My life changed dramatically and forever when I lost TJ.

I welcome you to follow along as I adjust to my "new normal".

It is not all puppies and ice cream but it is my life....real and honest.

Monday, April 29, 2013

RIP Mickey

Tuesday, April 16, 2013 my dear, dear Mickey passed away. She was in my living room and Tater and I sat with her until the end. I have been in an extremely bad and dark place since.

I knew that losing her was going to hurt. I just had no idea how badly it would hurt. It not only hurt, it made me angry. To everyone else I lost a dog, but for me losing her truly marked the end of my life with TJ. Every animal we had together is gone now. I only have my memories left. I have nothing tangible from that part of my life. I knew nobody would understand so, once again, I kept my feelings to myself. I have spent the 2 weeks since her death grieving the loss of my past life. I went back to that place I was right after TJ died. I had forgotten how deep the pain of grief runs.

 I always thought her eyes were so bright and full of life and expression.

She outlived the wonderful puppy that she gave me, Okie

This is my favorite picture of Mickey. She was a dog that was always up for an adventure and loved riding in the jeep down at "The Shack".

It has been 2 weeks and I think it is time to pull myself out of that abyss of grief. I can't let myself stay there any longer. I simply will not allow it. I don't want to be there again. My life is pretty darn good right now. I can't complain really. This needs to be simply a minor set back. One that I was completely expecting even! I have used this quote before but it is one I really relate to.

No louder shrieks to pitying heaven are cast, when husbands or lap-dogs breathe their last. ~ Alexander Pope

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Container Gardening

I am going to try my hand at container gardening this year. I am counting on failing so I won't be disappointed, but I have to admit that there is a glimmer of hope that it actually works.

My place is overrun by rabbits. They eat absolutely everything in sight.....except for the weeds of course. I really hate them. A few years ago I went on a rabbit killing spree which I will tell you about some time but I didn't make a dent in the local rabbit population. It is because of them I can't plant in the actual ground, plus the fact that the soil in Arizona is just not conducive to gardening.

About a week ago I gathered up all the extra containers, feed buckets etc. that I have laying around and begin planting vegetables in them. Not only did I plant in containers, I put most of the containers on a table. This way those little buggers can't even get to my veggies by standing on their hind legs and stretching.

So far I have planted: Green Beans, Broccoli, Carrots, Spinach, Bibb Lettuce, Banana Peppers, Scallions, and Radishes. I also bought a Tomato Plant.

I am "recycling" some lava rock that the home's previous owner used as landscaping. I have been wanting to get rid of it so putting it in the bottom of my containers for drainage seemed perfect.
 The one thing I am most excited about growing is green beans; Blue Lake Green Beans to be exact. This is what my parents grew in our garden in Indiana and I just love green beans. I planted then in a livestock trough and had planned to leave it on the ground. Tater was with me when I planted and when I went in the house he jumped in the trough and dug up quite a few of the beans. I also think he might have eaten some of them. I know he sure was muddy. I have been waiting to see if any pop up and today I saw this one little sprout! I hope to see more soon.

 My spinach is beginning to sprout.

 The bibb lettuce is beginning to sprout also.

This is my mishmash of containers. I only used what I had around since this is an experiment and I didn't want to put much money into it. I have not planted in the large galvanized trough yet but I plan to get some sweet corn in there this weekend.

Now, if I can just keep the birds away......

Thursday, April 4, 2013

It Is A Jungle Out There!

While all of you in cold parts of the country/world are anxiously awaiting the arrival of spring or maybe already showing pictures of flowers beginning to bloom I am in Arizona loathing the arrival of spring. With the exception of experiencing the joy of knowing that summer is just around the corner I would like to just skip the springtime.

I live in the desert. Only very hearty plants can survive the extreme temperatures of the desert. We often reach 120 F in the summer and have hard freezes in the winter. But weeds....weeds are hearty enough to survive it all and appear year after year every spring. This year is especially bad as we had quite a bit of late winter rain. I know if I just wait a few months they will die and blow away but right now....IT IS A JUNGLE OUT THERE! When Tater goes outside I lose track of him because the weeds are so high.

 Unbelievable! I have never seen it this bad. It looks like I have grass for good grief.

