20 Things I Never Imagined I’d Say to My Dog

  1. It’s really cold outside and it’s not time for a walk yet. I just want to spoon you and watch Netflix. All day.
  2. I know the FedEx truck looks tasty, but YOU CAN’T EAT IT. Stop barking as if you’re possessed. Please try to act like a normal dog.
  3. Must you INHALE your food? CHEW already, you maniacal little beast.
  4. Yes, the doorbell is ringing. On television. That doesn’t mean you need to freak out or work your stupid self into a barking frenzy.
  5. Stop licking yourself…your 7 million plush toys…the stuff I spilled on the floor…the strange dog you just met…the leather couch…the carpet…the dishwasher…my feet…the road kill you love more than life itself… JUST. STOP. LICKING.
  6. Why do you feel compelled to eviscerate your stuffed animal toys? Isn’t it enough to pluck out their eyes and dismember them 15 minutes after I present you with a new one? FYI, the squeaky thing inside IS NOT the devil.
  7. Stop dragging dirty socks and underwear into the living room like a frat boy on a panty raid. You disgust me. Also, please note that the foul matter in the trash can IS NOT FOOD. Please stop gnawing on it and strewing it all over the house.
  8. DO NOT pee on your brother’s head. No, it’s not at all like marking territory. He’s another dog. Just a shorter version. And by the way, marking territory INSIDE the house is a VERY, VERY BAD thing to do. I will stop loving you if you do it again. No I won’t. I love you unconditionally, against all logic and understanding.
  9. Why did you eat AN ENTIRE LOAF OF BREAD (and/or leftover pizza, Halloween candy, et al.) while we were gone? You glutton.
  10. The crows and defenseless squirrels we see on our walks are not secretly mocking you; therefore, you needn’t chase or lunge at them like some sort of savage, effectively dislocating my shoulder in the process.
  11. Must you torment the cat? I realize that he is mocking you every minute of every day, but is it necessary to hunt him down like a dog? I understand that you are, in fact, a dog. It’s a rhetorical question.
  12. You don’t own the couch. Please share the space in this house with the humans who live here—as much as it pains you.
  1. For the love of God, STOP EATING POO, or anything that resembles poo. Deer droppings are not Skittles. Neither is bear dung or rabbit pellets. Have we not taught you anything?
  2. If you walk directly in front of me or trail me closer than my shadow, we WILL collide. It’s basic physics. Two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time. Google it.
  3. Please refrain from doing your business in the neighbor’s beautifully manicured lawn if you can help it. If you could circle back and instead utilize the vast expanse of woods and weeds we just passed I’d be eternally grateful, you never-ending poop factory.
  4. Back up, please, so I can actually open the door for you. I know you’re beyond excited to go for a walk, but it won’t be possible unless and until you back up.
  5. You most certainly CANNOT EAT THE JOGGER, the kid on the scooter, the woman pushing the stroller, or the adorable toddler inside the stroller who desperately wants to pet you because you look like a cute little dog, only deranged. Oh, and here’s a newsflash: YOU’RE MAKING YOURSELF HACK AND CHOKE by pulling on the leash. Not me.
  6. Did you seriously startle yourself with your own fart? You crack me up, you weird little dog.
  7. What’s with the poop ritual—the one where you practically screw yourself into the ground before you actually go? Should I hire an excrement coach?
  8. Must you shame me into giving you food during dinner? Don’t give me those eyes. I simply can’t handle it.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live, uttering the most ridiculous things to my dogs. Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2015 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Doggie Diamonds, Home is Where the Weirdness Lives, Normal is Relative, Rantings & Ravings

Wild Thing

My dog has a problem and, by extension, I have a problem. Basically he’s too high-strung and could probably benefit from psychotherapy of some sort. Don’t laugh; our vet suggested that could be arranged. I realize that small, yappy dogs are characteristically excitable and, at times, unpredictable, but Jack is ridiculously so. Anyone who has met him knows the awful truth—he’s either Jekyll or Hyde. There is no in-between. Granted, he is loveable to us not to mention adorable—especially after he’s been groomed, his hair cottony soft and white as snow. Although he is a mere 14-pound ball of fluff our family has adored (and even spooned) for more than a decade, he has another side—one that is decidedly unhinged.

