Sunday, July 29, 2007

Dad was a Water Witch

My daddy was a water witch.

When you are growing up, and you see your dad walk around with a fork of mesquite wood that occasionally points at the ground, you don't think about it much. It certainly wasn't anything he advertised, or talked about. Every so often, some oldtimer would come around and he and my dad would go off to some property and then come back. Not often, just sometimes. I do know payment never changed hands. I don't know how often he was successful--he never talked about it. And there's not such a much of water to find in our part of New Mexico.

Dad was a respected businessman, later a banker. In New Mexico, it wasn't quite as weird to have a bank president that was also a water witch, was a little different, shall we say.

We owned most of the desert around our house, and there came a time when Dad would go out, of a Sunday afternoon, and slowly walk back and forth across several acres.
He wanted to put in a water well. He was looking for the water. And he found it.

I remember the day he had me step between his arms and put my hands above his on the stick. You know how a hose feels when the water is pouring through it? It felt like that, and the stick was pulling, straining, to turn down to the ground. Then he let go, and suddenly I was just a girl holding a stick.

He ran out of money the first time he drilled and had to come back. Way more than 1,000 feet down, an underground river flowed just where he said it was. And the second time, he hit water. The driller had thought my dad was nuts, but hey, he was paying. Then the wet mud started coming. And finally, the water. The driller may have been more excited than my dad. After all, my dad knew the water was there. He was satisfied. He was very pleased though, with the volume and the potability. For years, he and mother used that water for their morning coffee. You see, in an Air Force town, the city water was highly chlorinated. This made much better coffee.

The well made it possible for him to nurture the large garden, flower beds, vegetable garden, and one memorable year, an acre of alfalfa, at pretty much his own expense. I loved wading through the grass when he flooded the lawn.

Throughout, he was just a perfectly ordinary man who liked to garden and keep bees, and did I mention, was fluent in three languages? In this little two-horse town in southern New Mexico. He was just my dad. Who was a water witch.

Friday, July 27, 2007

I'll Get Back to You Later

One of the things about cell phones is that you end up telling the caller where you are and what you are doing. Kind of like an oral Blackberry. I am always bemused when I go out to eat and I ser four men together at a table, together, eating, and all four are on their cell phones, talking to other people. Why did they go out to eat together?

It seems to me that the more we use cell phones, the more alone we are. And I know so many people with two or three phones and e-mail, and I can never really talk to them, at least for a number of days. So despite all the communications, we find our ways to be very, very private and singular. That's okay. It's the illusion of availability I hate. Boy, do I hate "the party you called is not available." Even more, I hate the phones with no mail message service that simply says, "call again later." I've gotten used to, at least, voice mail.

I've gotten used to the computerized voice mail transactions. Today it was a nuisance because I kept sneezing, and every time I did, it upset the program and I had to start over several times.

But there are pluses. Like e-mail, and blogs. And probably chat rooms if I ever find one I want to talk in, which I haven't so far.

We are so lucky in this country to have electricity available almost all of the time, and cars to drive. I notice in radio gripes that people actually get much more upset over driving violations that inconvenience them than in bigger issues like immigration, voters rights, First Amendment violations, etc. I remember years ago a friend telling me about a kitchen fire at a fast food place, and even as the firemen tried to clear the site, oblivious patrons came in, wanting to order meals. They wanted what they wanted, and they really didn't notice anything else. Like fire trucks.

Many of us live really small lives, apparently. Some of us do lift our eyes up to see more than a full belly, shelter, and a means to survive. But a lot of us really don't. When we do, oh, what a world there is.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Price of Potatoes

Leaving the grocery store, I saw a woman ahead of me with a small girl, 3 or 4. The woman's arms were tightly wrapped around a large sack of groceries. The little girl scampered beside her, unsecured, as they crossed the parking lot to a beat up old pickup truck, pale yellow and spackle. The back wall of the cab had been removed, and a bench seat set in the truck bed behind the cab.

