A Dog’s Map of the World

Growing up with two border collies, walks with a dog to me always meant focus and intensity. To border collies, a walk is work — and you don’t mess around with work, unless the need arises to herd your people together or to ensure bike and stroller tires don’t get too uppity.

And then we adopted Miri.

Miri Selfie

As you probably can tell, Miri is part border collie, but she is also Great Pyrenees, Akita, Sharpei and a whole bunch of other things (or so the test we paid way too much for said). Perhaps it’s because she was found starving in a field, or perhaps it’s a trait found in one of the other breeds she’s got mixed in there, but walks for Miri are far less about work and far more about finding food in even the most unlikely corners of our neighborhood. And by food, I mean something she can chew, which may or may not actually be edible.

This means our walks are always entertaining. Often, I play the, “Is this the pre-poop sniff or the about to eat something that will require gastrointestinal surgery sniff” game, as well as the also fun, “Guessing what she’s sniffing in dim light” game. Winners, both of them.  Never a big fan of yard work myself, I have come to hate people who leave their grass long and don’t rake their leaves, for these are Miri’s “Mystery Grab Bags.” Down her nose will go, disappearing deep into a pile of decomposing leaves, only to reemerge with a dead bird carcass or worse, moldy fast food. Even higher on my hate list are homeowners who, for some reason I cannot even begin to discern, discard chicken bones — chicken bones! — on their lawns, as if that’s the most natural place for them. And don’t get me started on the people who discard their jackets just because it gets hot. I shudder to think what lies beneath those earth toned folds.

But worst yet is the map she keeps in her mind. Sure, I might avert chicken bone disaster one day by jerking her away just in time or even pulling bits and pieces out of her mouth, and I might even continue to do so for several days forward. But one day, I will be distracted crossing the road, absorbed in a podcast, or talking to a friend, and Miri will pull the map up in her mind (“From: Miri’s Current Location, To: Thing She Shouldn’t Eat”) and before I know it, that octopus leg/rodent carcass/bag of chips has disappeared, never to be seen again (if we’re lucky).

This is my best attempt at rendering a mockup of Miri’s Map of the World:

 

\Miri's Map of the World 1

 

Naturally, it changes with the help of racoons, who dutifully scatter garbage across the neighborhood, and with the addition of new carcasses, which other animals drag into the most highly trafficked areas (how polite!). The only thing I can do is update my own map as frequently as possible and hope that one day leash training is more than that thing Cesar Milan says. In the meantime, I think it’s time for Miri’s walk.

COMIC ALERT: Top 5 Jobs for Liberal Arts Grads (Pro Tip: Learn to Love Kittens)

As you may or may not know, I spend a good portion of my days helping eager students apply to college and graduate school through my business, Just Start Storytelling. More often than not, my graduate applicants apply to science, business or technical programs because, you know, there are actual jobs available in the those industries. I am amazed on a regular basis at how many interesting niche programs there are, and find myself wishing I could apply too.

However, as someone who has made extensive study both of the Sciences and of the Humanities, sometimes I’m a little concerned that more Liberal Arts grads aren’t finding their way into graduate degrees. Even more worrisome is the perception in the mass media that a Liberal Arts degree will land you back in your parents’ basement, working fast food jobs until you’re 50 just to pay for mom and dad’s heating bills. As someone who spent a long time searching for her own post-collegiate career path, I can tell you that this is absolutely false. In fact, if you’re willing to invent your own job, there is a world of job possibilities out there for any hardworking Liberal Arts grad. You just have to know how to do one thing: mix and match adjectives and nouns. That’s right, it’s Invent Your Career Via Random Word Generator!

From “Professional Hemp Baker” to “Extraordinary Leaf Pruner” and everything in between, there are many excellent options. Don’t believe me? Just take a look at my top 5 picks below. (To make this read extra fun, see if you can guess which ones I actually encountered when I was first began my desperate search for employment so many years ago).

1. Kitten Dialysis Operator2. Professional Measurer3. Passive Aggressive Security Guard4. Random Knowledge Generator5. Fungineer

So you see, all you have to do is shove a few adjectives together and you’re good to go! Don’t you feel so much better? I know I sure do! But seriously folks, I actually do believe you’re well-qualified to do so many jobs with a liberal arts degree, as long as you get a little inventive. I detail a few of these paths for writers in this old post up on Write By Night, but there is so much more you can do than just that. So if you’re seeking to apply those skills somewhere, don’t give up hope!

P.S. Have you guessed which job (other than the Fungineer one, because that’s obvious), I actually encountered in my hunt post-grad school? Give it a guess in the comments below!

“Has Leah Got a New Web Address?” said No One Ever Because Who Cares?

When you’re a writer, the simple act of announcing that your blog address has changed becomes an unwieldy task. It’s not enough to quickly state the news – news that nobody, not even your mother, is likely to be interested in. Instead, you must devise something clever, self-deprecating perhaps, and entirely encompassing of you as a person, not to mention your sensibilities as a writer. And you’re to do all of this because writing a post about having a new blog address is just the kind of meta-blogging thing you’re supposed to do. It’s a matter of personal branding, dangit.

Well, everybody, I have tortured myself trying to devise something that fits all of those criteria, and also how to make vague yet well-intentioned statements (lies!) about trying to post more in the future, and the only thing I can do to capture my excitement about this fresh new address and look is:

animated-gifs-crabs-024 (1)

Excited crab dance. Yeah! It’s not quite the crab dance I love from Gmail, but it will have to do. So welcome, everyone, to my new blog and my new look. More updates on the writing life, comics on silly things and enraged letters to the editor soon! (Hopefully! Maybe! We’ll see how much time I have and whether or not I can think of anything worthy of posting! Yeah!)

The Travels and Tribulations of a Failed Clown

You meet all sorts of characters on the road, from hard partying hostelers to deep thinking bus seatmates. Sometimes you’ll even meet a great character by the side of the road, like the sole practitioner of this roadside dentistry operation I encountered in India:

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But by far the favorite character I’ve ever met in all of my travels has got to be the failed English clown I found battling his way through a life of abject misery in a Lisbon hostel. Naturally, I felt at once sympathetic, concerned, and a great urge to run away as fast as my non-oversized red shoes would take me.

In The Travels and Tribulations of a Failed Clown, posted on the lovely travel site, Fathom Way to Go, I detail the experience in full nose-honking detail. Go on, click the link. I promise not to squirt you with this plastic flower I’ve pinned to my lapel.

(Sorry, just had to get in one more clown joke. Enjoy!)

Notes from a Cross-Country Travel Disaster

A few years ago, when my brother graduated from high school, I began what had become my regular trek across the country from Seattle to Ithaca, dressed arrogantly in nothing more than a t-shirt, flip flips and capris.

Then came Chicago O’Hare and tornadoes. What could possibly go wrong?

In this travel horror story, Notes from a Cross-Country Travel Disaster, up on my new favorite site, Fathom, I recount what it’s like to be a travel zombie, imparting a few key tips like, “Use your waterproof backpack cover as a blanket when the air conditioning on the train is too cold” and “ALWAYS BRING SOCKS IN YOUR CARRYON.”

Watch as your intrepid protagonist overcomes obstacles, tries to keep her cool with airline representatives, and learns a little something about what it means to love.

Just kidding about that last part. Enjoy, and thanks for reading!