May 08, 2014

What’s the scoop on all the poop?

I started trying to walk again a couple of years ago, but ended up doing too much which caused my Lyme disease symptoms to worsen to some really dark and ugly places.  Earlier this year, I had to put to sleep the dog who had been sharing my life for a couple of years.  I walked when I was up to it, and it was nice to be able to swing along when I could without having to stop (or be forcibly stopped) for the being on the other end of the lead to investigate some interesting scent or overlay her own upon someone elses.

Six weeks ago, I adopted another dog, a small one, something I have never had before.  Well, other than the toy poodle I was raised with (which may 'splain some things....).  In recognition of the fact that I am getting older, can no longer lift a 50+ pound dog who doesn't want to be lifted, and I might some day move into a place where a 50+ pound dog may not be welcomed or fit, I decided to downsize.  Meet Bodhi, a sweet four year old chihuahua who may, by birth or past life, have some terrier in him.

And so it is that I am once again having to notice all the things the being at the other end of the lead notices when we are out walking, which includes all the other dogs' poop that the beings on the other end of their leads didn't notice them leaving or, more likely, didn't give a shit.  

No pun intended.

Since I know that my neighborhood, as nice as it is, is not unique in having self-centered dog keepers out walking their dogs, I figured I'd break my long silence on this blog and share the what I wrote to submit to my neighborhood's monthly newsletter.  

If it is something you might find useful to put in your neighborhood newsletter, feel free to reprint with attribution.

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What's the Scoop on All the Poop?

The scoop is that there are people out there walking their dogs who don’t feel they have to pick up their dog’s poop.  There’s poop in yards near the sidewalk, poop in the parking strip between the sidewalk and street, and, my personal favorite, poop on the sidewalk.  Really?  If I, with my impaired memory and being in physical pain pretty much all the time, can remember to carry a couple of poop bags with me when I take my dog for a walk and use them when my dog poops, others can, too.  The very few times I find myself without a bag, I note the spot and came back to pick it up after I get back home to grab a bag.  If you don’t have used produce bags, newspaper wrappers and other used bags that will securely hold poop until you get home or to an accessible trash can, you can buy them at pretty much any place that sells pet supplies, including drugstores, grocery stores, WalTargKMart, even the Dollar-type stores.  Don’t have pockets? Wear a waist pack, stick ‘em in your waistband, under your watchband, or tuck one in your bra (really?  I’m the only one who does this??).  Or, you can buy little canisters that clip onto your dog’s leash or onto your waistband that hold a roll of bags.  Life’s poopy enough without having to step in someone else’s.  So, please police your pooch and pick up the poop.

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Lest you think it is just me being cranky and crazy about other people's (dog's) poop, it is truly a health hazard, to other dogs, to the children who play on the sidewalks and in their yards, and to the the wildlife and pet dogs and cats, children and adults who walk along and splash through the creeks that wend through our town and into which the water tha runs off our streets into the storm drains flows...along with the trash and dog crap that flow along with it.

A friend of mine writes at some length about the health risks to other dogs and humans from the dog feces left festooning our walkways in her article Poop Parity: Just Pick It Up.

March 31, 2012

I received the following forward today, from someone whom I knows knows better:

Many of you have likely seen the heart rending testimony of Ms. Sandra Fluke, a law student at Georgetown University, before a Congressional Committee this week. She was lamenting that no one would subsidize her birth control expenses, which she claimed would amount to $3000 during her three years in law school. After watching Ms. Fluke describe her desperate  situation, I set to thinking of ways to help her out of her crisis.

First, of course I had to pass through the grieving period I experienced after hearing of her inhumane treatment at the hands of the Georgetown administration and our Government – what cruelty lurks in the heart of men that they would leave this poor woman to fend for herself when all she wanted to do was get laid seven times a day (see my analysis below).

Once I recovered from my grief, I set to thinking about ways to help this poor girl. Being a Physicist, I sat down with my calculator and worked through some numbers. Ms. Fluke’s expense account for birth control (aka sexual entertainment) was claimed to be $3000 for three years at law school. Let’s presume that as an educated woman she wants to be doubly safe and uses both birth control pills to prevent pregnancy and condoms to prevent STD (sexually transmitted disease).

