Road nuggets

Somewhere between London and Philadelphia, the fever hit. i have spent the past week dealing with a mild case of the flu, while managing re-entry after being away from home for a month. Some random nuggets…

  • Thirty days. That is the longest i’ve ever been away from ‘home’ as an adult. This is mostly because of The Job, which i no longer have. Studley and i were very deliberate about pushing our comfort limits, and we’re still sorting out how we feel. Not seriously considering life as ex-pats, but some gentle experience should we ever choose that route.B1
  • i missed my pets. If i am going to do this on a fairly regular basis, i probably should not have pets. My live-in pet sitter had a pre-planned trip in the middle of that 30 days, so i scrambled to hire people, and find a friend, who could cover those 10 days. One of the most stressful aspects of being gone – and most expensive. i took to feeding treats to the street cats and dogs. cIMG_6363
  • Air travel is still pretty awesome – about 12,000 miles flown on this trip. How long would it have taken by ship? Who knows? Luggage lost on the way to Athens, but it found us a couple of days later. British Airways thought we hadn’t shown up for our flights TO Athens, so they canceled our return, but still managed to get us on a flight home. For all the barking about how shitty air travel is, it’s pretty amazing when you stand back a bit…izmir to istablnu
  • Turkey – Izmir is a lovely city – about the size of Chicago. The public transit cards include use of buses, ferries, trams and bike share. To the people who consider this a ‘third world country’? Rethink that shit… We were out and about alone, day and night, and i NEVER felt unsafe.10
  • Plumbing – in Turkey, there are bins in the toilet stalls for the collection of used paper. The plumbing systems and sanitary waste processing facilities do not handle toilet paper. Surprising how fast you get used to this. On the plus side? Most toilets in Izmir (public, private) have built in bidet functions. Surprising how fast you get used to this, too. Exploring options to upgrade my home toilet…IMG_6268
  • Language – We started using an app (Duolingo) to learn Turkish about two months before launch. The Girl emphasized the need to be fluent in numbers – enabling basic commerce. We thought we’d done ok. We were wrong. i DID have a really cool conversation with my son-in-laws 2 year old niece about colors and animals. i think this topic requires a separate post, as there are numerous examples of how things worked, and didn’t, and many lessons learned along the way!b13
  • Baggage – The Girl had a list of things she wanted us to bring, and we hauled another bag of Christmas gifts from The Girl’s Dad and his wife. We had to bring the big suitcases. Limited to 50 pounds each, we still had to deploy two roll aboard suitcases, along with our standard travel backpacks. Didn’t leave a lot of space for our personal belongings – so we packed REALLY light. Turns out, i can live for a month with just a few shirts, trousers/leggings, a dress, a fleece jacket, raincoat, two pairs of socks, one extra pair of shoes, and four pair of undercrackers. Excellent training for what lies ahead…55

Improvisational dance

May, 2004:  The Girl had signed up for Semester at Sea, sailing around the world on a cruise ship full of undergrads and a few brave faculty members. There was to be a “parent meet up” opportunity somewhere along the way – for that trip, it was Vietnam.

Traveling solo, i joined a group of about 50 wealthy white people* in Bangkok, and we made our way to Vietnam to meet the ship as it pulled into port. We had a couple days in Bangkok, touring together, which told me i was sort of the odd (wo)man out – only a couple of us on the trip without mates, no interest in shopping, i was pretty content to just chill on my own.

After we met up with the students, we had time in Ho Chi Minh City to explore. The tour company handling the parents put us on buses, and we went to various museums. It was on this afternoon i met two couples who were not like the others – a brother and sister, traveling with their spouses, they had been students with Semester at Sea back in the 70’s. They were on the trip to meet with a son/nephew and do some exploring of their own while halfway around the world.

We were headed back to the hotel and the bus driver stopped at a Vietnam Airlines storefront. The two couples said their goodbyes and prepared to hop off the bus – “We’re going to see if we can find some cheap flights to Halong Bay while we’re here. Wander a bit, then maybe fly over to Phuket for some diving before we head home…”

i looked at The Girl after they departed. “i would love to be able to travel like that! Just make it up as you go! i don’t think i’ll ever have that confidence!”

