Monday, October 31, 2005

Alan had to work late tonight, so I'm sticking with TV in the livingroom to be able to answer the door for trick-or-treaters. We've had more kids than we had last year and some pretty good costumes. For the second year in a row, I had two older guys at the door not even bothering to wear costumes. I don't think I'd find the candy was worth the humiliation. The puppy, I suppose I should start referring to him by his name now, Gambit, is asleep on my foot in between bouts of hyper-excitement at the door. A very pleasant surprise today was that after his first bath with us, Gambit now smells like the "Pat the Bunny" book my grandparents had for when we visited. That powdery, gentle scent engenders so many nice, cozy memory feelings.
Well, we decided on a name for the puppy, Gambit -- appropriate in so many ways. I had to make an emergency run to the pet supply place for chew toys this morning, after tiring of continuing efforts to keep puppy teeth off the legs and edges of our coffee table and other not so toothsome places. I gave the puppy his puppy pacifier and he promptly fell asleep. I also learned that catnip is enough to make our "piggy" cat overcome her fear of the puppy. Gluttony always wins in the end.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

The Miracle of Puppy Resiliency

Wow, I actually found our foster puppy on the rescue website after just one search and scanning a few pages. It gives me hope that owners trying to find their animals won't have too much trouble if they've been entered in the system. Here's his page. He's much cuter in person. We had a good day today , especially considering where we started. Wednesday evening, I carried him out of the shelter and put him on the ground to do his thing before our half hour drive home. He immediately scrambled under a nearby truck and then my car and tried, almost successfully, to buck out of his collar and off the leash. Anyone who's ever experienced this with a dog that isn't their own knows how scary that bucking movement can be. Pictures of someone else's pet splattered across a busy road fly through your mind as you try to calm the animal down and get them back inside. I had flashbacks to my days walking dogs at the Minneapolis Animal Shelter. The puppy ended up back in my arms and calmer, although I got a nice warm trail of puppy pee down my leg. I wasn't really thinking that I'd have a dog in the car with me on the way home so I didn't even have a blanket for the back seat. About five minutes into our half hour drive, the aroma of puppy poop permeated the car. I blocked the image from my mind and kept up a little one sided dialogue with him all the way home. The scene when I opened the door to the back seat was so much worse than I ever imagined: seat belts, crevises, cushions, windows not to mention the puppy himself. He spent most of Thursday staying in the bedroom his crate with occassional "nature calls" outings to the nearby bathroom where a kitty litter box resides. I promptly papered the floor with newspaper and we had a good solution for the rest of our floors until we got him potty-trained. Whenever Alan and I were in the room or nearby, he was scrunched tight against the back of the crate. Any time our oldest cat, Tora, came into sight, he growled. Our one trip outside had him hiding against the side of the house under a bush shaking. They warned me that he might not eat for a couple days, but his appetite won out and he ate heartily from the very beginning. He'd let us pet him inside his crate but his little heart was beating overtime. By Friday, he'd come out of the bedroom when we were in the living, get our attention and then scramble back into crate. He played with his new toys that Alan picked up. He ventured out into the livingroom and kitchen following the cat but scrambled back at the smallest sound or movement. Trips outside were the same. Saturday, he was spending more time outside the bedroom when we were around. He and the cat started playing. The cat would hide in a paper grocery bag on its side on the floor and the puppy would get very excited and stick his nose in after him. He looked very disappointed later when the bag was empty and he stuck his head in repeatedly and didn't find a kitty. Puppy containment got much easier with the addition of two safety gates. Our two fraidy cats seem to appreciate the introduction of puppy-free zones, although we still only see them around feeding times. Today, during our trips outside, we ventured into the wider sea of creeping charlie that makes up our side yard and he even flopped contentedly on his side for us to rub his tummy. Right now, he's snoozing on a nest of towels I have for him by the living room couch. So, we may be able to start basic training much sooner than I thought we would, we only require a name. He was Jordan at the shelter but we've been invited to give him a new one. We've tried a baby name book I got in high school for naming characters and Louisiana and cajun names. Alan's leaving it up to me, although he has veto power. We've come up with a shortlist of Chase and Riddick and Dustin (which means "of the storm") and Tristan. I'm not thrilled with any of them. I promised I'd have one tonight, so I'd better get back to it.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

So what's been happening the past month?

