Friday, December 21, 2007

Warning: Tears Ahead


Iraq war dog loses his handler but gains a family

From Rusty Dornin
(CNN) -- Lex attended the funeral of his best friend in March, playing with the 20-year-old Marine's younger brother away from the crowd. He was beside Cpl. Dustin Lee when Lee was killed in a mortar attack in Falluja.

Wounded himself, Lex didn't want to leave Lee's side after the attack -- fellow Marines had to pull him away from the young man's body so medics could do their work.

Although some shrapnel remains in his body, Lex recovered from his wounds and returned to duty at the Marines' Logistics Base in Albany, Georgia, to await a new assignment.

On Friday, Lex gets that new assignment -- retirement to Lee's family home in Quitman, Mississippi, where the 8-year-old bomb-sniffing German Shepherd will live out the rest of his life.

Jerome Lee, the young Marine's father, lobbied the Marines hard for months to adopt the dog. Marine officials initially told Lee that it would be no problem to get the dog. But persuading the service to give up Lex before the dog's mandatory retirement at age 10 proved to be a challenge. Watch Dustin's father describe how the family struggled to adopt their son's dog »

"Since Dustin's death we've been trying to get his dog, Lex, from the Marine Corps, and needless to say we've had some difficulty there," said Lee, a Mississippi Highway Patrol officer. "This thing went from colonels to generals all the way up to the commandant of the Marine Corps, and it almost went to the secretary of defense."

One of the issues was making sure the dog was not "overly aggressive." His behavior with the Lee youngsters -- Lex played tug-o-war with 13-year-old Camryn at Dustin's funeral -- seemed to assure that wouldn't be a problem. Marine officials also said the request had to go through the Air Force, which is the approving authority for all military dogs.

Finally, on December 13, the Marines agreed to let Lex live with Lee's family. It was the first time the Marines have released a dog before its retirement to a former handler's family.

"Lex has had two tours in Iraq," said Jerome Lee. "He's been through a lot, and we just want to get Lex home to our family, and let him have a happy life."

Well before joining the Marines, Dustin Lee was known by all for his devotion to his country. A member of Quitman High School's cross-country track team, Lee and three teammates participated in the Americans United: Flag Across America Run after the September 11, 2001, terror attacks on New York and Washington.

So it was no surprise when the young man joined the Marines out of high school in 2004, nor was it a surprise when he went to Albany to train military police dogs, inspired by his mother's work with the county's search and rescue team dogs when he was a boy.

Dustin, an animal lover who also rode horses, played hide and seek with his mother's canine companion as a child, Jerome Lee said.

"He would let the dog get a sniff of his clothing and then go hide to see if the dog could find him," the elder Lee said.

At the logistics base in Albany, Lee said, Dustin "worked with all the dogs and became the kennel master."

Dustin and Lex had been stationed in Falluja for nearly five months before the fatal attack. When the Marine's body was returned to Quitman in late March, hundreds lined the streets waving American flags to say a tearful goodbye. And Lex was there.

In Albany on Thursday, current kennel master Mike Reynolds led Lex through his paces for the last time in his military career. Now it's time for the old pro to learn some new civilian tricks. In a ceremony on Friday, Lex will join the family of his best friend.

Jerome Lee hopes his other two children will feel closer to their missing older brother.

"There's always going to be that missing link with Dusty gone," he said. "But part of Dusty is here with Lex."

CNN's Mike Phelan contributed to this report.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Pee Stick

"Ooh ooh ooh," Dr K pants as she scoots past me. "Oh, it's 4:30! I finally get to pee!"

Apparently her latest fertility tome has informed her that 4:30 is the magic time of day to test your ovulation. She has been holding her, um, fluids since early morning and informing me every so often that she has X number of minutes of Kegel force squeezing left until she can pee. Now the blessed moment has arrived and she is off to the bathroom.

Ahh, thank God, I sigh, knowing that she will be locked up with her pee stick for a good ten minutes, staring feverishly to see if a second plus sign appears. (Before I get a hundred e-mails from hopeful parents-to-be, no, I don't mean to portray women struggling with fertility as desperate, loony, or sad. I just advise you not to share the intimate details of your pursuit with your employees, who don't have any way to escape your Font of Too Much Information.)

I settle in for a happy rendezvous with Medical Arts Press, hoping to finish some orders for the office, when the front door opens and a patient walks in.

