"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, July 31, 2008

Fighting the Good Fight

Jezebel had her third radiation treatment and second vaccine injection, today.

The mornings that I take her in, I like to snap a picture just before we head out the door. She's usually pretty excited to be going for a ride.

See how pretty her muzzle is looking?

She and I arrived in time for her 10:00 appointment. Here she is waiting for Nurse Claudia to come get her, hanging out on the fancy schmancy furniture.

Jezebel really didn't want to go with Nurse Claudia but she didn't argue.

I took a book to read but mainly just dog and people watched. A tiny, elderly lady sat near me with a gigantic rottweiler who looked to outweigh her by 80 pounds. Two seats over, a burly young man hugged a three pound ... something... to his chest. I know it was a dog and I know what it weighed because the tech told him, but I don't really know much else about that situation. I thought it would be rude to take a picture.

Meanwhile, at home, Evelyn reportedly was extremely unhappy to be left behind. She pouted at her regular spot on the landing.

They finished up quickly at the vet, and we were heading home within an hour. Reportedly, Evelyn heard the car coming up the driveway.

Poor Jezebel, still anesthetized, could barely get her legs to work. Husband had to help her get out of the car.

She has been sleeping all afternoon.

Evelyn has been doing her share of snoozing, too.

Jezebel went into a sneezing frenzy a little while ago and it looked like it was hurting her nose. Other than that, and being sleepy, she seems fine.

Unlike some of us:

They’d been cautioning us that she might get a little burn on the tip of her nose from the radiation. Now, they don’t seem to think that is going to happen. I’m not sure what has changed but am not complaining.

I hate to end on a somber note but it occurs to me that perhaps one of the most beneficial things about treating cancer is that it's so time and soul consuming that for awhile, you convince yourself that you can hold death at bay, indefinitely. I've managed to go for a couple of weeks not dwelling on the likelihood that we are ultimately going to lose Jezebel. I've been conducting myself as if she will beat this thing. I know that is more than likely out and out denial. But I am so grateful to discover that I am capable of such a thing, even if only for a short time. After losing my mother, last year, I assumed I had reached a point of no return in believing that cancer is an unbeatable monster. Passively watching my mother die, knowing there was no hope, and respecting her decision to surrender to death without a fight, cut deep. I felt helpless on so many levels. Fighting for Jezebel, even if we lose, makes me feel more alive, myself.

I've called Jezebel my therapy dog ever since she was so wonderful caring for my mother. When we brought mom home from Texas, Jezebel immediately appointed herself as mom's comforter and would not leave her. As her illness progressed, her pain increased abruptly from time to time. Sometimes, that resulted in a scramble to adjust her pain medication. Jezebel would cuddle with mom and it really soothed her during the 20 minutes or so it took for the medication to kick in. Mom would sometimes even say she no longer needed the medication. Jezebel would come get me when mom became confused. When mom's eyesight failed, I'd see Jezebel pressing against her, gently "herding" her small distances. She always seemed to know what mom needed.

Jezebel always seems to know what I need, too.

I don't want to lose her.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Life Comes At You Fast (but you can frequently see it coming from a long way off)

Every custody/visitation case is different but there are fact patterns that tend to be repeated. One highly specific fact pattern that turns out to be relatively common involves a young couple, typically teenagers, who fall in love and have a child. Nothing uncommon about that but believe it or not I’ve, unfortunately, seen variations of the following happen quite a few times:

She is not close to her parents. He is a couple of years older.
His parents are pretty permissive.
They take her in to live with them while she is still a kid, allowing them to sleep together.
She gets pregnant.
Neither finish high school.
If he isn’t already, he gets involved with drugs – typically distributing on a fairly low level.
He gets busted.
His parents hire lawyers to get him acquitted but he ends up going to jail. Because it is a distribution charge, the Father is prosecuted by the feds and gets several years.