The woman opened the passenger side door. I was startled when she carefully eased the groceries into the seat and fastened the seat belt. Then she picked up the little girl and lifted her into the pickup bed to sit on the bench seat, unsecured. The woman got into the truck and drove away.

And I wondered about choices, priorities, and different lifestyles.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Oldtime Medicine From the View of an Amateur

The nice thing about having lived a half dozen decades is that one has a wealth of stories to call upon. And some I have actually learned from.

Back in the middle sixties, green as grass and fresh out of college, I decided I wanted to volunteer at the county teaching hospital. At that time, the only air-conditioned parts were the ER, delivery and surgical suites. I chose ER. After all, the writer in me suspected some life stories would come in each week, as they did. No, I didn't write about them, but I experienced. From 3-11 p.m. every Monday for nine months, I volunteered in the emergency room.

That time in history was a little different. Even 10 years later I really enjoyed making the chief hospital administrator blanch as I related some of the things the ER staff had me doing. Ha!

They ran me through my paces, saw what I could do and then started adding on. Consider me like a corpsman in a field hospital who turns out to be steady, reliable and trainable. Such persons are given a lot to do they wouldn't otherwise. And this was a teaching hospital. The nurses were mostly old war horses. The doctors were brand, spanking new. Teaching staff didn't often come through on my shift. I was taught during that period just like everyone else. They started me with patient forms, only I didn't just fill out paper forms. I was doing temps and blood pressures from the first day. For the first two weeks, a nurse would slip in pehind me periodically to double-check my reads. When they turned out to be okay, they nodded in satisfaction and quit checking. After all, it's not exactly rocket science.

They oversaw my learning how to prepare a patient for examination. They taught me how to set up sterile trays for the doctors. I shlepped bedpans, of course. Twice that I remember, we had burn patients and the LVN had me assist her in scrubbing off the burned skin. One woman had fallen asleep holding a cigarette, I remember, and all the nails came off when we scrubbed.Made the bottom of my stomach prickle, but I didn't let on and I didn't slow down. Remember, I had basically just walked in off the street. Medicine had always fascinated me, however. I was learning every week. And mostly, I loved it.

The whole staff just accepted me. Another pair of hands, ignorant but teachable. Can follow directions. Good. Now go do this. And I did. Those of you working in medicine today are probably shuddering. But hey, this was 40 years ago.

One thing--in that nine months I volunteered, Monday nights did not have a single serious car crash, shooting or stabbing between the hours of 3 and 11. Staff took to rubbing my head for luck. When I became a medical writer a few years later and came back to the ER to do a story on the newfangled triage system, the same calm hit the ER. Staff begged me to come back for a few more days.

Oh we were busy enough. The usual broken arms and legs and insect bites and sickness, not to mention the one or two botched abortions that came through each evening, the young women in various stages of risk from sepsis setting in after a back alley butchery or perforated uterus from a badly wielded coat hanger. All of them, always, calling for their mommas. Who usually weren't there. Those, of course, usually went straight through to Ob-gyn.

The worst, the absolute worst thing I ever did in the ER was about halfway through. We had a patient that needed some sort of procedure they seldom did. I was instructed to get the tray, covered in a sterile sheet under an exam table, and set it up. I didn't miss a lick. Set it up perfectly. Whatever it was, I remember it involved a large mixing-bowl size stainless steel bowl. I was overseen as I set it up, but I did it right. And then--- At that time, sterile gloves came in sizes, each pair enclosed in papery-plastic sleeves. Not sterile. I glanced at the waiting resident and grabbed the right size gloves. And I dropped the non-sterile package right on the tray. I still remember the resident's visceral "NOOOOOO" as the gloves fluttered down. And decontaminated the whole setup. He didn't yell at me. Why, I still don't know. Turns out, there was a second setup in the ER. And he had me set that up, too. And I never ever made an error about sterile procedures again. I still wince when I think of it.

I learned most moms with a sick or injured kid had to be given the instructions at least four times, because fear or their pain over their kid's pain made them a little deaf. This was before the easy, designer drugs of today. Didn't get much drug addiction crap. Isn't that WONDERFUL?

