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Archive for June, 2014

I’ve been a little distracted lately. Sorry about that. Last weekend our feline overlord, Jasper the Wonder Mutant (he’s polydactyl), decided an emergency trip to the vet was in order.

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Jasper the Wonder Mutant

He’s 17 and has arthritis in his back and knees. It’s worse on his left hind side, so he has a bit of a limp. Some days are better than others. A week ago Friday I had the car so I could take care of some things that couldn’t be done on the weekend. When I left to go retrieve my husband from work, Jasper was moving around as normal as he usually does. When we returned, Jasper was barely able to move his back end. Cue panic.

Of course, it was after hours for our normal vet. Knowing Jasper’s predilection for getting into and/or attempting feats he really shouldn’t, I suspected he had injured himself some how, likely jumping up or down from some place he wasn’t supposed to be in the first place. So I opted to keep him quiet for the evening and hoped morning would show improvement. Which, of course, it didn’t. At least our regular vet was open, so off we go, only to find the one doctor in on a Saturday was already buried in animals. They send us off to the emergency vet. Great. Twice the cost, with people Jasper doesn’t know. But we have no choice.

Exam, x-rays, and lots of questions later, we have some good news and some bad news. Bad news is it appears he’s compressed a disk in his back, right where his hips are. Basically the human version of the lumbar region. That would explain his mobility issues, and confirm the jumping badly hypothesis. Having had the same issue myself, I certainly can sympathize with his plight. The good news is his circulation and neural connections appear undiminished, so it’s essentially a rest and let it heal situation. Doctor advises a shot to help the pain, which will also sedate him a bit and thus keep him from doing anything else stupid. The shot’s good for three days, a good start on the healing process. I agree. We fork over two week’s worth of grocery money (not the best way to lose weight, but, hey, sometimes the gods make decisions for you), and head back home.

Now the real fun begins. We rearrange the various cat necessities. Since we’d had dogs for so long, the cat food was up on a kitchen counter (which Jasper could access via chair) and the box was in the upstairs bathroom. All of that was moved to the ground floor, on the floor. Jasper’s the only animal right now, so we don’t have to worry about gobbly dogs. I even retrieved his favorite bed from the window and put it on the floor in the sunbeam under the skylight. Thankfully it’s not in the middle of the floor. He appeared content with the arrangements. That’s when I notice his right paw has curled up against his body. I try to straighten it out. He looks at me like a stoner wondering how his fingers work. Poor guy is WACKED. Moderately concerned, I put him to bed and he lies there like a jellyfish out of water. If I hadn’t known already that cats had the ability to make themselves liquids, it would have been proven to me at that moment.

Within an hour, both his front paws were curled and largely useless. When he tried to get up to get water, he scrambled along on his belly like a Marine crawling under razor wire. It made a really weird sound across the carpet. I played support harness. He drank okay, but didn’t want to eat. I freaked out. Internet research, here I come.

First of all, the drug the vet used (buprenorphine) is strongly advised AGAINST in the case of geriatric animals, and even more so with animals who have liver or kidney disease as it can damage those organs further. It also causes heavy sedation (check), constipation (check), nausea (check) and neural inhibition (ohfuckincheck). I had told the emergency vet how old Jasper was, and about the chronic condition he took regular medication for, a corticosteroid whose long-term usage can cause kidney and liver damage. So by now I’m convinced my cat is going to die from a drug overdose. Did I mention I’m a bit of a worrywart about my animals?

I spend the next three days hovering over my baby, helping him back and forth to water and the box and trying to get him to eat but to no avail. By late in the third day, his right paw begins to relax. A couple hours after that the left relaxes. He takes a couple bites of food mainly just to get me off his back, I think. On Wednesday, he’s still wobbly, but there’s improvement. On Thursday, we go back to our regular vet for a follow-up. She, of course, wants even more tests, including a full blood panel to check for organ functions. There goes another two weeks of groceries. Creative accounting, master’s level, engaged. Jasper gets something to stimulate his appetite and we take home some prescription only food that’s chock-full-o-stuff for his nutrition.