His parents continue to allow the Mother to live them while the Father is incarcerated and they take a big role in the child’s life.
The Mother gets sole custody. If she is really young, she will sometimes agree to share custody with the grandparents with the promise that in the future, they will step back and allow her to have full custody. In cases of joint custody, the grandparents typically provide insurance coverage.
After a year or two, the Mother begins to move on with her life but allows the paternal grandparents to remain involved, typically granting them the same sort of visitation that she would the Father if he weren’t incarcerated, i.e., alternating weekends, liberal visitation and some holidays. The grandparents provide free daycare.
The Mother takes up with someone else – probably someone who resembles the Father, frankly. They move in together. They may even have a child together.
The Mother continues the close relationship with the paternal grandparents and believes they support her. She may tell them “too much” about the new guy but they are like parents to her and she trusts them.
Even years later, the child has his own room at the paternal grandparents’ home. They take him on trips to Disney, assist with medical expenses, go to all his school and recreational activities (frequently paying the entry fee), and continue to provide child care.

And then…

The Father is released and moves back in with his parents.
The Mother, who has never so much as gotten a speeding ticket, is afraid the Father is going to go back to his old ways and insists on supervised visitation. The grandparents agree.
The paternal grandparents, however, become absolutely sure the Father has reformed and begin hiding the fact that they are allowing him to see the child, unsupervised.
The child and the Father begin doing lots of fun activities, together, often financed by his parents. The grandparents would give their right lung and left kidney to arrange things so that their son can get his life back on track.
The Mother finds out that the child is not being supervised, as promised. She and the grandparents argue. More promises are made but bitter words are spoken and not forgotten.
The Father, in an effort to reassert himself into his child’s life, becomes hyper-vigilant. He questions the child about any abuse by the Mother or her paramour. He is certain the boyfriend is not a good guy.
The child gets a bruise or reports something inappropriate.
The Father reports it to Child Protective Services (but not the Mother) and CPS investigates. The grandparents tell the investigator that mom is a little wild, a bit irresponsible, has poor taste in men and that they've worried about this boyfriend for a long time. They suggest that the Mother cares more about the boyfriend than the child. They explain that they've stayed involved with the child because the Mother is simply unfit.
The Mother feels betrayed and abruptly tells the grandparents that the child can’t visit anymore. Their betrayal cuts deeply because she considered them the same as being "her" parents. The child no longer goes to their home before or after school, resulting in much greater child care expenses and/or slap happy arrangements with whomever she can find to babysit.
Weeks go by and she won’t allow the child to see the Father or the grandparents.
With all the changes, the child's performance at school deteriorates.
Dad sues for custody/visitation. His parents also sue for custody/visitation.

The Mother never saw this coming, although, like the title says, she could have seen it coming a long way off (if she'd been looking).

Okay, so at this point, let's step back and take stock.

The Mother may be living with someone who has abused the child. The boyfriend may even have been legally found to have abused the child. At the least, an investigation is ongoing. She has told the grandparents, many times, that the boyfriend has a mean temper. If there are ANY charges of domestic violence against the boyfriend, even if the police were just called to the house, she is going to look unstable or willing to put her child at risk by remaining with him.

In the best case scenario, this new guy is her only live-in boyfriend since the Father. Chances are better that she has gone through a series of relationships and breakups over the past few years and that the child has been exposed to them. Being young, she will likely have shared much of the gory details with the grandparents, seeking their wisdom and comfort.

She has a history of allowing the child to stay with the grandparents, sometimes for weeks at a time – establishing that until the Father blew the whistle, she considered them to be beneficial to the child. The child, at this point, is missing his grandparents and to a certain extent, his father/playmate.

The Mother may be financially dependant on a boyfriend who may have a criminal record. It may not be a particularly good neighborhood. She has little education, a low paying job and now her day care provider just went belly up. She can’t afford to pay a sitter and the boyfriend, who used to supplement the grandparents on babysitting, is no longer an option. Her home is not her own and she may have had to change residences depending on how things are going with the boyfriend.

