"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

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Jezebel's Quilt is up on the frame

I've had Jezebel's Quilt up on the longarm most of the holiday and have been working on it off and on when I have down time. I am still learning how to use the longarm and this is a style that is new to me. I used my round acrylic templates and it is a definite trick to hold them steady.

Previously, I've made a halfhearted attempt at feathers but they were gruesome. Accordingly, I didn't even consider trying them on Jezebel's Quilt. I am taking a class in Victorian feathers next March and hope that helps.

Jezebel's Quilt has six large setting blocks. I'd sort of planned to McTavish them and shade in some paw prints but decided that was beyond my skill.

I think I got better as I went along.

Yesterday, Evelyn was a real Daddy's Girl and wouldn't have anything to do with me. Today, she is back to being a Mama's Girl.

I spent HOURS rearranging my sewing room and refolding fabric.

Seriously, this is ridiculous.

Sunday, I ordered some longarm needles and So Fine thread from Columbia River Longarm Quilting. I thought long and hard about getting a Stitch-in-the-Ditch Ruler but was too cheap to shell out the $14.00. They sent an e-mail to let me know it had been shipped but I got a call this morning from the store. Seems they accidentally sent another lady's order, as well. That lady's order was similar to mine. She ordered So Fine thread (several cones were even the same color as I mine). She ordered needles that fit my machine and a Stitch-in-the-Ditch ruler. They wanted me to send her order back back but I told them to just bill me and I'd keep it. When they sent my invoice, they didn't charge me for the Stitch-in-the-Ditch ruler or the needles. I feel like I received a late Christmas present!

We will probably hear from the oncologist this week regarding Jezebel's final pathology report. If it comes back that she did, indeed, have melanoma, we will know that it was only a matter of a short period of time before we would have lost her, anyway. If it comes back that she didn't have melanoma, I am going to probably have to be committed because I may be a danger to myself from grief. Losing her to an anesthesia problem when she'd beat the cancer would be so hard to accept with any grace.

We hope to drive over to see the new babies sometime later this week. Here is a picture of one of the nine pups:

Before long, they won't even look like hamsters! If we go, I hope to be able to take some pictures. We don't know which one we'll get but we will surely be tempted to grab them all and run.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christmas Miracles and Visitation Disputes

Something that always catches me by surprise are the ways parents find to argue when it comes to visitation. They pick that time to spit and snipe, hit below the belt, bring up their former partner’s mistakes, point out that they are owed child support, criticize a former mother-in-law, argue over who is going to transport the kids, who is going to feed the kids, who is going to be present during the transfers - usually with the kids right there listening to the whole thing.

There is no end to the negative creativity displayed by some parents about the transfer or during the transfer, but some of the most common issues are:

1. Who is going to transfer?

Now, this makes sense when the parents live a long distance apart and it takes significant time and money to get the kids from Point A to Point B and back again. Usually, this is resolved by the parents reaching an agreement.

The cases that frustrate me are the ones when the parents live within five or ten miles of each other but go to the mat over who is responsible to pick up and/or deliver the kids. There is no doubt in my mind that in short distance situations (probably 95% of the time) this is primarily a power issue. I regularly see parents complain about the cost of the gas money involved (do the math and then come tell me how ten – twenty miles twice a month is going to break anyone). In the presence of the children, no less. The obvious “fair” solution is to have one pick up the kids and the other one retrieve them. Alternatively, the parents can transfer at a half way point taking into account traffic problems. Amazingly, this frequently has to be negotiated and I've seen parents insist they can't afford the gas money yet are willing to shell out $250.00 per hour to their counsel to make that argument. I frequently see the noncustodial parent end up agreeing to do all the transportation because the custodial parent won’t budge.

I think it is disgraceful.

2. Physical altercations during the transfer.

It amazes me how often parents come to blows during visitation transfers. Grabbing children out of the arms of the other parent happens regularly. Ditto for throwing keys at the other parent. Do you think this is happening in a calm, soothing tone of voice? Of course not. The children are wrestled from one to the other to the tune of cursing, screaming, accusations and threats.

We frequently have the transfers take place at police station parking lots because parents tend to be on better behavior when there are cameras tuned on them.