Using the Wal-Mart cost for birth control pills of $9 per month, her birth control pills will cost her $324 for her entire law school career (if you can call it a career – I can think of other names). This leaves only $2676 for her condoms.

I went to, and found quality condoms available for 33 cents each in packages of 60 condoms each. This cost includes tax and shipping. Since she has $2676 for her 33 cent condoms, she will be buying 8109 condoms during her law school “career”.  To use her 8109 condoms (remember, $3000 was Ms. Flukes’ own number) she would have to have sex 7 times a day. This number presumes that she has sex ten times a day on Sundays when she has more free time.

So, having worked through these numbers, I have some suggestions for Ms. Fluke to help her work through her crisis:

1. Find dates who are gentlemanly enough to either provide their own condoms, or at least split the cost with her. Selection criteria is the key to this one.

2. Spend more time studying. Even seven “quickies” a day will seriously cut into quality study time. This would not only save money but would improve her education as well.

3. Seek funding from the EPA from one of their Wetlands Protection programs – surely Ms. Flukes’ nether regions would qualify as wetlands given sex seven times a day.  Just trying to help out a starving student....

By the way, the average starting salary of new Georgetown Law School graduates is $160,000 a year, FYI.

Booth R. Myers, PhD

(Yo!  Dr. Myers.  Even law school graduates--even former states attorney generals--are having a tough time finding a job in the continuing crappy economy.  So, stick to physics, okay?)

It would be nice if the people who have so widely commented on Fluke’s ‘testimony’ would actually read the transcript of what she actually said…  Most pundits and eejits like Rush clearly haven’t.  Including the physicist’s whose words of, well, eejitsness just added to the noise rather than the signal on this topic.

Here you can read it, or listen to it:

As for those who think that there is a single generic birth control that can be obtained from Walmart for $4/30 day supply (in most states; in others, including California, it’s $9/30 day supply), think again.  There are 80 different types of birth control pills, each containing varying amounts of the different hormones which, when combined, can prevent most incidents of an egg getting fertilized and implanted in the placental wall.  Most of these drugs are NOT available through the $4 Walmart program, so they will cost in the neighborhood of $70-100/month.  That’s because, for the pills to be effective for any and all of the reasons for which they may be prescribed (which include, but is not limited to, preventing conception), you have to take them for the whole month (well, 28 days, plus a week of placebo pills so you don’t forget to start taking the next month’s round).  Check out the pricing yourself at my favorite online pharmacy, which I’ve found to generally have the best prices if one can’t get to a Costco:

I’m hoping you all (males, not the female here) know what Rush and some of his supporters clearly don’t:  You can’t just take a birth control when you have sex.  Apparently, Rush and others has confused this with his Viagra, which is taken when wants to have sex.  (I remember going to a school function with one of my college professors who had recently gotten divorced.  He asked me to get a map out of the glove compartment.  When I opened it and rummaged through looking for the map, I came across a card of birth control pills.  I asked him why he had it.  Yes, he was under the same impression as Rush: take it when you do it and you won’t get pregnant, so a 30 day pill pack meant 30 times to get lucky.

Thirty years, and apparently most men still haven’t learned how their wimmen’s plumbing works.

List of birth control pill brands:

I’m all for men paying their share.  Unfortunately, most women are reluctant to force the issue, and most men don’t think of it, or don’t think it’s their responsibility.  That’s too bad.  If ALL women just simply refused to have sex, ever, until men stopped deciding they know what’s better for women than women and their doctors do, then we’d probably see some changes come down the line that actually made sense.  I mean, seriously, who wants men like Rush, Booth Myers, or others like them in their vaginas anyway?  ::shudder::

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February 16, 2010


Inspired by the success of my sauerkraut, but wanting something a bit perkier to have on hand as an alternative to the kraut, I decided to try making kimchee. There are many, many, many recipes for kimchee out there, so I read a dozen or so, and saved four of them to ponder, then distilled them down into the following:


Cut into 1" pieces:
1 Napa cabbage (discarding the hard joins at the base and core)
1 6-7 in. 'baby' bok choi

Place a couple of inches of the cabbage mixture into a large jar or bowl, and cover with a brine made of:
3 qts filtered (chlorine-free) water
2 cups water kefir (or whey, or you can just use 3.5 qts water)
2 T. salt

Pound/Mash the cabbage mixture using a potato masher or muddler to break up some of the cell walls, then layer on more cabbage and more brine, mashing/muddling between layers, until all the cabbage and brine have been put into the brining jar/bowl.

