Thursday, April 30, 2009


Professionalism is displayed in the way one handles compliments and especially in the way one handles criticism.

I remember when I was working for The Lamplighters all those years. It was very frustrating to get bad reviews because one of the San Francisco Chronicle reviewers really had it in for the company. He didn't like Gilbert & Sullivan, really didn't like a couple of the leading actors in the company, and I remember overhearing him say, on arriving at the theatre one night, "Oh God, I suppose I have to see XX and YY again..."

When the review came out he gave XX and YY bad reviews because he just didn't like them.

We in the company, of course, felt it was terribly unfair. XX and YY were terrific talents (still are), but the Chronicle critic just saw something in them that he didn't like. But we never took him to task for it because to do so would be unprofessional and would accomplish nothing. It would seem like sour grapes. Whether we agreed with the assessment or not, we had to realize he was just one person and while yes, his review could influence potential ticket buyers, to write and complain about what we considered an unfair review would accomplish nothing. We realized we were not the center of the theatrical world in San Francisco, even if the theatrical world in San Francisco was our whole world.

I review about 7 or 8 different theatres in this area. I always try to be fair in reviews, but if something is just bad...bad...bad, I can't say it's good or I lose all credibility as a critic. I can't whitewash a bad performance to support a theatre that may be struggling financially.

Would anybody believe anything I said again if I wrote a glowing review and the performance was horrible?

There is only one group in all of the theatres where I review whose members or fans consistently write complaints if a negative review is written. I remember years and years ago, long before I took this job, where the then-reviewer gave a production a bad review. A long letter was written to the editor blasting the review because the writer said they were all working people and worked all week and were tired on Friday night and couldn't be expected to give a great performance when they were tired.

Even then I couldn't let the sentiments expressed pass. I wrote a follow-up letter to the editor asking if the company charged less for opening night tickets, knowing that the actors weren't going to be giving their all; did they inform the audience not to expect too much because the actors would be tired? Of course not. It's ridiculous. (If you are expected to be tired on a Friday night, then have a preview on Friday night, where people can see the show for a cheaper price while critics are invited to come to the Saturday "opening," when all the kinks have been worked out.)

I can count on at least one (if not more) negative responses if I write anything negative about this theatre company (and yes, I know some of you are reading this). It is the only theatre company from which I have had complaints in nearly 10 years of reviewing...and I have written my share of negative things about all the theatres which I review.

I gave a particularly bad review recently. Actually I tried very hard not to make it a "particularly bad" review, by concentrating on all the positive things about the show before turning to the really serious problem.

The main problem was one of the principals. He sang the opening number and it was so bad that if he hit one right note, I must have missed it. Both Walt and I turned to each other and winced. The guy's acting was OK, but his singing was excruciating. I truly don't know what the problem was, but the first message that came (from "Anonymous," my most consistent writer) said "Opening night is never an actor's best show, and he deserves another chance. If you had come Sunday, it would have been a better show. Give them some time to work the kinks out."

I repeat the comment I made in the newspaper those many years ago. Did they charge less on opening night? Did they warn the audience that people weren't going to be good, but if they came back two days later they'd be great? Did they stand on the stage after the show and apologize to the audience for being too tired to give it their best performance? ("Anonymous" later wrote that the mere fact that I would ask that question makes me lose credibility. S/he later admitted that s/he had not seen the show yet.)

The actor in question took it as a personal attack and offered me free tickets to return for another performance and give him another chance. For what? Is the newspaper supposed to run a second review? ("Sorry--but the guy I talked about was out of sorts on opening night, but he's really good now...")

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Someone else wrote to say he thought the show was great and that the actor in question was excellent. (" I really felt like this actor nailed it. I'm actually quite confused as to why you thought he was so bad.") I dunno. Maybe it was the acoustics. But I didn't hear one song where he wasn't off key throughout. Either he was off key or the entire orchestra was off key.

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I even went to the original cast recording of the show to see if maybe I was missing something, but the singer on the recording was instense, but also on pitch, unlike the actor in my review on the night I saw the show.

A review is a critic's personal interpretation about what he or she saw on stage. I never take other critics' reviews at face value because I've seen a lot of shows where I disagree with the reviewer. Everybody has his or her own opinion. (In fact, I got into trouble with the Sacramento Bee critic in the first year I was reviewing shows because the show I saw had SO many problems and he gave it 5 stars. I was hoping to learn from him about what he saw that I had not. Instead he felt I was attacking him.)

I do my job. I think I sometimes bend over backwards more than other critics to be positive because I feel strongly about supporting community theatre. I feel community theatre is great for the community. Our own family has certainly benefitted from it. People who aren't likely to go to a big city to see a musical benefit from having devoted people who perform locally.

But the bottom line is that I am paid to give my opinion and I always know that if it is a negative opinion about this particular company, I am going to hear about it afterwards. (By the way, not that I ever expect it, but when I give a really good review, I never, ever hear any positive feedback.)

I once wrote a glowing review about a show only to have one of the actors take exception with one minor comment I made and write a letter to the editor about it. It had the result of making it sound like I'd written a negative review, when in fact, I actually liked the show very much, but felt they'd made one big mistake in it. (More people in this town read the letters to the editor than read theatre reviews, so I'm sure this actor did the show more harm than good, which is a shame because it was an otherwise excellent show.)

In my opinion this constant complaining on the part of some members of this one company only shows a lack of true professionalism and does nothing but make me wonder why I try to be as positive as possible in the first place.

Someone in the company once wrote "nobody pays any attention to her anyway." If that's the case, it makes me wonder why there is such a firestorm when I write something negative.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Rude Awakening

One of the perks of being retired -- or whatever the heck it is that I am -- is being able to take a nap during the day.

I've stopped being coy about it, pretending that I just happened to nod off when I sat down for a minute. Unlike our granddaughter, I actually like sleeping and I like taking a nap in the afternoon.

Of course, perhaps if I slept more at night it wouldn't be quite as necessary. Last night the puppies, uncharacteristically, got me up much too early. I'm not sure what their problem was, but both of them started barking their "please let me out!" bark at 4 a.m. Given that William hardly barks at all, I figured if he needed to heed nature's call, it must be pretty desperate.

I was able to get back to sleep again, but only after about an hour and I never sleep quite as soundly sitting in a chair under two dogs as I do lying down somewhere with the dogs nicely curled up at my feet or, better, like Sheila, lying down adoringly, on the floor beside wherever it is that I am sleeping, ready to jump to her feet and celebrate my waking up, whenever that happens, but leaving the decision about that to me.

The problem with taking an afternoon nap is that all adults don't take naps. And the adults that are awake feel the need to call you while you are sleeping.

Nobody would dream of calling me at 2 a.m. unless there was a terrible emergency, but nobody thinks a think about interrupting me at 2 p.m. Harumph. The nerve of them!

I try to remember to bring the phone over to the table next to the recliner when I'm napping because it's a pain to try to (a) wake up, (b) get out from under the dogs sleeping on top of me, and (c) make it to the phone on time, but I only remember to do that about 25% of the time because I haven't quite totally reconciled myself to it being OK for me to sleep in the middle of the day.

