Harper Valley H.O.A.

Divorced, with an empty nest and a restless soul, in 2008 i bought a condominium in God’s Waiting Room*. A lovely home, two car garage with a deck and a lower patio, with landscaping, lawn mowing, and snow shoveling included. Use of a pool, tennis courts, shuffleboard, and clubhouse!

The price for this convenience is a monthly fee, paid to a Home Owners Association (H.O.A.) – led by residents serving on a board of directors.

Last August i rented the clubhouse to host the summer picnic for my former work colleagues and their families. Paid my $25, and wrote a check for another $25 as a security deposit, filled out paperwork, and set to organizing a party for about 50 people.

It was an absolutely gorgeous day, we hired a caterer and everyone in attendance had a chance to eat, relax, swim, and play outdoor games.

About a week later i received a letter in the mail from the H.O.A. “You have violated the occupancy of the clubhouse, and you let your guests use the pool, pool deck, lawn area, and tennis courts, which is not included in the clubhouse rental.”  The letter went on to state that as punishment, i would be fined $200, forbidden from using the clubhouse for 18 months, and that my security deposit would be withheld.

i. was. livid.

i requested a hearing. i had never seen anything limiting the number of guests at an event. i’d hosted my own 50th birthday party there, and easily had as many people there! A $200 fine for throwing a party? A party that lasted from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm on a Thursday afternoon?

Between my travel schedule, and that of the board, it took us a few months to get the hearing scheduled. i used the time to dig into rules, regulations, declarations, and as much information as i could. i prepared detailed notes, with a list of questions for the H.O.A. board.

i became quite familiar with the minutia of the rules and regulations. As i walked the dog every day, i documented several dozen violations – even catching one board member leaving his car parked at the clubhouse overnight without the required resident ID on the dashboard!

Last week it was finally time for the hearing – three months later i was still choking back anger. Studley came with me as my paralegal, with the job of taking notes and preventing me from getting stabby. i only had 15 minutes and didn’t want to waste it throwing punches.

Six men. One is a known rational, thoughtful, “pick up the phone, or stop by to chat” man. One is a retired military officer, with a haircut you can set your watch to, and is a stickler for abiding by rules. Another i know through our dogs – he has an elder doggo, and Mr. Pickles used to steal her toys on doggie splash day – nice enough man, but probably pushing 80 years old. The other three? Unknowns.

The H.O.A. chairman informed me of the rules of the hearing. A large man, with a Big Booming Voice, i immediately disliked him. “You have fifteen minutes to have your say. We may have things to say, too. We may ask questions, you may ask questions. After the hearing, we will make a decision in executive session, and you will be informed of our findings.”

“Got it. Thanks.” My standard “pinch off” line.

My first question was a genuine mystery. “i’ve looked through the regs, looked on the walls, searched records, but i can’t find the actual occupancy limit for this building. What IS the limit for the clubhouse?”

They squirmed a little. One of the Unknowns said “That is something we’re trying to lock down. It seems neither the Fire Department and the City have that information on file…”

My. Jaw. Unhinged.

i looked at H.O.A. Chairman and the Rules and Regs guy. “Let me make sure i understand this – you’ve charged me with violating an occupancy limit that doesn’t exist? Did i hear that right?”

More squirming. More discomfort. Once again, i said “Got it. Thanks.” and rolled into the next questions. i had been prepared to provide documentation on the actual number of people attending, but that clearly wasn’t going to be necessary.

For the next 10 minutes or so, i poked holes in their position. “In your own list of rules, dated October, 2015, you state that the H.O.A. board has the option to levy fines for violations of the rules, up to $50 per infraction. Why am i being fined $200?”

Rules and Regs: “That’s for each violation – you had people using the pool, pool deck, tennis courts and lawn area.”

“Got it. Thanks. [eyeroll] You also withheld my deposit of $25. That deposit was for the stated purpose (in your own regulations) of covering any damages, or cleaning deficiencies. There was no mention in your letter that i failed to clean, or left damages, so this is clearly punitive – amounting to an additional $25 fine.”

H.O.A. Board – [crickets, fumbling with notes]

So you state that clubhouse reservation doesn’t allow guests to use the pool, deck, etc. – but as a resident, i’m allowed to bring as many guests to the pool so long as i’m with them? i was with my guests all afternoon Isn’t that inconsistent?”

