Thursday, June 30, 2011

Double Duty

After not having had a foot in the stirrups since the winter, we swallowed hard and decided to brave the heat and "just do it."

Sarge called and whinnied for Bree for several days last week before settling into his solitary life.  Now he's having to do double duty since he's our only horse. 

Poor thing is as flabby as I am, so I'm sure this is a rude awakening.  

No point in trailering anywhere as we're each only able to ride for about 15 minutes before calling it quits!  The day after our first ride we were cripping around like the old folks that we are rapidly becoming!
Prior to this week, I had only ridden Sarge a time or two and then only for a couple of minutes.  Riding a Tennessee Walking horse is an acquired taste!  

I can appreciate the smoothness of the faster gaits, but the walk is totally bizarre.  Soooo much flexion in the lower leg joints that it bears a huge resemblance to riding a camel.  Add in the fact that it is as hot as can be and Sarge is so massively tall and the camel/desert analogy gets more plausible.  

Still missing Bree and can't believe he's gone, but it was fun to be back in the saddle again.  

Thanks Joe for sharing your trusty steed with me!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

We've Got a Slab! (Week 7)

Joe made it home (that's the Louisiana home) on Saturday and it has been refreshing to have someone around the house to talk to who actually can answer back.  Not that Biggs, Atta and Noel aren't fine company but their conversational skills are lacking!

We've been working so hard outdoors in the mornings that I wouldn't be surprised if his proposed 3 week stay before returning to Virginia gets shortened!  By about 10:30 it's too hot to do a thing more outside except collapse in the pool.

Though I don't stay in too long, the pool has been absolute bliss this summer and I'm willing to put up with sun damage and wrinkles to have the refreshment after a few sweltering hours of yard work!

This photo of the new house is about a week old and by now we've probably got a fair amount of lumber going up for the basement walls.  But here's the slab as it was last week and seen from the lower level looking uphill....

And here is a vital part of building the house....

I'm embarassed to admit that "back in the day" we didn't get a porta-john when we acted as neophyte contractors to build our Louisiana house.  I'm not even sure that you could rent them, but irregardless we probably would have been of opinion that it was an area where we could save a little money.

And there were plenty of woods all around.

It may be 27 years late, but to all of the workmen who toiled on our house:  I'm sorry we were so cheap.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Send Help.... Break the Jar


I'm living inside a terrarium!!

This is what the windows in the house have looked like the past few mornings.... and no this isn't privacy glass.  Just normal old glass with the super high humidity and heat outside.  

Friday, June 24, 2011

Explaining Myself

Yesterday I drove to St Francisville and left Bree at the family farm of my equine veterinarian in order to be put down.   Ears up and perky, he was far from the outward picture of a horse that needed to be euthanized.

As much as I'm telling myself that it needed to be done, I still feel like a heel.  I've put to sleep a good many beloved pets over the past 35 years of my adulthood, but in every case, I'd exhausted all medical avenues and it was done in order to end suffering.  It wasn't so clear cut with Bree.

He's had a large swelling in his laryngeal area for most of the spring and the vets at LSU were willing to overlook it giving their attention only to the flaring eye.  Two weeks ago, my personal vets became alarmed (Sr partner's first time to see it) and suddenly other "experts" at LSU, who had been feeling on this lump for months, were viewing his larynx as more important than the uveitis in his eye.

The short story is that the swelling was a mystery to all concerned and after being neglected for several months had apparently calcified the cartilage around his larynx and was causing his trachea to be restricted when he needed to draw in a deep breath.

I was still hanging in there with him, but realizing that it wasn't looking good for being able to do much if any riding.  Then last week, actually the night that I was pulling the painting all-nighter, when I went to the barn to treat his eye and feed, I removed his fly mask and there was his "good" eye:  swollen, weepy and light sensitive.

Uveitis in the good heretofore unaffected eye.  My heart sank to my toes.

Some horses with uveitis only have it in one eye and will never have a problem with the other.  We were hoping that was the case with Bree since I never remembered any episodes in his right eye.  But now there was no point in doing the cyclosporine implant in only the left eye if both eyes were potentially affected.  Doing the surgery on both eyes was both financially unthinkable and it didn't have the rate of long-term success that seemed necessary to save the sight in both eyes.

So I now had a horse who had lost a significant amount of sight in one eye and was eventually going to be losing his vision in the other.  And then there was the calcification around the larynx.  I called my vet on Monday thinking that I knew what had to be done, but not sure that he'd agree.  However, he was of the opinion that I'd eventually be putting him down; it wasn't a question of "if" but "when."  He encouraged me to be preemptive and do it now and offered me the option of having Bree buried up on his family farm in St Francisville, so I said Yes.

