Friday, March 30, 2007

my name is luka

Yesterday I had the pleasure of covering a friend's seal shift. It ended up being a 14 hour day so, of course, I was nothing short of delighted. The highlight was Luka, my second harbor seal rescue of the season.

Harbor seal rescues are, by definition, heart wrenching. Because harbor pups are routinely left on the beach while mom forages, we tend to avoid abducting them until we're absolutely certain they're abandoned. Even so, when you leave the seal overnight, you wonder if mom really is coming back or if you've just left the pup at the mercy of the rising tide. When you pick them up, you feel like a kidnapper, ruthlessly tearing a pup away from his mom. The harbor pup vocalization ("ma, ma") only amplifies any feelings of guilt.

Luka's rescue was another story. She was lucky enough to be born at Pirate's Cove, our nudist beach, probably just about 10 days ago (which we know because her umbilicus has only recently fallen off). The naked people there are quite familiar with the harbor seal routine and so they waited to report Luka until she'd already been on the beach a couple days.

The first rescue team checked on her Wednesday. She was skinny and dry, but vocal and still energetic enough to return to the water on her own. Thinking they'd get to see her reunite with mom, they stuck around to observe. Instead, to their horror, they watched as the adult harbor seals rebuffed poor Luka, slapping her, biting her, and keeping her off the rocks. Still, once a seal is in the water, she's no longer stranded, so all they could do was go home.

I went trolling for her the next morning, which I guess is not technically trolling since she was officially on watch and it is policy to go check the next day. It just felt like trolling because I so very much wanted to pick her up. As expected, I found our little pariah pup, all outcast and alone on shore while the other moms and pups played in the shallows nearby. One of the not-yet-naked regulars confirmed that she was the same seal they'd been watching for days so I felt even more confident in my decision to abduct her.

I tried to wait and share my rescue with my helpful Thursday crew. Luka, however, had other plans and decided she was more afraid of me than the mean adult seals in the water. So I had to prevent her escape and carry her off the beach in my arms. When I needed help at the base of the steep trail I had to wait for the second person to come along. The first not-yet-naked guy to arrive did not approve of my agenda. He felt I should let nature take its course, even if that meant watching this pup slowly starve to death...

Luka ended up weighing only 6.7 kg (1.3 kg less than the much younger Melissa) - further evidence she was a good pick up. And unlike Melissa, her midnight feed went flawlessly. Just a mild case of the hiccups and a modest, runny stool sample. Such a relief.

Anyway, today (my real seal day) was relatively quiet but equally charmed. I checked on an otter we don't want to pick up and left signs to warn people to stay away. Of course signs always tend to draw attention to the animals on watch, but whatever... After that I snuck in a trip to the grocery store and a stop at Subway. There I had a chance to chat up the owner (who apparently wants to become a volunteer) and he refused to let me pay for my lunch. After that I got to see a green elephant sea, covered in algae and barnacles and ready to molt. I'm still kicking myself for not bringing my camera. On the way home, I bought groovy new blue boots for my impending trip to work with the seals in Sausalito. Best of all, I found a piece of yellow sea glass during my sunset walk. In my ten years of glass hunting, I have never found a speck of yellow. Even kitty dinner time passed with little drama, which is great as I am still bitter over this gigantic bruise the black one gave me a couple days ago. I know it was just a lucky shot too close to a vein. It doesn't even hurt, though it did when it happened. Still, it just seems wrong. Cats should not stab the arm that feeds them, you know?

Monday, March 26, 2007

the boo boo cream debacle

I promised an update about my taste of motherhood, so here's an excerpt from a letter I penned to my beloved during my visit:


Got Savannah and Maddie in bed (for the third time) just before midnight. Promised I'd check back at 12:01. Lost track of time tiring Gracie so found the two Thomas girls snoozing at 12:12. GG was another story. We tried Milky (Pediasure - she drank/ate three today), dancing (to old 30's & 40's tunes like "There's Nobody Here But Us Chickens"), reading (five books - we all got one ((Savannah, Maddie, Grace, Me, and Uncle Kevin)) plus Grace snuck one on the side since she's a baby). We determined story order by drawing straws / smiley faced papers. Savannah cheated (as she does in all games) and swapped her sad face with G who'd gotten the bored face. Madisyn drew first place (the smiliest of faces) and carefully picked her book (it took her 10 minutes).