Rules and Regs: “We’re in the process of updating some of our rules and regulations…”

daisyfae: “Obviously.  That’s all i have. Thanks for your time.”

The rational board member gave me a grin and a wink and said “Daisyfae, now that you’re retired, i wish you’d consider joining the board!”

“Sugar, i’m not around much these days…”, smiled back at him, and put away my notes, while choking back a gigantic pile of rage.

i didn’t think it was possible for me to leave that hearing even angrier than i was when i walked in the door! What a bunch of incompetent bullies! Studley had to talk me off the ledge. i slept poorly, thinking that when those turdbags came back with their findings, i was going to contact my attorney and crunch more cherries!

By noon the next day, i received an email:

The Board appreciated your appearance at the hearing on November 27th, 2017. 

You made a strong case in pointing out the ambiguities currently present in the rules and regulations concerning rental of the clubhouse and usage of the pool.

Because of that the Board has decided to rescind all the penalties that were placed upon you and to refund your $25.00 deposit or I can simply credit your account $25.00. 

Although relieved, the anger hasn’t subsided much. If i weren’t going to be gone so much? i almost want to run for the board. Even if you can beat ’em, sometimes you should still join ’em.

Harper Valley PTA
* Not the actual name of the development, but as christened by The Boy. i am one of the younger residents – demographic of “Active Senior Citizens”, but with many not-so-active. Lately, we’ve had a run of younger people move in, and even a few with small children. Impact of this change in demographic? Probably just means more fecal matter in the community pool…
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Bangled, tangled, spangled, and spaghettied*…

It’s just hair.

Why have so many of us bought into the marketing myth that the perfect hair style, or hair product, will absolutely revolutionize our lives? We consider stylists to be magicians – that they can wave magic scissors and completely transform all that is rotten in our lives into goodness and light.

We all want to look good. To be attractive. That’s human. A flattering hairstyle is part of that… but it seems we look to “The Haircut” as the Big Momma of Transformation! i see dozens of photos of friends and acquaintances as they leave the stylists chair – “I did something! Look! It’s a New Me!” The modern, mysterious phenomenon that drives millions of people to take selfies in their cars** seems, in part, based on people feeling that they’re having a “good hair day”.

i’ll say it again – It’s just hair.

i’ve been sucked into this myth as much as anyone. i’ve kept long hair since childhood. i couldn’t imagine having short hair. A response to medication made most of my hair fall out about 20 years ago, and i was mortified! Hairpieces, products… you name it, i bought it! During the recovery phase, as my hair grew back, i felt that i looked terrible with short hair, and believed that it mattered.

Genetically predisposed to white hair, mine would have lost all color by the time i was 40, if i hadn’t intervened. Keeping some of the white for a few years, i spent a lot of money getting my hairs professionally painted. i played with bright red, purple and blue for the past few years, sorting out what i might want to do with all that white some day.

But this year, something snapped. Not sure whether it was triggered by retirement, or the time i’ve spent living outdoors, but the hair became a liability. A nuisance. It was thinning anyway, and i had to spend a lot more time to get it to look ok. Never ‘good’, just ok.

Without giving it too much thought, i told my hairdresser to just shave it all off. And she did. No more color, either. Cold turkey, it was just gone.

hairs2

From a maintenance point of view? i absolutely love it! i wake up with a funky mohawked, bed-headed look, but a quick swat with a brush and it’s fine. My neck gets cold, but i have a gazillion scarves.

hairs1

Appearance-wise? Still not totally used to it. Deeply ingrained in my personal body dysmorphic disorder is that i must have long hair to be attractive. Sexy? Maybe with some more piercings and a bit of leather.

i think that will come with time… Perhaps a bit less frequent than in my 40’s, the quality of sex in my life is delicious, and i’m happy.

Form follows function. It’s just hair. Most importantly? It aligns with the life i choose to live – on the road, off the beaten path. The very definition of simplicity.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 * No googling – anyone know the referenced lyrics?  

** i don’t understand it. Maybe it’s the natural light? If someone knows the answer, please enlighten me. As a friend says “I don’t just get in my car and say ‘damn, I think I look good in my car! Better capture this moment!”

 

 

Just plane fun…

What would you do if you had: A plane, free time, and a desire to be useful?

Studley has all of the above. For the past two months, he’s shared a gig with me that may be the most delightful volunteer job imaginable.

The network of animal rescue organizations is robust and highly organized. Large or small, the people involved are devoted to saving animals from terrible circumstances, and finding loving, safe, permanent homes.

