Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Oh, and the dog is fine again too

Antibiotics did the trick lickety-split. I sure hope we humans come to our senses and ban all those antibacterial hand soaps and whatnot that are breeding drug-resistant supernasties hell-bent on world domination, because life before antibiotics must've really sucked. I'm pretty sure my dog would be dead by now without them, at any rate.

CEO of nothing but my own life, once again!

Another assignment finished. A little more breathing room. What a good feeling!

Monday, May 29, 2006

Sad Dog, Sad

Or, Lo! How Dawn's rosy fingers break forth upon the 24-hour emergency vet!

Ok. So I'm supposed to be in New Jersey this weekend, visiting Enrico's family. But I bailed at the last minute because of a perfect storm of work deadlines. It's been great. Not only are the deadlines manageable again, but I've been able to do all those things that make you feel human, like prepare healthy food, and exercise, and see friends, and catch up on sleep.

Oh, wait. Don't speak too soon on that last one! Because I spent the whole night last night up with poor Ms. Nelly, who has a bladder infection. I finally gave in and took her to the emergency vet at 4 am. She just kept pacing and crying, constantly, and trying frantically to pee every 5 minutes. All night long.

This started in the late evening and I almost took her in around bedtime, but the vet said it'd be a 2-hour wait and there was Toby to consider. Toby who goes into a panic when he's left alone, and tries to do the worst thing he can think of so that we'll have to come home and punish him, which is better than being alone. Usually it involves eating something really, really stupid.

So it's the middle of the night; Nelly is sick and distressed; Toby is aware of that fact and a bit freaked out; and Enrico is gone. I'm thinking, if I leave to take Nelly to the emergency vet, I'll just have to turn right around and take Toby there next, in order to have the bedspread removed from his stomach. So I hit upon the idea of giving Toby one of Nelly's valium, left over from her days of furnace phobia. I figure, I'll wait a while. If Nelly can settle down and sleep, we sleep. If not, at least the Valium will kick in for Toby, and Nelly and I can leave him behind in a mellower state of mind.

Nelly managed a couple stretches of sleep, a couple hours each. But Toby? Valium has ABSOLUTELY NO EFFECT on that dog. Unless, by "effect," you mean "Hey! You awake? I know it's the middle of the night and all, but for some reason I'm just in SUCH a good mood! I feel so strangely happy, and I want to share it with you! You awake?" Not so much a mellowing effect, as a happying effect.

So by 3:30 when it became apparent that Nelly couldn't rest any longer, we headed across town in the dark, early morning hours to see the vet, who confirmed my amateur diagnosis (hey, we gals know the signs of a bladder infection, even across species) and sent us home with antibiotics. As for Toby, the happying effects of the valium ended the minute I walked out the door. I shut him up in our bedroom where there was little he could do to hurt himself, although he managed some clever destruction nonetheless.

At 8 am, having given Nelly the first magical dose of antibiotics, I got out a set of earplugs, and laid the situation out for her. "I know you think you have to pee. But you don't. And trust me when I say you will feel better by bedtime tonight. In the meantime, I'm afraid I'm going to heartlessly tune out your suffering for an hour - one hour! - because Flora's been listening to you cry for 14 hours, and now she needs a little sleep, Monkeydog."

Poor, sad dog. So tired and uncomfortable. But at least I know she's on the mend, even if I can't tell her that. And thank goodness I didn't go to New Jersey, or the poor dogsitter would've had to deal with all this.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Pardon my language, in advance

Today at a meeting I heard from a woman who works for a nonprofit serving homeless people. She informed us that she has (personally) been receiving subpoenas from the Department of Homeland Security requesting information on certain of her agency's clients, and whether the agency can assure that said clients are not on any terrorist watch lists. She was threatened with jail if she informs any of these individuals about the interest shown towards them by the nice people at Homeland Security. She assured us that the individuals in question have jobs, and families, and social security numbers, and no criminal history whatsoever.

