Category Archives: relationships

Moving Time

Due to being “let go” by my company 2 weeks before Christmas in 2023, I am currently financially “pinched” and this means a few things have to be sacrificed until I get my groove back.

One of these things is a self-hosted website. In the meantime, I will be here harmoniouscrow.com adding to the Gaming Adventure and ranting about whatever gets my goat. As they say. Come join me!

Time Flies And It Is Not Always Because It Is Fun

And The One Where We Set Out On A Gaming Adventure

I was astounded when I checked the date on my previous post! So much has happened, and, as usual, that’s my weak excuse for not writing sooner.

Let’s start with the bad news, or at least, the things that were not so fun.

First thing, a few months ago we gave the dogs a nice bath in our new elevated dog bath (it works SO well, and takes a huge strain off our backs and allows the dogs to lie down if they want to, without getting covered in grass/dirt) and I noticed a lump between the toes of Gina’s front left paw. It had not been there a couple of weeks earlier, I was reasonably sure of that, and it was pretty large. We took her to the vet and the lump was biopsied – mast cell tumor, grade 2. It was terrifying news… these are aggressive and often reappear in the same spot after they are removed. We were given some options – surgery to remove it, or very expensive chemotherapy that is no longer sold in the US, only in the UK, that we would have to import, may not work, and would cause massively nasty side effects. Gina already has delicate kidneys and liver, and has a very sensitive GI tract, and these were the main things affected by the therapy. On the surgery side, Gina is 13 years old now, and a Bernese (so very sensitive to anesthetic) and surgery was a frightening thought. We discussed it at length, with both the vet and each other, and we decided to go through with the surgery and hope for the best. Thankfully, our tough cookie came through with flying colours. There was also good news – the tumor was grade 2, not grade 3, and they found no evidence of metastasis or lymph node inclusion. These were massive wins. However, we now have to keep a VERY close eye on her paw and look for any signs of recurrence. I have also started researching natural/alternative options to chemotherapy to prevent any recurrence of this nasty lump.

The nasty tumor
Postop “monkey paw”

Other bad news were the struggles that my cousin has been going through with cancer. She is such a fighter, and she has been through so much… but the punches just keep coming. Every time something positive happens… something negative comes along and derails the hope… but she continues to fight, and her family (and mine!) continue to hope for the best. I love you, cuzz, and even though I am far away, I think of you often, and I wish I could do more.

Now, some good things.

Firstly, after a wait of over 10 months, my new passport finally arrived from back home. Thank you, Home Affairs, for allowing me to continue my dream of learning to fly! I also (Very recently!) made the final payments and filled in all the final document requirements with the TSA and FAA, coordinating with my flight school, and now I wait, again, to see if everything has been approved and I can resume my lessons. Unsure if I need to do another background check and fingerprints… but we will see. And if I have to, I am happy to do it! No excuses here!

We added 2 more birds to our Budgie Cohort – Gaius, and Aulus (Bros for life!). They are delightful, sassy little spitfires, and we love them dearly. There were some hierarchical battles a few months after we got them as they all sorted out the pecking order (literally!) and the babies grew older. Their personalities have really blossomed, and the flock is now wonderfully loud and obnoxiously cute. Brutus and Commodus are tentatively rekindling their OG friendship (before Gaius came along and Brutus lost himself a little bit, completely spurning Commodus in the process) and Gaius and Aulus are living up to their ancient Roman graffiti and becoming very close buddies!

From L to R – Commodus (our first birb child), Brutus (second and most birb-like birb child), Aulus (youngest and our 4th birb child), and Gaius (our chunky 3rd birb child).

After a terribly boring period in a culinary rut, we decided to try a meal kit service (and yes, we were incredibly wary after the Blue Apron kale saga) called Every Plate – it’s made by HelloFresh, but far more reasonably priced, with simpler, more accessible recipes, simple steps, and NO KALE! We have had some great times with these recipes so far – and we’ve even made a few of the recipes on our own on the side! Once you get the hang of it, you can easily figure out what the steps will be and prep becomes a breeze. We’ve also learned some handy tricks and taste combinations that we will definitely be using in the future. Before Every Plate, we were using a service called Butcher Box (disclaimer – that’s a referral link where you can get some money off your first box, as well as New York strip steaks free for a year, and I get a small bonus) where you pick some select cuts (all hormone free, pasture raised, humanely kept and slaughtered) from small farms (and they often use local farmers where possible, which makes it even better) for a set rate, and it gets shipped to your door. We loved the service, but I put it on pause while we try out Every Plate for a few months. We will definitely go back to it when we have enough recipes from Every Plate to allow for a nice variety of meals every week. Each week, EP has some NEW recipes, as well as customer favourites, and you pick the meals you want for the week.

It was also recommended I try a subscription box with Japanese snacks, which comes FROM Japan and contains items from local and small mom- & pop-owned bakers and confectioners. You get a little booklet in each box with information about each treat and who made it and where it comes from in Japan. Each box is also themed – sometimes the seasons, other times the festivals, etc. It’s fascinating and delicious stuff! It’s called “Bokksu” (literally, “box” in Japanese) and I encourage you to try it out! (That is linked to a referral for Bokksu where you get $15 off your first box, and I get $15 off my next box.)

