Saturday, April 17, 2021

Stays at home and beats back death, or debt, you decide

(title is lifted from Ben Folds "Where's Summer B")

We have a nice amount of money in our checking account for the first time in our entire relationship. For a lot of people, it is not a lot of money, I'm sure. But for us, it is pretty great. 

Since the pandemic came, we haven't traveled. We haven't had fun. We (ahem, I) have not bought concert tickets, paid for hotel rooms, dinners, bought all the drinks at the bar for 20 friends in NYC (yes I did, annnnnnnnnd it was expensive), not for a good long damn while. Not being a drunken octopus (which is my sister's nickname) helps not spend your money. 

While having zero fun is a down right drag, it's nice to have some cash.

Sidebar story: I had a dream recently where Doug and I went look at a condo that we were going to be renting, and the husband in the couple was Doug's boss (not in real life now currently for real). 

It was on a pier in a super hip and active seaside town. Maybe like Astoria, Oregon or something. The building had four units, it was humongous, and used to be a warehouse or cannery or something. It had been rehabbed to the studs, soundproof/weatherproof/waterproof giant windows with shades inside the window that you could move up or down.  Rough, worn wooden wide pine floors that were completely refinished, rehabbed, sealed and shiny. Exposed brick, rusty beams and pulleys for doors to rooms and pantry enclosures, but they glided silently and perfectly. Bookstore style floor to ceiling (12 ft) shelving with a ladder that glided along just like the doors. It had amazing skylights, and a beautiful gourmet kitchen with indoor gas grill, huge patio off the back on the second floor. It was very exciting and beautiful and everything I'd love to have in a place to live on the ocean.

We were signing the paperwork and the wife said "okay go in there and start boxing up our things, and you'll be moving the couch to the elevator and ..." She was giving us orders like we were the moving company. 

I looked at Doug and said "wait a second, we have to do the move too? Don't they have enough money to hire movers? We are hiring movers? Why aren't they hiring movers?" 

She heard me and turned around and said "oh honey, how do you think I got rich? It wasn't by paying for moving companies to move my things! Now go over here and wrap all these dishes. You can do the kitchen." 

How do you think I got rich. Huh. 

By not spending any money at all, being frugal, and sitting on anything you have. No buying rounds for all the friends at the NYC bar after a Guster rain out. 

So this past year, I guess that's been us. Only we did pay movers, but I packed our stuff.  (Still would have loved to move into this imaginary wharf warehouse thing. I think about the place often. Maybe it exists. It was that real in my dream. Well. Maybe someday). Sidebar story complete

Looking at our bank balances, it is nice to know we can afford to get some of the things we really need to upgrade. 

We need:

  • A nice new sofa/sectional situation in the living room. We got a free Ikea couch from a co-worker when we bought his bed (also Ikea) when he moved to Spain. No one wanted the couch so he told us to just take it. I insisted on giving him money. It's the nicest couch we've ever had.
  • A patio set instead of just camp chairs and a weird little wicker table thing Doug found while out for a walk when we lived in Massachusetts. It was in someone's trash.  But my patio dreams may have to wait until after the invasion of the Cicadas.  More on that later, I'm sure.
  • A new bed. Our box spring/platform sucks and we've slept the hell out of this Tempurpedic over the last 20 +years. I would kind of like a king sized bed, but we should stick with a queen because the chances are it'll fit into more bedrooms in the future. But a king would fit into my fantasy condo.
  • Other stuff and junk to make Chrissie happy. I have a stack of things to frame, I need pants.You know. The usual day-to-day living things.
  • eventual travel maybe. Someday.
We have one credit card. 

We have had this solitary soldier for years. Right around the time we were about to lose the house, I rolled everything into this one particular credit card after trying to get rates lowered on like 3 others that we had. And they refused.  So I called this bank, asked if they could raise our limit, told them my plan to consolidate all my debt onto one card, and they gave me a really high credit limit in case I had to spend some money. They lowered my interest rate, and let me do what I felt I needed to do. 

I said kiss my ass to CitiBank, Discover, a BOA card, paid off those balances with the transfer from this bank, and started a journey to just pay shit off. That was 2008. I thought it was going to go much faster, but things happened, setbacks occured, and we did our best.

I had gotten it down to about 9k in 2017. I was on track to pay it all off, right up until Doug got laid off from his first job down here. We slowly ran that up again. Not all the way to the limit, but it was used. 

Gotta buy groceries, put gas in the car, feed that boy...all that happy horseshit. 

After his layoff, he worked for a while doing healthcare record audits, so they sent him all over the place. The only problem with that job was he had to buy all of his tickets, hotel, everything on his own dime and then get reimbursed. Doug would get his reimbursement for the trip, book the next trip with the card, we'd keep the money it in the Checking account for groceries and all that, and pay the minimum due on the credit card. Because the Credit card was the only thing hotels or rental cars would accept, he couldn't use the bank card we'd been using which was attached to our checking account. 

Things were balance and equilibrium, steady on, and then Doug got his job that he has now. Finances started to get better. We'd have 5-7k in the bank at a stretch. Hell yeah. We bought a car with cash, (not a lot -3k) because Doug refuses to get a car loan anywhere. "No bank is going to make a penny of interest off of me" says the man who got financially ruined by A Certain Bank. 

And I have to agree. 

We'd go to Massachusetts or New York. We would comfortably order dinner and not worry. Guster Tickets and the like. And I was happy with 5k in the bank, but realizing if he got laid off again, or if I got laid off, we'd start the cycle all over. 

Then the pandemic came to visit. With no travel, no fun, since December 2019 really, we've just been pulling down money. And we have been a lot healthier financially.

I have been throwing 800 bucks a month at that one credit card (minimum payment expected? 350.00.... ) this last year. We are back down to about 8,000 bucks, and today while I was looking at the account and setting up the online payment, I said "why the hell should I take 10 months plus probably another month with the (relatively small) interest charges to finish paying this off? I should just do it." 