I've only got 2.5 acres of pasture... not enough to have three horses and keep one around as a pet whom I can't ride.  When we move the horses to VA,  boarding an unsound blind horse isn't something that we'd be able to do long-term.  If Joe is going to ride, he wants a riding partner.  Three horses isn't an option for us.  I know that someone reading the blog will want to tell me about homes for blind horses somewhere... yes there are one or two, but try getting a horse accepted there and really what kind of life is that for a high strung active horse?  And then a blind horse who can't take a deep breath?

"T", my old "rescue" half Arabian was blind in one eye and I rode him, but he had a different mental state.  Bree wouldn't have been trail worthy with one eye.

So I put down an otherwise healthy horse that I had taken care of and loved for 10 years.  Yet he was now a horse who was partially blind in one eye, might have had a year or two of partial vision in the other eye and who couldn't take a deep breath when exercising.  In short, I couldn't ride him and there was no cure.

On Monday, he was shiny, alert and looked like a million bucks.  But it was coming.  I saw the light at the end of the tunnel and it was a train.  So I moved toward it and I'll say it.... I gave up.  I was worn down after throwing time and money at his eyes for 4 months and I just gave up.   Not something that I usually do readily.  Maybe it wasn't giving up but seeing things for what they were.

If I had unlimited money and many acres of land, could I have kept him hanging on for longer?  Yes.  No question about it.  But I've got minimal pasture (soon to be boarding) and a limit to the discretionary spending.

I waver between thinking that I was selfish and knowing in my heart that  doing anything else was just postponing the inevitable.   This is one of my more rambling posts, but I don't even feel like rereading it to trim it down.  I have to keep telling myself that there are no easy answers and I did what I thought was best.   Sometimes I hate being a grown-up.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Late Night Stripper

No, No... Get your mind out of the gutter.... not that kind of stripper!

I've been neglecting the blog because.... well just because.  It's been pretty rough on the equine front and about to get worse, so I'm avoiding talking about it for another day or two.  Again just because.  But on the home front, it's time for the grand unveiling.  It's been finished for about 5 days and it has taken me about that long to recover!!

I've been ignoring the fact that the dining room wallpaper needed to come down.  When I selected the paper all those years ago, I liked it because it was old-fashioned looking..... Like something my grandmother might have had.  Consequently it held up in a retro sort of way.  But finally even I had to admit that it was one area of the house that really could look better.... maybe at this point THE one area that could look better with a more modern look.  I was being stubborn about not wanting to change it and then I realized that symbolically it would be another way to let go.

So last Monday,  I marched in and tore off a small piece.  Now there was no turning back.  I HAD to take it down.  That night I cranked up some music on iTunes and set to work.  

By the second day (remember with Joe up in Virginia, I still had plenty of other things to do... pets, yard etc), I had gotten to the big wall.... sliding and moving the furniture into the center of the room.  Who needs weights at a health club when you've got oak furniture?!  And isn't a Stairmaster just a poor substitute for a ladder?  

Over the last 8 years, I've taken down wallpaper in 8 rooms. If there's a secret to success and a smooth final outcome, it's slow perseverance and knowing the way to repair the damage and properly treat the walls after the paper is down. Complicating things at our house is the fact that we were too dumb to know that our paper hanger have prepped the walls and not hung over raw Sheetrock.  That paper was Stuck on.... as in Stuck with a capital S!

Each time I get a room finished and see how perfect a job I've done (back-patting going on here) I consider that I should take my show on the road and do this for money.  Maybe I could have a reality show on HGTV.... I could call it "One Little Strip at a Time" and people might think it was X-rated!

Day Three of Stripping....... working for several hours each day.... 

One of my assistants.... asleep on the job!   Wallpaper all down, walls treated with Gardz, beginning to skim coat areas with joint compound and sand smooth.

Skim coating was completed and I had gone into Baton Rouge to run a few errands on Friday afternoon. Then I got a call from the new realtor that there was going to be a showing on Saturday at 3 pm.  Oh My!!!! Sheetrock dust, furniture heaped under the plastic..... it looked pretty bad.  Plus I'd been ignoring the rest of the house and the barn while I'd been stripping paper and sanding walls for the last 4 days.

I wonder?  Could I get the house and barn ready for the showing AND finish the dining room in 18 hours?   It "only" needed a coat of primer, 2 coats of paint, all the furniture and china moved back and the curtains rehung.   Never offer me a challenge!  You know I had to try!