Our first Bokksu – Sakura celebration

Right, and now the cryptic “Gaming Adventures” reference…

I looked at my game list in GOG Galaxy (Which has all my various gaming accounts/launchers linked in one place) and I saw that I have over 600 games (643 to be exact) and I have never played or INSTALLED about 90% of them! Virgin games, so to speak! I felt bad for these games… scrolling through them all… games ranging from old beloved games like Baldur’s Gate (1 and 2) and Age of Mythology or Dungeon Keeper (1 and 2!), to brand new games like Icarus and Microsoft Flight Sim 2020, and indie games like Among Trees and Ashwalkers, or the Bad Dream series, and Deliver Us the Moon. The list goes on…

So, I was thinking of starting a Gaming Adventure where I load up GOG and start from the top (alphabetically and alphanumerically) and install each game, on its own, and play it. I will ATTEMPT to finish each game before moving on, but this may not always be possible. For MMO/MMPORG games, I may start by creating a character and playing for a week, just to say I played it. Yes, there are a few MMO’s that I have not played, like Black Desert Online, and games like that. These can obviously not be “finished” really, and I don’t think trying to complete any “main quests” would be viable if I want to keep a semi-regular schedule and not get lost in the abyss of the game.

Additionally, I will keep a few games permanently installed such as Microsoft Flight Sim 2020, because it will now be an install of over 300 GB with all the updates and addons, and I don’t have time or energy to go through that again, or to set up my flight gear, plus, I need it for flight training. I will also keep ESO installed to play with my friends, as we play this quite regularly, as well as American Truck Sim, to play with my husband. I will also skip certain games as I have played them extensively already and need to keep ticking off the list – games like Icarus, for example. It will actually be quite exciting to reinstall Icarus later on after a bunch of new updates have come through. I may also skip Skyrim, as I have played a vast number of hours in that game. I will consider each game as it appears in the list and decide whether it will be installed and played, and for how long, or whether it will be skipped.

Wish me luck!

My first game, according to the GOG launcher, will be 35 MM – I briefly played the game a few years ago (2018!) but something else came along that required my attention, and I uninstalled it after only a few hours of gameplay.

I will try and remember to post each time I start a new game with a few details about the game. I may save these posts when I am finished playing, before I start another game next in the list. That way, I can do a little synopsis and write down my feelings/impressions of the game.

Birthdays and memorials

Yesterday was Gina’s 12th birthday, and tomorrow is Odin’s 8th or 9th birthday, so we decided to celebrate both at the same time yesterday. They both got a little cake with a candle, and lots of freshly grilled steak. They were super stoked. This morning I took Odin for a “birthday” 2-mile walk. He is a happy, tired little Boog.

We will celebrate Azzie’s 9th birthday in April, with more cake, ice cream, and steak!

In memory of our sweet Hazel, and also to commemorate Gina’s 12th birthday (a HUGE milestone for a Bernese Mountain Dog) we planted our live “Christmas” tree. We called him Pepe the Pinon Pine. Long may he thrive and provide shelter to birds and shade to the humans and cats.

Goodbye 2020, hello 2021

What have I been up to? Wow. So much. We can all agree that 2021 has been a hard, harsh year. Here’s hoping 2021 treats us all gently.

Gina turns 12 in February, Odin turns 8 or 9 in March, and Azzie turns 9 in April! *touch wood* They are all healthy and happy, and they will remain that way if I have any say in it. Gina only goes on short toddles down to the local park (barely half a mile) and Azzie joins Odin and I on our shorter walks. Odin and I are still trying to get out on long walks together about 3 or 4 times a week.

I am still working as a virtual medical scribe, but I changed companies a few months ago (the other company I worked for was bought out by a huge global conglomerate and they were making some rather dubious and unhelpful changes to our processes, so I decided to leave) and now working for a nice little company based in the US. I’ve risen quite quickly in the ranks – now mentoring 3 scribes on 3 different doctors, as well as performing QA work on notes from all the other scribes, and working as sole scribe for my beloved Dr. H – who FOLLOWED ME FROM THE OTHER COMPANY TO MY NEW COMPANY! Yes! FOLLOWED ME! He also brought the rest of the clinic with him! This put a lot of brownie points on my cards, so I was astounded and thrilled! The work is tiring, but I like to teach/help people. Still liking my work, too! I get to work from home in my pajamas and avoid all the silliness that goes on out in the world at the moment. The USA is screwed, really. But I am sure you have heard/read the news. I avoid news – especially mainstream media – and I am no longer on ANY social media platforms. I deleted my Instagram account a few days ago after reading/hearing about the new draconian Terms of Service which allows them free reign and access to your accounts, computer and life. I thought it was just the usual dramatic overreaction by people (people like to do that these days – have you noticed?) but I actually read them, and read some breakdowns of them by intelligent people, and, yeah, it’s unbelievable what they think they can get away with. So, sadly, I deleted my account (will only officially be gone in Feb, but it is no longer accessible) and now figuring out other ways to express myself, I guess.

My photography was limited to my phone anyway, with Instagram – and, while I got some beautiful shots and have good memories there that I am glad I caught, I really need to get back into my _real_ photography with Bertha (my D300) as best I can here in New Mexico. We have, as we always do wherever we live, created our “Bird Bar” in our backyard, and we now have hundreds of birds coming by daily to feast, and many different species, so I have started photographing them! We have some unique/rare birds coming by, including a Greater Roadrunner! She/he (you can’t tell, as the males and females look identical) has a crushed/crumpled left foot, and we don’t know where her/his mate is – we used to see the two of them together, so something bad must have happened, as they mate for life – so we do our best to make sure he/she has lots of food, water, and a very safe place to relax for a bit whenever he/she needs it. Our backyard is a bird sanctuary, basically! We have a bunch of “wonky” birds (no legs, weird beaks, missing eyes, broken/crushed feet, gigantic compared to their brethren, etc) in our Bird Bar, and we are rather proud of that! Speaking of birds, I rescued (yes, right out of a tree) a yellow and green Budgie a few weeks ago – Husband called him Commidus the Elusive (named after a famous/infamous Roman gladiator) as he was clearly a little survivor, living with the Finches and Sparrows for we don’t know how long. He was traumatized (not by us, but probably in his escape/abandonment) and he is slowly coming out of his shell. In order to help him learn how to Budgie (as he could only Sparrow or Finch!) we also got a little female Budgie who was all on her own at PetSmart, looking very miserable and sad. We called her Julia (the Roman version) aka Jules, and she has been instrumental in helping him become a happy, talkative, Budgie-like Budgie 🙂 They are loud and obnoxious and we love them.