Today my nap was interrupted not once, but twice. But for a change, I decided to ignore the phone. I don't know why we have such a Pavlovian response to the phone. It rings and no matter what we are doing, or, in the case of our cell phones, where we are or with whom we are currently in the middle of conversing, we must answer that ring.

I groaned when the phone rang and briefly considered tossing the dogs out of my lap and staggering to my feet to get answer it, but then decided that there wasn't anything earthshattering that wouldn't wait until I woke up, and anybody who needed me immediately would leave a message (and I could probably get up in time to pick up the phone during the message anyway). So I let it ring. 1...2...3...4...5... Both times they were hang up calls.

Because I didn't try to get up, I was able to get back to sleep pretty quickly and when I finally woke up (after an hour and a half), and checked the caller ID, they were both soliciter calls. I was very happy I hadn't tried to answer them.

I always feel a little groggy when I wake up, but it feels so good to have slept that I'm never sorry I've taken time out to do it.

There is a post script to my entry about my problems with the flash viewer. (Of course there is a post script. Does anything with comoputers ever go smoothly?)

I woke up this morning and discovered that the computer had restarted itself during the night. Peggy keeps telling me to turn off the automatic updates, but I never get around to doing guru tells me the world will come to an end if I don't....and actually, I'm embarrassed to turn them off because if I ever have to call the guru to come and help, he'll give me a very hard time for not having the 14,000 updates that I should have.

Anyway, I started the computer again and was relieved to see that this time it didn't wipe out my web connection and that I could still start up Front Page.

But then I decided I would work on the "Dogs of 2008" book today, since I had flash back again.

So I fired up Firefox, went to and found the message that said I needed to download the latest version of flash before it would work.


I went to Internet Explorer and tried going to Lulu from there and Flash did work with IE.

SO...that having been said, I now know how to get the flash player to work in Firefox, but it seems like it's not worth the hassle to keep uninstalling and reinstalling. If I have to use a site that needs Flash to work, I can just go to Internet Explorer.

But I guess that at least I learned something for all the angst yesterday. And the book is designed and ordered, which was the main reason I needed to solve the problem in the first place. That and the damn putt putt golf game.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Back in a Flash

I keep asking myself ... why do I like computers? I expect this entry to be of no interest to anybody but me and hard core geeks who like to laugh at dumb people like me.

It was the same problem I'd had for months now. Flash player wouldn't work. I tried to fix it off and on for months, sitting here with Google trying to follow what they tell me to do. Always unsuccessful. In truth, it rarely was a problem. There are two games that I could no longer play, but I didn't need to embarrass myself by letting Peggy lord her miniature golf score over my pathetic attempts to play the game. And, really, how many times can you shoot sheep with arrows?

So until yesterday, it was only a raspberry seed in my wisdom tooth as far as irritation levels were concerned.

But yesterday I decided I would finally sit down and do my "Dogs of 2008" book. Each year, I put together a bunch of pictures of dogs we have fostered over the year. There are several ways to create books on line, but my favorite book was one I did on, so I decided I would finally get around to Creating My Book.

That's when I discovered that Lulu uses flash technology and when I went to the web site and tried to get to the book creation page, it told me that I needed to download the latest version of the Flash Player, which I have done countless times before.

That's when Purgatory started.

I was GOING to figure it out, one way or another.

I uninstalled the old Flash
I downloaded the new Flash
I installed the new Flash

It still wouldn't work.

So I did Google search and ran a scan on the computer. Most of the web sites recommended running a program called RegCure, which I did. It found many errors which, of course, it would only fix if you pay the reg fee. I did. $40 worth. It supposedly fixed all the errors.

I uninstalled and reinstalled Flash again and there was no change.

I did a cold boot. NOW when it booted up, it tried to install some viewer that I didn't recognize at all and said it can't install without an install disk. I would have just ignored this, but the error message couldn't be removed from my screen. It said "An unhandled exception has occurred in a component in your application. Click continue and application will ignore the error and attempt to continue. Object reference not set to an instance of an object."

When I clicked "continue," nothing happened. And the message stayed on top of every other document I tried to load.

I ran another RegCure scan which picked up another 135 errors which it supposedly fixed but I was still stuck with this error message in the center of my screen which I couldn't clear.

I tried turning off the computer and discovered that I couldn't even shut the thing down.

I finally did a system restore, which got rid of the error message. But it also deleted the $40 program I installed (which I don't understand at all...but at least I could reinstall it and now I had the registration code for it).

Of course I still didn't have a flash player, but at least I no longer had the error message on my screen that I can't remove.

I sent all this information to my guru, who, I know, is sick and tired of hearing from me.

I figured he was so sick of hearing from me he was just not going to call, but he finally did call in the afternoon. He talked me through installing Flash on Internet Explorer (he told me it was different for IE than it was for Firefox) and gave me instructions for how to install it for Firefox.

I dutifully typed out all of his instructions and then followed them down to the last step, which I couldn't figure out and of course it didn't work, but I figured that was OK--at least I could use it in IE. But then I re-read the instructions and a light began to glimer, ever so softly. Maybe if I tried this.....

Believe it or not, it worked. After so many months, I finally had flash back and Peggy could once again humiliate me. And I could load the software for Lulu and can finally get started on laying out my Dogs of 2008 book.

Best of all, I kinda sorta know what I did.

But then I went to load Front Page so I could write this entry and it wouldn't recognize my "personal web" as valid. That meant doing another system restore, which I did, hoping it wouldn't wipe out everything I had just done. And, thank goodness, it did not.

In the end, I had Front Page, I had Flash, and I had a splitting headache. Also, William the puppy wanted only to sink his teeth into my feet or hang onto the leg of my pants as I walked around the house.

Some days it just doesn't pay to get up in the morning.

Today is my friend Char's birthday. Everybody turn and face the direction of U.C. Berkeley and shout "Go Bears!" She will be every so appreciative.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Sunday Supper

When I set dinner down in front of him tonight, Walt said that it certainly looked special. I'll admit that it was a step up from a casserole or spaghetti, and did require a bit of creativity and effort, but I didn't think of it as "special."

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(lamb chops, sauteed mushrooms, scalloped potatoes)

When I was growing up, Sundays dinners were special. On week days we had meatloaf or casseroles or hot dogs or pizza or something of that nature. My father was often out of town overnight and when he was gone we sometimes we had things like scrambled eggs or even pancakes. (I loved those dinners because they seemed somehow "naughty" ... eating breakfast for dinner.)

But if we were going to have roast beef or leg of lamb or something more expensive, we would generally have it on Sunday.

We didn't eat Sunday dinners in the dining room, but at the kitchen table like other meals (unless we were having company), but Sunday dinners just seemed special.

When I moved out of the house and started attending the University of California, I became very active in the Newman Club, a place where Catholic students could gather and socialize. It became my home away from home.

One thing the Newman Club had was Sunday suppers. A wonderful Russian woman, Mrs. Balakshin, cooked dinner for all the Newman Club members who wanted to get together and eat on a Sunday night.

Oh, we didn't have roast beef or anything like that, but Sunday suppers were a chance for us all to get together. The priests would often join us.

