Tuesday, January 24, 2017

How to Buy Plants

Seed catalogues flooded my mailbox at the beginning of the month. There is one, from a company in Maine, which comes in the mass of mail right after Thanksgiving. I have never ordered from them and, because it comes so early, I'm not inclined to consider what I might be planting a full 6 months in the future. I have my favorite companies; Jung Seed, Park Seed and Select Seeds. I received a new catalogue this year, something from a nursery which specializes in prairie plants, which looks very intriguing. Other than these four, everything else has been thumbed through and discarded. You find companies you like and you stick with them.

The same goes for nurseries. I go to Planter's Palette. I've been going here since the place opened and have watched them grow, specialize, diversify. I know, if I have an issue, I can go to them for advice. They told me what I needed to put in the raised bed to get good plants. The guy I spoke with also said, "Don't buy our top soil. It's overpriced. Go to Wal*Mart and get some of theirs. But, you'll need to amend that with our mushroom compost; one bag of compost to one bag of top soil. Next year, mix into the box more compost. The year after that, add top soil. Keep doing this and anything you plant in the box will thrive." I appreciate that kind of honesty. I did that and I think it's one reason the sunflowers in the box were gorgeous.

I want to make the north side of the house, now that all the trash stuff has been removed, a bit more exciting. It's just the bare wall, foundation and the two pine trees which had their dead branches removed with the clearing of the brush. I thought adding a ground cover and filling the area with ferns and hostas would be a cool idea. Unfortunately, the cost of ferns and hostas means this has to be a long term project, but I could start with a couple.

Well, what to start with. Planter's has an abundance, almost mind boggling, number of types of ferns and hostas. Big, little, with color, straight green, you name it. I was prepared to spend an hour wandering around the tables, looking at the varieties, reading about them, pondering, looking at what I was going to buy and deciding how much I could afford. It took me 15 minutes.

This hosta is called "Mouse Ears". You can see it, right? Here's the fern.

It's called "Godzilla".

Yes, while I was prepared to do some research and ask questions, I picked a hosta and a fern solely because they had cool names.

The ground on the north side of the house is hard and compacted. I couldn't get the holes dug as deeply as I wanted to get these planted. I also bought some pachysandra for ground cover. I watered every other day and then we got some good soaking rains so I didn't check up on the plants for about a month. When I came around the side of the house, they had been eaten down to an inch above the soil line. In October, however, the fern and the hosta had put out new bracts, which was encouraging.

Over the weekend, when I rehung the bird feeder, they were nowhere to be seen, but I think they die back. My neighbor to the south has several large cinnamon ferns and those die away completely with the first hard frost. The pachysandra was still there.

I did think that perhaps I need a raised bed on that side of the house. The creeping Charlie has taken over where I had scattered grass seed. I probably need to cover the ground with landscape fabric and let the sun's heat kill the grass and weeds under it. It's an old method of killing weeds in the soil. If I cover the creeping Charlie, that should, in theory, kill that patch and I could start anew with grass. I really wanted to put poppies on the north side of the downspout. I forgot to buy them last year. I love the look of poppies and used to have a couple plants in the front.

There will be some landscaping changes this year. I'm not retiring and moving away, yet, so I want the lawn to look better than it has in years. I was quite neglectful.

Beverage:  English Breakfast Tea


Could I Sustain This Idea?

My news feed contains the weird and the wacky, the curious and the odd, the informational and the intriguing. An article came through from a website called Atlas Obscura. It was about notebooks.

To summarize, (I should note, if you follow the link, this is the image on the page.) people, from the time of writing, kept notebooks. Within these pages, all manner of ephemera was detailed; from the comings and goings of ships, to  quotes found in books, to ideas, to mementos of events attended. Each of these is a record of a person's day; a person's life. Scholars look back on these books with great zeal because they help flesh out life in a long forgotten time. In combining these notebooks with official documents, a more complete portrait of an era can be created.

The author likened these notebooks to our collective obsession with chronicling our lives on Facebook, Snapchat, Pinterest and blogging. The minutiae of life we post with enthusiasm. I get the feeling these books weren't for public consumption, but rather to be referred back to when the authors had one of those, "Now what was I thinking? What was that idea?" moments. That happens so much more than we'd like to admit.

