Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Halloween and the Hatchet

Is there anything more embarrassing at Halloween than having a costume on that no one gets? Well, horrifying costume mishaps and malfunctions aside, that is.

So there we were, at a friend of a friend's Halloween party on Saturday. We knew no one. Our friend wasn't there yet. Both Eric and I have bouts of introvertedness and mine was flaring up like mad!

You?! Introverted? Never! you say aghast.

No, my electronic friends, it is true. We're what I like to think of as sporadic introverts. Certain things set it off. One of my big triggers is going to parties where you don't know anyone, don't feel like you fit in and no one gets your costume. Bingo! I was ready to go home as soon as we realized that our friend wasn't there. Time at party: less than 5 minutes.

Eric had a better time, even though not many people recognized who he was he at least ways fit the Halloween spirit of creepy and scary. There was the occasional comic book reader that took one look at him and knew exactly who he was. Very gratifying.

Pictures? Of course!

The transformation. From this mild mannered lawyer dude:
To this:
Who is he? Say it with me comic book geeks: Ghost Rider! No, his head isn't on fire, but what do you want with grease paint and a decided lack of super powers?

It took me longer to apply his makeup than it did to apply mine. His eyes immediately got all red from the black paint, but he was fine and has no lasting effects or strange skull-shaped chemical burns. Phew!

Then there was me:
Can you tell what I am? C'mon! Try! It's a play on words...

No it's not Martha freakin' Stewart! Iron Chef! Get it? The iron...in my hand? I'm dressed like a...Awww the hell with it! I should've bought the chef's jacket earlier in the week, but forgot about it.


Next year I'm going as Medusa. I think I can wrap some slithery plastic snakes into my tresses in a convincing manner. Otherwise I'm just stayin' home!

Caitlin, on the other hand, had an excellent day at school today and went trick or treating with friends around the neighborhood this evening.

She's a...?

A pediatrician! Yes, that was her self-chosen title. She loved telling all and sundry that that is what she was, not just a general practitioner. Hah!

There was a mini-parade at her school where the kindergarteners filed in to and out of each classroom, showing off their costumes to the upper grades. That was pretty chaotic, especially while the kid's parade was being trailed by a score or more of proud, confused and giggling parents. There was much eating of cupcakes and drinking of heavily sugared drinks when we returned to the party in the classroom.

Then, at 5 we went to a pizza party, bundled up against the 34 degree weather and marched around the neighborhood, extracting sugary tribute from the natives. The sacrifice was received with much rejoicing and deemed more than sufficient this year. The kids seemed to be working on their personal best times to ring bell, holler mystical candy summoning phrase, extract tribute and race to the next doorway. The running probably made all the difference in staying warm and whining about the cold. Or possibly just the difference between getting one pound of candy or THREE in the time allotted.

Caitlin received one big scare when teenagers jumped out from behind some black plastic near Pop-pop and Nana-Sue's house but she recovered, if a little shakily, and went on to receive more candy sacrifices before calling it a night. We then dumped the pile on the kitchen table, sorted out anything involving nuts (recycled into our own bowl to give away) and sent the slightly sugar spastic, but very tired good Doctor off to bed. We didn't get very many kids at our place, but those that we did get at nine-fifteen! got whole fistfulls, just so we could get rid of the most candy possible before the night ended. We now have one unopened bag to return to the store tomorrow!

Now I can throw out the remnants of last year's Halloween and Easter candy! Hurrah!

God DAMN she's cute!

That is the exact thought that jumped into my head when I ran across this picture again, so I immediately had to share it with you. This was back in August, during a trip to the Botanical Gardens. She's pretending to be camera shy.

What was I looking for, you wonder? A picture for a photo essay, of course! Tomorrow is Show and Tell using the letter G.

G is for...Grammy!

And there you have it.


I want to do NaBloPoMo, but I'm doomed from the start. I have this little trip to Kansas coming up soon and then a trip to see my folks ring in 40 years of marriage. So there are two entire weekends that I'm for certain going to be out of any 30 days consecutive blogging. Not to mention Turkey Day.

Just recovering from the food coma will probably be spectacular and suck several days of my life away! Let's not forget the airplane travel!

So I guess I'll just have to leave it up to Val.

In the meantime, I'll just try to do my normal best of almost daily posts.

Almost daily's good enough, ain't it?

What if there are photos? What if there are photos of...Italy?

Yeaaaaah. I knew ya loved me!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Pumpkin huntin'

I went on my first field trip with Caitlin's kindergarten today. Lots of fun! We went rode on a yellow school bus (Caitlin's first trip on one), went to a pumpkin farm, sought and captured a pumpkin, jumped in the Jumpy Castle (Caitlin only - I just got to watch enviously), petted assorted farm animals and ran around the straw-bale maze.

Pumpkin as shield.
Triumphant pumpkin picking display.
In the Jumpy Castle with icky boys:
Straw-bale maze with M.
The "icky boy" comment was based on listening to the lot of them hollering about how "Girls are babies!" and the girls responding that "Boys are babies!". This learned and in-depth conversation continued for some time until I threatened to kick them all out of the JC if they couldn't be nice to one another. I even trotted out ye old, "If you have nothing nice to say, don't say anything!" comment. I felt decidedly old when I pulled that one out of the Mom Command List. Felt bad about it, but it was lots better than a few choice words about male/female relations and sex-segregated play and my objection to deriding others simply based on sex. That would've been way too much for 5 years, dontcha think?

Maybe next year!

It really bothers me how they deliberately break down into separate groups and want nothing to do with one another. It really bothers me to see Caitlin give in to it and continue it. It also saddened me when Caitlin got upset that her friend didn't want to sit with Caitlin on the ride back. I tried to cheer Caitlin up by chewing on her instead. Short term distraction, but she enjoyed it! Life is full of bumps, not everyone likes her even though she is eminently likeable and she's no longer the sole rock star of the classroom. It's gotta hurt a poor kid's ego! However, she keeps going back and tells me how this one or that one is her BFF (Best Friends Forever), or at least until the next one comes along. Fortunately they are all at the age where it's OK to have multiple best friends and can share reigning BFF titles. Everyone is her best friend, some are just more bestest than others.

I'd like to say that I'm past the petty jealously of other best friends, but my internal 13 year old isn't. I have lots of women I claim as my best friends, but I don't announce it to the others because I don't want their internal 13 year olds to feel diminished. I know! I know! That's silly, isn't it? I'm trying to preserve the feelings of suspected inner 13 year olds, but that's just how I am. I've lost lots of best friends over the years, I think I use them up or something, so I try to hold the newest ones gentler.

I'm still getting used to being a good friend. It takes years and years of practice but I figure, I've got time!

Where in the world is The Hatchet?

Messing around, mostly. Nothing of interest to see here. Move along!

OK, well, there was a teeny tiny fetal-position brain-bending migraine, but other than that I've just been reading science fiction quickly so I could return a few books to the library. I take out more than I can read in the time I have since I get distracted easily by nice weather or Caitlin projects. Or saving the world.

Blame it on Eric. He tempts me with Neverwinter Nights video games to play. We play far too late into the night and then suddenly there's no time for writing! Or cleaning! Or reading! But we saved this town called Heliopolis and my thief is 26th level now and I so rock the backstabbing thing and...!


Yes, I know we're closing in on forty, but if we don't save the electronic worlds from doom, who will? Huh? Answer me that!

Friday, October 27, 2006

First love

Can someone tell me what is wrong with my brain?

For the last several nights I've been dreaming about long lost loves of mine. When I say "long" I really mean it: one was a crush I had on Frank A. in elementary school. I haven't seen him since I was...oh...twelve. Can you tell me why I'm dreaming about him now?

