Monday, April 27, 2009

Life Really is a beach, or should be.

Hidey Ho Bloggers. We are back from our first beach week end in our new Winnebago RV. We went to Flagler Beach, midway between Daytona and St Augustine, because the closest Atlantic beaches to us (New Smyrna, Cocoa, and Daytona) are not dog friendly. Paws down to them! Flagler doesn't take much more than 90 minutes to get to anyway, as it is just over the Brevard county line past Ormand By The Sea. It is beautiful and not crowded, too. No big hotels or chain eateries. Just mom and pop seafood and pizza joints that are delightfullly beach tacky. Like Florida usta was and maybe should be again. We camped at an RV Park called Beverly Beach RV Resort which is literally right on the beach off A1A but for those who want to beach it with their pooches who don't have motor homes, there's a La Quinta in Daytona along A1A which is only about twenty minutes away as the gull flies.

This was Ginny and Abby's first time at the ocean and they were in doggie bliss. The smells, the surf, and chasing seabirds enthralled them. Ginny in particular hit lightspeed the minute she spotted a sandpiper. We all fell asleep to the sounds of the surf and crickets chirping with the seabreeze blowing through the Winnebago's windows and the skylight open to the stars. Divine.

St Augustine is just up the road about 25 miles and another time we will re-explore it. The dogs did great in the RV while we were in a seafood joint having supper. They each sat in a seat in the driving cab and watched for our return. Could have napped in the back on the sofa but they looked so cute like Ma and Pa Hound about to drive away. It was pretty balmy in the evening but we had open windows and skylights that the dogs couldn't jump through and three fans going inside the Winnebago for their comfort. If it had been hotter we would have turned on the built in generator and a/c. Never never leave your dogs in a hot car or van in Florida during the hotter months as they will die quickly.

Little Chili got left behind at the vets this time where she got treatment for her super bad allergies and skin infection. She had a doggy shampoo and pedicure, too. First thing she did when she got home was roll in the dirt in the back yard. Sigh. That's an Australian cattle Dog for you. They ain't prissy, mates.

Now, I'm doing beach laundry and dreaming of more sunlight days by the sea.


PS: Technically, dogs are supposed to be leashed on the beach but in the deserted parts we let them off to run and frolic. The have good vocal recall. Poop scooping is also required, so if you and your canine pals go to Flagler County beaches please be responsible so we can all enjoy the beaches for many years to come.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

In Search of A Doggy Resort

As I think I mentioned...or maybe it was only on the Nan Nan and Dan Dan posting...we camped out last week end in our driveway in the Winnebago with all three dogs for practice. Abby n Ginny curled up and slept soundly but Chili drove us nutsoid. She had me up most of the night. It was scritch scratch, on the bed, off the bed, yip yip, roll on the floor and bark, make the trash can lid bang three times, ask for more water, scratch scritch, jump on Nancy's head, ask to go out and pee at two thirty and five am. She doesn't sleep much even in the house but we don't notice much what she does except when she needs to go out. In a twenty four foot motor home it was impossible not to notice.

Chili is not only an ADD ACD (Australian Cattle Dog) but she is also a special needs dog. She has epilepsy, allergies, and a bad hip. Pet sitting wouldn't work unless the person was actually staying at the house. She can't be left outside alone for fear of seizures, especially near water. She must have daily anti seizure medication, anihistamines, ocassional pain meds, and allergy shots! In additi0n to that, she is a dumpster diva. Can't leave her with any friend you want to keep.

We are planning out first overnight trip this week end to the beach and Danny has ruled that Chili can't go. Even though I feel guilty about this, he's probably right. So, this week, it was my task to find someplace for Chili to board. We researched doggie day care places online that are not too far away from home, specifically those that also board at night. We looked at one last evening that is pretty close but there is no overnight attendants there or overnight supervision. I also didn't care for the sleeping areas which seemed claustrophobic. I think they are mostly set up for daycare. I was supposed to take Chili there for a daycare 1/2 day trial today but decided to postpone and look at some other places. Actually, I had a real actual morning meltdown, complete with panic attack, at the idea of leaving her anywhere at all.

