Thursday, August 28, 2014


I had the great fortune of growing up in a town that cared about education.

My parents cared, my friend's parents cared, and, above all, the teachers cared.

I am very thankful for that.

But I have never told the stories (at least here) about some of those teachers and what they instilled in me.

Kay Nietzsche--
 She was my homeroom/English teacher in seventh and eighth grade. I remember her as tall and thin. And I remember diagrammed sentences all over the blackboards. She introduced me to LITERATURE. And women writers. She sent me to the Lindsay Public Library and Ms. Peg Burr. Between the two of them I read things that were not on any curriculum. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier is the first that comes to mind. Then the Bronte sisters and even a touch of Virginia Wolf. 

Kay Nietzsche expanded my world beyond the 5,000 people in my home town. She gave me the world.

Jesse Guerrero-
Four years of Spanish. I still can't speak it beyond the very elementary stuff--Buenos dias. Como esta?--Donde esta la bana (or el bano)?  and the ever necessary  Como se dice?

But his classes were more than a language. They were an education in culture and understanding and acceptance. 

And he taught me about losing. I was a finalist for the Lions Club Speech contest. Now lets face it, speeches are my thing. And they were then. I knew that I was good. But I lost. So the next day, Mr. Guerrero gets on my headset (he could listen in and talk to you privately--it was really cool) and tells me what I did well and what was the deciding factor in giving the win to someone else. And he reminds me that learning and going forward are the biggest things in life. 

Thank you, Jesse.

Steven Hannigan-
 I am NOT, I repeat, not a math person. But Mr. Hannigan made me want to be one. It was the one classroom that you walked into and NEVER said a word unless called upon to do so. A strict disciplinarian. Or so we thought.
A brilliant man who taught the beauty of math. He gave me geometry and Algebra II and trigonometry. (Couldn't take his calculus class because of scheduling issues my senior year-I swear I could have learned it from him!)
He taught me dedication. The man had offers at major universities and he stayed in the small town so he could teach. 
And then there was the Dawn Patrol. Six AM. Yes, crack of Dawn....To learn how to use a slide rule! (Yeah, if you don't know what a slide rule is think of a computer on a ruler. Or look it up.)

Orrie Fietsma-
 Freshman English. 
What can I say about a man who taught me that it was ok to be gentle with myself. Or that it was ok to come off the arrogant pedestal that I had been raised on and talk with people outside of my family circle. Or that music was a beautiful and wondrous thing. Or that being "different" was acceptable if you accepted yourself. 
Powerful lessons.

Thank you, Orrie.

Joe Ippolitto-
My senior year I was trying to do everything. Mr. Ippolitto was my teacher for Humanities, Journalism, and my adviser on the newspaper. 
I was the school mascot. I was editor of the school newspaper. I was in GAA (Girl's Athletic Association). I was in every club I could get into.
Looking back, I know that I was trying to avoid my home situation. But then I just felt I had to do everything and do it perfectly. The paper had to be just right, I had to be the best at my athletic endeavors etc. 
Mr. Ippolitto sent me home with a "deficiency notice" telling my parents that I was working too much. 
He knew. He saw. He was telling me to be true to myself and telling them to knock it off. It took me several years to understand but through that one act--

He taught me courage.   

I could go on. There were so, so many. And they taught me so very, very much.

I continue to thank the ones still with us. I try to honor the memory of the ones that are not. 


Sunday, August 24, 2014


A few weeks ago I noticed that Diamond's left front paw looked funny. She wasn't limping or favoring it in any way so I let it go.

Then about a week ago I noticed that as she sat waiting for her dinner, she lifted that paw. And just held it in the air. 

I checked it for boo-boo's and found none. I figured she had hurt it in jumping or scratching on the cat tree. (one of her favorite past times!)

I kept watch.

She kept lifting the paw and she was slower jumping down.

Then she decided to stay in her bed and ignored the opening of the cat food can.


So off to the vet we go. 