So I came up with a temporary fix until it heats up. I borrowed an electric weed eater from my girlfriend and went after them. I don't know why short weeds are more acceptable but for some reason it is less offensive to me. I just want my nice, brown, gravel yard back

In celebration of Tater being with me for 2 years I decided to see if he could behave (not chew anything up) out of his crate while I was at work all day. He did wonderful! So I packed up his crate and stored it away in the garage. The best part is I get to see his happy face watching for me out the window when I get home. It makes me smile no matter what kind of a day I had.

Parvo Update: Both dogs are back to their original health! I also wanted to let everyone know that yes, my dogs were vaccinated. It hit Mickey hard because of her elderly age. Tater wasn't hit hard because of his youth. So all dogs are susceptible even though vaccinated. Like one of my readers said: "A reminder for all of us with a tendency to want to bring home strays."

Monday, April 1, 2013


Well it was bound to happen to me eventually. I have been warned numerous times over the years by different vets, family and friends. But there is something in me that can't turn my head on a stray dog. I have adopted so many over the years. Even as a child I was always bringing home strays. I have never had any problems. Well, I can't say that any longer.

Maggie had parvo when I brought her into my home. She infected my other 2 dogs and consequently I had a week from hell. If you are not familiar with parvo this is a brief synopsis I hijacked from Wikipedia:

Dogs that develop the disease show symptoms of the illness within 3 to 10 days. The symptoms include lethargy, vomiting, fever, and diarrhea (usually bloody). Diarrhea and vomiting result in dehydration and secondary infections can set in. Due to dehydration, the dog's electrolyte balance can become critically affected. Because the normal intestinal lining is also compromised, blood and protein leak into the intestines leading to anemia and loss of protein, and endotoxins escaping into the bloodstream, causing endotoxemia. Dogs have a distinctive odor in the later stages of the infection. The white blood cell level falls, further weakening the dog. Any or all of these factors can lead to shock and death.[19] The first sign of CPV is lethargy. Usually the second symptoms would be loss of appetite or diarrhea followed by vomiting.  Vaccines can prevent this infection, but mortality can reach 91% in untreated cases.

For brevity purposes I will give you a timeline of what happened. The symptoms described above are terrible and because of them every floor in my house has been bleached several times, all dog beds have been thrown away as were any plastic bowls.

Monday, March 18
Maggie was brought into my home to live forever. I loved her and thought she was such a cutie pie.

Wednesday, March 20
We took Maggie to the vet as she was very sick and discovered that she had parvo and was severely dehydrated. Because she was in such bad shape the decision was made to put her down.

Thursday, March 21
Upon arriving home from work I discovered that Tater Tot was exhibiting symptoms of Parvo. I was devastated and rushed him to the vet. Armed with Zantac, Pedialyte, and an antibiotic I returned home to begin the long process of trying to save his life.

Saturday, March 23
Mickey began showing symptoms of Parvo. She is 13 years old and my vet informed me that if she got it she probably not survive because of her age. Again, I am devastated. I spent my entire weekend force feeding, cleaning up "messes", and forcing fluids into my dogs. Hoping with everything I had in me that I could save them. I was riddled with guilt that I had done this to my precious dogs.

Sunday, March 24
Both Tater and Mickey were showing signs of improvement.

Monday, March 25
I arrive home from work to find Mickey had taken a turn for the worse again. I spent that afternoon, night and the next day at her side trying to save her.

Tuesday, March 26
By this afternoon Mickey is once again showing improvement. I cautiously begin to think she might make it.

Thursday, March 28
All is good. Both of my dogs have survived Parvo!! I survived too. It is nothing short of a miracle that got us through this.

The above is a very brief description of what we endured. I barely slept the entire time and when I did it was a short nap on the couch. I did have to work but fortunately I work from home on Tuesdays and Fridays and that enabled me to give around the clock care. Because Tater is fairly young (2 years old) and healthy he didn't get as sick as Mickey. Mickey on the other hand was so weak at one point that she was laying on the floor unable to get up to vomit or use the bathroom. I truly believed she wasn't going to survive.

Tater on his first day of being sick. I think it is very noticeable that he doesn't feel well. It broke my heart to see him this way.