So, now it appears I'm involved in an effort to organize a little workshop for social service providers to try to answer questions like: Under what authority are these subpoenas / requests/ threats made? What is the extent of that authority? On what basis are these requests triggered? How would, say, your run-of-the-mill homeless shelter or health clinic or food bank assess the likelihood of a visit from the subpoena-weilding Men in Black? What recourse or resources are available to these organizations and their employees?

This? This is some messed up shit, right here.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

SpongeBlog Squarepants

"I know I told you I'd stop by the store on the way home, but my day didn't go quite as planned. So I didn't buy sponges. Do we have a sponge crisis?"

"A sponge crisis. You totally need to blog about that."

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Deja vu all over again

I was going to write a post about my dogs, and their maddening habit of getting randomly and unpredictably pissed off at being left alone, and staging clever Alias-like missions to steal and consume things they really should NOT eat, as an act of protest. But, it turns out, I've done that. So, just read this:
An unprecedented show of cooperation

....and this:
So smart, and yet so stupid

Then insert the phrase "entire box of dates - consumed, pits and all" in lieu of "entire box of chocolate truffles - consumed, wrappers and all," and you're up to speed on recent events in our household.

What impact does a box of dates (including pits) have on a dog's digestive system? Well, we're about to find out.

Friday, May 19, 2006

How to stay employed without really trying

I told Enrico this story today and he said I should blog about it. Hopefully I can make it coherent, it's a bit convoluted.

Today I got an email from a guy saying he knows a nonprofit that is looking for an interim executive director, and he got my name from a colleague.

I said, I'm very full up with work for at least two months. But, if he could tell me a little about the situation, I would know better whether I might be able to be of service, or if I might be able to refer somebody else. I said I recognize that these situations are often very sensitive. It's not uncommon to hear about a situation where the board is about to fire their executive director. It's like being an advice columnist. "I have this friend, see...and I can't say who it is. But they serve on the board of an organization...only I can't say which one. Anyway, they have this problem..."

However, I explained, it would be helpful to know a few things: the size of the organization; the general type of work it does; whether this is an urgent situation or a routine executive transition; and when they will need somebody. And from the story he gave me, I am pretty certain that he's planning to quit his job, and is trying to line up a potential interim to replace himself.

Now here's the funny part. I am also almost certain that I met this guy a few months ago at a community event, and he asked me lots of questions about being an interim director. As usual, I waxed poetic about the temp life and how much BETTER it is than being a permanent executive director. Or a permanent anything, for that matter. So much less stress! So much more variety!

So wouldn't this be funny: This guy is quitting his job because some chick he met at a reception a while back made him realize how burned out he is. Before he gives his board the bad news, he wants to line up a few potential interims for them to talk to. He gets a name from a colleague, and contacts her. The name sounds vaguely familiar, but hey, it's a small town. He makes an appointment's the chick! From the reception! Who convinced him to quit his job!

That, my friends, is how to ensure your own employment security.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

I like to watch the heads explode!

A quick scan of today's online news just brought me so much delight. Not something I say frequently, I admit. But today, I envisioned row upon row of little closed minds popping in one huge apoplectic fit like Gandalf's beautiful fireworks.

First, there was this headline right on the front page of MSNBC:
Did early chimp and human ancestors interbreed?

And then, there was this delicious quip from Ian McKellan (Gandalf himself!), an openly gay actor, about the peculiarly overwrought controversy surrounding The Da Vinci Code movie.

"I'm very happy to believe that Jesus was married," he said. "I know the Catholic Church has problems with gay people and I thought this would be absolute proof that Jesus was not gay." (Full story here.)

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Happiness is...

...a boss who knows how to use relative and absolute cell references. Oh, the elegance of a well-constructed spreadsheet!

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Mother's Day, Part II

The most important lesson I've ever learned, I learned from my Mom. I remember through the eyes of childhood and adolescence, and I don't know how accurate that is. But it's my story, so I get to tell it the way I remember it.

As a child, one of the main activities I remember at church was the annual production of Easter eggs - a massive and complex undertaking, you have NO idea, which I came to view as frivolous and a bit weird (seriously, a LOT of effort went into those eggs). I now realize it was a probably a major source of fundraising for the church, but at the time, it seemed like all the focus on alter flowers and Easter eggs was missing the point.

