Monthly Archives: June 2014

My New Dysfunctional Relationship With Ed

If your name is Edward, Eddie, or just plain Ed, please don’t take this personally. I don’t mean you. Chances are I don’t even know you.

I’m talking about past tense Ed. As in watched. Walked. Talked. Hugged. Laughed.

That sounds weird coming from a storyteller. As a writer, even the stuff I make up comes at least subconsciously from personal experiences.  Past tense should be one of my BFFs.

In many ways, it has been. I try to live in the moment. But when going somewhere new, trying something different, or meeting a new quirky person, a part of my brain is already writing about the moment. I enjoy writing about life as much as I enjoy living it. When I go back and read this paragraph, I realize just how lame that sounds. Lame or not, I think many writers can relate. For us, writing is a huge part of living .

So it disturbs me that my relationship with Ed has grown complex. It still brings me joy, but I must now sludge my way through some super-sized puddles of sadness too. I have recorded some moments that I would gladly leave in past tense forever. But more often, I recall writing happy Ed moments secure in the knowledge that while the particular one I was describing was over, there would be more like it in the future. I watched a great show. I talked with an old friend. I walked an amazing trail on a crisp fall day. I laughed until I damn near peed myself. I wrote about those times knowing full well I would be walking, talking, watching, laughing and even nearly peeing myself again.

There is a huge piece of my life about which this is no longer true. When it comes to making memories with my mother, what is now Ed will never be Ing again.

This hits me hard in what look like harmless, innocent moments. I go grab some afternoon java fuel at the coffee shop at work, and run into one of my football buddies. It might be the janitor in our building, who like me is a Steelers fan living in Baltimore. Or it maybe it is director of another office, who is a die-hard Ravens fan and jokes that I must be confused about where I live. These surface relationships built on empathy or rivalry bring some fun to our long workdays, even in the off-season.

In June, we are all going through a bit of football withdrawal. We chat about the rituals we look forward to in the fall as we pour creamer into our coffees or stir in frightening amounts of sugar. Someone jokes that I must get locked in a room by myself when the arch-rival Ravens and Steelers meet. Surely not even my nearest and dearest would want to break up their sea of purple people with my black-and-gold-clad ass.

“Actually, I’ve got a group of Steelers girls here,” I reply. “And even when we can’t all get together, I always watch …”

I stop, stare into my coffee as if it can help me, and fumble over the word. “Watched with my mom,” I finish lamely. Those game days where we’d sit in our pub and gulp beers with one hand while we covered our eyes with the other, peeking nervously through our fingers because Big Ben was looking a little Forrest Gumpy on third down, are now Ed moments with no hope of future Ings.  Even the less happy memories, like when we watched a Ravens/Steelers game in the hospital last year and I brought a Steelers blanket to drape over Mom since she couldn’t wear her fan gear, are in the past.

I loved my football seasons with Mom. I loved being different together. I will still love football season, but being different without her is going to hurt. footballtime Then again, every day without her hurts at some point.

Everyone who loses a loved one goes through these moments of painful Ed-and-Ing insight when they are talking about a shared tradition and realize that memory making with that person is over. There will be more memories made, but they will have a huge hole in them where someone amazing should have been.

As a writer, there is an added strange component to this part of grief. It doesn’t just  happen when you are living those moments or talking about them. It hits when you are writing them, too. That is a blessing and a curse. I’ll make an effort to focus on the blessing side of it.

My relationship with Ed may be dysfunctional, but I’ll never let it go. Being able to write about Mom allows me to relive those precious memories, and while I am tapping away at the keyboard they are happening all over again. Stealing a bit of Ing where there might otherwise only be Ed is a gift.

Love you Mom. Like a Dog.








Game of Thrones: The New and Improved Sansa

002Warning: Game of Thrones TV series and Song of Ice and Fire book series spoilers ahead. If you aren’t caught up on one or the other and want to be before someone ruins it for you, come back later.

This is the second post in what I am considering my “GOT Withdrawal Medication” series. With both the next HBO series season and the next book light years away, I am feeding my addiction by rambling about the differences between the show and Martin’s books.

I began with my favorite ugly duckings, Brienne and  The Hound. I’ll devote this one to a character HBO has turned into a beautiful swan – Sansa Stark.

