My Life A Bit South of Normal

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Gourmet Chef in a Big Box

I got started with Groupons several years ago. I think I have bought maybe 4 or 5 and most of those have been for gifts. That said, every day, often more than once I get an email touting some great deal I can get. Most of the time I delete them without even reading them. Every once in awhile my interest is peeked and I open the email and read about their daily offering.

A week or so ago they had a deal was from one of those companies that sends you all the fresh ingredients along with the step by step directions for meals. A large box arrives at your door and voila! You are a gourmet chef, just follow their directions. Now, I like to cook and I fancy myself to be a pretty good cook, at least I have the tools, the herbs, spices,various oils, etc., and the fearless curiosity to take on any recipe. So I was curious how complicated these recipes would be. After all, they had to be catering (no pun intended) to those who don't spend that much time in the kitchen. I bought a Groupon for a discounted box.

Fast forward yesterday. I came home from work and found this box in front of my door.


It was pretty heavy (maybe it contained a mini chef!). Alas, it did not but there were the ingredients for 3 meals, all very cold, very carefully packed, and everything very fresh. Of the three recipe choices included, for dinner I chose Bone-in Pork Chops with Roasted Pears Collards, and Shallot Cream Sauce for dinner. I pulled what I needed from the magic box and put the rest in the refrigerator.


Next I pulled out the directions and started to chop, dice, rip . . .




and sear, brown, roast, wilt and cook.


With the help of my sous chefs,

this was my final product:


Which I think looks pretty good compared to the picture on the directions:



The dinner was very tasty, took less time than they said (25 vs 35 Minutes), and is enough food to feed a small family of Haitians. I think I have one more box coming, after that I will not invest in this foray. However, for someone who likes fresh food, likes to cook, but doesn't like to chop or make decisions this is not a bad deal. It is pricey (without a coupon or discount such as Groupon) but you pay for the convenience to shop in your bunny slippers, have someone else decide what's for dinner, and make you feel like a gourmet cook every night. 

Bon Apetite!




Saturday, February 27, 2016

Politicians, Visitors, and the Invasion

If any person of any notoriety is visiting campus someone is supposed to notify the President's Office. Not that the General wants to meet everyone, we just need to know what is going on. For instance for the past several weeks we have been ground zero for any conservative presidential candidate. What makes a better photo op than a clean cut Military College in one of the early primary states.

Some campaign advance teams called and went through the proper channels. Since the College is non political we do not support any candidate, but they are welcome to come on campus and rent any of our venues - just like any other person for their use. 

Worse case is when a faculty or staff member just shows up out of the blue, in our office with some notable they want the President meet. This can be a political boondoggle or just unfortunate timing as was a week or two ago when I looked up to see Mayor Joe Riley (who is now a faculty member) standing in my office with Gene Sperling (former Economic Advisor to both Presidents Clinton and Obama). The General was not in at the time. 

Other such times are when some person wanders in and wants to talk to the President of the College directly about an issue we know nothing about. It is my job to figure out what the issue is, identify the best person to handle the problem, notify that person of the situation, and get the visitor to that appropriate person as quickly and politely as possible. And, I need to make sure that I have not failed to recognize one of our benefactors who just gave a million dollars or so for a new program. That is where being new becomes a sticky wicket - they all assume you know what you don't know.

Yesterday, I walked out into the hall and noticed a group of officers coming through the glass doors. Being Friday when we have parade, everyone is in full dress, so that was not that unusual. However, some of the gentlemen in the party were dressed in a uniform I had not seen on campus. It was an olive green - it was similar to what Lord Crawley wears on Downton Abbey. By God, they were British. And they were decked with more colorful medals, ribbons, and sashes than I had ever seen one wear.

Then I remembered that there had been talk about some very high level British Officers visiting campus. Since the General was going to be off campus the day of the visit, we were out of the loop. Knowing the Commander in our office would want to greet them, I quickly went back, stuck my head in his door and said, "The British are coming."

Knowing what I meant, he immediately got up, grabbed his coat and hat. I went back into the hall to see if our visitors needed something to drink or anything else. It was the least I could do. Thank God it wasn't 4 o'clock because tea time was beyond me. If all else failed I could always call executive events for help.  

Back at her desk, my admin assistant was laughing, "What? The British? What are you talking about that made the Commander leave so fast?" I explained the situation to her.

A few minutes later, the Commander returned to say that all was well, the Provost, a Brigadier General, was entertaining them. As we discussed their well decorated uniforms. The Senior VP (who is a retired Colonel in the Air Force) came in the office and said, "The British are Coming."

All three of us looked at him, laughed, and said, "No sir, the British are here."

