Tuesday, May 28, 2013


Last week was all about reunions for me.  In fact I had 4 very different reunions and each has impacted me in a meaningful way.

The first reunion was my 30th college reunion.  Mt. Holyoke College has played a huge role in my life - first as my alma mater but beyond that my ongoing engagement with the College has given me many things - an amazing network of friends around the country, some of my very best friends ever and tremendous life experiences.  My engagement with the College since graduation has always had to do with the Alumnae Clubs - I've actually been a club officer in Rochester NY, Lancaster PA, Dallas TX and here in Silicon Valley where I played many roles including Club President.  In each place my fellow MHCers have been a joy and delight.  The clubs activities over the years have ranged from book groups, parties, adventures (eco-touring the Elkhorn Slough), volunteering for Second Harvest Food Bank and crafts (who will forget the afternoon spent making candles on Anne Raphael's deck while looking at a spectacular view of the Valley?).  My goal was always to help as many ways as I could and connect in a meaningful way with people. Yet, I never really connected with my class.  That changed this year. I was asked to become my class president and was given a loyalty award - these two factors drove me to wing my way to the east coast and spend three days back at MHC. 

Reunion was fantastic - I reconnected with some old friends who I have literally not seen in 30 years, and made new friends as well.  I got to try out the bed in a college dorm room - an experience my back is still working to forget - and the showers in the newest dorm on campus which were so small we determined they were eco friendly because who would willingly spend more than three minutes in the tiny spaces.  I got to hear about the road not traveled from an old friend who actually went to grad school to study genetic counseling which had been my original plan senior year and to learn that many women are facing all kinds of life transitions.  I also got to see two of my favorite professors who were at the biology department party - Jeff Knight and Kay Holt were two of my favorite people in College and I was thrilled to see them both happy and healthy. 

I am so glad that I went and spent time with so many amazing people. And yes I did party - if you can call singing Paradise at the Dashboard Light at the top of my lungs on a deck overlooking Lower Lake  partying - well we did party on.  The dancing was great to watch and the joy everyone felt was terrific.

My second reunion was with my nephew - James - who I was lucky enough to spend time with on both Friday afternoon and Sunday for the day.  My nephew was graduating from Amherst College the following weekend but I was lucky enough to have leisurely uninterrupted time with him. I'm so proud of how he has grown up and become just an amazing person.  Hard to believe that 30 years ago I was in his shoes, graduating and wondering what would happen next.  I wouldn't have believed anyone if they told me.

My third reunion was with my good friend Cori.  Cori and I have known each other over ten years and she has been instrumental in every major career decision I've made during that time.  She has helped me with my job searches, her expertise is career counseling, and she has taught me how to help others. And now we're looking at ways we can work together as she moves on to a major new role.  And she was kind enough to offer me a place to sleep the night before I headed home - even though she was in the midst of packing.  Her dog Toby was a delight (very much like my Bizz) and we spent a wonderful morning talking and planning and laughing.

My fourth reunion was of course with my Bizz.  This trip was the first time Bizz and I had been apart since I adopted him. His Aunt Marina came to stay but I could tell he knew I was leaving.  His morning walk before we went to the airport was an exercise in frustration - he just wouldn't walk.  He knew why I was in a rush and was not planning to help.  Marina took this photo of him when she got back from the airport.

So of course I fretted while I was gone. The report was he spent the first two days looking for me then he settled down and hung with Marina, even sleeping on her bed.  My landlords said he was the same old Bizz but just not as bubbly as he normally is.  So when traveling home Marina asked if I wanted her to bring Bizz to the airport. I said yes.  When they came to get me she jumped out to open the back. I walked up to the window of the back seat. Bizz was lying down facing away from me and I tapped on the window. He looked back and then did a double take. In a moment he was on his feet and I was trying to open the door but it was locked. When she unlocked it Bizz flew into my arms and there he stayed for the whole ride home. I was so happy to see him and he was happy to see me.  I came down with a cold two days later and spent the long weekend in bed or on the couch napping. And Bizz was never far from me.  We were very happy to be reunited.  As I type this he is lying quite happily on one of his many beds next to me.  So I think I can say I am 4 for 4 on my reunions being happy ones.

