Girls Group Breakdown

Yeraska by Janexci
Yeraska. Photo by Janexci

After 4 years of working and playing (let’s be honest) with neighborhood kids we’ve had a drastic contraction in numbers. For a couple of years we had a steady eight to ten kids, mostly girls, show up for art and English and extracurricular activities. Sometimes the number would well to nearly twenty. More kids showed around parties and field tips or after rumors of gifts. Last year tension developed between two factions in the group. The tweeners (10-12 year olds) started picking on each other and lines formed between a group of kids in our immediate vicinity and a group of kids from further away. It was annoying to mediate between the two groups. This year I wondered what would happen. I really didn’t want to deal with a pack of boy crazy girls learning how to get their nasty on with each other. In Spanish.

It all started out pretty easily. The group of further away kids naturally stopped coming. They were older and had newer interests. They drifted off. No big deal. Now all I had was my immediate neighbors and a few ‘cometas’. Cometas are people that come occasionally to standing gigs. Like that woman you see in your yoga class three times a year. They streak by and get a little attention because they are so rarely seen. The group was reduced to essentially four kids, a pair of sister pairs. It seemed a little sad at first but it was so much more manageable. For an instant.

The eldest girl has been disruptive for three years. She has stolen. She has lied. She has inappropriately touched other kids. Even though she was now one of only four and they were next door neighbors she still couldn’t stay out of trouble. Now that she was 11 and we’d been working with her for more than 3 years I was starting to lose hope that we could get through to her in a positive way. Mid-winter she intentionally but secretly damaged a piece of art in our home. We had a meeting. A written agreement was drawn up. A contract on behavior. A chance to formalize the many second chances we’d already given this young girl. This girl is so smart, lovely, and troubled. She breaks our heart. We all (not just Burt and I) want to see her succeed but she can’t escape her negative behaviors.

Last week she orchestrated a scam where she convinced the other kids to tell me there was no school on a certain day and then get me to agree to do something fun with them. It was a brilliant and spontaneous lie. She said, “We don’t have school tomorrow.” The other kids merely backed her up. Two are so young I’m not sure they even knew they were lying. The next morning as I drove to yoga I noticed a bunch of kids going to school as usual. Uh oh. Well surely they parental units didn’t let the scam go through. I texted the neighbor that takes the gang to school and I asked her what was going down. She said, “Nobody showed up for their ride today. I was wondering why.” I knew why.

I got to the driver’s home and I told her the kids were ducking. So I went to one house and asked if the kid went to school. The mother told me her daughter had begged and cried to skip school so she could do something with me. Mom relented. Note, this kid didn’t lie to mom. I explained to the mother I would never knowingly schedule anything on a school day. The next home was the home of the criminal mastermind. I asked the grandma where the kids were. Grandma said, “There’s no school today.” I had to tell her that there was school and that her granddaughter had lied to her. From inside the house I hear the mother’s reaction as she realizes we’ve all been taken by the kid’s lie. Meanwhile the mastermind comes outside to great me, laughing at her success, and I in a fit of anger say, “You will never come to my house again. You’ve had all your chances. We had an agreement and you lied to me, your grandmother and your mother.” I gave a very dramatic but grammatically flawed speech on lying and the importance of school. I could here mom yelling inside. I feared a beating was coming. I left feeling sad for so many things. I was struck that her caretakers didn’t know the school schedule.

Rumors reached me that the girls were grounded. They weren’t seen for two days. I softened a bit and have agreed to meet with the troubled kid and talk with her about the road ahead. I’m pretty certain she won’t be welcome in my classes but I want her to know we can still be friends and can still talk. I worry about her but there’s nothing I can do by myself. She may learn to live another way or she may not. So far the lying and cheating and stealing are working for her.

It’s been over a week. The girl is still banned from classes and another has chosen not to come in solidarity. The two youngest are leaving their older sisters behind and coming to class on their own. I am so proud of them. Today we went to the beach. I think it’s important to remember I have been working with these two kids since they were four years old. In so many ways it was already too late for the older kids to trust me.

