Saturday, April 28, 2007

Giving Begins at Home

I received an interesting phone call the other day. One of the students from my alma mater, Verycool University, called me soliciting me to purchase a new book the University is publishing. The book is a directory of alumni, where they are, what they’re doing, etc. etc.

By doing this sort of thing the University knows when their students “make good” and the school can then, as a consequence, use the student’s success to advertise what an incredible place this is to get an education. See? Mr. X is now the governor of The State of XYZ. Look! Ms. W is now the head of Redhot Studios. Come HERE, to Verycool University to get your education and look where you could end up!!

Well, unbeknownst to the student calling from the Fund Raising department, I work at said X University. I am not only an alumni, I am an employee of the same University.

The conversation went something like this:

Lucy’s Mom: “Hello?”

Fund Raising Student: (reading his script) “Hi, I’m calling from Verycool University with a wonderful offer for you! We are selling the Alumni Directory for only $49.95 and we want to get your information so you can be included! This is a fund raising event for the University and you don’t want to miss out on the opportunity to support your alma mater AND connect with your old school friends!”

LM: “Uhhhhh, wellllll, I don’t really think I’m interested, but thanks for calling.”

FRS: “Wait!! Don’t hang up, don’t you want to be included in the directory? Don’t you want to let your old college friends know how successful you’ve been? Don’t you want to support your alma mater?”

LM: “Well, I do support my alma mater. I work there. I give them my blood, sweat and tears. That seems like enough. They don’t need my money.”

FRS: “Huh? You work here? At Verycool University?” (He sounds confused now – no longer on script)

LM: “Yes, I teach there. I’m a professor in the Health Sciences Department.”

FRS: long pause………..“Health Sciences?” (sounds of paper rustling…..) “Ohmigod, Prof LM? Is that you? Ohmigod. I’m so sorry I bothered you. Ohmigod.

LM:(the student is clearly now very upset….script is gone, salesmanship is gone, he’s just upset…..I’m not sure exactly why.)

FRS: “I’m so sorry I missed class, my Mom had to go the doctor and I had to take her and I couldn’t get my homework into you on time and blah, blah, blah, blah.”

LM: “Well, that’s fine, don’t worry about it. You can make up any work you missed.”

FRS: “Oh thank you Professor LM, thanks for being so understanding! I’ll see you in class.”

LM: “Okay, bye.” Student hangs up.

It’s nice to run into such a conscientious student; to find a young man who is so devoted to his mother; to find a student who is working to raise funds for his school.

Problem? I have absolutely no idea who called me.



Thursday, April 26, 2007

Look Out Tiger


I played golf today. Not an unusual event in and of itself, however, today was a red letter day. I shot the best game of golf I have ever played in my entire life. I shot a 95!! While this doesn’t sound overly impressive to those par golfers out there, to me it represents an incredible game. I’ve only broken 100 a very few times and here I go and shoot a 95. I’m just so tickled!!

My playing partners were suitably impressed and there were lots of high fives and fist pumping going on. I was just “in the zone”. I made putts from the far side of large greens and hit drives 200 yards, which for me, is a very long way. I’m normally 170-180 yards off the tee.

Why can’t more of my life be like today? Perfect, smooth, in-sync, “in the zone.”

Instead, it is very imperfect, rough in spots and sometimes downright difficult. I have to wonder: why does life, in general, have to be so hard?

I guess, in comparison to many people, my life is not hard at all. I have a roof over my head, I have enough food to eat, I have a good car to drive and a job to go to. I have a spouse that loves me dearly and a family that I’m very close to.

I suppose every now and then, I really should stop and count my blessings.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

A Little Knowledge is a Dangerous Thing


Since the recall of all the different pet foods, as I’ve told you before, I’m now cooking for my hounds. They’re probably eating better than a lot of people with the fresh meat, veges, gravy, brown rice, homemade dog treats, etc. etc. To say they are happy girls would be a minor understatement. They LOVE people food and are particularly fond of their new treats: liver cookies, apple cinnamon muffins, bacon and cheese cookies, banana strawberry yogurt frozen treats, etc. etc. Can you tell my dogs are spoiled?