Confession: (The people who actually know me will not be surprised by this.) I am a dog fanatic, a dog co dependant, and...well...they are my babies in fur even if they are Rottweilers or Akitas or hunting 'hoolas. The are also my security blankets. I never like to be apart from them for long.

But, I took some calming breaths and this afternoon, Chili and I visited a facility in downtown Orlando that has 24 hour supervision and night time potty walks. A little more what I am looking for. The we went to a place very near home in Winter Park that does not have overnight attendants but provides a potty walk at nine thirty in the evening. They are set up in the back in more of a kennel style with big crates which aren't as cushy but also aren't claustrophobic. Both places have indoor and outdoor play areas. The downtown one is bigger and has web cams so you can go online and see what your doggy is up to. We heard of one that's not too close to home but has big outdoor runs and a saltwater swimming pool as well as the things the other have. We want to check that one out before making a decision. In the meantime, Chili will be boarding at her vet this once where she may be bored as heck but where I know she will be safe.

I'm still hoping she will get used to RV day tripping and become a better camper so we can take her with us in future. I hate leaving any of my dogs!!

I am looking forward to a week end at the beach though. It has been way way too long since I have gotten away just to play.


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

HAPPY EARTH DAY 2009. Did you know Earth Day has been celebrated since 1970? It may be we've made a little progress here and there in caring for Mother Earth since then, but we have also done serious damage in our greed and ignorance and have much to do to preserve the miracle that is Earth. Global warming is a fact whatever the cause and it is essential that our carbon footprints be reduced. This is the only planet we've got folks, please please do what you can to protect it! Lets hear it for living green, for solar and wind power, for reducing our dependence on oil, and for being responsible not wasteful.

On another subject, sort of, we're going to take our Winnebago (Millennium Parakeet) on her maiden flight to Flagler Beach this week end. I can't wait to camp out next to the surf with the sea sounds in my ears and the salt air cleansing my sinuses. Why Flagler? Because the friggin' poopheads in Volusia and Brevard counties won't allow dogs on the beach and Flagler does. Since Chili isn't a very good overnighter in an RV, we're looking into a boarding facility tonight for her. Its a place where dogs play all day with canine pals and sleep in rooms not cages. Hopefully this will work out. So, Ginny and Abby will get to walk on a beach for the very first time, and if they dare, run into the surf. Sea gulls, beware!


Friday, April 17, 2009

more dis n dat

Some recent pix: First, 'The Mutley Crew', relaxing on the family room sofa. Looking at the photo, I can see why some dog parkers have tagged them 'The Salt and Pepper Gang'. Ginny (center pooch) is back in Level Two Agility Training after four miserable weeks of us learning nothing at all in Level Three. We thought the class was going to be building on Level Two skills like refining trainer/handler techniques of running a course and learning how to send the dog out away from you etc. What we got was incomprehensible limited practice in actually doing a trial for titles, discouragement and confusion. We are so much happier with our three friendly helpful Level Two trainers and friendly helpful participants. The Level Three folks seem deadly serious about trials, titles, and talking only about their achievements and awards which is okay with me but I could care about competitions and points at this juncture. So, happy tails to them and Adios. We will miss pooches Tanner, Ozzie, Finnegan, and Cody and their owners who moved up with us and are apparently sticking it out, but last night's Level Two class was a happy positive experience which is what we...and Ginny...are looking for.

As you can see from the second photo, our yard is finally greening up again and some of the plants I feared were lost to Winter's unwanted freezes are blooming. Some of the Crotons and the small transplanted Magnolia tree did die as far as I can tell, but the rest are going to be fine. The third photo gives a real good sense of the Winnebago's bulk when you see it in the drive next to my widdle red Volvo!

