Archive for September, 2013

Family Drama…

September 26, 2013

I am a family of four siblings.  Three girls and a boy.  I was  four-years-old, my sister was two, and the boy was born.   I remember the excitement of grandparents.   Not just a baby, but a male.  My youngest sister was born three years later. We were all planned…to the month.   My mother  loved babies.  There was no talk about zero population growth—you had as many babies as you wanted and could afford.
But a boy is ‘special’.  Family name?  Not sure, but  his bad behavior was thought cute from the start. He terrorized his sisters, and  the older relatives thought this was natural.  He had some problems in school.  Most boys–especially in America, do, but  he  developed an obsession with reptiles (also bombing, war, breaking things, but  he  really concentrated on reptiles).  He really improved his  grades and concentration on science because of this obsession.

One thing led to another, and  he  got a pharmacy degree, and was doing graduate work in toxicology, but he didn’t enjoy doing animal experiments.  He ended up going to veterinary school.  He got kicked out , but returned in a year & completed his degree.

I had told my father that my brother would make more  money as a pharmacist, but  my father believed in higher education.  My brother  got licenses for both, but never got a job as a veterinarian, and continued to work as a pharmacist, and then things got murky…and he became a drug addict.

This was no accident. While he was in pharmacy school, we discussed drugs (we were both marijuana smokers) and how addiction occurs.  He knew very well, and that once the brain is changed, there is no going back…and he chose abuse and addiction.

You think nobody chooses to be an addict?  Well, there is a personality type that does.  He has Asperger’s like I do, and between that , and  knowing how special he was, and that he could always turn to my father  to bail him out of any mess, he  chose getting high over doing  just about anything else.  I would have  thought his hobby of herpetology would have  kept him from  choosing  drugs, but it did not.  He has been imprisoned several times.

Once, when he was in jail(busted for drugs), he told us later that he had  someone who was supposed to take care of his animals, but  they did not, No matter. They were his responsibility, and a bunch of them died.  Sugar Gliders, mice, rats, and snakes.  My sister found some people to help her clear the house.  I  convinced her to convince my father to get a quit claim deed to my brother’s home to sell it. Whomever they sold it to had to knock it down, it smelled so bad.

Years went by, but the problem  still exists. He went to narcotics anonymous meetings, but when his probation was over, he stopped.  He got his pharmacy license back, but was caught stealing drugs, so lost that license.  All that education. He could volunteer in a third world country, but he has no interest in serving others.

He was busted last year for heroin possession, and a lawyer managed to get him out of Cook County Jail—with no bond and no trial.  i don’t know how he did it, but my father  paid this lawyer, and my brother was supposed to pay my father back.  What he did, instead, was invest in silver, and told my sister that my father wants him to keep the silver. this is not true.

For some reason, my father  thinks some peoples ideas are more important than others.  About 40 years ago, i borrowed money to buy my first grooming shop.  I paid my mother back, and she gifted me the money when i got married, and i used it to buy my first house.  My niece  borrowed $50,000 to ‘invest’ in a property, and told my father she’d give him a repayment contract, and never did, instead using the money to finance   many vacations.  My father let it slide do he can see the great grand kids.

MY youngest sister and I are pretty upset over this whole dynamic of my father loaning money to unethical relatives.  My brother was recently hospitalized for pneumonia, and my father got, again, pressed into taking care of all his snakes and rodents.  My father told me the place was a horror.  You can smell the ammonia (from animal excrement) on my brother’s clothes at all times. My sister was surprised that nobody at the hospital  called in a psychiatrist.

I decided to call the health department in the town where he lived.  They sent inspectors over, and, according to my delusional brother, they told him he had a well run operation there.  My sister’s response was, “Is there an outbreak of mental illness?  That the inspectors thought the smell was ok?  I  expected to see photos of them carrying out stuff on the front page of the Daily Herald!”