February, 2018: Driving by the Izmir train station.“You know, next time we’re here, maybe we should hop a train? Let’s just see where we can go…”

turkish railway map.jpg

* The demographic on the ship was heavily skewed to kids with money. The Girl managed to find her way into the tribe of the hippies on board. She often referred to the ship as the “Aryan Nation Love Boat”. 


She was born and raised in a small village on the Black Sea, but married and moved to a larger city years later. Ayse is 65 years old, and a widow. We met her while visiting friends of The Girl.

The Girl’s friend, Sevda is married to Pete (from the US). They had a son, Ender, about a year ago, and Ayse spends time with them, helping with the little boy, and managing the household. Ayse has four daughters, three (including Sevda) are engineers, and the fourth is trained as a social worker.

We are working on learning Turkish, but our skills are rudimentary at best. With translation assistance from Sevda and The Girl, i told Ayse that she should be very proud of raising four smart, professional daughters. “In my family, everyone must do something.”

Ayse did not go to college herself, but clearly understands the value of education.

As we picked up Ender’s books, we started sounding out words – numbers, colors, animals. She looked at Sevda with a very determined look on her face, threw a side eye toward Pete, and spoke at length in Turkish.

Sevda said she is going to study English, and was inspired to tackle it because we were trying to learn Turkish. She also said that our Turkish is already better than Pete’s, and thinks he should make the same effort after living in Turkey for so long!

Ayse is a thin woman, wearing modest clothing*, taking the occasional break to go out on the porch and smoke. Her eyes are sharp, and her face looks younger to me than her 65 years. Despite Sevda telling us that she has had trouble with her back, she picks up Ender with ease, slinging him onto her shoulders, her back, turning him a million different ways as she carries him from room to room.

“She could juggle babies! Wow!”

Sevda showed me her garden, which includes herbs, peppers, greens. “That’s an olive tree! We just had a harvest, and made olive oil! Pete and I were picking them from the low branches, but my mother climbed up the tree! She has practically build this entire garden herself! I’ll send home some of the tomato sauce she made this summer!”

As we said our goodbyes**, Ayse invited us to visit us in her home town when we visit again. i told her that we’d help her practice her English if she’d help us practice our Turkish!

In the car on the drive home, i was commenting on how fierce Ayse is – “She is extraordinary! She is fierce, smart – and can juggle babies! How cool is that?”

The Girl seemed a little sad as she said “Yeah… I think she’s sick. Cancer. Not sure of the details, but it’s not a great prognosis…”

baby juggling

Image found here. A famous ‘baby juggler’ statue in Oslo. Who knew?

* In Izmir, women are free to choose to wear modest clothing (hijab) or not. Based on several visits here, and observation, i’d say around a quarter to a third of women – of all ages – make this choice. 

** Saying goodbye in Turkish culture takes approximately 30-45 minutes. There are a dozen words for “goodbye” and the process is complicated, but heart felt. We are still getting the hang of cheek-kissing (right side, left side, right side again for family… i think…)


Ye (ancient) gods…

How would you travel if you had more time than money?

That is the question we chew on now that we are retired. Even with very reasonable retirement incomes, we make less money than we did while working – but must maintain our travel habit!

First up? Couch surfing with my daughter in Turkey! She camped under my roof for a couple of decades, so it’s time for her to repay the favor!

Given the political climate* between the U.S. and Turkey, getting the visa to stay for a month wasn’t trivial. In November, i had been stalking some travel websites, and learned that there was still a process allowing to obtain walk-up visas in the Istanbul airport – but only if you spent a few days in another country. This became Plan A.

Plan A, however, was scuttled somewhere around November 20th, as this work around was shut down – but both embassies announced that a limited number of visas would be processed. This became Plan B – we decided that we’d burn up some frequent flier miles, and hotel points, and plan to spend some time in Athens. Worst case? The Girl could hop over and visit with us, even if we were not given the opportunity to visit Turkey.

The application process was messy, requiring a metric ton of documentation – including pay statements from my son-in-law, a copy of the deed to their home. We had to provide proof of income as well.

