Last month, Sara and I flew out to Austin, TX to pick up our new puppy, Penny. Penny was living with a lovely family along with her litter mate and her puppy parents. Penny’s father is a handsome Boston Terrier/Pug mix and her mother is a feisty Chihuahua/Pug mix. The day we went to get her, she played with her sister and her parents, running around the house with chew sticks, while we chatted with the dog breeder. The breeder is a lovely mother, wife and dance teacher who has raised three litters with the pair and housed six dogs total. Before the left, they packed a bag with food, a blanket and some stuffies that smelled like her old crate, and they hugged Penny goodbye.
We promised we’d be back for a little doggie family reunion next year. Penny’s sister will stay with the breeder for a while until she finds another home (it was so, so, so hard not to take her home too!!) and Penny has another sibling living in CT who will be in town, so the whole family will have a chance to reunite.
I have to say, the moment I saw Penny I knew I was going to love her.
I loved her even more when she puked all over me in the rental car twice before we got back to the hotel.
Penny was great in the airport and on the plane all the way back to New York. She came home to a new crate, a playpen, a patch of grass for a pee spot, so many toys and curious cats wondering just how long the new dog was going to stay.
Honestly, I was really resistant to getting a puppy (ask Sara – I’m sure she’ll tell you all about it) but Penny has been a dream. She’s got Boston Terrier smarts and a great little bark, she passes out like a Pug with the cutest sleepy eyes I’ve ever seen, and her little Chihuahua leg “paw up” thing she does, lets me know when she’s interested and alert.
It’s mighty cold outside, but in her plaid jacket, Penny is getting used to walks. She’s great on the leash and still learning to walk at my side. I love our walks. They help her get out the puppy energy, interact with dogs and people and desensitizes her from the city sounds. The walks also tire her out until she is snoring on the couch opposite her sleeping buddy Sarge.
And the walks calm my own anxiety. Walking with Penny is so great because I have to remember if I’m nervous, she’ll be nervous too. So when she gives me those pug eyes to ask if it’s okay to say hi to another dog or another human, I tell her with confidence “it’s okay Penny, go say hi” and then give her a “good girl” when she does. The walks tire us both out, as you can see:
Penny’s starting puppy classes in the New Year. She already knows “sit, down, jump, (thanks to her recent playdate with a lovely Pit puppy from the Upper West Side), and roll over” with or without a reward treat. She knows how to keep herself busy in the house, playing with both her toys and the cats toys.
Speaking of the cats, of which we now have three, they are actually okay with the dog…right up until Penny starts joining in their chasing games. But Charlie, our playful Nebelung cat, has accepted the fact that if he runs throughout the house and no cats follow, Penny will be running close behind him. Penny and the cats have even eaten in the kitchen together and as long as I watch them, they don’t sample each other’s food.
Unfortunately, we’ve found Penny near the litter box chewing on the cat waste. :(
If any puppy lovers out there have advice on how to keep puppies from eating other animals poo, feel free to inbox me! (Penny’s amazing but puppies are honestly like the grossest little things in the world. Thank goodness, she’s so fucking cute)
Adding a puppy to our tribe of cats has made me think more about Sara and I’s non-traditional family and the “when are you two going to have a baby conversation?” that everyone tends to bring up whenever we are in the presence of children.
Sara had the perfect response to the baby conversation the other day: “Having three cats and a puppy is kind of like having a six-year-old. You know, they can kind of do their own thing but you still gotta pick up their poo, occasionally take something out of their mouth they shouldn’t be chewing on and remind them of their name when they don’t wanna listen. See. Family.”
My Lady is the smartest and Penny is such a great addition to our family.
Even though the last few years have turned me into a Girly Gringe on Christmas, I can’t help but smile when I think about the home we’re creating with love and animals.
For Jane and Chuck, C.J., Evangeline, Debbie and Joy
This autumn season has reminded me what it looks and feels like to be in service to both the living and the dead.
Sara and I share many losses this season – the death of my grandmother, who passed from her fourth and final bout with cancer in November 2004, and the death of Sara’s father, who passed in September 1997, a year a week after her mother, who passed in September, 1996. But we never imagined experiencing the loss of family members together.
The last week of summer, we lost our black cat C.J. When Sara and I moved in together in 2010, we merged both sets of our cats in typical Brady Bunch fashion to create a pride of four cats, three boys and a girl. C.J. was a cat Sara adopted during a brief breakup between us. The two of them had a special bond, Sara often referring to him as her “boyfriend,” and the very skittish C.J. who cowered at the sound of approaching steps, would run to Sara’s call. He took after my own heart with his fondness for stuffed animals. We’d often catch him pacing the house with one of our stuffies in his mouth (usually one he stole off my desk) and with staccato meows, he’d gather them in the living room for what I can only call midnight recess.
C.J. was a sweet, sweet boy. He was the loudest mouth at the food bowl and sometimes when I feed the others, I can still hear him chiming like a bell for the canned stuff. And sometimes in the shadows of our house, I can still see his question mark tale slinking around the corner.
I’ve grown accustom to feeling ghosts this season and the presence of one only prepares us for the next.
