Remembering Aughe

Remembering my BFF today who passed away four year ago today. She was a real character. Aughe, I miss you.

Excerpt from: The Passion Prerogative

dogMy dog, Aughe, has a passion for cookies, a.k.a, dog biscuits, dog treats and dog snacks. A 15-year-old Golden Retriever mix whose muzzle has turned white and back legs have grown weak, Aughe still remains laser-focused on finagling as many of her favorite mouth-watering morsels that she can get each day. I’m starting to think cookies are the main reason she bothers to get out of bed in the morning.

My decade and a half with Augie has silently slipped through my fingers, like a thief in the night stealing my treasure bit by bit. The antics of my squirrel-chasing, trash-digging, bed-surfing companion have slowly transformed into lazy days filled with long still naps punctuated by moments of clever ruses designed to get me to the cookie jar one more time.

I can’t say I miss her trash-digging days, those occasions when she nosed the cupboard door open in the wee hours of the morning, gently tugged the trashcan into the floor, and proceeded to rummaged through it looking for a little snack to tide her over until breakfast. Waking up to find yourself ankle deep in shredded trash covered in wet coffee grounds and worse can make even the most devoted pet parent question her adoption decision. But Aughe’s look of total innocence always amused me, so I was quick to forgive her transgressions.

Copyright © 2017 Patra Taylor


Naked and Really Afraid

Today is National Nude Day!

Beach sign

No nude sunbathing? Where’s the fun in that?

For the record…I’m out. The festivities for National Nude Day will have to proceed without me. Let’s just say my precarious relationship with my archenemy, Aging, has left me feeling…well, vulnerable, with all my loose parts and stray appendages prone to getting caught in slamming doors, closing windows and heavy machinery if not properly corralled. I am the first to admit it…this glorious 50+-year-old package now requires the elaborate gift-wrapping that is clothing.

Before Aging had her way with me (in more ways than one), I was already a bit squeamish about letting it all hang out due to a genetic defect from my paternal side of the family. According to my mother, who had no reason to make things up, in four and a half decades of marriage to my sainted father, she never once saw him buck-naked. (Thus the “sainted” part.) I suspect that through the years Mother sneaked the occasional snips and glimpses of those things my father kept under wraps. Engaging her vivid imagination, I have no doubt she had a pretty good idea what the entire parcel that was my father looked like.

I hope everyone enjoys National Nude Day. As for me, I won’t be the one mooning the server at the window of the local Burger King. I’ll leave that to you.

Copyright © 2017 Patra Taylor

Adventures in Room Service

Dinner is served, Madam.

Dinner is served, Madam.

A few summers ago, my husband and I headed north to take our then nine-year-old son, Jackson, to goalie school in Canada. After delivering him to the rink, Stephen and I, along with our two-year-old son, Benn, arrived at our “resort” hotel in downtown Toronto. Before long we were comfortably settled in our room.

“This is great, eh?” my husband asked, trying out his Canadian.

“For whom?” I responded, a bit prickly after so long without food.

“You don’t like this place?” he questioned, as if his manhood was somehow involved.

Actually, I loved it, but I had recently realized that “resort amenities” and “two-year-old-boys” were mutually exclusive propositions. We clearly had a week of zoos and playgrounds in store for us, not plushing around a posh resort.

“So let’s eat,” I offered, changing the subject to the only thing on my mind. “I’m starving.”

“If you’re too tired to go out, call room service,” my husband offered off-handedly. Shocked, and confused, I turned to stare at him. We never used room service. For 18 years, on every vacation we’d ever taken, my job (aside from planning, packing, plotting, and post-trip bill paying) was hunting the eatery for our next meal. Somehow the process had always appealed to my primitive hunter/gatherer urges, sort of my yang unleashed. And now he wanted me to call room service? Where’s the challenge in that?

“Fine,” I finally replied, a bit disgusted by the whole idea, but too tired to deal with a fussy baby in public. “Room service it is.”

After perusing the menu, we both settled on the pan-seared horseradish encrusted bright water salmon served over a bed of sweet potato leek cakes with caramelized shallot vinaigrette. He called in our order like an old hand, then headed to the shower to freshen up.