The trouble is, we never know which side of him will manifest when he meets someone out and about—thereby making me beyond the point of anxious when we go for walks. Naturally when he starts growling, barking and clawing at the pavement like a fool, I reel him in as if he were an oversized marlin, apologizing profusely to the passerby. Of course, he or she can’t possibly hear my apology over the incessant barking, snarling and gagging. So I just smile with embarrassment and attempt to drag the beast away as quickly as possible, knowing full well that we will encounter this very same person and have the very same experience in roughly three minutes when we meet on the other side of the neighborhood circle. Some days I simply don’t have the strength or patience to deal with his foolishness, so we skip our walk altogether which saddens me greatly.

It doesn’t seem to matter if my stupid dog encounters someone walking, jogging or whizzing by on a bike or scooter. Even baby strollers freak him out to some extent. Other dogs, too—except the ones he is fond of. He nuzzles those and in no time our leashes end up a tangled mess, which I’m sure he thinks is terrific because he gets to spend even more quality time with those dogs and the people attached to them—usually the ones bearing treats. Against all logic and understanding, there are certain people (with or without dogs) for whom he will immediately drop to the ground and roll over, demanding a belly rub. And I am astonished EVERY SINGLE TIME this happens.

I suspect part of my dog’s neurotic behavior may stem from being overly protective or perhaps territorial. By those standards, I suppose he is an overachiever, making perfectly composed dogs look like slackers. Even indoors he goes berserk, barking like a madman whenever someone knocks at the door or steps inside. Oddly enough, people who visit must pass some kind of strange muster. He sniffs them and looks them over as if determining whether they are “dog people,” thereby worthy of his admiration and affection. Once they have met with his approval, they are free to move about the house. If not, I have to scoop him up and carry him under my arm like a large and unwieldy purse—because the universe hates me.

Not surprisingly, he even acts insane when he gets a glimpse of people through a window—people who have the audacity to walk on HIS STREET—the one he must defend to the death. Needless to say, the barking makes my head throb, and I sometimes worry that he’ll topple off the back of the couch during one of his frenzied barking sessions.

I really wonder what goes on inside that pea brain of his. Clearly he is delusional in that he thinks he weighs 200 pounds and could eat a Rottweiler for lunch. But I suspect that down deep he may suffer from an inferiority complex—if a dog could, in fact, suffer from such a thing. It’s not as if we haven’t praised him for appropriate behavior. Lord knows I talk to him as if he were a tiny person, reassuring him that whatever happens to be freaking him out at the moment won’t result in the Apocalypse.

Who knows—maybe we just need to spoon more often.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live, with a tiny, furry beast. Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2018 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under "S" is for Shame, Doggie Diamonds, Normal is Relative, We Put the Fun in Dysfunction

Words Matter

I didn’t even know the woman, but I bristled when she spoke. Of course, her words weren’t even intended for me and I’m sure she had no idea how capably they would seize my joy and take me back in time to a day I’d rather not remember.

I was standing in the card aisle of a local department store of all places, wrestling with indecision famously. As I read and reread each of the selections I was considering (encouragement for a woman battling cancer and a birthday wish for a dear friend who had moved a world away), I weighed the words contained within each heartfelt message carefully, recognizing their power to connect souls in good times and in bad.

“CARDS DON’T MATTER,” I heard her grouse through clenched teeth, chiding her children who were likely picking out a birthday greeting for a friend or a favorite cousin. “We’ve already gotten a gift, now choose a 99-cent card and let’s get out of here,” she spat, indignation spilling from her lips. “He’ll just throw it out anyway,” she reasoned.

Though a towering wall of Hallmark’s finest separated us and I could see exactly none of what had transpired in the adjacent aisle, the exasperation that wafted over the transom was palpable and left little room for misinterpretation. Without question, it had been a long day and patience was nowhere to be found. Clearly the novelty of traipsing around K-Mart with kids in tow had long since worn off.