Husband is busy getting his degree, and he is doing well! He starts his next series of courses on Monday, after a very short break for the holidays. 


Also, on the morning of 10/10/2020, I went across to the Big House (my mother-in-law’s place) to feed the feral cat colony, as I do every morning, and as I was about to leave, I saw 2 dogs hanging around. One was a golden coloured female Pitbull mix (looked like a Staffie more than the American Pitbull) and the other was a tiny, cream coloured Chihuahua male. The Pittie was clearly in very bad shape… and I burst into tears. I got them both some water in a big bowl and put it along the fence (it is still very warm in October, here) and backed off to my car. Both dogs came to the water (the female was struggling to walk) and drank the bowl almost dry. I didn’t know what to do – it was a Saturday, so nobody was around to watch them and no rescues/vets open) so I drove home… but I sobbed the whole way because of the way the female looked… my heart was utterly overwhelmed with pity and sadness for her, and anger at whoever had abandoned her. I got home… tried to explain to Husband what I had seen.. but I was sobbing so much he could barely understand me, but asked me if I wanted to go back and do something, and I nodded yes, yes, definitely yes. So we drove back and found the Pitbull lying at the gate… clearly in a great deal of pain, and looking like she wanted to give up. The little Chihuahua was close by, guarding her, yapping away. 

Very slowly, Husband went closer and closer to her, and eventually managed to touch her head and stroke her neck… and she initially looked very scared, but she then just relaxed, let out a big sigh, and let him stroke her head and what was left of her ears (they had been chopped off.. BADLY… as the idiots around here like to do with Pitbulls to make them look mean). We called around, mobile vets, rescues, etc… but nobody wanted to help. Thankfully, I had saved the number of Frank – a friend of my mother-in-law’s – who had helped get all the feral cat colony spayed and neutered many years ago, and had helped us with some other dogs we found (and found homes for or found the owners) – and we called him, desperate. He JUMPED to help us. He is an amazing man. We then found out he was a top man at the Humane Society in NM! We didn’t know that – he’s such a down to earth guy. He called his friend (also a top dog at HS) who was called the Dog Whisperer (and had dealt with many Pitbulls – as we had never dealt with them and we were a little nervous, if I’m honest) who came to help. He walked up to Hazel (as we later found out her name was) and she immediately just let him touch her… by that time we had gotten her and the Chihuahua into the nice cool, grassy yard, and they were lying under the trees in the shade, sleeping safely for the first time in a long time, it seemed. The little guy did not leave her side. We later called him Lambert, because he had little “lamby” ears and ended up being SO sweet and gentle. With Frank’s help we got Hazel into a kennel to get her to the emergency vet (the only ones willing to help us) and we drove her there, with Lambert. She had pyometra (her uterus was filled with pus and it was leaking into her body) from being over-bred. She had heartworms (badly – they had scarred her lungs already) and other tick-borne diseases like Lyme disease. She was in a very, very bad way. The vet said she was on death’s door, basically, and probably would have died if we hadn’t brought her in. Frank had discovered she had a microchip by that stage, and found out her name – Hazel – and that she was about 10.5 years old. She had clearly been dumped out in the rural areas and left to die, as when Frank found out the address of her “owners” – they were over 20 miles away… and there was no WAY Hazel could have walked that far in her condition. Not sure if the little guy was her friend and had been dumped too, or if he was just a little stray who found her and decided to protect her. Frank contacted them, and all their other numbers, but nobody responded. The vet also contacted them with the microchip data, and all the other numbers, and they never responded. And we were GLAD about that – because there was no WAY we would let them have her back. No way in hell. So, Hazel underwent emergency surgery for the pyometra and started on antibiotics, etc. She stayed at the vet overnight and we fetched our new dog – because we decided on the spot that we would be adopting her, no doubt about it – the next afternoon.

The vet said she was strong, and a real survivor, and she said that we would wait one month and check her again before deciding if we would proceed with heartworm treatment. Until that time, she needed to stay calm and relaxed and comfortable to prevent issues with the heartworms, and she was also recovering from surgery, and many infections and nasty bugs on top of that. We decided to keep her separate from our crazy 3, as they were not exactly conducive to “calm” – if you have ever met them, this would be totally apparent. We made her a cozy den at our old house in the nice big yard, with heaters and blankets and a big pink plush piggy toy to keep her company when we were not there. She had a nice big, green, grassy, shady yard to relax in, and she LOVED it. I found her many times sleeping on the grass under the tree while the weather was good. When it got colder (and man did it get cold fast) she happily chilled in her den and we often found her still asleep and relaxed and comfortable when we came over to feed her, give her her medications, and spend time with her. She perked up, got more life in her golden eyes, and more energy. We took her for little walks in the area (only a few minutes each time) and she loved that too. She was gentle, and funny, and so, so sweet. She definitely gave that horrible “pitbull” stereotype a run for its money. She was very interested in the cats, but not in an aggressive way – she probably could have learned to get along with them if she got the chance. We were never really sure how she would deal with other dogs, especially big dogs, as her only dog friend had been Lambert, and he was tiny. She did encounter our neighbour’s dog briefly, through the gate, but she did not growl, snarl, bark, or even get tense… she wagged her tail and perked her ear stubs up, and that was about it. 