I like buying journals. I had, at one point, an affinity for writing things down and I have a drawer containing 3-4 empty journals, just waiting for me to crack their pages. I have this blog which could be the digital form of the zibaldone mentioned in the article. It's got me to thinking. I bought some colored gel pens because I like writing letters in different colors other than black or blue. What if I turned that like onto the pages of a journal? Would I keep it up or is this another idea to be dumped into the heap of ideas which never see fruition? Maintaining my blog could be enough for me, but I do love scribbling on paper. I'll have to think on this, but the whole concept is fascinating.

Beverage:  English Breakfast Tea


Monday, January 23, 2017

Neighborhood Cats

Last spring, we had a large inspection job in the Lincoln Park area of Chicago. I didn't do as many of those inspections as others did, but I took my turn. On one day, I went to my first appointment and there was this cat. He (I checked) was a friendly sort, wanting ear and chin scratches.

I noticed, as I was loving up this guy, there was, to the left, food and water left outside. Now, I don't approve of family cats going out without supervision or being allowed to roam. There was a hefty black, long-haired cat in my yard yesterday and I dashed to the bedroom to make sure Pilchard didn't accidentally get out. But this cat strolled down the drive, looked both ways before crossing the street and disappeared behind the house of the people kitty-corner from me. He did not look like a stray, but it pains me to see a cat wandering about at all. This guy above obviously loved people and people loved him. When I went to take his photo, he hammed that up, too.

I had to continue on to the inspection which was 2 doors down from where he was. He looked at me as if to say, "Hey! You! You're not done petting me!" He followed after me and sat at the junction of the sidewalk and front walk looking at me as I walked up the steps. When the homeowner answered the door, she laughed and said, "I see you've met 'Charlie'. He's one of our neighborhood cats and is probably the friendliest."

Neighborhood Cats. I have heard about these. Where there is a rodent problem, a feral community is established to control it. The neighborhood agrees to feed and house the cats in exchange for killing mice and rats. They also get a reduced rate at a nearby vet for shots and spaying and other veterinary needs.

What was really ironic was two weeks before this inspection, I had listened to an NPR broadcast about these same cats. I thought, "That is really cool. It works for the cats. It works for the neighborhood." I drive into Chicago so much, I can lose track of exactly which neighborhood I am in. When this lady said Charlie was a neighborhood cat, all things clicked. I asked where the colony was. She didn't know. She had the most amazingly BIG dog so cats didn't come in her small back yard. She thought it was up the street a bit. "There's a wonderful woman who has sort of taken the colony as her own so they might live up there. I know she had those shelters in her back yard."

Charlie wasn't waiting for me when I came out the side of the back yard, but as I worked my way from back to front, he must have heard me because he came trotting over and sat on the sidewalk waiting for me to finish the alley side of the house. It seems he had learned the alley wasn't a good place for cats. When I finished, I had a 30 minute wait for my next appointment, which was a block away. He jumped up on the porch where I'd met him and looked at me. Well, I can't not scratch. After about 10 minutes, a guy came out of his house. This was a collection of four townhomes to which my inspection had been attached. Looking at the rear of the home, it appears the townhomes had, originally, been an apartment building which had been converted. He looked at me, looked at Charlie and burst out laughing. "I see you've met Charlie. He's a lover, he is. He snookers everyone in the neighborhood for scratches. Come on up here and sit down. He'll jump in your lap. Just don't pick him up. He doesn't like that." So, I went up on this guy's section of the porch, sat down in this small iron settee he had and sure enough, Charlie hopped up into my lap. I sat there for a good 15 minutes until I really had to go. Although the others in the office did inspections in the area, no one but me saw Charlie. I wonder how he's doing.

This is such a mutually beneficial program for cats. I know, in some areas, cats are taken to farms to help with rodent populations. The farm agrees to provide food, water and a warm area of the barn. The farmer gets reduced vet bills or the organization which placed the cats assumes vet bills for a time, to get the colony established. All cats are spayed and neutered so there are no kittens.

