Horror at the Creek

Our romantic winter tranquility was shattered most grotesquely today.

Let me back up a little.  Since arriving here at our little place next to the pond, occasionally we’ve seen deer coming down to drink in our creek or the pond.  It’s become almost a game to see if we can catch them in the headlights when we come back from town in the evenings.

We’ve been fairly cold since the polar vortex.  Of course, after -30, everything is relative.  But we’ve had probably less than 5 days where the high has been above freezing in the last month.  Combine that with about 4 inches of snow, and we’ve had a lovely white, nearly completely solid pond for about a week.  There is one small corner that has refused to give in the temptation to solidify, and as such, we’ve had the cutest deer tracks across the pond to get to that corner to get a drink.  It made me smile to see the zig zagging of tracks across the powdery snow.

It seems I wasn’t alone.

The first inkling that there was something amiss in the woods behind the house came one night last week when Alex had gone out to load more wood into the stove.  He came back in, and told me there had been something following him on the other side of the fence.  He was sure that it wasn’t the horse that sometimes hangs out on the hill, as there were none of the telltale equestrian noises.  I told him it was probably the chupacabra, but he wasn’t able to laugh it off, it had truly made him feel uneasy.

A couple nights later, while we were in the garage loading wood (you’ll notice a theme to my life now), I heard what I thought sounded like howling/yipping, but when I opened the garage door, I couldn’t hear it.  I thought maybe it had just been a sound from the stove and continued with business.  Then last night, whilst I was in the throes of an Ambien induced trance (hooray for Zolpidem!  I had been out, and suffering for it too), Alex said that he was sure there were coyotes were throwing a party outside the house (however, this was not information I learned until later).

I’m sure you can see where this is headed.

Today was the first warm day we’ve had in some time.  We got to nearly 60, and so we let Wiley out to play.  After running around the property, she wouldn’t come in from near the creek.  So I walked over to corral her back in.  As I get closer to her, I see a couple of tufts of hair on the ground.  That’s odd, I thought.  I got to her and she was standing over a small strip of deer hide (more like preparing to roll in it).  And that’s when I saw it.  The hind legs of one of our little deer laying unmoving in the rushing water of the creek.  I moved my vantage point, expecting to see the rest of the deer, and THERE WAS NO REST.  It was only the back end of the deer, up to the rib cage, which was partially exposed.  My heart just bled for that poor little deer.

But now we have to figure out just how big a coyote problem we have.  Could just one have taken down a deer?  Are they pack hunting?  Does this mean forever that we’ll have to take the dog out on a leash at night (of course the real issue)?  How much crow do I need to eat after having dinner at Coyote Kitchen, and I, with all the western superiority I could muster, smugly wondered aloud if they’d ever even seen coyotes?

After such a trauma, what on earth could make you feel better?  Hmmmmm, maybe a trip to Mast was in order:

So after an afternoon of real American (imported from Mexico) bottled Coca-Cola, some mighty fine picking and singing, and an examination of local canned goods, I was feeling somewhat better.  Until we pulled into the driveway, and there were the two remaining deer, also looking for the rest of that poor little animal.

I’ve always avoided watching nature shows because they are always so cruel.  One thing I didn’t think about in moving to a rural area is that we would be living in one.  Ah well, I’ll do my best to tuck my heart ache away, and get on with life.  I have to, the stove needs wood.

One last thing:  GO CATS!!!!!

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Meanwhile, at Mast General Store . . .

Wait a minute. . . . .

Wait a minute. . . . .

Wait, they weren’t kidding.

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I survived Polar Vortex 2014!

Yes everyone, I stared the beast in the face, and lived to tell the tale.

My first inclination that things were bad came from work.  Normally, when it forecasts for some cold or snow, folks will gleefully appear in my doorway and ask how my Tucson blood is surviving.  They relish in sharing the fact that I park my car so that I can remote start it from my window before heading out at the end of the day.  But they weren’t like that this time.  Monday morning, they were popping into my office with real concern.  “Make sure you cover your ears, face and fingers.  It only takes minutes for frostnip to settle in.”  Hmmm.  “You can put your food outside if the electricity goes out to keep it cold.  You do have a heat source independent of power right?”  Uh oh.  And by the time the notice came out in the afternoon that campus was closed on Tuesday, I was pretty sure we were in for the big one.  They’d just cancelled life on Tuesday, things were bad.

