Thursday, October 17, 2013

Can a Puppy Be Organized?

Can a puppy be organized?  Of course not, you say.  It's a puppy!  And you'd be correct.  But what about his humans? 

Yes,they can, and they should be.  Why, you ask?  If you've ever brought a puppy home to a house that has adult dogs, you would understand.  Puppies can't just show up at your doorstep, and everything will be rosy, empty home or not. 

So when we decided to purchase a bloodhound puppy, we knew it would be a lot of work, both before he came home and afterward.  This wasn't our first puppy.  We already have three adult dogs, all of whom came to us as puppies.  Two grew up together (they were born in July and December of 2002) and one, born in January 2006, we introduced as a puppy to our then family of four adult dogs.  Two of those have since crossed the rainbow bridge.

We've had experience with dogs, both young and old.  So we know the basics.  We pulled out the dusty crate, grabbed the dog blankets, and found an old dog dish from a previous puppy.  We found an adorable bloodhound online in Louisiana.  Once we put a deposit down, we started looking at names.  Naming a dog is like naming a baby.  It has to be easy to say, not too many syllables, and easy to spell.  We like two-syllable names, because it sounds good when calling them in from the yard.  We also like names related to mythology.  So far, we have a Bera (Norse for spirited), Loki (a mischevious being) and Raven (a black lab mix.)  We scoured the books for an ideal name, but not many seemed right for a bloodhound or for yelling across the yard. 

So what did we end up with?  Belde.  It was against all our rules, but the perfect name.  It's an old Germanic Scots word for Bold.  A dear friend wrote a hound into her Tudor historical, but knew nothing about bloodhounds. So she interviewed me about our Marley (since passed).  Her dog was named Belde in the book.  She was sweet enough to mention Marley in the book's credits, so it seemed fitting that we name our new puppy Belde in memory of Marley. 

Name chosen, he was ready to come home!  He was supposed to fly in at eight weeks old.  So being born on June 27, he could fly out on August 22nd.  Simple enough.  We planned to take the day off work, if necessary, to drive to the airport and pick him up.  We waited and waited for a phone call with flight details, but it never came.  We learned a week later, that the sudden heat wave in Chicago prevented his flying in.  And it was supposed to continue for several more days.

Spontaneity is not my usual mode of action.  I'm an organizer, a planner!  What on earth made me suggest to my husband that we drive down to Louisiana to get Belde ourselves.  It was only a 13 1/2 hour drive, and the Labor Day weekend.  So we made the decision to take a road trip. 

It wasn't as easy as it sounds.  Having three dogs at home, we needed to see that they were cared for in our absence.  That should be easy since my younger daughter lives with us.  She'd be home, right?  Nope, she was going out of town on Saturday.  Back to waiting for a flight?  Thankfully, I have a lousy memory.  I forgot my older daughter was flying in from Buffalo on Friday night, and leaving early Sunday.  We'd be home just a few hours after she left.  The dogs would be safe.

Except we didn't plan on major thunderstorms blowing through Chicago on Friday, then heading east toward Buffalo - her spot of origin.  Her flight was delayed, then delayed again, then cancelled.  So was the next flight she was able to book.  Finally, all flights were cancelled for the night!  And we were already on our way to Louisiana by the time we knew this.  Those weren't the text messages we wanted to read hours from home and hours from the new puppy.

But luck seemed to be on our side for once.  My younger daughter, who was supposed to be out of town for the night, was coming home after her concert instead.  She would be there to feed the dogs and let them out.  We could relax, event though that we wouldn't see my older daughter before she had to fly out again very early Sunday - before we'd get home.

We put all that aside as we continued to drive.  Everything went well, until GPS and mapquest both took us off the interstate because the distance was shorter, even though the time wasn't.  We went through some pretty interesting neighborhoods - with doors locked! 

But we finally arrived at our destination.  We went into the house, where two puppies were running amok.  One was a Boston Terrier.  The other was much larger - a bloodhound.  As we watched the bloodhound get into all sorts of mischief, we realized he was ours!  It seemed we'd picked a lively one, even though he was yawning in his photo on the web site.

After signing paperwork and taking a tour of the yard to meet Belde's parents, we were back on the road.  Belde was a little scared of the cage at first.  But he settled down to sleep.  We drove, stopping every couple of hours along the way to let him out to do his duty and give him water.  He wasn't interested in food.  After we slept for a couple of hoursin a rest area , we were back on the road, finally pulling into the driveway about 8:00a.m. Sunday morning.

