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.


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.


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.


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…


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.


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

The Circle Game

i love my children.

Not just because 10 million years of biology has programmed me to care for, and protect, my offspring to assure proliferation of my genetic code. Come to think of it, that certainly is a factor… but not the primary factor.

i love them because they are smart, funny, thoughtful and good citizens of earth.

With the holidays, they were both able to visit for about a week.  First, The Boy arrived – stepping off a flight at midnight, completely soused, having learned the joys of holiday travel with a military haircut.  People just love buying drinks for our servicemen, even when not in uniform.

On Christmas day, the two of us headed for the airport to retrieve The Girl arriving from across the Atlantic.  A happy reunion, with a stop near The Trailer Park to pay respects at Mom’s grave.

We enjoyed a great visit, they had places to go, friends to visit, and spent time with their dad and his wife.  They spent time wrangling the manimals, eating shitty food, and yakking late into the night.  The Girl did a bit of shopping, as she needed to take 100 pounds* of America back to Turkey.  The Boy farted around with his pod of sk8rboyz.

As it got closer to departure time, they were ready to go home.

The Girl has a job, a serious boyfriend and a life back in Turkey.  The Boy has made some incredible friends in the Army, and it was clear that he missed them and his routine.

i had to smile with complete understanding, and just a bit of melancholy.  i remember that feeling…

When i was married, we’d make an annual trip to visit my in-laws.  People i genuinely adored!  Since they were 1,000 miles away, we’d spend a week.  They made an effort to keep us entertained, with excursions and adventures so we wouldn’t get bored, but we were often just happy to hang out and visit.  But after about four or five days, i was absolutely itchy to get on the road and get home.


i remember when i left home – 18 years old, leaving for university, and knowing…. KNOWING that i’d never go back.  Not because my parents were bad, or i’d had a horrible experience, but because i wanted my life to be my own.  Of the four of us, i was the only one that never ‘bounced back’.

When i’d visit my old home – now the home that houses my niece and her family – it was comfortable and ‘known’ in a way, but it was never my home again.  There were only a few weeks i stayed – maybe in the summer after my first year of university.  A few nights spent in the recliner in the living room, looking after Mom in later years.  But i never went back… i loved it, but didn’t miss it.

While my children will always find a sense of comfort coming to visit – wherever i may be – it will never be their home again.  As a minimum, they’ll stop by to eat my food, drink my booze and wrangle my critters….

There’ll be new dreams, maybe better dreams and plenty
Before the last revolving year is through…**


* It’s less expensive to check an extra bag than to ship. i’d say most of the weight was bourbon and peanut butter…

** Joni Mitchell.  The Circle Game.  A song i did at open mic nights when i was 20, thinking “wow, this is, like, sooooo deep.”  Now when i do it, i can’t finish without breaking down in tears…

Only for now…

Already late for work, but still needing to walk the dog, i distractedly slapped a leash on the dog’s collar and headed out to the garage.  This was going to have to be a necessity run – walking only as far as it took for Mr. Pickles to deliver the goods, then turn back home to get on with my day. 

Mr. Pickles had other ideas.  It was one of those spring snowfalls.  Heavy and wet, clinging to the ribs of the bare trees, defining every branch against the gray sky.  With temperatures hovering just below freezing, it wasn’t all that cold.  The kind of snow that will be gone by noon.

At 10 years old, Mr. Pickles has lost a bit of his sproingy, youthful exuberance.  Unless there is snow on the ground!  The years disappear, and he’s a puppy again.

Watching him bound alongside the road, picking up his paws like a show pony, it hit me… “Will this be his last romp in the snow?”

For as long as i can remember, i see endings.  As soon as there is a beginning, i start preparing for the end.  Healthy?  Probably not.  Realistic?  Certainly.  i am acutely aware that nothing lasts.  Maybe that’s why i work at enjoying the good stuff, not missing the moments, and trying to cram as much into each breath as i possibly can.

The only thing i am sure of?  Nothing lasts forever.  It sure can fuck up my relationships when i start negotiating the end right up front.  Just being practical, though.  When i can’t get my head around something, i think “It’s only for now“. 

Which makes having a pet really painful, by the way.  Big dogs tend to have shorter life spans.  Oh, and if they’re pure bred?  Another strike against him.  Dreading the day i no longer have a dog to walk, i kept going.  He kept sproinging.  Work be damned, this was a far more important moment.

He enjoyed the romp in the snow.  i was late for work.  The snow was gone by noon.

Today arrived as a sunny and bright March day.  After running my morning errands, i couldn’t wait to get the windows open to let in fresh air.  The Girl grabbed her breakfast and headed to the back deck, keeping the screen door shut to prevent cat leakage.

