bit and you’ll be amazed by what you’ll discover.

Thank you, and Happy Birthday Dr. King

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr was alive when I was born. The following year, he was murdered. Despite the attempt to silence him, I grew up listening to his words and reading his story. His message resonated deeply within me.  But why had this black man affected the life of a little white girl growing up in California?

Because I am white, there is no way I can fully comprehend the power of his message. But his words about unity, freedom, and love are for everyone, black and white, male or female. I am awed by his willingness to stand up for the rights of black people in a world that hated him for being black. He was a man with a family and I’m sure he was scared most of the time. But he couldn’t stay silent. His strength is why a gun couldn’t stop  him.

My parents were hippies in the 1970’s so I was lucky enough to learn about Dr. King and Vietnam and integration at the dinner table. I knew who The Black Panthers were and I could find Saigon on a map. But no one impressed me more than Dr. Martin Luther King.

Today, I continue to educate myself about freedom and equality in my country. As a white woman, I can never understand how it feels to be black in this country. I try not to speak for the black community. Dr. King’s message of equality should inspire us all to do better. Recognize racism wherever it is and fight to end it. Don’t turn your back on injustice.

Dr. King would be marching in the streets for justice today. He would also be preaching about love and forgiveness. America can not exist with an “us vs them” mentality. We must work together.

A bullet killed the man in 1968. Don’t let apathy kill the message.

100 Happy Days 1: A room full of estrogen

Feeling run down? Hassled? Angry every time the laundry hamper fills? Then you need to pack up some clothes you no longer wear and go to a Swap-O-Rama party. The more laughing women the better. Unless you’re a man, then all that estrogen might be scary. Because my daughter is medically fragile, we tend to live a very different life than other people. I feel like I live on a different planet most of the time. But I forced myself to go to my friend’s clothing swap party. The house was packed with women I barely knew digging through racks and racks of clothes other people had brought. I hung up the items I’d brought, grabbed a glass of wine and started “shopping.” Within 30 minutes I felt comfortable with all those strangers and had a fantastic time. We laughed, tried on clothes, joked and teased each other, talked about our kids, our partners and our pets, and had far more fun than I thought a group of women could have. Mostly, I realized I’m not so different from other women. My child is different, but we all share the same hopes and dreams for the people we love. We all fight for our children. We all need to laugh. And we all desire a pair of red heels.

Can 100 Happy Days really make you happier?

Last year, I gave the meme #100HappyDays a try. I actively looked for something that made me feel happier and then posted it on Facebook for my friends to see. The last two years have been extremely challenging so I had to do something different to force me to remember the positive.

Did it work?

Surprisingly, yes. At first I felt silly. I rarely pay attention to meme’s and I’m allergic to doing anything just because “everyone is doing it.” But when you reach the emotional bottom you have to try something outside your comfort zone. And I’m so glad I did.

I’ve decided to continue posting 100 Happy Days, but this time I’m stepping it up by posting on my blog, rather than only on my personal Facebook page. Blogging encourages me to look deeper at happiness. On Facebook I can just write “I love how warm my coffee is in the morning.” On a blog, I need to write a little more; why does the warmth of coffee make me so happy in the morning?

Since I began the #100HappyDays on Facebook, many of my friends decided to try it too. They report the meme has helped them find the positive in every day as well. So give it a try. Who cares if everyone is doing it; there’s a reason people are copying each other. 100 Happy Days seems to work.