Monday, December 10, 2012

Every Dog Has Its Day.

We had a houseguest for most of last week, and she was a real bitch. No really... she was a little female puppy that was running in the street when Hobey and I were walking to the park on Monday morning. She had a collar but no tag, appeard to be healthy and maybe six to nine months old. Nobody was running after her, and I couldn't just leave her roaming the street, so I got her to follow me and Hobey home. It didn't take much coaxing. She was very friendly and happily joined our conga line.

Mr. Remarkable Monkey took her to our vet to see if she was microchipped. She was, but the chip was still registered to Broward County Animal Control. We called them with the chip number to see if they could tell us who had adopted her. As it was Monday, they were closed, and the person who answered the phone didn't seem interested in being helpful. All he said was "the chip was never updated after adoption." Duuuuh! Ya think? But they have to have some record of who adopted her, right? I figured we might get a better result if we called the next day when they were open, so we posted some flyers around the neighborhood hoped we could find the owner quickly.

The next day I called Broward County again, and this time a very helpful gentleman gave me a name, phone number and address of someone here in Tampa who had adopted the pup. I called the number and got a generic voice mail greeting. I left a message saying we found his dog and gave our cell and home numbers, thinking surely he'd be relieved to know his pup was safe and sound, and waiting to come home. We didn't hear back, and because the address we were given was slightly off (the street we were given doesn't have the directional designation that was included), I wondered if the phone number might also be a digit or two off. So I Googled the name, and found a few area residents. We tried to contact a few of them, but got no response or the dog wasn't theirs.

On Wednesday I tried another internet search again, and this time found a listing with the same name and the correct street address. Bingo! That allowed me to determine the apartment complex the guy lived in. Since we still hadn't heard from him, I called the complex manager and explained the situation. I knew they wouldn't be able to give me any information, but I asked if they could get a message to this person if he did indeed live there. The manager was more than happy to help, and even called me later to let me know she had left a message for the guy.

He finally called us back on Thursday morning and said "Oh I gave that dog away a couple months ago." We asked who he gave her to so that we could get her back to them. He said, "I don't know... somebody in the dog park who said they wanted her." Riiiiiiiiiight. It's pretty obvious that douchebag dumped her. Poor pup! In the meantime we'd been fostering her, reluctant to take her our county animal services as the Humane Society requires for any strays found so that their owners can locate them. I wondered if they'd now make an exception since we already tracked down the owner and he didn't want her.

Hobey displayed an amazing amount of patience
with our exuberant visitor!
Now, she was a very sweet and affectionate pup, but the monkey cage is ill equipped to handle an energetic and poorly trained young dog. She wasn't fully housebroken but had the general idea. She also seemed pretty smart, but mischievous! She was a playful little thing, and she absolutely adored Hobey and wanted to be right next to him all the time. Little Goo (short for Goober) as we called her, would get in Hobey's face wanting to play. Hobey would growl at her, which she took to mean "Game on!", and she'd start swatting and jumping at him, wanting to play. Poor old Hobey is starting to have arthritis and mobility issues and couldn't get away from her. She was really too much for him. As sweet and loving as she was, it wouldn't be fair to him to bring a rambunctious pup into our home, nor would it be fair to her. So we had to find her a home quick, or we'd have to take her to a shelter or rescue.

Thankfully, after spreading the word and photos to all our pals and asking them to pass it along, a coworker of a friend called on Friday to ask if she could come by and see Little Goo. Said she'd been thinking about getting a dog for a while and wanted to come and meet her. She came the next day, and I think it took all of about 30 seconds for her to fall in love with her. Five minutes later, she said she wanted to take her home. Yaaaaay!!!

We kept the pup a while longer and packed up a bag with some toys, treats and food while her new mom went to get a crate and other necessities. And then she came back, loaded pup in the car and we had to say goodbye to L'il Goo. Honestly, I was a little sad to see her go, but so very happy and relieved that she was going to a good and loving home.

Little Goo... behave yourself, obey your new mommy, give her lots love, and grow up to be a good doggy!

As for the feckless wonder who abandoned her, I can only hope Karma repays him tenfold. Personally, I think he should be hitched to a truck bumper by his ankles and dragged naked through a cactus field, but maybe it's just me.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Where Did the Time Go?

I'm not quite sure how over a month has gone by since the last post. They say time flies when you're having fun... not that I was having loads of fun from late October until now. (Although I did have SOME fun.) So what has kept me from this blog so long? Hmmm...

At first, I was reluctant to blog so close to the election. Just didn't seem prudent to open up THAT can of worms. I would like to say this though... to all the Republicans who pledged to make it their mission to see to it that Obama was a one-term president: your juvenile plan failed. So now will all of you... BOTH parties... stop acting like a bunch of schoolyard idiots and work together to resolve some of our country's issues? Please?? Can ya do that?? Riiiiiight... I'll be here holding my breath. And just so ya know, if I gotta hear the phrase "fiscal cliff" one more time I'm gonna lose it. Seriously... do your effin' job!!

Employment here in the monkey cage has been a mixed bag. My job status is shaky... our company is facing a major financial drop due to a huge cut in our clients' advertising budgets. We're working hard to generate new business, but we just don't know what the future holds. I'm trying to stay positive, but I may be out of work myself in a few months. Fortunately, Mr. Remarkable Monkey is tentatively scheduled to start a new job next week! Wooohooo! He's just waiting on the official paperwork. Of course, neither of us will be able to really relax until it's a done deal. As long as one of us has a steady full time gig, we'll be okay. But the past couple of months or so have been a bit stressful to say the least, leaving me mostly just wanting to veg out in the little bit of down time I have.

We celebrated Mr. RM's birthday a couple weeks ago which was fun. But then a few days later, we suddenly and unexpectedly lost a good friend and former hockey teammate. It was quite a shock, as we had just seen him at the party. He was a great guy... the guy we all wanted to be like when we grew up. He was older than most of our group of pals, but you'd never guess it, and we expected he'd outlast us all. It's hard to believe that he's gone. We hadn't seen him in a few months, and we're so thankful that we had that last chance to enjoy his company at the party. You always think there's plenty of time... and then suddenly you realize that anything could happen in no time at all.

I was reminded of that again this week, on what would have been my father's birthday. Another example of time that slipped away... he ran out of time before I managed to make my way out to Hawaii to see him after so many years. Mr. RM and I raised a glass of Glenfiddich and toasted his memory. (I still haven't acquired a taste for scotch... that bottle will undoubtedly last me for years!)

And so I find myself hoping that I can pay more attention to making good use of my time moving forward. It's easy to put things off... life has a habit of getting in the way and screwing up your priorities. Don't get me wrong, vegging out is still a necessary exercise from time to time. But I hope I can be a bit more mindful of the important things and make more time to spend on them: friends, family, learning new things, professional pursuits, even simple pleasures like reading! I can't remember the last time I did a crossword puzzle. I've been meaning to learn how to really use my sewing machine for a couple years. And I still haven't finished knitting the baby blanket I started for my grandniece last year.

Where DID the time go? I guess I just don't manage it well. I don't know if I'll really be able to get a better handle on it, but I'm going to try. And all that lost time? Maybe someday soon I'll find it. Wish me luck!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Life Lesson From a Moth in the Shower

I do some of my best thinking in the shower. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's the relaxing qualities of cascading warm water combined with the aromatherapy of fruity-scented shampoo and the not-quite-awake-yet state of my brain in the morning. Whatever it is, while in the midst of my morning ablutions, I often find an answer to whatever creative problem needs solving for work, or come up with ideas for assorted personal pursuits. I've even been known, on the rare occasion, to momentarily leave the shower, dripping wet, to jot down an idea before it evaporates and slides down the drain with the soap bubbles, much to Mr. RM's amusement. (He already thinks I'm a little nuts, and he's probably right.)

Yesterday, as I was absentmindedly rinsing the conditioner out of my hair, I noticed a small moth on the bathroom window. It was walking on the window pane, moving erratically around in a tiny area. I couldn't tell if it was enjoying the steam and the light mist and just angling for better coverage (it didn't seem to be particularly distressed), or if it was trying to get out through the glass.

