Sunday, May 30, 2010

Soldier Boy

Dear Soldier Boy:

Thanks for coming to get a massage from me while you were here on leave from Iraq. It was so cool you you could be home on Memorial Day weekend and your mother's birthday.

I know we didn't talk much, a little casual conversation as we began, and then you got relaxed and quiet. But really, you didn't need to tell me your story, it was stored in your body and communicated without words.

No, son, put your wallet away. Your money is no good here today. Here's the take care of my body and I'll take care of yours.

Wishing you safe passage, with all my heart, until you return,

your massage therapist

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Times, They are a Changin'!

The times, they are a changin'. Yes, indeed! This morning, the sun broke through like it had been held captive by the clouds for a hundred years. Unleashing a perfect spring day. The open-all-your-windows-and-let-the-breeze-clean-house kind of day.

Thursday, for the first time since 1927, astrologically speaking, Uranus moved into Aries bringing with it a huge shift. Have you noticed anything different in your life in the last few days? I did. The last couple of months, to me, the energy has been syrupy and gummy. Sticky. Stagnate. Eerily like the calm before the storm. Not moving to the normal rhythms. And then...POW...BANG! A big switcheroo. This is a time of good fortune, unexpected events and huge energetic shifts.

Yesterday, I was slammed with massages, working from 8 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. It was a long day but a good day and definitely a practice of being in the "NOW." I woke up feeling a bit worn but not too bad for all the wear. Then AWESOMENESS started lining up.

My sister sent me a heart warming e-mail with pictures of my great nephew. I love my sister.

I also had mail from blog pals Reya and Christina.

Next, Ellen, my Pilate's instructor and friend, called me in early for my session. Once upon a time, she lived in New York, danced with the New York City Ballet and has been known to pirouette with Baryshnikov. She worked me hard and got all my kinks out. As we were finishing, her sister, Maggie, came in to teach the Zumba class. She shared with us two dozen of the 20 dozen golden yellow roses a new suitor had given her. And exactly when she started passing them out, the song Send me an Angel started playing.

On the way home, I stopped by the park, which was popping with activity of walkers, runners, cyclists and Segwayers, to take some pictures of the river. The Sacramento River snakes through town and is so pervasive that I often take her for granted. But not today. As fate would have it, the first picture I was guided to take was of a couple letting their dogs cool their feet and get a drink at the edge of the water. Then, BAM, they turned toward me and they were friends I have known most of my life!

I'd received all this goodness and it wasn't even 11:00 yet. There's going to be lots more to come, I just know it! Old patterns are falling away and breaking down. Heck, when I got home, I even decided to vacuum in the reverse direction I usually follow through the house. Why not, eh?

Off to buy Margaritas, salsa and chips. There'll be no hot chocolate this weekend. The forecast is for sunny and warm. Bring it on, Uranus! Oh, yeah. OH, YEAH!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Bipolar Holiday Weekend

Gosh, it's cold today! 54 degrees and raining with thunderstorms and hail expected this afternoon. A-n-d it's snowing around 4500 feet. I took pity on the dogs, wet from head to toe and making little, pitiful crying noises at the laundry porch door. The girls are 10 years old so I cave in a lot faster these days. Laid down a towel to catch their muddy paws and wiped them so they could come inside. Contentedly sleeping, right beside me, on their pillows, they are. Serenading me with light snoring. Wet dog smell rising as they dry. Maaco the Houdini Dog went to work with the Wonder Husband because I had to be gone for a bit and thunderstorms unstick his glue.

Some kick off to Memorial Day weekend, huh? It's usually hotter than a Chipotle chili by now. I think this is the first May on record that we've not had any 90 degree days. But the deluded beings who call themselves weather forecasters, say that within 48 hours, this bipolar weather pattern is going to turn itself around. We're going from the 50s today to the 80s or higher by Saturday.

So if you want to head up to our gorgeous north state, Lake Shasta is full and boat ready. I also heard, on last night's news, that there's going to be snow skiing at some of the resorts through Memorial Day. I didn't catch where though. Theoretically, there could be water skiing and snow skiing going on at the same time. That's what I call EXTREME skiing.