If the cabbage is not completely submerged (some will float), put a plastic bag into the mouth of the jar, and pour water into the bag. Seal the bag. This will keep air and dust from getting in.

Soak for 12 hours.

Once the soaking period is over, remove the cabbage from the brine, reserving the brine.

Toss the cabbage with:

2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T ginger, minced
2" ginger root, sliced and cut into sticks
1 medium daikon radish, sliced and cut into sticks
1 medium carrot, sliced and cut into sticks
4 green onions, whites sliced, greens sliced thinly on the diagonal

In a bowl, whisk together the sauce:

1/3 cup fish sauce
1-2 T. sriracha (I used 2 and skipped the flakes)
1 t. chili pepper flakes (optional)

Toss the cabbage mixture with the sauce, making sure the sauce is distributed throughout. When well mixed, stir in:

½ cup water kefir grains (optional)

Once everything is thoroughly mixed together, pack the cabbage mixture into one or more jars, allowing some room for expansion. If any sauce remains in the mixing bowl, pour it into the jar(s). If the cabbage mixture is not covered by the sauce and juices, add some of the reserved brine to the jars to cover the contents.

Screw the lid on the jar tightly.If your jar does not have a lid, push a plastic food storage bag into the mouth of the jar, and pour any remaining brine or plain water into the bag. Seal the bag, and make sure it is spread out over the contents in the jar. This will keep air and dust from getting in.

Let the kimchee ferment in a cool place, at a temperature no higher than 68° F, for 3 to 6 days, until the kimchee is as sour as you like.

I put up the kimchee last Friday. Today I tasted it - yum! The jars are now happily albeit more slowly continuing to ferment inside my fridge.

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February 07, 2010

When life hands you lemons...

candy their little yellow asses!

At least, that's what I'm trying to do. Still have 24+ hours to go before I find out if they candied or not.

Update Feb 11: Well more than 24 hours. I decided to bring them to a boil again on the next day, adding some more sugar, and then repeat it again on the following day (without the additional sugar). After soaking overnight, I pulled them out and set them on a tray to start drip drying. Then, last night, in a discussion about what to do with lemons (triggered by my bringing to a meeting a colander full of lemons for people to take home with them), one of the folks mentioned rolling the wet lemons in sugar, so I came home and did that, too. In checking their progress when I took the photo below, I find that they still have some drying to do. I've got them sitting in my living room, which is cold enough to hibernate tortoises, so I think tonight I will put them in the iguana room, which should speed up the drying process.

Update February 16: Well, instead of the ig room, which has no room at the table due to the 3 gallons of kefir and 1/2 gallon of lacto-fermented lemonade fermenting in there, I slid the tray into a 225F oven to dry out while I candied the sliced peels from the lemons I squeezed to make the aforementioned lemonade. Here's how they turned out:


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January 19, 2010

Fomenting Ferment

Welcome to my Fermentorium. Well, to my iguana room in which the table previously designated for people (as opposed to tables for lizards and wee small turtles) has been repurposed into The Fermentorium.

In my quest for a steady supply of non-dairy probiotics, some friends turned me on to MYO (make your own) water kefir (tibicos) and lacto-fermented sauerkraut, the latter of which led to a beetroot and apple relish.

From left to right: water kefir, beet/apple relish, sauerkraut.

I happen to love sauerkraut, and apples, and beets, so these will be perfect for me, assuming I succeed at actually fermenting them properly.

