Sunday, November 30, 2008

Of Puppies and Packs

Well, here's how I know I'm ready for a new pack member. I learned today that Tobias has found a home, just not with us. I got a little choked up. So I know I'm ready for a new dog.

Snowflake found a home, and so did Skunk. Apparently we have good taste in dogs, as everybody wants the ones we want!

We'll keep looking and see if we can't find our new puppy, or have it find us.

More Later

Friday, November 28, 2008

Let's Get the Ball Rolling

My stomach is all a flutter. Yes, it could be the excessive amount of leftovers I've been grazing on while trying to stay awake at work tonight. Sure, it could be the ingestion of THREE bottles of Pepsi... a beverage that I don't drink regularly. (I've had maybe six in the last twelve months, including the three I had tonight)

But I think what's got me all excited is the thought of a new pack member. I call The Wife when I'm working the overnight shift, just to check in and say hi. Say goodnight to the kiddos if they are still up. That sort of thing.

Flashback for a moment here. When we went to the local shelter, we agreed that we would not bring a dog home that night. This rule was proposed by The Wife, and I agreed readily. Because she knows, and I know that I am a particularly easy sell on a dog that is down on it's luck. She knows, and I know, that if I win the lottery, a chunk of it would be spent starting my own dog rescue center. And we are both very aware that if one of those pound puppies gazed at me soulfully and asked to come home with me that very instant, I would say yes unless there was a rule in place forbidding me to do so.

So when we got to the pound, we were met by much barking. Of the dogs there, only one stayed quiet, although he looked terrified. The other dogs were all pretty aggressive and loud. The little brown guy though just hunkered in his kennel. We met him later in the 'visitation' room. The warden said he'd probably be timid and shy, especially around women. But he slinked his way around to all of us with his little tail wagging. He was cute, and will make someone a fine dog. But he wasn't 'our' dog.

Dog people out there can probably relate to this. When I look a dog in the eye, I can tell a lot about that dog. By reading it's face and ears and body and tail, I learn even more. But the eyes really are a window to a dog's soul. Shoba, Rascal and Ben all have soulful eyes. Or at least eyes that I connect to on a personal level. As I watched this little chocolate dog, we didn't connect. I watched the Boyo with him. Again, no connection. So we left the kennel empty handed, but also knowing that our dog wasn't there.

Going through the Petfinder dogs, I think both the Wife and I looked at eyes the most. I did anyway. Searching for that familiar feeling that I had with Rascal and Shoba and Ben. And with Biz and Chip. (I was pretty young when Tiger died) The dogs I chose for my favorites list all had that spark in their eye. There were a few that I really wanted to meet to see if the pictures were accurate in relation to the eyes. One being the White Shoba of a couple of posts ago.

One being this guy - Skunk

who has Rascal eyes.

One being this guy...

Young Tobias, whom you also met a couple of posts ago.

And when I narrowed my favorites down to ten, then five, then three... These three were my top three. And while I would absolutely love to have a White Shoba, I'm worried that I would spend too much time comparing her to Shoba. And that's not giving Snowflake the chance she deserves.
Skunk reminds me very much of Rascal. Again, I still miss Rascal greatly, and don't want to worry about comparing.

That leaves Tobias. He is a new kind of dog for us. A dog we can know the history of. A dog that we can bond with as a family. A dog who will forge his own personality into the history of our pack.

So when I spoke to The Wife tonight, we got to talking about our top picks. We both agreed that Tobias had risen from the lists as being a good dog to pursue for adoption.

Having never been through the process of adopting a dog before, we are entering new territory. Shoba, Rascal and Ben all found us by hook or by crook. And though they were "free", we still went through the process of shots and fixing and checking for worms and all of that 'Vetting'. It's strange to go looking for a dog, and knowing the dog is already 'vetted'! Seems almost too easy... But what we will lack in vet visits and flea and tick baths and medical bills to fix up our found dogs, we will make up for in paperwork and other official procedures for adoption. And I am very excited!

Having been on the other side of the coin, when we sheltered and fostered dogs and found them families, I know that the process of finding a good fit for a dog can be trying. Remind me to tell you a story about that later. :) So we will jump through what hoops there might be, and hope that the adoption people see in us what we already know to be true. That we are ready, willing, and able to care for this new pack member if we like each other. And we will gladly be vetted ourselves so that they will be comfortable and willing to place Tobias with us at the end of the process.

Now, in all my excitement, I am also aware that at any point in the process, the decision might be made that we are not a good match. Either by the agency, or by us when we meet him. So I'll try and curb my considerable enthusiasm. It's just tough, because when I see those eyes, I get the feeling that he'll feel at home and part of the pack.

Ah, prepare for a great many posts on this topic. I'm flush with anticipation, and with remembered stories from our dog fostering days. Those were good times. Here's hoping I win the Lotto! Until then, one dog at a time. And hopefully we've found our newest pack member!

More Later

Thursday, November 27, 2008


The least appreciated of all major holidays. The hype for Halloween starts around September, and what happens the day after we've hyped up our children on sugar? ON TO CHRISTMAS! Thanksgiving gets no respect.

Oh, people still celebrate it. Eat too much food, watch some football, play games with the family. But it seems like very few people really get what the day is for anymore.

Thanksgiving. A day of giving thanks. The original Pilgrim celebrants were actually fasting for three days while giving thanks. Those wacky Puritans! Putting the 'grim' in Pilgrim! But the local natives came in and shook things up a bit, with feasting, games and celebrating. Fast forward almost 400 years, and we've taken the Native American approach to a day of thanks giving rather than our Puritan forefathers.

The difference, again, is that the Wampanoag actually gave thanks for the blessings of the harvest, of their families, of their friends. These days we give thanks if the team of our choice wins.

Still, the Wife, Boyo, Sweet Pea and I shared the Thanksgiving meal with our good friends. Everything was tasty and filling, and while I had to leave to go to work, the time spent was most enjoyable. I am thankful for the table of food that we all shared. Thankful for the blessings we've had this year. Thankful for my family of origin, and most thankful for The Wife who loves me and the children we were blessed with.

So, Happy Thanksgiving! May the next year bring you many blessings, food, shelter, warmth and health.

More Later

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Seeking: A New Pack Member

(Must be great with kids)

What a day.

We mailed off the blankets and coats to One Spirit today. Then we headed to the local Animal Shelter to see if any dogs would fit in with our current pack.

