Sunday, January 21, 2018

Reflections 2017

December 10th, 2017

I'm standing in the Spokane Airport on my 3rd trip to Boston this year. I arrived here at 7:30am. My flight has since been pushed to 1:30pm. If I were to say it's one of the most relaxing mornings I've had this year, it wouldn't be much of an exaggeration.


Boston Harbor in August.

  I work in the tall building on the left.

I don't have good travel karma for business trips in December, but I make the best of it. One year I flew from SFO to Chicago, headed for a meeting in North Carolina. Delayed in San Francisco, I wrote all my Christmas cards. I eventually made it to Chicago, spent the night, and, with no possibility of making my meeting, I flew back to SFO the next day, after sitting next to a window for most of the morning watching the snow fall. It was probably one of the most relaxing days that year too.

So, back to 2017. The job drama from previous years continues. I started the year in Utah. Job eliminated in March due to a merger. Bye bye Utah. Headed back to WA to be near my parents, who are hitting 80.


Playing with Mom's new tablet

With Star in my new backyard

Exiting Utah was quick and fairly painless, although a little exhausting, due to the work I did to get the house ready to sell. Why didn't I fix those inherited paintless spots earlier - it sure looked nice when I left it that Thursday afternoon as it was going on the market. Half a dozen offers came in over the weekend in a super hot market - it sold for more than the listed price by the time I arrived in Washington on Sunday. Happy Birthday to me.

I quickly landed a great job at a company I had first interviewed with 6 years before. Neither of us was ready for each other at that time and of course things worked out for the better. If I had gotten that low level accounting job way back when, I would never have been qualified for the job I got this time. It was the experience that I gained in the years in between that made it possible to get this job. I also would never have gone to Utah and made some more friends, mostly from agility. Maybe my life is just about moving around the west and collecting friends.

Paddle boarding on Liberty Lake
with Donna from Utah.
Maiden voyage of campers
with Laura from Washington.


My next order of business was securing housing - always a challenge with 3 dogs. The market was pretty dry, but I had been doing my research for 3 months already, and had identified a new home neighborhood that might work. There was only one lot left in the phase that would be completed this year. Only 2 models were allowed to be built on that lot. Of course one was the one I had already had my eye on. My life just works that way (except when flying for business in December).

Bonus - it was a corner lot!

Now I had to secure temporary housing for the summer. Of course there was one perfect little apartment available on the outside of my preferred complex - just a few doors down from where Sunny and Star and I spent 3 great years while one of us was getting a Master's degree, one was getting certified as a Reading Assistance Dog, and one was getting her first titles in agility.


Sunny, Star and Xander in June on the Centennial Trail
just a stone's throw from the apartment.


I kinda miss the challenge of walking the herd,
or juggling the herd when traveling.


I just realized the order of things stated above is not correct - in fact it is completely reversed. I had identified the job I wanted but due to the travel schedule of the Greek hiring manager who was in the process of moving from Rome to Spokane, I didn't get the interviews or the job offer until after I had made the deposit to have the house built, and I had lined up the apartment as the first order of business. I knew I was going to move here and planned it all so that the home was modest enough to manage regardless of the job I got. And there is that good move/job hunting karma that I enjoy and, for better or worse, have come to rely on. Now if only the job-keeping karma would kick in.

Here's the tissue paragraph - we lost our dear Sunny in July. He never made it to the new house. You can read all about it in the previous post, The Empty Dog Bed.


Sunny in June at the apartment



Despite the long hours at the new job, I enjoyed monthly trips to visit my parents 100 miles north at their lovely place



 


and agility competitions approximately monthly as well. Our results weren't spectacular as our training time was minimal, but Xander is awesome and . . . oops, we're not there yet.



Things started heating up in August. The temperature. The final touches on the new house. And a new toy for agility - a little popup camper.

Had to look twice, didn't you?!?


I took a week off work at Labor Day, but it wasn't any more relaxing than the time I was off work in March and April. We were finally moving into our new house. A week later, we took the new camper on its maiden voyage.

Xander in the doorway, singing his hound song.


All the pieces were finally falling into place. I discovered I still had too much stuff, despite my best efforts to get rid of stuff before leaving Utah. As I write this, I still have half a dozen boxes left to unpack, and a few items in storage waiting for spring when I can get a shed built. But the little camper and the van are both in the garage for the winter, and the dogs are cozy in front of the fire.