I thought to myself, "Poor dumb bug. If it's trying to get out, it's wasting its time trying to go through the glass. Duuuuh. Too bad it doesn't realize that all it has to do is go the other way... fly out of the bathroom and down the hall to the front door or the back door, and then hang out until someone opens it. Long way around, but the only way it's ever gonna get outside."

And then it occurred to me that the moth's plight was a pretty accurate metaphor for life sometimes. We often waste a lot of time pushing and pushing to get through the glass because we can see what we want and where we want to be just on the other side of it. "It's right there!!" we say to ourselves. "Why can't I just get through this stupid glass?? It's RIGHT THERE!!!" We get so blinded by the vision of our goal that we often stubbornly keep pounding away at the same roadblock, forgetting to consider there might be a different way to get there.

Sometimes, you have to back up a few steps and reroute your path because you just can't get there from here for one reason or another. Sometimes, that window is just never going to open and give you the opportunity to fly directly to your goal. Like that moth, none of us wants to have to turn around, fly out of the bathroom and take the longer circuitous route all the way down the hall to the door that WILL eventually open and allow us to get to our destination, but sometimes that's the only way to get there. And in the end, you'll probably reach that goal faster by taking the long way around than by endlessly beating your head against the closest window or wall that refuses to budge.

"Wow," I thought to myself drowsily. "What a deep and meaningful analogy,"

And then I thought, "Right. I should really try to get more sleep."

Monday, October 15, 2012

A Bolt From the Blue

The NHL is currently indulging in another lockout, with neither the players or owners seemingly willing to budge on how revenue is divided... revenue that reached a record $3.3 billion last year. $3.3 BILLION. That honey pot is currently split with the owners getting 43% and players getting 57%. The owners now want it split 50/50, which means the players will take a 12% pay cut. Naturally, the players don't want to do that.

Personally, I'm disgusted with both sides. To be totally honest, I've been a bit sour on the NHL since the last lockout in 2004-2005. I used to be an avid fan, especially of our own hometown Lightning, and enjoyed watching whatever NHL game was on ESPN or Versus or whatever channel we could find a game on. But when the owners and players forfeited an entire season squabbling over money, I lost my taste for the league. And now they're back at it.

Now, I can totally understand the players not wanting to take a 12% pay cut, but it's not like they're being asked to take a 12% pay cut on a $50,000 annual salary, which was about what the average US household income was in 2011. The minimum NHL player salary for the 2011-2012 season, per the last collective bargaining agreement, was $525,000. That's over a half a million dollars. A 12% pay cut would bring it down to $462,000 if my math is right. Goodness! How could we possibly ask someone to live comfortably on that paltry amount? Those poor, downtrodden lowest earners in the NHL... what a struggle they'd go through to make ends meet. Oh how they'd suffer! Such a tragedy. (Can you smell the sarcasm, people?) At the average US household income, it would take about nine years to earn what the lowest paid NHL player would make in one year, even after that 12% pay cut. NINE YEARS.

I'm not saying the owners are right in asking for such an abrupt and significant shift in the distribution of revenues. They agreed to the current numbers in the last CBA, so it seems a bit rapacious for them to be demanding such a quick jump in the new one. But the real problem is that neither side has yet to talk about this issue in their negotiations, even though it's the main point of contention! Come on, fellas... there's plenty of money for everybody. But by the time you figure it out and end the lockout, I'm guessing revenues will probably be down over last year. Maybe it's just me, but there are probably a lot of other soon-to-be-former fans who won't bother coming back to support the NHL. Y'all get paid for playing a game... a game that a lot of average slobs struggle to even be able to afford to play in local rec leagues.

Which leads me to the one bright spot I did see last week that gives me a shred of hope for the NHL, or at least for the Tampa Bay Lightning. It was a segment on the local news about the startup of a local recreational hockey league for military veterans. Hockey is an expensive sport to play. I can attest to that fact from past personal experience, being a former co-ed rec league player for several years. Ice time doesn't come cheaply, and neither does the equipment. The founder of this league, a veteran himself, is trying to make it affordable so that veterans can enjoy the physical activity and the camaraderie of being part of a hockey team. And here's where the Lightning come in... Since the ice at the Forum isn't being used due to the NHL lockout, the Lightning has allowed the Veterans Hockey League to use it. That's some fine ice, there! I had the privilege of playing on it myself a couple of times a few years ago. They also donated their practice jerseys, and have committed to giving the veterans league ice time even when the lockout ends. What a great way to show appreciation for their service to our country!

Yes, that's really me... making a snow angel at center ice at
the Forum, which was still called the Ice Palace at the time.
Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik is a class act. Despite the BS going on with the CBA negotiations, Mr. Vinik remains high in my regard. I have a nephew currently serving in Afghanistan. He played hockey as a kid, and it warms my heart to know that he may be able to enjoy playing in this league someday. Hopefully, he'll be able to skate on the ice at the Forum too.

If you'd like more information about the Veterans Hockey League, or if you're a vet interested in playing in the league, check out their website here. They also have a Facebook page, a Twitter account, and LinkedIn page. If you're lucky enough to find you have a few extra dollars to spare, I'm sure they'd appreciate a donation. I'll bet even those impoverished and beleaguered NHL players and owners could cough up a couple nickels if they were so inclined. If you ask me, I think both sides should take 49% of the revenues, and establish a charitable fund to benefit organizations like the Veterans Hockey League with the remaining 2%. But I won't hold my breath.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Ahoy, Matey!

Photo lifted from
How is it that only this past weekend did I become aware of Johnny Depp's breakup with his longtime companion/baby mama? Oh wait... I know how... I don't spend much (any) time on fan sites and gossip portals. In fact, I also didn't know that he's playing Tonto in the upcoming Disney "Lone Ranger" movie. Heck... I didn't even know there was going to BE a Lone Ranger flick. But I digress. Back to the issue at hand: The lovely Mr. Depp is potentially available once again.

Don't get me wrong, he truly has my deepest sympathy regarding the recent end of his long-term relationship. In fact, I'm so sympathetic to his plight that I'd be more than happy to provide a comforting shoulder and a compassionate ear should he find himself in need of friendly reassurance.

I've had my eye on Johnny Depp since "21 Jump Street" premiered on the then-fledgling Fox network. (Yes, I realize that statement dates me somewhat. I'm getting to be an old broad. So? I'm still younger than he is.) Since then, he's often chosen interesting and/or quirky movie roles, and has turned in some brilliant performances in them. He is an exceptionally gifted actor. I have not seen all his films... and yes, there are certainly some bombs in his body of work, but the myriad of vastly different roles he's taken on speaks for itself.

Arrrrgh, indeed!
But I, like a gajillion other smitten ladies, would probably agree that his best-loved role has been that of Captain Jack Sparrow. Who doesn't like a charming pirate, right? And Johnny Depp makes Jack Sparrow such an irresistible scoundrel! That man just shivers me timbers. He can plunder my booty any time! I'd like to walk HIS plank. (Sorry... had to get those pirate double entendres out of my system.) But seriously, I'd love to hoist a Jolly Roger with him. He can even pillage my dubloons. Yo-ho-ho, baby! (Couldn't resist.)

So, if Mr. Depp happens to stumble upon this blog, I'd like him to know that I'm available for dinner, lunch, movie premiers, etc. I'm also willing to be a backup singer for his band. (I do have some singing experience. Booyah!) Plus, we have something in common... we both look good in hats. Seriously, that man can wear the hell out of a hat! He seems to have an affinity for headwear, and I don't think any other man in Hollywood can match his dashing visage in one. I'd even massage his back since he recently injured it during filming of that Lone Ranger movie. It would be a sacrifice, but I'm a generous and giving person.

My husband will understand. Mr. Remarkable Monkey knows that Johnny Depp is one of only a few gentlemen I'd consider leaving him for.

Right. Like I and those gajillion other smitten ladies would ever stand a chance.
A girl can dream, though. ****siiiiigh****

Sunday, September 23, 2012

So That's What the Underside of a Bus Looks Like...