Whenever I have dreams like this, Eric doesn't exist in those worlds. Caitlin usually doesn't either. It's as if they get dropped off in some pocket dimension in my memory, where I can pick them up later. Like for that next nightmare about Caitlin being stolen or Eric leaving me for my ex-best friend. You know those latter dreams? Those are the ones where I wake up angry at Eric for betraying me with someone he never really even liked, much less found attractive!

My subconscious, it's wacky!

Somehow, though, it's perfectly OK for me to dream about my childhood crushes and my last boyfriend before Eric. He even teases me about how I've run off with T in my dreams. Confident? Feh!

These dreams always seem to start up as it gets darker and darker. In the depths of winter, I dream of old flames and my brain comes up with new and exciting versions of What Might Have Been. Sometimes, Eric and Caitlin do exist and I'm leaving them for the remodeled version of my ex. What's up with that? It's never your ex as you last saw them, it's as if they get refurbished in your dreams. They've grown up a little more (or in the case of my elementary school crushes, John M., Frank A., and Ricky P., grown up entirely) and have worked out all of those annoying habits they had previously. They've also gotten better looking. Whoo-ee!

Do you dream about long lost loves/crushes? What's your trigger?

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Hatchet Jurist

"Well...that was unexpected!" One of my fellow jurors remarked as we filed into the jury deliberation room.

Unexpected? Perhaps. The same outcome I was certain we were heading towards since yesterday, though. Now that it's all over, I am free to regale you with tales of The Hatchet Jurist. This is going to be pretty long, since all of my lawyerly friends wanted complete details. Get something to drink and get comfortable!

I've been calling into the jury line every Friday this whole month. The other two weeks, they didn't want me. This week, when I was actually hoping to not be called, since Misty was getting sworn in on Monday afternoon was of course the day they finally wanted me. And since I was called, I answered the summons (with jail time if you ignore it) and went to do my civic duty. All of my lawyerly friends were jealous.

I felt almost certain that they wouldn't want me. Federal court, my husband is a lawyer, I'm possibly too educated and I support the 2nd amendment. Hmmm....well, let's see what my chances are!

The case was criminal, we were told. A known felon was indicted for being in possession of a weapon. The judge made it very clear that the indictment means nothing. That it was up to us to listen to the facts and rule accordingly. I sat in the back of the room as they called up the first 13 potential jurists and waited as they went through the jury selection process. I was tired from having stayed up too late with Eric and regretting it while trying to pay attention. The courtroom was huge and well appointed, also appeared to be very new. The Chief Justice Babcock was presiding. On the left was the defense: Mr. L. and his lawyer and on the right was the prosecution: The Government. The judge was very concerned with the welfare of the jurists. He thanked us all for coming. He made a few jokes here and there and told them that he knew they were nervous, but that everything would be just fine. Sitting in the back of the room, I was thinking, "What's he talking about? I'm not nervous!"

The jury selection process was run by the judge, once all 13 folks were sitting (there were about 30 of us in the jury pool in this room), he began questioning them. Tell us who you are, where you're from, what you and your spouse do, and what you do for fun. Those may seem like innocuous little questions, but the answers seemed to get a number of people discarded from the jury. Do you own any guns? What kinds? Do you have any friends or family in law enforcement? Do you believe that you can make a fair judgment on the defendant? Oh! And do you watch any of the CSI shows on television! The judge excused the first person himself after she admitted to a hatred of guns since her father committed suicide when she was young. Then, after listening to everyone respond to the questions, the bailiff brought sheets around to the prosecutors and then the defense to make their first cuts to the jury. She took the final list to the judge, who then thanked everyone for their time and then read off the names. The first 6 cuts were made. Then the bailiff chose another 6 names at random from the bunch of us sitting quietly in the back of the room, where we were all trying not to fall asleep.

I woke up pretty darned fast when the first name they called was mine!

I went to the first seat, but then had to turn back around and fill in to the right of the remaining juror in the front row. Yes, there I was, front and center in the jury box. I immediately began trembling. Absolutely shivering and I couldn't stop.

What the hell? It's not like I'm on trial here! I thought to myself frantically. But I couldn't stop shivering and I was torn between hoping they'd keep me (because I really really wanted to be on the jury) and wanting to escape. Curiosity won out in the end, I wanted to stay. The same questions were posed to us: tell us about yourselves, what's important to you, do you own guns, do you have family members that are part of law enforcement, do we watch the crime shows? I thought I was doomed as soon as I said Yes to guns and the next question was What kind of guns? Then I answered that and was greeted with Have you ever fired one? Again Yes and then the clincher: What makes you think you can judge this case fairly, since you are a gun owner. I can't remember exactly how it was worded, but it was clearly "Prove to me that you can be fair, even though you have experience with guns and a gun was involved in this case".

Mind you, several other folks had also admitted to gun ownership and several had been removed in the first cut for whatever reason. I was the first person he asked that question of specifically and I felt totally put on the spot. So I answered as truthfully as I could. I support the 2nd amendment: the right to bear arms. I told them about having my very own newly minted lawyer husband and best friend who was being sworn in that very day and that I have a friend that used to be a police officer in California. Once they determined that Eric was interested in IP and that I never talked to Ed about police work, they moved the focus of judicial questioning to the next person. I thought that was going to be the end of me, but the next round came and went, as did another 4 people and I was still seated.


A couple more iterations of question and response with the new folks, several more excused personally by the judge and then, at 11:20am we were done selecting. We remaining 13 were it!

I was kind of bummed when the guy sitting next to me was removed. He had the deepest voice I'd ever heard on a man that short, ever. It was a cool voice. Instead, he was excused for possibly being biased against the defense since he was involved in a counter suit involving a family member. Oh well!

We were then sworn in, seated and had the case explained to us after the remaining jury pool left the room.

Three shots were fired around 2am in February of last year. Police responded to the scene, only to see a car pulling out of the driveway and leave. The police pulled the car over, it stopped for only a moment and then peeled away. The police chased it for a few miles, sirens wailing, speeding excessively, blowing through stoplights, when it crashed into a cab that tried to pull over, flipped over and came to a halt. Both occupants of the vehicle were thrown clear, as well as the contents of the car. The cop in the lead car stopped, leapt from his car, cleared the defendant's car and saw the defendant, getting up and trying to run away. After securing Mr. L in handcuffs, the officer went to return to his police car when he noticed Mr. L's wife laying unconscious in the gutter, having sustained head injuries upon being ejected from the car. That's also when he saw the gun. The prosecutor's job was to prove to us that the gun belonged to Mr. L. The defense just needed to instill a sense of reasonable doubt in the jury. The jury's whole job was to listen intensely and determine if the prosecutors had done their job or if the defense had.

The lady next to me started looking more and more uncomfortable. She told me she really needed to use the restroom and what was the protocol for getting someone's attention? I really didn't know, but was certain it involved the bailiff, who's face was obscured by the enormous monitors in front of her. The lady next to me raised her hand and kept it raised for a very long time, looking more and more desperate as time went on and neither the judge nor the bailiff saw her. The judge was focused on the witness that was currently giving testimony. The bailiff was behind a computer screen. Things were looking bad for our desperate jurist when finally the defense took a moment to interrupt the prosecution's questioning of the witness and pointed out that the jury needed attention. The court was quickly put into recess and out she rushed. The rest of us followed at a slower pace, trying not to laugh.

Such a serious and quiet courtroom and in the middle of it, a woman desperate to service a very real human need. She felt terribly embarrassed, but we all felt for her. I checked in with the bailiff to find out what the standard protocol was supposed to be (raise your hand and she would take care of calling recess, or just stand up so the judge would see you) and then trotted off to the restroom myself, since I didn't know when we would next get to go. All rest breaks and lunch break decisions are up to the judge, so you never know when they will be. My advice to you, should you ever be called, is to take advantage of those breaks and DON'T drink any water in between. Better to be slightly dehydrated than to have to stop the entire court proceeding, I think. However, you all do what you need to do!

