That Time I Was on National Television (and learned it was full of lies)

20 Nov

As promised, on Tuesday night my friend and I were members of the live studio audience for The Jonathan Ross Show. I can finally check off my one London bucket list item — maybe.

JRShowLet me back up a bit. Part of the reason I wanted to be in a studio audience was pure curiosity — I wanted to see how a show is made, what happens during the breaks, and how it differs from the final edits. And this experience really fulfilled that. But of course I had another reason — I wanted to be able to pause the TV program on an audience shot, find myself, and post a screenshot of it on Facebook to show that I was on TV. I’m just being honest here. And this is where I made my fatal error — I did not watch a single episode of The Jonathan Ross Show before I booked it. My favorite British chat programme is The Graham Norton Show. Stephen and I watch it almost every week. The guests are always great, Graham himself is a hoot, and there’s always plenty of audience reactions and shots. I assumed The Jonathan Ross Show, another late night chat show, would have a similar format. Nope. A few days ago I finally sat down and watched a couple episodes. Jonathan comes out, does a short monologue, then the first guest comes out. Jonathan and guest chat, the second guest comes out, and that guest talks to Jonathan and the first guest. Then both guests leave and the third guest comes out. She has a chat for a bit, and is accompanied by the fourth guest. And then a musical guest performs. Done. At no point — even in the opening or closing shots — is the audience ever shown. So I went into Tuesday’s taping excited, but also with realistic expectations. We were merely going to watch a TV taping, not be on it.

Nervous that we would not make the 6pm cut off time for priority ticket holders, my friend and I arrived at ITV studios at 5:30pm. There was already a massive queue snaked around the building. If we didn’t have priority we definitely wouldn’t have gotten in, and the taping didn’t even start until 7pm. We were escorted to the front of the building to the much shorter priority queue and were issued pink wristbands. At 6:15 they started letting people in. We were guided up a set of stairs lined with photos from shows that would probably mean more to me if I watched more ITV (sorry!), then through an open set of doors. And there it was — the set of the Jonathan Ross Show, just as I remembered it from all 2 episodes I watched.

jonathan ross set(I stole this photo from the internet, as we obviously weren’t allowed to take any photos inside.)

We were led into the second row, front and center. Perfect seats, right in front of the musical stage.

“We’ll practically be able to reach out and touch Boyzone!” I squealed to my friend.

Let me back up again here. Boyzone was the scheduled musical act. Do you know who they are? Your answer probably depends a lot on your nationality. To quote Wikipedia, “Boyzone are one of the most successful bands in Ireland and the United Kingdom.” But if you’re American, you likely don’t know who they are, unless you happen to be a rabid fan of Meat Loaf and Jim Steinman, and downloaded their song “No Matter What” several years ago because it was written by Steinman and covered by Meat Loaf and you wanted to hear their version. (Yes, I’m referring to myself there). I knew one of their songs and my friend hadn’t heard of them at all, but this past week we studied up. We jokingly exchanged old Boyzone photos, videos and lyrics through email and Facebook. We were pumped about seeing them perform — and so close!

I’m glad my first TV taping experience was with a friend instead of by myself for multiple reasons, but mainly because there’s a lot of down time before it begins and you aren’t allowed to have your phone on.

As it got closer to show time, a man came out and greeted everywhere. I know enough from listening to Adam Carolla’s podcast that this guy is the audience warm-up guy. He coaches us on when to clap and make noise.

“You came on a very special night,” he said. “We have some amazing guests!” My friend and I looked at each and almost in unison said “I bet he always says that.” Because that was my other gripe — the Jonathan Ross Show usually gets a lot of A-list celebrities. The 2 episodes I watched featured Lindsay Lohan, Russell Brand, and Gordon Ramsey, among others.

jonathan ross lindsay lohanTonight’s guests were Lee Evans, Sheila Hancock, Noel Gallagher, Jack Whitehall — no one I knew. This was our first hint that this warm-up guy may be a bit of a BSer.

“Tonight’s show is also special because it’s going to feature you, the audience!” he shouted. “You’ll notice that’s why you’re lit and we have stairs leading up to you. Some of our guests will be going into the audience to interact with you! So if you see a camera pointed at you, be sure to smile!”

My friend and I both smiled excitedly at each other. Maybe I couldn’t boil down the show’s format from watching only 2 episodes and my dream of actually being on TV was about to be realized!

“Now I need everyone to stand up!” Warm-up guy shouted. “We’re going to film a special part of the show with you right now, and then edit it in with the part we’ll be filming with the guests later.”