Yes, yes. We are starting the process of pack building once more. Not without some trepidation, I might add. It has been less than a year since the deaths of Rascal and Shoba (9 and 8 months respectively... but who's counting?) And neither of us can talk about those two without getting a little teary. And The Wife pointed out, correctly I think, that any dog we get I will probably compare on some level to Shoba. But then, Shoba was, in my head at least, the greatest dog of all time.

When I was a boy, we had three dogs. Tiger, Chip and Biz. All three were terrific. I still miss each of those three dogs from time to time. But they were 'family dogs'. Much like Rascal and Ben, and any other dog we ever get from here on will be. Shoba was my dog when I was really on my own. She and I had adventures that can never be repeated. We shared some tough times, like when we were living in Wisconsin and had just enough money for a few weeks for either food or heating fuel. Well, I opted for food. We piled blankets on my bed and she willingly slept under them, a rare thing for her. But February in Wisconsin gets pretty dang cold! We did have an electric heater, but that stayed on the pipes to avoid having them freeze.
The challenge now is to find another dog that has the same gentle temperament and loving devotion to the whole pack as Shoba and Rascal did. They were both so very good with the Boyo, and ran the spectrum from tolerating his attention to loving it. A new dog would have two kids to deal with. A new dog will also have to get along with Ben.

In Ben's younger years, I think this might have been a problem. He's a Kai mix, and as such highly energetic and a bit aggressive. But the years he spent with Shoba and Rascal have changed him, and he has become a very good dog. Even better since those two died.

A new dog will have many rules to learn, but I'm no stranger to dog training. We used to foster dogs, and I would give the 'rougher' dogs some training before they found new homes so they would be a bit more adoptable.

I'm sure I'm rambling a bit here. But it's a pretty big decision to be open to a new pack member. It's also a new experience to actually be looking for one, as all of the dogs in my adult life have pretty much just shown up and adopted us.

As we perused, we found three that seemed interesting.

This is Snowflake. (A name that would most definitely change if she came home with us. Snowflake is a cat's name. Mainly because cat's don't come when they are called anyway, at least not to me.)

You may notice a striking resemblance to Shoba. In a photo-negative sort of way. Shoba paved the way for Shepherds for us, and we are interested in what she is like in real life. Her description reads like how I would describe Shoba. The drawbacks to this dog would be that perhaps she is too much like Shoba, and I would miss my Shoba even more with the constant reminder around. The Benefits of a dog like this would be, if she is like Shoba in temperament, I cannot think of a better dog for the kids as they grow up.

Next up is Buster. He's a Kai dog like Ben. In fact, his adoption profile reads as if he were Ben! The only difference is that Buster apparently likes kids. Unlike Ben, who gently tolerates them. So Buster might actually like to snuggle up to the Boyo. Buster is still young, so dominance would be no real problem. Besides, I'm the Alpha Male here, and all of my dogs have known their order. The drawback to this guy is that I wouldn't trust him for letting the Boyo walk him. Ben is already set for the Iditerod, I think having two might be quite the handful. The plus side is that since one big reason for getting another dog would be so that Ben has a buddy, Buster would make the perfect pal. We also have really appreciated Ben's protective nature. Not a sound goes by outside without him noticing, and I feel almost completely at ease working night shifts knowing that Ben is on duty guarding the house, and most importantly my wife and kids. Any intruder would be in serious hurt if they tangled with Ben. And a Ben/Buster duo would just about guarantee a nightmare for a burglar.

Lastly, there is Tobias. He doesn't fit any of our previous dog conceptions. He's not black, not full grown, not looking like any other dog we've had. Seems weird to think of having a puppy to work with. A dog that we know the history of. But his dossier states that he's very smart and readily trainable. Plus, he's a cutie! Downside - puppies require more attention to training in the outset, and with Sweet Pea being so little, I'd be concerned about rough housing. Shouldn't be a problem with a little common sense parenting. Also, Ben might initially see him as more of a chew toy than a buddy. :) Upside - He'd be able to grow up around the kids, especially the Boyo, who could handle the leash, and do some serious bonding. Also, while the training might be a little tougher, he's a blank slate, and thus would be a great dog eventually!

So, in our initial search, we find three potential additions. We are making no immediate decisions, just testing the waters. But I'm sure the right dog is out there somewhere. Maybe it's one of these three. We'll find each other. And I'll let you know when that happens. I know that no dog could ever replace those we lost, and that any dog that chooses us will have a personality all it's own. Losing a dog like Shoba, or Rascal, Biz, Chip, Tiger...even Ben when the time comes, is never an easy thing. It's the worst part of pet ownership. But the years of affection and fun that come with dogs more than make up for it. I have a lifetime of memories with all of 'my' dogs. And they made me a better person. I want my kids to have those memories too.

More Later

Monday, November 24, 2008

Sweet Charity

Going to church can be a very interesting event. Sometimes it is just your average Lutheran church service. Our pastors are good speakers, and the sermons are good.

But every once and a while, a Sunday will roll around where I've already got something on my heart, and everything they talk about feeds right into it. Sort of like hearing a song on the radio that is about precisely what you are feeling.

Last Sunday was one of those days. I've got the Pine Ridge Reservation on the brain. Trying to think of ways to help. Thinking of different companies I could start up out there to provide jobs and change around their economic misery. I was incorrect in my statistics a few posts ago. The unemployment rate on Pine Ridge is around 90%. There are just no jobs there. Why don't they move, you ask? Perhaps because that's where they, as a people, were forced to live by our government. And a lot of them do leave the reservation to find work.

Anyway, Sunday's service was right out of "Godspell", separating the sheep from the goats. And of course, as they read the Gospel of Matthew, I was able to recite right along with it. Not because I've memorized the bible, but because I know "Godspell" so well. The pastor's sermon was about rich lifestyle vs. poor, about what we can do to make a difference. And again I felt my heart grow heavy with the thought of so many people on the reservation without jobs, money, food, heat... hope.

So The Wife and I talked about it some, and decided that for Christmas this year, we are getting each other something a little different. She is going to help me sponsor a Lakota family, and I'm going to buy her a heifer... Well a Heifer animal.

When my aunt died a little over a year ago, we decided to get our family members a share in a Heifer International cow in memory of her. She was a farm girl through and through, and quite the animal person. So it seemed fitting. The Wife and I both like the Heifer program, as the people receiving the animals have a 'pay it forward' clause, and when their animal has babies, they pass them along to another local family in need. The differences made by those animals can be huge.

Anyway, we both decided that we really don't need any more stuff. We are going through a culling process now to get rid of excess things. So we are gifting each other with gifts for others.