Monday night, as the wind began to howl, we watched the temperature drop, and drop, and drop.  As we headed to bed and the temperature was at -6, with a -30 wind chill, we prayed forgiveness for the puppies we must have kicked in a previous life.

Tuesday dawned, my very first snow day ever (we almost had one when I was in third grade, the dirt roads were so bad the bus couldn’t get through. But the school was so small, they just sent a pickup truck around to pick everyone up. Foiled!), clear, calm and COLD! We waited for the sun to warm things up, and at around 11, when it hit a whopping 3 degrees, we drove into town to enjoy breakfast on my unexpected day off.

Remember our little pond?

Look ma, no skates!

Look ma, no skates!

The temperatures have slowly climbed back to sane levels. Today we are in the 50’s, with up to 2 inches of rain expected. Early this morning we were even greeted with THUNDER! For some reason I thought thunder was a mostly dry climate occurrence, so it made me irrationally happy to hear it.  I’d like to think of it as the weather’s apology for Monday.

I hope everyone is staying warm (or cool, you pesky Arizonans). We will likely venture out in the rain to the Mast General Store.  There is always something random going on. We just love it!

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Another Holiday in the Books. . . .

Another holiday season has come and gone, our first in the cold country.  While we saw some flurries on Christmas Eve, we didn’t have any snow on the ground on Christmas Day.  Here’s hoping for next year.

However, living in the middle of Christmas Tree Central, we did experience going out to hunt down our very own tree.  We set up a tree stand, and waited for the perfect tree to amble by.  Our patience (and frasier fir cover scent) paid off, as we bagged the ideal tree, and took it in for processing.

We then loaded our prize onto our vehicle and headed for home.


Bagged a tree!

Once home, we unwrapped our trophy.  You can see the dog is greatly impressed.

However, because we didn’t want Gabriela to feel left out, we waited until she got here to decorate.  In fact, we wanted so much to make sure she felt included that we let her decorate the whole tree. I’m not sure  I’ve ever seen anyone so grateful.

Once we had a tree up, Christmas was free to arrive.  All presents arrived at their destination safely (I don’t know how Aunt Kimie mailed presents from Florida for all those years, I could barely handle one year).  The great folks at Go Postal (yes, that’s really their name) rescued my sanity.  I’ll never ever ever go back to the post office.

Alex winterized me for Christmas.  He got me snow boots and gloves, both things that I really needed.  Given that I was ready for winter, we headed again for Washington, DC (yes, you may be noticing a theme here, I’m sure Jared and Meredith are wondering if we’re slowly moving in).  It was good to see Jared and Meredith, but really we wanted to hang out with Tesla.

Tell me that's not a great face!

Tell me that’s not a great face!

So the new year is here.  I’ve never been much of one for resolutions, but this year I’m going to live with intention.  I’ve not taken an active role in steering my life in the past, and have gotten incredibly lucky.  So, I’m taking the reins!  Now I just need to figure out how to do that (I’m pretty sure there are lists involved). . . . . .

Happy New Year everyone!  Here’s hoping that you all have a great year ahead, and that I’ll see you before the end of 2014.

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Oh Brother!

So, it’s been almost three weeks, and I realized that I was getting lazy.  So no more procrastinating, or maybe I’ll just do that tomorrow.

Just after my last post, I headed to lovely Wilmington, NC for a conference for work.  “There’s a Wilmington in NC?” You may be wondering?  And if you are, then you obviously never watched Dawson’s Creek.  Um, well, not that I did either, I swear.  It is on the convergence of the Atlantic and the Cape Fear River.  Charming.  The conference was at the Wilmington Convention Center, which was fairly new, and quite nice, however, the area of downtown around it could use . . . . . a little revitalization.  I’m not saying it was dangerous, but to walk to dinner I had mace, a broadsword, nun-chucks, a bowie knife, a chained mace, a badger and finger cymbals in my coat (well, how do you you control a badger??).  It was a big coat (Steve would say all my coats are big).

