I love Instagram and you should too

I know, I know, it’s been months since I’ve written a post on either of my sites. It’s a curious thing though; after five years of documenting my every move on a blog I’m kind of burned out. However, that doesn’t mean I’m burned out on public self-expression. I’ve discovered something new.

My hand after a weekend's work in the yard

My hand after a weekend’s work in the yard

Well, new for me at any rate. That thing is Instagram and I’m mad for it. Instagram is a photo composition and sharing platform if you’re not aware of it. On Instagram, a user is forced to take a pre-framed photo on his or her phone and then run it through any of 20 pre-set filters. Technically, someone can upload any photo from one’s phone, even ones taken with a good camera. I think that’s cheating a bit, so all of mine are taken with my HTC OneX.

My photos post automatically to Twitter and Facebook, so if you follow me there you’re already subjected to my daily onslaughts. If you’re an Instagrammer, please follow me at my profile there. I love to see other people’s work with that platform. Even if you don’t follow me, you can see my whole Instagram portfolio by following that link. If you decide to expose yourself to my Instagram feed, I will follow you back.

I’m convinced that the shackles Instagram places on me make me a better photographer. As I’m fond of saying too, captioning my photos is almost as creative an activity as composing my shots.

I’ll be the first to admit that not all of my Instagram photography is great or even good. To quote my Dad however, “Sometimes a blind pig can find an acorn.” Some of my Instagrams are good and some of them make me feel like I’m a good photographer.

Here are some of the highlights of my year spent on Instagram.

Part of dinner last weekend

Part of dinner last weekend

Rural morning

Rural morning

Icarus and Daedalus

Icarus and Daedalus

I do love Philadelphia

I do love Philadelphia

Train station

Train station

Dinner with my friend (and fellow Instagrammer) Mike

Dinner with my friend (and fellow Instagrammer) Mike

Olympian in Atlanta

Olympian in Atlanta

Make a wish

Make a wish

Morning walk

Morning walk

Springtime

Springtime

Baking a cake with one of my nephews

Baking a cake with one of my nephews

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Road from my brother Dave's last autumn

Road from my brother Dave’s last autumn

Corn last summer

Corn last summer

Tobacco fields in Pennsylvania

Tobacco fields in Pennsylvania

Bread baking in Florida

Bread baking in Florida

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Fast forward a couple of weeks

At some point in late January, I woke up, made a pot of coffee, walked out on my patio and took this photo with my phone. It was a pretty typical day by all accounts.

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Yesterday morning, I woke up, made a pot of coffee, walked out on my brother’s patio and took this photo with my phone.

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Things have changed a bit. It’s a change I’ve been working toward for the last year-and-a-half or so. Though getting here was a bit more of an ordeal than I’d anticipated, I’m here in my new normal.

When I lived in Florida, I used to tell people that I was a Yankee’s Yankee and I am. Despite my 20+ years in the land of endless summer and equally endless absurdity, it never truly felt like home. Though it’s true I’m no fan of winter, I’m a big fan of these rolling hills.

My ancestors settled around 15 miles south of where I’m sitting right now, long before there was a thing called the United States of America. This place, these fields, these old stone buildings are encoded in my DNA and I could no sooner unravel them from my soul than I could make myself not have red hair or blue eyes.

Sure I’ll miss palm trees and screeching parrots, warm Januarys and orchids that bloom in time for Christmas, the Gulf of Mexico and being able to walk to the beach; but those things can’t hold a candle to having ready access to my brothers and their families. It’s a good thing to feel like I belong somewhere again.

This is a scam

If you’re a design blogger who’s looking to increase his or her presence on the internet, don’t go to this conference:

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In exchange for your $545 plus your transportation and lodging costs, you’ll be granted the opportunity to sit in a conference room and to hear a bunch of people blow a lot of hot air. What they won’t tell you is this; talk to people.

The key to success in the social sphere is to actually be social.  Talk to people and be real; you’ll do just fine. Engage people and your success will take care of itself. It won’t happen overnight but it will happen.

No matter the size of your audience, they’re your audience and you shouldn’t have to pay to attend a conference. The conference hosts should be paying you.

Airport hell

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Foursquare informs me that I’ve been in the Philly airport every week for the last six weeks. By all standards, I fly a lot. I don’t dislike travel. If I did I wouldn’t do it as often as I do. Foursquare tells me too that I’ve been in the Tampa airport 40 times in the last six months. I think that qualifies me as something like an expert when it comes to air travel.

