"On the plains of Oklahoma, with a windshield sunset in your eyes like a watercolor painted sky, you'd think heavens doors have opened."
Fly Over States

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Frou Frou Girls

Well, we went to the groomer and the girls were little angels.

First of all, they were absolutely thrilled to be able to go. Check out Evelyn (in the corner with her tongue out looking like a goofball). Jezebel was just so excited to see the leash that she couldn’t contain herself. There looks like there is something wrong with her - with both of them, actually. Jezebel really does have lovely teeth, can you see them?

Once we got there, Cameron, the groomer, took them back to be washed and dried. I understand Jezebel hated it but was still a good girl. They let the girls stay near each other during this stage.

While the girls were being bathed, I wandered next door to get a father’s day card for the girls to give to Husband. A clerk asked me if I needed help (the short answer would be – yes) and I muttered that I was looking for a father’s day card from an, er, dog…” “YOU WANT A HAPPY FATHER’S DAY FROM THE DOG!!!!???” the clerk asked, loudly. Several people in the store looked over at me.

“Um, yes. But I think a religious card would be a little over the top.”

Eventually, I found one I can live with. One of the customers walked by and whispered that she bought cards for her dogs to give her husband on Father’s Day and was glad to know other people did, too.

I ate lunch then went back to the groomer. Eventually, they brought Jezebel out front to be trimmed. I hid behind a cart filled with canned dog food so she couldn’t see me. Accordingly, the pictures aren’t all that good. She was really good for Cameron but you could tell she hated all of it. I was so impressed that she let him tug on her, clip her feet and ears, and put up with the clipper. She didn’t like it when they worked under her tail and tried to sit down. Who can blame her!!

When they finished with Jezebel, they brought out Evelyn. That girl looked like she enjoyed every minute of it! She was interested in the other dogs, the new smells, the attention. I took about a zillion pictures of her and in almost every one, she had her ears up and looked relaxed and happy.

Cameron was covered with hair. Here is a picture of him picking hair out of his mouth.

Once we got home, the girls ran out back. Here is Jezebel with her fluffy, frou frou coat.

Here is Evelyn.

Here are the two girls on the stairs. I think they are adorable.

After going to the groomer, they went to the vet for their annual checkup and vaccinations. Both got clean bills of health and, again, were really good girls.

Not much work done, today, and the hounds are exhausted. So am I.

Dog Day

The girls have never been to the groomer. They have rarely had baths because I am a bad dog mom and nothing sticks to their waxy coats, anyway. The notion of coming up with the fortune it takes to professional groom a Samoyed has kept me from making the jump. My kids will tell you that I am cheap.

Yesterday, however, I finally called and made an appointment for Jezebel for this morning. Husband had given me a gift certificate for Christmas, and the neighbors gave me another one for my birthday. The groomer asked if Jezebel was a good dog and I lied through my teeth insisting that she is a sweetheart. No, she won’t bite but it is going to be a lot like washing a cat. I lost sleep over that, last night.

No sooner had I hung up than I realized the insanity of trying to take Jezebel, alone. She will freak out. I called back and they claimed they could do Evelyn at the same time. Evelyn won't give them any trouble but I figure they will still do a lousy job, take my money, then shake their head at what a bad dog mom I am. Husband has instructed me that the girls are NOT to come back with poodle-like balls of hair at their knees and ankles.

So I am taking the girls in this morning and they have a veterinarian appointment, this afternoon. This is going to be an extremely expensive day after all that plus buying their heart worm medicine and Frontline. Right now, I need to go follow them around the back yard to try to get individual stool samples. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Wrong Number

Just watched a Cooking Channel show about the barbecue competition, Memphis in May. It was interesting. Right at the end when they were announcing the winners, it had a closeup of a highlighted team holding hands and praying that they would get 4th place because then they'd qualify for next year.

Can you IMAGINE god's reaction when he picks up the phone and get's that request?

Seriously, it was bordering on blaspheme!

They didn't win. I guess God hung up on them...

Monday, May 26, 2008

Teaching and the Golden Rule - a Rant

I just read a popular advice column and the writer was concerned that her child would pick up four letter words from her potty mouthed husband. The husband insisted that what he said was no different from what the child would hear on TV and, therefore, he couldn’t be blamed for teaching the child to swear. The mother was concerned that the child would go to school using gutter language.

There is so much wrong with that scenario that I won’t bother to dwell on it.

The advice columnist had some things to say about commitment to change; that the husband needs to not undermine the wife’s attempts to clean up junior’s language; and, (the obvious) changing the channel. What BOTHERED me was that the columnist breezily stated that the child’s teachers would “make sure he doesn't swear in school…”

I see this sort of mentality more and more frequently. For some reason, teachers are viewed by many as surrogate parents. Some people seem to think it is a good idea (assuming it were even possible) for a teacher to have the responsibility of “parenting” 20 – 30 grammar school kids 6 or more hours a day.

I mean, seriously - parenting even 2 - 3 kids is tough.