Very recently, Mr. Remarkable Monkey was suddenly and unexpectedly forced to join the ranks of the unemployed. Yes, friends, he was fired from his job... the same job where just a few short months ago he received high praise and a big raise. How is this possible, you ask? It's quite simple really. He was railroaded. He was thrown under the bus and fired for a mistake someone else made.

What happened was a piece of specialized equipment his company makes was shipped without a necessary small part. The equipment is tested before shipping, but the fitting used in the test procedure evidently doesn't fit with that small part in place. And in this case, it was never put back on before it was shipped to the client.

Only two people in the small company work on that particular model... Mr. RM and his supervisor, who is the son of one of the co-owners of the company. Mr. RM is 99.999% sure he did not work on that particular piece of equipment. But because there are no quality control measures or procedural checklists, he has no way to prove that he didn't build that one. Even in the unlikely event that he DID build it, is it really better to fire someone for a mistake instead of learning from it and improving procedures to prevent it happening again?

When the other owner (not the supervisor's father,) who is a hothead, discovered it had been shipped without that little part, a screaming match ensued between him and the son/supervisor. Mr. RM happened to be in the same room working at the time, but was smart enough (we thought) not to get into the middle of that, even when asked if he had anything to add.

The next morning, son/supervisor pulls Mr. RM outside and tells him he has to let him go because of the mistake. WTF?? Co-owner wanted someone's head to roll, and it wasn't gonna be other owner's son's. But seriously... son/supervisor KNOWS it wasn't Mr. RM's mistake, and evidently didn't have the cojones to own it himself. (Or if he did, it didn't make a difference to Hothead.) Instead he spouted some BS about Mr. RM having been on thin ice for a few months now because of a couple of loose screws on another piece of equipment.

Yes, there were loose screws... once... and Mr. RM accepted the blame for those readily, learned from it and it never happened again. Not once did anyone ever tell him he was on "thin ice" for that one mistake or for any other reason. It should also be noted that son/supervisor has also made critical errors from time to time, as has hothead co-owner who demanded the firing. With no standard procedures or quality control checks, mistakes are bound to happen from time to time, by everyone employed there.

Keep in mind that both son/supervisor and another superior signed off on the piece of equipment before it shipped as well. If they were the last checkpoint, why didn't they do a better job of ensuring the missing part was replaced before shipping it? Why aren't there better quality control measures in place? Why haven't they developed a procedural checklist to avoid simple mistakes like that? Maybe it's just me, but it seems like if it's that damn important, there would be a better system in place. What are they gonna do next time someone makes a mistake? Fire them too? They either won't have many employees left, or they'll be perpetually training new hires.

But the soap opera doesn't end there. Rumor has it that another shouting match involving son/supervisor happened last week, leading to a subsequent meeting with him at HR. We have no idea what happened there, but speculation is that father/co-owner/founder may have said something to effect of "If he goes, I go." And then there would probably be no company, because we think he basically started the it so son/supervisor would have a job in the first place. Again, this is just speculation.

The whole thing just stinks. Mr. RM was given no written notice of termination or any info such as final paycheck, COBRA, etc. He spoke with the parent company's HR department and was told there's no severance and COBRA info will be mailed to him. He requested an exit interview and was told they don't usually do that when someone is terminated, but she'll send him the paperwork and is interested in what he has to say. I'll bet she is! Especially after the continued drama with son/supervisor! What a freakin' circus. The other employees are shaken up and wondering when the axe will hit them, too. I wouldn't doubt that resumes are being dusted off right now.

If we didn't live in Florida, Mr, RM might have grounds to pursue legal action for wrongful termination. Unfortunately, Florida is a "right to work" state, which apparently means you can be fired just because the boss doesn't like the way you look. Add the lack of documentation to support Mr. RM's claim, and it would be even more difficult to prove. So there's little reason to even go down that path.

In the meantime, we'll be okay. Fortunately we're not carrying a lot of debt, so we'll just tighten our belts for a while and soldier on. I'm betting Mr. RM lands a much better gig in time. He's feeling a bit stunned, anxious and disoriented right now, but has managed to handle the whole thing with grace and dignity. I'm very proud of him. He deserves so much better than what he got from that company, and now he has the opportunity to find it. He is quite remarkable in his own right!

As for his former supervisors and their company, Mr. RM is being a much better person about it than I. He's not quite comfortable with me ranting about the situation on this blog, and I readily admit there may be other pertinent facts that are unknown to me. But dammit, I'm mad! And personally, I can't help hoping that they reap what they sow.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Sometimes, Life is Just Peachy!

A friend of mine has been living in South Carolina for the past year, and she moved back to our area this week. On Wednesday night, she sent me a text from the road....

"Dude, I scored some fresh picked SC peaches on my way out of town. Last of the season! Who loves ya?!"

As good fortune would have it, SHE loves me.... I met her for lunch today and she brought me some of those SC peaches! A friend who will share her last stash of fresh South Carolina peaches with you is a good and true friend indeed!

You might be thinking, "SC peaches? But isn't Georgia the Peach State? What's the big deal, Monkey?"

Feast your eyes on this peachy treasure!
If you're thinking that, you've obviously never enjoyed a fresh, tree-ripened South Carolina peach. There is nothing like it in the world! Don't get me wrong... Georgia peaches are delicious. But they've got NOTHING on a good SC peach! The flavor of a SC peach just seems more... peachy, more juicy, more sweet-tart... as if everything that makes a peach taste good is concentrated into one delectable fuzzy little package. A fresh ripe SC peach from a roadside stand puts any of the grocery store peaches to shame. They are heavenly.

She also brought me a couple jars of the homemade peach jam she made earlier in the season. Mr. RM and I demolished the jar she sent us a couple months ago. Best peach jam I've ever had... entirely too scrumptious for words.

I grew up in the south, and while I love living here in Tampa Bay, I do sorely miss things like fresh-picked SC peaches, which are hard to find here. So to the divine Ms. L, you have my undying gratitude for this most generous gift! Should you ever find yourself in need of a kidney, or a limb, I will happily offer up one of mine. It would be a paltry thanks in return for these rosy-hued gems of succulent lusciousness!

Now please excuse me while I find a napkin to wipe the juice from my chin....

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Muckety Mucks Running Amok

In the immortal words of Goofball in the fictional film "Weekend at Party Pier"...
"We're bein' invaded!"

Yep. Our city is currently being overrun by Republican delegates and big wigs who are here for the Republican National Convention, along with the media circus here to cover it, and the accompanying protesters. Apparently, we've already had credible threats of anarchist attacks, and rumors of plans to blow up our bridges. Oh joy.

We were half hoping Tropical Storm Isaac would head this way. At least that might have kept some of the crazy away. But I guess even Isaac has enough sense to avoid the area this week. We'll just get a glancing blow from him... a few sqalls and enough of a gusty breeze to be really annoying to any of the talking heads who's hair isn't shellacked.

I can only think of one other thing that would be as bad as being invaded by a bunch of Republicans, and that would be being invaded by a bunch of Democrats. (Charlotte, NC will have that dubious honor next week.)

It's not quite September yet and I don't know about you, but I'm already sick and tired of the negative political ads. Mr. RM and I have been exposed to a constant stream of vitriol and mud-slinging rhetoric for the last couple months every time we turn on the TV. I suppose the onslaught of these ads is due to Florida being a swing state. All I know is that we've now started changing the channel whenever one comes on. I'm not sure how much more we can take. We may have to give up TV altogether before election day finally rolls around. (That probably wouldn't be a bad thing.)

Maybe it's just me, but I'd rather hear what a candidate has to say about him- or herself and what they hope to accomplish if elected. I think that's more important than what a candidate has to say about their opponent. If most of your ads are devoted to tearing down the other guy, what does that say about you? Is your platform so weak that pointing fingers at the opposition is your best political move? Tell me why I should vote for YOU, not why you think I shouldn't vote for the other guy.

I saw a report on the news a while back that said studies indicate the negative ads are more effective in swaying people's opinions of a candidate. What that says about our society saddens me.