While Mom always did her part, she and a small cadre of like-minded women also created the Social Concerns Committee. They helped build houses through the local version of Habitat for Humanity; housed and helped a refugee family from southeast Asia; politely suggested that the congregation might want to pay attention to abuses by US-backed governments and militias in Central America, and the violent deaths of aid workers trying to help the local populations there; and of course, organized the ubiquitous canned food drives. This, it seemed to me, was the point.

They seemed like such the minority, the ladies of the Social Concerns Committee. Mom is a very reserved person by nature, and yet I can picture her - was it just once? a hundred times? - standing up to politely, persistently, remind people about the canned food drive, or the house-building work day, or the atrocities in El Salvador. She must have hated that part of it, the standing up and talking. The Social Concerns Committee eventually managed to squeeze a tiny little pot of money out of the budget, but it never seemed to grow beyond the same small cadre of committed women.

I can't ever remember her lecturing my sister and me about any of this, or even talking about it, really. She didn't take us to gawk at poor people, thank goodness. She just went about her business, which somehow made it all the more compelling, because it wasn't anything special. It was just life.

So I learned that what matters most is how you treat the rest of the world. What matters is that you try to do something, whatever you can think to do, no matter how small it seems. I have always believed this was the most important lesson anyone ever taught me, though I'm a long, long way from mastering it. Oh, I am so imperfect in my caring, so easily distracted both by shiny things and little grievances. It's a very hard time to care about injustice and ugliness right now. There's a lot of it, and a lot of indifference to it. It's very hard to see what to do.

But I think about my Mom, the classic introvert, politely reminding people about the canned food drive, and I know that you have to just try to keep on reminding yourself and others about the wrongs and sadness of the world, no matter how much it may seem like no one is listening. And maybe, somebody is listening more closely than you thought.

Thank you, Mom! Happy Mother's Day.

Mother's Day, Part I

Today in church we heard from a member of our congregation, Mary Matsuda Gruenewald, who published a memoir about her experience as a teenaged Japanese American incarcerated by the United States government in an internment camp during World War II. Today she told us her story. About how her family burned their books, letters, photos, and anything connected to Japan once the FBI started searching Japanese homes and taking away community leaders. About getting one week's notice that they would have to pack up their lives and be prepared to go away - to an unknown place, with an unknown climate, for an unknown period of time. She talked about life in an intern camp at the age of 16, wondering every day if she and her family were going to be taken away and shot. About having absolutely no sense of a future.

I never learned anything about the internments growing up in the Midwest, but you learn quickly about that sad history here on the West coast - an immediate legacy that affected your neighbor, your co-worker, your friends. The incarceration of 120,000 people - men, women and children, citizen and non-citizen alike - teaches an important lesson about the erosion of civil liberties, and the importance of dissent.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Strange experiences of the day

Today I had an interaction with somebody who is so full of hate, they rejected a gift of flowers. Flowers. A couple of daisies in a bud vase. How does somebody become that angry? How do you become so broken inside that little yellow flowers become a object of hate? So very sad.

I am in a coffee shop, and I swear Rose from the new Dr. Who is at the next table. It's terribly distracting. If you don't hear from me again, I've either joined the gang in the Tardis for an out-of-time adventure (I'll try to drop in on my loved ones sometimes in the future or past), or I've been eaten by a time virus.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Waiter, there's an anaconda in my soup

"The following safari is about to begin: Flora, party of seven? Flora, party of seven, your safari adventure is about to begin. Please bring your passport to the pink elephant."

Yesterday we went to one of those restaurants in the mall with an over-the-top jungle theme, complete with elaborate faux folliage, fish tanks, rain falling from the ceilings, and mechanical alligators and elephants and gorillas who periodically erupted with activity and NOISE.

Whyon earth were we at such a place, you might ask? Were we trapped inside the mall during a Homeland Security lock-down exericise, with no other options for sustenance? No. We were meeting up with friends who were staying by the airport on their way out of town, and they had an infant and a 3-year-old in tow. And let me tell you, that toddler had the look of someone stoned on pure happiness.

