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Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston in "Marley & Me."
Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston in "Marley & Me."

"Marley & Me" cuts too close to the bone

I think I made a mistake last night by watching the film "Marley & Me." I’m not saying this because I thought the film was a waste of time, but because I have a 13-year-old, deaf, gray-muzzled Lab who can barely walk up the stairs.

I basically knew what the film was about, but I expected it to be less endearing and that it would seem removed enough from reality that it wouldn’t affect my real life. But it did.

"Marley & Me," which is based on a John Grogan memoir and stars Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson, spans the entire life of a yellow Lab named Marley. Although the canine is the main character, the film also tells the story of John and Jenny Grogan's ups and downs as journalists, married people and the parents of three children.

Watching long periods of life recapped in an hour-and-a-half film is always eerie. It's an uncomfortable reminder that time goes by so quickly -- especially, it seems, when you have kids.

"Marley & Me" shows that the lifespan of a dog is no more than a short whistle of existence.

This weekend, my husband will build a ramp over  a portion of the back stairs so our dog can have an easier time going outside, and I plan to age-appropriately talk to our kids about the inevitable passing of our pooch. I have a few books on hand and I'm ready to field questions.

I've spent so much time thinking about how my kids will handle our dog's death that I didn't realize something until watching this film last night: I'm not ready for our dog to die.

The Talking Heads' Tina Weymouth was one of my original inspirations to bass out in basements later in life.
The Talking Heads' Tina Weymouth was one of my original inspirations to bass out in basements later in life.

Rock on

Occasionally, I make a mental list of "Things I Want To Do Before I Die" and up until age 30 "be a rock star" always made the top five. Because I didn’t find myself as the subject of a VH-1 documentary or tearing up Asia on my first Japanese tour, I reluctantly modified the goal to simply "be in a band."

The roadblock to the dream might have been the fact I don’t really play an instrument and I can’t really sing, but eventually, I didn’t let that stop me. (I call it "pulling a Luscious Jackson.")

For the past few months, I have joined forces with two other aspiring musician amigos, and we get together once a week -- religiously -- to jam in my friend’s basement. I play bass, Renee plays drums, Grant plays guitar and we all attempt to sing.

I  learned a lot about music in the past few months, and have the calloused fingertips to prove it. At the risk of sounding like Zack Braff’s narration in the final minutes of a "Scrubs" episode, I’ve discovered a lot more than music from being in a band.

I realized that at my age, most people have already identified their strengths and spend most of their time exercising them. It’s not easy to try something new and to risk being really bad at it. Life is challenging enough, who needs the added discomfort of growing pains?

But potential is an amazing drug.

It has been a long time since I was so unsure of my abilities, but forged ahead anyway. It’s like I wrote myself a permission slip to suck, and I do. Or, I should say, I did. Now, after months of diligence and lots of really bad sounds emerging from Renee’s basement, I’m a shade less than sucky.

I hate that expression about old dogs learning new tricks -- because I am neither old nor of the canine variety -- but I refuse to live inside this annoying cliche. I want to keep moving forward, keep learning, keep redefining success. One ear-bleeder of a bass line at a time.

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I really like the five legs on the unicorn.
I really like the five legs on the unicorn.

How quickly they learn

When my sons were no longer toddlers, I was excited about their abilities to draw cute stick figures of the family and other Crayola masterpieces that I would cherish for life.

My first son is more of an abstract artist, so even though every one of his pictures is colorful and has a lengthy story to go with it, he’s not much for realism. My other son, however, is more of a perfectionist, and just recently he developed enough dexterity to draw what he calls "things that look like things."

I’ve often referred to him as "my little Napoleon Dynamite" and he continues to earn this nickname with his subject choices for his artwork. He draws a lot of fantasy-genre pictures of rainbows, dragons and unicorns -- which he still insists on calling "unihorns." (No ligers yet.)

At one point I told him how much I loved unihorns when I was a little girl and that I still like them today (in a kitschy, nostalgic way, but I didn’t get into that). Immediately, he sat down and started drawing a unihorn / rainbow picture for me that was his best to date. He then wrote a "1" and a "2" in the upper right corner of the paper.

"This is for you, Mom, but it’s not for free," he said.

I asked him how much it cost and he pointed to the numbers in the corner of the page. "It’s either $1 or $2," he said.

"Hmmm," I said. "Well, in that case, I pick $1."

"Good choice, Mom," he said.

Since then, all of his artwork includes a price tag. Sometimes it’s "$1 or $2" but other creations, like the smiling wizard standing in a field of broccoli, is a whopping "two hundred thousand million."

"Maybe you can save up at the bank for it," he said.

Who says creatives don’t make good business people?

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Hmmm ... new Dora is a little on the "Carrie Bradshaw" side.
Hmmm ... new Dora is a little on the "Carrie Bradshaw" side.

Is new Dora too sexy?

Last week, Mattel and Nickelodeon finally released a picture of the new, older Dora the Explorer. Prior to the unveiling of the pic, the companies released a black silhouette of the tweenaged Dora.

Mattel says they updated Dora’s look because the young girls who grew up and admired the adventurous tom boy in the bowl cut are now tweens and they need a hipper Dora to relate to.

Lots of parents, however, find the new Dora too sexy. Apparently, Mattel’s marketing department says Dora is wearing a tunic top -- not a mini-dress -- and that she is not wearing make-up. (Although her lips do appear pinker.)

Personally, I would have prefered a new character all together, perhaps another cousin for Dora and Diego, who was older and more appealing to tweens. My only hope for the older Dora is that she increased her Spanish vocabulary beyond "rojo" and "¡vámonos!"