We filed back into court, our pads of paper clutched in our hands and finished with the first witness. We are allowed to take notes, but not to ask questions. I was glad of the note taking, it gives you something to do and a way to organize your thoughts. We were not allowed to discuss the case with our fellow jurists, yet and had to keep all thoughts to ourselves and stay completely away from the lawyers and family members of the accused. We then broke for lunch, returned refreshed and started up again.

The witnesses were all called up by the prosecution and questioned in a rapid fire stream of question and answer. The defense got to cross examine. Prosecution then had a chance to re-direct after the defense was done. Each side had their occasional Objection! Followed by the reason (generally Relevance!) and then either Sustained or Overruled, as the judge saw fit. All of those law and order type shows are a crock! Nothing so flashy actually happens in court, it would appear. If you object, you'd better have a reason why. When introducing evidence (almost all photos that were displayed to the jury on the screens (very high tech courtroom) set into the arm rests between every pair of chairs), the defense had the opportunity to object to evidence, but never did. He would bob halfway out of his chair and say No objection and then the evidence would be allowed and displayed to us.

I thought swearing in the witnesses was interesting. There was no statement of "...so help you God". Instead it was "...or suffer the pains and penalties of perjury". So much for that bit of TV fiction as well. At least, they don't do it that way here in CO.

I took copious notes. I didn't think I would, but I did. I made eye contact with witnesses, lawyers and defendant. I looked over the family members in the back of the room. I really wished someone had told all of his friends to dress like they were attending a funeral as well. They weren't dressed to elicit either our sympathy or our respect, and I didn't think that helped the defendant any. Something to keep in mind should you ever be in the hot seat. I couldn't tell you if I was taking more or less notes than anyone else, but I'll tell you this: I was very aware of what each side was doing. Where they were going with their lines of questioning. When they tried to get our sympathy by mentioning that the car had crashed near an elementary school (Objection! Relevance!) repeatedly. How the prosecution would spend time propping their witness up: look at how knowledgeable and respectable! and how the defense would reinforce that notion and then turn around and remind you that they are just human. And that they all seemed to forget to write up all of the details they were telling us now in their reports written a year ago! The prosecution had to deal with the mistakes of several different groups: Denver police, expert gun guy, expert DNA guy, crime scene investigator and federal investigator.

Here's something that was driving me crazy as the case went on: both sides repeatedly referred to Mr. L's ex-wife, laying there bleeding and unconscious with a head wound in the gutter as "The Female". I wanted to throttle them. She is an actual human being you dolts! They would occasionally refer to her as "The Woman" but should have called her Mrs. L or Mr. L's ex-wife or something more respectful than "The Female". You'd have thought the prosecution would have done so but it was not to be.

I made notes on the way they introduced someone as an expert and when they convinced me that an empty 9mm magazine was found on Mr. L. They convinced me that they knew which blood was his and that it was found on the magazine. They convinced me that it was possible that magazines leave a unique mark on the bullets placed into them and that the shell casings on the ground outside of the house (Remember? "Three shots fired"?) came from that magazine and that the live round found on the ground was also from that magazine. They couldn't make the connection that those rounds were fired from the 9mm Beretta 92FS that was found, empty, laying on the sidewalk near the elementary school, which had an unusual lanyard clip attached to the bottom of it, but no matching line attached to Mr. L. They couldn't find a single witness that had seen Mr. L with a gun before or during that night, nor anyone that saw him fire it, not even his wife. They had not tested him (either his hands or his clothes) for gun shot residue (GSR), defense claiming that it was very important evidence and prosecution claiming it was very delicate material (another TV line shot to hell). They couldn't lift any fingerprints from the gun - the expert witness said that in the thousands of times they had checked guns for fingerprints attested to the fact that they'd only gotten a usable set about 3 times. Yet another TV myth shot down. Neither side performed a DNA test on the gun itself. Realistically, since both Mr. and Mrs. L had been bleeding, it was quite possible that either or both of their blood may have been on it, so that also would not have shown possession, just as his bleeding all over the sidewalk didn't mean he was in possession of it. They convinced me that he drove the car, that he fled a traffic stop, that he crashed the car, that he got up and began moving, but not that he was fleeing the scene.

Was he drunk? Was he disoriented? It was a violent crash, certainly, but do you expect us to believe that he was in possession of wits enough to get up and try to run away? They never told us what his physical state actually was, that night. When his ex-wife testified, she told us that she was drunk and that she has no memory of the chase, the crash or the gun. She never saw it before and had no idea what a magazine was when presented with a picture of it. You can choose to believe her or not. Was she coerced? Did she suffer memory loss from the drunkenness or the traumatic head injury? Was she afraid of her ex? We won't ever know. We have to assume that she was telling the truth. Why did he run from the cops? Was he out after curfew? They mentioned that he had tried to get permission to stay out late for a party, but never mentioned whether he got permission or not. The cops chased the car, but didn't check what was happening inside the house.

When the second set of cops showed up to the house, a group of people that had been seen outside leapt into a car and fled. The second set of cops did not follow the fleeing car. Who were those people? We'll never know.

What we do know is that 3 shots were fired, 3 casings and one live round were found. No bodies nor blood were found anywhere around the house. No damage was observed to the house itself. Where did the bullets go? No one knows. Who fired the gun? No one knows. Whose gun is it? No one knows. The person it is registered to couldn't be found for questioning. The gun is not registered to Mr. L, but it is not clear that it is stolen. The prosecution never made the connection between the gun and Mr. L. Possession, that was their whole goal: proving he had possession. They couldn't do it. They fell short. All defense had to do was to instill reasonable doubt.

I was doubtful. Even without defense's excellent questions of the witnesses.

At 11:15am today, prosecution rested their case. Still without making that final connection.

We stopped for a mid-morning break, came back and were thanked for our service. The defense had asked for a directed verdict while we were out of the room and the judge, who said he's only ever taken the choice away from the jury about 2-3 times in his years and years of sitting the bench, acquitted. We never got to deliberate. It was all over.

So we filed back into the jury deliberation room and finally talked about the one thing that brought us all together and that we were to have no impact on. One person mentioned being surprised, another had no idea what had happened, while a third expressed dismay that the judge got really mad at the prosecution at one point when they wouldn't accept that he was sustaining an objection from the defense. The judge ripped into prosecution angrily when they tried to argue with his Sustained. I was a little surprised at how fierce he got, but as I told the other juror: this is a game with very specific rules and the judge is the referee. What he says goes. We started generally talking. Finally I started laying out what I had been convinced of and I had the whole room listening intently.

I may have started talking with one person, responding to some comment they'd made. I can't remember. Inside two sentences, I had the whole room's undivided attention. I laid it all out, the arguments that I'd planned on using against the rest of the jury if they tried to convict when I was certain the connection had not been made. I didn't tell them specifically that I was going to acquit, but I pointed out that of all the things the prosecution had proved, ownership of the gun was not it. That was the key thing and it hadn't been proved. I was convinced when I left this morning that I was going to be the cause of a hung jury. Whew!

The jury slowly trickled away. The Lady That Had to Go and I chatted for awhile longer down in the jury waiting room while waiting for our respective rides. I wowed her with my calm logical analysis and eloquence. She asked me in a sort of stunned manner, "What do you do again?" and I told her about my plans for a plant nursery. She thinks I should be a lawyer.

Hah! No thank you!

After a little while, and much dissection of the trial, we turned in our badges, walked out the front door of the district courthouse and talked about plants.

Out front, Mr. L was being congratulated and hugged by his friends and family. One family member walked past me and said, "Thank you, ladies". I responded gravely, keeping in mind that we still weren't really supposed to interact with the parties involved, "You're welcome."