"Hello!" Tammy waves. "I know I'm early for my appointment, but I don't mind waiting till she's ready." She grabs the latest issue of People Magazine and starts speculating as to whether K-Fed will get the kids or not.

I hear a flush in the restroom. A moment later, Dr. K rushes out and ducks behind the front desk. "Hello!" she greets the patient merrily, then turns to me.

"Here," she whispers. "I think it's negative, but I didn't have time to wait the whole ten minutes. Will you just watch this for another, oh, three and a half minutes and tell me what it says?"

I look down to see her waggling her pee stick at me. I feel myself grimace as my subconscious mind grasps what my sense of propriety cannot accept. She wants me to babysit her pee stick.

"Don't worry," she assures me when she sees my eyes widen and my lip curl back. "It's clean." Before I have a chance to speak, she drops her pee stick on my desk and hustles out to the waiting area. "So, how have you been?" she asks Tammy, enveloping her in a big hug and escorting her back to the adjusting area.

Meanwhile, I turn and stare at the pee stick. What am I supposed to do? The pee stick stares back from the countertop, winking its lopsided | + at me. I imagine that it can speak.

Me: What am I going to do with you? This really isn't my day.

Pee Stick: You're telling me. I spend all that time in the factory learning chemistry, then I finally land my first big job and they wrap me up in a tiny capsule, ship me off to a darkest corner of the pharmacy, and ignore me until this afternoon, when I get a face full of . . . "

Me: Okay, okay, I get it! So we both got the short end of the stick!

Pee Stick: Cute. That your idea of funny?

Me: Sorry.

Pee Stick: And all the boss cares about is results, results, results. I mean, I have a life, you know?

Me: Oh, you have family?


Pee Stick: We're trying.

Me: Ah.

Pee Stick: Not as easy as if once was, you know. Production levels at the factory are down. Something about all the manufacturing jobs getting shipped to Malaysia.

Me: Well, you could always adopt. Overseas adoption, very fashionable these days.

Pee Stick: [Sigh] I just thought there would be more to life than this. I'm looking at retirement now, boss says I'm all used up, and have I made any plans? No. I never though time would go by so quickly. Maybe I should just end it all.

Me: Hey, you're tottering too near the edge!

Pee Stick: Might as well go out in a blaze of glory . . .

I watch silently as the pee stick flings itself into the trash can, a bright golden spray arching poetically behind it.


I shake myself. Back to reality. Resolving not to touch the pee stick, I scoot my chair a little farther into the corner and continue working. Tammy comes up to pay. I can see that her eyes are fixated on the pee stick but I ignore her stare, get her rescheduled (dang I'm good), and go back to work.

A few minutes later, Dr. K wanders up to the desk. Seeing the pee stick still perched where she left it, she snatches it up. Brandishing it at me like Perry Mason with a smoking revolver, she can't keep the panicky yelp from her voice.

"Hey," she cries indignantly. "You left this here!"

This One Is Just Right!

Check out these chairs that artist Martino Gamper made from found objects in his project 100 Chairs in 100 Days. I am in awe of his artistry and inventiveness - I wish I could be this creative!

The Nomination: All Stitched Up?

HAHAHA, I am finally in a Desirable Demographic!! I expect to be fielding would-be political suitors at the local yarn shop sometime soon! Check out this article from Slate:

Craft the Vote!

Winning the presidency with a Bedazzler and a crochet hook.

By Jessica Vitkus

Posted Monday, Aug. 13, 2007, at 3:55 PM ET

Presidential candidates take note: Knitting is no longer a hobby. It's a lifestyle. In America, do-it-yourself handicrafts are everywhere. Magazines like Bust, Make, Craft, and ReadyMade reach out to a hip, young audience whose hands are rarely idle. Even Hugh Hefner's ladies on the reality romp The Girls Next Door have a scrap-booking room in the Playboy Mansion.

Forget NASCAR dads and security moms—it's the craft vote that can no longer be ignored. The candidates already missed an opportunity to woo craft leaders at the inaugural Craft Congress, which convened in Pittsburgh this March. (Musical version coming to Broadway in 200 years.) But it's not too late for campaigns to embrace the crafting kind. Sewing circles as fund-raisers! Collage and glitter billboards instead of e-mails! I challenge Hillary, Obama, Mitt, and Rudy to whip out their pinking shears and win the hearts of the DIY crowd. I've suggested politically appropriate projects for each party—DemoCrafts and RepubliCrafts—and whipped up some samples.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Need some Christmas Spirit?