Yes, I was yelled at when I got home, but I'll take that when I see outdoor cats being loved and cared for.

Beverage;  Water


Ahhh, the Reading Life

We're trained to be at jobs early. We need to wait for our clients. Our clients should never wait for us. And, when we have a bevy of inspections to do, we try to stack them together with a few minutes between them, to maximize the day. But, that doesn't always happen due to people's schedules. In both of these cases; you find that it doesn't take as long to get to a job as you planned or you have time in between inspections; there is "dead" time to fill. I always carry something to read with me. It can be my latest book or one of the magazines off the stack, but there is always something to read.

In October, when we had the large number of inspections on one project, I managed to get through a book and a half, just in down time. Since I made most of the appointments and was doing most of the inspection work, I built lunch into my schedule. There was a Subway adjacent to the job site and I spent many lunches in a corner, reading the latest book from the stash. I'm still working through Terry Pratchett's Discworld series. I only got half-way through the chronological order of books so I have the rest to read this year. I love what is called the mass-market paperback size. It fits in camera bags.

On one day, I found myself waiting on a supervisor to let me into the next set of buildings to inspect. North Park University has a lovely area right in front of their main administrative building.

There are benches around the area just inviting you to sit down and relax. The gentleman told me he was going to be about 30 minutes late and apologized profusely. "Not a problem," I said. "I can sit here and wait. The benches are comfortable."

I don't remember which book this was, but it was the next one in order. I think I got close to 30 pages into the book before he was able to come get me for the next buildings.

Getting lost in a good book can detach you from reality. I know this all too well. I've picked up the latest read and thought, "I have an hour. I'll just read the next 50 pages or so." The next thing I know, it's 3 hours later, I haven't eaten and the book is 3/4th finished. If you're not interrupted by anything, time evaporates into the pages. I love sitting outside and reading. Of course, there's nothing quite like having Pilchard in my lap when I'm reading, but the smell of fresh air and sunshine seems to make the novel's characters more alive. This day was overcast and devolved into heavy rain, but just being outside, in an inviting place for reading, lifted the mood of the whole day.

If I had money, I'd have an enclosed porch added to the house, where I could open floor to ceiling windows and sit in pools of sunshine and read. Of course, if I had the money, one of the first things would be to add a library. Mmmmmm...

Beverage:  Dunkin Donuts tea


Things I See

During last October's bevy of inspections, one of the places I inspected was music practice space. It was also space for theatre and concerts. I was on the second floor where there were two instructor offices and two storage rooms. I opened the door to storage room #1 and saw this.

Now, I wonder, does this represent a decapitation?

Beverage:  LaCroix Berry Seltzer


Sunday, January 22, 2017

Yes, please

58 and partly cloudy, on January 21st? What shall I do? I think I shall take some time for me and sit on the deck with my latest cross-stitch project.

Yes, the kids came outside for a bit. Hamlet still doesn't know to stay on the deck. It's going to take a lot of, "Deck! Now!" and sticking him in the bedroom for 20 minutes to get the point across that we do not leave the deck.

I put up the bird feeders. The picture window is a good place.

I'm going to try moving it to the right on the window which should make it harder for squirrels to jump into.

I don't own a step ladder so I had to bring the full ladder to the front to mount this. I won't fill it completely. Let's see if this works. Now to put up the north window feeder.

This one had been hanging very tight to the glass so, obviously, the squirrels knocked it down. It took a bit to find all the suction cups in the winter debris. I washed the thing out and repositioned it.

This is more off to the right than it had been before. I think it might have been too close to the pine tree. We'll see how long it takes them to find it.

When I came in, after being outside for a couple of hours, stitching, this was the living room window.

I'm fairly certain this wasn't squirrels.

As much as I like this concept, I don't think this feeder is working anymore. I thought the suction cups had a good seal, but I'm not convinced they do. I've had this feeder for a long time. I think I should just add it to the give away bag and get a new one for this area. Maybe a pole with a hanging feeder would be better. I have plans for this flower bed. A pole would work better.