I pointed this out to Doug and he agreed. Just do it. 

It felt wild to do, but, I paid it off almost in full. The system wouldn't let me pay 100% of the balance because math and computers and weekends and stuff. The payment will go through probably Monday, and then I can then pay it off in full the following day. 

And for the first time since about 1987 when I got my first credit card through BayBank in college (and I bought a scarf and an , I will have no credit card debt at all. Read that again. None. Zilch. Nada. Zero. Done. 

That 800 a month I've been throwing there I can shift into a savings account. I can just let it all pile up like Daffy Duck and I can scream I'm rich! I'm comfortably well off! 

I'll be reaching out to my local bank to set up that savings account next week. 

It's a nice feeling to not have to think about this like I have had to for so long. 

"You smell like piña coladas, and you are very green"

Doug went out to mow our lawn this morning. It should have been done sometime during the week but he let it go. Work was busy. He had to go into the office on Thursday (gasp) and we just both were straight out. In fact, I'm working, it's 4:45 on Saturday, and I'm taking a break. 

To share this with you.

The dog went out with him. He's very good in the yard and does not get in the way when Doug is mowing. After about a half hour of mowing the lawn, with stops and starts because the grass was long and thick and wet ("juicy" as he called it) I heard a knock on the door. Why the hell is he knocking on the door?

I opened it and he had a big grin on his face. 

"You need to get your camera, and come see your dog." 

So I did. And here is what I saw. 

Oh Dear. 

The dog is green. 

Mind you, I've never had a mostly white dog. I've always had mostly black dogs, and dogs that weren't super crazy about rolling in the grass. They would a little, but mostly, no. They just chilled. 

Phineas loves to roll in the grass. He goes out every morning, and rolls in the grass. We go for walks and he finds a bit of grass to flop over in, and roll about. At first I was worried he was finding poop or dead remnants to roll in and get it on him in order to get the smelly smell of something that smells smelly onto his person, but no. He just likes it. I guess you gotta like something.

Doug was too busy mowing to notice the changes in color as he saw him rolling about. 

We made some jokes about "It's not easy being green," and Doug said "you wouldn't like him when he gets angry," an homage to the Hulk. We tried to make bark and hulk work together but they didn't quite go. 

A little after our discovery of St. Phineas Green of the Freshly Mown Fields, we were expecting someone to come over and pick up our snow blower. We had moved it here from Massachusetts, and we have never used it. It does not fit in the shed. Doug just wanted to give it away. We didn't want to sell it because we didn't want someone haggling with us and giving us a hard time over things. So I put it on and had 5 volunteers who wanted a free snowthrower that we couldn't guarantee would work since we hadn't started it for 2 winters. We started it the first winter to make sure it ran, but ... eh? It may not anymore. 

Dude's name was Grant and he was a riot. He saw the dog and had to take a selfie to show his kids. We had a great talk, he's about our age, retired military. He is from Oklahoma, and has been here 10 years with his family. We had a lot of fun talking about snow. And he said that if he gets the Barfer up and roaring, and we get slammed with snow, he'll come on by and rescue us. How nice. 

Doug finished mowing the lawn, and came in. We looked at the dog. And we were pretty convinced we'd have to give him a bath because this was not just going to wear off anytime soon. 

His former owner said he hates baths, so she would always smear peanut butter on the wall to keep him still. We talked about the tub, but we don't have a shower head that you can pull down and bring close like we did at the last house. It made giving Brodie a bath so easy. On top of that, I had just cleaned the bathroom on Friday, so of course the universe was setting me up for a laugh.  

Nice clean bathroom. Now let's wash a dog in it. 

"We can try the utility sink downstairs?" Doug suggested. I thought it sounded good - we wouldn't have to bend over, and could plug the sink to get some water surrounding him while we dumped more on him.

Overall the process was a success. Geoff gave him cookies to get him to sit still while Doug and I wet, soaped, rinsed, and rinsed, and rinsed him.

We sang the piña colada song (in the title with our new lyrics) because the dog shampoo we had was coconut (and oatmeal) so it smelled nice. And we sang that it wasn't easy being green. 

Time to towel dry, and he got out and shook everywhere over and over and over. It was hysterical. So I had to mop the basement. Thank you doggo. 

Glad we didn't try this in the bathroom. 

He's still wet, 3 hours later. He was on his doggie bed and I covered him up to warm him, but he didn't seem to like being wrapped in a warm towel. It's just about his dinner time. So now that he's been through all that trauma, we'll feed him and love on him, and hopefully he won't go right out later and roll in the grass, again. 

Or he'll just have to stay green for a while. 

The poor traumatized thing.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Phineas and the Panic

 This could be the name of my new band. 

While we were out of town, Geoff was here with Phin. Phin is always exceptionally upset when someone leaves, I can see why his former owner felt it was unfair to him to leave him alone for 12-14 hours a day. 

Well, he's grown firmly attached to us. Probably a combination of hating to be left out of the going outside part of things, and the actual separation anxiety, Geoff said he went bananas for about a half hour after we left. Saturday night, he was confused as to why we weren't there to go to bed and cried a lot, so Geoff slept on the couch, the dog bed being right by the coffee table. 

Sunday, Phineas spent the day with Geoff down in the basement. Geoff moves from his bedroom to my desk through the day, studying at the big desk and using his computer in his room. Phin slept on the bed with him Sunday night. 

Please note, we've never had a dog who has slept with him. He has longed for this his whole life. None of the dogs wanted to sleep with the children - they want to sleep where Doug or I are because they know we are the "pack leaders" as it were, and the kids are always just puppies like them. I think Geoff was completely overjoyed by this.

Geoff then realized on Monday morning, he had class from 8-9:30 and then lab from noon to 2. So Phineas would be completely alone here for the first time ever. 