In the books, Sansa Stark is little more than a pawn. The various players of the game tuck her in their pockets and make plans to marry her off for their own gain. Unless Westeros had a lemon-cake eating contest, she’d have only one claim to fame: Girl With the Most Repulsive Potential Husbands. First Joffrey. Enough said. Then Robert Arryn, AKA Moon Door Boy. The only exception to the ick-factor is Tyrion.  If it wasn’t for that whole his-family-murdered-my-family thing, even Sansa might have eventually been able to see the dwarf as an ally.

In the books, Sansa is the oddball Stark. The other children are brave and adventurous, even when they are getting an ass-whooping. Robb tries to avenge his father. Arya makes her list and checks it way more than twice. Brann rides off on a trusty Hodor to find the three-eyed crow.  Jon Snow survives the Wildlings and holds the Wall. When shit happens, these Stark kids at least try to control their fates and create their own destinies.

Sansa, meanwhile, cowers and lets everyone else define her future. Initially, she’s the most gullible in the Stark bunch. Her starstruck admiration of Cersei ultimately costs her father his head when she blabs to the Queen about Ned’s plan to drag her away from King’s Landing . Once she survives that horror, she sees cruelty at every turn. Sansa trusts no one, especially if their name is Lannister. Can’t blame her for that.

But in the books, you still want to grab her by the shoulders and shake her, because she never learns to trust herself either. The Hound nails it when he calls her a little bird that sings whatever song it is taught.

Until the 4th season, HBO built their Sansa Stark in the same mold. Then they decided to take her for a joy ride. In the books, Sansa recreates herself as “Alayne Stone” because that’s what Petyr Baelish tells her to do. She wears what his bastard daughter would wear and fades into the background like a sweet little bastard girl would do.  She remains mouse-like while her fake daddy lures the Knights and Ladies of the Vale into his schemes. She is afraid of pissing off Petyr, but I think she’s also afraid of being Sansa Stark again. After all, being Sansa Stark kind of sucked.

Instead of lying low, HBO’s Sansa said “Screw this Alayne shit” and fessed up to her true identity when confronted by the nobles of the Vale. Then she sauntered down those stairs making Creepy Dead Lysa’s dress look downright hot.

Sansa didn’t whip out a sword or a Braavosi coin, but her subtle changes were still one of the power plays of the season. By telling her potential allies in the Vale the truth, she also grabbed Lord Baelish by the balls and gave them a little twist. As long as she was just Alayne, she was powerless. When she reclaims her Starkness, she becomes someone the Vale folk may want to help, use or both. Either way, they’ll care about her way more than swarmy Petyr.

Her change of outfit and those knowing looks she shoots him afterwards? If that isn’t a “how do you like me now?” I don’t know what is.

As I watched HBO’s reformed Sansa, I saw all that “use your womanly wiles” advice Cersei and Margaery gave her put to use, and I was glad. Quite frankly, I’m getting a wee bit tired of feeling so sorry for Book Sansa. I’m glad HBO Sansa appears to be growing some girl-balls and shaking things up a bit.

What about you? How do you think HBO’s stronger version of Sansa will change things to come?






One of the hardest things about my mother’s death was the cruel and awful reality of her last few days here on Earth. Cancer is not an enemy that strikes with a quick, clean blow. It is slow and sneaky, harsh and evil.

Seeing it fill my mother’s last days with constant fear and suffering was the hardest thing that anyone in my immediate family has ever endured.  When it was over, those of us left behind were battle-scarred, broken and weary in ways we would not have been able to comprehend just months ago. If you have been there, you know.

After watching a loved one fade away in a fog of pain, you need to know they are at peace before you can begin healing yourself. You look for signs. And so we did.

My mother was an animal person. Dogs were her most loved familiars, but all creatures were dear to her heart. She liked keeping it real, and felt that animals are much more genuine than humans. She even got on my case for squashing spiders that had the audacity to hang out in my bathtub and stare at me while I was trying to pee.

So it made sense that if the departed can send signs to the living, Mom’s messages would come from the animal kingdom. Shortly after her death, my sister asked her for a sign. Later that day, one of the regulars at our pub showed up with a tiny water turtle he had found on a job site. “Sebastian” now lives in an aquarium in Momma’s bedroom. The only thing Mom loved almost as much as dogs was frogs. While tending Mom’s flowers, my niece was visited by a tiny frog who stopped and let her snap a picture before hopping away.

Mom was a very spiritual woman. She said things like “I believe in Jesus AND tree fairies.” She gave each of us a guardian angel. She’d ask them to protect us when she felt we were in need. She told me that mine was a cardinal.