Will the aluminum frame of a screen door stop 100 pounds of hound dog?  Nope.  Seems Mr. Pickles was just as joyful today as we were with the sunshine, and got up a full head of steam as he launched himself across the living room to take in the fresh air.  He knocked that screen door across the deck as if it hadn’t been there. 

Only for now…


Everyone’s a little bit unsatisfied.
Everyone goes ’round a little empty inside.
Take a breath, look around, swallow your pride
For now…

Nothing lasts, life goes on, full of surprises.
You’ll be faced with problems of all shapes and sizes.
You’re going to have to make a few compromises…
For now…

For now we’re healthy.  For now we’re employed. For now we’re happy…
If not overjoyed.
And we’ll accept the things we cannot avoid, for now…
For now…

Don’t stress, relax, let life roll off your backs!
Except for death and paying taxes,
Everything in life is only for now!

Each time you smile…
It’ll only last a while.
Life may be scary…
But it’s only temporary.

It’s only for now…

Christmas in my rear view mirror

At 5 years old… Jumping up and down on my oldest sisters bed on Christmas morning, with my sister, T.  “Wake up!  Santa came!”  The orchestrated chaos of Mom’s Christmas morning.  Had to have breakfast before gifts were opened – usually some nutritious PopTarts – but we were allowed to dig into the stockings.  Mom liked to drag things out – only one gift opened at a time to “make Christmas last”. 

At 10 years old… The year i ruined my own Christmas by peeking at every gift with my name on it under the tree.  i was good with the letter opener, and carefully slit the tape to reveal what was inside.  Lesson learned:  Don’t fuck with anticipation.

At 15 years old…  After a tumultuous year of battles with my sister, T, we reconcile.  She was suffering quietly through fights with her girlfriend – she wasn’t ‘out’ to anyone then.  After my best friend, J, had come out to me earlier that year, he suggested i just go ahead, tell my sister i knew she was a lesbian, and offer support.  It worked.  My gift to her that year was a collection of  ‘gay lit’ books – “The Front Runner” and “Rubyfruit Jungle”, suggested by J.

At 20 years old… My first Christmas away from my family.  i had been living with EJ for a year, and he was going to Florida to spend the holiday with his parents.  i go with him.  Calling home on Christmas day is weird.  A little bittersweet – a sense of independence as i start something new, and a sense of loss as i leave something behind.  And the weirdest thing of all:  Having a family meal with people who were quiet.  i could hear myself chew! 

At 25 years old…  A baby? The girl at about 18 months old.  Our first house.  Having a baby gave us an excuse not to travel, so we don’t have to go to Florida, but we are required to bring the toddler to The Park.  Overloaded toddler by 5:00 pm, as we retreat homeward as soon as we can possibly escape.

At 30 years old… The peak years for me “doing” Christmas.  Love buying gifts and wrapping them beautifully.  Baking with the kids.  Driving through the neighborhoods looking at holiday lights.  Hitting the road for “warm” Christmases in Florida every other year.  Our own family holiday traditions emerging – saying “It’s the most beautiful Christmas tree ever” as soon as the tree is done – which has to be said every year.  Still the ‘Santa’ years… One kid serving as “elf” to distribute presents.  Learning that dogs can smell wrapped chocolates under a tree, and will eat an entire pound box.  And then paint the household a horrid shade of brown…

At 35 years old… Mellower.  Santa puts scratch off lottery tickets in stockings, and the emphasis is now hanging out, watching movies, and eating junk food until we achieve sugar comas.  Travel every other year to visit grandparents – despite the fact that no one really wants to do it, we made the best of it… sometimes renting a beach house for a few days en route. 

At 40 years old… Awkward.  My husband and i are effectively separated and living in two different homes, but we converge on the vacation place up north for Christmas.  The kids are REALLY over the hype.  We spend our time watching satellite tv movies.  Playing with dogs.  Staring at the frozen lake.  Drinking.  A lot.  The Trailer Park Christmas has gotten ugly, with disagreements percolating in many corners.  i develop the ‘avoid and minimize’ strategy.  Mom grumbles that the family has fallen apart and that Christmas just isn’t the same any more.

Today… It’s noon.  i’m still in my pajamas.  The Girl is sleeping downstairs because she works retail now, and had to work late last night.  The Boy is visiting his dad up north, because Dad needs company after losing both his live-in girlfriend and his father within the past month.  Drank a half pot of coffee – with a little Kahlua in deference to the holiday.  Read the newspaper.  Basically, it’s kinda like any other Saturday,  only everything’s closed.   We’ll get together and hang out when The Boy drops by early next week.

