Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Medicine, Messes and Martians

The day started with the first (of what I am sure will be many) trip to Kaiser for Walt to meet with his orthopedist. Things went surprisingly quick, with her assessment that the folks in the ER had done a fine job of lining up his bones and putting on the splint, so all that needed to be done today was putting on the fiberglass cast (which Walt says is Very Heavy). We were out of there in no time, relatively speaking.

The hardest thing was just finding a place to park. The hospital was not new when we moved here in 1973 and it has only increased in membership since then. At certain times of day, the only way you can get a place to park is to follow someone heading into the parking lot with keys in hand and hope they aren't just picking up something out of the trunk. Not only that, but there are HUGE cars (SUVs and trucks) parked in compact spots and it makes the row very, very narrow. Being a nice, thoughtful person, when I parked, I pulled up as close as I could to the car facing me, leaving my back end pulled in nice and tight (which I can do with the car, unlike with the back end I carry with me at all times).

When we returned to the car there was an irate woman who wanted to be sure to know that I had hit her car. She said it over and over again that I had hit her car. She said "get out and see," so I pulled back a bit to examine the damage and she said she didn't say I had caused any damage, but she just wanted me to know that I had hit her car. She drove off angrily.

When we got home, the dogs were, as usual, thrilled to see us. Rupert danced and danced and danced, right in the big pile of poop he had left right in the middle of the kitchen floor. I couldn't get to him before he'd smeared it everywhere. I had a huge mess to clean up, and a dog to bathe.

Then we tried to go to Taco Bell to collect the free taco they advertised for a stolen base during the world series:

The store would not give a free taco without a purchase of some other food item, so I've made a very brief video (which pretty much says what I have written here) and am trying to spread the word about the 77-cent fraud perpetrated by the Davis Taco Bell. Harumph! They caused more ill will than they would have spent on ingredients for the free tacos.

But the fun was in the last part of the day. This was the day they were going to screen The Martian Child prior to its theatre opening on November 2. My editor invited Walt and me to go with him. (The Photo of the Day was going to be the photo David sent me from when he and Sean attended the premiere in LA a week or so ago, but, of course, it's on my desktop, which I still don't have back.)

The movie is a real feel-good movie which does justice to the book. The one glaring difference is that John Cusack is a widower, not a gay man, but as David says, straight people can be just as good as adoptive parents as gay people can, so it didn't really affect the movie.

There were a few places where I almost guffawed outright, not because they were so funny but because anybody who knows David and Sean would find them very funny (and no, I won't say where or why!)

But I laughed, I cried and I was thrilled that the movie turned out so well. Can't ask for a better cast: John Cusack, Joan Cusack, Oliver Platt, Angela Houston, Amanda Peet and, as Dennis, young Bobby Coleman.

Go see this movie; you won't be disappointed. Even my critical editor called it "charming."

When the movie finished it was nearly 9 p.m. and we hadn't had dinner so I suggested we go to Olive Garden, where we both had a great grilled shrimp caprese

...and then came home to the rowdy dogs again. I'm praying Rupert doesn't figure out the dog door. It is my one refuge from him. He's very sweet, but he won't just sleep at my feet like the other dogs do, and I can't work with him in my lap.

When Walt started to head upstairs to get ready for bed, he made a terrible discovery. They had him pull up the arm of his shirt when they added the fiberglass cast over his splint and the arm of the shirt is too narrow to go over the new cast, so I had to cut it off of him. Fortunately, it is a shirt that has some wear in it, so it's not like having to destroy a new shirt.

It's been a long day and I'm ready to sleep.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Blue Screen of Death

I have this great entry all ready to be posted, just sitting on my hard drive along with an adorable photo and a cute video. I'm not posting it, though, because my hard drive (and the desk top computer it's in) are somewhere in Woodland at the moment.

My day started with trying to check e-mail and having a bunch of purple vertical lines pop up on my screen out of nowhere. I thought the monitor was going out because following the vertical lines, the color would pop in and out and then the monitor would shut down. I was all ready to go out and buy a new monitor (which Walt wasn't too thrilled about because this is a fairly new monitor).

I decided to call my computer guru first (Davis people: Steve Bauman of "My Brother Steve" is GREAT!). He asked if I had tried connecting the monitor to the laptop, which I hadn't thought of. It worked fine with the laptop, so we knew this was not a monitor problem.

Steve said he'd drop by around 5 or so. That gave me about 4 hours to clear away the junk in my office. That got done, more or less (I found some things I'd been looking for in the process, so it wasn't a total loss!)

When he got here, Steve asked me to describe what was happening and I did better than that: I showed him a video so he could see for himself before he turned on the computer.

Then he did what I always hate. Peppered me with questions in a language that I could recognize as English, but absolutely no words I could relate to. With computers, I know what I use. I know I should know more, but I don't. If I don't see it, I don't think about it. Not only could I not answer his questions, I couldn't even understand his questions. But, like all gurus, he is so excited about his passion, that he just blathered on while I stood here in a daze hoping I didn't look too stupid.

The problem, it seemed (he thought) was a recent Microsoft update to my video card, which has known problems. "A-HA!" he went, confidently, several times.

The solution involved downloading drivers from a non-Microsoft source and then making sure that my computer would block that kind of upgrade from Microsoft from now on. He worked happily clearing away things that had installed themselves on my computer and severely lowering the CPU usage so the machine would run faster, etc., etc., etc. All those guru things.

All the while the monitor behaved perfectly and I could hardly wait for him to leave so I could get caught up on all I thought must surely have been happening in the hours that I was not able to log on.

When all had been finished, he rebooted the computer and there popped the purple lines again. As it went to turn off, he got the blue screen of death.

So it was back to square one. He decided maybe the problem was with my personal account, so he downloaded the drivers again and created a new personal account for me and then, just as the drivers were finished downloading he realized that the problem makes itself known BEFORE you log into any account, so it couldn't be the account that made the difference.

He finally decided that he needed to take the computer home and run some diagnostics on it, so he packed it into the car and I waved a sad goodbye.

Now wouldn't you know that my plan for today was to start scanning photos for the slide show I'm doing for Michele, so that didn't get done.

He knows that I really need the computer yesterday, so he's promised to rush as much as he can. But it really doesn't really matter. Walt has a doctor's appointment tomorrow and we are going to the press screening of Martian Child tomorrow night, so I can't really do anything until Wednesday anyway. I just hope he can fix it!

Rupert is making himself right at home here. He's a great little dog and doesn't make a sound all night until I get up (I slept an unheard of eight hours last night!)

