Tuesday, March 31, 2009

It was bound to happen....

I had to reject a comment on my blog this morning. I have always had my settings so I get to see them before they post, but I've never felt the need to be crazy about that. Even if I may not believe in what someone is saying, it's all about the freedom to have an opinion and blogs are for sharing, I think.

But, they're not for ADS.

Yes, someone posted a comment to a previous blog on which I railed about germy people at grocery stores. And the comment had a link to a web site and everything. It was advertising in its truest form.

Now, I'm a recovering advertising production manager, graphic designer, everything else related to selling ice cubes to eskimos. But I would NEVER post an ad on someones blog, facebook page or myspace pick-up spot. Goodness me, I'd like to be taken seriously. And, no matter how well meaning this person was (the site linked to was about teaching children to wash hands.... um, my kids are teenagers, in case you actually read my blog - not toddlers) it came across as slightly icky and was thus rejected.

But that begs to question: has anyone else ever had one of these random comments show up on their site?

Monday, March 30, 2009

More calm, please

I have always been a positive person. At least almost always.

A recent spate of events has made me question how you stay positive when all hell is breaking loose in your life. Not to complain, but it at times feels a though the gods must, really, be crazy.

Cancer, chemotherapy and the bills that come with it in my household.
Illness that couldn't be figured out and didn't go away until I moved. Oh, and the bills that go with it.Plus watching my son go through a long list of invasive tests that never figured out what was wrong.
A move to a new house that was confounded by crazy weather including snow and flooding. No locusts, though.
Anxiety at high levels, a child unable to attend school (wait, make that 2) and the bills that go with it.
Never having a moment to yourself - priceless. Oh, wait - that's someone else's tag line. I believe it's even copyrighted. Oops.

So what's a girl to do on a Monday morning with looming responsibilities, no end in site to the underemployment picture, cash flow at critical mass.... and a boy with a broken finger?

Sean jammed his finger playing basketball yesterday. And not being a wimp, it took him a few minutes of icing it by himself before he came to me, tears building in his eyes, to ask what he could take for the pain.

It's ugly. But I have a cafeteria plan (for the uninitiated, that's an account that saves my bacon early in the year by paying all the medical, pharmacy bills and counseling copays that are not covered by insurance. Then, I put money into it slowly over the year - but I can spend it before I pay into it. Thank the gods.)

I had a slight moment of panic about having to go to the ER on a Sunday (and the distinct knowledge that it would cost me $400 instead of the $18 fee to see his doctor in the morning) so talked him into waiting. After all, it's possible he just jammed it and it's not broken, but the swelling and black & blue color make it pretty certain that a splint is in his future.

But I digress. I want more calm because I used to always say "less chaos, less stress, less pain, please" and, based on a very popular book that some of you may have read, this supposedly brings more of those very things into my life. Because the universe hears the action words (stress, chaos, pain) and ignores the words less or no or lots of. I'm not sure I believe, but I'm hedging my bets. I like to refer to the universe as "George". Because it makes me sound less crazy.

So, when the landlord called yesterday to tell me "don't worry, my realtor is showing the property, but it probably won't turn into anything..." I hit panic mode. I just moved, I just remodeled, I just really don't want to have to go through all that again. But, I rented on a month to month basis, knowing that my challenged credit and my pit bull make renting difficult.

And the universe provides, right?

So here's to: more work (the paying kind); more fun (of the silly variety); more success (of the emotional kind) and the occasional road trip. How about a place to live that doesn't leak or have ants or change on a monthly basis. We'll leave those challenges at the door and look for challenges that stretch the mind, body & soul but not the level of patience.

PS: Don't buy bread in paper bags. At least during flu season.


Sunday, March 29, 2009


We are lucky enough to live within a short drive of a number of nice grocery stores. Some are high end and sell things that make for a fancy dinner party. Some carry the basics (in my neck of the woods, that's everything processed that you could ever possibly want and more - all with lots of preservatives and plenty of sugar for good measure). You shop with people of different cultures and from different income brackets.

I love the stores where different languages are flying around me - mothers speaking Indian to their kids - it always sounds like they're being chastised, but they're always giggling - a couple from Australia with thick accents debating the relative merits of different brands of cream cheese. A guy who is struggling with his basket and trying to make sense of a label on the Tillamook Cheese ("It's the most wonderful cheese you will ever try. Spend a little more and get the Medium White Cheddar," I told him. He did with a smile and thanked me in broken English with a heavy Russian accent.)

And then then there are those that I could do without. The people that run you down without a second glance and look at you, annoyed, when you squeal as they run over your foot, the cranky mother of too many that swats her toddler on the rear end for no good reason other than her own impatience. But worst of all at the moment - the sick people.

