Saturday, December 29, 2007

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas My True Love Gave to Me


On the twelfth day of Christmas,
My true love gave to me
Twelve trackable items
Eleven dogs a'barking
Ten ducks a'laying
Nine baby punches
Eight poopin' weenies
Seven talks of worms
Six overstuffed suitcases
Five smoking grownups
Four snowballs flyin'!
Three security checks
Two precious children
And one Santa under a fallen tree

Twelve Trackable Items

Those I have been talking to about my trip to the California-Oregon line for Christmas know that I was most excited about the opportunity to do some geocaching in three new states. I brought with me twelve trackable items (travel bugs and geocoins), some I found and some I own, to drop along the way. I wasn't sure I would find enough caches to leave them at, but as it turns out I dropped all of them and found twice as many caches on our trip: 24 of the 81 I was researching. The snow effectivelly curtailed many geocaching adventures, particularly once we got to New Pine Creek, up near the mountains where the roads were slick with ice and snow. My favorite geocache finds of the trip were:

Belly Up! a cache hidden inside an old crematorium on an antique wagon up near a general store in a frontier logging town up in the mountains of Northern California. I was the FTF on this cache, which is odd since it had been out for four months. That would never happen in Houston (especially the northside)!

Modoc History a rose colored ammo can hidden next to the Alturas History Musuem (think cowboys and indians)

Spanish Springs Resort an ammo can hidden inside the buckboard of an old wagon at the entrance to a fancy rustic resort

By the second to last day we were there, I finally convinced my brother in law to take us up one of the mountain roads to attempt some of the more remote caches. The first one we tried took us on old logging roads that had steep dropoffs to the right and cliffs to the left, and too many dangerous turns and dropoffs in the snow for my courage. I convinced him to turn around so he took us up another road to find a different one. We were driving on a foot of snow, across creeks and up mountains. The inclines and vertical shots were making me anxious, until he pointed out the tracks in the snow ahead of us and I had something new to worry about: first the cougar, then the bear, then the bobcat. By the time we got to GZ, I was a bundle of nerves and the guys kept messing with me. Between my fear and the foot of snow, there was no way I was going to find the rock that covered the hidden container. That day pretty much took the geocaching urge out of me.

Eleven dogs a'barking

My friends also know that I love dogs. I do. My in-laws have eleven dogs at their house. Three live outside mainly: the mastiff Bella, and the border collies Bandit and Fritz. I always had a love for Fritz and tried to keep him once and make him my agility dog, but he and Rascal kept getting in the trash, chewing up items, and chasing cars on the road. Rascal never did those things on his own (well, except chasing cars, nasty habit) so we had to take Fritz home. Bella was very sweet to the baby, and mostly Bandit and Fritz played chase and stare games with each other.

Ten Ducks A-Laying

I think there were ten. They kept sqawking when the baby and I came close, and moved from one frozen patch of yard to another. I noticed my mother-in-law got three fresh duck eggs while I was there. She also keeps some chickens and turkeys. We didn't go in the hen house but we checked it out from the fence. The chickens were hiding but Kaleb did get to check out a turkey close up.

Nine Baby Punches

My youngest learned to hit just before this trip. He was practicing on us during the night when we were trying to get him to sleep with us in the RV. You would just be falling asleep when suddenly you would get slugged in the face. You had to learn to protect your face and be aware of his actions at all times. He started wanting to smack AJ in the face and would sneak right past the barrier I was making with my arms. It was funny but we don't want to reward it by laughing. I hope this is a quick temporary stage.

Eight Poopin' Weenies

Lately my in-laws have developed an infestation of miniature daschunds (a momma dog had a rcent litter). Four belong to Sherry and Richard, and four belong to Alex, Ted's brother, and his girlfriend who live at the house. Most of the dogs at some point ended up pooping on the floor in various places of the house. I guess the weenies don't like to go outside to do their business, or much care where they go. It was freaking me out though because I just got done with a continuing education course about the zoonotic danger of Toxocara canis and Ancylostoma caninum, or more commonly, roundworms and hookworms. The current message from the CDC is that puppies need to be dewormed every two weeks beginning at four weeks for a total of four times. Or course I had to ask the question about deworming protocol and we got

Seven Talks of Worms

So what if I made the children wear feet coverings in the house and made sure they stayed clean, particularly hand to mouth? I was concerned about the risk to myself and the children, and just tried to quietly freak out about it but Ted was running interference between his mom and Alex and Mary about me and got them all worked up about the worms. We kept having to talk about it.

Six Overstuffed Suitcases

Which turned into seven on the way home, because we just had to stuff these giant pillows Sherry got the kids into suitcases that were already brimming with clothes and various gifts. Those were such a pain to haul around, especially at the airport. It worked out okay, though. We managed to come home with everything we brought, and it even seemed less stressful than last time we went up there for the holidays, when I was freaking out about our million little things.

Five Smoking Grownups

The smoking room in the house is the front room, where the Christmas tree blinks and the TV runs, but which also happens to be the room for the children. Curiously, my children had a bit of a cough by the time they left.