Granted, I had been there and done that as a parent, patently consumed by a simple yet impossible wish to be somewhere else in this life besides searching for the perfect gift for yet another Hello Kitty-themed birthday party. That said, I have frequented the brink of insanity while shopping with my brood more often than I’d care to admit, shamelessly enraged by something as ridiculous as a rogue wheel on a cart from hell coupled with my children’s irksome demands: “But we have to smell the smelly markers before we buy them, Mom. We have to make sure they smell juuuust right. And then we have to look for a birthday card with a little dog on it. Wearing a pink tutu. Maddy likes little dogs. And tutus.”

Frustration, I understood.

What rankled me to the core was the premise of this woman’s argument. That “cards don’t matter.” Because sometimes they do.

Like most people who learn of things that are unspeakably difficult to handle, I unearthed this little pearl of wisdom mired in grief and plagued by guilt. As if it were yesterday, I remember rummaging around my brother’s house in the days that followed his suicide, searching for answers or perhaps a tiny glimpse into his troubled world. Granted, I didn’t know him nearly as well as I could have…and probably should have. As I sifted through his CDs and thumbed through his books, eager to gain even a modicum of insight, I stumbled upon a drawer with a handful of cards neatly stacked within. Cards he had saved. Cards that likely meant something to him. Cards filled with words that apparently mattered.

It was at this point, I’m quite certain, that I felt a deep sense of regret and shame, for none of my cards were among those he had harvested. Surely, I had sent him a birthday greeting (or twenty), a congratulatory note regarding his beautiful home or his wonderful job, an irreverent get-well card to brighten an otherwise unenjoyable hospital stay, a wish-you-were-here postcard from Myrtle Beach or the Hoover Dam. Hadn’t I?

Incomprehensibly, I couldn’t remember. All I could wrap my mind around were the missed opportunities and the paltry thank-you note I had written that lay on his kitchen counter. Unopened. The one my four-year-old daughters had drawn pictures on as a way of offering thanks for his incredible generosity at Christmastime. The one that mocked my ineptitude and chided me for failing to mail it sooner…so that he might have read it…and felt in some small way more valued than perhaps he had before. The one that reminded me that words left unspoken are indeed the worst sort of words.

I’d like to think he occasionally sat on his couch and sifted through that cache of cards on a lazy afternoon, warmed by the messages scrawled within—a collection of remembrances worthy of holding close. Likewise, I hope he knows of the countless times since his death that I’ve been overcome with emotion in the card aisle of many a store, pausing in the section marked “brother” to read and reflect on what might have been—an odd yet cathartic sort of behavior.

So as one might expect, the horribleness of that day flooded my mind the very instant I heard CARDS DON’T MATTER. But instead of letting it swallow me whole, I turned my thoughts to why I had come—to find the most ideally suited messages for two special people, knowing they would feel special in turn.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live. Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2012 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under "G" is for Guilt, "S" is for Shame, Love and Loss

The Family Curse

Some families are afflicted with flat feet, male pattern baldness or an inability to dance. Our family curse, apparently, involves getting stuck in public restrooms. It all began when I was three years old, according to a story my mom liked to tell so that I might recall a time in my life when I was very small yet capable of causing a great deal of inconvenience—much to her amusement, at least in this instance.

Evidently I wasn’t fond of visiting the doctor’s office and upon my arrival I let it be known that I didn’t want to be there by promptly locking myself inside a tiny bathroom and refusing to come out. The office was actually an old house, so the bathroom in question had a wooden door with a metal lock that even a three-year-old could easily turn. Looking back, I suppose my situation could have wavered somewhat between being a deliberate act and an unintended circumstance—at once a defiant child and a prisoner of my own making.

At any rate, after a great deal of coaxing and a fair amount of instructing, my mother and the doctor together decided the only viable solution was to remove the door from its hinges. While I have no idea how much of an annoyance this must have been for all parties concerned, I can certainly imagine.