At the same time the teachers are supposed to be doing the parenting, they are supposed to be educating the other kids. They also have to discipline trouble makers without benefit of corporal punishment which means that there is a lot of talking, and explaining, and reasoning, and paperwork, and contacting parents to explain, and allowing them to file grievances, and having meetings to discuss how the discipline was handled, and putting into place plans about how to approach the problem in the future, and accommodations if the child has special needs, etc. (as opposed to a quick swat if junior doesn’t toe the line). Do I like swatting kids? No. When I was a teacher, I refused to do it. But let’s be practical, here. What is worse? A swat or total chaos? Have we reached a tipping point in some schools?

One (just ONE) bratty 7 year old can take up the bulk of a teacher’s time that should be spent educating the children who are sent to school to learn. In the meantime, the criminal justice system is sharpening its knives, preparing to make a meal out of the child who, by the time he reaches his teens, has never learned about the Golden Rule OR that society really doesn’t care about his individual happiness.

And on a slightly different note, why in heaven’s name aren’t many parents teaching their child how to deal with life’s typical disappointments and obstacles instead of simply trying to clear his path? Do the parents really believe that society will make allowances for their child as he gets older, bigger and meaner? Do they really think the rest of the world will love their child the way they do and put his best interests first?

I’m not saying it is easy or painless. Parents’ hearts are broken every time they see their child get his feelings hurt or maybe get the short end of the stick. Welcome to the club. Back in the day, kids were taught the importance of dealing with unfairness with grace. It was a good lesson. It didn’t teach a defeatist attitude – it taught PEOPLE skills, which are nice to have if you want to be successful.

But back to the article and my distress about the columnist’s take on teaching. Teaching the importance of using appropriate language is a PARENTING issue (as opposed to teaching grammar which the teacher is equipped to handle). The teacher should not have to waste MY child’s time in school having to deal with that sort of thing. For an advice columnist to assume that this is part of the teacher’s job to teach children basic good manners is ridiculous. I have to wonder if the writer of that column ever had her own child’s educational opportunities put on hold while the teacher tried to civilize a child who came to school acting like a savage.

Parents – for the love of god, civilize your children before you turn them loose on us. A lot of folks are leading miserable lives, have a string of broken relationships, are sitting in jail or are dead because they never learned that the world does not revolve around them.

Forgive the rant. I’m afraid it sounds sort of mean spirited but I used to be a teacher and firmly believe teachers should be able to educate the students instead of parenting some incompetent’s child (because you really can’t do both). Moreover, if the hellion child’s parents simply undermine everything taught during the day, anyway, it is a COMPLETE waste of everyone’s time and resources.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Thanking the Veterans and Remembering Grandpa

I want to say, “Thank you,” to our military families who make sacrifices we can’t imagine to keep us safe and protect our way of life. No matter what you believe in terms of the wars, I suspect we are all humbled by the fact that so many of our military over the years have made the ultimate sacrifice. I am currently reading Jeff Shaara's novel, "The Steel Wave." It's good. Thank goodness we aren't fighting that kind of war, anymore. Any death is horrible but the wholesale slaughter of our young people, even within the last century, is next to impossible for me to wrap my mind around. I don't know how families can bear it, then and now. Made of sterner stuff than I am, I suspect.

This time, last year, the family met in Oklahoma City and had a memorial for my mother. This year, my kids are there to lay their grandfather, a veteran of World War II and Korea, to rest. He was a good man from a lovely family. I am so grateful that my children had the benefit of having him as their grandfather. Rest In Peace, Grandpa.

On to more upbeat matters. I’ve had time to work on another patriotic block. Here are the fabrics I selected:

I used the pattern, “Arizona” from Carol Doak’s 50 Fabulous Paper Pieced Stars. I love that book. Here is a picture of the sample she has in the book (hope this isn’t some sort of copyright infringement):

Here is the block as I assemble it:

I was afraid I’d cut it too close but with a little “creative squaring” I was able to salvage it. Here is the final block:

I'm not real thrilled with the spash of red that ended up in the center section. It throws the block off center, seems to me. Oh well.

And here it is with the other blocks I’ve completed for this project AND my trusty helpers, Evelyn and Jezebel. The latest block is the one on the lower left. In case you are wondering, the girls are being entertained by a spool of thread wrapped in cellophane.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

OK, so I've already posted today but...

This morning, husband walked up with a spiral notebook and announced that, “If I die, everything you need to know about the new house is here. I’ve written down all the workmen, their numbers, etc.”

I am used to these sorts of pronouncements.

“Any love notes in there?” I asked him.

He looked at me in exasperation.


Pretty much sums it up, doesn’t it?

Doing a Little House Cleaning

My Grandmother and Great Grandmother were good house keepers. I am not and my mother was worse. My mother thought proper house keeping was vaguely immoral. Being a slob was one of the ways she rebelled against her emotionally distant parent. I was taught, and not just by osmosis, that people who spend time cleaning tend to be cold and self centered.

Some of my friends were terrific housekeepers from the time they were in the cradle. When I was young, I really didn’t put together that they were warm and wonderful and still managed to be clean and tidy. One of my most free-spirited girlfriends used to say (at age 13), that, “A messy room is a depressing room.” She is now about 50 years old and has been a successful working artist for most of her adult life. That only goes to show that free spirits can also be neat.

Her mother was a nurse. I wonder if that had anything to do with it?