Four Snowballs Flyin'

There was much winterland adventure planned for while we were visiting, but as it turns out, it was a lot of talk. The last day we were there, AJ asked why we had not done any of the things we had planned on (riding on the inner tubes behind the truck, etc) and it was decided that there was just enough time left in the day to do one of them: have a snowball fight in the yard. AJ threw two snowballs at his dad and had Alex hiding, where he threw two at Ted as well. Ted threw four at AJ. The guys said it was fun but it wasn't much of a snowball fight.

Three Security Checks

One in Houston, one in Reno, and then one more in Reno because I failed to pack my carry-on in accordance with TSA policy. I had to go down and check it, which was fine because it gave me a chance to get out for a smoke before the harrowing journey home. It would be nine hours before I could have another one, which would be difficult since you know, I have fallen in step with the in-laws habits.

Two Precious Children

Who got their white Christmas and presents under the tree. I worried the whole time over their safety during the journey and at our various destinations. Angels with attitude.

And One Santa Under a Fallen Tree

My in-laws have a very large live fir tree for Christmas, heavily laden with garland, lights, and ornaments. All on one side. And when "Santa" was arranging presents under the tree, there was a mishap. An avalanche. The tree landed on top of Santa. Richard had to tie it up with baling wire. How's that for excitement?

It was a good trip. I forgot what it was like there in some ways. No computer access for days was driving me insane. I tried to use a neighbor's computer but it was a slooow dialup connection, so it was so not worth the time. The roads scared me. The turbulence on the airplane on the way home scared me. We had good gifts, good food, and good fellowship, though, so it was a good Christmas for all.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


Just watch this. Reminded me of the Baby Grace story.

Again, where is the "momma bear" in these women? I am trying to understand how things like this can happen in this world, and why women do not protect their babies at all costs.

Thursday, December 13, 2007


Farmer: Feed the Cows

Animal Rightist: Free the cows

Animal Welfarist: Love the Cows

Environmentalists: Reprogram the cows

Recently, scientists in Austrialia have been investigating ways to reduce methane emission of livestock. I find this very interesting. When it was originally presented to me, it sounded more radical than it really is, but in learning about it, I wonder why we never tried that earlier.

I wonder, though, if that is a little too close to "playing God".

And then I get angry, because it makes me think about the stem cell research controversy. I think about how Bush and I are on other sides of the fence on this one. He has vetoed every attempt to get stem stell research federally funded. I think that stem cell research has the potential to help find the cure for Parkinsons, which my father has, and whose symptoms are getting worse. I feel his time is growing short and that research could not come fast enough, and why doesn't the government throw us a bone on this one?

I think about the children who have cancer, and the desperation of their parents for research that will find a way to save their child, ease the pain, provide comfort and cure, as I throw a marshmellow at my "research model." I think about how we should do our best to serve the animals that serve us, and I think about how understanding their behavior will help us build a better research model.

And it takes me back to the cows, because I remembered a day where I believed that understanding their behavior would help us build a better farm animal: an animal that was comfortable and therefore produced more meat, more milk. Now I am trying to build a better research model, one that is comfortable and therefore enjoys better health and more hair.

But it's all the same.

I'm just here to love them.

Saturday, December 01, 2007


When I was just a little girl
I asked my mother, "What will I be?
Will I be pretty, will I be rich"
Here's what she said to me.
Que Sera, Sera,
Whatever will be, will be
The future's not ours, to see
Que Sera, Sera

This evening, I took my oldest son to the skating rink. Not just any old skating rink, but Champions Roller Rink, the skating rink I went to when I was a young girl. Even though I have been there since my adolescence, tonight really brought back the memories of who I was as a person when I used to go there.

This flood of memories was jogged by a familiar song, a song they used to play when I was a child skating here: Micheal Jackson's "Thriller". Talk about a blast from the past. I was listening to the song and thinking about the video to it, and how we all thought it was so cool back in the day: the pants, the style, the dance, all that was great about 80's Micheal Jackson.

While I was digging the song and trying to remember my skating moves from back in the day, I was watching the people all around me. There were certain people that stood out in the crowd.