And that super awesome agility dog I hinted at earlier . . . he stepped it up a notch in mid-October and was brilliant at the last trial of the year (for us) in early November. We got one of the two titles that were on the line that weekend, and only missed the other by a hair due to specific skill gaps, the solution for which was already waiting in the wings in the form of an online training class that I had lined up for the winter break from classes.

Weave pole entry training in the hallway


Only one other thing to mention as I wrap up the year is my darling little girl. She is still healthy and photogenic at 9ish. She didn't love agility, so I let her slip quietly into retirement so I could focus all my attention on learning a completely different handling style for Xander. Star is now an agility support sibling and enjoys our monthly mother-daug-ter trips to see Grandma and Grandpa while Xander stays at home with the sitter.

My most precious girly doing a little pretzel twist with her legs.


Xander and Star distracted by
Grandma on the porch, fortunately, 
as I wasn't getting the shot I wanted.

Xander watching me work (except 
probably not because I must have been
taking the picture) with Honey the Horse
in the field outside my home office window. 

Xander showing what he thinks of Star
taking HIS seat while I work.

Mind Meld? How can we get Mom to 
stay home with us more in 2018? 


You got your wish, kiddos, kinda. For the 4th time in 4 jobs in 5 years, there was major upheaval within 6 months. The latest merger has me reporting to the accounting team in Boston now. The team there is great and I'm enjoying my frequent cross-country trips. 

And when I'm in WA, I can work at home a couple days a week. Here's to a good 2018 for all.



Monday, July 24, 2017

The Empty Dog Bed

The Empty Dog Bed

OR

How to Decide When "It's Time"


With my first two, I had the luxury, and the curse, of time. Long term illnesses, no chance of improvement, 12 years old, 13 1/2 years old.

How do you decide in those cases?

With the first, I decided, on Sunday, that it would be Friday. But on Monday, as I sat in jury duty, all I could think about was how I would get through the week, sitting in the jury box every day, knowing that on Friday I'd be doing that. I couldn't take it. We said goodbye with no regrets on Monday night.

With the second, I decided it would be tomorrow. But the thought of getting up in the morning, trying to decide what to wear for the event, and just driving him there - I couldn't take it. So I scheduled it for the afternoon and spent the morning making more memories. We drove to Rocky Mountain National Park. From the back seat, he kept his big soft head right next to my arm on the center console the whole time - he had never done that before. He made a lot of noise, barking or talking I suppose, while I got gas in the car - I turned the recorder on the phone and captured that sound, in case I needed to hear it again. It was nice to stumble on it in old emails over future years. I ate part of a sausage egg muffin, and saved part for him for later. When we hit Rainbow Point, it was time to turn around and head back to make our appointment. I gave him the rest of my breakfast and we headed in.

With Sunny, it was easier. In April, he was a healthy boy, in great shape. It was a "large mass, in a bad spot" in May. By June, it was "an aggressive cancer". In July, on a Friday night, he went for a swim. That night, he was uncomfortable for the first time. I never really went to the bed, just laid on top of the covers, half-asleep, half-alert, as he dozed for a while, then got up to try to find a place that felt better. Somewhere in the middle of the night, I knew the time was soon.

I didn't worry so much about what I wore. I didn't worry that we were just driving in, intent on the mission and nothing else. I offered some breakfast as a final test - he ate only half, for the first time in his life; as if to say, "I'm a Lab, I at least have to try".

We went, all 4 of us, on a slow, short walk. He was lagging now, favoring the bad leg. It was time. I didn't have to wonder if it was too early or too late. It was right on time.

At the vet, he continued his mission to make people happy - a stranger in the parking lot couldn't resist asking, "Can I pet your dog." Inside the clinic, he wagged his familiar wag, with a little less spirit that only I would notice. But he wasn't quite done. He didn't want to come lay down on the blanket by me. He wanted to go in the back of the clinic where he'd been so many times during the years of his eye problems, where there was always an abundance of love showered on him.

Eventually I picked him up to lay him down - he was so light. He ate a few of the offered soft treats, but left the last one laying there. Then he laid his head down and never picked it back up again. The procedure hadn't even started. Without windows to his soul, I couldn't see what he was thinking. But it was clear. Now he was ready. And so was I.

I love you, Sweet Boy, and so do a whole lot of other people. You weren't mine so much as mine to care for, and share with the world.




Sunny
?? 2006 ?? - July 15, 2017




Adoption in 2009





2009



After one of his many surgeries - 2010



Playing ball after losing both eyes - 2013



In his uniform, after retiring from Reading Rovers - 2014



Monday, September 5, 2016

Back to School Essay

The sucky thing about agility is the hours that Xander has to spend in his crate between runs. But this weekend he made good use of his time and wrote his back to school essay. He asked me to type it up for him.