Airports everywhere are essentially the same place, just in a different city. True, the taxiways and hassles change from place to place, but once you’re in a terminal there’s really no indication of where you are. It could be Dallas, or Charlotte, or Phoenix or Chicago; eventually all those airports bleed into one another.

Airports don’t try to proclaim where they are. They don’t make themselves stand out as a viable place. Instead, they function under the cover of the least common denominator and as the result is an unjoyous walk through the worst of what humanity has to offer.

When I was flying out of Amsterdam last week I went through the usual barrage of body scanners and carry on emptying. After we were through with the theater of security, one of the guards pulled each of us aside and conducted a private interview. He was sizing me up and gauging the odds of my being a terrorist. Having me take off my shoes is reactive at best and it keeps no one safe. What keeps lunatics out of the air is a brief one-on-one with a border guard.

When I get on a plane it’s a pretty amazing thing. Over the course of a couple of hours, I travel distances my ancestors couldn’t imagine. When my fore bearers left Scotland it took them eight weeks to get to Philadelphia. I did it the other day in nine hours. That’s an amazing, incredible thing. All of that wonder is lost when you get to an airport though.

Everyone’s on high alert from the passengers to the gate attendants. Rooms full of people exhale waves of tension you can feel. Air travel hasn’t lost its glamour, it’s lost its humanity.

Listen, I don’t want the cheapest service as a default. I’d gladly pay a bit more for the chance to have an airline treat me like a human being.

I fly enough that upgrades are pretty common occurrences. That when I’m flying first class I have a separate, dedicated security line is ridiculous. Similarly, it’s absurd that I have to send my laptop through an x-ray but not my tablet. Can mobile phones not be used to trigger bombs? Why do they get to go through security in the pocket of my jacket? My tablet has more computing power than my laptop could ever dream of yet it still gets a free pass.

My shoes didn’t bring down the World Trade Center and neither did anyone else’s. What brought down those buildings was a bunch of lunatics who wanted to fight back against a US foreign policy that deemed their countries as an an extension of US Manifest Destiny. We had a president at the time who assured us that “they hate us for our freedom.”

They don’t hate us for our freedom. They hate us for our foreign policy.

Now let’s get on with having an enjoyable flight, shall we?

How I became a designer

This new blog exists as a place for me to purge my Florida demons and the story of how I became a kitchen designer in the first place is one of my biggest. Let me start out by saying that I take great pride in my ability to avoid drama and craziness but sometimes, my vigilance isn’t enough.

In the year 2000, I was a handyman and a general contractor. I worked for a real estate agent and pretty much fixed up houses to be flipped. I hung and mudded drywall, set tile, installed cabinets and swapped out toilets. I loved working with my hands but it wasn’t enough.

The year 2000 marked the same hear that St. Pete was going to host its first-ever gay pride parade and festival. I had a background in promotions and advertising and I decided to volunteer. I ended up being the guy in charge of the handbook as well as the posters that we ended up plastering all over town.

We had a volunteer graphic designer and together, we developed an image package for St. Pete Pride. Though neither of us knew it at the time, we were forging new ground and setting a precedent for a festival that would grow to become the largest pride festival in the southeast. I wanted it to be a community thing, not an exclusively gay thing.  It worked. We built a sense of belonging and community without excluding anyone. Besides, it was good to use something other than my hands to put in a productive day.

During one of our early meetings, I met a guy named Carl. Carl had a kitchen showroom and we clicked as soon as we met. I remember telling my friend Kevin at the time that Carl didn’t know it, but someday Carl and I’d work together.

I never knew there was such a thing as a kitchen designer but in getting to know Carl, he invited me over to his studio. As soon as I sat at his computer and started to play around with space planning software I knew I’d come home. I love the aesthetic side of design sure enough, but I need the math and technical side of it too. Kitchen and bath design delivered both in spades.

Carl saw my potential and proceeded to teach me how to be a designer. He taught me the ins and outs of the business and it was Carl who gave me the confidence to go to work for the best kitchen showroom in town. I worked there for around two years. During which Carl’s business had taken off too.

It was the beginning of the housing bubble that vexes the US even now, but back then it was a free for all. While the housing bubble was at its peak, I left the shop where I’d been working and entered an agreement with Carl. By then he was a trusted friend and confidante, practically a brother.