I haven't pulled an all-nighter in quite a while....... It was sort of like a one woman version of Trading Spaces!   And Ta-Da..... by 2 pm with an hour to spare before the showing, I had finished painting, had moved everything back into place, washed my brushes, swept out the barn and gotten the house spic and span.

I was doing a final walk through checking for cat hairballs, turning on lamps and and locking the jewelry chest.  Then I was going to wearily wend my way out to the RV with the dogs where I was going to rest my aching legs and  sleep for the first time in 30 hours.  The showing was in 45 minutes.  Perfect timing!

And then I got the phone call.

Cancelled.  As in not coming.

Did anybody hear me screaming??

Oh well it was still worth it.... sort of.

Pretty nice if I do say so myself!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Home Hazards

We switched realtors this week.  Thirteen months is long enough to be at the dance with the same partner.

So I had to fill out the Louisiana Real Estate Disclosure form again.  When I got to the "Adverse Materials" section, I was prepared to just zip on through.

Asbestos:  No
Radon Gas:  No
Contaminated Soil:  No
I was just x'ing away down the No side of the list.....

Hazardous Waste, Mold/Mildew, Electromagnetic Fields, Formaldehyde, Chemical Storage Tanks, Contaminated Water, Toxic Mold.....

Wait!  What's that listed right in between Toxic Mold and Crystal Meth Exposure?

OMG I have to check a yes!!!!

Look what we have....

Thank goodness we shut down the crystal meth lab or we'd have two "Adverse Materials and Conditions"!!

Keep on the Sunny Side

I'm humming the song, "Keep on the Sunny Side... always on the sunny side.... always on the sunny side of life" as I'm typing because I'm determined not to rant and rage about the last two days.

I won't be a bi***y blogger!  I won't!

I will instead indulge in a teaching moment and remind everyone about the old parable of the elephant and the six blind men.  The story went that each of the blind men was led up to the elephant, allowed to touch it, and then asked describe an elephant.  Each focused only on one particular area and consequently the elephant was pronounced to be like a wall, a spear, a fan, a tree, a rope and snake.

No one got the "whole" of the elephant.

Substitute a palomino Morgan (Bree) for the elephant and LSU's Vet School for the six blind men.

That's all I say or I'll be humming a song of wrath and revenge instead of a cheerful ditty.

I wish that I could find this statue.  I'd hang a stethoscope around each of their necks.

Monday, June 13, 2011


This is our front plank!  

Eventually to become a front door!

Eye or Throat.... What to Worry About?

Bree is giving me some worries on several fronts.  I've been waiting 6 weeks for his cyclosporin implant to get off backorder so that he can have his eye surgery at LSU.  Can you believe that a medical device is backordered for that long?!  Well it finally came in and surgery was scheduled for last week.  Then totally out of left field, he developed a cough!  Between that and some nasal drainage, it was enough to make us cancel the surgery.  NEVER has he coughed or had any kind of illness so what is this all about???

Fast forward to this weekend.  After a week on antibiotics, I was thinking that he was back to his old self.  Cough gone and no sign of the nasal drainage.  On Saturday AM, I loaded him up in the trailer for the 40 minute drive to our "local" equine specialist.  I assumed that  I was bringing him in for a routine recheck.  Wrong!  More problems and my 30 minute appointment wound up being 3.5 hours.

Another round with the endoscope;  if you think having a guttural pouch flushed out sounds a little yucky, you're right!

He's been the picture of health for the past 10 years with no veterinary expenses other than routine procedures.  He's making up for lost time now and putting quite a dent in the pocketbook.  We keep joking about the "slippery slope"..... When do you say No and draw the line on shelling out for more tests and treatments?

Do nothing and a good horse loses his eyesight and is useless for what I want him to do (trailriding).  Treat him and drain the coffers but maybe.... maybe.... save his sight.  And then what the heck is going on with the swollen/dropped larynx?  Where is my crystal ball??!!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Foundation Progress (Week 5)

Joe went to campus and used their internet (8 years of tuition should entitle you to something) to send along a couple of photos from Virginia.

The presence of PVC pipes should reassure future guests that although we're looking for places to cut costs, we have decided NOT to do without indoor plumbing!

It's Another Birthday!

Twenty five years ago he was mesmerised by a single candle.

If he winds up with frosting between his eyes tonight on birthday #26, I hope that Kathleen sends me a picture!!!

And people would actually think I wanted girls!  Has there ever been a cuter face??

If you're reading, I love you bunches! 