Since becoming a foster dog momma, i’ve learned just how extensive this network is… Frantic pleas go up: “I need someone to drive to Carbunkle, Kentucky to pick up a new mom and her puppies.” “Is there anyone in Fleahaven, Connecticut that can pull this beauty from a kill-shelter before Monday?” “Can someone pick up a transport leg between Hoarkston, Indiana and Fartknocker, Illinois on Saturday?”

It turns out, there are also volunteer pilots who do specialty transport for animals that can’t tolerate ground transport – through Pilots and Paws. Studley decided that this was the definition of an exceptionally good reason to fly!

He checked the mission board for locations, and checked our calendar for availability. Weather was a factor, even though he’s rated to fly in crappy weather, it’s not as much fun. Complex multi-leg transport missions required coordination with other pilots. It took some work on his part, but it finally came together.

First mission in October was to pick up a Lab and her nine puppies. They were about 2 months old, and as squiggly as a bucket of octopii! And adorable!

Gracie's puppies

We met the woman with the rescue dogs at a small airport in Tennessee, and she immediately handed us two adorable, squirmy pups! Loading them in the plane presented a small challenge, but the crate full o’wiggle was safely in the back seat.

Pilot with paws

My job? Dog wrangler. Just ride shotgun, keep an eye on the critters, feed Studley snacks and scream “PUPPIES!” every few minutes…

gracie in flight

The little bits howled for the first few minutes of the flight, then settled down for a good snooze… Mom eventually got comfortable on a nest of blankets on the floor.

into the terminal

At the destination airport, our cargo got a good bit of attention. Workers provided a luggage cart to help get the dogs into the terminal. A passing pilot decided mom needed a good scritch behind the ears…

It was another month before the timing worked out for round two.

A momma Beagle and ten week-old puppies! Too small to touch, they were crated from pick up to hand off. As Studley says “about the size of biscuits”, they were all bellies, paws and stayed in a tiny fur ball the entire time.

Ashley and Pups

If you look at the grand challenge of abandoned animals? It’s overwhelming. You can’t save them all. It’s worth an effort to do what you can, though. Human or canine, there are many good creatures out there – and it simply feels good to contribute (even if i’m just ‘meat in a seat’ screaming “PUPPIES!” every ten minutes).

The network is powerful, and politically agnostic – a collection of strangers working together to solve a problem. More of this, please…

 

Zen and the Art of Toilet Repair

For two years i have engaged in combat with the toilet in my guest bathroom. It started with a sticky handle. Being a two-banana mechanic*, i was comfortable doing the easy replacement myself.

With a little tweak here and there, i was able to keep it working, but eventually it stuck again. i dove in again, tearing down some of the bits and nuggets, and re-set the handle until it worked.

Success remained short lived. No matter what i did, which type of handle i used, i couldn’t make the repair stick. Or un-stick, as this case called for… How much did i spend on handles? Replacement innerds for the entire flush mechanism? i lost track.

Giving up, i put a note on it that simply said “Please lift handle after flush”.

i live alone, and primarily use the toilet in the master bathroom, adjacent to my bedroom. Studley is my most frequent visitor, and he’d learned the drill. Parties? Guests? i was constantly poking my head into the guest bathroom to make sure the handle had been lifted.

Right before i headed out west in July, the toilet in the master bath had colluded with the guest bath toilet, and the handle refused to lift. Wrench in hand, i dove in and tweaked until it worked again.

Until it didn’t. Headed out the door for the airport, i left a note for my pet sitter explaining the process. He apparently didn’t get it working, because i got a frantic text one morning – “I can’t flush the toilet! Help!”  i was able to video chat with him through the brute force process required to successfully empty the bowl.**

When i returned home, i spent more money on toilet repair gear, and settled in to tear both toilets down if needed. And i failed. Commiserating with Studley, i came to the only logical conclusion possible.

“i’m going to blow up that motherfucking toilet and put in a new one. Maybe turn the old one into a planter in the back garden to annoy the home owners association, and serve as a warning to all future toilets…”

Two days later, while slugging coffee, i had an epiphany. Call a plumber. It would be far less expensive, and stressful, to hire a pro. Choking on my ego, i made the call. “It’s just a problem with the handle, but i’ve tried everything i can do to fix it! i’m a moron, and i’m sure it’s something simple, but i give up!” The scheduler assured me it was a common thing, and set up the service call.