I am not so much in love with kefir - wasn't when I ate dairy (and loved yogurt), and the MYO kefir water is not a happy taste for me, though my komboucha-loving friend Karen thinks it tastes great. [Note: Please read my January and February updates at the end of this post - water kefir is now a very happy taste for me.] Still, after 20 years of being sick and on various meds that tasted downright vile, I am used to ick, so it's doable. It is extremely doable when I add the instant Salabat mix to it (think instant ice tea, but made with ginger, cayenne pepper, sugar, and calamansi juice and no tea). Oh, dear, this is way too good and I don't need all that sugar, as I could easily drink through an entire 'harvest' of kefir water in a single afternoon this way. Happily, mixing a little Stevia and calamansi juice (purchased frozen from my local Asian market) into the kefir tastes just as good, so that's the way I'll drink it.

Of the jars of kefir you see fermenting in the photo above, four have a bit of unsulfured dried apricot floating in them. The yellowish-looking one is for Karen, so I put some dried blueberries in hers.

Reading the Wikipedia page on tibicos gave me an idea: for my next batch, I am going to put in slices of raw gingerroot instead of the apricots (or maybe with the apricot, as I put the fruit in to give the little beasties something else to feed on rather than as a flavoring or coloring agent).

In the mean time, I seem to be able to keep the kefir 'grains' alive (what started out as 3.5 tablespoons of grains on January 6 was, by January 18, 2.5 cups of grains), so I will have both probiotic-laced water to drink and some grains to eat. Yesterday's breakfast was about 1/4 cup of the grains tossed with a bit of stevia and cinnamon and the apricot pieces I picked out when I harvested the water and made a new batch. I'm giving away three of the kefir cultures you see above so I will be back to my original two jars, but with more grains than I started with. I'm harvesting every four days, so should have 2 cups of grains again next week.

As for the beet/apple and sauerkraut, those will be fermenting for several days, assuming they ferment as they should. The beet/apple recipe says to puree them once they are done, but I rather like the shredded texture, so may just leave them like that. As for the kraut, I used a red cabbage and a green cabbage. If the kraut turns out, I may play with some of the other non-red cabbages to see how they taste.

Digits crossed, please, in hopes that all turn out as planned!

January 25 update: Well, when I harvested and re-cultured the grains on Sunday, I had 4 cups of grains and 2 about 3 quarts of kefir water. I now have 8 jars fermenting. Some of the grains will be going to their new homes on Thursday, after I harvest once again. The ginger kefir turned out GREAT! I can now say, I love it - it's refreshing like ginger ale but without the harsh bite of the carbonated ginger ales. Now I just have to keep a steady supply of gingerroot on hand to keep making the ginger kefir water.

I put the fermenting beetroot/apple mixture into the fridge, and one of the bowls of sauerkraut. Neither are quite done yet, but they will continue to slowly ferment in the frige, and besides, I need more room on the table top for my kefir!

I wrote up the way I am culturing the water kefir grains (updated 3/31/2010), in case you'd like to take a look and maybe give it a try yourself. The instructions are based on those I received with my starter culture, but simplified and expanded in some areas. I've seen variations on this elsewhere around the web, so there are other right ways to do it; this is what is working for me.

February 3rd update: I 'harvested' almost 1.5 gallons of kefir water today, some ginger (brewed with slices of fresh ginger root), some apricot (quartered unsulfured dried apricots), and a little blueberry (dried, probably sulfured). The kefir continues to ferment in the fridge, getting a lovely 'bite' after a couple of days. I'm now looking for half-gallon and gallon sized jars because the quart jars are soon going to take up all the available space.

Plus, I now want to make kimchee. Fermentalicious!

Fermented Foods update - February 6: I have been enjoying the sauerkraut and beet/apple relish. I ended up tossing half of each of the batches, draining them of the salty brine, and replacing the brine with kefir water. I think next time I'll just do a light brine and pounding to start the juices flowing, and then replace with kefir water and let most of the batch slowly ferment/sour in my fridge.