This weekend promises to be busy with two Rollins Theatre related events and the Maitland Spring Art Festival, but after this one...the roads less taken or not taken as yet beckon. Can't wait to camp out in the Parakeet.

Live long and prosper.

PS I have now eaten the ears and ass off my chocolate bunny. Life is good.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A bit of this, a byte of that

Here's several more recent pictures: The first shows Danny doing what he likes best these days: puttering around the Parakeet. The last two feature his adorable 3yr old niece, Miss Lexi Thompson, of (Buford) Georgia during Easter weekend.

In other news, Baby Bailey Brown is three weeks old already. Gained a whole pound and is doing well. I got to see her on Sunday, hold her, and feed her. She is such a sweet calm little lassie. Her hair is lightening and her dark blue eyes now have some hazel in them. Can't wait until we can, when she is a little older, take her and her parents and stepbrother to the beach in the Parakeet.

Well, tomorrow is that happy income tax filing day. Yeah. All cheer, right? Not! I mailed my exorbitant payment yesterday afternoon. It was my penalty for inheriting my mothers estate last year...the gov gets ya one way or another, never fear. Even though I didn't have to pay an inheritance tax, my paper income went up thanks to the stocks and Certificates of Deposit so I gotta pay more income tax this year. Maybe the fact that the stocks dropped in value so much actually helped...otherwise my tax bill would have been higher. I had to ask for a filing extension since the managers who went bankrupt on some land I own part of out west (inheritance again) never did the tax forms and we are missing a 1099 or something or other. But, I still had to fork over the cash. Sigh.

I finally got over my weird spring cold but Danny can't seem to shake his. He's tired all the time and still coughing. Chili has developed massive allergies and is constantly licking and biting self and scratching. Has developed a lick sore and even worse cut her poor little pawsies jumping into and out of the Parakeet. I gave her enough Benedryl this morning to make her sleepy..which I hate to do...but at least she's not itching herself to madness.

Bad weather is headed our way today: its dark and gloomy out already and its not even nine am. Dog class will probably get rained out which is actually okay with us. We have not learned anything at all in Level Three Agility except that we don't like it. The trainer lady seems to be only concerned about her experienced in show trials people and sets up what she calls "Masters level courses" (whatever that is) that she expects the 5 newbies to do correctly while she screams out numbers and confusing terms at dogs and handlers who have no idea what she's doing. Her terminology might as well be in Latin or Swahili and she wastes fifteen minutes or so yammering on about weekend trial and titles earned by her experienced folk who don't talk to us new folk at all.

As a former teacher of humans and observer of these sessions, I see a mistake here. Danny is getting very discouraged and Ginny senses it. There's no fun in these sessions at all. The other new folk look as confused as Danny. Ginny and Tanner and Finn and Cody and Ozzie all have promise as agility competetors. But if their humans are ignored and discouraged, they might quit. Any sport that doesn't encourage new blood is missing the mark. I have nothing personal against the trainer Lady whose name I never heard, but I believe we have a case of poor teaching here, and I stand by that statement. Of course to be completely fair, mixing five new teams in with a dozen very experienced in trials teams and trying to work with both equally at the same time is probably more than any one person could do. She either has to work and bring along the new blood or concentrate on the advanced and she has chosen the latter. But we are paying for this instruction and it has been a waste of money and time. There was supposed to be two trainers, or so I thought, but after one week we only had one and everything went straight downhill. Thumbs down to Level Three.

Oh well, we are hoping for lots of upcoming weekend trips in the Parakeet with the dogs. There are some dog friendly beaches up around Jacksonville, a couple on the west coast, and several down in the Keys. New fun and experiences for the Mutley Crew await. Won't miss agility and the still leash enforced local dog park at all.

I have successfully avoided using Facebook now for five days except to down load yesterday's Scott/Khoury Easter pictures. Now, if I could only make myself work out and stop eating so many sweets..Don't forget to check my other Blog, Nan Nan and Dan Dan for all the news thats fit to print on our Parakeet adventures.