I'm an "on the fly" kinda girl. In a heartbeat, I can switch from hot chocolate and marshmallows to Margaritas with salsa and chips. And it looks like this weekend, I may get a bit of both.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Fight or Flight

In my last post, I wrote about my experience with Canine Separation Anxiety. It is believed that when a dog perceives a threat, a part of the brain, the hypothalamus, signals the increase of hormones that prepare the dog for flight or fight. This is a good thing when there is a real threat, but most dogs living in domesticity today, rarely face dangers of life threatening proportions.

In fact, for dogs like Maaco with chronic anxiety, the anxiety itself is life threatening in several ways. It can cause problems like depression. The constant production of hormones can weaken the immune system and lead to heart disease. And the reason most dogs are surrendered to shelters, and eventually euthanized, is anxiety. I understand this, I really do. It's hard to live with the constant whining, pacing, incessant barking and destructive behavior.

The same thing that would have made them successful at surviving harsh environments a century or two ago, is the same thing that is killing them now. The same thing that is making them sick. As a society, we've changed how we live. The stressors are different now. Canines no longer, for the most part, have to provide for their own food and protection. They don't have to fight for their place in the pack. A dog who could have survived adverse conditions is now put down because it is no longer a desirable trait.

It's sad really. We've changed the rules. It's the passing of an age. These dogs are being bred out of existence as much as possible. I understand how and why they no longer fit. Maaco has been neutered. The world no longer needs creatures like him.

And what about humans who have the same type of anxiety and depression? Could the problem be as simple (and as difficult) as they are simply wired with a different set of fight or flight calibrations than the majority of us? We put these people on medications and behavioral regimes. We make them feel different and isolated. They may well have been the heroes and heroines; champions and warriors; kings and queens at another time in history.

Gaia, Mother Earth is always changing. It's not out of the realm of possibilites that the day may come again when those traits are needed and desired.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Pet Meds

Pets are great!

So are pet meds.

Oh, I don't take them. Well...the Wonder Husband took horse tranquilizers once but that's another story. When you live with a dog that has Canine Separation Anxiety, pet meds are a must. Until 8 years ago, this disorder was one I with which I wasn't familiar. Now I live with it on a daily basis. If you've read or seen the story of Marley & Me, a memoir of family and their dog, there is an account of Marley shredding the upholstery off a sofa all the way down to the wooden frame.

Believe me, it can happen. My dog Maaco hasn't gone that far but he has ripped up blinds,

chewed through molding, bottoms of doors,

and devoured lampshades. He's put teeth holes in door knobs and flattened the sides so he can open them with his mouth.

He's torn boards off of the fence. We've put three different kinds of latches on the gate because two are not enough. He can figure out most of them.

He can't be alone for more than an hour or two before becoming panicked and anxious. If he's inside he is frantic to get out. If he's outside, he's tearing screens off to get inside the house. Or trying to stuff his 10 inch wide body under a three inch gap under the furniture. And, lord almighty, if there is thunder, lightening, high winds or fire works, he'd better not be alone or I'll find this when I get home.

And I'll find a dog that is round-eyed-wild, quivering, whining and salivating. I tried crating him when I left, but no matter how I secured the crate, he'd always find a way to escape. For a while, he was called Houdini Dog. Finally, I set the video camera up to find out what was happening. It is one of the most heart wrenching videos you'll ever see. He shrieked, in half-human tones, and bent the wires of the crate until his gums and mouth bled, for over an hour until the tape ran out. I was gone three.

I've worked with a canine behaviorist and the vet to give this dog as good of life as possible. She's helped me work on retraining and desensitizing him. It is a slow process with lots of backward steps. The very kindly vet is understanding and has helped with a medication regime.

Maaco's not currently on meds but in the past, we've used Clomicalm, an anti-depressant medication; and Acepromazine, a tranquilizer. I'm not one to drug animals, but there are instances where it is necessary. The vet only wants me to use enough to take the edge off but not sedate him. I have to admit, sometimes it would be nice to knock him out when I leave so neither of us have to worry about how long I'm gone or what I'll find when I get home.

Maaco is the smartest dog and the worst dog--all rolled into one--that I've ever owned. In fact, smart dogs are often prone to the disorder. He is not easy. The behaviorist said that even a dedicated dog owner would have surrendered him long ago. It may happen yet. Since he's nearly 8, I'm hoping to keep him safe and wear him down into old age so he can leave this world and me, finally, in peace.

