I am no longer blogging here at Little Nuances, but I would love for you to join me on my author website www.leewarren.info.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Sounding Like Home

Last night I stopped by my mom’s house for a visit. We went out to eat and then went back to her house to watch television. She likes the Biography Channel and we saw that a program called Johnny Cash’s*America was about to start, so we settled in to watch it. She is a big Johnny Cash fan. I never really followed him, but he’s growing on me.

The biography of Cash featured various singers and other well known people talking about him. Senator Lamar Alexander from Tennessee was one of those people. He said something that instantly had me diving for my Blackberry to make sure I captured it for further contemplation. He said, “You get in trouble when you stop sounding like where you grew up.” He made the point that Cash never did that.

I watched the rest of the program, but I kept thinking about what Alexander said. How exactly does a person sound like the place he grew up? And what about the people who didn’t have the greatest upbringing? Do they even want to sound like the place they grew up? And why would straying from that sound get a person into trouble?

I think Alexander was talking about the importance of staying rooted in everything that made us who we are—remembering the specific struggles, and lessons learned, and sacrifices others made for us, even if the people who did so weren’t perfect. And I think he was talking our youthful idealism, our outlandish dreams, and our deepest desires. Mix all of that together and you have the makings of a person who will sound believable.

When we forget all of that and begin to get lost in doing what is expected of us or doing something because we have to, then we self-medicate in one form or another in an attempt to kill our conscience because we can’t stand to listen to its protests. Only later do we discover that living a life of detachment cost us the essence of who we are, or were.

Photo credit: Sanja Gjenero

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Little Nuances Makeover

Okay, it’s not really a makeover. But I’ve made a few changes over the past few weeks here at Little Nuances and I’m hoping you like them.


I never have done “link exchanges” with other bloggers here unless the exchange benefits readers. People who come to Little Nuances, at least those who don’t know me, presumably come because they want to slow down a little and examine life. I want to examine it with them. So, I typically link to blogs with a similar focus. I revamped my blogroll yesterday (see the section on the right side of the page titled “Blogs That Dig Deeper”). I added several blogs and I removed a few—both of which I did to stay in line with what I’m trying to do here. I hope you’ll visit a few of the blogs on my blogroll if you get a chance.


A month or so ago, I added a subscription option for those who are interested. I’ve used FeedBlitz for quite some time—it allows readers to receive posts via email if they so choose. But for those who aren’t interested in that option, I really didn’t highlight the fact that they could use an RSS reader. So, I added the link “Subscribe in a reader” at the top right side of the page. If you’ve never tried reading blogs in a reader (sometimes called an aggregator) you might want to give one a shot. Using a reader will allow you to scan many blogs on one page. If you see something that intrigues you, click on it and read. It saves a lot of time. If you click on the subscription link at the top of the right side of the page, you’ll see that you can use:

If using a reader is new to you, just go to one of the above links, set up a free account, and begin clicking on subscription links when you visit blogs you find yourself returning to again and again.


I’ve also added a poll on the right side of the page. Each month I’ll put up a new pole because I genuinely want to hear your thoughts. I am planning to blog about the results of each pole and I’d really love to have a dialogue with you in the comments of those posts.


Speaking of comments, I’ve also made it easier to comment on posts here at Little Nuances. I turned off the “word verification” feature so you won’t have to go through that hassle any more. I’m going to leave comment moderation on however, so if your comments don’t show up right away, that’s why.

If you’ve never commented on a blog before (some people still send comments via e-mail, and that’s fine, but I’d love to have a running dialogue with you here on the blog instead), then I’m going to walk you through that so you’ll feel more comfortable. To comment on a post here at Little Nuances:

  1. Click on the “Comments” link under the post you want to comment on.
  2. Type your comment in the “Leave your comment” box. It can be long or short.
  3. Scroll down a little and under the “Choose an identity” section, you can choose any of the four options, including being “Anonymous.” If you choose to be anonymous, you can still include your first name at the bottom of your comment, and in fact, I’d prefer that you leave a name.
  4. Once you have chosen an identity, then click on the orange “Publish Your Comment” button.
  5. Your comment will go into a queue and at my earliest convenience, I’ll review it and accept it (assuming it isn’t comment SPAM or somebody looking for a fight). 