Here is Bizz back on my bed with his posse of Squeakers around him.  My only question these days is - where am I going to sleep?

Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day

I've been away from the blog for the last week between my college reunion and having come down with a really bad cold.  So I've not been inspired though I have a list of blog topics so expect more daily blogs this week.

Today is Memorial Day in the USA, a day where we remember and honor the members of our armed forces.  I find myself thinking very often of my father who was a Navy man in World War II.  He signed up as soon as he could out of high school and served throughout the war in the Pacific.  He did his training in Key West Florida in 1943.

I don't remember a lot of details of his war stories - most were rather rowdy.  I do look at the world today and wonder what he would have thought.  He fought in the war to end all wars, defending our country from invasion by great evil.  What would he have thought of the wars we are fighting today? 
I just keep hoping that maybe by next Memorial Day we'll have brought all the brave men and women fighting for this country home.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

How old is your son?

While I was traveling the last few days I made a list of all the topics I am going to write about in the coming weeks.  But I'm a  little jet lagged and more than a bit groggy so I thought for today I would share a quick story.

I went to Physical Therapy this morning for my last appointment. I was late because of a work call plus getting away from Bizz was a bit difficult.  So when I got to PT I was immediately put on a machine that works your shoulder muscles and warms them up.  I mentioned to Janet - who is the assistant in charge of me) that Bizz was throwing a fit when I left. The woman next to me commented she knew how it was then asked me how old Bizz was.  I told her five and that I hated leaving him alone but I just had to get to PT.  She looked at me and said - you left him alone in an odd tone of voice.  I quickly explained that Bizz was my dog.  She immediately looked relieved and said - oh thank god - I thought he was your son.  We went on to have a very entertaining conversation about dogs vs cats and the upshot -I gave her my card and we're going to take her mom to an adoption event at Doggy Protective Services in June. 

I never thought of Bizz as a child's name.  I always assumed that if I had a boy he'd be John after my dad and Susan after the name I always wanted if it was a girl.  I did have to laugh - I've heard so many dogs names in the last few months and people love to tell the story of how then named them.  Over the weekend I spent time with Toby - my friend Cori's dog - who's just cute as a bug and a lot like Bizz.  And the woman this morning said her dog was Scoop because of a paw movement he does.  My families dogs were Otto, Holly and very briefly Mom had one named Beau that she called Bobo.  My all time favorite was my friend Nancy's dog when we were kids - a basset hound named Wrinkles.

What's your dog's name?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

White Dog Fire Dancer and our new video Die Bed Die

This weekend Bizz gave me and a large group of other people the scare of a lifetime.  Ellen and I have been walking every weekend - really giving Bizz a chance to stretch his legs.  This weekend we chose Half Moon Bay and went up to the Moss Beach Distillery for an early dinner. The Moss Beach Distillery is an old 1930's road house with a ghost, or so legend goes.  While inside it is very elegant and not suitable for dogs, outside they have an amazing patio with ocean views, fire pits, chairs, blankets and a very dog friendly environment.  They happily served Bizz an ice water in a plastic cup.

However, as we were getting our chairs situated I turned my back on Bizz very briefly and everyone suddenly screamed. Bizz had leaped onto the edge of the fire pit - thus freaking out everyone else on the patio.  I nearly had a heart attack. He was immediately rescued and except for a brief period where he was attempting to connect with a very large white poodle he was kept within a few inches of me.  At one point he was sitting on a bench between myself and a very nice woman and her tiny baby.  I knew Bizz liked feet since he continuously steals my shoes, but it was confirmed when he spent the whole time sniffing the baby's foot. 

So, my little white dog nearly became a hot dog - literally.  Ellen says her fluffy nephew knows no fear. I think he just has curiosity to spare plus an incredible leaping ability.  No matter what I'm very pleased to say we survived this outing though I have now crossed fire pits off my list of things we can do. 