I know people who've gone to the vets and lied to get pet meds so they can take them themselves. My case is just the opposite. I've thought about telling my doctor I can't sleep so he'll give me sleeping pills I can give to my dog. There are times a passed out doggy is a happy doggy. And happy is what life is all about.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Marriage Vows

The Wonder Husband and I just celebrated our 34th anniversary. To pay homage to our marriage vows, we drove up to Shasta Lake which is just a few miles from our home.

We've had so much rain this year that the lake's 365 miles of shoreline is completely accessible. The steep, sloping hillsides, flush and green, send up eau de pine and manzanita.

The Tail O' the Whale Restaurant, at the Bridge Bay Resort, offered us its sumptuous lakeside view as well as tasty cuisine.

We headed upstairs to the Pelican's Perch. Sitting outside on the deck, we had boat drinks, hand holding and sweet, sweet kisses in the light of the setting sun.

Today, I'm contemplating how lucky I am to have made marriage vows with a man like the Wonder Husband instead of one like King Henry VIII. Taking vows with the wrong person can be a sharp and cutting experience. I like my head where its, right on top of my shoulders, thank you very much.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Mystery at Bear Mountain



I’d worked late last night…into the wee hours of this morning. Rolling over in hopes of catching a few more zzz’s, I pulled my pillow, tight, over my head to escape the husband’s morning routine. Television blaring the morning news. Shower, all too merrily, spraying away sleeps lingering shadow. Coffee maker rumbling to a finish. Dogs bouncing around, slapping tails on the floor and whining to go out.

“Hey, honey! Isn’t that Babette’s real name?,” he shouts over the blow dryer.

“What the hell is he rambling on about?,” I think. Lifting my bed head out of hiding, I hear the newscaster continue:

“Early this morning, the body of Elizabeth Leann Evans, 54, of Redding was found by firefighters inside the wreckage of her burning double wide mobile.”

“For crissake, it is her!” I growl back as my stomach tightens with fear and anxiety. She’d been my best friend through high school. We’d been tighter than pegged jeans at one point in our lives but had slowly drifted apart. She’d headed down a haphazard and random path. And I? Well…let’s just say mine was orderly and calculated.

Our friends always seemed to think of us as the polar opposites of each other. The good and the bad. The light and the dark. The beautiful and the cute. The skinny and the fat. The sure thing and the not a chance in hell. Despite our differences, we were fast friends.

Babette had a thing for drugs. Hell, for a long time, we both did. After all, it was the 60s. Nearly everyone was trying everything they could get their hands on. In my case, it was always about having fun, experimentation and the thrill of getting away with anything I tried. In Babette’s case, obsession, compulsion, fascination and a deep, undying love of getting high motivated her every move.

Drugs shaped her entire existence. She followed the stem and seed laden trail of excess from pre-pubescent sex to alcohol to pot to psychedelics to snorting coke to freebasing to meth and beyond. Babette slung dope and rolled lids into joints for spending money. She gained notoriety as the best female grower in the area.

She went into nursing to be close to the drugs. It was no mistake that she was the best in her class at giving injections. She and the needle had become friends long ago. Not so much for herself, but she was good at hitting veins so her friends always asked her to tie them off and fire them up.

Over the years, she got thinner and thinner. She always had some lame excuse when asked about it. She was too poor to buy food. She was so busy and working hard at her new job. She was selling these fantastic new vitamins that just melted the fat away. And did I want to buy some because I could stand to shed 20 or 30 pounds. Why do people with addictions always think everyone falls for their transparent excuses?

Eventually, she became the lover of one largest pot growers in the area. Chief belonged to one of the Indian tribes that grew in the canyons between here and Humboldt. He was a good and handsome man and I truly believe that he loved Babette. But in the end, she went deeper into the murky forest of dealing than he wanted to go. And that is saying a lot.

After they split up, she kept company with some really scary and unsavory people. The few times I tried to visit her at her home, I was met by armed men and had to have her, personally, come to the gate to grant me access to her property.