Truth be told, I really didn’t know how to clean house effectively when my kids were growing up. More importantly, I didn’t “get” that it was important. Laundry piled up (often on the floor in heaps), beds weren’t made, it never occurred to me to dust the baseboards, clutter ruled. I can’t count the number of hours I spent in frantic searches for missing keys or shoes. The messiness of my home was both a symptom of my feelings of being overwhelmed, and a contributing factor. I don’t think I can make the argument that my messy house was proof that I had a good heart. Much as I would like to make that case, I think I was just a slob.

My housekeeping habits, or lack thereof, were a major source of frustration in marriage number one. When Husband No. 1 yelled at me for being “slovenly” (yes, he once used that word), I equated his desire for tidiness to being insensitive – thus proving my mother’s point. The more he fussed, the more convinced I was that the need for a clean home was evidence of a cold, controlling heart. In hindsight, I believe I misjudged the situation. Name calling is mean but I now realize that it was likely a reflection of frustration more than anything else. Unfortunately, it escalated the divide and turned it personal which wasn’t helpful. Oh well.

Husband No. 2 (aka, the final husband) is a non-apologetic neat freak. We did not live together before marriage so I did not realize it was a mixed marriage until after the vows were spoken. He didn’t waste his time arguing with me over cleaning the house. He just took care of it the way he normally would before we got together. A sense of general fairness inspired me to do my part. Over time, lessons from my grandmother seemed less oppressive (Clean the sink and mirror after you brush your teeth – every time. Soak your hairbrushes to clean. You haven’t finished the dishes until you clean the sink. Vacuum first, then dust. Change the linen every week. Don’t leave out water glasses. Put away your magazines. Vacuum under the bed.). Long story short - I have learned the value of a clean house in my middle years. I’ve not lost keys or eyeglasses, in forever. I actually like having the place uncluttered and tidy. I’m not even close to perfect (I have shedding dogs, after all), but I am well past the notion that a relatively clean house means a relatively sterile soul.

I do a lot of home visits as a guardian ad litem. I like to do them because they are a great way to see a child in his/her natural environment; you can assess the neighborhood; you meet the other siblings and family members; and you get a feel for the home environment that you simply can’t in an office. Small children absolutely love to show you their room and toys. You are on the parents’ home turf and that sometimes allows them to feel a little more in control and, hopefully, less intimidated.

I am amazed at how many people have hamsters.

I was in a house, recently, that had nice wood molding on the doors. There was literally an inch and a quarter of brownish orange dirt piled on the molding and the baseboards. It would take years for this to accumulate. It honestly looked like someone had taken orange paint and painted above the molding. I looked twice to see if it was orange tape placed there to protect the molding for painting or something. It was that bad. The homeowner, a young, healthy woman (an owner, not a renter), sheepishly admitted that she had spent two days trying to get the house clean enough for company. She was oblivious to the things like the dirt on the molding and I didn’t mention it.

Some people who are good souls simply do not know how to maintain a house or yard. It is not on their radar. Sheets, in some segments of the population, are apparently optional (This makes me crazy). I frequently walk into homes where the antiseptic smell of recently cleaned house (in preparation for the GAL visit) will burn out your nose hairs. Those same houses frequently have front doors that have never been wiped down (i.e., years worth of finger prints on the doorbell and mud on the front steps). Trees and shrubs are attempting to eradicate any signs of civilization and are attacking the roof. They are weeks away from a hole in the roof if it is not already leaking. Gutters are clogged. The ground beneath the gutters is a swamp as a result. Not surprisingly, water is flowing downhill towards the foundation and that is never a happy situation. Trash has fallen behind the shrubbery in full view of the front door. Shutters are half off. Invariably, there are apple cores or other pieces of trash or food strewn along the front walk. No one edges the pavement. This is not just rental property. This pretty much describes the home of the young lady I just mentioned.

A lot of folks “clean” the way I used to clean. When company is coming, run the sweeper, dust the table, wash the dishes (drain on the counter), hide the dirty laundry (but leave the smell). Spray room fresher – that’ll take care of it. The windows are filthy, the yards are overgrown, the wood work is nasty, the front doors are a disgrace (“A sin and a shame!” as my grandmother would say), the beds aren’t made and no sheets are on the beds (actually, I rarely went without sheets. The sheets thing really bothers me. Did I mention that?).

**** BUT NOTE **** Some poor families’ homes are immaculate. I see a lot of new immigrants whose floor, including the bathroom floor, is clean enough to eat off.

The majority of the ill kept homes I visit are lived in by people who are young and clueless, or who simply don’t “get” that it is important. They don’t even see the dirt. They usually don’t appreciate that an orderly home helps them to have orderly lives. They may be lazy. They may lack discipline. They may be overwhelmed. Mainly, I think they have simply not been taught to value a clean home or just don't have high standards in that regard. Not infrequently, I see parents who I suspect don't clean as a some sort of reaction to tidy grandparents with whom they have a strained relationship (shades of my mother).

Housekeeping/home maintenance can be learned. IMO, if you don’t teach your children HOW to clean or maintain the property, and if you don’t instill in them that it is IMPORTANT, you aren’t doing them any favors. I’m hoping my kids will rise above my deficiencies in that area.

Friday, May 23, 2008


My former father-in-law, who was always good to me, lost his battle with lung cancer, today. He was a good man and will be tremendously missed by his loved ones. May he rest in peace.