Today we started the process. We raided the local Goodwill store, and for around $100 we got nine good warm blankets, and four really nice kids coats. Three of them are like new Columbia winter coats. The blankets and coats are all packed up, and shipping out tomorrow to Pine Ridge. It was such a simple thing to do, didn't break the bank, and will provide at least a family our size with a little warmth.

More Later

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Kennedy Assassination

Forty-five years ago we lost a President. One that was glamorized and romanticized even while he was alive.

Forty-five years later many people are still trying to make sense of the assassination.

The official story, as you all know well, is that Lee Oswald took a rifle up to the sixth floor of the Texas Book Depository, fired three shots, hit twice, and ended the Kennedy Presidency.

The Conspiracy stories, as you probably also know, are Legion. Some of my favorites include:

The driver, a CIA plant, did it. (See the unaltered Zapruder film for proof)

The driver did it because Kennedy was about to blow the lid off the secret that there are aliens living among us ready to take over the world... and the driver was an alien plant.

There were gunmen in the sewer.

There were gunmen on the grassy knoll.

There were gunmen in the chase cars, the lead cars, the bridge overpass.


Why do we love conspiracies so very much? I was talking with the Wife about it. Here are some thoughts...

Humans just love to be 'in on a secret'. Admit it, when you see group of people huddled together and whispering, you really want to know what they are talking about. How many times have you heard someone say they'd love to be a fly on the wall for that conversation.

Humans also have a thirst for order. When something chaotic occurs, a presidential assassination, planes crashing into buildings, etc. people want to know that what happened was in some way orderly. Our brains have trouble believing that something so dramatic happened so randomly.

Along the same vein, people want to believe that huge terrible events are the work of those who are much better (for lack of a clearer word) than an ordinary Joe. Three shots at the president and two hit? Could not have been Oswald, he was a lowlife failure! He didn't even shoot well in the Marines! There had to be other shooters! Planes crashing into the towers and knocking them down? Those towers couldn't have been brought down by those little planes! It must have been a conspiracy!

It's much more comforting to think that there are large groups of highly trained and sinister people doing these things than just run of the mill nut jobs. Perhaps because it makes us feel more secure in a way. Nothing I can do against a huge secret organization, why worry? Random nut job though, they might live next door or down the street. That's a scary thought!

I think, in my heart of hearts, I would love to be a conspiracy theorist. The intrigue, the drama, the feeling that I am "in the loop" as it were, and not foolish enough to be tricked by those pesky sinister secret plotters. Hence the gas watch conspiracy! (The Saudis will invade us by June of 2009 by the way. With George Bush being the "inside man" with the codes to the secret entrances to all of the government buildings.)

In reality though. I think I believe that Kennedy was shot by a lowlife failure of a man, who made the shots of his life on that day. I remember in boot camp, spending so very much time training to shoot, and firing so many practice rounds downrange. I wondered how anyone could not be a pretty good shooter when they finished training. Yet we had one guy who just could not seem to stay consistently on target, and in fact, did shoot other targets from time to time. He barely qualified with the rifle, and had the lowest score in the entire company.

But there was one day during practice. One golden day, when the stars aligned, or his brain cleared enough to understand the concepts behind marksmanship, no one is really sure what happened. But on that one day, he shot like a champ. Center mass after center mass. Head shots from 500 yards. It was the talk of the range that day. And we all believed that he had finally got it!

But not really, because every other time, he sucked. Perhaps Oswald, hyped up on adrenaline, flush with finally making his mark on history, managed to pull off the best shots of his life. Stinks to think that he did it alone. No order to it. No deep secrets or government plots. Just a nut job who got lucky.

I tend to believe that the simple explanation for something is often correct. In my job, I've seen coincidences that would convince the most resolute cynic. But sometimes a coincidence is just a coincidence, and crappy things happen for no good reason.

Any way you slice it, in the grand scheme of things, these "monumental human events" don't change life all that much. The sun still comes up. We still go to work to earn money to pay the bills. Some folks win the lottery, some die in bizarre accidents. There really is very little rhyme or reason to it. But we humans sure want there to be. Very much so.

More Later

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Second Chances

Third, fourth, tenth, twentieth. How many "chances" does someone get?

A long time ago I wrote of a hypothetical situation wherein a person presents to the ER for care because they were feeling suicidal. (That was back on August 19th, for anyone who wants to relive those good times)

Tonight we got slammed in the ED. 4 ambulance runs in less than an hour, of which I took two.

When faced with the reality of a hypothetical situation, it turns out that we all just do our jobs and save the guy's life.

Story deleted thanks to the HIPAA police. I leave the rest of the blog as is, because nothing in the following lines could identify the patient as anything but male, and someone I detested.

Riding home from a transfer like this, one might be pondering the extreme lack of compassion felt for another human being. How could I, for example, feel nothing for the suffering of another person? Am I less of a person for not really wanting to engage a patient like that in conversation?

I'm 100% positive that I would be very professional in my care for such a patient. But the extra oomph I try to give my patients just might not be there. And it turns out, I would judge myself pretty harshly for such behavior.

I would judge myself harshly, because my initial reaction to a patient like that is to say "Well buddy. Better luck next time." or "Say, did you hear we had a fatality from a person falling off a local cliff? There's something to think about, huh." I judge myself harshly because somewhere deep, deep down, I want there to be a way to fix people like that. Make them whole again. Make them good, decent people with lots to live for, and I know I can't do it, and probably nobody can. I judge myself harshly because I will not feel bad should a patient such as that die.

Yet at the same time, though I know I should not, I judge that patient harshly for continuing to believe that he is the victim. For not understanding why his wife and kids won't just forgive and forget, and support him through his tough times. For not having the cajones to take responsibility for his actions, and face up to the consequences.

But like I've said before. I hate haters, and so am filled with self-loathing. Sometimes I think this job is just turning me old too fast. Ugh.

More Later

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Gas Prices Falling... What's Next

I've added a little gas watch marker on the left side of the blog there. Just to keep track of local gas prices. I probably should have done it a few weeks ago, just to see how dramatic the drop has been.

Time will tell what it all means, of course.