Maddie finally settled on Dora at the Beach. Savannah picked Miss Spider's Tea Party - a counting book that was hard to find even though I knew it was on the shelves. For Grace - Hop on Pop. Uncle Kevin - Go, Dog, Go. (Which Savannah ended up reading for us - smart girl.) For me - Skippyjon Jones - about a siamese cat who thinks he is a chihuahua Zorro and talks about things that end in "ito".

After storytime (aka "bedtime") we were only 15 minutes behind schedule. We wanted to be in bed at 9:30, attempting sleep at 10:30. Only then does Savannah tell me that 8:30 is their normal bedtime. Oh well. So Kevin and I leave them chatting while we enjoy a cocktail and a breath of the fresh, night air.

Next thing you know, Maddie reemerges with Savannah as her mouthpiece to announce that younger sis can't sleep cuz of a bum leg. We'd checked it earlier for scratches or contusions - it was the right leg at the time. Now she wasn't certain of the origin - right leg? left leg? knee? shin? But whatever it was, she couldn't sleep.

We applied kisses. (On G and Savannah, too. Grace's right cheek, Savannah's leg.) And then I found Grace's "Boo Boo Cream." Maddie was a true doubting Thomas. She quizzed me about the Boo Boo Cream as if it were Snake Oil. I showed her the label - clearly marked "Boo Boo Cream" with pictures of various species (fish, cat, dog?) being healed. Still, she scowled and doubted me.

So I lied. I insisted it was real. I swore to its efficacy and was insulted by her skepticism. Savannah, of course, being five and almost six, and being covered in an incredible array of glittery tattoos (one on each foot, each cheek, each boob, each butt cheek, one on her belly, her thigh, and her forehead, another on her future cleavage, on on her lower back, the "tramp stamp"), went along with it, whispering in my ear, "it isn't real, is it?" which I answered with the shake of my head.

So all was well. It was Bedtime 2.0. Then, suddenly, Maddie and I were all alone with our Boo Boo Cream. Savannah and Grace had slipped off, called away by the siren's song of Uncle Kevin's iPod full of old time tunes. As I campaigned the finer points of falling asleep first (best pillow, deepest sleep, choice bed position), Maddie asked one more time about the Boo Boo Cream. Since she had already professed to feeling its effects, I considered telling her the truth. Suddenly, I couldn't stop the words as they fell out of my mouth like so many poops in the potty.

"No," I said, "I was kidding."

She wailed, as she's apt to do, and swore she'd NEVER trust me again.

"You LIED. You LIED. My boo boos will NEVER feel better."

I tried to explain about placebos, how they're real, they work, and you can play them in Scrabble. My protests were drowned out by Maddie's despair.

This is when big sis and little G returned. Thick in her fit, Maddie announced to the returning Grace, "Guess what? The Boo Boo Cream's not real. Anti Jenni LIED."

I said, "What? Are you going to tell her about Santa, too?" which no one caught and I immediately regretted so I tried to distract her by asking her about her ear piercing.

The Boo Boo Cream by now was not at its designated spot by the toy toaster. It was lost under Dora or Nemo or whichever character was on the blanket of the girl who'd last used it. As Savannah looked for it, I suggested it had disappeared because Maddie stopped believing in it. When Savannah found it (under her butt, of course, where most things are when you are looking for them) she said, "Look, I believed and the Boo Boo Cream came back."

Immediately Maddie was converted. She began to sing high praises to the Boo Boo Cream and never let it leave her sight. She even brought it with her as we left to join the others in their late night dancing. It was obvious as we came down the hallway to find Savannah, Grace, and Kevin boogieing their hearts out, that bedtime number two was over.

The dance session finally ended with an apple juice break and some negotiation for which toy we could take to bed. Maddie got a doll and three dresses (four pieces), so Savannah tried for four people, a horse, and a carriage. She finally ended up with the horse, a person, and a smuggled in husky dog. I picked Tinkerbell and Fairy Minnie Mouse for Grace.