We've had a horrible season of flu in my city. City offices have been shut down due to influenza. You actually see people walking around with masks on to keep from spreading germs. Because, after all, we are all so important that we can't stay home for two days to recover and protect the rest of the world from our illness.

At the store yesterday, I was on a mission. I hate to shop on Saturday, know my patience level is low and that I'd better get it over with fast or someone will get my evil stare of death. It might be for blocking the entire aisle with a sideways cart while they taste bad wine being sampled, it might be the two people busily chatting about last nights stellar 4th grade softball bonanza. MOVE IT. I'm on a mission.

But I was doing well. Moving quickly through the isles, I had my list in chronological order (not because I'm super organized but because I hate to shop on the best of days and figured I'd be kind and get the heck outta there before someone gets hurt).

Then I saw her. A young mother, cart full of 1-6 year olds. The kids were climbing crazily around the cart and someone was just bound to fall out. But I ignored, as I've trained myself to do. Her problem - not mine.

She obviously was sick - red eyed, runny nose, cough, moving slowly. She was standing next to the freshly baked bread and baguettes that are sold in open ended paper bags. I've been sick and alone with hungry children, felt a little sorry for her at this point. It's hard to deal with an unruly passel of little ones in the best of moods, on the best of days, full of energy and extra Starbucks.

Until I saw what she was doing. She'd wipe her nose with the back of her hand then start squeezing all the loaves to see which one was freshest, crustiest - I don't know. BUT EEWWW!

I grabbed a nearby clerk and told him what she was doing. He watched in horror as she sneezed on half the product sitting there. Then picked up a loaf and walked off.

I decided to purchase my bread elsewhere for obvious reason. Who knows what she had touched before that.

He, of course, immediately removed all the bread from the shelf that seemed to have been affected. He apologized to me (like it was his fault she was a jerk) and threw every loaf in the trash. And even though I'm sure she didn't think about what she was doing, I had to realize the awful truth. This is the mother that is teaching her children how to get along in the world. Instead of "cover your mouth when you cough, sneeze into your sleeve, wash your hands when you're sick, never touch other people's food..." she's out there spreading who knows what to who knows who while they watch her.

My children watch me. They LOVE to point out the many mistakes I make in a day. Part of the fun of having teenagers is that now, every time I break a rule I've hammered into their heads, they're giddy to be the morality police. And I'm glad they're that way - they actually learned some stuff from me.

They learned that we are all responsible for ourselves. But more than that, we are responsible for what we do to others - intentional or otherwise.

I reject the thought that I am only responsible for me. I am also responsible for the street people that live in my park (who know, in the past three months, where to get a PB&J if they're really hungry. I will not give them booze or money, but I will feed them - even if it's my last slice of bread.) I'm responsible for the children that play on my playground unattended - I keep a guarded eye on them when the strange men come and sit on picnic tables and smoke their cigarettes. I make sure they're not alone and if they are, I swing with them, teeter-totter with them. The guys at the top of the offramp with the sign about being hungry? They get a sandwich too - and a baggie of dog food for their well-behaved pit bull. It's always a pit bull and I have a soft spot for the mutts.

It's up to us. Making a difference in the world is as simple as washing your hands when you're sick, using common sense, and doing what's best for those around you by not exposing them to your cold. And maybe the occasional PB&J for a hungry stranger.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Why I write

Well hello!

As promised, I have to answer that same question - why do I write?

I started to write a blog last year to remind myself that I wasn't alone in the world, sitting alone in my basement with no windows.

I continued writing to see if I still had the ability to tell a story.

Now, I write to share myself and because I've become a small part of this large group of amazing people. Like Scarlet said, I want to learn about everyone. My circle of friends has expanded amazingly quickly. And, my long time friends get to hear about things they don't always get to over lunch or 5 minute phone calls.

I write because I'm feeling silly, content, stressed out or confused. I write to purge pain, to share joy and to say hello.


Friday, March 27, 2009

So much to say

I haven't blogged much this week, although to be honest there are 4 stories sitting in the never-never land of my unposted drafts. I blame the crazy schedule, late night board meetings and over abundance of responsibilities.

But I haven't blogged for one reason. Someone mentioned in passing that they had seen a typo on one of my previous blogs.

You might as well have slammed my head into a door.

I admit I don't always spellcheck, but I try to proofread. I'm a perfectionist, I admit that, too. Why did that throw me for such a loop? Why should I care if I used the wrong form of a word somewhere, if I happened to hit two keys at once and missed fixing it when I reread? Isn't it the story that matters?

And it made me think. WHY AM I BLOGGING?

I've spent the last 3 days trying to answer that question. I've visited my friend's blogs, added new ones to my list of blogs to follow, read a number of interesting, intriguing and downright inspirational words. But I didn't publish anything I wrote.