He pondered that maybe, well, Phin might get a little bit wild.

His realization was pretty accurate. 

Geoff got home at 3pm, and Phin had swept a bunch of paperwork off the dining table and coffee table, and he also jumped up to look out the window where we have a shelf for the microwave, and destroyed 3 boxes of tea in our large tea box outright. He also got into his own dog treats, which were sitting up on a bench by the front door. Geoff said there was plastic everywhere, and Phin had eaten about a full bag of wee oyster cracker sized treats, and 10 fake pigs ears, ones that we limit giving him due to the farts they produce. Vegetarian pig's ears. But damn if he doesn't love them. (By the way, the farting last night was extra horrible last night).

Geoff cleaned up the best he could (not the best at cleaning tbh) and Phineas was exceptionally happy to see him, and shadowed him the rest of the day. 

We got home and his sense of relief at us being here was palpable. 

This morning he woke me up at about 5 to go outside. I think is tummy may not be feeling quite right. I fed him, an hour earlier than usual and when I got up at 9 half the food was still there. The poor weirdo. 

I'm trying to think about what we can do (other than really put all the things away before leaving the house) for the times ahead where (maybe) all of us will be out of the house at the same time. There has always been at least one human here. Possibly a very very large dog crate? I just don't know how fair that is to him. doggie gates across places? Still pondering what will be the best for his needs, but also not make him feel trapped or punished. 

Open to suggestions.

Get Away - Skyline and Charlottesville

Yes we're still in a pandemic. And yes, I feel like shit doing any sort of anything outside the house. 

But what's the difference in going to the grocery store, and going to a restaurant. The grocery store people don't seem to socially distance. I don't see any evidence of cleaning after people go down the aisles anymore. 

Restaurants at least, well, they're still making a great effort. And supporting them to keep them open, I think I'm all about it.

Plus, I had the covid. I'll go out, still mask up, and act like this is somewhat more safe than going to Target. And Doug is feeling very well emboldened by the fact we've already had it, and is pissed off that the CDC isn't announcing or deciding or saying that it's okay. No one seems to have a solid answer to whether or not it's ok, so he's making his own decisions, I'm kind of going along for the ride. 

Oh, it's been 3 months, you can go back to not worrying. Oh you have to get a vaccine but no don't get a vaccine. Oh six people died from one vaccine so everyone stop getting a vaccine. Oh, yeah. Even if you get a vaccine, you're not safe but just keep social distancing and masking and handwashing. 

He's kind of like "what's the point in doing anything?" He's been a tiger in a bottle for a few weeks and it has been tough to handle. 

And unlike a lot of my friends who are flying to Barbados, or going to Puerto Rico, or drunk ass flat out on the beaches of Florida or Texas... we've kept a low profile and inside. 

Over the weekend we drove down to Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park. 

We started in the middle at Thornton Gap instead of the Front Royal location, because it's a long long drive. We have done the whole thing in the past, and it is exhausting. There are just so many waysides and pull-outs you can swing into, gawk, and move along out of to the next one. 

Our goal was Charlottesville, where we stayed for our anniversary weekend a couple years ago. 

Doug picked a hotel with limited bookings and no daily housekeeping (thank you, we appreciate that). You could get towels and shampoo at the main desk if you need refills of things. I like having a made up bed when I come back from doing a toodleaboot town, but this was fine. We put our towels up on the shower rail. We used them again (I usually do that anyway but Doug is more cavalier about it. "I'm in a hotel, I demand a clean towel!" Okay dude). 

We got checked in, got ready and ventured out to find somewhere to eat on the pedestrian mall. Downtown Charlottesville successfully converted the area to a walkers/eaters/drinkers/visitors paradise, people were seated in outdoor cafes with tables spread apart, plenty of dog walkers and bachelorette parties out painting the town. Everyone had a mask on. People were using the free hand sanitizer stations. 

It started to rain, and a woman had told me we should just go back to our hotel and eat at the restaurant there because it was a 2 hour wait everywhere. People were huddled in doorways next to the restaurant doors, hoping to get inside. 

We walked by a place called Miller's and there was no one on the patio in the mall, 2 tables by the door and both were taken. 10 people came out of the door so we knew this was our lucky day. Doug asked if there was a long wait for 2, and they said they could get us in immediately. A group by the door was a party of 8, so they were waiting for the other setup that had just cleared out. We got seated before them. 

It was a lovely little bar with great late night food and craft cocktails. The waitress was delightful, and we had a wonderful time watching people from our perch in the window as the rain came down and sent those drunken bachelorettes scurrying down the street in their sashes and high heels. 

Sunday morning Doug wanted to walk about the mall again, the weather was perfect. Low 70s, no humidity, and there were tons of people. We kept our distance from everyone, visited 2 bookstores that had basically only us, another patron, and the person working inside. I had been looking for a purse that was just a little longer than the one I currently use, with some compartments for separation. Or a new wallet, since the one I've been using for years broke the zipper. 

We stopped into a fair trade store, and Doug spotted a cute bag on the wall that fit the bill, made in India. A front section for the cards. Middle section for breath mints and lip balm. 2 main sections with one zipper, for the phone and a spare battery and cord, and a back section for whatever else. Turns out it was the perfect size for my little container of hand sanitizing wipes. Hot damn. It fit it all. Score. 

Another bookstore, walk around an art park north of the mall, and then walk down to the IX Art Park south of town. 

Doug's sights were set on the North American Sake Brewery,  which had not yet opened to the public last time we were in town. It is a cool little space, hardly anyone was there, again - a feature for us because I don't want to be around people. The staff were amazing. The food was good. 

The Sake? well. I'm no expert. We each got a flight and two of them were not very good in our opinions, but reminding everyone - we know shit about sake. I found them medicinal and not very drinkable. The other two were much better, and my favorite was the one named Moon Leap, which was almost like a champagne. It was light and effervescent. Absolutely lovely. Doug liked one called Serenity Now, which he also got a glass of. 