We get home from that trip, only to learn that a long-simmering Eureka-based family issue has exploded with spectacular force. I have been deeply frustrated for years because I haven’t been close to help, and now I’m feeling terribly guilty that my sister is having to deal with the immediate fall out while I’m still basking in the SoCal sun. Okay, more like doing my best lobster broiling impersonation, but the stereotype seems inescapable.

The vet calls the next day to tell me Jasper’s in the early stages of kidney/liver disease and describes the aggressive (read: expensive) treatment she recommends. I’m also trying to figure out how to get to Eureka to help my family. My husband is worried about how we’re going to cover our regular bills. He has a hard time understanding that families do things for each other, regardless of money, because his family never did anything but drink, bitch and blame each other for their problems. Cat-son sick, family trauma, husband (seemingly) unsympathetic, me helpless. Cue meltdown.

That’s why you haven’t seen much of me, because I’ve been hiding. When I get overwhelmed, I avoid the world. I don’t write, I don’t read, I don’t even watch TV. I go kill things on the computer. I disappear into the world of fantasy gaming because I can control my destiny there. I’m the proverbial ostrich sticking her head in the sand to avoid facing the truth. It’s another facet of depression that manifests when hiding under the covers just won’t do. Too much crap in this world, so leave it behind.

Well, I’ve peaked out for a little bit. Thankfully, reason does eventually creep back into the brain. It also helps that Jasper seems to have stabilized. He’s eating, drinking and evacuating regularly, moving much better though still not to his previous levels, doing a little grooming, and back to vocalizing, while perfectly content to spend the vast majority of his time in his bed under the sunbeam. Husband and I have done our bill juggling to allow for my trip to Eureka. Family drama is still far from over, so I’m headed up there tomorrow to help my mom get through things. My sister is trying to build her private practice and my eldest niece has a new job and a first grader to deal with, so the freelance writer on her own schedule is the logical choice. Plus all those years in law offices may come in handy. Not to mention my attention to detail and my ability to read people. If nothing else, I’m six feet tall and built like a Russian shot-putter and sometimes having some goon standing quietly behind you with arms crossed can work a world of wonders.

I don’t know how long I’ll be gone, but I’ll try to maintain my regular once-a-week posting. If there’s something you’d be interested in seeing on my page, learning about, talking about, just drop me a line. I’ll probably need the distraction.

 

© 2014   Cheri K. Endsley   All Rights Reserved.

 

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Last week my husband and I journeyed to Eureka, California for the expressed purpose of witnessing my middle niece graduate high school. The same high school I graduated from thirty-five years ago. While I’ve been back several times over the years (even attended the 20th Year Reunion of my class, for reasons largely unknown to me now), it’s weird to walk the old campus and sit in the old stadium. In fact, it was kind of weird in general, because so much has changed despite so much staying just the same.

I’ve spent most of my adult life far too many miles away from home. I did my undergraduate work in Texas, and moved to Los Angeles in 1986 to work on my graduate degree. I’ve been in Southern California ever since. The expense of traveling over 700 miles has kept my visits home to a minimum. Something I am continually frustrated about, especially as my mother gets older and other family issues keep cropping up. And it’s not just that my family is there (and north into Oregon), but I just really love the area. It’s green (not as green as usual since the drought has touched there as well, but still far more than in SoCal) and cool, with ocean breezes, clean air and a sun that doesn’t feel like you’re under a microwave.

The area is home to some of the most beautiful examples of Victorian houses:

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The Gingerbread Mansion               Ferndale, CA                

And some of the largest and oldest trees on the planet:

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Coastal Redwoods, Fern Canyon, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park            

It used to be a hub for the fishing and logging industries, but those were eco-regulated into near inexistence in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Now economically depressed, the area staggers along as a tourist destination, but it’s lost a lot of its charm and independence as it sells its soul to survive.

This is the first time my husband has made the trip with me. He’s never been to the Pacific Northwest and since we’ve been talking about moving north, I thought it would be a good idea for him to see for himself just what we’re likely getting into. While the temperatures were much nicer than down south, the usual fog and rain never made an appearance during our visit. That was the first noticeable sign that things just weren’t the same anymore. I really miss fog.