Friday, February 26, 2016

Only Idiots Do It Twice

After a long day, I arrived home to find my front door newly painted and the pups still safely ensconced in the guest bedroom. When I opened the door they stopped doing something and look at me with a look of , "Wow, we are so glad to see you! Us, up to something? Never. That's our story and we are sticking with it."  They looked happy, the room was still in one piece, and there was not an eviction notice on the front door - I could live with this.

I changed clothes and went through my regular routine getting ready to take the dogs out for their walk. Marshall was insistent on trying to eat his harness rather than wear it. Ellie stood there patiently waiting her turn, all the while watching me finish the mini rodeo with Marshall. Finally they had their leashes on and I had the bags and my phone. We walked out the door and I closed it. As I did, I checked my pockets just to assure myself that I had my keys.

I didn't. The door was locked and I did not have my keys. Seriously? Twice? After I stopped beating myself up I found the locksmith's number on my phone and called him once more. Fifteen minutes later he arrived. He walked up to the me and dogs standing in front of the apartment building. He just smiled and said, "We got to stop meeting like this."

As we walked in the building, he said, "You know I'm not going to charge you my full rate."

I laughed, "You have a repeat customer discount?" Then I thought, no, more likely he has a idiot rate for stupid people."

As before it took him a mere two minutes to open my door. We all walked in and he wrote up the bill. As I signed it, I said, "Next time I'll make dinner."

The guy howled, "Now that is funny." 

I thanked him and he left. As I closed my door, I wondered if I needed to hang a key around my neck, never lock my door, or better yet, go buy my own Jr Locksmith kit.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

They Live Here Too

I got home yesterday to find a "Dear Tenants" letter posted on the outer front door of my apartment. Upon reading it I learned that the painters who had been painting the hall for the past week now needed to paint each door. Therefore the doors to each apartment would need to be left open all day the following day. Note to pet owners - leave your pets closed in your bedroom. 

When I got to my door, I found the same note taped to my door. I looked down the hall to make sure everyone had the same note on their door. Not that I am paranoid, just checking. And they did.

My next thought was - who was going to tell the pups? I could not put them in my bedroom because they were already prohibited from that room and the bath while I am gone due to Marshall's insane curiosity and destructive tendencies. Their crates were in the guest room - now there was an idea. That was a disaster in the making. Given my front door is at the end of the hall, and the door to the guest bedroom faces that door and the pups in their crates would have a straight view of the entire hall, God knows what they would do.

So this morning I spent a good deal of time making sure the guest bedroom was pup proof. Yes, they have access to this room daily. However, when confined to just one room there is more time to explore and more time to figure out how to get into trouble. Hopefully having access to their crates will give them a place to sleep and all will be well. 

There is little they can get into. Well, there is a 220 cord that leads to the AC unit (possibly to attractive nuisance for a chewer), a new comforter on the guest bed (that could fall prey to Marshall's teeth as the one on my bed did), a church bench that could easily give access to the wide window sill where the blinds are . . . Certainly they cannot figure out how to open the closet doors. 

Given my front door is at the end of the hall, they will be able to hear the painters as they work and chat. Luckily the workman are a friendly bunch, especially the lead man, an older Charlestonian. One afternoon I came in as they were working, I spoke to them and commented that I hoped my two had not been too vocal during the day.

His response, "Nome', but you know they live here too."

I did not take that as they had been quiet. They would be wrapping up when I was trying to get my rowdy crew out the door. The painters found it humorous that wet freshly painted walls added some extra "fun" to the exercise. The older man said,"They just ready to stretch they little legs, want to see what all the fuss is about." Once again I would apologize as I tried to keep both of them out of the paint.

So, today should be interesting. Of course to add to the fun, all the doors will be open with everyone's pups closed up in a bedrooms. This should be a hoot or rather a howl.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Katie Bar the Door

I am a creature of habit. Luckily I am not OCD but I do have my routines. For instance I have to select my work outfit before I go to bed otherwise I will find myself staring at my closet for a good 45 minutes the following morning like a deer in the headlights trying to decide what to wear. Yes, it makes no sense, but neither do I, much of the time.

The pups and I also have a routine. Before we go for a walk,  I put their harnesses on them, making sure they are on correctly and they are intact (ie Marshall had not chewed any part into two pieces.) Next I put plenty of poop bags in my pocket, as well as my phone and my keys. Then we go to the door and I make Marshall sit while I open the door, then I make him continue sitting while I lock the door from the inside. Next we all emerge, all Hell breaks loose, and it is Katie bar the door.

It did not take Marshall but two times before he learned I was not going to open the door until he would calmly sit. Although to see him, one would think Santa was on the other side of the door with a sleigh full of dog bones. Needless to say, we do not go silently into the night.