So we had 2 good months with her, where she was so happy, and relatively healthy (vet wanted us to wait an additional month before starting the heartworm, and I am glad we did, as we got the extra time with her) and then we started the heartworm treatment. The vet warned us on multiple occasions that heartworm treatment was harsh, and horrible, and very dangerous. It’s like chemotherapy… there’s a fine line between killing the worms effectively, and not killing the dog, basically. She fought hard for 2 weeks. She tried her absolute best. Unfortunately, we lost her to the heartworms (After some horrible emergency visits to the vet with a bloated stomach, difficulty breathing, lethargy, etc) and the treatments. The worms won. (I am crying writing this, as it was so recent it still hurts like hell to think about it)

Thankfully, we were there when she went, peacefully, gently, assisted by our incredible vet, Dr. Anderson, on 12/28/2020. It was me, Husband, and my mother-in-law, and we told her we loved her, and we would see her on the other side one day. We later found out her birthday was 08/08/2010. Some interesting and significant numbers, I think. We try to find comfort in the fact we gave her a loving, caring home in her last days. 


Unfortunately, even though we would happily have offered Lambert a home, he escaped about 20 seconds after we got him home to the big yard (where Hazel would eventually live a few days later) and we tried to get him to come back to us, but he disappeared into thin air… we searched all over for him, but he was gone. We like to think he was her guardian angel, and when he knew she would be safe with us, he went on to help another dog in need. It’s the only thing that makes that horrible ache a little easier to deal with. We were so ready to give him a good life as well. According to the vet, he was about 6 months old, and in good health. 


Hazel was a special, special dog and we will miss her terribly. She made an impression on so many people, and so many people helped us with her care and sent love and good wishes for her – she touched many people in a deep way. 
And that’s about all I can manage to write right now, as I am crying again. 

I will be updating my site a lot more now, as I have no other means of contact with the world since deleting my Instagram.

All the things

It has been a _very_ long time since I last updated and I apologise profusely to the 3 people who read my blog. Thanks, by the way, for hanging on through my silence.

Quite honestly, the REASON I take so long to post is because so much happens between posts that I don’t know where to START! So, I wait and write a few things down and think, Oh, yes, I need to tell them about that!

And then, something else happens, and something else, and another thing…

Before long there are 20 things on my list of things I want to tell you about and I do not know where to start. Do I go with a timeline? Do I go with the biggest/most important news first? Do I tell you the little things and ease you into the big things?

*sigh*

I am going to attempt to give you an update that includes all the things I can remember I wanted to tell you. They will most likely not be in order, but as they come to me.

Let’s start with what happened while my husband was in Oregon, fighting the terrible wildfires. I sorted the yard out: pulled the weeds, raked up the rocks and glass and bottle tops and junk that the previous tenant left behind. (He liked to throw beer bottles around, for fun) I planted grass and nurtured it and watered it and talked to it and did my best to keep the weeds at bay while it grew.

Green

I had grass! It was beautiful and soft and green and I was super proud. Then the crazy wind storms came, and the monsoon rains (yes, monsoon rains in the desert) and the weeds and I fought a battle royale on a daily basis. We spent a lot of time inside.

Snoozing Odin, out of the wind and rain

After that, it got hot. Stupidly hot. I’m from Africa, we know hot… but this heat here in the New Mexico desert is diabolical. It was also humid for a few months, and the mosquitoes reigned supreme, despite my best efforts. I was COVERED in bites every single day even after dousing myself in mosquito repellent from the moment I woke. I’m allergic to mosquito bites so I now have many more nasty scars to add to my collection.

Mosquitoes… we hatess themsss

I did, however, get a SUPER tan! I also lost a lot of weight and not just because I shaved my 30-inch hair off – down to the scalp – but also because I was outside every day working in the yard and sweating profusely. I used the dog clippers on my head – it was that hot and I was that desperate.

Speaking of the dogs – I discovered a few new places to walk and we attempted to get into a routine of walking early in the mornings at least every second day. One place we found was NMSU, the agricultural section – lots of farms, cows, sheep and goats. The dogs love it. It’s also very shady and there are NO THORNS!

The other place was the Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park. It’s wild and strange but beautiful, nonetheless. We only walked the one path we found – about a 25 to 30-minute walk and just under a mile – as the other path was always under water after all the rain. We recently started walking the other path and it’s FAR longer (nearly 2 miles) and takes us almost an hour to walk. The dogs LOVE it too! We met our first rattlesnake last year and we politely and respectfully turned around and went back the way we came after I realised it wasn’t moving from its spot in the middle of the path. Just to be safe, we got the dogs vaccinated against rattlesnake venom. We also clipped the dogs earlier in the year before husband left for Oregon, just as it started getting hot. They all got puppy cuts – well, the girls did. Odin we just brushed well and I clipped down a little bit.

I applied all over town at every conceivable place I could think of. I got rejected for either NOT being a student or being overqualified until I tweaked my resume a bit and excluded all my I.T. work. I then worked, briefly, for a budget hotel chain. The pay was crap, the work was EXHAUSTING and seemingly pointless (to me) as you just repeated the same thing every day, but it was a job and I stuck with it as long as I could. I continued my search though, while I worked there. I got a job, eventually, at a father-and-son-owned health food store as a cashier. Through them, and the experience I gained with them, I also got a call back from Walmart and I began working there as well. I enjoyed the work at the small store, even if it was a bit boring sometimes – it was a nice quiet pace and I learned a great deal. Walmart was crazy – busy, loud, frenetic, but excellent money. Mind-numbing and exhausting at the same time.