March 1 Update: Having yesterday harvested THREE GALLONS of kefir water and a gallon of grains, I have cut myself back to only brewing two gallons of kefir and a half gallon of lacto-fermented lemonade. Some of the older kefir water fed my drains, while the grains fed me. For this latest kefir batch, instead of putting dried fruit or raw gingerroot into the canisters. I plopped in a teabag from my current favorite tea: Celestial Seasonings Tangerine Orange Zinger. See that empty gallon canister (behind which you can see the half-gallon of lemonade)? That's the future home of kombucha, once I get a SCOBY from Karen or grow one myself from a bottle of store-bought.

March 31 Update: The insanity continues. I harvested 3 gallons of kefir this morning, and ended up feeding our sewer system several quarts of grains that have been in my fridge for a couple of weeks, since I haven't been keeping up with eating them (and Mikey (Cyclura iguana) and Treppie (desert tortoise) have been turning their snouts up at them when I add kefir grains to their food; happily for Karen, however, Ginger (doberman) loves them). Despite having given away some quarts and passing my bottle around at a couple of meetings, I still have over a gallon of the last batch left, plus the 3 harvested this morning, so I only made 2 gallons today. I'm loving the cookie jar canisters I got (Walmart carries them, as does Cash & Carry), as well as the 1 gallon mayonnaise-style jars I got at The Beverage People. The latter I use for both brewing and storing the kefir.

Here's what I made today - just two gallons, and one wee quart to give away

Yes, we have some kombucha.

Well, I caved, finally, and tasted some of Karen's kombucha...and so now I have my own mother and am brewing a gallon a week. Here's what mom looks like when brewed with green tea instead of black - she's making her third batch here:

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January 05, 2010

Do Re Me Pho Soooo Good!

In my seventh month of being totally GFCF (gluten- and dairy-free), I am doing okay, adjusted to the 'new' way at home, though eating out safely (the very few times I do eat out) continues to be difficult.

In my search for something to replace the cheese in my cheese omelets, I have taken to adding dashes of chipotle buffalo sauce, plain ol' hot sauce (think Tabasco), and, most recently, sriracha, which I got to top off my search for something to replace mac and cheese. The winner may well be pho (pronounced fa), a Vietnamese beef and rice noodle soup.

I came across a relatively easy recipe (
Lazy Man's Pho), which I made today. Oh, my. Quite lovely. I am going to add more veggies next time - more onion, cabbage, some carrot--and I think another star anise.

Other than that, life continues much as it still not any better, and so I plug along, day by day. This year marks the 20th year I will have been continuously sick, and 40 years since I first got infected from a tick bite.

This past holiday season seemed to be pretty subdued overall, at least amongst the people I know, those healthy and those not. However yours was, may this year bring only good things to us all...

January 22: I just threw together another pho, this time with thinly sliced raw beef (from a ribeye steak) that I had defrosted but not broiled yet. With the weather being so frickin' cold, I decided I wanted a spicy warming soup more than a chunk o'meat. So, you needn't wait around for leftovers to make this. You can also use raw shrimp and firm-fleshed fish to make this, if you aren't particularly into beef.


October 17, 2009


Litter isn't just rude.

Litter isn't just ugly.

Litter kills.

August 29, 2009

Suckage, or, Apparently my life just isn't complicated enough

My health (and life, for that matter) is like an onion: layers upon layers upon layers, with multiple hearts (personalities) deep within, each with their own succession of layers upon layers.

My waxing and waning chronic illnesses from three tickborne infections (TBI) is one layer (well, three). The organ malfunctions caused by long-term infection another. Add another couple of layers for the bizarre and generally untreatable endocrine and immune system problems. Then there's the occult lungworm layer (Cryptostrongylus, in case you want to read a bit about it), sinus Staph., and environmental mold sensitivities.

Several years ago, I was diagnosed with gluten intolerance, so had to total revamp my diet to exclude all things with gluten in them (and you would be amazed at the things food product manufacturers put wheat and gluten in). Eating the available gluten-free (GF) bakery and pasta products isn't really an option, since they are made from plants that I need to limit because of them being high on the glycemic index (rapidly raising blood sugar, which I also need to be careful of). So, I revamped my meal plans so that they do not include glutenized grains. (At least I am spared the problem faced by parents of celiac and autistic kids on GF diets who also need to be wary of gluten in school supplies.)