I did, too.  What they did, instead, was inform my brother’s homeowners association that  he was running a business in a residential area,  in violation of his agreement.  The homeowners association sent him a notice to  close his business and get rid of the animals.  In  court, they decided to  allow him to keep  four snakes, but get rid of all other animals. I am sure they gave him a time frame to do it. Since my father is angry with ME, I am not sure who paid for the lawyer.   My father whined to my sister that this was how my brother made his living, and my sister had to remind him (like the time she had to remind my father, when my brother complained about the food in prison, that you are not supposed to want to come back) that if my brother was making a living  in reptilian husbandry, he wouldn’t have to work as  a laborer for a moving company at age 56, and he wouldn’t be speculating in silver.

So, I’m the  bad guy, but my sister   has told me I probably saved his life.  My brother has no conception of boundaries.  that’s how it goes.

Book Review: A Singular Woman, by Janny Scott (the biography or Barack Obama’s mother)

September 20, 2013

I think everyone wants to make the world a better place.   I didn’t go to college until I was in my early 30’s.   I count as my major accomplishment the founding, with others, of one of the first community based recycling centers in the USA. In fact, it was after my first trip to Africa that I decided to  attend college.  I  knew then what I wanted to study.  I  didn’t  go to college right out of high school, because I had learned to groom dogs, and I was happy enough doing that, and my high school grades were only fair.  I also  was tired of ‘academia’.  I  was curious, I enjoyed learning, but  it was time to concentrate on making a living, and my next goal for myself was getting a show dog, and breeding her.  That really didn’t work out, but  I lived and lived.  My  boyfriend (later fiance  and husband ) was in school.  Getting divorced was the catalyst for me to  explore more of the world and be a ,little adventurous.  Then, after I had returned from a safari to Tanzania, my  world opened up…and being an American, I wanted to ‘help’. So it started like that.  I knew that , in order to help, I had to study  anthropology to understand how people made  decisions about their lives.  I was lucky that   my  university had a program of international/intercultural studies, and I learned a lot about development issues.  I became a Peace Corps Volunteer to have an impact, to  give back, to make a difference. Also, because there  were no jobs.
Stanley Ann Dunham started a different way, but  being very open to the people she met, and really caring about them, one thing led to another and she led an extraordinary life, nicely documented by Scott.

I think  many people now know that Obama’s parents met as students in Hawaii.  What they may not know is that  his father did not tell his mother that he already had a family in Kenya until after they were married, and he  pretty much abandoned her & young Barack when he got accepted into Harvard.  He might have been charming, but he really was a typical African man.  Stanley Ann, with the help of her parents (particularly HER mother) managed to  return to school, and later met her  2nd husband and  went to live in Indonesia with him.  She picked up the language readily, and (although this is not really addressed in the book) used her academic background in anthropology to learn about the craft industries of Indonesia.  One thing led to another and she  started looking at  how the crafts people  made their livings, and the barriers to economic success, which led to her  interest in mirco finance, and  assisting  poor women.

Scott really explains  well  how  Ann Soetoro negotiated a role for herself and a life in Indonesia.  She  divorced  Soetoro due to  a difference in  values, but wanted her daughter to  know her father.  She sent Barack to live with her parents and gain  an American education, because she felt his chances of future success would  be furthered  by this, and that the Indonesian schools at the time could not provide what he needed.  She  became what we call an expatriate, and  maintained the life  for many years.
She  delayed completing her Ph.D. in favor of taking on  challenging  assignments that  would ultimately improve the lives of the poor and make a difference.  She worked for USAID and the Ford Foundation.  There is no doubt that  because of her work, many  people were able to create better lives for their children.  She was only 52 when she died, apparently of  uterine cancer.  So very sad, but she lived her life on her own terms.

Many of my friends are Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, and many went on, after their  Peace Corps service, to  become internationalists and development workers. We see the  ‘less developed world’ as our  ‘constituency,  and people we must advocate  for.

I’d suggest this book to anyone who  is interested in  anthropology, development issues,  women’s issues, President Obama, travel, or Peace Corps.