In my ongoing challenge to find new things for Bizz I located a new bed at Grocery Outlet yesterday.  Over the weekend Bizz had identified a toy dog at PetCo that he liked a great deal - so much he picked it up and shook it violently.  Given my policy that no toy should be over $5 I made him put back the $15 stuffed toy.  Then yesterday I saw this lovely fluffy bed on the shelf at the store.  When I touched the lining I realized it felt just like the toy he had coveted.  At less than $10 the bed was a bargain and multipurpose - soft and fluffy plus a potential replacement for the pillow he is systematically destroying in my office.  What happened when he was presented with the bed was unexpected. And went on so long I video taped part of it. We call it Die Bed Die.  Here is the link to the video on Youtube - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4BvrI1h1WEo.


Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mother's Day

I know two blogs in one day seem like a lot but I meant to post my Chinese blog yesterday. 

Happy Mother's Day to everyone.  I spent our morning walk today trying to think of what to write about.  My own mom passed away almost 20 years ago.  I have many memories of my mom but what I remember most was her coming to my room to tuck me in as a child. She would sing me a song called Little Papoose and tell me to not let the bedbugs bite.

 My favorite pet related memory was of my cat Bonnie.  Bonnie and my mother had an odd relationship since my mother's allergies really meant she should not have a cat at all. Instead she endured shots so we could keep Bonnie. She was the one who found Bonnie who had been abandoned in our local park. She followed Mom home shortly after my Dad died and we took the mangy grey cat to the vet. When we went to get her they brought out a pure white Persian cat.  She was gorgeous.  Mom insisted it was the wrong cat but they told her no - they had vaccinated, spayed and washed her and this was the result.  Mom had always been a pied piper for cats - we placed a number of strays over the years - but when we saw how beautiful Bonnie was mom let her stay. 

In the winter one year Bonnie took to sneaking out of the kitchen after her breakfast on the weekends and sneaking upstairs and climbing into bed with me.  We would snuggle and doze until we heard from downstairs:  "Where's that cat?"  We'd here mom stomping around downstairs muttering that over and over.  Bonnie would tense when she would hear my mother near the stairs. At the sound of her foot on the first stair Bonnie would fly off the bed and into the closet which I always kept slightly open.  My mom would come up and walk into my room.

"Jerrienne Barrett, where is THAT CAT?"

"Don't know.  I was sleeping."

"She's not in bed with you?"

"No."  Mom would huff a bit then head back downstairs.  A few moments later Bonnie would emerge from the closet and get back into bed with me.

In retrospect I think Mom had to have known what was going on but this was her way of keeping us on our toes.

After Bonnie died Mom was followed home one day by a large English sheepdog that she named Bo.  She was crazy about that dog, she got him groomed and proudly walked him every day.  My stepfather would not let her keep the dog which is a shame. I think Mom may have felt that special bond with Bo, like I feel with Bizz. She talked about him with me for years. 

I find myself today missing my Mom and some of the other women in my life who I came to think of as Moms but who have passed on - Connie, Virginia and Jill.

Mom, Rich and I on the Jersey shore. 

No Chinese Food For You

Yesterday was something of an exercise in frustration. Bizz and I journeyed to three different pet food chains in search of his favorite treat - Happy Hips Lamb and Rice flavor. Happy Hips derives it's name from the joint enhancing ingredients of glucosamine and chondroitin.  Since I take the same thing vitamins in pill form I thought sounds good. And he loves them. It's the only treat he never tires of.  So we went to PetSmart, PetCo and then finally Pet Food Express.  It was at Pet Food Express where the very helpful clerk (dressed in a cat costume) told me the reason - Happy Hips is made in China.  It seems the food is purchased from a factory in China and the food contains illegal antibiotics which can cause Liver and Kidney failure in dogs.  Ack!!!  Now the issue is that the food containing duck and chicken jerky was specifically cited so I am hoping like crazy that the lamb and rice did not contain it.  So Happy Hips is off the table and the rest has been tossed.

I bought an array of treats yesterday - all made in the USA - and Bizz is selectively snacking on them.  Only one organic chicken and lamb jerky seems to be favored and is of course three times as expensive.  But I slightly digress.