Last Thursday, our final walk of the evening around eight started like this. The weather was nippy but we had a nice 15-20 minute walk. When we got back to the apartment I reached in my back pocket and realized, with horror, I did not have my door key. Immediately I realized what had happened. While we were going through our routine preparing for the walk, my daughter called. We talked for 10 minutes or so. As one can imagine the pups did not have much patience given that to them, it is one fluid movement from my saying, "Let's go for a walk" until the door opens. 

After I got off the call with her, the dogs were so rattled about having to wait I just got their leashes (she called just as I had put their harnesses on) and we walked out. I never thought to pick up my keys, luckily my phone was still in my hand. But I digress.

Now what in the Hell was I to do? Here I was in the hall of my apartment building locked out of my unit. I called my landlord. Naturally the call went straight to voice mail. Yes, I had two extra keys. One was with my DH in Orangeburg (75 miles away) and the other was in a drawer in my kitchen - like that was a lot of help now. 

I checked with one of my neighbors to see if she had another number for Alex (our landlord) or the maintenance guy - which she didn't. My only option left was to call 911. So in 5 minutes I was face to face with a Charleston City policeman, for the second time in as many days. He was as friendly as he could be. Naturally he wanted to make sure I had called my landlord. He offered to take me to pick up another key.  (I passed on that.) I asked if he could find me a locksmith. He hesitated, "I will be happy to, however, you realize you will be responsible for the cost of that?"

I smiled. "I don't see that I have any other choice."  In two minutes he had a locksmith on the way - 20 minutes away. Meanwhile the  pups were raising Hell at anything and everything that walked by. I thanked the officer and said we would be fine. He left and I took the pups inside to wait.

Naturally this was the time of night everyone was taking their dog out. And, naturally one has to pass my door to exit the building. I had no place to go but to try to hold on to my two and to attempt to keep them quiet which was not happening. Marshall was squealing like a pig every time someone came by. Ellie was just whining as if she were totally disgusted about the entire situation. 

Finally the locksmith arrived. In a frightening 2 minutes he was inside my apartment. (Somethings one does not need to know, like what goes into BBQ hash and how fast a locksmith can get into your place - just saying.) I thanked him and paid him - the price was well worth it.

As I closed the door and prepared for bed, it dawned on me. I better bake cookies for everyone on the hall and deliver them with a nice note of apology after the loud fiasco they had just endured. It was bad enough that my pups barked, but tonight they had been so loud and out of control I could not explain to anyone why I was in the hall with them. Ellie and Marshall may very well have put themselves on the short list to be evicted.


Monday, February 22, 2016

The Only Thing I Take are Photos

Last Wednesday I found myself with my camera and some extra time at lunch. I drove through one of the neighborhoods close to the Citadel and found a place to park. The homes in the area date back to the early 1900's so they are not as ornate as the homes on the lower Peninsula but they are still very interesting. As I walked down the sidewalk I found myself snapping shots of several unique doorways.

One thing about Charleston is that the whole city is full of tourists.  It seems that everybody's running around with the camera and these days everybody has a camera since everyone has a phone. The nice thing about being in a neighborhood is that you not bumbling around with tourists. But I am also very self-conscious in neighborhoods because I realize I'm running around the camera. I have always respected everyone's property and never gone up someone's walkway or through their gate when I was photographing the front of their house.

As I moved down the street I became engrossed in the architecture. Since that was the middle of the day it was very quiet and there was very little traffic. I notice a police car coming slowly down the street and stopping right in front of me. A police officer got out of the car and approach me.

He introduced himself and ask what I was doing with my camera. I explained my project that I had been working on for several weeks photographing different doors throughout the city.

He laughed and said, "That's fairly harmless. However we have had a complaint from someone in the neighborhood. They said that someone suspicious was taking pictures of their home."

I explained how I tried to be very respectful and would never want to upset anybody and that I never photographed any person..

Before I could say anything else he laughed and said he understood and he was sure there was no harm. Some people were just  alarmed by almost anything these days. Then we started this discussing the beauty of the doors in Charleston. He stated that his favorites were the heavy wooden doors like the one I was standing in front of at the time. He also suggested several streets I might want to look at in the neighborhood that had particularly interesting architecture.

He then said he realized I was probably on my lunch hour, he didn't want to hold me up, and he would be on his way. I thanked him and assured him again I was harmless.

With that I turned and made my way back. As I approached the block where my car was parked I noticed an older man standing on a porch leering at me. No doubt he was the one who called me in as the perpetrator and obviously he was disappointed that I had not been apprehended. I just smiled, wished him a nice day, got in my car, and drove back to work.

In the five or six years that I have been taking photographs, in the many states and countries where I have traveled, and with the hundreds of thousands of shots I've taken this was the only time I have been accused of anything nefarious. I will not make the accusations sound as glamorous as spying, And given I was on the sidewalk with the camera in broad daylight, I hardly think that qualifies as covert.