Two memorable experiences--the night the big, dirty fat lady came in with a wound on her leg. She apparently had a small bladder. I know I carried a number of bed pans for her. I couldn't help but notice how the dirt marked the creases in her neck like little mud lines. I had to shift her on and off the pan. In other words, I had to handle her quite a bit. Meanwhile, she had this deep, round wound in her leg bigger than a silver dollar. It was red around the edges, but the reason she probably didn't have blood poisoning (no streaks) was that the wound was filled full to the brim with whitish maggots. Fly larva, eating the proud flesh and keeping her healthier than she would have been otherwise. They still hadn't dealt with her and her menagerie by the time I left that night. I drove home, opened my apartment, took one step inside and closed the door. I stripped to the skin right there and went straight to the shower.

I kept wanting to see a delivery, and finally, after nine months, a resident who had been in the ER and just shifted to Ob-Gyn, came down and told me to come upstairs. He had a delivery for me to watch. I went upstairs, "suited out", put on sterile gloves and a mask. The woman was near the end of delivery and very tired. The doctor actually had me pour the disinfectant over the vaginal area--hair, no time for shaving. She didn't want to push. Staff encouraged her, and finally she did.
The baby was born. Bluish white, like a carving. The doctor picked her up and flicked one of her feet. She drew in a breath to cry in outrage, and I watched life bloom over her, rosy red from the head to the feet. No longer a statue. A living, breathing, life-filled baby girl. Miraculous. Beautiful. Awesome. I learned later this woman had had five previous stillborns.

About two weeks later, my boyfriend shattered his legbone and had a 10-inch plate installed. He was in the hospital a week, and somehow, I never did get back to the ER.

I had told them I wanted to see a live birth before I left, and I guess I really, truly meant it.

As I say, about five years later, I became a medical writer for nine years. I was invited in on many procedures and some operations, and worked with doctors both in my county and Southwestern Medical School. I loved it, and I always checked back with my docs to make sure I was accurate. Bonus for that was that when my second son was born by C-section, the anesthesiologist was the current county president of the medical society, and he left my arm free so I could scratch my nose during the surgery. A very big plus, I thought.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Life Is a Bowl of Cherries, But You Have to Pick Them

I went to the doctor this week, a specialist I've been seeing annually for a number of years. I was referred by my GP a number of years ago, and found him to be competent and helpful. I also found him to have the personality, basically, of a turnip. No chit-chat, no smiles, no information beyond what I forced out of him with persistent questions. But he was undeniably competent, so I kept going back.

About 18 months ago, I returned with a mild to moderate problem that was greatly affecting my quality of life. To my surprise, he was really responsive to that, and spent quite a lot of effort to find me an answer. Which he did. And he even talked a few times without prodding. And I talked some with his staff, who really, really respected and liked him, and were also responsive to the patients. Hmm. I thought. Maybe he's just an introvert. Or shy. Or both.

So I went into his office this week, and waited for my appointment. Several times, he escorted patients out to the payment window. He smiled at each one, and on several occasions patted a shoulder or an arm. Something's changed, I thought. I wonder what it could be. I immediately wondered if he had a better personal life, happiness. Because he seemed happy.

When my name was called, I entered the inner office only to wait further, of course. I talked to the staff member who escorted me and learned from her this year, as I had last from other staff, how much they respected and liked him. Then a woman came along. Reminded me maybe of Babs in 15 years. Grey hair, shiny, in a sassy long ponytail. A face that radiated warmth at 10 paces. Big smile. Athletic walk. Casual clothes. The staff introduced me to my doctor's wife. I smiled and said, "He takes good care of me." She beamed and patted me on the shoulder. "I hear that a lot," she said. Staff followed her into another room. When she returned, I asked, "Is that the always wife or is she new?" "New, " I was told. She went on to say he had had a downsize in his patients, but now he was back on top again and everything was going well.