So I can understand why parents bring their kids there. They serve alcohol, to numb the pain for the grown-ups. What I don't understand is all the teenaged prom-going couples who were dining there, in their black ties and evening gowns. Clearly, I am completely out of touch with the youth of our time.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Some denial, some renewed energy, some sunshine

As mentioned, I have been in one of my periodic slumps of procrastination, at a time when I have a whole boatload of things to do. The to-do list will ease up a bit after this weekend. But I've been driving myself crazy, with the avoidance. How can one person be so productive and goal-oriented sometimes, and so apallingly distractable at other times?

It's like when I was 9 years old and I had to write a report for school on cornhusk dolls, and no matter how many library books my mom found on cornhusk dolls, no matter how much she talked up the fascinating history of cornhusk dolls, no matter how many actual cornhusk dolls she bought me as inspiration, I stubbornly refused to work on that damn report. Until the last possible minute, by which time I was panic-stricken and annoyed with the all the things I no longer had time to do to make it great.

But, today I went with my business partner, Zena, to interview for a possible new consulting gig. Zena and I have been working a bit on formalizing our business, but we haven't done any actual project work together for about five months now. We've both been occupied with loner projects.

After our interview, we went to a coffee shop to catch up. I talked about The Thesis and how it's tormenting me, and we talked about how we would work together on this new job if we get it. And boy, it just filled me with energy. She had good feedback on The Thesis, and fluffed me up with praise about how great it sounded so far! And how she just knew I'd do a fabulous job, and they were so lucky to have me doing it! And by the way, here are three suggestions of things that would make it even better!

I've missed working with Zena, the other half of my professional brain, who is as unstinting with her praise as she is in her willingness to point out when I'm full of crap. I think it just may have given me the inspiration I need to finish things up over the next week or two. Either that, or I'm just on a big sunshine high from the fabulous weather.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow

This week Enrico and I were talking about the immigrant marches, and he said that while he's all for the underlying goals - recognizing the economic contribution of immigrants, legalizing their employment in a marketplace that clearly needs them, the right of families not to be torn apart by differing citizenship status, etc. etc. - he was a little unclear about what the marches themselves were supposed to accomplish.

I had been all happy about the marches in a generic, power-to-the-people kind of way, but I hadn't given it much thought beyond that. I liked the flags of many nations, the big sombreros, the people doing traditional Samoan dances, because if there's one thing my life choices demonstrate (well, besides the addictive properties of Cocoa Crispies and Saturdays in your pajamas with a murder mystery), it's that I absolutely believe in the life-enriching benefits of more languages, more cross-cultural experience, and strange cuisines. The more, the merrier. So I really don't get the whole English-first, assimilate-or-else mindset.

But when pushed to think about it, what really made me happy about the marches this week was the sight of so many people choosing not to be in fear. I heard some butthead on NPR saying menacingly "I'm making lists of all the businesses that are closed today, and reporting them to Homeland Security, so they can raid those places." Many of the people who marched this week live in shadows, invisible to us as they pick our food, build our buildings, clean our hotel rooms. They don't take their kids to doctors, or go to parent-teacher conferences, because the kids are citizens but the parents aren't. And yet on Monday, they made a choice to refuse fear.

We live with so very much fear. It's been said that fear is a choice, but our government cultivates it these days. Fear of terrorists, avian flu, unfamiliar people destroying our way of life, gas shortages, sex offenders, cancer, a vengeful god, identity theft - fear that we're on a government list of some sort and we're being watched. But this week, we got a great gift, a big fat dose of Not-Fear.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006


I have ten work days left at my outgoing job between now and the end of the month. And I feel good about what got done while I was there, good about the new executive director coming in (with her too-cool Aussie accent and clever sense of humor).

Unfortunately, I promised to write them a thesis before I go. The definitive business case for why funders should invest their money in this organization. Connecting all the logical dots from here to The World Will Be a Demonstrably Better Place! With citations, data, compelling illustrations to support each point. You need this, I said, and it's the perfect task for a lame duck interim director who knows you well, but has enough distance to apply a critical eye to your argument.

Stupid, stupid hobbit.

