Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Close Encounters of the Critter Kind

It's been quite some time since I have given you a wild critter update of the goings-ons around the Sanctuary. It's been a fun spring.

Two wild geese settled on the pond and are raising five goslings with the help of a vigilant "Aunt," a domestic goose from the next pond. They are getting pretty big and fluttering around trying to fly. Last week an eagle perched on the tall 'woodpecker' condo and was giving them the, well, eagle eye, so to speak, and mom and pop hunkered down and circled the wagons while some raucous jays dive-bombed him until he decided to gig a frog and leave for easier pickings.

Corey (stepson who lives in an Airstream on the mustang property), brought home three ducklings and they have been quite an endeavor. They are now fairly large and have shed their yellow feathers for white ones and are finally ensconced in a duck house he built. There's a reason for being called 'bird brain.' These three stooges are getting used to the pond slowly, though they are still intimidated by it. When they are adult they'll graduate to a floating island in the middle of the pond. We hope the wild geese will kinda show them the ropes since they were bought as young 'uns from Tractor Supply.

We have suspected for some time that there has been a fox lurking about, as they tend to hide their scat and scent by going to the bathroom on top of the horse manure. It's not Francis, since she would have come up to the terrace for food by now. A 'new' fox is shy, and primarily a creature of the night. So when we pulled in the drive one night last week and a fox tore out from under the pampas grass and down the drive we were thrilled, but not surprised. I'm pretty sure it is one of Francis's kits, come to claim her mom's territory as her own, now that Francis is gone.

The bachelor beaver has come and gone after checking his property. He usually stays at his Lodge a few days and trims up the willow and then goes on down the stream where food is easier to find. We'll be so glad to have him stay the summer once the willows are grown back.

Driving up the mountain Thursday afternoon I stopped in the road to watch a doe nudge her newborn fawn across the road. The fawn was the size of a medium-sized dog and wobbly on his legs.  He was scared to cross the road and hunkered down in fear while I sat there for a few minutes until mom finally persuaded him to finish crossing the road and go into the glade. He must have just been born.

A friend is raising a baby raccoon that I want to see, but he came down with distemper. We are hoping he'll pull through. We have pretty much stopped feeding the ones here, but for one female that just insists she's part of the household and won't go away, so we will feed 'Sad Girl,' a can a night. As soon as we open the door she knows to run into the back yard to get her food. She was brought up by her mom a few generations ago and is very tame.

That's all the critter news to report...the mustangs are all doing great. The drought has wreaked havoc on the pasture, though, so we are forced to buy hay and alfalfa cubes, which isn't great for our meager budget. We are hoping for some rain! If y'all have any, send it on down our way.

Saturday, May 19, 2012


I read an interesting article awhile back about micro-messages, a term coined in 1973. MM are two thousand to four thousand subtle, non-verbal signals that we send every day, which are automatic and almost invisible. Or hardly detectable, anyway. Nods, sighs, shrugs, grins, grimaces, eye rolls, doodling, eyes drifting, finger tapping or snapping, head whipping...all these are MM, which are either positive or negative.

Micro messages can be praised, supported, judged, goaded, adored, dismissed or ignored.

A micro-perp is what you'd call someone who exploits their power, like bosses who look at their email while you are talking to them. Or who gaze at their computer instead of being engaged in the conversation. Or doctors who ignore you and speak directly to your spouse. Or clerks who are polite but never look you in the eye. A final example of a micro-perp would be a friend who begins an apology by saying, "If that hurt your feelings..."

A micro-victim is simply the person on the receiving end. The student who, after never being called upon, stops raising his hand in class. A junior executive whose ideas are dismissed with a wave of a hand and a "we've tried that before," or  "anything else?" A woman who answers the door to a salesman asking if the lady of the house is at home. Words don't convey the essence of what we mean like micro-messages do. They make our feelings and messages crystal clear.

Roots of the micro-message are assumptions we make about our place in the world, our position in the social hierarchy, certain beliefs about individuals and groups -- pre-conceived notions about race, gender, ethnicity -- all filters - someone with hard-wired beliefs will support his way of thinking. Thus, my filters can distort your performance.

Most students learn by 2nd or 3rd grade if they are deemed dull or bright. Those perceived as dull begin to meet those 'expectations' of themselves. If someone you are talking to becomes inattentive, you'll grow angry, or frustrated, nervous, you might ramble or feel invisible, or you might be polite but cool towards them. You may sense what's going on and still be duped and end up faltering in conversation. It takes skill to keep someone engaged, just as it is a skill to be an active listener.

Some people intuitively confer micro-affirmations by engaging people, ignoring race or ethnicity, and bringing out the best in people, eliciting trust and loyalty.

Insensitivities result from an imbalance of power between two people. Everyone has been on both sides of this equation. Micro-inequities apply to everyone. Playing favorites, forgetting someone's name repeatedly, not paying attention, not remaining focused on someone's presentation...are examples of this.

A leader can change the entire tone of a room just through micro-messages such as facial expression, neutral comments, eye contact, active listening, etc. Silences can be loaded.