We were once featured in the Tampa Bay Business Journal during happier times.

We were once featured in the Tampa Bay Business Journal during happier times.

Within three months, something shifted. He started to view me with suspicion and accused me of all manner of malfeasance.

Work became an exercise in crazy on his part and self-control on mine. Our once-robust friendship disintegrated completely. I made a decent living and had a non-compete contract I couldn’t afford to contest so I kept at it.

After a year or so, Carl and I were mutually suspicious strangers.

In 2008 the bottom fell out of the Florida housing market and I watched my income disappear. I knew I’d been working in a bubble but money was easy then and I could name my own price and get it. During the autumn of 2008 however, everything came to a standstill.

Carl was panicked about the future of his business and I was panicked about keeping myself fed. I started a blog then, something he took great offense to. I think he was worried that I’d air his dirty laundry the way I am now.

By 2009 we’d become a toxic brew of animosity and paranoia and I was desperate to get out of his business so I left and struck out on my own. I forged a new career for myself based on my blog and my Twitter following. It took a while but it stuck eventually and I morphed myself back into the Advertising/ PR/ Marketing guy I was born to be. I never gave Carl another thought other than to mourn the loss of a good friendship. Carl had become my personal boogeyman and delighted in calling me at odd hours to describe how terribly I’d wronged him. What had started as a friendship turned into a white hot hatred.

Eventually, he stopped calling and we got on with our lives.

On Good Friday, 2011 I got a phone call from our mutual friend Gabe. “Paul, are you watching the news?” he asked. I never watch local news so I asked him what the hell he was talking about. He told me to turn on my TV and tune to Bay News 9.

Bay News 9 is our local, 24-hour news channel. When I tuned in I saw Carl’s face.

He’d jumped to his death from the tallest bridge in this area, the Sunshine Skyway, that afternoon. It felt as if my pulse had stopped as I watched the report. “I knew and once loved that guy!” I screamed at my TV. It wasn’t possible, couldn’t be true. Carl was gone before I had the chance to forgive him and before he could forgive me.

I cannot imagine what was going through his mind that afternoon and I cannot imagine what his family went through in the aftermath. Despite our mutual distrust, I’d have intervened gladly. I’d have listened and helped him get the kind of medical care he needed. But Carl wasn’t one to lean on anybody, let alone me.

I’d pretty much shoved him out of my brain at that point anyhow. He was a poisonous influence I took great pains to avoid thinking about. His suicide threw him right back into the middle of my thoughts and my life.

I was used to people dying at that point. My friends who’ve died are people I remember fondly and I’m grateful that our lived collided. With Carl however, what I was left with was something new all together. I had to deal with the passing of someone I’d grown to loathe.

I hope he’s at peace wherever he is, but he brought about in me a part of myself I’d rather assume didn’t exist. To this day I have no fondness for the person of Carl. His attention-grabbing suicide sealed that. However, I can never forget the role he played in having me become who I am today.

But that was Carl. I owe him a debt of gratitude but at the same time, I resent him for being such a shit.

Der Kölner Dom

Due to the generosity of my sponsors Modenus, Axor, Mr. Steam, DuVerre, Blanco, Miele and the NKBA; I was in Cologne a mere week ago. I’m beyond grateful for the sights and sounds this latest European adventure threw into my lap. I was in Germany to attend IMM, one of the world’s largest and most important trade shows.

I flew to Cologne with seven other people: Brandon Smith, Todd Vendituoli, Alexandra Williams, Lisa Smith, Carmen Christiansen, Kathy Sandler and Courtney Mullins-Price. I’d been to Cologne and to IMM before, so I was appointed the bus monitor for that group by Tim Bogan from Modenus. It was my job to get everybody through the Dusseldorf airport and onto a van for the short drive to Cologne.

We flew out of Newark on a 4:30pm flight that had us on the ground in Dusseldorf at 6am the following morning. It was around 7:30 that morning when we rolled into our hotel in Cologne. Too early to check in of course and despite the jet lag, we had some time to explore before the rest of our group arrived from points in North America, Europe and the UK.

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After we’d settled into a hearty German breakfast, I announced that I was heading over to the Cologne Cathedral after breakfast and that anyone interested was welcome to join me. There was a 10am mass at the Cathedral that featured the grand organ and the men’s choir and I was determined to add that to my list of experiences over there. The whole group decided they were coming with me so it was off to the Cathedral we went.