My boyfriend Lee and I bought her a Scottish Broom and planted it in her yard on Mother’s Day a few years ago. The other day, we were over the house and Lee cleared the dead growth around it away as I sat on the porch chatting with my sister and my father. As he was lugging the dead branches away, a bright red cardinal landed on a wire just above the Scottish Broom. It chirped and watched me for a while, and I could hear Mom saying “about damn time you people doctored up my plant” in his singing.

But perhaps the best sign of all came this past weekend. Last summer, my niece brought home a sweet little pup from her vacation in West Virginia. Although Mom loved dogs, the last thing she wanted was another one. They already had three. But her and my sister lost that battle, and Charlie came home with Jordyn. She quickly wrapped the entire family around her little paw, especially my father. Mom was diagnosed with cancer just a few months after Charlie joined the family. Dad has told me many times that he thinks she was sent to him. Through the grueling months to come, she would be one of the few things that could still make him laugh.

Who, Me?

Who, Me?

Last Friday night, my niece went to the beach with a friend for the weekend. My sister stayed overnight with a friend. Dad was home with just the dogs for the first time in a long while. Saturday morning, he got up and did what he always does – took his cup of coffee out to the porch.

Charlie is one of those dogs who wants to be where you are, especially if “you” are my Dad. Although she’d already been out that morning, she wanted to join him. Like she often does, she jumped at the glass door to get his attention. But unlike any other time, she managed to hit the lock and bar Dad from coming back inside.

Any other morning, this would be no big deal. My sister and niece would be home to let him in. If they were still sleeping, he’d have gotten an earful, but that would be the worst of it.

As it happened, Lee had stopped by to borrow Dad’s riding mower. Dad told him to go in and make himself a cup of coffee. When he tried, they realized what Charlie had done. No coffee for Lee. Even worse, Dad hadn’t yet had his morning constitutional. Needing to have our coffee in order to make that happen sort of runs in my family. Dad had to call my sister, wake her up and ask her to come home with her key to let him in.

When she got there, Dad muttered something about “that damn Charlie.”

My sister said “That wasn’t Charlie. It was Mom.”

I think she was probably right. My Mom wouldn’t just send us frogs and turtles and cardinals. She’d send those sweet, gentle signs that everything is OK for her now, sure. But that’s not all she’d do. My Mom is the kind of lady who has to mess with us a little bit. I know she’d get a huge kick out of locking Dad out of the house before ‘morning dump’ time. She’d get an even bigger kick out of getting his favorite pup to help her do it.

What better way to help us heal than to let us know she’s still herself, making us laugh at our own expense? Some may say I’m just one of those people who sees signs where she wants to see them, and I’m okay with that. After all, I’m the daughter of the woman who gave me a bird for a guardian angel and told me that tree fairies are real.

Love you Mom. Like a dog.


Summer Swampitude

I get along very well with three of the four seasons. Fall and I have beautifully changing landscapes, long walks in the woods, and FOOTBALL. Winter brings the hope of the occasional snow day – since I work at a college I still do the school-kid “squee” when there’s a chance we might close. Spring is gardening, and more long walks.

We’re buds, me, fall, winter and spring. I try to get along with everybody. Well, almost everybody. Summer and I have issues I just haven’t been able to work through.

There I said it. I’m not a fan of summer. If you say you hate winter and being cold, you get nods of sympathy, hot tea and a blankie. Say summer brings you down, and all the sudden you’re a Joffrey Lannisteresque douche who probably kicks puppies when no one is looking.

I’ve always felt like an oddball for not liking summertime. I mean, everyone loves the dog days, right? Actually, no. We hear about SAD (seasonal affective disorder) quite a bit in reference to the lack of light in winter. But there is actually a variation of SAD (reverse seasonal affective disorder) that impacts a much smaller percentage of the population in the summer.

I used to wonder if I had reverse SAD myself, and who knows, maybe I do. But I think it is more likely that I’m now on year 20-something of a lifelong battle with I-don’t-wanna-grow-up disorder. More than any other season, summer reminds you of the differences between grown-upitude and childhood.

Here is my short list of summer piss-offs:

1. Rodney. You probably don’t know Rodney unless you live in Maryland. He is a make-believe lifeguard in a commercial promoting Ocean City MD. In the commercials, Rodney sees that you are stuck in traffic or mired in work at your office. He swoops out of nowhere, whisks you into his arms, and magically transports you to the beach so that you can have fun. The problem with Rodney is that the jerk never comes for me. He has probably been told to only do his swoop-rescue to people who can afford hotels and dinners out every night once he plops them down in the middle of the resort town. He can tell my truck doesn’t have AC by my wilted stuck-in-traffic face, and figures I’m not one of those people.