And since my husband hadn’t seen any of the area before, I made it my mission to play tour guide and exhaust us both exploring all my favorite places. On Monday we hit Old Town. The area was far less appealing when I was a kid, but there has been a concerted effort over the last two decades to clean it up and bring in nice businesses as part of the area’s effort to attract the all-mighty tourist dollar. I discovered that a couple of my favorites were no longer in business, but I made up for it by spending too much money in the ones that were still around:

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Ciara’s Irish Shop   Old Town Eureka, CA

And:

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Yarn (yes, that’s actually the name of the place) Old Town Eureka, CA

There never seems to be enough money…

On Tuesday we visited the Blue Ox, an historic millworks combined with a community school that teaches various hands-on trades to at-risk youth. My husband the blacksmith was particularly interested in their resident smithy:

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Blue Ox Blacksmith   Eureka, CA

He groused about its setup and organization, but given that all tools and materials are donated and the teacher is barely out of school himself, I’d say they at least get points for the effort.

On Wednesday, we made the sojourn to Ferndale.

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Main Street Ferndale, CA

A lovely little town, I was particularly dismayed to find several of my long time favorite shops out of business. Most of them were owned and run by locals who have now retired and had no one to pass or sell the shops to. Even more sad, they were replaced by less artistic/crafty more touristy places. My husband was happy to see the blacksmith shop I’d spoken so highly of was still there, but admitted to being underwhelmed by the rest. It does still have one of the most beautiful cemeteries you can find, though, despite my husband’s superstitious refusal to visit it.

We made up for our disappointment by visiting the Loleta Cheese Factory on the way back to the hotel. They have a viewing area where you can watch them make their wares (during our visit, it was cheddar), and free samples for nearly all their varieties. Every one of their cheeses is fantastic, but we managed to hold our purchase to only four different ones. It will be hard to control ourselves once the eating starts…

Thursday found us at my most favorite place: Fern Canyon.

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Fern Canyon, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

To give you some perspective, that’s my 6’ 3” husband in the middle of the picture. As you might expect, the area is home to a wide variety of flora and fauna. Besides the usual insects, we also witnessed a lovely garter snake, a fledgling bird still figuring out how those wing things work, the ubiquitous banana slug, and, most striking of all, these:

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Roosevelt Elk, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

We encountered about a half dozen Roosevelt Elk grazing along the side of the road out of Fern Canyon. They are protected and have obviously become used to us tourists snapping pictures of them. This one was only about fifteen feet away as we drove along, and barely paused his grazing as we stopped for our photo op. Later as we came to the exit of the park itself, we encountered a much larger herd of about forty animals. They were a bit farther off the road than this guy, and in tall grass so those pictures didn’t turn out very well.

It was a good bit of walking down the canyon and then we took one of the short hikes into the forest itself. I huffed and puffed my way through it, getting my feet wet (literally) in the creek, tearing my jeans on a broken branch, smacking mosquitos (Mosquitos?? Here?? Wow, things have changed) and loving every second of it. I’d be a whole lot happier and healthier if I had that to walk in everyday, but I guess I’ll just have to make due with what I have in SoCal for the time being.

Ended the day at a great BBQ place, where we shared food and conversation with my dad. He had made the trek from San Antonio for graduation and it had been years since we’d actually seen each other, so it was awesome to just sit and chat. It’s amazing and depressing at the same time how fast time flies, and how much we miss when we can’t be close to family. Gotta fix that.

The end of the week brought us to graduation:

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Albee Stadium, Eureka High School

My niece has grown to a lovely young woman and will be continuing her education, looking to do something with interior design. She’s talented and determined so I have no doubts she will be successful in whatever she decides to do. My only regret is that her father couldn’t be with us to see how beautiful his daughter has become. I’m sure he would be the proudest father on Earth.

Sadly, all good things must come to an end, and Saturday found us making the arduous twelve-hour drive back to our abode in SoCal. This return trip seemed to be hardest of all. Not because anything out of the ordinary happened on the way, but because I was leaving the one place I’ve always felt most connected to once again. After all the years of moving because of the Air Force, all the new schools and new kids to get to know, and new houses, my family finally settling in Eureka gave me the one constant in my life I’ve been able to hold on to for almost forty years. It’s lush greenery and huge trees and fresh, cool ocean breezes embraced me from the moment I set foot there and has never let me go, no matter how far away I’ve always been. I love my husband and I love the house we share and the life we’re trying to build together, but Eureka, despite its changes and its struggles, will always be home.