He's a little leery about the bigger dogs, and he's not too clear on what is inside and what is outside, but basically he's very sweet and very loving. His only negative quality is that he wants to be in my lap all. the. time.

By the time it gets dark outside, he'll curl up at my feet, but throughout the day he is either IN my lap, settled on my shoulder, or on the floor trying to climb into my lap. He very definitely needs someone who is looking for a little lap dog to cuddle with.

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Rest of the Story

I said that there was more to Saturday than just the puppy birthday party but that it would take its own entry. This is that entry.

We got home from the party and I was trying to put together a journal entry. Rupert, the new puppy, seemed to be getting along all right with the other dogs and hated to be in the cage, so I left him running around. Walt was outside working in the yard.

Rupert really, really wanted to be in my lap, though, and I remembered that he had been left in the night box at the animal shelter two nights ago, that he had obviously been attacked by something or somebody because his nose was bleeding and swollen (not when I got him) and he had some head trauma. So I decided that the journal entry could wait and I would give Rupert some lap time. It would also give me time to catch up on watching some of the things on my DVR, which is 82% full.

We were sitting there peacefully, Rupert curled up in the crook of my arm, asleep and me watching NCIS or something like that. I saw Walt lean the ladder against the tree outside the family room window and head up to cut some branches. "All I need now is for Walt to fall off the ladder," I thought, with a laugh.

NCIS finished and I went into the kitchen about the time Walt came through the back door, holding his left arm.

"I think I should go to the emergency room," he said. "I fell off the ladder."

His wrist didn't seem to be badly swollen so we put ice on it, but it was less than half an hour later when he decided we really needed to go to Kaiser. So we put Rupert in the cage, fed all the dogs, I got my camera (of course) and, figuring it would be a 2-book night, an extra book to read and off we went to Sacramento.

By the time we got there, the wrist was very definitely swollen.

I was pleased that there was hardly anybody in the waiting room, after all the horror stories I've heard about hours-long waits in the ER. In fact, Walt barely had time to sit down before they called him. He was gone for awhile and then someone came to tell me he was being taken to the Treatment Unit, following his x-rays.

We sat in the treatment unit for a very long time, then I waited for him to get assessed by the doctor there, then we were off to another part of the hospital where we waited for another long time until the Ortho Tech and the doctor came with the x-rays, a big bucket of water, and casting material.

You can see where there is an ink drawing on the x-ray where the bone should be and how far it was moved. "It's supposed to look something like a clarinet," the ortho tech told us, which we thought was kind of funny, since Jeri plays the clarinet. But then we're easily amused. The ortho tech tended to explain things with mannerisms reminiscent of Mister Rogers, as if explaining things to a very young child, with pitch of voice higher than it would be for normal conversation, and a sing-song cadence to it. I asked him if he had been a flight attendant in a former life.

The doctor and the tech set to work after the medication injected into Walt's wrist had started to numb it. There was much grimacing involved by all, the medical professionals and the patient.

They sent me off to the pharmacy to pick up his pain medication while they did follow up x-rays (fortunately the pharmacy is on the same floor -- I remember that 2007 started with my mother going to the pharmacy to pick up medication for her friend and falling down stairs!). Things look "much better," they say, though not perfect. I'm not sure what that means for down the road, but perhaps we will find out on Tuesday, when he goes to see the orthopedist. We will probably also find out then about how long he is expected to remain in the cast.

It was after 11 when we left Kaiser and since I had not had lunch (Walt had) and had only eaten an English muffin for breakfast, I found the very first McDonald's I could and we stopped to get something to eat. Then I was up until 2 a.m. writing the report on the puppy party.

Fortunately, Rupert seems to be a very considerate puppy and, sleeping quietly in the playpen, he let me sleep until 8 a.m. today.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Happy Birthday to You...and You...and You...and...

The "rainbow puppies" turned one today. Remember them? We had

At the SPCA Christmas party last year, we handed them over to the family that would take them until they were ready for adoption. They were the hit of the party and all the kids there wanted to hold them.

As it turned out the woman who had the mother and the other half of the litter adopted one of the puppies (Not ours--she had "Orange," now named "Shasta") and her neighbor adopted another. So they decided to have a big birthday/reunion for the puppies and all the 2- and 4-legged people in their lives.

I baked cookies to take for the 2-legged people (someone else was bringing cookies for the 4-legged people).

At 2 p.m., we headed over to the Toad Hollow Dog Park and what pandemonium we found. Not only was there our group, but the city had also planned a dog park Halloween party as well, for a couple of hours after our party, so there were dogs in and out of costume everywhere.

It was absolutely terrific that all ten of the litter of puppies came, with their new families. Nine of the puppies still live in Davis, one lives in Vacaville (I'll never try to visit; I'll get lost!)

The dogs ran themselves ragged while the adults tried to point out their own dogs and try to remember what their puppy names had been and I searched pretty much in vain to separate out "our" puppies from the rest of the pack.

Carmen, their Mother, brought each of her babies a birthday dog cookie.

Check here for a group photo.

And Ashley showed up with a puppy for us.

Rupert had been dropped in the night drop box at the Animal Shelter two nights ago. He had contusions on his nose and seems to have suffered head trauma. They don't know if that has caused any neurological damage or not, but so far he seems ok and just desperate for loving, which makes it challenging doing any work on the computer!

As for what happened after we got home from the party, there is a whole journal entry in that and you'll have to wait for tomorrow to get it.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

I am Officially Insane

Three years ago, I did a crazy thing. Well, crazier than the usual crazy things I do.

I decided to give NaNoWriMo a try. For those who may not remember, NaNoWriMo is a promise to produce a 50,000 word novel in the period between the 1st of November and the 30th of November.

I actually did it. It has since been destroyed because it was probably the worst piece of crap I've ever seen, but by golly it had a beginning, a middle and an end. It had a plot. It had conflict and resolution. It had humor and angst. It just had crappy...I mean abominable...dialog.

There is a reason why I write journal entries and theatrical reviews. I can write those. I can't write fiction.

One reason I can't write fiction is that I have no imagination. All of my ideas are very concrete, reality-based. I even have difficulty creating some nice fantasy in my mind when I'm dozing off. My thoughts are based on the here and now, and that does not make for a good fiction writer. Fiction writers carry around notebooks to jot down plot ideas and are always bursting with stories that they want to tell...or perhaps that one big story they want to tell.

