What I Did On My Summer Vacation

A long time ago, I used to be a high school teacher which meant I got summers off. Of course, I never REALLY got the summer off—I was either taking courses, getting ready for the new year, or for the last few years before I switched jobs, I was a Summer School principal (you can search “Summer School Stories” if you want to know more). Now that I work for the secret agency, I get 21 days for the entire year, plus statutory holidays. These days are like gold, and I try to ration well because they have to see me through from January to Christmas. I took a few random days at the beginning of the year. And this past week, I took 5 days in a row. That is the extent of my summer holiday right now because I thought I needed to bank the rest for later. I had set another five aside for a cruise in December, but then everything went to sh*t and we had to cancel it—who wants to be on a floating can of plague? Maybe there’ll be a cure soon though, and then I might need them, so better to be safe than sorry. Anyway, I had five days right now and needed to be as productive as possible. Here’s what I accomplished:

1) I taught my puppy to stop biting me

He’s a fantastic little guy, except for one thing. He was biting ALL the time. My arms looked like a war zone—I couldn’t sit down on the couch for five seconds before he was jumping all over me and chewing the sh*t out of me. We tried several tacks, based on what I read on the internet:

Me (squeals very loudly): ‘OW!’
Atlas: You’re a terrible actress. We both know I didn’t bite you that hard. (Bites me again).

Me: Gentle. Be gentle. BE GENTLE.
Atlas: I have no frame of reference for that. (Bites me again).

Me: Here! Chew on Teddy instead!
Atlas: Teddy tastes like sawdust. On the other hand—on both your other hands–you’re delicious.

Finally, I’d had enough. I said to Ken, “None of this crap is working. From now on, if he bites, I say “No” and walk away. If he’s good, he gets a cookie.” See, I’d forgotten that he was a Lab and that the sole motivation for the breed is food. So on Monday, I sat down on the couch with a jar of little treats. Every time he got nippy, I said “No” and took my hand away. When he was calm, I gave him a little piece of his kibble and praised him.

Me: You’re a very nice boy.
Atlas: I AM a nice boy. And this food tastes even better when you handfeed me.

It took two afternoons of focused training, and he hasn’t bitten me since then. As long as I keep dog food in my pocket, I’m golden.

2) I wrote three and a half chapters of my new novel

I’ve been working on a new project for a little while, and at the beginning of July, I sent the first ten chapters to my current publisher to see if they had any interest in it. They do, and now I have a mid-August deadline to get the bulk of it complete. According to my plan, it will top out around nineteen chapters, which means about five and a half to go. Good job I still have some vacation days left. The new book is called The Seventh Devil. Here’s the synopsis:

“20-year-old Verity Darkwood and her mentor Gareth Winter travel across Canada in an old pickup truck and fifth-wheel trailer, exorcising ghosts and demons for people who’ve answered their ad in The Echo: A Journal for Lovers of the Macabre, edited by the eccentric Horace Greeley III. All the while Verity continues the search for her younger sister Harmony, who disappeared when Verity was 14. As she gets closer to discovering what happened to her sister, she and Gareth cross paths with the mysterious and dangerous John Berith. A confrontation becomes inevitable if Verity ever hopes to see Harmony again.”

I’m excited about it. If you have any good book cover ideas, let me know.

3) I watched Ken work on the gazebo

He finally finished the roof, and started working on the railings, benches, and stand-up bar this week. I now have the most ostentatious mansion for my blow-up hot tub possible. You’d expect something with this much architectural splendor to house the Statue of David or something, but no, it’s just a large vinyl container of hot water. Still, it’s glorious.

4) I went clothes shopping for the first time since March

My office in the city is right across the street from the best Winners store in Canada. I was over there at least once a week, because they always have fantastic clothes, a great clearance section, and it’s the only place I can buy the good vegetable spice. This spice is made by Gourmet Kitchen, and during the worst of the plague, I tried to order it from Amazon. I normally pay 6.99 for a jar at Winners; Amazon wanted thirty-five dollars US, which is around fifty Canadian. My potatoes would have to roast naked for that price. But there’s also a Winners about 20 minutes away from my house. It’s not at the same level as the downtown store, but still…And not only was I able to get the good spice, I bought three tops. Obviously, I don’t need to buy pants until I’m working in an office again instead of doing virtual meetings where people can only see me from the shoulders up.