(Instead, I have to wear gloves to avoid direct contact with photocopy and laser toners and documents copied/printed with them, and inks used on newsprint, and newsprint paper and paper bags, since they all contain these chemicals. Hey! You knew there had to be something, right. Oh, and I can't be around scented felt-tip markers, or papers on which they were used.)

So, I adapted. Lots of leafy greens, vegetables and fruits in my entree salads, with protein from tinned fish, or chicken, or lite dry salamis, and feta or bleu cheeses. My favorite summertime salad is baby greens tossed with fresh coarsely chopped peach, torn prosciutto, and fresh mozzarella. How about a lovely heirloom tomato, fresh from the field that morning (thanks to our Saturday farmers' market), with sliced sweet onion and bleu cheese crumbles? Or my favorite omelet, stuffed with a mix of cream and goat cheese and chives. A favorite hot weather breakfast or lunch was Greek-style nonfat yogurt mixed with my own trail mix (pecans, almonds, hazelnuts, unsweetened coconut ribbons), ground flaxseeds, and fresh or frozen berries. Mmmmmm.....

Many of you have already figured out where this is going, haven't you...

Last week, I found out that a significant portion of the gut problems I've been experiencing for the year and a half is not only due to opportunistic infections caused by the long-term TBI, and the cleaning out of the beneficial flora as a result of my first (and probably my last) colonoscopy in March 2008. No, it is due to my now being casein intolerant as well as lactose intolerant.

Most people, when you say "dairy intolerant" or "dairy sensitivity" or "dairy allergy", think you're talking about lactose, which doesn't seem like such a big deal (if you are sensitive or intolerant, which is different from being allergic, as the latter can cause death, just like peanut and other true allergies), because, hey, you can just take one or two lactase pills as you take your first bite of dairy, right? Voila! No gas or bloating!

If you are just lactose intolerant, then yes. you can take the lactase (enzyme which breaks down the sugar lactose).

If, however, you are intolerant of or sensitive to the protein casein, there is no pill to take. If you eat foods containing casein, it is like eating foods containing gluten: the proteins damage the villi lining the intestinal walls and make the walls permeable. These protein chains can slip between the cells of the gut wall where they start a free-fall ballet through the body, causing a host of symptoms ranging from acute overall inflammation, joint pain and impaired range of motion, weight gain, swollen/enlarged abdomen, and fatigue, to name a few of the more common ones that significantly alter one's quality of life.

As I started researching casein intolerance and casein-free (CF) diets, I came across discussions that made it apparent that people who develop gluten sensitivities quite often go on to develop casein sensitivities.

Usually, I'm the outlier, my test results or reactions to treatment protocols, etc., generally falling well outside the standard deviation. This time, I'm finding myself closer to the center of the pack.


Before you kindly suggest I can substitute soy cheese, soy 'margerine' (read the margerine labels next time you're at the grocery store - almost all have some type of milk-derived ingredient!), soy yogurt, soy milk, and soy ice cream, well, well, you knew there was going to be a well, didn't you?

Soy is goitrogenic - it binds iodine which makes it unavailable to the thyroid gland to use in doing its job. Consume enough goitrogenic foods, and you can cause hypothyroidism (the same goes for iguanas as it does for humans, so don't get snarky with me: deprived of cheese and my favorite chocolate, I am a dangerous woman and you do not want to piss me off right now. Maybe later, okay?).

I already have hypothyroidism, as did my parents. However, theirs was/is easily treated with appropriate medication. Since my endocrine system is also being affected by all the TBI toxins and all the other craziness going on in there, I am not so easily treated, and at this point can only keep the worst of the symptoms at I steer clear of consuming soy on a regular basis.

Since I also have to keep my consumption of root veggies down, that leaves (er, no pun intended) things like brussel sprouts (steamed and tossed with butter and Parmesan - crap! another favorite dish out of my life!), broccoli, and cauliflower - which are also goitrogenic. I'd rather have them (okay, so I'll roast halved sprouts tossed with olive oil and seasonings) than tofu, TVP, or even chilled salted edamame.