I remember a time when Mrs. Balakshin was sick and we decided we'd cook the dinner ourselves rather than cancel Sunday supper. I took on the task of making spaghetti for everyone. I was not a cook at that time and I certainly didn't understand the principles of cooking for a crowd. The only thing I remember from that embarrassing incident was that the water in the huge pot had not come to a full boil when I added the spaghetti, but in my haste to get dinner ready for the people who were getting impatient, I went ahead and added it anyway. By the time it was cooked, it had congealed into this one big mushy ball that nobody could eat.

I don't remember what we ate that night, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't spaghetti!

When we got married and started having kids I had this grand plan that we would have Sunday suppers. When we bought our house, we had a perfect dining room, and I had inherited a great dining room table when my grandmother died.

Somehow that idea never became a habit. I'm sure we ate in the dining room often, but we never created the kind of ritual of "Sunday supper" that I fantasized about when we started having children.

We had special dinners for birthdays and when guests came and other special occasions, dinners that were held in the dining room with the good china and the good silverware, but nobody ever felt bad because they were going to be gone on Sunday and missing a special dinner.

I sat down after dinner tonight and watched Brothers and Sisters, a show which seems to take place mostly around the family dinner table, always fraught with angst and argument and hurt feelings. And I thought maybe...just maybe...not having established a ritual of the family Sunday dinner wasn't such a bad idea after all.

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This is one of the portraits taken by volunteer photographer Ron Pluth at Petco yesterday. I knew the SPCA wouldn't be using them for the Petfinder web site since Harry had been adopted, but I asked Ashley if I could have copies for my records. I love this picture, especially of Harry.

Sunday, April 26, 2009


Bathtime.jpg (40972 bytes)Today was the day Princess was going to be going home with her new Mom and the other two were going to have their first outing at Petco, looking for new homes.

The occasion called for baths for all, with Lester's very capable assistance. These are very easy puppies to bathe. When they had no hair, I think they liked being in a nice warm bath because it felt good on their skin.

Now they have fur so cold isn't really a factor, but they all just had surgery and I'm sure that a nice sitz bath felt good on their incisions.

They each stood quietly in the little tub while I scrubbed them, then took them into the bathroom to help get most of the "wet" off with a blow dryer.

When they were all clean, we had our last cuddle session. I do love cuddling those little guys. And they are always on me immediately the second I sit in the chair, so we sat there for 20 minutes or so, me and the one big puppy and the three little puppies.

Before we took off for Petco, I tried to get one last "family portrait" done, since I knew that at least Princess would not be returning. It took several shots, but I am thrilled with the result I got.

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We got in the car and drove to Petco where we got the puppies ensconced in a cage. Bob and their friend Lois arrived and it was a lot more complicated than I expected...well, it was a lot more complicated than they expected.

I guess if you're not familiar with the Yolo SPCA, you expect to come to "a place," where you have an appointment, you sit down, you fill out paperwork, then you take your dog and go home. Well, not so here. For one thing, the SPCA has no facility. Every animal fostered by the SPCA is in somebody's home. They set up adoption events on Saturdays in front of Petco, which is so very supportive of the SPCA.

Cages are set up, foster families bring their dogs, the dogs go into the cage. Each cage has a volunteer who sits with the dog(s) and many of those volunteers are grammar school kids--or they might be college kids. Some of them are old timers, others are brand new and helping out for the first time.

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Harry and William were a huge hit

There are people coming to view the dogs, forty bazillion little kids whining "I want a dog," as their parents try to drag them past the cages, and people (like Lois) who submitted paperwork during the week and are ready to be interviewed before taking the dog. Some of the dogs may be trying to fight with other dogs. There are usually three or four volunteers who are in charge of all this melee. Usually Ashley is there, but she was at an all-day workshop today. And in addition to everything else, today was "volunteer appreciation day" and they had ordered pizza. All volunteers, whether they were working at Petco today or not, were invited to stop by for pizza and a soft drink.

I don't know if I told Peach that things got started at noon, or if the person Lois talked to said that, but they showed up on the dot of noon--and actually adoptions aren't scheduled to begin until 1 (and the woman doing the interviewing is usually late, we were told--and didn't get there until after 1:30).

Peach had called me early in the day to say she had a hair appointment at 2 p.m. and did I think she would be home in time, or should she just not accompany Bob and Lois. I tried to tactfully explain that I didn't think there was a snowball's chance in Hell that she would be back at her house, 40 minutes away, by 2 p.m.

Bob is, by nature, an organizer and disorganization drives him crazy. I could just imagine what he was thinking watching all this chaos and waiting and waiting for someone to finally talk with Lois, and then someone else to microchip Princess, and someone else to talk with her about shots, and someone else to take her money and finalize the paperwork.

The longer it went on, the more exasperated he became, though he never said anything outright--but he sighed a lot (and I have a feeling I will hear about it later, perhaps for months to come, about how it could have been handled more efficiently!). But it DID give Princess and Lois a time to start getting to know each other. When the puppy started shivering, Lois wrapped her in the new green blanket she had bought for her.

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(this is going to be one very spoiled puppy!)

There was also a volunteer photographer there, taking pictures of all the dogs who needed photos for the PetFinder web page. I went with William and Harry to watch their photo shoot.

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"I'm ready for my close up, Mr. DeMille..."

Finally...finally all of Lois' official stuff was finished and she was given her booklet of Petco coupons, did some shopping for puppy chow, and the three of them -- Bob, Lois and Princess -- got in the car and headed back to Sacramento, while Walt and I came home for an hour or so before returning to Petco to see if either William or Harry had been adopted. There had been so much interest in both puppies that I was really cringing, fearing that I wouldn't have a proper "goodbye" with those babies--especially Harry, with whom I had created a special bond.

We got to Petco and a woman who had been there since Bob and Lois got to Petco was holding Harry. She had just adopted him. But I was able to sit and hold him and say my goodbyes while she was in buying dog food. She's going to be perfect for him. She's a small woman, a teacher who is about to retire and what she's looking for is a small breed, calm lap dog. Harry certainly fits THAT bill.

But Willliam didn't get adopted, so we've brought him home for another week. I may try letting him and Lester sleep together tonight; I'm not sure about that.

I guess it's time to start thinking about new puppies.....

Saturday, April 25, 2009

What do YOU do?

I am very bad person.

While I enjoy getting e-mailed things that let me know that someone I care about is thinking about me and sharing something funny or something sweet they have come across, I just hate it when I hear from someone from whom I have not heard in 30 years, who found my e-mail address somewhere and sends me some special prayer to say or quotation to read, or wish to make and then pass it along to 12 of my best friends within the next 5 minutes so that my life can be enriched.

If I did that and passed things along to 12 of my best friends, I wouldn't have any friends any more.

The worst are the ones that tell you that you'll "laugh your head off" at what happens when you forward the message, entice you into forwarding the damn thing. (Do you laugh your head off when nothing happens when you forward the message? Because nothing ever does.)

One I received recently said that every time the message was forwarded a flag or something was added. Well, I was 99% sure that didn't happen, but just to see if maybe someone had developed some sort of embedded program that would let that happen, I forwarded it to myself. And, as I knew it wouldn't, no new flag was added to the message.

