California Burns, and Other Stuff

The air quality has been awful the last 3 days, as Paradise burns. We’ve ridden our tandem there and it’s a beautiful ride (not easy riding up Honey Run but when you climb slow you see so much of your surroundings). I don’t know how this will affect the Chico Velo Wildflower ride in 2019. I pray and hope that people are safe. I donated some water and Target cards to them, and it’s not enough.

I waited until midmorning Saturday to take the dogs for their mostly daily walk. I wanted more warmth and less smoke; I was only half successful. It was eerily quiet, except for some jays scolding in the park.

As usual, I let the oldest dog pick the route, and Oliver followed his nose, looking for kitty roca. I foiled him (ew) and we were about 3 blocks from home when we encountered a lady unloading her SUV and called to her dog; as it came around another parked car in the driveway she called out the her dog was friendly. I said, “So are my guys,” and we stopped for sniffs.

EPIC FAIL. Loose pitbull, solid and twice Oliver’s weight, went for his throat. I threw down the leash, the lady tried to pull her dog off Oliver, I swore and kicked the dog once, to no avail, lady yelled at me to run away, but Oliver’s leash was wound around her legs, so no. We yelled, the dogs made awful noises, thankfully Teddy stayed behind me. It may have been seconds but felt longer. Finally Oliver was free and we walked 2 houses down so I could assess his injuries. The lady was using her weight to hold down her dog, and asked if I’d walk away. I angrily told her I needed to assess my dog’s injuries before I walked away. Oliver lost some neck hair but wasn’t bleeding,. I didn’t hasten my assessment, making sure he was sound before moving on. I told her if my dog was injured I’d be back, and she encouraged me to do so.

Oliver hustled home, not lame or showing pain, and once we were home I went over Oliver in much more detail. No blood, no punctures, probably just bruises. Finally the adrenaline subsided and I shed tears over that close encounter.

I ran errands later but did not return to that house. I still have not. I’m still angry that she said her dog was friendly and then that “friendly” dog attacked mine. Oliver is a solid canine good citizen, has been obedience-trained over a number of platforms, and has served as a therapy dog to distressed dogs. He doesn’t have an aggressive bone in his body, and that he was attacked, with his background, says more about the attacking dog than about Oliver.

After consulting family & fellow dog owners I’ve decided to deliver a note to the family (if they aren’t home when I go to their house) letting them know that Oliver is okay. I will also be filing a report with the police about this dog. That dog might be fine with their family, but how it behaved with Oliver is very concerning, and the public should know.

Saturday evening I gave Oliver a half of a Tramadol and a baby aspirin. Today he was active, spry, and moving as if he was Teddy’s age (18 mos.). I’m so happy about that!  Life is good.

The north wind has subsided, the smoke moved out, and I’m hopeful that Paradise isn’t burning anymore. On the one hand I feel sheepish about my dog’s assault by a pit bull, given that a lovely town 116 miles north of us has been burned to the ground.  On the other…is there another? I can be outraged at a pet owner while NorCal burns? How can life go on when life burns?

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I didn’t report my sexual assault — you can call it rape — because of the circumstances. I was with friends, we were ingesting gaseous and liquid intoxicants, and playing group Scrabble. It was July, 1975. We were all having a laid-back good time. I felt safe, as I was among friends, some of whom I knew better than others. It was a fun evening.

Eventually our hosts retired to their bedroom, and provided blankets to those of us who were too intoxicated to go home. I owned a bike, but my friends’ place was a few blocks away from where I lived, so I walked there. I was in no shape to walk home, so I covered myself with the blanket and went to sleep (passed out is another euphemism) on the floor.

Some time later I opened my eyes and found Dr. Dave on top of me, inside me, without my prior knowledge or consent. I was unable to speak, unable to move, unable to stop him, and I was horrified, but paralyzed to do anything to stop him. A few moments later I passed out (fell asleep, another euphemism) again. I don’t know when he began his assault or when he finished. I don’t know when I woke up to find him nestled next to me, although it was morning — the sun was flooding the room. I knew I’d been raped, but would not let that word resonate in my head. I was having coffee with the hostess when Dr. D came into the kitchen, kissed me on the lips, and left. My hostess chuckled, she thought the sex was consensual. Evidently so did he. I was so taken aback that I had no words to tell him off or explain to my friend that his intimacy was not my choice.

I never reported it — I was impaired. I didn’t wear a bra under my crop top. I wore shorts.  I passed out from smoking some kick-ass weed and eating hash pizza. I brought it on myself.

Actually, I did not. No matter what I ate, smoked, drank, dressed, this was not my fault. This was a guy more alert than I, taking advantage of me. I never flirted with that man, or had anything other than a congenial relationship with him, until he decided to take advantage of my condition and rape me. Done and dusted.

I can’t tell you how it feels to tamp that down and forge on. I just know that I did. It was a blip in my radar, yet it affected my entire life going forward. I refused to acknowledge it, and it took a toll on me that I’m just finally beginning to realize. I had coping skills from a problematic childhood that I thought were helping me deal with that event. Nope, they weren’t enough. I spent literal decades blaming myself, until the #MeToo movement.

