Midnight ramblings, 08/26/11

Friday nights have got to be my favorite time of the week. The work week is done; big plans for the weekend are in full swing; maybe it’s a date night; generally, everybody feels good on a Friday night.

Tonight, we came home to a beautiful backyard! Mr. Long (our gardener) had put in No-Mow sod, an irrigation system with bubblers and drip lines, planted two blueberry bushes (yay!) and a persimmon tree (yay!) and transplanted one of our dwarf citrus lime bushes (yay!) Oh, and the rescue bougainvillea. I have several waist-high planter boxes ready to go, complete with topsoil. Now I just have to figure out what to grow. I have decided that this is the year for edibles. As much as I like flowers and other pretty things, I am really after growing as much food stuff as we can sustainably maintain. Back to mother earth, so to speak.

One of my favorite seed companies is Kitawaza Seed Company. They carry hundreds of heirloom Asian vegetable varieties. I sent them an email tonight suggesting that they put some advice/tips on their website so that we know what to grow and when. Living in a micro-climate such as Oakland poses some challenges. Our true “summer” doesn’t really occur until late September/early October. But that’s fall season elsewhere. I would love some year-long greens, though. Collards, kale, swiss chard, broccoli – these are vegetables we eat everyday. Maybe I’ll hear back from them.

Michelle is fast asleep in the other room, even though she claimed that she’s only closing her eyes but “watching” TV. Little G! is sprawled out on Mama M. At least Madeleine is hanging out with me; although (secretly) I think she needs to go outside to pee. After this post.

Today has been a good day. It was Amy’s birthday — she’s somewhere back east celebrating it with her family. Mercury went direct today at 3:03 p.m. PDT, for those observing. I am so relieved. It has been a strange month. However, I got just about everything done at work today, except for reviewing Iris’s OMC. And I had a terrific bike ride home.

So, the thing about bike rides is that you notice every little thing. And you think about every little thing when you’re on your bike. On some days I think about saving the planet. The debt ceiling, the stupid wars, humankind’s cruelty and greed. These are usually fleeting thoughts, however, because I realize that humankind has been trying to figure all this stuff out for a few millenia without much success.

And then my thoughts usually turn to the more mundane.

For example, I notice things like the change in the slope of roadway. The distance from home to work (and vice versa) is about 2.58 miles. There is a very slight decline from home to work, but the incline on the reverse route to home is quite noticeable. My personal best record traveling TO work is 21.7 mph, or about 11.20 minutes. The reverse route? With the wind behind me and my tires pumped full: 17.2 mph. But on an average day after a long day at work, it’s about 11.3 mph. I told Michelle once that I would never have the patience that it takes to be in a triathlon. I like a lot of speed on my bicycle.

Martin Luther King Jr. Way in Oakland is an interesting stretch of roadway. It is one of the longest stretch with the least amount of traffic signals — the main reason I chose this route. MLK runs through some of the most destitute parts of Oakland; drugs and prostitution are rampant here. But so are grandmothers out sweeping their front porches in the early hours of the morning. The graffiti art on this stretch is incredible. But, NOBODY tags on anybody else’s work. This is one neighborhood trying to reinvent and redefine itself. The City is installing a neighborhood park at the 25th Street intersection. Every morning, the locals gather around the soon-to-be park, keeping eye on the progress the City is making.

The one thing that always baffles me on such thought-provoking sojourns is the garbage I see on the street. I totally get the food stuff — empty chip bags, chicken bones, MickeyD’s bags, fast food containers. I get the 7-11 crap — condoms, diapers, lip gloss. I definitely get the roadkill — there were two rats and one bird this week — kind of a morbid fascination, but they keep getting flatter everytime I rode by them this week. I even get the hair fragments:

“Woman, hold my baby!”
“Oh hell no, I ain’t holding your baby!”
“Fine! Then hold my weave!”
“OK, sure sugah”  *toss*

But shoes?!? That’s the one thing I can’t figure out. This week it was a perfectly good pair of Uggs. Why do people throw shoes out of their car? Did they realize that their shoes were no longer fashionable? Did their feet suddenly get too hot? Or maybe it’s something more along the romantic line? “Baby, I love you, but those shoes have got to go!”


