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mother of josh, richard, and mutt. lover of books, yarn, and the quiet places. spinner, knitter, kayaker, survivor, vandweller, warrior.

Monday, March 24, 2008

seven things

okay, so tara has tagged me to blog about seven things you don't want (or need) to know about me. check it out

there are a million things you don't want to know about me, but here are a sampling....

1) i hate roadkill. i have such a revulsion for it that i will go to great lengths to avoid it. and, staying true to form, i have been known to scrape it off the highway in order to conquer my fear.

(are ya still with me???)

2) i had to give up doing indian quillwork after finding out that many of the quills i used were harvested from roadkill porkies. i used my teeth to flatten the quills :-(

3) i believe the railroad bridge over lake ponchartrain is an act of evil. don't go there.

4) i don't like holidays, particularly Hallmark holidays. my kids were raised to believe they would be disinherited if they ever sent me a mothers day card. the handmade ones when they were babies were okay :-)

5) my kids honor me randomly and love me fiercely all through the year. they are wonderful people, and i was smart to have them. even better, Hallmark CEO's around the globe struggle to make their mortgage payments every mothers day. HA!

6) i practice a sport i call "tagging" (not to be confused with blog tagging as noted above). when an employee of a business is helpful or particularly kind, i like to tell the manager of the business, followed up by a letter to the corporate office. i tagged a young girl in kmart once, who was extremely patient with me in the camera department. her name was rachel, and she was sweet and soft-spoken and infinitely patient. i talked to her manager before i left, and told him his corporate office would be hearing from me about what great customer service they had. when i returned a few days later to purchase the camera, rachel was working behind the customer service desk.....a position she had applied for, but was told she was too "shy" for. she thanked me profusely, but mostly because her parents were so proud of her that they extended her curfew an hour :-) another benefit to tagging, is that managers tend to remember you, and are extremely grateful for any feathers in their cap at the corporate level.....the good karma tends to come around full circle. try tagging someone you run's really cool.

7) i am against dog tethering. i support a group called "Dog's Deserve Better" who works to pass legislation against round-the-clock outdoor tethering of dogs. "if you don't want them in your house, then you don't really want them". dogs are pack animals....make them part of your pack.

so, now for the first of my seven tags.....

1) johnny, whose blog is

2)this one is an exercise in futility, but i will include it with a grain of optimism....
.....michael, you need a blog!

3) okay, phoenix, it's your turn....

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

little jimmer

most babies are practically born smiling. i think there is an important story behind a baby boy who never smiled, ever, in his short life. it is a sad story, to be sure, but one that needs telling.

little jimmer was my friend sally's foster baby. now, sally is a story in her own right, to be told another time. she was a foster parent through an agency called "Best Nest" based in philly, who placed medically fragile and terminally ill kids. we met at a foster parent training session, and became fast friends. sally specialized in the toughest cases, the heartbreakers.

sally and i became each others "respite care" parents. since our kids were high skill levels of care, it was hard to find a place to put them if we needed a weekend off. so we sometimes traded babies. little jimmer was one of them.

jim was born with short gut syndrome, meaning he didn't have enough bowel to process nutrients necessary to survive. he was on a complicated mix of intravenous and tube feedings, but was growing and staying healthy. he was one of sally's babies that was expected to live a full life. when he got older, surgery would help him to be able to eat normally. he just had to get older. that was where we came in.

now, the thing about jimmer was that he never smiled. not once in his entire life, and it was not for lack of sally's trying. she loved him to pieces, as did everyone of us who ever met him. this little guy just looked out on a life that he could only guess at, from a place where none of us had ever been. there has to be a special loneliness in one of those places. what a terrible burden for little hearts to bear alone.

jimmer came to stay with us for a few days when he was 17 months old. his big eyes in a somber face watched every move you made, every kiss you gave, every procedure you performed. i can't even remember him making a noise, no matter what you did to him. he was like a silent referee with no whistle to signal "time out" when the game got too rough. what a fragile, tough, broken baby he was. i adored him.

life in our house went into hyperdrive when jimmer came, with all of his equipment in tow. special pharmacy arrangements were made to obtain the hyperalimentation (intravenous) feedings. we had to do some of the final mixing at home, injecting the unstable ingredients, using sterile technique, in the last minutes before infusion began.  the infusion ran overnight, for 8 hours, and the pumps needed frequent monitoring. the IV was run through a Broviac catheter which was implanted through his chest wall into his heart. unlike most implant devices, the Broviac was a tube that stuck out several inches from the chest wall, just begging to be tugged by a little fist. we had a big obsession with keeping that intact, and the dressings clean, to prevent infection.