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Deep Web

The New York Times published an article on Sunday about Google indexing its one trillionth website recently. The article says that as large as that number is, it’s only a fraction of what is on the web. Lots of information in databases and catalogs and all sorts of other mediums remain un-indexed at this point because search engines can’t find them. This section of the Internet is called  the “Deep Web.”

Of course, Google is trying to figure out how to find and index the Deep Web so its users can benefit from these untapped resources.

In some sense, all of us are in the same battle. I can’t tell how often I’ll be having a conversation with someone or writing an article about something and I know that I must have something on my bookshelves about that very topic that would be useful, but I don’t know where to start to find it. That’s one of the reasons I’m so found of marking books as I read them. But I probably have just as many unread books on my shelves as I do read books. And its the unread books that are the problem because I don’t know exactly what is in them.

Of course, a person can never really read everything he or she wants to, so the concept of the Deep Web remains a constant in all of our lives. And not just in books.

I heard a man tell a story the other day about how he took the time to record an interview with his mother before she died. He asked her questions about her life and she provided details he may have never known, and by doing so, she provided details that future generations in his family certainly wouldn’t have known. Now he’s going to incorporate the interview onto a DVD using a program like Movie Maker. He’ll splice some of the interview into one section while pictures from his mother’s life scrolls by. Then he may put in some of his own narrative, followed by more from his mother as more pictures and videos appear.

By interviewing his mother, he accessed the Deep Web portion of his heritage and he preserved it for future generations. If he hadn’t done so, much of the information would have been inaccessible.

Just being aware of the Deep Web in life (metaphorically speaking) makes me want to do something to make sure I preserve as much of it as possible. How about you?

Monday, February 23, 2009

Series of Firsts: First Record Player

Being an introvert growing up, I had a hard time expressing myself. In high school, I began to let everything out via the pen. Before that, there was music.

We didn’t have a lot of money growing up, but somehow my mom always made ends meet. She even gave my sister and I an allowance. When I wasn’t spending mine on baseball cards, I was spending it on albums or 45s. I bought a crazy cross-section of music, from Olivia Newton John to Aerosmith.

When I was probably 10 or so, my mom bought me a record player. I can’t tell you what brand it was, but I can picture it clearly in my mind. The record player and speakers sat in a case that looked a little like a goal post on a high school football field. The record player was on top and the speakers were on the bottom.

Listening to music on that record player helped me connect with the world and it gave me hope for breaking out of my shell one day. One song I listened to over and over was “Boats Against the Current” by Olivia Newton John. I haven’t heard the song in decades, but I can still recite all of the lyrics. Here’s a taste:

I was a dreamer
You were a dreamer
But perfection is consuming
And it seems we're only human after all
And we’ve both been takin’ the fall
But tomorrow
We’ll run a little bit faster
We're gonna find what we’re after at last

Sometimes, I’d take the speakers out of the case and I’d lie on my back in my bedroom. Then I’d move the speakers up close to my ears and I’d get lost in the music. I used to do that with Aerosmith’s “Dream On.” I could sing right along with Steven Tyler:

Every time I look in the mirror
All these lines on my face getting clearer
The past is gone
It goes by, like dusk to dawn
Isn't that the way
Everybody's got their dues in life to pay

I don’t know why, but people didn’t really use headphones in those days. One of my cousins had a really expensive pair (they were huge), but I never really even considered buying a pair. As you can imagine, that led to my mom telling my to turn my music down on more than one occasion.

I was already a reader at that point, but my record player opened me up even further to the power of the arts. Of course, that doesn’t always mean a person is going to be influenced in a positive way, but I tended to gravitate toward motivational, introspective music that pushed me out into the world. And that was a good thing.