My best friend became a grandmother for the second time, today. The little guy arrived a couple of weeks early but is big and healthy. I hope he has as long and rich a life as my former father-in-law.

What Little Girls Are Made Of



Thursday, May 22, 2008

Musings from a fuddy-duddy prude

Since becoming a guardian ad litem, I have become much more conservative regarding live-in arrangements, especially when children are involved. The reason I’ve changed is due to the unmitigated misery suffered by affected children I see on a regular basis. “Families” who are committed to each other and assume they will marry someday but don’t see any pressing need to marry at this point, frequently combine existing families and often have more children, together. Unfortunately, they often then break up. Even married folks do this, I know, I know. Being unmarried doesn’t help avoid such a thing, however. Breakup/divorce – it amounts to the same thing for the kids on an emotional level once they’ve bonded with the adults involved.

If you ask these adults six months later, they almost always have forgotten that not so long ago, both insisted they were a “real” family that didn’t need the legal paperwork because their love for each other was strong and pure. They deserved the wedding of their dreams and hadn't save up enough, yet. Well, the one who was left may still insist that is the way it was. The “leaver” will tell you how miserable they were and how they have a “right” to be happy, don’t they? We weren’t married, afterall!! Amazing how their perspectives change after a breakup.

Of course, the kids involved don’t have the benefit of the nifty-keen new boyfriend or girlfriend to ease their pain. A lot of them are wondering when their “step mom” or "step dad” is going to come back home. The problem is that even legal step parents typically have only iffy and minimal rights to the children. Adults who were just living with the kids’ parent have even less. Chances are, the kids will be out of luck on continuing a relationship with the former informal “step dad” or “step mom” even if that person spent five years raising them. Especially if a “new” love interest is working to get all the chicks in her/his own nest.

I’ve had a few cases where parents brought children into a relationship and the love interest, essentially, raised them. Then, fate intervened and death struck down the parent, leaving his/her child in a situation where the mother/father figure had no right to them in the eyes of the law. Family members who never liked the informal step parent, anyway, emerged from the wood work with claims for the children. Horrible situations, all.

I am starting to wonder if there is room for temporary-type marriages in modern day society. By that, I wonder if we should consider allowing people to marry not “until death do we part,” but for a year or two. The criteria would be similar to common law marriage, i.e., living together continuously, holding themselves out as married, an exclusive relationship, etc. They could get the license extended another couple of years if they make the effort but otherwise, at the end of the legislatively set period, the “marriage” would end as a matter of law.

Sigh. This would probably cause more problems than it would solve but at least if there is a sudden death or other change in circumstances while the couple is still getting along, the kids might have a few more legal protections in place.

Never mind, scrap the whole idea. It just isn’t fair to the kids to encourage them to fall in love with an adult when even the PARTNER is not willing to commit to that person until death parts them.

Jezebel the Magnificent

OMG - I think we have found the answer for Jezebel. She has been soooooo happy, active and affectionate for the past few days (after looking a little peaked during the first three/four days of being on antibiotics). She is a new dog. I feel terrible that it has taken me so long to get her some help and horrified that I didn't recognize the complete change in personality, sooner. I have attributed her crankiness and quietness to grief upon losing Sapphire, the stress of becoming "alpha" and age. Since she started feeling better, she is back to her old, sweet, sweet self. She is playing nicely with Evelyn and yesterday crawled right up into my lap. I had to shut the laptop and she just sat on top of it. The hound weighs 55 pounds, mind you. She has had a gleam of humor in her eye and this morning, I saw her trying her best to catch a flying bird. The antibiotics have helped her to feel better, I suspect, but they've done nothing to improve her spacial perceptions.

I hope it lasts. She is such a good girl.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

My Patriotic Heart

What a week this has been. I have scarcely come up for air and really NEEDED a quilting break. This afternoon, as soon as decently possible, I turned off my business phone and rapidly threw together a simple patriotic heart block using scraps. Some of the blocks I’ve made are pretty fancy and I think a simple one here and there will be more soothing.

Here is the pattern and some of the scraps I used:

I’ve made this block before which tends to make it go faster. Here is the same block using Valentine’s Day colors:

Here is the center of the block:

This is my ALL TIME FAVORITE specialty ruler. If I could only choose one, this would be it. I do a lot of paper piecing and it has excellent markings for 1/4th inch seams. I also use it to make pineapple blocks (one of my favorites!).

I Ordered a bunch of King Tut Quilting thread, recently, because it was on an excellent sale. It arrived today so I set it around the block to try to take nice pictures. With the cellophane on the thread, it doesn’t really show the colors very well.

Here is the Heart block surrounded by her patriotic sisters!

I’m up to seven blocks, now. I need about 50. I may need to make a few simple alternative blocks if I don’t want to get completely bogged down.

I wonder if I should add corner triangles to the block to make it a little less plain. I kinda think that once I get it in the quilt, especially if I sash it, the simplicity will be a welcome relief to the eye. On the other hand, adding a dash of color would be super simple. Dunno - what do you think?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Jezebel knows I need some quilting therapy!

The Wheels of Justice

I have just under 5 minutes to write and post this. Any editing will come later.