Janexci by Yeraska
Janexci. Photo by Yeraska.
Hair twirl by Yeraska
Hair twirl. Photo by Yeraska.
It's not Judo by Janexci
It’s not Judo. Photo by Janexci.
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Other stuff

Burt getting the hat lecture
Burt getting the hat lecture

Other things we’ve been doing instead of writing:

1. I endured an all day, every 2 hours glaucoma test. Pressure is rising but not too high. I can’t recommend this diagnostic approach.

2. Annual skin check. The dermo wants us to bathe every day and add moisture. I say no. I’m gonna stick with my less is more routine.

3. Our windows are almost all here. They showed up and put some in. We haven’t paid so don’t fret.

4. We’ve been singing twice a week in a professionally conducted choral. More later. It’s hard work.

5. Elvis required his own emergency vet visit. Nothing was found but he was so snippy he had to be sedated for the exam. Twenty-four hours of sleep fixed him.

6. The kid’s class blew up and reformed after the older kids lied to me. In a scam that nearly succeeded they told me they had no school last Friday so they could do something fun with me. Too bad I drove by the school and saw kids going to school. Then I had to go to their parents and tell them about the scam. The main instigator lied to her parents and drug her younger sister into it. And actually convinced them there was no school.  Another kid didn’t lie but convinced her mother my class was better than school (it might be). I told that mother I would never let the kids skip school to do something with me. Awkward. I banned the oldest kid and main instigator. I put the next oldest kid into the penalty box and I let the youngest kids off the hook with a stern warning to not be lemmings. I’m not sure if the youngest kids even knew there was school. Their schedule can by confusing. In fact there is no school his Friday.

7. We played Bridge.

8. We went to the mountains.

9. I returned to yoga class.

10. We have a house concert/hootenanny this afternoon. So I skipped yoga to rest. I still need a lot of rest.

11. We depart in ten days. A destination filled June is planned.

Hurricane windows
Hurricane windows
Mom cards
Mom cards
Three dogs
Three dogs
Burt and Chava
Burt and Chava
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Veterinary visits continue

We-three
We-three

Olive being Olive ate something and it nearly killed her again. Or was it stress? or a bad reaction to her vaccines. Whatever it was it caused Olive’s gut to blow up and her face to look sad and she was in pain. At 10 PM we rushed down to the vet and an x-ray revealed…now, you should be saying x-ray, 10 PM…I didn’t know there were x-rays in Pescadero, I didn’t know you could see a vet at 10PM…Yes!!! You can get x-rays in Pescadero. You can’t even get pet x-rays in Todos Santos. And our vet is available by text. She’d just seen Olive for her shots the day before so she knew it was a sudden change in health.

Back to the reveal. The x-rays revealed a huge heart in all the bad ways. Olive has a bad ticker. We’re in a chicken or the egg situation. The heart might have gone haywire due to pain. There was an underlying heart murmur that might have made everything worse. The stress of a new puppy or vaccines might have triggered something. For the second time in less than a year it looked like Olive might not make it. Ten days later and she’s almost normal and just like me she takes a heart medicine. She’s little bit less enthusiastic about jumping (me, too) but still very active. There are plans for an EKG. She’s on a diet and has already lost weight. We’re not certain she doesn’t have pain in her hind end or spine. She won’t say.  She’s a bummer like that. That 10:00 visit cost $30 with x-ray and medicine.

Chava nap
Chava nap
Olive nap
Olive nap
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Bridge is almost over for us until next fall

Wednesday Kitchen Bridge
Wednesday Kitchen Bridge

Lorna and Janna spent winter Wednesday evening’s playing party Bridge with the Gypsy Carpenters. It was a lovely time. Now Lorna is leaving for the season and our game dissolved. Burt and I won last night with a score of +1 to their -1. Not much of a win, more of a draw. I’m sad because I’ll miss the Bridge but mostly because I’ll miss spending time with these two. They’re both great people and fun to hang with.