And I discovered why I write, what it gives me. And it's not better spelling skills.

I'd love to hear why you write, if you're willing to share with the class. I'll share my story tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Tag, I'm it.

I've been tagged by RK. OK, it was from DECEMBER 31st, but someohow it just showed up on my comments moderation page. And I missed that blog - was moving. Really. Sheesh. The pressure... I'd better make these good.

The rules:
1. Link to the person who tagged you. (TheBeautifulRiotKitten)
2. Post the rules on your blog. (Check!)
3. Write six random things about yourself.

Thing 1: I love the smell of decomposing leaves in autumn, which is my favorite season.

Thing 2: There are angel wings hanging over the head of my bed.

Thing 3: I'm one of those people that can look at people and they'll look up, feeling like they're being watched. It's fun to do while I'm passenging on the way to someplace. I just stare at drivers until they turn and look. Or in restaurants when I'm by myself.

Thing 4: When I was little I wanted to be a teacher. I guess I'm getting my chance with my kids being homeschooled now. My mom used to eat paste - and I'll never let her forget it.

Thing 5: I am deathly allergic to shrimp. If you know me, you probably know where I keep my epipen.

Thing 6: A pedicure can fix almost anything. And our first non-work-related adventure together included one, right RK?

4. Tag (OK, I only know 4!) people at the end of your post and link to them.
5. Let each person know they’ve been tagged and leave a comment on their blog.
6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up.

I tag:
Granny Annie
LL Cool Joe
Mr Riot Kitty

(Yes, I know you've all been tagged before, but I'm not nearly as popular as RK! If you've alrady done it and don't want to do another one, feel free to link back to the previouos 6 random things.)

Monday, March 23, 2009

Failure to launch

I was always afraid I'd grow up to be nothing. I was never told I was good at anything (even thought I was good at lots of things). I was always trying to gain attention from my parents, my teachers, my friends.

Today, I hard from an old friend, who reintroduced herself by saying "How's little miss perfect?" I was pissed for about 12 seconds. Then I burst out laughing. And sent a little love her way. What a great memory!

I was so worried when I was in high school about being good at eveything I tried. Straight As, a number of awards including perfect attendance, craftsman of the year (boy, could I make that jigsaw sing), record breaker in track, senior choir my sophmore year... and all for what? I walked out of the school and started over at the bottom. I was so disappointed, had worked so hard - thought I'd finally arrived to realize I was starting over.

But I did good. I'm an awesome mom. Great cook, good dancer, good at my job even if I don't like it. I know how to make things happen. I get stuff done.

And I can write.

My friend, Tracy, hasn't seen me since I was 18, more than 23 years ago. And in those 23 years I seemed to have learned something. It's not about arriving somewhere. It's about what I learn along the way. I wonder what roads she's been down? I can't wait to hear all about it.

This next phase of launching may include a tango in Miami, some laying hens in my back yard and lots of moments when I say "wow". About a sunrise, a blog written by a friend that touches me, and especially about feeling the love all around me.

Do you feel it?

Pay no attention to the man behind the screen

Who really knows me?

My best friends know my deepest, darkest secrets. But do they know I don't like ice cream? That my foot is still in constant discomfort, sometimes pain, after the surgery to try to repair it? That I want to learn to tango? That I don't like movie theaters but stop to buy greasy buttered popcorn when I pass - and eat it on the street? That my favorite color is scarlet? That my bedroom walls are painted a dark, rich chocolate brown that feels like a cocoon?

What does it mean to know someone? I have spent years sitting next to a person at work and known so little about them that they seem transparent like cellophane. I've sat next to a stranger on an airplane and left feeling like I knew them deeply - and have kept in touch and become friends through emails and phone calls and the occasional coffee when our paths cross.

What do these people know about me? They probably don't know about the abuse once suffered at the hands of my parent, about my awful first marriage. I'm sure they don't know how much I've enjoyed sleeping in of late. A former 5am riser, I'm now lucky enoght to temporarily be able to stumble out of bed at 8. And loving every minute of it.

What secrets do you keep?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

As luck would have it...

Things always work out the way they do for a reason.

I completely blame my lack of a good job for connecting me with a friend that has been unbelievable for the last almost-year (yes, that's you, Riot Kitty). I found a great little house I love on a park, next to a giant body of water that makes me feel calm, all because I couldn't afford the big house I was living in. I found the coolest dog ever when I was grieving the loss of the previously coolest dog ever. I didn't think I was ready for a dog again (but are we ever ready for anything?) I'm about to sell my car, the one I thought I always wanted, and boy an old Ford Pickup. But I'll pay cash and I'll save crazy amounts of money over the next year, and I'll get rid of another thing that hangs over my head.