Jerry arrived, and patiently listened to me babble on about my war with the handles. The angst, the frustration, the rage… “Help me, Plumber Wan Kenobi! You’re my only hope!” 

He was patient. He was good at his job. He repaired both toilets in less than an hour, using parts i already had on hand. He talked me through it. He explained the problem, and imparted a few words of wisdom…

“This seal? This was the problem from the start. It degraded over time, and made it hard to pull the handle. It should be fine now…”

“i am SUCH a bonehead! i feel like a complete idiot! i should have checked that!”

He didn’t laugh or make fun of me. In fact, he smiled and said it happens quite often.

“You’d be amazed at how often we drive ourselves crazy fixing the wrong problem.”

let it go

image found here

* In the realm of the gear head, there is a ‘five banana’ scale for repair skills. When i started assisting with the rebuild of the old Jeep, my friend tagged me pretty quickly as a “one banana”. Over time, i’ve gained some skills. 

** And he mercifully did NOT reveal contents of the bowl during our video chat…

Dia de Muertos

“Hey, daisyfae – someone sent us a message asking if we could organize some cyclists to join up with a parade. They’re trying to put together a Dia de los Muertos celebration and asked if we could help.”

“Sure… Sounds like fun!”

That was in 2011 – i was a volunteer with a cycling group. Putting on make up, decorating bicycles and riding through town seemed a grand idea!  The first year they hadn’t secured an actual parade PERMIT, so the bikes and a couple of cars went slowly down the street while a gaggle of people followed along on the sidewalks.

There was a gathering at a gallery showcasing ofrendas – altars commemorating the dead. Flowers, candles, and music. It was absolutely beautiful to see the altars, carefully crafted with the remembrances of the dead.

In August of 2012, i was shattered by the suicide of a close friend – rattled to my core and immersed in the complex grief that comes from an unexplained death. i was still a mess when the organizer of the Dia de Muertos event asked me to help. i joined the ragtag band of hippies and artists, and sat in a few meetings. They were expanding the effort to include workshops on crafting ofrendas.

Still grieving, i decided it was worth a couple of hours. At that workshop, i dug in… i learned how to make a skeleton from bread dough ‘clay’. i spent hours over the next few weeks thinking of all of the things he had loved, the things that brought him joy.

Cooking, his old gray cat, beer, sushi… i built a beer glass, and figured out how to make acrylic beer. i am not a crafty person, but i build shit. And that year? i built an altar to remember my dead friend. It wasn’t spectacular, but it was cathartic.

stella

The following year, when contacted by the organizer i offered her my services. i basically laid down at her feet and asked her to put me to work. That was the year i strapped a giant skeleton to my body while driving a car through the entertainment district in town.

i’ve continued as a parade marshal, farting around with a variety of creatures and whatnot to launch the parade with a bang. This year, it was cold. The parade was a touch smaller, but no less enthusiastic than in the previous years.  i modified the fanciful alebrije we built last year, gave her wings, and let her fly…

parade 2017

The ofrendas draw me in – whether small remembrances, just a few photos and candles, or intricate creations, they leave me wanting to know more about the person being remembered…

altar 2017

i’m not religious. Can’t say that i’m even spiritual. But this is a beautiful, healthy and glorious way to work through death. We paint our faces in the style of the Calavera Catrina.  We dance with death – and celebrate life…

skelfie

 

 

Not thru*….yet.

After toying with it for about six years, it finally happened – a backpacking/camping trip. In late August i finally hiked in, camped, and hiked out of a wooded area, with no toilets and a lot of bugs.

Studley’s daughter, Pixie, is a supreme badass, hiking the length of the Appalachian Trail (AT) this year. She started walking northward from Georgia in mid-April. 2,190 miles – it takes from five to seven months to complete – and only about 20% of those who start a thru-hike complete it.

Her Dad was cheering madly, tracking her progress, and enjoying her adventure vicariously through intermittent phone calls.  Somewhere in those conversations, the prospect of the two of us joining her for a portion of the trail went from “notional” to “no shit”, and we started our own scaled-down preparations.

We started walking. Just on a flat track at the outset, but had to tackle hills. And we did. Added backpacks with some weight. Quickly realized that we were going to suffer, but just kept at it – while sorting gear lists, deciding which tent to use, meal planning.