Lorna, on the right, is our Todos Santos club director. She mentored three of us through the club director’s test two weeks ago. The test was a drag but I think we passed. If we did pass we’ll have some needed back up for Lorna and the ability to offer sanctioned games when Lorna is gone.

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Global Big Day

Wilson's Phalarope
Wilson’s Phalarope. We saw non-breeding plumage.

I blame the lack of posts on my lack of energy but it might be a more deep seated ambivalence. I don’t have much to say. There’s been a lot happening but most of it I’ve written about extensively so it’s not inspiring me to write more. A few weeks ago we participated in the Global Big Day. So I’ll share a little about that.

The folks at UABCS (wah-bes) or the Universidad Autonimo Baja California Sur organized a community event for Global Big Day, May 4, 2019. Normally, Burt and I spend this day intensively birding our home range trying to see the endemic species of Baja California Sur so I wasn’t much interested in a community event that would interfere with my personal birding. Emer and Joaquin convinced it was a good idea to bring the community together on this special day to raise awareness. They also asked the Gypsy Carpenters to play music. So I caved. Burt was unconscious and having his hernia repaired. I had a fever of 102. My ability to resist was compromised. Three weeks later Burt and I drag our lame butts out of bed at 4:15 AM so we can get to the estero in San Jose del Cabo for the 7:00 meet-up to bird the estuary. Neither of us was in good shape. Burt sat in a chair on the estero’s edge with the newly acquire Chava and rested his hernia repair. I birder for two hours with a group of 8 experienced birders. A second group of nearly 20 first timers went off with Emer as their guide. That was a great thing. Afterwards we played music under a tent at a display table as the university students met with the public and shared their knowledge. I can’t really say if it went well or not. I was simply too tired to care. In the weeks before grand ideas of a mad rush to get to the mountains and bird the late afternoon were bandied about. By 11:00 AM Burt and I were done. We headed home with no plans to do anything but rest.

A few hours later we were semi-conscious in out gNash living the good life. Nowhere to go and nothing to do. I was a little bummed at the lamest bird list in years for Big Day but I was happy to be under my covers half asleep. Then I got a text. Lupillo, the best birder I know in Baja, was trying to decide how to finish his Big Day. He was already at over 70 species. (I had 30ish). He was debating the mountains or the Todos Santos area. Hint, hint. Lupillo has no car. If he came to Todos Santos he would need a driver. He didn’t come right out and say, “hey, will you drive me around so I can bird?” It was a subtle, “hey, what are you doing?” So I said, “If you come here, I’ll pick you up and drive you around and you can spend the night with us.” And so Lupillo got on a bus and arrived in Todos Santos at 4:30 PM and I picked him up for phase two of Big Day. I was not excited. That’s how hard this recovery has been.

And so began a mad cap three hours of incredible discoveries. Our first stop was on the north side of La Poza where a drunk man threatened us with bodily harm for looking at his house. Dude, we were just walking by with binoculars. Chill out. Immediately on arriving at the water’s edge I saw an unfamiliar bird, Lupillo got very excited. Lupillo does not get excited. It was a red phalarope. What a cool little bird. It was running around in circles feeding on the shoreline uninterested in our approach.  Five minutes into this unexpected excursion and I had a life bird. I was feeling a little perkier. Adrenaline from the drunk helped, too.

Right after that I got Lupillo his first blue grosbeak in breeding plumage. Then we saw some baby killdeer. I’m almost over being embarrassed by my bad IDs in front of experts so you can laugh when I thought they were plovers. Google them. Baby killdeer sort of look like plovers if you don’t notice that the parents are right there guarding them and their plumage is super fluffy. On our way back to the car we found a Wlison’s phalarope. Another lifer for me. The drunk guy had gone inside his house so we reached the car unmolested.