When I got back, I had my first bout with illness here in NC.  I’m surprised that it took as long as it did, as moving usually brings that on pretty quickly.  I didn’t realize at first that it was illness, I thought it was an asthma attack (which I was diagnosed with two years ago.  Because your thirties is the perfect time to develop asthma).  I had no symptoms of a cold or flu, I just had a cough and shortness of breath.  Alex was concerned that because of the 6 hour drive to Wilmington (and if you know St. Clair’s, you know that we DO NOT STOP on the road) it might be a blood clot, and so off to urgent care we went.  And while taking blood, the nurse was having a hard time getting a vein (they usually do), and somehow triggered a vaso vagal response, and boom!  Passed out!  However I now know the secret to great service.  Anyway, they made sure there were no clots and no blood oddities, doped me up with steroids and hydrocodone (perfect time to start lifting weights!  Build muscle, no pain!) and sent me home.  Luckily it didn’t get much worse and by the end of the weekend I was starting to get back to normal.  How did I celebrate such a turn of luck, you may be wondering?  I gave it to Alex!  You’re welcome, honey!

In the midst of illness (or maybe a contributor to the illness), our heat went out.  So I had mentioned getting a fuel oil refill in an earlier post.  The fuel oil heats water, and the hot water is pushed through the baseboards.  Voila, heat.  Except not.  And not being familiar with how these things are supposed to work, we initially assumed that maybe it’s just not a very efficient system.  Or we’re desert wimps and our blood just needs to thicken up.  But on about our third day of the ground floor not getting above 55, we said, this can’t be normal.  We let the owners know, and they got in touch with someone to come over and take a look.  They said they’d be over the next morning, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.



Because what does everyone want when you have no heat, and are about to drive 6 hours?  Snow!  We were all packed and ready to get an early start to Washington, DC to spend it with my youngest brother, his wife and her family, and decided, weee’lllll just wait for the guy that’s going to fix the heat to get finished.  And while he may have secretly agreed that we’re desert wimps, it turns out one of the pumps had gone out.  He replaced it, and we’ve been cozy ever since.

We did finally get on the road to DC, and had a great time with Jared, Meredith, Brad, Judi, Travis and Marissa.  Cousins Wiley and Tesla were especially excited to get to spend time together (that’s our story and we’re sticking to it anyway).  We had a fantastic meal on Thursday, then Meredith cheated at Apples to Apples (had to get that in there), and then we visited Arlington Cemetery on Friday.


It was great again to see them, and we may spend some time up there over the Christmas break while Gabriela is here with us.  We had been thinking of heading down to Florida, but our relations in Florida are heading to Arizona.  Well, fine!  We’ll just . . . go north . . . in the winter.  Like confused birds.

I hope everyone had a great holiday, and is looking forward to Christmas.  I know a couple of children who should be (good thing they don’t read, haha!).

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Mishmash of recent to-do’s . . . .

The Mast General Store!

So, a couple of weekends ago, we took the advice of neighbors and went down to Valle Crucis (pronounced Valley Cruces, I have no idea where they got their spelling, kinda like Isenhour Road, yes like the president, Isenhour) to visit the Mast General Store.  We weren’t told much of why, just that we should go, and to the original, because they are now a chain with multiple locations.  We got to a wood-sided, white-washed building, stepped inside, and paused as slow smiles spread across our faces.  As we listened to boards creak under our feet, and looked down the counter made of glass and wood, we each were transported back to our childhoods and the general stores in our respective towns that were so much like where we now stood.  Pocket knives, flashlights, shoes, canned goods (and I mean canned, as in glass), enamel cookware, slingshots, hand-crafted rocking chairs, in a two-story building that has been settling and leaning for decades.  We were enamored.  We spent a couple hours that first day, and have since returned to buy wool socks (incredibly important here!).  We, however, have not yet gotten our chance at the checkerboard.

The Mast Store Today

The Cochise Country Store in my hometown

Wait . . .Is that . . . Snow???

