Monday, December 31, 2007

Unfortunate Fireworks for New Year's Eve

Unfortunately 2007 is ending on a somewhat sad note, which, considering the kind of year it's been, may not be particularly surprising. I had to send a note to Ashley telling her that she had to find a new home for one of the puppies -- I don't care which one. Chunk is just terrifying Half Pint and either I have to lock one or the other up all the time, or I have to supervise them all the time.

The Video of the Day gives a bit of a taste and I let the video run a bit longer than I should have. The kind of behavior you see toward the end has escalated in the last three days. It used to be that they would play together nicely (as they start doing in this video) and then Chunk would get over-excited (as she does in this video) and start really hurting Half Pint.

But now there is no 'play' at all. As soon as Chunk sees Half Pint, she takes off after her. When HP showed bite marks on her stomach yesterday, I realized I could never leave them alone together any more.

Chunk had a trial meeting with a prospective new family that went as bad as it could possibly go. The little girl fell in love with Half Pint and Chunk was so jealous she attacked Half Pint several times and scared the little girl. Half Pint is now in permanent protective custody, either in the playpen, cage, or my arms while Chunk is elsewhere. Chunk now sleeps in the playpen, as she always has, and I just let Half Pint sleep on the dog bed and give her the run of the house at night.

Chunk, of course, doesn't mean to be mean--she has just become too big and too powerful and a little Chihuahua/Doxi can't quite match her strength.

So I'm hoping that tomorrow someone will volunteer to take one or the other of them. I love them both, but I just don't want Half Pint to suffer any more, and I sure don't want to keep one puppy caged up all the time either!

Having decided that 2007 was, for the most part, pretty much of a disaster, I'm looking forward to a much improved 2008, though how hanging a new calendar on the wall can change things, I really don't know.

The Santa Barbara crowd returned home late last night (12/30), around 11 p.m. I didn't even see Phil because he's been sick for 3 days and he just crawled out of the car and upstairs into bed. Apparently it was a successful trip, with having another Christmas with the So. California Sykeses. Jeri brought her flute to play for Grandma, which I know pleased Grandma no end.

The last day of the year passed quietly, with Phil spending all morning in bed while Jeri brought him food and orange juice. He got up around 2:30 and the two of them took us to lunch, which was a lot of fun.

He looked ok, but came home and went right back to bed. Poor guy. They were supposed to go to a party in Oakland tonight, but Phil is too sick and is staying at home and Jeri is going by herself.

As the year winds down, Walt and I are headed off to the home of some friends who live nearby for our annual low-key New Year's eve gathering. We will probably be home by 12:30, because we're all a bunch of old farts and staying awake until midnight is about all we're capable of doing! you all!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Dogs of 2007

It seems like we haven't really hosted all that many dogs this year, but when I look back on it, we really did our share. I wanted to remember them all.

I couldn't do a lot in January because of my mother's accident, but the "Xmas puppies," Rudolph, Dasher and Dancer, came back briefly on their way to adoption.
Lana and Martin came in March but were only here for a very brief time. They were older puppies and into everything.
Dakota was the first of the "special ones." She came at the end of March. She had been picked up wandering around the streets of Dixon by someone driving a Dakota wagon, hence her name. She was here till the end of April
Google was an adult Chihuahua/Corgi mix who had been found in a suitcase somewhere. She came to us on May 5, but didn't stay long, because puppies needed me.
Ruby, Crystal and Tipper arrived as 1 week old puppies on May 13. They were with us until June 21, when we went to New York on vacation.
The "Africa" puppies came on 7/11 and were with us while Peggy was touring Africa (hence the names, Sopa, Tattoo and Goro). They left a month later and were the only puppies that we know recognized us when we saw them at Petco a month later.
Rhiana and Teresa were only with us for a couple of days. They were almost too big for the playpen and, like Lana and Martin they were very mischevious and into everything.
I think Betty was only here for a day or two. She just needed an interim home between foster homes (or when a foster family was on vacation). Sweet dog, but much too big!
Mabel arrived 9/14 and was with us for a month. She was another of the very special ones. The woman who had her made arrangements a couple of times to give her up, and I'm glad she finally did. She was adopted by someone from the Sheriff's department who trains dogs.
Rupert was a sweet little Chihuahua / pit bull mix who came on 10/27 and found a "forever home" on 11/10.
Luna was only here for a week. She was another very sweet dog who was more "puppy" than I wanted to deal with.
Poor little Belle was only here a few days. She arrived so terrified. I was never able to touch her. She is now with a foster family that is trying to teach her how to trust again.
Remember when Daisy (aka Chunk) was this little and cute? This little cutie is now hanging onto my pant cuffs and I walk down the hall, dragging her behind, and terrorizing Half Pint.
And finally there is Half Pint, who is also still here and who has become quite a scruffy little Chihuahua as she learns to cope with such a chunk of a "big sister."