I worked at both for a few months and then, on a whim – I really wanted to be back home with my dogs and my husband as I was working late night shifts and long hours and I missed them – I applied to a few positions back in the Medical Transcription field. I got two or three responses and wrote their entrance tests and aced all three (according to the recruiters who responded with a firm offer) but the first one offered freelance inconsistent work (I’ve been there, done that, and I didn’t want to be left in that predicament again) even if it was well-paid. The second, and the one I actually responded to with a view to beginning a career with them, offered shift work (afternoons/evenings) but also had many convoluted and specific tech requirements. On paper, my computer and I were a perfectly reasonable match, but the three weeks it took to try and get it working was ridiculous and I had to tell them thanks, but no thanks. I spent those weeks at home, unable to work, as they needed me “available” during office hours in case the tech people wanted to ask me to do something to tweak a setting, etc. I responded to the other offer I got from the third company and that’s who I am working for now! I went through their intense and rigorous training program and did well, and now I am waiting on the next step – being assigned my own doctor! While I wait, I am doing more training and BEING PAID FOR IT. It’s intense and detailed work and while I do enjoy the meticulous attention to detail needed, and the chance to work in the medical field again (I’ve always loved it!) it is mentally exhausting sometimes. Also, I’m a perfectionist, so I beat myself up over the slightest error even when my trainer tells me I’m doing great work. But I’m getting there and enjoying it, and just counting the days until payday.

My husband has finally transferred from Oregon to here, so we are now truly “settled” in one place for a while. Now, we just need to get all our “stuff” down here – from Oregon storage and also my stuff from back home that I’ve been trying to get here since I left in 2011!

Azzie had a strange issue a few months ago where she seemed to lose peripheral vision in her left eye and was bumping into things, standing on things, and falling off the pavement on the left (that’s the side she walks on) and leaning against walls. We had her checked out by two vets, and also took her to an eye specialist in El Paso, but they could find nothing physically wrong… they all suggested an MRI and other imaging, but told us that it would _start_ at around $5000. We were given a few other options, non surgical and not as expensive, but we were told they were just “shots in the dark” as none of the vets had any clue what was causing it and it was all pointing to a neurological issue. We were pretty stressed about it, and worried about our sweet girl, who was miserable, restless, and not her happy self at all. I spoke to my mum and she reminded me about our dogs back home who had had “mini strokes” at various points in their lives and that Azzie’s symptoms sounded very much like those. So, we told the vet we were going to give her time to recover on her own and see how it went. We gave it two weeks to see if there was ANY improvement. Thankfully, there was. I took them for a walk about 5 days after our visit to the specialist, and Azzie was much more responsive and not leaning on the lead like before. She also didn’t fall off the pavement nearly as much if I checked her, gently, with the lead as she started bumbling off to the left. Fast forward to today, and she’s almost 100% better. She is listening, paying attention when I speak to her (before she was totally ignoring me and would just lean as far over to the left as she could before my arm gave out – she’s a VERY strong dog) and hasn’t fallen off the pavement or walked into anything for a while now. Unfortunately, this means she is most likely prone to these strokes – mini or otherwise, they are still worrying – and we’ll have to keep a careful eye on her. I lost my Mishka to a final, massive stroke, but she was 17 years old when it happened. Azzie is only turning 7 next month. Speaking of birthdays! Gina turned 10 years old at the end of February! That’s a MASSIVE feat for our Bernese! We are so happy! And she’s doing well, with minimal joint issues. I started her on the Vet’s Best Aches and Pains and it (After a few days of an upset stomach, of course – she’s always been very sensitive to new stuff) really helped a great deal, especially in the mornings when she would normally be very stiff and creaking. Odin’s nominated birthday followed a day or so later, and he is probably 6 or 7 years old. I’m thinking 7, as he has quite a bit of grey around the muzzle now, compared to when I look back at the photos of him when he arrived in Germany, frail and timid.

Our neighbour, Hank, has a visitor for the summer, and she is lovely. A wild biker woman but kind and friendly, and she’s an animal lover, so she’s okay in our books. She has a gorgeous little terrier mix called Buddy, and he and Odin are quickly becoming friends. Gina, being Gina, is her usual silly, grumbly self, and Azzie is Azzie – confused and wanting to be friends one moment, and then ignoring him the next.

Husband and I have been working very hard on our yard and garden as well. Everything is neat and tidy and we’ve planted an olive tree – named Olly, of course – and we’ve made space for two fruit trees. We’re thinking a peach and a cherry tree. We’ve also potted some BEAUTIFUL flowering plants – a Carolina Jessamine (lovely yellow trumpet flowers), a Pink Jasmine (tiny white and pink flowers), and the Japanese Honeysuckle is starting to come back beautifully after the winter. We also planted flowers in big pots and seeded our herb garden with Thyme, Rosemary, Lavender, Sage, Sweet Basil, Echinacea, Arugula, Chives, and lots of Mint. We have a lovely English Rosemary plant which we transplanted from pot to garden and we also potted some shallots and garlic, just to see what happened. We’re so excited! We also put grass seed down all over the yard, including re-seeding the empty patches in the already existing grass (which is coming in nicely now) and then a layer of manure on top of it all. Things are looking green out there and we’re hoping the grass finally takes in all the places where it wasn’t before as well. There’s nothing quite like working with your hands in the earth, with living, growing things and watching the butterflies, bees, birds, and bugs come buzzing back into view. We’re trying to keep the birds well fed so that they don’t eat all the grass seeds before they can germinate!

I’m sure there’s more to add, but that’s all I can think of right now.

Hope you enjoyed the update and thanks for reading!

The Hermit

While the Hermit Tarot card does ring true when it comes to me, in this instance I mean the behaviour/archetype I slip into when my husband is away.

And yes, he is away once again. This time for quite a bit longer than the other times.

We’ll be fine, we’re just a little out of practice for these longer runs as it’s been almost 3 years since his last major deployment or mission.

But I know that in a few days I will slip into my Hermit skin and silence will settle. It’s a comfortable silence, and I am not someone who needs people, so it’s a welcome silence as well.