For bedtime number three I tried to settle the Thomas girls with the Sleepy Song. (A song Erik made up which works incredibly well on me. It involves much sighing and yawning and is sung very, very slowly, "Sleepy, sleepy, sleepy.... Oh, so sleepy... So tired... Eyelids... so... heavy... Sleepy, sleepy, sleepy...." It's so effective, he is forbidden to sing it while I drive.) Maddie mocked me, but I could tell it was working on Savannah. I let them have books too (but drew the line at the light up/singing Nemo book) and decided to put Grace down separately.

I left to find Grace and Uncle Kevin doctoring a stuffed Dalmation (G checking the pulse with the stethoscope) and we continued dancing. Ring Around the Rosey was a favorite. Then we started flipping Grace. First it was one on one, as she just climbed me. Then we did it tag team - each of us taking an arm and turning her by her feet.

After getting her hooked on flipping, we'd only do it to reward her demonstration of the sign language we'd been teaching her. Please, Thank You, I Love You, Dog, Cat, Fox, Owl - Bat, Bear, and Bunny got her a triple - Play, Apple, Candy, Juice, Horse, Donkey, No - she knew more but she soon tired. She went willingly off to bed where we found her cousins still sleeping.

We stole G's pillow out from under Savannah's head (I warned her not to use it) and bedtime number three was complete.

I wish that had been the end of the story. I was simply too tired to later report that Maddie had woken up crying a couple hours later. Apparently the Boo Boo Cream was powerless against growing pains. Had I known she was prone to them (and had I had any Children's Tylenol), I might have been able to help her out with something more than a placebo. Fortunately, snuggles seemed to do her some good and she was able to sleep in my arms on the couch. We only got about four good hours before the dogs started their morning routine (whining which becomes whistling which blossoms into impatient barking...) but everyone knows that the best slumber parties involve very little sleeping.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

feeling doughie

Ah, finally my first elephant seal pup rescue of the season. Here's roly poly Doughie, whose energetic rolling almost makes me question why I picked him up. Then I recall he was only 37.2 kg (which I guessed nearly dead on), well within advisable limits and below birth weight. And, of course, he was dehydrated, lethargic, and covered with flies.

Little did I know my first ellie might well be my last. Being gone for two weeks, I missed the height of elephant seal activity. As the hospital nears capacity, we get a bit choosier, leaving borderline seals on the beach for observation. So far everyone I've put on watch has been gone the next day so I guess that's a good thing. Still, I may have to go work a shift up in Sausalito to get my fix of these stinky, cackling sea monkeys.

Until then, it seems I am prone to a bit of lethargy myself. As you can see, I have been slow to update my blog. Doughie came in on Wednesday - a full four days ago - and even he couldn't get me writing. Much of my writer's block, however, I think stems more from self restraint than sloth. I am overflowing with juicy stories of my family's quirky insanity - all of which are not necessarily appropriate for public posting.

Then, of course, breaking my sugar fast has put me right back on that beloved nutrition roller coaster - sweet sugary high followed by delightful food coma nap. Even though I recognize the deleterious effects of sugar on my life, I regularly return to the shrine to worship its greatness.

And so I am feeling decidedly doughie. But I'm not particularly down. I love lethargy. I remember learning once that the Koala Bear sleeps nearly 19 hours a day. The other five hours he spends eating Eucalyptus, which is somewhat intoxicating. Ever since then, I have longed to come back in my next life as a Koala. Of course, wild Koalas are victims of predation and habitat loss so I think I'd like to specify that I'd like to be a captive Koala. Probably at the San Diego Zoo. It's the only zoo I've been to that doesn't leave me feeling sad. I learned, ever since my Price is Right experience, that it is best to be quite specific when communicating your dreams.

In any event, I think I have also been reluctant to write as I would have to update you on the two Melissas. Harbor seal Melissa, to everyone's surprise and delight, is totally thriving. She's already graduated from a private condo to the big pool. In fact, when a second seal was introduced to her pool she swam right up to him and slapped him repeatedly. So glad to hear she's a bossy little tank. And yet another reason to head northward and work a couple seal shifts.

Meanwhile, as many have already heard, the real life Melissa has passed on. I learned of the end of her struggle while visiting my folks and I was fortunate to find this picture of Melissa as a baby (hanging out with her older sister, Amanda, her grandmother, my Aunt Fran, her great grandmother, my grandmother Margaret, and her mom, my cousin Ka Ka). Though I know that each of these women is strong enough to survive such an unspeakable loss, I am heart broken for their suffering.