These damn things aren't as dangerous as the Nigerian potentates (or whatever is the country du jour) who want to share great wealth with us because we are persons of such high moral character, or obscure lotteries that we don't remember entering which we have apparently won (I can't believe people are still falling for that stuff), but my god are they annoying.

The most annoying is that they usually come from people who are relatively new to the internet and are just discovering these things and don't realize that they have been around since God created the internet.

But the problem is -- what do you do with them? They always ask you to share the messages with X number of your friends, including them so that they can know that you feel the same way about them.

What I usually do is just send it back to the sender. I never include a note because, well, the person I last saw 30+ years ago never sent ME a note either except this special message I was asked to forward.

But I always feel bad about it because (a) I actually wouldn't mind reconnecting with this old friend, but I know I won't hear a single personal message from her (it's usually a woman, of course) and (b) I know this was sent in good faith and I don't want to make the sender feel uncomfortable. do YOU handle the situation? And do you feel guilty about it?

And finally....if you are thinking about sharing your secret for eternal life, great fortune, other good luck or anything else with me, please don't. Please, please don't. I love you--but I just hate getting these chain letters. Send me something to "make my day," but don't ask me to share it with anybody else. Let's just let it be our own special little thing between you and me, OK? Oh--and if you haven't seen me in 30 years, send a personal note along with it too.

Adele.jpg (7792 bytes)There was another shocker that Steve Schalchlin let drop without realizing it: Adele Liotta has died.

I didn't really know Adele, but she was one of my Facebook friends. I didn't even know how she got to be a FB friend until Steve wrote about her death and another of our mutual internet friends commented on it. We were all part of the large Schalchlin circle.

But mostly I knew Adele as my Facebook Scrabble buddy (Joan is my Pixie Pit Scrabble buddy). Adele and I played Scrabble back and forth ever since Facebook brought it back a few months ago. I don't even remember if I won more games or if she won more games, but I enjoyed playing with her.

I went to her Facebook page and read her last status entry, which was chilling. It was written on April 20 and said simply, "sick .. food poisoning, I think." The next post on her wall was written the following day by someone who wrote "Oh Mammadele. There are no words" and there follow a long stream of messages of love for Adele and condolences. She was just 60 years old.

This makes 3 of my internet friends (that I know of) who have died -- Denver Doug, Dougri and now Adele. People I felt I knew on some level, but never met face to face. People who were part of my circle of internet life.

Steve wrote an excellent entry about the death of Adele and the death of Dougri and how the internet is changing our idea of friendship and relationships. And what happens when someone dies?

Most people who hopped on the information superhighway when the pavement was barely dry weren't old farts. Even I was only a mere child of not yet 50 when I got my first modem and joined a local Bulletinboard.

So we don't have a lot of old timers (by which I mean old in age, not only in internet years) and this whole business of losing people who have been in our lives daily, but whom we have never met, is something completely new. We haven't quite figured out how to deal with it.

Sadly, I suspect that this is going to be something that is going to evolve over time as, inevitably, we all start dying off. Already my group of Women from CompuServe has made sure that we all have each other's contact information so that if we disappear, we know how to check on each other. Walt knows what to do if something happens to me, and I'm sure people will, like Adele's friends, post messages on my wall to inform others on Facebook.

But this is where the internet is going to break new grounds in the area of grief. We don't have any societal examples for how to grieve together for someone we've never met...but feel strongly about.

The closest was when Steve & Jimmy's good friend Dickie was dying. We all loved Dickie but we were literally scattered around the world. He had helped so many people and some had actually met him (I was fortunate to be one of those people). While he was dying, we had what amounted to an on-line death watch followed by an on-line wake as we all shared Dickie stories and sat at our respective computers crying.

We as human beings have a need to come together in grief. It's why we hold funerals. The Internet is going to have to figure out how to do that because as us old farts start dying off, the need is going to be there more and more often.

Friday, April 24, 2009


It's spring! Spring...heck, it's halfway to summer already.

I noticed this morning that the roses on one of our rose bushes in front of the house is blooming. I love that rose bush--they are nice deep salmon colored roses.

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Across the driveway my aunt Marge's irises have come up for another year. She had a lot of them and when she died, several of us took bulbs. I smile every year when I see them popping up because I remember Marge every year.

When I talk about roses blooming in my front yard, and irises popping up, it sounds like I'm a gardener.

I lie.

I look outside at the jungle that is our back yard, the wannabe grass that we gave up on years ago--oh, it gets green, but it's hard to know how much is grass and how much is weed and you wouldn't want to lie out on it; it would scratch your back through your clothes, it's so coarse.

But it's great for the dogs chasing each other around, and really--isn't that what we want? We aren't the kind of people to invite others over to relax by the non-existent pool or have a BBQ. We're the kind of people who fill the house with dogs and then watch them race around chasing each other outside. The non-grass is perfect for that.

There was a time when we moved here that I had great hopes of turning the dirt yard into a wonderful back yard for the kids. Walt took a landscaping class and we planted fruit trees that bloomed for a few years and gave us lots of fruit, but they eventually died--all except the apple tree which produces hundreds of tiny apples each year. They fall off the branches and the dogs chase them around as oddly flavored balls.

I tried doing the earth mother thing for a couple of years when the kids were younger and we planted things. I gave up on tomatoes because I was so grossed out by the tomato horn worms that fourished on the tomato vines. The zucchini grew to watermelon size and we learned I was the only person in the house who actually liked zucchini, and there are only so many zucchini breads that you can make.

We did have corn on the cob one year, a few tiny ears. They were delicious, but I don't think we tried the second year. I know people who are always harvesting wonderful things from their gardens, but I am not one of them.

My mother grew up on a ranch. She has soil in her veins. Sick plants revive under her care. She can grow anything, can bring almost anything back to life again.

I grew up with a cement back yard with clothes lines strung across it. We had a minuscule plot of land in a cement box, which you can barely make out on the right behind that adorable little girl in the chair.

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When my sister was born, it was filled with weeds, but as we got older, my mother tried to teach us about planting a garden, but it never took. I remember pulling carrots out of the earth--but I never liked carrots as a kid, so there was little thrill there. I think we also may have planted beets. I hate beets, so obviously the reward of growing my own did not match the work that went into it.

I did house plants for a few years and they actually didn't die. But like most hobbies I start, it ran its course. It's not easy to grow houseplants in Davis because you can't just turn on the tap water and water them; you have to get it from some source that isn't softened. I still remember the moment when I was standing in the living room, looking at all the plants around me and I announced to them that I was tired of taking care of them, and they could all just die.

So they did.

Our yard has grapes that God takes care of, bushes that have grown so tall and thick that they are beyond trimming and will have to be chopped down. You have to be careful walking across the ground because it is so full of depressions, especially where the "graveyard" is. And there is still a huge hole that the kids dug when they filmed "Star Warts" when they were in junior high. works for us. It works for the dogs. But I'm never going to have a beautifully manicured lawn, a rainbow of flowers, butterflies flitting from plant to plant and birds visiting a birdfeeder where I can watch them.