2.  Shaving. No, I do not test my Sasquatch imitator skills when the weather is cold. I shave year-round. But when summer rolls around and your choice becomes to have more skin hanging out or roast like a weiner on the grill, you have to be more meticulous about it. I don’t do meticulous well. I’ve always been a big-picture girl.

3. Heat. Yes, it is that simple. The only time I like being hot is when I’m poolside with a cold drink in my hand or sitting on a beach. I get to do those things occasionally, even without Rodney’s help. But more often than not I’m doing something more along the lines of going to work, traipsing to meetings, grocery shopping or paying bills. I did “hot” much better when summer meant sleeping late, going swimming, staying up all night with friends and chasing the snowball truck.

4. Mugginess. In Maryland, summer isn’t just hot. A thick fog of humidity plops its fat ass over our general region. I imagine that summer in Baltimore feels much like being a Lilliputian who gets sat on by Gulliver and is stuck beneath his sweaty buttcheeks.

5. Working. Yes, I work year-round. But because I work in higher education, a lot of people assume summers in my office are “light.” In reality, June-August is one of our busiest times of year. When people say “you have it easy in the summer at that job, don’t you?” I give them my own you’re-a-Joffreyesque-douche stare. In reality, my coworkers and I are busting our butts in an old building with such crappy air conditioning that it often feels nicer out in the Gulliver’s Butt Swampass outdoors. We use fans to blow around the stale hot air, and we bitch and moan a lot. All those cute summer tank tops and short-shorts and flip-flops designed to help you beat the heat don’t do shit for you when you have a dress code.

6. Thunderstorms. Yeah, I know. I am a writer who likes to make up stories of the weird and creepy. I’m supposed to thrill to a good flash of lightening and boom of thunder. In reality, I’m more like a big dog that wants to crawl under the bed or hide under a table as soon as I can smell the storm in the air. Besides, thunderstorms are contrary pricks. They rarely show up when you could sit and watch them from the safety of a porch or window. They prefer to drop by in in the middle of rush hour, or sneak around about midnight and knock out your power so you have to sleep without air conditioning.

My Momma always loved summertime. She waited all year for the few months that she could lounge at her pool and soak up the heat. It was her thing. When I was off and could join her, I was okay with summer too. It is when I have to function as an out-in-the-world worker-bee that my summer ughs take over and the Swampass and I become mortal enemies.

We should all get to be kids again in the summertime, don’t you think? Since I can’t make that happen, I’ll leave off by admitting that one thing I do like about summer is Swampass Gulliver’s Buttcheek Day Sunsets. sunsetThey’re beautiful. Especially if I’m observing them from my deck with my air conditioner just a few short steps away.





Game of Thrones Season 4 – I Knew Less Than Jon Snow

002Warning:  If you have not seen the finale of Season 4, do not enter. If you have not read through the third book in the series (A Storm of Swords) and plan to do so, click on out of here. That is, unless you like spoilers. Because this, my friends, is full of them.

I am an unabashed Game of Thrones geek-girl. I plan my Sunday nights around showtime. I have read all the books – more than once.  For the first three seasons, this generally meant I knew what was coming on the show. Oh, there were some big change-ups.  HBO made Joffrey even more hate-worthy and the Red Wedding even more brutal. They turned Robb Stark’s nondescript wife into a character I cared about (and then killed her). They reduced Robert Baratheon’s bastard count by turning Gendry and Edric Storm into “Gendric.”

But that didn’t prepare me for Season 4. For most of this run, I felt like Jon Snow. I knew nothing. And now it is over, and so our watch begins. Season 5 and Book 6 seem as far away as Dany and her dragons are from Westeros. So I am creating my own little ‘mini-series’ here on this blog, to discuss some of the major differences between HBO’s season 4 and Martin’s books.

Let’s begin with the end.

I have anticipated watching Tywin Lannister get offed on the shitter for weeks now. The scene was all that I expected. Peter Dinklage and Charles Dance have brought  the complex, twisted relationship between Tyrion and Tywin to life from their very first scenes together. Their grand finale did not disappoint.

Even so, Tywin proving that he does not shit gold wasn’t the episode’s shining moment for me.  I was still reeling from Brienne of Tarth biting a huge chunk out of The Hound.