Live long and prosper.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter photos 2009

Easter is all about rebirth and renewal, children's laughter, chocolate bunnies and stuffed bunnies, family, and easter egg hunts. I hope you enjoy these photos of our precious little ones (and their parents in some cases) enjoying the holiday. Pictured in various activities: Baby Bailey Brown, Amy, Elias and little Alex Khoury, Casey Anderson, Stephen Scott and Baby Gavin Scott, and the rest of the red headed contingent, Danny's niece and nephew Lexi and Ben Thompson.

Live long and prosper. PS: I bit the head off my milk chocolate rabbit. Life is good.

Friday, April 10, 2009

the Easter Bunny Doesn't Stop here anymore

Another holiday weekend and I am feeling a little gloomy all the while remembering the Easters of my childhood: dyeing and then fiding hidden eggs in our back yard, a big Easter basket full of scrumptious chocolatly treats, a new stuffed furry bunny, new spring hat and coat and church followed by a banquet at Mammaw's with all the cousins running around helter skelter. Best of all no horrible school for a whole week.

Later, as an adult Easter was pretty similar with the eggs and bunnies and chocolate except that I got to watch and share the joy my kids were having. Dinner was generally at my house and I cooked for my parents and in-laws. Sometimes Easter was held at our beach house which was even better. But, that was in the last century. The kids are grown with little kids of their own and their own agendas which very seldom include me. They let me know several years back that they didn't enjoy what they saw as the big deal I made over holidays and wanted to cut the cord. They generally spend the holidays at in-laws or with their dad or friends creating new memories for themselves and their little ones. I get invited once in a while but not this year.

2009 Easter is just a day to remember to go to church: no chocolate bunnies or colored eggs, no happy children to watch, just Danny and me to cook dinner for. Now that we have the Parakeet, we can travel on future holidays which will be a new outlet for my enthusiasm. We weren't quite ready for an excursion this year only having got the bird two days ago, but bring on the Forth of July! I see a beach on the horizon.

facebook is stupid and other thoughts

Facebook is stupid. Yes, it is, really. You know it in your secret heart. The whole idea of social networking is superficial and just a way to waste time when you could actually be getting off your butt doing something productive, anything productive. Like work, taking a walk, Yoga, exercising, reading a book, cooking, learning something. Are we sitting alone at our PCS or on our phones typing away just being lazy, are we bored, are we boring?

Are people you've never met and whom you will never meet face to face really 'friends'? No, sir or ma'am, not in my book. A friend is somebody I like to go to the movies with or share a great dinner out with, wander through an art festival or walk on the beach with. Somebody I can laugh with, write with, learn from. A friend is somebody who went with me to adopt a dog, who drove me to the emergency room, who helped me move into my house or out of my house, who was there to console me during divorce and celebrate during the good times. Online people are not "there" in real space. They're bits n bytes not bodies. So, I don't care a twit about talking to folks I've never met on Facebook or on the even more limiting Twitter which I freely admit I just don't get the point of at all.

Unless you are Barak Obama or Stephen Hawking or Robin Williams or Neil Gaiman or Cesar Milan or Warren Buffet or Jimmy Buffet... somebody famous with an interesting life quite different from anything I can experience, frankly I don't really care what you are doing at precisely this moment. So, I guess you'd say I am not very tweet. Call me anti social if you like. Frankly Scarlett, I don't give a damn.

Maybe my dislike of Twitter is because I personally have great difficulty being brief. That is a skill I do not have. I am a writer after all. I revel in words. Wonderful words, lots and lots of words. Maybe that's why I rejected Journalism in college and went in for creative writing. Brevity is not my soul of wit. But, I digress. Back to Facebook.