However, one thing I can’t make for them is the unbelievably tough, rawhide chewy sticks that they dearly love. They will both happily gnaw and chew on those things for hours. I could probably figure something out by baking meat strips in the oven until they are totally dried out and disgusting to a human, but I figured there’s no reason to overdo it if I can find something in the marketplace that has the ingredients listed and said ingredients sound “decent”.

As you may or may not have noticed, a lot of dog foods don’t have the ingredients listed and, if they do, they call some of the ingredients by strange names. If you’re like me, you have to wonder, what the hell is “that”?

So anyway, I find some “bully sticks”, one of their favorite chewy sticks and I look to see what exactly is in the package, contents wise. Under ingredients it says “steer pizzle”. Nothing else. So I figured they took some “pizzle” cut it into strips and baked it and dried it out until it was as hard as a rock. Then they packed it up and are selling it as bully sticks.

The obvious question, at least to me, is what the hell is “pizzle”? Beef hide? Asshole? Some internal organ? So since inquiring minds want to know exactly what my dogs are eating, I come home and Google “pizzle”.

Come to find out that “pizzle” is the code word for penis in the beef industry. Maybe nobody would buy their stuff if it honestly stated that the contents were made of steer penis. I’m not sure I would care. At least it’s “real” meat, even if a rather unsavory part of the animal.

Perhaps a male person might be a little more sensitive about it. But me? I don’t care if my dogs eat beef dick as long as it doesn’t have preservatives, chemicals or poison in it.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

One Hot Night





The time was August, 1974. We pulled the houseboat up into one of the many coves that are all along both sides of this enormous, 60 mile long, lake. I drove the square nose of the houseboat right up to the very edge of the gravely mini-beach, put it into neutral, and then climbed down off the front of the boat.

As I stood there, in the knee deep, warm, clear water, I realized how very alone we were. Just the two of us and two little girls enjoying a blazing hot August vacation on Lake Mead. This was OUR small, secluded cove. We had no company. It was the kind of vacation where you can wear nothing if you’re so inclined. I went topless and paid the price with a painful sunburn.

Wen handed me the big tie-down stakes and then the large, heavy, hammer. I remember being grateful that I was strong. I pounded the stakes in and tied up the boat. There were no trees, only the high straight rock walls of a canyon enclosing us and the gravely desert beach.

Once the boat was secured for the evening, we brought the charcoal grill out onto the front, patio-like, deck and I got the fire going. As we waited for the coals to reach just the right shade of gray and red, the children climbed off the front of the boat and began gathering rocks on the little beach. They had quite a collection strewn across the front ledge of the boat.

We cracked open ice cold beers and turned on the stereo that was built into the houseboat. The speakers were both inside and out and we inserted our 8 tracks and turned the music up very loud. What else but Rock and Roll for these children of the ‘60s? The sound bounced off the canyon walls and the musical echos rattled our eardrums.

We put the steaks on the grill and sat with our legs dangling over the side, looking out across the water. Absorbing the music, hearing the kids playing, enjoying the icy beers, smelling the incredible smell of steak grilling over charcoal.

Some memories are burned into your brain. That was a moment I’ll never forget. It was so idyllic and so perfect. I wanted it to be like that forever: the heat, the total relaxation, the lazy end of day, the musical echos, the perfect food, the loving togetherness.

But time moves on, the years roll by. One of the little girls was my Gina. I’ve not seen her little friend Annie since she was a child. Wen has cancer and we bless every day that we still have left to be with her. I have a different life. A different mate. A different home. A different job. I’m not that person anymore.

But I still have her memories.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Danger

When I go to work, I head for a college campus. I work in a classroom full of students. The Health Science Department happens to be on the second and third floor of the Engineering Building.

As a professor, when I stand in front of a class, the very last thing that I think about is danger, either to myself or to my students. It just isn’t part of my work life.

I remember the Texas massacre, I’ll never forget Columbine. I’m not oblivious to the fact that things happen at schools, but somehow, I’ve never felt unsafe.

Now, Virginia Tech. The unimaginable has happened. College students have been slaughtered in their classrooms. The tragedy is incomprehensible.

I KNOW what the phone call that tells you your child is dead feels like. I know how those parents, those families, are suffering and my heart bleeds for them.