In the meantime, Pixie kept walking. Every day, 15-20 miles. Knocking off the states – Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut… As we’d bitch about being hot, sweaty and covered in bugs on our daily walks, we reminded each other that Pixie was doing 4-5 times our mileage, over mountains, and we needed to shutthefuckup and keep walking.

We met her in Massachusetts in late August. Parked the car at a trailhead, grabbed our packs and set out for a 7 mile hike, meeting Pixie at a shelter for the night. Our mantra – “We have no idea what we’re doing. Let’s go!”

Only 7 miles. We’d been doing 3-5 miles, with loaded backpacks nearly every day for the prior two weeks, so how hard could it be? The first few miles we were completely fine – and then there were moments of “i have to adjust the strap, it’s wiggling funny on my shoulder” and calls for “rest stop” became a little more frequent. We had another hiker take this shot – for possible use on the cover of “Search and Rescue” magazine.

AT1

Pixie caught up with us about a mile short of our stop for the night. “I thought I was going to catch you a few miles back! You guys are moving right along!” Encouraging words for a couple of out of shape old farts…

Tucked into our tents shortly after dark, we were awakened to a bit of a rainstorm somewhere around 3am. The tent started leaking pretty hard. And we got seriously soaked…  But we packed up, hiked out, and — perhaps most surprisingly — didn’t die!

We have no idea what we’re doing. Let’s go!” — continues as the mantra for damn near everything we’ve been doing for the past couple of months! We are stretching. We are well outside our comfort zone! And we still have no idea what we’re doing!

S'more you do it

*i am not a fan of this spelling, with a strong preference for proper spelling “through”. This spelling is the norm for “thru-hiking” the Appalachian Trail, so i decided to go that route.

 

Adolescent dreams…

After going through the phase where i wanted to be an Egyptologist, and then a detective, i settled onto the fairly standard childhood career choice of Astronaut somewhere around 10 years old.  Fueled in large part by the Apollo Program, with a healthy turbo-boost from Star Trek, i wanted nothing more than to go into space.

My parents were supportive and encouraging – we took a family trip to the Huntsville Space Flight Center when i was in my early teens. They were just starting to work on the Space Shuttle program, and i remember walking through a mock up of the crew compartment. Seeing the spot marked “urinal”, and trying to figure out how it would work, i asked the tour guide “Where will the women pee?” and his response straight up pissed me off: “There aren’t any female astronauts.”

That triggered a visceral response of “fuck you, buddy” “oh, yeah? wow…”

It wasn’t until my final year of high school that i gave up the notion of becoming an astronaut. It was some combination of poor lifestyle choices, and genetics, but i was fat and out of shape, and realized that there wasn’t a chance in hell i could do the push ups. My high school Physics teacher helped me sort things – he had settled on teaching after a stellar career with NASA as a research scientist, and i realized that there were careers that could support the mission, without requiring push ups.

My undergraduate institution was selected in part because of affordability, but also because it had a decent engineering program. Somehow, i managed to survive a nearly fatal freshman year (see ‘lifestyle choices, poor’), and land a co-op job in the aeronautical engineering field.

About 40 years later, i’ve just retired from a pretty decent run. i got to fly in a chopper at night (doors open). i got to watch a night launch of a Space Shuttle from the rooftop of a building about 5 miles away (as close as you can get). And i got to support a team that put a research payload in orbit…

It occurred to me today that i came remarkably close to hitting that career goal that was a nebulous thought back in my teens. At the time, i had no idea what it looked like, or would feel like. i had no concept that i would ever marry, or have a family. It’s surprising that it rolled out the way it did… with few regrets professionally.

How often does that happen? What did you think your life would feel like once you got out of the parental homestead and started life on your own? How close did you come?

potential

from my favorite motivational poster source, Despair

Hey, baby!

In general, i don’t like babies. Never have been one to fuss and flutter when a swaddle-load of fresh human showed up in a room. Don’t get me wrong – i appreciate babies. Some of the best people i know were once babies, so they are pretty important in the grand scheme of things… i just don’t have an overpowering desire to hold them, make goo-goo eyes, and spew the babytalkin’ words.

A little over a year ago, i wrote of an unexpected adventure – visiting my son, his Serious Girlfriend, and her son while my daughter and her husband were visiting the U.S. Over the course of the next few months, Serious Girlfriend became Wife. They bought a house and settled into a new life together.