I am disgusted by the current state of politics in our nation. I think the two-party system is broken. Both parties have become so polarized that they refuse to compromise, cooperate and work together. How can they possibly lead our country?

A couple weeks ago, a pollster called and asked which candidate I was leaning toward in the upcoming election, Obama or Romney? I said "Neither one."

Pollster: "So you haven't made up your mind yet?"

Me: "Oh I've made up my mind... I cannot, in good conscience, vote for either of those two candidates."

Pollster: "Ha ha ha! No, really... if the election was tomorrow, who would you vote for?"

Me: "None of the above."

I am registered as an independent. I don't vote for candidates based on party lines. I look at where each candidate stands on issues that are important to me, and then vote for whichever one's views lie closest to my own. And generally, my ballots end up pretty even split between parties.

Honestly, I don't know how I will vote when I cast my ballot in November. I only know for sure who I WON'T be voting for... and it has nothing to do with party politics. I can't vote for a man who thinks it's perfectly acceptable to drive from Boston to Ontario with the family dog strapped to the top of car in a kennel.

Romney said in another interview that he didn't realize it wasn't legal to do that. To me, legality has nothing to do with it! It's plain old common sense! You don't drive 12 hours on the highway with a dog in a crate on top of the car. Period. If a person lacks the common sense to realize it's wrong (or at the very least questionable) to do that, they sure as hell can't possibly have enough common sense to run the country. So I will not be voting for Mitt Romney.

That being said, I'm not enamored with Obama either. Granted, he inherited the bulk of America's current problems, and it does take time to get things corrected. Still, I'm disappointed at the lack of progress he's made, even though an absence of cooperation and party bickering in Congress has hindered any forward movement.

This election year, I'll be looking into candidates from outside the two major parties. I don't know much about them yet, or even who they are aside from Ron Paul... I haven't had time to read up on them. If I find I can't feel comfortable voting for any of them, I suppose I'll just write in a vote. For whom, I don't know. Maybe Stephen Colbert.

I know a lot of people will say I'd just be throwing away my vote if it doesn't go to one of the two major party candidates. But ya know what? If enough people who feel disenfranchised by our current political system voted their true conscience, maybe soon we'd actually have more than two strong parties. Imagine a Congress that had enough representatives from several parties to break the current cycle of my side/your side bullshit in Washington, DC.

A true multi-party democracy... it could be a beautiful thing.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Monkey at the Movies: R U 4 Real? Srsly? WTF?!!

Mr. Monkey and I went to the movies this weekend. We saw "Batman: The Dark Knight Rises". No review here... y'all are all familiar with the Batman trilogy I'm sure, and you've probably already seen it anyway. It was pretty much what we expected... drama, conflict, gravelly voiced caped crusader, people gettin' beat up, people gettin' shot, blah blah blah... the usual Christopher Nolan Batman fare. Don't get me wrong, it was well done and entertaining. We enjoyed the movie itself. It was our theater experience that we had a problem with.

Now, if you've read this blog much, you're probably aware that Mr. Remarkable Monkey and I tend to see movies after they've been out a while, because we don't like crowded movie theaters. One of the reasons we don't like crowded cinemas is that with more people come more idiots, and neither of us has much patience for idiots. Pack a movie theater full of people and you're bound to get more slack jawed, irritating, rude, loud, smelly and/or obnoxious mouth breathers per square foot than he or I can comfortably deal with. And by comfortably I mean without having to rip a seat cushion from its frame and beat the hell out of someone.

So we were enjoying the Batman flick this weekend, despite some occasional quiet ring tones going off in nearby seats, when near the end of the movie, the woman seated directly in front of me pulled out her phone and started texting. You guys KNOW how much I hate inconsiderate assholes who insist on playing with their phones at the movies.

But being the understanding and sympathetic soul that I am, I didn't immediately haul off and kick her in the head. No. I waited patiently for a few minutes, thinking surely it must be an emergency situation and surely she will turn that shit off post haste. But no. She kept texting for several minutes, even showing her male companion the screen to share a chuckle, and then continued her text conversation. How rude!!

After a few minutes more, I leaned forward and politely said to her, "Excuse me, that's really distracting for the people sitting behind you." Her companion looked at me, but she ignored me and continued to text for another minute or two. Then she finally put her phone away, turned to me and said in a very snotty way, "I'll talk to YOU after the movie."

Oh goody. Can't wait.

So the movie ends, the credits roll, and I patiently waited for Ms. Text-A-Lot to speak up. She finally did, and what did she say? Well, it definitely wasn't an apology. It went something like this:

HER: "I don't appreciate that. I wasn't making any noise. I wasn't even TALKING on the phone!"
ME: "Dude, it doesn't matter. The light from your screen is bright and distracting for everyone behind you."

Of course, I didn't even get to finish the sentence before she's all in my face yelling, "I wasn't makin' no noise! That's why people like YOU need just mind your own fuckin' business!"

ME: "How can I mind my own business when you're flashing it in my face on your phone?"

I don't think she heard me. She was too busy yelling obscenities in her righteous indignation about me basically having the nerve to be inconvenienced by her glaring phone screen detracting from my movie-viewing pleasure. How dare I? She kept on ranting at me as she left the theater. Mr. RM and I just sat there in disbelief and wonderment at her incredible sense of entitlement and her complete lack of social graces.

Whatever, Beeyotch. I'm just sorry your mama didn't raise you right. And all of you other asinine imbeciles who think it's perfectly acceptable to use your phones in a movie theater, IT'S NOT OKAY, dumbass! I didn't pay good money to sit in the theater to be distracted by your brightly lit phone screens while you text your little friends, your boss, your babysitter or whoever it is. If you MUST take a message, step out into the lobby while you do it. Same goes for taking or making calls, or checking your e-mail or newsfeeds. If you can't go two hours without using your phone, DON'T GO TO THE MOVIES!!! Feel free to do that shit in your own living room, but have some common courtesy for those around you at the cinema.

Don't even get me started on the crying babies and toddlers of folks who are too cheap to hire a sitter... unless it's a movie geared for children, leave 'em at home or remove them from the theater if they are crying. You may be immune to the shrieks of your offspring, but the rest of us are not.

I am continuously amazed and baffled by the thoughtless inconsideration of others in public places. Is it just me??

Monday, August 6, 2012

Dragon on the Water

Why is it that cities almost always look better from the water? Is it just the change of perspective? Is it the gentle breeze that's usually found on a body of water? Is it because you're probably enjoying a relaxing activity if you're viewing your city from the water? I don't know. Maybe it's just me.

Launching the dragonboat.
I have a friend who paddles on a dragonboat team. To celebrate her birthday recently, she invited some of her non-paddling pals to join her and a few of her paddling teammates for a sunset paddle down the river. Mr. RM and I were thrilled to be among them! What a great opportunity get a taste of the sport of dragonboating, and to experience a trek through part of our city on the water.

The weather was a bit hot, but we enjoyed beautiful blue skies and the aforementioned breezes on the river. After launching the boat, we loaded it with coolers full of beverages and a few snacks, and climbed in. Our pal's teammates instructed us on proper paddling technique and emergency procedures. And then we were off.

Experienced paddlers at the front of the boat.
There's nothing very difficult about paddling in a dragonboat, but it's hard work! We were going at an easy pace... I can just imagine the workout you'd get at competition speeds! (I'm sure that's a big factor in our friend's enviable muscle tone. Wonder how long it would take before my arms looked as good as hers!)

We took beverage and snack breaks every little while. Let me tell you... there's nothing like a little champagne, a soothing river breeze, and the company of good friends old and new to put you right with the world. And the scenery from the river was the icing on the cake.

Rowing teams' graffiti. It's a tradition.
After we got back to the dock and unloaded the boat, we all headed out for a fabulous dinner. There may be a blog post coming about the funky little joint we went to... we'll definitely be going back!

So although it was our pal's birthday, I feel like Mr. RM and I received the best gift... We got to experience something we may never otherwise have gotten to do, we were introduced to a fabulous new dining option, and we got to spend a memorable evening with a great bunch of people and our good friends.

