Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Out of the Mouths of Babes

Logan is a 13 year old boy who lives on a ranch in a very small town in Nebraska. He called a Christian Radio station to share his story - he was distraught because he had to kill a beloved calf.

What I hear repeatedly echoed by everyone who's heard this is "his words have wisdom beyond his years." I think you'll agree. Even those of you who are die-hard atheists will probably find this touching.

Listen to what Logan had to say here

I will write more tomorrow! See you then!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I'm Not Dead Yet!

Contrary to popular belief, I'm not dead yet! More on what's been tying me up tomorrow...

Monday, November 19, 2007

Deader n' a Doornail

My next door neighbor died Friday night. It's really affected so many of us who loved "Sam" and yet had mixed feelings at the same time.

Sam was an energetic 64-year-old who had an exciting and weird life, and was dynamic with a funny, sarcastic sense of humor. His failings were his alcoholism, smoking, and addiction to anything that would get him high. His tall tales were never guaranteed to be true, but they were always entertaining. He had a long-suffering wife who alternated between adoration and exasperation.

When Sam began to have intense back pain in the early part of this year, everyone initially assumed it was just an old problem that had resurrected itself (he had had back surgery previously). Incompetant doctors misdiagnosed him until it was finally discovered that he had bone cancer.

It was downhill from there.

Sam himself had been part of my personal chaos, as well as the chaos he caused with others. However, I would never have termed his motives as malignant. No, he was removed from such an emotion.

Sam wished everyone well, but wished himself even better. He was a people pleaser when he wasn't pursuing his latest fix. Puzzlingly, he was a hard worker, and quick to help me when repairs or light construction work were needed. He could work harder than a 20-year-old, and he could party harder, too. Because of this, he eventually went into collusion with an ex-boyfriend of mine, and they both grew their addictions together for a while, conspiring to deceive me throughout the process.

However, Sam was also genuinely shocked and remorseful when he saw how devastated I was once the truth was revealed. And when he saw my ex-boyfriend on the road to recovery a year later, he couldn't have been happier.

Coming from a large American Indian family, Sam had some wonderful stories to tell, and would talk about the log cabin he lived in as a boy. He once told us of the time that there was a death in the family when he was only a young boy. Family came from all over to attend the funeral, and the senior members got the beds, so Sam found himself stretched out on a mat for the night, with the corpse in the coffin on the porch just outside. What particularly frightened Sam was the fact that the corpse was just on the other side of the wall, and he had a very difficult time sleeping through the night. He never forgot that particular terror and, perhaps because of this, he always had a fear of death.

Sam was also a handsome devil who had had at least three wives, four children, and three stepchildren. He was rugged, with a marvellous, full mustache that he was inordinately proud of. Because his four children had little to say or do with him, it's fair to say that he brought chaos into their lives as well and that as they grew up, they did their best to minimize it by distancing themselves.

As Sam would have said, he's now deader n' a doornail. I only hope it has brought him peace from the pain and the chaos. And perhaps now his children will be able to remember his strengths with appreciation, and remember less of his weaknesses.

I think that I speak for many when I say that he will be missed.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

No Growth Checking

I just took this picture when I was at my bank yesterday (the bank just changed it's name to Grow Financial). They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but I'm going to try to sum it up in eight. This means "We Need to Fire Our Marketing Department Immediately":

Monday, November 12, 2007


Remember the poor little abused dog ("Oscar") I got last Christmas? Now here he is, part of the gang and happy as he could ever hope to be:

Here's BoBo, The Top Dog, after we all went to the dog beach nearby. He is a gentle leader, who allows the other two to act like puppies and play together until he thinks they're getting too wild: Then he breaks it up by calmly walking into the middle of it and nosing them apart. During their day at the beach, they had a wonderful time, and everyone got a bath afterwards:

Here they are, always together. This time, laundry was freshly done and dumped on the couch. There is, apparently, nothing better than fresh, warm laundry to snuggle down on (yes, they're clean dogs):

Friday, November 09, 2007

The OTHER Ringling Mansion in Sarasota

(NOTE: Please forgive the poor photographs. I hadn't brought my camera when we stumbled across this and I only had my cell phone with me)

A couple of months ago, my parents, myself, and Sonosaur went to the beautiful and fascinating Ringling Museum in Sarasota, FL. I have plenty of pictures from the trip, and I will eventually share them with you. We've been going there on pilgrimages at least once a year for my entire life.