The temperatures go down from here to the next weekend when we're back to what would be considered 'normal' for us. I enjoyed my day out and so did the kids.

Beverage:  La Croix Berry Seltzer


How Was Your Summer, Part 7

Mija and Pilchard were very unhappy through August and into September, as Hamlet learned the house. I've talked about how I know when I'm being "yelled at". The tone of the meow changes. I heard that alot.

The three of us were not prepared for a kitten's energy. He ran everywhere. He pounced. He jumped. He attacked. I felt, on some days, that all I did was break up fights. Pilchard, especially, was not happy.

I spent a lot of time saying, "Hamlet! No!" Sometimes I wonder if he thinks that's his full name. He took over Mija's spot in the recliner...

...which angered her to the point that she followed me around one day, for a full hour, meowing angrily. I sometimes felt I wasn't giving the girls enough attention. It's hard to spread myself equally when I see a belly just ripe for rubbing.

We had an issue with sneezing at the beginning of fall. The girls didn't catch anything so we considered he had some kind of allergic reaction to something.

He learned, by the end of September, what time I came home and I would see him in the window of the office, waiting.

Or he'd be by the back door.

This was very poignant for me because Rascal, who looks a lot like Hamlet, used to do this, too. Having been outside, he tends to try to sneak out, but he knows his name and he goes inside after my getting really mad at him for leaving the deck.

He follows me downstairs when I do the laundry, but when I say, "Hamlet, upstairs," he goes. He discovered the laundry chute and that's the best thing in the world. He goes down the chute and onto the top of the furnace where it's warm. He follows me into the bathroom and will come running from anywhere in the house if he hears me go into the bathroom. He likes to sit on the edge of the tub when I shower which can result, as it did yesterday, in him falling into the tub during the shower. I had to get another toothbrush because he chewed on the one in the holder. That's now his and I keep mine in the medicine chest.

Any food, ANY food, I have, he needs to see, smell, taste, touch.

I was worried because I caught him lapping down some of my room temperature tea. The vet said that's okay. He's also stuck his nose in my Godiva liqueur-laced hot cocoa, which is less good than tea. He doesn't get that cats don't eat a lot of things people do. If I'm eating it, kitten needs to investigate.

Things have slowly, slowly, settled down. During football season, when I'm streaming games on the computer or watching them on TV, he learned that mom gets excited and the best place was not the living room. It was really quiet one afternoon so I went into the bedroom at half-time and found this.

I was shocked as the girls appeared to not want anything to do with Hamlet. Two weeks later, I caught them doing the same thing. It's not all the time and usually when there are clean clothes, but this is still done.

And we all co-existed when we were all outside on the deck in those last warm days of fall.

He sleeps with me, usually next to my legs. Sometimes, he will climb on me, lie down and start purring. That lasts for about 20 minutes and he wanders away. He will also lick my chin which isn't all that appreciated at 2:30 in the morning.

We have made our peace. He recognizes Pilchard is top cat. He has a tendency to jump Mija, something I am trying very hard to break him of. I have caught both girls chasing him, Pilchard moreso than Mija. We've reached the point where he will see Pilchard in the hall and I'll hear that little trill cats make to communicate with each other. He'll lie down and the two will wrestle.

It's been trying. There is no question about that. I was unprepared for kitten energy. His nickname is "Kitten Britches" or "Britches" for short, but mostly I use "Hamlet" as I don't want him confused. My house looks like a pet store's toy department exploded. He started to bring balls back when I tossed them, but he hasn't in some time. I guess I need to work with him. They all did well when I went to Virginia in November. The guy I hired said they all came out to see him when he came to feed them. Hamlet is into big cat food now. I have to feed him in the bedroom because he will shove the girls off their dishes. I'm hoping he'll grow out of that.

I know I did right by this guy. For all the "Hamlet! No!", the boops on the nose, the chasing, the growling, the extra expense for food and vet bills, my life is much more with him in it. Thanks go to Becky for recognizing a plaintive meow and rescuing him. When he wants to snuggle, which the girls have never wanted to do, any and all stress I could have melts.