I like to think that life happens while we're busy making other plans. And I embrace this thought as I wander my way through every day. My life is happening now, to me and only me, and I appreciate and enjoy every moment. When I remember this and shake off the gloom and doom so easily absorbed from my world.

Yesterday was the best day for a road trip. I started out majorly cranky, due to circumstances beyond my control that made me feel like I shouldn't spend the gas money. Or buy lunch. But I threw caution to the wind, adjusted my attitude and hit the road for an amazingly wonderful day. I smiled A LOT. I saw things that made me feel happy and at peace. There was a ship that held magic and secrets, an art gallery that had beautiful paintings of dark, stormy seas that made me happy, and a moment when I felt like the world had brought me to this spot completely randomly, just to find a good hour's peace. And I embraced the peace.

I touched the hull of a shipwreck. I gazed upon wonder and beauty. I remembered something really important from my childhood. It's all little stuff. My job title doesn't matter, my happiness does. I am right where I'm supposed to be.

Last night, as I fell asleep after this wonderful, joyous day, I thought of the bar pilots, steering ships safely to port and through the worlds most dangerous bar at the base of the Columbia River. I remembered the smell of the salt air, the feel of the wind on my face, the brief splashes of sunlight that teased me and made me think of the spring weather to come. I embraced the idea of pulling out my easel, painting my way out of dark moods, and blowing off the accounting project I've been moping my way through. There's time for that tomorrow.

Today, I celebrate Sunday. And dream of a little cabin on the hill, overlooking the container ships as they pass under this immense bridge. Safely and full of cars, grain, and hope. Tomorrow has plenty of time for responsibilities. Today is made for joy.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

What an annoying trait

I get it now. I know why the feeling of impending doom hung over my head all week. It was time for another emotional smackdown, another added stress in an already stress-filled couple years.

This time, thank God, it's only a financial setback. I'll find soemthing to fill in the gaps, things could have been worse.

But how come I got the gift of knowing when trouble is brewing? That and a strong connection to people who aren't here anymore. I want to be oblivious and happy. I want to take things in stride.

But instead, it's time to go to grocery stores and get a 2nd job as a checker. Or maybe someone, somewhere will hire a 41 year old ex-waitress. Unemployment in my state topped 10% and it doesn't include people like me - people that took whatever they could find and are underemployed, haven't had a good job in years. Ran out of benefits months ago.

I wish I hadn't seen it coming. Now, what to do? I have my pencil sharpened, time to find something. Anything.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The nicest thing about the blues....

...is that they usually pass quickly. A better morning than was expected, followed by some girl time to come tonight, and a beach adventure for the weekend mean I'm feeling much better.

OK, and I slept until 8.

But a quick case of the blues just reminds me that I'm very lucky to have a positive attitude most of the time. And that I can always find a way to work through things.

I'm lucky that way, I guess.

Blue Suede Shoes

I pulled my old Doc Martins out of the closet recently after having misplaced them in my former abode. They're big, blue and tan suede, with those gigantic rubber soles that are made of this kind of see-through rubbery stuff. I love them and, like most of my attire, found them cheap at a resale shop.

And I got sad. It started with the shoes.

When I was little, we couldn't afford much. We were on food stamps, my dad's work life was often jarred by bouts of manic episodes that caused drastic job changes, we often didn't eat well. Sometimes we didn't eat. That's when I learned to shop cheap and love a good bargain, especially resale.

I swore when I had kids that I would make sure they never wanted for anything necessary - food, shelter, love. That doesn't mean they're getting a car at 16, but to have a settled and content parent with a decent job that makes her happy is not so much to ask for, one would think.

I have paid down most of the horrendous medical bills of the past 18 months on my part time salary, I'm finally done paying for rent, utilities and trash service on two houses, and it's spring. They're filling the casting pond (it's a big man-made pond where fly fishers practice casting that you can see from my window) with water. The ducks will be happy. I wonder if the dog can swim? I can't wait to see the boaters and the boats - little sail boats, small motor boats, kids and moms and dads all with that look on their face that tells you they're thrilled to be acting like an 8 year old again. We all need those moments of respite from the chaos of this world. The park I can see from my front window and gaze at with the little telescope (thanks Keith!) brings calm when I feel out of sorts.

With all these things to look forward to, why am I sad? I think it really comes down to one thing. This is NOT where I wanted to be at 41.

This is where the "supposed to be"'s come in. The dreaded, pain-in-the-ass Capricorn in me makes me feel like a loser.

I'm supposed to be successful at a fulfilling career, a part of a dynamic team that supports and challenges me, makes me feel empowered. The reality is that I work for a bunch of people that complain about everything I do and don't appreciate me - and I make about 1/10th of what I did 2 years ago. On top of that, this job is in jeopardy because, like everyone else, the people I work for are struggling to pay their bills. They may not be able to afford me for much longer.