There's an interesting bit o' information floating around about a new thing called myco-diesel. Here's a little article from the blog Peak Energy

" A fungus that makes biodiesel as part of its natural lifecycle has attracted the attention of American scientists wishing to tap into its potential. The fungus has been discovered living in trees in the Patagonian rainforests and is believed to be unique in its ability to synthesize a variety of substances useful in fuel production.
"This is the only organism that has ever been shown to produce such an important combination of fuel substances," said Professor Gary Strobel from Montana State University. "The fungus can even make these diesel compounds from cellulose, which would make it a better source of biofuel than anything we use at the moment."
The fungus, which has been named Gliocladium roseum, produces a number of different molecules made of hydrogen and carbon that are found in diesel. Prof Strobel said that the fungi's unusual ability to churn out a plethora of hydrocarbons were discovered quite by accident. His team was conducting experiments on the Ulmo tree, known to play host to a variety of novel fungi, and the fuel-producing fungus resisted chemicals that wiped out the others that were present and began producing its own gases - which turned out to be rich in diesel-like compounds.
"The results were totally unexpected and very exciting and almost every hair on my arms stood on end," said Prof Strobel. Many microbes produce hydrocarbons and fungi that live in wood often seem to make a range of potentially explosive compounds. In its natural habitat - the rainforest - the newly discovered fungus produces lots of long chain hydrocarbons and other biological molecules. But when the researchers grew it in the lab, it produced fuel that is even more similar to the diesel we put in our cars.
"When crops are used to make biofuel they have to be processed before they can be turned into useful compounds by microbes," said Professor Strobel. "G. roseum can make myco-diesel directly from cellulose, the main compound found in plants and paper. This means if the fungus was used to make fuel, a step in the production process could be skipped."
"The discovery also questions our knowledge of the way fossil fuels are made. The accepted theory is that crude oil, which is used to make diesel, is formed from the remains of dead plants and animals that have been exposed to heat and pressure for millions of years," said Prof Strobel. "If fungi like this are producing myco-diesel all over the rainforest, they may have contributed to the formation of fossil fuels."

Wouldn't life be grand if this were the breakthrough the biodiesel push needed? A little fungus that can break cellulotic materials down into diesel fuel. Cellulotic materials like the grasses growing in the ditches along our highways and byways. We would no longer need to feed our edible corn into the fuel market. Instead we could use the cornstalks and soybean waste plant, and maybe even grow whole crops of switchgrass to be made into diesel. Of course, we would still need to try and make diesel cleaner, but it would be a start. It would be a start.

Imagining an America free of OPEC rule... hmm, what a nice place to live!

More Later

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Great Gas Conspiracy

'Tis a mystery methinks. How is it that gas prices are falling so rapidly and steadily? OPEC cuts production, yet prices continue to fall? Winter is setting in, and prices continue to fall?
Welcome to the secret stimulus package. Citizens aren't spending! We can't get the economy moving without people spending! What are we going to do!?!
Deals are made behind closed doors. George and Dick meet with the Exxon and OPEC folks.
"Just cut prices... back to where they were a few years ago. People will be so Happy that they'll start driving more. Where will they drive? To stores to spend the money that otherwise would have gone to gas. They'll go on vacations and book hotels and buy souvenirs. Low gas prices will get their little minds off of alternative energy ideas, which will once again cost more to pursue than cheap oil! They're sheep anyway, and will happily go back to their old spending habits! The economy will be saved!"
"What's in it for us?" The Exxon leaders will say.
"Well, once they get back in the habit of spending freely, they'll become addicted to gas again. We'll pass more laws making it even harder for alternative energy to get going if oil prices rise again. Once the laws are in place, you can jack that price back up there and they'll have no alternative but to pay it! The Democrats won't be able to do anything because we'll have already tied their hands, and with the public so disillusioned with gas prices again, they'll vote in a Republican saviour! Like Energy Maven Sarah Palin! It's brilliant! "
"Mwahahahaha!" from everyone in the room.
Yeah, it's a stretch... but wouldn't it make a fun novel? And won't you all be surprised when something like that does happen!?! You can say you read it here first!
Happy cheap gas days. Enjoy them while you can... and IF you can!
More Later

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Neighborhood Supply Drive Experiment part II

As was stated in the last post, the Lakota are having a rough go of things. I felt the need to do something.

So I'm going to try and set up a Neighborhood Supply Drive. Last I heard, they needed blankets, diapers, water. Basic things. I know that at my house we've got a couple extra blankets lying around. I'd imagine that in a middle class 'hood such as mine, many families might have one or two lying around that they don't really ever use.

My goal is to collect them and send them to the Lakota via One Spirit. Along with the blankets, I'm going to encourage my neighbors to donate anything else they can spare. Hats, mittens, gloves, coats, boots... whatever. I have a hard time believing that the other houses in this hood don't have a surplus of some of these things. And my neighbors are pretty good folks. I'm betting that if they knew of the plight of the Lakota, they might be willing to step up and help out.

My challenge is to get other people in other neighborhoods to start a supply drive of their own. I know that the neighborhood I grew up in would probably be able to rustle up some good blankets and gear. And I have other friends and family that could try it in their neighborhoods.

I'll be calling and e-mailing those of you I know personally in the next few days. This is just a heads up for those of you that read this blog. Interested in participating? Let's see what happens when one person joins up with a bunch of others. I'll bet we could do some serious good.

More Later

The Neighborhood Supply Drive Experiment

Can one person really do anything significant for the victims of a natural disaster? There are, of course, many organizations out there designed specifically to go into disaster areas with supplies and such to help out.

Often, the American Public rallies behind the cause to support these groups and the victims. Hurricane Katrina, the big Tsunami half way around the world, forest fires in California and such. But what happens when disaster strikes a part of America that Americans seem to prefer to overlook?

I'm talking, of course, about the blizzard that smashed into the Lakota Indian Reservations on November 10th, knocking out power all over, dumping crippling snow, forcing the residents to gather at places like Crazy Horse High School to try and ride out the worst of it. And by gather, I don't mean hop in the family car and trek down the roads. There were people who walked miles through the snow to get there. Young and old alike. They were made refugees by the storm. Forced to flee their homes, or stay and freeze and/or starve. If it happened anywhere else in the country, the media would have already been all over it.

But our Indian Reservations have for years been shuffled under the rug by the media, and thus by the Public. Theirs after all, is a very different culture than ours. The stereotypes of the modern Native American are not flattering. So people go about their own lives. Warm in their homes. Full tummies before climbing under warm blankets for the night. Their kids well fed, well clothed and well schooled. Oblivious to the third world country right here within the borders of our own.

Why don't they get jobs? I've heard that asked. The unemployment rate on the reservations is between 40 -60%. Compare that to the national average of 4 or 5%. There are no jobs.

