A report that Bristol Palin has joined a speakers bureau and is accepting invitations to lecture on parenting issues stopped me in my tracks, the way reading the news so often does. The realization that someone - someone besides Palin herself, that is - believes that accidentally getting pregnant makes a person an authority on parenting issues might cause me to talk about my head exploding, if I understood what the expression "I thought my head would explode" really means.
A report that Bristol Palin has joined a speakers bureau and is accepting invitations to lecture on parenting issues stopped me in my tracks, the way reading the news so often does. The realization that someone — someone besides Palin herself, that is — believes that accidentally getting pregnant makes a person an authority on parenting issues might cause me to talk about my head exploding, if I understood what the expression "I thought my head would explode" really means.
Does it mean, "Too much bizarre information, and the overload has to go someplace"? Does it mean, "My head filled up with toxic glunk, which then spontaneously ignited?" Does it mean "I don't understand anything anymore, and when nothing makes sense my brain is wired to self-destruct?"
Because I don't understand it, I've been avoiding the phrase, but now, suddenly, I see: It means my brain can't process this alien data and therefore it's shutting down.
Quick, though, before it's altogether gone, I'm going to write a self-help book.
I credit Bristol for giving me the courage to see that if she's a parenting expert, I'm Dr. Phil, and perfectly capable of telling the world how to shape up.
As for my inspiration, that's thanks to my older daughter, whose comment about the pleasures of working from home led to the book's core message.
"I could work on the porch," she said wistfully. "The dog would like it, too."
It might have been spelled out in sparkling Milkbones, the message was so clear.
"If we all lived the way our dogs would like us to live, the world would be a better place," I said.
Chapter one: Dogs like to look out the window, or better yet, they like to watch the world from a spot on a screened-in porch.
If we all — and I mean this globally — spent more time joining our dogs in their favorite activity, how much time could we spend getting up to such mischief as warmongering or church burning?
We'd be way too busy barking at the neighbors, who'd be busy barking back at us.
Chapter two: Dogs like to run, preferably in big circles and figure eights, and preferably with other dogs.
Given a pretty big yard and a warm day, dogs will run in circles until they literally drop. Owners who do likewise will not be fomenting any revolutions — at least not that day, and not in that sweaty shirt.
Chapter three: Dogs want to be out if they're in and in if they're out.
This kind of daily itinerary leaves no time to keep track of religions or tribes or sects or visas. In, out, out, in É the only rule should be "Whoever empties the water dish should fill it up again."
Chapter four: Dogs like to eat regularly, or all the time if possible. Keeping hungry dogs happy leaves no time to turn plowshares into swords.
I should explain that my younger daughter and her husband are away, and their dog is spending the summer at our house. Since we already have a dog of our own, that makes two dogs, and anyone who thinks two dogs don't make a pack has never seen our two struggling over possession of a dog toy. Merely watching the dogs takes up all of our time; we couldn't possibly argue about West Bank possession or who's responsible for exploding oil wells.
As for feeding, Pip eats one food and Mavis eats another; she eats in the utility room and he eats in the kitchen; she eats kibble and he eats kibble mixed with — as I've already confessed — a few tablespoons of cooked hamburger. A closed door must separate them at mealtime. Between meals, they're constantly looking first at me and then at the snack cabinet. It's complicated, I tell you. I couldn't riot in the streets if I wanted to.
Chapter five: Dogs hate loud noises. They also hate fireworks. I once saw a dog running in the street during July Fourth fireworks, and the glimpse of that frightened, pitiful creature has haunted me ever since. No dog wants to be anywhere near uprisings, street fights, car bombs or other incendiary devices. My dog in particular also hates thunder, backfiring cars, jets and crop dusters. If it were up to him, or any other dog, we'd all spend our lives running in the grass, taking long naps in sunny spots and having snacks. It would never occur to a dog to go to war, cheat a friend or murder for drugs or money.
But — I hear you saying — what about jobs? What about income? What about buying groceries, paying mortgages, feeding a family, even feeding the family pet? What about cars and fuel and insurance and É
Stop! Stop! Please. You're making my head explode.
Margo Bartlett is a ThisWeek staff writer. E-mail hear at mbartlett@ thisweeknews.com.