Mickey resting on the dog bed that is now in a landfill somewhere. Honestly people, this dog is too tough to die!

 RIP Maggie. Your time was short but you were loved deeply.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

New Addition To The Family!

First of all, I know I have once again been MIA. But this time I was S I C K. Holy cow did I get knocked down by a cold! Going to work and caring for my critters was about all I could handle for a couple of weeks.  The good news is that I am back up and running again.

I have been thinking for a while about getting another pup. Mickey is at the end of her life and Tater...well he is just tiny and I want a larger dog. Yesterday Sam emailed me a Craigs List ad featuring this little girl.

 How could you not love that face?!
 I believe she is part Heeler and part Pit. The people that put her on Craigs List had found her as a stray and were just trying to find her a good home.
Sam drove to North Phoenix when he got off work to pick her up and delivered her to me (I live way east of Phoenix). She is really skinny but that won't be a problem to fix around here!
Now she has a forever home and Tater Tot has a new sister to play with. He is being a bit bossy with her right now but I am sure that will stop as she continues to out grow him.
I don't have a name for her yet so if you have any unique ideas please let me know in the comments. Her personality is very quiet and mellow and she is quite the lady so I want something to match that.

Monday, February 25, 2013

He Talks With Me About TJ

He is my friend and he was TJ's friend. Most have no idea that he and TJ were good friends and most don't know that he and I have become such good friends. He commiserated with me when I called to tell him of TJ's diagnosis and prognosis. He was the first of many to say "he is such a good man and he doesn't deserve this!".

Although he didn't have the opportunity to come visit TJ before he died; he often called me to see how he was. He came to TJ's Memorial Service at the house. He stopped by a few times after TJ died to help me with some things. Over the past 3 1/2 years he has sent me many random text messages to make me smile or laugh. 

He calls me and we talk about TJ. I don't usually like to talk on the phone but when I am talking with him about TJ time flies and before I know it hours have passed by. He is not afraid to ask me the tough questions. He wants to know how it was for TJ at the end. I tell him. He knows every last heart wrenching detail. He is not afraid to laugh with me about some of TJ's ridiculous shenanigans.He tells me how often he thinks of TJ. While so many others will barely utter TJ's name in my presence it is our main topic of conversation.

We rarely see each other in person. Sure, we always talk about getting together but our schedules just don't permit it. But it is our phone calls that I look forward to the most. In those first few months after TJ died it was him that was able to lift me up with a phone call. Even now, on those rare occasions that I am having a bad day, I know it is his number that I must dial, yet I often don't have to as he always seems to call just when I need him the most. His compassion for my plight was unparalleled and still is to this very day. Ours was an unexpected friendship and one that I cherish deeply.

"We cannot tell the exact moment a friendship is formed; as in filling a vessel drop by drop, there is at last a drop which makes it run over; so in a series of kindnesses, there is at last one that makes the heart run over." ~ Gloria Naylor

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Goodbye Saguaros!

I finally got my saguaros removed. Well, I only had 5 of them removed. I have many more on my property. The ones I had removed were in the way of where I want to put a round pen and horse stalls. It took quite a few phone calls to find someone willing to pay me for them. Many of the landscapers I called wanted to charge me! Saguaros are protected in the state of Arizona and it is illegal to move them without a permit. Many people who live in the city want them in their yards and will often pay landscapers quite a bit of money for them so there was no way I was giving them up for free. Then I found "Cactus Deb". She offered me $10 a foot for them and she would get the permits and move them. I had a total of 35 feet of cactus removed. They were all fairly small and were what are called "spears", meaning they have no arms. While they may be small they are very heavy since they are full of water.

This was the largest one weighing in at approximately 1,100 pounds. Where they wrap the ropes around it is first wrapped with carpet. The needles are sharp but the actually flesh is tender so the carpet protects it. 

 A cradle that also has carpet on it is placed on the side it will be laid on.
 The roots are very shallow so very little digging will release the cactus from the soil.