(These photos might settle any question of whether Owen would have curls if he would let his hair grow longer than half an inch!)

Friday, June 10, 2011

MishMash of News

On Tuesday we had a pleasant trip down to New Orleans where we got to see Clark and Raeanna's new digs.  Not sure what to call it.... apartment, duplex, half of a house?  I believe I heard it being referred to as "the love nest!"

All will be glad to know that, as the song goes, they will indeed have a "place to Pee on Mardi Gras day" being only a couple of blocks from several main parade routes.  I, for one, am happier that it is in a "good" area, but to those in New Orleans, especially the under 30 crowd, parade location is pretty important!  Guess I'm just an old fogey!

But the main reason for our trip to New Orleans was to meet Raeanna's parents!!!  We had a delicious dinner at a restaurant on the outskirts of the French Quarter (Marigny Brasserie) but honestly we could have been eating cardboard and I think that we all would have had a good time.  Conversation flowed, we seem to have a lot in common and we didn't appear to embarrass the young folk too much!

Other news is that eventually I may get some more photos of the basement progress in Virginia since my trusty Panasonic Lumix camera is up there.  Yes, the nightly Louisiana slumber party is back in full swing with Joe off to Virginia.  Attagirl and Noel were quick to claim their space in the bedroom, Mr. Biggs enjoyed having more space to stretch out and we were up until well after 1AM last night reading and watching mindless television!  

On his way to bring my camera to Virginia, Joe made a slight detour to have dinner in Little Rock.  Unless you are geographically challenged you'll know that this isn't even close to being on the way, but he was being a good father who missed his oldest son! 

By all reports it was worth the extra five hours that it added to the trip!   I wish I could have been along to give Carter a hug and see his apartment, especially since I haven't seen him since Christmas!  

I haven't received any updated pictures of the new house since Joe has only been there 24 hours and there still is no Internet at the rental house, but I've been assured that we do indeed still have the beginnings of a basement and that construction is a little farther along.

It sure was a lot faster scraping off the grass, hammering in some boards for the slab, laying out some rebar and plastic and bringing in a little sand when we built here years ago.  Cranes, rock tappers, backhoes, huge metal forms, limestone out the wazoo, waterproofing.... it's quite a production building a basement!  

I'll add some color to the post and make those of you who aren't in the Deep South jealous.  The gardenias are blooming!
Too bad that Apple hasn't come up with iSmell since they are heavenly.  Who needs lilacs!  

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Another Stegner Book: All the Little Live Things

Needing to redeem myself after the erotica of the previous Frog/Toad Love photo, I'll put on my academic robes and concoct a book "report."  My New Years resolution to read more this year is still intact and I'm pleased with my efforts, but I'm procrastinating when it comes to writing the summaries.

Crossing To Safety by Wallace Stegner is still my favorite read in recent times, so when I saw this used copy of All the Little Live Things at Cottonwood Books, I had to make room on the already crowded bookshelves of the den and give it a new home.

"Once we found it and made it our refuge, we were as if in hibernation; exasperations, troubles with the neighbors, demands from outside, were no more than the flybuzzings that persuaded us our sleep was sweet."

Perhaps a reminder that our retirement move to Virginia shouldn't (and can't) be a retreat from the world?  Stegner's main characters Joe Allston and his wife Ruth have retired to the mountains of California seeking change and solitude.

The plot revolves around the Allston's relationship with neighbor Marian Catlin. She forces Joe to analyze his belief system and challenges him to love and lower his bristly wall of self defense. Not love in a physical sense; Joe views her as somewhat of a daughter.

Marian believes in the perfection of nature and thrills to life... "all the little live things". When Joe learns learns that Marian is both pregnant and dying of cancer her attitudes irk and frustrate him all the more.

Marian points out the beauty in life and Joe reflects back to her the ever present shadow of death.  She sees the seamless way everything works together to create a world where nothing is inherently "bad" while Joe sees evil and chaos lurking everywhere in their Eden.

The sanctity of the Allston's refuge is first challenged when college dropout Jim Peck begins camping on an isolated corner of the Allston's land.  Reminding them of their deceased son from whom they had been estranged, Peck develops a chaotic commune on their land and stretches their tolerance to the breaking point.

The ending isn't a happy one and Joe certainly doesn't become a convert to Marian's philosophy of life, but then there is Joe's reflection.....
"Would I wipe Marian Catlin out of my unperfected consciousness if I could?  Would I forgo the pleasure of her company to escape the bleakness of her loss?  Would I go back to my own formula which was twilight sleep, to evade the pain she brought with her?  Not for a moment.  ...... I shall be richer all my life for this sorrow."

