Saturday, December 1, 2012

Your Cash Ain't Nothin' But Trash

On this City Council Agenda for this week, I noticed this.  

10. Solid Waste and Mandatory Garbage and Recycling Collection Ordinance Amendment Bill No. 858-C.S. Recommendation: Waive reading, ready by title only, and adopt Bill No. 858-C.S., an Ordinance of the City of Eureka amending Title V, Chapter 51, inserting Sections 51.34 through 51.38 and renumbering previous Sections 51.34 through 51.37 to Sections 51.39 through 51.42 pertaining to Solid Waste and Mandatory Garbage and Recycling Collection

It is just one more chapter in the saga of the mandatory garbage collection we are forced to pay for in the City and it continues to PISS ME OFF!  I sent this off to the City Council today but doubt it will get any more attention than my concerns did when the previous Council passed the mandatory trash ordinance that made the City of Eureka look like Bin Town.

Dear Mr. Mayor and City Council,
Although I receive the agenda, I admit to being remiss in not following up on this amendment earlier.  It may be too late to make a difference but I have something to say:

This amendment will make it possible for people taking recyclables from the recycling bins to be cited for same.  Here is my problem with this concept:  From my understanding, trash is fair game.  If I have been paying attention to a million episodes of Law and Order, a warrant wouldn’t even be required for police to go through my garbage because it is just that: GARBAGE. 

If the theory here is that the recyclables are OWNED by Recology, I object.  I PAY Recology because the City Council forces me to do business with a private company.  Now, Recology is having the City police PROTECT the recyclables so they can get even more?  What is up with THAT?  And, as I asked the City council members when this was being proposed, how does my husband get the City Council to require HIS business be the only motorcycle shop in town?  Is Recology paying some sort of fee for this pleasure? 

Personally, I produce very little trash.  I pay to have my garbage can emptied of a single small bag of garbage each week.  My recycling bin is put out maybe once in six weeks and is full of cat food cans and wine bottles, none of which are CRV.  BUT, if I put CRV out there and some transient with a need for a pack of smokes is industrious enough to go through it, so be it; it does not belong to Recology until they haul it away.  If someone is looking for a reason to stop the transients, I don’t think protecting the interest of a business that is already being handed a pretty financial package by the residents of this City is the way to do it.

I totally and thorough object to my being forced to pay a private company as it is.  I REALLY object to their financial interests being protected even further by the Police Department.

Yours truly.....

UPDATE:  I had a nice phone conversation with Eureka Deputy Public Works Director, Miles Slattery who was forwarded my letter from one of the Council members (or perhaps ALL of them).  I SWEAR I've exchanged emails with him in the past but...perhaps not.  This conversation was informative for me.  One very important point he made was that the City, as part of their bid contract with Recology, retains the ownership of the items placed in the recycling bins.  Those funds (which last year amounted to $32,000) offset the costs and reduces the rates paid by the residents - that would be ME.  So any removal of items from those bins will not go towards that offset.  He did verify that the contract for trash hauling was put out to bid in 1997 and Recology (previously City Garbage) won the bid by a hefty margin and is reviewed regularly but will not be put out for bid again until 2020.

He did remind me that I could apply for an exemption (which I tried when this started and was rejected) based on my recycling/composting practices and that it likely would be approved.  That process has to be repeated for each fiscal year.  

Truthfully, I've grown to enjoy the convenience of the recycling bins as much as I am agitated by the trash bins so may just have my husband get the exemption at work and have him bring HOME his small amount of shop trash and fill the home can. Mostly, I was impressed by the actual response I got and the adult conversation I had with Mr. Slattery.  When the mandatory trash service was initially implemented, I tried to absolutely no avail to discuss the concepts with the Council members.  I got a stock "thank you for writing" note from Virginia Bass and a two page, unrelated diatribe from Jeff Leonard.  None would respond to my specific concern.  At least the current council had the decency to pawn me off on to a competent City staff member.  

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Got the Sun On My Shoulders and My Toes in the Sand

 Beautiful autumn afternoon.  A break away from the office with thoughts of a much rougher ocean on the other side of the country.  Grateful for the peace and quite of our little Bay.  
 I headed to King Salmon; closest beach to campus so easy to get a nice walk and still not spend too much time away from the office.  I parked on the road outside Gil's parking lot and walk along the tiny jetty to the beach.  As I walked, I was joined by thousands of sandpipers (variety unknown to me) swooping overhead in that way they do, in their amazing ballet, mysteriously able to travel en masse bobbing every which-way without collision.