Now I realize it had nothing to do with me, how I dressed, or my behavior that night. It was all on that man, who I haven’t seen since that night 43 years ago. I told 2 people shortly afterwards, and their comments were more about how high I was, rather than how inappropriate and unacceptable my rapist behaved. We didn’t even call it rape then.

Thanks to the #MeToo and Christine Blasey Ford’s courage in coming forward and speaking her truth to (entitled white men’s) power, I’m sharing my story. I’m not the only one. There are thousands of women to whom this has happened. I hope they find their way to empowerment, to take back what was taken from them.

I’m publishing this but not linking to other social media. I’ve had no contact with any of those people since I moved to Colorado in April of 1976. Those two friends, my husband and one sister know. I don’t have to share this to keep a person in power to keep him from gaining more power. I need to share this so that other women who have found themselves in similar situations know that it’s not their fault.


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Life’s Quirks

A few weeks ago a dear friend lost his young daughter to an unforeseen medical issue. She was in excellent health, then this awful thing in her body killed her. The family is reeling.

This time last year we were dealing with our son’s sudden diagnosis & surgery for testicular cancer. Happily he’s cancer-free and has resumed life robustly.

I wished my friend’s mother, whom I never met, but who was as sweet as the summer days are long to me on social media, a happy birthday. I checked her Facebook page. No updates for a while. I suspected that she was in an assisted-living facility and wasn’t posting much on social media.

I reached out to my friend, who told me his mother passed in October. I was floored — I never saw it on social media. I had no idea. I cried as I expressed to him my sympathies on her passing, and how bad I felt in dredging up that loss. Especially since he just lost his daughter.

I’m glad his mom didn’t experience that loss. She would have been devastated, as is my friend and his family.

I’m happy he had his mom around for so many years, and very sad that she’s gone. She was always kind and supportive and cheerful on Facebook, even though we had never met. I guess she thought that any friend of her son’s was a friend of hers, and that’s what I thought, too.

So on this Father’s Day I’m not as much missing my own father, who passed 12/26/84, as I am my friend’s mother, who made it a point to always comment on my posts and be a positive force on my FB page. My own parents never had this opportunity. So I weep for that, as well as for my friend’s losses. It’s a strange thing, to feel so attached to someone to whom you aren’t related by blood, who had such an impact on my life.

Happy Father’s Day, all you dads of any kind out there. I hope you’re lifted up and appreciated the other 364 days of the year, not just when the calendar tells you to appreciate them. Being a dad is no mean feat. Neither is being a mom. Kudos to you parents everywhere.

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Puppy Life

We found Teddy within days of Beau’s passing. He’s sweet, his breeder has SO MANY SCHIPPERKES, and he’s maturing into a sweet, bright, happy dog.

He plays Schipperkeep-away at least twice a day. He can open the clothes hamper, hop in,  grab a sock, and hop out before I can react to his being in the hamper. He drags his crate pad out and around the house until I can catch him. He jumps into our large pots on the patio, bite through the watering hose, make off with the stake and emitter, and chew the bejesus out of it so it’s no longer useable. He finds the peach pits that Oliver missed and crunches them on our patio furniture.He tries to deconstruct shoes. Tonight, while I was answering a call of nature, he jumped onto the dining room table and shredded the paper napkins all over the tablecloth and floor. Oliver will occasionally rat him out but does not deter or try to corner him. That chore is left to me. Or Chris, when he’s home.

Currently he is not, and Teddy steps up the mayhem in protest to His Favorite Human’s Absence. We’re talking 2-½ days. Basically he’s a puppy, 9 mos. old, smart, and determined. It’s been 10 years since we had a puppy, and I’ve forgotten much.

I also don’t remember having a dog this bold or focused on mayhem. Maybe that’s like childbirth — you don’t remember how hard you worked until you’re Lamaze-breathing again and wondering WTF you were thinking 9 months ago on your sister-in-law’s X-rated mattress.

As challenging as this guy can be, as much as I miss his predecessor, I wouldn’t change a thing. I love how interesting life is, and how it lobs you a curve ball you don’t want but can totally handle.

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A Mother’s Lament

FYI: I might lean a little mawkish here.

Our grown children live away from us, one in Brooklyn, NY, the other in San Francisco. We keep in touch frequently via text, FaceTime, email, social media, and yet I find it’s just short of satisfying for me. I want to hold them, hug them, kiss and love on them, like we did when they were mere sprouts. Nothing beats the hug from your child, nothing. Those hugs are the warmest and most innocent, and when you’re in the middle of that hug you love that kid so damn much. You think you’ll never love so much again. In some ways that’s true. Every hug henceforth will be different. They’ll age, mature, think you’re the worst ever, etc.