I also know that I’ll never again feel the same degree of safety in my classroom. I know that at any second, someone could open the door. I know that if we hear a back fire from the nearby parking lot, we will jump and look at each other. In the past, we didn’t even hear it. I’ve always known these things, but they were never part of my conscious thoughts. Now they will be.

Something that happened thousands of miles away has irrevocably changed my outlook on life. We have all been changed. We’ve always known that life can change, can be over, in an instant.

Today, that fact seems so terribly, horribly real.


ADDENDUM:

Shortly after posting to my blog, I received this note from the Vice-President of Academic Affairs at our college. I thought it was worth sharing.

"As the President has written us today, we all have been horrified by the murders at Virginia Tech. I have talked with her and the Vice President for Student Affairs. I can assure you that we have plans--tragically we must have such plans--for close downs, lock downs, etc.

Plans do not address everything, though. They do not remedy the anxiety that we now will feel when we talk with angry people. Grainy images, recorded on a cell phone at VT, will haunt us. But we need to turn off the mental projector, turn on the lights of normalcy, and persevere. If we have problems with angry people, do contact the Counseling Center, Student Affairs, or this office, as appropriate.

As the President implied, our thoughts and prayers are with the families of Virginia Tech--and with the institution itself. Across the globe, universities are among the last haven of comity for learning, talking, and living together. So, thoughts and prayers for people there are thoughts and prayers for academic communities everywhere.

Let us hope, if it is possible, that the deaths at VT will rededicate us all to preserving these precious havens, lest they become--like other institutions across our societies--yet another fortress for our insecurities."

Saturday, April 14, 2007

The Namesake


I talk so much about my dogs that it is probable that many of you don’t even know that I also have a cat. Her name is Alice, or Ali Cat, and she was an inheritance.

I know, I know, one doesn’t usually inherit living things but Ali was an exception. My beloved Granny left her to me and I gave Granny a deathbed promise that I would care for Ali as long as she lived. She’s almost 14 now and she’s still plugging along very nicely. She seems in good health and is a very loving girl considering she started life as a feral cat.

My grandmother died in 1994 and right up until she took to her bed with illness, she was known as the neighborhood “cat lady”. She was the one who took care of the strays and the feral cats; the one who put out mountains of cat kibble for them every day; and the one who trapped the feral cats and the pitiful strays, took them to the vet, had them neutered or fixed and then released them right back into her back yard again. And she did all this on a fixed income that barely covered her own expenses. She was a true animal lover.

In the last few weeks of her life, as she lay in her bed dying of cancer, she worried so about her cats. All the other affairs of her life had been organized and designated and only the cats made her worry about leaving. She seemed very much at peace with the idea that she was leaving this world, but she couldn’t stop worrying about her cats.

Finally, she talked a neighbor lady, Mrs. B., into promising that she would put out food for the cats every day. Mrs. B., being the type of person that she was, I have no doubt, fed those cats until the day she herself died. Some people take their promises to heart and really mean them.

Granny had a pregnant Mama cat, among her many strays, that she had been feeding extra food and giving special treats to, in order to help the cat have healthy kittens. It was up to me and my Mom to carry on Granny’s traditions for as long as we were there and we continued feeding the Mama cat extra food so she could nurse the kittens that she would clearly soon have. She was simply HUGE with her big belly. Granny worried about the tom cats killing the newborn kittens and she was constantly sending me out into the yard to check on the Mama cat and to see if the kittens had been born yet.

My Mother and I spent a great deal of time in Florida during those last few months of my Granny’s life. I must have flown back and forth across the country 6 or 8 times during those days. During one of my trips, I was out in Granny’s backyard again and I saw something very tiny wiggling in the grass. I mean TINY, like a little mouse. When I got to it and bent over, I saw it was a teeny little kitten. So small, it’s eyes were still closed and it was mewling. Obviously, the kittens had been born. I had no idea where Mama cat or the other babies were, but here was this tiny orphan. I reached down and tenderly picked it up and carried it into the house. I took the tiny thing to the bedroom and placed it in Granny’s frail, gnarled hands. In the days and weeks that followed, the three of us raised that tiny kitten. Raised it right there on Granny’s sick bed with tiny baby bottles and a warm heating pad. That kitten loved Granny dearly and the feeling was mutual. It cuddled in her neck and slept right next to her every night. It played and jumped and bounced and enjoyed an entire life right there on Granny's big bed. That kitten stayed right there next to her until the very last hours of Granny’s life. The little thing gave Granny great joy in her last days on this earth. Granny named this little girl “Lucky” due to the circumstances of her birth. During those few short weeks that Granny and Lucky got to be together, Granny grew to truly love that little cat. Granny made me promise that when she passed, I would take Lucky to California and have her join my animal family. I promised.