 I did catch them resting in a cluster as I walked along the shore, huddled tightly ...until they were disturbed, perhaps by me or perhaps by the urge just to fly.
 I could have watched them all day.
  Then they disappeared.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

We Are Family

The search for family history in Wisconsin continues:

A trip to Milwaukee, when one has never been, can hardly be considered a waste of time but, for the purpose of this trip, it offered no information for me.  Since I had found nothing more on Uncle Charlie in the Milwaukee Public Library, we opted for a trip to Appleton which is where he had lived and worked.  Appleton was much closer to our Green Bay base so the decision was easy.  Charlie was a baker and I found a number of newspaper articles from the mid-twenties describing problems with his neighbors who were none-to-pleased to find out he had been granted permission to expand the bakery he was running from his home.

Monica and Alton wandered the weekly Farmers Market while I hit the adjacent library, combing through Polk's City Directories for bakery addresses as well as more info on Charlie.  No luck beyond 1930.  What the heck?  He wasn't in Appleton and he wasn't in Milwaukee.  Now what?!  I WAS able to find and print the obituary for an aunt whose birthday had evaded me, giving me fodder for searches so the trip was not a waste.  While we further pondered the expanding (or at least NOT diminishing) mystery of Charlie, we headed to neighboring town, Neenah to make the first of many cemetery visits to my aunts and uncles.  I had already been given the general vicinity of the "drawers" where I would find my Aunt Betty and Uncle Bernie so Monica and I began wandering.  In the process, she spotted the familiar last name of one of my cousins - Charlie's daughter!  The stone had both birth and death dates of her husband but only her name, indicating she was still alive, information I hadn't been able to confirm and was excited to learn.  

After a quick trip south to Oshkosh to take a picture of little Alton in front of the water tower wearing locally named overalls, we sat alongside the Fox River, watching dragonboat races, eating cheese curds and pondering our next move.  Through the miracle of the smart phones, we found a phone number for Alice and, at Monica's urging, I made the call.  How do you announce yourself to a person who doesn't even know you exist?  Happily, Alice recognized my mom's name and invited us to her house but, truthfully, I was a little concerned that she did so since we may NOT have been who we said we were.  I'll allow her own children to do THAT scolding.

When Alice answered the door, it was clear we were related and she said the same...we laughed at our similarities and, when I took my mom's photo albums out, she marveled at how much my mom and her older sister looked alike.  Since my mom was the youngest and Charlie was the oldest, his daughter and his youngest sister were just three weeks apart.  It turned out that Alice had only minimal contact with her father from the time she was born as her birth coincided with their divorce proceedings.  She had little information and we were careful to not bring up dirt I had unearthed but, when Monica asked just the right question, she casually mentioned that Charlie had changed his name.  He what?!  "Alice, this is HUGE!". That tiny piece of information made a world of difference to this trip and the research I was doing.

It turned out he had returned to Appleton for the last few years of his life, information known only by one of my aunts.  Alice was only told at the time of his death.  Charlie had chosen a new name from one he saw on a sign, presumably to keep himself off the radar of creditors. His new wife and son had taken the new name and Alice, when asked where he was buried, suggested we try the tiny community of Medina (Ma-DY-nuh), where his wife's family had lived. 

That night, I checked the Find-A-Grave website and confirmed there were relatives of the second Mrs. Charlie buried in Medina.  The next day, we decided we would start at the cemetery in Medina, then to neighboring Hortonville cemetery should we not find Charlie at the first.  Medina was a leisurely twenty mile drive on a beautiful little two-lane highway 96 and we had no problem finding the town's cemetery.  We wandered the rows and easily found the missus, with her new name, but were still trying to find Charlie when a car pulled in and parked near us.  A nicely dressed lady, fresh from church, walked over to us and asked if we were looking for anyone in particular.  It turns out she was the secretary of the cemetery and knew everyone in town.  When I told her, she knew exactly who I was talking about.  She knew Charlie.  She knew his son, Jack.  She knew Jack's son "who lives in the white house over there around the corner...".  "Wait, I have Jack's phone number at my house; I'll be right back".  With that, she drove off, leaving Monica and I standing there, stunned.