Those of you who have been along with The Trailer Park from the early days may remember some of the challenges i experienced with The Boy during his youth. It wasn’t pretty, and i developed a mantra – ‘keep him alive until he’s 25’, hoping that he would level out.  Testosterone is known to retard brain development in males, and by the age of 25, men have caught up with women in maturity. i just wasn’t sure he’d make it that far.  The Army captured his interests at the age of 24 – and he did coast through the 25th birthday unscathed.

If you had told me then that The Boy would be a strong husband, loving father, and dedicated homeowner before his 29th birthday, i’d have probably laughed myself to tears. Not the sweet, gentle tears that slip delicately down the cheek and leave a tiny wet drop on a blouse… but ugly, snotty, out-of-control sobbing tears. “That’s just cruel! That can’t possibly ever happen!”

Because i was that scared…

But here we are… and here he is. Smart, fierce wife – a woman so remarkable that she has Tamed The Wild Man. Sweet, giggly two year old son, Max.  A home. Life as an Army Sergeant. They spent time this spring building a garden, and a chicken coop for future chickens… and became pregnant – with a due date in mid-September!

Surprised he didn’t get whiplash from the sudden change in his lifestyle!

To lend a hand, Studley and i went out a few days early to assist with projects, and get Max used to having us around. He is king of the backyard domain, and it was fun watching him organize a rescue mission with his fire truck collection. After a dinner out, and settling Max in for the night, The Boy and his wife headed to the hospital on Thursday night.

backyard

By early Saturday morning, Ellie made her appearance – both Mom and baby healthy! We took Max to visit. Two years old is pretty young to really understand the arrival of a sibling, but he was a champ – happy to see Mom and Dad, and curious and gentle with the tiny person sleeping on Mom.

Max meets Ellie

After they returned home, we covered basics – food, dishes, laundry – and general entertainment for an energetic 2 year old. We poked at projects, took morning hikes, and watched kids so they had a ‘date night. Wisely, they chose a ‘date matinee’, knowing they would likely enjoy lunch and a movie more than dinner and a movie, given their general state of sleep deprivation.

As i mentioned at the start of this post – in general, i don’t like babies. But holding Ellie sent me tumbling back through all of the memories of the early days with The Girl and The Boy when they were fresh… Seeing the perfect round face, long fingers. The tiny toes that try to grip a nearby finger. The Moro Reflex – watching the remnants of our evolution in a startled baby.

It was natural to flashback to delivering my own two spawn onto the planet, but this time there was something far better – watching my adult son as he starts this adventure. Knowing his pride, joy and fears. I’ve enjoyed seeing him with Max – who was part of the package deal that came with his wife. He has become a great father – and now has another tiny little face that is counting on him to grow her into a good human.

so damn tiny

“Hello babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. On the outside, babies, you’ve got a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies – ‘God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.’ ” – Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Poof!

For the past five years, i’ve had a spreadsheet (compliments of the ever-enterprising Excel-pert, Studley). A spreadsheet that can be poked, prodded and tweaked in all sorts of ways, playing with expenses and income. It was my retirement planning tool.

Through a combination of planning, luck, early breeding and conservative financial management, i was surprised to find myself in a position to comfortably retire with a pension, after working for the same entity from the age of 19. i just had to wait until my 55th birthday to pull the chain.

i didn’t believe it. i worked and re-worked those numbers. Studley included important expense categories such as “entertainment” and “booze”* and most importantly travel. Even throwing in a ridiculous budget for such luxuries, it was still manageable.

i turned 55 in early June. i cleaned out my office and walked out the door and have no intention of ever working again.

Poof.

Just like that, i was no longer employed.  From the age of 16, i’ve always had a job with income. Self-sufficiency required that, and i worked my way through university through a combination of a co-operative engineering job, and admin/teaching assistant positions. i have always worked – driven by the need to be self-sufficient.

And now that comes without the need to work.

Turns out, this is a pretty serious transition – even though i absolutely recognize the privilege that comes with this particular transition. Unlike divorce, a cancer diagnosis or becoming an empty-nester, this one is without question a GOOD TRANSITION. Not only that, i had ample time to prepare for this one.

i’ve been asking retired people the same question for the past few years – “what was your biggest surprise after retirement?” The answers were all over the map… “How expensive health care costs are” to “How busy I am! How did I ever manage to do all this with a full time job?” One response that stuck with me was “How important the calendar becomes.”

i’ve always been pretty tight with my work calendar. It also had personal appointments and extracurricular activities on it, but the work day was the foundation. When every day feels like Saturday how do you know what day it is? How do you know that the Tuesday night patio party at your favorite venue is happening if you don’t realize it’s Tuesday?