Again, disgraceful.

3. Lack of punctuality.

There are few issues that create more ill will than a parent habitually showing up late. One parent is forced to wait, frequently in a public place, while the other parent arrives at their leisure. In the aftermath of a bitter separation or divorce, being trapped at the whim of an inconsiderate former partner can quickly bring things to the boiling point. Caught in traffic? Surely slack should be cut for something that is unavoidable. I agree. The problem is that for some individuals, they are ALWAYS caught in traffic, or the car broke down, or they had to work late, or some other emergency has kept them from showing up on time. If you were to check, you’d probably find that many (although not all) of these parents tend to be late to work, to the doctor, to parties, probably to their own wedding. Fact is, they don’t “get” how detrimental this is to their ability to co-parent. It is one thing to be late to a party. It is another to be late when it undermines the precarious balance that is essential to a good co-parenting situation. There is never any substitute for mutual respect and consideration.

4. Bringing the new boyfriend/girlfriend to the transfer.

Does anyone really need to be told this is terrible idea? Apparently so. The new boyfriend frequently attends to protect “his” woman from dad who (according to mom) is a real villain. Of course, what is really happening is that mom is rubbing dad’s nose in the fact that she has a new guy. The new boyfriend should run as fast as he can in the other direction.

Alternatively, the new girlfriend attends to make sure mom doesn’t steal dad back. Pretty pathetic, in my opinion. That being said, this stealing of men back and forth is sport for some. I've talked to these men and the truth is, many of them are dogs. (I wish the women could see them shrug, grin and say, "What is a guy gonna do?")

5. Forgetting to send stuff back from the transfer.

It amazes me how many parents refuse to let the children take their toys to the other parent’s house for visitation. The reason given is that the toys frequently don’t make it back home. Likewise, children are sent wearing cruddy clothing because the cute stuff doesn’t make it back in the child’s backpack. The noncustodial parent invariably insists this is exaggerated and that the toys and clothing always make it back. Eventually. The custodial parent’s solution is to simply not send any more toys or nice clothes. This seems like an easy problem to solve with a little dilligence but, for some reason, that is too much to expect for some parents. So Little Betsy and Junior don’t get to take their Christmas presents or birthday presents to the other parent’s house because the parents can’t work this out.

6. Not sending homework back.

This is a common problem in which the noncustodial parent doesn’t make sure that a child does her required reading or other homework assignments. This is exacerbated when the child visits during the school week. These days, a common teaching practice is to have the parent sign a sheet showing that they are aware of the child’s assignments and that the child accomplished the assignment. The parent is supposed to sign the sheet and send it back to the school with the child. Sometimes, a noncustodial parent doesn’t seem to understand that this system is in place or that it is important. Even when told. Invariably, the noncustodial parent wants to put responsibility for being “told” on the custodial parent. Regardless, even when told of the assignments, they frequently don’t get them done or returned when the child goes back home. As a result, the custodial parent becomes extremely frustrated and frequently seeks to stop weekday visits.

Most Judges don’t take kindly to parents who don’t do what they should to make sure children succeed at school.

My advice to the noncustodial parent (especially those who want to blame the other parent for not reminding them) is to not put the custodial parent in the middle. He or she should directly contact the school (many schools allow the parents to see their grades, attendance and homework assignments online) and get to know the child’s teacher. For many parents, as long as they think it is someone else’s responsibility to parent THEM, they won’t step up to the plate. It is a fact of life, unfortunately, that the ones who think homework isn't important rarely start channeling an adult. You don't usually see consistent improvement.

Where I am going with all this is that I frequently see what amounts to A “Christmas Miracle” when it comes to visitation. Parents who lay awake at night trying to figure out how they can permanently remove the other parent from the child’s life (without getting caught) suddenly find it within themselves to be gracious and generous when it comes to Christmas. It is as if they remember that Christmas is just too important to destroy for their children.

I wish that same spirit governed the rest of the days of the year.

I’ve been working a bit on quilting Jezebel’s quilt and rearranging my sewing room (I do this every few weeks). I’m getting used to my new video camera. You can look on some videos on Youtube under videos of Evelyn the Samoyed. My account name is Pennyquilts, if you’re interested.