Fast-forward past those teenage years and all those kins of hugs, all that dealing with teenage behaviors, and then they’re adults and they love and hug you again, differently. These adult hugs are different. They hold all the learning they’ve experienced. They hold all the regrets they have about giving you grief. They hold appreciation for all you’ve done for them. And they’re strong hugs, as though they realize that they’re aging, and know you’re aging, and they’re (in the back of their minds) worried they won’t get to hug you for years hence. I hope that’s not the case! I want to be around for all the hugs these guys bring. I’ll never not want to hug them, I’ll always remember their little kid hugs, and how they smelled, and their tiny arms wrapped tight around my neck.

It’s New Year’s Eve eve, and I’m remembering some of the most satisfying times we’ve had as a family. The camping trips to Big Sur over Thanksgiving weekend. The dance recitals, the graduations, the roller-blading, the cycling, the holiday traditions on which they insisted we hold. So many good times! Sometimes I think my best work, as a mother, is behind me. Then I hope that the best is yet to come.

Happy New Year! I hope you find your happiness in the hugs of those you love the most.

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A Holiday Musing, and a Recipe

We were fine with all the parties, cards, gifts and decorating, until the week before Christmas. Despite my flu shot in early October, a rogue strain kicked my butt to the bed for 1-½ days, and then Chris caught it, too. We lost 3 days of last-minute gift-purchasing and stressing over stocking-stuffers (disclosure: We didn’t even hang the stockings, let alone stuff them).

The important things were done, so by Christmas Eve we were all fine, attending our friends’ annual open house (they knock themselves out with the baking, steaming, cooking and gracious hosting), then home to watch some Christmas movies with our son, who arrived with his friend’s dog, on Saturday while we were out.

Some of our holiday traditions are from Chris’s and my childhoods, and some are what we’ve adapted over the years. My mother made an Italian sausage stew based on a recipe her friend passed to her; whoever wandered in on Christmas Eve had a generous serving on a crusty Italian roll. I’ve made it since the early 90s, both by my mother’s guidelines and with vegan variations, depending on who’s wandering in.

As a child I learned to bake all kinds of Christmas cookies from my mother. We’d make nearly a dozen varieties of press cookies, stamped cookies, sugar cookies, etc., then divide them into various containers to share with our neighbors, family and friends.

I’ve continued the tradition of cookie & sweets baking/sharing over the years. As a young adult with amazing roommates I was given the recipe for Winter’s Best Gingersnaps. Ginger cookies, whether snaps (crunchy) or wafers (chewy) were a marker for fall, and my birthday, right up to Christmas, although my mother, grandmother & I didn’t bake them.

I’ve made these cookies in the fall, for Christmas cookie exchanges, and deep winter warm-me-ups. They aren’t just for Christmas. Enjoy!

Winter’s Best Gingersnaps

¾ cup butter

¾ cup shortening (I use all butter)

2-¼ cup sugar

2 eggs

½ cup molasses

4 cups unbleached wheat flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons cinnamon

2 teaspoons cloves

2 teaspoons ginger

Sift all dry ingredients together. Work butter (& shortening, if using) until creamy, then gradually work in 2 cups of sugar until mixture is light. Now beat in eggs and molasses very thoroughly. Gradually added sifted dry ingredients, beating well after each addition. Beat hard, and don’t be alarmed if the batter is soft. Refrigerate at least an hour or overnight.

Preheat oven to 375*. Roll pieces of dough into 1″ balls, dip into remaining sugar (if desired). Place on greased baking sheet about 3″ apart and back 12-15 minutes. Remove cookies from oven, let stand 1 minute. Remove and cool on rack.

So, a cookie good for dunking in milk or coffee, and not as sweet as you might think. I hope you enjoy making and eating them as much as I do.

Now, what’s next for baking? Maybe bring back homemade bread. Fodder for another post.

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Our son, cancer-free, came home for Thanksgiving, with goodies. Without his GF, who has shared Thanksgiving with us for the last 3 years. I admit that it was strange, and slightly awkward, as he offered nothing about their breakup, and that was what we wanted to discuss. We did not. I was disappointed about that, but we don’t pry. Our adult children know we are here for them, and when they want to share, we listen without judgment. We FaceTimed with our daughter and her husband, and it was good, but nothing about our son and his current status.

We stayed up late (too late) and woke early. No talk of the break-up or how he’s managing that. Chris and I served hypotheses but without Colin’s input, it’s all speculation. So we remain as clueless now as we were a week ago.

Coming from a family who was all about being in everyone’s business, this was difficult for me to respect our son’s boundaries, yet I — we — did. I’m grateful to have had time with our son, and for the technology that allows real-time conversing with family far away. And yet I’m left wanting.

I know we may never know the gory details. We may be better off. And that we can offer a safe place to land for our adult children is a comfort. I did not feel that my parents’ home was a safe place; indeed, it was often one of ridicule for not being more than their expectations for their children. And yet when I was with my parents I was doing the best I could do at the time. I’m grateful that we recognize that, and can let our family be who they are, without judging them. We’ve come a long way from our respective families. I hope we can continue to forge a path and still find places to connect and share.


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