I really don’t mind being alone – I’m never lonely, as I have my beautiful dogs with me – and I even like my own company.

It’s time for me to work to make some money, do some odd jobs and potter around our little cottage and the yard – try and get the grass to grow – and even do some chores for my mother-in-law at the main house while she’s away as well. I also want to get into an exercise regime to get back into shape like I was in Germany. I know I’m not walking nearly as much with the dogs as I was, even in Georgia, so I know that’s why I’ve gained weight (it’s not a lot, but it’s way more than I am happy with) but there are other ways for me to get fit and the dogs don’t have to go with me every time I go out! I can run on my own – even if it’s early morning or late evening when it’s bearable outside.

We’re heading into New Mexico’s infamous summer, where roads melt and cars bake and everything dies in the scorching sun. Luckily, our little cottage is generally pretty cool, and we have a little air conditioner that seems to be handling the heat well so far. Early mornings are quite lovely here in the desert, and the dogs have the choice to be inside or outside and when it starts really getting hot around 11, they tend to prefer to be inside. They go back out in the evening when the temperature drops to a reasonable level for us all, and the air conditioner takes a break while the fans blow the cool air in from outside. Azzie likes to be outside, even when it’s very hot, so I have to watch her a bit. She is not used to this weather and doesn’t realise she’s cooking until I bring her inside and she feels how cool it is and she falls asleep in the kitchen on the cool tile or on her bed in the main room with the air conditioner.

She’s an odd duck, that one, but she’s mommy’s girl and she’s already shown me that she’s there for me – the moment my husband left I had a wave of heartache and sadness and I couldn’t fight the tears. It was just a moment and just a sob, and then I was done, but Azzie came barreling across the yard and shoved her head into my arms and wriggled and huffed until I stopped. Gina was too busy waiting at the gate and Odin was too busy barking at cats in the other yard.

PS: I updated The Vees Big Adventure page as well.

On the Road – Part One

Georgia

I’m finally settled in one place long enough to get an update in, with chores and errands and repairs done.

I’ll catch you up on the day we left Georgia, and the travel and driving and the places we’ve seen since then. I decided to break it up into sections as one post on the whole thing was not only making me feel very overwhelmed, I think it would have been too much writing in one go.

An unseasonably warm and humid October in Georgia had us parking Irma (as named after the Hurricane of epic proportions that we went to fetch her during, and the subsequent heartache and financial craziness she had us going through after that) outside our home on post during the day, and taking her back to the temporary storage at night. The first couple of days we ripped out, tore down, extracted, unscrewed, unbolted, removed and replaced a whole BUNCH of things from Irma’s interior and exterior.

We took stock of what remained, what we could upgrade, what we could live without and what we definitely needed to get.

 

The extra swivel chair by the door got removed; to be replaced with Odin and Gina’s favourite round, soft bed – Azzie sleeps just about anywhere, and we felt Odin would probably sleep on our bed most of the time anyway, but he does love that bed. (It has seen a lot of use since we started travelling, so we know it was a good decision to keep it)

The old microwave (“It totally works!” said the RV dealership… sure it does… but the door doesn’t open… so what’s the point, you conniving arsehats?) was removed, along with the various venting and stabilising bits. We would look for a replacement microwave at some point but could live without it at that point.

 

 

 

The built-in coffee maker was removed. RV dealer swore it worked, but by that stage, we believed nothing they had promised, and we didn’t need it anyway as the husband is a coffee purist and doesn’t drink “filter” coffee.

 

We also removed the hideous, frilly curtains and sidings, and the dangerous (for clumsy people such as myself) hooks and metal tie-backs. I created simple, black-out curtains from our old curtains from Germany, made ribbon tie-ups and velcro fastenings for easy cleaning and removal. It looked quite nice and pretty much matched the rest of the interior (pale blues, beige, and pinks – sounds worse than it is) and matched our aesthetic, so we were happy with them. Plus, they didn’t cost much to make; just some velcro, some hemming tape, and some ribbon. I only had time to replace the bedroom curtains at that stage – the long side windows came next, in New Mexico.

 

 

We went through all our clothes, our gear, the dogs’ gear, our kitchen, and bathroom stuff, and downsized dramatically. The rest got taken away by the military movers and put into storage for 3 months until we could get a storage place at our “end point’ of Oregon; donated what wasn’t going into storage. We tried to sell some larger items (the dining room table, mountain bike, etc) but I was a bit late putting up the adverts, unfortunately, so those items got packed up with the storage stuff.

 

We only got Irma back from the RV repair place in Augusta, in mid-October; because everything that the RV dealership said was working, wasn’t; plus there were so many OTHER issues that we had to get it all fixed to make her livable and up for long distance travel with us.

While Irma was being restored and repaired (which cost a hell of a lot of money) we got a small stash of “South African goodies” from the South African Store in Atlanta; we had a few final hikes in the forests as best we could with Azzie recovering from her ACL tear and getting used to her brace; we spent a lovely weekend early morning at a beautiful pond with our friend and her dogs. We had coffee with friends and a small farewell dinner with only a select chosen few of people that TJ knew from work. The few friends that I had made had left Georgia already, so it was just a gathering for him, really.

We basically spent the last few weeks of being in Georgia, trying to enjoy Georgia. It was warm, humid, and there were still loads of bugs and mozzies – very odd for that time of year – but we made the best of it.

The items we ordered from Amazon, to make our travels in the RV easier, started arriving so we had the fun of unpacking those and waiting for Irma to arrive to pack those away. We also tried out a few meals in the Instant Pot and we LOVED it! So quick and easy and the meat was tender and falling apart, no matter the type or whether it had been frozen or not.