Friday, February 20, 2009

He’s Just Not That Into You

A friend and I went to see He’s Just Not That Into You last night. We were the only guys I could see in the entire theater who probably weren’t dragged there by a woman. But that’s okay. We both wanted to see the movie, and we kept the obligatory empty seat between us—because that’s just what guys do.

Overall, I think the movie was mediocre. My biggest problem with it was—it has so many main characters that it is hard to get close to any of them. But putting that aside, the movie made several valid points about finding love. Of course, the main point is to be honest with ourself when we can see that another person is not doing whatever it takes to be close to us. Going weeks without talking, the unreturned phone calls, the brush offs, and the lack of fire in the other person’s eyes should convince us that it isn’t going to happen, but since we don’t want to hear those words, we hold on to false hope.

Why do we hold on false hope? Because coming to the conclusion that we just aren’t what another person wants in a mate is too much for the heart to take. And because the thought of starting all over again with someone new is frightening. But of course, if we looked at the situation objectively, which we’d rather not do because we have too many emotions involved, we’d realize that we couldn’t possibly be a good fit for everybody and of course moving on is frightening. But the reality is, we really only need to be a fit with one person and the quicker we are honest with ourself, the quicker we can move on an maybe find a real match.

That point comes through in the movie loud and clear, and for me, that made the movie worth seeing.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Building on Ruins

A couple of years ago, I wrote a post about about something Elie Wiesel said in the preface of his book, Night—his firsthand account about surviving Auschwitz and Buchenwald. It was one of the most difficult books I’ve ever read. I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.

Yesterday, I read in the USA Today that Wiesel’s foundation has been swindled out of nearly all of its assets. You’d like to ask, How could a person do such a thing? But in light of what Wiesel endured in concentration camps, it hardly seems like a question that needs to be asked.

It’s just heartbreaking to hear about. But his response after his foundation was swindled brought a tear to my eye. Here’s what he said: “All my life has been about learning and teaching and building on ruins. That will not change.”

How different might our world look if more of us built on our own ruins?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A Crazy Day

What a day I had yesterday. In fact, this is going to sound like a country song, but it’s the truth. First, I woke up early—too early for me to get out of bed (5:30 AM). So, I closed my eyes and my alarm clock woke me up around 7:45 AM. I was still tired, so I turned it off. Big mistake. Next thing I knew it was 9:30. Yikes. I crawled out of bed and got ready.

When I came into my office to check my email, my computer was frozen. I rebooted it and got a hard driver error. I’ve seen those before and I knew I was headed for a crash. My laptop is only eight months old, but crashes aren’t a respecter of such things, so I made sure my backups were current (they were) and rebooted my computer. Same error.

I finally called Gateway and they thought the problem had more to do with a compatibility problem with the Windows update that came out the night before than with the hard drive. The technician I spoke with initially wanted me to do a system restore and call back if that didn’t work. My computer froze during the restore, so I called back.

The next technician said a restore wouldn’t work for such a problem (got to love conflicting stories). So, he ran me through a series of tests and said that we wouldn’t have gotten that far if the hard drive was bad. That was the good news. The bad news was, the only solution for reversing the problems created from the Windows update was to reformat the hard drive. Yuck. I’ve done that before and it takes many hours to get back up and running.

While I was working on my computer, I decided to call my new cable/internet company to make a change to the services I ordered from them last week. Guess what? Their computer had spit out my initial request for service and I had to start all over again. I was on the phone with that technician for over an hour, but he assured me that we were good to go for next week. And he gave me his email address in case I need to follow up. Good enough.

I turned my sites back to my laptop. I downloaded tons of programs that I use; I re-loaded some of the software I use; and then I started installing all of my backups (55,000+ files). By late in the evening I was up and running again.