The doctor came for me and we did our business. He smiled and even volunteered a minor personal statement. He did his usual careful assessment and care of me. He escorted me out and smiled again.

What a difference happiness makes.

I have been reading for years about a curious anamoly that somewhat puzzles academics and doctors. Depressed people are the most logical of us all. They assess everything by the logic of it, without hope involved. Without optimism involved. Just logic. A horrible newspaper story I read years ago told of an experiment where depressed rats (I don't know how to get rats depressed, but scientists do) and normal rats were put in a caldron of water with no way out. The could only swim until they drowned. The depressed rats gave up much earlier. They knew there was no way out, so why waste effort? The healthy rats fought on. And eventually, they, too, drowned. Horrible story. Horrible experiment. But the healthy rats were right. Something could have happened. They could have been rescued. Damn scientists.

Being human involves more than logic. When we embrace the possibility of possibilities, something changes.

Simplest example I have was when I was in graduate school. I was taking a Speech and Hearing class called"Theories of Language Acquisition in Children." It is both the best class and best teacher I ever had, but one of the hardest. I wasn't a speech major, but to pass this course, I had to pass a midterm where I could competently identify what consonants, vowels, diphthongs and harder consonants children master in order--and identify the stages in word scenarios on the test.At about the same time, a friend gave me a gig doing area publicity for a New Age musician who had concerts scheduled. I did my best. I've never been too entreprenurial, have I said? My test was on a Monday. The Friday before, I was paid for my work...$400! I had never dreamed I would be paid so much. I did my happy dance and sat down to study. Buoyed up by the optimism, I aced that Monday test. Aced it. Logically, I knew I couldn't do better than a B. But optimism and happy cut in, and I aced it. Reality is more than logic.

Whatever people try to tell you, love and happiness are real. And when you have them, you can go a whole lot further than logic. Isn't that the point of Dickens"A Christmas Carol"? Goodness exists, and so does happiness and enthusiasm, and idealism. And love.

My doctor is happier. I suspect that makes him an even better person. I know it makes him a better doctor.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Wealth of Family

This was a busy weekend for Matt G. and family. They closed on the house and moved. I took care of the kids parttime Friday and all day Saturday. I had a wonderful time. The girls had fun, too. We went for pizza, over to the park to play (I sat at a picnic table in the cool shade of the trees, while they played in the full sun on the playground. Temp in the 80s, unbelievable for July in Texas.)

We stopped for bottled water and went to the movies--their second time to see "Ratatouilie" and my first. Note to parents who haven't been yet--it's the best cartoon I've seen in several years, fun for adults AND kids, and the Pixar cartoon before the cartoon is not to be missed, I laughed out loud all the way through. Then I took the kids home, stopping off for fast food for all. Had them away for about 12 hours, and their parents had done miraculous things with the time.

The kids were happy and relaxed. So was I. And parents were exhausted but pleased with progress. I understand "Transformers" also will be a decent movie for them, but Saturday I wasn't sure. They are so much fun, these girls. They are smart, and sweet, and their parents have done a great job. I just enjoy all the time with them, as do their other grandparents. My own children had one grandparent who died early. These girls have five grandparents. An aunt and uncles. Cousins they see from time to time. Not unusual, but very different from my own experience.

A wealth of family really is wealth, a richness in family that has no substitute. Isn't it nice, when the next generation does so well? Oh, yeh, great earnings would also be nice for them. But I look at my sons, and I think, "I didn't screw up too bad." The universe is enriched by my progeny.

It really is.

Friday, July 13, 2007

A Moment to Remember

It's well past Independence Day, but just recently got this e-mail and decided to post it. I am a history buff, and I knew some of this;can't attest to the validity of all of it, but it sounds about right. I can't imagine mainstream men OR women of education and property doing such a thing today, with a clear idea of the risks they took. Sometimes, it is good to remember. I deleted three paragraphs at the end that did not deal with the history.

Subject: 56 men signed
Have you ever wondered what happened to the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence?