jim also got tube feedings of special formula during the night. unlike most of our kids, jim's feeding tube was not implanted in his abdominal wall. a nasogastric tube, it had to be inserted through his nose and down into his stomach. placement was important, because if you ended up in a lung, you could literally drown them. it was a two person operation, and kinda scarey, but usually necessary at least once a day, as it was hard to anchor in place, and even harder to keep little hands off of it. but we did consider the yanking of an NG tube highly preferrable to the yanking of a Broviac, and accepted it as a small price to pay in the long run.

little jimmer's stay this time was uneventful (although we probably had a different definition of "uneventful" in our house, as compared to most) and we did the intricate "changing of the guard" after several days, and got him safely home to his mama.

or so we thought.

several days later we got a call from the children's hospital where all our babies get treated. little jimmer was in pediatric intensive care, and not expected to live. sally was inconsolable, powerless to save the one baby she had expected to actually grow up. i was sick to the very bottom of my heart, when i heard the reason why. jimmer was septic, and his organs were shutting down from a fulminating blood infection, most likely contracted by a break in sterile technique by some caregiver in his very recent past.

it is hard to breathe when judgement is coming down all around you, and you know you cannot go back to find the error and make it right. even worse is the uncertainty of not knowing just who, in what second, allowed the fatal germ to break through the mighty fortresses we try to build around these kids. but the walls were breached, and jimmer died later that night, a tiny warrior who had yet to find a reason to smile. a part of me died with him.

no one, ever, points the finger at any foster parent who loses a kid. we all know going into this that if we measure success by survival, we are failures before we start. we know that we are doing an impossible job, under impossible circumstances. being imperfect humans, mistakes will happen, and we can only do the best we can for these kids, and love them hard while we do.

the funeral was rough, as all of the baby's funerals are. it was made tougher by knowing we lost one that could have lived, long before we won that first smile. i wrote a song for him, and when it was read at the funeral, alot of parents wept, because it was a poem for all of our little angels, gone too soon.

i never cried for jim, until this morning, when i knew i had to get this story out of my heart and into the healing light of day. i know it is selfishness that drives alot of my writing, as there is little for you to get out of what i have to say, but it feels good to get these stories out, leaving a little vaccuum behind, where i hope forgiveness and love can rush in to take their place.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Mutt part 1: snownose

a baby picture, the first day home

what a face. ya gotta love him. this blog entry is about my better half and constant companion, Mutt. people ask alot of questions about my buddy, especially why i never tell his story. so here it is, as best i can tell you.

mutt is not his real name. he was named "duke" before being surrendered to the spca at the age of 4 months. i was at the spca on business, a quick stop at the main desk, no "shopping" the kennels full of sad and hopeful dogs. as i turned to go, a young girl came in the door leading this gangly puppy on a length of clothesline. he had an enormous head, and looked like a cartoon character. he made a beeline towards me, sat kerplunk in front of me and grinned. as i paused to pet him for a moment, i heard the girl telling the workers "he is very destructive and a terrible house soiler". (hello, honey, he's a BABY) but i mind my own business, and turn to leave.

he follows me. pulls the clothesline right out of her hand, and velcroes himself to my heel like he was born there. there is an awkward moment while he is extricated from my side, and i turn again to go. i pause at the door, looking back. he peers expectantly over her shoulder, aware of something i do not yet know.

i can't keep him out of my mind. a few days later, i return to the shelter with a toy, expecting that he had been already adopted. he slammed his skinny little body against the wire door to his kennel, and attempted to ooze through it. we spend time playing and snuggling, but the truth remains that i am not looking for a dog, can't afford a dog, and cannot take him home. i leave with reluctance.

i make several more visits over the next week, telling myself that i can at least be supportive of the poor thing until his new owners find him. on the last visit, a worker tells me that if i'm interested in this pup, i'd better make up my mind, because the shelter is crowded, and his days are numbered.

i immediately go to the desk and fill out the adoption papers. he will have to stay overnight to be neutered, and i will pick him up the next day. but he is mine, and he knew it all along.