What I Did This Summer

By Karsten's Alexander Fallon Super Man

This summer my mom and I worked hard on our agility teamwork. First she taught me that the bars aren't supposed to fall down and that I need to pay more attention to my long legs to make sure that I'm doing my part. (She said she has a part too. I'll get there in a minute.) After that lesson, I found that it was real easy to keep the bars on the jumps. She just never told me that it was very important, so I didn't know until we had that lesson.
The next thing she taught me was that I need to pay really close attention to her body language. Everything can be a signal telling me something to do, even if she isn't talking in people language. That was a huge breakthrough. We really started clicking as a team after she taught me that, and we did almost everything really well together.
The only thing that I can't understand is why she never tells me what to do around the weaving poles. I used to do them all by myself, but since she started showing me exactly what to do everywhere else, I kept waiting for her to tell me what to do there too. I gave her 3 tries to try to tell me on every run, but she never did and then it was too late for me to just do it the way I wanted to.
I'm really glad she didn't get mad at me. I hope she reads my Back to School essay so we can have some more lessons and learn how to communicate about how to do the weaving poles.
Other than that, I had a really good summer and I love playing agility with my mom! And not just because she feeds me lots of yummy treats and plays ball with me after every run. But that certainly doesn't hurt.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Make the Next 20 Years Great

That's what I wrote on the eve of the new year, as I faced the desolate yet winter-beautiful landscape of western Montana.



That statement was a reflection on my reflection of the past 10 years. I was recognizing this as a start of a new chapter.

I wasn't thinking of all the bad things that will happen in the next 20 years:
  • Loss of all or most of the remaining family members in the generation preceding mine
  • Potential health issues as I and friends and remaining family members head down the back side
  • And most definitely, the loss of all 3 of these dogs. Waaaaaaahhhhhh.



What I was thinking about was the looming horizon of my professional career, that time when corporate America will see me as too old to play. For better or worse, I do define myself in a big way by my work. It is who I am and what I do for most of my waking hours. I'm good at it and derive satisfaction from it. It's the thing I do best, so why wouldn't I say that I define myself by it. (Wow, one could write a whole post on that topic - hadn't thought of it that way before. It's the thing I do best. Defining myself by anything else would leave me disappointed.)

So when I say "make the next 20 years great", I mean that it's time to get deliberate about things. For the past 50 years, I've let my hard work and many successes and occasional failures determine the next logical step. That could prove to be risky if I continue to play it that way. So starting with my job change last month, of the 2 jobs I was offered, I took the lower paying job with the longer commute, because it would broaden my professional skills in the accounting field.

Do I have one more job change left in me? Maybe. And waiting 10 or more years to try to make it would probably be too late, depending on my value and the job market and economy at the time. So that's job 1 - realizing the potential that this new job offers to set me up for the next one.

Do I only have one more move in me? Where do I want to live for the rest of my life and what do I need to do now to set up for it. All I know is I want it to be warmer. So this is job 2, and it is linked with job 1. 

It also involves what I want to do with the house I'm in now. It's way too big for me, but it's where I am now and if you want to live in Utah, you gotta play the game. It's got good potential to be a rental, so keep that in mind as I move through this next phase. I want to do more with the yard and a few interior improvements. Get a handyman and keep up on the maintenance. Other than that, keep the yard improvements modest and save for the dream house that I want to build in the next place I move to. Hold off on the hot tub for now. Save the money. Keep working on the design that's already half formed in my head.

Keep the dream of personal financial advising alive - not the way I did it in 2006-2008, but the way I want to do it. Household financial management, bill paying, Mommy Math. Even tutoring kids, something I loved doing when I was younger. "Retirement" to me will simply be a transition from making the big bucks working for the man, to making the little bucks working for me, and probably doing more volunteer work again.

Keep the balance. While dealing with old age issues of parents, dogs, self, keep the other stuff going too. Agility with the dogs - what a great sport for growing old - physical, mental and social. Other things I enjoy: photography, making puzzles, writing this silly blog, keeping in touch with friends from all my past lives. Make time for those things.

Keep the body healthy. Find the right combination of gym, yoga, etc. Get the right frequency. I'll never be a 7 day a week fitness fanatic. 2-3 days is good enough for me and better than nothing. Continue to improve my boring diet by adding variety, but don't deny myself the good things - chocolate, a glass of wine while puttering in the kitchen.