Losing C.J. reminded me of losing my first cat, a Tuxedo named Maverick. He passed a few months after my grandmother proclaimed she was done fighting cancer and ready for death. My mother and I beat ourselves up for not taking notice to how thin and sick my kitty at gotten. We were too busy watching and waiting for my grandmother to pass and because she left this earth so painfully and slowly, we couldn’t break our gaze from her.
When my mother left my father in 1990, she became a single mother struggling with both a four-year-old and a bout of divorcee depression. When grandma caught wind, she moved in with us immediately and occupied the role of caretaker for both me and my mother until my late teens. My grandmother was my first elementary and Sunday school teacher, she was the first adult that played pretend with me and genuinely enjoyed it, the first woman who taught me to dress elegantly in jewelry and dresses, and she was the first woman I knew who could push her love for me right through her relentless depressions.
When I lost my grandmother, I lost my first mother. I lost a woman who gave the last decade of her life to raise me.
I dissociated like never before when my grandmother passed. I lost complete ownership of my body – crying became screaming became puking became blacking out with grief. As if high school was torture enough, I was seventeen and I could not fathom the fact that the woman who taught me how to write my name would not live to see me graduate from high school. And the day they put her in the ground, it took every bit of strength I had not to jump into the open plot with her.
I dealt with my grief alone, the way I thought was the safest but having Sara now, I realize that grieving silently is just another way of walking dead minded amongst the living. Grief is for those of us still breathing. It’s for those of us dealing with the fact that our loved ones no longer have a fleshy vessel but somehow, are still present for us day after day, and grief is something us humans have to do together.
Five weeks after C.J. died, we lost a close family friend Debbie. She was the best childhood friend of Sara’s parental guardian Cheryl and a mother figure to Sara during her upbringing. Debbie left behind her daughter, Borah, who was also raised alongside Sara and who Sara considers family. Borah’s mother had been admitted to the hospital but was expected to come home to recover a few weeks later. During her stay, Cheryl and Borah made the decision to put down Debbie’s Yorkie, Joy, who at the age sixteen, had started to deteriorate after a bad dog bite.
I am convinced that the deaths of family animals is what warns me of human loss.
Debbie died in a hospital on September 20th from a weakened heart and for a week up until the funeral, we became an army of Black woman preparing for burial. Sara, Borah, Cheryl and I paraded around New Jersey making arrangements, ensuring that Debbie’s final wishes and Borah’s requests were respected and granted.
We buried Debbie in a canary yellow sweater and snake-skin pants, just the way she would wanted it. We had her nails painted silver to match her coffin and shaved the hair at her temples to mimic the peacock spiked hair-do she wore in life. We buried her in a plot alongside her parents and when her coffin hit the dirt, the sun broke through the Friday morning gloom as we said our last goodbyes.
That week, I committed every waking moment to being in service to Debbie’s burial. This was a much different service from packing bags and hanging leathers, it was a service that has changed my perception of how I deal with loss and I work through and with grief.
Thanks to the acknowledgement of our beloved sisterwife CoCo Monroe, Sara and I realized we held space for the living to grieve and for the dead to rest. We did it together, stronger than we ever could on our own, and though we wish death was not what makes us so resilient, it is something we are learning to live with every day.
This month has been busy, busy, busy as Lady Sara Vibes and I are starting to wind down from IMsL and prepare for our next adventure. I wanted to take a moment to highlight a few articles and interviews I’ve had published since the beginning of the year and an event coming up where I will be reading dirty poems and book excerpts!
Interview with Anais Surkin on Rkvry Quarterly Literary Journal
I had the pleasure of being interviewed by dear friend and fellow activist Anais Surkin on my piece “The Light Keeper (for Sonya)” published with Rvkry Quarterly’s Winter Issue. Anais asked all the hard questions that helped me dive deeper into the themes of my novel, touching on issues of race, class, storytelling and healing. Check out the interview and read my piece The Light Keeper for an excerpt of my novel.
Autostraddle Article: If It Takes Comparing Beach Houses – A Message to White Feminists on Acknowledging Class to Talk about Race
I was inspired to write this article after witnessing a talk back conversation following a staged reading of Sarah Schulman’s Roe V Wade. This piece had actually been “cooking” - in the words of Audre Lorde – since before Black history month/after Women’s history month, but it did not pour out of me until I was in a conversation with white folks about class. Check out it and continue the race and class conversation.
Butch Fest presents “Dirty Panties – A Queer Erotica Reading”
I am delighted to be reading as a special guest at the Dirty Panties, queer erotica reading, sponsored by Butch Fest, a weekend-long celebration of lesbians and queers who identify as tomboys, butches, studs, machas, aggressives, bois, genderqueers, transmen, two-spirits, and all other identities masculine of center (MoC*).
The Dirty Panties Reading will be held at Resource Center Dallas, Saturday, May 4th at 6pm! I am excited to share the stage with such fabulous performers such as Joe LeBlanc, founder and board chair of Butch Voices and spend the weekend attending Butchfest Events including the Unicorn Party! Check out the site for more event details: www.butchfest.com
Stay tuned for a future post ImsL 27, Service and Self-Care and two self-published book reviews, Sassafras Lowrey’s “Roving Pack” and Allison Moon’s new novel “Hungry Ghost”.