Only two months in, here are a few other observations –

Getting dressed? Different. i don’t put on make up in the morning. Morning lingers longer than it used to. One day i had a volunteer meeting at 0800. The dog even glared at me as i walked him at 0700 – “what is this shit? why are we out of bed? why are you dressed?” Clothes off of a hangar, not out of the laundry bin after a sniff. Hair brushed, and not stuffed under a baseball cap…

Speaking of hair…

i’ve been having mine painted for 20 years. Thanks to genetics, my hair would have turned shock white by the time i was forty without chemical intervention. A couple of years ago, i started playing with that white – i let a chunk underneath go white, then hit it with some funky color. It’s been blue for about a year, and while i like it, i don’t like the maintenance. So i’m working through a process to let my hair revert to its natural color.

Brain function? A bit befuddled – more forgetful than usual, not able to find words, and carrying a general fog every now and then. Still carrying five different volunteer jobs, i have responsibilities that require thought. We are continuing to push the envelope on life skills and experiences, in part to keep the brains working…

But those are details for a future post… i’ve exceeded my word count for today! Time to go pack a suitcase!

huey suitcase

* i like to throw parties. My friends appreciate good food and good booze, as do i. That shit ain’t cheap…

Tanked

Losing Mr. Pickles wasn’t my first dead pet rodeo. i’ve had canine companionship my entire life – losing Slightly and Rupert dropped some darkness in my heart. They were the dogs my ex-husband and i had before we started breeding, and they were the first pets for my children.

Rupert died first. Shortly after we buried Slightly my husband and kids began lobbying for another dog. i wasn’t ready right away, but they started the marketing campaign within a month. It was three months later before i succumbed to pressure, and we stumbled upon Turbo the Wonder Dog.

Mr. Pickles came to us a couple of years later as a companion for her – eventually becoming my canine life partner as my husband claimed Turbo as his road dog when he moved to our place up north.

When Mr. Pickles died last August, i had no plan to get another pup – some combination of shattered heart and lifestyle. Too much travel to commit to a dog. It wasn’t until late November that i noticed something happening. The feeling of missing A Specific Dog was still there, but there was another feeling. The sense of missing having A Dog.

The lifestyle issue remained – so much travel, and hating having to rely on a pet sitter to take care of a dog. i reached out to a friend who works in rescue, and let her know that i could probably foster an old dog, or a hospice dog, for a few months. Within a day things went into motion…

An urgent need for placement of a big doggie, about 5 years old. His owner had a terminal illness and was no longer able to care for him.

“Can you manage a big pit bull mix? He’s a low-energy sweetheart, good with other animals, who likes to sleep and ride in the car! Really need a foster – he’s a big boy and would likely end up as a bait dog if he goes into a shelter”

“Ummm…. sure?”

In December, Tank arrived – delivered by the dog rescue network, and his owner – man with cancer who wanted to meet me in person before handing over this dog. i took one look at A Very Large Dog With A Head the Size Of An Anvil and said “i will do right by this dog” as i shook his hand – even though i had no idea what i was doing…

Tank arriving

When a smallyappydog has a bad day and bites you? It’s an annoyance. Looking at Tank, and getting a sense for his strength, i realized quickly the responsibility of such a powerful creature. If he has a bad day? It’s more than an annoyance… This dog could eat my face.

Within a couple of days, Huey the cat was sleeping next to him in bed. A sweet, resilient and easy dog, Tank got comfortable. At first neighbors were crossing the street as we went about our daily walks, but over the first few weeks, a few came up to meet him – and he charmed them all.

Huey and Tank

Pet Sitter was also immediately charmed – and asked if there was any possible way he could adopt this goofy dog. So nine months later, this short-term foster dog is still part of my life. Pet Sitter is working on getting his own place, and will take full custody in a few months, but in the meantime is happy to take The Tanker out on play dates, and stay at my place with the manimals when i’m on the road.

wigglebutt

My life is better with a dog in it – this particular dog. The most important thing i’ve learned after this episode of “I’m Never Having Another Dog Because I Can’t Take the Heartbreak When It Dies”? So many good dogs out there. So many… the best way to honor a beloved rescue dog is to find a way to rescue another one…

Tank smile