Five signers were captured by the British as traitors, and tortured
before they died.

Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned.

Two lost their sons serving in the Revolutionary Army; another had two
sons captured.
Nine of the 56 fought and died from wounds or hardships of the
Revolutionary War.

They signed and they pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their
sacred honor.

What kind of men were they?

Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists. Eleven were merchants, nine were
farmers and large plantation owners: men of means, well educated. But
they signed the Declaration of Independence knowing full well that the
penalty would be death if they were captured.

Carter Braxton of Virginia, a wealthy planter and trader saw his ships
swept from the seas by the British Navy. He sold his home and
properties to pay his debts and died in rags.

Thomas McKeam was so hounded by the British that he was forced to move
his family almost constantly. He served in the Congress without pay,
and his family was kept in hiding. His possessions were taken from
him, and poverty was his reward.

Vandals or soldiers looted the properties o f Dillery Hall, Clymer,
Walton, Gwinett, Heyward, Ruttledge, and Middleton. At the battle of
Yorktown, Thomas Nelson, Jr. noted that the British General Cornwallis
had taken over the Nelson home for his headquarters. He quietly urged
General George Washington to open fire. The home was destroyed, and
Nelson died bankrupt.

Francis Lewis had his home and properties destroyed. The enemy jailed
his wife, and she died within a few months. John Hart was driven from
his wife's bedside as she was dying. Their 13 children fled for their
lives. His fields and his gristmill were laid to waste. For more than
a year he lived in forests and caves, returning to find his wife dead
and his children vanished. A few weeks later he died from exhaustion
and a broken heart. Norris and Livingston suffered similar fates.

Such were the stories and sacrifices of the American Revolution. These
were not wild-eyed, rabble-rousing ruffians. They were soft-spoken men
of means and education. They had security, but they valued liberty
more. Standing tall and straight, and unwavering, they pledged: "For
the support of the declaration, with firm reliance on the protection
of the divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other, our lives,
our fortunes and our sacred honor."

~Author Unknown~

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


A woman in Seattle, Washington, has been trying to get her legislators' attention for years. She believes we need to require picture identification to vote, and that it is entirely too easy to be registered without citizenship, or with felony convicions or whatever other barriers that might exist to preclude legal voting.(The old practice in the 40s and 50s of ballot stuffing with the permanent residents of area cemeteries comes to mind.) She has written letters for years. All she got back was form letters, "Thank you for your concern we are always interested in our constituents" blather.

Jane Baylow was extremely frustrated. In the state of Washington, one need not go to a voting booth. If you have a voter's certificate, they will mail you the ballot. You mail it back. And to get the card, you can use your driver's license, social security card (stolen or not) or a recent utility bill.
"This is ridiculous!" she exclaimed. "Even a dog could----hm."

So she added her dog's name to her utility bill, sent in the bill with a filled out request for voter registration, and in due course, received a voter's registration card for the dog. Also in due course, two ballots were mailed to her address. She properly filled hers out, wrote "VOID" on the dog's, added his pawprint and mailed both back in.


Another election came along. She again wrote VOID on the dog's ballot, added his pawprint, and mailed it back in.


The third time she went through this routine, she got action. A police knock on the door. Several people were standing there. She was arrested, taken to jail, put in an orange jumpsuit and hauled before the judge to plead and arrange bail. She may go to prison, with a $10,000 fine. Nobody cares that she proved how easy it is to file a false voter certification request. No thought of reforming the system or closing the loopholes in the system are in the works.

Nor has her dog's name yet come off the voter rolls. The problem is, she was told by outraged officials, is that it is much easier to enter a name than to remove one. (Hmm. those dead voters may very well be a part of the voting system after all.)

They consider her a scofflaw. I guess, technically, she is. If she had REALLY let her dog vote, though, I would be more convinced. She definitely brought attention to a problem. Too bad no one is going to do anything about it.