So I had my "run in with the law". Thankfully there were no blue lights or embarrassing moments. 

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Living on the Dodgy Side

Among the joys of living on the dodgy side of Meeting street are the neighbors. Walking the pups several times a day I get to see many of them up close and personal. The population of neighborhood includes older students, younger professionals, and older hard working Charlestonians who are on the brink of being evicted from homes where they have resided for most of their lives thanks to the tide of gentrification that has now reached this far north. There are three small historical black churches within two blocks of place as well as the traditional corner store or three. Just down the street are several nice city blocks size grassy parks shaded by old oaks, criss-cossed with paths, and sprinkled with benches.

And, yes, my Mama would not be pleased with my address. 29403 would not be good enough for her. She would be disappointed that I did not aspire to 29401. So be it. My street is speckled with a mixture of 19th and early 20th century homes. Some are now tenements and in poor shape, some are currently being redone, and others are in pristine condition. I live in an old iron works factory that dates back to 1880 that has had several lives. Eclectic is a good description of the neighborhood, there is no homogenizing here.
  
I moved in on the 2nd of January and was surprised to find that all the black folks who passed greeted me with a "Happy New Year" (even from their bicycles). This continued for a week or two, followed in February by "Happy Valentines!" Everyone speaks as you pass on the streets. If someone sees you need assistance with a door or what you are carrying, even if they are across the street, it is not unusual for them to cross the street and offer to help.

This morning I was out at 5:30 walking the pups as dawn was breaking. I came to a corner where an older black man stood there holding (what I assume was) his lunch in a plastic grocery bag. As usual he greeted me before I could say anything with a smile, "Good mawnin' " I replied that it was a beautiful morning.

"S'posed to be 70 degrees today."

"And last week we were freezing," I said with a laugh.

"Yes, mam, but that's the lawd gawd's will."

I agreed and the pups and I moved on.

As I watched the morning glow on the old buildings and heard the sounds of the city come to life, I thought, sure, I don't live south of Broad, but this is Charleston, the heart of the real city, not what is pretty and preserved and posted on the tour guides. This is the real world.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

They Say "Unique", We Say "So?"

As I was listening to the pundits on CNN discuss South Carolina's "unique" political climate during my 5 minute "commute" home yesterday. It dawned on me, we are unique in many ways, especially in Charleston. Living down here one learns:
  • You always look both ways when crossing a one way street, for fear of being run over by a lost tourist going the wrong way,
  • There is no point ironing your nice linen shirts or dresses since the humidity is going to cause them to go limp as soon as you walk outside,
  • The rusty, ragged, and worn 20 year old station wagons, range rovers, and land cruisers parked on the side streets and in the drives of the well to do houses downtown are the "fishing cars" the families have held on to for years - not what the help drives,
  • Charleston is one of the few places everyone wants to achieve SOB status and if that is not possible, at least live as a SNOB,
  • A string of pearls go with anything from a tee shirt and shorts to a deb gown,
  • Wearing socks is something Charleston men would rather never do ever, and often act on that prerogative,
  • An oyster roast is the ultimate social event, one always has a glove and a knife ready for any invitation that may come and anyone would never admit they do not care for oysters for fear of being shunned,
  • Almost everyone has a dog that goes everywhere with them,
  • Nothing in your home is plumb, the floors are uneven, and at least one bathroom is an odd place,
  • Isn't doesn't matter where you live on the peninsula, you still live downtown,
  • If you have been around for a while, going two ways on Rutledge south of Calhoun is still scary,
  • And, yes, parking is a serious sport and one best pay attention to the signs and meters.
And, my favorite - when while at the city market during one of our famous downpours when the street suddenly becomes an 18 inch deep river, a tourist commented to her companion in disgust, "You would think they could at least fix the drainage." I wanted badly to tell her that (a) they were standing below sea level and (b) that was one of the "unique" things about Charleston and if that was a problem, then they needed to go somewhere else - like Gatlinburg.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

So What If I am Dimly Lit?

I am a firm believer in a true liberal arts education, one that exposes a young mind to everything from art history to philosophy, math, science, literature, foreign languages, literature, Greek and Roman history, and the like. The idea being one can think and is broad minded. Even though I did not finish at the top of my class, or even anywhere close to the top of my class, I did graduate from a good liberal arts college with a BA in English Lit.

All that said, I am still challenged in certain ways. One of those ways being batteries - yes, EveryReady, RayoVac, DuraCell and the like.

When we were setting up the new TV when I moved in I was having issues with the remote. I could not get it to work. My DH asked me if I had put the batteries in it. Of course the batteries were in it. We fiddled with the settings on the TV, the power cords - nothing seemed to work. Finally, my DH opened the back of the remote, removed the batteries and looked at me, "Seriously? You put them in backwards. You realize the positive end," he pointed to the plus sign, "goes here. And the negative end goes here."

