Thursday, November 24, 2011

all together now

It is so wonderful to have everyone together for this holiday. Yes, again, I am very thankful.

The Jordan contingent arrived at 3 o'clock yesterday afternoon, then Cara (Andrew's lovely girlfriend) landed about 5:00, so by 6:00 we were gathered together in the kitchen, getting caught up.

Mr. C served up steaming bowls of onion soup with cheese toasts, all made by his own hand. After dinner came the dog walk, out into the cold, clear night. Beneath all of this fur is our sweet Emily.

This morning, Mr. C is still abed with a bad sore throat and Cait has a tummy upset. Nonetheless there is much bustling about in the kitchen. The turkey will go into the oven in an hour, Alex and Andrew are putting together the dressing using Mike's cornbread, Em is still asleep, Cara is reading her Kindle, Peter is "supervising" in the kitchen, Zeke and Huck are Hoovering the kitchen floor for any dropped goodies. The sun is out, the meadow is sparkling in its white mantle. It's time for me to stir around and get the carrots and brussel sprouts ready. The big Viking oven is getting quite a workout.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

from beautiful Bozeman

We arrived on Monday night to be greeted by a beautiful snow-covered city. This is what the back meadow looked like when I got up on Tuesday morning.

It's not as cold as it has been; in fact, this morning it's hovering around 45º. We could have stayed home for that kind of weather. So perhaps a picnic is in order?

Perhaps not. No more snow is expected until perhaps tomorrow, Thanksgiving Day.

We spent most of yesterday shopping, laying in the stores for our Thanksgiving feast. Cait had already bought a turkey from the Hutterite community nearby. It is now sitting in the kitchen defrosting. Everything else we gathered from one store or another. We actually made pretty good time; got the whole thing done in about 2 hours. After lunch Cait brought out a jigsaw puzzle she bought for our group enjoyment. 2000 pieces. Devilish. After three people worked for two hours, this is what we had to show for our efforts.

Jigsaws were a traditional part of our Thanksgiving gatherings so it's nice to be reminded once again of those bygone celebrations. We even talked about not going out to Ted's for dinner last night. Instead, we'd just stay in, eat leftovers and work on the puzzle. But the thought of bison short ribs (Mike and I), bison pot roast (Cait), and bison meatloaf (Mr. C) won out.

Today begins the great pre-feast cook off. Mr. C's pumpkin pie is in the oven as I write this. Next will be my cranberry walnut tart and Mike's bourbon pecan pie. Then Mr. C will start on his onion soup to be served for dinner tonight. We want to get as much done before the rest of the crowd arrives this afternoon: Alex, Peter, Emily, Andrew, and Cara. It will be a full house with all my loved ones around the table. I couldn't possibly be more thankful.

The granddogs are thankful, too. More walks, more ear scratching, more laps to try to climb into. Each of these dogs now tips the scales at 80 lbs. This is Zeke, the more "Golden Retriever" of the two; calm, sweet natured, long haired. He has the most soulful eyes and beautiful facial markings.

His brother, Huck, is more Blue Heeler; a bit less sociable, shorter hair, more wiry body, with a true herding instinct.

The beautiful new kitchen is a-bustle with cooks and dogs. I think I'll go join in the fun. I wish all of you a beautiful Thanksgiving celebration.

Friday, November 18, 2011

the verdict is in

The jury reached its verdict late Thursday afternoon. Even though I was not in the jury room and could not add to the deliberations, my fellow jurors did the right thing.

THE FACTS (as we know them)
In the early hours of a February morning in 2008, a bus carrying passengers from the Cache Creek Casino to Woodland went off the road, struck a telephone pole, and came to rest in a ditch. The driver, shortly before the accident, had screamed in pain and clutched his head, taking his hands off the wheel. When the bus came to a stop he was ejected out of the driver's front window and landed on the ground in front of the bus. He was not wearing a seat belt. No one on the bus was injured as he was traveling at only about 10 MPH. It took awhile for the passengers to get out of the bus ~ maybe 10 minutes ~ because of the angle at which the bus came to rest. One of the passengers, who knew the driver, went to check on him. He was "lying on his back" alive but groaning. She spoke to him told him not to move, that emergency assistance was on its way. She went to the rear of the bus to check on the rest of the passengers. When she return to the driver he had somehow re-situated himself, had done a 180º flip and was now on his face with his head under the front bumper of the bus. Firemen were the first emergency team on the scene. Soon came an ambulance with EMT personnel. A life-flight had been called to airlift the injured man to UCDMC trauma center. Several people worked on the driver, trying to get a definite airway, checking on his vitals, etc. In about 15 minutes the flight nurses arrived by helicopter. They also worked over the driver, trying to intubate him so get his breathing stabilized. Nothing worked so they decided to perform a cricothyrotomy to get an airway. They felt an obstruction and were unable to establish an airway. So they all jumped into the ambulance and took the driver to Woodland Memorial Hospital, not a trauma center but the closest medical facility. He was seen by the ER doc, by other docs, but they were unable to help him and he died. The family ~ common law wife, daughter, step-son, were seeking damages against the flight nurses and their company. The job for the jury? To decide if the flight nurse caused his death because of negligence.