Our performing arts center, viewed from the river.
Chamber of Freakin' Commerce quality shot right there!

I don't think life gets much better than that.
But maybe that's just me, too.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Monkey at the Movies: Brave

We finally went to see "Brave" the other day. In 3D no less. (As an animated feature, it's exempt from my personal ban of 3D movies.) I kinda felt like we had to be a little brave just to go to the movies last weekend, after the terrible Aurora, CO incident.

Seriously, I can't even begin to fathom the kind of evil crazy that makes a person do something so horrific. You just never know. I wasn't overly concerned about any type of copy-cat shenanigans because we were there on a Sunday morning, seeing a "family" movie, and there were only about five people in that particular theater. But the showing we attended was in the last theater at the very end of the hall in the cinema.... right next to an exit door, so the thought DID cross my mind. And the lack of folks in the audience would have made all five us easy targets should someone decide to go batshit crazy and start shooting up the joint. My heart goes out to the families and friends of the Aurora victims. I don't want to give the psychopath who did it any further mention, so I'll leave it at that.

We settled in, donned our 3D glasses, and enjoyed some previews. (The "Despicable Me" minions' rendition of "Banana" (to the tune of Barbara Ann) just fills me with lighthearted glee. Potato-na. Ha!)

Then we were treated an animated short, "La Luna". Let me tell you... this was an absolutely gorgeous and heartwarming little piece. Beautiful to look at with lovely music to match. Almost worth the price of admission on its own. It's only about 10 or 15 minutes long, but I could have watched it over and over.

The main feature, "Brave", began. Every time I see a Pixar film, I am amazed at what they're able to do with animation. It seems as though they make incredible leaps and bounds in CG technology with each release.

The storyline of the movie itself wasn't quite what I expected in some ways. But it was entertaining, and y'all know how I love to hear a Scottish lilt. Reminds me of my Grandpa. Above all though, the animation is just visually stunning. Moving objects... gowns, plants, arrows, etc.... had a very natural kinetic flow. And what Pixar can do with hair these days... if only my hairdresser could perform magic like that! Seriously though, I remember watching a clip about the challenges Pixar faced when working on "Monsters, Inc.", and how they struggled with the programming to make the CG software render realistic fur. They made groundbreaking strides in that technology back then, and it's obvious they've continued to take it even further. Flowing human locks and rippling bear fur abound in "Brave".

No need to really review the plot... it's pretty standard Disney stuff. Spunky heroine faces self-made trials and obstacles, has to struggle to put things right, everyone learns a valuable life lesson or two, and cue happy ending. The Highlands setting and accompanying fable adds an interesting twist. If nothing else, go see it just to SEE it... to look at it, if you will, and enjoy the artful animation.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Dog Days....

No... I haven't fallen off the face of the earth. Things have been a little crazy around here lately. And not a lot of fun. The most recent misadventure... our beloved dog, Hobey, was diagnosed with Cushing's disease a few weeks ago. If you're not familiar, it's basically a condition where the body produces too much cortisol. Approximately 85% of canine cases are caused by a benign pituitary tumor, and that's what Hobey has been diagnosed with: Pituitary-dependent Cushing's Syndrome.
Hobey never displayed any of the classic clinical symptoms... increased thirst, increased urination, increased appetite, etc. Our vets noticed elevated numbers in his routine bloodwork. A lot of further testing confirmed the diagnosis, though fortunately it's a borderline case and we caught it pretty early. We started treatment with Vetoryl (Trilostane) about five weeks ago.

What the Vetoryl does is inhibit the production of cortisol by the adrenal glands, to prevent the body's level from getting too high. Too much cortisol can cause all sorts of problems. The opposite of Cushing's Disease or Syndrome is Addison's Disease, where the body doesn't produce enough cortisol. Not enough cortisol can be life-threatening.

Treating Cushing's can be tricky, because if the dose of medication is too high, it can cause an Addisonian reaction. So when starting treatment for Cushing's, you have to keep a close eye on your pet and watch for symptoms that would indicate his cortisol levels are too low. You also have to get an ACTH stim test performed two weeks after beginning the meds, then 30 days after that, then 90 days after that, then every six months to monitor the cortisol levels and adjust the meds if necessary. It ain't a picnic, and it ain't cheap. Hobey's vet and medication bills have been about the same as a luxury car payment for the past few months! But he's my furry son, and I don't need a new car, so I'm thankful I'm able to provide the treatment he needs.

As I said, we started treatment a little over five weeks ago. Hobey's numbers were good at his two-week follow-up ACTH Stim test. He didn't seem to be having any side effects other than an increase in his arthritis stiffness, which we expected. Because it's a natural steroid, elevated cortisol levels can mask arthritis and other inflammatory problems. When you bring the cortisol levels back down to normal, the arthritis symptoms will become more obvious. We did see a gradual increase in Hobey's arthritis symptoms... he was slower in getting up, didn't run as fast or as long, and hesitated to jump up on the bed or in the car... but it wasn't drastic or extreme.

Then late last week, we noticed he was suddenly struggling a lot more to get up from lying down. He also seemed to tire out much more quickly than usual. He didn't run to his friend's mom (a.k.a. the cookie lady) when he saw her in the park like he's always done. And he was really slow walking back home from the park that morning. We thought maybe he was just having an off day. That night after work, we noticed a spot on the rug by the back door where he had apparently thrown up. And Mr. RM told me he had to help him up when he got from work that day.

We decided that if he still seemed off the next day, I'd call the vet. I was concerned that he might be heading toward that dreaded life-threatening Addisonian reaction... weakness, lethargy and vomiting are some of the symptoms. The next day, he was still struggling to stand up without help. He was okay once he got his legs under him, but he had a hard time getting there, and he still seemed to be walking much slower and tiring easily. So I skipped his meds that morning, called the vet and left a message with one of the techs about what was going on. I had to go to work before the vet called back... I'm in the process of hiring a new "minion" (that story may be another post), and had someone scheduled for a 10:00 interview. When the vet's office called later that morning, they said to bring him in so the doc could check him out.

When I got back home to get Hobey, he was still lying in the hall where he'd been when I left earlier, and he hadn't eaten the treat I left for him. I called to him, and he tried to get up. He couldn't even get his front legs under him, let alone his poor arthritic back legs. He just slipped around on the wood floor, almost flopping like a fish. I can't begin to tell you how badly that absolutely crushed me. It's horrible to see your four-legged son struggling like that. I went to him and helped him up, and even with me supporting him he struggled to get his feet solidly under him. I half carried him to the rug, and he was finally able to stand up. We went outside, and he was wobbly, but getting steadier. Mr. RM met me at the house and we loaded Hobey into his car to ride to the vet's office.

Dr. H checked his electrolytes... the meds can knock those out of balance too, which can cause problems. They all came back okay. He felt his legs and hips... legs seemed fine, but said Hobey's hips were "cracking" under just the pressure from his thumbs. He said we should increase his Carprofen (like doggy ibuprofen) from one pill every other day to one and a half pills every day... one in the morning and a half one at night. He also said to suspend his Cushing's meds and go ahead and do his 30-day ACTH stim test the next day, a week earlier than scheduled, to see where his cortisol levels were. Like us, he was also concerned that Hobey could be becoming Addisonian.

We got the test results back today. Thankfully, his levels were within normal range. They should be between 1.5 - 9, and he was at a 3. Now, that's a bit low for my complete comfort... I'd be more at ease if they were around a 5, but Dr. H said he was pleased and as relieved as I was. He said to restart the Cushing's meds (the Vetoryl) at the same dose, but to go ahead and do another ACTH stim test in 4-6 weeks to make sure things are still okay.

In the meantime, we're to continue the increased dose of Carprofen for two weeks, and hopefully that will get Hobey's mobility back to what it was. If it doesn't, we'll be looking into other options. Our vet recently began offering stem stell therapy for joint problems, and we were eager to sign up before Hobey's Cushing's diagnosis. Now we're not sure he's a good candidate. It might be okay, but my fear is that because the Cushing's is caused by a tumor, the stem cell treatment could possibly cause the tumor to grow and begin causing other problems. They won't perform stem cell therapy on dogs with active cancer for that reason, but there's not a lot of info on how it might affect pituitary-dependent Cushing's dogs. Dr. H agrees that we should hold off on that in favor of caution. So if the Carprofen doesn't do the trick for Hobey's arthritis, we'll probably try injections of hyaluronic acid, steroids, or Adequan.

