Evil Grass

No, this isn’t another marijuana post.

Do you know what a grass awn is?

Grass awn is another name for The Devil. Grass awns are Satans of the savannah, Lucifers of the llano and Mephistopheles of the meadow. Closer to home, they are Beelzebubs of my backyard. They may look benign, but they are EVIL.

Colorado grass awn

Just ask our happy-go-lucky Dexter. Truly, he’s the happiest dog in the history of dogs. People stop us on walking and hiking trails to tell us so.

Dexter the bichon poodle

He suddenly stopped being his happy-go-lucky self late one recent afternoon while I was cooking dinner. He entered the kitchen after playing outside with the kids and let out three uncharacteristic yelps, even though no one was around accidentally stepping on his tail or paws. He cranked his neck to look over one shoulder at his own hind-end and had a plaintive and pitiable look in his eye: Help me, Mom. He stayed that way with his neck cranked around toward his butt, panting heavily.

Tessa followed him in and became quite alarmed. We were on the same kitchen floor that she dissolved on the day I told her Grandma Lisa had died. In her mind, Dexter had cancer and was about to die, and she began to panic. I don’t know about “die” but by Dexter’s deflated and acutely pained demeanor, I knew it was dire. I breathed deeply and audibly to calm all of us down.

My hunch was that we were dealing with a wasp sting, so I looked for any signs of swelling on Dex’s left cheek and neck but saw nothing. I couldn’t imagine what else could have affected him so suddenly. Was it a pinched nerve or strained neck muscle? If so, is there such a thing as a canine chiropractor?

No answers magically appeared so I called the vet and was invite to come in for an after-hour$ vi$it. We gently got Dex into the car and I drove as unjarringly as I could. The tech asked us to leave him there until the vet was able to investigate. An hour later, we got the call that The Devil had invaded our dog’s ear canal and that we could take Dexter home for the night, as there was nothing they could do at that hour.

The treatment for the night was a painkiller and repeated ear irrigation. We were not to feed Dex breakfast the coming morning because we may be sedating him to get Beelzebub out. We paid for the goods and services and left.

The painkiller worked well — Dex showed no sign of pain the rest of the evening, though he did paw at his cheek a few times. We irrigated a few more times but did not see Lucifer exit the ear canal.

Dex was fine the next morning, unless you count hunger. We took him in for the vet to take a peek in a follow-up vi$it, and what she saw was….

…inconclusive.

Of course it was. She saw something — maybe a normal blob of fur, maybe the offending grass awn, but hard to tell with a wiggly dog. Sedation was the only way to know for sure.

We were faced with a dilemma: $200 for the sedation to remove the grass awn, or wait-and-see. Maybe with all the ear-washing, Mephistopheles had found its way out. Maybe Dex had shaken it out. Maybe we’d dodged a financial bullet. We left the vet again, betting on the latter, paying for that appointment (cha-ching!) without making another.

All was well until I did what nobody in a medical crisis should ever do: I googled “grass awn,” and boy, did I get an earful. From MeanSeeds.com, there are several ways that this brand of Evil can kill or maim a dog:

…As the florets mature, they fall off easily. They can be inhaled into the throat or lungs of a dog, swallowed, caught between the toes, become lodged in the fur, or fall into the ear canal. Once attached, the direction of the basal hairs creates a “barbed” effect which keeps the floret from backing out of the fur or tissue. As the animal moves the floret constantly migrates forward pushing the pointed base further into the tissue.

Once inside the tissue these florets have been known to migrate anywhere inside the body including through organs, down the spinal column, through the eyes, and up the limbs. Aside from the damage and infection caused by the migration, some florets carry bacteria that can cause serious infections depending on where they are located.

So here we are a few days later and many dollars shorter. We’ve decided that despite the fact that Dex is showing no symptoms, we’re going ahead with the sedation to verify that the grass awn is gone, and if it’s not, to have it removed. In the meantime, all four of us humans are uncomplainingly weeding a long-neglected area of our yard.

We’re taking Dexter back to the vet tomorrow morning. We intend to keep our happy-go-lucky dog around for many years to come.

Begone, Satan!

(If you intend to bring up pet insurance, no need. We’re investigating.)

Do You Really Want that Post to go Viral?

Fame and fortune can be yours!

People will stop you on the street for your autograph! Store clerks will covertly point at you, asking each other, “Is that really her, the brilliant mind behind that brilliant blog?” Your bank account will grow as more and more people hang on every word you write! You’ll soon be chatting on air with Matt Lauer and Ellen! Advertisers and brands will flock to you, begging you to wear their clothes, drink their drinks, maybe even drive their cars!

You. Will. Have. Arrived!

All you need is one thing: A viral post.

You just need to write that one post that has that special magic to go viral. Or luck into that one reader with the influence to spread your words, your post, your link farther and wider than you could ever imagine. Then you’ll be on the map. You’ll get what’s most important to you — gobs of comments, tons of accolades, visitors and pageviews and new subscribers, klout (yes, with a “k”) and respect and freebies — even a book deal with movie rights.

