Wednesday, January 27, 2016


What do you do? Where do you work?

ME: I’m in the hope industry

The what?

I work in manufacturing. I create hope.Y’know... h-o-p-e

Oh.    What does that entail?

Well, sometimes you give people an animal, like a cat or dog, maybe sheep, chickens. You try to get them a healthy animal, but even with the others you can still get your product if the timing belt and love are installed correctly. Other times you give them an education. Sometimes a funny story or one they can relate to, basically anything that tells them they’re OK.

How did you get into that industry?

The training for this job was rigorous, to say the least. I almost dropped out!!  But after I started apprenticing and following all the steps, it felt right. Eventually I had so much product I had to become an independent distributor.

What’s the pay like?

Frankly, I’m in it for the perks, like the travel, free pens, cute animals. Typically you’re paid in more product, so it’s best to get used to making, growing or bartering for your needs. This is looked down on in U.S., but America consistently performs poorly in this manufacturing sector so I wouldn’t give them much credibility.

Is this a growing sector of the economy? Do you have competitors?

This is a bit of a niche market, but there are plenty of other start-ups creating hope with a different manufacturing process. Some use family, sports, meditation (sometimes we borrow this one; it’s no trade secret). Some companies are even successful using money, medication, and politics! The quality of the product really has to do with the process.

Is yours a publicly traded business?

Oh, yes! Shares are always available, but they can be expensive if you haven’t already tried our product. That initial investment. however, really pays off in the end.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Skeeter's Jouney

Here is a video that won't fix the climate, politics, the world food supply, plate tectonics, and most human frailties, but will hopefully give a little energy to those out there fightin' the good fight.

My foster kitty "Alex"  at 1# 2oz (December 2015)

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Animal Subjects: Subjects of Animals...Jamie & Andrew Wyeth

I can, intellectually, appreciate the skill of visual artists--the color saturation, the vigor and technique of brush strokes, an ability to see the world with an alchemist's eye and subsequently render it for us mortals. Yet when confronted with flowers and fruit baskets I'm left only with a great yearning to emotionally connect to the art. It's beautiful, now please pass the cookies and People Magazine. I went to see the Denver Art Museum's exhibition:
and I'm probably going to break a kabillion copywright laws by posting these images... so I'll do so by encouraging you to run out and spend lots of money on reproductions, mugs, postcards and other exhibitions.  Andrew Wyeth is Jamie's father. I felt fortunate to be able to identify the different styles of their art, though their subjects were often similar.  I don't recall a single fruit basket or flower arrangement.
Portrait of Lady
And, of the "Portrait of Lady" the sheep, Jamie wrote of struggling to paint the wool, until he just squeezed the tube of paint right onto the canvas in big globs. Yup. Makes perfect sense to me! There are so many more wonderful works that I'd love to post. But if these images resonate for you, you'll find the others.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016


How funny... I kept a little empty coffee tin of Ugandan soil for 11 years.  I do recall spooning up the soil on the road in Ndejje village at dawn to try and avoid being seen. Ugandans cut us mzungu a lot of slack, however. We're whack jobs; very hard to understand.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Side trip: Alamosa & Best Friends Animal Society Utah

It was a fine week to leave the condo and let the home inspector, property assessor, assorted plumbers and electricians jiggle things and trouble my realtor. I traveled only with my iPhone and enjoyed responding to every email from said realtor with "sounds good, thanks!"  Occasionally I had to touch something on the screen to fill a box with my automated signature. Despite the fact that I was employed in a job I loved, my 18 months in the Denver area has felt like a surreal, prolonged vacation.

I have two remarkable friends in Alamosa, Colorado, who generously allow me to stay at their cabin at the base of Mt. Blanca as frequently as I can get down there. It is a lifestyle I recognize and it suits me. I brought my cat this time, who is not only decorative, but useful! She enjoys the built-in toys that like to burrow in and nibble...until she grabs them and they emit a final squeak/crunch sound.