He's something of a celebrity within my World of Warcraft guild, too. "ARG! Life with kitten britches!" "What did he do now?" How could anyone resist that face? I sure couldn't.

Beverage:  Water


Saturday, January 21, 2017

How Was Your Summer, Part 6

I might have had a lot on my mind at the end of June, beginning of July. But helping Becky find a forever home for the waif in the bathroom was never far away. I posted and reposted the photos. I sent inquiries to no-kill shelters in the east and southeast Virginia area. All were full of kittens. They empathized, but no one was willing to take a kitten. Then a co-worker of Becky's came forward.

She would provide the kitten with a home. Her son had seen the photos and was in love. They would come get the girl the week before I was slated to come to Virginia on vacation. I was thrilled. Then it all fell apart.

I'm not privy to why it fell apart; it just did. We were back to square one. Becky was devastated. "I don't know what to do. It can't live in my bathroom. At some point, Zia (one of her dogs), is going to figure out how to get the door open and I fear Zia will kill her. And there's the whole allergy thing." I looked around my house. I have two girls I adore. Was my house and my heart and life big enough for a kitten? I decided it was and I offered to take the kitten if no one came forward.

Becky pushed everyone at the hospital where she worked. She showed countless people the photos. No one wanted her. So, the day after I arrived, she and Jon came to Carole and Larry's to play games and to bring this little gal, who I was taking home with me. I couldn't come up with a girl's name. I struggled and struggled. I always told myself that if I ever got to name a female cat again, she would be called "Rosalind", after the main character in Shakespeare's As You Like It, one of my favorite plays. But, as I drove east, it just didn't sit right. I finally settled on "Esme", for "Esme Weatherwax", a character in Terry Pratchett's Discworld series. I don't really like Esme, but nothing seemed quite right.

"The naming of cats is a difficult matter. It isn't just one of your holiday games." --T.S. Eliot; Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats. 

We put the kitten in my bedroom with food, water and her litter box. The bedroom was about twice the size of the bathroom, plus, there were windows she could look out. She warmed up to me almost instantly and spent half of the night sleeping either on or next to me. We let her come out of the room, supervised, the next day. Carole's cats were unimpressed, except for Jacen and Jaina. Jaina was upset and hissed, growled and spit at the kitten when it came out of the room. Jacen, on the other hand, was really excited to meet Esme and the two of them chased each other, tumbling around on the carpet under the bed. Becky had done a very good job of socialization. There was one problem. This was not a girl. This was a boy.

We had a huge laugh. In Becky's defense, she'd never cared for kittens so had no idea what to look for, shall we say. Well, that changes the naming convention, doesn't it. Esme Weatherwax went right out the window. Immediately, I knew what his name would be, "Hamlet". I don't know why; I just knew. My first cat had been named "Shakespeare". This felt right.

On Monday, July 18th, I left Virginia at 5 in the morning with a kitten under the passenger seat of the car. That's where he stayed the entire trip home, coming out only to use the litter box and to have food and water. When I stopped for food myself, I would check on him. He was quite the trooper. The next day, he went to the vet.

Becky had mentioned she supplemented the wet and dry food with milk supplement for kittens for the first couple of weeks he lived with her. My vet was impressed. He seemed healthy. She felt he was around 4 months old which would be consistent with his size and needing milk supplement when Becky found him. We drew blood to check for feline leukemia. He had ear mites, which was to be expected and he also had fleas. I wound up having to treat everyone for fleas from July through last month. But other than those issues, he's a healthy kitten.

He spent the rest of July and most of August living in the office. I would go in and play with him but contact with the girls was minimal. I would put him in my bedroom and leave the door open so the girls could go into that room and smell his scent. After being in the office for a month, I let him out when I was home. Over Labor Day, I let him out at night, too. No one was allowed into the basement through the month of September, something Pilchard was not pleased with. My rationale was that he needed to learn his name and to come when I called. There are so many hiding places in the basement. One step at a time. He was spayed in September, getting the rest of his shots at that time, too.

There was a lot of hissing, yowling and growling. I opened the basement up in mid-October and allowed Hamlet to go outside during the end of October, when we had some wonderfully warm afternoons and weekends.