I joined Facebook to keep up with the photos and doings of several young relatives and face to face friends. Even folks who live nearby I don't get to see very often, so I appreciate being able to check up on them via iPhone or computer. I didn't mean to get addicted to the damn thing. But I did. Even though Facebook is stupid. And I know it. But, I still check it even while walking the dog.

I meant to do something productive before I wrote this Blog but you know what I did? I spent forty, count em forty minutes on Facebook taking stupid quizzes. I now know which Muppet I am (Scooter), which decade I belong to (Glamorous 40s revolutionary), which Disney princess I am (Belle) , what musical comedy star I am (Toser), and which lord of the Rings character I resemble (Samwise). My dream job is bartender and I am a red sportscar. Wow, my life should be complete, eh? I have now reached an all time low in superficiality.

I might just as well stop typing and go over to the yeti penguin bashing game. Or maybe I will just go to bed. I'll say it again: Facebook is stupid and I won't won't check it again. Not until tomorrow anyway.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Introducing the Good Ship Millennium Parakeet

"I want to shake the dust of this one horse town. I want to explore the world. I want to watch TV in a different time zone. I want to visit the strange exotic malls...I want to live, Marge! Won't you let me live?"
-Homer Simpson

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about the economy and the general state of things in the world and my expected remaining decades on this planet and I've come to several conclusions.
1. First, as everybody with half a brain already knows, the economy is in the crapper. My retirement savings and stocks have gone south like everybody else's and I see little reason to invest good money after bad.
2.Global warming is here whatever the cause and the ability to 'get outa Dodge' should a hurricane be blowin' in our neck of the woods ain't a bad idea. Like Homer, I too am bored with the same old same old around me even though my home town is a pretty good place to park.
The road as yet unexplored beckons. I've decided that I need some new adventures--before my knees and hips get too creaky to go.
3. Yes my little bloggers, now that my parents are gone and my children are grown and having babies of their own I'm starting to feel, emotionally at least, like no spring chicken. I am still healthy and strong but am a grandmother after all, twice over as of the birth of Bailey Lynne last week. Three tines over since Stephen and Casey let me be a sort of grandparent to the wonderful Gavin. That's totally fantastic and I am enjoying every moment of my Nan Nan state, even if it seems impossible that I can be as old as my drivers licence says. I look in the mirror and still see my ten year old face smiling back at me but in the truth is revealed in photos: I am, uh, mature. In the past year or so one friend not too much older than me died of cancer, another succumbed to Alzheimer's disease and is now unable to live independently, another was diagnosed with Leukemia...well the list could continue...but the point is that life is fragile and time is not a friend. So, my conclusion is that delaying fun new experiences is probably not a good idea. Life and death can get in the way.

So, all this is leading me into my real story. Bear with me.

Several week ends ago we drove to the beach. It felt so good to be out of town even for a few hours that it reminded me that I haven't travelled in a long long time. Since 9-11 I have not been able to force myself onto a commercial airplane. I don't like flying in those big uncomfortable tin buckets anyway. That leaves trains, boats, and automobiles. I prefer dry ground. That leaves trains and cars. Trains don't do it for me. I get over fatigued and squirmy sitting still in cars on long trips. I don't really enjoy sleeping in hotels and I hate the bother of packing suitcases. And most importantly, I don't like leaving my dogs behind. Danny hates commercial flying and he also doesn't like being away from the dogs. Still, we both agreed we'd like to do some traveling. Danny suggested a motor home. We could take the dogs. I could move around instead of sitting still. "Well, maybe some day," I said. Didn't think much more about it.

But, the wanderlust continued. We drove to Montverde for a friend's St Patrick's day party. On the way we passed several RV sales lots. "Maybe we should look at some one week end," said I.
"How much would one cost?" Danny replied that a used one would be as much as a luxury car...not a Ferrari or Bentley (unless you are shopping for the behemoth mega homes on wheels which do indeed cost as much as a house but you really could live in). Would cost as much as a good Lexus or BMW. "Hm," I said, thinking that I still had some money left over from the sale of my late mother's house that I hadn't decided whether to invest yet or not. "That might be possible."