Life is good.  Merry Christmas!

taken a couple of weeks ago when The Boy was home for his birthday…

Surviving “Slug Week”: A Primer

That week between Christmas and New Year – purgatory on the calendar.  We are recovering from an overdose of sugar, sweets and exposure to extended family.  With the start of a new year literally just around the corner, we know we’re going to try to get ourselves right with our bodies.  But not just yet… We need transition.  Gentle movement away from mindless gluttony and sloth –  toward our newfound resolve of sacrifice, or at least moderation.
“Slug Week”
i  always work the week between the holidays, for a wide variety of reasons.  i  prefer to take my vacation when the sun is shining, not when faced with 18 hours of darkness and massive frigidity.  It’s also generally very quiet at work.  Most folks are gone, and those that are working are either in “fuck off” mode, or sleeping politely at their desks.  In either case, no one is sending me work, and i’m just fine with that.  No one notices if i show up late, then leave early to make up for it.
Despite all these wonderful things, a few tips are in order.  A list of suggestions for Slug Week.  Making the transition from “reckless self-abuse and gluttony” to “positive outlook for becoming the best person i can be” must be somewhat gradual.  Holiday recovery is not for pussies. 
DO bring all of your leftover junk food into the office.  Pack up the rum balls, shortbread cookies dipped in chocolate and even the partially emptied tubs of frosting leftover in the fridge.  By New Year’s Day, there should be nothing decadent left in your house.
DON’T sit at the Admin Desk and eat the shit you just brought in to work.  It was for THEM, dumbass.
DO continue with your exercise regimen during Slug Week.  It will help you kick-start your January fitness routine.
DON’T leave your sweaty gym clothes in your car overnight, when it’s going to be ball-numbingly cold.  Putting on a frozen running bra can stop your heart, or as a minimum, wake you up.  We can’t have that.  Transitions must be gradual…
DO start watching your calories.  Slimfast, or other meal replacements, can come in handy.  Bonus tip:  i keep a can in my car, so it is convenient – even when i’m on the run.  And this time of year? It’s always chilled!
DON’T mix a Slimfast with Bailey’s Irish Cream for lunch.  Drink the Bailey’s straight to cut calories. 
DO use the quiet time in the office to knock out a few things that have languished on your “To Do” list for months.  Take advantage of the abandoned workplace to do your most creative thinking…
DON’T bother even pretending to try the item above.  i  tell myself that i’m going to write that tech report, or knock out the big bad spreadsheet, or generate a new process description, or some such bullshit every year.  Invariably, i end up reading newspapers online, yakking with my equally sluggardly colleagues, or simply fighting to stay awake for six hours.  Skip the guilt.  Instead, go here and play games.  These are unlikely to be blocked by your IT department.  It’s NORAD!  What’s more important than National Defense?

Happy Slug Week!  Get out there in those sweat pants and baggy shirts and start thinking about preparing for getting ready to kinda start getting shit done next week…

farting around…

I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don’t let anybody tell you different.
Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country

And so i start a new phase of my life.  Aimless.  Reasonably happy.  Healthy, for the most part.  Children grown and on their way, mostly.  Single, with the love and companionship of a fine dog.  Employed, doing something i mostly enjoy, for a good wage*. 

No long term plans.  Some vague notions of upcoming holidays – skiing in Utah this winter.  Greece next summer.  Another SCUBA trip.  Somewhere.  Some time…  Continued mucking around with the homestead.  Paint this.  Replace that.  Hang a tapestry.  Launder the sheets**. 
Volunteering?  Nope.  Been there, done that.  Have developed a mild distaste for it – indicative of my cynical state.  Not so much the act of volunteering, but the bleatings of “Look at me!  Look at me!  I helped some poor people!” have begun to grate on me… It’s other volunteers who drove me underground.  Having devoted thousands of hours to various activities over the years, i’m pretty burnt out.
So i ride my bike.  Do crunches and push ups and squats and stretches.  Walk the dog and pick up his turds in a plastic bag.  Re-learn how to run on my recovered knee.  Pick through the dusty stack of books on my night stand and choose the first victim.  Visit the kitchen and get reacquainted with the strange equipment that lives there…. 
Watch people.  Listen in on the conversations of strangers.  Make goofy comments to waiters and store clerks.  And enjoy a whole lot of nothing….  Farting around?  Highly underrated…
not really mr. pickles, but it could be....

not really mr. pickles, but it could be....

* That last item is somewhat remarkable considering that i was voted “Most Likely to be Found Dead in a Gutter” in the unofficial high school poll… timing and luck have been good to me.
** i flip them periodically… sheesh….