As we waited, surrounded by the grave stones of the residents of this town, it occurred to us that some were OUR family members.  That name change started a new line of a new family, forever breaking their link to the family name but their blood was our blood.  As we pondered this, the lady we now knew as Evelyn returned.  She popped out of her car along with a young women.  "I got Jack's number but I did one better...I brought his granddaughter."  Seriously?  This beautiful young lady, about Monica's age, was really Jack's uncle's great-granddaughter? We hugged.  We laughed.  We agreed to meet at the town's tavern, once run by her mother's family, for lunch.  

When Nicole arrived, she was soon followed by her mother and the four of us spend several hours filling each other in on family history, previously undiscovered by either side.  She had no idea that her great-grandfather was born with a different last name or that he was one of nine children.  We had no idea that Charlie's son had also grown up to be a baker and he had worked at that very tavern when he was married to Nicole's grandmother.  And Nicole knew where Charlie was buried.  I got names and dates to add to my family tree and, after lunch, we headed to the Hortonville cemetery to finally visit with my uncle.  

The visit ended up being somewhat anti-climatic because there was no stone to mark Charlie's final resting place.  There had been a temporary marker but, since he had passed in 1969, the marker had become brittle and was nowhere to be found.  Nicole had been there before and knew where he was so I spent a little time wandering the bare lawn, finally at the end of this search.  I had figured out where my Uncle Charlie ended his days and our journeys both ended in Hortonville, Wisconsin.  

The next morning, found us on the road east, heading to Eau Claire, the city where my mom was born and raised.  Mark and I have seen much of the country's perimeter but the midwest had never been on the radar except for the fact that it was my mom's home.  The four-hour journey across a state was beautiful.  Flat.  Farms.  A bald eagle.  The changing colors of the trees that warmed my soul almost as much as the ocean.  In Eau Claire, we tracked down the rest of my family's graves, including my grandparents whom I never met.  In the process, we drove around the same town my mom had driven around with her friends.  We couldn't find the family house but found out since that the house was renumbered so that will be a visit for another day.

On the return trip from Eau Claire, Monica again urged me to make a phone call, this time to Jack.  He at least at been warned about us by his granddaughter who had called while we had lunch.  He gave me directions to the house and, in their home on a very dark Wisconsin highway, I made the acquaintance of another cousin, one whose name had been changed when he was six years old and who had no real information of his father's family.  Again, I shared my mom's photo album and plan to make some copies to send him.  

When I started making plans for this trip, it was pipe dreams.  I had originally planned to stay in Eau Claire but changed to Green Bay when it because obvious that finding my Uncle would require research in that eastern part of the state.  I came for family.  I found family.  I had planned to go alone to eliminate the need to drag others along which I attended to the drudgery of library research.  I invited Monica and Alton to ensure I ventured out to see some sites outside of the library and maybe try a midwestern microbrew.  It proved to be a good decision since Monica encouraged me to take chances with making those phone calls and Alton, like all babies, was a great ice-breaker.  Although he won't remember the trip, the photos we took were memorable and he'll know he was a part of it. 

Monica decided that the word for this trip was "serendipity".  The serendipity of her spotting the grave marker with Alice's name.  The serendipitous visit from an angel named Evelyn who stopped by the cemetery to see what the work party of the day before had wrought and, instead, facilitated a family reunion.  There was also a black swallowtail butterfly that fluttered by us at the cemetery that Monica plans to add to the ink butterflies she collects.  Serendipity indeed.

Friday, September 21, 2012

I Belong To You..You Belong To Me

Sitting in a motel room in Green Bay, Wisconsin pondering the plans for our first really somewhat normal day.  It should have been yesterday after a Wednesday night arrival. Unfortunately United had other plans.  

I lean towards patience with companies that function at the mercy of weather and such but sitting in Cleveland, awaiting our last hop to Wisconsin, only to be told our flight was cancelled because the crew had "timed out"? Really?  A half hour before takeoff and you figure this out? There were eight of us and we were tired. To the airline's credit, they bought us a night at the Howard Johnson but when the "shuttle" arrived at the curb, it proved too small for all of us, let alone luggage and the stroller/car seat contraption that the Toppings are dragging about plus one seat didn't have a seatbelt..."no no's good" "But there's no seatbelt and my son needs to be buckled in'.  'No no's good". "NO!...I'll put in the other seat".  "OK OK OK..that's good".  So Monica rode to the motel sitting in the seat with no belt.  We slept fast and were up prior to the crack of dawn for a seven o'clock flight replacement to Green Bay, then had our rental car and were checked into our real hotel by nine in the morning.