I hope you are having a lovely holiday.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Electronic Christmas

Husband gave me a video camera in anticipation of a new puppy. I uploaded a not too good video (I am just learning) but here is Evelyn in motion if you are interested in seeing her. I plan to catch her singing as soon as I can.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Wishing You a Very Merry Christmas!

Happy Holidays to all my Blogger Friends!

The uploaded picture was one that we took right before Thanksgiving. We had it put on Christmas cards that arrived the day we took Jezebel to the vet for her biopsy. I opened them several hours after we lost her. Then, I lost it.

All the same, I think the picture (that is her on the right) captures her sweet personality, perfectly. I don't recall if she was hoping for a treat but it wouldn't have mattered if she got a treat or a smile. She was the most loving dog you can imagine and utterly connected to her family. When you look at her, you can't believe she was sick. And I don't believe she felt sick, either.

I am grateful I can remind myself that even though we lost her way too soon, she didn't suffer; she left feeling like she had control of her life; she was confident of her place in the world; and she knew that all the people she loved, loved her back. But for the timing, she had a perfect life and a perfect death.

And now I will cry, some more.

Husband is supposed to be home in time for Christmas! I'll have to drive nearly an hour and a half to pick him up, tonight, but maybe Evelyn and I can check out the Christmas lights on the way. It is a nonstop flight so that diminishes the likelihood that he will get stuck in Chicago or some icy, lonely place for Christmas.

Say a special prayer for travelers.

I'm off to straighten the house, finish wrapping a few presents, and maybe work on Jezebel's quilt. Hold your loved ones close and say a prayer of gratitude for all you have, all you've lost and all the blessings yet in store.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Alone at Christmas time?

Husband was called out of town on an emergency on Sunday and we aren't sure he'll make it home for Christmas. Today, I received flowers from him - what a sweetie. He frequently gets me white lilies because that was our wedding flower. This has been a painful Christmas season without Jezebel and his absence has made it even more difficult. It hasn't been any picnic for him, either! Happily, it looks good for him to start heading home, perhaps, tomorrow. Travel is supposed to be very difficult so he could end up getting stuck someplace en route. We aren't out of the woods, yet. I sure feel sorry for all those travelers out there who have been stranded for days. I hope he is back for Christmas - and I would love it if he were back soon enough to drive around and look at Christmas lights. I guess I could drive around with Evelyn but that seems a little pathetic.

I've been thinking about crime and punishment, lately. Sometimes, my light hearted thoughts are just so refreshing.

I work in an area near the point where several counties meet. We are in a densely populated area near one large metropolis and several smaller cities. In addition, there are multiple small towns scattered about. The point is, you can't throw a rock without hitting a court house.

Most of these municipalities have their own Juvenile and Family Court which include their own judges and prosecutors. Most have their own police forces and/or sheriff's departments. They have separate social service departments. On a given day, it is not unheard of for me to be in court in three jurisdictions (although I have been working diligently to restrict my practice to just one). One day, I actually appeared in four courthouses and I don't care to repeat that adventure.

One of the most significant things that influences how a relatively minor crime is prosecuted (think domestic violence, petty theft, most juvenile cases) is where it takes place and, to a lessor extent, which prosecutor takes up the case.

As I said, I work in four jurisdictions, call them "Jurisdiction Hug-and-Kiss," "Jurisdiction Not-in-My-Town, "Jurisdiction Small Town" and "Jurisdiction Country Life."

Jurisdiction Hug-and-Kiss has been dealing with a large volume of crime for many years. It has a large staff of overworked, jaded prosecutors and five wonderful family judges. The throngs of people in the hallways and waiting areas are so thick you can barely walk from one courtroom to another. On the day of trial, the accused, or their lawyers, line up for up to four hours just to speak to a prosecutor about their case about a possible plea. That doesn't leave much time for trials.

Plea bargains are the only thing that keeps the system from grinding to a halt. Domestic batteries, simple assaults, shop lifting, forgery, bad checks, car theft, vandalism, burglary - all these things rarely go to trial. Depending on the volume of petty crimes on a given day (meaning was there a rock concern at the local amphitheatre over the weekend?), someone can serve thirty days (half off for good behavior) or walk out the door with a stern warning. Juveniles are typically placed on probation and ordered to perform community service, make restitution, and come back in a year to dismiss the charge or have it reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor. No fuss, no muss.