Essentially, I lost an entire work day, but I’ve been through days like that more than once and I just took it all in stride. Computers crash. Companies make mistakes. The best thing a person can do is to brush it aside and start over. As I was restoring my computer I remembered that I had a couple of technical issues with my computer in the past and they would probably be fixed as a result of the reformat, so I even got a small benefit out of the deal.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Baby Blackberry, Seriously?

A company called LeapFrog is going to release a baby Blackberry in a few months. Their target audience? Preschoolers. No, I’m not kidding. Two and three year olds will be able to text on a qwerty keyboard. Thankfully, it’s just a toy and they will only be interacting with an onscreen buddy named Scout. But still.

I’m all for preparing kids for the future, but this gives me the creeps, and I don’t really know why. Kids have played with toy cars and toy guns and toy phones for ions—myself included. But a baby Blackberry? I don’t know. It just seems a little much, doesn’t it?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Series of Firsts: First Crush

Fifth grade is pretty much a blur to me. I can really only remember a few things about it. First, I had a bowl haircut. The barber didn’t actually use a bowl, but it sort of looked like it. Second, I had just discovered football, and the Pittsburgh Steelers were my team, so I was always wearing something to school with the Steelers’ insignia on it. On class picture day, I wore jeans and a Steelers shirt with the number 10 on it—decades before the number was worn by Kordell Stewart or by the most recent Super Bowl MVP, Santonio Homes. Anybody remember who wore that number for the Steelers in the mid-70s? It was Roy Gerela, the Steelers’ punter. How many kids wear the punter’s number?

While most of my energies were focused on football, something else began to catch my attention that year—a classmate with long red hair. Her name was Brenda. She was popular—at least as popular as a girl in the fifth grade can be, and by now, you already pretty much that I bordered on being a geek. So I had very little chance of getting her to crush on me. I’m not really sure young love is called puppy love—well, actually I do, it’s because the crush happens early in life—but, a better name might be why-in-the-world-are-my-knees-weak-and-why-is-my-stomach-flipping-flopping-all-over-the-place? Okay, that would be a terrible name, but it pretty much sums up how I felt around Brenda whenever I was around her.

First crushes are so innocent, aren’t they? They are all about little smiles, and giggles, and nervous eye contact, and denial, and more smiles, giggles, and nervous eye contact—all in the hopes that the other person has all of the same things going on inside as you do.

I never got to know Brenda all that well. I was so introverted and the idea of talking to a girl, after girls had been the enemy (with cooties, no less) for so long, petrified me. I must not have hid it too well because I can remember being teased about liking Brenda. Of course, I flatly denied it, but now, more than 30 years later, I admit it. Brenda was my first crush.

Other posts in this series:

Thursday, February 12, 2009

An Old Movie Theater

Last weekend a couple of my friends and I decided to go to the Dundee Theatre—an old movie theater in Omaha that has been around since 1925 if the sign over the refreshments counter is to be believed. I just checked to see if the theater has a website, and it does. Here’s a blurb about the place from their website:

Behind the screen at the Dundee Theatre is a stage, dressing rooms, and the original gold curtains that once hung to the sides of live vaudeville acts who the theatre was originally built for in 1925. But during the depression of the 1930's it, like many stage theaters, was converted into a movie house for cost reasons.

I haven’t been to this particular theater since I was 13; that’s when my dad took me there to see The Gods Must Be Crazy in 1980. Don’t ask me why I remember any of that, but this place is probably one of the last in a dying bread. It’s old school and that makes it kind of cool. It shows independent movies on Friday and Saturdays. It shows classics (they are showing Sixteen Candles later this week) sporadically. And it shows various other oddball movies.

Oh, and it only has one theater. So, you don’t need to look at your ticket to figure out which theater to go into.

When you walk in, you feel like you are walking into your old high school auditorium. The seats are the old style—the kind that are cushy but aren’t high enough to have a headrest and they certainly don’t have a cup holder. Nearly ever seat in the place is held together with blue duct tape. There’s a huge red curtain hanging in front of the movie screen, much like high schools have in front of their stages—and it gets pulled back as the previews start. I haven’t seen that in a long, long time.