Eric arrived, I said goodbye to She Who Had to Go and we went our separate ways.

Monday, October 23, 2006

A day for quick updates

Item the First: I was picked to be on the jury for a federal case! Whoo hoo! I've been wanting to be on a jury for years and was never called! I had to wake up at 5:30am and wait from 8:30am-11:20am for them to finish the jury selection process. We ended at 5pm. I'll be back for two more days, too.

Can't tell you anything about it other than it's a criminal case and that my perspective as a juror has probably changed significantly since Eric is a lawyer.

I totally thought they'd toss me off for that one, but they didn't care once I said, "Intellectual Property".

Item the Second: Due to the above, I missed Misty's swearing in ceremony! She's now an officially licensed lawyer! In Colorado! But she lives in Jersey! OK, well...she's planning on sitting for the bar there too, because she's like that.

Item the Third: Pixel's not dead! He has stopped doing the horrible cry every 5-10 minutes and the appetite stimulant seems to be working. I think it may have been the shots making him miserable, but it doesn't mean he's not going to die. He's just not going to die this moment.

Item the Fourth: I get to go to my parents' 40th wedding anniversary thanks to my brother. He's footing the majority of the bill for all of Chez Hatchet to fly out. Wow! Thanks!

Item the Fifth: I'm exhausted! Listening intensely all day long is very tiring. And my explanation point usage has gotten out of hand! I'm going to bed right after this!

Much story telling about the trial stuff tomorrow! The parts I can tell, that is, about my feelings. Whee! And the decor. Very swank.

Tomorrow. Promise. Really!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The cries of the cat

I can't sleep. Or nap, rather.

Caitlin has gone off to have a nap and is sending sleep vibes out from her room. Domino and Kaboom are snoozing on my bed, adding their sleeping vibes to the mix. It's a very powerful sopophoric. Down in the living room on the couch, I put down my book and pull the blanket up higher on my shoulders. I pull Pixel up on my chest and pet him to get him to lay down. It's nice to drift off with a purring cat on me, very soothing.

His wordless cry wakes me up, filled with many vowels and pain. "Oh-waaa! Ohh-waaaa!" Pixel is wandering around the dining room, looking for something he can't define. I listen for that sound and don't hear it in his voice. Yet. I call out to Pixel to return to me and be comforted. We try to comfort one another, knowing that we can't, really.

We've decided we're not going to go to heroic extremes to save Pixel from death. He's tired and old. And yes, now he's in pain. That might just be from the blood draws and the urine sample from the vet visit on Tuesday. Every time he goes to sit or lay down, he cries out the same way: the long liquid vowels that aren't imminent death but are painful to listen to. Heart wrenching. He no longer walks around the house with his tail held high like a flag. Now he walks stiffly, in sort of a waddle, with his rump curved under him. Stairs are getting tougher. He takes them very slowly and looks as if he might slip going up or down them.

He's still purring all the time, though.

I locked the other two cats out of the bedroom yesterday and placed Pixel on our bed. I read while he tried to get comfortable. His happiest moment of the day is when Eric and I go to bed and he gets to curl up between us both and gets our undivided attention. He purrs and licks our hands. He leaves the tip of his tongue outside his mouth as if he's forgotten it's there. I think that is the cutest thing in the world, when cats do that. Dogs may wander through life with their tongues lolling out, but cats don't, so it's always striking and funny when they do it. He no longer paces around the both of us in his magical kitty circle of protection, as he did the first bunch of years of his life before he'd lay down to sleep.

He purrs and we pet him. He lays down at the foot of the bed when he's tired of our touch. His purring gets quieter and slows down. We talk to him and his purring picks up its pace again. Verbal petting, I guess. We talk quietly about our options, or their lack. He's had a long and happy life, this one. He outlived Xerxes, my very first cat who died at 12; he outlived Dart, Eric's very first kitten who died at 7. We joked that Pixel threatened to outlive the two new cats, when we brought them home and they made him crazy.

We no longer joke about that.

Maybe it's just the pokes and prods from the vet visit. Maybe he'll snap out of this and feel a little better next week. We're still not ready to pull the plug, although it looks like that choice may not be up to us this time, just as it wasn't the last two times.

So now we wait, our sleep broken, listening to the cries of the cat.

Hatchet philosophy

Life is a series of anecdotes, strung together by eating and sleeping.

Sometimes those anecdotes are funny or touching. Living them isn't always fun or amusing, but they are very real and have the power to teach you things you wouldn't learn any other way.

Besides, they're great to trot out and amuse strangers with at parties....

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

And then the vet called...

To give me the results of Pixel's assorted blood and urine tests.

His kidneys and liver are good, considering that he already has kidney problems for which we already have him on Science Diet k/d. However...(as always), he has lost at least a pound since last year. He's at 9 lb 3 oz now. He isn't eating a whole lot, he's even stopped stealing the kitten's food. He has two new things to add to his list: he has a heart murmur and he's anemic. Turns out there are two kinds of anemia he might have: the expensive or the inexpensive kind.
  • Non-regenerative anemia may be due to the existing problems he already has: kidney disease and the fibrosarcoma (benign lumps on leg). His body has enough to deal with, it just isn't going to put out any extra effort to replace red blood cells.
  • Losing blood internally (not in his urine or intestines) which may be due to some mass growing on or in an internal organ.
It is only possible to determine which version of anemia he has and what course of treatment to take by having an abdominal ultrasound and an echocardiogram to check on the cause of the heart murmur. The vet also recommended we start "supportive care" by giving him the cat version of glucosamine and an appetite stimulant. We have until next Thursday to decide what we're going to do - that's when the traveling ultrasound group comes to the vet hospital.

I turned to Eric to fill him in on what the vet had said and then burst into tears.

I feel such guilt I can hardly encompass it. As she told me what my options were: expensive treatment or ignore it and make Pixel "comfortable", I kept feeling like I'm a terrible pet owner.

My choice comes down to money. Not whether it's the right thing to do, but whether we can afford it or not. The diagnosis alone will cost around $350. Keep in mind that that is the starting price. If they actually find a mass, we then have the secondary dilemma of what to do if there is something in there. Suddenly you have to weigh the cost of the diagnosis with the possibility that they will find something. Then you have to move on to the secondary guilt of what to do if they do find something. Do we then spend close to (I'm guessing) $1000 to get a 16 year old cat operated on to remove a mass? Will he get more years of life out of it if we do? How many more? What if we don't? How much sooner will he die if we just provide supportive care? Is he happy? Is he in pain? Is he ready to die? I'm not ready to put him to sleep and I'm really rather hoping that like Xerxes and Dart, he takes the decision from me.

Xerxes was 12 when she died, 4 years ago. She had cancer and we had money so we drove her to the vet hospital at CSU in Ft. Collins and gave her chemotherapy. It gave her another year of life and time for me to say goodbye. I made the call that morning to have the service come that would put her to sleep at my house (Did you know that there are services that will basically provide door to door euthanasia service? I had no idea. My friend Christine found out for me, for which I remain terribly grateful.) when she died, in my arms, in the backyard. I took her outside to feel the sun on her fur for the last time and she started dying. Or finished dying, depending on how you look at it.

I wailed and I keened with a dead cat in my lap until I could call my friend to come over and help me. I promise you that I am not exaggerating; Xerxes was my very first cat, I got her when she was only 2 months old, and I loved her dearly.

Dart died abruptly at 7, last February.

We had just noticed he was having a hard time breathing, had some sort of bloody sebum drawn out of the space around his lungs and ultrasounded him (looking for a mass) when he died two days after the ultrasound. One week after noticing he was sick, he was dead. He was possibly the sweetest cat I'll ever own.

I still miss them both.