As I wrote my fiction story in 2003, it began as fiction and quickly lapsed into reality with the names changed to protect the innocent. I was extremely dissatisfied with it and it didn't do my self esteem a heck of a lot of good when it was finished.

The one thing I have always been able to do is write. It's what I do in times of crisis, angst, sorrow, elation, and boredom. What NaNoWriMo taught me is that there is an area of writing which I cannot do. An area of writing where I am positively terrible.

So naturally, I've decided to try it again this year! My ego hasn't had a good pummeling in two years and it's about time to remind it why I'm a rotten fiction writer.

But, gee...all the cool kids are doing it! Mary's done it several years now.

Spread out over a month, 50,000 is the word equivalent of writing two journal entries a day. Heck, I can do that. In fact, I sometimes do do that in a day.

But there is no flow in these entries, one to the other. No plot. Not dialog.

The difference between 2004 and 2007 is that in 2004 I had an idea. I had a socko opening and a great ending and that left only about 49,000 words to write. Piece o'cake.

This time I have no idea, no opening and no ending and the full 50,000 words to write... I also have a whole slew of shows to review, at least one feature article to write, and Thanksgiving to get through while I'm writing 50,000 words. So, naturally I have done the intelligent thing:

There is also Michele's memorial service to plan.

I often think of the Pinata group as a herd of elephants, led by the matriarchs, who all crowd around to support each other and each other's children. We are planning a gathering at the home of one of Char's kids. I spoke with Michele's son about my putting together a slide show. Char is talking with people about food and we will all bring lots of food and drink. Some 100 people might attend.

We are all doing what each of us usually does at times like this. We step into the roles without having to ask much. We just do it.

The kids are coming too. Char's son is flying out from Maryland, Jeri is flying home from Boston, Tom is driving up from Santa Barbara.

It wasn't until I started talking and writing about Michele's memorial that it all really hit me. We are talking about Michele's Memorial service, goddammit! This was a hard day. But I decided to get out of the house and run some errands, which helped a lot.

Friday, October 26, 2007

When Juices Flow

In the second month of this journal, April 2000, when nobody was reading it, I posed the following question:

why is it that baseball people (players, coaches, umpires) spit? Especially on camera? What is there about the game of baseball that makes a grown man feel that he can send a big wad of spittle flying out into space with every third breath? Do we see accountants spit? "Here, Mr. Jones. I’ve gone over your tax forms and ... ptui! ... this is what you owe the IRS." Do we see surgeons spitting into their masks during tense moments in the OR? "Nurse! Scalpel! Spittoon!" Does Jose Carreras let fly a big one between arias?

I thought a lot about that entry while I was watching the first game of the World Series (yay, Sox!). I think baseball is a really good reason not to get a high definition TV set. It's bad enough seeing all that spit flying everywhere on a regular TV set, but to get a chance to watch it sparkle as it catches the light and makes that arc from the mouth of the spitter onto the ground is just more "reality" than I want to think about. They seem to spit compulsively. It's like they all suffer from salivary Tourette's. It gives new meaning to "shooting your wad."

There seems to be no rhyme or reason to the spitting. They spit everywhere. Some fans think it would a big treat to be invited into the dugout on game day. You wouldn't get me there for $1 million. Imagine what the floor looks like.

I tried to think of other sports. Do they spit in cricket? I can't believe that a sport where the players take an official break for tea would allow its players to spit. Nor can I picture golfers spitting before making a crucial putt.

Game 1 of the World Series, with the Red Sox racking up all those home runs, actually got sort of boring — Ho-hum. Another double. Ho-hum, the pitcher walked in another run — that I finally started paying less attention to what was happening on the field and more attention to what was coming out of the mouths of those involved...and how.

Perhaps it is a greater awareness of the potential cancer risk of chewing tobacco that has caused gum to be a substitute for some. It seemed that it was about 2/3-1/3 tobacco to gum chewers. And not just "a" piece of gum, but a huge wad of it. Oh for the Wrigley's concession at the ball park! But whether it's tobacco or gum, they all spit. Some spit forward. Standing upright, head facing forward and out comes a big one flying out onto the field.

The coaches tended to bend over and spit big globs onto the dugout floor (see previous statement about the questionable "fun" of visiting the dugout!). There was one guy I looked at who didn't seem to be chewing anything at all, and then suddenly this little spray of spittle squeezed out from between his upper teeth like a fine mist. I was impressed at the distance it achieved.

There are also different ways of handling the wad of chewing material in your mouth. Those in the dugout seem to roll the wads around in their mouths. Looks like there's a hamster in there turning round and round and making a nest in their cheek. It just sits there making the chewer look like he's coming down with a case of mumps.

Then there are the real chewers. The more tense they get the faster they chew. Like a mouse with a piece of cheese (I don't know why all my metaphors are of the rodent variety!)

The coaches engage in synchronized chewing and individual spitting. The jaws work in unison. Chew...chew...chew. You imagine there is a coxswain calling out the rhythm.

The gum chewers occasionally blow big bubbles instead of spitting, which I think is definitely preferable to spitting. One guy was taking his gum out of his mouth and playing with it before popping it back in again.

My cousin Kathy turned me onto the Discovery Channel program, "Dirty Jobs" recently. I don't watch it all the time, but just enough to get good and nauseated watching the host attempt all these completely disgusting tasks that we don't want to think about. (I'll bet you don't know how to sex a chicken, do you?)

I wonder who cleans the baseball dugouts. And perhaps even more important, how do you clean spittle out of Astroturf? With more and more stadiums using fake grass, what happens to all that spit when the game ends?

Spit is a good excuse for not wanting to be involved in professional baseball. I can't imagine what it must be like sliding face first into home plate right after the batter the catcher, and all the guys hanging around home plate have been spitting on it.

It must be a "guy" thing.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Tea Totalling

I was totally disoriented when I woke up at midnight. Was it morning? Had I slept all night? What had I missed?

I swam thru the haze to begin to piece together the evening and remembered that I had started to watch Dancing with the Stars but didn't remember anything about the show, so was finally able to figure out that I fell asleep sometime shortly after 9 p.m.

I hadn't uploaded my journal entry yet. I hadn't checked Twitter for hours, I hadn't checked e-mail, I hadn't done a lot of things I normally do at night.

Why, I wondered, had I gone to sleep so early and slept for so long? (And would I be able to get back to sleep when I finally went to the couch to sleep for the night, having had three hours of sleep already?)

Then I remembered that, for the second night in a row, I had had a glass of wine before dinner.