My clients' families have got to be furious with me for not returning their calls since late last Friday. I checked late Friday messages on Monday morning because of company over the weekend. Yesterday, I had three court appearances that should have taken, at the most, 20 minutes of actual court time. Adding in an hour or so wait time and an extra hour of driving time and that leaves a lot of the day to return calls. The first hearing was just a request for a continuance. No one was opposing it. We only needed to pick a new date. The second case was entering a guilty plea on a CHINS (child in need of supervision) case. The third case was just to continue it out three weeks - it was just a status review. That's it.

Nothing went smoothly, yesterday. One prosecutor with a well grounded reputation for not being able to manage her docket, effectively. Two substitute judges. Three long winded attorneys not used to family court. Four attorneys who were running late. Mixed with the unfortunate situation of getting placed behind three lengthy trials when they should have squeezed the little 5 minute cases in ahead of them. I was in court from 9:00 a.m. until after 4:00 p.m. No lunch, snack or caffeine of any kind, and only one bathroom break that I had to demand. My head was killing me and by the time I could check my messages (no decent cell reception at the courthouse), I learned that all hell had broken loose over the weekend. Kids arrested, parents acting like dogs fighting over a bone on custody exchanges, "he looked at me funny," messages and a couple who just wanted me to call them back so they would know that I got the message that they called me. I made several calls but then called it a day. Today is about the same although I really SHOULD be in court most of the day. Hopefully, I will be able to return some of those calls this afternoon. It will probably be tomorrow.

This post took a little extra time because I had to answer the phone to let someone know that I did get their message that they called yesterday. God love 'em, they didn't have anything to say but wanted to know if I got their message and didn't want to miss a return call in case I called back. Bless them - normally I really appreciate that but today...

Sorry people.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Taking Back the Reins

Just watched Big Brown win the Preakness – well run race!!

Yesterday, I had a meeting with several staff members in a residential program in which a young lady who is my ward (call her Gertrude) has been participating. I’ve known this child, for years. When she first became involved with the court system, she was just a wee thing. She was in middle school in the process of failing 6th grade (again) because she simply WOULD not go to school. Gertrude was not small for her age so falling two years behind was particularly problematic. Not only that, but she is SMART. Such a waste of potential.

This situation followed an unfortunate but familiar pattern. Gertrude was a difficult child who had learned that if she was obstinate enough, her family would give in. She was running the streets, refusing to go to school, experimenting with drugs and running with a crowd that included older boys. The family was worn out and simply did not know what to do with her – and she knew it. The more she fell behind at school, the less she wanted to go. The parents were weary of being the heavy and angry at Gertrude for placing them in that position.

Now that the court was involved, they felt even more like failures, particularly since the Judge, probation officer and/or the guardian ad litem were all insisting that they needed to put their foot down – as if they hadn’t TRIED that already! After all, those people don’t have to live with the girl’s tantrums, sulks and willfulness. All kids go through that stage, right? Drug use and skipping school are normal, don’t you think? Any parent would worry about her young daughter being involved with older boys/men, but isn’t it natural for kids to experiment? Or is it? Why won’t she listen to us? We’ve always been there for her. She always knew she could talk to us. Why is Gertrude so angry?

Homebased counseling has been ordered and what a pain that is. Now, the GAL wants THEM to participate. She says these things tend to be “system” problems and the whole family needs to change before the child will be able to. She is so snooty! What does she know about our family? I wonder if she has kids? Sure feel sorry for them if she does. She sounds like she DOESN’T have kids. If she did, she’d understand that kids aren’t little angels. They all experiment with drugs, alcohol and sex, and cut class. That’s normal. Right?


So what commonly happens, unfortunately, is that once the child has to answer to a probation officer or the court, the parents (one or both) grab the opportunity to take a break from having to be the heavy (if they haven’t completely given up, already). For the first time in a long time, they are on the same side of the battle as their child. It feels great! The child suddenly LOVES them and instead of feeling unappreciated and worn out, the parent is now smothered with love and affection from the child. Their darling daughter recruits them to help her outwit those meddling so and so’s from the court. When the child breaks curfew, the parents don’t turn her in – earning them the child’s “undying” gratitude – “You’re the BEST, mom (or dad)! I promise it won’t happen again! You know I’m doing better, right?”

Parent nods. The child IS doing better. She used to sneak out 5 nights out of 7 and now she is down to 2 nights out of seven. Why tell the probation officer? The parents are certain their child understands and “gets” that she was going down the wrong path. If the parents tell the probation officer, the child will hate them. They don't like that GAL, anyway. She just looks like a know-it-all. The parents are working so hard to rebuild their relationship and if they “betray” their daughter’s trust by turning her in, they’ll lose all the ground they’ve gained. The child has become so loving, lately – just like she was when she was little. She has really had a wake up call and is really sorry that she was so difficult. She said so!!! If only the probation officer and that pushy GAL would stay out of the picture. Now that the child has figured it out, there is no need for court involvement.


There is a predictable pattern.

In just about a month, on the outside, the child typically is mouthing off to the parents, just like before. She thinks nothing of telling mom to go to hell, calls her very ugly names (VERY ugly) and laughs in her face when she tries to set limits. Breaking curfew becomes routine. She doesn’t bother to go to school, at all. Her parents know trouble is back but can’t bring themselves to turn her in. They’ll look like fools. They are so MAD at that kid for doing this!! Maybe, THEY’LL be prosecuted!