But on this last trip, we discovered something that none of us had known before. Apparently John Ringling's brother lived in a mansion on a piece of property next door to the Ringling Mansion and although it's been kept up by the local university, it is not part of the tour. Remember that they all got their money from the Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey Circus, so there were many brothers who did quite well, although it was John who 'discovered' Sarasota in the early 1900s and attempted to entice people to build vacation homes there.

During our exploration, we found that the front door was unlocked, and I am going to show you the pictures of THIS place first (they're not the greatest because I only had my cell phone with me at the time).

The home is built lavishly, according to Ringling standards, but is more of a true home than the schmaltzy John & Mabel Ringling home. Sadly, it's been converted to offices for the local college, so many rooms were inacessible or altered. Perhaps some day they'll refurbish this mansion, and include it in the tour.

I'll start out by telling you about the marvellous wrought iron entrance, concealing massive wooden doors:

Here are the doors as seen from the inside of the mansion:

This is an exterior shot of the mansion, showing the color of the stone:

These are pictures of the backside of the mansion. Note there are actually two homes. We now know that John Ringling housed family on his grounds, but I'm not certain as to who owned the mansion on the right. Both mansions are conjoined by a covered walkway that is original to the structures:

This is what you see when you first enter the front doors of the rosy mansion on the left:

Here is a close-up of the fireplace in the front entryway:

This is a view to the left of the front doors:

This is a view from the mansion, looking out the front doors:

If you have just entered the doors, and you look to your right, here is what you'll see:

And if you keep going to the back of the room, there is an entryway on each side that leads to a back porch. This is what you see:

If you're standing in the entryway again, and you go to your left, you will walk through some massive mahogany doors and down a couple of steps into the ballroom, which is made of polished mahogany.

If you look up, this is what you'll see:

Look at the handpainted ceiling details (I truly regret that I didn't have my camera with me that day).

On the side adjoining the house is a built-in pipe organ (below). Interestingly, there was a side door open as we went down the steps, and we peered in to see a pit that descends below the house, with a ladder. It's apparently there so that the pipe organ can be easily maintained from behind the scenes. However, we didn't venture down into the pit so we have no way of knowing. What's odd is that in Florida, we have a high water table, so I'm not sure how it could stay dry down there.

The room takes up the entire side of the house, from front to back. Here is a shot of the other side of the ballroom:

We did go upstairs, but rooms are locked and as I said before, they are all now being used as office space. There were some marvellous views over the water, and it seems such a shame to waste all this on a handful of faculty members and the occasional janitor. They include the family bedrooms and servant's quarters, and I sincerely hope that the university there has not altered this mansion from it's original schemata.

I understand that not much of this mansion is truly used, and so perhaps there are plans to bring it back to it's original splendor with furnishings and paintings and the opulence that the Ringlings loved.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Tough Decision

The reason I haven't been writing is that I've been consumed by a tough decision that I have had to make. A friend is always in a tough situation. She had never been able to hold down a job, until I finally found her one with a fellow businessman. I couldn't afford to risk my reputation, but she promised she'd not let me down.

However, she calls in sick constantly, and is unreliable. Thankfully, they allow her to get away with it. Privately, I've told them not to hold me to what she does or doesn't do. If I'd known this was going to happen, of course, I would never have recommended her. Still, she hasn't been a complete disgrace, thankfully.

Then there was the problem of her housing. She was living in a hotel room with her son for years. This would be interspersed with brief times of living with friends or family until someone got good and sick of her and they would angrily part ways. Being somewhat gullible, I always felt badly for her, believing that she simply never made enough money to make ends meet, and there will always be tension between people if someone stays in another person's house for an extended period of time.

Finally, I purchased a small mobile home, fixed it up, and told her that she could rent from ME. Then I knew they'd have at least one bedroom, it would be vastly cheaper for her, and I wouldn't have to worry about her being out in the cold.

But she didn't pay me for the first three months.

Later, after I had to get firm, she began to pay me on a weekly basis, but by then it was too late. Because she hadn't been paying me, I didn't have the money I needed to have to pay the IRS and they began to assess me huge fines. I ended up losing over $2,000 in fines alone. I told her about this, but she was miraculously unaffected by it. In other words, she couldn't care less.