When the time came, I put Lucky into a carrying cage, took her onto the plane, and brought her to California with me. Because Granny had loved her so much, I changed Lucky’s name to Alice. I named her after Granny.

And here we are, almost 14 years later, and Granny’s last legacy is still getting along just fine. She’s had some close calls as we unknowingly took in two cat killers during our years of rescue work with dogs. I have literally pried a dog’s mouth open, heedless of the teeth and my bare hands, and pulled Alice out, saving her life. I’ve never had the sense to be afraid of a dog and I was so furious that the dog in question was trying to hurt Alice, that it never occurred to me that the dog might hurt me. I just waded into the melee, grabbed the dog, literally pried it's mouth open, rescued Alice, and flung the dog out in the hallway. Thank God, I’m pretty strong. She was not a little dog. Need I say we no longer have that particular dog?

Alice is a survivor and it wouldn't surprise me if she makes it to age 20 or so. She was saved from certain death in Granny’s backyard, flew all the way across the United States, has moved with us a couple of times, has been in a couple of serious cat fights, was lost for a few days, was almost done in by a bad dog and is still perking along. My Granny was a feisty lady and I think she’d be proud of her “Lucky”. She’s pretty feisty too. Her picture is above and below.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Just Call Me "Chef"


I’ve always liked to cook and, if I do say so myself, I’m pretty good at it. However, the older I’ve gotten (let’s be honest here), the lazier I’ve gotten. It is SO much easier to order in, to go out to a restaurant, to eat fast food, to grab some delicious something or other out of the freezer. Planning, shopping, cooking, serving, etc. are not my idea of fun. I usually enjoy it once I get started, but sometimes getting started is not so easy. I’d much rather read, compute, watch TV, play with my dogs, go shopping, play golf, etc. etc. etc.

Well, now having said that, you all know that I’m on WW, which means I’m cooking more and eating less “easy” food. For some reason, easy food is fattening food, generally speaking. That doesn’t seem fair, but it seems to be true. So anyway, I’m on WW and I’m cooking and working in the kitchen and I’m actually losing weight, therefore, I’m incentivized to just keep doing it whether I like it or not.

However, now, thanks to the worthless, godless, money grubbing, stinking, heartless, bastards who manufacture dog food, I am now cooking for my dogs as well. As I write this, I have a couple of large, cheap roasts bubbling on the stove, simmering away with gravy and brown rice and veges mixed in. Not only that, I have liver cookies baking in the oven. I am such a domestic goddess, I can hardly stand it.

We have, with a great deal of research and label reading, found a kibble that we think is safe to feed them. So, I’m just making their “wet” food and treats and I really don’t mind. I love them dearly and the thought of giving them food that might make them sick is so horrifying to me, I won’t even consider it. I’ve bought several doggy cook books and it isn’t rocket science to make them good food. It isn’t any harder than making our food, it just takes time, and frankly, they are more than worth it. We wanted to use kibble as a base, in order to get the many vitamins and minerals, et al, that they need, which is why I’m still buying any kind of dog food at all.

In the process of all this reading and research I have learned what goes into the canned dog food I have been feeding them with their kibble for all these years. It’s enough to make you sick at your stomach to realize all the nasty crap they put in our pet’s food. And what’s even more horrifying is that there is no control and no regulation of what goes into pet food. There is no governmental inspection process, no FDA regulations, no nothing. The government and the pet food manufacturers simply don’t care. Most brands of kibble have about as much food value as pressed cardboard and when it comes to the canned “meat”, they can and do put any kind of roadkill, or diseased or dying animal, and lots worse stuff as well, into those cans. Then they put a pretty label on it and sell it to us for our beloved pets to eat. And then to top off the hypocrisy, they put those ads on TV about how wonderful and healthy their dog food is for your pet. The lying bastards ought to be made to eat the stuff they produce. That would certainly be a just punishment.