Quick update: It’s been a crazy last couple of months. I’m delighted to announce I have found an editor for my novel in progress Girl With The Unicorn Earrings. Toni Amato, founder of Write Here Write Now who doubles as writing coach and editor has made the revision process enlightening and invigorating! I’ll be blogging about the adventures of editing in another post but when I’m not knee-deep in my novel, I am working as an assistant to the publisher at Riverdale Avenue Books (RAB), learning the ins and outs of E-publishing and print on demand.
The first Friday in April, I will be hosting RAB’s monthly reading Between the Covers under the theme Erotica’s Next Generation: Writers Under 35, celebrating the phenomenal work of writers paving the way for the next sexual revolution!
This Saturday, I will reading erotic poems and excerpts from my novel with Urban Erotika’s Sweet Bliss Art Exhibition, celebrating woman’s history month and woman’s sexuality.
Details for both events are listed below. Come out and support the younger generation and the legacy of woman writing and performing the erotic!
Saturday, March 30th
SWEET BLISS ART EXHIBITION
Presented by the
Reel Sisters of the Diaspora Film Festival
in partnership with
The Love Storm Entertainment Group, motivateArt &
Helluva Dame Productions.
Celebrate Women’s History Month with the closing event of an exhibition of artwork by UrbanErotika Artists ~ with a panel discussion and live performance that delves into the truth, variety and expression of women’s sexuality.
Host- UrbanErotika’s founder Mo Beasley.
UrbanErotika Live Performance & Panel Discussion
Buy Tickets Here: http://urbanerotikaherstory.eventbrite.com/?discount=sweetblisskiss
Also consider supporting Urban Erotika’s team in producing a documentary, The Odyssey of Eros, live streaming of shows, an anthology and other upcoming projects:
Friday, April 5th, 2013
Between the Covers – Erotica’s Next Generation: Writers Under 35
Doors open @ 7pm, Starts at 8pm
Location: Happy Endings Lounge, 302 Broome Street (http://happyendinglounge.com/)
Under 35 Line-up: Hosted by Ashley Young with readers Aimee Herman, Grace Jahng Lee, Anna Sanai and Abigail Ekue
Special additions to the evening: Riverdale Avenue Books will be selling its titles with proceeds going to the dinner we feed the authors who join us each month. Also joining us: the amazing Corset Magazine with 25% off subscriptions! Come see us during the intermission.
Aimee Herman is a performance artist and poet looking to disembowel the architecture of gender, bodies and sexual grievances. She hosts a monthly erotica open mic, Titillating Tongues. Read her work in Best Mammouth Book of Erotica 11, The Harder She Comes: Butch/Femme Erotica, andTroubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry and Poetics. Her full length book of poems, to go without blinking, was published last year by BlazeVOX books. Find her wrapped in caution tape in Brooklyn or at aimeeherman.wordpress.com.
Anna Saini has lived many lives as a political scientist, radical activist, and multi-media artist. She completed a B.A. and M.A. in Political Science at the University of Toronto and McMaster University respectively. She works as a community organizer on drug and education policy reform, civil and labor rights, prison abolition, police brutality, and post-colonial feminist liberation.
Her writing appears in Bitch Magazine, make/shift Magazine, various journals and in her self-published anthology Colored Girls. She is interviewed by Jessica Yee in the book Feminism FOR REAL: Deconstructing the Academic Industrial Complex of Feminism!
Abigail Ekue is a writer, photographer, storyteller and author of the erotic short story collection “The Darker Side of Lust” exploring religion, abuse, death, bisexuality, and sexless marriages and “Exhaust Pipes”, a mini erotic story collection. She has performed her work at UrbanErotika, ArteRotica, Abiola’s Kiss and Tell Live Revue, Rachel Kramer Bussel’s In The Flesh Erotic Reading series, Freak Nasty, Forbidden Kiss: The Erotica Series, Ravenous Nights, WHORE! Magazine Charity Benefit and the Arts and Wellness Sanctuary Erotic Arts Salon in Washington DC. She also runs an advice column, “Ask Abbie”, where she offers her own brand of advice and insight on health, fitness, body image, sex and relationships. Abigail Ekue has discussed sex, dating, body image, feminism and the creative process various media outlets including VICE, TK in the AM, The Venus Revolution with THE American Hottentot, Conversations LIVE! with Cyrus Webb and Love, Sex and Hip Hop hosted by Sinnamon Love. She has been quoted in the NY Post, Clutch Magazine and New York Spirit Magazine on marriage, body image and naked yoga, respectively.
Grace Jahng Lee, a writer of prose and poetry, was born stateless in Seoul, Korea. She grew up on military bases, living out of boxes and thinking it was normal to have to stand for the Star Spangled Banner in movie theatres. She is an alum of the Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation workshop and was recently accepted as a writer-in-residence at the Dorland Mountain Arts Colony and the Hungarian Multicultural Center in Budapest. She is working on an autobiographical novel.