Check out this amazing pair.

Monday, December 10, 2007

"Is regifting really tacky?"

Luap heading home from Mom and Dad's with his Christmas gift.

"Where's My Cake?!"

Semaj enjoying his birthday dinner with friends.

This picture actually reminds me of Semaj when he was still a small semajlette, right after he had drunk about a quart of Kool-Aid and was about to attack an unsuspecting luaplette.

But why, Crittergal wonders, is he holding two knives? Guess he's gonna need those cookbooks from Mom and Dad. Maybe an Eatbook too.

Here's a quiz for you:

Does Semaj look more like:

A) James Hetfield from Metallica?

B) Gargamel?

C) the Cowardly Lion?

Friday, December 7, 2007

What Would Jesus Buy?

What Would Jesus Buy? opens tonight. Would anyone be interested in seeing it sometime?

Wednesday, December 5, 2007


My sidebar is officially longer than my actual posts. Guess I'm gettin' a little crazy with the fun stuff!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Crunch, Slurp, Gulp: The Great Natural Foods Recipe-Off

I am soliciting recipes for your favorite healthy dishes. Submit a recipe here and I will cook it, eat it, and review it for other nutritionally defunct kitchen rejects like myself. If you're already healthy, donate a recipe and help the rest of us get going! If you're still a reject, light the fires and get ready to learn from my mistakes!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Forgotten Rambles

Sometimes things happen in my life and I forget to write about them until long after they are past. I though it'd be fun to share some of them with you.

Gypsy Attempts Flight

One day I was driving along with my dog when we pulled up to a stoplight. Gypsy crawled into my lap and poked her head out of the window. A little old lady in the car next to us saw her and started cooing and waving and blowing kisses. I smiled and waved back. I guess Gypsy got confused because next thing I know, she leaned back on her haunches and sailed right out the window. Good thing it was the middle of the day because she skittered onto the pavement behind the old lady's car.

I froze and the little old lady's mouth made an O, but thank goodness for the Hispanic guy in the pickup behind me, who immediately leapt out of his car and crouched down, calling to my little Amelia Earhart. Knowing she was afraid of men, I thought his attempts would send her scampering across the median and into oncoming traffic. I threw off my seatbelt and jumped out of the car. At first I tried calling to her but I guess she was just as startled as the rest of us because she stood there looking around helplessly.

I darted over and grabbed her, then ducked back into my car just as the light changed. Rolling up my window quickly, I hugged her to my chest.

A few days later, I was taking her outside when I heard a voice behind me. "Hey, it's you!"

I turned around. It was the Hispanic guy. "Hey," he said. "I saw your dog fly out of the window over on Jasper Mill Rd. Craziest thing I ever saw!"

Turns out his name is Ignacio and he lives a couple of floors down from me. Now we wave whenever we see each other and he always asks me how my "Flightless Wonder" is.

The Man

The weekend after the mancub's fourth birthday, we went up to my Dad's house to celebrate. When we first arrived, the mancub was totally overwhelmed. He had grown accustomed to little Gypsy but was still afraid of bigger dogs. The sight of big ol' behemoth Telmah was too much for him, I guess, because every time he caught sight of any of the hounds, including Gypsy, he started shrieking, "De dog! De dog!" and trying to hide.

We went out on the deck and tried to teach him how to open presents. Totally unimpressed by the possibility of new toys, he toddled up to my dad instead. After studying him for a moment, he raised a finger and pointed.

"You are The Man!" he declared. We all busted out laughing. We had been test driving Big Poppa as a grandpa name but the mancub would have none of it. Throughout the rest of the afternoon, whenever he wanted to talk to my dad, he would address him as The Man. As in, "Hey The Man, what are you doing?" "The Man, you need to eat your dinner." "Please The Man, help me." And even last weekend when he came over to visit, he asked me, "How is The Man?"

Other adorable moments included the mancub dissolving into giggles for no apparent reason, being more overjoyed at receiving clothes than pretty much anything else, and climbing into my lap in the middle of the gift giving to take a brief catnap before jumping down five minutes later to resume opening presents. And let's not forget his crazy butt-bobbing wiggle dances at the sound of anything remotely resembling music, or him climbing onto the sofa and reciting bible verses loudly with occassional interjections of "Praise de Lord!" and "Holy ghost fire!"