So it's been a lot more of a dog-ful year than I thought, when I look back over it. For the 22 we had there are countless others fostered by other families like us. The Yolo SPCA is a no-kill organization which has no facility, so all dogs live in a home until they find a "forever home." Dogs like Belle, who would easily be put to death in normal shelters, will have a chance to grow to trust human beings. It makes me feel so good to know that we are part of the system that made it possible for all these dogs to find good permanent homes.

I absolutely love this picture. Be sure to check the glass door!!

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Saturday, December 29, 2007


"My swallower is bigger than youse guys," said one of us at December's Cousins Day, when a comment was made about how fast one particular Pomegranate Cosmo seemed to be disappearing. We were in the middle of the second round of drinks by that time and high hilarity ensued. They say that laughter is great medicine and we were all very healthy at this point!

(Pomegranate Cosmo: one part vodka, half part each of triple sec and pomegranate liqueur, and a splash of cranberry juice, shaken with ice and served with maraschino cherry and a slice of lime.)

The December Cousins Day was late in the month, since we had all that holiday stuff to get through first. My mother had volunteered to cook this time (usually Peach, Kathy and I rotate on who brings food, who brings drinks and who has the month mother's job is to provide the location!). We had been talking about pot roast and potato pancakes in November and, since her recipe is so good, she agreed to make it for all of us.

When we started this tradition, Peach and Kathy would pick me up somewhere around 11 a.m. and we'd make it to my mother's house by lunchtime. As the months have passed, my pick-up time gets earlier and earlier, since the earlier I get picked up the longer we all have to be together. This month, I was picked up at 9:30.

Megan, and then Ashley, from the SPCA took care of Chunk while I was gone, our old dog sitter, Jessica, back in town for the holidays, came and fed Lizzie and Sheila, and Half Pint came with us to Cousins Day. (Chunk came home sporting a collar, just like a real dog, and a sweater, keeping her warm against the biting cold.)

We arrived in plenty of time to have coffee and visit, while I set up the photo frame that we'd given my mother for Christmas.

My mother was thrilled to have Half Pint come to visit, though decided she was not going to adopt her. (She said several times she'd adopt her if she -- my mother -- were younger.) So Half Pint naturally got invited to lunch.

(My mother says, "since you haven't learned to lick your butt yet, I'll share my sandwich with you.")

Next it was on to the "65" challenge. I took one look at my first two hands and knew that this was not to be my weekend. And, indeed, Kathy beat me soundly the first game. Half Pint made sure we didn't cheat.

I turned out to be wrong about my luck, though, and ultimately I won more games than anybody else. I'm sure it was just my superior skill and luck had nothing to do with it. :)

At some point in the afternoon, Peach made her Cosmos. Drinking start time gets earlier and earlier on these cousins days too, though we haven't increased the amount we drink--we just stop drinking earlier.

By the time we were into our second Cosmo we had begun discussing everything from financial difficulties to the size of Scott women's boobs (we are all "Scott women"); from interpersonal problems to jock straps. And just about everything in between. There were some tears, the usual support, and more than anything else lots and lots of laughter. It's become our once a month group therapy session, I decided!

We did eventually break for dinner and enjoyed the great meal, after which, of course, Half Pint was invited to join us.

"Go ahead and eat it," my mother said. "I'll eat what you don't finish for lunch tomorrow." Half Pint was in 7th heaven, but not so the rest of us when she started having diarrhea in the night. She's back on plain dog food now!

Half Pint spent the night in my mother's bed, and the report is that my mother didn't get to sleep until after 5:30; Kathy had terrible heartburn and only slept an hour. Peach and I seem to have slept quite well, and I only got up once during the night and had no difficulties

There were 2 more games of 65 in the morning (I won one, Kathy won the other) and then we packed up to come home. I tried to leave Half Pint behind, but was unsuccessful. She crawled inside the sleeve of my jacket and slept all the way home, where she was nice and warm.

We don't know when the next Cousins Day will be but we are already looking forward to it!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Guitar Center: A Horror Story

At last, I have my Christmas horror story to relate.