She is not close to her own family and any character witnesses she would have relied upon are in the grandparents’ camp.

In contrast, the father is living in a nice home with his parents. He is working. He is doing well with his probation officer. All his drug screens are clear. The crime that he was convicted for took place 5-6 years ago.

The grandparents can afford an experienced family law attorney whereas the Mother is on her own. The grandparents' position is not adverse to their son's so he gets the benefit. Dad will argue that although he had a drug conviction, at the time, he was much younger; he is now doing well; and there has never been any suggestion that he has a violent streak. The grandparents have lived in the same home for 25 years, in an established neighborhood where the child has gone to school for the past couple of years (since the grandparents provided daycare, the child went to the local school). They'll argue that the child's behavior went downhill after she started keeping him away from them. Moreover, the grandparents know where all the Mother’s skeletons are.

To add insult to injury, the Guardian ad litem tells the Mother that the court will decide based on the “best interests of the child” rather than purely on the fact that the child has always been with her and/or that she is the child’s mother.

Not a pretty picture.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

I Spy

We've been dilligently working to go through things we don't need and I've decided to sell my never-been-used hand quilting stand. Never could get the hang of it. Here is a picture:

Hey, wait. What is that in the circle?

Yeah, take a look at THAT!

I thought that was a little creepy when I looked at the picture until I realized what I was looking at.

Is this really, not the cutest puppy on god's green earth?????

Take a look at Jezebel.

She is getting back her white muzzle!

Seeing the Future, Again

The days are getting shorter. Already. Less than a month ago, I could wake up to fairly bright sunlight at 5:00 a.m. but now it is still dark, outside. If you look at weather maps this time of year, you’ll start to see cold fronts begin to dip down through Canada, occasionally touching on the northern edges of the United States. Where I live, we still have plenty of heat in store for us in August and much of September but you can’t let that fool you - autumn is already well on the march.

I got my first quilt magazine of the year that has fall patterns inside it. The colors are subdued, homespuns figure prominently. That seems wrong! I know that if we want to get fall quilts done by the fall we have to start now, but it is still disturbing. At the same time, it is a little comforting. It reminds me that much of life is predictable and just about the time you are ready for a change, one WILL come along.

All this reminds me that if we aren’t paying attention, we are likely to live in a constant state of reaction. It doesn’t seem, to me, to be an efficient way to handle your life. Sure, you can’t possibly always know when life is going to throw you a curve but one of the best advantages of age is that you should have figured out how things are likely to work themselves out and plan accordingly.

Simple case in point – how many of us have stood behind someone in the grocery store line and when their total is rung up, they get a surprised look and only then start to look through their purse for (invariably) their checkbook. Did it not occur to them that at the end of the sale, money or its equivalent will need to change hands? (And experience tells me that following the exchange, they are then going to stand there and carefully balance their checkbook while the rest of us wait). It is not the end of the world but if it is so predictable to the rest of us, why doesn’t the buyer also have insight into the likely outcome of the process? I’d say they were just being inconsiderate but from the look of surprise on their face when asked to pay, I think it is just a lack of thinking ahead.

But then, many of us live in denial. I look around me and see elderly women with wrinkled, frail bodies and faces – but remain flabbergasted that my own body is not immune. We see our parents and grandparents fall ill and/or pass away and this can be such a frightening concept that we pretend we will be different.

The flip side is that when we experience something for the first time – a baby’s first step, first love, first home, first career success, first time you paid your own way, etc., it is so exhilarating. Those are wonderful surprises/achievements, even if utterly predictable to the old hides among us.

As a parent, I am constantly, pleasantly “surprised” when my kids display the maturity, wisdom, responsibility, and overall accountability that comes with being a successful adult. I should not be surprised because they were all good children and this is the predictable outcome. All the same, that life is marching on at a predictable pace still catches me by surprise.