I used to have wine before dinner every night. Walt always has a glass or two, and a lot of people have wine or a drink in the evening. Some doctors even tell you that it's healthy, especially if it's red wine. It's not like I have a drinking problem. One glass of wine before eating hardly makes me a problem drinker.

Except that I feel it is a problem. The problem is not based on any sort of potential addiction to spirits. The problem is that if I have a glass of wine before dinner, I fall asleep after dinner. It's as simple as that.

I hate that. People ask if I'm a morning person or an evening person and my favorite response is "yes." I enjoy getting up early (though not quite as early as Lizzie sometimes wants me to get up) and I don't wake up groggy or cranky. I hit the ground running and have all sorts of things I want to do in the morning.

But I'm also an evening person. I like working at my computer late into the night and I have a heavy duty TV-watching schedule most nights. If I fall asleep at 9 p.m., I have an awful lot of catching up to do.

So a long time ago, I just gave up drinking at night completely. I think that decision even pre-dated my dieting years (remember those? sigh.)

I watch Walt pour himself a glass of wine each night, I smell it as he sits down to work his Sodoku puzzle and watch Jeopardy, I read about how good for your health a nice glass of red wine can be and I occasionally think that there would be no problem with joining him and having a nice, civilized glass of wine before dinner.

Except for rare occasions, my drink of choice with meals is water. Sometimes I'll have wine with my meal, but I really prefer water, so I'm not tempted to add wine to the nightly meal except for special occasions.

The reason for having wine the last two nights was, of course, Michele's death. Michele was a big wine drinker, so Monday night I poured myself a glass of wine as kind of a toast to her. It didn't interfere with my evening's activities because I was obsessed with getting a journal entry written about her death and getting the video done that I posted that night. There was a lot involved in doing that and it kept me active so I didn't fall asleep.

But Tuesday was a TV night. It was one of those nights when I recorded two shows during most of the hour-long slots, which meant that I had shows to watch all evening, and then DVR'd shows to watch when those ended.

But I didn't do any of that. Instead I succumbed to the sleep inducing properties of the glass of wine and I fell asleep for three hours.

I really don't like sleeping the night away and waking up feeling all loggy -- sluggish.

I don't like waking up and feeling that I'd missed the whole evening.

So I'm not going to have a glass of wine before dinner again, except on special occasions. Michele's death has reminded me that we never know how much time we have left. I could very easily just not wake up from my next nap. I don't want to sleep my life away.

I like wine. I enjoy the camaraderie over a nice glass of wine with friends. But I don't like the fact that it makes me sleepy and robs me of the awake time that I cherish.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


Throughout our lives, we will have many families.

There is the family of our origin -- our mothers and fathers and siblings, our extended family: grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins. Sometimes we love 'em, sometimes we hate 'em. We can't deny the blood relationship, but sometimes there is no "there" there and that's all they are: strangers to whom we are related by blood.

In my family of origin, I have the broad spectrum. I have relatives I love like I love my own children. I also have relatives I couldn't pick out of a police line-up if I had to (and I'll bet some of them have actually been in police line-ups!). There are even relatives that I know and don't like and have no desire to have any interaction with.

When we move beyond the family of origin, we make family groups wherever we go. The Pinata Group has been a family for nearly 50 years. We have been a unique family. I am closer to some in that family than I was to my own sister. There are others I don't know well at all, but they've always been there and are part of the family.

The family is hurting today. The ripples from the initial shock of that first telephone call are beginning to spread out through the various arms of the family. Richard contacted Char, Char contacted me, I contacted Jeri and Pat. They are contacting their children. Those who can are making plans to go to "Eric's Property" (the property Richard and Michele own in Mendocino, where we will scatter her ashes in a couple of weeks, on her birthday).

In the various corners of our lives, we are going on about our business, now with this big hole in our lives that used to be filled with Michele.

I didn't sleep last night. I was up until after 1:30 writing the journal entry and making the video and even after that I couldn't sleep. Then I was up, wide awake, at 3:30, trembling like I did after Paul died. I watched TV for a long time and gradually dozed off sometime after 5, until Lizzie decided it was time for me to get up.

Later in the morning, I was really dragging and went back to the couch to go to sleep. Walt admits that he checked me once to make sure I was alive. I wonder how long we will start checking our loved ones when they go down for a nap, to make sure they are still breathing.

With the Internet at our fingertips, it's possible to create families that extend beyond our blood relative and our real life friends.

I have been privileged to have found "imaginary friends" (as someone on CompuServe used to call them) in several places on the Internet. There are a couple of discussion groups, there are the new people I've run across on Facebook and the weird way that people interact on Twitter. There are those wonderful, creative people who have been participating in the Flickr 365 day project and whose work I now look forward to checking out and commenting on each day. We've formed a rather nice support group ourselves. And now I'm starting to "meet" folks who are participating in NaBloPoMo (those of us who have agreed to post one video blog each day for the month of November).

It was amazing the number of e-mails, guest book comments on my journal or on the video I posted yesterday. Everyone was so supportive, so loving, so helpful. Some knew that we are not strangers to death, others did not and tried to help us understand what the grief process entailed. Some remarked about how their feelings about Michele, a stranger to them, had been shaped by the things I've written this month.

"I'm so sorry. I know you will let all her friends know that, through your writing, Michele had friends all over the world," wrote l'empress. Wow...would she be amazed to read that. I will certainly pass that along to her family.

"I can't believe the person with the big smile in the photo is gone. I am so sorry for your loss. You can tell from the photo that she would have been a person surrounded by happy memories," wrote Lindsay. I don't know where Lindsay is from or (in all honesty) whether she has signed my guestbook before or not.

"Maybe writing IS your part to play - to share this with others, who never knew her but who can understand, sympathise, and contemplate mortality," wrote Emmy, who understood how frustrating it is to be at a distance when people you love (Michele's family) are in pain.

"I have found often when someone close to me dies, the world
looks very very different for awhile, maybe a few days.
Sometimes I see things I could not see before, or I have grand realizations. I've often wondered if it is their message to us, or if it is caused by the shift that occurs as they leave one world for another. While you are sitting there stunned and sad, keep your eyes and ears open for messages," wrote Angie, describing exactly how it feels in the first few days and offering a new way to interpret that.

"Right now I'm imagining reaching across the country to give you a long hug. Or a pat on the hand. Or a piece of cake. Or whatever might give you even a shred of comfort," wrote missbhavens.

Sometimes people just sent {{ hugs }} which, after all of these years on the Internet, feel almost as real as if they were here giving them in person.