They were out of their 2 most popular brews, and the host who was chatting with us went and found a small tasting bottle of their very most popular - Big Baby. I think if they had not been out of that, we probably would have had it as a glass too. It was really good. We ate rice bowls, chilled with the host (I wish I could remember their name), talked about process and traditions, what Americans think Sake is, what our experience has been up to this point with it (limited) and had a really relaxing time there. I won't say we're "into" it, like wow, I'm totally into Sake and only drink Sake and now I have glasses and books and ritual about Sake. But it was a great time. Glad to be there and have the place to ourselves pretty much. Lots of take-out orders happening for the food, so that was nice to see on a Sunday afternoon. 

We skipped visiting Three Notch'd Brewing because we'd been there before, and, the patio was incredibly crowded so we didn't want to enter into that scene. We headed back to the hotel for post-sake naps.

For dinner we walked over to Monsoon Siam for Thai food. Again, very crowded patio but we saw three tables open up and they got us seated quickly. Service was very slow, they were pretty slammed, but the night was gorgeous and it was nice to sit and relax and just watch traffic and dog walkers and overhear conversations all around us. We were tucked into a back corner, which was somewhat unfortunate because we were a little bit overlooked by our server. Had he come by once or twice more I would have had a couple more cocktails while waiting. That's money, yo. Always look at the empty glasses on the table when you're the server. 

The food was outstanding and well worth the wait. And we did share a slice of Mango Cheesecake, with a blackberry compote across the top. Damn. So good. 

Monday morning we left for Monticello. Found out I've been saying it wrong all these years. 

There were too many rules, which I think Thomas Jefferson would flip the fuck out over. I wasn't allowed to bring my new, small, compact purse with me up the mountain to the house (it was TOO BIG) and the whole rigamarole of their schtick was just annoying as hell. It was beautiful though, and we did a self guided tour with the phones and avoided all other humans. The gardens were just coming to life, and they have a huge expanse of plantings, so many types of lettuce and carrots, potatoes and berries. And there was this adorable little brick shed at the edge of the center, which we hung out in and had a wonderful chat with the docent there. She was a hot ticket, and we called the little space Mr. Jefferson's Slacking Shed. I think that was my favorite spot. 

The woman we'd been chatting with encouraged us to be sure to walk to the back of the house for the ... "Money Shot." Doug wasn't sure what she meant and then realized it is the view on the nickel. Literally, had us laughing our asses off there for a couple of minutes as we realized she didn't mean Money Shot like... porn. Here it is. Laugh with me. 

On the way back down the mountain, we went to Carter Mountain Orchard where there was a tasting room for Bold Rock Cider. Doug had one of their ciders at Miller's and the girl told us we could go to Nellysville, VA to check them out if we felt so inclined. Doug found this a better option, since it was right on the road from Monticello. If you go to the website I linked to and look at that picture, that is so Before Times, and it makes me anxious just looking at it. 

We had that entire area to ourselves. In fact, that area is below where were sitting. There's a whole other terrace. This space can hold hundreds of people, and it was literally just us, some cider, some Apple Cider donuts from the farm store, and a beautiful view down the valley to Charlottesville. 

The drive home was long - the choices to get back up to DC are to drive East towards Richmond, or take the country roads due north eventually getting to like Warrenton and the highway to DC. We decided to take the backroads. Beautiful ride, lots of flowering trees and horse farms, and actually 20 minutes faster than if we'd headed further East to go North. 

I took today off and should be working on Aaron's website transfer. He started advertising on the local NPR station in Astoria, OR and discovered the phone number is wrong on his current website. So last night I managed to change all the references to the number, one of them was especially challenging because it was hidden  in a field I could not get to. Doh. So at 11pm I got someone I know to help me out, we got that last field ironed out. Huzzah. 

Now to figure out launching the site I built for him and get off of the first site. The dude who built it is not very supportive. Or kind. And Aaron's about to kick his ass, so best to get it done quickly. And he's impressed at how many people emailed him to let him know the phone number was wrong. 

Underwriting on NPR seems to work, eh? He was spending time answering the emails and semi-overwhelmed with the response. 

Anyway. Glad I have today off and am not thinking of work or anything. It's nice. Better get to Aaron's site and get that rocking. 

Tuesday, April 06, 2021

4, 3, 2, 1 - Guster Day and Easter Weekend

 So that won't come around on the calendar again, April 3, 2021, 4/3/21, or 4, 3, 2, 1 when out the barrel of a gun... a nice Guster reference on your calendar!

Enjoy. This is an old version from Guster on Ice, but it's better quality than a lot of the fan videos that come up on youtube when you search.  Never has a song about wet dreams been such a great radio hit! 

We have had a quiet few weeks. Went and got that hutch and then nothing really big has been going on. Work has been very busy for both of us. 

Geoff received his clinical placement at a hospital in DC, so on Saturday we took a drive down to scope out the joint and get an idea about where the office was located. He has to be there at 7am on June 1, and is anxious because you cannot see the office/location from the street - it is somewhere in the depths of the hospital complex. We assured him that it would be okay and day-of he'd probably get help from someone at the front desk to let him know where to go. After 2 years of pre-requisite and course work, now we get to the nitty gritty, an actual hospital placement. 

Wish him luck, continue to send him good vibes, academically he is doing really well but this is where his weaknesses (if you can call them that) show - in person interactions. Hopefully things will go well. My heart is supportive and fingers crossed. 