He began teaching us various dance moves, from swaying back and forth, hands in the air, to forward and backward speed bagging. I was glad we had mulled wine at afternoon tea before the show, as dancing in public is not my thing. But this was for TV!

Suddenly Elvis’ “Viva Las Vegas” starred blaring and the “dance” began. We swayed and shimmied, laughing at how ridiculous it was. I tried to position myself so I wasn’t directly behind the girl in front of me — you know, for the cameras. But I didn’t see any cameras. We were being taught new dance moves as we went along now, and they got more and more perverse — pelvic thrusting and spanking the person next to you (reason No. 2 I’m glad I was not at the show alone!). That’s when it hit me and I whispered to my friend “This is all just audience warm-up. We’re not even being filmed!” Which of the guests would have us “dancing” to Elvis, anyway?!

When the song ended, the warm-up guy jokingly told us ladies to fix our hair and “push ‘em up” because it was almost time to be on TV. Suddenly a bunch of guys in hoodies and headphones came out and moved several cameras into place (blocking my view of Jonathan’s chair), and started shouting out show biz-y things like “30 seconds!” Then the intro song played and Jonathan came out as we all jumped to our feet and screamed and clapped, even though no one was going to see us.

I watched a lot of the show on the big television screens and on the little screen of the camera blocking my view. It was interesting to watch the red lights on each camera light up so Jonathan and the guests knew which one to look into. The first guest, comedian Lee Evans, was a hilarious bundle of energy, except when he started talking about his recently deceased manager. He and Jonathan seemed to talk forever, and I wondered how they’d ever have time for the other three guests and Boyzone. That’s when I learned another bit of TV magic — they shoot way more than they’ll ever use. At one point Jonathan gave Sheila Hancock an iPod as a gift and she didn’t want it, so he mentioned they’ll probably just cut that whole bit out. There aren’t many commercial breaks in the UK, so they only broke briefly after each guest.

After the first break Jonathan mentioned something about Boyzone not coming. They showed several live shots of the green room and only one of the band members was there, sitting next to cardboard cutouts of his bandmates. On air Jonathan said they were stuck in traffic, so my friend and I were holding out hope that they’d arrive soon. I’ve actually seen this happen several times on the Graham Norton Show and the guest always turns up eventually. But with each green room shot as the night wore on, it was only one guy.

At the second break warm-up guy came back out and said we were incredibly lucky — we were going to be filmed not just for this show, but for a bit on next week’s show too! So after the show we’d have to stay to tape that segment. He also said it was time to give away a goodie bag. He held it up, mentioned something about a “blonde over there,” then a hoodie-headphone guy said “10 seconds” and warm-up guy and his goodie bag disappeared.

After all the guests had finished, Jonathan told us to give it up for Boyzone, and we went wild, cheering and clapping for — a recording. The musical performance was prerecorded. So we sat there and watched Boyzone sing their new song on the TVs above us. Then all the guests came out again and they recorded promos and publicity photos. And then it was done. Two hours of nearly straight filming for a one-hour show.

No guest ever interacted with the audience. No camera was ever pointed at any of us. And there was certainly no mention of Viva Las Vegas. But surely warm-up guy didn’t lie about EVERYTHING — he said we’d be on TV two weeks in a row wearing the same clothes! So after headphone guys started taking the guest couch away, I looked around for warm-up guy, wondering what post-show shenanigans he had in store. But he was gone. Everyone stood up and started to file out like at the end of a movie or play.

“It was all a lie!” I shouted to my friend. “We were never going to be on TV!” The girl next to us said she went to a taping of a different show and they did the same Elvis warm-up dance.

I can almost see the purpose of that — it gets everybody loosened up and laughing, and what’s one tiny fib about it being necessary for the taping? But why all the other lies? Why tell us the audience is being lit, the guests will be using the stairs, we will be winning goodie bags?! Would we be less willing to scream and clap if we knew we weren’t being filmed? Presumably most people in the audience have seen the show more than me, they have to know the typical format!

Don’t get me wrong, my friend and I had a great time, and she kept gushing about how fun it was afterward. But we both agreed we felt a little useless as an audience — like a glorified laugh track. While some shows feel like the host is talking to the live audience and you at home are just lucky to be watching, this definitely felt like it was made for TV viewers and we were just lucky to be observing the process. Jonathan always looked directly into the camera, like the viewers at home were the ones he was hoping to get a laugh from, not us. I realize again that this is my fault — the show has a certain format to it and it’s not the show’s fault it doesn’t meet my expectations of audience participation — Jonathan Ross is not Graham Norton. I just wish the warm-up guy hadn’t pretended that he was.