As always seems to happen to me in these situations, I have a raging case of writer's block. I have assembled statistics, data, literature about the future of philanthropy (and boy howdy, there is a LOT of literature on the future of philanthropy!). I have the arc of the argument painted elegantly in my head, and I've run it by a few people to kick the tires a bit and give me feedback. But I have yet to write one. single word. It sits, festering maddeningly in all its elegance, in my stupid brain.

Now they're all waiting for it, too. I got them excited. "This is definitely the highest and best use of your remaining time here," says my boss. Well, golly, no pressure there. "By then, we'll have Flora's business case! So we can go talk to the Blahblah Foundation," says the fundraising committee chair. Gulp.

Ten days.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Musings posed by my iPod on a run in the park

Twenty-five years ago they spoke out and they broke out
Of recession and oppression and together they toked
And they folked out with guitars around a bonfire
Just singin' and clappin' - Man,
What the hell happened?*
Yes, a very good question, from the poetic guys of Smashmouth. I don't want to idealize the sixties, I know they were a complicated time. But from the outside looking in, I can't help but be envious. A majority of people are against the war today, but what is anyone doing about it, really? What was it like to feel like you could do something to make change, or at least like you could refuse to participate in an immoral and corrupt system? What was it like when society was full of people willing to get arrested, go into exile, break the law to try to stop their country from doing things they considered profoundly illegal and immoral?
So don't sit back kick back and watch the world get bushwhacked
Where did that sentiment go, that commitment, that sense of moral outrage? I really want to know what it's like. And why we seem to have lost it, so completely. Did we think the issue was settled, after Vietnam - never again could this happen? Or did life get comfortable; lobsters slowly boiled in the pot? Is the world just too interconnected now, too mega-incorporated, to see how to escape from the web, resign from the system?

I don't want to live in a VW bus with my dogs on ropes. I don't want to go live off the grid, grinding my own flour and putting up preserves and making macrame hammocks for pin money. I just want my government to stop killing people, please.

Thank you very much for your attention to this matter.

* Walkin' on the Sun, Smashmouth, from Fush Yu Mang

Monkies, or a King?

"Did you see in the news today that Bill Frist and some other Senator are introducing legislation to make it illegal to sing the national anthem in anything other than English? Aren't the Republicans all about small government? How the frack would you ever enforce such a law?"

"See, you're looking at this all wrong. That is exactly the kind of thing the United States Congress should focus on. If they spent all their time on meaningless stuff like daylight savings time and the official language of the natinal anthem, they would do a lot less harm."

"Gosh. I never thought about it that way. It's pathetic, but it just might be true."

"Yeah, well. The only flaw in my argument is that the Bush administration has already decided it's the only branch of government with any actual power. So making Congress completely irrelevant would basically make the president the King that he already thinks he is. Which is probably a bad thing."

Monday, May 01, 2006

Just try it - pick your own damn lettuce some time

Hooray for the boycotters. To anyone who can simultaneously say "We don't want no illegal immigrants!" and "It's wrong for them to boycott a day of work!" - Well, I just don't understand how your head doesn't explode from such incompatible, illogical and hypocritical beliefs. If we really don't need illegal immigrants, then their little boycott was of no consequence, right? Or, if you were actually inconvenienced by their absence today, then perhaps you'd better stop calling these people criminal trash. You can't have it both ways.

For six years I had the privilege of advocating on behalf of the health care rights of migrant farmworkers. It's unbelievable, the work that these adults and children do day after day, year after year, so we can eat bell peppers all year round. It's literally backbreaking. Children have special school hours so they can work in the fields from 3 am to mid-day and then go to school, and then do their homework. Farm work is exempt from virtually every single labor protection enjoyed by the rest of us. Like, say, the right not to be sprayed with toxic chemicals by a cropduster.

And I'm supposed to believe that the presence of these hard-working, tax-paying folks is what's really criminal about this situation? A cheesy Spanish version of the national anthem is what's offensive here?

Kudos to everyone who marched today, despite fear of reprisals, and to all the employers who supported their workers in taking the day off. Si, se puede! Happy May Day, everyone.