I've simplified the process but that is the gist of it.

Where these criminals get stung is that once they are placed on probation, if they screw up, it is tons easier to put them away. It amounts to getting a first bite of the apple and that is how Jurisdiction Hug-and-Kiss keeps its doors open.

Jurisdiction Not-in-My-Town has relatively recently begun a population explosion as people move where housing is a bit more affordable. It has three family court judges and a zealous team of prosecutors who are rapidly becoming overwhelmed with the increase in crime and the increase in violent crime. They are only just beginning to get the criminal activity that their more densely populated sisters have been plagued with for years. Their response is to be extremely rigid and punitive. The attitude is that these thugs are not going to be bringing that garbage to their town!

In this jurisdiction, there are two types of kids - those charged and guilty, and those not charged who probably got away with something. Many of the prosecutors see it as their personal mandate from on high to try to stem the tide of violence and criminality that seems to be flowing from the cities to the smaller towns. Jurisdiction Not-in-My-Town will grind to a pulp any punk who dares to break its laws. They do not offer plea bargains unless the state's case is so weak that they simply aren't sure they can win, and even then, they will pile on the charges and add on felonies in an effort to bluff suspects into accepting a plea.

They will not, as a matter of policy, go to trial before a judge in adult felony cases. They force every adult defendant to face a jury with its attendant costs and risks.

They are just as tough with kids. I once actually had to go to trial over an indecent exposure charge brought against a ten year old boy whose neighbor spotted him urinating in public (his sister was hogging the only bathroom and he urinated out his bedroom window at 6:00 a.m.). The prosecutor wanted him labeled a sex offender and claimed he was "wagging his privates" in public out of some prurient intent. Even the crotchety old neighbor who happened outside just at that time to feed her cat didn't think that was going on. She just thought he was ill bred. Fortunately, the child looked younger than his age and even the Judge was taken aback at the prosecutor's zealousness.

I know many defense attorneys who simply will not practice in this jurisdiction because they have their head handed to them every time they show up to court. They don't want or need the aggravation of having to deal with a system so ruthlessly stacked against the accused. I don't practice criminal law but I would be one of the ones who would refuse to take cases in this jurisdiction. The citizens of this jurisdiction take a great deal of pride in their take no prisoners approach. As one lawyer once told me - if someone commits a crime in Jurisdiction Not-In-My-Town, you already know that they are stupid on top of being criminal. So, I suppose the prosecution has succeeded to a certain extent in getting the word out that crime will not be tolerated, at least for the smart and self disciplined crooks.

The point is, for the same crime, a child will get the book thrown at him in Jurisdiction Not-in-my-Town but a cookie in Jurisdiction Kiss-and-Hug.

"Jurisdiction Small Town" has one judge and not a lot of crime. Its population is compact, it is a college town with an educated population whose neighborhoods tend to fall within the city limits. It is surrounded by larger jurisdictions who take on most of the shady business that tends to erupt from the apartment complexes and the college bar district that just happen to fall outside the city limits. The Judge is fatherly and fair, the prosecutors are mellow, and not much happens there. Think Andy Griffith. The tax base is strong which allows the courts to have special programs dealing with drug and alcohol related crimes.

"Jurisdiction Country Life" has two judges and a young, dedicated prosecution team. Because the population is far less dense, they have time to discuss the cases with the lawyers and the victims, they talk to the parents of the wayward children, they are consistent, tough and fair. They can afford to be. There is more poverty and ignorance than you find in Jurisdiction Small Town because the jurisdiction includes a lot of people of limited means and education. The social services department is active and many of the cases are the direct result of poverty. There are also quite a few drug crimes due to the prevalence of meth labs and your garden variety marijuana farmer who raises pot as a side line. The juvenile cases, unlike many of the scary crimes that seem to plague the more urban areas, tend to fall into your traditional cow tipping or mail box bashing categories.