Or maybe not. Perhaps this is the fantasy some of us carry: if we could just find the right key to embiggen our little stage and get our words in front of more eyeballs, We. Will. Have. Arrived.

But is that really what happens? Surely there are instances in which a previously obscure blog has been catapulted to fame and fortune via one springy diving-board of a post that went viral, enabling the blogger to hit the Big Time in a sustained way.

Is a viral post always a gateway to greatness?

I’ve recently had a post or two go viral, one on kids and marijuana and the other on a jewelry commercial, and the results were nothing like what I thought they’d be. In spite of a couple of weeks of high pageviews, feel-good attagirls and (in the case of the jewelry ad critique) supporters kindly defending me, I’m still here slogging at my blog with nothing much changed. My stats have returned to my normal, no fans are pointing at me surreptitiously in the grocery store line, I’m still driving my own car, my bank account balances remain the same, and if Ellen did call (Are you the curmudgeon who didn’t like that lovely ad?), she didn’t leave a message. Fame and fortune remain just as far off in the horizon as they were before the virus.

Downsides to post virality

Virus rezonWe tend to forget that a virus is a nasty thing. This online phenomenon is named for a destructive microscopic life form that has the capability to destroy life, human and otherwise.

Here are a few downsides to a post going viral.

1. New readers don’t know you or your rules of engagement. When readers visit me from my usual bloggerhood (and even neighborhoods one or two circles out from that ‘hood), they bring wise words, supportive sentiments, relevant questions and considered assessments of the topic. When readers come from farther outside my sphere — people who don’t know me or know anything about me — the rules of engagement seem to no longer exist. In the case of the post critical of Kay Jewelers, it was picked up by The Huffington Post, and addressed by Mommyish (<== don’t hover over that link if you have a school-age child looking on) and The DailyMail. I’m pleased to say that my usual commenters do not treat people the way commenters on those mega-sites sometimes do.

2. You become an object first, a person second (if at all). With a viral post that reaches people who haven’t interacted with you before, some people may talk about you as if you aren’t there listening, reading, dealing with the impact of their words. In my case, people made hugely erroneous assumptions about me and felt no compunction about calling me and others horrid names, words that no one has ever said to my face. There were pages and pages of what I call the comment pile-on, people whose vileness feeds off each other. Here is how I handled that in the case of the jewelry ad.

3. There are also technical aspects, such as the fact that your host’s server may not be equipped to handle a high multiple of your regular traffic. You could find your whole site down at the worst possible time — precisely when people are landing there by the hundreds, thousands, maybe millions. And if you typically are attentive to your commenters, it may become very challenging to keep up with so many of them — especially the nasty ones, ones that miss the point, ones who react only to the headline (who needs to actually read the post?), ones who come to your space with their agenda, or ones that are just plain wackadoodle.

4. The virality effect tends to afford just a blip and not a sustained upward trajectory. Jeff Goins says in his post The Truth About Going Viral:

Should I change what I write about, focusing more on this topic? Should I try to keep as many of those visitors as possible? And what would I do when Monday rolled around, and I had to start blogging again?

The next week, I hit the old grindstone again, and the Internet had already forgotten about me. My traffic spike had mellowed out, and I was back to zero, forced to earn people’s attention all over again.

what does a viral post look like?
Site stats

But still, going viral can be a thrill.

I’m not gonna lie. Even with the insults and meanness, the misunderstood-ness and the return to pre-virus activity levels, I’m grateful I had these viral experiences and I would welcome them again (so share this post, whydoncha?). It’s a thrill to generate thought and passion in others and to be the provoker of that.

So if you want to give it a shot yourself and report back your results with virality, here’s an infographic to guide your efforts.

What are your hopes and fears about a post going viral?

Hopeful image by ReactionGIFs.com
Virus image by DROUET (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons.
Stats image by Lori Lavender Luz.

Closing Time

Every New Beginning Comes From Some Other Beginning’s End.

We have a newly minted middle-schooler in our home, as Tessa closed out her elementary school career last week, marked by her school’s Continuation Ceremony. The last month or so has been a mashup of transition meetings, girl drama, growing pains, anxiety anticipation, and, of course, shopping for the appropriate Continuation dress.

After the Continuation Ceremony, our family previewed Summer Nights at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. While waiting for the Laserium show to start (the Pink Floyd Laserium experience is very different being a teen versus having a teen), we walked the environs of City Park. I gasped when I noticed Tessa anew in all her free-spirited glory.

Still in her Continuation dress, here’s my girl. My spontaneous, growing-up, beautiful girl who has a few endings behind her, but so many new beginnings yet to be experienced. In this moment she is open and ready to face it all.

Urban angel

Teen against iconic Denver skyline


Are you experiencing any transitions at this time? Does it feel more like a closing time or an opening time?

Open adoption parenting & mindful living