I need to buy a dog bone shaped cookie cutter. It’s not like my pups care if their cookies are shaped like Christmas trees or Santa Claus, but if I’m gonna do this, and I am, then I like the idea of the dog bone shaped cookies. Besides, I’m a little concerned that The Spouse might come in one night, late, and seeing cookies cooling on the counter, just give one of those delicious looking cookies a try. Somehow, I don’t think she’d like the liver.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

I'm Ready For My Close-Up Mr. Spielberg


One of the classes I teach is not actually a “class”, it is overseeing student internships. After 4-5 years of pounding knowledge into their hard little heads, we release them on the unsuspecting business world and keep our fingers crossed.

Since our business is “healthcare”, we are inserting these “well-trained” college seniors into the realms of upper management at hospitals, medical management companies, large clinics and numerous other types of healthcare businesses. The existing executive are, on the whole, delighted to have them. The executives seem to enjoy training the next generation and helping these kids get a “leg up”. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that they (the executives) are also getting a great deal of free, “slave” labor, for an extended period of time.

We, in the academic world, are eternally grateful for the help and guidance these executives are willing to provide our students, for how else would these kids ever begin to know how the “real” world works?

In preparation for this experience, at the beginning of their internship semester, I spend an entire 3 hour class talking about their appearance in the workplace. You must understand that I am talking to a classroom full of long haired, spike haired, purple haired “youngsters” wearing their baggy, butt crack showing jeans, their equally baggy tee shirts and their sideways ball caps. Some of them have piercings of their various body parts and some have tattoos. Many of the girls are wearing too much make-up. Most males are wearing untied tennis shoes and have unshaved faces with a perpetually “bored” look. Most females are wearing either clothes that are too tight or too revealing or else they are wearing baggy sweats that show absolutely nothing. There are a few scattered “adults” in the mix who are actually dressed in a business appropriate way, since they probably just came from the office. However, overall, it is not a pretty picture. To think of inserting these kids into the executive ranks of a large company and expecting them to “blend in” and work and learn is a scary thought at best.

So with their various classroom appearances in my mind, you can imagine that I am never quite sure what I will see when I arrive at the internship workplace for my “site visit”.

Yesterday I had a site visit scheduled at one of the large hospitals in our metropolitan area. The young, male student who was interning there was working for, working with, and learning from, no less than the CEO of the company. The student in question was not one of my “worst” dressers, however, he was certainly not one of the “best” either. He was simply a mid-level, average, sloppy joe. I had no idea what to expect. I always hope, when I arrive for these site visits, to find a professionally attired student who is working hard, learning much and really profiting from his experience. But you never know.

So, I was escorted into the conference room and sat chatting with the hospital executive for a few minutes while we waited for his student protégé to join us. The young man had been sent on a brief errand and was expected momentarily.

When the door opened and I turned to greet my student, I had my fingers crossed. What I saw almost left me speechless. In the door walked this absolute vision of male sartorial splendor. I could not believe that this exquisitely dressed, polished, well groomed “hunk” was one of my aforementioned students. He had on a solid black dress shirt with charcoal gray slacks and a black belt. His tie was a gray and black pinstripe that matched perfectly. His shoes shone with a gloss that would have impressed a Marine recruiter and his hair was freshly cut and perfectly groomed. He was clean shaven and the only jewelry was his watch, his ring and his tie tac. His earrings had been left at home. He smelled good and he looked good and as he graciously greeted me with a handshake, I had to work to remember that this was the same “grubby” young man who attended my classes. He was ready for the cover of “Esquire”. I told him how nice he looked and he blushed to the roots of his highly waxed buzz cut. He was very pleased that I had noticed. I was very pleased that he had listened.