We hired a service to expedite visa processing in Washington to hand carry our passports to the Turkish consulate. That was right before we took off for our Christmas holiday in mid-December. Much to my complete and total amazement, we were notified that the visas were granted just a few days later!

As excited as we were to have the visas, there was this bit of news. The US and Turkey came to an agreement to stand down, and return to normal visa processing about a week after we got our pretty stamps in the passports. Because of course they did…

We decided to proceed with a short stay in Athens on our way to Izmir. The Girl joined us, as neither she or Studley had been there before.  Thanks to my 20+ years as a business road warrior, the hotel gave us a room on the executive floor, providing free breakfast, and a happy hour with snacks! These served as two of our daily meals!

i’ll let some photos do the rest of the talking…

6 brealfast

Breakfast on the hotel terrace. That is the Acropolis in the distance. Truly a cradle of civilization, wandering the temples, gardens and facades scattered through the modern city provides a powerful perspective on “old”…

2 Evamgalismos

One of my favorite things about the old section of Athens is riding the Metro! As the Greeks prepared for the 2004 Olympics, they wanted to improve public transportation through the addition of a subway – but when you’re digging in Greece, every hole is full of treasures! Rather than remove them all, many were incorporated into displays at the Metro stops!

Street critters were generally well fed and cared for by some combination of residents and the city government. Many were tagged, giving some evidence of the “Trap, Neuter, Release” program. How very civilized. The U.S. could take a serious lesson here… Did i mention that they seem quite well fed? The three fat pups welcomed us to the Agora, near Monastiraki Square.

Street art abounds! i’m a fan of high quality graffiti, and Athens was not lacking.

10 late lunch

No visit to Europe is complete without time spent in sidewalk cafes. A bit chilly in January, we still managed to find several nice stops – for coffee in the morning, and beer in the afternoon.

We’re both embracing the gray hairs. Life is much simpler since i shaved my head. Studley still isn’t sure about the beard…



Being devoted “booze travelers”, we visited Brettos – a bar and tasting room operating since 1909. Ouzo, brandy and wine are available for tasting. Being in Greece, we chose the ouzo tasting!

i’ve had better ideas. The equivalent of one serious glass of ouzo got me pretty lit!  Stumbling Walking a few doors further, we stopped for a late lunch.  A giant plate of grilled meat helped me stabilize enough to hop the Metro back to the hotel! Perhaps the wine tasting is a better option?

Three days was enough! In general, i can highly recommend a few days in Athens – and January is perfect for missing the crowds (if you don’t mind a little chill in the air). Five suitcases and three backpacks into a taxi, and off to the airport for the next round…


* Two nominally adult men waging battle over the size of their weiners…


On the blend…

Blended families.

We think of the classic Brady Bunch situation, or the more complex arrangements where there are young children, remarried parents, custody and shared parenting. With effort this can work well, but often leads to headaches, holiday melt downs, and logistical nightmares.

What happens when old people, with grown children, pair up? Not a lot written about that…

Studley had two twenty-something children when he divorced his wife, and my children were college-aged when their dad and i split. Our courtship was fairly non-traditional, but after hanging out together for a few years, it was inevitable that our spawn would be introduced.

With my kids, it was a more organic process. In the early days of our relationship, they were either living at home, or at university and coming home fairly often. They’d spend time with us, we’d go out to dinner, hang out, watch movies, and they grew attached. Studley and i were also in the more enthusiastic stage of dating, and maintained an open relationship*, which meant he wasn’t my only date. There was only one other man they met, and neither liked him. They were “Team Studley” from the start…

Studley’s situation was quite different. His eldest lived out of state, and his youngest was away at university. There was also a bit more stress regarding the parental divorce, and no way for him to have a civil relationship with his ex-wife. It took more time for him to feel comfortable introducing his children to his “girlfriend”.

Things gelled a bit when i attended his son’s wedding a few years ago. Some combination of me being polite to their mother, and the kids seeing what a couple of dorks we were on the dance floor, seemed to break the ice. Their dad was happy! There have been a few other holiday gatherings over the years, more time spent together, closer connections, and conversations going deeper.

i was honored when his daughter introduced us to her trail family as “her parents” when we met her during her Appalachian Trail hike in August. Allowing things to proceed at their own pace was the right thing to do. It took time, but it took!