Get a cat! They are so cool. I loved my cats back when I was a new pet owner. Then I got my dogs and that was even better. But a cat would be fun again now if things settle down. A cat and a dog that are best buddies - a long time dream as material for my photography hobby.

Travel and time off. Plan something, other than agility trips, quarterly. A winter retreat with my special girl Star. St. George this year probably since I can't take more time off to go further. In the accounting field, Dec-Feb is busy (I'm not in tax, it doesn't extend into April). So late Feb/Mar, that would be my Q1 break. Q2 - a birthday trip. Q3 - escape Utah during explosive July and go to upper upper Idaho as long as the family is still there. Get a little towable bedroom to have my own familiar space on my fair weather trips and agility weekends. Q4 - a fall trip to take pictures and enjoy the last of the good weather. Explore those places that I might want to live later.

That's my recipe for a good life. Now go make it happen!

Oh yeah, and enjoy the sunrise every morning on my new commute . . .








2015 The Year in Review

A friend asked me last month if I'd written my annual letter yet. Frankly, with all the recent nonsense, I hadn't even thought about it. But knowing I had a fan out their waiting inspired me to think about it and get it done. In a way, I write these for myself, and that's why they get so long. But I've gotten in the habit of sharing them, as so many of us do with social media these days, and I'm thrilled that others read with interest and care to follow my life's continued adventures. My favorite part, though, is when you write back and I get to hear a little about what you are up to. So here we go - 2015 The Year in Review. And let's get the icky stuff outta the way real quick:

Professional stuff

The PTS from a lousy Oracle implementation continued, as I worked 80 hours a week for 6 months. It wasn't so painful at first because I was working for 2 awesome bosses who appreciated my hard work. Unfortunately, they were taken away from me and people who did not respect me, for some bizarre reason, were put in their places. Still, things were ok, until about half way through the year, when the announcement came that the extended downturn in the mining industry was now predicted to last another couple years. [skipping all the garbage that happened over the next few months blah blah blah blah blah] my job was terminated on December 1.

I had seen the train barreling down the track at me for about 3 months, but the one-way contract I signed when they relocated me to SLC wasn't up for 5 more months, so my hands were a bit shackled with those golden handcuffs. Hedging my bets, I did start applying for jobs in November, and quickly got to the final round for 2 excellent positions by Thanksgiving. However, the following week, I found out that they went with the other candidate in both cases. That was also the week I was officially relinquished of my doodies at my day job. So one could say I lost three jobs that week! (One could also say that the universe had better plans in mind, the first of which being I could now hit the road to spend the holidays with family.)

I took a couple days to mourn the fact that losing the company cafeteria meant that I would now have to prepare three meals a day for myself, and then got down to business. Over the next 3 days, I applied for 10 jobs. Having spent November fine-tuning my resume and developing my process, I was quickly rewarded by invitations to 5 interviews - 50% hit rate. Within a week, I had 2 job offers, both for higher level jobs than I had applied for. This was all a huge relief, as I had hit the pavement with loads of trepidation. You see, my fledgling accounting career had been stalled more than a year before, when the company had chosen to draw instead on the skills from my prior career - software, management, working with folks from India.

Again the universe was looking out for me, and delivered me to a CFO who hired me for the breadth of my experience and my potential, instead of my narrow accounting skills, as less enlightened management types would do. He said, "We need someone like you" - the best words I had heard all year, and he put me into his new Financial Analyst position, something I have not done, but was definitely a great fit for my analytical brain that just wanted to play with numbers all day and take a break from coordinating off-shore colleagues (who are really, really wonderful people that I can definitely call friends after the two years we worked together, even though in the end they got my job after all).

I started my new job the next day, so I could get a few days in before taking a week off for the holidays. The company manufactures institutional chairs and tables (for churches and convention centers, hotels, restaurants, etc) and also has a foot in the medical industry (high end institutional wheel chairs). I'll let you look at my LinkedIn profile if you are curious about the company. It's a mid-size company, which means that I will get to be involved in everything, instead of the huge company I just left where my focus was very narrow. I'm working long hours again starting, but learning a lot and enjoying being respected again by people who are grateful for my hard work.

Home Improvement

Despite the fact that my job was getting iffy just as I had found a contractor who had time to do my yard improvement projects, I pushed ahead, since it had taken some effort to find someone, but mostly because I was tired of being the eyesore of the neighborhood. Hardscaping was employed to reduce the stress of inherited weed patches, and a spiffy new shed was added just for fun.