The Procession

Speaking of holy Ghost fire, last weekend T-Bone and I went to his friend Eille's church. You see, Eille was in a terrible car accident last year and had broken both her legs. To top it off, her two motherless nieces had just joined her from Cameroon and her husband was still in Africa, leaving her alone with the girls. However, the girls were able to care for her and she regained use of her legs well before the doctors had said she would. As a gesture of thanks to God, she wanted to sponsor this weekend's church service.

So apparently this was one of those churches where the preacher doesn't stop talking until the inspiration stops falling. We got there at 9:00 in the morning and wrapped up the service a little before 2pm. In between there was a lot of rising up to sing, sitting down to pray, and even flailing of limbs and speaking in tongues.

Even with all the aerobics, I kept nodding off. So I hardly noticed the flurry of activity as little girls began to leave their seats and assemble at the back of the church.

Now at Eille's church, they don't pass the plate for collection. No sir. About halfway through the service, the little girls rose and started handing out envelopes. T-Bone pulled out some bills for me to tuck in my envelope and stuffed some in his as well. I sat back complacently to wait for the plate to reach me but suddenly T-Bone poked me.

"Rise," he said. "We are going to process."

"We're gonna what?" I asked, totally confused.

"We will process," he insisted, glancing urgently down the aisle. I looked back to see a cluster of people gathered near the rear entrance. Are we leaving? I wondered. What about my donation?

No time to wonder aloud, though, as T-Bone had risen and was looking flustered. I grabbed my purse just in case we were leaving and followed a trickle of people to the back of the church.

We stood there for a minute before I realized that we weren't standing at all. At first it seemed that everyone was shuffling in place; then as the musicians picked up, I realized they were bobbing up and down in rhythm to the music. At some unknown cue, the women in the front of the line squatted down, butts thrust out, and began to bob more furiously. This had a ripple effect, with the wave of earnest butt bobbers rapidly approaching where I stood, the lone white girl in the crowd, stiff as a board and clutching my purse to my chest like I thought one of holy annointed was going to rob me.

I was engulfed in a sea of roiling worshippers. Not wanting to look awkward and judgmental by remaining motionless, yet afraid of causing bodily harm if I slung my own hindquarters around too vigorously, I settled for bending my knees up and down. The effect was not unlike a stork on a pogo stick.

The leaders in front saw that everyone had taken up their thrusting rhythm. One woman lifted her foot and planted it firmly in front of her, bobbing for a few beats before taking the next step. Immediately the whole group followed her slow rhythmic procession. As we were swept toward the front of the church, my fellow parishioners raised their envelopes high. Some of the women began to ululate; others howled in tongues; still others hitched up their skirts higher and squatted more deeply into their dance. The men cried out praises and prayers. A tall gentleman in the aisles snapped pictures; I blinked, temporarily blinded as the flash popped rapidly around me.

Finally, mercifully, we reached the front of the church. The tithers in front of me dropped their gifts into a wicker basket, then twirled off to dance their ways back to their seats. I made one sincere attempt at a genuine butt bob as I dropped my envelope in among the others. Feeling my face convulse and convinced that I looked more like an ad for Pepto-Bismol than a grateful supplicant, I tucked my chin under and scooted back to my seat.


I've posted some polls in my sidebar. If you like, feel free to post additional responses here.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

The Meaning of Meaning

Purpose: [pur-puhs] noun

the reason for which something exists or is done, made, used, etc.

I just want to debunk a myth that was fed to us as children: the purpose of a dictionary is not to inform us of proper word usage. I repeat, you cannot use the dictionary to prove that you are using a word correctly.

English dictionary editors are adamant that their only job is to reflect how words are used, not to endorse that usage as correct or not. This is not France with its Academie francaise (my apologies for's lack of dictatorial marks and foreign letters) or Spain with its Real Academia Espanola devoted to regulating how language is used. Our editors' primary concern is that when you hear a word you do not know, you may consult the dictionary to learn its intended meaning. (For word geeks, this is known as the conflict between prescriptive and descriptive approaches.) Therefore, the minute a definition enters "common" usage - whatever that means - it will also enter your dictionary, whether it is commonly used correctly or commonly abused, disgraced, and left for dead.

Sorry, just had to share that . . .