There's something about a tragedy that brings out the best in most people. I feel so blessed to have so many families and so many people willing to reach out to me, and to Michele's family and friends at this time.

Thank you all!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

What do you say?

I had posted my entry for today when "the call" came.

You know "those" calls. It's 10 p.m. and the phone rings. It can't be good.

I've had too many of "those" calls.

And this was another one.

Just three days ago, I posted "Camping with the Blackfords," telling all the funny stories of things that happened when our little group went camping.

I talked about how great it was that the "Pinata Women" had started a discussion going and how we were going to have a sleepover in December.

On the phone was Char, telling me that Michele had died this afternoon. Her husband came home from from doing some volunteer work and he found her lying on the bed. She was dead, so they assume she had a heart attack.

Michele and I were the two youngest of the group. She was my age.

Why am I sitting here writing? Because they live a long way away, because I've called some people and e-mailed those I couldn't get hold of and... well...because writing is what I do.

What follows is purely free association as it pops into my head because, quite frankly, I just don't know what else to do.

Michele didn't go to Berkeley with the rest of us (she graduated from UC Davis, in fact). We didn't meet her until our kids went to Tiny Tots nursery school together. Our kids, the Blackford kids, the Jones kids, a whole bunch of kids. Michele and Richard fit right into our crazy group and before long they were as much a part of the Pinata group as the basic five were and from about the fourth New Years Day party to the present, they were part of all the parties, the camping trips, the pinatas, and everything else.

In fact, the last time I saw her was when I saw "A Patriot Act" for the last time. We saw the show and all went out to dinner in a group. We parted promising, as we always do, to get together soon. They had moved from Oakland to the foothills, about an hour and a half from us, several years ago and I am ashamed to say Walt and I have yet to visit their house, though we keep saying we are going to do so.

She and Richard were also at Ned's 40th birthday party.

Me - Michele - Char

When the Blackfords were selling their house and moving to Alaska, Michele and Richard bought it, so it stayed "in the family." They had wonderful parties there, but we missed the best one. It was the surprise party Michele threw for Richard's 50th birthday. I've told this story before, but Richard has a moustache and that big Czech nose, and he wears glasses, so everyone always teases him about wearing Groucho glasses. When he arrived at his party, everyone was wearing Groucho glasses, including his 80-something mother, and the stripper who arrived later, wearing only Groucho glasses.

I don't know anybody who loved people, especially children, more than Michele. She only had one son, but would love to have had more. She took an interest in everybody. And she loved animals. When they lived in the old Blackford house, they had a dog named Milhouse (guess who was in the White House at the time!)

When they finally sold "The Blackford House" they had a great "house cooling" party. I have a video of that somewhere, where I can't find it at the moment, of course.

...Ned found it...

Moments that pop into my head as special memories of Michele:

- picking huckleberries on their property in Mendocino (where her ashes will be scattered)

- long, long, in-depth conversations where she would try to help me sort out the problems in my life, even when I didn't have any.

- meeting her on the street in San Francisco after she'd had some medical procedure done and taking her out to lunch so we could discuss it.

- her laugh

- her love of plants and how she could make anything grow. A talent I never acquired.

- and of course, the story about standing out in the rain in Mendocino with a kid in a cast, a very wet dog, and no shelter, while Richard and Walt were enjoying hot coffee and a warm fire at a neighbor's while waiting for the tow truck to pull us out of the mud

Three days ago Michele was so excited that I'd found this picture from our camping days, because it was one of her favorites.

She wrote:

"TY, TY, TY!!! y tambien, gracias del fondo de mi corazon!
I can't believe you actually found this!

And my ego must also add, it gave me great pleasure as a sometimes editor and an always wannabe writer, that you quoted me verbatim on your own blog! I think I've arrived!

That makes me feel (a little) better. But not much.

I loved you, my friend.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Speaking Out for Gay Marriage

I went to an ACLU informational meeting about gay marriage yesterday. Obviously this was "preaching to the choir" for me, but Ellen and Shelly were going to be speaking and asked me to come along.

It was a small group of people gathered around a meeting area in a local bookstore and I was sitting in front, so I don't really know what the makeup of the group was. People were, like me, there alone, there were some same sex couples and some heterosexual couples, so what the gay:straight ratio was was not possible to judge. It was also not possible to judge whether there was anybody there who was not supportive of gay marriage.

But even though I have been supporting and campaigning for gay marriage for years, having hard facts and figures at my fingertips was enlightening. The guy from the ACLU had put together a questionnaire that even Ellen and Shelly weren't able to answer 100% accurately. We all learned something. And it was nice to hear a married couple ask about having a smaller meeting in their home to pass along the information.

At the conclusion of the meeting we were all encouraged to "get the word out" and so that's what I'm going to do here, with some facts and figures that you might surprising or enlightening. Facts and figures don't give you emotion, though, and I only captured on video a small part of Ellen and Shelly's impassioned description of why it's "different" when you are married than when you are just legal domestic partners.

There are 20 questions on the list and I'm not going to go through all of them, but will just pick and choose a few.

In case you were wondering, there are six countries recognize gay marriage: The Netherlands, Belgium, Israel, South Africa, Canada and the list says England, but I think Ellen & Shelly said they have something that is "like" marriage, but is called something else, making it separate and unequal.

In the U.S. only one state recognizes marriage: Massachusetts. Connecticut, Vermont, California, Main, Hawaii, Washington DC, New York and New Jersey have some form of legal status, but not marriage. Marriage is prohibited by statutory law in 18 states and in constitutional amendments in 27.

Shelly talked about how when Vermont made domestic partnerships legal, she and Ellen flew to Vermont and registered. She smiled as she recalled their newfound status as they walked around buying souvenirs. But when they drove across the state line into New Hampshire, they were once again legal strangers to each other.

Many Americans think of "marriage" as both a legal and a religious institution, but in legal terms it is simply a legal contract and being denied this legal contract deprives gay couples of more than 1,100 rights that married couples enjoy. These include such things as hospital visitation, death benefits, spousal support, visitation rights with children if a couple splits, inheritance rights, the right to make decisions about the disposition of a dead partner's body, etc. Some of these can be taken care of with the help of an expensive attorney which many cannot afford. They come automatically with marriage. (Shelly points out that 40% of marriages in this country are civil marriages only, and do not involve the blessing of a church, which does remove the "religious" issue, don't you think?)

