Buddy Up and Giddy Up…

I’m learning to ride a horse, which is a lot like driving a car, if cars were nervous and unpredictable and expressed their anxiety by leaping suddenly sideways and accelerating uncontrollably whenever the breeze picks up. Also their shock absorbers were made out of jerky. And they bit.

So I sit on this huge beast named Buddy like a fruit bat clinging to a human’s scalp, and I’m supposed to make him do what I want without reinforcing his suspicion that I’m a serial killer. My options are limited: I can tug on the reins, tap with my legs, or [...]

Lame Animal Totem: Hagfish

Hagfish, also called “slime eels,” are similar to (follow closely, here) extremely slimy eels. Some experts call them “a degenerate type of vertebrate-fish” because they have skulls but no vertebrae. Others just avoid them.  

In addition to its degeneracy, Hagfish energy is spineless, squishy, slithery, and rank. If Hagfish is your totem, don’t assume you must necessarily become a politician. You could also start your own religion, marry a series of rich, aging spouses and drop them off at no-kill shelters, or produce a reality show—whatever requires the least backbone.

If Hagfish shlurps its way into your life, first ask [...]

How to Find Joy That Lasts

It was the bottom bottom of the ninth inning in game seven of the 2001 World Series. The New York Yankees and the Arizona Diamondbacks were all tied up. As Arizonans, my family and I were thrilled to see our state getting attention for something other than sun damage, so when Luis Gonzalez hit a bloop single to drive in the winning run, we went bananas—screaming, punching the air, jumping like jackrabbits on crack. Now, ordinarily my beagle Cookie (may he rest in peace) loved human celebrations. He’d howl along and do a little tap dance, castanet toenails clicking [...]

The Critter & The Creator

Ever since we moved to California, I’ve been seeking some sort of community for my son Adam, who, as many of you know, has Down syndrome. I haven’t had much luck.

Most of our neighbors are wild animals, and there’s no well-developed special-needs program among the bobcats and the bears I’ve met so far. Even nearby towns don’t have many activities for people with special needs.

It finally occurred to me that I wasn’t walking my talk in this area. I’ve been feeling like a defeated little critter, unable to access an existing program or structure that would meet my family’s [...]

Lame Animal Totem: T Rex

You may think that a huge carnivorous dinosaur would be a good animal totem. It’s so strong and sassy and rambunctious. But in truth, T-Rex energy is the ultimate inner lizard, the totem of fight-or-flight reactions so severe they’ll cause you to burn down your house because there’s a spider in the basement.

As you can see from this totally un-Photo-Shopped photograph of me on my ranch, I myself have a Tyrannosaurus Rex as a totem. (The one pictured was sent to me recently by an anonymous donor. Probably Jesus.) If T-Rex is your totem it will look much like [...]

Overshare Beware: How to Create Healthy Emotional Intimacy

Photo by Amanda Hatfield

Boris came to me at the behest of his new girlfriend, Cecily, whom I’d known for years. Since most people dislike being pushed to see any sort of adviser, I expected Boris to be reticent, if not downright hostile. How wrong I was! After a few minutes of chitchat, Boris himself raised a very personal issue. 

“I know why Cecily’s confused,” he said sheepishly. “We’ve been dating for months, and we still haven’t slept together.”

“Okay,” I said cautiously, not wanting to disrupt a delicate moment.

“You see,” Boris said, looking at the floor. “Ten years ago I had [...]

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