But have I made the right decision? Mija and Pilchard are not happy.

Beverage:  Water


How Was Your Summer, Part 5

This story begins in May. My friend, Becky, who lives in Richmond, Virginia, came home one night during a rain storm. She parked and started to run into her house, but was stopped in her tracks by the most pitiful meow she's ever heard. Investigating, she found a kitten in the culvert near her house, trying to stay up out of the water. Angry that someone would dump a kitten in the first place and then double angry they would do that during heavy rains, she fished it out of the culvert and took it to her neighbor next door. This lady is, unfortunately, a cat hoarder. The woman was very dismissive and told Becky to leave the kitten, with food, in a cat carrier on her font porch. "Momma cat will come looking for it."

Becky checked in but it was clear that, after 2 days a) momma cat wasn't coming and b) the woman wasn't feeding the kitten. Outraged, Becky took it and the carrier into her spare bathroom. She gave it a warm towel and immediately ran to the pet store for food and litter.

When she got her settled in the bathroom, she posted the above photo on her Facebook page.

The poor thing was terrified.

It wouldn't eat and it clearly didn't want to have anything to do with Becky. She is allergic to cats, as is her husband, Jon. They have 3 rescue dogs and the dogs were going nuts over the smell of a cat in the house. She knew she needed to get this kitten socialized to have any chance of finding it a home.

It finally ate the day after it was brought into the bathroom. She came home and checked on it and the food was gone. She had used the litter box, too. But this whole idea of a human was not something she was excited about, particularly, as this human smelled like a dog. Becky persevered and, by day 6, she was coming out of the carrier when Becky was around, to eat.

There was initial interest in the kitten. People who know Becky know she is going to do right by an animal. She kept the carrier clean and she made sure there was fresh food and water daily. The big thing was socializing the kitten to humans. One of the dogs barged into the room and the kitten fled under a shelf unit.

It took 30 minutes to get her out.

Eventually, the kitten warmed up to Becky and to Jon, but he's much more allergic to cats than Becky is and he could only be with the kitten to play for 30 minutes once a day.

She was an inquisitive ball of fluff, friendly and active and clearly fond of exploring and of Becky. The first home fell through. A second one came forward, but it, too, fell through. Becky started calling humane societies and shelters in the Richmond area. There are no-kill shelters but they were at capacity with kittens and a friend told her not to take the kitten to the Richmond Animal Shelter. They may advertise as no-kill, but they will probably put the kitten down because they have no space. How could anyone resist such a face?

I thought about it. I did what I could from Illinois; reposting and offering to bring the kitten back to Illinois if someone was interested. Finally, a colleague of Becky's saw the post, showed her son who fell in love with this gal. She was going to have a "furr-ever" home.

Or so we thought.

Beverage:  Belhaven Oatmeal Stout


How Was Your Summer, Part 4

So, I'm home, going on 6 months now, with a new-to-me car. Yes, it's 5 years old, but it was not driven very much and was well-maintained. These two things made the price more, but also contributed to the attractiveness of the vehicle.

I got asked, quite a bit, that first week, what was the difference between the Jeep and the Malibu.