Easter was spent puttering around the yard, sitting outside in the sun, enjoying the day, doing a little more unpacking, and just generally taking it easy. Doug bought a grill a few weeks back so "Grillmaster 5000" planned out a wonderful standing rib roast on the grill, with baked potatoes, and veggies, and everything. Two hours with indirect heat after a 20 minute high temp sear, it came out amazing. Absolutely amazing. We sat at the dining table, which I finally got cleared off after having boxes and stuff all over it for weeks, had wonderful conversation, and it was a truly pleasant time. The only thing missing, again, another holiday's worth of Jess. 

We gave Phineas one of the rib bones and he went to town on it - absolutely and thoroughly. Living his best life for 2 days. He got it stuck under the liquor cabinet at one point and was very sad until I figured out what he needed. 

Last night, he threw up repeatedly. Small bits of bone that he'd broken off of the rib after cleaning it completely. I went and found the big piece left in the livingroom, still a lot of rib there, and threw it away, cleaned up his puke, went outside with him, three times. Today he's sleeping like a champ. I'm glad he gets to do that but sad that I cannot. 

Actually nothing says I can't, I guess? 

That's about all. Nothing super exciting. Feeling tired and drained and just would rather not work but continue to unpack and organize. As Doug says, "it'll all come together in time." 

Guess so.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Phineas vs. Things


Phineas, Phinney, Phinster, Phinmeister, Phin, first of his name, is settling in nicely at our house. 

I have a couple of fun videos of what happens when it is dinner time, which are hilarious. I'll find a place to put them so folks can see (and so they don't eat up more of my Google storage space. I do not feel like paying for more storage). 

He gets in bed with us every night and loves to cuddle up. He waits for an invitation when I am getting under the covers, standing patiently by the bedside. Some nights Doug or I have to go to the guest room because he migrates around a lot, and ends up under-butt. He produces a lot of heat. 

Last weekend, Doug needed to take a ride to his office in Virginia to connect his brand new laptop to the VPN in order to reset his password. He figured he could do it from the parking lot (he was only partially wrong, he was out of range so we had to park in the loading zone on the side of the building, where no loading was happening but security did eyeball us heartily). We took Phin for the ride. He pretty much sat contentedly in the back seat, looking out the window. I wanted to put him in the all-the-way back of the Jeep to get him used to that but Doug wanted to just see how he does in seat. 

We got to the office, he connected his laptop successfully, and we headed out for a scenic drive around NOVA. We found ourselves driving through and close to Old Town Alexandria, which is the fancy fru fru downtown where all the haps happen. It was a beautiful, warm, sunny day. Everyone in the world was out. Pandemic be damned! Let's go! This seems to be the psyche of the American anymore with this Coronavirus. Everyone's over it, even if we're supposed to be distancing and taking care of ourselves, or, as many of my friends are still doing, not going anywhere. 

We basically have only been to the market or out for walks in the neighborhood since September when we were in Oregon. We both have had coronavirus, so Doug's thoughts are we really don't need to be behaving like we're under quarantine anymore. A lot of people who have been vaccinated fully and have waited 14 days, well, they should be able to also go out. 

Doug and I contemplated just going home, but he wanted to walk. We had been in the car for over an hour, getting ourselves good and lost in a few places. So he wanted a leg stretch. We parked, we took the dog out, we masked up to follow the rules (even though so many just aren't, but who are we to nag? It's outside, folks. Outside is good side!). 

Phin's former owner had warned us that he is not good with other dogs. Aggressive, unfriendly, bitey. Two weekends ago we had gone on a walk and met 3 dogs. 2 were successful sniff and greet, noses touching and no growling or biting. One was not. The owner was cool (his dog technically started it) and he said he's trying to socialize her more with other dogs so it was a good experiment and no one got hurt. 

I want him to be good with other dogs, because I would like to walk around and see people and not feel any fear over this. Doug is of the mindset that he can break Phin of this "I'mma bite you" habit, so he wants to bring him out as much as possible. I told him we should talk to a neighbor with a dog (Matt, up the street, the one who owns Bear, the runaway Chocolate Lab from a few entries ago) just to see if we can get them together. 

Phin lunged at a few dogs on our walk, Doug pulled him back quickly, and told him no and said hi to the owners. People seemed cool and said "It's okay, my dog doesn't like other dogs either." Seems to be a theme around here, I guess. 

We got thirsty and hungry, found ourselves a Brauhaus and a free/open outdoor table against  the front wall. Doug said this would be a good spot to keep Phineas still, and we could sit/drink/eat and sequester him from others walking down the sidewalk.

With their dogs. 

Phin lunged at a couple. One was an exceptionally sweet and curious golden who saw him there and wanted to say hi. Another was a dog who was actively hoovering food off the sidewalk the entire walk (I saw him coming from up the block). Doug was prepared for the snoot seeking treats under the table. 

Overall, I think he did well. Doug is very firm with him, and he does not get a cookie or anything (his previous owner loved giving him treats just for breathing or whatever. Doug is anti-cookie unless you do the absolute best thing ever). Phin got a cookie when we got home for doing great on the ride, and walking good on the leash, and only lunging at 4 dogs out of the dozens we saw. 

Under Doug's hand, I'd say that was a great day out in the world for Phineas. 

Today, Doug is at the hardware store shopping for his very first gas grill. We've never owned one. He's always been a Charcoal Or Nothing kinda guy but here we are. He's ready to take the advice of Hank Hill and "taste the meat, not the heat" over here. 

Phineas didn't like that Doug left without him (sorry buddy, you're stuck with me). I decided I would vacuum while Doug was not here, as he hates the vacuum cleaner. I think I've mentioned this in the past. When I'm home by myself for any stretch of time, the first thing I'm going to do is vacuum. 

I talked to Phineas to let him know what I was about to do. I pulled the vacuum out (we haven't vacuumed since we moved in, or dusted, or done the floors, and it is starting to show). I plugged it in and turned it on. Initially he seemed completely unbothered but then got in front of it and kept trying to stop it from moving forward, with his face. 

He was getting agitated by it and whining so I pointed him up to the chair and told him to stay. Worked for 30 seconds before he was back attempting to start a fight with the machine. 