Diamond is NOT happy about this turn of events. It is almost 30 minutes to the vet. And I was loudly scolded the whole way.

Until we get to the vet. 


Anyway, blood tests, s-rays and urine sample later, all her organs are functioning just fine.

There is a spot on her "ankle" that might be arthritis or it might be something else. 

Since we are at the "no extraordinary measures" stage of her life, she and I went home with some pain medication to "make her comfortable". 

I have been depressed about the whole thing for several days. 

I have had to fight with her to give her the meds. Mind you, they are suppose to be given sub-lingual (under the tongue). 

Ever tried to get a cat to open their mouth and lift their tongue? It is not exactly possible. 

It took me about three days to create a detente with her so that I could at least get her to not try and scratch my eyes out! But she was getting some in the mean time. 

She stayed in her cat tree bed and got up for food but nothing else. She didn't leave the room to come to our bed at night. She just stayed in the tree and stared at the wall.

Today, she "let" me get the entire dose in her mouth. 

And this is what happened:


As I write this she is staring at the string toy that Spouse made.

She is a happy kitty again!

Monday, August 18, 2014


Today I watched.

We had just had lunch together and she was driving back to work.

I was driving to my next errand.

I stopped behind a couple of vehicles. All of us waiting for the light to change.

And she walked across in front of us.

A driver ahead of me apparently called out to her.

She turned, waved, and smiled.

So confident, so comfortable in her own skin.

Do you know that feeling when your child becomes more than you thought possible?

Do you know that feeling when you see them and know that they have succeeded in life?

That moment.

When you watch them and see that they are themselves.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Ordering a New Head

Ever had a migraine? They are such lovely things.

One minute I am talking on the phone and getting ready to do something and the next?  My vision "splits", I can't focus on anything, and I am down for the count. Ice bags, ice water, dark room, no sound, curled in a fetal position and screaming to my head to just go away. Not just the pounding pain but the whole head. JUST LEAVE!

Today I was lucky. I was able to sleep.

Most times I can not. Most times my body will not stay still long enough for me to shut down. Most times, I am a silent, walking zombie who complains about light and noise or just the head. God, do I hate my head.

For those of you who have never had this joyous thing happen to you, think of it this way...An atom of heat and fury travels in a minute portion of a second through your head and disrupts your brains ability to organize things. Because it is so small it does not affect all of your brain, just that little portion that lives in your head.

Now, with the little particles that enter my head, there is a special vengeance. They are a bit pissed.

They started coming into my head when I was four. FOUR!?!?! Yup, four.

Back then, and through most of my childhood, they came, I went to sleep and they left. (I found out latter that another brain altering substance was used to chase wakefulness and the particles away--phenobarbital! Yup, I was on drugs at the age of four...)

Through the years I went to various hospitals and clinics for testing. I was always told that I would grow out of them. My brother did (or so he says) but my mother did not. Neither did her father. So much for family togetherness and medical science.

Now there were periods when the little particles were banished.  But then they decided to take new routes.

They started by messing with my vision. I call it "split vision". It is not something that you see, it is what you DON'T see. For example, if I was looking at you straight in the face I could see both your eyes but not your nose. If I tried to look at your nose I would see it but not the middle of your nose. If I turn my head the same phenomenon occurs. Always the middle of the sight line but not clearly defined. It is and was always a vague area.

Then the particles decided to morph again. They went to streaks of numbness in my right hand and arm. A bit of numbness on the right side of my tongue. And the real kicker---saying my words out of order and me not being aware of it! (Did that one right in the middle of an opening argument in a murder case! That was a lot of fun...)

When I started doing major felony trials the little particles really decided to ramp up their efforts. I would be unable to see at all. Not pass out, just not be able to see. I would shake uncontrollably. I wouldn't be able to hear clearly. (I actually walked right into a wall in a courtroom. Couldn't see the damn thing!) And their little joke was that there was no headache. No pain. Just an inability to perceive, concentrate or communicate normally.