Like a scolded five year old, I shook my head, thanked him, and accepted the remote from him that was now fully functioning.

Several weeks later, I needed lights underneath the cabinets above my sink. We found some wireless puck lights that were easy to install, ideal for the job in Costco. When we brought them home, my DH opened the pack, handed the lights and the batteries to me, and showed me how each light opened to install the batteries. "You know how to do this, right?"

He went on to another project. I carefully took the first puck , opened the back. It was clear that the two batteries went in with the positive ends going the same way - which I found odd - but that was how the signs were etched in the case. I installed the batteries and closed the back. When I used the remote to turn the light on it would not work. I opened the light again, removed the battery and checked the markings on the case. They were in just as they should be. I closed it.

Once again, it still would not work. So I removed the batteries and reversed them, then switched them. I tried every combination, to no avail. I put the batteries in the remaining 5 lights and still none would light up. I finally took one of the lights and the remote to my DH and explained the situation. Naturally, his first question was, "Are you sure you got the batteries in right?"

He opened the light and looked at the batteries. He closed the light and tried the remote. Nothing happened. Then he opened the light again and looked at me. "You realize this takes 3 batteries, not just two?"

"Where does the 3rd battery go?" He showed me where the third battery rested atop the other two on a thin plastic bar. "Did you see that when you first opened it?" I asked.

"No, but it was obvious something was wrong. And, after all it involved you and batteries."

I took the light and the remote back into the living room. "Huh", I thought, "So that is what those extra 6 batteries were for?"

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

An Attractive Nuisance

Before I moved to Charleston I spent time gathering furniture from our different storage places for my apartment. One thing I almost forgot about were two very nice Chinese rugs we had in the attic that we had not laid eyes on for more than twenty years.

One (as best I remembered) had colors that would compliment my planned decor. When we pulled it down and rolled it out, naturally it was wrinkled and stained. My DH, being the ultimate resource hunter, found a company that would be able to salvage the rug. Naturally it would take some time.

In the mean time, I moved to Charleston, got settled, brought Ellie down, started my job, and realized Ellie was lonely.  After our search we found Marshall, my sweet, adorable, playful 18 month old some kind of terrier. Marshal can sit, stay, and crate on demand. He loves playing fetch. But more than anything he loves destroying toys. Before he came down here, he went through all the toys and managed to shred all  the balls, animals, and play things our other dogs had played with for years.

So when he came to Charleston, my DH sent with him several "Totally Guaranteed" indestructible dog toys. One made it less than 24 hours. The second one he tortured for a week before I declared it destroyed. The carcasses were returned to the manufacture for a refund given their guarantee. I managed to find one "indestructible" bone that slowed him down for a while. His (and Ellie's) collars and harnesses did not escape his teeth, so I found myself ordering new harnesses and collars.

One morning I awoke to find a small hole in the middle of my bedspread. Seriously? The middle of the bedspread? Marshall, dear God, for what reason?

Currently the pups are with him, because I had company this past weekend. My DH called to give me an update on the rug. I expressed my concern about having  the rug in my apartment given Marshall's penchant for chewing. After some discussion my DH said he would have the restoration company sew the fringe under the edge of the rug so he would not be tempted to gnaw on it.

I explained the little incident with hole in the middle of the bedspread. He was very excited to tell me he had found a new "No Chew" solution. He had dipped Ellie and Marshall's collars and harnesses in it and Marshall had shown no interest in chewing on them for several days since the application. This was good news. My DH said that he was pretty sure that this "little" issue was taken care of.

Then yesterday my DH sent me a text to tell me that the rug would not be ready for another week or two. That was the good news. The "other" news was that Marshall had chewed through both his and Ellie's harnesses the night before. The potion must have lost its magic spell. 

When I got home from work I found an Amazon box containing super strong chew proof indestructible dog toys. Round four, here we go. Wonder how many days these will last? And he only weighs 11 lbs! I called my DH to tell him that the toys had been delivered and to once again express my concern about the rug.

His response,"I just don't think it is going to be a problem. What would interest him in a 8x10 flat wool rug?"

"Maybe the same mysterious thing that piqued his interest in the towels on the bath shelf, the tubes of lotion in the basket, my shoes, all the various toys he destroyed, or the area in the middle of my bedspread where he felt he must open up immediately."

"I still think this will be different."

After we ended the conversation I looked at the box of new "indestructible" toys. This rug was just going to be an attractive nuisance to Marshall. But I have given my DH fair warning.