I also took on a fun little project - building furniture. Someone else had done all the dangerous work - cutting the boards to size. I just had to assemble. But it is something I enjoy doing and I was pleased with the result.

Dogs

Now let's shift quickly to my favorite topic - my 3 clowns.

Xander


Xander started the year confined to a crate after TPLO surgery on his knee to repair his torn ACL. He had never even gotten to start competing and really hadn't trained much for agility, due to the 2014 fun (2 moves and 2 much work). 7 months after his surgery, having carefully rehabilitated his leg with physical therapy and hydrotherapy, I let him start jumping low jumps so we could work on our handling and team work. I had set a goal of Jumpers debut at the Labor Day trial. He had other ideas in mind - even though we blocked off the A-frame so he couldn't get up on it, he pushed around and through all the barricades and started practicing it again. Since he wasn't doing half-bad at his contacts, I decided at the last minute to register him in Standard as well, so we could have more course time together. I'm not sorry at all - things were kinda messy, but it was a good trade-off to get the real life trial exposure.

His very first JWW run was a brilliant Q. Even though our Q rate has been dreadfully low since, each new trial has brought many good things. And there's the rub and the frustration with the sport - my competitive edge gets frustrated with the one or two things that go wrong, and make it hard to celebrate the 15 things he/we do well! Darn it all. But in retrospect, his first 3 months of competition, after very, very limited training time spread out over 2 years, were really fantastic. His enthusiasm for the sport is so inspiring, and his speed - wow! He is developing his own little fan club. I hope I can live up to his potential! (And that the weather and my new job cooperate and still leave me some weekend time for training.) (2 weeks later as I prepare to publish, I can report the weather is NOT cooperating. We're in a pattern of snowing on Thursday night just when a warm couple days would have melted what the dogs hadn't trampled and dirt would have been revealed.)

Star


Here's one way I describe my dogs - when I go to visit my family once or twice a year, I have to take Sunny because they all love him. I have to take Xander because he needs me. And I have to take Star because I need her. She's just my special girl. She is frustrating in agility because she doesn't have much drive, but once she gets her nose out of the ground and starts running, everyone always says she looks like she's having fun. But to me it feels like she could take it or leave it - that her favorite part of a trial is when I take her out of her crate and sit on the grass with her and just hang out. She finally got to Masters level in AKC JWW and STD in 2015, and I might just be satisfied with that. I haven't trained her much since we reached that level in July, since that was when I started putting all the focus on Xander, and as a result we haven't had a very good Q rate since then, although she's only really missed her weaves every time and her a-frame every other time. So the looming question is how much time will I put into her training now, and how much money do I want to continue to spend to keep competing with her. Stay tuned as we will probably end up going back and forth on that a few times this year. I guess I'll take it month by month. When I can get down to the ground in my yard again and start drilling her weaves, things might change.

Sunny


I suppose my blind boy is a senior citizen now. He could be around 10. He is everybody's favorite. So easy going, always happy, not a care in the world, and fearless even in new places. When we arrived in Idaho for Christmas and he heard my brother's voice, he ran straight towards him, and I didn't see much of him for the next 4 days. My aunt took him out twice a day on walks, and I just fed him. He didn't even sleep with me the last 2 nights. But when it was time to start packing the car, I knew he was still my boy - he stuck real close then, and loaded up as early as he could with the others, just to be sure he wouldn't get left behind.

Travel

February - Santa Fe

I suppose the highlight of my year, if there was one, was all the fun trips I got to take. I used up a year and a half of vacation time in 9 months. The first trip was the most anticipated. As I was working those 80 hour weeks, I was looking forward to hitting the road with my special girlie, just she and me, taking a retreat somewhere a little bit warmer. I chose Santa Fe. We didn't do a whole lot - just a little exploring, a couple massages, and a few hikes. The goal for the trip was: no cooking, no alarm clocks, no meetings. It was successful on those counts. We made it down there in one long day, but divided the return trip into 2 days to see the sights. Hiking in Ghost Ranch and taking lots of pictures was the highlight of that day, plus a night in Durango at a really nice dog friendly hotel right on the river, with a patio room that opened up onto the river walk. I would love to make that my retreat destination another year.