I'm supposed to be focusing on getting my kid's schooling done well, teaching them everything they need to learn, working on re-integrating them into the school system as I can. Instead, I have the added pressure of permanently homeschooling them, no matter what my job situation ends up being. Right now, we're working on practice GED tests. And they have to be tested at the end of the year to see how we'll I've done teaching them. No pressure there. Oh, and I have to pay for tests.

I have the pressure to build a good life for us here by the beautiful park. I'm making friends with the neighbors, chatting over fences, and walking the dog a lot. I'm also feeling very cut off from the bigger world out there, often feel like the weight of this one is on my shoulders alone.

So, I write. I write when I wake up at 2am and can't get back to sleep because I wonder when the water won't feel full of sharks and shrieking eels and bill collectors. I write when I wonder why I have such a hard time just saying THIS SUCKS and accepting the awful, terrible reality that yes, girl, this is all there is and today will not be a good one if you don't get your expectations in check. I write when I feel whiny and confused and painfully ignorant to the fact that hey - I have it better than most so what am I complaining about? A roof over my head, a car to drive, a dog to walk, food in the cupboards. And then it hits me: it's not the blue suede shoes. Or the stuff. Or the pop tarts. Or the place I live that makes me happy. It's feeling content with what I have.

Contentment seems to be hiding behind a bush today. I hope it comes out soon, this gloomy attitude is starting to piss me off.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Ran into an old friend...

The world is a strange and wonderous place. Most days.

I had the weirdest (a good weird) experience about a year ago. I was out of work, bored, needed something to do with myself - and my daughter joined myspace. Which concerned me because I've heard news reports about stalkers, weirdos and the problems that social networking can bring.

So, I joined too - just to keep an eye on her.

And guess what? One of my best friends from grade school found me almost immediately. My daughter quickly lost interest in myspace and I ended up spending hours looking for old friends, without much luck. My best friend from kindergarten and I reconnected and talk frequently. But myspace was lacking somehow. And a bit immature, I'll admit.

Then came facebook.

In the past 3 months, I have added 30 old friends. Actual, honest to goodness friends, people I have wondered about, missed and wished I'd kept in touch with. I never found them at reunions (mostly because I hung out with an older crowd or a younger crowd, but rarely people from my class). Classmates.com was pretty worthless - most people don't subscribe to their silly and expensive service so you can see they are there but you can't actually communicate.

I want to hunt down those that are still missing and say GET A PAGE! Because I get to chat with Matt, catch up with Steph (lucky girl, living in paradise!!) and see pictures and hear stories about everything that's happened since 1986. The year I practically fell off the face of the earth.

My kids have lots of friends from the schools they've attended - and they have them as friends on facebook. Even if the tipping point for this particular form of communication comes and goes and facebook goes the way of the wired car phone (remember those?), they'll have a way to keep in touch over the years - something we didn't have. After all, I moved 12 times in one year and didn't have a phone for a long time. So, how would they have kept in touch?

Thanks, Scarlet, for the spark that lit this story. Your note from an old friend inspired me. And thanks, Joyce, for the connection on myspace. You started something!

Friday, March 13, 2009

When you tell a story

I am surrounded by amazingly talented writers. From the poet down the street who follows his muse with sidewalk chalk because "they are words that came on the wind, they'll wash away with the rain, as it was meant to be" to my amazingly talented friend who can make even the most mundane technical jargon easily understood by us poor, technologically challenged geeks.

I have friends that quote poetry, blog about poetry, write poetry, live poetically. Sometimes these poems have a happy ending, but often the ending is sad. Poets, it seems, have delicate constitutions and don't get along so well in our world of grief and chaos.

This week, I embark upon a new project. I have a friend that has started a writers group. I joined not really knowing what would come of this new adventure. Now, I've been assigned our first task - to write a story using a prompt.

A prompt? What about being able to be creative? You mean I have to start off my story with the same 4 words everyone else does? How will the dozen of us write anything of depth, anything intriguing, anything personal if given a writing assignment?

But then the words come. And the style. There is no requirement for tone or length, for genre, for any other qualifications whatsoever.

So last night, after a week of not sleeping well, I stayed up and wrote. And wrote and wrote. An unbelievable story came out, one that I know well (let's say it's semi-autobiographical) about a young girl whose reality is so painful that life becomes a constant battle to lose herself in daydreams. And yet this works for her because she discovers an unbelievable strength in these daydreams, uses them as her security blanket when she's frightened and as her shield when attacked by those that wish to do her harm.

And it works. She survives and even thrives, bringing a little magic into the lives whose sphere of influence she passes through.