So far, we've seen improvement in Hobey's mobility with the increased Carprofen. He's moving around a lot easier the past few days. Still slow, and still seems to tire quickly, but he's able to stand up on his own, even from lying down on the wood floors. We try to get him to lie down on the rugs or on the carpet in the bedrooms, but he LIKES lying on the wood floors... they're cooler I guess.

I also built some doggy stairs for him this weekend, to help him get up and down on the bed, and in and out of the car. I found several instructions for building styrofoam pet steps on tha interwebz, and I'll share how I built Hobey's here.

I got one 8'x4'x2" styrofoam insulation panel from Home Depot, and I cut it into four 2'x32" panels and four 2'x16" panels. 

Then I stacked the four 2'x32" panels, and glued them together with Liquid Nails to form the base step, and then did the same with the 2'x16" panels to form the top step.

Once the two step pieces were done, I attached the top step piece to the base step piece with the Liquid Nails, like so. I tried to smooth out the sides a bit, but because it was making a bit of mess, I opted to leave them a little rough. It doesn't look perfect, but the rough sides don't affect the function anyway. I didn't have time to be a perfectionist about it. 
After letting the completed structure set for while, I covered the steps with outdoor carpet, again adhering it with Liquid Nails. I weighed the carpet down with some heavy stuff just to help ensure it would lie flat while the glue set.

Then, it was just a matter of teaching Hobey how to go up and down the steps. He's familiar with steps and generally doesn't have a problem with them, but we don't have any in our house, so he wasn't quite sure what to make of these. We got him to climb up the steps onto the bed with a little coaxing and a couple of chicken chips, but he had trouble coming back down. He didn't want to do it, and it took quite a bit of bribery with more chicken chips to get him down. He preferred to do sort of a slide maneuver, and finally ended up coming down a bit cockeyed, but not a bad first effort. The fairly strong adhesive fumes may have had something to do with it! We'll keep working with him to get him used to going up and down the steps. The great thing about them is that they're lightweight, so they're easy to move about. This will be a big help with getting him in and out of my RAV4! I can carry the steps out to the car, load Hobes into the back seat, then stow the stairs in the cargo space until we get to our destination. Assuming, of course, that we can get him to be comfortable actually using them!

If you'd like to make some pet steps, Google "build pet steps" or "homemade pet steps" or something similar... there are lots of helpful instructions out there, and you can find something that will work well for your situation. Here's a tip... styrofoam can be really messy to cut! It looked like it snowed in July on my patio after cutting the panels! And if I make another set, I think I'll spend the extra money on the Liquid Nails that's specifically for foam. I got the regular project kind, and it worked okay, but it did "melt" into the styrofoam a little bit. Our house is also still very fragrant from the adhesive fumes. Our Florida summer thundershowers have prevented me from leaving them outside to air out.

And so, armed with doggy anti-inflammatories, extra floor coverings and portable steps, we're ready to combat Hobey's arthritis issues and help him get back to his old self... or at least as close as a nearly-12-year-old dog can get to his old self. And we'll be keeping a close eye on his Cushing's. He's truly the greatest dog in the world, and we'd like to keep him healthy, happy and comfortable for another few years. Even if it seems like he's trying to put his mama in the poor house. Totally worth it. Totally!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

I Had A Dad - Addendum

So..... Father's Day. This was always a somewhat awkward day for me. I was only ten or eleven when my parents separated, so the stuff expressed in most Father's Day cards was foreign to me. Growing up, I never got my allowance from my dad. I never borrowed his car. I never asked him for dating advice, never cried on his shoulder when my heart got broken, never went to a father-daughter dinner or dance... you know, all that typical cheesy schmaltzy crap that is the earmark of Hallmark. Most cards reflect a close father-child relationship, and given the space between us, those types of greetings didn't really seem appropriate. And yet we DID have a friendly and familial relationship during most of my adulthood. There wasn't much of a selection of cards that seemed to fit our unique relationship, so choosing the right Father's Day card to send my dad was always something of a challenge.

I wasn't faced with that challenge this year, and I felt that void acutely. I knew that Father's Day this year would be a little difficult, but I didn't expect it to hit me as hard as it has. Despite the geographic and emotional miles that had been between us, I am missing my dad today.

Maybe it's the finality of it settling in... that he's really gone now, not just far away. Maybe I'm feeling all the evaporated hopes of finally visiting him and having him show me the Hawaii that he knew and loved. Maybe I'm feeling all the lost opportunities we may have had to eventually build a closer relationship. I know I'm missing the back-and-forth e-mail banter we enjoyed. And I think I'm especially sad that there's one less person in the world that I knew I could count on to root for me, to be proud of me, to help celebrate my accomplishments and encourage me when I failed. Our relationship had its scars, but I still had a father who loved me, and called me his "Dotter". I'm feeling the loss of his presence in my life.

Mr. Remarkable Monkey went up to his folks' today to celebrate Father's Day with his dad. I like my in-laws well enough and my father-in-law is a gem, but I just didn't feel up to spending Father's Day with someone else's dad this year.

Dad c.2000
Instead, I chose to stay home and honor my dad's memory in a way that I think would make him happy. And so I'm sitting on the patio, writing. My dad was something of a writer... he was even published a time or two. And I'm sipping a glass of Glenfiddich, his favorite Scotch. I don't know if he took it neat, or with water or on the rocks... I may never know now. I opted for neat. And while I'm not a fan of whiskey, I gotta say... the Glenfiddich is not too bad. I guess Dad is still teaching me things after all.

Cheers, Dad.
I miss you.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Life Rolls On...

Thanks for all the kind comments, both public and private, on my recent family losses. It really means a lot. I'm bouncing back, and life keeps rolling along. And I guess that's as it should be... to every season, blah blah blah. And right now, it's the season to reap the bounty of my haphazard gardening efforts. So far, not too bad this year.

Ouiser Boudreaux from
Steel Magnolias
Waaaay back in early March, I dug the garden plot and planted the usual: some tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers. As I've said before, I think there's a law somewhere that mandates southern women to grow at least a couple tomato plants every year.
(Miss Ouiser would agree... "Because I'm an old Southern woman and we're supposed to wear funny looking hats and ugly clothes and grow vegetables in the dirt. Don't ask me those questions. I don't know why, I don't make the rules!" Only I'm not that old, I don't generally wear funny hats or ugly clothes, and I actually DO eat tomatoes... especially homegrown ones!)

Here's what the garden patch looked like on planting day.

And here's what the cherry tomato plant looked like about a week ago.

The thief left behind evidence.

Not too many garden pests have found us yet this year, other than a bird or a squirrel or a rat that nabbed the first big ripe tomato the night before I planned to pick it. And then it rudely left the remnants of said tomato just a couple feet from the patch, just to rub it in I guess. Dang wildlife creatures!!

The herb garden in our front planter box was looking gorgeous a couple weeks ago. We've got radishes, basil, dill, cilantro, curly parsley, flat leaf parsley and chives. Unfortunately, aphids decided to decimate our radishes. We got a few tasty ones before they died off though. (Tasty radishes, not aphids. I have no idea whether or not aphids are tasty, and currently have no plans to research that subject.)

Currently sitting on my kitchen counter is this bunch of recently picked goodies... cherry and grape tomatoes, a bigger tomato and a couple of Mexibell peppers. Those Mexibells were labeled as being slightly hotter than regular bell peppers, but let me tell you what.... they really pretty hot!! They're not quite as hot as jalapenos, but close to the neighborhood. This is the first year I've planted that variety, and I'm surprised and delighted with their heat! I'll definitely look for them again next year.