I may be regularly surprised by life even when I shouldn't, but I promise you, I have my money ready to pay before my groceries are totaled up. The day I start forgetting to do that, I am getting on some sort of medication.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Day After Radiation Treatment Number Two

Jezebel really hasn't sprung back from yesterday's treatment. The doctor said they didn't expect any side effects but we could hear her breathing in her sleep, last night and her eyes were watery, this morning. Moreover, she is walking around, tail down, and looking a bit hangdog, if you'll excuse the term.

I called the vet to check if this was normal and they said it wasn't. They said if I wanted to get aggressive about it, we could put her on antibiotics but that seems excessive. She is no longer breathing loudly (like she is congested) but she remains pretty lethargic.

You wouldn't know she was still feeling a bit down from the following series of pictures taken a bit ago:

Music makes a merry heart.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Jezebel's Second Radiation Treatment

Jezebel had her second radiation therapy, today. It went well. We got there early and walked around the building for awhile waiting for them to open. A vagrant was lurking near one end of the parking lot and it was still darkish so Jezebel and I stayed up by the front door.

They have nice furniture and rugs in the waiting rooms and examining rooms. The furniture looks antique but it is pretty roughed up and obviously intended to be pet friendly. Here she is on the doggie chaise lounge:

She crawled up on a church pew and lay down next to me while waiting for Nurse Grace to come get her. Here are a couple more pictures:

She has actually gained a tiny bit of weight, which they are happy about because some dogs lose weight during treatment. Yup, this is Jezebel – get serious. There is no such thing as a dog biscuit that doesn’t have her name on it - even those that belong to Evelyn.

Nurse Claudia grew up with Samoyeds and is thrilled to be working with Jezebel (“She is so cuddly!”). I suspect Claudia shoved aside all the nurses to get the chance to work with another Samoyed – who wouldn’t??? She let me look at the CT scan test results. I don’t know what they meant but there you go. Apparently, the shoot the radiation at Jezebel’s muzzle from the sides.

Claudia said she did beautifully. I picked her up before she had completely come out of it which in some ways made it easier on her because she slept all the way home. She has been sleeping it off all afternoon. She hasn't really gotten her land legs, yet. No pain meds offered or expected to be needed. If this goes like the other visits, she should be up and at 'em tomorrow like this never happened.

They re-applied her war paint but tell me that they won’t shave her muzzle anymore. Hopefully, that means the white hair should be back in a matter of days or weeks. In certain light, you can already see that it is well on the way. They also said that, more than likely, she won’t even get a burn on her nose. She goes back next Thursday for her third radiation treatment (when she might get the burn) and her next vaccine injection.

Evelyn was thrilled to see us when we got home. Husband said she commenced to howling before we’d even gotten out of the garage but since he was working at home, she settled right back down.

I’m off to check on her – she is starting to become more alert. I bet she is hungry.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Alternative blocks

I am getting down to only needing a few more Patriotic Blocks before I can start thinking about how I want to put it together. I'm thinking that I might go with the following alternative block:

I might make the center paper pieced whirligig from scraps used from the other blocks but haven't decided, yet. It is still a work in progress.

Jezebel's whiskers are growing back and snuggling with her is like kissing husband on Sunday. She tried to fake him out again at 2:30 a.m. She charged screaming down the stairs and when he went to open the back door, she switched around to try to jump back into the bed. However, he is on to her tricks and insisted that she go outside to pee. She got back at him - she wouldn't come back in. He had to get up to go to work at 5:00 while she slept late and snuggled.

Husband - 1
Jezebel - 2

Monday, July 21, 2008

Second thoughts on the Austrian Block

Ya know, that Austria block is starting to grow on me. By having the red rays fade into the background, it kind of makes the blossoms look a bit like sparkles that twinkle along the outside edges. Can you see what I mean?

Or am I just reaching?

I called the Emergency Animal Hospital back in Oklahoma City to ask if they had a website so I could send a picture of Jezebel and thank them for helping her. Instead of actually answering me, they asked why I didn't just send a card.