And what was up with Boyzone?! Was it a fluke thing, or are musical guests often prerecorded? Is it all a lie?!!

So that was my first experience in a TV audience. A fun night out, but I’m not sure I’m ready to completely check off my bucket list box… perhaps I’ll make a new addition to the list: be in Graham Norton’s studio audience.

Running goals and pugwear

13 Nov

How is Thanksgiving only 2 weeks away? Or, perhaps more importantly, how is my second ever 10K race only 2 weeks away?

I decided it was time to up my training. For the past few months I’ve only been running 5K (3 miles) a few times a week, then 4 miles with Stephen on the weekend. The last time I truly ran 10K without counting the walking warm up and cool down may have been last year’s race. So I decided today I was going to do it — I was going to run 10K, to make sure I still can, to test out my new Spotify playlist, and to see if all my sub-30 min 5Ks I’ve been clocking in truly could turn into a sub-hour 10K.

I went into last year’s race with 2 abstract goals: 1. Finish 2. Don’t walk. I managed to do both, albeit slowly. It was my first ever race and I was just excited to be participating. But I’ve been running for a year and a half now, so it’s time I set a real goal — 10K in under an hour.

As I set off to Regents Park this morning I got to thinking about the road trip stages I wrote about 4(?!) years ago. I realized long distance running (shut up, 6 miles is long distance for me!) has similar stages — the initial excitement, followed shortly by Dear God What Am I Doing?! Several times I had to talk myself out of turning around or stopping. In the middle of it time was dragging, and I began questioning why I ever signed up for a 10K and why I would even entertain the thought of a half marathon one day, running more than 5K seemed impossible. And then it started raining, in true London fashion. But I kept going. And going. I got a welcome break at a stoplight, which I almost wish the race would have, but then got going again. I switched my MapMyRun app to kilometers so it would give me updates on pace every kilometer. Of course I started out strong, but then continued to get slower. Once my overall pace slowed to 6:02 per kilometer, sub-60 seemed out of reach. I was down to the last 2 km and stopped at a light. I gave myself a little pep talk, found the perfect song, then gunned it. I could feel a blister forming on my right foot, but I didn’t stop. I was so close. I did the 8th km in 5:41 and the 9th in 5:56. Finishing time? 59:48.

10k sub 60(Can you tell I struggled and walked for a second on km 6?)

I did it. Even if I can’t do it again in 2 weeks, I now know I’m capable of it. And like every race runner and mother who’s given birth, once I finished I completely forgot how miserable the whole experience was, and was looking forward to doing it again. My friend in Cincinnati texted me that it’s 28F today and I should bring warm clothing for the race. It’s been 55 all week in London, so I’ll have to dig up my thermal clothing to pack. Here’s hoping the polar vortex or whatever it is they’re calling the cold front leaves by Thanksgiving. I’d rather not have a repeat of last year’s 25F race. I even bought a new outfit specifically for the race, since it’s custom to dress somewhat crazy. I told my mom she’ll have to wait to see it in person, but I’ll give a hint — it involves pugs. Lots of them.

And on a final note, while I was buying my pugwear I saw these gloves:

pug panda glovesThey were a bit thin and I already have too many gloves, but HOW DID THEY HAVE ALL MY FAVORITE ANIMALS?! I wouldn’t even know which one to get if I did get one.

I know this post was probably boring for those of you who don’t care about running, so here’s a pug struggling to reach his goal:

struggling pug

That Time I Wasn’t On National Television

4 Nov

applause tv audienceThis post was supposed to be titled That Time I Was on National Television, because I had a ticket to the taping of Alan Davies As Yet Untitled for this afternoon. I’ve been meaning to make a London bucket list, but for now it has one item on it: be in a live studio audience.

I don’t know why I’m so fascinated with TV taping, but then again who isn’t? I’ve never lived anywhere in the US where attending a taping was possible, and I never planned ahead when I visited LA or NYC.

I tried to go to a taping of Loose Women back in March 2013 when my friend from Kentucky was visiting. We arrived too late and were turned away. Then I tried again today and — you guessed it — the queue was full. It snaked completely around the studio. Are there really that many people free on a Tuesday afternoon in London? Yes, apparently. The woman in front of me was “absolutely gutted” because she had arranged her whole day around this taping, and hired a babysitter. I told her I was too, but in reality I had finished my work early this morning and was trying to check an item off my one-item bucket list. I watched one episode of As Yet Untitled yesterday and it was just alright (Sorry, Alan).