Democrats keep saying voter id disinfranchises the poor, and I keep scratching my head. Almost everyone, poor or not, has some kind of photo id, either a driver's license, food service card or personal id. As a matter of fact, many of the poor have voluminous, immaculate records saying who they are and what has happened if they have to deal with any federal agency. The few who want to vote and don't have id could be accomodated without undue strain on the system, I think.

Voter identity is intricately tied in with immigration issues. Neither party wants to deal with it, and I think both parties are secretly hoping a bunch of illegal immigrants with stolen identities are going to vote for them in the next election.

So here's to Jane, a white-haired 67-year-old grandmother who simply wanted her government to fix a problem many of us agree should be fixed. I hope she doesn't go to jail. The law usually comes down hardest on the ones who take personal responsibility. They are easier targets.

Sunday, July 8, 2007


The sun came out Friday, then all day Saturday and today. For the time being, the rain is past. The ground is so wet, and so much standing water is left that the humidity is huge, and the weatherman predicts it will continue for months. And the mosquitoes--we need to import bats and swallows. We have millions of the insects. (read a funny recently--a mosquito is an insect that makes flies seem not so bad.)

During the recent marathon deluge, several of us noticed our dogs reacting to this year's storms. Dogs that have never minded storms were seeking laps--and at least one of the dogs is way too big for a lap. His owner refused him firmly, so he squeezed behind the love seat where she was sitting and lay down, she said, as if he were hiding there. Funniest of all is Sharon's dog, Kipper, who has already established a command post in the master bedroom closet. Amazingly, he has made a connection between the beep-beep-beep-beep that heralds weather bulletins on the TV or radio and storms. Doesn't matter what the bulletin is about, when Kip hears the bulletin start, he heads straight to the closet. His owner says if we ever get a tornado alert, she'll just follow Kip's lead into the closet with him. It's got to be one of safest spots in the house.

Texans and their competitiveness. We've had so much rain, but by a spare half-inch, June was only the SECOND wettest June in recorded history. And we missed the longest run of consecutive days with rain when the airport rain gauge only registered a trace the ninth day, even though it rained elsewhere in the Metroplex. The water at Lake Texoma is going over the spillway for only the third time since the lake was created. But no big deal, because only a foot and a half of water will go over, where 17 years ago five feet of water went over. We've had some truly terrible flooding. Lives have been lost. Every lake in Texas reportedly is full past the brim. In fact, last Fourth of July, many boats didn't go out because the lakes were so low, unexpected sunken trees and debris was a danger. This year, the lakes are so full, most of the boat ramps are unusable, and the water is so high, once again, unexpected trees and picnic tables may be under the rising waters near the shore.

Last year, we had large pecan ond oak trees that had lived for decades die from the unrelenting drought. We had some big grass fires, one in the Texas Panhandle that burned acreage as large as the entire state of Rhode Island, destroying century-old homes and burning several thousand head of livestock to death.

This year, we've had more than a year's quota of rain already. We are all pleased that in the last few days, the regional water district has relaxed its level 3 water restrictions and officially declared us no longer in a drought. We're not quite sure what took them so long, but we are pleased. But there is water to drink, and wash in, and wash cars with and---we're really ready for some sunny days now for awhile.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

A public thank you

My computer is acting funny again. I don't know what to do about it except wait it out. For about two weeks, I couldn't post comments at all. Then I became able to again. This afternoon, the pictures have all disappeared in the blogs. Babs' and Crystal's sites are totally red, with no pictures. And no comments tag either. Just the e-mail envelope. Outside Blogland, everything seems fine.

I most desperately need to comment on Babs' music contribution of July 6 on Living Single in the Bible Belt, and my son showed me how to highlight this, made me practice, and now I can't remember. If someone kindly will, please pass on: Thank you for an immeasurable gift. It is a gift of great value and price, a treasure. Each piece of music you picked is one that resonates. As usual when I hear"Ave Maria",my cup overflows and I cried through most of it. So beautiful.

You Tube. One more thing I have to learn to use and access.