BIG NEWS: Since Wednesday evening, we are hosting a refugee from Hurricane Katrina. Picture coming soon. A 12 week old shepherd (mix?) or an Australian cattle dog. Not sure which. The little guy is traumatized and very shy. Our goal as foster parents is to get him socialized and give him a home until his family claims him or he's able to be adopted. He's already bonded with our oldest cat -- the one who missed our old dog the most. The other two have been MIA except for feeding time.

Huge, 50 year old maple next to our house brought down and chopped up over the last four days. Very sad -- the oldest tree on our lot -- first tree my grandparents planted -- but splitting down the middle. It took three and a half days and two people and two chainsaws. Saved us $2,500 doing it ourselves. Thank goodness for dads who are retired and have power tools. We now have sun where none was found before and a lot more yard. I'm totally in love with his electric 2.5 amp chainsaw.

The Twin Cities Book Fest. Always fun to catch up with the Rain Taxi and Minnesota literary crowd. We were there armed with 'zines and chapbooks. Sales were up from last year. Wish there were more participants for the Twin City genre scene, though.

A trip to Fargo/Moorhead with my dad for a family wedding and time to tour Moorhead to see my dad's old house and neighborhood.

A visit to The Wildcat Sanctuary to meet with Executive Director Tammy Quist, to see if there was any way I could help and to trade resources. We may need to start a support group for directors of nonprofits who are trying to go from volunteer to paid staff. I felt very privileged to be able to tour the sanctuary with her since it's closed to the public for the cats' sakes. So many sad stories. I can't believe people take these wild animals for pets. It's a labor of love for Tammy and has consumed her whole life. They have a great website. You should visit it. As the only wildcat sanctuary in the upper midwest, she deserves our support.

I finished a story! After battling through a year of frequent bouts of writing but not finishing anything/not writing, I have completed a novella. Feels very good.

More basement stuff but we're all getting bored of that. I'll have pictures for comments soon.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

I had to take a shudder break from the basement. Shudder as in, "Today I found the spider motherload." One small shelf containing a couple huge, green, 60s or 70s era ashtrays, some old idenitfiable cans of paint, a few old canning jars, a few pots, a box that used to contain one of those single-hand springy things for building grip which now contained numerous small unidentifiable items, a piece of driftwood, a tea can containing beads and four huge spiders and a lot of little ones. There were also a number of spider carcasses -- possible victims of cannibalism? Two of the cats sat watching me from the stairs but provided no help. They've all been a little crazy since the weather changed. Cold weather seems to bring out the crazies. Our youngest has been on a particular terror and has broken two wedding gifts, a glass and a plate in the past week. One of the wedding gifts is completely fixable just requiring a little regluing of the frame. The other was a chalice or cup of blessings given to us by the pastor who married us. She held it up during the ceremony and had people suggest things to fill it for a good marriage. I was a little freaked out when it first broke thinking, "What does this bode for the future?" It was on the very top shelf pushed back from the edge for safekeeping. We still remember the contents so maybe we can replace it. The youngest cat is our little piggy. She's athletic and likes getting up high at times but is a bit clumsy and her extra weight -- despite her continuing diet -- doesn't help. Back to work now, I'm no longer feelings things running up and down inside my clothing.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Yuck! All the spiders driven out of the refinished part of the basement have taken up residence in other parts. I went to throw some laundry in the washer and got my head caught in a web akin to those John Goodman battled. I, too was creeped out by the movie. Heck, I was creeped out by the giant spider episode of Gilligan's Island as a child. Tomorrow, I bring out the big guns -- the vacuum cleaner with long tube attachments.

I was going to go into a long description of doing the floors just in case someone else wants to tackle a similar project someday. I don't have the energy to write about it today. I spent most of the day washing awful smelling, musty wooden furniture with a 50% bleach mixture someone recommended for removing the smell. It seems to have helped quite a bit and I may be able to donate the pieces in question after all. I still have a drawer stuck in one of the dressers but haven't given up on getting it loose, yet. I need to get it out of our house so I have room to work. Also - ONE PUMP ORGAN FREE TO A GOOD HOME IF YOU COME GET IT. It was on the dry side of the basement and shouldn't be as musty.