April - Sonoma County

Well, if ya gotta turn 50 somewhere, Sonoma County is a nice place to do it. It was a quick in and out trip, with a lot of driving as I flew into Sacramento, spent a night in Nevada City with good friends and their day old litter of poodle puppies, then zipped across the valley to spend the rest of the weekend on my best friend's ranch in Petaluma. Dinner at the coast one night, lunch at a winery the next day, home by dinner the next day, something crazy like that. I haven't been back much since 2008, but that is really the place that feels like home to me, of all the dozen places that I have lived in the past 50 years. The oak studded hills that attracted me so much on 2 trips earlier in my life, never imagining that I would end up living there, are now what call to me on my rare trips back. And I do miss the ocean being so close.

July - Bonners Ferry

After my first July living in Utah, I decided that I would not stay in Utah for July ever again. Fireworks are legal and insane, not just for the week before and after our nation's Independence Day, but also a week before and after the local celebration of Pioneer Days on July 24th. With people pushing the limits on both ends, it becomes about a 6 week long explosion, with many evenings feeling like I live in a war zone. From my comfy chair, I can see a half a dozen major firework shows between those out my back window and those out my front window reflecting off the back windows. And those are just families at their homes, not city shows. The retirement planner in me just cringes to think of all the money that gets literally blown up during those 6 weeks. Fortunately the dogs are not too stressed by it - it bugs me more than them. 

I'm not able to leave for the whole month, but I did get away for about 10 days, taking all dogs and heading up to visit my family in upper, upper Idaho. To add to the excitement, we had a mini family reunion, with 2 aunts and an uncle, and their 2 dogs. 5 dogs in a mountain cabin - everyone was very well behaved and they were all invited back, 4 making the return trip for Christmas. While spending time with family was good, and seeing friends in Spokane for a mock baby dog trial was fun, and seeing friends in Montana for catching up and lots of laughing was good for the soul, I also relish the driving. This time I drove around the top of Lake Ponderay for the first time. I felt like I entered a time warp, stopping so many times to take pictures - around every corner was another dramatic panorama - the lakes, the rivers, the mountains - ah! Sorry, P&J, late for happy hour again.

October - Yosemite

No dogs got to come on this trip, and it was another whirlwind tour, another feast for the senses and the camera. I headed south from SLC and saw St. George for the first time - that's a favorite get-away destination for the locals so I was curious what all the fuss was about. It is beautiful red rock country, and warmer than northern Utah. Cruising on through there, I arrived in Las Vegas and spent a lovely evening catching up with another old friend. Hitting the road again the next morning, I spent most of the day driving through Death Valley - up and down and up and down - from below sea level to the tops of mountains - but that was just the beginning. After hitting 395, I still had to get past Mammoth and into Yosemite and out the other side to meet my Twin, who was attending a photography workshop for the weekend and invited me to share the hotel room and do my own thing all day long. The scenery the whole way from Death Valley and the next day in the park, and the next day driving back east through the park again was orgasmic. Something to stop and take a picture of around every next corner. It was still late summer, early fall out in the rest of the west, but in the Sierras winter was arriving - it was the first winter snow that weekend. To cap off that day, we drove around June Lake to take in some fall color, and then hit Bodie at the last hour of daylight, because it's just something I have to do every 10 years or so. After a short night in Bridgeport, and a long day across Nevada, I was safely home again, and done traveling for the year.

Or so I thought. . .

December - Bonners Ferry

As I felt the end of my employment looming, I told my mother that if I got laid off, I'd come for the holidays. And that, my friends, must be why I didn't get those first 2 jobs - so that I could honor my commitment to spend Christmas up north. So once again, load up all 3 dogs, and connect with my aunt and uncle driving from San Diego and covering many of the same miles. I felt like I was driving for 2, or 7, as I shepherded all of us safely 800 miles each way, through the cold wilderness of Utah, Idaho, Montana and Idaho (funny shaped state). Waking up to 14 below in Idaho Falls the last morning was the low point of the trip, temperature wise. Delivering everyone safely was the high point. I was pretty sure once we reached our northern destination that the San Diegans were going to park the car and not leave again until spring, but they strapped wire cages on their shoes and hit the road with me to head back down south.

2016

2016 is a milestone year in a couple ways that come to mind. It will be 10 years since I jumped off the cliff - leaving my 20 year career/family at EEsof/Agilent/HP to pursue a second career (personal financial advising), which ultimately turned into a third career (corporate accounting). I certainly did not anticipate that it would take 10 years to feel like I had finally gotten back professionally to where I left off 10 years ago, but then I didn't anticipate such a complete world-wide financial melt-down a couple years into it which drastically changed the landscape.