Saturday, February 13, 2016

Just a Walk in the Dog Park

Walking two dogs on the side walk took a little getting used to. So when Saturday came and we could go to the dog park I was thrilled. When I loaded them up in the car, Ellie looked at Marshall as if to say, "Boy, just wait. We're going to the dog park. This is great."

When we got to the park, once again the sight of the three of us getting out of the car was anything but graceful. Ellie was pulling on the leash ready to get in the gate. Once Marshall heard dogs barking he started up as if he was ready (sight unseen) to take them all on.

As it turned out there were several dogs in the park, all large dogs. Neither of my two were phased by their sizes. Once I let them loose, naturally Ellie went one way and Marshall raced the other way. I found myself standing there trying to watch both to make sure they were doing OK. As I stopped to speak with a fellow dog owner standing there watching the dogs frolic. He commented, "I love this dog park because all the dogs get along. We don't have the fights and squabbles I have seen in other parks." I agreed.

Those words had just escaped my lips when we heard this rawkus. I turned to see a pit bull mix, a lab, and a Rhodesian Ridgeback in a brawl. As the dogs tumbled, growled, and snapped about suddenly little Marshall rolled out from under the fray. But instead of running away, he shook himself, turned, and headed back. One owner grabbed the lab. I grabbed Marshall and held him as the pit bull continued to snap at him. Finally his owner decided to get a hold of him and take him home.

With that over, I looked for Ellie. At last I found her perched on someone's lap in a group of owners sitting on benches chatting about. When I approached them and apologized, they just laughed."Oh we love her. She is so cute."

Another one added, "And, her hair, I've never felt hair like that on a dog." Referring to her course wiry coat. "What kind is she?"

This is where I had to decide whether to be a smart ass and say, "A Norwhat." Or tell them what she should be and say, "A Norwich". Or say, "A Cairn Terrier", because that is what she looks like. Honestly I said, "She is a Norwich Cairn mix."

"Well we've never seen such. But she's cute."

Of course they have "never seen" such because, trust me, there is only one Ellie. I thanked them and asked my "cute" dog to come on so we could go home. Once again I looked for Marshall only to find him sparring with the Ridgeback - would he ever learn? I scooped him up and hurried Ellie along. When we reached the gate, I was trying to get Ellie's leash on her and hold onto to Marshall so he wouldn't go finish his death wish with the Ridgeback.

To my left were two owners putting leashes on their large dogs, The dogs were standing still, patiently waiting for their owner to tell them what to do. While I may as well have been trying to deal with two greased little pigs.

I had enough trouble taking care of myself. Whose idea was it to take responsibility of Killer and Cuddles?

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Chaotic Constitutionals

Where ever Marshall was in his former life, someone walked him on a leash because he knows what he is doing when I take out. Basically, he is a smart little pup. I finally got up enough nerve to take both dogs out together on our daily constitutionals (walks). Now take into account I live only one block off one of the main streets in Charleston - Meeting Street. In the mornings and around 5-6 in the afternoon there is a lot of traffic. This did not bother the pups - it terrified me.

Naturally they are not coordinated nor are they choreographed. I try to be patient. Ellie will take her time with her nose down on the ground as if she is tracking something. Meanwhile Marshall will be bouncing along trying to check out someone's fence, porch, or trash can. Either Ellie has to be stopped while I urge Marshall along or Ellie has to reminded we are moving when she is paying too much attention to something and holding up the parade.  The entire walk is this give and take. Well, then there are parts when I feel as if I am the musher on a dog sled when both will take off at a fairly swift speed. Then it is all I can do not to run as they pull me along. 

Marshall is famous for crossing back and forth in front of me, and in the process going around Ellie's leash. I feel certain the sight of me trying to untangle the leashes without letting go of either dog on the sidewalk is quite amusing. Ellie expects acknowledgement from everyone we pass and Marshall just wants them to pick him up. 

They were both being neighborly until the first bicycle passed. For some reason Marshall decided the bike and its rider were the enemy and must be taken down. Then I just hold on to him for dear life. Ellie just sat there nonchalantly.

After reeling him in after several bicycle sightings, I realized he wasn't backing down. One afternoon, we were turning the corner by my apartment. We had survived another walk. Then Marshall started up, barking and pulling on his leash. Sure enough here came a bicycle up the street. As he passed, I apologized and assured the rider he was harmless. The older man laughed,"It's always the little ones causing the trouble, isn't it?"

I laughed and agreed. Naturally by that time Marshall had stopped barking but I looked down to see that I was standing there with the leashes tangled around my ankles. Marshall was looking suspiciously at the kid coming up the street on a skateboard. Ellie was sitting at my feet looking at me as if to say,"Seriously?"