In short, micro-messages get to the DNA of culture change without saying a word. I'm thinking a lot of this is how we communicate with babies and animals. Any thoughts?

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Baby, the Rain Must Fall

I can't believe it's been two weeks since my last post, but I am not really surprised. It feels more like two years, actually. I had a post already figured out but it occurred to me you might be (if only mildly) interested in why I've been away. I have been preoccupied with two friends and their recent diagnosis and fall-out and one murder. One friend's new DIL's husband (age 33) was just diagnosed with ALS (commonly known as Lou Gerig's disease). He had been sore and unable to lift an arm above his shoulder and they suspected a pinched nerve. Super-shock. The fancy-schmancy hospital in Little Rock has been their typical responsive nurturing self (read: horrid and unhelpful), and the final straw was when he began having trouble breathing, and they proposed a dr appt two weeks away. She (the wife) and I have become friends when she called to ask if I could help, and to ask how one lives with chronic illness. We schemed to get him to a good diagnostic clinic, if they couldn't get into NIH, and they ended up at Johns Hopkins. Unfortunately there aren't any clinical trials he can participate in, but at least they didn't talk down to them and they got the latest info (which the drs here were unwilling to provide them). They were glad they went, despite the expense and hassle of travel when sick and disabled. My other friend is in his early 80s. He and his wife landed in the ER midnight Palm Sunday when he wasn't getting better from what they assumed was a bout of food poisoning. Things went south from there -- from a stomach virus, to a blockage in his large intestine, to surgery for a tumor, to pancreatic cancer, that has spread to other organs. After 10 days in the hospital, he had his first chemo treatment last Monday. They are hopeful. But I have seen four friends succumb to pancreatic cancer. Perhaps the treatments will buy him a little time. If it doesn't seem to, G is smart enough to consider 'quality vs. quantity,' and fully intends to spend his remaining days savoring his time with M, his dogs, and his pipe. Last but certainly not least, a dear friend was murdered by an ex-BF two Saturday nights ago. W and I had been friends since 1994. He wasn't supposed to cut my hair that day, but we had such a rapport when we met, he became my stylist and it evolved to friendship outside the salon. I followed him to his second and then third salon jobs. About six years ago, he became really erratic and unreliable. It got to where I never knew if he'd keep the appt or not, and it was a real hassle. So I switched to the first stylist I had used, who had just moved back from Memphis. But W and I remained friends. And Excy still went to him. I was looking forward to returning as his customer. It wasn't until he went to a treatment center and later confessed to substance-abuse problems that I realized what had been going on (naive, I know). But I was so proud of how W cleaned up and turned his life around. He became involved in his church, going so far as to take several church trips to Israel, and also regularly helped feed the homeless in the city. Unfortunately, his dark past caught up to him. His ex 'friended' him on FB, and told him he was in dire straits. W, being the sweet guy he was, invited him to crash on his couch a few nights while he got it together. The killer showed up that night with another man. They tied W up, robbed him, then placed him in his car in the garage and set it on fire. Neighbors saw the smoke and called the fire department, who found W and tried to revive him, to no avail. I think W knew something was going to happen, because somehow he managed to let his two dogs out, who ended up at the neighbors. Those dogs were his kids and were so important to him. W didn't make good choices, but no one deserves to die as W did, particularly someone who worked so hard to turn his life around. We are heart-sick. The week before he died, we ran into him at the grocery store, and being able to hug him and chat for 10 minutes feels like a gift to me now. I know I will never stop missing him. Fortunately they quickly apprehended the killers, as well as the 'fence' who took his computers and television. But it's small comfort. The one bright spot in the last two weeks was my friend M's quick fly-by visit from Maine. Although we were only able to spend 4 hours together, those hours on the screened porch were a tonic for the soul. M and I have been friends since 1979, when we lived together in an odd green house in college for a year. And one thing that also cheered me up was learning she is finally divorced and finished with the crusty old asshole she married in what I can only assume was a moment of supreme weakness and confusion. As my dear friend S says, the man is a 'complete waste of oxygen.' M has always had horrible taste in men, apart from her first (and second) husband, who is wonderful, and still a supportive friend of hers. Time will out. She finally severed communication with her horrid ex asshole, who I have never liked. I tried, but the man has no redeeming qualities. The first time we met him, the instant Excy and I got in our car after the evening, we looked at each other and just said in unison, 'uh oh...' In 7 years we got together as a couple exactly twice for two ill-fated outings. I usually sucked it up and went alone if I couldn't get M to come over here or meet me alone. In an effort to lash out at her once more, he came after me in a final text, saying I was 'gaming' the 'system' with my chronic illness. Really?? WTF? By having cancer? By being on disability and not working? What does he know, anyway? It was all so BSC, I told M I'd be hurt if it weren't so pathetic, or gave a shit what G thought anyway...but thank god she is well out of it and hopefully leaving Maine and growing closer to her first ex again...I know. Drama. Here's the icing on the cake: we leave on Thursday for a pre-op at Emory. I am hopeful that despite the impending appointment, I won't be having surgery for a few more months, at least. Now that I have caught ya'll up to speed, my next post will be more fun. That won't be much of a stretch...