Sometimes you make trade-offs. I like watching the puppies cavorting in grass that is taller than their heads and hiding behind the grapes leaves.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

More Stuff and More Nonsense

I'm sorry--but I've just been involved with the SPCA for too long.

I rarely dream, but as I woke up this morning I was dreaming about the wife of our former mayor (she's a bit of a character anyway--and another SPCA volunteer). Walt and I had been dog sitting for her, a poodle and West Highland Terrier. We were returning them to her house, where she also had a couple of cats. As we got the dogs out of the car, she pointed to a chicken in the yard and said "That's [name--I don't remember what she called her]." Walt turned to me and said "Oh! We took care of [name] when she was just an egg."

Yes. It's time to find a new hobby!!!

I meet a lot of interesting people when I'm writing stories for The Enterprise, almost all of them delightful people. So I was surprised how much I was disliking the person I interviewed last night. I didn't start disliking her until about 10 minutes into the interview, though. We were in a big echo-y room, off in a corner where we could have some privacy. There were several other people there, including two five year old children who ran, shrieked, jumped, stomped, pounded the walls and made the room positively vibrate with noise. I despaired of getting ANYTHING usable on tape and wondered why none of the people was saying anything to the kids, who would have disturbed anybody, not just a reporter trying to tape an interview. Several times I glared over my shoulder at the people who were ignoring the children.

It was about 10 minutes into the interview when the director mentioned, off hand, that the children were hers. Not once did she ask them to quiet down, nor did the grandparents and father who, I learned, were the other people in the room!

For a brief time I really disliked her, but the kids eventually went home and the more we spoke, the more I came to like her and developed a great admiration for what she has accomplished and the obstacles she has had to overcome. It should be a good article, if I can get past the parts of it done with children shrieking.

Surely next time she could tell the kids to shut up!

Walt's mother is apparently not doing well. They have determined that she is not benefiting from the rehabilitation they are giving her in the convalescent hospital and so the facility has no recourse but to send her back to her apartment in the assisted living facility. What this means for her is unclear. Walt hopes to go to Santa Barbara as soon as he gets his jury duty out of the way (he is called for Monday) and we'll know more then.

It does mean, however, that Lester's move to Boston will be delayed until Grandma's condition is more stable.

Regarding Lester, I sent the following message to Jeri and Phil this morning:

Your dog is a pig.

Mealtime is the best 10 seconds of Lester's day.

I give the dogs each a heaping Tbsp of canned dog food mixed with a big scoop of dry. I feed all the little puppies in a cage so they get a chance to actually get some of the food. Then I put down the other 3 bowls, first Lester's, then Lizzie's, then Sheila's.

Lester literally DIVES into her bowl, scattering food everywhere and getting all the wet food. By the time Lizzie's bowl goes down, Lester is there to take over and eats all of Lizzie's food too (Lizzie goes to Lester's bowl to eat the dry food Lester has left more leisurely), then Lester goes to the side of the cage where the little dogs are to see if their food has spilled out through the cage. Sheila is unchallenged as far as her bowl is concerned, but as soon as the dogs finish all the food, Lester makes the rounds of all the bowls, including the little guys', to lick them even cleaner than they were to begin with.

The Royal puppies have their appointment with "the knife" tomorrow and will come back sore and sterile. The person who is going to take them to the vet called me this morning and I was surprised that I was slightly offended by her tone. It had nothing to do with HER. Her job is to pick up dogs from various places and transport them to the vet. She doesn't know the dogs. She was asking me if these dogs got along well or if they needed separate cages, and I replied that they were siblings and got along extremely well.

I think what put me off is that she thinks of them -- as well she should -- as "these dogs" and I think of them as my babies, Harry, William and Princess. I didn't like that they were just lumped together into a group of "these dogs."

Totally silly reaction on my part, I realize.

I spent the day working on my feature article. Most of the time was spent transcribing the interview (a longer than usual process) and the article itself really went together rather easily. It's good when you are working in your own area of expertise and not some avant garde piece of theatre! I was actually able to sit in the family room (covered with puppies, of course) to watch The Daily Show without a guilty conscience.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Two Stories

The print news and especially video news is all abuzz with Miss California's loss of the Miss U.S.A. title, presumably because of her answer about gay marriage posed by one of the judges, Perez Hilton.

The Noble Pig, a site more noted for its photography and recipes than political controversy, posted an entry entitled "Should Personal Biases Be Allowed?" which has, not surprisingly, sparked a number of entries regarding the whole brouhaha. The reaction seemed to be mixed among those who felt that Miss California had a right to express her opinion and that it shouldn't be considered in the vote of the judges (then why do they ask questions of the candidates? She wasn't the only one to be asked a political question), those who felt that it was right that they deny her the crown because of her opinions, and those who felt that Hilton shouldn't have asked it in the first place.

Some of the more intense comments included:

Perez Hilton chose this pageant to laud his own personal agenda which should be a no-no. He's a nasty piece of work and even nastier if you don't agree with his views.

For a group (the one that Perez Hilton belongs to) who says they hate bias and hate, well, let's just say his words are not backed up by his actions.

Sounds like "tolerance" is a one way street. If you agree with me, then we're both "tolerant"; if you don't agree with me, then you're a bigot, racist, hate monger, etc.

As far as I'm concerned, Perez Hilton should go marry another man. A woman doesn't deserve him. It was a set-up. I hope he marries someone exactly like himself.

I have never heard of this Perez Hilton, but he doesn't sound like a very happy person inside...Happy people just don't behave that way. I Have a hard time thinking of anything in my life style choices that makes me so defensive or bitter towards others around me. I guess that when people have to go around and force their views on others maybe it's time to step back and question their own beliefs. hmmm perhaps "his" life style choices are not all that pretty down deep inside after all...just saying. =O)

Good on her mom and dad for raising a child with convictions and morals, something our country seems to be seeing little of these days. Seems that people are quick to put those who stand for something "good" down...very sad.

It's the one time I wish I had actually watched the show so I could remember the other political questions that were asked, since so many seemed to feel Hilton was out of line asking the question. (Apparently he had cleared the question with the powers that be beforehand, however.)

But, as always, the lack of empathy for gay people who are the victims of this country's short-sighted opinions about equal rights came to the fore.

Whenever I'm confronted with people who want gay people to disappear, or who want to put them in a box, without the rights that straight people enjoy, or who dismiss the whole issue as an immoral "choice," and thus not worth talking about, I think about Bill Clayton and all of the other gay kids who chose to end their lives rather than face a lifetime of discrimination and possible violence.

jaheem.jpg (14809 bytes)And then this morning I was sent a link to a story by Sacramento News and Review reporter, Kel Munger about eleven-year old Jaheem Herrera.

Young Jaheem Herrera’s parents say he was called “gay” and a “snitch” (for reporting his abuse) on a daily basis as part of the harassment that led him to take his own life. His death comes just a few weeks after the similar bullying-induced suicide of 11-year-old Carl Walker-Hoover.

But the anti-Day of Silence crowd thinks bullying—specifically that which includes the use of anti-gay language to intimidate and harass children—isn’t enough of a problem to warrant activism or legislation. Makes you wonder who Jesus would support: the anti-gay crowd, or the bullied 11-year-olds?