Both cats went through the same process when they died. They made the caterwaul: it's a very real thing and can't ever be confused with the "lost cat" crying noise cats make sometimes when wandering around the house. It's the sort of sound that shakes you to the core. It is an awful thing and it is final. After that, they go into death throes and then they make the "death rattle" sound in their throats. And as awful as that is to see in person, when it happens naturally, somehow the thought of causing it to happen to Pixel is more than I can bear.

In neither case did I have to question if I would give them treatment. I just did because we had the money to do so. Now, here I am debating whether we can afford it or not.

I know some of you are thinking: "It's just a cat." And you're right: it is just a cat. However it's just my cat. A cat I've had for longer than I've been with Eric. It's still a serious decision to make and is emotionally wrenching for me. I have to weigh the cost of treatment against the potential gain in years of life. And as Dart showed us, it's possible that Pixel could either die on the operating table or immediately after treatment.

I have a responsibility to my pets, just as I do to my child and husband. I chose to make them part of my household. I have to take care of them because they cannot take care of themselves (like children, not like Eric). They don't even have the benefit of refusing care or telling us what they want or need, we just have to guess. We have to figure out who we're doing this for, the pet or the owner, and then we have deal with the fallout from any decisions made. Longevity versus quality of life.

The crazy thing is that all of these same issues for my cat are identical to what we go through for family in the same situation and clearly even more emotionally draining. I can only hope that I never have to make the choice between family care and finances. It is yet another reason that I believe we need universal healthcare in this country. Otherwise we're just saying as a nation, that it's perfectly fine if poor people die but let's save all the rich ones. That's just not right.

It's also why I believe in the right to request euthanasia. If it's "good enough" for our pets to "put them out of their misery", why wouldn't it be good enough for our family members? Especially if they ask it of you.

Do not resuscitate orders.

Living wills.

Pixel doesn't have one, so I have to choose for him. Am I strong enough?

Laundry and dishes and cleaning...oh my!

You know how they talked about the "Circle of Life" in The Lion King? I've got a secret to tell you:

The Circle of Life isn't about animals and love and family. Nope.

It's about housekeeping.

Constant frickin' housekeeping.

Can you tell me how it is possible for merely 3 people to produce this much laundry, dishes and need for cleaning? Can you tell me what people in larger or just plain large families do to survive? Holy moly! The laundry seems to be constant. I blame it on Caitlin's clothes getting bigger as she gets older, thus her laundry takes up more actual space and my changing into 3 different outfits on any given gardening day.

Yeah, three. First, the one I take Caitlin to school in. Then I start gardening. Suddenly, it's too hot to wear said outfit, so I switch to outfit #2. Then, I have to go pick Caitlin up from school, and it's really a good idea to not show up looking like either a ragamuffin (Nice, huh?) or a deranged gardener. The gaggle of moms have no idea what I do (yet), but I'm certain being covered with dirt inartistically would give them poor ideas about my cleanliness habits. I do have the occasional artistic smudge of dirt or flour across a cheek or my forehead, as Eric can attest to. Very Hollywood of me, apparently.

So anyway, now that it's gone all cold, snowy and ungardenable, I'm working on all of those things that piled up (quite literally), while I finished off my outside work. Eric has been on top of the laundry thing and the dishes get done every night, thanks to FlyLady habits. However the actual cleaning has been somewhat lacking, to be polite about it. My husband is fantastic in many different ways, but a cleaner he is not, sadly. You'd be amazed at how horrible things need to get before he gets motivated enough to clean on his own.

Amazed, I tell you. I know, because it amazes me and I live with him!

With that, I am off to go and make our abode presentable.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Happy Birthday, Misty!

It's all you, babe!

Oh, and in honor of your thirty-first birthday, Mother Nature has a gift for you:

First snow.

My gift is to finally produce two pictures from your 30th birthday party! Sorry that there's no Hatchet-made German Chocolate cake with pecan caramel frosting this time. That would be one of those down-sides to moving to Jersey!

Love you! (Smooch!)

Breaking and entering

Pixel's saga continues....

We thought we had it all wrapped up: the eliminating outside of the cat box. Pixel was going in and out of his door, albeit loudly in the middle of the night, and enjoying having his own space in which to eliminate, eat, drink or sleep, if he chose. There were no "accidents" and it appeared that he wasn't even going down to the basement anymore, either. We've even started leaving the basement door open at night since we're not worried about him sneaking in and peeing on the floor in here.

This past week, however, things have changed. First there was some poop outside of the box. Then a few days later, a puddle. We couldn't figure out why this was happening until we caught Domino in Pixel's room, eating Pixel's food.

The hollering started immediately.

Domino is not wearing the magnetic collar that triggers the door, but Pixel is. Pixel, however, can't seem to get the hang of just walking up to the door and pushing it with his head. Instead, he stands there and pushes on the door with his foot.







Over again.

Bang! Bang! Clank! Bang! Clank! Bang! Bang! Bang!

Until, finally, he gets the door the way he likes it and then walks through it. He does this at all hours of the day and night. The worst part is at night, at 2am, when you're trying to sleep, of course. He won't just walk up and go. Even when he's exiting the room, and all he need to do is walk through it, he still pushes on it repeatedly (even though it doesn't lock that way) several times before he's ready to walk out.

So I blame Pixel for the current situation: he taught Domino that if you push hard enough on the door, it will open. And so it does.

So Domino walks up to the door, pushes it once, hard, with his foot and ambles inside. Quickly and almost quietly. He's better at it than Pixel is! He hangs out in there, eats all of Pixel's food and ambushes Pixel when he walks in the door. When he's tired of exerting his dominance over all things Pixel, he then calmly walks out and goes about his day. To think that we were wondering how Domino seemed to be gaining so much weight!

When I catch him, I chase him around while hollering. I use a penny bottle and a water sprayer when I can. Otherwise, he's getting away with it on a daily basis. I can't stop him, either. If I'm in the kitchen and I hear someone messing with the door for only a short time, it's usually him. If I hear the door banging repeatedly, I know it's Pixel. This begs the question: so now what?!

Eric mentioned getting a dog fence, surrounding the door with the wire and putting the receiver on Domino's collar. Zap! Do not pass go, do not collect cat food. I suggested the remote training collar for dogs. Zap! Leave that door alone! Neither one seems to be feasible, even if they are emotionally satisfying techniques.

Today, though, Pixel has his annual vet appointment where they will tell us how much closer to death's door he is. That poor cat! He's almost 17 years old, has benign tumors on his right rear leg (at least 3 that I count, one is the size of an egg), bad kidneys, missing teeth and is grumpy.

If you're wondering why we don't do anything about the egg-sized tumors, never fear. They showed up 2 years ago as a pea sized lump around New Years day. I immediately took him in, had it removed and biopsied. It was benign, but of the type that would come back larger every year. Right on schedule, the following New Years, he had another lump in the same place and about the same size. I took him in to our new vet and had them remove it. They told us that it would come back again and that they saw 4 possibilities for us:
  1. Chemotherapy. Too expensive. Besides, he's 16!
  2. Cut off his leg. Are you kidding? He's grumpy already! Can you imagine how it would be if we cut off his leg?
  3. Leave it alone. It's not causing him pain or stopping him from walking. All it does is get bigger over time.
  4. Surgically remove it when it gets too big. Expensive, but more reasonable than options 1 or 2.
It came back within 4 months. More than one, this time, too. So we've left it, with the plan to cut it off when it got to an unreasonable size. We might be closing in on that timeframe, but again we're still...um...financially challenged. He will have to wait a little longer. It truly doesn't seem to bother him as he sits basking in the sun, whiling away his remaining days, sleeping in the sunlight on the back of the couch. He doesn't do a whole lot but he still purrs all the time. He purrs when you talk to him, when he notices you looking at him and when you pet him, of course. He seems content enough, except for the Domino thing. I've suggested having him put to sleep but Eric won't hear it. For a cat in crappy shape, Pixel is still in there and still happy.