To say that I thought I was having strokes would be an understatement.

So back to the medical profession. No strokes. I have calcification "spots" on my brain that are now known to be peculiar to migraine sufferers. But they do not signify stokes or brain bleeds or anything else that modern medicine can define. (Since I was FOUR! Spots on my brain for nearly 60 years! What?)

It got to where when I was scheduled for a trial I would advise the judge and the DA that they could expect me to have a migraine at some point in that trial. If it got to where it interfered with my representing my client, I would let them all know. I always advised my clients.

(I had one judge in Bakersfield ask me if I had been cured. Idiot.)

In the last year, I went back to the medical profession because the migraines had morphed again. This time it was vertigo. The whole world was moving at one speed and my brain was perceiving it a much slower speed. It felt like my brain was physically swimming in my skull.

Neurologist number god-knows-how-many tried a lot of things. All medications and all with horrible side effects. The final determination-----must be stress.

So after a lot of thought and a lot of research, I added that to my list of pros for retiring. And I did.

And since June first I haven't had a bad migraine. Little ones that I classifiy as "gee, I have a headache". Those call for a couple of Motrin.

But today. Today those little bastards found my head again. And they used old fashioned tactics. Head splitting pain. Desperate desire to get prone. Acute sensitivity to light and sound. Did I mention A HEADACHE! A MAJOR FREEKIN' HEADACHE!!!

It ain't stress...
I am ordering a new head........

Thursday, August 14, 2014

A Little Story

About two weeks ago we saw a large (very large, if you must know) pile of wood chips by the side of the road we use get to civilization.

The following day the pile had a sign that said, "FREE WOOD CHIPS".

They didn't have to ask us twice.

Spouse quickly discovered the true usefulness of the American pitchfork. Couple that tool with a pickup truck and we had wood chips.

Lots of wood chips.

Just an idea of how much Spouse brought home....

The pile AFTER the front yard was covered in 3 inches of the stuff. 

The advantages of this golden find are many. Among the biggest? NO DUST.

In a drought, with only a personal well, water can't be used for large amounts of grass. We still are nursing along the baby lilac bush, a pine tree and a rose or two but everything else just has to wait. Thus dust is a major problem.
Another advantage? Spouse got some good exercise and managed not to injure his back toooo much. (Next day walking was an adventure.)

The disadvantages of free wood chips?

1) Spouse got a lot of exercise and could hardly move the next day or two, AND

2) Spouse has a nice case of poison oak.

Can I buy stock in calamine lotion?

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Camp Nelson-August 2014

Don 't let anyone tell you that the mountains are cool at this time of year. Not the Sierra Nevada mountains and not on the west side of said mountains.

It is cooler than the Central Valley. That much is true.

But cool (as in weather temperature) it is not.

Cool as in the neatest place to be. Yeah, then it is cool.

For the second time this year I was able to make it to my beloved family cabin. The Kid and I drove 4 hours to meet brother Bill for dinner and to spend the night.

A long way to go for dinner and sleeping under the stars you say?

Not when it is Camp Nelson.

We walked to the swimming hole and watched Bill's dog, Georgia, swim her little heart out. 

Well, she couldn't really dog paddling....more like dog wading.

 The river is very low.

 But it is cool in every sense of the word.

And the swimming hole remains. Someone (bless their hearts) added rocks to the dam that keeps this pool deep enough to allow real swimming.

But Georgia was too big for us to lift her over the dam and she couldn't make it over the rocks without slipping. So she was content to  wade. Rambunctiously and with great dog purpose.

And then she walked home with her "daddy".

We ate barbecued salmon, baked asparagus, sticky rice and enjoyed, with great awe, a full moon that made flashlights unnecessary. We talked and shared stories and enjoyed each other.

Was it worth 8 hours of driving in 24 hours?

First, there is time with my brother. And then, well.....

Take another look at these pictures and tell me it wasn't. 

Monday, August 4, 2014