The producer took my ticket away from me and told me they’d give me priority for another show. And this, friends, is how you get to be on live TV in London. You must apply for free tickets online, get chosen among the many applicants, arrive at the studio excited to be on TV, and then get turned away. It is only then that you will be offered priority tickets to an upcoming show, which guarantees you entry if you’re on time. I’m convinced no matter how many general tickets they issue, only the priority people get in.

So with that, barring no catastrophic Tube incidents, I finally cashed in my priority note from when I was turned away over a year ago, and my visiting friend from Chicago and I will be a part of the live studio audience at the Jonathan Ross Show in two weeks, and I can finally complete my London bucket list.

The Great Greek Yogurt Conspiracy

24 Oct

Has anyone else noticed how Greek yogurt is everywhere lately? Or I guess I should say “Greek-style” yogurt, because at least in the UK, you can’t call it Greek yogurt if it’s not made in Greece. Just ask Chobani — they’re the most popular Greek [style] yogurt in the US, but got kicked out of the UK because Athens-made Fage sued them, saying Greek yogurt must be made in Greece using a particular straining process and cannot contain additives and preservatives. Chobani said “this isn’t over,” but for now, the UK yogurt aisle is full of the superior Fage Total, Liberte, and a bunch of impostors.

I don’t normally get worked up about things like this. I buy almost everything generic and go out of my way to walk to Aldi to save money. But the other day I learned the hard way that Greek yogurt is not something to scrimp on.

First, let me explain why Greek yogurt has become such a health food buzz word. As Fage argued against Chobani, what makes Greek yogurt Greek is the straining processed. This is most important because it makes the yogurt extra thick with extra protein. That’s why I like it — the protein boost, and that’s why Greek [style] yogurt has become so pervasive. Somebody somewhere on some health site said that Greek yogurt was the healthiest, best snack ever. And a bunch of non-Greek yogurt companies decided to cash in.

As I mentioned earlier, Fage Total is the authentic and best Greek yogurt, but it’s also the most expensive. Here is the nutritional information I took off their website:

fage total nutrition57 calories per 100g and 10.3g protein.

jeremy clarkson not bad
However, I usually don’t splurge for Fage because I put plain yogurt in my breakfast overnight oats and the superior creaminess and taste of Fage doesn’t shine through. So I buy Liberte, which is a Canadian brand that is always on sale at Waitrose. It’s nutritional information is similar enough to Fage:

Liberte uk nutrition9.6g protein as opposed to 10.3g, but still, not bad.

But last week I had a moment of weakness. I wanted individual pots of flavored Greek yogurt to have as a snack. I was in the queue at Aldi, which was so long it snaked around to the dairy section (I realize that makes no sense to you if you haven’t been to the store, but trust me, the queue was long), and noticed 4-packs of Greek-style yogurt. I grabbed one, quickly looked at the protein content, and thought, “6g, not bad.”

jeremy clarkson not badAnd the 4-pack was less than £1, so I bought two different flavors. And then I got home and tasted the “Greek-style” yogurt. It was no Fage. It wasn’t even Liberte. It tasted — and I hate to say this, because I don’t want to be one of those OMG CHEMICALS AND UNCLEAN FOOD people — but it tasted fake. So I did what I should have done while back at the store — I looked at the ingredient list. Keep in mind that Fage and Liberte have the same 2 ingredients: milk and cultures, that’s it. I understand flavored yogurt will have more, but check this out:

aldi greek yogurt nutritionMaize starch and pork gelatin.

This “Greek-style” yogurt should not be called Greek yogurt not because it’s not made in Greece, but because it’s not strained. It’s thickened artificially with maize starch and pork gelatin. Unless you happen to prefer extra thick yogurt, this “Greek” yogurt is nothing more than regular yogurt with thickening agents. And the “not bad” 6g of protein I saw was per 125g pot — it only has 4.8g per 100g, which is less than half of Fage and Liberte.

This, friends, is why you have to be cautious of food trends. Everybody and their brother makes “Greek-style” yogurt now, but few are the nutritional powerhouses they claim to be. And now I’ll get off my Greek yogurt soapbox to show you this photo of a dapper autumn pug that I found on my external hard drive in a folder marked “Cute Animals” that I have no recollection of creating years ago:

pug blazer

It’s the second week of October, Merry Christmas!

9 Oct

And now, part II of a feature I started in December 2011: Things White Middle Class People Get Overly Worked Up About.