                                        Best Friends Animal Society

There's a chapter in my book where I euthanize full-term puppies. There are other chapters and events that touch on animal overpopulation and wave away the smoke that comes off the phrase "necessary evil".  Fostering kittens over the last year has left me with greater knowledge of shelter issues than I'd had before. It turns out that itty bitty kitties-- those under 8 weeks or 2# --constitute an enormous percentage (think, like, 70% in some places) of animals euthanized. Even at the New Zealand SPCA where I volunteered in 2008 they had to put the littles in the carbon monoxide chamber. Before I am moved by a sense of waste and loss of life, I am pained by the vision of someone's loving hand executing their assigned task. Anyone working with or near animal control is there because they care for animals.   One of the founders of Best Friends describes the human task of euthanasia as "corrosive" (video is 29 minutes)

....  OK! Let's get happy! Kitten nurseries!  Don't you smile just saying it???
Messing about on the Internet, I came across the fact that Best Friends has two (currently) kitten nurseries, one in LA and the other in Salt Lake. Equally active in supporting shelters with spay/neuter initiatives, Best Friends has, in 30 years, helped the annual euthanasia rate in this country fall from 17 million, to 4 million. I didn't know any of this. And I sure as hell didn't expect visiting Salt Lake, and then Kanab Utah, to be an emotional experience.   A rockstar guy named Lawrence met me in Salt Lake and gave me a tour of the nursery. This spring will be their third year; they've learned a lot, and the place is beautifully organized. They don't take kittens from the public, instead, anyone who works at the local shelters, once they peer into the box and think "uh-oh.. these kitties are too small..." can now call the nursery and sign over the tots into their care. Can you imagine? Instead of looking into a carrier with that sinking feeling because your cages are full or your foster parents are maxed out, now there is someone to call!  Not all of the kittens live until adoption day, but there is great excitement when they grow and do well. I think I'd like to work in a kitten nursery for a season. At the rate Best Friends is going, I'd be happily out of a job in a few years anyway. Super cute short video 1:20min

After Salt Lake I drove down to the Angel Canyon Sanctuary

I didn't know a place like that could exist. The setting is stunning. The small town of Kanab is a few miles down the road. I rented an affordable "cabin" ('cabin' is listed in quotes cuz it has running water and electricity) and you are strongly encouraged to borrow a cat or dog to have sleepovers. There's a doggy door and attached outside run. I took a morning tour with two other guests and we got into an insightful discussion of the value and limitations of the "save them all" mission. Our tour guide understood and encouraged us (he also mentioned another kitten nursery is planned for Kanab this summer).  I had to work hard not to tear up when we went by the memorial area; wind chimes with animal names hang from trees and one of the founders created the metal gate that welcomes you to Angel's Rest.  A small cafe serves a single buffet meal at lunchtime. I was there on a Thursday, when the different caretakers and founders give weekly updates and fun stories. Lots of laughing. The food was good, too. Best Friends has partnered with over 1500 other shelters nationwide to support them in their work. I was moved by the way Best Friends solves animal neglect problems by networking resources instead of engaging the legal system.

 In the afternoon I volunteered to take the old doggies on some leisurely walks in the sun. I loved the sign that pointed to their area in Dogtown!

Now I have to answer to door and talk to a plumber... back to reality.

The End.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Huh. And Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

"Huh" is happening a lot to me this month. As in "Huh. It never occurred to me that I was required to lock the deadbolt on any door in the Denver metro area."

If you're from this area, you're doing what the good-natured police officer did when he came out after my burglery Tuesday morning at 5:30 a.m., shaking your head and gently scolding me for my ignorance. The door handle was locked, and every other perimeter entry was secure.  I was in my bed. I must've heard something, which is why I snapped awake. When I walked to the kitchen the front door was wide open. I had the good sense to 1) close the front door, and 2) have an instant cup of coffee before launching my cat-searching mission and descending into heartbreak (she doesn't go outside here).  I found my purse dumped out in the parking lot, nothing taken but my postage stamps and the pair of old-lady-chin-whisker tweezers in a fancy silver tube that must of looked like a vaping pen. Within ten minutes of finding the purse, Momcat was at the door meowing for breakfast! Oh happy day!  Later I discovered they swiped my little Macbook air, sans power cord. Apple has really, really excellet security by the way... someone calls you and the nice lady walks you through resetting everything.  The police are trying to track my computer through iCloud "found my computer".  I bought it used, so it doesn't cost enough for my insurance company to replace.  The home inspection for the condo sale was supposed to happen that morning and I thought having the police arrive at the same time as the buyer would be a bad idea--rescheduled.

I'm waiting for the requisite sense of violation over the whole thing.  I only get "huh".  I think my adrenals are shot.