In the mean time, I wiped down Benn with a warm washcloth, wrestled him into his pajamas, and then slipped myself into something “more comfortable.” (Yes, I was wearing flannel pajamas…it was Canada, after all.) By the time Stephen stepped from the bathroom, all squeaky clean and wrapped in a showy Turkish robe with the hotel monogram on the front pocket, I was propped up on a large pile of pillows in the middle of the king-size bed, the covers pulled up to my chin, with a Pay-Per-View all picked out. With the tap, tap, tap on the door, I knew food was at hand. But little did I know something life changing was afoot.

The waiter rolled the cloth-covered cart in front of the window and pulled open the drapes a bit more so we could view the city as we enjoyed our dinner. I could hardly wait as he popped the cork on the wine, and offered Stephen the first sip. It was time to eat.

I drank wine from my water glass, used by salad fork for my entree, and spooned in the last scraps from my plate, all without a single sideways glance of disapproval from anyone. Licking the tips of my fingers for a lingering remnant of flavor, I felt like the Queen Mother at a medieval feast.

Completely full, I set my eyes on dessert…a ginger-studded puff pastry filled with crème brûlée, topped with fresh raspberries and a mango coulis. As I smacked my way through the final course, it occurred to me I had been missing out on one of the greatest innovations of the last century — room service. WOW!

Copyright © 2017 Patra Taylor


Excerpt from “Dead of Night Shines Light of Reason on Class Reunion Ritual”

 OMG ScaleI recently began my “I-have-to-lose-20-pounds-before-my-high-school-class- reunion” diet. Admittedly, I sneaked my latest diet regime into the daily lives of my unsuspecting family, purging our household of empty carbs and fat-filled goodies in the bright light of day when they were at work and school.

The family knew something was up the first night I served broiled fish and steamed broccoli, and cheerfully pronouncing it “dinner.” The boys immediately came down with virulent cases of the flu and fled the table, no doubt clinging to their recent memories of pepperoni pizza, cheeseburgers and ice cream.

My husband, on the other hand, silently contemplated his situation while unenthusiastically shuffling the healthful veggies about his plate with his fork. Then, wearing his most convincing trial lawyer cross-examination face, he began, “You are going to lose weight just so your classmates will think you maintained your girlish figure all these years, isn’t that true?”

The question felt a little like he was leading the witness, but with no one in sight to object to his harsh line of questioning, I decided to meet Stephen’s inquiry head-on. “Yes…exactly,” I replied matter-of-factly.

He paused, picking at his herbed and lemoned tilapia. “I can’t say that I blame you,” he finally admitted.

Copyright © 2017 Patra Taylor


Defensive Driving Skills Best Learned at Home – Part 2

The next day, Jackson and I had one of those parent-child firsts. Towering several inches over me with a freshly laminated learner’s permit in his pocket, he stood next to me as we examined our newly acquired “Green Hornet,” the one and only vehicle in our expanding fleet that he’d be permitted to operate, as his father and I both prefer our vehicles scratch- and dent-free.

Since I’d prepared his whole life for this moment, I thought a few words of wisdom might be appropriate. I considered imparting that all-important “driver’s language” used by citizens acrossCUYANA - CIRCA 2001 : stamp printed in Guyana shows Burl Icle Iv America, but it occurred to me that Jackson had already audited the course from the backseat through the graduate level. I was pretty confident that he already knew the difference between a “stupid idiot” and a “brain-dead SOB.”

But then I remembered the most important gift I could give him to launch his driving career. I went to my still-unscathed SUV, opened the glove box and pulled out the driver’s ultimate weapon and handed it to him.

“What’s this?” he asked.

“Honey, I want you to be able to defend yourself when you’re out there on the streets alone,” I answered solemnly. “The first time some jerk pulls up next to you in slow-moving traffic with the volume on his stereo turned up so loud that it vibrates your car, I want you to roll down all your windows, pop this into your CD player, and crank it up.”

“What’s on it?” he asked, looking at the unmarked disc.