Every now and then they surprise me. They actually listen to what I say.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Ramblings - 2


We went to Palm Springs the first of this week and spent some time doing our three favorite things: golfing, gambling and gabbing. (We’re not quite the party girls it may seem. The Spouse has a “horrific” and demanding job and she needs a lot of down time. The only way she can escape work is to leave home – so we do, frequently. See story below) While in Palm Springs, we spent time with our friends and aside from the three “G’s”, we also did a lot of eating out at restaurants. As a consequence, the WW scales were not kind to me on Friday morning. I gained 1.2 pounds this week. Trying to eat out in restaurants, and still lose weight, is SO hard! At home, where there is only what you purchased in the fridge or pantry, self-control is less difficult. But in a restaurant, they give you a menu listing everything you ever wanted to eat, and then some. Abstinence is not my forte – if it’s there, I will eat it. Hot, fresh, bread and butter? Look out. Desserts? You don’t want to get in my way. Appetizers? Please just don’t order them! Etc, etc. Consequently, I just can’t be around the foods I love and lose weight. Hard to believe I have so little self control when it comes to food. I quit a 2 pack a day habit and never looked back. But food? That’s a whole other game. I’m working on it…………

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Meggie's birthday is today. She is one year old. That's her in the picture at the top. She starts her 4th week of school this coming Monday night and she is doing very well, despite the fact that I am nowhere near as good as I should be in working with her. We should practice daily, and, if she’s lucky, we get outside 3 times a week. Considering that, she’s doing very well. Fortunately, she’s a really smart dog and she is learning in spite of me, rather than because of me. So far she will heel, sit, lie down, stay, stand on command, allow me to examine her ears, teeth and feet and look at me instantly when I say her name. This week we’ll start working on the recall. In this exercise, she learns to come to me on command and then she goes around me and back into the heel position when I tell her to. It’s a confusing exercise for them at first, as the returning to heel position kind of puzzles them. I’ll keep you posted as to how Meg does. (As expected, my classmates are dropping like flies and the class has gone from about 40, down to a manageable 20 or so students and their handlers – most people just don’t have the patience for this stuff)

After a bare 4 weeks of training, Meg now no longer wants to go to bed with OMAS (her Mom). She simply refuses to go at bedtime and she’s a little large to pick up and force. She wants to sleep in my room at my side. The whole training thing is truly a powerful bonding experience for the animal and trainer. Lucy also plays a role in this bedtime scenario as Lucy always sleeps in our room and Meg has decided she’d rather be with Lucy and me. Fortunately, OMAS is gracious about it. She can’t say I didn’t warn her. She should be taking this dog to school!

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The Spouse and I were talking and we have come to some very uncomfortable conclusions. We were talking about our Bess, as we do so often, and how all the pet food news of late is very disturbing. Bess died of renal failure with every symptom that is currently being described as "pet food poisoning". She did indeed have underlying cancer, but we had been successfully fighting it with chemo and we had expected many more months (years?) of life with her when she suddenly got extremely ill and died. At the time of her death, she was eating Ultra, one of the canned foods on the deadly list. This was just a few months ago and we have to ask, did our girl die of pet food poisoning? Was she one of the first, unrecognized victims? I think it highly likely that this whole poison pet food nightmare did not just happen overnight. It has been building for a while and it had to reach "epidemic" proportions before veterinarians began to realize there was something wrong somewhere. Bess had a depressed immune system and was very vulnerable because of her chemo treatments, so knowing she ate some of that horrible food, we have to wonder............I'm feeling very guilty since I am the one who chose to buy that extremely expensive, "high quality" pet food for her. Supposedly it was "all natural with no chemicals or preservatives". Did I kill my darling girl with kindness?
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As I may or may not have mentioned, The Spouse is a Children’s Social Worker. What this means, in a nutshell, is that she is the one who steps in and protects the children when a dangerous situation develops and the parents are not doing what they should be doing. She is the one who is called in, along with the police, when there is an allegation of child abuse. She is the one who decides if there has been abuse, and if so, she is the one that makes the decision to take the children into protective custody. That’s where the police come in. Most parents, even the unbelievably horrible ones, are not too fond of the idea that the County is taking their children away from them. The Spouse’s cases run the gamut from children who are absolutely NOT being abused, (somebody was lying) to children who are being physically abused, to children who are being sexually abused, to just plain horrible accidents. I tell you this just as background information so you will understand the next paragraph.