So, there you go. Just when my life starts to fall into a comfortable routine, something else comes along and smacks me upside the head.


I have almost 100 MB of recipes stored on my computer, many of which can be consigned to the virtual rubbish heap since so many contain the now verboten ingredients. Well, I won't actually delete them (one can hope, right?) What I have done is started a new subdirectory for GF & CF recipes, as I once again revamp my diet. I've already joined a GFCF email list with a recipe archive available to members and nonmembers. If you know of anyone starting down this same path, you might like to pass the information on to them.

May 25, 2009

Memorial Day 2009 ... with an addendum

Memorial Day was first enacted to honor the Union soldiers of the Civil War. After World War I, it was expanded to include American casualties of any war or military action.

On Memorial Day, there may be parades to honor those who went before, and group observances and individual remembrances at veterans' cemeteries and the gravesides of family members.

Memorial Day is a day when we typically remember and honor the dead.

Memorial Day is not a day when we, as a nation, remember the lost who are still among us.

I am not talking about those missing in action (MIA) or prisoners of war (POW) - they should be remembered all the time by us all, not just the families who love and miss them.

I am talking about the vast number of active duty service members and veterans--and their families--who are suffering from the effects of post traumatic stress disorder, PTSD.

PTSD has suffered badly at the hands of the Department of Defense and the military establishment. Throughout our history of war--Independence, Civil, WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam--those who came back deeply scarred by the horrors were treated as though their suffering was caused by an inherent personal weakness, a lack of inner will or strength. After all, everyone didn't come back experiencing the flashbacks, the hypervigilence, the nightmares, the black hole that eats both the outside reality and the soul.

PTSD is a lot like rape: people who suffer it rarely report it. I heard on the news last night that 20 percent of returning vets from Iraq and Afghanistan are suffering from PTSD. Given the feelings of shame, and "it must be something wrong with me, because everyone else seems to be okay, so I'll just try to keep it buried", and the general "Suck it up, soldier!" attitude that is still so prevalent, both in the military and, for that matter, in law enforcement (a field where a lot of our vets end up once back in civilian life), the actual number is much, much higher.

PTSD does not go away if ignored. PTSD affects the active duty service member as well as the veteran. PTSD affects the service member's and veteran's family, affects their children, and may ultimately affect the adults those children grow into.

So, on this day when we remember those who died in war or after, of the injuries both physical and otherwise, let us also remember and honor those still among us, especially those who need ongoing support and help.

Let us not just give lip service to the fact of PTSD, but get actively involved in helping those service members, vets, and families who are experiencing the harsh reality of it now, and those who will in the not too distant future when their deployed loved ones return home to them.

Where to start? Here is a list of some of the resources for service members, vets and military families I've compiled over the last couple of years as a volunteer caseworker in the American Red Cross's Service to the Armed Forces unit at my local Red Cross Chapter.

American Legion's Guide to PTSD

The Coming Home Project

Military OneSource

Reintegration Action Plan (RAP) - eBook; PDF

Sesame Street: Military Families Cope with Change

V.A. Mental Health Resources

To find local health and mental health resources for service members, vets, and dispersed military families, contact your county's Veterans Service Office, which is often a department within the county's social services or health & human services agency.

Find out more about the American Red Cross's Service to the Armed Forces. To volunteer in SAF, contact your local Red Cross chapter.

Update 5 June 2009: Some articles and new resource I came across today:

VFW chief: Look out for struggling soldiers

The military's war on stigma

Real Warriors
The Real Warriors Campaign is an initiative launched by the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE) to promote the processes of building resilience, facilitating recovery and supporting reintegration of returning service members, veterans and their families. For Active Duty, National Guard & Reserves, Families, & Health Professionals
. Call 24/7: 866-966-1020. They also have a Live Chat available with one of their health resources consultants.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
For crisis intervention, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255), Press "1"

MilitaryOneSource also has a 24/7 toll free number and online assistance for actives (including National Guard & Reserves.