So last week end, we we're looking for something to do. No movies we wanted to blow thirty bucks on, nothing we needed at the mall or IKEA, it was rainy which ruled out beach or theme park, so I said, "Lets go look at motor homes." There is a new dealer near home. I'd never been inside a motor home. I happily explored several dozens for several hours. Looked a prices, weighed benefits, thought of possibilities. Like I said, some of these really big babies have granite kitchens and bathtubs and are totally posh. The big babies were out of the question, of course since I am not a rich athlete or rock star but were really fun to see. If you wanted to fork over several hundred K on one you couldn't care about nonexistent gas mileage or that you'd have to tow a car for getting around town once you get where you are going. But I guess if I was a rock star I'd ride around in limos with security guys anyway.

The ones that are essentially trailers that have to be pulled by trucks are surprisingly posh and much less expensive. One actually had a working fireplace. The downside to these is that you have to have a big powerful truck (which we don't) and nobody can ride in the trailer part while it is on the road. Wouldn't work for us or the doggies.

But then, there she was, the Millennium Parakeet. That's not her real name of course. She is really a pre-owned Winnebago View, c class Motor Home, a twenty four foot little beauty with a Mercedes diesel engine built on a Dodge Sprinter chassis. She is only the size of a Fed Ex or UPS truck which means she can be parked in the average parking lot or on the street. No extra tolls. Fifteen to twenty miles to the gallon. One slide out. A complete galley kitchen with microwave, convection oven, gas cook top, fridge and freezer, folding dining table and booth that becomes a bed. Another sofa bed and a bunk over the drivers cab. A full bath with shower. A generator of course. Small TV built in over the dining table. Cherry wood cabinetry. Navy blue upholstery that will stand up to the Mutley Crew. She was not to big, not too small, just right for us since we are not large people.

As Mark Twain said, "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the things you did. So, throw off the bowlines. Sail away from safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in you sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." My usual habit is extreme conservatism. Save the money for disaster. Invest the money. Not this time. I invested most of my inheritance and, well, you know how well that's gone. Sigh. I digress. I went home, calculated my cash holdings, decided what was a reasonable down payment and a reasonable monthly payment and what term would be acceptable.

It took me four days of emailing and phone calls and bargaining. I refused to budge on my deposit or payment or loan term. The salesman came down on the price enough that the monthly payment including warranty and taxes was exactly one dollar over my requirement. I decided that was reasonable. Parakeet became my little bird, on paper at least, Wednesday night just before the art festival wrap up meeting. She's being detailed and we pick her up next Wednesday after an operations class.

The insurance guy told me that I can go anywhere except Baja Mexico. Too dangerous. I'm not going there anyway without Vin Diesel and Jason Bourne. The accountant told me the sales tax and loan interest are deduct able. Danny said the diesel engine can be converted to burn bio fuel. I said, "But doesn't that stink?" He said, "Yeah, like McDonald's french fries oil." I don't think so, folks. Not unless things get a whole lot worse on old Ma Earth.

Anyway, the maiden voyage will be soon. I have pledged to myself that I will write a Blog, poem, essay, short story, cooking on the road recipe, or travel tips with dogs on each and every trip. Maybe a book there someday. There's a whole subculture of RV afficionados out there to read it. Once, long ago, when I really was young, in a galaxy far away, I drove zippy little sports cars. Now I shall drive slowly and carefully in a Winnebago.

"There are many spokes on the wheel of life. We're here to explore new possibilities." --Ray Charles

Stay tuned for my second upcoming Blog, Dan Dan and Nan Nan which will feature the voyages of the Millennium Parakeet (Star Wars fans will get the name), her continuing mission to explore strange new places, to seek out new fun, to boldly go where we have never gone before.
Live long and prosper.