“It’s a recording of Burl Ives singing, Jimmy Crack Corn. When you’re on the streets, son, you have to fight fire with fire.”

As we stood there, I realized that in just a few short months, I would no longer be needed to take my little boy to school. He won’t need me to drive him to hockey practice, to his friends’ houses or to Chick-Fil-A. On the outside I was weeping, but on the inside my heart was bursting with the chorus of Happy Days are Here Again.

“Are those tears of joy, aren’t they?” he asked softly.

“Yes son, they are.”

 Copyright © 2017 Patra Taylor




Defensive Driving Skills Best Learned at Home – Part 1

wrecked carsI must extend my sincere apologies to all my fellow citizens. Last week I personally took my 15- year-old son to the Department of Motor Vehicles and enabled him to get a learner’s permit. Hindsight tells me it was not only inconsiderate and irresponsible for me to unleash another testosterone-enriched human male onto the streets behind the wheel of a 3,000+ lb. gas-propelled machine. It was also pretty selfish.

A few days after Jackson’s 15th birthday, I was sitting in my gas-guzzling SUV waiting for him outside the movie theater. Jackson’s friend’s mom had covered the drop-off, but I had been appointed to pick-up duty.

After contemplating the number of hours I had wasted sitting in my car waiting for someone else, I drifted off, only to dream about how sweet it would be if I could get out of the taxi business while I could still pass the driver’s eye exam. After what seemed like too few moments of this delicious fantasy, I was rudely awakened by my seven-year-old yelling and pointing at a stray cat ambling across the parking lot. Suddenly reminded that the day I’m completely free of my taxi driver persona is still another eight years away, I determined in my groggy semi-consciousness that only having to haul one kid around would amount to something akin to semi-retirement. So I went for it.

“Jackson,” I said to my middle son as he climbed into his awaiting air-conditioned transport. “Maybe we’d better get you over to the DMV in the morning to get your driving permit before school starts.”

There, I’d said it…right in front of his friend, who happens to be a girl. (That was a delicate description of a relationship I’ve failed to get a clear handle on.)

“Great,” he replied basking in the manly moment. “I’ve studied, so I’m all ready for my test.”

“You’ve studied?” I queried. “Other than a computer game instruction booklet, I’d wager that’s the only thing you’ve ever studied for without me nagging you since you arrived on this earth, pink and hungry.”

“Maybe we need to get some ice cream to celebrate me getting my license,” he suggested. It was clear he was trying to dissuade me from any more of my stories about his infancy, which would undoubtedly ruin his crowing session in front of his friend.

“Maybe we ought to wait and celebrate after you get it,” I replied, even though my general rule is to eat ice cream any chance I get.

Stay tuned for part 2…

Copyright © 2017 Patra Taylor



Fear of Flying

400 words.

I wouldn’t say I have a fear of flying. I just prefer not to fly. Judging by the persistent twitch in my right eyelid, which triggers about 10 seconds after I book a flight, and then ceases abruptly the moment my return flight rolls to a complete stop at the gate, I might even concede that staying grounded is a deep-seated preference.

I believe if God wanted man to fly, he wouldn’t have created steel-belted radials, cruise control and satellite radio. Besides, if it were natural for me to be jet-setting 15,000+ feet above sea level, why would I feel such an irrepressible urge to shakedown my friends for a couple of illegal tabs of Valium prior to my scheduled departure?

fear of flyingI recently had an opportunity to validate my strong preference to avoid flying. As I twitched and ticked my way to the boarding gate, I spied a young man in uniform approach the crew entrance door. I specifically remember thinking, “I wonder what his parents got him for his high school graduation…last month?” Flying lessons, I hoped, since the baby was my pilot. E-e-e-gads!

Flying into the nation’s capital, do I get treated to a spectacular fly-over of the White House, or a spine-tingling military escort to the nearest debriefing facility? No. Instead, I get tortured with a complete rundown on the Washington Redskins’ training facility in Sterling, Va. from not only the freak fanatic sitting next to me, but also the weirdo sitting in front of me. Geez. I’ve overheard more interesting conversations among members of the maintenance staff at the rest stop near Orangeburg. Being caught in the crossfire of conversations like this one just reinforced my aversion to placing myself in a situation from which I can’t easily escape.