As for those tomatoes, they are destined to make an appearance in tonight's dinner. They will be transformed into a tomato & fresh basil (from the herb garden) salad, with mozzeralla pearls and a balsamic and olive oil dressing. Mmmmm!! I think there are a few eggplants ready to pick as well, so I'll probably grill those up too. I'd invite y'all over, but I haven't dusted the house this week. (I really just don't want to share this fresh bounty, but as a southern "lady", I'm too polite to tell ya that.)

If you're growing stuff yourself, I hope your garden patch is pest-free, and that you have a bumper crop of your favorite veggies!

Thought y'all might want to see the transformation of the tomatoes above to the delicious 'mater/basil salad I whipped up last night. It was yummy! I made a little too much dressing, but that's okay... just need to dish it out with a slotted spoon.

If you'd like to make some yourself, all ya gotta do is cut up some cherry and/or grape tomatoes, chop or chiffonade some fresh basil, toss in some fresh mozzarella pearls or chunks if you like, and then douse it all with some kind of dressing to marinate for a little while. I made my dressing by whisking together some balsamic vinegar, olive oil, a little sugar, a little salt, a little pepper and a couple of fresh garlic cloves run through a garlic press. Pour it over the salad and chill until you're ready to eat. Yum!!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

I Had a Dad...

Dad c. 1987, at the last occasion
I saw him in person.
The monkey cage hasn't been a fun place lately. Last month, it was my Grandma. Last week, my father lost his battle with lung cancer. I am deeply saddened.

If you've read last year's Father's Day post, you know that we didn't have the "typical" father/daughter relationship. My dad battled some pretty vicious demons during his early adulthood. Mix those demons with alcohol and you've got a pretty combustive combination. As a child, I was mostly afraid of him. We never knew what might set him off, and it wasn't pretty when he exploded. I was only eleven when my parents split. A few months later he left the east coast and moved to Hawaii.

So there was a lot of distance between us, both geographically and emotionally. At one point, we had pretty much disowned each other. We reconnected when I was a young adult myself. The distance between us, and some pretty thick emotional scar tissue, made it difficult for us to forge a really close relationship. I don't know if things would have been different had we been closer geographically... maybe, maybe not... there was a lot of water under the bridge. But we managed to leave the past in the past, and built something of a new relationship that allowed us to at least get to know each other, as people, a little better. And for that I'm truly thankful.

As a person, my dad was an amazing man. He was one of the most intelligent people you could ever hope to meet. As I mentioned in that Father's Day post, he had photographic memory and genius-level IQ. He was also funny, and tough, and loyal to his friends. He was a leader, and accomplished many wonderful things for his community. I think as he got older, he mellowed. Maybe because he finally got his demons under control? I'd like to think so. The warmer, softer side of him was much more apparent. Living in a beautiful tropical paradise like Hawaii may have helped too. And I really think that his wife, the sweet Miss C, was a positive and calming influence on him.

When he was diagnosed with lung cancer in October 2010, we all held our breaths. Rounds of chemo and radiation followed. He did remarkably well! (There's that Scottish stubborn tenacity!) The tumors had shrunk and appeared to be stable, and the prognosis was good. Just this past November, all the docs seemed to think treatment was successful. And then my dad started having problems, particularly losing strength in his legs. At first, he thought it was lingering effects of the chemo and radiation. Unfortunately, in March, an MRI showed a couple brain lesions. The type of lung cancer he had is apparently notorious for spreading to the brain. So just when we thought he'd beaten it and would soon be back to normal, that fucking cancer sneaked back in through another entrance. (And there's this blog's first F-bomb... cancer deserves it.)

Dad and Miss C on a happy day in 2003.
He had a gamma-knife procedure on March 14th. The day after, he couldn't even stand. He was admitted to an inpatient rehab facility on March 20th in the hopes that he could regain some of his strength. From what Miss C tells me, Dad got more and more discouraged, and eventually it seemed like he gave up. He was in a lot of pain and not making much progress.

He was admitted to a hospice facility on April 20th. I was able to speak with him briefly that weekend. It was the first time in quite a while that we'd talked on the phone. We had e-mailed each other several times a week for years and enjoyed a friendly rapport, but phone conversations were rare... The time difference made calls difficult, but also for me (and maybe for him as well), they just seemed a little awkward and stiff. For some reason, it seemed harder to overcome the distance between us verbally. We didn't seem to have that problem when communicating via e-mail.

During our conversation, I wondered to myself if that would be the last time I'd get to speak to him. I didn't think it would be... I thought he had at least a little more time left. I'm so thankful that I had that opportunity to talk to him one last time. It meant even more to me than I thought it would.

I asked him if there was anything I could send him to enjoy while he was there in hospice.
 He said, "Yeah, Glenfiddich."
"Are you allowed to have that there?" I asked.
"I'm the king here... I can have anything I want!" was his reply.
I laughed and told him I'd see what I could do.

"Is there anything else I can do for you, Dad?" I asked.
He said, "Just make me proud."

I know he was proud of me. After we reconnected twenty-some-odd years ago, he often told me he was. And I know we loved each other in our own dysfunctional way, even if it WAS at somewhat of a distance. I'm glad he was proud of me, and I'm very proud to be his daughter.

Miss C tells me that she's thinking of having just a very small memorial service with close friends and family at the Buddhist temple her mother belonged to. She says Dad really liked that temple, and that he had come to appreciate many of the aspects of Buddhism, though not necessarily as a religion (just as I have... go figure!).  So I think he'd really like that.

Sadly, I won't be able to attend. While the geographic distance between us may have made things a little more comfortable in the past, right now I wish I was close enough to be there. When he seemed to have beaten the cancer back in November, I thought I'd try and save up and maybe plan to finally get out there in the next couple years for a visit with him, and spend a few days getting to know him a little better in person. I'm truly sorry that I won't get that opportunity. Some day, though, I'll make it out there. I'd like to finally meet Miss C in person, and see the place that Dad called home for over 30 years.

For now, I think I'll go and get myself a bottle of Glenfiddich. When his memorial service is happening in Hawaii, I'll pause whatever I'm doing here and toast his memory. I really don't like Scotch (or any whiskey for that matter), but I'll drink it anyway in honor of my dad. I have a feeling that with Scotch... just as in our relationship... once you get past the bitterness, there's a pleasant warmth to enjoy.

Mahalo, Dad.
A hui kaua.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Has It Really Been a Year?

Yesterday marked one year since I posted my first blog entry. Has it really been that long? Then again, sometimes it DOES seem like it's been a really long year. A lot has happened since last April, though not everything makes it onto these pages.

When I started this blog, I wasn't sure what I wanted it to be. It's probably obvious from the way it wanders that I STILL don't know exactly what I want it to be. If nothing else, it remains an exercise in writing for me. I read and wrote a lot as a kid, even won a prize or two for writing in elementary school. Later, like most teenagers, any writing I did was mainly limited to school assignments, and angst-ridden or anti-authority song lyrics. As an adult, aside from grocery lists or notes in greeting cards, most of my writing has been advertising copy and headlines as part of my job (I'm a graphic designer). I'm not bad at it... at my first job in advertising, my ability to turn a clever phrase even earned me the nickname "Headline Queen", which also came with the much-coveted "Elvis Salute". (Thank ya.... thank ya vurry much!) But writing the occasional ad copy probably isn't going to make me a better writer. Writing this blog at least makes me slow down, makes me stop and think more critically about things like sentence structure and word choice.

Friends who know me are probably amazed that I've written 70 blog posts in the past year without dropping a single F-bomb! While my spoken conversation is liberally peppered with profanity, I've tried to avoid it here. It's not because I want to keep this blog PG-rated, but because it's a challenge for me to abstain from them. You have no idea how difficult that's been... swearing is in my DNA. When my late Scottish grandfather was four or five years old in Edinburgh, he'd stand outside the pub and sailors would pay him a nickel to hear him swear. I understand it was a skill he'd learned from my great (or great great) grandmother. So yeah, I come by my proclivity for swearing naturally, and I appreciate the value of a well-placed profanity. I'll still try to avoid it here for the challenge of it, but don't be surprised or offended if you stumble upon the occasional curse word here now and then. After a year without them, I'm inclined to relax that self-imposed rule a bit.