After settling in and gathering our thoughts, we headed to the University of Wisconsin so I could start some research that will help me locate information on two of my mom's siblings.  No luck on the sister for whom I lack a birth date in order to choose the correct documents on but I hope to find something when we go to the research center in Eau Claire where the family lived.

Uncle Charlie has proven to be more interesting than expected.  I came across the court documents for his divorce proceedings including the transcript where much dirty linen was aired.  On a high note, the documents included paperwork showing where he was working when wages were attached for child support he skated on....*sigh*...THIS I didn't expect.

When Charlie's brother, my Uncle Joe, died in 1954, the obit referred to survivors and mentioned Charlie as being in Milwaukee.  This was today's project, drive to Milwaukee.  We tracked down the library and searched through death records and city directories with no luck; no sign that Charlie had ever lived there.  The library was fabulous, a glorious limestone building with amazing marble staircases so much like Hogwarts that I expected the stairways to swivel and deposit Harry Potter.  Even the unsuccessful research was worth the trip to this building.

We spotted the original Pabst Brewery so wandered the area a bit to check out the buildings before tracking down a brew pub and have dinner and a tasty ale before heading back to Green Bay.

The title song has been popping into my head these last few days and, after I thought about my family connections, it just fit.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Ain't No Big Thing

Coastal Cleanup.  Third Saturday of September.  An opportunity, an excuse, to get down to the sea and walk.  And pick up trash.   This year, rather than walking the same beach with dozens of other people, I decided I would head to the South Spit.  My occasional lunch-hour walks always produce trash and I presumed there would be fewer people heading that way.  I was not wrong - I was IT.  I had this beautiful stretch all to myself. In the grand scheme of things, not such a bad thing.
 The air was thick.  Drippy.  It got a little difficult to see my way with the spectacles covered as they were.
 I watched these guys huddle.  And land.  And sprint.  And flow.  Amazing ballet, stop on a dime as a group.

I have found that this beach collects most of it's debris high up.  As folks come to "appreciate" the serenity, they build lovely little dwellings and leave their trash behind, which is gently nudged by the rising tides as if to prevent its being swept out to be be consumed by the creatures who live there.  This means I have to trudge in the soft sand to find the trash.  Not as much fun as the water's edge where the cold can lap at my toes.

Gratefully, there were no large items.  No big things.  Just many many small ones.  As my bucket got fuller, and I would think, "that's it, nothing else will fit", I would find one more thing and tuck it in amongst the other small pieces.  As I neared the parking lot, I spotted a beer box filled with paper, probably left behind from a bonfire, so finally had to break down and use the feed bag I brought.  

I sorted and counted and will report my findings to be included in the count.  Multiply that by the hundreds of others who were out in Humboldt and California and the northwest and the right coast and we kept a lot of trash out of the ocean.  My final tally:
  • 61 cigarette butts
  • 1 chew can
  • 2 coffee cups/1 lid
  • 5 beverage bottle lids
  • 1 CD
  • 17 pieces of dense foam from floats and floatables
  • 15 pieces of foam meat trays
  • 1 shoe
  • 28 pieces of plastic from buckets, tubs and such
  • 19 pieces of plastic bags and wrappers
  • 9 shotgun "innards"... wadding...whatever
  • 1 cardboard box of paper
  • 1 shoelace
  • 1 bag of poop
I have to say this last one boggles my mind.  Someone took the time to carry a bag to the beach to clean up after their dog.  They picked up the poop.  Then left it.  Thank you people...almost. You were this close to being responsible....

If you didn't make it out this year, it's not too late.  Go out to the street in front of your home or business and pick up the litter there that will flow to the storm drains in the next rain and will end up in the sea.  Look at the cigarette butts and candy wrappers the next time you walk down the street.  They WILL end up in the bay if someone doesn't stop them.  And put the third Saturday in September on your calendar for 2013.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

We Thought He Was Gone.....

In the late 70’s, Herman arrived in Santa Cruz.  He was fun.  We shared his company.  He attended parties and family functions.  But frankly, after a while we just wished he would die.  

Herman was a sweet sourdough started introduced to us by Barbara Burklo, late food editor of the Santa Cruz Sentinel.  The process involved making this simple starter, feeding the starter and stirring daily.  After ten days, you would bake one of a selection of recipes including pancakes and coffee cake using a fourth of the starter.  You would divide the remaining starter, keeping a cup and sharing the other two portions with friends, who would then be expected to feed, bake and share with THEIR friends - a baking pyramid of cosmic proportions.  At first, it was GREAT.  Cinnamon rolls, and coffee cake, and pancakes and can see where this is going.  After a while, every baking friend you knew had Herman stewing in a bowl in the frig and most all were fed up with Herman.  You would jump at the opportunity to bake a double batch of something Herman for a potluck only to find Herman was the main selection on the banquet. Herman became the zucchini of the baking world.  Eventually,  people would just “forget” to feed the starter and “accidentally” kill Herman.  Others would, in a mad fury of baking, use all of their starter and be done with it.