A string of arrests followed. Babette pleaded no contest, in November 1996, to transportation or selling of a controlled substance. She also pleaded no contest, in February 1997, to possession of a controlled substance and illegal possession of ammunition. Deputies were called to her home, at Bear Mountain, numerous times on drug related issues. Her neighbors kept reporting her for running a meth lab and drug operations.

But, as of this morning, all that was left of  Babette for the corner to identify her charred body by, was her fingertips. 

Snapping out of my reminisce, I hear the newscaster continuing:

“A fast moving blaze gutted Ms. Evans mobile home, parts of an outbuilding, seared branches on overhanging trees and blackened two pickups parked in the driveway.

The investigators won’t say how she was murdered, but they say it’s obvious she died prior to the fire. About 35 crime scene investigators spent the morning sifting through the ashes and searching for evidence at the rural home, the surrounding 60 acres of property and the nearby road.


Furthermore, they say her case is eerily similar to two other cases in the area where people were murdered and then burned in their homes. But they don't believe there's a serial murderer -- one with a penchant for burning bodies -- on the loose.”


SUCKERS! I think to myself as I hop out of bed and head to the bathroom to tend my  burned and blistered fingers.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


On Sunday, I was out working in the yard on one of those half and half days. Partly rainy and partly dry. Partly clear and partly cloudy. Cool, pushy breeze tempered by a warm blush of sun. The air, scrubbed clean by a morning shower, was infused, by mid-day, with a warm, rose sachet. The adulation of last night's thunderstorm, a distant, clapping memory.

Tweety birds trilled. Lady Bugs flew. My fluffy, furry trio of dogs, muddy and happy, romped. One buried her snout in the tiny, lavender, lantern-shaped flowers of the newly emerging Comfrey plant. Then engaged, eye to eye, in a Humming bird stare down. The oldest one taught the youngest to flip rocks over with his nose, flushing out sun bathing lizards.

Shadows and scents...chased on the ground.

Ears pricked and cocked and rotating...collected sounds I could not hear. Noses, wet and working, raised in the air, collected smells I could not detect. Eyes, bright and fixed, scanned images I could not see. Picking up bits of code from the ethers I could not imagine.

Shadows and scents...caught out of the air.

Long before the Internet, there was Dog-Net.

I am completely in awe of the animal kingdom.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Sea of Validation

Since last year, when both of my hard drives failed in my old computer, I've been suspended in binary aggravation. The new PC, I was so excited to shell out money for, was to be the answer to all of my computing troubles.


My astrologer friend, Kristin, of Star Diviner, warned me not to purchase it when I did because of Mercury retrograde. There are often lots of problems with communication, technology and machines during retrogarde. Since I didn't have a choice, she cautioned me to prepare for the possibility of a rocky future and, by all means, get a service contract. For the first time in my life, I did. I am grateful to her for her advice.

From day one, there was a steady stream of problems with the new computer. Too many to bore you with, really. Suffice it to say that I've spent countless hours on the phone with tech support from several companies and made many trips to the Big Box Store where I purchased the machine. I have a folder the size of a small book documenting my travails.

I can geek speak with the best of 'em now and I've got their check-in procedure down. I know the scans to start, the correct paperwork to pull, which lines to print on and which to sign. I know the routine better than some of their newest staff. In fact, I heard a rumor that I'm getting my own Geek Girl name tag and my invite to the company picnic is in the mail.

Every time I had it serviced, they said they couldn't reproduce the problems and that it passed its diagnostic tests.
In time, I came to feel like they thought I was exagerating the severity.
Sometimes they tweaked a little something and told me it should work now.
Each time I prayed they were right, but they were wrong.
At all times, I was locked into this cycle of sordid techno-masturbation.

Until today, that is, when Uber Geek, Steve, called to tell me that the diagnostics showed the hard drive and processor were failing. On one foot, I feel validated that a problem was finally found. The tower will be sent out to Big Box Repair Station for replacement parts. It will take 2-3 weeks. On the other, that is a long time to have to share the lap top with the Wonder Husband. Swimming in the Sea of Validation isn't always what it's cracked up to be.

I can do this...right? If I can share a bathroom with the man, surely I can make this work. Oh, it will have to be carefully negotiated, of course. And scheduling will be tight. I will be hobbled and limping around ether-space for a while but, hopefully, it will all be worth it when the repaired PC finally, FINALLY performs as it should.