I write a lot when I'm driving, scribbles on a stack of notepads that I sometimes can't even read later. But driving on potentially icy roads, I can't do that. When I got back from my holiday trip last week, I had only written one deep thought - "make the next 20 years great". I guess I'm feeling that this is the beginning of "the next stage". There are lots of things to consider that have my mind spinning now - I'm sure you'll get to read all about them in the next few years.

So, what will 2016 be like? 

More agility, and growing enjoyment of local agility friends. I've fallen in with a few different groups, and am even getting a little off-course social life out of it. I was also elected to the position of treasurer for Salty Dogz Agility Club of Utah. Between that and my day job, I'll have my fill of numbers. And I'm still the Medical Intake Coordinator for Safe Harbor Lab Rescue, since 2010, so I get a little more spreadsheet action there as I do my weekly report on the medical status of approximately 30 dogs in the program at any given time.

Dogs - just hope they stay healthy. But if we do tear another ACL, we at least know the routine and won't wait as long to get the surgery this time. And if we do earn a few more titles - icing on the cake. We'll be out there having fun, with or without those Qs, trying to focus on all the good stuff in each run, and having a party at the end of each run so my dogs know that I love running with them.

Travel - definitely not as much as last year. CA will hopefully come to UT this year, and I'll plan for my Idaho trip to escape July. Other than that, the work schedule might only allow for a long agility weekend here and there. 

Home Improvement - This one has my head spinning right now. I really don't want to live in a 6 bedroom house (thanks Utah for leaving me few other options for having a nice sized yard). I have some more yard projects I'd like to do this year, and the landscaper is coming next week to help with formalize some of my ideas and give me something to dream about during those Thursday night snowstorms and weekends indoors.

I apologize for not taking the time to insert some of my favorite photos. I post those frequently on Facebook, so if you are a FB person and we are not connected, please find me there.

So, dear friends, especially those who I don't follow on Facebook, if you've made it all the way through here to the end, thanks for reading, and please return to the email that delivered this to you and let me know how things are in your world.

And, of course, be well and happy in 2016.



Sunday, June 28, 2015

So, How Do You Like Utah?

I've been here almost 17 months now, and since I often say, "I'm new to the area", I am often asked, "So, how do you like Utah?"

Until a couple weeks ago, I sorta stumbled through the answer:

  • It's fine.
  • Everywhere I go, there I am.
  • The mountains are beautiful, and they look different every day, in different light.
But there is always this undercurrent of:
  • I don't feel a connection to my neighbors like I did in CA.
  • The drivers are crazy with the red light running.
  • I can't buy wine at Costco.
But I can still buy wine. What's more annoying - I apparently have to go outta state to buy my favorite breakfast cereal and my decaf tea bags. What's up with that?


While on a recent quick trip to Colorado, I had time to ponder the question again, and my analytical brain, without actually over-analyzing, believe it or not, came up with a good answer. 

8.0 to 8.5 on a scale of 10.

Since lots of other heathen friends and acquaintances of mine absolutely LOVE the area, I have to ponder why I don't LOVE it yet. One reason is because in the past 40 years, almost everywhere else I've lived has scored a 9.0 to 9.5! I've lived in some wonderful places and had some wonderful times:
  • Lake Havasu City, AZ (1973 - 1983 plus a few more summers during college)
  • Munich, Germany (1991 - 1993)
  • Sonoma County, CA (1994 - 2008)
  • Denver, Colorado (2008 - 2010)
Those would have to be the top 4, in chronological order. And the next 2 also scored high because of the life I built there and friends I had: Ventura County, CA (1983 - 1991) and eastern WA/upper ID (Spokane/Coeur d'Alene area) (2010 - 2014).

To be honest, I think Utah will eventually get up into the top 5, with a score of 9.0. It just hasn't had much of a chance yet, since I was working so much the first year and have just now started to explore the area, and build the agility lifestyle that I was spoiled with in Spokane. I've also got another idea brewing that will nudge it up another notch or two.

Just today I was able to put another tick in the "Pros" column, as I discovered I could drive around the big mountains in less than an afternoon, enjoy some beautiful scenery through Provo Canyon, and tire the dogs out in this awesome dog pond in Park City:






Monday, October 6, 2014

9 Months Fly By Like a Minute

I am always disappointed when I go to look at my blog (which I enjoy reading and re-reading and looking at the pictures) and I find nobody has written anything new. Am I the only one who can write around here?

Well, let's see about that. Star and I are going to leave in a few minutes to go play agility with some of our new friends. We haven't competed or practiced since May and we have a competition next weekend, so a little spin around a course might be nice to see if we remember how to function like a team. While we're gone, the boys will be here. Let's see if they will pick up pen in non-opposable dew claws and put down some words. Bye boys - stay outta trouble! We'll be back in a few hours.