Lupillo and I hit a couple of other spots. Mostly drive bys. I did not want to walk. We got the barn owl in town because we know where it lives. We searched for some rock pigeons and found none. After dark we drove out a dirt road near our place in Pescadero and got the elf owl, a whiskered screech owl, and a common poorwill. At 8:00 I waved a flag of surrender and told Lupillo we had to stop. I was at 67 species for the day and we’d helped push Baja California Sure to over 100 but I was wasted. We headed to the hill we call home. I put Lupillo in the rumpus room with some food and collapsed.

The next morning we did a few car tours and bagged another lifer, the purple martin. It flew overhead while we were looking at a Harris’s hawk. I went from total surrender under my blankets to bagging three lifers in my home territory in under 24 hours.  I teased Lupillo that I would still be trying to identify the phalarope if he hadn’t been there but really I never would have seen it because I wouldn’t have gotten out of bed.

Red Phalarope
Red Phalarope. This is breeding plumage. The one I spotted was in its drab winter colors.
Purple Martin
Purple Martin
IMG_7953
Lupillo at work. Both phalaropes in the distance.

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Pro-Trump Bible Thumping Spam

Chava waiting for his vaccinations.
Chava waiting for his vaccinations.

Here’s some puppies instead. Meet Chava. He’s our foster pooch. He ran under our car while we were driving. Burt (all his fault) stopped to see if he was okay and in leapt Chava. Todd and Gretchen are on the line as his adoptive parents. Meanwhile we’re getting him all cleaned up and trained. Olive is not amused.

Are you ready? Some thing called BibleFreedom.com sent me an email to GypsyCarpenters.com that explains everything. If you need a good scare I suggest you check it out. You’ll have to type it in yourself. I will not give them the pleasure of a hotlink. I’ve read second hand about how fundamental Christians welcome Trump because they believe that he will fulfill some epic biblical prophesies. Second hand reading did not prepare me for the first hand fear fest of this web page. The end of teh world is just what we need and Trump will bring the end of the world. Something we can all agree on, I guess. But why do so many think this is a good thing. Why do we have such apocalyptic fantasies? Can’t we just watch Walking Dead? I personally would like to save the world and make it a nicer place to live. I’m trying in my little corner.

Along these lines, do anti-vaxxers, or my new favoritepro-plaguers, vaccinate their pets? I’ve seen plenty of dogs suffering in Mexico from preventable diseases. It hurts to see dogs with permanent tremors brought on by the high fevers of distemper, nevermind the puppies that don’t make it after weeks of intensive care. The rate of vaccination is lower and so the herd immunity we (mostly) enjoy in our US pet populations doesn’t exist. Chava was a lucky pup. He made it to about three months and is in fairly good health. He had some fleas and worms and was skinny and losing hair from malnutrition but after five days of care he’s already growing and looking better. He had his first DHPP and kennel cough yesterday. Next week he’ll be neutered an then, right before we leave he’ll get rabies and the second DHPP. Good to go world traveling.

Olive photo bomb. She was vaccinated as well.
Olive photo bomb. She was vaccinated as well.
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Sickly

Cardinal of BCS
Cardinal of BCS

I’m not having much fun. Neither is Burt. Burt is at least getting better. Me, I’m not convinced. Monday I saw another doctor because after finally feeling better I was suddenly feeling worse. My lungs ached. I had no stamina. There was a fry cough. I had no interest in anything. The doctor looked around and said they didn’t think there was an infection but ordered a culture to be certain. I was instructed to return to the clinic the next day at 8:00. No food, no drink, no teeth brushing. Do not disturb the environment in your mouth with anything. Bring your skeevey mouth in as it is when you wake. Check. Meanwhile they gave me prenisone to clear up the minor inflammation.