I'm sure if I am walking them or they are walking me.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Walking the Dog - Not Just a Yoyo Trick

Let me make one thing straight - a fenced in back yard is highly under rated. All my years as a dog owner, "putting the dogs out" entailed opening the back door and letting them run past you. The only hardships were when it was a cold morning and you felt the freezing weather on your face when you opened the door or the frustration of them scrambling around you to see who was going first.

Those were the salad days, the carefree times when I was innocent -the years I never appreciated. When I moved to Charleston and brought Ellie with me, we had a new reality. The first morning at 5:30 I awoke to a furry face looking at me with this, "Well, are you taking me out or what?" look. 

It was cold outside, I was still sleepy, and "going out" was now a participation sport. So I got up, pulled on some decent warm clothes, put her leash on her and we headed out the door for her morning constitutional. Now, I will say, Ellie is very good on a leash. But, I do live on the dodgy side of Meeting Street.

When I come out of my apartment building door, if I go to my right - well let's put it this way, I would be more comfortable walking a bigger dog with a bigger chip on his shoulder than 10 inch tall Ellie who, bless her heart, never got the memo that she falls in the "little dog" class. She definitely has the Napoleon Complex, which does me no good as protection detail. 

Going to the left takes us into the area of gentrification. The walk  goes past 2 small churches, several restored single houses, several houses being restored, and many that are in need of help. As we move south you get into an area where the buildings were raised and upscale faux Charleston Housing style apartments have been constructed.

So we have established our route. We know the characters on the street. We know the house that has the pit bull on the porch. (We carefully cross the street just before we get to that house, much to Ellie's dismay.) If we have time we will go several blocks and circle around, if not, we go up and back. Everyone, from the students on their way to class, the cooks on their way to work, the winos on their way home, and anyone else is friendly and always speaks.

Walking down Columbus, the houses are occupied with students and often they are out on their porches at night listening to music and talking. It is not unusual for them to call out to us from their porch. Ellie gets very offended if someone passes us on the sidewalk and does not stop and acknowledge her. I have yet to meet anyone she did not like.

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays [Ellie and me] from the swift completion of [our] appointed rounds. We had a system and I finally was used to getting up early to walk her, our other walks during the day, and our trip to the dog park once or twice a week. I could handle this whether it was in the 30's, raining, windy, or fair.


Then came Marshall and all the rules went out the window . . .

Monday, February 8, 2016

Flown the Coup

Sadly, I am out of the bird business. All my beautiful finches are gone.

When I relocated to Charleston I knew I was not going to be able to take my finches or my orchids. I had hoped my DH would take care of the finches, after all what are a few finches among the flying squirrels, prairie dogs, and an Airedale or two that also called our house home.

However he knew better than to bite that off. I was meticulous about the cage being cleaned top to bottom, inside out every week, including every dish, plate, bowl, and bath removed and washed. He was used to having tortoises that lived outside so there was no "cage" to clean. In the winter, every week or so, you just hosed down the barn. He had little patience. Cleaning all the tight places, spaces, and accouterments would drive him nuts.

That did not stop him from constantly pulling out his tape measure in my apartment and showing me places the cage would fit. Personally, I had issues that doing without my sofa or that my guests would get to awake to a personal choral presentation every morning coming from the cage he pointed out would fit nicely in the guest bedroom. And, yes it would "fit" over on the far wall, however I was not willing to do without a dining table.

So the birds had to go, but where? I contacted the few friends I knew who had finches. I knew local stores did not want them, knowing what I went through to place my 5 Ruby Cut Throat chicks. Given I was tied up with a move, a new job, not to mention getting back into the workplace after a 2 year sabbatical, finding 15 finches a new home (when they were being taken care of for now) was not at the top of my list. But, every time things were not going swimmingly at home, the fate of the finches was mentioned.

So finally I placed an ad on Craigslist. Since the ads I had placed on the Columbia and Charleston Craigs List for my chicks six months or so ago, accomplished nothing, I figured this would do no more than show my DH that I was making some effort. Besides, I did not want to get rid of the birds. I enjoyed having them and missed them. But I did not have time for them now.

The ad went live at 7:32 pm on Feb 1. At 8:45 pm I had a call from a man who wanted to purchase them all. He had inside and outside aviaries and lived only 2 hours away. He was even willing to give me a credit card number right then - which I assured him was not necessary.

I awoke the next morning to find a text from a woman wanting my email so she could Paypal me the money and asking me to call her to make delivery arrangements. The emails, calls, and texts continued all day. But, the birds were going to the first man who called me.

When I called him back to set-up the arrangements, I asked if he were a dealer or a hobbyist. I learned he was a 60 year old man who had many finches and had had them for years - just a hobbyist. He said he had plenty of room for mine. I felt better after I talked to him. At least it sounded as if my birds were going to a good home.