I frequently end up having to stay there all day because it takes that long to get through the docket. Add a bit more crime or more violent crime and all that will change. There is no place to put another judge and they'd need more prosecutors to handle additional cases at the current level.

We recently had a horrible case in Jurisdiction Hug-and-Kiss that tragically demonstrates what can happen with a revolving door jurisdiction. A teenager with repeated burglary convictions yet again broke into a residence during the day, apparently expecting no one to be home and hoping to find some nice Christmas loot. He picked the home of some classmates, one of whom had graduated and gone away to college. He was not a friend and there was no reason for him to be in the home. The woman of the house was an active volunteer at the school and known, at least by sight, to most of the students. Horribly, the college student was home for Christmas break, sleeping on the couch. The young burglar shot and killed the college student, apparently out of fear that he would be be able to identify him. What made it even worse was that the mother came home while the killer was still in the house. The killer shot her, too, before fleeing with trinkets. A younger son discovered his murdered family when he came home from school.

The killer - or should I say alleged killer - was quickly apprehended after being seen by multiple witnesses. I understand he confessed to being in the home and has been placed there by forensic evidence. He also apparently had items from the home in his possession.

The news is already reporting the outcry at the leniency of Jurisdiction Hug-and-Kiss. There will be much weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth and people will want to blame the prosecutors, the probation officers, the court system, the judges and the defense counsel. I understand all that. What I don't understand is how to fix the problem with the resources at hand. I honestly believe you could triple the number of staff and still not be able to have the level of oversight you have available even in the surrounding jurisdictions - most of which don't have the same types of violent crime we see in the denser populations. And even those more rural jurisdictions are struggling to keep up. The problem is not the overwhelmed court system, in my opinion. This is a cultural/societal/familial problem. Perhaps it is a spiritual problem. I mean, burglarizing is one thing. Killing a family simply to avoid being identified is another. How does anyone predict that sort of vicious behavior based on a track record of petty thievery?

BTW - I have absolutely no connection to that case, nor do I know of any lawyers who have any connection.

I have no answers.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Scene of the Crime

In the midst of Christmas decorating, I came around the corner and walked into a crime scene.

The body of the victim, who appeared to be a reindeer of uncertain gender - perhaps a dwarf - and perhaps a cross dresser - was wedged between the door and the basement stairs. There no obvious marks of trauma on the body. Apparently, I had scared off the killer.

The victim had a grassy bouquet dangling from its hands. The bouquet had a tinkling bell attached.

The bell had gone silent.

The victim was quickly identified as "Rudy," a small, rather stuffy little reindeer with a penchant for wearing festive ribbons.

Rudy always had his hand out. His most treasured possession, however, was the bouquet that never left his hand which contained a melodic jingle bell.

Rudy in happier days:

Grainy surveillance footage revealed a possible shifty-eyed suspect:

Quick detective work substantiated that the individual in the footage, Evelyn, had a previous relationship with the victim that was not always pleasant. There was some suggestion that, at times, Rudy was a bit too familiar and Evelyn didn't like it. What is not disputed is that they frequented the same locations and ran with the same crowd. Informants close to the source report that Evelyn's older sister, Jezebel, attempted to steal Rudy's shoes on numerous occasions:

(footage undated)

(footage undated)

Informants report that Evelyn had a hard time keeping civil when Rudy got too close and tried to act coy. Regardless, there is no report of previous violence.

(footage undated)

Anonymous sources provided evidence that Evelyn always wanted that tinkling bell attached to Rudy's bouquet.

Evelyn has not been named a suspect in a reindeericide (or is it dwarficide?) but she is considered a "person of interest" and cannot leave the yard without a leash.

We are currently awaiting autopsy results to determine if there was foul play, whether Rudy died of health related causes as a result of a completely sedentary life, or whether he was already dead to begin with.

I apologize for the campy blog. I was up half the night doing stuff.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Only Good Inflated Santa

Is a dead inflated Santa (picture of the neighbor's house).

Other than a few token Evelyn pictures of her with her beloved stocking (it belonged to big sister, Sapphire, who passed away almost exactly a year ago), I'm just posting a few pictures for my kids' benefit, today. We can't be together this Christmas so here are a few ornaments they may remember from when they were kids.

Merry Christmas, Children!