Why don't they go where the jobs are? A question asked by those who have never had to figure out how to do that. I had a period in my life where I had to do that, and it is really very difficult to do. Surprisingly so. Not to mention that their education system is nowhere near as nice as most of the rest of the country.

So we have a large group of people living in substandard housing, without appropriate clothing for the seasons, without much food to eat, without heat for the coming winter. Then a blizzard hits to add insult to injury. So, what can one person do about it?

More Later

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Springtime in the Mouth of Sweet Pea

That's right! Teeth are starting to bud through the gums of my little cutie! The Wife and I were both a little teary at this milestone, as we can now see definite tooth starting to grow. Sweet Pea is, naturally, non-plussed by the whole thing, preferring to drool copiously and use her voice in new, and wonderfully loud ways.

More Later

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Proposition 8

I'm not Californian. I'm not gay. I'm not all that into the politics of either, yet I find myself compelled to write a little something on Prop 8 out in California.

Unless you live in a cave, you know that it passed. The amendment states "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid and recognized in California." I got this from the website They are, not surprisingly, all for Prop 8.

Here's the trouble with that whole mess. There is, and should be, a separation of Church and State in our country. We were not founded as a Christian country. Our founding fathers gave us freedom of religion. So to try and define marriage in the courts and in the constitution of our states using religious arguments is a gross violation of the separation of church and state.

I've read arguments on both sides. Both sides have some valid concerns. But the overriding issue of Prop 8 is basic civil rights. To argue that "traditional marriage" will suffer is a fallacy. I have seen no evidence of marriage traditions being hurt depending on who is standing up to be married. Moreover, the argument being made that marriage is only defined by the Bible is a silly argument as well.

Here's why. If we refuse the right of same sex marriage based on the Christian bible, then we must also invalidate any marriage that has taken place in a synagogue, or any Islam based marriage. Or Hindu. And most especially, we must invalidate those God-less souls who were married by a Justice of the Peace. If we state legally that marriage is between one man and one woman, and the evidence of that is from the Christian Bible, then ALL other marriages are illegal other than those performed by a Christian minister, pastor, priest, etc. in a Christian church.

When the state (ie: the people) starts defining marriage, the must leave religion at the door. As such, their argument that "Gays already have all the rights of a married person in a civil union" is also ridiculous. If it quacks like a duck, and swims like a duck, for Pete's sake, let's call it a duck! If it's already a marriage, what does it hurt to call it that?

There are also arguments out there stating that if Prop 8 passed, gay marriage would be taught in schools. This argument is so patently absurd, that to believe it one must be seriously mentally deficient. Parents are responsible as to what schools their kids attend. And if they are so put off by the curriculum, there is always the home schooling option. Or Christian schools. Or private schools. All evidence that I could find shows that marriage relationships aren't even taught in California schools. It seems to be a scare tactic used to further the cause.

Lastly, arguments have been brought to my attention that churches and pastors can be sued if they refuse to perform a "gay" wedding. I can't seem to find any evidence of this. It's also a nonsensical argument, as no Catholic church has been successfully sued for refusing to give communion to a non-Catholic. Or for refusing to wed a couple who were not both Catholic. My brother and my best friend both had to convert to Catholicism to marry their beloveds. Both did so willingly to satisfy the Church.

In short, it seems like unless we are willing to pass laws forbidding marriage between anyone but men and women who strictly follow the Christian Bible, we should not deny marriage to anyone who meets the following criteria...

Two people willing to stand before their God (or a state appointed representative) and declare their intent to love, honor, cherish and support each other as long as they both shall live.

Before we outlaw marriage to save "traditional marriage" we should probably fix "traditional marriage". Prop 8 and other propositions like it are a sad reminder that prejudice and ignorance still exist in spades amongst some people.

More Later

Spread the Plants

So, the start of AFP has gone pretty well. Yesterday the family and I went and donated a couple of spare plants to a hospice house. The kiddos came along of course, and spread their own particular brightness to the residents there. Sweet Pea went from lap to lap, smiling and being charming, and the Boyo greeted folks and schmoozed like a seasoned politician. The only baby he kissed was his sister though.

I'm considering doing a neighborhood blanket drive to garner a few more blankets to send to the rez. I'll let you know how that goes.

Otherwise, back at work tonight... so

More Later

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Here's the thing.

In my heart of heart, I think I am really meant to be a philanthropist. The thing is, I am almost positive that I have no foundation loaded with money that I can give away. Because while I could work for a non-profit and all, I really want to be in charge of giving stuff away! I really like to do that. Ask The Wife about Christmas. I get nearly giddy with the thought of giving my loved ones gifts.

I also see the need out there for a great many things. There are as many good organizations doing wonderful things for those in need than there are sand grains on a beach.

So last night, I started kicking around the idea of starting a new hobby. Being a philanthropist as best I can. Not by giving money, as we have not much to spare as it is. But by finding solutions to needs.

For example, the need for blankets out in South Dakota on the Lakota reservations. I can buy a blanket or two and ship them out. But I want to do much more. Last night at work was incredibly slow, so I took some time to send about a dozen e-mails to companies that make or sell blankets, asking them for donations and for help. I've heard from no one yet. But thought that perhaps if they heard from more than just one person, they might be convinced to spare a few blankets.

That's when the idea for a new sort of philanthropy started developing. What if I could get a few friends and family to send these folks a simple e-mail or make a phone call? What if they told their friends? And so on and so forth. I'm sure the idea is not new. But I'm going to call it Average Folks Philanthropy, or AFP. Us average wage earners can't afford to ship a thousand blankets to those in need. But we can buy one or two to send, and anyone reading this can afford to send a free e-mail off to a blanket maker or seller urging them to donate something.

It just seems in a nation of plenty like we live in, we should all pull together and help each other out. Especially in tough times like these. Biblically speaking, the phrase "to whom much is given, much is expected" comes to mind. And if you aren't a bible type person, just take a look around while you're sitting down to dinner tonight. Got enough food on your plate? Sitting in a home out of the weather? Dressed in appropriate clothing for the season? Even if you think you are struggling to get by, I'll bet there are blankets on your bed and a few extra someplace else in your house.

So what is stopping us from giving away the things we don't really use that much anyway? I believe it is our "traditional American value" of hoarding as much as we can to stay ahead of the Joneses. The wife and I are fed up with it. I think there might be a bunch of people out there who are tired of the rat race as well. How about we start a "new" tradition? If you have more 'things' than you need, give the surplus away.