Instructed back to chair. 30 seconds. Good boy - oh. you're back. No. Please go back up. 

Over and over. 

I eventually got the vacuuming done, and he seemed satisfied once I put the machine away. I have a feeling this will be our routine, at least until he gets used to it. 

I thought about getting a Roomba, but now I am not sure because he might attack it, flip it, break it or whatever, and I don't want to deal with that. Those dumb things are expensive. 

He's happy Doug's home. Peace is restored to the kingdom. 

What else is going on. Well, Doug got that new laptop, and they gave him 2 big huge monitors, so he set up a nice workstation in the basement, after setting mine up a couple weekends ago. So now we both work down there. I feel like I need a cubicle wall. 

Work has been amazingly busy. We try not to step on each others' toes. I have to do a lot of calls, so sometimes I'll go upstairs. I'm trying to figure out how to get my printer to be available on the wifi next. I just can't get it to work, and it used to be attached to our modem at the last house, but I'm at a loss as to how to set it up here as the modem is upstairs, printer is down, and I don't want to put the printer in my bedroom just to print a couple times a year. That's weird. 

I've been trying to get the boxes that go into storage organized. The camping stuff is in 3 places, there are books from Doug's college years he doesn't want to get rid of, so I want to stack them up together in a corner somewhere. There are boxes of kids' art. There is a box somewhere downstairs with things I want to get framed, that I saved when packing up in Massachusetts, and my Guster posters are in there, along with some classic Geoff and Jess things that I really love and want to keep. 

For the life of me I have no idea where that box is. 

We also have a ton of books that didn't go to the library book sale up in Massachusetts before we moved, and I regret that they are still in my life. I don't want them, Doug is not sure about getting rid of them. So they are in boxes.

We have a ton of glass, mugs, unused things that I just do not care to have out but don't want to pitch. So those are down there. Doug's grandma had a ton of coffee cups. We have used quite a few of them but don't have the space up here for all of them. I repacked some of the boxes and there are 2 really cute snowmen mugs that I know my kids drank hot chocolate out of in Ohio 20 years ago at her big round dining table in the senior community in Columbiana. 

Those were carefully re-wrapped along with some mugs for dessert making (pudding/fancy coffee with booze kinds of things). 

We have a spoon display box to hang collectible spoons on, but I am not sure where the spoons are. Sometimes I find the spoons and don't know where the wooden thing is, others I know where the wooden thing is and can't find the spoons, so they stand to be reunited some day, I guess. 

I've got about 30 boxes stacked up downstairs that are empty. I'm going to collapse them, and store them for the next move. They're all worth keeping, and to be honest, who knows in 2 years what we'll be doing but a head start on repacking will be nice. 

Doug has his grill. He didn't want to pay $30 to have it assembled, and then have to go pick it up on Tuesday. So this should be interesting. I'm happy I have a box of wine and chores to do downstairs as he has decided he's assembling the grill here in the living room, that way if he doesn't finish it, it won't be sitting outside half assembled overnight. I told him to set it up in the basement since I just cleared out a ton of space but he's hell bent to being up here. 

Oh joy.

Friday, March 05, 2021


 wanted a separate post to say the pathology results came back negative. All's well in the kingdom of the left boob and the atypical ductal hyperplasia situation. 

i have a follow up appointment on video call at 2:15 today, and bloodwork on Monday, and another post-op in-person visit on March 16th (Guster Day, for those in the know, for "5am, March 16th. Jesus on the Radio you took a photograph of me...). 

A good day to have that follow up. and I'll probably be up at 5am to sing that little song too. 

Thursday, March 04, 2021

My Left Boob, apologies to the movie about the Foot

For those interested in the back story, here is the entry about my Birthday Boob Biopsy, a gift to myself. 

I didn't write much about the follow up to that, I said "here's to the nothingburger" that I thought it would be. Well, it was a little more of a somethingburger. 

The biopsy results showed I had Atypical Ductal Hyperplasia. The breast health doctors assured me that it was not cancer, but, if left alone and ignored, it runs the risk of developing into cancer down the road. Recommendation was that we remove the ADH area. 

The surgeon described it as a golf ball sized amount of tissue et al. I joked that in my already small and wee boobies, a golf ball is a significant amount of tissue but okay. Gotta do what's right and healthy. 

We picked a date.
I got COVID-19.
I rescheduled the date.
We got the house rental all set up a month and a half before we needed to and my surgery was scheduled in the midst of moving time.
I realized how much I'd need to do before the move and if I had surgery the beginning of February, I'd be unable to accomplish things. Plus, I was still reeling from feeling tired and drained post-covid). 

I rescheduled again. 

It's kind of a normal thing for me to postpone and reschedule things that are self-care related. The calendar is never right. There's always a thing, or someone needs to do something, or I need to do something. It's a complicated life. I feel like I spend so much time doing absolutely nothing, but that time is rarely in a long enough stretch that it makes sense to get a hysterectomy or boob surgery or anything that will knock me on my ass for more than four days. And work. Holy cow, I missed two solid weeks and a lot of stray hours from Covid. I don't want to say I'm the carabiner that holds our team on the side of the mountain but wow. It was a lot of me not being there.

So the rescheduling was at a good time. 

This Monday, I kept the appointment, I had the surgery, and we got the mess removed. Waiting on the results of the pathology right now. 

How do I feel? Sore. Right into my armpit, just like with the biopsy. I'm so glad we got in the house, got the dog, are semi-settled, and things are cruising along because there is no way I could have done this during the month of February. 

Dog has been a constant bed companion. He's a cuddler, so he likes to be close. Which is something I wish I'd had during the Covid recovery period. 