That entire scene came out of nowhere. Don’t get me wrong. I think it was a very well-planned and executed twist. I’ve been disappointed by some of the ways HBO has veered away from the books. But not by this one.

In the book, Arya leaves a dying (we think so, anyway) Sandor Clegane after refusing him the mercy of a quick death. But Brienne of Tarth is not involved. Brienne never actually crosses paths with Arya and The Hound. HBO ignored that and gave us an epic battle between two favorite characters. I applaud this twist for many reasons.

1. It highlighted just what all her suffering has made Arya.  Brienne offers her protection. Instead of taking it, she hides during the battle, then returns to Clegane before leaving him to die slowly.  Brienne didn’t lose her chance to save Arya because Clegane pegged her as a Lannister affiliate. She lost it by offering Arya something the child no longer believes in – safety.

2. If there were ever two ugly ducklings unable to transform to swan status, they are The Hound and Brienne. Their lives are defined by their lack of beauty. Brienne is huge, awkward and unfeminine. Sandor is scarred and twisted. They are too big, strong and angry to fit in by fading into the background, so they build lives around serving others. Sandor serves so he can fight. Brienne serves out of love and loyalty. She is broken by failure to save those she chooses to serve, and he is reduced to nothing by the sight of fire. They are two characters who seemed destined to meet in the books, and never did.

3. Both George R. R. Martin and HBO make you feel for The Hound in spite of his brutality. But in my mind, HBO took the relationship between Arya and The Hound to the next level, making you like him just a bit more. Brienne is one of the few characters I can forgive for cutting short a relationship journey that had really grown on me. I’m still pissed about the lack of Hound in the most recent books.

4. The fight was epic. You saw a brutal, clawing, desperate, fierce side to Brienne. This wasn’t the tough but insecure woman who served Renly and found herself being rescued from a bear by Jaime Lannister. This was a creature of raw force. This was almost The Hound in female form.

What did you think? Did HBO do the right thing by making Brienne the one who took down The Hound, or would you have preferred they stick with the original storyline?

Next up: The new and improved (?) Sansa.


Getting it Out

There are a million remedies for stress, anxiety, grief, etc.  Counseling. Medication. Meditation. Excercise. A few shots of tuaca at Hawley’s (Insert your own favorite pub here if you don’t live close. If you are nearby, no inserting. Go to Hawley’s).

With the exception of medication, I have tried them all at various points in my life, and have good things to say about each of them. But for me, there is nothing in this world that beats creating when it comes to healing.

During my Mom’s illness, I wrote nothing. I was in the middle of editing my first novel, which was written when my silly and somewhat twisted sense of humor was in high gear. Watching a loved one suffer squished the whimsy required to improve on my dialogue and scenes, so I left it alone. That was the right choice. My mistake was in not writing ANYTHING.

For me, stress dissolves when I write, even if what I’m writing has nothing to do with the stress. When I don’t write, I become a freak. The traffic noises of workday morning commutes make me want to babble in tongues. If the system I manage at work does something quirky, I want to hide under my desk with my Steelers gnome (he’s my version of a binky). And if, by some horrific twist of fate, I have to go to Walmart and get trapped in an aisle full of big carts and bigger butts, I fight the urge to shout obscenities, cry and laugh like Jack Nicholson all at once.

I can’t explain why writing minimizes those urges. I just know it does. Maybe it releases some of the pressure so I’m not like a warm soda bottle that has been dropped on the kitchen floor, ready to explode if my top is even slightly twisted.

But I think it is more than that. I think the act of pulling something good out of my head and putting it out into the world takes away a little of the power everything I see as “bad” is holding over me. It is funny that I, who am sometimes guilty of thinking I know everything, stopped writing when I needed it most. I had been telling Mom she should journal for years. She never listened, until last fall, when she began journaling through her cancer journey.

She always was smarter than me, even though she couldn’t get me to admit it.

Creating may not put therapists, doctors, yoga instructors and bartenders out of business (a world without bartenders would just SUCK), but it sure as hell helps us all along.

Notice I said creating, not writing. For me, what I create is (hopefully) coherent thoughts and stories out of words on a page. For you, it might be something entirely different.

My partner Lee takes raw stretches of nature and turns them into beautifully landscaped gardens and yards, and can rise to the challenge whether he’s doing it for someone on a Mercedes budget or a ramen noodle one. QUALITY COMPLETE 011

My Momma always created a beautiful home and delicious family meals that could taste like childhood or a trip to Italy, depending on the goal. My sister has followed in her footsteps. I am amazed at the way she kept up the family home and traditions when Mom got ill. I’m the first to admit that if it had been me living there instead of her, their beautiful home would probably look like a bachelor pad by now.