Although I can’t possibly quantify the number of times my twin daughters have been stuck inside a bathroom stall (and happily crawled beneath the door to escape), it’s clear they have continued the tradition of being jinxed. One of the pair, who was quite young at the time, managed to trap herself in yet another public restroom, this time at a hotel swimming pool where the heavy, metal door had become jammed. With all the commotion and noise that emanated from the pool (i.e. dozens of kids screaming and splashing), no one heard her shouting for help or banging on the door in an attempt to get someone’s attention. Eventually, my husband and I noticed a dull thud coming from across the room, one that had become louder and more frantic as time went on. So we got up to investigate and upon discovering that she had been stuck inside for God-knows-how-long, we were ashamed to have been so oblivious. I think she has since forgiven us, but probably still harbors a degree of resentment regarding the bathroom issues that have plagued our family forever.

True to form and later in life, I once again demonstrated my ineptitude as it relates to using public facilities. This time, however, I managed not to imprison myself within the confines of a lavatory stall, but rather I somehow dropped my cell phone in the toilet. Almost immediately I thought of how stupid I had to be in order for my phone to wind up there, immersed in all manner of filth. To make matters worse, I have a tendency to freak out about germs so this particular faux pas was considerably more than I could handle. Of course, I dashed to the sink and doused it with soap and water, hoping against hope that the blasted thing would work again. Amazingly enough, it did.

Public restrooms have apparently been the bane of my husband’s existence as well. Just recently while we were touring a university he called me from the men’s room to inform me that he was stuck inside a stall and needed me to fetch someone from maintenance to get him out. I wish I were kidding.

Not surprisingly, he spent an embarrassment of time jiggling the latch and banging on the door, to no avail. He then shook the entire metal frame that housed the door, but stopped for fear of tearing it off the wall. He also tried muscling the lock itself until it spun freely (never a good sign). Not once did he consider crawling beneath the door. That was out of the question.

As luck would have it, eventually the door simply fell open, mocking his efforts to escape. At least he didn’t suffer the added humiliation of having someone show up with a toolbox to save the day.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (probably rescuing someone from a bathroom stall). Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2018 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Family Affair, Normal is Relative, We Put the Fun in Dysfunction

Dear Departed Summer

Seems like only yesterday…

I am a poster child for parenting ineptitude. And at no time does it become more painfully apparent than during the first few weeks of school—when I look back over the vast expanse of summer and realize that I’ve mismanaged a good deal of it. Despite having the best of intentions in mid-June—with a host of events cleverly sandwiched between swim lessons, haircuts and camps galore—by the tail end of July I found myself desperately trying to cram every ounce of family fun and spontaneity into what was left of summer. The fun I promised we’d have before sliding headlong into September.

Inexcusably, it is the epitome of who I am and what I do when it comes down to the wire—when a finite number of squares remain on the calendar during which anything and everything deemed truly memorable and drool-worthy to a nine-year-old can, ostensibly, be orchestrated. In a perfect world, that is. So like a madwoman I schedule sleepovers and movie nights, plan picnics and pencil in parades, visit ball parks and theme parks and stumble over myself to accept gracious invitations to friends’ homes and pools and lakeside cottages oozing with wonderfulness.

Conversely, I’ve tolerated a tent in my back yard for 23 days running—one that promises to leave a hideous, yellow square where a lovely patch of green grass used to grow. A smallish tent in which I spent an interminable night embracing all that roughing it entails, from mosquito bites and cramped quarters to a lumpy earthen mattress and a less-than-endearing quality of dankness I feared would cling to me forevermore. Eau de Musty Tent.

But it was better than disappointing my progenies. And not even related to the insufferable conditions that my husband (aka: Father of the Year) endured while attempting to sleep on an impossibly narrow and horribly unyielding lounge chair parked squarely in front of the zippered door. Sadly, I failed to photograph him in all his glory—mouth agape, flashlight in hand, his body entombed within a sleeping bag, his head, poking out the top, completely enshrouded within a camouflage mask I had never before seen, arms entirely enveloped by a giant mesh sack he apparently dragged from the bowels of the garage in a moment of great inspiration (aka: makeshift mosquito netting).