For now, I think I'll also keep the blog fairly anonymous. Although it's mostly just friends and family reading it (and damn few of those, truth be told), it's still out there in the wilderness of tha interwebz, and I'm a little paranoid about making too much personal information available to anyone with a web connection. I know, I know... It's probably a little silly, but ya just never know. I don't expect that this blog will ever have a really widespread readership, but I'd rather be overly cautious in this age of identity theft and personal fraud. That being said, most of the blogs I enjoy reading tell personal stories, so I may relate more of what goes on in this monkey cage if I think it might have some entertainment value. I think I can do that without divulging my full name and social security number. (But maybe not without profanity!)

So here's to beginning a second year in the blogosphere. I can't promise that all my posts will be interesting or entertaining, but I've enjoyed writing them so far. Not only is it a personal challenge, but it allows me to express myself about what goes on in my corner of this weird and wonderful world. There are still a lot of things out there that make me wonder if it's just me. Maybe it's you, too... after all, aren't we ALL remarkable monkeys?

Monday, April 16, 2012

I Already Miss Her.

Gma - Mother's Day 2008

My grandma died today. She was 93, and the end was a long time coming. She'd been languishing for several weeks, since a bout of aspirational pneumonia in early March. Actually, she'd been languishing for months, really. Her mind started leaving her, a little bit a time, several years ago. It wasn't Alzheimer's... just run-of-the-mill ordinary age-related dementia, eventually amplified by possible transient ischemic attacks (mini strokes). When it became apparent that she wasn't taking proper care of herself about six years ago, her kids (my mom and my two uncles) had to move her to an assisted living facility. (My grandpa had died several years earlier.) She wasn't happy about it, but eventually settled in. I think it helped that one or two of her childhood friends lived there too. (It's a very small southern town.) One of my uncles lives in the same town as well, so he was able to see her every day and make sure she was alright and getting good care. (Can't thank him enough for that!)

I live several states away so I was unable to visit, but I called fairly often when she first moved in. Whenever I called, inevitably the staff would have to go and track her down. She was almost always out on the smoking patio. After she'd been there a while, our conversations became increasingly repetitive as her mind began to fail her more and more. It was like having the same conversation six times in the span of five minutes. Sometimes, I don't think she really knew who I was. I'm pretty sure she confused me with my mom at least once.

I got to visit her there once, four or five years ago. I had flown up to see my mom, who lives in the same state as my grandma (or Gma, as we liked to call her) but five hours away from Gma's town. Mom and I made the trek up to visit her. I remember her face lit up when she saw me. She knew who I was... at least I'm pretty sure she did. We took her to visit her brother, and also the lady who had lived next door to her for years. She enjoyed it, and seemed lucid and cognizant. On the way back to the facility, we stopped at the grocery store to get some ice cream for her to keep in the fridge/freezer in her room. I remember walking through the store, and Gma reached out and took my hand, and held it as we walked. She looked at me and just smiled. She seemed really happy in that moment, and I remember wondering to myself if this would be the last time I saw her in person. Turns out it was. I'm sad that I didn't get to see her again, but I'm glad that my last personal memory of her is one in which she was happy.

I continued to call her for a while, but eventually it just became pointless, really, and painful for me. She drifted farther and farther away in her mind, and combined with reports from my mom and my uncle about her failing memory, I figured that sending a card and/or photo was a better way to go. I feel a bit guilty about that, and also about not sending a greeting more often than I did. At the same time, I doubt she really knew or cared, and she WAS often in my thoughts. It's not like I ever forgot about her, or ever stopped loving or caring about her.

After all, this was the woman who brought me home from the hospital when I was born. (My dad was in Viet Nam at the time.) When I was about 19 years old, my mom handed my Gma $7, a repayment of the army hospital fee my Gma paid when I was born, just so that Gma could no longer say, "She's mine... I paid for her!" My grandma refused to take the money, just so she could continue to lay claim on me! When my parents' marriage ended just before I started sixth grade, my brother and I lived with my Gma and Gpa for a few months while my mom relocated and settled into a new job. We were pretty close. And so it was painful to have her drift away the way she did, stolen piece by piece through the effects of age.

In May of last year, she had declined to the point that she needed more care than her current facility could provide. She had to be moved to another place, more of a nursing home. Age kept advancing, and taking more and more of her mind. Her body began to follow. She had difficulty swallowing, and would sometimes aspirate when she did. In March of this year, she suffered a bout of aspirational pneumonia. A hospice nurse was assigned. It didn't look like she would recover. In all likleihood, a lesser woman wouldn't have, but the women on my mom's side of the family are a stubborn lot! (Myself included!) She got better. Until another bout this month. Her body began to give in. Early last week, the hospice nurse said that Gma was "actively dying". There wasn't much left that could be done, and so the vigil began.

I'm beyond sad that I've lost my dear Gma. But I'm also angry about what she had to go through in the last week of her life. My grandma's advance directives dictated that she was to not be kept alive by artificial means. This included feeding tubes. Once she became mostly unresponsive, further nutrition was withheld, according to her wishes. Remember how I just said the women on my mom's side of the family are a stubborn lot? Gma was a tough old bird. The docs and staff couldn't believe she made it through the first bout of pneumonia. Now, with the second, she was hanging on. But barely. She lasted the better part of a week before giving in, her body worn out but refusing to shut down completely. The staff did what they could to ease her pain and make her comfortable, but I'm sure she was suffering. She wouldn't have wanted to live that way. And she shouldn't have had to.

Why is it that in our society, we'll readily euthanize our pets to alleviate their suffering when they're terminal, but we won't do the same for people? I can't understand how it's acceptable to allow a person to basically starve to death medically, as my Gma did, but's it's illegal to administer a nice healthy dose of morphine to end their suffering. How can we allow our pets to die with dignity and minimize their suffering, but we can't do the same for poor old Gma? It just doesn't seem right, or fair. But maybe it's just me.

I wonder what will happen to me if I get old and lose my faculties. I don't have kids of my own... If I'm ever in a similar situation as my Gma, I hope there will be someone who cares, someone who will be my advocate and make sure I'm getting good care. Time will tell, I guess.

For now, I'm just sad at the loss of my Gma. She was a pistol. I'm glad I'm at least a little like her... I think I inherited some of her sassiness and spunk. At least I hope I did. When my mom was in high school and Gma was making a prom dress for her, Mom wanted a dress with a full hoop skirt. Gma tried to talk her into a slinky one with a slit up the side. Later, when she and Gpa had moved back to that small southern town she grew up in, Gma caused a bit of a scandal when she submitted recipe for Brandy Slush to the county Homemakers Extension cookbook. It was the only recipe with alcohol submitted that year... probably EVER until then. They printed it, but there was talk. Gma didn't care! (And her brandy slush is ridiculously delicious!) Gma didn't take much crap from anyone. But she didn't have to... everyone who knew her loved her.

Here's an excerpt from an e-mail my uncle sent this afternoon:

"Mom died today, peacefully in her sleep, at 1:35 PM. One of the caregivers from the Home was holding her hand when she passed, and said she went peacefully. At her request, we will not have services. She will be cremated, and her ashes mixed with Dad’s, and scattered. There is nothing else I can say. She was loved by all who knew her and by her family, of course. I was truly impressed at the number of caregivers at the Assisted Living Home who were openly crying, and wanted to go into Mom’s room to say a personal goodbye. When they took her out, the staff lined the hall, and showed a degree of respect the funeral director said he had never seen at a Nursing Home. He was amazed to learn she had only lived there for about a year."

I think I really said goodbye to my Gma that day we went to the grocery store for ice cream. There wasn't much personal connection after that. But I'm struggling today with the thought that now she's REALLY gone. Then again, she'll never really be gone. I see some of her in my mom. And some of her in myself. She was a big part of shaping who I am, and still has an influence on who I will become. I'm glad she's no longer suffering, but I will miss her terribly.

I think I'll go fix myself a brandy slush now, and whisper a toast to her memory.
Here's to you, Gma. Say hi to Gpa for me. I love you.