In 1967, the Supreme Court ruled that interracial marriage was legal throughout the United States (it was legal in California in 1948). At that time 80% (8 out of 10 people) of the population of the United States were against it.

The Catholic Church performed union ceremonies for same sex couples from the 5th through the 14th century. It always amuses (and frustrates) me that the Pope is supposed to be infallible when he speaks ex cathedra, and yet up until the 14th century the Pope apparently felt that it was OK for gay couples to marry but after the 14th century some pope decided it was not OK. Surely SOMEBODY wasn't infallible!!

It was not until the 18th century that people began to marry for love. Before that, people married to strengthen family alliances, to be socially acceptable, and for procreation. But since the 18th century, most people have been marrying for love. Gay couples just ask for the same right.

The Bible. Ah yes. The Bible. It's fair to say that few of us have the language ability to read the Bible in its original format and all of us rely on translations. "Leviticus 18:22" is the standard argument used by opponents of gay marriage. Here are some interesting English translations:

English Standard Bible: You shall not lie with a man as with a woman; it is abomination.

King James Bible: Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind; it is abomination.

Living Bible: Homosexuality is absolutely forbidden, for it is an enormous sin.

Net Bible: You must not have sexual intercourse with a male as one has sexual intercourse with a woman; it is a detestable act.

New International Version: Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.

New Living Translation: Do not practice homosexuality; it is a detestable sin.

Revised Standard Version: You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.

(by the way, relations between women are not mentioned in the bible at all, so lesbianism must be OK.)

In California there are more than 90,000 same sex couples who have been together more than 5 years (some much longer. Ellen and Shelly have been together 34 years; Steve and Jimmy have been together more than 20 years, for example). California couples are raising some 70,000 children. Nationwide, according to the 2000 US Census, 33% of female same-sex couple households and 22% of male same-sex couple households reported at least one child under the age of 18 living in the home.

Isn't it time to admit that gay couples are here to stay, that they are living in stable, monogamous relationships and raising children together and that they and their children should be afforded the same rights that straight families have?

Let's all just pretend it's somewhere between the 5th and the 14th century (but with indoor plumbing and Internet access) and follow the example of the Catholic Church.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Down Memory Lane

I was going through some files on a shelf in my office today and came across a book I bought a long time ago, called "To Our Children's Children." At the time I bought it I was planning ahead for lots of grandchildren. As time passed and there were no grandchildren, it got moved and gathered dust. Now, of course, "Baby Sykes" is on the horizon, so maybe it's time to dust it off again.

The book is divided into chapters with suggested topics that might be of interest to discuss with your grandchildren, letting them know what life was like for you when you were younger.

One chapter is about the house where you grew up.

We lived in a flat on Leavenworth Street, between Union and Filbert Streets in San Francisco. I posted this photo of our place last month. It was a five room flat. My parents moved in shortly after they were married, with the idea that it would be a temporary place until they bought a home. Most, if not all of our children were born before they finally got out of that flat and bought a home in Marin County.

During the late 40s and early 50s my mother scouted out great homes for them to buy, but my grandmother always talked my father out of it, saying that real estate was a "bad investment" (this is the woman who also drilled into me that running was bad for you and yelled at me if I ran anywhere, saying I should walk because it was better for my heart.) To see some of those homes now selling for over a million dollars and to know that when they had the opportunity, they could have purchased one for $2,000 is very disconcerting! But, like with everything else, I am a product of growing up where I did, and who knows what would have happened if we had grown up in a different neighborhood.

I remember throughout my childhood the weekends when we would all pile into the car and go "looking at houses" (just the kind of activity every young child loves to do!). We never actually went into a house with the idea of buying it, but just drove by homes to find out how the other half lived. But all of my 18 years in San Francisco were lived in that little "temporary" flat.

You went up a small flight of steps from the street and entered the door into a tiny entrance area. To the right was the bedroom I shared with my sister; straight ahead was the kitchen, down the hall to the left was my parents' bedroom, the bathroom, and the living room.

The kitchen had a tiny pantry to the left, where there was a sink and the only counter space in the kitchen. It also had a sliding door that could close it off from the rest of the kitchen. I remember standing at the sink washing dishes, singing at the top of my lungs until my mother begged me to stop. I also remember the orange juice squeezer that hung on the wall for as long as I can remember, a wedding gift from my aunt. (Funny the things we remember)

The wall telephone hung just outside the pantry and if anyone dared to call when we were eating, whether at 4 p.m. or 8 p.m., my father would go into a rage and not speak to us for the rest of the evening, if not longer.

The kitchen itself was long and narrow, with a fridge and stove on one side, the kitchen table and a mangle (or "ironer") on the other side. When I was very young there were I'm not sure what you called them. They weren't exactly frescos, but there were paintings on the wall, painted on the wall itself dark scenes of people sitting at long tables eating — that were framed with wooden frames that attached to the wall. I remember when my father painted over them. I think our Italian landlord about had a heart attack when he saw his beloved paintings painted over in a cream color! (But it sure lightened up the room.)

(My father left the framing, but painted over the dark pictures and added some other kitsch art. Note the wainscoting on the lower wall, present throughout the flat.)

At one end of the kitchen was a door that led to the "back porch," really a laundry room. My mother had a washer in there with the old fashioned wringer on it for removing the water, which drained into two huge laundry tubs (we later got a front-loading washing machine). She hung the clothes out on clothes lines in the concrete yard. My father built a swing for Karen and me on the back porch.

Our bedroom had twin beds, separated by a desk that my father built. Each bed also had a bookcase headboard, which my father also built. My headboard always had a radio in the center and I would turn the sound down very low and listen to soap operas at night. On Saturday morning we'd lie in bed and listen to "Big John and Sparky" before getting up. When we were sick, my mother would pin paper bags to the side of the bed, where we could deposit used tissues.

The bedroom walls were lined with Storybook dolls in pink painted wooden boxes with glass in front of them, which my father had built. We weren't allowed to play with the dolls; they were for decoration only (I don't have a clue whatever happened to them).

(found this picture on the net)

(The beds also had snakes under them, I felt, all throughout my childhood. I felt so strongly about it that when I went back as an adult, I still felt nervous getting out of bed without stepping waaaay away from it so the snakes couldn't grab me!)

We had a tiny closet (which Peach locked me in one day!) and a built-in dresser. I am assuming that the room was actually built as a dining room because of the built-in dresser, which had glass behind it, and the cupboard above it. Perfect for storing linens and dishes. Also the closet was so tiny there is no way adult clothes could fit in there.