  1. The Malibu runs. I did have to put new tires on it because it sat on the lot for some months and the tires exhibited dry rot. I could see that. But, my mechanic gave it a 100% and said I'd done very well. 
  2. Air conditioning. Gone are the days of taking off the windows and driving 65 just for a breeze. 
  3. Cruise control. The first big thing I did was to drive to Virginia to see Larry and Carole. I will have issues on these long trips with my calves tightening. With cruise control, I could stretch out my legs and not lose travel time. 
  4. Gas mileage. On a good day; open road driving; I could get 16, maybe 17 miles per gallon in the Jeep. My last trip to Virginia gave me an average of 38 mpg. When you are trying to make every penny count, not needing to fill up the tank as often is a blessing. 
  5. Comfort. The seats are cloth and are very comfortable. I can move them forward and backward and up and down. 
  6. A radio and CD player that work all the time. I was having issues with the CD player portion of the Jeep's radio. The Malibu has the ability to get Sirius XM radio. Thanks to my insurance, I can get 3 years of basic On*Star services free. When I called to sign up, I was given the full package free for 3 months to try it. That comes with a free 3 month subscription to Sirius XM. I may renew On*Star but I won't be renewing Sirius. The have exactly 4 jazz stations; something called "breakfast jazz", which is what I call "smooth jazz" and which I would never listen to; 1940's radio; All Sinatra; and a "miscellaneous" channel which is just awful. Sirius is for sports and current music lovers. It is not for me. 
  7. Defrosters which work incredibly well. At our first frost in November, I didn't scrape. I came out early, started the car and cranked on the defrosters to see how fast they would work. 5 minutes and I could drive out the drive with adequate view. 8 minutes and 90% of the windshield was clear. The rear window defrosters get it clear in 3 minutes. 
  8. Windshield wipers which work reliably. 
  9. Adjustable side mirrors, door locks and the ability to roll down windows, all from the driver's side. 
  10. An instrument console with so much information at my fingertips. I see air temperature; here 100 degrees. I see tire pressure and oil life. I see gas mileage and average speed for the current tank of gas. And I have an extremely reliable gas distance meter. I know how far I can go with what's in the tank. This was good on the trips to Virginia. Oh, I should get gas now because there aren't stations between here and when I'd be running on fumes. 
  11. Multi-faceted interior lights that work, front and back. 
  12. Cup holders everywhere. I keep bottled water in the car and there are several places to actually put a bottle of water so it's not rolling around. 
  13. A trunk. This is the biggest thing I've had to get used to. I do not have to stick the groceries in the front seat. I can put them in the trunk. 

I lost one of my bumper stickers.

This had been on the Jeep for a very, very long time. I removed it and it just crumbled. One of the problems of the Malibu is that the bumpers are heavy gauge plastic. I don't want to adhere stickers to the bumper and not be able to change my sentiments. My bumper stickers were on these magnetized strips which I would remove and replace, sticking the old ones on the side of the fridge. On the way to Virginia, the only sticker I had was an Iowa Hawkeyes sticker on a magnet, stuck to the trunk.

I had been given a minion decal a couple years ago but really didn't want to put it on the Jeep. It was perfect on the Malibu.

Then, probably when I stopped for a potty break in Indiana, someone peeled off the minion decal and swiped the Hawkeye bumper sticker. I didn't notice until the day after Thanksgiving when I was outside at Carole's helping with Christmas lights.

Seriously. Who does stuff like this? I was really angry. Nothing I can do about it, however. Ironically, I put the bumper sticker on the car at the beginning of football season. It had lasted through a number of trips into Chicago where you'd think sticky fingers would abound. It took a rest stop in Indiana to have it stolen. I replaced the minion decal with a decal supporting Ocearch a non-profit which does research into sharks off the east coast.

I also added, in the rear window, a Cubs decal.

That will be its own post. Unfortunately, it popped off with the first snow so I have to figure out how to attach it to the window so it stays. The sticky side is on the back side of the decal. If I stick it to the inside of the window, the decal will be backwards. Right now, it's stuck to the side of the fridge where I won't lose it.

Carole and Larry gave me new floor mats.

They are doing their job because the back yard, thanks to an abundance of rain, is a swamp and extremely muddy. I will need to hose these off once the air temperature gets and stays, above 60.

Larry also helped me put Jack Skellington back on the car. The Malibu does not have an antenna. What's there is compact and the antenna topper I bought in 2015, was not going to work. I hit upon the idea of attaching the topper to one of those 3M easy hang picture hangers. They had one with a metal hook, just the right size for the topper. But the adhesive on the hanger would not stick to the plastic of the dash where I wanted to put it.

I tried Elmer's glue, but, when it got hot inside the car, the glue melted and popped off. Larry had a tube of brand new super glue. If I feel I'm going to be anywhere the topper could attract unwanted attention, I can pop it off the hanger and stick it in the center storage well.

It took until mid-September to get the license plates all squared away. It took a bit for the DMV to understand I wanted to transfer the title and get completely new plates, but with my personalization. It was expensive, another cost I had not factored in when I bought the car.