Oh yes, it is.  We had our first daytime snowstorm this week.  The snow here isn’t big, fluffy flakes, but more like small, hard salt.  It hits you and bounces off.  And it comes with lots and lots of cold.  We were at a work retreat on the fourth floor of the Student Union, and were able to watch the storm roll in from the mountains through the floor length windows along one wall.  It was beautiful to watch, but you certainly learned how fast you could walk going back to the office.  One thing that is important to learn about here is that there are times when the high temperature for the day is in the morning.  When you get back to your car your windshield wipers will be frozen to it.  Lucky for me, if I park in the right spot, I can remote start my car from my office window.  Hooray for warm cars!

Holy Hair Loss Batman!

So, since arriving here, I’ve been noticing that my hair has been getting increasingly . . . . sticky.  Not greasy, but sticky.  And I seemed to be losing more of it than normal.  I’ve attributed it to my body being stressed by the move and new environment, and resigned myself to the fact that it will all probably come back gray (I told my husband I was shedding to grow in my winter coat).  Well, when we were in the retreat, during lunch folks were talking about the water (someone brought over a cup of water from the fountain, and someone else asked where they got the lemonade – not kidding, it was that yellow), and they were talking about the large amounts of magnesium in the water.  And it hit me, “I bet it’s the water!”  So I got home, and did some research, and sure enough, water with a lot of magnesium will cause buildup and hair loss.  It’s a good thing I caught it in time.  It doesn’t look too bad, does it?

The wonderfully knowledgeable people on the interwebs recommended a chelating shampoo, and with the help of amazon, one is currently winging its way here.  Hopefully it gets here quickly *licks hand and pats down hair strands*

Hope everyone is staying warm!!

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Random musings on getting old . . . .

So I’ve been contemplative of late, and figured I’d just share that with everyone.  This won’t be a post full of the usual good humor, but as a wise man once said, “Better out than in.” (Okay, maybe some humor, 10 points to the first to identify that wise man).

I’ve learned to beware of extreme feelings.  The things that you feel most adamantly about are the things that are most likely to confront you in unexpected ways.  It’s one of the reasons that I try not to judge people.  Because it does come back to haunt you.  And sometimes you don’t even realize it.

When I was 13, my mother hooked her car up to a recently purchased truck, and with her husband, drove away from the people she loved the most.  She moved half way across the country, abandoning us to a life that at the time, no one could have imagined (except possibly her, having been on the receiving end of what we were about to face).  I’ve spent a large portion of my life being upset with her about that.  Even after she passed, I’ve had a hard time dealing with those feelings.  In fact, it’s one of the reasons I’ve felt so adamant about not having kids, as I’m afraid there just may be a genetic predisposition to abandonment.  Her mother abandoned her in a way, bringing an alcoholic into their lives and allowing him to wreak havoc.  My mother physically walked away from us, and I don’t know if you could say my father emotionally abandoned us, because that would imply he was emotionally there at some point, which I have a hard time featuring.  But I’m terrified that I would have the capacity to cause the same damage to someone that was inflicted on me.

***Disclaimer*** To be fair, there were never kids more deserving of being abandoned by someone than we were, at least by our mother.  We were beastly, beastly children, who did everything in our power to make her miserable.  All she ever wanted was for us to get along with each other and obey her, and it was something that we didn’t do until she walked away from us.  ***End Disclaimer***

I was thinking the other day about how you turn into your parents as you get older, and it hit me.  3 weeks ago, we hooked up the car to a newly purchased vehicle, and with my husband, drove away from the people that we love the most.  I moved all the way across the country, knowing that I’d miss birthday parties, and football games, and holidays, and those unexpected texts to ‘come meet us for sushi.’  And that one day my family may feel like I did, that they’d been abandoned.

So now I wonder if age really brings wisdom, or if it’s shame that brings wisdom.  My mother didn’t leave for exactly the same reasons as I did, but I believe we probably shared some motivations.  To make a better life, to grow yourself as a person, and to give a relationship that started later in life the chance to feel like one that started early.  And one thing that we didn’t share, she was totally used up.  She’d spent her entire life to that point fighting, and didn’t have anything left. And as much as it hurt me to leave, it had to have hurt her infinitely more, even if as a selfish child I couldn’t acknowledge her feelings, only my own.  And I’m ashamed that I resented her so heartily for it, never even attempting to understand.  Especially as one day I may find myself looking at the same accusatory expression and may be unable to make my choices understood.