Then she began whining: It wasn't good enough. She needed another bedroom (as opposed to the no-bedroom hotel rooms she'd lived in for years). She didn't like the fact that it wasn't electrically rigged to withstand high loads of amperage when her spoiled teenage son plugged all his expensive guitar, amps, computer, airconditioner, and other equipment in at the same time. She felt it was somehow my fault that she would blow a fuse each time, and disdainfully declared the trailer a fire hazard (even though everyone told her otherwise).

This brings us to the next question: Where did her son get all the expensive equipment?

I found out only after she moved in that she'd won $9,000 in a settlement last November, and blew it all in a month and a half. Much of what she threw away was on toys for her son, though she also spent it on trips and gifts and non-essentials.

She didn't save a dime.

When she needed a new car, it took a number of us to beg her to reconsider getting further into debt. We steered her to a car that was reliable which she could afford. She finally agreed, then declared herself to be very happy with the car.

But then her behavior became bizarre. A relative of hers has privately told me that this is what happens each time. This is why she never stays anywhere for long. This is why she can't stay in a relationship.

Apparently at first, she is thrilled with whatever 'new toy' she has been given. But as time goes by, she grows increasingly discontented. She goes from wanting to marry the guy in the first week of their relationship to hating him by the sixth month. And she went from loving her little home and car to declaring that they were all crap, she hated living there and driving that car, and it is suddenly my fault that she has to pay me rent.

However, she is making good money! So where is it all going?

Well, I've discovered she smokes pot. In addition, she continues to desperately try to buy off her son by getting him whatever he wants. In turn, he is almost 18, does drugs, steals from her, and has brought his girlfriend into the house to live with them. Neither of the kids work, they only sponge off her, and he is mentally abusive to both of the women.

A week and a half ago, her spoiled son blew another fuse. Not knowing what was happening, my friend and I drove over to see what was wrong. Again, it was merely a fuse blown due to his excessive use. We tried to explain this to her, but she became increasingly irrational, declaring that she wanted out, hated living there, and even a hotel room was preferable.

She had done this once before. At that time, I was alarmed and had tried to persuade her to stay, pointing out all the benefits for her (even though I had lost a vast amount of money on the deal). She reluctantly capitulated then. Now I was facing the same thing, but even worse than before. She railed, she ranted, and she insisted that she wanted to leave.

I finally left.

And I thought about it.

And then I sent her a letter detailing everything, and asking her for a move-out date.

She didn't respond for a week, until she finally dropped off a payment in my mailbox. On the envelope, she'd written " I guess I'm still not ready to address your email but I will." No, I decided, I am NOT going to continue to wait upon her pleasure. I had enough, and this was going nowhere.

On Monday, I served her with an eviction notice. Following the eviction notice, she sent me an increasing amount of angry emails. I attempted to handle each one truthfully and logically. But what it all boils down to is...

I am done.

Friday, November 02, 2007

When to Call 911

As many of you know, one of my best friends is dying from excruciatingly painful bone cancer. She was recently prescribed oxycontin, which will hopefully ease her pain yet allow her to be somewhat functional.

But Rosie continues to see the humor in situations, and there are many times that we find ourselves laughing hysterically over something. So when Rosie got off the phone with the pharmacist the other day, she had to call me.

"You know how I am," she began. "I just had to get out the literature and read all about the side effects."

"Oh NO," I exclaimed. "Don't you dare do that! Why, have you ever read the warnings on birth control pills? I know you! You will take the warnings way too seriously!"

"Stop interrupting!" said Rosie. "OK, so as I was saying, the side effects are frightening! It says I shouldn't take oxycontin if I have had head injuries, asthma or allergies (among other things). Well, I have all three! So, I called the pharmacist immediately."

Here we go, I thought. I will never get her to see the wisdom in taking the oxycontin now. She already has her resistance up because she doesn't want to take anything addictive like an opiate!

Rosie continued, "I got a lady whom I'd never spoken with before. I told her my concerns. She said it really wasn't a big deal, and I shouldn't worry about all the contraindications. I told her that I was especially worried about the part where it says you could suddenly stop breathing. I said "You know, ma'am, I'm ready to go, but not quite yet. Although these pills are supposed to stop the pain, this would be a rather drastic way to accomplish that.""

The pharmacist chuckled and assured her that this was highly unlikely. "And," she added helpfully, "If you do stop breathing, call 911 immediately."