Our housing final inspection day arrived and we were all sorted – house was spotless and Irma was packed in a flat parking lot just down the road so we could start the fridge up (we got so many warnings about operating the fridge on a flat surface that we took it very seriously) and get it cold enough to put our few items from the fridge and freezer in it. The fridge was one of the things fixed by the Augusta RV place, so we at least knew THAT worked.

The generator ran well, kept the AC nice and cool.

The dogs and I walked from the house to the RV; a final walk on the post and in Georgia.

It was bittersweet – I will miss the forests and trails and lakes and ponds, but I won’t miss the bugs and mozzies and humidity.

I let the dogs sniff and piddle wherever they wanted on the way to Irma and we climbed in and waited for husband to get done with the inspector at the house.

Around 13:30 he came back with the Jeep and we had a small, simple lunch and then we hitched up the Jeep for the first time (it was a learning experience, but we’d watched many videos so we had a good idea what to do) checked each other’s work and then got On The Road for real.

Odin was terrified of the movement and the generator noise, but he found his “safe place” in the passenger side footwell with me. He slept there for that first trip and has done so for all trips after that one.

 

The girls got up onto the folded down beds – we put both of them down for extra space and Gina liked the couch and Azzie liked the dinette bed. So we were all comfy and happy.

We waved a sad goodbye to Fort Gordon.

As Augusta, and Georgia, slowly slipped by, we remembered our time there; but we also looked ahead with nervous anticipation to the next chapter in our journey!

The Vees Big Adventure began on October 20th, 2017!

 

Difficult decisions, difficult times

The Vees Big Adventure is up in the air, free-falling, and we are devastated.

Due to circumstances beyond our control and unscrupulous RV dealers, the costs to repair the RV properly (despite us being told by the salesman AND the technician that it had a FULL check out and some “brand new” bits and pieces) are piling up at an alarming rate. The repairs could cost almost as much as the RV. The RV dealership basically told us to take a hike and read the documentation. Husband is reeling. We’re both reeling. Our savings is pretty much gone at this stage and we’re faced with some very difficult decisions.

I’m still struggling to find work, despite my certifications and practical experience. I’ve applied to more than 50 jobs and written at least 12 different entrance tests and been told: “we’ll get back to you.” The movers come to pack up our household goods tomorrow morning and remove it all the next day. We have to vacate the house within the week after that. Dogs still have to go to the vet for their annual checkups and vaccinations (always an expensive visit for all three). We still have to buy some things we really NEED for the RV in order for us to live in it and WORK in it, and these are NOT cheap.

We have nowhere to stay, no income, and no means of transporting the dogs and us across the country. The Jeep was going to be towed behind the RV because it still needs some work and we were going to do that in New Mexico, before heading to Oregon – we don’t know if it would make the trip being driven.

Husband has crunched numbers and no matter how he slices it we come out of it incredibly badly. Our hearts are broken.

This was going to be our big adventure – everything seemed so bright, so inviting, so promising. Husband could finally work on himself, instead of being at the whim of the military; I was going to finally be the breadwinner for a while and take some weight off his shoulders – I was looking FORWARD to it!

Everything just feels so soiled and broken thanks to these dishonest asshats at the dealership. Our dreams are crushed. There’s no more excitement, only a vague desperation to everything we now decide.

I take people at face value, and I’m the one who dealt with them right up until the day we drove the 4.5 hours to go fetch our Brave. We were SO excited. I give people the benefit of the doubt, always, and that’s my downfall, apparently. I treat people honestly, and I’m clearly under the misguided assumption that people would do the same for me. I am so wrong. I will never again trust anyone who has any kind of sway in my life when it comes to these kinds of things. My heart is crushed. I am so disappointed it makes my throat ache. I feel so responsible for the whole mess, which makes me feel quite sick.

I’m also angry. Seething, fuming, red-eyed, silent raging angry. (Unfortunately, when I get really angry I also tend to cry, which makes people take me less seriously and think I’m weak and pathetic. It’s infuriating.)

We have to get the RV repaired either way – whether we decide to try living in it and traveling up to Oregon and even if we want to sell it. So we’re screwed either way.

I’ve never been in such a hole of despair before. I’ve had moments close to it, but nothing like this where there’s just NO decision that leads to some sort of head-above-water for us both.

 

UNIVERSE, I NEED TO GET SOME WORK!

I don’t have to earn much for us to get by, but I have to get SOMETHING!

*Shakes fist*

 

*deep breath*

 

So, that’s our unfortunate tale – not even on the road yet and our adventure has hit major bumps and our lust for adventure is severely tarnished.

 

 

Endings and New Beginnings

Finally, I can relax.

Over the last couple of days, I wrote my final exams for my medical course… it is finally at an end. It was a long, difficult, brain intensive course and I thoroughly enjoyed MOST of it. It had a few moments of boredom (if I had to type out another report about someone’s diarrhea….) and a few moments where I had no idea what I was doing… but the ending was clear, and I studied hard, and I now await the grading process completion.

I am trying not to think about it, trying not to obsess and fret about it – there is nothing I can do to change things now – and I am trying to enjoy the new (or back to the) freedom of my days! Only been one day, but man oh man I’ve accomplished a lot! All these little things I couldn’t get done because I had no time during the day to do anything but coursework and module tests and listen to reports and edit, edit, edit.

I’m not going to complain about it though – it was an experience and another part of the story of my life. I learned loads, and I have brand new shiny skills that I am quite keen to use.

I just hope the exams went as well as I FEEL they did! Hah!

 

Another ending that has occurred is that my stint as a Chloe&Isabel merchandiser has come to an end. Unfortunately, due to lack of sales for over 6 months, the company “lets you go” as a merchandiser. I tried my best, but I am not a networker and my efforts at selling online (Despite my best efforts and more money spent) did not pan out as well as I had hoped. I got support from only a small number of people, and I am grateful to them for it. Perhaps, when I am more stuck in to my work as a transcriptionist/editor, I can spend the money on marketing and give it another shot. Right now though, it’s just one more thing off my list. Sad, but it happens. Another thing I failed at. Yay, me.