Now I'm not saying we should go socialist with our government. I think the government has very little business in 'spreading the wealth around', as they always seem to be the middle man and get the lion's share of that wealth. Let's just spread the 'stuff' around ourselves. Keep our paychecks and give away our extra stuff! So those with no shoes can have one of my three pair. So those with no food can have some from my crock pot. So those shivering in the cold can have one of the blankets I have folded up sitting in the closet.

I'm tired tonight. (five hours of sleep in the last 48 thanks to the chatty gals across from our sleep room) So I am naturally verbose. But the idea I think, is a sound one. It should be able to work. I know I've asked for your response to things before. But this time I'm serious. Please drop me a line with any suggestions on how to make it work.

Maybe a foundation that takes corporate donations that gives money for postage to people looking to send things to those in need.

I don't know. It would just be fun to help. So if you don't e-mail me, then Google "blankets" and send off a couple queries to the makers and sellers asking them to donate a few.

Change is in the air in our country, but it's going to take efforts from most everyone to ensure that the change is for the better.

Enough rambling,

More Later

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Have You Ever?

Sometimes when I visit a friends blog, I'll visit some of their friends blogs, and then their friends blogs and so on. This leads to a tangled trail of blogs. Sometimes, if I see something fun, I'll clip it and save it for later. This list is one such find. I'm not exactly sure the trail I took to find it, so many thanks to whomever I got it from. But seemed a fun exercise for the night shift. It's a "have you ever" list where you highlight the ones you've done. Go on, try it. You know you want to!

1. Started your own blog
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland/world
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sang a solo
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown your own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal in a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance - (never as a patient...)
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching
63. Gotten flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten Caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby... well, the Wife did, and I delivered both of them.
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee

Now, see... you know even more about me. (Send me your list, just to be fair)

I almost thought to myself that I should set out to accomplish everything else on the list, but some of them don't sound like too much fun!

More Later

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

One Spirit

One Spirit is a group that is dedicated to helping the Lakota people on the reservations in South Dakota.

The Lakota reservations were hit with a hard blizzard not long ago, and a call has gone out for blankets. Here is the address for that.

URGENT! Blankets needed!
Word has come in that blankets are in high need on the rez. There are still a lot of people without electricity, so heaters are not working, and not everyone has a wood stove or fireplace. Please send blankets (good, clean, warm blankets) to the addresses below:
Rosalie Janis
3M N. Manderson orPO Box 85
Manderson, SD 57756


John DuBray
28080 Allen Road
Allen, SD 57714

Thank you, as always, for your support in this difficult time.

I'm going to get a box of blankets on the way in the next couple of days. I'm asking you to do the same. Or visit their web site and find out other ways you can help.

I'm sure I've written in here before of the spot in my heart for the Lakota people, though I know not a single one personally. I'm hoping to change that before I die.

But for now, if you can send a blanket or two, I'd be personally very grateful. That's one or two more people who can stay a little warmer this winter. And from all indicators, it's going to be a doozy of a winter.

More Later

Thank a Veteran

Photo by Jan

Veterans Day today. A time for the nation to remember those men and women who have served and thank them for their service.

Officially, I am not a "veteran". I served in the Marine Reserves for eight years and was never deployed with my unit into a combat zone. I'm eligible to join the American Legion, but not the VFW.

But for most of the 90's I stayed physically fit, and stood ready both mentally and physically to do my duty should the call ever come. Three times we were put on alert. Once for a possible return to Iraq, one for a possible trip to Somalia, and one that was pretty hush-hush about a possible defense/invasion of a Northern section of a country over in Asia that has been split along the 38th Parallel for a while now. That was a fun little training rotation!

I have flown the American flag and the Marine Corps flag proudly for years. Long before it became fashionable again after 9/11. For the last four years, I've flown the American flag without lights at night. This, as you may or may not know, is a flag etiquette no-no. But I did it as a protest against a government that I felt was mishandling the wars it has involved itself in.

I was against the war in Iraq from the start, as I felt it was mostly a revenge thing and less a national security thing. I've felt, since 9/11, that we needed to go after the actual perpetrators of the event in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Bin Laden is still out there.

So I protested by flying the flag "in the dark", as that is how the American people and more importantly the American military have been kept in terms of strategies in the Iraq mess. I do agree that now that we are there, we need to do the job right. I believe that our next Commander in Chief will be able to get our troops home with honor, and in a better time frame than sometime in the next hundred years. I look forward to re-lighting my flag.

This Veterans Day I thank those still in uniform for their continued service and dedication to this great nation. I thank those enlisting today all the way back to Frank Buckles, the last surviving member of the American forces who fought in WW I. Each and every veteran has given this country the gift of sleeping securely in an unsure world. Each one has been willing to sacrifice, even unto death, so that this nation could survive and prosper. Each one, myself included, served knowing that they were willing to fight for the freedoms that we all hold so dear. Even the freedom to protest peacefully or blog viciously against the very government that leads the country.

So THANK YOU to all who have ever worn a uniform and been willing to protect our country.

God Bless our United States.

More Later

Monday, November 10, 2008


Happy Birthday today to the United States Marine Corps! Formed by a declaration of Congress on this day way back in 1775 in a little tavern, the Marine Corps has gown steadily into the force it is today.

Here's a snippet from, a site filled with all you'd ever want to know about my beloved Corps.

"On November 10, 1775, the Continental Congress commissioned Samuel Nicholas to raise two Battalions of Marines. That very day, Nicholas set up shop in Tun Tavern. He appointed Robert Mullan, then the proprietor of the tavern, to the job of chief Marine Recruiter -- serving, of course, from his place of business at Tun Tavern. Prospective recruits flocked to the tavern, lured by (1) cold beer and (2) the opportunity to serve in the new Corps of Marines. So, yes, the U.S. Marine Corps was indeed born in Tun Tavern. Needless to say, both the Marine Corps and the tavern thrived during this new relationship. "

I wore my Marines jacket today, but didn't get a single birthday greeting. The Wife and I celebrated her birthday today too. While a friend watched the kiddos for us, we went for a nice dinner and did some shopping. I wanted to get her a camera for her birthday, and wanted to get just the right one, so I took her to a few places and she decided on the Nikon Coolpix 550. It's quite a nice piece of gear.

Anyway, Happy Birthday again to The Wife, and Happy Birthday and Semper Fi to my fellow Devil Dogs.

More Later

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Happy Birthday Wife

The Wife celebrated her birthday recently. We are going to go do something fun on Monday, as last week was a draining one. So here, for your reading pleasure, is a tribute to The Wife.