I'm up and about, but not allowed to lift things. I will get The Boy to pick the laundry basket up and put it on the bed and I can fold the contents. I'm sure that will make me uncomfortable but it'll keep me busy. I can do dishes, so I'm keeping up on that because my men are just not good at keeping up with it. We don't have a lot of space for the dishes to dry so you have to wash a few at a time until they are all done, and then there are more. It actually gives me something to look forward to. I can walk out to the kitchen and wash some plates or all the glasses that have accumulated. Accomplished! 

Sleep has been alright, Monday I went to bed and pretty much slept through the night, and most of Tuesday. I got up around 1pm and made it to the living room to hang out. Bed at 9pm Tuesday, but woke up at 9am and decided to be up for the day. I spent time proofreading a book for my friend Matt and got halfway done. 

Last night was rough. I had some serious restless leg going on, and my boob hurt. No position I could put myself into was comfortable. I was ready to give up and go continue reading Matt's book but I wanted to be wide awake and clear headed for proofing. I then realized I had not taken the pain medication at 9pm when I headed to bed. It was after 1:30, I didn't want to get out of bed, I was semi-trapped by Dog, but wiggled my way up and out from under the covers successfully while only making a few pained noises. The pain medication helped, and I was able to fall asleep. 

Doug dropped his phone under the bed at 7:30 and needed to get the broom to get it, so, I got up, showered, and got ready for work. 

My boob is swollen and tender. There is a steri strip over the incision so I haven't seen it yet. The doctor said not to pull it off, that it would fall off on its own. I'll take his advice on that and wait. Not seeing a lot of bruising, just swelling that is reminiscent of when I would breastfeed the children and we'd go too long between feedings. Firm and tender, uncomfortable for sure. 

The doctor told me to take two weeks off and I laughed. What on earth would I need two weeks off for? It isn't like I'm riding the metro and commuting, or schlepping a laptop bag over my shoulder (God, that would hurt so much right now). I work at home in Guster T-shirts and yoga pants. So he told me to take a week.

I opted to take three days, and today's the day I'm back. There's a lot to do. I read all the slack messages during my time out and there's so much happening. So. Much. I'm trying to wrap my head around how so much can change and happen in 3 days. 

So, into the fire we go, I guess. But as the saying goes... "But first, coffee." 

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Welcome Phineas

Back in December, before we got the Covid, we met a girl to talk about us adopting her dog. 

That's the link if you need a refresher on his tale. Her life and work schedule were such that she no longer felt it was fair to him to keep him cooped up in their DC apartment, and she wanted better for him. We were ready to welcome a new friend, and were in the market for someone who was already housebroken as we rent. 

We met up and took a nice walk in Rock Creek Park and talked about life, the universe, and everything. She was actively looking for a new job, nothing was panning out in DC. She was hoping for Richmond or close to it, so she could be near her family so he would have someone to care for him during the day and she'd feel a lot less guilt. But none of those jobs were panning out either. We totally got it. 

He seemed disinterested in us, mostly interested in being out for a walk. She gave him copious treats, which amused Doug because you get one treat for being good and going outside to pee.

We agreed the following weekend we'd meet up, have her come to our house, check the situation and see that we aren't weirdos who adopt dogs and then bait them in a dogfighting ring or something. 

She wanted a week for closure, to say goodbye, and we thought that was perfectly reasonable. 

During that week, she texted me to say she'd changed her mind. She wasn't ready. She just couldn't do it. We told her that was perfectly alright. We understood how very hard this must be, to have a pal for 10 years and then ponder a situation like this. Our hearts were full and open to her. 

If you change your mind please let us know, was our standpoint.
If you find another dog and don't want him, I absolutely understand, was hers.

We then got Covid, the new year came, we found a place to move to which allowed dogs (with a fully fenced in yard so any dog could come and be with us at some point). We were in a position for something to happen this spring, and Doug began looking again.

She contacted us the week we were moving to let us know she was ready. She'd given it a lot more thought, and had finally gotten a new job, but it was a driving commute, and hour each way. That was more time away from him, where he'd be alone in the apartment waiting for her. It was even less fair to him. 

I put a mom hat on and asked if it was smart of her to maybe move closer to the job, would that be a possibility? She said she was in a lease, and that it wasn't a possibility.  I get it. For sure. 

Were we still interested?

As you can see. We indeed were still interested. This is Phineas. First of his name. Age 10. She didn't know his birthdate, but based on guesses and adoption paperwork she decided his birthday is Halloween, so it shall stand.

We moved into the house, and Doug wasted no time. She had taken two weeks off between the jobs, had a good time with him, and was ready to meet us. 

She came up on Thursday of this past week, I think we were here in the house all of 10 days. She was sad, and it was hard for us to hide our joy with having him here in the house, and temper it with being kind to her and her situation. 

When she left, he whined and paced a little bit. Stood at the fence at the street and watched her drive away. I chose to go into the bedroom and join a conference call that I'd hopped off of, because I didn't want to cry over this. He was given a treat, and encouraged to come into the house. 

And our lives together began. I do wonder what goes through his mind, like if he wonders where she is, is she coming back? Why am I here with these dumb people? Can I please go home? 

But then he seems completely into us, even likes going to visit Geoff downstairs and hang out a little bit. Geoff wants him to sleep down there, but Phin does not want to. He prefers it up here.

He is affectionate, likes to be in between on the couch with us. Has a dog bed but prefers the people bed and starts the night between our shoulders but moves to our feet after a bit. He isn't barky or bitey, if we have to nudge his ass to get him out of the way, he is compliant and understanding. He is an early bird, awake with the sun and ready to eat and go out. 

Right now, he's in the bedroom with Doug on this dreary day, taking a nap. In this picture, it is morning coffee time yesterday, settled in on my knee for some quiet time. 

He gets riled up if he sees the leash or dog poop bags. Or if someone says "walk." He's very smart, but also kind of a vacuum so we need to make sure we don't leave food within his nose reach or he'll snarf it down. 