That said, I think it’s safe to say that as parents we at least showed up for our kids this summer. Some of the time anyway. We took them places and did things together. We tolerated their abiding love of toads, their penchant for trading Pokémon cards and their inexplicable fascination with roadkill. Furthermore, we tried not to trouble our silly heads over the health and well-being of our lawn as well as the health and well-being of those who spent much of August snowboarding down our grassy front terrace. Nor did we dwell on the wanton fearlessness with which they careened hither and yon on their scooters. Barefooted, no less. So we can feel slightly good, I guess—having directly or indirectly contributed to the wellspring of memories gathered over the fleeting, albeit delicious, chunk of summer.

Looking back I now see why it was likely a success—not because of the fancy-schmanciness of this or that celebrated event, but because the extraordinary lives deep within the ordinary. That said, fiery sunsets and Big Dipper sightings are more mesmerizing than a summertime box office smash. A symphony of crickets, the pungent aroma of the earth and the endless chatter of children most memorably fill a tent. A hammock is very nearly medicinal, as is the buttery succulence of sweet corn, the shade of an oak tree and the canopy of fog at sunrise as it hangs in the valley—silent and still.

Dear Departed Summer, it’s likely I’ll miss your fireflies most—and the barefoot children who give chase, drinking in the moment, alive with pleasure, racing across your cool, slick grasses without end.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (lamenting the finite quality of summer and desperately searching for the rewind button). Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom. The content of this article, as it appears here, was previously published in the Khaleej Times.

Copyright 2011 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under A Tree is Nice, Endless Summer, Gratitude

Fridge Fiasco

We have an old refrigerator in our garage—one that migrated there when we remodeled our kitchen some time ago and it was no longer deemed efficient, never mind fashionable. Granted, it’s an oversized beast whose shelves are a tad unstable and whose exterior was all the rage in 1989, but because the universe sometimes smiles upon us, it’s been humming along just fine, thank you.

Needless to say, it has served us well in its new location, wedged comfortably between the tall, wooden shelves that house a hodgepodge of our must-have tools and garage-y tripe. For the most part, we stock our side-by-side with food that we don’t need immediately and drinks that can’t possibly fit in our new fridge despite the undying efforts of many. The overflow, if you will. What’s more, it’s a great place to store extra loaves of bread, an embarrassment of prepackaged snacks and a ginormous lemon pie from Rosencrans’ Bakery that my husband simply couldn’t resist.

It’s also the perfect place to chill wine and bottled beer. The only problem (that I unfortunately discovered one evening not so long ago) was that I had apparently overloaded the shelves in the door with said wine and beer. Of course, for the past several months everything had been just fine, the Michelob Ultra mingling nicely with the Korbel and Moscato. But on the night in question, things were not so fine. Translation: It was a train wreck.

Eager to retrieve a cookie that was chilled to perfection, I yanked open the door and in so doing, four shelves filled to capacity with the aforementioned beverages crashed to the floor, collapsing in a heap, stacked one on top of the next—a disastrous chain event. And although some time has passed, the sound of breaking glass and the resultant shards that laid everywhere torment me even still. Oddly enough, one of the bottles lost its metal cap but refused to break, instead spraying its contents straight up into the air, making a mockery of my attempt to grasp what had happened. For what seemed like an eternity, I stared at the carnage at the foot of our dear refrigerator, hoping what I had witnessed had only been a dream—something horribly imagined.

As luck would have it, and in accordance with Murphy’s Law, booze had spilled on nearly every shelf and all over the garage floor, slowly seeping beneath the lawnmower as well as the fridge itself. Like a fool, I stood there and watched it creep across the concrete, unable to respond like a rational person might by sopping up the mess with paper towels and throwing them in the trash. Upon further inspection, I learned that liquid had also pooled in the well below the bottom set of drawers, along with fragments of broken glass, too numerous to count. As the stench of beer filled our garage and the clatter of bottles still rang in my ears, all I could focus on was the tragic fact that alcohol had, indeed, been lost—sacrificed to the gods that govern stupidity. Even a soggy Oreo had paid the ultimate price, which is heartbreaking if nothing else.