The photo is of my boyfriend, Bill (now a Jesuit), and myself in my bedroom, taken by my sister, from her bed. You can see the storybook dolls in their boxes, and the dresser, behind Bill's head. The glass panel on the upper closet was painted and there is a mirror in the opening (in front of which is a statue of Mary). My drawers were on the left, Karen's on the right and we shared the middle drawers. My mother is standing at the kitchen door.

My parents' bedroom was on the left of the hall, the bathroom on the right. The bathroom had a tub, but no shower, and a floor-to-ceiling medicine cabinet. I remember hiding in there to smoke my first cigarette (and the hell I caught from my father, a smoker, when he smelled the smoke). I also hid in there when he bawled me out for not crying about the death of my grandfather, whom I barely knew. I went in the bathroom and pinched my face until it looked red. Then he accepted me as OK because I looked like I'd cried.

The big room at the end of the hall was used as a living room/dining room combination. My parents always had a couch which divided the room into two rooms.

My mother, my grandmother (the GOOD one), and my aunt Jean
Me on the left, Karen on the right in front

The window at the back of this photo looks out (in the daytime) over a garden belonging to a different apartment building, and in the distance Coit Tower....

...sort of !!

Behind where the camera is in the couch photo is a bay window with a window seat, where you could sit and watch the cars driving up Leavenworth Street's steep hill. Our big Muntz television set also sat there. It was a black and white TV, of course. I remember when color first came out and the NBC peacock introduced each color broadcast. We would sit on the couch and say "I'll bet that looks pretty in color." I didn't have a color TV until several years after Walt and I were married.

Against the far wall was the piano my father played and on which I hated to practice.

Karen and my godfather, Fred West

Our flat backed up against an apartment building, with only a small space between them, the "light well." There were windows to the light well in the kitchen, the bathroom and the dining room. Since we had no fireplace, Santa came down the light well, so we always put cookies and milk on the window sill and left the window opened.

We had a loud doorbell, but usually it had a sign pinned to it, covering up the bell, which said "Day sleeping; do not disturb." If anybody rang the doorbell while my father was asleep, there was hell to pay. For us.

At the top of the hill on which we lived was the bus stop and, in high school, when I was old enough to take the bus, I would run up the hill to catch the bus (now I'm not sure I could walk up the hill!). Often I walked a block to Hyde St. and caught the cable car instead — you could do that in those days. It was actually transportation and not just a tourist attraction — and it only cost 15 cents to ride.

The mailman took the bus from Rincon Annex, in the downtown area, to our street to start his route. We were the third mailbox on the list and we could sit in the window seat and watch for his arrival. In December, the closer it came to Christmas the more often mail was delivered. It was not uncommon to have three mail deliveries a day in the week before Christmas. I loved those days!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Camping with The Blackfords

"Cousins Day" is having lots of spillover effect. Third generation cousins are talking about having their own sleepovers; Peach, Kathy and I are talking about putting out a cookbook of food and drink recipes from Cousins Day; and now it appears that the women of our beloved "Piñata Group," the group of friends from our college days, are going to try a sleepover.

In conjunction with the Piñata Women deciding to try a "cousins day," we've started a group chat on line. Whereas we usually only contacted each other to pass along some news or a joke or a funny picture, now we've started group conversations and are having a wonderful time not only commenting on current events, books, television, etc., but also reminiscing about times past.

The latest memories concern camping with The Blackfords (Char & Mike).

"The Blackfords and our family almost always had camping crisis," wrote Jan, not officially part of The Piñata Group, but a longtime friend of the Blackfords, and thus invited into our newly formed women's circle. I had reminded her that we were with them during that terrible lightning storm when the 13 of us had to take refuge in an abandoned outhouse (fortunately a 2-holer). I've posted this photo before:

[This was taken by the pregnant idiot who was standing out in the rain while lightning struck the ground just a couple of yards from her. We will not publish her name here because I don't want to admit to being so stupid.]

"The Blackfords and EVERYONE always had a camping crisis!!!" I wrote back to Jan.

Michele was the first to weigh in with her memories.

"My favorite story was, of course, in Mendocino. Started to rain overnight, Char and Mike et al. wisely packed up early in the a.m. Sykes and Havels, however, blithely (and erroneously) assumed it would let up, and were ultimately unable to get the cars out of the mud.

"Walt and Richard graciously volunteered to walk down to the neighbors to call a tow truck, where they were greeted with a warm fire and hot coffee.

"Bev and I were left with the kids, including Ned with a rapidly dissolving leg cast, valiantly attempting to light the Coleman stove. Somewhere I have a favorite photo that Bev took of me by the yet-to-be ignited stove, under 4 layers of dripping clothes, holding up the remnants of the Coleman lantern box stating 'Keep from Moisture'."

(I can't believe I actually found this photo!)

I reminded Michele that Walt and I had also brought along Jeff, our faithful sheltie, who was on his very first camping trip. Our second dog had just died and we felt now that we only had one dog, we could take him camping. Jeff stood there, trembling with cold, water dripping off his fur, looking at me as if to say "why in the world did you bring me here?"

"We all knew that the rain clouds would follow the Blackfords, but so did a lot of fun times," wrote Jeri D.

Pat chimes in: "I remember lots of rainy day camping trips. Of course the weather cleared once the Blackfords left. Yes, for a while they had a rain cloud over camping trips."

I don't think we had rain in the Nevada desert the Memorial Day weekend when we never saw another car on the road for most of the 3 days. In fact, we never saw pavement. We were driving down back roads off of back roads and even, at one point, a dry river bed. We were lost (we were always lost) and Mike & Walt got out to ask what we still are certain were Basque sheepherders how to get where we were going.

We were visiting abandoned ghost towns that even ghosts had long since abandoned. None of this gussied-up-for-company faux ghost town crap. Mike wanted the real deal and the farther from pavement that we could get, the better he liked it. When we finally ended our travels and returned to the highway, Char decided to kiss the pavement.

And yes, Mike & Walt, we would still have run out of gas on Pole Line Rd. if we had skipped the side trip for ice cream cones! (That argument has been going for more than 40 years.)

We laughed so much during those years. We were miserable most of the time, but laughing so much we didn't realize it.

As the stories and memories from the Piñata women continue to pour fourth, Jan writes, "the stories are almost reruns of our experiences camping with Blackfords, who despite five little children were always early and organized even in the worst of times.....and when Cam was tiny and fussy and mom could not calm him, Char stuck a big fat dill pickle in his mouth and he was quiet forever...I would guess he was about 4 mo. old!"