----
Sunny: Hey Xander. Mom just left. Let's get on the computer and write some stuff. I can't see so how about I narrate and you type?

Xander: Okay, big brother. Let's have some fun. Let's tell about how Mom doesn't have time for us anymore and how she just keeps moving us and leaving us at home with someone new.

Sunny: Okay. That'll make a real tear jerker for our doggy friends to read.


Sunny And Xander's 2014 Report

Sunny: We should probably start about a year or so ago when Mom took Star on a road trip and left me (Sunny) home with Micki and the 2 Schnauzers. When they got back 5 days later, I smelled something funny. 

Xander: That was ME! You didn't like me right away. And then you really didn't like me when everyone wanted to throw the ball for me because I could chase it better, but eventually we got along fine.

Sunny: Yes. I realized you weren't so bad after all, and Mom really liked you so I learned to like you too. Well, then a month later, Mom was told she was going to lose her job. She started taking you to school on Monday nights and Star to agility on Wednesday nights, and working hard every day, which I wasn't quite sure I understood, because they already told her they were going to let her go after she trained the Indians. But then her hard work paid off, and she was offered the opportunity to move to Utah, the company headquarters. So we started packing again. Star and I know the routine - we had already moved a couple times since Mom adopted us.

In February, Mom loaded up the new van with dog crates and 4 bins of fragile house plants and beer and wine and survival gear and we headed out across the mountains. We tried to visit our friends in Montana but Mom's new van doesn't have AWD, so Paul had to come down the hill in his big truck and load all of us up and take us up to the house to run around for a while in the big snow drifts. That was fun. Then we were back on the road and safely in a nice hotel in Butte, before it started to snow.

It was about 5 degrees in Butte that night so Mom had to quickly move all the plants from the car into the hotel, and the water and other things that might freeze, like the dogs. The hotel had a great isolated parking lot with no moving vehicles far away from any busy roads, so we got to run around and play ball. Then it started snowing. All night it snowed. Mom woke up in the morning, looked out the window, and went back to sleep. We found out later that our moving truck stayed in the same town and was up and driving in that storm. We were smart and waited until the storm blew over and the roads were cleared and then it was smooth sailing. After repacking all the plants and liquids, etc.

8pm on Sunday night we arrived at our new rental house. Mom hadn't been able to check it out ahead of time so we were a little tentative coming into a strange place in the dark and looking around. We had all our camping gear since we didn't know when the movers would come with our other stuff, so we just slept downstairs. 12 hours later the moving truck showed up! That was too fast - we didn't know where we were going to put all the stuff yet. And the rooms were so small, our stuff barely fit. The basement was full. The garage had a lot of extra stuff in it. We had carried a lot of extra stuff in the car thinking we'd be roughing it for 3-5 days. And Mom said that she was looking forward to doing nothing for a few days. She looked a little worn out when the movers left and she had to start unpacking. After all, she had only finished packing 3 days before, and then spent 2 long days driving! And rest stops with 3 dogs are no picnic.

We spent the week getting settled and finding our way around town, and then Mom went back to work. First she had the neighbor girl come over to let us out at lunch. Then she hired a lady we didn't like. And then she hired Lauren. We LOVED her. She taught Xander to take food gently, and she played ball with me and Xander and cuddled with Star. Mom came home 2 days a week to take care of us at lunch, and Lauren came over 3 days a week. Then Lauren moved away and we were sad, but Denise and Megan started coming over, and we really liked them too.

But then Mom said we were moving again! We were buying another house, with a big backyard, and another dog, Kona, was going to come live with us. Mom didn't take any time off this time - she just left us home with Kona's mom, Loretta. Eventually Loretta got a job and Denise and Megan came back. But we never got to see Mom. She just worked and worked, 8 days a week. She said 80 hours a week divided by 10 hours a day equals 8 days a week. She said that's called Math. 

Then about 4 months after we moved in to our new house, Xander started limping. The doctor came and said he has a torn ACL. That's what I had - 2 of 'em! He doesn't know if he has to have surgery yet, but he can't do agility training right now, so Star had to start again so Mom had someone to play with, once she started working only 6 days a week, in October.

Mom was pretty excited in October when she got promoted to Assistant Controller after only 3 years as an accountant. I guess that's what hard work gets ya - more hard work! We're just happy when she comes home and rolls on the bed or on the floor with us. That's the highlight of our day!