The Spouse had a truly horrible case this past week and she’s having difficulty coping. People in this line of work MUST have someone to talk to as they simply can’t keep all this terrible stuff bottled up inside. As a result, I know way, way more about this kind of stuff than I ever wanted to know. Some of the stories she tells me keep me awake at night and I wonder, “How can people do such things to their own children?” Trust me when I tell you that you don’t want me to elaborate. But I have to wonder, what is wrong with these people?

The one case that sticks in my mind, from a few months back, was a tragic accident. I simply can’t forget it. In this case a grandmother backed out of her driveway, running over her toddler grandson and killing him. Unbeknownst to those inside the house and to the grandmother, the baby had run out after her, wanting to go with her. In her big, heavy SUV, she didn’t even know she had run over him. She went on down the street, did her errand and returned home to the police and an ambulance. The Spouse got called in simply because any time a child dies, Social Services gets involved when there are other children in the home. They have to be sure it was an accident. In this tragic case, it was. I’ve become paranoid about backing out of my driveway; I look and look and then look again before slowly starting to move. We have an elementary school just a short couple of blocks away and we have children going down the sidewalk, behind our cars, every morning and every afternoon. An accident like the one described is enough to make anyone paranoid. I can't imagine anything more horrible.

I think automotive makers should put those back bumper cameras on all vehicles. They should be mandatory in my opinion. There’s no way a driver can see something or someone that is below the level of the back window of your vehicle, when you are backing up.

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My Sis reminded me that in regards to my last post, I’m an idiot. I HAVE been out of the country to places besides the Far East and Canada. I was having a senior moment. I’ve been to the Caribbean and while on that trip, we went to Belize, Guatemala and Mexico. That trip was a ton of fun as we went with Olivia. You haven’t lived until you’ve been on a cruise ship with over 2000 women all partying and having a blast. It was a very unique and once in a lifetime experience. We LOVE Olivia and would choose to travel with them frequently, if possible, but their prices are way over the top. Too, too expensive for anyone but the very, very comfortable. We may go to Palm Springs regularly, but we are far from “very, very comfortable”. We’re just getting along and trying to enjoy life as much as we can afford, like everyone else.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Look Out World, Here We Come


We have started planning this year’s vacation. In the norm, we take a lot of little weekend “getaways” but we usually only take one BIG vacation every year or two. You know, “big”, as in expensive. It’s hard to manage those kinds of trips from both the time off work angle and the financial point of view. So we save and talk and think and explore and wonder and spend hours on the Internet and then, when the time feels right, we pick a place, look for a deal and start making firm plans.

We have decided on this year’s trip and I am VERY excited. We are going to EUROPE!! How cool is that? As you know, I’m a military brat and did lots of traveling as a kid, however, I’ve only been out of the country twice. Once, as a kid in Taipei, Taiwan, which I’ve written about, and once as an adult, I was in Canada as part of a cruise we were on. I guess if you count Mexico, I’ve been in a foreign country many times, but being a Southern Californian, somehow,going to Mexico just seems like taking a day trip for shopping. I forget sometimes that I’m actually going to another country.

So, heading for Europe is a lifetime dream for me. I’ve never seen any part of that continent except in movies and in my imagination. However, The Spouse was stationed there and actually LIVED in Europe for more than 8 years. What a wonderful travel guide I will have!

We have decided to go on a cruise! We will fly from our home here in California to Venice, Italy. (hello gondola rides!) We expect to spend a couple of days doing some touring in Italy and then board our cruise ship. While cruising we will go to Dubrovnik, Croatia; Santorini, Greece; Tunis, Tunisia; Malaga, Spain; Casablanca, Morocco and we’ll end up in Lisbon, Portugal.

The whole itinerary sounds so “exotic” and interesting to me. Just imagine all the things we’ll see that I’ve never seen before; all the places we’ll go and things we’ll do.

To me, planning is half the fun of a big vacation. It’s like I’ll be “pre-vacationing” for months as I do research, plan tours, explore the locales where we’ll be via the Internet, look for hotels, etc. etc.

A very BIG vacation is now on the horizon and I’m sure you will hear a lot about it in the months to come.