Fast forward twenty years.  We were living in Minden, NV when a teacher gave me, as an appreciation gift, a starter for Amish Friendship Bread, white goo in a ziploc baggie.  Directions had you leave it sitting on the counter, squooshing it each day in lieu of stirring, feed it after ten days and divide it into bags to be presented to friends.  My initial problem was having few friends that baked so no one wanted my ‘gift’.  The bigger problem was the attached tea bread recipe - it required a box of instant pudding.  Even then, I was not a fan of eating packages of mysterious ingredients so the thought of lovingly tending to starter only to contaminate it with a box of instant pudding was well, off-putting.  I went looking for an alternative recipe.  It took a while but I persevered and found a recipe using the starter that contained only recognizable ingredients.  And when I found it, it was named “Herman”.  Really?  It’s just Herman?  Two decades pass and I am once again dealing with Herman?

Prior to receiving the Amish Herman,  I had mixed up a standard sourdough starter with my Girl Scout troop as we worked on the Folk Arts Badge.  This was in 1992 and  It was shoved to the back of my frig between uses -  I reasoned  that anything able to survive in the saddlebag of a crusty miner, would certainly survive in a chilled box.  Once I realized that Herman was apparently Amish, I decided he could survive in my frig as the other starter had done.  Then I decided that one jar was enough and dumped them all together - cohabitate successfully or die!  

We moved from Nevada in 1995 and Herman came along. That’s right, I have something in my refrigerator that we actually consume that is nearly twenty years old.  And I will tell you that he packs a kick!  Those starters are not frail.  They do not need to be coddled or used up quickly. They apparently can be stored indefinitely with the right care.  With no kids at home, I don’t bake as often as I used to but, when I decided to take Herm for a spin, I just feed him, stir him down and back in the frig he goes.  I’ve offered to share but, even after enjoying a taste of coffee cake or other succulent offering, no takers.  One co-worker is still repulsed by the fact that I have kept something that old in my refrigerator.  And EAT it.

Now, more than twenty years after “Amish Friendship Bread” came into my life in the form of a pasty white mass in a plastic bag, Herman is still residing in a plastic jar in the back of my frig. To be honest, I’m not happy about the plastic but frankly, Herman gets a bit....gassy and at least the plastic can expand under pressure.  I don’t want to think about a glass jar exploding in the frig, not to mention the loss of Herman who has become a part of the family.  Occasional pancakes, biscuits, cinnamon roles and the subsequent rejuvenating feeding keep Herman happy.

Is the current resurgence of homesteading and scratch baking and preserving a sign that it’s time for another run at this starter?  I have a Herman Cookbook that is out of print and in these days of online recipe forums, have found a number of postings about Herman/Amish Friendship bread.  There are even people who cryogenically store Herman in the freezer then reanimate him when needed.  I couldn't take the  chance but you can.  

If you decide to try it, just be assured that he saves well.  Search "Herman" or "Amish Friendship Bread" and you'll find all sorts of recipes.  Ask me nice, and I might, to use the local vernacular,  offer a clone from this kicky little mass I have.  Come know you want to.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Find Your Own Way Home

Should a person really be this excited about a trip to a place that is neither exciting nor exotic?  Well, to be honest, maybe Wisconsin is both; I’ve never been there. I just know my mom USED to live there. Until her father passed away in 1941, she lived in Eau Claire. She worked at a candy plant and the pressure cooker plant. I know this because there are old black and white photos of her with the “pressure cooker gang” or the "Webster's Crew 1939" from the candy factory. There are countless pictures of her with her friends and old beau in their brand new winter coats hanging out in a park along a river. Well, next month I plan to see that river and, hopefully, that little park. 