Being an efficient Mom, I asked Laurel what Tom would like for Christmas. She said he really wanted a new guitar. I knew buying him a guitar was a bit beyond what we could afford, and Laurel had suggested that getting a gift certificate from a place like Guitar Center, which had a location near Santa Barbara.

Perfect. I wouldn't have to brave the crowds in Sacramento because I could just order on line, which I did.

I received confirmation from Guitar center that my order had been shipped on December 14. On December 23, I still didn't have it, so I called. I was told that it hadn't been a full 7 working days and they couldn't help me until the 24th. It didn't come on the 24th, but what with all I was doing that day, I didn't have time to call--and Tom wouldn't be getting it until after Christmas anyway.

Well, it didn't come on the 26th either so this morning, the 27th, I called. I was told by the first operator that since it was sent thru the post office, they could not do anything to help me and I would have to call the post office and check myself.

(Jeri, who did shipping for a theatrical equipment company for several years, tells me that this is entirely wrong and that only the shipper can check on tracking for this.)

I called the post office and found that they have no record of the tracking number.

I called Guitar Center back again and the second operator told me that the tracking number doesn't mean anything because it's just sent in an envelope (they don't insure?). The first guy had told me that they couldn't issue a replacement for a month. The second guy told me that wasn't right, that it had to be 18 days. Why 18 days I don't know. He said he'd check with his supervisor.

He was gone forever, during which time I had to listen to ABOMINABLE music (just what you want during the holidays -- heavy metal music telling you that you have to die!). When he finally came back, he said the supervisor was adamant that I had to wait the full 18 days before filing a claim, which means that I can do nothing but wait until next Thursday to see if magically this thing that was mailed half a month ago will show up.

Jeri has been appalled listening to the tales, because things were never like that with customer service when she was working it. But I suspect that this is the way of things.

It's nearly impossible to find any contact numbers any more, and when you do, finding a human being at the other end of the telephone is a rarity. When you get a human beging, you hope they are in this country and, if they are located in another country, that you can at least speak the same type of English, or that the person you are speaking to knows that Sacramento is in California and not somewhere in Texas (because they have never visited this country).

Guitar Center at least had posted a contact number on its confirmation e-mail and I only had to wade through six different voice mail directories before getting a recording that told me my call was important to them and would be answered as soon as possible.

When the operator begins an explanation with "Like..I'm not sure..." I'm already suspicious about what level of help I'm going to receive.

The second operator seemed much more knowledgeable than the first one (who started sentences with "like") but he still was unable to do anything for me until I had waited the requisite number of days.

I can just imagine what they're saying about me after our conversation when I told him what a rotten mood I was in from having to listen to their "wait music" for 10 minutes.

It's not like I'm a regular customer of Guitar Center and, in fact, had not heard of them until a month ago, but it's a sure thing that I want to let anyone who reads this journal know about the "customer support" you are likely to encounter when/if you have any problem with an order.

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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A Show-Busy Day

I'm not sure when, exactly, the tradition of "family movie night" began, but it's been going for several years now. Whenever Jeri comes home, we get together for "family movie night."

This year it had to be "family movie afternoon," since I had to review a show that night, but there was no question what we would see. Of course we would see Sweeney Todd! What else would a showbiz family go to see?

My mother, Jeri and Phil had spent Christmas night at Ned & Marta's and arrived here in the late morning, giving my mother a bit of time to play with Half Pint before continuing on her way home. Jeri and Phil stayed here.

We went to the early show of Sweeney Todd, and found it be as bloody as we expected, but well done. I'm still not sure how I felt about Helena Bonham Carter as Mrs. Lovett, but Johnny Depp made a great Sweeney. Kind of Edward Scissorhands on crack.

And is there a more malicious villain than Alan Rickman?

So we had our family movie afternoon...there must be something that can be said about the family that sees slasher films together!

We came home and I think we each took a bit of a nap. Jeri, Phil and Walt were going to dinner at the home of some friends; I was going in to Sacramento to meet Peach for the "final tour" of Riverdance.

("Final" is a relative term. The "final tour" will take 3 yrs in the United States, there is another "final tour" touring Europe and they have yet to take the show to South America or Africa, both of which are planned. There is some sort of permanent thing which may be set up in Dubai and they want to return to China. So I think nobody needs to weep any tears for the demise of Riverdance just yet!)

Peach had not seen the show live before and loved it and we had the additional treat of getting the backstage tour from our cousin Kathy's husband, Fred, who works the stage door. I've been in the Sacramento Community Theatre countless times, but never stood on the stage and looked out onto the 2,400 seats before. Pretty impressive.