Simply superb; what a writer.  I'm on the lookout for hardbound copies of the Stegner novels Angle of Repose and Big Rock Candy Mountain.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Frog (or Toad?) Love

So far the blog has been pretty tame.... posts about family, pets, books, the new house and the abysmal real estate market.  With this post, I may be dragging down my blog into the world of reptilian porn.

I've been reading other blogs that have some lovely bird and flower photographs .... scenes of beauty and real art.  (I think they know about fstops and aperture) I fear that my raunchy photo taken with the point and shoot may cause me to be scorned among my fellow bloggers.  

But tonight when I saw it in my iphoto files, I thought what the heck, the blog needs a little spicing up.....

So here's what I saw....  

But when you look a little closer, it's titled

 "Not in front of the kids you big lout!!"

What anyone who finds this post via google is actually looking for, I'm afraid to know!  

Friday, June 3, 2011

Rough Night Out

Two more pictures from the trip last week to Virginia.

Why Old Dogs Shouldn't Stay out Late at the Drive-In:  

Because at 9:45 AM they are still asleep in bed...... (keeping the owners of the bed from making it up!)

And when they do awaken they find themselves using somebody else's clothes for a blanket!

Mr. Biggs  15 years and 4 months old!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

A Visit to Hull's Drive-In

It's hot and dry here in LA.  The forecast for today is 101, so I'm holing up indoors with the air conditioning.  I'm still trying to catch up on email and computer "stuff," and other than moving the hose and sprinkler around, I'm not setting foot outdoors unless it's to float around in the pool!

Last Sunday after the "kids" had all left VA for three corners of the country, Joe and I went out on a little date. 

Yes, our new Virginia hometown has a drive-in movie!  

Hull's Drive-In first opened in 1950 and was purchased about 11 years ago by a grass-roots community group shortly after the long time owner of Hull's passed away.  Its success is proof that folks can work together to preserve something and not just shrug their shoulders and mourn its passing. 

Not only community owned but volunteer operated!  I look forward to being a Hull's Angel, as the volunteers are called, when we move up there full time.  I think I have the skill set needed to be an awesome sno-cone maker!

Before darkness falls there is music playing (oldies of course), kids tossing balls between the lanes of cars and people setting up all manner of ways to watch: blankets, chairs, pickup truck beds etc. 

Last summer on a visit to town, we were staying in Clark's off campus apartment when we went to Hull's for the first time.   We were driving the pickup truck and piled the bed full of Clark's futon pad and the cushions from his chairs.  This year we snuggled on the awesome "camp couch" and had cupholders!

Mr. Biggs loves that it's pet friendly at Hull's Drive In!  It was chilly enough to get cozy under the quilt near the end of the movie.  No hanky-panky going on though!  We behaved ourselves!  

True Grit was the first movie shown and we old folks didn't stay for the second feature.  My movie critic analysis is that the acting was better in this new version (sorry about that John Wayne and Kim Darby!) but the screenplay was superior in the old one.

The last part of the movie was in speed drive:  there's the bad guy they've been looking for, he's got Mattie, she shot him, she falls in the snake pit, Rooster is riding across the field, she's out of the snake pit, Rooster is carrying her for help,  she's an old woman.  I promise you this all happens within the span of about 5 minutes!!  

I'm grateful to the forward thinkers with a Can-Do attitude who spearheaded the movement to purchase the drive-in.   Such vision, but what a harebrained scheme it must have seemed at the time!  

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

House Progress (Week 3)

Birthday, engagement, graduation.... I'm sure that Clark is ready for the blog spotlight to move away from him for a while!

We've left Virginia and are here at the Louisiana house for a while.  Doesn't that sound "la-de-da"?  Having two houses?  Three if you count the rental!

The 950 mile drive between VA and LA is getting shorter and shorter!.... at least mentally.  Guess it's all in what you're used to and we've been doing it so much lately that it doesn't seem like much of a trip at all!

They poured the basement walls yesterday (Tuesday) out on the hill and will start taking down the forms tomorrow.  Unfortunately we were driving back to Louisiana, so we missed the excitement and the chance to take pictures. 

Here's what we were seeing before we left.  

Not much to look at when you first arrive except for dirt and rock everywhere.

I don't know how our neighbors can stand us!.... what a change from the beautiful green hillside that used to be there!

The forms come into sight and it begins to look larger as you get closer.....

And then from the back.... OH MY!!

So much for downsizing!