While she is on maternity leave, Monica (along with little Alton) will accompany me on this adventure to Wisconsin to visit the graves of my grandparents and many of my aunts and uncles. We’ll visit the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay where there is a research library of Wisconsin history in hopes of tracking down my elusive uncle Charlie. I hope to meet family but, to be honest, I’m not sure they feel the same. I have searched with and the world-wide interwebs, the names of my cousins and their children then have tried to make connections through Facebook but they don’t respond.  My paranoid self wonders, could it mean they have looked at my profile and don’t see anything they like. Perhaps they don’t often go on Facebook so just haven’t seen my messages. Perhaps they will eventually respond and we will knock back shots of Patron and have a high ol’ time. I hope so.

Aloisia and Karl Goettlicher
My German (actually Austrian) side seems to be a mite....standoffish which was the impression I got from my mom and, in later years, my aunt who I contacted for info.  Seems no one ever talked about the past.  They didn’t discuss the journey they made from the old country when my grandfather and his oldest son, Charlie, boarded the SS Cassell in Bremen on August 4 of 1910 and barely two weeks later, made their American landfall in Baltimore.  My grandmother didn't talk about the subsequent trip she made in October, with six children, including a 9-month-old Raley sailing on the Freidrich der Gross (Fredrick the Great), coming through Ellis Island.  Such an amazing journey but they didn’t talk about it.  They apparently didn’t share the stories of their portage that would make them come alive in my mind.

So I have the headstones of Karl and Aloisia; just their names carved in granite.  Aloisia, the inspiration for my middle name - Louise.  I wrinkled my nose at the name as a child but have grown to love my connection with a grandmother I never met, who died when my mother was only nine.  It was also passed on to her second daughter, Louise.  When in Eau Claire, we will visit my Uncle Joseph who is buried with his wife near Grandma and Grandpa as well as my Aunt Raley, Aurelia, and her husband.  I have tracked the locations of my aunts Louise and Augusta (Gusty) and Anna but am still searching for Mary.  And Charlie.  But if they are all I have, I want to visit.  I want to walk among those fields of granite and stroll past the river where my mom hung with her besties.  

Mark and I have traveled the southern part of the country on our honeymoon drive to South Carolina.  We've visited the east coast and the north as far as Montana.  Until now, the midwest has escaped my company.  We will actually stay in Green Bay...two people people who care less about baseball, you’ll never find...*kidding*.  We’ll probably spend a bit of time tracking down a lighthouse or two along Lake Michigan. But mostly this trip will be about family and about following the trail of crumbs that lead us to our ancesters.  The connections that make me laugh when I see my mom and her sisters when I look in the mirror.  It's nice to know I have that connection.  If my relatives are concerned about this stranger from California, I suspect they will see the family resemblance.

Monday, August 6, 2012

In These Troubled Times It's Hard Enough

Yeah yeah yeah....Chick Fil-A.  Much ado about chicken.  In case you haven’t heard, it’s not about the chicken.  It’s also not about sex.

After a sadly heated exchange last week, and other friends and relatives who posted...”whoot whoot we support Chick Fil-A” posts, I wanted so badly to say something...WRITE something SO profound that they (or perhaps YOU) would consider another view.  Just for a moment.

I finally decided to challenge those who feel strongly (generally backed with Biblical rationale) that homosexuality is WRONG (bold, uppercase, exclamation highlighted by a curse from the Almighty)!  Yes, I challenge you, DARE YOU to talk to a gay.  Yep, find yourself one of those gays and talk to them.  To him.  To her.  You know you know one.  A friend (well, maybe not a good friend since they know how you feel about them), a coworker.  A relative.  Pull them aside and ask them when they decided to be gay.  Ask them about their “lifestyle” choice.  Why do they choose to be gay?  Or, if you want a more productive conversation, perhaps ask them when they knew they were gay.  When they knew they were different.  Ask them what “coming out” meant to them.  How hard was it?  Ask them about the first time they fell in love.

I hope that, for some of you, putting a face and a story on your stand against same-sex marriage may help you to see these people as they people not issues. Not a lifestyle choice. Real people just like you and me who love and want to BE loved. Some of them are jerks.  Just like the rest of us.  They, like us, are human.

Many, dare I say most. of you are absolutely unable to have that conversation.  If that is the case, for whatever reason, please try and read this blog.  I will warn you that it was written by a gay man striving to help his friends, people who call him their friends yet don’t think he should have the same rights as others, to understand his feelings on the issues.  To understand why pumping your fists at the long lines at  Chick Fil-A on the first of August was crushing.  He does not discuss sex.

 If you get through THAT, read the follow up linked at the end of the first blog and see that people DID understand.  They reconsidered, against all odds, their previous stance.  There is even a man of the cloth who opened his mind and his heart.