I arrived on time with gross mouth. The technician stuck a long swab down my throat. There was much gagging and drooling. I’d started the course of steroids so I was feeling pretty good again. Burt and I went to breakfast to celebrate. I was told to check back in three days. My understanding was in two days they’d know if there was a bacterial infection. If there was an infection, they’d know which antibiotics were effective in an additional twenty-four hours. Since I felt pretty good (thanks, prednisone) I presumed the doctor was correct and there would be no infection. So after the bare three days I checked in with the clinic. Sorry, your results aren’t ready. I can do math. I knew that meant an infection. They were in the last hours of finding an effective antibiotic.

The next day I got the news that I had contracted staphylococcus pneumoniea. I didn’t have pneumonia, yet, but I was very sick. Now the month that had had three days of fever, vertigo, exhaustion, and general ick made sense. The culture showed my bug is resistant to three families of antibiotics but several commonly available medicines are still effective.

So I’m done with the steroids and feeling crappy. All my research indicates it’s going to be a slow recovery. I might be cured in five days but the exhaustion may linger for weeks. I have three more days of shots in the large muscle mass of my bottom. The cardinal is a spring yard bird here.

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Spiny tailed iguana

Spiny tailed iguana
Spiny tailed iguana

The reptile above looks like it might be looking for a bird meal but that’s not their normal food choice. The spiny tailed iguana generally eats fruits and flowers, occasionally an insect or small animal. Eggs are a popular choice, too. That being said, the birds were having none of it. They stayed a safe distance away from this creature while it made a through inspection of our feeding station. I suspect it came by for the oranges. Our compost is just over the fence and so that might also be an attractant.

Energy levels remain low all around the gNash. Burt is not his usual chipper or energetic self. That’s to be expected after somebody opens a hole in your gut and leaves behind a foreign object. The doctor said all is healing as expected but still 5 more weeks without full exertion. The mesh is stiffening up nicely with scar tissue to plug the “rodent’s” hole. Burt is cleared to drive the automatic and in two weeks he can drive the Dodge.

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Pat Owens, Rest in Peace my friend.

Here's a bird for Pat
Here’s a bird for Pat

My friend Pat would have said a prayer for us but now she’s dead and I am left wrestling with my complicated emotions. The last two weeks haven’t been too difficult, no worse than anybody’s share of life’s burdens and much lighter than many, but they were enervating. I knew the financial shock of our taxes would pass quickly and it did. Burt’s hernia required some effort to find a doctor but we did and the surgery was affordable and quickly done. But before he had his surgery I popped out a rib while rolling over in bed and he came down with the flu. I was blinded by the rib pain. I mean literally blind. I could not see. Burt was in bed with a fever and I was pacing the gNash like I’ve seen dying animals pace. I could find no rest. I thought I knew pain. I hope I never know pain like this again. That morning we headed to the ER and I got pain pills. The next day Amir (thank you, Amir) popped my rib back in. Then I got the flu. Then Burt had his surgery and somewhere in here Pat died. And now 8 days post surgery I can almost manage to think clearly enough to share my emotional pain.

For those of you that have been here these last 9 years you may remember Pat as our steadiest comment provider. Until Trump ran for president Pat and I were able to overcome all political and religious differences and meet on the vast common ground of our love of service to others, nature, dessert, and travel. Pat was funny and silly and not-worldly. She wrote letters to prison convicts and made me teeth cleaning appointments when I was in her area. She made lemon bars for Portal Irish Music Week (until Trump). She gathered clothes for my kids. She kept up and she sought out ways to help me and a lot of other people. She loved her lord and Jesus and she showed it in her service to others. She was suspicious of gays, deeply afraid of the border issues (she lived there so I’ll not dispute her), loved going to Mexico to shop at the Pink Store, and said some crazy things that I would alway stry to gently share a different perspective about. In our 7 years of near daily contact we never had a direct disagreement over politics. I knew she was conservative and, well, you know me. There was no reason to talk about things like that. She and I were people of action. Actions speak louder than words.