On Monday during my weekly grocery shop in the rain (sans umbrella because the Fitbit-wearing left arm must always be free to swing and the right arm must pull the trolley) I saw chocolate Santas at Aldi. It didn’t really register with me, and I went onto Sainsbury’s. There I saw an aisle of Christmas gift suggestions. At Waitrose I saw Christmas poppers. And then it dawned on me that even though my parents and I had just booked our trip to Biltmore for December, it was still only the second week of October.

Had this been in America, there would have been an uprising — angry mobs with Halloween- and Thanksgiving-themed pitchforks. There’s an understood rule in the U.S. that you do not celebrate anything Christmas-related until after Thanksgiving. (6pm on Thanksgiving to be exact, or maybe earlier this year, I haven’t seen any Black Friday doorbuster ads yet). To get an idea of how worked up Americans get over this, take a look at these comics:

santa turkey comic
thanksgiving christmas comic
could we finish thanksgiving dinner first

thanksgiving mall decorations
As you can see, Americans get really riled up about this — but why? Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, as the song goes. Why don’t they want to get a jump start on it? I doubt they really care about how Mr. Turkey feels getting passed over (judging by the comics, he’d like that!).

Turkey christmas music

pumpkin santa turkey comic All I can think of is that it’s about time. As Jim Steinman wrote in Meat Loaf’s song “Heaven Can Wait”: “And all I’ve got is time until the end of time.” If you want to get deep about it, time really is all we have — everything else like health, wealth and happiness can extend our time and make it more enjoyable, but once it’s gone, we can’t get it back. Adam Carolla joked on his podcast that old people continually wake up and eat earlier and earlier in the hopes that one day they’ll actually gain a day back by moving everything forward (like showing up for Thanksgiving dinner so early that you arrive on Wednesday night instead). We don’t want to think about December in October because it’s like skipping over two whole months we’ll never get back, and we’re supposed to “live every day to the fullest.” On the other hand, I like getting into the Christmas spirit early (maybe not second week of October early, but November will do). Since I head back to the U.S. for Thanksgiving through Christmas, I would miss out on the London festivities if they didn’t start so early (and they’re allowed to start early since Thanksgiving is not a thing and Halloween barely is). I get that people feel like retailers are taking advantage of them by pushing the holidays too soon, but think of it the other way — if people started at least thinking about Christmas gift ideas a little earlier (not even buying yet), then there’d be less stress and rush in December. But of course, life is all about prolonging the inevitable, isn’t it?

Falling in love with fall and running (and, OK, pumpkin spice)

2 Oct

I think fall might be my favorite season, and not for your stereotypical white girl reasons.

psl white girlAlthough I did run to Waitrose (literally, I was awkwardly sweating in the queue) to overpay for a can of Libby’s pumpkin to make pumpkin spice overnight oats and pumpkin spice smoothies (which are better than pumpkin spice lattes because I use pumpkin spice tea and they also don’t cost £5 (is that what a PSL costs? It’s been a while since I’ve been to Starbucks).

pumpkin spice girls


The reason I like fall (OK, autumn, since I’m in the UK) is because it’s the perfect running weather — not I-need-3-tissues-just-to-wipe-my-sweat summer hot or dear-god-how-is-it-25-out-that’s-F-not-C winter cold. Since I officially booked my flight home for Thanksgiving, I decided it’s high time I start training for the Thanksgiving 10K again. Last year it was my very first race ever and it was amazing. Yes, it was 25 degrees out (that’s -4 C) and I had to weave my way through an obscene amount of other runners, but I got such a thrill. I remember sprinting to the finish and even running to the car after. It was a stark difference from my 5K in April which I finished huffing and puffing and feeling defeated. Part of that could have been a bug coming on, but I also think I hadn’t been training properly. Part of me feared I peaked on Thanksgiving last year and I haven’t been running the same since. I’ve just been plodding along, taking a walking break the minute any part of my body felt remotely uncomfortable.