5) I discovered that we get a channel called A&E. A long time ago, this channel used to show almost exclusively BBC series and documentaries. Now, it’s like the National Enquirer. On Mondays, you can watch marathons of Hoarders, which is the most insane show on the planet. On every episode, one of the psychologists says, “This is the worst hoard I’ve ever seen” but the next episode is ALWAYS WORSE, like the old man who slept in a tiny nest of garbage in his living room surrounded by mountains of more garbage, or the woman who had 117 cats—43 of them were alive and the rest were in her refrigerator. One episode had a guy who had stacks and stacks of magazines in one room, which hit close to home:

Me: See that? It reminds me of your office. You’d totally be a hoarder if it wasn’t for me refusing to let you keep crap like that.
Ken: Says the woman who has 27 clocks that don’t work and 12 seashell jewelry boxes with NOTHING IN THEM.

On Friday nights, you can also binge watch a weird show called Storage Wars. The premise is simple—we follow a group of *ssholes as they try to outbid each other on storage units so that they can make a profit on the junk inside. And they really are *ssholes, whose sole motivation is to screw each other over. Every episode, at least one of them says, “I don’t want this unit but I’m going to bid on it anyway to drive the price up so that Barry has to pay more than it’s worth.” None of the people on this show have anything likable about them, and I don’t understand why I watched 6 episodes on Friday night.  Oh well—I’m on my holidays.

68 thoughts on “What I Did On My Summer Vacation

  1. The fact the Atlas is no longer “bitey” is an accomplishment in itself. It takes a long time to train a pup, so well done my friend. The gazebo looks fabulous, have you used your hot tub yet?
    I love A&E, but only for the biographies and historical documentaries. Storage Wars isn’t my thing, probably because Lestat owned a couple of them, lol. Hoarders is interesting though, it’s amazing what junk people will hold onto, like trash, ugh.

    Liked by 5 people

  2. Can you put on an old pair of pants and come teach my 17-month old puppy to stop digging in the yard and bullying his two older brothers? Thanks, you’re a peach!

    Or maybe a vegetable seasoning. Is that complimentary?

    Mrs C just ended her week’s vacation, which she put in for at the beginning of the year as we expected to get out of town for our anniversary. We didn’t, obviously, and the bank wouldn’t let her NOT take her vacation since it was already in the system, so she spent her summer vacation being driven crazy by a bullying, digging dog and her mother. I mean it about the mother. Last night she was hurling invectives out about her left and right and I said “You need to get back to work and away from that woman.” Vacations can suck.

    I cannot WAIT to read the new novel, it sounds amazing! And the gazebo looks amazing! And your dog is amazing! And you’re amazing!

    I hope that ^ partially makes up for calling you a vegetable spice earlier. I’m learning. Treat? 😋

    Liked by 4 people

  3. barbaramullenix says:

    Arts & Entertainment. Go figure. One man’s entertainment is another mans trash.

    But the gazebo looks terrific! Kudos to Ken! And good puppy, Why not give him yet another bone type chew toy. My mother used to buy “soup bones” (don’t know if that’s possible anymore) that looked like hockey pucks with a hole in the middle – real food, not plastic. My Miniature French Poodle LOVED these things that were way too big for her and never got smaller – but kept her occupied for hours, and she never bit us. Probably a butcher (grocery store?) could supply you with a bone that would take months to disappear.

    Liked by 5 people

  4. Can you come and teach my cat that just because I am sitting on the couch my legs are not for his personal sitting place or scratching post? He’s 14 and stuck in his ways but I’m sure you could do something with him?

    The gazebo looks amazeballs!

    Liked by 3 people

    • You can’t teach a cat anything. I learned that many years ago the hard way! And yes, I’m so proud of Ken. We had a small birthday party yesterday for him, and the whole family was ooing and ahing over it!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. You’ve accomplished more during your vacation than I think I usually do during a week of work. Especially training Atlas to stop biting. I’ve never known an adult Lab to bite and I don’t know if they outgrow it, but training it out of him now is definitely for the best.
    And the gazebo really elevates your blow up hot tub. I mean it actually makes it look fancy; it also raises it off the ground.
    Good luck on finishing the book. I really want to read that.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I agree-none of our labs ever bit but we got them all as older dogs. So this puppy biting thing is new to me, and very painful! He’s learning very quickly though–he’s a smart cookie. And now that the gazebo is done, we can both get in the hot tub without worrying that he’s going to pick up a stray screw or some other construction material. He likes to jump up and watch us over the edge and paw the bubbles–very cute!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. The human dog chew toy! That normally isn’t a problem with cats, but Ody’s late brother Spilly was a dog in a previous life, in that he loved to chew on things, and would occasionally out of nowhere sink his teeth into me. He did that one time while he was on my computer desk…. clamped down right on my nose! Oh, it hurt like heck and had my eyes watering for a while. And he’s just sitting on the desk looking at me like, “What?”