Eventually I snapped out of my stupor and started cleaning the mess, but not without enlisting the help of my teenagers who were, of course, thrilled to be of assistance. Not so much. Nevertheless, they wore a path to the sink, washing everything I handed them while I dealt with the shattered glass and ever-expanding puddles of beer. Thankfully, the dog didn’t come running to inspect the awfulness that had befallen our happy home.

I’m also grateful that I somehow managed to NOT cut myself, and that a number of bottles had been spared, allowing me to have a cold one after such a fiasco.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live, probably visiting the fridge in my garage and  (hopefully) remembering to open its door more GENTLY. Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2018 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Ode to Embarrassment, Welcome to My Disordered World

No Parking

I hate to parallel park, so I avoid it at all costs. Sometimes that means I attempt to maneuver my car into what appears to be a ridiculously small space and shortly thereafter, drive away, defeated. Other times I opt for a traditional parking lot and convince myself that that’s not cheating—even when I pull through instead of backing in. And occasionally I choose to circle the block like a fool until I find two or more adjacent open spaces so I can simply drive in and park, headfirst. I realize that that, in effect, is a cop-out and makes me a namby-pamby by definition, but I don’t care. My cars understand, and I’m quite sure they appreciate the extra measures I take to protect them—from me.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m capable of parallel parking—when I’m desperate. But, of course, there are parameters that must first be met. The space in question has to be generous enough to accommodate an oversized woolly mammoth, there can be no traffic in either direction for miles and no one on the planet can witness my pitiful attempts to accomplish the impossible. Not even a dog lounging on a nearby porch can look on with disdain. Admittedly, it is performance anxiety gone awry. Oddly enough, I am deeply disappointed whenever I happen to successfully park my car between two others—because, of course, no one is there to shower me with praise or hand me a medal, thereby validating such a monumental achievement.

That said, I can’t even begin to describe my feelings of inadequacy as it relates to teaching my teenagers to parallel park. The word “hypocrite” comes to mind, although “fraud” might be more accurate. Maybe I feel like such a failure in this particular realm because I can’t effectively put my actions into words. Just as it’s hard to describe how to properly peel a hard-boiled egg without destroying it, it’s tough to convey how to wedge a 2-ton hunk of metal between two others without incident.

Confession: While we’re practicing said skill and attempting not to bump those ugly, orange barrels or gnome-inspired cones, I often feel compelled to grab the wheel so that we don’t smash into the curb or scrape the passenger-side door inadvertently. And no matter how hard I try not to shout directives at my daughters or frantically wave my arms in the process, never mind curse, I can’t help myself. Nor can I refrain from sighing in exasperation after the 17th failed attempt.

Teen: “Mom, you’re mad, aren’t you?”

Me: “No, I just wish your father were doing this. I hate to admit it, but he’s better at it than I am.”

T: “But he yells more.”

M: “He’s just more intense.”

T: “He YELLS more.”

M: “Okay, you have a point.”

Eventually I suggest that we give up and drive home, reminding myself to refrain from taking my blood pressure reading anytime soon. Tomorrow’s a new day after all, and represents yet another opportunity to fail miserably as a parent to experience glowing success. With any luck, my kids won’t need too much therapy down the road. Pun intended.

Despite my shortcomings with respect to parallel parking and my husband’s so-called intensity, both of our progenies passed their driver’s test on their very first attempt and are now flying solo. Translation: The gods were smiling upon my little corner of the world when we made the decision to enroll both kids in a local driver education course. Needless to say, we’ll be forever grateful to J.C. and Vince for their limitless expertise and undying patience this summer.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live, probably circling the block. Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2018 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Growing Pains, In the Trenches of Parentville, Life is a Highway, Road Trip