At some point, the school drops the child for non-attendance and/or she gets caught breaking curfew or gets bad drug screens once too often. Of course, now that the court is involved, the GAL checks school attendance and the probation officer is doing drug tests.


Yup – that is "pretty much" what happened with Gertrude.


A typical scenario continues. The probation officer tries to avoid coming to court. First, he infomally assigns the child to community service. The parents are no longer trusted by the GAL or the probation officer because they didn't turn her in to the probation officer and/or comply with the terms of her probation. The violations continue, unfortunately. The probation officer has no real choice but to file a violation of probation which could result in the child being placed in detention for 30 days. Equally likely is that the GAL will file a motion to either transfer custody to social services, or seek to have the court Order the child to cooperate in applying for a group home or residential facility. Normally, this wouldn't be requested unless homebased counseling has not worked or the child is so out of control that there is realistic fear that she will come to harm OR things are so bad at home that the parents want the child out or keep filing assault and battery charges against her. The GAL’s motion would be premised on the fact that the child’s behavior has become unacceptably risky and the parents are simply unable or unwilling to control her. Alternatively, the GAL could ask for a psychological evaluation or medication evaluation, if the home based counselors have expressed cause for concern.

Now they are back in court.

Typically, the parents are now missing significant time from work to go to court. This is a nightmare! When asked by the GAL (or the judge), they have to admit that they simply can’t control their child. It is one of the worst moments of their lives.

Sometimes, the judge orders the child to the group home. She insists, loudly, that she won’t do it and she WON’T GO! She might be ordered to the shelter, where it is safer, pending acceptance into the program. If she runs from the shelter or throws a tantrum in court, she is placed in detention. The parents are absolutely dying, inside.

“Mommy!! Daddy!!” she screams as she is led from the courtroom to the holding cell.

The parents are shattered. This is THEIR child! How DARE the court take their child? They are either at each other’s throats or weeping in each other’s arms. “At least we will know she is safe, there,” they admit.

“We failed.”
“What will be tell your mother?”
“She’ll never forgive us.”


A bit like Gertrude’s parents.


So begins the long road. The girls at the group home come home on the weekends if they earn that right during the week. The time away during the week gives families the opportunity to heal. The girls typically test the limits at home, sometimes breaking curfew. Over time, parents usually become more willing to cooperate because they start to realize that their actions in not holding their child accountable contribute to placing her at risk. They aren’t perfect, at first, but over time, they “get with the program.” Amazingly, this results in fewer curfew violations, if you can fancy that.

Typically, if all goes well, the child starts to let them know that SHE knows that by placing limits, they are showing her that they love her. She has heard enough stories from the other girls at the group home about parents who just don’t care that she starts to appreciate, really appreciate, what a parent IS. She moves beyond being glad that her parents are gullible and easy marks, to being glad that they love her enough to hang with her and take the heat she dishes out – within reasonable limits. Appropriate boundaries are being established.

The parents marvel at the change in their child. “She has really grown up. She has so much more insight.” In family therapy, the child confronts her parents about how they have failed her, and she admits to them how she has failed them. They work to reach the place where their love, respect and trust in themselves and each other defines the relationship (as opposed to the manipulative, angry and hurtful patterns that existed, before). The child starts to want more for herself than just attention and fun from her peers. School is onsite so she attends regularly, gets more assistance because the classes are smaller, and perhaps for the first time, starts to think that she is actually, a little bright. Her parents are thrilled when their child starts being more excited about making the A/B honor role than going to the mall to meet that older guy and his friends from the high school. The program stresses holding herself and her peers accountable. She starts thinking in terms of doing the right thing instead of just getting away with things. Over time, the staff at the program, the probation officer, the GAL and the parents become a team. By the time the child is nearing completing of the program, chances are the parents and the other adults involved are in full agreement regarding whether the child is ready to go home.


Back to Gertrude. We discussed at yesterday’s meeting whether it was time for her to go home. She wanted to go home, right now, even though she’d hit a few bumps in the road, recently, and the adults didn’t think it was time. Her Mother listened, and then informed her, firmly and gently, that she needed to stay in the program through the summer, and bust her butt to bring up her grades so that she would be able to start high school, at home, in the fall. Gertrude began to get worked up into an argument, spitting out how much she wanted to go home and how unfair it was and on and on, ending with “but MOM!!” I said nothing. Staff said nothing. The probation officer just listened.

And then…

We watched as the Mother DID THE MOMLOOK! You know what I am talking about. She tossed up her eyebrow and stared down her daughter with an eye like a laser beam. It’s the look that any well bred child knows means it is time to stop talking and just say, "yes ma’m.”

And that is what Gertrude did.

Good for you, Mom. You’re back in charge. Your daughter needs a strong mother and she has one. And that is what this GAL work is all about, after all.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Follow up to "The Power of Honey"

This caught my eye only because of my post on May 13 - The Power of Honey.

Obama Says Sorry For Saying "Sweetie"

STERLING HEIGHTS, Mich., May 15, 2008
(AP) Barack Obama has apologized to a Michigan TV reporter for calling her “sweetie” and dodging her question about autoworkers.

WXYZ-TV's Peggy Agar shouted a question to the Democratic presidential candidate during Obama's appearance Wednesday at a Chrysler LLC plant in Sterling Heights.