He's been a good cat ever since I got him at 6 months old. Really, the only problem was with the elimination and his teeth. He has poor dental genetics. All of these years he's been a bundle of purr.

How do you know when it's time to say goodbye to that?

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Contemplating Compost

I love compost.

No, really, I do! It's one more step down the path of ecological responsibility. We recycle, we buy as many organic things as we can and we compost. You might even consider it poetic that we turn conventional produce into organic produce by composting. It reduces the amount of trash we put out every week by about 1/3rd, so that's gotta be good, right? Of course, since we actually cook we have lots and lots of kitchen scraps and it's far better for us, the landfill, my plants and the Earth that we compost what we don't eat than if we didn't.

One of the great things about composting is that it takes very little skill or attention. And, if like me, you don't have a chipper/shredder, it forces you to slow down long enough to chop up plant matter to help it break down. It's while doing this that I experience quiet moments of solitude. Very zen.

Just yesterday I moved all of the half-done compost from the first to the second bin. I have a 3 bin system that Eric built for me several years ago. It works like a charm.

Today I planned to start a new pile for the winter and I had all of the ribbon grass and keys of heaven that I had ripped out to work with for the "greens", plus a load of kitchen scraps. While I sat on the grass and worked, I was surrounded by bird song. This is generally when I try to match the sounds to the birds. Northern flickers, finches, downy woodpeckers, robins and black birds trilled around me as I chopped away. Very soothing.

While I was busy chopping away and feeling very connected and earthy (I was covered in soil and leaves), I noticed movement out of the corner of my eye. There was a spider crawling up my arm. A big bodied oh my god it's on me! spider.

Zen moment OVER!

I then did the seated dance of spider induced horror and flicked it off. Then I did the heebie jeebie dance in my skin for awhile longer as I checked myself over for yet more unwanted riders. Ack! It's one thing to be in touch with nature. It is entirely a different thing to have nature touching you. Especially nature of the creepy crawly eight legged variety.

Now don't get me wrong, I like spiders just fine. I especially like them from a distance of several feet - nay! several yards! - from my face.


I don't know where it went, but I steeled myself to remain exactly where I was to finish the job. It's not like the spider was going to bite me or anything. Hoo-waaaaa. Shiver. So I kept on chopping and dropping the bits into the white trashcan I had with me to collect the compost bits. I was finishing up when I found the spider again: this time in the bin, trying to crawl out. I chucked more vegetative matter on it and hoped it would stay IN the bin and AWAY from me.

It will be happy in the compost bin, I told myself. Plenty to eat there. Don't make me have to squash you, little bug!

I swear that thing was after me or something.

As a general rule, I don't squish spiders. We have an understanding: if they leave me alone, I leave them alone. If they are in the house, Eric will do the cup and paper removal service. I deliberately maintain a calm demeanor if Caitlin is around, so that she doesn't pick the "bugs are icky" girl thing. We check out worms together, discuss butterflies and grasshoppers and the like. I'll even point out huge spiders to her, so long as they aren't anywhere near me.

After completing the new pile, I emptied out the remains in the third bin and sifted it. Finished compost smells wonderful. It smells a little sweet and very earthy. Like the best soil you've ever been around. Considering there was only 2 inches or so in the bottom of the bin, I was happily surprised when it half filled my wheelbarrow. Roughly 28 quarts worth, if the level in the trashcan is anything to go by (it holds 36 quarts).

In case you were wondering, here's what compost should look like, in each stage.

Starting bin:
Everything is still recognizable. That's lamb's ears, bits of ribbon grass and leaves you can see on top. I stir the greens in with the browns and water it all in. I turn and water it when I remember to (sporadically) and I get finished compost out of it every year.

Almost completed:
A lot of finished compost, with bits of sticks and somewhat undigested plant matter. It will finish breaking down over winter and will be ready for use in the spring. You'd be amazed just how much compost I get out of these bins. At 3' x 3' x 3', it settles until it looks like there's only a foot of the stuff, but after being sifted you get several wheelbarrows full.

Finished and sifted:
I sift it with 1/8" hardware cloth stapled to a rectangular frame that I made to fit over my wheelbarrow. Those white bits are egg shells. I recommend smashing them up as finely as you can. Anything that didn't break down this year gets chucked back into the first pile to undergo the process again. Everything vegetative will eventually break down, it just usually takes awhile. Peach pits, cherry pits, and sticks usually require several turns through the composting process before they are finally broken down beyond recognition.

Pretty cool, huh?

Oh and the spider showed up one last time while I was shovelling compost out of the third bin. It was crawling up out of the second bin. I carefully ignored it and went my own way.

Personally? I think it had a deathwish.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Your moment of awwwww!

Caitlin generally wakes up in a good mood. Today was exceptional.

She walked into our bedroom where Eric was getting dressed and handed him a small square of green construction paper.

Inscribed on front were two hearts side by side and the words:
I love you!

On the back it had two lines that read:
You Me You
Me You Me

She said each of the "You"s were Eric and I. The lines represent a family hug. Then she tucked it into Eric's shirt pocket so he could take it with him to work.

All together now: Aaaawwwwwwwwwww!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Did you know...

That my toaster oven comes with a "Requires Cleaning" light?

It sure does! I saw it today, when I was toasting some ciabatta bread to go with my clam chowder.

That light? Flames.

Three inches high.

Inside the toaster.

Flame broiling my ciabatta bread.

What's a Hatchet Woman to do in such a situation? Well, the first thing I did was open the door and watched the flames leap a little higher. Then I stood there madly blowing on them, a la candle blowing and wish-making, and thought several thoughts in rapid succession:

  • This isn't going out. What else can I do? Water?
  • Nah, that might make the heating element explode, possibly in my face.
  • Fire extinquisher? Where is that thing? Under the sink? Upstairs?
  • Salt? Yeah! Salt!
  • Hey, maybe it's time to get the fancy new toaster oven! (There's my wish making.)
At that point, the 2nd of the two flames went out.

Somewhere in there I removed my bread so that it wasn't completely inedible. Blackened bread. Mmm-mmm!

What do you mean, Did you eat it? Of course I ate it! My toaster oven needs cleaning before I can toast bread again! Umm...which, of course, I haven't done..uh...yet. I'll get to it right after I get these plants put into the ground. No, really!

Be nice! I went grocery shopping (3 stores), washed the dishes and made dinner (Chili in Spud Bowls from Cheap. Fast. Good!), didn't I?

BTW, Caitlin loved dinner, so I consider my day a success ("Mommy, you're the best cook in the world!"). After a nice bath (hers), we went on to read A Mouse Called Wolf. Now I'm sipping tea and planning her lunch for tomorrow. School seems to be agreeing with her, now and she's really enjoying it. I get the occasional complaint about people not wanting to play with her. Usually boys. What's up with that? They're only five for goodness' sake! Why is the sex-segregated playing starting up already? Do you know how hard it is to explain to Little Miss Social Butterfly that people actually exist that won't want to be her friend? How weird is that?

My responses usually go one of two ways: 1) F*ck 'em! or 2) That's just the way people are some times - there are plenty other people out there that want to be your friend. Go play with them!

I don't actually verbalize option 1 quite that...plainly. I use the much nicer Mommy Speak. You know... "Well, that's their loss! You're a great friend to have!"

How could anyone resist her? She's funny, enthusiastic, and a snappy dresser. She even makes up little songs about her friends. Today was Sabrina day, yesterday it was Natalie. I don't think that kid could get any cuter if she tried!
[Insert gratuitous Caitlin photo here.]