I've always wanted to be someone's muse. I never knew how good it would feel to be my own.

Today, my writer friends, I wish you love, joy and peace, with a little magic thrown in for good measure.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

I want to see the lions

The Portland Zoo is one of our favorite places to roam. When the kids were small, I had a membership that got us there monthly. We'd spend hours - eating our picnic lunch in different places every time we went, each of the kids quickly developed favorites. Our zoo is pretty cool. It's been exciting to see them remove much of the concrete.

When I was 18, one of my best friends worked at the gift shop at the older, more concrete-crazy zoo. But since I had a car and would pick her up, I got to do things most people didn't. I'd help prepare food for the big cats (the lion was my favorite). The lion and lioness were older and had been there for a long time but they were scrawny and lethargic from lack of roaming. In the wild, the lioness would hunt and kill and bring food back. Since being in captivity, they'd lost their prey instinct and they just layed around in the sunny spots they could occasionally find, waiting for a side of beef to be thrown their way to gnaw. They rarely moved when people would come to see them.

When Sean was a little guy - probably not even two yet - we went to see the lions, his favorite. They were still in the concrete enclosure from my childhood, one of the few exhibits that hadn't been improved to look more natural. Sean, who could only say a few words, roared at the top of his lungs at that geriatric male. And you know what? That lion roared back. And roared and roared. I had never heard him roar more than once in a while and it usually sounded like a yawn. He roared continually for almost 5 minutes. Sean was mesmerized. So were the keepers. We'd drawn a crowd, you see, because that was wild behavior and our lion had rarely behaved that way while there were guests at the zoo.

Sean was beside himself, he was so happy. We still talk about the day the lion roared. It was one of the last times we saw him before he was moved to a new zoo to allow for construction of a newer, more natural enclosure for the lions. Sean missed them when they were gone.

Now, for those of you that feel that zoos are cruel and should be banned, that animals belong in the natural world, I agree - to a point. I have to argue that I'm kind of on the fence about zoos.

I did get to pet the velvety head of a giraffe baby as it lay at it's mother's feet. I watched the intelligence in momma's eyes as she allowed me contact with her most treasured possession - her new little boy. I was close enough to the red pandas that I realized they could shred my face if they felt like it. They were one of the cutest animals I've ever seen up close - like a big, living, stuffed animal. And they were ready to scrape my face off. I donated money to feed them once to the chagrin of my husband at the time. Wouldn't that money have been better spent on a new leather jacket for him?

But the zoo here isn't just for my enjoyment or the oohs and aahs of the people watching otters eat, penguins swim, elephants play, or lions roar. We have a program that's helping keep endangered species from becoming extinct. We're learning about better zoo management and animal management. Most of the creatures that come to live here do so because they were injured or displaced in their natural environment and would have died. Our zookeepers are some of the best in the nation and we are fortunate to have a teaching zoo where people who want to care for the creatures of our world come to learn how to do it more compassionately.

"But would you want to live in a cage?" a woman that was protesting outside the zoo's employee entrance once asked. And I considered her question thoughtfully. To be alive and in a cage - or to die naturally (from the impact of mankind, most likely, as we pretty much destroy everything in our path)? I answered her as best I could. "I would want to live as carefully as I could, with as little impact as possible on the earth, and leave a better place for those to come after me, animal or man."

Today, I hope we get to see the lions.

Addendum: We had a great day. The new "predators of the serengeti" exhibit that opens later this year looks to be fantastic. They still have our most favorite wolves, now right next to the elk, another of our favorites. There was hardly anyone there, we got our delicious elephant ear and we saw the baby elephant. AWWWW!

But best of all, Sean seemed to have the "randy" effect on all the nearby males. Maybe its his 14 year old testosterone in overdrive, but every time he turned around, the male animal nearest him went to town on some poor girl (at least I'm assuming they were girls!!) to Sean's embarrassment and chagrin. The mandrills, the bats, even the goats. So Sean doesn't just affect the lions, it seems. Sara and I couldn't stop laughing, poor guy!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Is there anything better...

...than Rocky Horror at 2am?

Another sleepless night spent with my darling 16 year old daughter. Listening to the trains and watching bad tv - reruns of Frasier. Lord...

Then we discovered a the end of RHPS on Logo. And all the naughty bits are blurred out!!

Thank heaven for Susan Sarandon and her 18hour bra.

And RK, this blog has been edited for brevity after my previous rant!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

I have a pit bull and I'm not afraid to use it...

Sometimes I just hate people. You know, people who breed a dog for bad reasons (like Michael Vick, who famously bred pit bulls to kill each other), people who make blanket statements and don't know what the hell they're talking about, people who condemn an entire race or population because of the actions of one or a few. I believe they're called bigots. You might remember Adolf Hitler.