© 2014   Cheri K. Endsley   All Rights Reserved.

All photos by Cheri K. Endsley.

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Finally managed to drag my husband from the desert of SoCal to my home regions in NorCal. It is, ostensibly, to witness the graduation of my middle niece, but my master plan is to get him to see what a beautiful place it is and convinced moving will be good for us. Whenever it comes. Which will not be nearly as soon as I want it to be.

From our house we made our way to Interstate 5 North and drove through miles and miles and miles that looked like this:

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For those not in the know, California’s Central Valley is vital farming grounds not just to California, but to the US in general¹. Unfortunately, there’s been a long simmering battle over water rights, with politicians diverting large amounts² south to LA/Orange County for the hordes of walking dead there, and to rivers and marshlands with various threatened and endangered species in residence. Now, I do think we need to do a MUCH better job of living WITH the planet instead of ON the planet, but I have a problem when our efforts to preserve some mostly unknown species of fish or frog or gnat limited to a small, select area threatens a large swath of our food supply. And don’t get me started on what I think of the great unwashed masses.

These were once fruit trees:

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And we saw way too many fields just like this.

Sometimes we seem to value just about anything over human livelihood (says she who saw the fishing and logging industries in her home town decimated by poorly thought out and unbalanced regulations). Untold numbers of species have become extinct over the millennia of our planet’s existence, and untold more will follow in their wake long after humans have met the same fate. We can’t save them all. Neither should we crush them into the dirt willy-nilly just ‘cause. But we have to find the balance. Right now I think it’s tilted the wrong way in this particular case.

We saw signs like the one below all along our route:

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And this one, probably the most potent and telling of the situation, was also very common:

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I don’t know about you, but eating real food is pretty damned expensive already. And not only will this make our grocery bills even more ridiculous, but all those farmers (most of which, contrary to popular opinion, are family businesses) will be toasted, too. It’s a downward spiral that can only end in our demise as a country, or even as a species.

With the American Southwest suffering through a record-setting period of drought, and weather patterns changing all across the world, we need to get more aggressive with technological solutions. California has 840 miles of coastland³. We need to build desalination plants by the bucketful if we have any hope of meeting the increasing demands for water. That means re-evaluating our coastal regulations and finding some sort of medium ground where we can meet the needs of our farmers and populace, while also protecting as much of those threatened species as possible. Easy? Hell no. But it’s sure as shit necessary.

© 2014 Cheri K. Endsley All Rights Reserved.

¹ “Everyone Eats There” by Mark Bittman for the New York Times.

² “Drought: Feds cut water to Central Valley farmers to zero” by Kurtis Alexander for SFGate

³ “List of U.S. states by coastline” on Wikipedia.

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I’ve been catching up on some of the shows I’ve missed over the last few weeks. We don’t have cable, so I miss the really cool stuff that’s on the pay channels (Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, Walking Dead, etc. – that’s where DVD sets come in), but we get all the major broadcast networks on the antenna. Yeah, you read that right – ANTENNA – big wiry thing on top of the house. Gives you FREE TV. Works great in metropolitan areas like Southern California, but not so much when you’re in the podunks of Dumbfuckistan. Sorry.

Anyway, what I miss on the regular broadcast nights I can get on the Internet. Usually Hulu, where I have literally hundreds of shows queued up from all my different interests, or the actual network website. Most of them have their recent episodes available for streaming. With video-on-demand becoming more common, and sites like Hulu, Netflix and Amazon doing their own original programming, regular broadcast television will likely go the way of the dodo at some point in the future. Especially when one can sit at their computer and cram all their favorite shows in on one rainy weekend while sitting in their pajamas with popcorn and hot chocolate. Great for those depressive fits when talking to a live human just won’t do.