Doug had hoped for us to take a really nice walk today but the weather messed up his plans. I think that's God's way of telling us to stay here and unpack and organize. We have spent a lot of time up at the old house finishing up the cleaning and emptying the shed. The weather was such that we didn't want to get up there and try to unload the shed and slip on ice. 

So we're done there, and life is good here, with a dog. And boxes. Organization will come, all in due time. 

Sunday, February 21, 2021

The Story of Fernando and the Rental Scam

I was up the old house, Doug was here at the new house unloading the Jeep. 

I heard a little neighbor boy named Jake, who lives up the side street, screaming. I looked out the kitchen window to see his big old lab-mix of a dog named Bear hauling ass down the road.  Bear was a good friend of Brodie's, and would hang out with her in the grass while I talked to Jake's dad, Matt, during the after dinner outside time in the summer. Bear was very patient, and seemingly very docile. Seeing him run was quite the sight. 

Jake was frantic, and Bear was on the go. I went outside to try to help, Bear didn't have a collar on, and was very evasive. He let me run my hand down his back, but there was nothing to hold on to, other than his tail. Which, I was reluctant to grab because who likes having their tail grabbed. 

He took off again, running south down our street toward our new place. I regretted not grabbing his tail.

Doug was standing out front talking to someone, and so I yelled to him to grab Bear. He noticed the situation and crossed the street to try and help. Bear just kept going, and Jake screamed to Doug that he needed help. 

A guy pulled up next to me in his car, "Do you need help catching your dog?" he asked me. 

I had a chuckle as I thought of The Pink Panther and almost answered in a French accent with Clouseau's famous line "It's not my dog," but said in all seriousness, "Yes. We need help." If the guy caught the dog and brought him back to this house, at least we were close enough to Jake's that we could get Bear home. 

Doug wasn't able to grab Bear either, and the guy in the car said he'd try to get Bear in. Doug went down the road where Jake had kind of cornered Bear, and the guy had his door open. Bear almost got in, and then decided to take off again. 

I went back into the house, because I felt useless and helpless and had left the kitchen sink running when I heard Jake screaming for help, and hoped for the best. I went down to the basement to pack up the utility room, and was busily piling things into our roasting pan to put in a box when I heard Doug walking around upstairs.

"Honey," Doug called to me, "Where are you?"

Me: "In the basement, in the laundry room." 

DWG: "Can you come up here a minute?"

Me: "No, can you come down here?" 

DWG: "Actually no I need you up here, please." He was very polite sounding, which was odd especially considering how tired we both are, and how we're just done with everything. So I figured something must be up.  I thought maybe he had caught Bear and needed my help.

I went up to see him standing in the living room with a man and his daughter. I smiled brightly. "Oh hello!" 

Who the heck are these people? I wondered.

"This is Fernando," Doug introduced. "He came to our new place, and said he was there to pick up the keys. He's supposed to be renting the house. The one that we have just moved into."

Oh dear. Oh.... fucking hell.

His daughter explained they had found the listing on Craigslist, complete with photos of the interior, and the rent was $1000 a month. The man had told him he had to relocate to Michigan quickly and needed to rent the place as soon as possible. He was going to have a friend meet them at the house to give them the keys, and needed a down payment immediately via paypal.

Fernando paid him $1000. The man said to meet his friend at the house Saturday morning. 

Of course, the man's friend was not at the house, was not going to be at the house, and the man had stolen $1000 from a hard working dad and his family.  

He was confused when Doug had explained to him that we just moved in last week. Doug wanted me to help explain. Like I could explain it any better? I'm sure he explained it fully and completely. 

"Oh no," I said, as Doug explained to me what Fernando had told him (that's who Doug was talking to while Bear was running all over the neighborhood). "I am so sorry, but I think that man stole money from you. You found the place on Craigslist? This happens a lot lately, and I'm so sorry." 

"Did you get to tour the house, or come to the house and meet anyone?" I asked. 

No. They never got to see the inside but they had pictures. Doug wondered how they got pictures but I told him that it was on Zillow. And that they were watermarked with the rental agency's name. 

They explained that had previously driven by the house and that it was empty. No one was living there. That was probably between when we signed the lease and when we moved in, a couple weeks tops. 

Fuck, I hope this isn't going to be a repeat scam and people aren't going to be showing up here all the time. But more than that, Fuck. These poor people. What the actual hell. What is wrong with people that they do shit like this. I'm so angry about this. And so sad. 

I explained that we had rented through a Realtor, through a rental agent. Craigslist is full of scams, and promises that are just not true. I was so sorry, and I called our agent for some advice. Her name is Lauren. She's delightful. 

I explained what happened while Doug and Geoff talked and Fernando and his daughter talked. Lauren was distressed. "This has been happening a lot lately because people are being told they can't take a tour of the inside of the house because of Covid, so it is easy to scam people. I'm so sorry for them. This is horrible. Please call the police non-emergency number, report this and they'll start a case, they may not be able to help but they may. I'm not sure." 

We used my phone to call the county police, the person answering was very kind as I explained the situation. She said that she needed to speak to Fernando, so I explained they would need to get an interpreter on the line to help, so Fernando could fully tell his story. They asked me a bunch of questions, asked for Lauren's contact info to make sure she is legit (she totally is) and asked Fernando for the contact phone and email and paypal info of the guy they communicated with. 

After the call was over, my heart ached, my head hurt, and I felt horrible for them. 

I gave them Lauren's number, to see if she could help them find somewhere to live. They need a place by next weekend because they have to be out of their current apartment for March 1st. 

Literally there was nothing I could do other than encourage them not to give up, and to work with a rental agent instead of Craigslist. This didn't have to happen, and it shouldn't happen. Ever.

I went to bed last night thinking of them, hoping and praying for a good resolution for them. Not sure if the police will be any help, but it was worth the call, I think. 

I hope.