Any way you look at it, these are children we’re talking about. Children. Eleven years old. Still playing with action figures and watching cartoons on Saturday morning. And they’re being bullied to death while the right wing insists that doing anything to stop it is “promoting the homosexual agenda."

Well, if keeping 11-year-old kids alive long enough to grow up is “the homosexual agenda,” then, hell, yes! Count me in.

Jaheem Herrera and Carl Walker-Hoover and Bill Clayton are the reason why it's important to take the answers of a silly beauty pageant contestant into consideration. Because if it's OK to set aside the ideas of someone who believes in dividing us into "us" and "them," making it OK to harass, bully, and beat "them" because they aren't as good as "us," then we are minimized, yet again, as human beings.

The sooner straight America understands that there is no "gay agenda" other than gay people wanting to live their lives in peace like their straight neighbors, the sooner we can get on with the more serious business of this country.

In one of those serendipitous bits of coincidence, as I was writing this, I received an e-mail informing me that congress will vote next week on the hate crimes bill that would give LGBT people the protections they need and deserve, and honor the memory of Matthew Shepard, murdered in Laramie, Wyoming ten years ago. During committee hearings, some lawmakers will be trying to derail the bill with "poison pill" amendments.

Here is a page where you can find a video made by Judy Shepard and a place where you can send a letter to your Congressperson asking for their support for the hate crimes bill. Do your bit to protect kids like Jaheem Herrera and Carl Walker,


Tuesday, April 21, 2009


I told this story in this journal once, but not since May of 2000, so perhaps this is a good day to do it because it has been unexpectedly emotional for me today.

It started with Jeri, who posted this picture on Facebook:

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It was designed by Paul's best friend, Kag. I adopted it as my profile photo for the day. Several of Paul's friends posted it to their wall. Nobody gave any identification. Those of us who would appreciate it didn't need any explanation.

Throughout the day, status entries from lots of people started popping up, just saying "FTS." I actually got a phone call from Shelly and Ellen asking what the heck "FTS" meant. So this is what I posted 9 years ago:

"FTS" is an in joke. We may have the only grave in the cemetery with a joke included, this being a rather staid and proper place. When Walt and I went with Paul’s wife to order the grave plot, the cemetery keeper was looking for where there was a double plot available so he could move David and bury Paul next to him. Audra (Paul’s wife) started musing... "Paul said there was something he wanted on his grave marker...what was it...?" We wanted to go with whatever she wanted, so I was curious about what Paul had said to her. All of a sudden, this "look" came over her face and I knew she had remembered--and that she couldn’t say it in front of the cemetery keeper.

When we got outside, I said "OK--what was it that Paul said," She blushed. "He said he thought it would be perfect to say ‘fuck this shit.’" We agreed that it probably wasn’t such a good idea to put that on a gravestone that was going to outlast all of us. But later when I was speaking with my friend Olivia, she said "Of course you can--just use ‘fts.’" So on the program for the memorial, we included "fts" on the back page and we decided that it was fitting that Paul get his last wish, so "fts" was engraved in his grave marker.

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I suppose there are those who think it’s terrible, but...that was Paul and it just seems fitting. David would have loved it, and it pretty much describes how we felt about having to design a grave marker for two of our sons. And--hey--sometimes you just have to laugh, even in the face of tragedy. Or perhaps especially in the face of tragedy.

So that explains all the "FTS" messages on Facebook today.

The one thing I hate about Paul dying on this date is that it's the anniversary of Columbine, so there are Columbine retrospectives on lots of news channels every year. I remember that my first thought after we received "the call" was to wonder if Paul had been depressed over what happened in Columbine. It didn't make sense at the time, and it doesn't make sense now, but I was grasping at straws trying to understand what had happened.

When Walt and I went to Denver to see The Last Session several months later and the group went for a tour that would take them to Columbine, I chose not to go because I just couldn't face actually going to Columbine (whether you have any connection to the tragedy or not, it still seems a kind of creepy "tourist attraction" !)

So we did our thing tonight. Stopped at the store to get flowers, then drove out to the cemetery to leave them (expecting to see the annual jar of mayonnaise from Paul's friend Jessica...but she leaves it at night, apparently...she leaves it because Paul detested mayonnaise).

Then we headed off to Osaka Sushi, where we had dinner. I had the first beer I've had in decades.

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Dinner was great, as usual. I got brave and daring and ordered something I'd never ordered before...and it was really good!

Osaka Maki

Monday, April 20, 2009

Cantankerous Coochie Snorcher

Men (or women, for that matter) who are uncomfortable with the discussion of the idiosyncracies of the female body might want to stop reading right here.

blowdry.jpg (45746 bytes)Let's just say that this cartoon looks mighty good to me today. A nice warm breeze would feel very comforting about now.

Even after working in ob/gyn for 12 years, I still had to look up the kind of approach to take when your body is becoming a one-woman bread-making factory, or at least producing the leavening agent.

If I were wearing jeans, you'd think I had just come in off of a multi-hour horseback ride.

Goin' Commando helps. Soothing medications help.

"Don't scratch" they are quick to tell you, but it's kind of hard when it feels like you're sitting in a very active ants' nest. But it helps when there are so many dogs sitting on your lap that you can't reach your nether regions. You start wishing you could act like the dog and drag your body along the pile of a rug. Now I know why they look so happy doing it.

It's significantly better than it was a few days ago, but it's still occupying too much of my attention. I'm hoping that improvement will continue. There are far more pleasant things to think about.

Each year as this time approaches, I am torn between "writing something" and not "writing something." But this year seems kind of significant.

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It's ten years since Paul died and yet it seems like only yesterday.

We were at my mother's for Easter and I sat there looking at Ned's profile, realizing that it was man's profile (I should hope so, since he's nearly 42!) and the hair on the side of his head is almost white.

Paul is permanently stuck at 30. He will never have wrinkles, never have grey in his hair, never develop all of those nagging symptoms that plague us as we get older.

But by the same token, he never knew Brianna. Never got to see Tom balancing his daughter on his hand. He never even got to see Tom married.

He never joined in the joy of watching Jeri and Phil get married either. How that would have tickled him, since he'd been Phil's friend for so many years.

I watch the music videos that Ned is creating now and think back over the hundreds of videos that Ned and Paul made together through the years. Ned has taken all that experience and run with it and I'm so proud of him. But what fun Paul missed out on. He missed the whole digital age.

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I heard today that the nephew of a Facebook friend just died, at age 23. We just went to Michael's funeral last week, age 43.

I'm tired of beautiful young people dying. When you've lost a young person you love, you find that you carry each and every one of the other young people in your heart and it just intensifies the pain when the next person dies, when you watch another family struggling to get through another memorial service.

I suppose we'll be going out for dinner tomorrow night. We've kind of gotten into that habit over the years. And then we'll put Paul aside for another year and gear up for the 13th anniversary of David's death next month.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A Weird Meme

The lovely Sheila (not our dog) posted this meme today because she was too tired to write a regular entry. I decided that sounded like a good idea. A meme is always a good idea the day after Cousins Day!