Monday, March 19, 2007

nearly belated birthday wishes

I'm fond of celebrating birthdays of all sorts. While I seldom ever send a card or, even less frequently, a present, I like to think I am at least good for a phone call. To be honest, though, I tend to honor the birth of those I care for with little more than a warm and fuzzy thought. But, of course, I'll use any excuse to enjoy cake and cocktails.

Today, with a sickly sweet strawberry margarita and a decadent treat from Little Debbie, I wished a private Happy Birthday to a woman I admire, Mary. (Yes, dear readers, my sugar fast was short-lived, an agonizing two weeks... I may try again, perhaps in moderation, but not until after the Easter candy goes on sale. I mean, seriously, this year they have green peeps...)

I mostly only know Mary through her amazing daughter, Wendy, a friend of mine since fourth grade. But you can learn a lot about a person through their offspring (sorry, Mom and Dad) and so I have long been in awe of my Mary. Wendy is, after all, one of the most dynamic women I know - intelligent, honest, entertaining, easy-going, athletic, attractive, accepting, and fearless, all with an underlying tinge of delightfully dorky. What is not to love? Ever since the day I walked into their home to find them dancing together, the country western tune, "I Wanna Bop With You Baby," playing loudly enough to drown out my knocking on the door, I knew that these are two women I wanted in my life forever.

That day was nearly twenty years ago and since I am the first to admit I'm not the greatest of pen pals, I have occasionally fallen out of touch with my oldest friend and her super cool mom. Now I enjoy my "long lost" status, as my life seems so much more interesting on fast forward, summed up in sound bites and amusing snippets. During our most recent re-reconnection, Wendy and Mary inspired me to start this oft-neglected blog. Though I'm only a bit better of a blogger than I am a pen pal, I have so enjoyed this public outlet for my private thoughts. I'm constantly amazed (and sometimes self-censored) when I realize just how many people are keeping tabs on me through this site.

Now I have the pleasure of having a window into Mary's world through her blog, Random Thoughts. Already I have been humbled by reading her homage to her sister, and her thoughts on complaining. As if to underscore the lessons life is offering me, Wendy recently echoed the niceness of her mother by noting that my blog entry on Naomi Largo was a tad mean spirited. She also expressed dismay in my love for blood sports, particularly the Ultimate Fighting. Unable to contain my inner evil, I then felt compelled to admit I had once egged two testosterone-laden friends into a more-than-mock battle at a drunken gathering. It wasn't my proudest moment (though apparently it makes the highlights reel), but I knew it would be okay.

Mary now lives in Florida, which means my birthday greetings are officially belated. Perhaps I should have held off on the sugar rush until this entry was complete? In any event, I am eternally grateful that on this day so many years ago such a wonderful thing started.

Happy Birthday, Mary.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

the joy of motherhood

I hope you'll forgive the last two weeks of radio silence. As my sister spayed and neutered on the island of Pago Pago, I developed an even deeper respect for moms who blog. I had a three year old for exactly 7 days and, while it was exhilarating, it was exhausting. I barely found time to brush my teeth, let alone record our adventures on the internet.

I'm certain I will give a full report of my trip home soon, but tonight I feel like it is just important to get something posted. To inspire me, my troubled cat, OC woke me from my slumber just a few hours ago. At first I ignored his protests. He's on house arrest for having made only 3 known appearances during my 14 days gone. I'm used to hearing him complain before he needs to use the box. Then an hour or so later, more crying and then some barfing. Gross, but not a big deal. Probably just over full from having unrestricted access to food again. Lord knows how many times I have longed to purge after a bit of a binge. It wasn't until I entered his domain to locate and eliminate the evidence of his bulimia that I saw he was also straining to eliminate out the other end. Yep, the Buttless Wonder was plugged again.

I was surprised and relieved when my sis answered her cell phone at 4 am. She seconded my suggestion that he should go to the ER to address his issue. This is important as she is OC's benefactor. She had to agree to pay for all his butt related medical bills before I, as an unemployed parasite, would agree to take him into my home. I guess it was also surprise and relief I felt when I discovered, after getting dressed, that the ER was no longer quite necessary. OC had succeeded in clearing his colon in no fewer than 3 places on the carpet and one good one on the hardwoods. So I woke my sister again to get her blessing to wait until 9 am and save hundreds of dollars on his treatment.