She has always been the more level headed of our pair. Yet she has amazing dreams and ideas that I want to follow her into. She has a beauty that radiates from inside and for that reason can connect with about anyone on the planet. She's kind and gentle. She's a beautiful woman on the outside too, and I'm always amazed that she picked me to grow old with.

She's an amazing mom to our kids. When we are both exhausted, she sends me to bed and she stays up with Sweet Pea. I don't know where she gets her energy from, but it is truly amazing to see.

She's the best friend I've ever had, and supports me in everything I do. Wife, friend, lover, partner, teammate. We make a great pair, and I do love her so.

Happy Birthday Wife. I love you.

More Later

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Boyo Reads

Yes. It's true. We've been working on the reading skills of our four year old son. He's had the alphabet down pat since he was about two. But the leap from knowing what the letters are to knowing they form words has taken some time.

In the last few months he has grasped the concept of "sounding it out". This all started with linking the letter sounds to the letters, so we've had myriad hours spent with him saying,
"B makes the sound buh!" and "S makes the sound Sssssuh!" and so on and so forth. He does a really good job with sounds and such. So we've been moving him into sounding it out. This has led to many a good chuckle. For example, one recent conversation.

Daddy: What's the first letter?

Boyo: D!

D: And what sound does 'D' make?

B: Duh!

D: Good! What letter is next?

B: O!

D: And what sound does 'O' make?

B: Awh!

D: Great! 'Awh' for this word, and sometimes it makes the sound 'Oh'.

B: OK.

D: Last letter?

B: G! That's Guh!

D: Good job! Now let's put them together!

Both: D...O...G...Duh...Awh...Guh.

Then Daddy points to the letters as the Boyo sounds them out.

Boyo: Duh...Awh...Guh. Duh, Awh,Guh. Duh awh guh.

Daddy: And that word says...?

Boyo: FISH!

But the other night as we were reading through Curious George Learns the Alphabet, we were running through the above conversation except with the word 'cab'. And at the end of the sounding out I said, as per the script,

And that word says...?

Fully expecting him to reply with MONKEY! or PAPER! but he very excitedly proclaimed


The Wife and I looked at him in amazement, then at each other, and soon we were all grinning and complimenting and very, very happy! He went on to sound out a few other words, each time I could see the little gears a turning in his head, and connections being made. And I thought to myself, my God. My son is learning to read!

Followed closely by the thought, my God... I have a son old enough to read!?! And a lump of paternal pride came to my throat. I respect and admire my folks all the more for making the upbringing of my siblings and I look so easy at times. I remember very little about learning to read. My older sister helped a great deal of course. And I could read when I left for kindergarten. The Boyo goes to school next fall. I have no doubt that he'll be reading well by then. He's a pretty amazing kid.

More Later

President Obama, Part 2

As I was holding the Sweet Pea last night, listening to Obama give his victory speech, I wondered what her future would be like.

What will the world look like in four years? In eight? Twenty? My little girl was sound asleep, head nestled in the crook of my elbow, breathing gently. Absolutely beautiful and completely unaware how much the world changed this night.

Mom was remembering that when she was young, black people couldn't use the same bathrooms or drinking fountains as white folks. Now, one generation later, there will be a black family living in the White House.

I've read many disturbing postings in various places already spewing hatred for an Obama administration. I just don't understand where it comes from. The guy has yet to be sworn in, and some people are ordering bumper stickers saying "Don't Blame Me, I Voted For McCain". As if not even twenty four hours after his win, somehow the country has become a worse place to live.

Last night I felt hope again. Hope that people would finally grow up and learn to get along even if they disagree. I could almost see as a reality a country where people could disagree, yet still be friends. Where government works in a practical way for the people it serves. Where those same people would not just be patriotic in good times and in their circle of like minded, like skinned friends. But where a white middle class auto worker and a Muslim New York cab driver could be seen as equally patriotic. Where the American dream is re-ignited and people learn the true meaning of the power of that dream. I admired Obama for admitting that he needed John McCain to help him in the next four years. I admired McCain for his unhesitating willingness to give that support. McCain gets it. When the sun came up on November 5th, we are all still Americans. McCain will support his President. Even in disagreement. That's a true patriot.

Tonight I see that there will always be those on the extremes that will hate regardless. Perhaps, just perhaps those of us in the center will unite and rise up and finally be heard over the far right and left. Perhaps we can compromise and live together. Not everyone will always be happy with every decision. But maybe there is a way to find common ground on the big issues. Maybe this new President is the one to do it. As Nancy Gibbs of Time wrote,

"We get the leaders we deserve. And if we lift them up and then cut them off, refuse to follow unless they are taking us to Disneyland, then no President, however eloquent, however historic his mandate or piercing his sense of what needs to be done, can take us where we refuse to go. This did not all end on Election Day, Obama said again and again as he talked about the possibility of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. And so, we are merely at the end of the beginning. "

I couldn't agree more. Obama can't do it alone. His administration can't do it alone. He built a grass roots system. Let's see how it works if we take a position of hope and support, instead of anger and bitterness. Let's see if we can all learn to be true patriots.

Good Luck America.

More Later

President Obama

. Brooks Kraft
Last night I was holding my baby daughter in my arms, watching the concession speech of an old war horse, and the acceptance speech of our new President. I'd be lying if I said I didn't have at least a lump in my throat for most of it all.

John McCain spoke well. If he had spoken that well and stayed away from the petty attacks,(and not chosen Palin) it might have been a different outcome.

President Elect Obama spoke well also. But no shock there. He has always been eloquent.

As he spoke of this being only the beginning step in the future of our country, I was reminded of a memory from my own past.

April 10th, 1992. That morning I was in a squad bay with about eight other guys. We had been whittled down from over a hundred over the course of thirteen weeks of what some might call 'intensive training'. We were dressed in our blues, at attention in front of our racks (beds) one last time before the graduation. Our drill instructors were going down the line and inspecting us one last time. As they reached me, the senior drill instructor looked me over with his hyper-critical eyes, straightened my cover (hat) almost imperceptibly and simply muttered "good".

With that the two junior instructors stepped forward and added the final touch to my uniform. Two golden EGA's to my collar. An EGA is an Eagle, Globe and Anchor. The badge of the US Marine. They had impressed upon us many a time that we would not wear them until we were ready to be Marines.

Cut forward a couple hours. Graduation had ended. Mom and Dad didn't recognize me even as I walked toward them from the sea of blue. I had lost weight, gained bearing. Become more of an adult. I introduced them to one of my DI's. A Staff Sergent Crampton. He greeted my folks cordially, actually praised my performance just a hint. Then turned to me and said these words...