Recently, one of my least favorite politicians decided that, since all pit bulls are evil, we must not allow them in our state. (as quoted in the Oregonian November 28, 2008, "Representative Starr is offering legislation that will make it illegal to own a pit bull in the state of Oregon" http://www.oregonlive.com; if you live in Washington county, contact him via http://www.brucestarr.org/) He's working now on a bill that required pit bull owners to have massive million dollar insurance to cover the inevitable murderous rampage they will go on.

Um - WHAT??

Does that mean I get to oust him from the state because, after all, it is men who rape women and he is a man. So, if one man does that, all men have the ability, the tendency, the DESIRE to do so - we just won't know what sets them off. That guy standing in line next to me at Starbucks? He's got something no-good up his sleeve and I should be afraid - very afraid. After all - he is a MAN.


I'm pissed at the owners who let their dogs:
X Run loose
X Live in a yard without proper restraint
X Live outside all day and night to work up a sweat - and a frenzy - and don't exercise them properly
X Walk off leash - ever
X Play at dog parks without proper supervision
X Play at dog parks with a dog that shows aggression in any way
X Make statements like "they're just being dogs" when they kill a chicken, a squirrel, a yorkie
X Be bred for their aggressive tendencies, not their domesticated ones

I also despise owners who dump a poor, damaged pit bull - or other breed - at a shelter so someone else can take care of the problem they created. Jerks.

I have a phenomenal dog trainer, Brian. He worked with Ezmond, agreed that he is a cool dog, one of the better of the breed, has tons of potential.

That means tons and tons of work for me. I didn't have children expecting that in 6 weeks time I would have the perfect a child, an honor student that does no wrong and makes me tea. I can't expect anything nearing that from my dog.

The problem here is that we have a failure to communicate. There are too many people who treat their pitties like labs - letting them wander around like a ticking time bomb waiting to go off. Allowing a dog to be aggressive in any way with people. (Yes, allowing. You should see the response if Ezmond gets too playful and teeth come into play - my kids both know how to take him down. In other words, just like what they learned when they were little - THERE WILL BE NO BITING ALLOWED. For his sake. One bite and he's through.)

Then there is the general misconception that there are no dog bites from other breeds - no other dogs bite people. You know, that daschund that bit my aunt's fingertip off after she asked if it was friendly. Our chocolate lab bit me when the kids were toddlers. Bad. Stitches bad. Then, because I, at the time, was a stupid owner, I continued to allow it in the house as it showed additional aggression toward me and especially my 18 month old son. Would you like to see the scar from when that Labrador bit my son on the face?


I am the dog owner. I have a domesticated animal in my home. Domesticated or not, dogs act like dogs. They have prey instincts. Can sense a weaker creature. Have family history and bloodlines and breed history that help define what type of pet they will be. But they also have owners that teach them and train them and are responsible for their behavior. That is the most important piece of the puzzle. If we can rehabilitate criminals, we can rehabilitate dogs.


When a dog bites a person or attacks another dog (there were a staggering number -over 800,000 - of dog bites of humans requiring medical attention in the US last year. http://www.oregonvma.org/petowners/bites.asp) it is the fault and responsibility of the owner. Oregon has a "one bite" rule. A dog that bites another dog (the most typical form of aggression with pit bulls is dog to dog) is given a second chance. A dog that bites a human is not.

Now, what to do? I have a dog that I adopted from a shelter. He's smarter than hell and very headstrong. On a daily basis, I have to discipline him - he's still a toddler, after all, at 2. Acting out is expected but not tolerated. He's spoiled rotten - will wake us in the middle of the night whining "cover me up, mom. I'm cold!" and wants to be wrapped in a blanket. Jeez.

I don't know much about his history other than the family that had him before had a baby and realized, rightly so, that Ezmond the pit bull puppy and a new baby were not optimal for a happy family. He jumps up on people - still, even with consistent, solid training, he jumps up to hug you when he meets you. He weighs 70 pounds, all muscle. He likes to chase kids that are running, will try to take a ball away and play. A lab can get away with that. A pit bull can't.

Can you imagine the reaction of a fearful stranger if he jumped up on them? It could be the end. I've had people yell at me, threaten me, throw food over our fence to bait him. I am harassed when I walk him and I've come to a point where I only walk him where there are no other dogs - because so many people leave their dogs off leash and expect that my leashed dog will just play nicely. He walks calmly by on many occasions while some crappy little yappy dog barks like mad at him. And I have the vicious breed. And he would play with the off-leash dogs at the park - but the growl he lets out when he's playful sounds a lot like "I'm going to eat you - where's the ketchup?" to someone who doesn't know him or the breed.