Gwenda wanted someone to start talking about Serenity. No spoilers here. Alan and I went to see it Saturday. It was a lot of fun and scary and sad. My need for more Firefly has only grown, however, so there'd better be a sequel. One review had said it felt more like a series of episodes strung together rather than a movie. I thought the story line tied together well following the advertised theme of River. Although it was brutal, I liked the gritty reality of the fight scenes. There will have to be a sequel since we need to see what happens in the AFTERMATH. I'd be really interested in hearing what someone who hadn't watched the series thought of it.

Is anyone else watching Rome on HBO? Alan and I have become hooked on it. I like it almost as much as I like Deadwood. It's one of the few shows that I want to watch the episode again to see what I missed before the next one appears. This last episode, wow.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

So, I've been off work for over a month. I've been working hard, physically, but another part of me feels like I've been mentally wallowing a bit. Well maybe not wallowing but possibly hiding from reality. I had lunch with a former co-worker this week and things are changing for the better at my old job. I had to ask myself if I should have stuck it out. At this point, I have to say I'm happy with my chosen path. I've decided to start a nonprofit to refurbish donated PCs for low-income families. I'm still looking for a good name for it, if anyone has any ideas. Some names we've tried Technology Access Project (TAP) and assorted variations of Bridging the Digital Divide. To keep some income flowing in, I'll do some consulting IT/Communications and possibly find a part-time job, too.

Basement Fix-up Part One: Asbestos
I've been working on our basement so I can set up an office and workshop down there. It's taken so much longer than I thought it would. I've finished about a third of the room which is where the office and workshop will be as well as the lone toilet my grandparents installed. So much stuff! So much more to do! We just got the results of the materials I sent for asbestos testing. The floor tile which covers part of the basement near the washer and dryer came back clear, but fifteen percent of the pipe wrap is asbestos. The tile was the main concern since most tile and mastic back then had asbestos. The pipe wrap which is black, thick and tough, was an afterthought as they included two sample bags with the test kit. It follows a pipe from the meter all along the wall above where I'll be working. A couple parts of it have slightly lifted from the pipe. I think I'll be able to get by covering it with a protective wrap and not removing it. The tiles would have been tougher since some of them are broken and coming up off the floor. They would have had to been removed. Old houses. There's always something.

Decimating Prime Spider Habitat
We bought my grandparent's house which was very far from being empty when we moved in. We managed after a few months of living in the house to move most of their stuff out of the upstairs rooms. Some of it was given away immediately and some was moved to the basement to be sorted later. The basement and then garage filled so quickly, we had to stop until we had a garage sale last summer. We didn't get rid of much stuff and I never really had time to dig in to the basement until now. I've been spending most of my time off down there. It took me a couple weeks just to clean out about a third of it. It's enough space to set up my office and a work area for the computers. I don't think I've ever seen so many spiders in my entire life. We had pale ones and black ones and red ones and taupe ones and little, teeny ones and big fat ones. Because this is Minnesota, most were on the smaller side. One of the main benefits of getting a hard freeze each winter is that bug size is limited up here. The most notable experience occurred when I was moving a box and a marble rolled out. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a blur streaking across the floor and the marble stopped dead. A brown spider, not super huge but big enough to give me pause, was wrapped around the marble. I eyed it nervously as I moved the box away and then when I got back it was gone. I knew I'd have to face it eventually. There were two dressers and a couple of boxes left of the section before I was done. I occassionally saw him watching me from under one of the dressers but had many other spiders and webs to deal with before him. An old fashioned broom is a wonderful web fighting utensil. Sweep up the web some times complete with spider, run out the garage and shake the broom. Again and again and again. Later that week, I was moving another box and I felt that light tracing of furry feet scurrying down my arm and thankfully, off my leg onto the floor. Lacking other cover, he hid in the cap of a can of spray paint. I slammed a can of paint down on top of it and took the whole thing carefully outside where I deposited him on the lawn to continue his contribution to pest control. I was curious so I looked the critter up online. It seems he was a wolf spider which is a hunting spider. Hunting spiders don't use webs to catch their food which explains the whole marble thing. People used to believe they hunted in packs which is where they got their name. There are a couple of short articles by Kevin Strauss on wolf spiders on the site, if anyone is interested: Wolf Spiders Seek Warm Homes and Bugs in Winter.

Next: Basement Fix-up Part Two - How Do You Make Cement Floors and Block Walls Cozy?