Dear Bassa,

Mama L. reads your Daily Diary to us everyday. We think you are wonderful! And, so…big. Are you the typical size for your breed? Are Caucasian Shepherd Dogs only born in Georgia? What are your humans doing in Georgia? Were they traveling there and decided to stay, or were they born there? Do you really speak English or Georgian? Do you get a special meal for your birthday, like a steak or burger? What is it like to live with a crazy parrot? We live with two cats, but they’re not really crazy. Beatrice thinks she’s the boss though, and she tries to run the household! Annabelle could care less. We’re just regular mutts, you know, although the Mamas like to call us “Designer Hybrids”. They call Madeleine a Terhuahua (Terrier/Chihuahua mix) and Gingersnap! a Beashund (Beagle/Dachshund mix). Little G!’s real mama (the four-legged one) was half Italian Greyhound, so that’s why she has those legs. But, even if there’re ten of us, we probably wouldn’t weigh as much as you do! You sure look like a sweet girl, though, just like us!

Dogs in the courtoom

<Juniper, you should work for a place like this….>

From the Bark

Dogs in the Courtroom
A comforting canine presence provides victims with a safe harbor
Jeeter and Ashley at work.

It’s everyone’s nightmare: You’re the victim of a serious crime. Your world collapses—you’re frightened, stunned, physically injured and completely overwhelmed. Police and prosecutors interview you about the smallest details, forcing you to relive the experience over and over. Eventually, you’ll have to face the perpetrator in court, testifying and once again reviving the horror. Emotionally paralyzed, you don’t know if you can do it.

Now imagine the same situation, but this time, a special dog rests at your feet during every interview, sits with you outside the courtroom as you wait to testify—perhaps even goes up to the witness stand with you—and stands beside you at sentencing when you give the court your victim-impact statement. This four-legged victim/witness advocate—accompanied by his human counterpart from the victim advocate’s office—helps you remain calm and reduces what can be a traumatic part of the legal process. You stroke his soft fur, gaze into his warm brown eyes and feel the reassuring weight of his head resting on your foot. He’s there for you, giving you exactly what you need at that moment: strength to get through this part of the nightmare.

This is not a totally speculative scenario. In Washington’s King and Snohomish counties, two innovative prosecuting attorney’s offices have begun using highly trained service dogs to help victims of crime, and the dogs are having a positive impact. Not only do they assist victims, they also boost morale for the prosecutors and victim advocates who deal with the often-horrible consequences of crime on a daily basis.

It all started with Ellen O’Neill-Stephens’ flash of insight. Stephens, a King County deputy prosecuting attorney working in Seattle, has an adult son, Sean, who has cerebral palsy and is severely disabled. In 2003, Stephens and Sean went to Canine Companions for Independence (CCI) of Santa Rosa, Calif., for a service dog and were matched with Jeeter, a big yellow Golden Retriever/Lab mix. Jeeter made it easier for people to approach Sean, and Sean was able to “give back” by sharing Jeeter with others. While she and Sean were undergoing training at CCI, Stephens noticed that other participants were getting “facility” dogs, dogs trained to assist caregivers in various types of institutions. One was slated for a neonatal ICU, others for a spinal cord injury unit and a veteran’s hospital; dogs were also being placed with children with autism.

Upon returning to Seattle and her office, Stephens began thinking creatively, wondering if service dogs might assist in the legal setting. On days that Jeeter could not accompany Sean, Stephens took the dog to work with her. She was the Drug Court prosecutor, and thought Jeeter might help kids with their recovery. She was right—the children quickly adopted Jeeter as their mascot. “One day in my office lobby, a boy, sexually abused by his mother and who [had] sexually abused his sister, glommed onto Jeeter. I didn’t know this at the time, but the prosecutor was offering a deal to get him to testify against his mother, and the boy was backing out. The boy asked to play with Jeeter. I asked him, ‘Would it be easier to talk if Jeeter was with you?’ He said yes, so the plea discussion was rescheduled. At the next meeting, I said, ‘Everyone on the floor!’ so the boy could sit and hug Jeeter. Defense counsel, prosecutor, cop—everyone sat on the floor. It worked. He told them everything that had happened.”

