Saturday, May 26, 2018

Oh, Lexi

Our girl has been bad a number of times lately. When Tucker arrived, he came with lots of toys, beds, blankies, all kinds of things. His late mom loved him and bought him all sorts of stuff. Well, we have taken our time getting his stuff put away or tossed out. (He seems to have no interest in the toys. We've tried.)

To be fair (to ourselves!), we have been moving a lot of it out, but some remained at one end of the dining room table. Unfortunately, any amount of Tucker's stuff up there offends Lexi. We went plant shopping today, and when we got back, we found that she'd been on the dining room table, where she found a brush of his. She chewed that. She also managed to tear up all sorts of our stuff that was on there and scatter debris around the entire dining area. I guess she decided we needed punishment.

She'd already had periods where she got crated when we went out, but I kept giving her another chance. At this point, Marc says she'll be crated when we're out until she's a little old hound, hobbling around with a walker! (I give it a couple of weeks.)  ;-)

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

A book review: Promise Me, Dad by Joe Biden

Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship, and PurposePromise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship, and Purpose by Joe Biden
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I usually tend to steer clear of sad stories. I feel like I've had enough pain and loss in my own life, so why latch onto someone else's? But something about Promise Me, Dad and what I'd read from prior reviews drew me to it. Also, I think Joe Biden is a good, kind-hearted, caring public servant, and I was interested for that reason, as well.

The pain of loss encapsulated in Promise Me, Dad comes as no surprise to anyone who reads the news. Joe Biden lost his son, Beau, to an aggressive brain cancer known as glioblastoma. Despite aggressive, cutting edge treatment, Beau slowly lost a painful battle. This book recounts that battle, as well as the way the Biden family pulled together, supporting each other while doing their best to protect Beau's privacy and dignity. It's also a remembrance of family history and cohesion, as well as a recounting of the support they received from so many, including President Obama.

Interspersed with the story of Beau Biden's cancer battle, and his family's agony as they watched it unfold, is a look inside the top-level politics Joe Biden was engaged in, from legislative history to his deep involvement in international affairs. This well-written and deeply personal book did something few books can; it made me cry. The genuine feeling of it tapped into my own emotions of loss. As things progressed, I found myself hoping for a surprise happy ending, despite knowing how things really did end. It was that level of connection and feeling.

I can see how some readers might not want to go along on this particular ride. As I said above, I often steer clear of such things. But if you don't mind the sadness interwoven within this story, it's a story well told about good people who have made it through a lot while still focusing on how they can make the world I better place. It's worth reading!

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Monday, January 15, 2018

Let Me Tell You About My Best Friend

I've very lucky. I met this man, dated him and had the good fortune to marry him. Now let me tell you something about him. He has the biggest heart you can imagine!

When Marc was growing up, his best friend was a kid named Richard. They met when they were 6 years old, and they developed a bond that time and distance couldn't break. Over the years, they wound up in different parts of the country and Richard wasn't good about keeping in touch when he moved away, but that didn't change Marc's concern for him.

Richard developed health problems, and I remember Marc worrying about him in the early days of my being with Marc, so that's over 20 years ago. But Richard did his own thing, and Marc only got updates from mutual friends who heard from other friends and so on.

Then in 2016, one of their friends from school days, Anne, called Marc. Anne is a saint, and she'd been helping Richard, trying to get him over health issues and get him back on his feet again. Richard didn't make it easy for her, but that's another story. She worked hard, just because she wanted to help a friend.

So Anne called to say that Richard was in rough shape, but while she was helping to arrange his care, advocate for him, help him in all sorts of ways, he mentioned that the thing that would make him so happy was if he could see his childhood friend, Marc.

Now, bear in mind, Richard was saying this as he was lying in a nursing home, where they were trying to rehab him after a hospital stay. A nursing home about 1,400 miles away in Wichita, Kansas. I guess Richard was hoping Marc would talk to him on the phone. In fact, that was the other part, that Anne said Richard asked if he could have Marc's phone number to reconnect. Of course, Marc said yes. The circumstances weren't ideal, but Marc was happy to reconnect with his old friend.

Marc thought about it very briefly and then declared, "I have to go see him." His old friend was sick and said it would brighten his day if he could see Marc, so Marc was dropping everything, taking time off work and getting on a plane on short notice to go see an old friend who was sick, just because his friend mentioned how nice it would be to see him.

So Marc got out there to see Richard. They talked, and Marc encouraged him to work hard to get back on his feet. He told him how, once he felt better, he could come to New York and we'd give him the grand tour. Afterwards, Anne told Marc that helped immensely, and, in time, Richard got out of the nursing home and was working to move forward.

Unfortunately, he took a fall several months ago, and he was back in the hospital and then the nursing home again. When we went out there for Marc's school reunion a few months ago, we went to visit him. He was still in rehab. On top of wanting to see Marc, Richard wanted to meet Marc's husband whom Richard had declared to be "a very lucky man." He was right. I am very lucky!

So we went and spent time talking to Richard. Marc encouraged him to work on his rehab, as he was somewhat reluctant at that point, and they still talked about what the future could hold, trying to keep a hopeful view of everything.

Today, Marc called me from work in tears. Richard's brother had called. Richard died today.

It wasn't really unexpected, as he wasn't doing at all well this time, but it doesn't change the fact that Marc is devastated. And, of course, I'm upset for him.

But look at the love he brought to his friend. Someone who went his own way decades ago says, in essence, "You know, I wish I could see my childhood friend, Marc," and my husband turns into a one-man Make-A-Wish Foundation. That's how he is. Off he went! How many people would do that? So this is a sad day, but I'm focused on how Marc made a sick friend's life better. We all go eventually, but it's a real gift when you have someone so caring in your life!

