Thursday, July 28, 2011


When the boy was two, we lost our beloved golden retriever, Cosmos. It was a rough time for me, and I was nowhere near ready to get another dog. Mr b, however, kept pushing for it. I wasn’t ready and told him so, but I could see that he was constantly thinking about it. One day, I came home from work and mr b and the boy weren’t home. Not that this was particularly unusual, but that day, I just had a feeling. And then I saw the local newspaper open to the classifieds and that feeling got stronger. A few minutes later, they came home & when I asked where they were, mr b said they had gone to the grocery store. I sighed in relief because my feeling was wrong – I was not ready. Mr b went out to the car to get the groceries and I picked up the classified to throw them away before he got any ideas, and the boy turned to me and said the words that changed my life:

“Daddy got a puppy!”

Admittedly, I wasn’t happy, but then mr b walked in with a goofy, bumbling black lab mix puppy & I couldn’t help but love him. He was a few months old, already and not well-trained (which would be my biggest frustration ove rhte next few years. Mr b had come across an ad by an elderly woman who recently lost a dog and replaced him with a brand new, cute as a button black lab. Well, she soon realized that a new puppy was too much for her (and her remaining old dog) to take, so she gave him up for adoption. And then he was ours. She had named him Boris, which was possibly the worst name for him, ever, so he immediately became Rocky.

Over the years, he turned into a great dog. He was so loving – as a young dog, he would practically try to wrap himself around your head like a turban. And he never outgrew the need to constantly be touching you. He was funny – we’d put him in costumes (like a while polyester jumpsuit – and call him Smellvis) and put things on his head and he’d take it like a champ. He was protective – he’d bark at anyone and anything that came near our house. It could be annoying at times, but I always appreciated it – when there was a rash of burglaries & fraud in the area perpetrated by an Irish Traveler-like group going door to door, he scared them off when they came to his door. He was a love pig, but he sounded like a quivering, snarling, white hot ball of canine terror (Family Dog, anyone?). He was gentle – we often found him curled up with a cat or a kid.

One of his most prominent traits, though, was that he was nervous. And what did he do when he was nervous? He shits He shit Big. Some examples:

Your son has a friend over. The friend’s dad and sister come to pick him up. The kids start playing Twister. Rocky is nervous about the strangers and shits on Twister.

It’s Christmas morning. There is much squealing and yelling and wrapping paper being strewn about. Rocky is nervous about the excitement and shits on Christmas.

Mr b is picking up the boy from daycare. He takes Rocky along. He stops at the ATM machine and gets back in his work van. While he is out, Rocky, nervous about being alone in the van, ignores the 3000 square feet of floor space in the van, and instead somehow balances himself and shits on the driver’s seat. Husband does not notice as he gets in, and sits on the driver’s seat. Husband contemplates murder.

You are 7 months pregnant (and in high-gagging mode). Your 2 cousins come to visit. They pet and love Rocky. When he walks away, all present get the “who farted?” look. Rocky, nervous about the stock market, shits on said cousins’ feet. Cousins contemplate murder. You contemplate barfing. The boy cracks up.

You are 9 months pregnant, and driving Rocky to the groomer. This is already a trauma, since Rocky is not a Car Dog. He is flailing about, falling down, hitting the dashboard and being a pain in the ass. In the middle of a call to the office, you get the “who farted?” look. Apparently, Rocky is nervous about automobile travel and shits on the passenger seat. Rocky is suddenly in the backseat, crying softly. You contemplate barfing. You decide it’s a fine idea and do so. You call Husband and tell him of your murder plans.

Despite all that, he turned out to be one of the best dogs I’ve ever known. And now he is gone. I miss my loving, funny, protective, gentle, nervous puppy.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Vacation That Almost Wasn't

The days leading up to vacation were stressful. In fact, the minutes leading up to vacation were stressful. I am a bit OCD when I have stuff to do (not with cleaning the house or anything – just when I have to prepare for something) – I tend to run through the list of things to do in my head over and over and over until I can’t concentrate on anything – including said list. It’s like this every vacation, every Christmas, before every party. I work myself into a complete stressed out frenzy until either a) the event happens, or b) my head explodes. The only cure for this is actually getting everything done, so I usually have all my vacation shopping done at least a week in advanced, and have suitcases sitting out, packed with anything we don’t need a few days ahead of time.