That’s what’s been on my mind, as we approach what would have been her 59th birthday.  But the musings started because we have a pack of playful little squirrels that have been foraging for acorns in our front yard over the last week.  It’s amazing how much joy you can get from watching squirrels, and it made me think of my mom.  Those years that she lived in Oklahoma, she so wanted squirrels in her yard, but her dachshund would chase them away.

Jackpot!  I found one!

Jackpot! I found one!

Stashing this for winter!

Stashing this for winter!

At this point, you’re probably feeling a little fished in, and I promise to return to the normal joviality soon (we have a possible excursion to the Biltmore House on the horizon, I’m sure there will be lots to share).  But I have a platform (however large that may be Steve), and there’s just no telling how I’ll use it. . . . . . .

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First week, first visitors, and first freeze in the books!

Hello all!  I survived my first week, and with flying colors I might add.  Some days were a little hectic (Tuesday I discovered that breathing really is optional), but some days were much more laid back.  I was able to meet and talk with a lot of my new co-workers and start to learn how we do what we do at App State.  Thanks to the folks in Institutional Research, I was also able to catch some interesting streaming Educause sessions.  In one of them, I heard a previous co-worker ask a question, and it made me a little wistful.  But only a little.  I’m quite sure that I’ve got a pretty good thing going here.

Why, you might ask?  Because I get to spend time hanging out with my youngest brother!  He and his new wife came down from Washington, DC, this weekend and we had a great time hanging out.  We usually go so long in between seeing him that after hanging out with him, I feel like I’ve found something that I didn’t realize I lost.  And you’re really happy that you found it again.  Hopefully we’ll see them again for Thanksgiving.

While they were here, we took a drive up the parkway to catch the fall colors.  There’s been dispute about when exactly they will be in full riotous color, last weekend or the upcoming weekend, but for a girl from brown, I thought they were pretty colorful already:IMG_6426

It was a good thing they came down this weekend, it was beautiful, and also likely the last of the beautiful weather.  This morning, I came out to get in my car to go to work, and surprise!  Frozen windshield.  Luckily it wasn’t very thick, so a couple minutes with the defroster (no problem-o thanks to my remote start) was all it took to be on my way (as I have yet to buy an ice scraper.  Although, really I have a garage, I’m just too lazy to park farther than my door).  Although, one morning I do need to get up and catch the fog as it lays on the pond next to the house.  It is very cool to see (I’ll just wait for it to get darker later, rather than me get up earlier.  Expect that picture in, eh, a month or two).

So, two signs that you live (back) in the boonies.  1) No trash pickup.  Whaaaatttttt???  Seriously???  There has to be some enterprising person that has said, ‘Hey, I can make a lot of money hauling people’s trash off.  The dump is free, so if I just charge twice my gas, I can make a killing!’  I guess we could always burn it in the water stove.  “Why does your heater smell like bananas?” “Um, no reason.” 2) No Costco!!!!!!!  And that is a dangerous thing, because you get Costco withdrawals, and then when you do go, you wind up doing something silly, like buying a 70″ TV.  Not that we did that or anything.  I have a friend.  Just saying.

Well warm weather friends (which is different than fair weather friends), it looks like I’m headed toward icy adventures ahead.  But before you rib me too much about the horrible weather, remember that the average temperature here in the summer is 75, with little humidity (I overheard someone the other day saying that we have a micro-climate here, and to get like summer conditions you’d have to go to Buffalo, NY).  And I have a memory like an elephant (which I get from my grandmother.  But of course all that means is that I’ll be blaming my grandfather for the weather).

Until next time!




Steve – I know you just called me fat.  Hope you didn’t have that Stephen King yet…..


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My first day!

Today was my first day at a new job in 15 years, at a new university in 17 years!

My morning started with something that I’d never seen, 5:15 a.m.  Then, I met something else that I’d never seen before, my hair dryer!  I blow dried and flat ironed my hair, actually put on some makeup, took my Flintstones vitamins and then headed into my first day in the office.