Agar asks Obama what he's “going to do to help American autoworkers.”

He replies, “Hold on one second, sweetie, we'll do a press avail, thanks” but didn't get back to Agar.

On the air later, the station played a voice message Obama left for Agar. Obama apologizes for not getting back to her. He also tells Agar he has a bad habit of calling people “sweetie.”

Obama then says: “I mean no disrespect, so I am duly chastened on that front.”

Dogs with Nutty Mothers

Jezebel started limping off and on last November. Sapphire died right before Christmas and I felt sufficiently freaked out to take Jezebel to the vet in January to get her checked out. They tested for Lyme disease, which came up negative. We brought her home and have just been keeping an eye on her to see if it gets worse. Husband switched their dog food after Sapphire died. He kept expecting the girls to put on weight but has been convinced that Jezebel’s weight has remained stable notwithstanding that she is taking in more calories. He has been concerned.

Anyway, Jezebel has been favoring her left leg more and more. Last night, she did not want to put weight on her RIGHT leg when she went upstairs to bed (shades of Sapphire!). She has also been licking her leg for the past few nights. Husband was out of town and I wasn’t sure if the licking was stress-related.

So today, I took Jezebel back to the vet. I took Evelyn with me, too, because when I took Jezebel by herself last January, it was an unmitigated nightmare. I thought we’d have to put her in the nervous hospital for canines. I was also afraid she’d cause me to have a wreck going to and from the vet, trying to crawl into my lap.

This time, Jezebel was much better. Again, no lyme, no heartworm from the standard tests. According to the vet, she has gained FIVE pounds since January, so I don't think she has any wasting disease, which should put husband’s mind at ease.

They had a bit of trouble seeing if she was limping because she was acting like one of those maniac sled dogs from the frozen north. She hauled the poor little 98 pound tech up and down the hall with one shoulder, then the other, hunched to the floor trying to get a purchase and work up some speed. Half the time the far side leg was doing a Fred Flintstone. She wasn’t really favoring either leg. I hoped the staff would think it was the excitement of being at the hospital and not her usual routine. Sadly, it IS her usual routine.

She had a temperature of 103.

She was very good for the vet while he checked out her legs. She had a little crackle in her front left leg but neither seemed sore. I asked them to x-ray her front legs because I am worried about bone cancer. The vet was happy to do it but he wasn't the one pressing it (makes my job easier, as he put it). I assume he was also making private notations about me and my irrational fears in some file not meant for public consumption. She wouldn't cooperate on the right leg so they had to sedate her, which made me nervous. I told him that when they sedated Sapphire, in 2000, she came down with an auto immune problem shortly thereafter so it made me nervous. "I understand," he said (more scribbling in the file). Happily, her bones look terrific - not much degeneration, at all and both front legs look good. Their x-ray machine was much cooler than the ones I’ve seen at the human hospital. When the vet heard how active Jezebel is, jumping, running, etc., he definitely did not want to prescribe pain medication. I want to check with Husband to see exactly what he is giving her for her joints.

The vet prescribed a round of antibiotics (2 doxycycline twice a day) for a month to stamp out any tick borne illnesses that don't show up in the regular tests (he said the testing for the rarer forms is quite expensive and the antibiotics are cheap). They clipped her nails.

While I was there, I asked him to look at Evelyn to make sure she doesn’t have cataracts and promised I would pay for the favor. He was in the middle of examining Jezebel’s leg when I brought it up. “She doesn’t have cataracts,” he muttered as he continued to examine Jezebel’s leg. “No, EVELYN!” I clarified. The vet gave Evelyn a glance over his shoulder from across the room and said, “She doesn’t either.” I think at this point he was more than half convinced that I am a loon. I am sure there are even more things being written in "my file."

Jezebel seems fine and really was a very good girl notwithstanding the strength demonstration up and down the hallway. She let the vet draw blood and gave him a big smooch for his pains. Occasionally, she barked in her high-pitched sneaker on the gym floor voice but at least it wasn't non-stop. Evelyn nearly drowned all of us with drooling but wasn't any trouble other than that. Jezebel was prancing when she came out of radiology.

My goodness, she is a fatty. I picked both girls up to get them out of the car and she was an anvil to Evelyn's cute little butterfly-like body.

Obviously, I am relieved.

photo - Jezebel and Evelyn (as a pup)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Power of Honey

I grew up reading complaints of doctors and other professionals inadvertently (or vertently) insulting women by calling them Honey or Sweetheart. The idea was that they would not speak to a MAN that way and by throwing in an endearment, they were denigrating the woman’s accomplishments and innate worth. The worst offenders were the guys at the coffee shop who added a pat on the waitress’ bottom.


I’ve also read how elderly people are sometimes steamed when a whippersnapper doctor calls them by their first name (while they expect to be called “Doctor”). I took all this to heart.

For years, in order to show respect for my wards and their parents, I studiously avoided using endearments and ALWAYS called their parents Mr. and Mrs. Smith/Jones/Green/etc. One of the reasons I did this was to show respect. Another reason was to build up a boundary so that they understand that I am their child’s lawyer – not just some opinionated lady who is getting into their business. I thought this would help them have more confidence in my legal abilities and set their minds at ease. Moreover, I thought the parents would have an easier time understanding that I represented the child (not them) if I didn’t get too cozy.