A friend had invited me to a Bach chamber music concert tomorrow, and I had to decline because of my walking disability. I wasn't having a big pity party, bu certainly a little one. And then this posting, a serendipitous gift I could enjoy just sitting here in my shorts and t-shirt. Thanks for the joy, Babs, from the bottom of my heart.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Rainstorms wear many faces

We had another crash-bang-flash night Sunday. Earlier this year, these were kind of fun after about three years with very little rain at all. The anemic rains we did get in those years weren't accompanied by much strum und drang. Back in April, I think we had a full week of nighttime thunderstorms full of thunder and lightning.

Often, these storms would be a series of little storms, each equipped with its own thunder and lightning, and each of which apparently came directly over my roof. Generally they took an hour or two to pass, which I know full well because I couldn't sleep through that.

Neither could my dog. By the third night, she had had it. For years, she slept at my feet--under the covers--but for the last few years, she's been unable to jump onto the bed any more, so she has her own bed with a nice blankie to roll up in if she wishes. Thunderstorms have never bothered her before, but we haven't had many this loud. Particularly day after day after day.

After one particularly wall-shaking flash and boom, she pawed urgently at the side of the bed. She barked. Let me in! When I picked her up, she was actually trembling. She soon settled down, curling up beside me, and you know, the fellow creature comfort felt pretty good to me, too. She went to sleep. I lay, listening to the rain, the thunder, watching the lighting flashes reflected on the walls. The thunder faded to a grumble, then a murmer, then nothing. The rain stopped. The quiet woke her up, apparently, and she prepared to jump down. I lifted her instead, and she went back to her bed.

Sunday was another of those major crash boom flash storms. Again, it was 3 a.m. Chamomile stopped about 4 feet from the bed and gave an imperious, "BARK!" She jumped in my arms as soon as I leaned over. This time she wasn't trembling. She trudged on top of the covers to the foot of the bed, then came back to settle down. She was safe. She knew it. And again, we lay and listened to the storm rage. It lasted about 45 minutes to an hour, but major thunder was over in 45 minutes.

Monday was a different matter. About 6 p.m., I had lain down for a little nap when the rain began to fall, tentatively at first, then with a firm drumming of heavy rain on the roof. I could hear the steady splash as the rain slid off the roof and hit the patio concrete. Already drowsy, I snuggled under the duvet, pulling it up around my neck. I closed my eyes and drowsed, reveling in the softness, the coziness, the sound. Perfectly safe, perfectly comfortable, at peace, contented. The raintime made a wonderful day of a pleasant one, the way two weeks of daffodils star-bursting in the spring can make the whole season memorable.

As I dozed, I drifted, imagining the smell of New Mexico during and after a rain. The smell of wet greasewood is so fragrant, one simply stands in the doorway taking long, deep breaths that draw the smell deep inside. In August, the "rainy season", thunderheads would push and pile up on the east side of the mountains until they spilled over to the west side of the mountains and the valley below. A breeze pushing the cloulds would add the scents of mountain pine and pinon to the greasewood. Heavenly. And dozing, half-asleep, I imagined I could smell it again....


Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Gasoline-soaked clothes hurt people, not sparklers

News brief over the weekend.

A 2-year-old suffered second-degree burns over half her body when she ventured near a teenager with a sparkler after her clothes had been drenched in gasoline. The clothes caught fire and she burned. That's the only information. Seems to be passed off as a dangerous fireworks incident.

Like hell.

More kids die of neglect than abuse. Really. Massive more kids.

How did a 2-year-old douse herself with gasoline? Well, I guess there might be an explanation that might make some kind of sense, though I can't think of one now.
When she did so, what parent would not immediately wash her off, removing the clothing? and redressing her in something fresh or bundling her in someone's clean t-shirt while her own clothing washed and dried? None of that happened. She was left in her gasoline-soaked clothes. And, as per her getting doused to begin with, allowed to wander around, unwatched. And so she encountered the sparkler. When her clothes caught fire, response was slow. So she was badly burned.