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The Cologne Cathedral is massive on a scale that’s difficult to describe. Construction of it started in the year 1248 and it took another 600 years to complete. Its spires rise to a height of more than 500 feet and it’s the tallest structure in Cologne. Despite its massive scale, the Cathedral itself doesn’t feel overwhelming.

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If you find yourself in Cologne in the dead of winter, please note that the Cathedral is unheated and the degree of cold inside a Medieval stone building cannot be overstated.

We arrived at around 9am on an uncharacteristically sunny (though cold) morning. I’d been to the Cathedral twice before and on both occasions it was overcast and wet. On that morning however, the sun shown through the acres of stained glass and it made the grand building feel even lighter and more ethereal than it does usually. Despite the fact that my feet were frozen, it was a pretty moving sight to see.

It was a High Mass I’d dragged my travel-weary group to, many of whom had never attended a Catholic mass before, let alone a High one. No organization can pull off pomp and theater as well as the Roman Catholic Church does. The Mass was celebrated by the Archbishop and was concelebrated by at least ten monsignors and a full compliment of altar servers.

I’d never heard the Cathedral’s organ before and it was powerful to the point of being almost overwhelming. The chants were sublime and I spent most of the Mass with my eyes closed in something like an ecstatic state. It felt for all the world as if we’d been transported to the 14th Century or so.

After the Communion prayers were said the sun hit the right side of the Cathedral perfectly and beams of multi-colored light flooded the entire transept. The clouds of incense smoke caught the light perfectly and the effect was pure magic.

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I have a great big place in my heart for old, sacred spaces and I love classical, liturgical music. Medieval Cathedrals deliver on both counts and I cannot walk past one without going inside. I see and feel the humanity of the people who built those structures on a very fundamental level. They represent the best that they were capable of and their fingerprints are everywhere if you know how to look.

Western Civilization stands on the shoulders of places like Der Kölner Dom and they’re as inspiring now as they were when they were built.

After mass, we walked along the Rhine until we found a warm cafe and I found a heaping serving of herring in cream sauce with boiled potatoes. Man, I love Germany.

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Being naked in public in Germany

ct_logoModenus.com‘s Blogtour Cologne had me in Cologne and Amsterdam last week. Wow, what a week it was. I saw a ton of my friends from the US and the EU, wallowed in good design and I was in Northern Europe for a week. Trust me, nobody knows how to contend with winter like the Germans and the Dutch. I’m sure the Swedes, the Danes, the Finns, the Norwegians and everybody else above the 50th parallel would claim they do it better; but all I know for sure is what I’ve experienced first hand.

One of the highlights of last week was my visit to the Claudius Therme in Cologne. Germans love a good thermal spa and it seems to me that it has to from the time that Germany was a Roman colony the Romans called Germania. Germania existed in the space east of the Rhine and north of the Danube by the way.

This is what the outdoor pool area looks like in warmer months.

This is what the outdoor pool area looks like in warmer months.

That doesn’t matter so much as the legacy the Romans left behind. Roman street plans are as common as Roman ruins in Germany, and it’s always a pleasant surprise to stumble upon a Roman vestige.

Anyhow, my night at Claudius Therme was sponsored by Mr. Steam, a US-based steam shower manufacturer. Thank you Mr. Steam!

Here's what it looked like when I was there last week.

Here’s what it looked like when I was there last week.

I’d been at a trade show for three days and was still shaking off my jet lag when we arrived at the spa on Wednesday night. I changed into my bathing suit in the surprisingly co-ed dressing room and made a bee line for the pool. The water was around 35° C, salty and slightly effervescent. The main pool had a slight current and moving around in it was effortless. Provided I wanted to move in the direction of the current that is.

The pool extended through two small openings into the great outdoors. And I ventured outside almost immediately. It was around -5° C that night and it was snowing, a pretty brutal night under usual circumstances. However, I was in a 35° C pool and despite the fact that my hair froze within a couple of minutes, I was warm and comfortable.

The source of the current was pretty evident once I got outside. There was a circular section of the pool that surrounded a raised hot tub. The current whipping around that circle was pretty strong and the idea of it is to provide resistance for people who want to swim for exercise. I had other ideas.