What I found ironic in all of this is that a number of years ago I spent a significant amount of time in China and throughout my first two week journey food always seemed to be an issue.  Here is the story. I was working for a startup that was based in China and I was in charge of the global launch with a focus on china and the US.  I went to China the first time and arrived on a Sunday afternoon. I was picked up by the woman officer manager, my translator and my driver.  All three were very nice and insisted on taking me to dinner even though I had just eaten on the plane.  At dinner I was confronted by a huge menu that was pretty incomprehensible and was studded with photos. I soon learned that my asking what is it was being interpreted as I want this.  I discovered this when I pointed to one photo and discovered it was, no kidding, braised ass penis, a highly prized delicacy that would increase my manhood.  It also cost more than most people in the firm made in a month. Yet the three insisted they would buy it for me. I insisted that given I was a woman my manhood did not need enhancing - in fact it would be undesirable to enhance it, and that I really didn't want it. I finally settled for what I thought was a Caesar salad.  What came was lettuce literally drenched in vinegar topped with an enormous whole fish - eyes, scales, etc.  I picked at it insisting the whole time I was not hungry and was finally allowed to crash in my room.

The next morning I found a breakfast buffet loaded with unidentifiable goodies and no one to help me.  So I settled on what looked like a bowl of cheerios. I was unable to locate milk that didn't look strange (I'm still not sure why but I think it was reconstituted powdered milk) and put watermelon juice on my cereal.  I also found hard boiled eggs and consumed those.

Lunch my first day was a challenge because having grown up never having eaten Chinese food I was incapable with eating with chopsticks. I soon learned several things - the tank of frogs were not in fact like the tanks of fish that decorate the restaurants I had seen - the frogs were enormous, ugly and the special of the day.  I also learned that anything dotted with tiny red things was going to be amazingly hot and it all really didn't matter because I could barely get a grain or two of rice in my mouth.  Thank god in my luggage were squirreled away three boxes worth of protein bars.

I pushed forward in the course of the two weeks discovered several things. I loved dumplings and consumed a great many at dinner one evening.  The thing I learned was that my grandmother Barrett's clean plate club would immediately result in a complete refill of every plate.  In the Chinese culture a clean plate meant that the guest had not been served well. I soon learned not to clear my plate. Second that Peking duck in Beijing is awesome, but duck feet as an appetizer is not a favorite and eel is way to0 slimy for my western palate.  I also had an excellent teacher in my driver - Lu - who I taught to say hello, good bye and a few other words in English and he taught me to use chopsticks.  And I also learned to enjoy real Chinese food. 

On my last day at lunch I was eating my meal and chatting with co-workers when a complete stranger from a different company on another floor in our complex came over and insisted on speaking to me.  My translator told me that he had been watching me and was very pleased to see that I had learned well and my ability to eat with chopsticks was like a real Chinese.  Then he bowed, I bowed and I was so pleased I could burst. 

On my next trip I was taken to a 12 course feast at the Summer Palace. I was seated at a table with a group of Americans and found myself sympathizing with their plight of not knowing what was in front of them. In the course of the meal a vat of boiling water was brought to the table. A series of bowls were presented and their contents dropped into the vat.  After a few moments we were each served a bowl of the teaming soup.  I can honestly say it was one of the best things I've ever eaten - certainly the best soup.  The others agreed and we all emptied and filled our bowls three times to the amazement of our servers. Of course we were only on course 6 which explained their surprise.  I have never known what that soup was called, how it was made or what was in it.  But I will always treasure the memory.

Sadly, I now look at Bizz and realize he will never again be able to have his favorite treat.  From what others tell me it is best to avoid all foods for pets from China and I will comply since I just want Bizz to be happy and healthy.  But I have many fond memories of China, the people, the food and most of all their amazing hospitality to their guests. 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Like a Frog in Boiling Water

After having so many people tell me I need to get Bizz crate trained I am gradually getting started.  My greatest mistake was believing on his first night in my home what the people at the adoption center said - oh he's crate trained. He may whine for maybe 5 minutes then he'll go to sleep. I think that first night when I put him in his crate that Bizz totally freaked.  He cried for 2 hours and I finally let him out and he never went back in.  In fact, I returned that crate because he was so terrified of it.

