For the past year and six months, my husband William and I have spent a good 10 minutes each day watching Boston terrier videos on Instagram. It usually happens when we’re on the couch right before we go to sleep, with Fitzi, our dog, either being really cuddly or really bad because he’s about to be cuddly.
All of a sudden, William will get quiet and then lean into his phone. His eyes will soften and he’ll smile, though he doesn’t know he is. Then he’ll hand over his phone and show me a Boston terrier puppy sleeping or running around or begging for food or doing something equally simple and, somehow, adorable.
“When you read a short story, you come out a little more aware and a little more in love with the world around you.” — George Saunders
Over the past several years, my reading life has consisted nearly exclusively of gobbling up short stories, those unpopular little things that everyone reads once in high school — “A Rose for Emily,” “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “Araby” — and then happily moves on to novels.
My own experience with short stories had always left me feeling somewhat bereft, particularly if I was reading a book of them. Why, after all, get invested in characters and settings and plots if the story was just going to end in 10 pages? And why did everything have to feel so weighty in them, every noun invested with symbolic meaning, every piece of dialogue tinged with acerbity?
We are in the heart of graduation season in this house, with little Gabrielle set to attend her senior prom this Saturday. It’s a heady time, one filled with such a complicated mix of sadness and excitement, moods seem tied to a yoyo string.
For example, on Friday night, I was caught bawling over my dinner plate. During the course of the evening, Gabrielle’s mom Lisa had sent me snaps of the senior pictures Gabrielle was having taken at an apple orchard in Nancy. I rejoiced in all of the beautiful shots, some in her prom dress, some in her favorite jeans and sweater, some featuring a pair of “old man” pants from Goodwill, a grey sweater and fedora.
I had enjoyed receiving the photos all evening, until she sent a pic of Gabrielle sitting cross-legged on the ground wearing a Case Western Reserve sweatshirt and a pair of jeans. She wasn’t looking at Lisa, but at the photographer, and Lisa had snapped the photo from the side, making it appear like Gabrielle was looking directly into the eyes of her future.
Two things happened in the past couple of weeks. First, I bought Gabrielle a sweatshirt for her 18th birthday that says, “Schrute Farms Bed and Breakfast.” Second, Gabrielle told me her friend’s yearbook quote was, “I’m not superstitious, but I’m a little stitious.”
That was enough to compel me to watch the television show “The Office,” all nine seasons of it, once again. If you are not an Office fan, you’ll want to skip this column this week. If you are, welcome to the fold, my friends.
I’ve never considered myself to be in possession of a whole whack of feminine wiles, but I’ll tell you, I dug deep and employed every measly one I had a few weeks ago in my attempt to convince my lovely husband William that we needed a new puppy.
It all started when a picture of a litter of six pups popped up on my Facebook feed. They were from the same breeder that birthed our brilliant, beautiful and bouncy boy Fitzgerald one year and five months ago.
This picture showed six little Boston babies in various stages of being milk-drunk, laying fast asleep with their little pink tongues hanging out, their paws splayed out from underneath them, looking perfectly, absolutely, and empirically adorable.
Today, the house is decorated in hibiscus flowers, fake grass and leighs. Walk up our front walk and you’ll be welcomed by an army of lit tiki torches standing at attention. Walk in and you’ll smell pork and pineapple (but she drew the line at SPAM). And after this day, our lives are changed forever. Because on this day, our little perfect Gabrielle becomes an adult.
In the life of a child, all birthdays give you reason to pause and reflect on what’s passed and how fast it’s happened. But I’ll tell you, birthday No. 18 is a big one to wrap one’s mind around.
Last Tuesday, my couponing career took off and crash-landed within an hour.
I was sitting in a church gymnasium, bathed in gray light, surrounded by 30 other women, with a stack of fliers in front of me. We’d all gotten reeled into this place by the same thing: We’d heard that someone, somewhere, had bought 20 big bottles of Tide for $2.99 apiece. And they knew how to do it by taking the couponing class that was about to start.
After a 10-year absence, I’m happy to say that I’m back on the land of the living. And by living, I mean I can once again enjoy a tall glass of cold milk any ol’ time I want.
Returning to the homeland all started with a reluctant trip to Walmart. Kroger has stopped selling the cheddar cheese I like (Cabot extra sharp), so I’ve been forced to brave my way through Wally World every few months to buy a few bricks. Once I’m already there, I generally elect to do my other grocery shopping, since even I can’t see the value in leaving one grocery store just to go to another.
Recently, William and Gabrielle asked to switch to 1 percent milk from skim, and so I was in the milk aisle looking to fill their request. As you might know, some Walmart brand milks are different from Kroger’s, so I was simply looking for 1 percent and not paying much attention to the other labels.
So, there I was: a desperately seeking Susan searching for a new name for my new business. It was Day 5 of the hunt and I was showing signs of wear and tear. My notebooks were scribbled with hundreds of words paired with the word “essay.” My hair needed a wash. My conversational skills were nil unless it involved pitching names.
To recap from last week, I was about to launch my new editing service for students who need help writing their college admissions essays (plug, plug!). A day before I was set to launch savvyessay.com, I discovered there is an essaysavvy.com, which provides the identical service. And so, I needed to find a new word to pair with “essay,” preferably one that ended in Y so, when fused with “essay,” it would form the word “yes.”
“Make colleges say yes” is my tagline.
Also, it needed to be a domain that wasn’t already taken.
As I said, my brain had started to not only fry, but explode so if you sat closely beside me, you’d hear it emitting these radical pop, pop, pop sounds every so often.
So, there I was: all ready to launch my new business. The website was designed. The copy was written. The business cards were approved. And I was pleased, so very pleased, with all of it.
So, hours before I was about to announce all of this to the world, I decided to do a search for my new website to see where it was falling on Google’s standings. Brilliant Julie, who’d designed my site, had just recently turned it “on,” meaning that it would undergo Google’s indexing analysis and that process would decide its, for want of a better word, ranking.
My new business is an editing service for college admissions essays (plug, plug!). The goal is to help college and graduate students write their personal statements and other essays required for their applications.