I turned over onto my back and let the current lead me in a circle as I floated with my eyes closed. It’s the position I assume almost immediately when I’m in the Gulf of Mexico and I find it to be one of the ways to get me to relax completely. In the mineral-rich waters of the Claudius Therme, my face and chest were above the surface of the water and it was beyond incredible to be warm and to have snow falling on my face and chest at the same time. I floated like that for about an hour. It was the very definition of the term “bliss.”

Like most spas in Germany, the Claudius Therme has a no clothing policy when it comes to spending time in the saunas and steam baths. I’ve never thought of myself as a prude, but the idea of taking off my clothes in front of a room full of strangers was unsettling. My discomfort at the thought was all the cue I needed to know that I had to do it.

As I mentioned earlier, I never think of myself as a prude but my damn American comes out pretty regularly when I’m traveling. I went up to the sauna and steam area of the spa and my American assumption was that the clothing-free areas were segregated by sex. They weren’t.

But hey, I was in Germany and at a thermal bath for crying out loud. I’d probably never have the opportunity confronting me again, so I decided to just keep going with it.

When I let my bathrobe drop, something interesting happened inside my head. I wasn’t sure how I’d respond and after a moment of discomfort, I found that it was oddly empowering to be naked in public.

There were no gym bodies on display, let me tell you that. I was naked with a bunch of other middle-aged people and all of us had our best years behind us. It didn’t matter that none of us were perfect. All that mattered was that we were. As an American, I grew up with an inherent suspicion of nudity. In the American mind, nudity is always a prelude to sex. It’s a foolish and limiting way to see the world. To the Germans in whose midst I found my naked self, sexuality didn’t play into it at all.

Being naked in a spa is the absolute opposite of sexual. It’s deliberately anti-sexual and to my mind a bit of a paradox because it stood in such stark opposition to how I’d been raised and socialized. Yet there we were in all of our pot-bellied, sagging glory. The mood could be summed up as “this is what I look like, deal with it.”

It was a refreshing change from my native, appearances- and sex-obsessed culture. It seems to me to be a healthier way to approach life.

I noticed two men talking in the sauna, they were clearly friends and were catching up. Despite the healthier outlook I was forcing myself to adopt, I couldn’t imagine me sitting next to any of my friends while naked in a sauna. Some cultural baggage is just too ingrained.

Back where my family started

I’m sitting in my brother’s living room and I’m all packed and ready to go back to Germany. This time, I’m headed to Cologne (and later Amsterdam), because I’ve been selected to participate in another iteration of Modenus.com’s  internationally reknowned Blogtours.

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Anyhow, I was telling my brother that I needed to write a blog post here tonight but I was struggling with a title, he suggested “Back where my parents started;” the headline that adorns this post.

Briefly, Blogtour is an event organized by Modenus and this time sponsored by Miele, Blanco, Hansgrohe, the NKBA, DuVerre and Mr. Steam. Modenus selects 15 influential design bloggers from the US and Europe and together, Blogtourians attend a design trade show in an exotic locale. The last time I was on a Blogtour we went to London for the Design Festival and this time, we’re heading to Cologne for the IMM.

Anyhow, back to the headline.

My parents met when they were young, kids really, and my father had been drafted. It was in the early ’50s and Dad was going to be sent to Germany to be part of the Allied Occupation that followed the end of the Second World War.

Before he shipped out, he asked my mother to marry him. She said yes obviously. Before too long, my Mom joined my Dad in the little town of Wertheim am Main in the German State of Baden-Württemberg. It was in Wertheim that my parents married, set up house on a shoe string budget, and it’s where my oldest brother was born. My parents launched themselves into as rich and full a life as I can imagine in that little town and it also launched their lifelong love of Germany.

I grew up hearing stories about their lives over there and was surrounded by the things they’d bring back during their subsequent trips back there over the years.

My folks have a fondness for the Cologne Cathedral and I’ll never forget how it felt to walk into it for the first time two years ago. Ancient architecture makes me weak in the knees to begin with but add to it that my parents had been there years earlier and the Cathedral’s effect on me was multiplied by a couple orders of magnitude. Several orders more than even that because it was my mother’s birthday.