So, this time I'm going about things differently.  What I've learned is that everything needs to be gradually done.  Like a frog in water - if you very slowly increase the temperature of the water the frog will not jump out - even when the water is boiling, but if you put a frog into boiling water he is so out of there.  Not that I'm equating a kennel to boiling water. It is actually a very nice crate that will eventually be filled with very nice comfy things - much like the dog house outside.  But that first night in the other crate - he was definitely a frog in boiling water and all he wanted was to get out.

My first step on his training program was to set up the crate. It's a bit larger than the last one - since he often likes to sleep all stretched out on his side he needed more room.  And he can see out of all 4 sides  and it is positioned so he has a great view.  But so far that's all I've done - set it up.  Ironically he spent the first evening lying on the floor near it eyeing it warily.  The next phase will be moving one of his beds into the crate - along with a new dog blanket that I plan to sleep with for a few nights so it has my smell embedded on it to comfort him.  And I'll be adding some of his toys.  But for now we're just getting him used to the physical presence of the crate with the door wide open

The reason I equate this to the frog in boiling water was the topic has come up very frequently among friends who are unhappy at work. No one seems to be unhappy when they take a new job - they're often excited for new challenges, meeting new people and for most it is a step up.  But over time for some people  little things start to happen and you accommodate yourself to them - a micromanaging boss; being passed over for a promotion, uncertainty in the workplace due to issues with products and revenues, the layoffs of others, and in some cases outright abuse.  Eventually you are in organizational hell.   I've had more than one person tell me that they feel like they are in hell but just can't get themselves to move on. 

I had an excellent counselor years ago who told me that I was actually choosing to stay in hell, that I had a high tolerance for pain.  I disagree, I accommodated myself to gradually increasing  discomfort.  If the really bad behavior happened on the first day at work - it might easily be my last.  I worked for one firm years ago and things had become very crazy for the sales engineers but we all hadn't realized it.  It became clear when a new hire went through a full week of training and announced at the end of the week that he was leaving - that the place was not a good fit.  That was an opportunity for our organization to say stop - what's going on and really try and fix our culture and processes - instead he was blamed as being weak and unfit for the job and a "bad hire". 

So perhaps I shouldn't equate the crate with a bad work environment.  The crate will keep Bizz safe and secure and give him a feeling of comfort when I have to leave him home alone. But it will take time for him to see it that way and the process will move slowly.  Just as with the frog and boiling water, it also takes time to adjust to good things - to shake off the worries and fears from the previous experience and enjoy the new environment.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Let's Go

This past weekend was absolutely crazy. I have company  this week so there was a frenzy of laundry and bed making.  But I also had Marina over for dinner and tv on Friday night, Bizz walk on Saturday, the Los Altos Library book sale and lunch with Marina, Tina's grandfather's  funeral to attend, a trip to Costco with Joanne to see if they had Happy Hips treats cheaper (they did not), then some work, then Sunday was a walk, lunch with Carolyn, walk with Ellen and Bizz at the Baylands then out to dinner then work some more then collapse at home.  All in all a very hectic weekend.

I called this blog post Let's Go because it is the command I use with Bizz at the start of every walk or if he gets stalled by something during a walk. I also use it when he needs to jump in the back of the car (though it is combined with an up up then).  

Let's Go is a good expression to define this time of my life. I can tell there isn't as much sitting around anymore because my DVR is exploding with shows I really don't have time to watch.  My consulting work is taking off so I'm doing a lot more focused work time with Bizz sleeping next to me. My time with friends and family has become sacred to me.  And Bizz is a priority.  We have to do our walks multiple times a day or he gets jumpy.  I also make a point of spending quality time with him each day- playing, training and learning new tricks (the dancing is actually going to happen I think) and just snuggling.  And I find I have to keep finding new things to keep him entertained (see photo below where he has to get to his treats which are inside the cardboard tube from a toilet paper roll that's folded down.  He loves to tear them apart and it gives him a challenge. Though I need to get more of the cardboard tubes since he destroys it after two sets of treats. 

So the adventure continues.  Let's Go.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Walking the Baylands

My alternative title for this blog post was Let's talk about the Zombie Apocalypse.  Bizzy, Ellen and I went walking out on the Baylands yesterday afternoon.  After an incredibly hot few days there was a major weather change Saturday night - the temperature dropped and we had a huge wind storm - so it was a lovely cool walk.  I've written this part of our walk as a dialog because I'm sure Bizz had a few comments of his own.