But this year, that didn’t happen. I was busy with work and the kids were busy with their activities – so I didn’t have any free time to get these things done. And mr b works for himself, so he had about one million billion loose ends to tie up before we left, so he had no time to help, either (and let’s be honest, he wouldn’t be much help anyway). This meant that the last few days before we left Saturday morning were insane. I found myself using any free moments to try and get things done. I was running to hellmart & sporting goods stores late at night, doing laundry in between , dragging suitcases out while I cooked dinner. All this made me stressed and crazy. But finally, Friday came and I thought I’d have everything done by early evening, so we could leave at the planned 4:00 am.


Nope – instead, mr b worked late, I had to run the kids around, and I ended up packing until 1:30 when I finally had to collapse on the couch for a a teeny bit of sleep. 4:00 quickly turned into 5:00, because after I slept until 3:30, we still had to load up the van. And then 5:00 became 5:30, then 6:00, then 6:30, then 7:00. It was a tense morning, because I HATE being late. It doesn’t matter is the planned time is set by someone else or by me – if I plan on leaving or arriving somewhere at a certain time, any deviation (that isn’t early) makes me crazy. But finally, at 7:00, both vehicles were packed and ready (we had to take two because my car is suckishly small – too small for just our family and luggage, much less our family, The Boy’s friend, the beast dog, our luggage, bikes, outdoor gear, and other various random crap. And the minute we pulled out of the driveway, I started to calm down.

It wasn’t a long drive (less than seven hours – I know that is long to some, but I happen to like road trips) – but with stops to eat, gas up, pee, sightsee at the New River Gorge, and let the beast dog get out and burn off some of that puppy energy, it ended up being about 8 hours. Still not a bad drive, but being cooped up in the car with three kids, no lumbar support, and a raging case of “driver’s knee” (my previously injured from skiing/gymnastics/diving right knee doesn’t do so well when it’s pretty much in the same position for that long and hurts terribly), I was good and ready to get there.

Needless to say, we were all pretty happy when we pulled onto the road where our cabin was located. In fact, we were downright giddy at the prospect of claiming our rooms, unpacking our stuff and jumping in the river out back on our tubes.

But that all went to shit when we pulled up to the cabin and saw four cars parked in the driveway.

We knocked on the door and the people told us they were renting from Friday to Friday (our reservation was from Saturday to Saturday). My first thought was that we were the victims of the growing vacation scam industry. But I called the real estate after hours line and got a call back pretty quickly. The woman told me it was impossible to have a double booking because of their computer system (and we all know that computers are infallible, right?). She asked us to meet her at the office about 15 minutes away, so we could figure things out.

So off we went, much less giddy and with stress levels rising and headed to the office. On the way there, I got a call from the realty office owner and she said the words that nearly gave me a heart attack on the spot:

“Your reservation is for next week.”



Yes – we had been sent a confirmation email and after checking it once we got home, it did say that the reservation was for the 15th. And somehow we never noticed (because we already KNEW when our reservation was). But regardless of what the papers said, I know what I booked. And I booked the 8th. In fact, after I booked, I checked the website to make sure our dates were blocked off on the calendar – and they were. The realtor told us that the people in the cabin had made their reservation the week after we did, so that week should not have shown up as booked when I checked. But it did.

Of course, we had no proof of anything, so we were up shit creek. I sat in the parking lot of the office feeling absolutely sick. In fact, I was sick. I puked right there in their lot (and nearly passed out), agonizing over what we were going to do. We couldn’t just turn around and go home only to come back again the following week. But what were we going to do?

Luckily, the realtor was extremely nice and found us another place. Unluckily, we had to pay for it. On top of the already paid-for original reservation. Because she was the owner, she was able to help us out with a large discount and she promised to try and rent out our original cabin for the following week so we could get our money back. We were relieved, not to mention thanking our lucky stars that we just so happened to have a little extra money to take care of it – there are times that we wouldn’t have.

Once we got it all settled, we headed to our new place, which turned out to be much bigger and in a far better location for our needs. We ended up having one of the best vacations ever, and our magic realtor managed to rent the first place to someone else, so it all worked out in the end.

But I am still bothered by what happened. I am not saying that I couldn’t have made a mistake – I certainly could have. A couple of things bother me, though. 1) the booking showing up on the website, even though the people who had it that week supposedly booked the week after us. Also – the week after we booked – the original employee who was helping us suddenly became scarce. I got things taken care of by other agents, but she personally didn’t return my calls or emails. It was irritation, but like I said – things got done anyway, so I didn’t worry too much about it. And the clincher – the employee who seemed to disappear around the same time that the other folks booked “our” cabin? She was related to those folks. So, yeah.