1. What color is your toothbrush?
Let's start this thing off on the most inane level. Blue and white.

2. Name one person who made you smile today.
All 3 of the wonderful women I'm related to at Cousins Day this morning.

3. What were you doing at 8 am this morning?
Sitting in my mother's living room having coffee with my mother and 2 cousins

5. What is your favorite candy bar?
U-No, but they don't seem to make them any more. It was kind of a truffle in a bar. I also like Snickers, but haven't bought one in years because now they seem too sweet for me.

6. Have you ever been to a strip club?
Yes. I was very pregnant at the time. I told the story here.

7. What is the last thing you said aloud
"I slept for an hour and woke up covered with puppies while a commercial on TV was asking me to do something to help save one animal"

8. What is your favorite ice cream?
Not sure, but it might be peanutbutter cup. Or maybe Butter Pecan. It depends on my mood. I generally go for something with a vanilla base with chocolate fudge and something else stirred into it. But I also like flavors like Blackberry and Fresh Peach. Mainly I just like ice cream.

9. What was the last thing you had to drink?
Cold water

10, Do you like your wallet?
I do. Peggy gave it to me for Christmas in 2000. (Did you know that in Australia what we call a "wallet" they call a "purse"?)

11, What was the last thing you ate?
Rynders Swiss Chicken with noodles

12, Have you bought any new clothing items this week?
I don't think I've bought any new clothing items this year.

13, The last sporting event you watched?
The Masters Tournament, at my mother's on Easter Sunday.

14. What is your favorite flavor of popcorn?
Just plain, preferably with butter.

15. Who is the last person you sent a text message to?
Jeri, in response to a photo she sent.

16. Ever go camping?
Yes. We camped a lot before we were married and when the kids were little (how else can you afford to take five kids on vacation?). Now you couldn't get me into a tent, sleeping on the ground for all the tea in China, or all the coffee in Seattle.

17, Do you take vitamins daily?
Vitamin D and a multivitamin

18, Do you go to church every Sunday?
No. I am probably going to hell.

19, Do you have a tan?
I don't tan; I burn. So I avoid the sun.

20,Do you prefer Chinese food over pizza?
Very definitely.

21, Do you drink your soda with a straw?
I don't usually drink any kind of soft drink, but if I do, I prefer it in a glass, over ice, without a straw.

22, What did your last text message say?
"Mmmm...I can smell the donuts from here"

23, What are you doing tomorrow?
No plans. Probably sitting at home covered with puppies.

25, Look to your left, what do you see?
"House," on a small TV, seen over the mountain of junk on my desk.

26, What color is your watch?
I haven't worn a watch in a very long time.

27, What do you think of when you hear Australia?
Peggy. Kangaroos. The Indian Ocean. saudades

29, Do you go in at a fast food place or just hit the drive thru?
I'm a drive-thru person. Usually the only time I go to fast food places is when I'm en route to somewhere and am too lazy to get out of the car.

30. What is your favorite number?

31. Who’s the last person you talked to on the phone?
A woman from a local bakery who wanted me to review a concert at her shop. I had to tell her no.

32. Any plans today?
Getting caught up on Internet stuff I missed while at Cousins Day

33. How many states have you lived in?
Only one. But in five different cities in California.

34. Biggest annoyance right now?
TV commercials that are broadcast double the volume of the regular program.

35, Last song listened to?
"I have a song to sing-0," one of my favorite Gilbert & Sullivan songs, sung by Peter, Paul and Mary in an open-air concert in Sydney in the 1970s.

36. Can you say the alphabet backwards?
No. I'm lucky I can still remember it forwards!

37. Do you have a maid service clean your house?
Heavens, no. I'm too embarrassed to have someone come in to clean here (in fact, I gave up a FREE year of house cleaning which was the Christmas bonus one of my bosses regularly gave the staff. I took the money instead.)

38. Favorite pair of shoes you wear all the time?
I alternate between Birkinstocks and loafers. That's all I wear.

39. Are you jealous of anyone?
Maybe a little bit jealous of Tom's mother-in-law, who lives close enough that she's been able to be around Brianna frequently, and care for her one day a week.

40. Is anyone jealous of you?
I have no idea. I can't imagine anyone would be.

41. Do you love anyone?
Of course. How much time do you have...?

42. Do any of your friends have children?
I don't know who wrote this meme, but by the time you get to be my age MOST of your friends have children...and most of their children have children.

43. What do you usually do during the day?
Spend too much time on the internet, act as a dog bed, and eat.

44, Do you hate anyone that you know right now?
Life is too short to waste it on negative emotions, especially now that the Bush Administration is out of office.

45. Do you use the word ‘hello’ daily?
Hmmmm....I don't know. It's probably a toss up between "hello" and "hi"

46. What color is your car?
They say it's "champagne." That beigy color that every other car on the road seems to be. Really, it's just a metallic tan.

47. Do you like cats?
I can take 'em or leave 'em. Generally I leave 'em.

48. Are you thinking about someone right now
No. I'm concentrating on answering these silly questions.

49, Have you ever been to Six Flags?
Six Flags Marine World once or twice. I went to see the animals. I don't generally ride rides--and my god was it expensive! I don't think I've been in the last 25 years. Today I found out why--it was opening day and as we were driving home from my mother's the traffic was backed up as far as the eye can see--fortunately going in the opposite direction from us.

50. How did you get your worst scar?
I only have one teeny tiny scar, about 1/4" long, on my left wrist. A friend and I were carrying a piece of wood that had a nail in it and the nail scratched me.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Four Old Ladies with Dementia

I think I've explained before how "65" works. There are 11 rounds in one game. First round you deal 3 cards, second round 4, third round 5, and so on. In the 3 round 3s are wild. In the 4 round 4s are wild, etc. Deal rotates around the table. The person who won the last game starts the next game. So If I'm the winner (which I was, twice, this Cousins Day), I start dealing 3s, then Kathy deals 4s, my mother deals 5s, Peach deals 6s and then back to me again.

I'll tell you among the four of us we can't remember anything. We can't remember who dealt last, how many card need to be dealt this round, or what's wild. We are forever stopping to count. "Bev started so she's 3 and then counting around the circle until we get to the person whose turn it is to deal to figure out how many cards that person is supposed to deal.

This was probably our primary activity during all of our card playing this time--trying to figure out who was supposed to deal, how many cards she had to deal, and what was wild--even during the middle of the hand.

Very depressing for a family which has a history of Alzheimers in it!

CDFreedom.jpg (34537 bytes)Ah, but this was a victorious Cousins Day -- and I don't just mean because I won more games than anybody else.

We arrived at my mother's around 11 and finished lunch in time to play one and a half games of 65 before Peach and I took her off to Kaiser for her appointment with, first, the wound nurse and then the surgeon, and then the wound nurse again.

There has been great improvement this week, probably not in small part to Peach riding herd on her and making sure that she kept her leg up above her waist for most of the time. In fact things apparently got quite testy about that. I was at the supermarket getting food for dinner for Cousins Day when my cell phone rang and it was Peach saying "You have to talk to your mother."

But after a visit with Kathy (the wound nurse) and Dr. Safanda, my mother got the permission she had been waiting for...she could get rid of the detested boot she'd been wearing since surgery and first thing she did when we got home was to put a shoe on her right foot. She was a very happy person (of course she still isn't keeping her foot elevated as much as we would like, but that is between her and the wound nurse from now on.