There was a lot of conflicting testimony that the jury had to sort through. The forensic pathologist testifying for the plaintiffs said that the flight nurse had made an incision for the crico that was too deep. An anatomist testifying for the defendant said that when the driver was ejected he suffered probably fatal injuries when he hit the ground FACE DOWN. Hey, wait a minute. The first witness said he was on his back when she found him. The defense theory: the trajectory when he left the bus was such that he landed on his face. The torque was such that he would have rolled over almost immediately, not the least because it's a natural response to get your face out of the mud so you can breathe. My own theory is that's probably what happened, then he tried to get up and fell over. There were witnesses on both sides who were plausible, but more on the defense side than on the plaintiff's. The defendant was an excellent witness; calm, deliberate, knowledgeable . The opposing counsel was unable to rattle or shake him, and believe me, he tried. I now know more about the larynx, esophagus, venus plexis, and could probably perform a crico if I had to. After 15 days of testimony, countless gory pictures, especially of the autopsy (I think I'll skip this class when I go to medical school; too messy), charts and graphs, the defense's and the plaintiff's attorneys rested. Tuesday morning we heard final arguments. I didn't think either one of them did a good job; the plaintiff's attorney was insulting to the defendant and just plain mad. The defense attorney struggled to pin the death on one of the other responders. The jury got the case on Tuesday afternoon at about 2:30. I was excused and went home to wait. The jury went to work.

The jury was tasked with finding whether it was negligence on the part of the flight nurses that caused the driver's death. In a civil case there only needs to be nine jurors in agreement, one way or the other. On Thursday I got a call from the clerk that the jury had reached a verdict and would I please come back. So I tore over to Woodland and sat in the courtroom until all the various players were present. The jury came in, I took my place in the alternate's chair and waited. The foreman gave the results to the judge who read them, then passed the paper to the clerk. She read the verdict: "Question: Did Mr. Thomas Zoltansky, a flight nurse for CalStar, contribute to the death of Mr. XX through his negligence of care? Answer: No." The jury was polled; 10 - 2. I would have voted "no" also.

The first thing that happened was the plaintiffs erupted in screaming and swearing. The judge looked utterly appalled, as did the defense and most of the jurors. The judge banged his gavel, the bailiff was up in a flash, muttering into the little microphone on his shoulder, moving toward the family. He got them out of the courtroom with the help of two other sheriff deputies who came from down the hall. The jury was kept in the courtroom until the family was out of the building and out of the parking lot. We were then taken back to the jury room while the building was secured. The defendant and his lawyer came in to talk to us. It was then that we learned that the defendant had already gone through this ordeal twice; once by his company's insurance carrier, once by the state licensing bureau. Both times he had been completely exonerated. So for him, it's finally completely over.

It became increasingly clear that all the family was after was money. I wouldn't really call this a frivolous suit, but the family knew the flight nurse had been cleared, TWICE, of any culpability in the driver's death. Perhaps they though the third time would be a charm and they'd strike gold. Alas, it didn't happened.

After about half an hour the jurors were escorted out of the building by the sheriffs, seen to their cars, and directed out of the parking lot. I met with a couple of them later on to talk about how the deliberations had gone. Slowly but steadily. I think they came to the right conclusion.

So there you have it. Now it's on to Bozeman tomorrow for a week of family, food, dogs, snow and whatever else is in store for us. The rest of the group arrives on Wednesday. Then the fun will really get started. Until then, it will be getting to know the new kitchen (Jim) and playing with the dogs (that would be me!).

Here's a little taste of our gorgeous fall foliage here in the valley.

I'm taking the LapMac with me, and the camera. Next shots will be of, I would guess, snow.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

gut(ter) reaction

At 7:30 Monday morning, this big truck pulled up in front of the house bringing our new gutters. Five beefy guys got out and immediately started ripping the old gutters off the house. It sounded like they were ripping off the roof and tearing into the walls. But not, it was only the old, rusted gutters and drainpipes that came off.

Meanwhile, I was bustling around getting ready for another day in court. We finished at noon due to other judicial business so I was home by 12:30. By then, the workmen had installed these beautiful gutters and snazzy downspouts, cleaned up their mess, and gone on to the next job. So I took myself off to CostCo to begin the Great Shopping Expedition in preparation for the Mexico trip. I took with me one of my Mexican Freida bags, put it in the cart, and began my methodical up-and-down the aisles. Wouldn't you know it that while my back was turned, someone unseen by me helped him/herself to my wonderful bag. It will cost all of $3 to replace but it could have been the Hope Diamond I was so angry. Fortunately I had thought twice about putting my wallet into the bag so all that was safe. But the very idea! At CostCo, no less. I don't know why I think that institution, and its shoppers, should not have to suffer such invasions. I reported it to the Membership desk, assuring them that neither they nor I could do anything about it. I just wanted them to know. And what really made me mad was that we had done the gutters through CostCo.