If anybody out there has actually been to any of these places and has advice, information or anything else to offer, please let me know. I’d love to hear from you.

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On another note, a few months back I mentioned the Showtime series “Dexter”. (see post here). It is back on and is currently rerunning the first season in preparation for the beginning of the second, very soon. Watch it, you’ll like it.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

The Joys of Sightseeing

When last we talked about my and OMAS’ cross country trip to California in 1964, she and I were spinning around in the middle of the highway in Texas and thanking the Good Lord that we weren’t dead. (See that post here)

So, we straightened out the car, pointed ourselves towards the West again and resumed our cross country adventure. I might add that from that day until the day I quit smoking, some 25 years later, I never again lit a cigarette from a car cigarette lighter without using extreme care and being exceptionally aware of the possibilities. I also never took my eyes off the road. I was a fast learner.

As we shook the dust of Texas off our tires and entered the great state of New Mexico, we were both tired of driving and ready to relax and do something fun. As we were driving along, we had been seeing signs advertising Carlsbad Caverns and we had decided that we should slow down and “smell the roses” a bit on our trip. The Caverns looked like an extremely fun and interesting thing to see and do, so we planned to stop.

We had talked it over and decided that, since it was a cool Fall day, our little dachshund, Heidi, would be fine waiting for us in the car while we did the tour at the Caverns. I believe they actually had a kennel where we could have left her, but we saw no point in wasting the money. She was a little dog, fairly well behaved and the weather was cool and comfortable.

We pulled into the parking lot at the Caverns, got out, stretched our legs and then made the car ready for Heidi to stay in. We made her a nice bed of blankets on the seat, put food and water on one side of the front seat floor, spread newspapers on the other side of the front seat floor and cracked all the windows. We figured all her needs were met. We walked her around and let her empty out before we actually left. We really didn’t think she would need the newspaper, but it was there just in case. She was paper trained, so we anticipated no problems.

So off we went for our Cavern tours and I can tell you, they were, and are, spectacular. If you’re ever in that part of the country, don’t miss this national treasure. Here’s a few pictures to give you the idea.


















After our tours, which took several hours, we returned to the car ready to walk our sweet little dog around and then resume our trip.

The smell is what hit us first. As we opened the car door, the smell of shit came rolling out and, literally smacked us in the face. It was like walking into a big wall of stink. You can’t imagine how bad it was until you close yourself in a small room with little air circulation and a large pile of poo for several hours. It was just awful.

At first we thought she had just had a BM and it would be no problem. We’d just roll up the newspaper, throw it away and ride with the windows down for a while. However, then we leaned into the car and we realized that she had stepped in it. Actually, stomped in it might be a more accurate description. Stomped in it thoroughly and repeatedly.

And then walked all over every inch of the car that she could reach with her little shit covered paws. There were shitty paw prints on EVERYTHING. The dashboard was covered, the steering wheel, the seat, the back of the seat, the doors, the windows……she didn’t miss much.

So now what? We were in the parking lot of a National Park, no cleaning supplies at hand, except a box of Kleenex; no car wash anywhere close by, no deodorizers available……..it was truly a very big problem. You don’t exactly want to sit down in a car full of dog shit, getting it all over you while you drive to the nearest town for supplies.

We finally decided the only solution was to try and clean up the mess, the best we could, with paper towels and water from the bathroom. Then we would drive on to the next town, stop at a supermarket and get paper towels, proper cleaning supplies, etc. etc. and do a thorough job.

And so we did.

However, let me assure you that plain water and pathetically thin paper towels did little more than alleviate the most obvious mess on the seats and dashboard and steering wheel. That drive from the parking lot to the nearest town was undoubtedly one of my worst experiences in terms of unpleasantness. It was truly a ride on the Big Stink Express.

And didn’t I smell lovely when I walked into the supermarket to buy cleaning supplies? I have no doubt the people around me thought I had shit my pants or was a fart queen.

Do you suppose little Miss Heidi was pissed off at being left behind and made the mess on purpose? Were we being punished? Are dogs that smart in your opinion? I think yes, but what do you think?

Do I need to tell you that the next time we went sightseeing, Heidi went into the kennel?