This was an “Aha!” moment for Stephens: The King County prosecutor’s office should have its own facility dog to work with victims. She started with her office’s sexual assault unit. No response. She pushed. Some were receptive, others, not so much. Things stalled. Finally, Stephens arranged for King County Prosecutor Norm Maleng and members of the sexual assault unit to meet Jeeter. “Jeeter convinced them,” Stephens recalls with a laugh.

Click for MORE here…


Dear Diary,

Yesterday was the Mamas’ 8-year anniversary. They left town without us. I was a little upset at first, because if there’s any place we belong on their anniversary, it’s by their sides! Ideally, on their laps, but we can be by their sides too. Anyway, Mama L. told me what they were up to, and I decided that it was probably a good thing that we didn’t go with them, because Madeleine would have whined and complained about the trip for the rest of the year!

The Mamas drove to a place called Mount Tamalpais State Park. Mama L. later told me (privately, of course) that Madeleine would have lost all her cookies on the way in, coz she always get carsick on these types of drives. Then the Mamas went on a 4-mile hike that took them nearly 3 hours to complete. Mama L. said that for the first 3 miles, it wasn’t too bad, because it was a slight descent and it was pretty pleasant. In some areas, the trail is pretty steep, though, and she had to go down these tall steps which hurt her right knee. Some areas were so dense with trees that had fallen over and you had to crawl through. Here is a picture of Mama M. lifting the tree so that Mama L. could pass through safely. I think I would have had a nice time, but I am sure Madeleine would have been miserable with all that walking. But the worst part, Mama L. said, was the last mile or so, when they climb straight up to go back to where they started out. The Mamas stopped many times along the ascent, but by then they were so doggone tired that they just want to sit down and eat the rest of their Doritos. Mmmmmm…I love Doritos, especially the Nacho Cheese ones!

After Mount Tam, the Mamas went to Stinson Beach and spent an hour getting bombarded by negative ions! It sounded scary so I’m glad I didn’t go. Not only that, Mama L. said that Madeleine would have been traumatized by the ocean. It is a gazillion times bigger than Piano Lake at the Glasshouse, and there are giant sea monsters called “Waves” and they would have crashed down and gobbled us up. She said she saw a couple of puppies there, scared and shivering; one just refused to go into the water at all. That would have been Madeleine! Although if “Waves” are anything like “Sprinklers”, I might not go in either. They are way scarier than anything I’ve ever seen, except for maybe Colonel Sanders on that KFC bag that flew at me that one time.

After the beach, the Mamas went to see Dr. Ross where he snapped, crackled, and popped them back into shape after all that hiking and walking around. Auntie Juniper came home with the Mamas and showed me her elbow where a spider had left giant fang marks! That is one big spider! I wonder if it hurts as bad as when Madeleine got stung by a bee on her snout. Heeheehee. That was pretty funny. Her nose was all crinkled and munched up. Anyway, Auntie Juniper wrapped up a cotton ball soaked with apple cider vinegar and taped it in place with an band-aid. She said that the apple cider vinegar is supposed to keep the tissue from dissolving. That sounds disgusting, I decided, and so I wanted to make sure that everybody knows to relocate their spiders outside their houses, and to use apple cider vinegar. Mama M. relocated a gigantic yellow spider later that night. She said it was pregnant.

When the Mamas and Auntie Juniper came home, they saw this. We conspired with Uncle Brian and Cousin Chester to surprise them!

The night before last, Auntie Iris came over too, and she brought the Mamas a present. It’s called the Magic 8 Ball, and it’s supposed to predict the future. I don’t think it works so well though. When they weren’t looking, I asked the Magic 8 Ball if I was going to get a treat before I go to bed, and it said “It is Decidedly So”. I was all excited and waited and waited and waited. There was no treat. I didn’t get anything until breakfast the next day.

So happy July is over…now for the Retrograde

I have horrible heartburn.