I lit a candle for her and had my friend Tim take this photo of me to send to her afterward.

me in the Dom

I’ll be back at the Cathedral in just a few days, Sunday morning in fact. It’ll be great to be surrounded by a massive building that took 600 years to construct. It’s beautiful and that’s pretty much a given. But what that Cathedral means to me is more than academic. My family’s imprinted on the place and it’s oddly wonderful to travel halfway around the world to a place and to feel reconnected to my folks and my siblings.

Bring on Blogtour!

Packing

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Anymore, it feels like I live out of a suitcase. Eventually this will settle down but for now I’m trying to pack for three weeks of winter weather in Pennsylvania, Germany and The Netherlands. Though it’s warm and sunny here right now, it won’t be in any of my ports of call.

This means that I have to pack a boatload of sweaters, jackets, scarves, etc.

I get it that my problem is a first world problem and I’m incredibly grateful for the fact that I travel as much as I do. But even so, that USAirways is going to nick me $60 for checking two bags tomorrow galls me. I get it, my big suitcase needs to be checked. My smaller one however, could be a carry-on if I made an issue out of it.

I won’t make an issue of it. When airlines started to charge for checked bags the whole idea of a carry-on exploded in the popular imagination. The crap I see being stowed in overhead compartments anymore is ridiculous. All those carry-ons do is make air travel even more inconvenient. Getting on and off a plane is a pain in the ass.

Overhead bin space gets used up almost immediately and makes people even crankier. Here’s an idea, charge me more for a ticket and let me check my bags for free. This nickel and diming thing has to end. All it does is encourage people to carry on bags and all that does is make it harder and more time-consuming to get on and off a plane. Enough already. It’s bad enough that I have to submit to the TSA’s absurd security measures (can anybody say “security theater?”) The airlines make air travel even more ridiculous. Charge me to check a bag and charge people who plan to do uncooperative things like recline their seats or travel with lap dogs.

Let me read and have ready access to the lavatory. I’m a good passenger, really.

The hounds of Lancaster

This is Molly, one of my favorite dogs on earth.

Molly

Molly is a hundred pounds of good-natured Golden Retriever. When she’s in the house she’s the epitome of a house dog but let her outside and she’s a beast unhinged. She’ll dig out a ground hog, fell a deer and take down a damn cow if she’s given the chance. But indoors, she’s a lapdog and all she wants is to be petted and loved. My nephew Tony insists that should he die, in lieu of a funeral all of us have to pet Molly for a half an hour. If she sits next to me when I’m scratching her head she’ll lean into me. If I stop and walk away, she’ll fall over due to the trance head scratching puts her in. Her devotion to my brother Matt is awe-inspiring. Really. Molly pretty much sums up what a dog should be.

sadie

This is Sadie, the grande dame of Lancaster dogs. Though she’s getting up in years she is the alpha. Nothing happens unless Sadie allows it to happen. She’s one of the most affectionate dogs I’ve ever known despite her domineering nature.

Back in the day when she was young and spry, Sadie used to go out in the yard and bring back a single pebble. She’d drop it at my feet. I’d then pick it up and throw it back into the yard. She’d retrieve it and drop it at my feet again. We’d go on like this for hours.

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This is sweet and neurotic Lily. I’m convinced that she’s misunderstood and her crazed nature is all a misunderstanding. Poor Lily just wants to be loved, can’t everybody see that? She and Greta got into it over the summer and I’ll never forget my brother jumping between them and shouting “Asshole! Asshole!” as he dragged apart two dogs who were nearly as big as he is.

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This is Greta. Greta is the most neurotic dog I’ve ever met. Can a dog be autistic? Despite her many issues, she’s still a lovable lump of dog who makes sitting in front of a fireplace more enjoyable. That’s my brother Steve’s arm and his other half Christine’s leg in that shot. Were it not for them, Greta wouldn’t stand a chance. She used to be a normal dog but back when she was a puppy she was spooked by a neighbor’s Collie. She’s been a basket case ever since.

Greta, Lily and Sadie all sleep together every night but heaven help anybody who’s nearby when one of them touches another. Hell hath no fury as Lily and Greta when they’re getting into it. Those two need to take the chill pill Sadie takes or even better, learn to take it outside like Molly does.

I’ve been dog-less since the late ’90s and I’m looking forward to having the hounds of Lancaster to keep me company. Big dogs in the country get into all manner of trouble but so far as I’m concerned, that makes them all the more appealing. I’m dreading dealing with winter but having Molly, Sadie, Lily and Greta to curl up with will make it easier.