The previews featured independent films and a couple of them looked interesting. Interesting enough that I’d like to go back and see them when they come out.

We went to see The Wrestler, which appropriately is about a broken down professional wrestler who is just trying to get by after his best years are long since gone. The movie screen even “featured” a wide strip of visual static on the right side, but it seemed to add to the effect. Although, I have to say, it would bug me if it was there for every movie. But overall, I’m glad we went. It was real movie-going experience.

Friday, February 06, 2009

A Sudden Realization

The decision making process has always fascinated me. It involves weighing all of your options, getting advice from trusted friends, prayer, and when it all clicks, a knowing sweeps through your gut. That’s what happened to me in 1986.

I quit college in 1985 without any real plans for the long term future. Sounds like a kid, doesn’t it? But in the short term, I wanted to see how far I could go in the game of tennis. I wasn’t the best player on my high school team and in college we played on the fastest surface known to man—which didn’t help me since I’ve never been a speedster—so I was never able to get my ranking high enough to amount to anything, but I still couldn’t quench my desire to see what I could do. And I always believed that I could out work most people.

So, in 1986 I got into the best shape of my life by playing tennis for three or four hours every day and then I signed up to compete in several tournaments in the Midwest. I played okay in most of them, but I don’t think I ever advanced past the second round.

I signed up to play a tournament in St. Louis, which worked out well since my dad lived there. It was indoors and my dad watched the match from up above, snapping photos (including the one below—check out those Bike shorts!). If felt both odd and exhilarating to be chasing a dream in front of my dad.

The guy I was playing against in the first round was striking the ball well. His shots were flat and hard and didn’t give me a lot of time to get into good position for my shots. I knew that my only chance was to step inside the court (as seen in the photo) against his serve and become the aggressor. I even started doing that on my own serve, trying to use the pace of his shots against him. The strategy worked pretty well and it slowed him down. The first set went into a tie breaker and I lost it. But I still felt like I could pull it out in three sets.

The second set progressed much like the first—lots of good rallies and lots of winners on both sides. We ended up in another tie breaker and he won. The match was over. I felt good about the way I’d played. In fact, I didn’t think I could have played any better. He was just better on a couple of the big points in each tie breaker, but when you are already playing your best tennis, it’s hard to imagine playing at an even higher level.

After the match, a knowing swept over me. I was a good tennis player who would never be great. I won a tournament in college, but the reality was, I wasn’t good enough to go deep enough in any tournament after that. Tennis was going to become something I loved to play, but nothing more.

My story is similar to what happens to most people who pursue something they love. Most of us aren’t good enough to take it to the next level. But that doesn’t mean we should walk away. I didn’t. I couldn’t. I played in a few more tournaments. I continued to play recreationally. I read books and magazines about the game. And I studied it on television.

Now I’m 42 and very little has changed, except my waistline. I still love the game. I love everything about it, from the cordial spirit of competition to the way I feel when I hit a good shot. But more than anything, the tennis court has always been an equalizer for me. I have instincts on the court that I don’t have anywhere else, which allows me to overcome my size and slow-footedness.

Even though my dream died on a tennis court in St. Louis some 24 years ago, a new dream was birthed when I stayed involved in the game anyway. The new dream was to play the game for the simple joy it gives me. And that dream will never die because even when my body will no longer allow me to play, I’ll watch others play and the joy will return.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Things a Man Should Do

I found a list on the Esquire website that intrigued me, at least at first. It’s called 175 Things a Man Should Do Before He Dies. After I clicked on the list and began reading it, I almost closed it. Some of the things on the list are so ridiculous or juvenile that it’s hard to take such a list seriously. Maybe it wasn’t intended to be taken seriously, but I tend to look at life through serious colored glasses, so that’s how I read it. As I worked my way down, I saw that it had some good tips too. Some really good ones, including:

21. Read the last book your wife read, unless it was by Maya Angelou. Discuss.

First, the part about Maya Angelou is funny. But second, reading the same book that someone you love has already read simply because he or she read it is an intellectually intimate act. It’s saying, “I want to know what you were thinking.”