Ezmond walks with his packs on and it's a slightly different story. He becomes a dog with a job, a working dog. He's less intimidating when he's wearing those big, green packs full of Campbells soup cans. The blisters he earns are worth it to change opinions. I have educated a number of people on the sweet, gentle, kind creatures that pit bulls can be. Ezmond is the poster child for the perfect balance of sweet and strong that made the breed popular and earned it the designation of "nanny dog" in the 1800s in Europe. Every good family had an American Staffordshire Terrier. They are so loyal to their masters that they will protect babies, guard a house, kill a dog or a coyote or a rat that comes near the baby. That's what they were bred for and when some stupid people in the mid-20th century decided to use that loyalty and strength to create a fun new sport called dog fighting, they all but destroyed the hope for this amazing breed.

Or did they?

Ezmond is going to become a canine good citizen. Brian thinks he'll earn his badge without trouble. He'll be a pit bull with the Good Citizen vest. When stupid people allow their out of control dogs to run free but freak out when they see Ezmond on his leash, I'll have more ammunition for letting them know that pit bulls won't harm a fly unless they're allowed to. I'll have to bite my tongue to keep from saying "kill" within earshot. Of course, he'd just look at me like I was nuts, beg for string cheese.

Of those 800,000 dog bites in the US last year, there were only (and I use the term "only" loosely because one death is too many in my humble opinion) 23 fatalities in the US. Of those 23 fatalities, NEARLY EVERY SINGLE ONE occurred from what the National Canine Research Council defines as "non-family dogs". These are dogs that live outside, are not socialized, monitored or trained. They don't walk with a backpack full of Campbells soup. They are not given love, attention and discipline. They, like many, many dogs in our society, are expected to train themselves, behave themselves and turn out ok in that cage, crate or on that chain. They are purchased and ignored to provide protection to people and their property - and, of course, sometimes their illegal activities.

This agency has a great message about dogs in general and "dangerous" breed specifically. "The Council has identified 23 canine-caused fatalities for 2008, as compared with 34 the prior year. Officials investigating the 2008 incidents claim to have identified 10 different breeds or types of dogs in connection with these 23 fatalities, though experts caution that breed attributions are usually made on the basis of physical impression, and should not be considered reliable." http://nationalcanineresearchcouncil.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/year-end-report-2008.pdf

The ten breeds listed? Rottweiler, German Shepherd, Chow, Pit bull, Labrador, Doberman Pincer, Akita, Alaskan Malamute, Great Dane, Golden Retriever.

Yes, folks, golden retrievers should be considered killers. Sorry for the sarcasm. But there is one very obvious result of reviewing this information. Big dogs are capable of killing people.

But what about the little guys? Yorkie, daschund, shi tsu, jack russell, the yappy little guys that nip a finger but couldn't take someone down no matter how hard they try. Because they're small.

Small dogs are responsible for over 93% of all dog bites in the US according to the AKC. Small dog bites still hurt but are very unlikely to cause death unless an infection sets in or they have rabies.

So, what to do?

Dogs should be protected from biting! Don't allow a dog near you, your children, your pet unless you know the dog. Some dogs are dog park dogs, others are not - know the difference! DO NOT LET YOUR DOG OFF LEASH AT RANDOM PARKS. I don't care how nice or social your animal is, dogs should only be allowed to roam when confined and protected. Yours AND mine.

Advocate. Unless you're willing to oust all the men in the state to someplace else because, after all, men are the serial killers, rapists, stalkers, then don't expect anyone who has a love for and an understanding of dogs to allow ANY breed to be banned. And that great idea that my favorite legislator has for making all pit bull owners have special insurance (at the cost of almost a thousand dollars a month)? That lovely idea will cause pit bulls to flood the already overtaxed shelter system in our state. And yes, lots of pit bulls will be put to sleep. Maybe in doing that, they'll get rid of the one or two amongst the thousands that could have been a ticking time bomb. And those people that breed them to fight or raise them for protection? They'll be willing and able to have that insurance - just the cost of doing business. And, they'll be the most likely culprit of dog bites.

Finally, if you have a fear of something - LEARN. I feel immensely sorry for the people who have been bitten by dogs - any dogs. I am so sorry for the woman that blogged about sleepless nights, surgeries and terror, all due to a dog bite from a pit bull mix. BUT THEY ARE DOG BITES. I was bit by my own dog, a Labrador. I don't think the Labrador breed should be removed from the city, the state, the face of the earth. Otherwise, it's time to get rid of ALL DOGS. Every one.

A pit bull has what we call "jaws of steel" and when he clamps down on something, Ezmond won't let go, no matter what. God forbid I leave a sock within reach. It's not his fault he was bred to be the Superman of dogs. And his kryptonite? Misinformation.