It woke me up this morning at 3:00 a.m. I drank some water, but that didn’t do much at all. This started on Friday when Michelle went into the ER for her ovary cysts. She was in so much pain and I felt really bad because there was nothing I could do. She’s finally doing better, but now she’s crabby because she can’t run on the treadmill or lift 100 pounds of something.

I had missed going to the JIS High School Reunion that night, but managed to catch up briefly with some old friends on Saturday. I haven’t seen Julie or Robin in 31 years. It was an emotional moment. We grew up together in some of the worst/best places on the planet. I also got a chance to catch up with Esther and Janet and am reminded again how so easy it is to get caught up in your daily life. Not that it is necessarily a bad thing. I just missed hanging out with them, and I totally missed out on their girls growing up into beautiful young ladies.

So that’s part of my new August’s Resolution (I think we should have one every month.) We need to reconnect with old friends and the people who matter to us.

Sunday was just as emotional, if not worse. Kat and others put on a “Celebration of Life for Deb”, my friend who recently passed away from triple negative breast cancer. I had gone in with the “I am not going to cry, dammit” attitude. Of course, I bawled, when they started showing the slideshow with all the old photos…memory after memory. I then proceded to have one of the worst headaches ever, from all the crying. Michelle was such a trooper, even though she was in so much pain. She was rock solid through it all for me. And true to the celebratory spirit of Deb, it brought a lot of us back together for an afternoon party — Bonnie and Julie were there, so were Dakota and Denise; Randy and Chanti both flew in from the blistering east coast.

(Oh yay! The oven repair men are here! Woohoo! That’s one Mercury Retrograde item out of the way.)

Gingersnap! FINALLY pooped, ending the suspense and worry. She went from pooping her insides out to not pooping at all. I had called the vet to see if we should stop the meds — afterall, it’s probably worse being constipated than having diarrhea. Vet said no worries, unless she still didn’t poop by Monday. She finally went yesterday, thank the Good Dog!

These are all small events, and I am sure that individually I could have handled them with much more grace. But they were all packed into one weekend! I probably drank too much, ate too much, smoked too many cigars. No wonder I have heartburn. My friend Amy would probably have a lot to say about that. (Sidebar: Amy is great, btw! She’s treated me for so many symptoms. I just choose to ignore her in certain circumstances, like this weekend, because I know that sometimes drinking too much is actually good for you. Even if you suffer the consequences afterward.)

Last night I gave up the cheapee and settled for some Campari and soda. I don’t think the heartburn has gone away, but at least I started to feel a little bit better. Michelle pulled out a Padilla Lumitado 2006, and I have to say, it is now my number ONE favorite! Again, not a Cuban — a Dominican Republic — but wow, the flavors are awesome!

(Iris pointed out that I should never speak of cigars and the WCRC in the same blog. I just want to point that you don’t actually inhale these things. Dear readers, be like Clinton and don’t inhale; you’ll be sicker than a dog. And I don’t mean Ginger!)

Speaking of Amy, she is STILL kicking my ass at online scrabble. I lost pitifully with the last game, so of course, Amy promptly starts another one. I think you get double points just for starting a game. And even though she claims she no longer cheats, she has confessed to me, very recently, that she used to in the past. I didn’t even know one can cheat at scrabble. You just have the tiles you’re given, right? How you can cheat?

So, Mercury officially starts its retrograde today. For those who believe, back up your system, don’t sign any contracts, recheck all your electronic equipment, and don’t travel. I think the retrograde ends on August 26th, Amy’s birthday. Between now and then we’re supposed to do nothing but things that start with “re-“. As in, recheck, repose, rethink, reexamine, reflect, recount, etc. You get the idea.

BTW, I don’t know if this has anything to do with the retrograde, but the number of cats that have gone missing over this past weekend is just astounding. (I’m on the notifier list for “HomeAgain PetRescuers”. They’re a microchip company and sends out email notifier with a poster of your pet, if your pet should go missing. This is on a very local level, within, say, a 5-mile radius.) Typically, I would see one or two missing pets a week. But this past weekend, there were at least 20 cats that went missing. And the weird part is that they were all cats…no dogs.

I hope they all get found…