So, off I go today to Alamosa/Blanca to visit friends and sit by the wood stove. Early next week I arranged to meet Lawrence at Best Friends' Kitten Nursery in Salt Lake, Utah for a tour!
My fave video is the bakery lady talking about how kittens are like pastries

After that, I'm headed down to Kanab, Utah to stay a few days at Best Friends' Sanctuary:

Best Friends' is the only nonprofit I feel drawn to where I don't immediately relate to their basic mission "save them all".  I struggle with that while I can disappear into the joy of the actual work.  It  reminds me of the way I struggle with the Jesus story within Christianity-- haha!! (And the Internet bullies wake.. bring it' goofballs, I am stronger than ever!)  At least I am considering the full meaning of things, I suppose.

I wish I could have three jobs at once!!  I want to work at the kitten nursery, teach in Fairbanks, do outreach and adoptions at the ranch! Write more books! Live in Alamosa, live in Godstream Valley... instead I'll just keep dancing... one, two, three... one, two, three... one, two, three.   Bring: a good sense of humor, a loving heart, disregard for others' judgement, and willingness to be wrong.  I'm packed.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Preparing for the journey to northern Uganda, and a movie link

It will be a bit more than a month before color-saturated pictures of East African landscapes, people, and animals will appear on this blog. Using this platform to showcase my experience means that the original scope of veterinary-themed posts will expand. It's gonna get messy, folks. According to, however, "veterinary" can be defined as of or relating to the diseases, injuries, and treatment of animals.   And let's just say, for the purpose of argument, that each of us reading this is an animal.

The first capsule (of 4 doses) of an oral typhoid vaccine is making me quite unwell at the moment, but mild gastric distress in a temperature-regulated environment with running water is much better than enteric armageddon at the equator. Random other injectable vaccines and real estate transactions will go down before I leave the country in early February.

I first visited Uganda, East Africa, in 2005.  I was in a village outside the capitol of Kampala.  At that time, all I knew of northern Uganda was don'tgotherebadbadverybadthings, and that it was relatively far away with a complete lack of road infrastructure.  The evil was sequestered into unmentionable pockets of the country by potholes, flooding, lack of motor vehicles, and lack of electricity. In my five weeks in Uganda in 2005, I can not remember a single person mentioning anything going on in the north.  Before the next wave of nausea hits, let me get to the point: I will be based out of Gulu, Uganda, about 9 hours by bus north of where I was in 2005.  I will be working primarily with Acholi people, not the Buganda kingdom of the south.  I will be working with people who, for 20 years, have been fighting a rebel army made up almost completely of their own abducted children. The threat of abduction has been so great, for many years Acholi children were "night commuters"-- walking from their farms into the city every night hoping for greater protection there, only to walk back out to school and farm work during daylight hours. For a number of years, until 2012, IDP (internally displaced peoples) camps attempted to function as protection, but succeeded only in cultivating the diseases and despair that arise when 10,000 people share one pit toilet.  In the movie link, below, one of the incredibly astute children remarks "people think this is Africa... this is not Africa...".   She is correct. As I read more and learn more about the organization I am working with, however, I am beginning to understand that while I am headed there under the auspices of veterinary work, what we are doing is renewing a sense of efficacy and hope. That is what must return before farming, infrastructure, employment opportunities. And what they have already managed in a few short years of peace! So exciting!
Here is a movie called "War Dance Uganda".  Filmed in 2005, it is about the power of music and dance.  The full length movie is available on Netflix as well as here:
It is PG-13, but be advised the narratives of the children may be more disturbing than any graphic depiction (you can skip to 1:19, when all the hope and smiling starts:).  If you don't have time for the movie, here is the trailer

Regarding transformative power, I very recently got to witness--again-- the power of the human-animal bond. We know the critters make us happy, make us smile and laugh and give us something in common to talk about. But I had forgotten what power lies in animals' lack of judgement. They do not require explanations. They don't care what you did or failed to do. They don't want to know why you walk or talk funny, what illness you have or if you're doing OK.  They simply don't burden us with their communication needs. A dog will love a murderer as well as a saint, all things being equal at the moment they meet.  And that moment they meet is a point of grace and a place of rest.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

I never properly modeled grooming to my foster kittens!

Maybe you've seen this already...

I've been remiss in keeping up with the blog due to holiday travel, selling my Denver condo and readying for overseas travel. Sharing copies of my book over the holiday brought lots of joy and, I hear, a few people had some laughs.  I'll look forward to creating a serious post here in another day or two!