We played a couple more games of 65 and then Peach made appletinis. She had been staying at my mother's this week and so went through all the liquor we've left behind on previous Cousins Days and decided it was time for appletinis.

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(I'm doing drinks next time and I have to figure out something to do with chocolate vodka, since we have two partial bottles of it!)

Kathy made some sinfully delicious roll ups with cream cheese and ham and spices,

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which we devoured, and then I put together my chicken with sherry cream sauce for the main course.

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(Note that I cleverly chose a slotted spoon to spoon up the sauce!)

We had one last game of 65 after dinner, the first one I'd won (which meant that we had each won one, so it seemed a good time to quit). And we all must have been sleepy because it seemed that we started to retire to our own corners of the house shortly after 10 p.m.

In the morning I made ham omelettes for everyone, we had one last game of 65 (I won again), and then we packed up the car to come home. We're supposed to meet again on May 11.

As we drove off, my mother, looking positively ecstatic, had a hose in hand and was putting water into the bird bath on her front lawn. We left her the car keys and no restrictions. She's very, very happy.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Gulliver and the Lilliputians

Walt came into my office to glow this afternoon. He had been watching the puppies -- all four of them -- playing out in the back yard.

"They're so cute," he said. "All three of them are out there...and so is Gulliver."

I had to laugh. That's what they look like. The canine version of Gulliver and the Lilliputians, especially when Lester is lying down and all three puppies are piled on top of her.

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It's great weather today so they have all been out enjoying the sun.

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Harry is a real sun bum and loves getting out on the grass and enjoying the warmth.

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Peach's husband Bob was coming by to bring a neighbor, a woman they have known for 40 years, so recently lost the dog she'd had for 16 years. She was looking for a small female dog and Bob though she might be interested in Princess.

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Usually whenever I walk around the house, the puppies are at my feet, following me everywhere, but about 5 minutes before I expected them to arrive, they weren't to be found. I went outside to look for them and it was so cute...they had been playing in our grape vines (no, we don't raise grapes. These vines refuse to die and actually forgive us our inattention by supplying us with grapes whenever it is that grapes ripen.) I looked around the yard and suddenly these little heads popped out from under the leaves and they all started running toward me when they saw me there.

Lois.jpg (45223 bytes)I locked the big dogs outside and let the little ones in and Bob arrived with his friend. She loved Princess and I ended up running off adoption papers from the SPCA, which you can download from the internet. She went home to fill them out. Princess may have a home, if Ashley approves.

I sent Ashley pictures of Bob's friend playing with the puppies and gave her a great recommendation as a pet owner.

Ashley promised to try to get new skin scrapings off the puppies to make sure they are free of Demodex and to have them spayed, if possible, next week.

So our little Princess may be moving to a new home very soon. She's such a lovely little puppy. I think that her new owner (if she is going to be the new owner) will really like her. But the three pups are such a unit that I'm sure she's going to have some adjustments to make.

Tomorrow is Cousins Day, so the next entry will be posted late.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Your Assignment, Should You Choose to Accept It

Embedding has been disabled for this video, so I can only give you a link. Before you do anything else you must go watch this video from Britain's Got Talent. One of the most extraordinary talents I've seen. You will be amazed. After I saw the video on YouTue this morning, I saw a story about it on The Today Show, so you may already be familiar with it, but if you haven't seen the whole thing, trust me, it's worth it. Bring Kleenex.

Now I have a couple of votes I'd like you to make should you be so inclined. No hard feelings if you don't feel you'd like to, but sometimes people just don't know that votes are being taken.

First, this one has about as good a shot as a snowball in hell, but The Yolo County SPCA is trying to win some money.

The Animal Rescue Site is awarding $100,000 in grants to eligible member rescue organizations. The grand prize is a $20,000 grant and there are many more prizes ranging from $1,000 for weekly winners up to $5,000 for the runner-up. There will be a winner in every state as well as other grants! The rescue organizations with the most votes will win. You can click to help animals at, and then vote for your favorite participating shelter, (vote for the Yolo County SPCA!). Clicking and voting are free, with no registration required. You can vote once every day during the Challenge, which started on April 13th, 2009.

There is a small link at the top of the Animal Rescue Site screen and then the rest should be fairly intuitive (zip code for this area is 95616, by the way). If you have a local animal rescue site you'd rather try to help, by all means do...but if you're feeling kindly toward all these puppies who gallop through my journal pages, maybe you'll toss a bone in the direction of the Yolo SPCA. (And while you're at it give a click on the site button itself to help provide food and medical attention to needy animals.)

And then there are the Webby Awards. These are awards given out to "the best" (obviously this is very subjective!) sites in various categories on the web. My friend, Tony Kahn (from the old Morning Stories days, and panelist on Says You) has a new web site called "Hi, Tony," which has been nominated for a Webby in the Personal Web Site category.

I'm hoping people will check out the web site and read the story he is writing about his chemotherapy treatments for his recently diagnosed lymphoma. He writes eloquently and my reason for asking you to vote for Tony is primarily to get you to go to the site and read what he's written thus far.

Now, I will warn you that I had a devil of a time trying to vote for Tony. In fact, this is the e-mail I sent to the webmaster of the Webby site:

I have to say that if I were voting for best web site, the Webby Awards would be at the very bottom.

It took me a lot of diligent trying just to log in. I received a link from a friend, and the link took me to an error page. Then I tried through a nominated web site link and it also took me to a page that said it could not load. This happened many times.

I did finally get through and though I have been registered on the site for several years, it did not recognize me, so I re-registered. It sent my activation code to my mailbox but when I clicked on it, it gave me another error page. When I attempted to input the code manually, it told me "something went wrong" and that the problem has been reported.

After what seemed like a very long time, I finally was recognized and I started to vote but the process was so slow and cumbersome, I cast votes only in a couple of categories and then gave up.

Surely you can improve this system for next year!

With that background, you may be reluctant to start any voting process for Tony, but do go and read his stuff, and then decide if you want to make the effort to try and vote. (He probably doesn't really care if he wins or not!)

And finally, this isn't something I'm hoping anybody can do anything about, but just something that makes me feel very sad and very helpless.

I wrote an entry about the vlogger Dougri, who died last week. Today I had more information and my worst fears were confirmed -- it wasn't the cancer that killed him, but he is presumed to have committed suicide.

While that is sad enough, this man who had so many internet friends and who was so open and so generous to everyone left no arrangements for the disposition of his remains and apparently has nobody close enough to him to make arrangements. So his body is sitting in the morgue and will be buried in a cemetery for the indigent.

I know Doug is beyond caring about what happens to his remains, but I just feel so sad that this man I had so many interactions with is going to be buried in a pauper's grave, presumably without even a marker.

We set a great store on having a "place" where we can go and visit our loved ones...and if nobody is going to come and visit you, does it really matter? But if I were independently wealthy, I'd be flying to Rhode Island to make sure that my friend had a proper burial.

Thanks for reading all of this. This journal entry will now self-destruct in 5 seconds...