It was all unfamiliar territory to Belde.  He'd lived outside for his entire life.  Grass?  Stairs?  A doggy door?  Oh, but look at all those leaves I can eat!  And rocks!  What an adventure!

Then the fun came of introducing the dogs to each other.  We kept them all on leash that first day.  They were leary and curious at the same time.  Who was this intruder?  Who were these big dogs that looked nothing like mom and dad?  Why are they barking at me? 

Once inside, we kept him in his cage when the others were in the house.  We filled it with soft towels for sleeping and fuzzy toys for playing with and bones for chewing.  But we didn't want him to be in the cage all the time, so we brought a board in from the garage and put it up to block the opening into the living room where we spend most of our time at home.  At least he could get out of the cage more.  We eventually ordered a gate so he could see us, and we could see him.  It was also easier for us to swing open a door rather than step over a board. 

Add in visits to the vet, and visits to the pet store for puppy food and chew toys, it has been an experience.  A very pleasant one.  If we hadn't been prepared with his cage, puppy food, food dish, water dish, gates, leashes, and schedules, the experience may not have been as enjoyable. 

Training will be next, but that's a story for another blog...

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Cleaning out the Attic

It started out as an Energy Audit...

When we had our new furnace installed recently, our HVAC guy suggested we get an energy audit done.  Our house has extreme temperature differences on the upper and lower floors.  Part of this is because it is a raised ranch, and the lower level is half underground.  So the basement will always be cooler.  However, the difference was over 15 degrees.  While we tried to keep the upstairs comfortable at 75 degrees, it was a chilly 60 degrees in the basement, where some living areas are.  Imagine wrapping up in blankets and sweaters when it's in the 90s outside!

We arranged for the energy audit, which showed leaks around lighting fixtures, doorways, windows, outlets, and the attic access.  After seeing the results, it was suggested, among other things, to add extra insulation to the attic.  The insulation already there was 44 years old.  Needless to say, it has seen better days.

So we scheduled for the company to come out.  However, it wasn't as simple as it would seem.  Our house, being a raised ranch, has no storage to speak of.  There is a small walk-in closet in the back that leads to an even smaller room where the hot water heater is housed.  All of our holiday boxes are stored in our attic with many other boxes of random items.  We had to empty out everything!

So on a nice hot day in August, we pulled down all the Christmas boxes (about 40), the Halloween boxes, the Easter boxes, 15 boxes of my daughter's stuff she packed up from her bedroom, and some random boxes of our own.  We couldn't pile them in the house, because the energy people had to get to all the windows and outlets.  So some went into the family room downstairs, and the rest went into the garage.  Yes, my car is parked on the driveway right now. 

Our plan was to put the boxes back when they were done.  However, the installers had other plans.  The new insulation is much thicker and increased by 12 inches over the supports.  The plywood floors, therefore, are twelve inches higher than they used to be. Now consider the slope of the roof.  Make your floor 12 inches higher, and you lose all the space around the edges, and have limited space in the middle.  We could never stand in our attic, but now we can't even stoop.  We have to crawl. 

That said, what do we do with everything?  We're not sure yet.    Right now, we are going through some of the old cardboard boxes, getting rid of what we can, then packing everything into new plastic totes with locking lids.  We bought clear totes so even though we will label them, we can still see the contents. 

We threw away empty boxes from an old computer and monitor, bags of shredding we were going to use for packing (but we never sold the house), boxes of packing paper and bubble wrap that had silverfish living in them, and some tattered decorations.  My daughter started going through her boxes, and out of the six she has gone through, she has four full ones full of donations. 

We are making progress, however slowly.  (Add a new puppy and skunks to the list, and life has been hectic.)  Our goal is to find a home for everything before it gets cold.  I have to get my car back in the garage for the winter.  At least we are down to five boxes left from the living room project my husband started with his new television.  I will keep you posted!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Who Knew a New Television Would Be a Complicated Project?

So we decided to finally join the ranks of people who own flat-screen televisions.  We’d been putting it off for various reasons, except the one right in front of our faces - the entire house would be thrown into disarray. 

Why is that?  Because it wasn’t just about buying a television. 