the interesting thing about mutt is that he was listed as "sharpei" as his primary breed. i questioned this, but the workers said they knew the litter, and parents. it will always be a mystery to me, his true lineage. one breeder at a show said he definitely had "saluki" in him. he certainly has shepherd and collie traits. but the biggest giveaway is the racing stripe on his nose. it's called a snownose, and is supposedly only found in northern breed dogs like husky or malamute. no matter what it's origins, i find it terribly endearing. i call it his "little pink pig snout" in a squeeky voice and thoroughly piss him off.

so this dog is not a "duke", i know that right off. no wonder he was destructive, he was having an identity crisis. he looked a bit like a tiny coyote or wolf with a big fat nose, so i named him "ameowok natangamuk mtimmea" which loosely tranlsated means "little wolf stung on the nose by many bees". i call him Mutt for short.

there is a hue and cry from my brother and sister-in-law. avid dog lovers, they are horrified i would call him mutt. not them, no sir. they call him "bighead" instead.......

this little pup is a delight to have. he never chewed anything up, and was almost instantly housetrained. we spent every minute of the next few weeks together, sleeping, eating, playing, and simply looking at each other. all he wanted out of life was to be at my side. all i wanted was to be his.

Saturday, March 01, 2008


turkey day 2007: a portion of our stand in the barn at a local farmers market where you can buy pasture raised meats, organic veggies, handmade soaps, and other sustainably grown or locally produced items. alot of the hats we sell are made from locally produced fiber and spun, dyed, and knitted by local artists. we had an amazing day here...excellent sales made even better by the chance to hang out with cool people who, like us, are trying to live more lightly on the earth.

catherine, one of tribalfyber's talented fiber artists, sent me this pic. she is back to doing her sorcery with the dyepot, and i am getting inspired to fool around with fiber again. we were on hiatus after several months of frantic knitting and spinning to stock up on warm woolen things for the fall and winter shows.
i am going to spend some of my upcoming "down time" beginning to stock up for the next round of shows this fall and winter. i got a call recently from a library that holds a huge auction every summer and would like us to do spinning demos as one of the vendors. the crowd at this place would be the type that wouldn't pause at the notion of spending $30-$40 bucks for a hand-knitted hat, but i'm not certain how many people are gonna want to buy something woolen on a steamy july day. in october at the pumpkin festival, the crisp october air seemed to drive people to wildly shove money at us in order to get one of our hats, although i like to think that it was because they were smitten with our funky, one of a kind creations too.
which brings me to another crossroads. i have to start booking the fall shows now, and reserving our spots. but my future is rather uncertain, and open to many new possibilities. i am itching to get on the road, and am reluctant to commit my time so far in the future. i need to explore the possibilty of taking this show on the road, or going exclusively internet with it. and i have to consider the fact that some aspects of my future are completely out of my control.
and as always, the forests and the quiet places are out there, just waiting. i can choose to get as far away from civilization as possible, and enjoy the solitude, or maybe find a tribe of like-minded folks to hang out with.
we'll see.


i am a card carrying member of something. just thought you ought to know that, like it might lend some credibilty to my otherwise weirdness :-)

i am inclined to champion unpopular or obscure causes simply because someone's got to do it. i distrust corporate-type causes where a big portion of their funds go to fundraising yet more money, creating a vortex that sucks in any usefulness they might have aspired to. think black hole.

i think the most honorable thing you can do in life is to give voice to those who otherwise cannot be heard. i think one of the most horrid human conditions is imprisonment, whether it is as a prisoner of conscience, or of political agenda. (or of a culture run amok). amnesty international is the vehicle by which i can use my voice to make change, one letter at a time.

the thing i love most about amnesty is that you don't have to throw alot of money at them so they can hire someone to do the scutwork. we here at home, in front of our computer monitors, are the scut monkeys, telling powerful regimes in places we'll never see that we are watching, and we aren't looking away. we write our congressmen to let them know what we think of a government who looks the other way, and that we are watching for them to do the next right thing. we send cards to political prisoners and victims of torture, to let them know that we are watching, and they are not forgotten. and sometimes, we watch someone innocent go free.

pretty powerful stuff.

so please click on the link below and check out amnesty internationals website. there are alot of causes, and many ways to be of support. you could make a big difference in the life of someone whose voice has been silenced....whose hope has died. just one person can make a difference.