Ellen:  So what have you read recently that's good.
Jerri:  Well you probably wouldn't like it but I read a Zombie Apocalypse novel I downloaded from the Amazon store for $1.99. It was written as a series of journal entries during a zombie apocalypse. 
Ellen:  Let's talk about the Zombie Apocalypse - what happened a while ago?
Jerri:  There were several incidents of cannibalism and the CDC felt the need to send out a notice that we were not experiencing a zombie apocalypse.
Ellen:  So how do you define a zombie?
Jerri:  Well in the book there was this virus and the people who got it died and then came back in an hour or two as zombies. They spent all their time hunting for humans and eating them. But if you got bitten then you became a zombie.
Bizz:  I would kill all the zombies.
Ellen:  Isn't that a vampire?
Jerri:  No, a vampire is when you are drained of blood and then the vampire gives you his blood and makes you a vampire.  At least that's how it happens in Twilight and the Sookie Stackhouse books.
Bizz: I would kill all the vampires.  Is that a duck?  Must kill all the ducks.
Ellen:  No I'm pretty sure if you get bitten you become a vampire.
Jerri: No that's a werewolf.
Bizz:  I am a werewolf. 
Jerri:  You are not a werewolf.
Bizz:  Yes I am.  I will make you a werewolf.
Jerri:  Bizz you would have to bite me, you can't lick someone and make them a werewolf.
Bizz: I am the king of all the werewolves.  Is that a goose? I must kill all the geese.
Ellen:  So if you get bitten and become a werewolf and you are bitten and become a zombie then what's the difference?
Jerri:  Zombies are dead and mindless, and werewolves are living and are only wolves during the full moon.  Unless you read the Sookie Stackhouse books.
Bizz:  I love the Sookie Stackhouse books, when does True Blood come back on?
Ellen:  You know there are real zombies.
Bizz:  I am a werewolf and I will kill all the zombies.

The conversation ambled on from there but suffice it to say - Bizz is now eagerly awaiting the new season of True Blood;  Ellen is thoroughly confused and I am a bit worried about Voodoo.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Dancing White Dogs

Last night Bizz and I headed out around 7 for the dog park. It was such a hot sunny day I thought he would do better with a long walk in the evening.  At the small dog section amazingly it was all little white dogs.  A husband and wife had two dogs - one a white maltipoo and one a white poodle and another woman had a white labradoodle.  We were all enjoying watching the four of them run around and chase each other.  The one white maltipoo had a straighter coat than Bizz but what impressed me most was that they had died the lower half of her white ear hair hot pink.  She looked so cool.  But then I was really amazed - she began to dance.  The owner was working with her and she rose up on her hind legs and began walking backwards and forwards then twirled.  She was dancing.  It was so amazing. We begged the owner to teach us and he told us it took a few months but it was like all the other training - picking a key word, reinforcing the behaviors with treats and lots and lots of practice.

So now in my mind is a mental image of Bizz dancing. He can already leap about and is up on his hind legs all the time leaning on me. So his new training word is going to be dance.

My friend Deanna has a daughter Maya who is a ballet dancer. She's been dancing since she was 2 or 3 years old and at age 10 has become an amazing dancer.  I cannot believe how strong she is and how, after all this time, she is still completely dedicated and focused.  She has lessons practically every day and I'm in awe of how she handles dance, her homework and having a great group of friends.  And of course she is a favorite of Bizz.  Somehow I can picture Maya twirling and Bizz right along side her one of these days.  Will make a great video.

What ties all this together?  Practice, dedication and passion.  In Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers he talks about how you can become expert in just about anything if you practice 10,000 hours.  That makes sense. The old adage Practice makes perfect comes to mind. 

One of the trainers and a friend of mine have both said the same thing - you have to keep your dog challenged so they don't become bored.  The same I think is true of people.  We have to be endlessly learning new things, taking on new challenges in order to keep our minds lively and sharp.

So Bizz is going to learn to dance and I'm going to learn how to be a better trainer.  Let's see how long it takes.