 Once the cactus is laid on the truck the tap root is severed.
 It is then pushed up onto the truck bed.
Repeat the process.
This is the tag that must be affixed to each saguaro being transported.
The 3 largest all packed up and ready to go. They weighed (left to right) 900, 1,100 and 800 pounds.
The little 2 foot baby is rolled in carpet on the front and Deb will be back to get the little 5 foot one.
Depending on time and weather I should get my round pen and stalls up within a month. Yay!!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

I Played Tour Guide

I used to play tour guide all the time when I first moved to the Valley of the Sun as family and friends came out to visit. I have lived here long enough now that most of my friends are here and my family has seen and done most of the tourist stuff.

But 2 weekends ago I had a friend whom I had met on twitter come to visit for a long weekend. Brenda is a fellow widow and over the past few years we have become good friends through twitter. When she first approached me about coming for a visit I was very excited and then when plans were finalized I could hardly wait. Another fellow widow and twitter friend was planning on coming too but ended up having gall bladder surgery 3 days before leaving and couldn't make it.

Brenda and I had a fantastic time and got along wonderfully! Since we were basically in my backyard I chose not to take my camera with me so Brenda graciously sent me some of the photos she took while she was here.

Saturday afternoon we met my friends Sam & Dan (brothers) at a local watering hole with great views of the Superstition Mountains. We had a few beers and Brenda was able to enjoy our nice mid 70's F temperatures.

Brenda has a goal of visiting all the National Parks so I had to take her to Saguaro National park. I saw this sign outside the visitor's center and just loved it. As most of you know, I am a big fan of the desert so this quote really speaks to me.

This is a view during our hike in the Saguaro National Park. Desert yes, but I find it beautiful!

I finally got Brenda to set down and relax. I haven't hiked in about 20 years and she about killed me! Not to mention the fact that she is under 30 and I am pushing 50.

We crammed as much sight seeing as we could into 4 days and I think Brenda left with just a little more appreciation for the desert than she came with.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

My Tree Succumbed To The Heavy Rain

Once again I am having tree issues....seriously....can you believe it? I have the weirdest things happen at this house!

Two weeks ago was the hard freeze and while lots of things died my mesquite came out of it in full bloom. Looks beautiful right?

Then last weekend it rained. It rained for 3 days straight! We don't get that too often here.

Now my big beautiful blooming mesquite looks like this!!

Is this not the most bizarre thing you have seen in your life? Growing up in Indiana I saw trees succumb to the weight of ice and/or snow, but water?!

You can see the "bend" in the branches.

This picture really shows how much that rather large branch has bent!

If any of my fellow bloggers have seen such a thing please let me know. I haven't done a thing to the tree yet, but I can't imagine that the branches will dry out and just pop back up. I am not even sure that the tree will survive this to be honest.

Maybe this is a metaphor for my life?

"Blessed are the hearts that can bend; they shall never be broken." ~ Albert Camus

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Ride The Wave

"Just ride the wave Sandy", a very good friend told me a while back. "It isn't that simple for me anymore", I replied to her. Really, it just isn't. Years ago I was able to just accept the good; life was expected to be good. I am tarnished now though. I expect things to go wrong in my life. Not just a little wrong....horribly wrong is what I anticipate.

My life is rolling along quite nicely right now, yet I expect to go hurdling head on into a block wall at any moment. I don't know why my brain thinks this way. Is it possible that my brain is against me? Is it simply easier to be unhappy than happy?

For the past few years I have been focused more on avoiding pain than seeking pleasure. It became a habit; a bad habit. Nothing bad has happened for a while, yet my brain is still focused on avoiding pain. This means I am focusing on what is wrong rather than what is right and things that I should be grateful for.

Maybe it is time to retrain my brain. Train my brain that rather on focusing on basic survival it should be focusing on making me happy. I have no doubt that making that shift will be easier said than done. Although I do believe it is possible.

I can't change the world around me by fighting it in my head. All the stress, anger, disappointment, regret, frustration, and bitterness that I harbor will not alter what is. It is only after I learn to accept things as they are that I will be able to create the change I am seeking. I must not and will not give up on the possibility of a good and peaceful life.

"The wave is the signature of every experience of life. By understanding the nature of waves and their characteristics, and applying that understanding to our lives, we can navigate life with a little more grace." ~ Jeffery R. Anderson

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

We Had A Hard Freeze!