The Charity Dog Wash…good intentions…

September 13, 2013

I volunteer  for several animal shelters and breed rescues.  I can’t do much, but I can help with fund raising, and I can cut dog toenails.  One of the rescues I  recently volunteered with made over $500 from my nail trims at one of their dog washes.

Now,  if you want to support a rescue, and won’t just give them a donation, but want them to  ‘work’ for it, having your dog washed by the  shelter is a good idea—if your dog is a short haired dog, they  won’t really do too much damage.  I am shocked, however, bu the  many dog owners who use this event  so they don’t have to pay a dog groomer.  Believe me—the double coated (Husky, golden Retriever, Collie type dogs are not getting clean.  The  non-shed dogs are just getting more matted.  You would think people who operate an animal shelter would educated themselves about this kind of thing, but they do not,  In fact, they advise adoptors to  sign up for dog training, and do promote a  good trainer , but people  either don’t follow through or look for a cheaper trainer,  We saw many out of control dogs barking & lunging at other dogs, their owners totally oblivious. A volunteer saw me  watching a  dog barking & the owner  not doing anything to control the dog & she told me that dog was under control when it left the shelter, & the  owner spoiled it.  & this is why people get the idea that shelter dogs  are  wild and crazy,
The fact is, they have their temperaments evaluated, and many  are  worked with by volunteers.

But none are groomed at the shelter unless they obviously need to be shaved.  Now,  people are looking for the small, non-shed dogs,and they  don’t do any research about what dog care is going to cost, They seem to think that  grooming is unnecessary.  Nobody is doing anyone any favors by not addressing grooming.

i was happy to see fewer dogs on prong collars, but there were still too many—now, the big thing is  putting the dog on a harness.  i’ve addressed this before on my  (very popular) blog on prong collars:  only guide  dogs & sled dogs should be wearing  harnesses…& this goes for the  many who put a Premier  ‘no-pull’ harness on their dogs.  You can’t control the dog on a harness.  I understand if  you don’t want to use  a HALTI or GENTLER LEADER.  many dogs  struggle,  But to claim the dog chokes when on a  regular collar, a buckle collar or martingale, and  not train the dog to follow a  treat, is just ignorant and a lame excuse.

Good intentions are not enough.  If you want good homes for pets, you have to  really spend time  informing people who want them  about what is right, and what is humane.

Say NO to bombing Syria

September 6, 2013

This is going to be quick.  I’ve had a really busy week.  My co-worker broker her wrist & can’t groom dogs….so I am   doing more than double what I usually do…& got a new tenant (and arranged to have trees trimmed so they don’t fall on the house,  donated a bunch of  linens & blankets to a ‘free store’ for the very poor,  arranging to help a local animal shelter…. etc, etc…& am lax on training my own dog…)..

I am shocked that John Kerry, a Viet Nam vet,  thinks bombing Syria is  a logical response to  Assad gassing his people.  I am shocked that President Obama  also thinks this is  logical—-when the rest of the world clearly thinks it’s NONE OF THEIR BUSINESS—OR— KNOWS RUSSIA & CHINA WILL RESPOND THEIR OWN WAY.  They  haven’t thought this through.

Possibly, bombing the airports and  seaports might affect something, but  strategic bombing strikes on civilians…what?  What is the expected outcome if we aren’t moving towards regime change?    &  how do ‘we’ (meaning the USA) know the rebels will treat the citizenry of
Syria any better than Assad?    How do we know that after our air strikes,  Assad won’t resume gas attacks?  Iraq has said they will attack Israel if we attack Syria.  Then what?

& while we’re at it—yes, the gas attacks are  horrible…but why is it ok for North Korea to starve it’s citizenry to death? Why do we still have the embargo against Cuba, which provides  medical care for all  its citizens, but get along fine with  England, another socialist country?

I am really   overjoyed that people are  contacting their  congress people in record numbers to ask questions…and we can  now see that Obama is not as progressive as his base  hoped him to be.

Bernie Sanders  of Vermont  has a current  running response on that I hope you will check out.   I hope I can rant  on something else next week.