And let me just say something about our National Guard and Reservists.... Some of these men and women were in the regular military, during peacetime and wartime and those in between times when we weren't technically at war but there were periods when things got hairy nonetheless. Some of these men and women were never in the regular military, but joined the Army or Air National Guard or Reserves to serve their country when called upon by their state or the feds. Spending much or all of their annual vacation leave from work in training with their unit, not to speak of a weekend a month, all unpaid, away from their families, these individuals sacrificed time and knew that at the state or federal governments could at any time pull them away from their lives and their families...and that they may lose their life when answering that call.

Despite an honorable tradition that dates back to 1636, when the first militia units were formed, and 1906 when the states' militias were organized into the National Guard system, regular military types often have a snarky attitude about the Guards and Reserves, inferring they are toy soldiers, weekend warriors who are sent out to mop up a flood or do some other non-warrior-like thing, which just ain't so.

NG units made up 40% of the fighting force in France during World War I. In WWII, there were 19 NG units activated under Title 10. Over 140,000 NG were mobilized for the Korean War.
More recently, Desert Storm utilized 63,000 NG personnel. Some of the "in between" actions found the NG serving peacekeeping missions in such far-flung places as Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, and Kosovo.

They may be weekend warriors, but they are weekend warriors trained by the Army and Air Force (and, for some of the ex-military members, by the Navy and Marines) and when called up under Title 10, they go to war and do all the things the regular military men and women do. And they suffer the same injuries, physical, emotional and mental, and their families suffer the stresses and strains of long deployments PLUS financial insecurity, as the feds rarely pay as much as their civilian jobs did.

Members of hte National Guard and Reserves and their families deserve no less than the full support and entitlements we give to regular military and vets.

May 02, 2009

Get(ting) Serious! about ig poo stains

Mikey has been taking to pooping where he ought not, and seems to want to find the same places to poop on after I've cleaned them up. The carpet was starting to get stained and me very annoyed. I asked my friend Phyllis what she recommends for cats and dogs - she gets to test lots of pet products out as a product reviewer, so I knew she'd tested a lot with her own canine and feline critters.

She recommended Get Serious, which is available at the big box pet stores as well as from some online stores. It is a fragrance-free enzyme mixture that lifts the biological remnants from the carpet and other surfaces.

Squirt the GS on in a zig-zag pattern - don't soak the area. Rub the brush side-to-side, side-to-side, then up-and-down, up-and-down, repeating the sideways and up-and-down for 15 seconds, then blot with the towel til nothing more comes up. That's it.

I have been using it, and it really does work well. It works best on new deposits, but also on older stuff. And it's easy to use. You just need the squirt bottle of Get Serious (they make versions for dog and cat, but they really are the same and can be used interchangeably), a scrub brush, and a terry cloth towel or, if its a small area, one or two Viva Paper Towels (my preference, for their thickness and capacity to soak up stuff without ripping and shredding).

It also removes dried blood, as I found when I cleaned up the blood that dried on the carpet several weeks after my last iguana bite.

Got stains? Get Serious!

Ship Your Reptiles the Right Way

Pro Exotics has been breeding reptiles and selling supplies for quite some time. As any hobbyist knows who has tried to ship reptiles, it isn't easy to find a carrier who will accept them, and there's a lot to know and do to pack them and ship them - if you care to do it responsibly, that is. It is because too many have, through the years, done so irresponsibly, most carriers won't accept them (which, alas, doesn't stop people from shipping them anyway...).

Well, that's changed, thanks to Pro Exotics. They have worked out an arrangement with United Parcel Service (UPS) to be a shipping portal for people who need to ship reptiles. The new portal, called, provides an easy way to set up and pay for UPS shipping. You can request UPS to pick up from your home or business, or take the box to any UPS store, or hand it to any UPS driver you see. If you don't have the proper materials you need to ship your reptile (or any other LEGAL animal), SYRs has a selection of kits you can order that has everything you need to ship safely and humanely. There's even a how-to video on their site.

Their other portal is, through which you can order up and pay for USP to ship anything else you need to ship. I used it recently to ship my neice and grandnephew's birthday presents.

Oh, and did I forget to mention that when you use SYR and APS shipping portals, you get 30% off the regular UPS price? Sweet!