You will thank me, dear readers, for resisting the urge to photograph and share his efforts. I will say, zen as I sometimes try to be, I nearly cried when I noticed after an hour of cleaning that I had missed a spot (of both vomit and poop) behind the couch.

Rather than end on such a gross note, I will share this one gem from my visit to motherhood. Last year, my inner cheerleader made up a rather infectious cheer for my youngest niece. It goes:

Gracie, Gracie, she's for me....
Ggggoooooooo, Gracie!

More recently, I made up cheers for my other young nieces and in return, during my visit, they made up this one for me:

Anti Jenni, Anti Jenni
She likes me, she likes you

Anti Jenni, Anti Jenni
She likes pee, she likes poo

Gggggoooooo, Jenni!


Thursday, March 01, 2007

15 things I love about my relationship

Today is the last day I can legitimately call Anniversary Season. Having married on Leap Day 2004, Erik and I still haven't actually had our first official wedding anniversary. However, since our original anniversary was February 26th twelve years before that, we figure we can pretty much celebrate the whole week. We do the same thing with our birthdays which are also three days apart.

In any case, I'll be spending the last day of anniversary season in airports on my way to play super anti. Much as I appreciate the miracle of travel, I dread the actual task of doing it. I generally have horrible experiences in airports. There I have seen the grossest public restroom ever (which, in desperation, I had to use). I have also used, as a kid, the airline supplied barf bag. I hate the smell of peanuts (why peanuts? just about any other nut would be less aromatic and less likely to trigger allergies. and why always honey roasted? I mean, I'm all about the salty and sweet, but something about honey roasted peanuts is just wrong...). I'm haunted by a sound bite an airline official once made on one of those pseudo-educational shows I watch. When explaining the cost-benefit analysis of using stale air over fresh, he commented that, "everyone gets a little fresh air eventually." And just ask Erik about the time I ran the wrong way through the SF terminal...

So rather than focus on the 8 hours I'll be spending breathing stagnant, recycled, germ-ridden air, my skin slowly amassing a film of other people's farts, my neck crumpling under the strain of our collective discomfort, I will spend these moments honoring the most important thing in my world, my relationship.

So here are 15 reasons I love my marriage:

  1. We don't fight. Erik says there's no point. If we fight and he wins, he beat a girl. If we fight and he loses, he lost to a girl. And so, though I may try to pick them, we never have a fight. I just win.
  2. We always stop for kisses at red curbs and red lights.
  3. We often see great wildlife together. Most recently we saw 25 of the Hearst Castle zebras on Christmas Eve. We've also seen a sea gull suffer brain freeze while eating ice cream outside a Rite Aid. And then there was the mountain lion at East West Ranch.
  4. We also encounter and rescue needy wildlife on our walks. We've escorted a mole out of a parking lot and we've moved a fish from a shrinking puddle into a pond. And of course, he's helped on some of my most amazing seal rescues ever including Spelunker (it took us 2 hours to dig 200# of comatose sea lion out from under a rock) and Homer Ray (an entangled yearling that was too close to open ocean for my taste).
  5. We hold hands a lot. Even while watching TV.
  6. We generally have a pretty clear division of labor. He does all the penis work and I do whatever's left. He makes the money, I spend it.
  7. We negotiate. We often trade away hurt feelings or embarrassing memories. I can't get him to come to the table with the Jen-ran-the-wrong-way-through-the-airport story, however, because he thinks it's so cute.
  8. We play games. Not just real games (like Yahtzee) but made up games (like Neck, and Hole) which are generally just ritualized forms of rough housing.
  9. We laugh a lot. Many times at each other.
  10. We're so different that we constantly marvel at how the other one thinks.
  11. And yet, in so many ways we're alike.
  12. We both come from crazy families. They trade off being craziest. Right now my family is winning. Or would that be losing?
  13. We're young at heart. Some would say immature. In any case, I love the little boy in him and he pampers the little girl in me.
  14. We stop for sunsets. The world would be a better place if more people paused each day to appreciate the earth spinning on its axis.
  15. We both think we're the luckier one in relationship.
Happy anniversary, Smoocher.