One of them was a young girl on the cusp of becoming a woman. She had the curves, and she had a "rocking body", but she also bore braces and bad skin. She stood out out in the crowd mostly because her outfit, a white crop top tank and black low riding short shorts, was displaying a lot of skin, and because she was fast and graceful. She was the fastest skater in the fast skate round, and during the regular songs, she danced on skates while singing along with the song that was playing, performing for her friends. She could turn around on a dime and started moving backwards, her feet keeping rhythm with the beet of the song, swinging her hands around.
There was another woman there who was older, and slower. She looked to be in her fifties, with long greying hair and lines on her face. She was listening to a headset and watching a pedometer. She was wearing loose jeans and a button down shirt worn loosely. She mostly kept in the back corner near the wall.
And I skated next to my son (although not too close, because he has a wide stance on his inline skates and sometimes moves his feet erratically) and ran through an entourage of memories of my youth spent here.
When I was going to the rink often, it was in a time in my life where the future was still a very magical possibility. I stopped going around the time I started junior high, a couple of years younger than Ms Hot Stuff in her short shorts. I would gauge MHS to be around fifteen years old. I feel like she is at the age where she thinks about sex, but hasn't experienced it yet. With that rocking body and enthusiastic attitude, I am sure it is not long before some boy tries. That's just the way life is. She is about to experience her future.
I stopped going skating when my future was still a dream, and held many possibilities, back when the wonder was always present on our lips. What will my life be like? This was still during the age of Barbie, and all that she represented.
You know, that Barbie was a real 'ho. She was always going out with Ken, and sometimes they did very naughty things in the backseat of the pink Corvette. And we wondered, will I be pretty?, as we brushed Barbie's hair and put on her stilleto heels. We met boys at the skating rink at the end of my days there, maybe got phone numbers! but we never called. We wondered if we would ever ride in cars with boys to dances and parties, if we would ever fall in love, get married, have children and families. Would anybody ever love us? Would anybody find us beautiful?
Only I find it odd that we should make that connection between attractiveness and love. It is not only attractive people that are loved and allowed to breed. In our society, we have an equal opportunity procreation pattern. There are many people we meet in the world that are not attractive (to us) but have marriages, families, children, people who love them and perhaps think of them as beautiful even if the world does not. You are not barred from the world of love for not being beautiful.
I think MHS is beautiful, and will be loved in part because of that. It reminded me suddenly of pictures I had looked at over at my friend J.'s house the night before, and how I had been fixating on them. J. was like "get over yourself already" and I was trying to explain "but it's subjective, and personal", that I was thinking I just looked a whole lot better in these pictures than I have recently. That girl in the pictures was so far removed from me, she seemed like someone else. I didn't even recognize her bones. But dang, she was a hottie.
I thought about the answer to that question hanging in the air when I was a child: well, was I pretty? For a while, I was, and I still sometimes do all right. I went to the skating rink before I had a boyfriend, and I ended up having many of them. Before I had left junior high, I'd gone through about thirty little "boyfriends"; you know, during that stage where you're "going together", as in "will you go with me?" scrawled in ink pen on a college ruled notebook and passed over to you in class, or in a note at your locker, or face to face on a dancefloor. Most of my boyfriends lasted about two weeks, before my fickle heart ran some other way. My junior high notebook has many a young boy's name scribbled, pledges of undying love. Hilarious.
In high school it was the cars, although it was never quite like Ken picking Barbie up in the black Ferrari. For me, it was more like "dad's landshark" or "the old Ford", something like that. At any rate, there were dates, dates with boys with cars to dances and parties. There was first love, first heartbreak, first fights and first fooling arounds. There was all that and more. Then there was college. Yikes.
I thought about the plans we were making for our lives back then, what did we imagine we'd do. Will I be rich? Will I have all the things I wanted to have? I could never have imagined my having the various jobs I've had when I was a child. I don't know that my imagination stretched that far. I'd had a vague idea I wanted to work with animals, but how?
Geez, during those days, I have to admit, I was much more about Brenda Breyer than Barbie. I played Barbie with my friends, but when I was alone, I had Brenda. I wanted to be Brenda Breyer when I grew up. I wanted to have a stable full of horses, and different riding gear, and make my living the way she did: running a boarding/training stable, teaching horseback riding lessons, "breaking" colts, raising foals. Funny, I did have some of that, though, looking back. Lots of horses in my professional life, at a few times ran a barn for a short time, taught lessons, acted as a breeding assistant and mare widwife. I made more per hour teaching private riding lessons than I have ever made, but the problem was I didn't have enough horse to do that full time. I taught lessons off my horse, and sometimes I "borrowed" a horse (with permission) from the stable owner, and they can only be worked so long. I remember in those days thinking that if I jst had eight more horses, I could make a good living doing that. And sometimes that was my job, but with someone else's horses; three different summers as a camp horsemanship instructor, the one who fed the horses twice a day, who picked their hooves and saddled them for the children, then led lessons with twenty horses and twenty children every hour for six, eight hours a day.
I got a little of what I wanted, but it didn't come to total fruition. I didn't become rich caring for animals, in the financial sense, but emotionally I did, I did realize my goal. I became rich of heart instead. What would you rather have?
As we were leaving, I saw the older lady coming to take off her skates. She sat down next to her husband and he made some smartass remark, and she bit into him with a bitterness. You could feel the tension, her anger, their drama, and that is was a worn and familiar refrain to them. It made me sad and hope to never be like them, and how sad her life must be. Marriage.

Will I be pretty? Will I be rich?
Will I ever fall in love, get married, have a family?

And I had some of that, all that, and I am glad. I fell in love five times, and that's more than most people get. I have a family, a husband that has his moments and two sparkling, darling little boys. I thouht of my old BFF from back in the skating days, and how she is married with three boys, about the ins and outs and ways and means of married life, about the couple I was witnessing, and their failure to redeem their marriage.
I thought about MHS and her shining, precious future, and wished her the best.

Whatever will be, will be