 

The countdown is beginning for the “We’re getting out!” thing. It’s a bit surreal still. I am sure it will become more real when we start sorting out the movers and cleaning the house for the inspection, and clearing his unit and things like that. What will make it serious will be when we decide on when we will be going, where we will be living, and what we will be doing when we get there.

We have options, we have ideas. We just have to narrow it down and make a good decision or two. It’s scary. We both feel a bit overwhelmed, but we will get through it together as we always do. The dogs are with us too! They are our anchors and one of the main factors in our decision-making process!

 

As I knew I would, I am trying to remain detached from people. I don’t want to make more friends-with-dogs and then have to leave them again in a few months time. My heart is still sore from saying goodbye to our little foxy friend and his mom.

I have met a few cool people, but I am keeping it to “doggy friends” and that’s it.

We met a proper Greyhound a few mornings ago! He (his name was Third!) and Odin actually got on STRAIGHT AWAY! It was awesome! He has all these mannerisms that Odin has too – I thought they were “Stray dog” things, but apparently they are Greyhound things! His mom, Sara, and I had a nice chat about their funny characters. She said she could see the Greyhound in Odin, and then she saw him poop in a bush and she said, “Yup, that’s a Greyhound thing!” We laughed.

We have also met up with a lovely young Husky called Apollo a few times now, in the cooler evenings, and he and Odin (and even Azzie and Gina) get along really well, surprisingly!

Georgia is rolling out her summer carpets and it’s been hot, humid, rainy, hot, humid, cool, rainy, VERY hot, VERY humid, and back to just plain hot again.

We had a nice cool evening a few nights ago, and a cool morning followed – this was after a massive storm. Azzie did so well, despite the thunder and lightning. No tornado watches for that one, thankfully.

 

The Cape (back home) has been in the grips of a terrible drought – the worst they’ve had in 100 years, they say – and then over the last few days (Tuesday to Thursday) there was a HECTIC storm with high seas and LOTS of rain, and now they are expecting snow as well. Hoping that will fill the dams a bit, as they were so low they were in the single digit percentages.

Unfortunately, there’s also been a terrible wild fire in one of the most beautiful places: Knysna. Homes destroyed, huges swaths of forest decimated. Utterly terrible.

Someone probably set it, as there have been a rash of fires in the area and further down in Cape Town and surrounds as well.

I don’t understand the mentality of someone who could do that – they must be deranged.

 

Chaos. Endings. Beginnings.

The world turns on.

 

To paraphrase Jane Goodall, “Mother Nature can save herself, she just needs us to give her a chance.”

 

I think She is angry and I cannot blame her.

 

 

Time to say goodbye

Living the military life can be both incredibly awesome, and totally miserable.

You get to live in places all over the world, on the military’s dime, and you get to experience things you’d never normally experience thanks to this.

The flip side of this travel collage is that you make friends, and you then get to say goodbye. Either you are leaving, or they are leaving, and if you happen to meet them at the end of your run in a place, or at the end of theirs, your time is even shorter. For most this is not an issue, but for people like me (and like the friends I have made – mostly foreigners like me, let me add – but not all) who find it hard to open up to people in the first place, having to speed up the “making friends” process can be horribly uncomfortable. Because of this, I don’t make friends. I actually try and make a point of not interacting too much with people because it takes me so long to trust and to find common ground.

However, I also try very hard to make “doggy friends” so that my dogs don’t feel alienated and “left out” when we move to a new place. Most of these “doggy friends” stay just that: people we meet at the dog park, or occasionally see out walking and join on a loop of the neighbourhood, but then one or two come along where our dogs just click, and we just click, and that’s it for my hermit mentality.

Now, through experience in this life, when it is time to say goodbye I tend to find myself feeling numb, aloof, and detached.

Saying goodbye to my friend Stephanie and her dog Frost, (and her husband Mike as well – though I was closer to Stephanie because of all the time we spent together daily with our dogs) today was difficult. I could feel the walls coming up already as she walked back to her car – “Don’t look back!” I said, because I knew if she did I would probably cry – and my heart turning in on itself, as per usual.  I will be very sad, believe me, but after a few days I will move on with my daily life, back to my hermit ways. Back to weeks of silence, except for enlightening conversations with my dogs.  I’ve done this enough times now to know that while it hurts right now, it will ease and it’s not like this time I’m going to another country – we can still be in touch!

But she and Frost were the reason we got going in the mornings: our walks were important. She also kept us on a routine in the evenings – we had to walk, or Frost would get up to mischief all night!

 

What will kick me in the soft bits later is when we go for our evening romp and stroll to and from the dog park, and the dogs wait impatiently at the fence for Frost and Stephanie to arrive… and they won’t be joining us ever again. That will hurt. My dogs are my children, and knowing they are confused and missing their buddy, that will hurt.

I know all the dogs knew there was something going on today (and for the last week, really, with the coming and going of Stephanie and Frost, and me as well) as Odin was very clingy with me, and Azzie wouldn’t leave Stephanie alone when she came to drop our vacuum cleaner off.

They will feel it when we go out, just the 4 of us, on our walks in the forest, or through the back streets of the other ‘hoods. And no more ‘hood walks, because we no longer have our body guards with us – Stephanie and Frost made us feel safer, even if it was just for the most part positive thinking, rather than practicality.

But, we got our day at the beach,

our walks in the sun, in the rain, in the wind, in the forest,

on the streets with our friends. These memories will stick with us always.

Safe travels, my friends.

 

Welcome, officially, to the military life.

Hello!

And now, time to say goodbye.