My niece Jordyn can take her camera and ANYTHING and turn it into a photograph that will make you wonder at just how beautiful the world is, laugh, think, or all of the above. Most girls her age take nothing but selfies. She captures everything through her own eyes and shares it with the rest of us so we can experience her youthful, inspired vision. jordynhorse

One of the bartenders at Hawley’s, Kitty, creates beautiful paintings. Her seascapes have brought my brand of peace into my home.

My friend Shannon creates in her kitchen.

I could go on and on. But the point is, each one of these acts of creation makes the world a better place. They don’t take away grief or frustration, but they help balance the scales. So get creating, and don’t worry if you suck. Just have fun. At a staff retreat the other day, we did one of those “icebreaker” exercises. We had to get into groups, and each group was given an index card with a decade on it. We had to draw a picture of an image that represented that decade to us, and then see if the others could guess it. We got the 70’s and decided to draw a dude in a leisure suit with bad hair and a hairy chest. A few people in my group know that I write, so they nominated me as the “creative one” who would draw our picture.

Being able to make pictures with words does not mean you can draw them. I doodle a lot, but I’m not an artist. Still, I took our pack of markers, had someone Google a picture of a skeezy dude in a leisure suit, and went to town.

My end result was raw and cartoonish, but everyone guessed our decade correctly. More importantly, everyone laughed. I’d been feeling gloomy that morning, but looking at my goofy-ass leisure suit guy made me grin. I wish I’d kept him so I could take a picture.

Create. Have fun. Laugh. Put beauty or comfort or peace or humor out there. Your choice. Do anything but nothing. Get it out.

Love you Mom. Like a Dog.



Like A …Goose?

I’m one of those disgustingly lucky people who doesn’t just work well with her boss, but actually likes him.

We’ve always been a study in how opposite personality types can appreciate and benefit from one anothers’ strengths.  He’s an extravert. I’m an introvert. He likes things decided. I like exploring my options. He focuses on the bottom line, while I obsess about how getting there makes everyone feel. He sees what’s really happening while I float off some on “could be” cloud.

I want to be like a dog. He wants to be like a goose.

A few months ago, he told his small group of leaders that we were going to plan an office retreat around the theme of “Be A Goose.”  My first thought was “Be a goose? Are you freaking serious?”

My experience with geese is pretty limited.

When I was a child,  a big mean goose lived in my great-grandmother’s yard. When I was outside, it liked to chase me and peck me on the ass. It got to the point where when we pulled into her driveway, I’d make my grandfather carry me to the house so I could avoid goose-nipped buttcheeks.

As an adult, I’ve worked at the same college campus for years. There is a small man-made pond on campus. For a while, a flock of geese took up residence at the pond. They weren’t ass-biters like my great-grandmother’s goose, but they shit everywhere. Prospective students and their parents had to play hopscotch over big green gobs of gooseshit to get to the admissions office. I once had to speak at a President’s Council meeting, and the agenda item before my demo was the geese. I spent a half hour listening to the highest higher-ups on campus debate humane and efficient ways to remove the geese and their poop.

So the whole “Be A Goose” thing perplexed me. Why would we want our staff to peck each other on the ass and shit everywhere?

But as the boss unraveled his thoughts around the theme, things became clearer.  I learned a lot about geese. For example, the way they fly in “V” formation allows them to reduce wind resistance. They take turns leading the formation, switching off when the current leader gets tired. If one goose becomes sick or injured and can no longer keep going, two other geese leave the formation with it and stay near it as it recuperates or passes on.

Chickens, meanwhile, are known to peck at each other constantly. When one chicken is pecked to the point of weakness, they gang up on it even more.  I have to admit, this new tidbit of info makes me feel a lot better about all those buffalo wings I’ve eaten.

I never would have guessed that one of my favorite dinners is a bully, or that the birds I thought of as butt-munching poop machines were so good at supporting one another.

Considering all that, I could suddenly see how “be a goose” worked as a professional development theme. The boss put together a great day, and the “be a goose” motto has taken off without anyone pooping anywhere inappropriate.

For me, it was a lesson in perspective. What seems ugly and mean might also possess kindness and beauty, if I only bother to look deeper.

I’d still rather be a like a dog, but being a goose has its good points too.