A couple of years ago, I reconsidered some of this.

While waiting for court with a particularly tense young man, I slipped and said something like, “Sweetie, it will be fine.” He visibly relaxed. His mother (who was actually his grandmother) melted. The change in body language was so dramatic that it was impossible to miss.

Tentatively, over the next few weeks, I began experimenting. I threw in an occasional Honey or Sweetheart and, without fail, I saw an immediate change in body language, more trust and much more openness. At first, I studiously avoided using these endearments except with cases that I’d had a long time. I found it nearly always calmed the kids. The parents became less guarded. The relationships changed for the better.

From there, I began introducing endearments earlier. The last thing I wanted to do was insult a family but I found that just by using these terms (which come naturally to me I must add) it seemed like I was developing a trusting relationship much more quickly.

I learned that when I use endearments, the kids tend to lean towards me, not away. I’ve even had judges comment that they see the kids visibly relax when I whisper to them in court (I’m usually saying something like, “Sugar, keep it together…” “Hon, don’t worry – we are almost done – you’re doing great.”).

I don’t use endearments with parents - that is a boundary I don’t want to cross. However, in a long term relationship, I will sometimes call them by their first name, depending on the circumstances and if they appear open to it, particularly if they are youngsters. I can't bring myself to call older people by their first name - it is a product of my southern raising. Even when they ask me to address them by their first name it feels funny.

I avoid first names in custody cases unless I use them for both parents since they tend to fight over me. Think of three little girls on the playground and how they each want the third one to be “their” best friend to get a flavor of the dynamic. I’m not trying to be disrespectful – the behavior is rooted, in large part, in fear that they will lose rights to their child and that is a huge fear for any parent. Of course, another large part (sometimes) is that they don’t want the other parent to “win” and they’ve forgotten what it is they are fighting about. “Joe and Barbara, you both have apparently lost your marbles” isn't much more warm and fuzzy than “Mr. and Mrs. Smith, you both have apparently lost your marbles.” However, it is generally less troublesome than, “Barbara, you apparently have lost your marbles and so have you, Mr. Smith.”

At first, I worried that the families would not trust me to be professional in court if their saw me as warm and fuzzy out of court. As it turned out, this concern hasn’t really played out. A lot of families don’t know or care a lot about the law or professionalism. All they really want is to know is that someone cares about them. Maybe that is not a good criterion to pick a lawyer but since the court appoints me, they don't get much of a choice, anyway.

A second thing I discovered was that by not being afraid to use endearments, hard messages seem to be received a little bit more readily. “Sweetie, the judge is not going to buy that foolishness,” is seemingly easier to receive than, “Rebecca, the judge is not going to buy that foolishness.” By calling them Sweetie, the kids don’t seem to automatically think I am rejecting THEM by giving them the straight goods.

Of course, you have to be sincere or the child and his/her family are going to think you are playing them. Like I said, using endearments is a natural way of speaking for me and not everyone would feel comfortable with it. I have a distinct southern drawl so the endearments not only feel natural to me, they probably sound like something I would say. It probably bears mentioning that my age might make using endearments seem less condescending than if I were about 30.

In summary, I’ve learned that I can be a strong legal advocate for a child in the courtroom and that gentle words in private don’t take away from that. Just something I’ve noticed.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

I Have the World's Best Husband

Just before noon, husband "had" to go to the post office. He returned home a few minutes later with a bouquet of lilies and a big grin. "Those kids are beating my time!" he said. Lilies are our wedding flower and it was sweet of him to order some for Mother's Day.

In the meantime, while he was gone and for awhile thereafter, I was working on another Patriotic block - this time, New Mexico by Carol Doak out of her Fifty Fabulous Paper-Pieced Stars Book.

The whole time I was on it I had convinced myself I was making it too small and would clip the points when I squared it. Not sure why I'd convinced myself of that but there you go. I added in some length as I worked on it, just in case, and it turned out fine with room to spare. I'm very happy with it.

Here it is with all the other ones AND my lilies!

Oh, and I put the kids' bouquet on the front table so it is the first thing you see when you come in the door.

We have reservations at our favorite restaurant in an hour - better go get ready.

I have the world's best kids

My kids sent me a BEAUTIFUL bouquet that arrived this morning while I was folding laundry. Here are some pictures. They are the best kids on the planet.

I know it is a lot of pictures of the same thing but I like looking at them.


Friday, May 9, 2008

Here comes the weekend - just in time

Came home, crashed, had a glass of wine and made another patriotic quilt block. I am SO GLAD THE WEEKEND IS HERE!

So here is some fabric I planned to use (some came from Fabric Depot).

When I first started, I glanced at the clock and it was 8:02. Here is a little later in the progress.

Here is a picture of creasing the seams so I will be able to cut the seam allowance.

Here is a picture measure to know where to cut to get the seam allowance.

About this time, the girls showed up to help me piece the block. Sorta.

Here is a picture of the halves.

Here is a picture before it is squared.

Here is the finished block.

I don’t know the name of this block pattern. For some reason I had an un-named pattern in my folder that I thought could use up some scraps.

Here are all the blocks for this project made, to date.

For those of you who don't quilt, the seams you see on the light part of the blocks will disappear when you add the backing and the batting.

Quilting Therapy...I feel MUCH better!