Then I met something else new.  I wasn’t completely sure what it was at first.  It wasn’t quite rain, but it wasn’t dry.  However, an umbrella was no use against it.  It was like walking in a cloud, but there wasn’t any fog.  I found out that they call it ‘mizzle’ – and not because they’ve been hanging out with Snoop for too long, but because it’s a combination of mist and drizzle.  It just hangs in the air.  So remember my wonderfully dried and frizz free hair?  Well, there’s a slight chance that by the time I got to my first meeting I was slightly smoother than little orphan Annie.

That was all made better when I got back from my meeting and flowers had been delivered from my husband.  They look fantastic in my new window.


The day went well, I actually felt like I knew what I was doing, and most of my anxiety melted throughout the day as I realized, ‘Yeah, I can do this!’  And as much as Universities may differ there are some things that are oh-so-much the same.  So only a short post for today, but it was a good day!  Even with the mizzle, this desert girl was flying high.

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Reds, Greens and a Driver’s Test

So, it’s been 5 days at our new abode, and things have been good, but tiring.  Speaking of our new abode, here it is through my wonderful fisheye adapter for my camera.


(Okay, maybe not exactly a wonderful fisheye adapter, but at least you can see the scope of our Thomas Kinkade-ness.  Sickening, isn’t it?).  If that isn’t bad enough, here’s the road up to our place:


So, on about our third day here, I was looking at the bushes outside of our cathedral windows and noticed some with red berries.  I said to Alex, “I wonder if those are currants?”  Well, I went outside and lo and behold, they were raspberries (obviously I have no idea what currants look like and was just spitballing)!  And a ton of them still on the bush and ripening!  I stuffed myself silly, stuffed Alex silly, and then decided that by next year I’ll have to (re)learn how to can and make jam.  Something about the south really brings out the domestic side of you (for 10 minutes anyway).  So those were our reds.

We were outed rather quickly as not being from anywhere near the south when we ventured to dinner at Cracker Barrel.  I know, not terribly exciting, but we never went in Tucson, and were at odds of where to eat, so we thought we’d give it a try.  Alex ordered turnip greens as a side, and the server asked if he’d like vinegar with them.  He said he was fine, and she asked right away, “So, where y’all from?”  Busted!  Apparently, anyone properly from the south has vinegar with their greens.  And here we thought we were so incognito.  Those were our greens.

Hope I never run into those gophers!

Hope I never run into those gophers!

Which brings us to the driving test.  We went to their DMV to switch our licenses over.  After a trip to the ATM because they don’t take debit cards (seriously???), we filled out all the forms, and then the motioned to us to move over to the touch screen monitors to take our test?  WHAT????  I haven’t taken a multiple choice test that wasn’t in an Oprah magazine in ages!!  Why do I need to take a test?  And why on earth would I know what the state can do to you if you refuse a chemical test if suspected of DUI?  Or what percentage of accidents are caused by drunk drivers?  Why are all these questions about alcohol?  Do they suspect something?  WAIT!  What do you mean I failed?!?!?!  That’s right, folks.  I, most ashamedly, failed the driving test.  After my incredulous reaction to the debit card thing, the man was only too happy to oh so condescendingly hand me the driver’s manual.  I tucked it between my legs and waddled out of the building.  I haven’t yet mustered the nerve to return.  Though I should go back before I forget the answers to the questions that I missed.

I stopped into my new office for a short time yesterday and today.  Yesterday I came in to get my new App Card, and today came in for my parking permit and to attend the quarterly staff meeting.  When I got my permit, referring to the difficulty finding surface lot parking the woman said, “This really is just a hunting permit.” I promptly responded, “Well, here’s hoping I tag out!”  She laughed the entire rest of the time I was in the building.  Score one for communicating with locals!  And speaking of my office, I have an office.  An actual office, with a door and windows.  Huge windows!  A window bigger than me even (I know Steve, that’s difficult to accomplish).  When it won’t seem weird that I’m that excited about windows, I’ll post a picture.

We got down to 39 last night, though the days have still been pretty warm.  Not in the 90’s mind you, but warm nonetheless.  We had our first fuel oil refill for our water stove (so the heating works by heating water and pushing it through the baseboards).  The oil man pulled out of our driveway with both my arms and a leg.  Next time he’ll have to harvest from Alex, I’ve only got one leg left to stand on (I’m typing this with my nose).

Hope everyone is doing well back in the desert!

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