I'm sure her family is traumatized. I am hopeful they even care she is hurting and in the hospital. I bet not one of them has agonized "if only I had..." Hey, things happen. Those sparklers are more dangerous than we thought. Not our fault. Never our fault.

To me, this is a clear case of abuse--neglectful abuse. Don't know if CPS is investigating, or what the results will be if so. Possibly nothing. Family party. Kid wanders around, under eye of many people. Hey, an accident.

It didn't need to happen.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Women Are Sisters Under the Skin

About a score of years ago, a businesswoman was much talked about in the area. Y'see, her first career had been as an exotic dancer. A really successful one. With a boa constricter. That was rumored to be rather ill-tempered and bit her twice.
She was built the way a successful exotic dancer should be built, and she could walk in 3-inch stiletto heels the way most women can walk in athletic shoes. Her clothing showcased her assets and she always smelled really good with plenty of perfume.

Her second career was a bit of a surprise. She bought a bail bond company and apparently ran it really well. She made quite a lot of money. She became active in local politics and could be counted on to provide some really nice Republican fund-raisers. She continued her customary dress, perfume and stiletto heels.

Back in the day, a male friend of mine attended one of the fundraisers and was telling me about it. He had actually gotten to talk to her for a few minutes.
He had that air you see in a man who is trying to respect the personhood of a woman while at the same time trying to keep his tongue in his mouth and the drool off his chin.

"She told me," he said in a voice a little hushed,"that she dresses to please herself."

Did I mention? She also wore a LOT of makeup.

I beamed. "She and I have a lot in common!" I said.

To his credit, he didn't say, "huh?" He said, "How do you mean?" His eye casually glanced at my small bust, short waist, and over-generous hips garbed in flat-heeled sandals, an A-line khaki skirt and colorful cotton sports style pullover. I think by then I had quit wearing mascara because it iritated my contacts, and my general scent was French-milled soap, which I used to bathe every day.

I smiled again. "We both dress to please ourselves."

Best I can remember, he started talking about something else. But you know, I would loved to have talked to her, because we DID have that in common. And I bet we could have gotten along really well. It's an important trait. You kinda have to be your own person to get there. And boy, was she her own person. I really admired that.

He and I both had legitimate reactions. They were gender-oriented. Men really do go on alert with a really Hawt Woman in the room. And to learn that she dresses so as a natural woman rather than to provoke the troops must be--well, I would guess a turn-on. And women really do communicate and even bond over commanlities men sometimes find puzzling.

The older I get, the more comfortable I am in the society of women. I was always a feminist, from the time I was a child. (I remember being nine and my father taking my elbow to cross the street. I balked. "Why are you doing that?" I asked. I guess I had never noticed his doing the same for my mother. He said, "A gentleman always takes a lady's arm to cross the street." Well, in his lifetime, it may even have been a practical courtesy--dirt streets, horse apples and all. But I jerked my arm out of my father's grasp and stated flatly, "then I'm no lady." And I stomped across the street on my own.) But I wanted to make my parents happy, so there's a ton of societal rules and practices I did learn and adhere to a great deal of the time. It was just easier.

And, as I age, a lot of those practices make sense. "Please" and "thank you" are two of the best. For all genders.

Hmm. When I was a reporter, I don't remember ever being intimidated by either the power or the glamor of any man or woman I interviewed. I was looking for what was interesting about them so I could write it. And they responded. We all admire the good taste of someone who thinks we are interesting.

Only once did I face any sexual behavior in a man. It was, of all things, at a state Veterinary Association meeting, and I was arranging with the state president to interview one of the speakers. He was about 30 years older than I, and as I walked past him, he patted my rump. I didn't think. I swung around, my hand coming up to slap his face. My brain kicked in, to wit, "This guy is a close friend of the gazillionaire publisher." My hand stopped three inches from his face. He stared at me. I stared at him. I dropped my arm. Neither of us said a word. And he was completely courteous from then on. I have to wonder how that would have played with the bail bondswoman.

I still dress to please myself. More than ever.