    I remember when cable channels lived up to their names. A&E was the Arts & Entertainment Network before they all acronymized, and it was the channel that introduced me to one of my favorite old series, Columbo! I watched it every day when I got home from college in the mid 90’s…

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Bear says:

    You’re right about that being the most beautiful housing for a hot tub that there’s ever been. There are monastery’s that would be happy with that. You should throw the tub out and install a small cross-legged monk and a couple of joss sticks instead.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. YA? Won’t your publisher provide a cover? I have my Indonesian artist friend who illustrated my 2nd novel (found him on Fiverr). So many possibilities of cover characters/devices… Is there a central “spirit” or phantasmic theme? Is there a dog? Is his name Scooby-doo? (poke, poke) (Has Atlas found your upstairs ghost?)

    Why are you blogging, get back to writing! (slaps own wrist…)

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Gazebo looks great! I always wanted one, thinking they were romantic. Probably not with a blue hot tub though….great idea on training, and I agree, they just want to please you. Best wishes on the new book!

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Suzanne,

    You have a very cool gazebo and kudos for teaching your dog not to bite you. Our dogs don’t bite, per se, but it gets a little scary sometimes during barking time. Oh my God! Love the concept for your new novel and you’ve gotten so much done! Snaps all around! BTW, I love Hoarders. It’s so motivating. I haven’t watched Storage Wars in years, but you’re right…they’re a bunch of a**holes, who will one day end up on Hoarders because of all the crap they buy! Glad you got a chance to take some time off of your busy schedule. Now, I’m exhausted. I think I need to go watch another episode of Absentia with David and chill for a bit. Mona

    Liked by 3 people

  11. The gazebo is lovely and a hot tub in there would be yummy. And nice job with the puppy. That was actually pretty hilarious though the biting can get pretty annoying. I’m glad the treats worked. And and and nice job on the book! It sounds like something my little paranormal heart would enjoy. Have an amazingly productive vacation. Stay well and keep up the good work. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Good about the puppy training from now on you are the dog whisperer in my eyes. Ken’s brilliant and if he gets fed up of you there is always a place for him with me ☺️ Great news about the book 🙏👍🏻😁 … please buy bottoms for your new tops, I can’t get the vision of you sitting in a top and hopefully knickers 🤣😂🤣

    I can’t watch horders because it makes me feel sick and then I want to change the whole house around and after the cat needing meds after my last change around I’ve promised I won’t move anything again 😔
    Great posts as usual x

    Liked by 3 people

  13. many congrats — teaching a puppy not to chew is major! & what’s up with some of amazon’s items being outlandishly expense?! I find my ‘need to buy’ list, especially for clothes & cosmetics, vastly whittled down…

    Liked by 2 people

  14. So much to say…

    First: I found that squealing Ow! and yanking my hand away from our puppy any time I felt tooth on skin — even (and especially) if it didn’t hurt — taught him excellent bite control. That’s the method I would’ve recommended, but every dog’s different…

    Second: Congrats on the interest in The Seventh Devil! So happy to hear this!!!

    Third: I am a sucker for a gazebo! I adore yours! Great work, Ken!

    Fourth: I recall a very old episode of Married… with Children in which Al is channel-surfing, only to abruptly stop at A&E. “Arts and Entertainment?! Peg — I thought we had that blocked?!”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Atlas is very smart about most things but doesn’t seem to care two hoots about me squealing. When he gets nippy now, I just say ‘Uh oh, I guess you don’t want a cookie’ and then he starts behaving. Cheeky thing!

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Your holidays sounded glorious – as is the gazebo. It’s beautiful!!

    Hooray for Winners! You can buy some of the most interesting foodstuffs there.

    I recently took 5 days off, too, and I ate croissants every day. But it would’ve been so much more fun with a pal like Atlas. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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