Regardless, we all had a great time and the owner was so sweet and helpful that I would actually rent the second place again. Only if I do, I’ll be sure to talk to the owner directly and go over every single document with a fine tooth comb. Oh – and I’ll get my packing done ahead of time, too.

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Friday, July 8, 2011


All I have been hearing over the past few days is outrage over the Casey Anthony verdict. And I get it - I do. It is outrageous that a woman who most likely killed her child is walking free. I'm outraged, too. But we need to think twice about who we blame. I'm not sure who is to blame. Did the prosecutors not do a good enough job? Maybe. Should we blame the defense? No - they were doing their job. One thing I know - we shouldn't be blaming the jury, and yet that's what I am seeing time and time again.

Having been on a jury for a somewhat high profile, criminal trial, I feel for those jurors. You're puled away from your normal life and thrown into an emotionally charged, high pressure, absolutely exhausting situation and the whole world (or the whole country or state or city or even just the victim's family) is looking to you todo something - to fix it. You might be able to deliver a guilty verdict - the thing everyone is hoping for- but even if you do, it doesn't fix it. The crime was still committed. What was done is still done.

But after a horrible crime, the only thing left to cling to is that guilty verdict - putting the bad guy in prison or on death row. That's a lot of pressure for the average person. It was a lot of pressure for me. I was on a jury for a kidnapping/rape trial. It was exhausting and heart wrenching. You are supposed to be neutral, but it's impossible not to look at the victim and their family and feel their pain, even just a little. You want to do what's right for them, but your job is to do what's right for everyone - what's right for the justice system, and sadly they aren't always the same thing.

There are a lot of things wrong with our justice system - trials are delayed, courts get mired in ridiculous lawsuits, evidence is mishandled and worst of all (to me) are the completely ass-backward sentences. Many child molesters spend less than a year in prison. Rapists serve about 6 years on average. And yet you commit a monetary crime and the sentence is longer than many murderers serve. Jim Bakker received 45 years for embezzlement. Now, I'm not saying that financial crimes don't deserve a tough punishment - they do. But what does it say about our society when an embezzler gets 45 years and a child molester gets less than one?

So yes - our justice system isn't perfect. But the juries are not to blame. The juries are just doing their job to the best of their abilities. Juries aren't made up of legal experts and psychologists and social workers. Juries are made up of teachers and mechanics and engineers and students and housewives and grandfathers. Some are educated, some aren't. Some have kids, some don't. Some will cry along with the victims, some won't feel a thing. but the one thing they (usually) have in common is that they want to do a good job. They want to do what's right. And sometimes what's right isn't what what they want or feel or what is best for the victims.

At the trial I was on, there were 21 counts - ranging from rape and other sexual charges to robbery to kidnapping. We easily found him guilty on 20 of those charges. But the 21st charge threw us for a loop. It was a weapons charge, and while you would think that the kidnap/rape charges would be more important, this was a big one. This charge meant a HUGE increase in jail time. And I'm sure the victim & her family were disappointed to hear the not guilty verdict on that one charge, we did what we had to do.

Every single one of us felt that he was guilty - that he had had a weapon (a big scary knife). But as a juror, it is your job to take what you feel out of it and base your decision on the evidence. And the evidence wasn't there. The prosecution couldn't prove to us beyond a reasonable doubt that a weapon was used and we couldn't come back with a guilty verdict. It sucked. But it was also the right thing to do.

Our justice system has problems - I know that. But not because the juries aren't trying to do their job and do it right. After hearing all the evidence, the juries are given their instructions, and those instructions are very clear about evidence and testimony and reasonable doubt. And you go into that room wanting to do what is best for the victim, what's best for society and still follow the rules. It's a lot of pressure. And often, outsiders - people who complain about the outcome - haven't heard all the evidence. Or the jury's instructions. And most off all, they are basing their opinion on their emotions - their outrage. Not on reasonable doubt.

When I read news stories about how the jurors in the Anthony trial are being threatened, that the courts have to protect them from possible harm, it makes me sad. Don't blame the juries - they are doing the best they can with what they are given. And while sometimes the verdict isn't what we all want or think is warranted, the system is set up the way it is for a reason. And I for one, believe in it. Because as much as I hate the idea of the guilty going free, I hate the idea of the innocent being convicted even more.

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