Wednesday, July 23, 2014

MY FRIEND MAXX the Furniture Mover

Yesterday my male malamute Maxx was bored. Bored Malamutes are notoriously troublesome. When I am bored, I sometimes rearrange the wall hangings. Maxx rearranges furniture. When he was a puppy, he merely ate it. He had a preference for upholstered antiques and window sills. His sister Maya preferred anything cherry by Kling & Co.

 I can usually detect when Maxx  is inspired to redecorate the living space, because instead of just collapsing on the laminate, he walks around in circles, lays down for a couple of minutes and then circumnavigates the room. Fortunately his creative energies generally  focus on one room at a time, and because he is a Malamute and bred to lounge around campfires with Inuit partners, he prefer the company of humans. His first choice of target spaces is the bedroom..

The room we call a bedroom was not originally a bedroom.  I have no idea how the previous owners of the house envisioned it when they added it onto the original house. Since they ripped out the wall that separates it from what I think was designed to be a master bedroom and also removed a weight bearing wall in the great room, I am afraid to hazard  a guess. I do know that our master bath was originally an aviary. Our bedroom is about the size of a small apartment, and was 21 x 24 before we added a walk-n closet.  It opens with French doors off what I suspect was originally a living room, since it has a raised hearth (see photo). We now use it as a multipurpose space since Maxx and Maya ate the furniture. But, back to the bedroom. It is still very large, but the wall spaces are not amenable to variety in arrangement of the bed. But Maxx is a malamute, doesn't read Architectural Digest  and doesn't care.

Yesterday his project was to move the bed into a position so he could walk around it, which required him to move it out from the wall.  It also required him to move my bedside table, an essential piece of furniture which I use as a desk. Because Chris is pretty much bed bound these days, Maxx was required to move the bed with 180 lbs of extra weight, but then, Maxx weighs 140 and has a pull weight of about a ton.
Also, we have an electric split king bed which we use without a frame for ease in changing sheets,  a God send when sharing a bed with someone of contrary sleeping habits.  However, the halves cannot be moved independently because we have them bound together to avoid falling through the crack in the center. This was not a problem for Maxx, who disconnected every wire to the bed, my kindle, my laptop, all lights and the telephone without knocking anything over except my cell phone. My bedside table ended up in the open space before the electric fireplace, a cherry antique dentist's file cabinet ended up in the space to the adjoining room (another outsized bedroom) and when he was finished, Maxx took a nap behind the bed. However, after a few minutes, he decided he did not like it there and opted to sleep outside. By then temperatures in the desert had fallen to 77 and there was a breeze.  I was stuck inside trying to find a way to get in an out of bed.

Somewhere in the course of all of this, I had deigned to scold him, albeit very gently.  I merely said, 'No, Maxx' as he was tangled in our last remaining connection to the outside world--my land line cord.  He gets very indignant when I scold him.  He left the room, went a slammed his stainless steel water dish into the wall, came back to the bedroom, inched by the table in the middle of the walking space, faced away from me and pouted.  Not even pets and praise got me back into his good graces.  Not even cheese. So I did the only reasonable thing left. I moved the bed out from the wall another eight inches and changed the position of my bedside table. Now he can walk around the bed whenever he wishes,although the bed is pretty much in the middle of the room. Today the room arrangement looks like hell and Maxx has lost all the space behind the bed.  He is sleeping by the door to the bathroom, which requires me to either walk over his massive frame or go to the bathroom in the other wing of the house.
All that furniture moving has him all tired out. Me, too.

Monday, July 21, 2014


The most amazing thing happened to me this afternoon.  I was busy downloading an edited version of my novel 1603: The Queen's Revenge, when, alas, the doorbell.  If left to my own devices I would have missed it entirely, since only my husband and my dogs can hear it.  The doorbell at high noon usually announces the arrival of the Steve the Mailman. Not this time.

At the door was a friendly man I vaguely recognized, casually dressed and toting a knapsack.  Had he not seemed so familiar, I would have thought he was a salesman or a representative of a local church group.
"Do you remember me?" he asked, and while I did not remember the details, I knew he was someone I had met when I was a prosecutor, and that my interaction with him had been positive.  He insisted that I had been an inspiration to him, and he had come with a gift.  He wanted to give me  several copies of a book he had written.   When I said I could not accept a dozen books, he said' how about we trade  one of yours for mine?'  Then he announced that he had purchased my debut novel The First Marie, and that it was 'hard reading,' which is about the same thing my double-masters educated daughter said about it.  At any rate, I traded a copy of my latest work  for two of his, one for me to keep and another  to share with someone who I think will  find it inspirational.

The book is somewhat plainly but tastefully bound, and full of illustrated poetry and music.  It is what I would call 'Christian whimsy' if I were to label it. Most of the poetry is exceptional, and all of the sentiment is poignant. Both  the man and his book reminded  me that sometimes, if we show compassion to those we meet in a public forum and view each of them as a person with fear and hopes and needs, even prosecutors can leave a mark.