I was so excited when they finally came.

So, it's all mine. Everything has sorted itself out. I've gone to Virginia twice in it and the trips have been comfortable. I see Jeeps on the road and it's hard to remember what it was like to drive the Jeep, although I loved that car. It was time to move on.

Beverage:  Belhaven Oatmeal Stout


Friday, January 20, 2017

How Was Your Summer, Part 3

It was a, mercifully, quiet July 4th. I was terrified of driving anywhere in the rental car so I think I drove to the grocery and a couple other errands and drove home. The insurance company of the truck driver had called to make sure I was okay and to go over the steps to getting the car fixed.

"We're going to make this right," the gal said. I asked her to put things in an email, so, if my insurance company asked about anything, since the sheriff had taken my information, I would have it all in writing. That was done. All that was left was to wait on the inspection of the Jeep.

On July 6th, Wehr's called. The appraiser had totaled the car. He said there was engine damage, something I wouldn't have been able to determine since I don't know cars. They would give the dealer the full value of the car as it had been on the lot, or they would pay him the scrap value for him to fix it. He told me, when a car is "scrapped", even fixed, I would have a tough time convincing the bank there wasn't something dreadfully wrong with it.

I was heartbroken. I had pinned my hopes on that car. It was so perfect. Now, I felt real rage at that kid. My mind echoed the words of the roller guy. "How the hell do you not know who is following you?" Your driver's license should be shredded and your momma should drive you around for 6 YEARS, yes, YEARS, so you learn how to drive, you sniveling piece of humanity. I was crushed. There was more to come. His insurance emailed, not called, the news that because I didn't own the car, they would not pay for the rental. I would have needed to get a rental because my original car had died. Because the dealer owned the car, he would be reimbursed. I sent them a copy of the email where they had agreed to pay the rental. I was told that was not official and was pending review. My insurance told me a claim for rental would increase my rates (which is probably not true and was their way of getting out of the claim) because I would be seen as having caused the accident even though I could get proof it was not me.

That night, I cried for a couple hours. I've always felt a little snake bit, if you will, by life. This was yet another example of kicking me while I was down. It hurt so much. I would have to find a car. I stumbled into the office the next day, keeping my personal issues silent. Mike asked if I was okay. I simply said, "They totaled the car. I have to find another." He said, "Take all the time you need."

About mid-morning, Wehr's called the office and said the paperwork to scrap the Jeep had arrived. They knew that was heartbreaking for me. They did have, on the lot, two other cars I'd maybe like to consider. They were cars, not SUVs, so they didn't know if I had my heart set on another SUV. I called Carole and apprised her of the situation and she pounced on car research. She looked at both of the cars Wehr's suggested and looked at cars within a 50 mile radius of me. She found some, but one of the big issues was, what to do with the Jeep. I'd have to find someone to tow it back here to be scrapped or find someone out there willing to pay me $150 for it. Wehr's was still willing to take the Jeep.

I talked to the bank. They approved me for a higher amount if I wanted to buy either of the cars Wehr's had. I thought about it; really thought about it; and talked it over with Carole. I decided to test drive a 2011 Chevy Malibu Wehr's had on the lot. It was low mileage and nothing wrong with it. It was $3,000 more than the Compass, but the low mileage was attractive to me. I drove to Bangor on the day I was to do the final inspection to give it a test drive.

I loved it. Carole said the other car they suggested, a 2013 Chevy Impala, might be better because it was bigger. It was the same price, but it had double the mileage of the Malibu. I called my bank and they talked with Wehr's and we agreed to do the same thing as before. I signed everything I could there. They faxed everything to my bank. The next day, I would come in, finish the paperwork and they would next day everything back to Wehr's. We joked about how I probably needed to stay 4 or 5 car lengths behind "kids" pulling trailers. I dropped off the rental car and came back for the keys to my new-to-me car.

I finished the inspection, which had been rescheduled, and headed home. It was weird, sort of. I've been renting cars so much that I'm kind of used to a car, but there was a difference. This was mine.

All the way home, I let that sink in. This was mine.

Beverage:  Belhaven Oatmeal Stout