Tuesday's court business was the last witness, the instructions to the jury, and the recess of the jury to begin deliberations. Where was I? Sent home. Since I'm the alternate I get locked out. They will call me back when the verdict is rendered. No matter which way it goes I'll be interested to learn how they got there.

Today was spent pawing through sweaters and other warm garments anticipating the cold in Bozeman (it was 20º today). I found the silk underwear I wore during our winter sojourn in Europe in 2004-05. It will come in mighty handy. Cait has said they have all kinds of wool, cashmere, fleece, down, etc. so not to worry. The weather pattern looks pretty good, though. Clear and cold M-W, then rain and snow on Thanksgiving Day and Friday. We come home on Saturday. Then we have the heat of Mexico to contemplate as we pack shorts and T-shirts. I like that better.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

germ warfare

We have on our jury a gentleman who has been sick almost the entire time. Coughing, blowing, etc. Well, guess who is now coughing and blowing? Just what I need as we wrap up this trial and I get ready for Bozeman. So I am taking it very easy this weekend, except for the Indian dinner tonight, to try to ward off any further germs. I am determined to be well for the Thanksgiving festivities. I'll stick close to the chicken broth, the Kleenex®, some old New Yorkers that need to be read, probably take a nap. I should be fit and ready for some nice hot curry by evening.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

he got a job!

The answer to every Mother's prayer: "My son has a job!" Yes, grandson Andrew, a proud graduate of Claremont McKenna, landed a job at Twillo in San Francisco. I have no idea what he is going to be doing; something with internet and computers and communications and who know what else. But as of November 28 he will be gainfully employed. He has said that over the Thanksgiving holiday, when we are all together in Bozeman, he will give his assembled family clanspersons a tutorial on what his work is all about. Meanwhile, if you want to check it out, this is what I'm talking about.

Today was the last jury day for the week. We have completed week three and are released until Monday. The judge has said we are right on track, time-wise. So perhaps the case will go to the jury early next week. Despite the fact that I am an alternate, I think I have to be in the court room every day until the "real" jury reaches a verdict. I'll bring a good book while I wait for my fellow jurors to do the right thing. I can't tell you what I think that is just yet. I doubt if I'll get to deliberate; everyone seems pretty healthy as of now.

The weekend will be spent doing some preliminary packing for the beach, some CostCo shopping for "must haves" and yet more list-making. Tomorrow night I am meeting women friends for dinner at a local Thai restaurant. Saturday night Mr. C and I are joining a group for an Indian dinner that is a fund-raiser for a local non-profit. Sunday will be spent with more packing and getting the exterior ready for the installation of new gutters on Monday, compliments of Leaf Guard. There is no rest, is there?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

another day in court

This was a rather difficult day in court with some testimony that was not easy to listen to. But the jury is a group of really great people; I think we all felt the same. More tomorrow, then a day off on Friday for Veteran's Day, and a nice long weekend that will give us all a breather. I can't tell if it's about to wrap up, testimony-wise, but I think so.

I get home from court, kick off my shoes, check email, have a spot of dinner and fall into bed. It's like having a job, for heaven's sake! I am distracting myself with two books; "Lucky Jim" by Kingsley Amis, which I've already read a couple of times but nonetheless am enjoying, and "The Debt to Pleasure" by John Lanchester. It is a wonderfully evil little cookbook and a wickedly funny account of the life of a loquacious Englishman named Tarquin Winot, revealed through his thoughts on cuisine as he undertakes a mysterious journey around France. The revelations become more and more shocking as the truth about the narrator becomes apparent. He is a monster, and yet an appealing and erudite villain. I sit in the courthouse parking lot during the noon break listening with total delight to this hilarious book. It elevates my mood for an afternoon of depressing revelations before the bar.

Monday, November 7, 2011

the wheels of justice

Day one of week three. Characters in court today sent from Central Casting. Wish I could tell you more but it will have to wait. Let it be said that it was a great day. I don't know who finds these people but he/she did a great job! I have been mulling over a question I needed to have answered by a witness in order to clarify something that's been keeping me up at night. I was hoping for someone to show up who could set my mind at ease. Today that happened. A good night's sleep is in order.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

it's been a long week

Week two of my jury service is over; week three begins tomorrow. At the rate things are going I'm not sure it will be over before I leave for Bozeman. I can only remind the judge that, ab initio I let him know that the 18th is my last possible date of service. Well, let's see what this coming week brings, and it's only four days since the 11th is a holiday.

The plumber came on Monday to inspect the faucet problem we were having. The culprit turned out to be the lining of the flexible hose; it had come loose and jammed the head so no water was coming out. Mr. C exercised his discriminating taste and managed to buy the most expensive set-up the plumber had to offer. That, plus the hourly charge for his services totaled a tidy sum. But the water is once again gushing into the sink.

It has turned cold here, down into the 50ºs. Even a smattering of rain. Morning walks are ultra invigorating, but I need it to keep me alert in the court room. Heard from Cait that it was 19º and "snowing like crazy" so I mustn't complain. I've been working my way through my sweater drawer and coat closet trying to find enough warm clothing for the Thanksgiving trip. I don't own enough layers for such weather.