Pat loved the Gypsy Carpenters. She designated herself our roadie/groupie and made herself a t-shirt. She used to come to all our shows. We played a party at her house once. She needed cheap dental care and I took her to Mexico. It was a good relationship based on common good. Where the fuck did it all go wrong? I wish I knew. I feel like if I could figure this out we could solve the bigger problems.

My first inkling there was a problem was when Pat one day didn’t show up to comment and one day turned into ten days. I had recently written a rare political piece about how grateful I was that the ACA (Obamacare) worked for me. It shows you how regular she was. I noticed in a day that she wasn’t reading my work. I wrote and asked if she was okay. She said yes, but she hated Obama and couldn’t stand to read my blog. I gently told her she was my friend and I though we could still be friends despite not agreeing on politics. Just like always. She came back. For a little while.

Somewhere in here I learned from a friend (also now deceased) that Pat was a committed Trump supporter. I found it hard to believe but remember this was before the elections. I didn’t realize Trump’s sway with evangelicals yet. I decided to ignore the information. I also decided if I felt like saying something political on my blog I would. Pat stopped writing and I didn’t reach out again. Trump was elected and I was so angry I couldn’t bring myself to say anything to her again. Portal Irish Music Week came and went two more times. One time she slyly delivered lemon bars through a mutual friend. The last time there was nothing.

Occasionally our paths would cross, we shared some hikes, we had mutual friends, but he bond was broken. We’d been polarized by external circumstances and neither of us knew how to reach across. Here’s where I am not sure about what is right and what is wrong. What I do know is Pat withdrew from all aspects of the life I knew. Many friends said she changed or no longer participated in the community. Because our relationship was largely virtual I had no way of knowing this. I wonder why? Did she feel mocked, belittled, defensive?

Is it now impossible for me to be friends with people that support Trump? I still think yes, but I wonder if I owe those friends a check in? An I love you? An our past matters to me? Or, as I feel is the case here, I did reach out and she turned away from me so do I make my peace and move on?

I do know this. Pat Owens you were a good friend to me and I will never forget you. I could have used your prayers this week even though you know I don’t believe. I never resented them.

 

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It’s that time of year and it’s a whole new world

Hooded Oriole sipping the aloe nectar.
Hooded Oriole sipping the aloe nectar.

I’m talking taxes. The Gypsy Carpenters just went through their annual tax reporting. As we all knew, know, or will know, the so-called tax reform does not favor the small time business owner. Taxes were confusing before but we knew the system. Now nobody knows the rules, including, it seems, the TurboTax e-filing program. A person of average intelligence should be able to file their own taxes without emotional trauma or fear of misreporting. Filing was difficult before the reform. Today, post-reform, I have no idea what when why or how. It was ugly. We owe so much that retirement looks more profitable. You think I’m kidding? I am not. Looking at you, Mr. Trump. Our main hit was caused by changes to rental income. What once was a legal and reliable loss or net even for us is now income. Substantial income. Also troubling, the TurboTax program is double counting my 1099 income. I can’t get it to take it once with appropriate deductions. It’s either in twice with deductions or in once with no deductions. A person of standard intellect should be able to manage. Tears were not shed but they were there caught in my lashes wanting to break free. I will not cry over you and your assaults on the small business owner Mitch McConnell and friends.

What does any sane person do in this situation? I estimated our taxes due and filed extensions with the feds and the state and sent them a ton of money. And now I put my head in the sand until we return to the US and I can find advice. The way I currently read the tax situation it does not pay to be a part-time entrepreneur.

Meanwhile Burt has a hernia and our livelihood is at stake. A surgical repair is required for him to get back to work. No heavy lifting from now until six or more weeks post surgery. We’re trying to figure out how to schedule the operation and recovery so Burt can get to work as scheduled. At least our Baja house is at a place we can leave it until Burt and our bank accounts recover.

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