Our old 29” tube television fit snugly into our entertainment center.  The wall unit was eleven feet long, seven feet tall and consisted of five separate pieces.  The center unit housed the television.  The other four units were a combination of open and closed shelving.  In all, there were 26 shelves loaded with photos, books, candles, magazines and knick-knacks. 

So when my husband decided on a 55” flat-screen television, I wasn’t thrilled at the idea.  Where would it go?  His answer was simply, “We’ll get rid of this wall unit and buy a new TV stand.”  Just like that. Which is what we did.

So one week before the new television was delivered, I taped up some boxes and started filling them with the contents of the wall unit.  As I emptied all the shelves, I went through the items.  Did we need it?  Did I still like it?  Was it timely?  I found some items to donate and others were trash.  Yet, I still filled 20 boxes.  And now, the boxes fill our spare bedroom

We took the old wall unit and television out to the garage.  (I made my husband park his car in the driveway for a week.  After all, he’s the one who wanted it, right?) 

When the new TV stand and television arrived in the middle of the Stanley Cup Semi-finals, he set it up.  All five shelves and two drawers of it.  It’s a great television, don’t get me wrong.  After all, who wouldn’t want to watch the Hawks and Bruins in the Stanley Cup finals in such clarity?  Patrick Sharp was life-size, for heaven’s sake!

And yet, where is everything going to go?  So far, I’ve organized my photo cabinets downstairs to make room for the photos.  We’re going to bring my lawyer’s bookcase into the bedroom to hold the books and some knick-knacks.  Baskets will hold magazines on the bottom shelf of the new stand.  Blankets will find a home on the rocking chair.  And eventually, dear hubby will put shelves on the empty wall space around the television for our framed photos and knick-knacks. 

Will all 20 boxes get emptied?  I hope so!  If not, we’ll donate what we don’t have room for.  After all, why keep something we can’t display and honor with the same respect and admiration we had for it when we purchased it? 

Happily, we found someone who wanted the wall unit.  He came and loaded it into his truck, along with the old television.  So hubby’s car is back in the garage.

It was a project, indeed!  Mostly on my part, even though I’m not the one who wanted that particular television.  However, if I have to be honest, I am looking forward to watching the 2013-14 Blackhawks season on it. 

Thursday, March 14, 2013


So we were finally ready to buy a new refrigerator.  The old one was still working, but something somewhere was leaking.  It wasn’t the ice-maker because the line had been disconnected.  However, every day there would be dripping from the back under the freezer.  We finally resorted to putting large plastic cups under the drips.  But they filled quickly, froze up, then overflowed, sending water everywhere else into the fridge.  And that froze on the shelves in the back, so bottles and cans froze to the shelves.  I’d have to completely empty and clean it every couple of months.

Of course, that kept my fridge clean and I never had rotten food hiding in corners.  Still, it was a hassle I didn’t need.  So finally, we had saved enough to buy a new fridge.  We didn’t just go out and buy one, though.  We looked at sales papers, looked at stores, read reviews, etc.  And the features in a fridge now!  I remember seeing one at one point that had a television in the door!

After looking at all the styles, we knew we wanted a bottom freezer.  We also liked the French doors on top.  So the next step was measuring our space.  The size we bought would be determined by the space, of course.  We took our measurements and headed for the store.

We decided to go to Abt Appliance.  We took other store’s ads with us, so we had a good idea of what a reasonable price would be.  As luck would have it, we decided to shop on Customer Appreciation Day.   It was purely coincidence, but the deals were great!  After looking around, reading measurements and opening many doors, we decided on the one we wanted. 

Then comes the hard part - paying for it.   Not having bought a refrigerator in at least 20 years, there was quite a sticker shock!  Especially when you start adding in the extended warranty, water line, etc.  The nice part?  They would take away the old one free of charge.  AND they generated a customer number for getting a rebate on our electric bill for buying an energy efficient model.  All we had to do was write the number on a piece of tape and put it on the old fridge.  We scheduled a delivery date and left the store - with a mattress purchase too!  One stop shopping!

But we still had to go home and take one more measurement.  While we knew it would fit into the space, we didn’t know if it would fit into the house!  We don’t have sliding doors to the house, so it had to go through the front door.  And up six stairs.  We knew the size of the fridge with and without the doors and handles.  We measured the inside of our front door, and knew it would fit if we took the front door off the house.  We called the store back and told them to go ahead with the order!