"This is only the beginning. You've earned this. Earned the title of Marine. Now you've got some years ahead to do something with it."

Barack Obama will be our 44th President. That much is clear. He's got huge challenges in front of him. He's earned the title, we've given him the keys - as it were. Now let's see what he can do with it.

I'm hoping for an administration that brings our fractured political world together some. Gets rid of the waste of Washington and actually makes this country great again. I'm hoping for an end to the Iraq fiasco. A true hunting of Bin Laden. A more stable economy. More employment and opportunity for our citizens.

I'm hoping he is able to stick with his tax plan as much as possible. And if I were bringing in $250K, I'd happily "pay a little extra" as John McCain said. (though not in this campaign)

There's an obscure Disney musical called "The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band". Among the strange plot lines, and somewhat central to the theme, is the presidential race between Grover Cleveland and Benjamin Harrison. At the end of the film, the Buddy Epson character makes a speech to the two fighting political sides.

He says that although there is great disappointment, that it was time to put aside differences and try to work together for a better future. Somewhat how Obama's speech went last night, and McCain's as well.

I know there will be those out there with bad feelings about the results. So to them I offer two things.

1) I survived the past eight years with a President I did not want. I gave him the benefit of the doubt at first, and was even somewhat encouraged directly after 9/11 that he would bring our country together. Of course, history has proven that he did otherwise.

2) You'll survive this administration also. You may not agree with everything he says or does. But try giving him the benefit of some time to see what he can do in there. I promise that if he does terrible, I'll help vote him out of the position he now holds. But he will only do great if he has at least the respectful tolerance of those who didn't vote for him.

Of course, judging by the "boo's" heard at the McCain speech, there will be some "Americans" who will just be bitter and angry for the next four to eight years. But as my friend Sarah the soon to be Paramedic said to me once, "Being bitter towards someone is like swallowing poison then waiting for that other person to die."

So. Good luck and Godspeed to Obama and his administration.

More Later

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day

Is it just me, or does this feel like a turtle race? Everyone is so anxious to see who will win, but the process of the final race is so mind numbingly slow.


Sleep now. Wake to check some results later... or maybe in the morning.

Thanks to those who voted.

More Later

Monday, November 3, 2008

Red Tail Hawk

One of my many hobbies that I wish I could make a living at is wildlife rehabilitation. It isn't very often, but every once and awhile I'll get a call from The Raptor Center in the Twin Cities or the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, also in the Cities with a report of an injured critter in my area. I'm a volunteer transport driver for both places. So if I am able, I'll pick up the critter and run it over to the appropriate facility. It isn't as much as I'd like to do. And very often I'm otherwise indisposed for a transport.

Anyway. Around Halloween I got a call from TRC about an injured Red Tailed Hawk in a town about 45 minutes away. I contacted the finder and they said they were coming up to my neck of the woods anyway and would meet me in town. They had the bird in a dog kennel covered with a sheet. (Well done) They said they had been seeing it for a couple of days before they were able to catch it.

I transferred her over to my transport box and did a quick exam. First off, I'm guessing it was a she based on size. Males are smaller than females, and she was a good sized hawk. The next thing I noticed was a droopy left wing. Upon exam I found a broken and protruding humerus. That would be your upper arm bone. The end of the bone was dry. That's not a good sign. Usually it means that they cannot fix the bone and will euthanize the bird.

Well, I drove her home and put her in my quiet, darkened shop and called up to TRC. I spoke with the on call vet and made arrangements to deliver her the next day. I went back out that night to get a few pictures of her. The Boyo came with me and was very good about being quiet and calm around the bird. Of course, he didn't want to leave when it was time to go in. But he said goodnight to the hawk and followed me back inside for the night. And when I asked him what symbol he wanted on his shield for his Halloween costume, he said with some finality...

"A Red TAIL Hawk!" with emphasis on the word 'tail'. He seems a bit smitten with them too. Just like his Daddy.

The drive up was a little depressing, as I knew what the fate of this beautiful bird would probably be. The vet agreed with my initial assessment of the broken humerus and I left.

I have a soft spot for raptors, and Red Tail Hawks in particular. Maybe it's the Lakota in me, maybe I just anthropomorphize too much, I don't know. But it seems that whenever I look a Red Tail in the eyes, whether up close or at a distance, they seem to be telling me something. I see their spirit reflected in my own. I feel a definite intangible connection to those birds, which is why it pains me every time I take one up. Usually by the time they are sick enough to be caught they are beyond saving.

Still, beautiful birds and fun to watch. The Boyo reminded me tonight before I left for work to check up on our red tailed friend. His parting words to me were,

"Daddy, remember to see how the red tail hawk is doing at the doctors office."

So do I tell him the truth? Or tell him that our hawk friend is mending and will be flying free again soon? I know which one I want to be true.

More Later

Sunday, November 2, 2008


So, in getting bids for the back wall, I was shocked to hear how much money it would cost. We had about a dozen contractors in to tell us all about poured cement walls and formed brick walls and on and on. None of the bids came in under the price of a new Toyota Prius, which is the big reason I wanted to do it myself.

I did have a lot of fun bringing the wall down, and I probably could have done the whole thing over the course of the next year or two, or with the sacrifice of my back. So we brought in a new contractor to take a look. He gave us a very reasonable bid, better than any we'd heard prior,so he got the job.

Well. In the previous bids, the cost was just for the wall. This company - Arbor Enterprises - is not only building the wall, but re-landscaping the entire back yard as well. They've palletized all the stones I had so carelessly dropped next to the house, redone the grading in the back yard, and started to lay the stones. They are (so far) going above and beyond our expectations. And they are all pretty nice guys to boot.
Here's the progress so far.

Palletized Rock.

Back Yard regraded.

Still a lot of wall to go, but I'm definitely glad we've got them doing the job.

Oh, and see that big pile of logs on the right side of the last picture? They moved that around to the side of the house so I could better cut and split it! Then it's going in the wood storage spaces in the wall. (wait till you see this thing. It's going to be an awesome back yard! Wanna come for a BBQ when it's done?)
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I'm Back


The work on the back wall has begun. Somewhere in there our phone line got smushed or something, so Internet was down. Then the repair guy fixing the line switched our home line with our shop line, further exacerbating the problem. We're back, after a fashion.

The work those guys are doing out back is amazing. I'll get some pictures up soon. Pricey, but worth every penny so far.

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