I never really thought that being a grown-up means you need to be fluent in Mommy Speak, but there it is. Yet more grown-up points for me, I guess. Must be time to go play a video game to balance out all of that adultness.

Baby it's cold outside!

I spent the day feverishly installing the last 35 purchased plants into the back yard. I tossed in another 3 grasses that I'd grown from seed in the summer, too. Thirty-eight plants added to the garden and I'm not done yet. Oh well! I think I may be done for the season, though.

Once that was done, I switched over to heeling in my plants that I'd grown from seed. I had planned on selling them this fall, but the yard work expanded to fill every waking moment of my time. They are now tucked into one of the raised beds. Wanna know how many?

Sure you do!

Grown from seed for sale:
  • Santa Barbara daisy: 35
  • Lavender: 5
  • Purple ice plant: 3
  • Sempervivum: 39
  • Agastache: 21
Pricked out for sale:
  • Lamb's ears: 18
  • Keys of heaven: 10
  • Lemon balm: 2
  • Caryopteris: 1
  • Purple coneflower: 30
Heeled in temporarily due to remodel:
  • Columbine: 3
  • Clematis: 7 (only 4 have growth on them, the other 3 might be dead)
  • Sedum: 5
  • Catmint: 6
  • Checkerbloom: 1
  • Iris: 5 (plus 2 more rhizomes w/o leaves)
Waiting inside because I ran out of time (and sunlight) last night:
  • Japanese honeysuckle: 2
  • Blueberry bush: 2 (purchased for my front yard)
  • Clematis tanguica: 1
  • Poppies 'Livermere': ~30 (need pricking out, potting up and heeling in)
  • Caryopteris: 32
Sitting in a pot needing separating:
  • Sedum: 5
  • Agastache: 2
  • Gaura: 1
  • Heliotrope: 2 (Mmm! Smells like vanilla/cherry pie!)
Total: 302

Nope. I'm not done yet.

Of course, all of that pricking out, potting up and heeling out work doesn't include the other stuff I have waiting to get done. Move 1/3rd of a cubic yard of planter's mix, shred the trees we chopped down, or just move them to one side, mulch the new plants in, rake/blow/vacuum leaves and pick up sticks around the yard.

Oh and one last thing:

Mop the damned floor!

I've tracked mud all over the diningroom and kitchen. Toys, books, dishes and laundry are replicating around the house like Tribbles. It's hideous! So no, you're not invited over until Chez Hatchet stops being Chez Mud Pit!


So...wanna buy some plants?

Monday, October 09, 2006

So...what do you do?

How do you answer that question when you no longer work for The Man? How do you answer it when you're somewhere between stay at home mom and self-employed? How do you answer it when you know it's the social question most often that people ask in order to determine a) where you are financially compared to them, b) whether they should be interested in you or not and c) it lets other people put you into a box marked Labeled: Converse or Ignore.

It's really weird, the way I feel about answering that question these days. What am I? I had a lot of my ego wrapped up in being a project manager for The Man and then I quit. What was I then? A SAHM? I was working on the photography thing, so I'd occasionally trot that one out: I'm a photographer. Now, I'm not chasing the photography thing (too cash intensive - at the moment), but am instead considering the plant nursery thing.

"What do you do?" often gets answered with "I'm a full time gardener."

You get a really weird response when you say that you're a SAHM. Often it's just, "Oh." Then the eyes glaze over and you are dismissed from the conversation. The questioner turns to the next person in the conversation circle and asks the next person. Your worth/interest as an individual is taken from the response to that one single question. Perhaps the rest of the group shuns you, or perhaps any other moms in the circle then want to talk to you. Why do people assume that if you're a SAHM you don't have anything interesting to say? Any interests or hobbies that they, the fully employed, might also share?

Why do I care?

That's the better question, I think. The full time gardener comment does get an interesting response out of others and gets the conversation rolling. Talking about opening a plant nursery also moves the conversation along. However, repeatedly, I've noticed responding with SAHM gets me the cold shoulder. Why is that? Someone has to take care of the kid(s) and in this case, it's me. I even know two men that are stay at home dads. I have no idea how they respond. Do they say what they used to do? Do they announce their SAHD-ness with pride?

Sometimes I find myself talking about what I used to do. Suddenly I get more clout.

Oh, you used to work in IT? Cool.
You used to travel around the world? Cool.
You are a SAHM? Uncool.
Oh, I see Jane/Bob over there, nice talking to you!

Cue insincere smile and rapid escape.

What's up with that? The media would have us believe that ain't nothin' better than Mom and Apple Pie, staying home, raising kids and doing laundry. Women are most often defined by their motherhood status. However, the reality is a whole lot different. We're not taken seriously. Our issues can safely be ignored until the month before election day. Our children are used as fodder in unnecessary wars. If we decide to protest, we're belittled (See any reference to Cindy Sheehan.).

Oh, and if you mention you're a feminist, look out! Suddenly you're defending your choice to have a child and your choice to leave the traditional workforce. Whoo! Ain't no fun like that!

So what's a liberal, feminist, self-employed SAHM to do?

Announce it. Be proud of it. Be belligerent. Why not? Everyone has (or had) a mom. You might be someone's mom now, or some day in the future (if you choose to). If we're not proud of what we do, why should anyone else be?

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Get out and vote - if you can

It's worse than you thought and getting worse every day. It's not just my paranoia, either.

Since I'm feeling sick (Aaa-choo!), it's going to be a post filled with links. Don't tell me the vote is safe and secure until after you've read these articles.

Mother Jones: Just Try Voting Here

Pandagon: When All Else Fails, Hack the Election

BradBlog: Voter Registration Fraud in Tennessee and other horrifying stories


RollingStone Magazine: Was the Election Stolen?

Harper's: None Dare Call it Stolen

Go on, get educated. Then tell me how I'm imagining the end of our nation as we know it.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The very definition of the word!

I am obsessed.

Obsessed with gardening.

I blame it on mom. I inherited my green thumb and my love of plants from her. However, I think it mutated into something larger and scarier in me. I've gone far beyond where she was when I was growing up. Why couldn't I have been happy with a few roses, tulips and house plants? Why?!

But noooooOOOOooo! Here I am, in the middle of a massive backyard remodel and it's October. I have 52 plants left to get into the ground. That's right, as in Left Over. I've put several dozen into the front yard (16 were purchased at the Denver Botanical Garden Fall Sale, many many more were relocated from the backyard to the front yard) already. That 52 does not include the hundreds that are waiting on my back deck for either sale or heeling in for the winter in my raised bed to be sold in the spring.

Did I mention that I'm planning on going into business raising plants for sale? Umm...I am! At least, I'm thinking about it and am putting together a collection of plants to sell, plants to use as stock (think cuttings) and supplies. I thought I'd grow some for sale in the fall, before the Farmer's markets close in early November, just to get my feet wet.

Well, my feet aren't wet yet, but they're getting cold!

Anyway, I have this huge plan - a project plan, if you will - to get my nascent business off the ground. It goes like this:

  1. Design backyard remodel.
  2. Relocate all sun-loving plants to the front yard and replace them with part-shade plants.
  3. Ensure the backyard will be Wildlife Habitat certifiable. Food, water, cover, and places to raise young are the requirements.
  4. Finish the side yard flagstone pathway project (placed on hold since April).
  5. Install raised (heated?) sand bed for starting cuttings.
  6. I can parley the certification into a sales angle at the market. I created a habitat for wildlife. You can, too! Ask me how!

The part that I'm in the middle of right now is #2. I spent a lot of time on #1 and am still revising it as I go (Scary - it involves a compass and everything!). The problem with installing 52 new potted plants is that for every plant I want to install, I have at least two that need to be relocated! That means 3 holes need to be dug in my very hard clay soil for every plant! Aieee!