The weekend before delivery, we started cleaning out the fridge.  I tossed the old food, especially the old stuff at the back of the freezer, and emptied the frozen cups of water.  The day before delivery, I took out anything that didn’t need to stay cold, like cans of soda.  I removed all the magnets and papers from the fridge, sad that the new one was stainless steel.  I have so many cute magnets!  But it looked so neat and clean when the door was empty, it was sort of nice to see.  We then moved a lot of the food to the fridge in our garage. 

The morning of delivery, we moved the rest of the food to the freezer/fridge in the garage, and were able to leave some on the back porch because it was below freezing.  Nature’s refrigerator.  We mopped up the rest of the water and wiped out the bins.  Call us anal, but yes, we cleaned the fridge before sending it to the landfill.  We wrote the rebate number on duct tape and taped it to the fridge on two sides so it wouldn’t be missed. Then we took the front door off the hinges, and removed the railing and the baby gate we keep up - for the dogs.  Anything to make the job easier.

Then the new one arrived!  They had to take the doors off the refrigerator also to get it in the house.  Finally, after removing ceiling tiles in the basement and running lines, all was set!  We had a new fridge!  We didn’t fill it right away, though.  We put ice cube trays in the freezer to make sure it was getting cold.  Then after a few hours, started putting non-perishables back, and finally brought all the food back in.  We were told not to use the first few batches of ice, so we just dumped them as they formed.  By evening, we had everything back in the house in our shiny new fridge! 

Afterward, I realized what a process it is!  It’s not like buying a sweater that comes home and gets folded and set on a closet shelf.  It takes planning, organizing and scheduling.  We were fortunate that everything fell into place.  We could have measured incorrectly.  We could have ended up with a leaky water line.  There could have been a scratch on the door.  So many things could have gone wrong--some under our control, some not.  And we were especially lucky that the old one hadn’t completely died, possibly spoiling food.  But by planning ahead, the experience was a good one!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Time Management - Is it A Myth?

It seems appropriate that my first blog entry after many months away is on Time Management.  After all, the only reason I haven’t blogged in a while is because I haven’t had time.  It’s a very precious commodity these days.  As an example, my husband and I just put all our Christmas boxes back in the attic.  Yes, on February 23, the Christmas decorations are packed away. 

Just to be fair to myself, however, we left the decorations up longer than usual because my daughter couldn’t get home for the holidays until late January.  Then we had something going every weekend, whether it was out-of-town guests, work or family parties.  At least all the decorations were down.  It’s just the boxes that were sitting in the basement family room--a room we hardly use.  So it wasn’t like we saw them every day, or they were in the way.

But what is all this, except excuses?  And don’t we have one for just about anything that goes wrong, or doesn’t happen at all? 

As I look back, can I have put the boxes back in the attic?  Not by myself.  Many of them weigh 20-30 pounds, and we have to climb a ladder to get to the attic.  My husband can do it by himself.  I can’t.  Plus, he has a special way of stacking them so they all fit properly.  Can I have pushed him harder to get them put away?  Sure.  But after four back surgeries, two neck surgeries, and two shoulder surgeries, I don’t press him very much when it comes to physical activity around the house.  Especially with his job as a driver with a major package delivery company.  Every day at work is a challenge for him.  I can only imagine the pain he is in when he gets home.  His days off are a luxury.

So all this also made me wonder, is Time Management really a TIME issue?  Or is it an EXCUSE issue for some, or most, of us?  Do we not do things because we really don’t have time?  Or is it because we are averse to getting the task done?  Or because we decided to spend time with the family instead?  Or because that book looked a lot more inviting than the pile of laundry in the corner?  Or we love to procrastinate?

When all is said and done, everything seems to get accomplished, whether it’s writing a blog, cleaning the bathroom, or baking a batch of cookies for the holidays.  I may make myself crazy by leaving things to the last minute.  But at the end of the day, if I am truly honest with myself, the only one to blame is me.  I could delegate some tasks to other family members, say ‘no’ when asked to volunteer somewhere, or get up 30 minutes earlier each day to give myself time to exercise or send emails or pay bills. There are so many tasks that can be done in the space of a half hour. 

How honest are you with your time and schedule?  Are there instances where you could have called for an insurance quote, but chose to talk on the phone to a friend instead?