Eventually the reality of the race in less than 2 months set in and the weather got cooler and I decided to get serious about running again. Last Tuesday, the day after that ominous day, I ran 5K under 30 minutes, something I haven’t done since last fall. And then two days ago I did it again — but even faster. And today — yep, you guessed it, even faster. I’m starting to fall in love with running again. There’s just something about that cool breeze, the perfect Spotify playlist (thank you all-you-can-eat data plan) and going for a “high score.” Running may be a competitive sport with professionals and prizes and actual human beings that can run a marathon at a pace of 4 minutes, 41.5 seconds per mile (how?!! I’m not sure I could maintain that speed for 50 meters), but ultimately it’s about competing against yourself, setting new goals and personal records — high scores (or I guess low scores if we’re going by time and pace). This year my goal is to finish the Thanksgiving 10K in under an hour (or right on the dot, I won’t be picky). Months ago that seemed like a pipe dream, but if I can maintain my current 5K pace for twice as long, it may just become a reality. I know there will be thousands of people in the race who are faster than me (I recently read a blog by a runner coming back from an injury who was disappointed by his 30 minute 5K time, saying “I don’t know if you can even call that running.” Here I am rejoicing about a 30 minute 5K), but I just need to be faster than 2013 Renee. As my Over the Rhine T-shirt says, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”

‘Tis better to have loved and lost, Than never to have loved at all

26 Sep

I’d like to thank everyone for the outpouring of love and support my family and I received since my last post. It’s going to be a rough next few months (especially once I’m home again), but it’s good to know the little dude was loved, even by those who only knew him through his annual Christmas letter and my Facebook photos.

If by chance that last heart wrenching post gained me any new followers, welcome. I promise I don’t always post such emotional entries. We’ll get back to fat pugs, complaining about the weather, grocery shopping, baby pandas and zebra wieners in due time. But first, some more mourning talk.

My first real experience with death was with my childhood guinea pigs. Mr. G. crossed over the rainbow bridge at our home, while Hershey required veterinary assistance. At the time my little heart had never felt such sadness, and I dealt with it the only way 11-year-old Renee knew how: by crying and writing dozens of poems and stories about them. If you’ve ever seen or had a guinea pig, you know that they don’t do much — eat, poop, repeat.

guinea pigs eating

But my younger self gave them each personalities and elaborate back-stories and lives. Those two deaths affected me so strongly, yet we had four other guinea pigs after them. As I was speaking to my mom the other day I had to ask her about each of their deaths because I honestly could not remember. I felt so bad, but then I realized that’s probably the best thing that could happen — I remembered them in their best of times and not in their last. It makes me almost feel guilty that I was not there for Squirt in the end because my images of him are not at his worst. I’ve been dreaming about him a lot lately, but in my dreams he’s always youthful, running around the kitchen like Speedy Gonzales as he used to do after a bath, or chasing after his rope in the backyard — two things he hasn’t done in many years. My parents and I have been texting memories and photos back and forth.

“I just don’t want to forget anything about him,” my mom said to me the day after they put him down. It seemed almost silly — with old home videos and both print and digital photos in the thousands, that seemed impossible. But then I realized with grief comes nostalgia. As I said in my last post, in the end he was not the same dog anymore. Even if he lived 10 more years, he would never walk down to the lake lot or fetch a rope again. So while I will miss even his annoying “Feed me!” bark, what I really miss is the old times, just like I miss my old schools, apartments, jobs and friends and the memories I made with them. But life goes on. You remember the good, try to forget the bad, and make new memories. Even though I am alive and well, my mom can still be nostalgic for Baby Renee, since I no longer make animal noises or get food all over my face when I eat … OK, maybe those were bad examples (moooooo).

This year I made a new friend in London whom I really got along with, but she recently moved away. In a fit of sadness a part of me thought “If I had never met her then I wouldn’t be sad right now.” But you could say that about every relationship that ended, pet that passed or friend who moved. We would have less sadness, sure, but we’d also have less joy from the good times we did have together. Alfred Lord Tennyson said it best, “‘Tis better to have loved and lost, Than never to have loved at all.” And as Elphaba and Glinda sing in Wicked, “Because I knew you, I have been changed for good.” (I saw the musical with my friend who moved and told that to her before she left.)

So now I’m trying to just focus on the good memories. I’ve pulled myself out of my pit of sadness. Just today I was finally able to look at the pugs frolicking in the park and smile instead of thinking “How cute, but one day they’re all going to DIE.” (Yes, I became Emo Elmo for a bit recently). Both my parents and I had the same thought as we were going through the last few weeks — we can’t go through this again. We can’t get another dog. Instead of the happy memories I could make with my hypothetical pug or corgi, I was focusing on the fact that one day it would die. My parents were too. It’s still too soon for them to even entertain the notion — it’s like asking a widow at her husband’s funeral if she thinks she’ll remarry. But I told them not to get rid of his crate — disassemble it and store it away, but hang on to it… just in case.

(And now, for no reason at all, a baby panda!)

baby panda bars


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