Originally, I was going to relocate all of the plants first, then order a truckload of compost, till it all in, rework the sprinkler system and then plant the new plants. However, that plan has gone into the circular file since I am quickly running out of time. Did I mention it was October? It's getting cold. So long as I can get the plants installed prior to the first hard frost, I'm OK. Did I mention that I'm doing this almost entirely on my own? I break out the Erician (read that as Eric-EE-an) when I need a seriously large hole to be dug or very heavy things to be lifted. For example, this weekend he moved my crabapple tree from where it was to 70' away.

Yes, we're moving trees around here. You'd be amazed at what you can do when you're determined! Or obsessed.

OK, it was just a small tree, but it wasn't very happy sitting in the shade (There it is again, interfering with my plants!) under the ash tree. So, we moved it to the one sunny corner left in the yard. That corner will now proceed to shadiness as the crabapple grows up. It was so unhappy that it had a tiny rootball. I had E dig a 4 foot hole, expecting the rootball to be 3' around. It was around 1' or 1.5' around! Ack! This would explain why it didn't seem to be putting on a lot of growth, huh? It looks happier already. If you're wondering, Why all this effort? I would be sad if it died, it was a Mother's Day present from E & C a couple of years ago.

Therefore, instead of the original plan, I am now placing the potted plants according to my design, removing any pre-existing plants and reinstalling them elsewhere, digging individual holes as needed with the Mantis, amending the soil with bagged compost (I've run out of my own), and watering the plants in with root stimulant. Repeat ad nauseum. Did I mention the water feature?

Oh yeah! I'm installing a water feature!

This involves digging two really really big and deep holes. I'm using the Mantis and even with that, it's taking awhile. I need to get some sand tomorrow with which I will level the plastic liners in the ground. Then I will need to get some flagstone to line cover the liner edges with (will happen after the plants are done) and raise the soil level around the stone. It will be the same stone that the path will be made out of, so I can at least get some of the materials for that project. The sand bed, the side yard and the certification will all have to wait for next spring, but the plants I've purchased have to go in now.

My obsession makes sense now, doesn't it? Doesn't it?


Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Please Don't Eat the Daisies

Caitlin is now a Daisy.

Don't know what that is? Well, it turns out that it's the larval stage of a Brownie.

No, I have NO idea why they go from flowers to food. Or flowers to mythological creatures, but there it is.

We went to the first meeting today. They have little tunics they get to wear and badges they try to collect and friends they attempt to make and some volunteer work, some snacks and some crafting. Today they made friendship bracelets. When the leader announced that they would be giving the bracelets to the person on their right, you should have seen the jostling for position! I watched Caitlin edge out another girl that wanted to sit next to M. Caitlin is nothing if not persistent, never said a word, but muscled her way in and made sure that she sat next to M the whole time. There were some strange games played - the Daisy version of Simon says. The girls had to touch body parts together at the behest of the leader or leader's 2nd in command.

Um...I'd be willing to bet money that cub scouts (or whatever their larval stage is known as) don't do any sort of game involving touching their nose to their friend's or making friendship bracelets. I kinda wonder what they do do....I think Caitlin is about to experience lots of girl induction rites or something.

There was this one girl that has already proved to be the biggest loud-mouth in the group.

Errr...displayed leadership qualities.

Yup, the law school theory of "If you're not sure who the obnoxious one in class is, it's you." held true today. She was louder than anyone else, bossier than anyone else and tried to hog the limelight like I ain't never seen it done by a 5 year old before.

Is this just the snark by the mother of the cutest girl in the room? Naaaah. I didn't expect Caitlin to run the group, but I saw what could either be a really outgoing, powerful personality or the leader of the popular girls. Only time will tell! We're trying to raise Caitlin to be strong and independent. Watching her fall in line with all the other girls when asked (repeatedly) lame questions by the mini-leader, bothered me. At one point she sat there with her hand raised and yet no question had been asked. She was prepared to agree with whatever question was going to be asked next. (If your favorite color is violet, raise your hand! If you like white, raise your hand!)


So we'll see how the year of being a Daisy goes and see if we want to re-up as a Brownie next year. The girlie indoctrination might be too much for me, but we'll see.

I was never a Girl Scout, of course. Organized, purchased play time? You've gotta be kidding me! We ran wild during the summers, rode our bikes all over the place: Green Grass Hill, Slippery Hill, down by the train tracks (illegally, of course - almost got caught), played bizarre rock war games (yes, we threw actual rocks at our friends over a 6' tall fence), played 2 hand touch football in the street until we had to yell "Car!" and scramble to get out of the way, played tennis (in the street), badminton (in the yard, using the clothesline as the "net"), cops and robbers, Monopoly (we cheated like mad) and on and on. There wasn't any time for organized groups.

Well, maybe there was, but there wasn't any money! However, I think it all worked out well in the end. I never learned to not climb trees or run screaming across highways or that playing with boys was yucky, so I guess that was all for the best.

I haven't decided yet if I want Caitlin to think boys are yucky yet. Maybe around 13....

Monday, October 02, 2006

Making Plans

How do you know when to leave your country? What warning signs do you need to see before you decide to leave? That is, before you can't.

Well, for me it's this:

After the passage of the lovely Torture Bill (Whaaaat?! You haven't been paying attention?), I am more than seriously worried about the state of the nation. I am actively thinking about what it will take to make me leave.
  1. First, the Dems just barely losing the elections in 2006, not managing to take over either the House or the Senate. The mainstream media will follow up these losses with cries of, "Oh, that's too bad! They didn't raise enough money/have a solid message/have a good candidate/get enough advertising/appeal to the masses." Etc. etc. However, it will be because the elections were stolen again.
  2. Second, the Dems will lose the 2008 elections. Again, just barely. Same noises from the media. Not enough money, not enough interest, not enough something.

However, after all the years of the Bush administration's failures, you can't tell me that there aren't millions of people that are ready to vote the bums out. He's got an approval rating in the 30s, for crying out loud! No one wants him and his to continue (Not that he, personally, can in 2008 but his ilk), but they will, because they've already stolen the elections in 2004, in 2000 and very likely in 1996 (You'll have to do your own research, bucko!). They've done it, they've gotten away with it and they'll do it again.

Hey! If you thought that a) God talked to you and b) you were placed on this planet in order to bring about The Rapture, do you really think that a little thing like US law would stop you from doing whatever you needed to do in order to win an election?

I think not!

And if you surrounded yourself with fellow religious nuts and power hungry people, do you really think that they would let US law stop them? Surely not!

No, I'm not kidding. Think it through. It's not hard to rig the elections now that Diebold and pals are in most every state. In CO, the Republican Governer (Owens) threatened to veto Democratic attempts to get paper ballots laws passed sooner than 2010. Well...isn't that interesting! The hue and cry was about money for machines, however, if the people want to have paper ballots, they should have them. Information gleaned from a current, sitting Representative.

I'm willing to bet you, dollars to doughnuts, that all of the swing states will yet again not have polling results that match their exit poll predictions. Strangely enough, these states will also have Republican secretaries of state and electronic voting and tabulating machines. Lots of craziness at the polls, minorities not being allowed to vote and more. And this time? If we don't have Democratic candidates that are willing to fight tooth and nail to prove that the machines are rigged and that the election was rigged, the Dems will never again have the ability to win a race.

It's that idea, that missing the next two races means never again seeing a Democratic majority, that keeps me up at night and is the thought that is making me look into dual citizenship status with my father's country. I should still have it, I never actually gave it up, so I'm going to look into it. After all, when it's time to go, it's time to go.

Besides, why aren't the Repubs more nervous about the 2006 elections? What is this about Zen-like calm? I think I'm not the only one thinking these thoughts.

When do you think it will be time to go? What will make you leave the country?
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