I believe if the Wright Brothers could have foreseen the absolute disaster airport food would become, they would have focused their efforts on something more palatable than hailing in the Aerial Age. After sampling “the world’s greatest chicken” at Washington-Dulles and promptly trashing it in favor of a Hershey Bar and a bag of barbequed chips, I reconfirmed that airports are hazardous to my health.

I prefer to keep my tires firmly on the pavement. But maybe there’s still hope for me. Maybe when my pilot grows facial hair, when the airport diner serves a succulent chicken cordon bleu…and hell freezes over…I’ll have a change of heart.

Copyright © 2017 Patra Taylor


Dog Engages in Ancient Mind Control Techniques – Part 1

Every night for the last seven year, I’ve asked my husband, Stephen, the same question: “Can Aughe sleep with us tonight?”

And every night his response has been the same emphatic, “No dogs in the bed.”

I think Stephen thinks my question is another one of my lame attempts at humor. But the truth it, my persistent inquiry is a cry for help. Aughe has cast an evil spell over me, which has resulted in me going ga-ga over her. To anyone who has ever seen my dog, it’s perfectly evident that she is a capable practitioner of some ancient canine voodoo by which she has gained complete control of my mind. I have just enough independent thought left to understand that I’ve been had…done in…putty in her paws. And now Aughe is working on “her daddy.”



Aughe came into our lives quite by accident. (In hindsight, the suspicious circumstances now appear part of her devious scheme to acquire a life of luxury through unscrupulous means.) A few years ago, my son, Jackson, and I were in the market for a dog, despite my husband’s long-practiced “no dogs” mantra. We had decided to undertake a long-term, thoughtful search for exactly the right dog for our family, the one dog in the entire world that even Stephen could love. I figured it would have to be one spectacular specimen since Stephen spent much of his youth in a precarious relationship with dogs…one in which the dogs bit him and he cried. At the time, he was just too young to understand that it was a personality flaw in him, not a problem with the dogs.

“I want a dog that will go out and walk with me,” I’d fantasize, imagining my envious neighbors running to the curb to pet and ogle my impressively beautiful and well-behaved beast every time we strolled by.

“I want a dog that will play ball with me,” Jackson would add dreamily.

One day, when Jackson and I were out walking in the neighborhood, we spotted a teenager playing with an adorable puppy. Of course I stopped to admire the pup…who wouldn’t? She was pumpkin-colored, my favorite, so I couldn’t resist scooping the timid creature into my arms.

Stay tuned for part 2…

 Copyright © 2017 Patra Taylor


Feng Shui and Shinola Define Couple’s Downsizing Troubles

I'm one of them!

I’m one of them!

My husband once asked a friend to tell him the secret to his success.

“Storage rooms,” he stated matter-of-factly. “One day it occurred to me that people love their stuff. So I figured if I built storage facilities, people would come. It took my last cent to build my first one, but within a year I had enough cash to build a second. And the rest is history.”

To me, the Queen of Clean and Clutter-Clearing Goddess who had feng shui-ed her surroundings into a holy living space, the idea that people actually clung to their old junk like a baby baboon clings to its mother’s breast appalled, even horrified me. My countertops were clear…and for years so was my conscience.

Last year when I began pulling Christmas decorations out of our attic and hauling them, one by one, to the appropriate rooms for unpacking, a startling question occurred to me. Exactly how many boxes of this stuff did I have?

“One, two, three,” I began counting. “Twelve, thirteen, fourteen…forty-one, forty-two!”

WHAT! FORTY-TWO BOXES OF CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS! Could it be I was one of them? A quick inspection of my attic, closets, garage, and cupboards revealed the truth…that I had secreted away masses of junk, all the while pointing an accusatory finger at others for the same offense?

By March, my dark secret had festered into an open psychological wound. I finally convinced my husband that downsizing was the only cure for what was ailing my hypocritical conscience.

Copyright © 2017 Patra Taylor