Well then!

Not long ago, I was involved in a child custody case. The parents couldn't stay in the same room with each other for more than 5 seconds without being at each other's throats. The child is absolutely darling, one of the parents is a doll ("Pat" - not the real name) but the other one ("Chris" - not the real name) is unpleasant, clings to the past, is immature, spiteful, and yells at everyone (including me). I had to wonder what Pat ever saw in Chris in the first place. I even had to write a letter to Chris' attorney (A2) begging A2 to get Chris under control. Now back to Pat - that parent was a pleasure to work with. Polite, sweet, considerate, even tempered. Chris had reported that Pat was a bit of a terror but you had to consider the source.

So anyway, at a recent settlement conference, Pat and Chris and their respective attorneys attended. The parents squabbled, they talked over each other, they dredged up the past, they gave me a headache. Pat cried, Chris glowered and announced that the whole meeting was stupid.

Abruptly, 45 minutes into the meeting, the mood changed. Pat (the good one!) abruptly changed directions and chewed out Chris' attorney. I thought I was going to have to break it up. "NO ONE TALKS TO ME LIKE THAT - I WON'T ALLOW IT!," sez Chris' attorney (I've been in the same shoes). Pat's attorney stayed quiet - maybe the smartest person in the room. Pat (the GOOD one!) even wagged a finger at Chris' attorney and told the attorney to sit down and be quiet. It went downhill from there.

While Pat and Chris were going at it and I was trying to make peace, Chris abruptly apologized to Pat for being a chronic ass. Time stopped. You could have heard a pin drop. We all held our breath. It was like when an angel gets its wings-type moment.

Pat melted.

In between shots aimed at Chris' attorney, Pat (the good one!) was making doe eyes at Chris who made doe eyes right back. It got thicker and thicker as the meeting progressed. Flirting. Smiling. (both sides!). The temperature rose, I swear, 5 degrees while we sat there. I tossed out suggestions to settle the case that would have been wadded up and tossed into the trash the previous week (at least by Chris - the bad one) but on that day, you'd think I was issuing holy writ from the mountain top.

Both parties proceeded to lay compliments on each other like peanut butter on bread. They leaned closer. Chris was so agreeable that I wasn't sure if aliens had abducted the "real" parent and left an impostor.

Pat (the good one) swore at Chris' attorney and we had to take a break. Perhaps the aliens did some sort of body switch.

Pat's attorney stayed out of it. As a strategy, it was working.

After about an hour, I saw Chris lightly touch Pat on the arm and make a cute little joke. Pat practically giggled and offered to let Chris borrow the car, if needed. About 15 minutes later, both announced that the other parent was really a good parent. They both wanted the child to have a strong relationship with both parents. They would do anything to make that work. "You take Christmas!," "No, YOU take Christmas!"

The psychological evaluation had not returned for Chris but I can't explain why the one for Pat pronounced Pat mentally/emotionally healthy.

At the end of the session, they walked out with an agreement that was utterly reasonable and practical.

Sometimes it works that way. I wish it did more often. Of course, I fully expect to be hearing from them before a year is up but I relished the moment while it lasted.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

China Block

I jumped in and worked on the China Block by Carol Doak this afternoon and unlike the Austrian one, it came together pretty smoothly, notwithstanding that I had to take a break when Evelyn ran into the table leg during a game of tag with her sister. Sigh. That table, which has been sitting there for years, just jumped out and attacked her. "China" is a deceptively simple block that looks more complicated than it is. I was able to use some scraps in my scrap pile and that always makes me happy.

Here is the center and I am shamefully pleased with how well it came together:

The outside edges also lined up well:

Here are both of the blocks I worked on this weekend:

I always try to get pictures of the girls with the blocks but it is never a cake walk. Jezebel is usually pretty cooperative but as I have said before, that Evelyn is a worm.

Good Lord, what is that dog DOING?

There is something wrong with that dog.