But, I'm not fully convinced that's going to happen either. I've been sucked in way too many times for blind faith. I may yet end up being the crazy lady in the parking lot of Big Box Store, picketing with a huge sign that reads:


and serving complimentary lemonade to passersby. If you see me, you'll wave and give a friendly nod won't you?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Bob Marley & Me

The day after she was laid to rest, we went to clean out grandma's house. That was when I found the treasure. Not buried. Not hidden behind a painting or under the mattress, but unnoticed, like an unpolished diamond, in full sight. Even though it was encased in glass, it was one of those things that was easily over looked and undervalued.

Surveying it from all sides and angles, I was moved. Peering through the green slime and wrinkling my nose against the algae smell, I marveled. How had it survived, not only grandma's two year absence in the convalescent hospital, but the countless years before? Trying to be fair, I offered it to all the other family members first. I didn't want to be accused of being one of "those" relatives who fought over the possessions of the dead. No one was the least bit interested.

"You take it," they all said.

At the end of the day, I carefully packed up my inheritance. Once at home, I found just the right location for the display case. Gingerly removing the contents, I washed, cleaned, filled it with water and put everything back in place except the star of the show. With extra care, I polished the glass until it gleemed like a crystal ball.

Taking the final item, gently cocooned in a little mesh net, I set it inside the tank. I held my breath until it started to move. With a splish and a splash and a flip and a flash of tail, it was off. Jamming over the trees and under the castle. Jumping out of the water. Nestling into the sand. This was no ordinary gold fish. This was Bob Marley.

Oh, how I loved Bob much as any dog I'd ever owned. He grew to be a symbol of grandmother's love for her family. He also grew quite large in size. To keep him from being lonely, I bought a couple more gold fish, Iggy and Ziggy, for company. Bob tolerated them for a while, but, one by one, he knocked them off. He liked being the only big fish in a small tank.

When he was about 10 years old, he started getting white spots on his gold, scaly skin. I thought he was sick with Ick, a fish disease. I gave him medicine but instead of clearing up, it spread all over his body. Turned out he wasn't ill, he was just so old his color changed from gold to a silvery white.

How old was Bob? I don't really know, but he was at least 12 years old when he swam off through the ethers to the other side. That's a long time on Earth for a fish. Bob Marley and grandma are together again, floating through the cosmos to a great reggae beat. Sometimes, late at night when the world is still and quiet, I can faintly hear them singing:

"Yeah, we're jamming, jamming
I wanna jam it with you
We're jamming, jamming
I'm jammed, I hope you're jamming too."
--Bob Marley

The story of Bob Marley and Me is true. Visit here for other Magpie Tales.

Saturday, May 1, 2010


Happy, Happy First of May
Outdoor F***ing Starts Today

Today is May Day, Beltane, the first of May...whatever fits your fancy. Here in the northern hemisphere, the Earth is ripe and exploding with rejuvenation. The plant kingdom is sprouting...pushing its green succulence out of the warming ground. Leaves reaching up...drinking, greedily, the rain. Absorbing, selfishly, the sunlight. Bees and birds are doin' it. We'll, I think the bees are, they're more private with their loving ways. But the birds...ah, I know they are in full flush.

My massage room is in the second floor dormer that juts out into the trees. To me, it feels like a luxurious, cushy tree house. I can hear the pigeons on the roof right outside my windows while I work. All day long, I listen to their throatier-than-usual "Coo, coo, coo." Followed by little, scratchy, birdie footsteps across the shingles. Lots of boisterous wing flapping followed by more cooing.

I watch as a female slowly, but pointedly, strolls past a male. Stopping, just long enough and close enough, for him to catch the scent of her female juiciness. Then she nonchalantly turns, tail feathers in his face, and walks away from him, over the peak of the roof line, out of sight. For a moment he blinks, blinks, blinks. Bewildered. Then, purposely, he struts after her. Obviously catching her, they give air to a velvety, rich, duet of inner and afterglow coos. Pigeon purrs.

I feel voyeuristic, almost a little embarrassed, to be in such close proximity to their love fest. Like I'm the one held captive in my lofty, glass-windowed cage watching life as it goes on beyond my confines.

Happy, happy first of May, my friends.

May we all be so lucky in love today.