61. Take a vow of silence for a week.

Silence can be a good thing. It forces a person to listen.

62. Leave something behind.

I think all of us what to leave something tangible behind—something that says, “I lived, and this is who I was.” But wanting to do it and actually doing it are two different things. Leaving behind such a legacy has to be calculated.

72. Get married.

Who would think that a modern day men’s magazine would encourage such a thing—especially in a list that encourages men to watch scrambled porn, to pay for sex (just once, mind you), and to sleep with someone you work with?

75. Let someone else take all the credit.

Talk about a pride killer!

117. Take a vacation without making reservations.

I would love to do this. It would add to the the adventure, assuming that you were willing to ask strangers a lot of questions about where to stay, what to visit, and where to eat. But think about all of the great, out of the way places you’d learn about from locals.

132. Kiss your dad.

Do it. Even if he is from an old school generation that might consider you soft for doing so. You’ll be glad you did.

150. Cook chateaubriand for twenty.

I have no idea what chateaubriand is, which sort of puts me on par with ALF, who once said, “I was going to prepare a lovely Chateaubreanne, but I have no idea what that is. So you're getting hamburgers.” I could make hamburgers for twenty.

Photo Credit: Sanja Gjenero

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

10 Things That Surprised Me After I Turned 40

In the past three years, I’ve spent more time reading business books and visiting websites about marketing than I ever have. That’s just where I am in life right now. I’m not interested in marketing for the sake of marketing, but rather because I genuinely want to entertain or meet the needs of people with my writing.

Yesterday, I happened across a marketing blog called Bloghound that contained a post about how a person can make his or her business blog worth reading. One of the suggestions was to write a post about “10 things that surprised me about . . .” and instantly I knew what I had to write. I’ve been thinking about several seemingly unconnected principles as of late. They all came together when I saw the suggestion to write about things that surprised me.

I’m 42 now, which seems hard to believe, and frankly, I’ve been rather surprised by some of the conclusions I’ve come to since turning the big 4-0. Here are some of them:

1. Life is short. I always knew this, but I feel it now.

2. Dreams die harder than they used to. When I was young, I had all of the youthful exuberance you see in so many young people today. When most of my dreams didn’t materialize, I always had the next dream, so I never fretted all that much. Now when a dream dies, it really does feel like a death. But I think I’m learning to trust God more now than I ever have as a result.

3. I’m less certain about certainties than I used to be. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Difficulties, brokenness, and trials in my life have made me look at the other side. I rarely looked at the other side 10 years ago.

4. Life is local. You’ve heard the old saying that all politics is local. If I understand that saying correctly, it means that if our local leaders are busy doing their jobs, then our nation will be fine. I used to desire to change the world, but I’ve learned that most of the people who changed the world (in a good way) never had their sights set on doing so. They lived locally, fought locally, loved locally, and one day, another community caught wind of their work and embraced it and it became viral.

5. It’s not pace—but rather depth—that matters. In my 20s, I lived a fast life because I believed I would miss out on what life had to offer if I didn’t. These days, I keep plenty busy, but I hover more. I dig more. I’m not only happy to go slow, I prefer it now. I’m not talking about making decisions or performing life duties. Instead, I’m talking about things like reading, listening to music, talking to friends, watching a movie, etc. In the past I wanted to experience everything as quickly as possible. Now I want to savor everything.

6. You never really arrive. I’ve known people who are older than I am who seemed like they had everything together. What I realize now is that I was moving so fast that I missed the truth. Arrival is a fallacy. Progress should be the goal.

7. Listening is hard. I’m guessing that everybody believes he or she is a good listener. I felt that way until recently. I have a couple of friends who remember nearly everything I tell them and that always impresses me. The fact that I can’t do that tells me that I need to listen better, so I’m making a conscious effort to speak less and listen more.