Next time I'll tell the story of Blackwell's corners and the kids playing and sliding down on the sign that said "sensitive government equipment--stand five feet back."

Friday, October 19, 2007

Good Stuff - Bad Stuff - Good/Bad Stuff

I just discovered, about several days later (because I didn't read my e-mail on Blog Catalog) that I had been awarded the Thoughtful Blogger award by Chris of The Dog Log. According to the creator of this award, it is for "those who answer blog comments, emails, and make their visitors feel at home on their blogs. For the people who take others feelings into consideration before speaking out and who are kind and courteous. Also for all of those bloggers who spend so much of their time helping others bloggers design, improve, and fix their sites. This award is for those generous bloggers who think of others." Thanks, Chris!

I am, of course, supposed to pass this along to five deserving people, so I'm going to send this on to:

The New York Times' Frank Rich has written a scathing indictment of the Bush Administration and Iraq, and of what the American people should be doing about the situation. I strongly urge reading the whole thing.

An excerpt:

Our humanity has been compromised by those who use Gestapo tactics in our war. The longer we stand idly by while they do so, the more we resemble those “good Germans” who professed ignorance of their own Gestapo. It’s up to us to wake up our somnambulant Congress to challenge administration policy every day. Let the war’s last supporters filibuster all night if they want to. There is nothing left to lose except whatever remains of our country’s good name.

It's also good to read this article in today's Huffington Post...but don't do it if you're already feeling depressed.

California's "Governator" has dealt yet another blow to gay couples hoping for permission to marry with his 2nd veto of a bill twice passed by the state legislature, permitting gay marriage (basing his veto on the results of a 2000 ballot initiative, though polls have shown that the attitude about Californians toward gay marriage in the last seven years has steadily changed in the direction of allowing it).

However, while minds in Sacramento may be closed, that is not the case here in my town of Davis.

The photo was taken as the Homecoming Parade passed through downtown Davis. In the lead car is the royal court, the two princes of homecoming. For the first time in school history, the students at Davis High School chose a gay couple for the honor.

Lai-San Seto, advocacy coordinator for the San Francisco-based Gay-Straight Alliance Network applauded the students and the high school administration for being open-minded.

Students said they were encouraged that the election was not an issue for campus administrators. They said they were less surprised that a gay couple would win than they were that officials allowed it to happen.

The Governator could take a lesson in tolerance, acceptance, and fair play from the student body of Davis High School.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Carefree Slob-hood

"Thanks to the dogs, I can live in carefree slob-hood," Walt said to me this afternoon.

I looked around at the paper-strewn floor (both dogs love to chew on paper, Kleenex, and anything they can dig out of the garbage can).

I laughed and asked what he meant.

"Anytime I find an empty water bottle in the car, all I do is throw it over the fence into the back yard and I don't feel guilty at all."

There is a young videoblogger named Josh Leo (heck, they're all "young videobloggers" compared to me!) who has been asking for videos of dogs playing with toys. I started going through all of the videos of animals I've posted on the Internets over the past couple of years and realized that with only one or two exceptions (and a video of a VHS tape of Ned's then-puppies playing with ben-wa balls), I have no pictures of dogs playing with toys.

Part of the problem is that the puppies generally leave us before they are old enough to notice toys ... they are too busy playing with each other and with the big dogs to pay much attention to toys, except for brief bouts of tug-of-war.

Sheila used to play with toys. Her favorite game was to bring us a toy to throw down the hall. She'd bring it first to Walt and then to me, consistently alternating back and forth between us. But two things happened to change that.

First, she discovered that even the most sturdy toys come with noisemakers and that if she tried hard enough she could tear the toy apart and remove the noisemaker (or pull all of the stuffing out of a stuffed animal) and it was a waste of money to buy her any official "toys." (She was never interested in toys without noisemakers.)

Second, we got the Pergo floor and "running" through the house scared her. She tended to slip and fall. She has learned how to handle the Pergo, but she still slips from time to time and if I throw anything down the hall and any other dog is here, she just sits back and lets them do all the work.

But I also discovered that she loves plastic water bottles. She loves the noise they make and she can flatten one in a matter of seconds. Then she will chew on it like a baby with a teething ring. She doesn't eat the plastic. She just chews until the crackle is finally mostly gone, then she moves on to another bottle. Lizzie has developed a love of plastic bottles too. There are always flattened plastic bottles all over the house and the back yard. Nothing makes Sheila happier than to see a water bottle in my hand. If I happen to be drinking water she will patiently wait until I've finished and then gently take it from me and run outside with it to flatten.

It's much cheaper than replacing all the dog toys that she loses interest in so quickly!!

And, as Walt says, it makes living in "carefree slob-hood" explainable! Well, at least where the dog toys are concerned (now if only I could use that to explain away the crap on the flat surfaces above the dogs' heads!)

Like most people who saw it, I was incredibly moved by Ellen Degeneres' tale of the dog adoption fiasco. I was moved on several different levels. One, because her pain seemed so raw and so real, but on another because I've seen situations which, while not exactly similar to that described by Ellen, still situations which caused pain to families wanting to adopt a dog through the local SPCA. There are occasionally letters to the editor about how "mean" the SPCA is for refusing to let them adopt a dog they fell in love with.

I posed the question to several people in the SPCA, what their feelings about the Ellen brouhaha was and I learned things I didn't know before. For one thing, if the kids in the family that Ellen gave the dog to get bitten by the dog, the organization from which Ellen adopted it could be sued, which could shut the organization down. This is such a litigious society that it's not surprising that any organization in such a position would be cautious.

I have also heard many times that our SPCA wants to place the right dog with the right family, which is why there is a screening process. While Ellen's hairdresser's family might be wonderful, it doesn't necessarily mean that it was the right home for this particular dog.

From what I've seen on the news, the way the dog was removed from the home was not sympathetic to the family, or to the children who had fallen in love with the dog and, not surprisingly, they have now apparently removed all their contact information from the internet because they were being barraged with calls and even death threats.

I love Ellen Degeneres dearly but I know there are two sides to every story, and the cynical side of me thinks that she had to know the havoc this was going to cause for the shelter. Even though she never mentioned them by name, every newscast after her own show aired did.

Wherever the truth lies, it appears that this situation was mismanaged by everyone and the ones who are suffering are the two little girls who fell in love with little Iggy. I hope that the furor dies down soon and everyone can go back to doing what this is all about: finding good homes for dogs that might otherwise be put to sleep.