Everyone at home had gone to bed by the time I returned, so the dogs had settled down and my return got them all revved up again. But as I write this, it appears I am the only one awake in the house. The others are going to Santa Barbara tomorrow, but I will stay home because Cousins Day is on Friday and we have a lot to talk over with our respective Christmases! It seems I had the best of the bunch...but I'll hear more about that on Friday.


From Christmas night.
You should also check the Photo of the Day
from one year ago.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Sleep in Heavenly Peace

I am so tired I am nearly comatose. Things kind of crashed around 7 p.m., as I sat back in post prandial inertia and then realized that I couldn't / wouldn't move. I've felt like I've been moving through molasses ever since then.

I knew all these months that I've been getting relatively normal sleep that it was a mistake. Go back two days to my previous normal 4+ hours of sleep in the recliner waiting for a timer to wake me up so I can get some cooking done and I'm a zombie.

However, setting aside the fact that it is a real effort even to type here (but being obsessive anyway), the day was really great.

We had a quiet morning and then packed up the car and the puppies, with Chunk in her holiday finery...

(only the red & white collar; the greenery
behind her is a pattern on the pillow)

...and headed off. First we stopped at the Veterans Memorial Theatre to put Nutcracker ornaments on Paul's and David's memorial trees.

It's easier to see the ornament flying in Dave's tree, since it's deciduous and so has no leaves. Paul's tree is a fir tree and so the ornament is hidden in among the greenery and almost impossible to spot in a photo this small.

We went from the Vets over to the cemetery to leave a little tree on the boys' grave. I have to admit that as we passed the Boy Scout Christmas tree lot, it was extremely gratifying to see heaps and heaps of Christmas trees dumped into the street. I sincerely hope that meant that people bought their trees elsewhere.

I'd love to report that it was love at first sight for Chunk with Jeri and Phil (who have been toying with the idea of adopting her and taking her back to Boston), but it was not.

Oh they loved her, of course -- who would not? But not enough to go through the hassle of adopting her and transporting her across the country.

However, Ned's brother-in-law really liked her and sent a pic to his wife and kids, visiting his relatives in Wisconsin (he had no time off and couldn't accompany them).

He is going to, maybe, talk with Ashley about the possibility of adopting her after his wife and kids get home.

My mother, by the way, spent most of the day with at least one, if not both puppies in her lap. I still think she should adopt Half Pint.

It was a nice year gift-wise. These are mine:

Enough to have fun new stuff (and nice stuff to read), not enough so that you feel guilty about an excess of "stuff." Tom sent up a web cam so that I can follow the baby's progress after she's born. He bought one for his computer too, so will be able to help me if I have problems setting mine up.

Oh! And remember that gift I've been looking for for days? It was for Marta, a book on fingering for the bass guitar (which she is learning to play). When I couldn't find it, I bought her a DVD from her Amazon wish list. After she opened it, I explained what happened and told her I was still hunting for it and if I found it, she'd have two gifts.

The next person to open a gift was Ned and what was in his box? Marta's book!!!!!!! So she did get two gifts, and I can rest easy because the lost book has now been found.

Marta put together a fabulous dinner. My brined turkey was very good, but I wouldn't say it was any better than it would have been un-brined, so I probably won't do that again, though it was fun to try. Marta had also asked me to bring one pumpkin pie, and I made two because (a) the can was for 2 pies, (b) the crust recipe was for 2 pies, and (c) I wanted to have pumpkin pie for day-after-Christmas breakfast. Then we were all so stuffed nobody ate pie so I brought home the pie--and there is a second one sitting here.

But right now I am hitting the wall. Video (I took very little) will have to wait for tomorrow, or the next day. We are having "Family Movie Day," our annual Jeri Tradition, tomorrow. We will see Sweeny Todd at the early show because I'm reviewing Riverdance at night.

And with the last ounce of energy I can muster, I'm going to post this and then go to sleep, with luck for 8 hrs.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas.

Ned & Marta's House
(reflected in the hood of our car)

Monday, December 24, 2007

Potatoes and Other Goodies

It's a good thing that dinner on Christmas Eve was Ned's mother-in-law's homemade bean tacos. I don't think I could have looked at another potato.

(No that's not me--I wish)

I presented myself to the Veterans Memorial Center at 9 a.m. and spent the next 3-plus hours up close and personal with a lot of potatoes. First was to open the sacks and dump them in the sink, then wash each potato, then cut them up in tiny pieces to be cooked for the Community Meal dinner later that day.