My DH, bless his heart, volunteered to deliver the birds for me. Personally I think he was curious to see who this 60 year old man was who "had many finches" and room for more. When he returned, he called and let me know that yes, the man had had many finches. He had over 300, of all kinds in walk-in aviaries in his home and in his yard.

I thanked him profusely for taking the birds and told him I would be home the following weekend to clean and store the cage. His comment, "What about the orchids? Remember, you have two greenhouses of orchids. What do you plan to do with them?"

Clearly this man needs a hobby. He has way too much time worrying about my issues. Maybe he should try collecting stamps or coins or painting. Better than that, he could start growing orchids. I could set him real fast.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Brawl in the Hallway

Wednesday night I was on the phone with my DH. The pups were sitting by the front door listening to folks coming and going. They often stand sentry as hall monitors behind the door. Suddenly my front door burst open, there was a loud ruckus of claws and paws on hard wood, yelps and barks, and before I could say anything, both of my pups were out the door. I quickly told my DH, "I've got to go," and threw the phone down.

By the time I got to the door, I saw that Winston, my neighbor's 75 pound Wire Haired German Pointer "puppy" was wrestling in the hall with little 11 pound Marshall. Ellie was no where to be seen. I wasn't worried about her being out of the building because there is a secured door to the outside from the hall. And I felt certain at 10 inches tall she could not reach the door release button. 

Winston's owner was trying to get a hold on him. I was trying to pull Marshall away, who had no intention of giving up. They were not fighting, just having a large loud time in the middle of the hallway.

In the mean time, other neighbors were opening their doors to see what the ruckus was about. Talk about a way to meet the neighbors! Finally Marshall broke loose and ran into Winston's apartment. I ran in trying to scoop him up. By this time Winston was under control, I had captured Marshall, but Ellie was no where to be seen.  

Finally another neighbor produced her. Seemed she has decided to check their bedroom out - she always has been the curious sort. I don't know (nor I was going to ask) what she was doing in there. I apologized for Ellie's trespassing and rude behavior. Thank goodness, the neighbor took it all in good fun.

I was able to hold onto Marshall and get Ellie to move on down the hall back to my place.

Apparently, Winston had been in the hall, had heard my pups, got excited, and bounded up against the door which, obviously, was not latched. At that point the chaos ensued. As I made my way back to my apartment another neighbor came in the building bringing her 5 pound Yorkie. Marshall started up again. She laughed and said, "Marshall, you're just looking for trouble."

I just smiled opened my door and said, "You have no idea."

Monday, February 1, 2016

Captains and Commanders

My new job at the Citadel has me in a world I know nothing about - that of the military. And to make it more fun, unlike West Point, where everyone is Army or Annapolis, where everyone is in the Navy, or even the Air Force Academy, the Citadel is not wedded to any one branch of the military. I work for a retired Lieutenant General in the Air Force. So I was given a sheet that showed the seniority and ranks of US Air Force  officers as well as how to interpret the insignias on their uniforms. It was daunting but, unlike the Periodic Table (that I avoided in high school like the plague), it has some rhyme and reason to it. I would study it and learn my officers.

However, I am teamed with a retired Naval Commander, who just replaced a retired Naval Captain. Other key people I work with are a retired Marine Colonel and the Provost who is a Brigadier General. So I was also given two more charts to explain the intricacies of those the ranks in those branches of the armed forces.

A Captain is higher that a Commander which is higher than a Lieutenant in the Navy. And in the Air Force, a Lieutenant General is more senior to a Brigadier General which is senior to a Major then a Captain. So does a Major in the Air Force trump a Commander in the Navy? This is where charts and graphs come in.

It has always taken me a while to learn names when I am in a new situation. So now they throw ranks in there - for kicks and giggles. So along with keeping the names straight, I need to remember the Captains, Colonels, and Commanders. I do remember a comment a lady made during one of my interviews when she learned I had no exposure with the military - "Don't worry, we all go through this. When I started, I couldn't keep them straight, so I called all of them 'General' assuming, worse case scenario,  I had most likely elevated them."

So Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker, Captain, Colonel, Commander, whatever, I would master this. Every time they introduced themselves, I would make a mental note and the rank would just become the person's first name. For example Brigadier General Connie Book, would be General Book. And Colonel Hawk Moore would become Colonel Moore. I had a plan.

One of the first phone calls I took for the General was from a nice gentleman "Tom Clark". I took a message and thanked him. My admin assistant saw the note and laughed, "What did Col Clark want?" 

I gave her a blank look.

She showed me the note, "I see he called."

"He didn't say 'Col' Clark"?

"Usually they don't. They just assume you know their rank. But don't worry when they come in you can always tell their rank by their uniform." 

I think for a while they will all be sir. Certainly there a grace period for civilians.