Please.  Please. PLEASE try and read it.  No one will know.  Your best friend won’t know.  Your husband.  Your wife. Your drinking buddies at the bar.  Your priest won’t know you read it.  You don’t need to comment to my blog.  In fact, I don’t WANT you to comment, unless something you read has profoundly changed the way you think on this issue.  Comment to tell me that something in your conversation or in reading what Wayne (who I don’t know) wrote has changed your HEART and made you think how “smiling to wound is its own punishment".  Any thing else will be deleted because, frankly, there’s just no point.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Welcome to the Planet

 The night little Alton arrived was life-changing for all of us.  What a night! 

Friday felt like the day - the day Monica would go into labor and this “Peanut”  would enter the outer world. Maybe because it would have been my mom’s birthday and a bit of me was hoping he might be born in her honor.  In the weeks leading up to this day, there had been nervous anticipation.  Peanut was found to be breech; sitting upright at a time when upside-down was optimum.  Breech babies eliminate home birth as an option so a Peanut-turning was performed, a procedure referred to as “external version”.  Not pleasant for Monica but a successful rearrangement of this child meant a home birth was once-again in sight. When Monica called just before eight in the evening on Friday to say her water had broke, I eagerly and anxiously headed that way.  My first grandchild was coming and I would be there to welcome him or her into existence.  

Beautiful Violet, Monica's friend and doula,  had already accompanied a neighborhood stroll earlier in the day and when I arrived, it was clear the birthing was moving along nicely.  Contractions that had actually begun gently in the morning were becoming more earnest and uncomfortable. The first of the two midwives arrived and did an exam to see how things were progressing and, although Monica was feeling the need to push,  the exam told the midwife it was not yet time for that.   As another contraction began, Violet told Monica she should “blow” this one off and I laughed.  For the men out there, you’ll have to take my word that someone TELLING you NOT to push during childbirth does nothing and it just angers the bear. .  Monica laughed, too, because she had heard my story of a once-upon-a-time labor when a nurse named Shelly told me to “blow it off” and I responded with “YOU blow it off, Shell....”.  

When the need to push began, I had called Monica’s sisters who also intended to attend the birth.  They gathered up Papa and the three of them sat dutifully in the living-/waiting- room muffling the sounds of labor with the umteenth viewing of Lion King, reciting dialogue and joking to calm their nerves.  Mark did not like hearing his daughter yell through labor pains and really didn’t plan to “see” the birth up close but he did want to be nearby.  As mom, the moans were also difficult to hear and not be able to help.  This child whom I had nurtured through the pains of youth was now an adult - an adult with an adult partner who was doing an admirable job of calming and soothing.  My experience was useless in this situation as the “hee hee hoos” of my long-past birthing experiences have been replaced with “huh huh huh” and I hesitated to offer suggestions that would confuse at an already stressful time.  I could press on the small of her back to help her through the “back labor” I recognized and presumed I was helping since my had was not swatted away.  I could rest my hand gently on a foot, being careful not to agitate already over-stimulated nerve endings.  I could fetch cool washclothes and respond to the midwives.  I could not take away my child’s pain.  Not this time.

Several hours passed.  It was well past my bedtime in the range of “Jay Leno is over why is the TV still on”....  As it approached two in the morning, the midwives once again examined and discussed and eventually made the decision that this party should move to the hospital to be safe.  This birthing was going to Mad River; we were in Myrtletown.  Mark decided he was best qualified to “drive the ambulance” and commandeered Gloria’s (my old) xB since the doors opened wide and it sat lower making the loading of a birthing mother easier, a selling point that Scion should consider in their marketing.  He launched from the front lawn with a midwife, Daddy Gabe and Monica, yelling with contractions every few minutes.  

Five cars left that neighborhood at 2:15 in the morning,.  After hanging back to check the door, I found myself alone and jumped into my car after everyone else had driven off.  I felt sure I would hit Myrtle just about the time they all passed by but, when I reached the stop sign, I looked both directions and saw NO headlights, no tail lights.  Wha....?  I turned right, feeling sure I would see the caravan as I progressed but there were NO cars on the road that I could see.  I was pretty sure I knew where we were headed so I would catch up to them on the highway....As I entered northbound 101 at V cars in sight.  Still.  

I really hoped I knew where I was going.  Surely I would find them once I entered the “corridor” where the speed limit was 50.  I glanced at my clock and saw 2:23 and thought sure I would be pulled over by cops on “bars are closed” patrol but no CHP were visible nor were there tail lights to be seen for miles ahead.