This year, his kids wanted to meet up somewhere for Christmas. We settled on renting a condo in Big Sky, Montana, with the goal of exploring somewhere new and getting outside to enjoy the snow. Not being quite as old and crusty experienced with travel planning, they chose the absolutely most expensive travel days for airfare!


Snowshoe hike. i’m on the left, and Studley is in the middle. It was -2 F  (-19 C). We did not die. 

Calling on my inner travel ninja, i was able to save a lot of money by hacking flights together, adding a 2 day layover in Denver. This allowed for a very quick stop with my son and his family the week before Christmas! The bonus? Studley’s daughter would be traveling with us – a chance for some ‘cross spawn’ time!

Over the years, there have been a few other opportunities for my kids to meet his kids, but they’ve been limited because they all live in far off places! Louisiana, Washington, DC, Colorado Springs and Izmir, Turkey! Doesn’t make it easy to get together for Sunday brunch!

It was an absolute delight to see my son and his wife connect with his daughter. She didn’t mind hanging out with the two grandcritters, either.  She enjoyed her time, and we’ve since had discussions around building some future holiday plans where we’re all in the same general vicinity to make the bigger gatherings happen.

Non-traditional? Whatever that means. The blend extends. 

gratuitous gamma pic

Gratuitous Gamma pic… they are adorable!


* We still are in a ‘non-exclusive’ relationship, managing a comfortable degree of ethical non-monogamy. We have, however, become quite particular about such arrangements, having been burned to a crisp a few times by people who are batshit crazy claim to understand what this means, and then try to change the ground rules. 


Ten Years After…

As i procrastinate forge my way into the new year, it occurred to me that it was ten years ago that i wandered into the blogosphere. As a recently divorced woman with an emptying nest, and inspired by a real life friend who was a blogger from the early days, i put a toe into the blogwaters.

10th birthdayFar more disciplined (and less distracted) back then, i generally posted daily – a concept that boggles my mind. That was before Facebook, Twitter, Instagram were available to serve as host platforms for oversharing of the mundane aspects of daily life.  Short blasts, mostly reflecting on my days, i would dig in deep and hoark up something difficult about once a week.

People showed up. i followed a few people, commented regularly, and was honored and astonished when they would stop by my virtual trailer park and leave a comment or two. And they stayed – some of you crazy folks have been hanging around from nearly the start. Others have wandered in for a bit, and wandered off. Even though i’ve been far more sporadic of late, i still see the occasional first timer.

Initially, i expected this to be a somewhat masturbatory activity – spanking my keyboard in solitude. By the end of the first year, i’d made some virtual friends in the blogosphere. In my first year of blogging in 2008, i decided that flying to Europe to meet up with a couple of them was a grand idea – and i did so. Learning much from that trip, i did it again in 2010, meeting up with my two besties from Australia and South Africa and having quite an adventure in Greece for two weeks.

Despite wondering if i would end up abducted, robbed, or skinned, it has all worked out fabulously. The people i’ve found through this blog – and those who have stepped from the realm of the virtual to the real – have been good people, people i am glad to have as part of my world. Those i’ve never managed to meet in person, remain just as real to me.

Somewhere along that path, i stopped considering my blogmates as virtual friends. They are just as real to me as those i see on a regular basis.

From the outset i planned to write for myself, and kept this blog disconnected from my ‘real life’. i do not hump this blog to my friends to drive stats, and it continues to humble me that those who wander in and read are doing so based solely on the words that i spew into the ether…

On this 10th Birthday for The Trailer Park Refugee, i thank you for showing up, commiserating, and taking the time from your day to reach out and connect with a strange woman stranger that may only seem to exist inside of your computer, or tablet, or phone. i assure you, i am real.

The path i’ve wandered for the past decade, documented on this ol’ blog, brought me here… And i’m good – damn good – with where i’ve landed. What will the next 10 bring?

Beats the fuck outta me… but let’s go!

Here’s to a grand year ahead for all of us!


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…

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.


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.


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…