So, there I was watching the last couple episodes of this season’s The Mentalist on CBS.com (CBS doesn’t have an agreement with Hulu). The Mentalist was one of those shows that took me a while to get into. I couldn’t quite connect with the characters initially, and the premise was just another knock off of the quirky-genius-solves-crimes that started with Sherlock Holmes and progressed through Hercule Poirot, Columbo, and into Castle. But it grew on me. I became invested in the characters. It took far too long for the whole Red John thing to play out, which cost them viewers, but I held on. Then I was disappointed when they broke the original team up and transitioned the leads into the FBI. I have my doubts that the real FBI would tolerate someone like Patrick Jane for longer than it takes to say his name, genius case closer or not. But I still stuck with it. Then this season’s finale came and I suddenly realized the cliché monster had attacked me yet again.

You might remember a bit I did last year on clichés (Attack of the Killer Clichés), mainly those found in science fiction. Well, this time it’s about those banal tropes we see everywhere, over and over again, in TV, movies and books. We as writers can do better than this. Don’t make me get the flying monkeys…

1)                     Public Declaration of Love: usually done at the last possible second when the object of said declaration has already boarded a train, bus, plane, boat, whatever to move onto the next point in their life and leaving the declarant behind. In the case of The Mentalist, it’s a plane. Good performances aside (and the not-so-little-fact that those two particular characters just shouldn’t be together romantically), it’s a tired scene that’s been overused far too many times. There’s plenty of other ways to get this information out and not have it be a schmaltzy retread. For some brilliant relationship writing (hell, brilliant writing in general) watch Farscape. There’s a reason that show still has such a strong following over a decade after it’s cancellation.

2)                     Last Possible Second Rescue: apparently it’s impossible to diffuse a bomb before the timer reaches :01. I have yet to see one actually blow up because they just couldn’t get it done in time, but I’ve also never seen one with more time on the clock than one second. I’ve seen this one so many times, I actually get mad at the writers for being lazy. Or someone’s falling and they get the benefit of a one-handed grab by somebody, leaving them dangling over the abyss but not dead. Or being pushed from in front of a runaway (insert conveyance here). Or the bad guy gets shot just as he is about to shoot one of the good guys. Or, … well, you get the idea. Drama and tension and suspense can be built without falling into the old tried-and-true. Challenge yourself and avoid the traps.

3)                     Good Guy is Bad Guy: you know the one – loyal friend, boss, partner, spouse who’s been with you through thick and thin, who NO ONE would ever suspect, is actually the brilliant mastermind behind all the hurt our hero experiences. Talk about betrayal. And boring. This goes for those occasions when an institution, such as the police, the CIA, or the local church elders, is actually the corrupt bastards behind the problems, too. Does this crap actually exist in the real world? Sure it does. But it’s no fun when I know who the disguised bad guy is in the first few minutes of a new show or movie. Kind of makes the rest of the show moot.

4)                     Bad Guy is REALLY Bad: he twirls his moustache, kicks puppies, tortures people just for fun, etc. He is more of a caricature than a character (I’m looking at you, Slade Wilson). But bad guys are far more convoluted than that. Good and bad are merely two sides of the same coin. It’s a perspective thing. In the latest Superman telling, Man of Steel, General Zod is supposedly the bad guy. He is hell-bent on destroying Earth and that’s all we see. The truth is, though, he is doing exactly as he was bred and trained to do – protect and save Krypton. He is the hero in his mind, and he can’t understand why Kal-El doesn’t agree with him. Bad guys have reasons for doing what they’re doing. They have lives, families, hobbies, just like the rest of us. The most interesting baddies are the ones we can identify with, or even feel sorry for. Make them real and you’ll find your stories suddenly opening up with possibilities.

5)                     Dead but not Dead: this one is probably the one that annoys me the most. One of the lead characters has been killed! Oh no! Whatever shall we do? Cue crying co-characters, sad music, funeral scene, and pulled heartstrings. But wait! He’s not really dead! It was a 1) ruse to fool the bad guy, 2) mistaken identity, or 3) alternative time line. Just don’t. If you’re going to kill a character, make it for good. See Walking Dead if you have any doubts how to do it.

So there’s my latest batch of cliché pet peeves. I’m sure there’s plenty more out there, but let’s try to kill these off first. We’ll all be better writers, and I’ll be less annoyed. At least, for awhile…

 

© 2014   Cheri K. Endsley   All Rights Reserved.

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