Eventually, I pulled into the Mad River Hospital parking lot, following directions I had only barely listened to weeks earlier when I had asked Monica where the birthing center was.  I spotted Hope’s car as she pulled in next to “the ambulance” which, as it turned out, had exceeded the posted limit a bit, in 5 mile-an-hour increments as each contraction came and who had given himself a point after which he had already decided he would NOT stop for flashing lights.  He had decided  that, once he hit the hospital off ramp, he would put on emergency flashers and let a cop follow him into the hospital.  He WOULD.  NOT. STOP.  Luckily, he didn’t have to resort to that plan and made it with no law enforcement assistance, positive or negative.   

The room had been prepared and Monica was hoisted and labor continued.  Harder than it should have been.  A doctor was brought in to consult.  Nurses and midwives fussed.  Intravenous lines were run.  Heart rates were monitored.  Medical personnel spoke in hushed tones.  Nothing was tragically wrong but they wanted to be sure all was well with my grandchild.  Just in case.

The early pushing was exhausting Monica.  She was growing too tired to fight the urge.  Options were laid out, the only one of which she wanted to consider - push this baby out without unnatural means.  When asked if she wanted anything, she warmly responded,  muffled through the oxygen mask, “Yes, get this baby OUT”.  In the final hour, the doctor was encouraging the baby’s exit and Hope, who remained in the birthing room, texted her dad with “this is the scariest thing I’ve ever seen...”.  I told her she could join Dad and Glo in the waiting room but she likened it to the proverbial train wreck from which you cannot avert your eyes.  She would stay.  

We encouraged.  We “huh huh huh”ed in rhythm and in concert with everyone else in the room when Monica was attempting NOT to do what her body wanted to do. We marveled. The baby’s head began to emerge.  "Look"....”Is that really the head?”.  “Oh my God”.  We cried. We marveled some more.  Finally, long past dawn, on the seventh day of the the seventh month but well past the 7:07 of the morning Humboldt Moment, the doctor moved aside and called Gabe into position to catch his child.  Gabe came around and giggled as he accepted his son into the world and placed him on Monica’s chest.  A boy.  “Are you sure?”.  Nurse?  Somebody?  “Yes. It’s a boy”.  Holy cow.  “I have a son!”.  A boy!  We have a boy!  I have a grandson.  Go get Papa - WE have a grandson.  Hope and Gloria have a nephew.   Alton Chord Gabriel Paredes.  Named in honor of Alton Ellis, a pioneer of "rocksteady" music, a Jamaican R&B, of which his parents are particularly fond.  Alton is gorgeous!

Now, nearly a week later, things are settling.  At least at our house.  At baby Alton's house, things will not settle for many years.  

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For

I am accumulating a longer list of hidden headstones at Myrtle Grove.  Stones, photos of which have been requested by far-away family members in search of family.  It's very frustrating to know that each time I claim a request through Find a Grave, there is little likelihood that I will actually find the stone.  SO MANY that should be there just aren't.  Or, they have sunk out of sight. In my continuing quest to uncover hidden graves at Myrtle Grove, along with the ever-lengthening list, I have added tools to my work bag. Recently, I added a probe in the form of a very long screwdriver. 
The idea of this probe was to poke around in the vast empty areas hoping that there may actually be stones there.  When I found Alice's stone, most was visible but it just needed some trimming of sod to expose the rest.  Today, I headed out looking for Harriet Edeline.  The stone of her husband, Edward, had already been located and I thought I might be able to poke around for Harriet's marker nearby.  I spotted the name and started pushing the rod into the soil.  Turns out the stone I initially spotted was not Edeline but Emeline but, nonetheless, as I poked around... "clunk".  Ohmygoditworked.....
As I poked to find the perimeter of the stone, I used my drywall saw to start cutting away at the sod, finally pushing my fingers through to the unmistakeable cold of granite.  I found the stone of John O. Mowry, a 1st Lieutenant in the 55th Massachusetts Infantry, who died in 1884 at 60 years, 7 months and 17 days. 
Welcome back, Lieutenant Mowry.  I'm certain your wife, Emeline will enjoy having you seen next to her.  And, by the way, thank you for your service.

Sadly, the stone of Harriet Edeline still evades me.  Logic (and documents) would have her near her husband but she will require more searching and poking another day. For now, I'll tend to the enormous blister I developed from repeatedly pushing that screwdriver into the ground.