Two weekends ago it was cold here. I mean super cold! Maybe not for you northerners, but for us desert dwellers it was pretty darn miserable. We had lows in the low to mid 20's F for 5 straight nights in a row. Our highs were only in the mid to upper 40's F. The Valley had not seen temperatures like that for 25 years. Most of us don't have heaters in our homes that can keep up with cold like that and most have exposed water pipes outside. I used my fireplace and covered my pipes with towels, but I am sure the plumbing companies were busy with busted pipes.

Tater spent most of his days curled up like this in front of the fire!

 In the midst of our unseasonable cold weather I saw this walking stick. I rarely see these and this one is, hands down, the biggest I have ever seen! I truly thought it was a twig until I got too close and it moved.

Most importantly, why was this guy out?! Way too cold for snakes to be out this time of year. He was sunning himself right outside my front door. I almost stepped on him. He is just a bull snake and not poisonous so he was moved away from the house and left alone.

 The cold weather once again killed my ficus tree. It was just coming back from the freeze in 2011 and now got hit again. As you can see the top never did recover from 2011 but the rest of it did. I am not sure if it will pull through again though.
But the almighty mesquite tree survived just fine! As a matter of fact it is in full bloom and is all abuzz with bees in the afternoon.

The good news is that we are back to normal temperatures with a high of 80 today and it is only a matter of time before we will be well into the 100's. After that cold weekend I am ready for temperatures topping 100....I can handle the heat but not the cold.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

I Purged...A Lot...Again

I spent this past weekend inside purging. It had nothing to do with the New Year and everything to do with the weather. It was cold, as in I didn't think I was in Arizona anymore cold. Our lows were in the mid 20's F and our highs were in the upper 40's F. For us desert dwellers that is C O L D!!! I had planned to do yard work (i.e. aloe) but just couldn't make myself be outside. So instead I decided to clean out the closets in the spare bedrooms.

TJ was quite the pack rat and if you have read my blog for a while you have heard me complain about this. Well, after he died I needed to move and quickly. I could not afford the house we were in and needed something that fit into my budget. I went through the house halfheartedly and had a yard sale but many of the boxes he had around I just moved to the new house and hid them away in the closets of the spare rooms. Out of sight, out of mind. That isn't totally true, I knew I needed to go through them, but it was easier to ignore them when I couldn't see them. I was also concerned that having boxes stacked in dark closets was a haven for scorpions and black widows and this was somewhat bothersome. So this past weekend I emptied everything out of the closets in both spare bedrooms and went through each box meticulously. I sorted everything into piles...Goodwill....trash....give to someone....keep....etc. It was a daunting task and took me 2 full days. To be totally honest I cried through most of it.

A big concern of TJ's after his diagnosis was what would become of his "stuff". Like most of us, his stuff was important to him. He and I talked extensively about where he wanted his stuff to go. I have tried hard to stick to his wishes. I gave his nice boots to a friend that had the same size feet. I have doled out his cowboy hats to special friends over the past years and some of his hats are in my current home as decoration. His chaps, spurs and spur straps hang in the spare bedroom that I call "The Cowboy Room" as decoration. But these boxes I had to go through were just stuff. Not special stuff in my opinion and it was hard to decide what TJ would want me to do with it. I was surprised that after 3 years it would be so damn hard.

I had many pictures of us hung up in the old house and not knowing what to do with them when I moved I just plastered them on the walls of my office. I took them all down this weekend....all of them....gone. I have an enclosed patio that is covered in pictures of my friends and TJ is in some of those, but the wedding pictures and those of just us that I hung in the office are now gone. I put everything of his that I wanted to keep in a plastic tote. One tote. Our life together is now stowed away in one plastic tote.

When I woke Sunday morning my first thought was "he is gone, he is really gone". I have put him in a plastic tote in the closet....he is gone! I cried, I sobbed and I felt the pain of losing him all over again. But, instead of staying in bed all day like I used to I got up, showered, and loaded my truck with the stuff for Goodwill and the trash to put in the dumpsters at work. I moved forward. I moved forward like I have been doing for 3 years now. I didn't expect it, but some days it is still just a matter of one foot in front of the other.

I believe there are people who cross our lives in tiny fractions of time, in the briefest of encounters, and yet they leave an indelible mark in our hearts and our minds. Thank you TJ.