 It has been ten years last week since I retired as the supervising deputy district attorney in my area, and within the last week I have been tagged for lunch by a formidable young woman whom  I met as a child victim when she was five, and I have been gifted a wonderful treasure by a man whose life I touched and who did not forget me.  We had our visit today at my front door in that shade of the pine I call my Burn's Tree, which had been given to me by a man who was a  defendant  I spotted as bipolar and thus made an effort to divert him into a mental health program.  He had  his mother bring me what was advertised as a pygmy fir tree, advertised as capable of surviving six years in a pot.  Our office policy did not permit us to  accept gifts other than items that could be shared, so I put the little holiday tree in the lobby for all to enjoy. When the holidays were over, I tried to find a place to plant it and when no one wanted to deal with it, I called the ADA for permission to keep it.
"Don't think of it as a gift,'he said. 'Think of it as a tribute and plant it where there's water, because judging by the plants around your office, you'll probably kill it if it isn't silk or plastic.'

That was eleven years and about twenty-five feet ago, and the only problem with my Burn's Tree occurred this summer when my insurance carrier's risk assessment team ordered me to trim the branches that overhung the peak of my roof, because of fire hazard.

The moral to the story is that a small gesture can make a significant difference, and that the most precious gift is the giving of a piece of ourselves. The man who gave me his book did just that, and so did the child who gave me her trust when she was only five. I had always felt honored by the young man I call Mister Burns, because he allowed me into his personal space, a place were armed bailiffs feared to tread.  It makes me proud to have been a lawyer  There is nothing fundamentally wrong with lawyers once they've learned that there is more to what a lawyer should strive to do than winning in court, and that life is the ultimate arena.

Thank you, J.Burns, Hillary H, and J.R.Dykes, for being there with me.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Curse of the Kick-Ass Women by Linda Root

Boudicea byJohn Opie (PD-Art)
I just now signed off Facebook with a tear in my eye. A friend had just picked up the ashes of her husband of forty-eight years, and the experience, the utter haunting finality of it, was devastating. I wondered why I found her emotional response so poignant and I realized it was because my friend is among the world's kick-ass women, a feisty independent redheaded Georgia beauty, the quintessential USMC Sergeant Major's wife who could defend her children, support her husband, work a room of strangers, entertain and encourage her friends and stand up for her ideals as if it all came naturally, the art of being there for everyone who needed her and always being strong. And like other women I have known of that ilk, she is not expected to ever falter, ever waiver, ever just collapse and weep. Like the movie character Cat Ballou, she could 'never let them see [her]cry'. If you know a woman like that you are fortunate, but you are also challenged, because even the Dragon Lady and Wonder Woman have a gentle side, a side we do not want to see, because all of the rest of us need our champions, our Joan d'Arcs, our Wonder Women, and in spite of ourselves, sometimes we must put our needs aside and be there for them.

The entire experience of my  morning caused me to reflect upon the kick-ass women in my novels. In my work in progress my protagonist Daisy Kirkcaldy's son Peter has been kidnapped to extort her husband's silence concerning his knowledge of the plot against the king known to history as the Gunpowder Treason. And what does Daisy do? She leaps upon her Fresian Embarr and in defiance of her husband's request that she stay safe at home while he rides to the rescue, she engages the enemy, and although I have not written that far ahead, I am sure she will prevail because that is what she must do to please me, to make me comfortable and less vulnerable. I am as guilty as the rest of us in demanding that of her. Sometimes I forget that even the most formidable of my sisters, real or imaginary, must take off their armor now and then and put down their battle swords.

I remember the day of my seventeen year old son John's funeral. One of my mother's friends who was at the house afterwards approached and said, 'God must have great plans for you to give you so much strength.' I did not tell her that John, not God, had given me the strength to endure the day, because he was smart and sensitive and he knew how ill he was and what was ahead. He had been to a friend's funeral a few weeks earlier, an accidental tragedy for which his mother had been unprepared and she had thrown herself atop the coffin.

'I don't want you crawling on my coffin in a ten year old black mini . I want you to wear  something new and bright,' John said. 'Dress like a movie star, be funny if you can. Wear your orange heels  but try not to trip on the grave markers, and be nice to my stepmother.  Go easy on the eyeliner, just in case.' He spoke with foresight, not in jest. He had a hundred or more little sessions with me like that, teaching me how to let him die.  Sometimes now, thirty-four years later, when I am alone in the garage swimming in our i-pool he appears and swims along with me,to keep me from drowning. He has also taught me that playing the role of a kick-ass woman is both a blessing and a curse, and that even Boadicea wept when her husband was killed and no one else was looking.

 I know my friend will be fine on Friday and hopefully ever after. And so, I hope,will I.