8. Common interests matter. I’ve been surprised by how close I’ve gotten to friends in recent years based on common interests. I know that the old adage says that opposites attract, romantically speaking, and that may be true to some degree, but being attracted, romantically or otherwise, only goes so far.

9. Qualifications matter when it comes to criticism. I believe I’m more open than I’ve ever been to listening to criticism, but I’m far less open to listening to it from people who don’t have real life experience. Everybody has an opinion, but not all of them are equally valid.

10. Life is cyclical. There was a time in my life, before I understood this to be the case, when I was fatalistic in my thinking if the “wrong” political party got elected or if “nothing was going my way.” Once I saw things cycle around a couple of times, I settled down. That doesn’t mean I am not passionate about what I believe. It just means I don’t panic or get upset when my way isn’t prevailing.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Writing News

I have some writing news to share:

Barbour Publishing just released a perpetual desk calendar I compiled called 365 Inspiring Moments from the Great Outdoors. I had a lot of fun putting this calendar together and I included all sorts of obscure facts about the outdoors, including this one from today's entry: "In 1947 the coldest temperature recorded in North America occurred at the Snag Airport in Canada's Yukon Territory: eighty-one degrees below zero." Sort of appropriate for today since it is just 7 degrees here in Omaha as I write this. Oh, and in case you notice, Amazon.com currently mistakenly identifies someone else as the compiler of this calendar. I'm told that a correction has been submitted. It just takes a while for the process to work.

Last week, CBN.com launched a new singles blog called Single Purpose for Christian singles. Julie Ferwerda and I will be writing for the blog on a regular basis. I'm really looking forward to it. If you or someone you know is single and might be interested, please spread the word.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Series of Firsts: First Dog

Growing up, my family only had two dogs, both of them were named Toby. We got the first Toby when I was really young—maybe five or six. He was a black mutt who must have had quite a bit of poodle in him. To my knowledge, no pictures were ever taken of Toby. If they existed at one time, I never seen them, which is sort of sad. Unfortunately, Toby didn’t last very long. He died shortly after we got him. I was so young that I can’t remember the exact reason he died.

But today, I want to tell you about Toby II. Yeah, I know this is a series about firsts, but it’s hard to write about your first dog when you hardly remember him. So, I’m going to write about the first dog I can remember.

Toby II was a toy dachshund. He was hyper beyond words. He chewed up furniture. He ran through the house like somebody had set his tail on fire. And he liked to bark. Eventually, my mom gave him an entire room in the basement to prevent him from destroying everything on the main floor. Toby loved going outside every day. I spent many summer nights in the backyard chasing him around and trying to figure out what animal had caught his attention and caused him to bark incessantly.

He also had a habit of carrying off anything he could get into his mouth. One day, my grandfather was in my backyard fixing something when he turned around in time to see Toby carrying his hammer off. We had a fenced in backyard, but catching Toby still wasn’t easy. Grandpa eventually got his hammer back and then Toby carried off another one of his tools. I won’t repeat what he said here, but let’s just say he wasn’t happy. But I’m pretty sure he was smiling as he recounted the story for my mom.

Toby also had a thing for winter. He loved it. In hindsight, maybe he just loved being outdoors. Either way, my entire family used to get such a laugh out of Toby trying to plow through the snow in our backyard. His legs were just a couple of inches long, but he looked like he walked on top of the snow. I think his little legs were moving so fast that he didn’t give them time to sink in the snow. But at times, he took on bigger snow drifts than a dog his size should have. I started feeling sorry for him and began shoveling paths for him all over the backyard. I always dug one all the way to the back of the yard so he could get close to the alley—his preferred place—so he could bark at cats and squirrels. Then I’d dig offshoot paths for him. He loved it so much that it was hard to get him to come in sometimes.

Toby had a good life, and he gave my family many good moments. He died when he was 13 or 14 years old. Sadly, I don’t think we have any photos of him either. It just wasn’t something I thought about back in those days. But in my mind, he’ll always be my first dog.


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