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Ready for a break!

"A break? You're unemployed, Jess! A break from what?"

Yeah, well... I have my stress! Being unemployed is daily pressure. Plus, I've been working on drumming up business for my HR consulting practice. I might have a nibble or two on that front and a real client, where I can help a new business grow. I love being a part of that! I'm also picking up a little legal work when I can.

Anyhow, we're heading south later this week. First going to see some family and then on to Savannah. I can't wait! Some quality time--including romantic time--with my husband, and we'll also get to see some good friends!

The only downside is that Lexi has to go to her "pet resort," but I think she just aims her guilt ray at me for her own entertainment. When she's there, she has a ball. (She should, for what it costs!) ;-)

I love the photos of her from playgroups. For example...

Look at that happy girl!

Still, as much as our doggies always are family to us, it's not easy leaving her there. But we'll all be happy when we're reunited!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

A quick, easy read, and an important piece of history: Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBIKillers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It's rare that I find a work of non-fiction to be an easy read, but Killers of the Flower Moon flowed well while telling an important story of a great injustice that was new to me. In the early 20th Century, the Osage Indians, who had been pushed onto land in Oklahoma (just as so many Native Americans had been displaced and moved to lands not of their choosing), found that their land sat over large oil deposits.

Much to the chagrin of white people, this made the Osage quite wealthy. Sadly, blatant notions of white supremacy had the government and its citizens doing everything they could to disenfranchise the Osage, including routinely having perfectly competent adults declared incompetent, so white "guardians" could be appointed; those guardians then free to steal Osage money.

But for some, that wasn't enough. The Osage were being murdered at a staggering pace by people who had set up underhanded arrangements, through marriage, insurance policies and other means to steer Osage wealth into white hands. The indifference to the murders that underpinned these schemes was shockingly blatant, but nothing really was being done until the precursor of the FBI got involved.

With glimpses of the sociopathic madness that we'd eventually learn drove the actions of J. Edgar Hoover, he pulled the strings of an investigation that eventually curtailed the ongoing murders. The real heroes are no-nonsense lawmen who worked in the Osage Nation on behalf of the Bureau of Investigation (the FBI's name at the time). That didn't end all of the killings, as some have clearly gone unsolved and went well beyond the more commonly known reign of terror, but the federal involvement at least seemed to stop the worst of it.

Killers of the Flower Moon is a quick read, likely because of the writing skill of David Grann, its author and a veteran of The New Yorker, and it's an important piece of American history. I highly recommend this book!

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Wednesday, December 20, 2017

A book review: The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed AmericaThe Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America by Erik Larson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Devil in the White City is a fascinating tale. Combining a vicious serial killer's ongoing brutality with the concurrent World's Columbian Exposition (the World's Fair of 1893) in Chicago, Erik Larson paints a picture of a harsher time, not because of the killer but due to a host of circumstances surrounding life in the era, while illuminating the hope and progress embodied in the Fair.

Reading the book, one can't help but be disturbed by the sickness of the killer, Herman Webster Mudgett (who went by H.H. Holmes, among other aliases), while at the same time being impressed by the audacity of the people taking on a seemingly impossible task and eventually succeeding, thereby bringing pride to the city of Chicago and hope to its people in the midst of terrible economic times nationally. It's also startling to see how many famous names of the late 19th and early 20th centuries figured in the creation, progress and aftermath of the Fair.

I'd say I enjoyed reading Larson's Isaac's Storm a bit more than this book, but I think they both merit four stars. The Devil in the White City is an excellent book, well researched and only embellished (as when Larson admittedly paints certain murder scenes on the basis of his suppositions) as needed to complete the picture as responsibly as possible. Larson's writing can be a bit stiff. He's more professorial than one might like. As a result, the book doesn't flow as smoothly as some non-fiction works, but much can be forgiven with a well researched historical work (as opposed to a novel), so that must be a secondary issue. The somewhat stilted writing kept me from finishing this book sooner, but I do feel richer for having read it and would recommend it to anyone with an interest in history or even a good true crime story.

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Wednesday, November 08, 2017

This dog!

We've always had reasons to be proud of all of our dogs. We've loved them and been impressed by them on many occasions, but there's something about Lexi that's rather extraordinary.

Watching her carefully, you can see a rather impressive mind at work. That mind doesn't work like a human mind, but there's clearly a lot going on in there. Today, she gave us another example.

Before Marc left for work, he gave me a kiss as I was still lying in bed. He often leaves before I'm up, but this was pretty much guaranteed today, since I was out very late because it was election day. I've been working on a couple of political campaigns, and last night's results didn't come in until quite late. Anyhow...

As Marc said goodbye, he told me to keep a close eye on Lexi, because a Milk-Bone had gone astray. After an errant throw, it had landed under/behind an antique tea cart we have. Since Lexi forgets nothing, he knew she'd be after it at the first opportunity.

When I got up, Lexi and I headed downstairs. I looked under the cart to see if I could spot the biscuit. No luck. She watched me, but then she went on her way, leaving things untouched. Such a good girl!

So we did our stuff...
I had coffee.
We went out to the yard.
I fed the birds.
I read the newspaper and watched CBS This Morning.

She never went near the cart. Still being so good!

Then I hit the bathroom. And as I was indisposed, what do I hear? Yup, she's getting under the cart!

I got done as quickly as I could, came back out and found her trotting away with her best I didn't do nothin' look plastered on her face.

She waited until a time when she knew I couldn't react quickly, and then she went for it! OMG, this dog! Even after a couple of years with her, she continues to amaze. Yes, sometimes she frustrates, disobeys, angers, annoys... but still, she's impressive!