I have a new respect for new Navy recruits! (Or has Haliburton taken over food prep for the military now...?)

Unaccustomed as I am to sustained physical labor, and not having had a break all morning, I limped home at noon and collapsed, leaving the second shift to continue the food preparation.

I went back at 4:30 to take photos of the event.

I just love this event. Each year Shelly and Ellen, who are in charge of the event, seem to top the previous year. Last year they served over 800 people, and I'm sure they exceeded that number this year. They were already lined up out to the street when I arrived.

Inside, people were putting the finishing touches on the tables.

The community servers were at their stations ready to serve food.

Musicians were on stage getting ready to perform.

Then the doors opened and the food serving began.

The "official counter" told me 30 minutes into the meal that she had already counted over 400 people--and it was going on for another 2 hrs. There were community leaders, and people who looked like they were down on their luck, unkempt and unwashed. There were families with little and singles and people who didn't speak English well.

In the end there was the huge dessert table, filled with homemade treats that people had brought.

I only stayed for about an hour and a half because we were going to Ned's in-laws' for dinner. It was a much smaller group this time. Even Ned didn't come because he was home recovering from food poisoning. So there were only 8 of us, versus the rowdy group from previous years, which required two tables in order to seat everyone.

It was so biting cold and everyone had things to do early in the morning so Walt and I made an executive decision not to go to the cemetery tonight, but we'll stop by on the way to Sacramento tomorrow.

We were home by 11 and now, at midnight, I'm going to start mixing brine for the turkey and, perhaps, bake the pumpkin pie. (I might wait until morning to do the baking, though).

Chunk's Christmas present is that her intestinal tract seems to be returning to normal. That will make it much easier to take to Christmas dinner tomorrow.

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Potato, Potahto

This is, of course, only a minuscule fraction of the potatoes we processed during the morning!

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Sunday, December 23, 2007

An Excess of Everything

As I write this, the night of the 23rd, it's "the day before the day before" and it was pretty much a quiet day. I am slowly throwing stuff away in my futile hunt for the missing Christmas gift (a replacement has been purchased, so if the original is found, it will be a little something extra).

I wouldn't call this place cleaned up in the slightest, but if you were here a week ago, and if you had a keen eye, you might notice that there is a slight improvement. Very slight.

I braved the supermarket this afternoon and picked up our turkey. Sticker shock! We have talked for years about what we would do when I finally stopped working for the psychiatrist and didn't get my free Branigan's turkey at Christmas. We knew it would be expensive, but I threw caution to the wind and ordered another 21 lb turkey. I was prepared for the $67 price tag, but I'm not sure Walt was.

Chunk's bowels continue to be problematic. I could show you photographic proof, but you might be eating dinner. Suffice to say we have done a LOT of laundry today and if I had a puppy shaped plug to stick in that little hole in her back end, I might be tempted to do it. Thank God Pergo is forgiving.

Ashley suggests switching back to the old kibble that I was using and see if that helps, and if it does, slowly introduce the better kibble. Hold the good thought. Right now I could use some doggie Immodium. Chunk (obviously a misnomer today!) is quite good at getting her feet on the newspaper before she squats, but then she squats with her butt hanging out over the paper and onto the Pergo. Somehow she manages to do that almost every time. Close, but no cigars. Uh...literally!

In the middle of helping Walt clean up pools of brown goo, I'm trying to organize the cooking that needs to be done. It's much easier that I don't have to worry about serving a meal here, but I'm making dessert for tomorrow night's dinner at Ned's in-laws' house, I decided to do something "special" for Christmas breakfast, even though it's only Walt and me who will be here.

I also have to get the turkey dressing ready to take to Ned & Marta's house, along with the turkey itself, and a pumpkin pie, and I have to fit that in among going to spend several hours preparing food for tomorrow night's dinner for the local homeless and then going back later in the afternoon to take pictures of the event.

I reached doggie saturation this evening. Chunk had been pooping everywhere and finally was empty. I had her in my lap when Sheila and Lizzie went outside and started barking. I called them in, but Sheila always knows when I'm thinking of locking her in and won't let me near either her or the dog door, always keeping her body between me and the dog door.

I was trying to sneak past her, but Chunk grabbed hold of the cuff of my pants and decided to try to pull me back and whenever I tried to move it seemed Half Pint was under my feet.

I hate dogs.


Everybody has me scared, now

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A Poem

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Christmas Eve Eve

(Making Christmas cookies--for the DOGS!)

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