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Creepy House Next Door

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I have update on the Creepy House Next Door that seems to be in the process of being swallowed whole by the surrounding flora.

I texted the owner on Saturday. She said she'd get back to me today or tomorrow, but so far, nothing. No surprise.

On the advice of one of the neighborhood watch people, I contacted the sergeant who oversees our fair city's Code Enforcement department. He emailed me back and said he'd get the officer who handles that property to give me a call on Monday. And so Officer Moulton did -- he called me today. The house is kinda-sorta under contract. Someone's trying to buy the land for $40K (wow, really? I thought she wanted $95K) and flip the property, but when he got in it, he determined that structurally, the place isn't salvageable. So he got another investor involved in the purchase with the intent of tearing the building down and maybe rebuilding on the lot. There was a delay with finding paperwork on a lien, and blah blah blah...

Whatever the case is, this officer wrote $1000 in code violations tickets since January, and the owner paid them all, and that's all he can do at this point since she lives in another state. He called her today to get an update, but hadn't heard back by the time he called me. If he doesn't hear back from her (or hopefully the new owner) in the next two weeks, he'll start writing tickets again. Meanwhile, he told me to save his cell number and call him anytime if I see anything weird going on over there.

I personally am worried about a particular tree that's looming over my office from her yard. I wonder if anyone would care if I had that tree taken down, on my own dime. The wood could stay in the yard for all I care; I just don't want this sick, rotting, English-ivy-strangled tree within one bad windstorm of crushing my office or my bedroom. If I can reach Miri, I'll ask her if it's okay. She's bound to say yes as long as she doesn't have to pay for it.

Now I have this amazing idea...if it weren't for my insane work schedule and the fact that I don't have the money to do this, or any experience at all with haunted would be so fun (and not difficult at all) to turn that house into a haunted house for Halloween. OMG. That would be so fantastic. There are already so many rumors about what's been in there; not much of a creative leap to build delightfully terrifying scenarios out of those rumors. And then they can tear it down on November 1.

As usual on deadlines...

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...I find myself searching the interwebs for the Next Career Move. You might remember my delve into forensic arts from a few years ago; I'm still fascinated by forensic science, particularly the specialties like shoe pattern analysis, etc. But it's not something I think I can form a career on without a lot of schooling in a completely different direction. Still, i've got these books on forensic arts, so y'know, maybe I'll read 'em sometime.

Prior to that was, "I want to do something with animals." Maybe animal rescue or rehab or behavior or something. Sure, that's still a possibility, in some form. But it's too vague of a goal. I have to narrow that down. For a week or so there, I wanted to be Jackson Galaxy, but...that's more about human psychology and human behavior, than animal behavior. Can't I just get a job playing with baby platypuses at my local zoo? :)

Oh yeah, let's not forget environmentalism, Tiny Homes, off-grid living, yard gardening, communal living, and all those anti-corporate/anti-Monsanto/anti-Big Oil things that get me so fired up sometimes. I'm not sure if "hippie" is a job description, though, and I have to be honest; I suck at gardening. So there's that drawback.

The most recent chapter of Where Do I Want to Be In Five Years is working for a national or state park. I don't know in what capacity; just something where I can be in a park as my day job. Today I found "Mile...Mile and a Half" on Netflix, and I won't kid, I was crying at the beauty of it, and immediately started searching for real estate near the John Muir Trail.

Let's explore this possibility for a minute. There's a long road between where I am right now and actually becoming a ranger or something. There are a lot of things I need to figure out first, like:

1) Can I actually backpack for more than a day or two?

Right now, I've only car-camped once, and it was fun, but it was not as physically challenging or as removed from civilization as real backpacking. (TBH, it was physically challenging; the 8-mile hike and fall by the river really killed my knee.) I need to get out there and experience True Wilderness Living -- pooping in the woods, dealing with being dirty and sweaty all the time, making fires, dealing with bugs and wildlife, packing in and out all my food, etc. -- and see if I actually enjoy it, or if I'm too much of a suburban girl. Will my old injuries slow me down? Will my skin issues wreak havoc?

2) Do I have the physical strength to handle the workload of being a ranger?

No, I don't. Not right now. I did a few years ago, but then there were the injuries. So that's something I'm going to have to work around -- or work with -- for a year or so to prep for possible physical labor.

3) Do I have friends who are also interested in working for state/national parks?

Yes, as a matter of fact, I do. One friend, jwaneeta, is pretty serious about it, or was when we last talked. Another, bananamanager, might be talked into it, but she's got her own five year plan that she's working on and it hinges on her partner's career. I desperately want to form some sort of future plan that includes her, because we work so well together, but our partners come first. Their current and immediate-future circumstances have to dictate our plans.

4) What requirements do I need to meet to qualify for a ranger?

A bachelor's degree in forestry, environmental sciences, or similar. This much I do know. And the requirements change based on the state in which I live, if I'm working at a state park. So, I have to consider going back to school, and all the vagaries of that.

5) What can I do in the meantime to prepare myself for future schooling, work, etc.?

First up, I need to get up to strength to handle physical labor. I have to do that very slowly and carefully so I can avoid injury, which set me way back over the last year. Then, when I'm physically ready, I can then volunteer for Volunteer Vacations, which would be an excellent way to see what it's like to physically work at a park.

6) Can I afford to make a drastic career change?

Nope. Not at the mo. We are still carrying a mortgage and car payment, a fair amount of credit card debt, not to mention the money I owe my parents. We're nowhere near where we should be for retirement. All these things MUST be dealt with before I add on any school costs. So...I work. I work and work. But I'm not working smart, and that's where I really think we need to reconsider the path we're on.

The thing is, I'm 42, creeping up fast on 43. The longer I wait to get going on these plans, whatever they may be, the older and less capable I'll be do them. I hate getting older, but look at how long I've been complaining about wanting a career change. Right?!

Meanwhile...I should probably be aiming this focus at my deadline, and not at this thing right now. It's the only way through.
escaped with my life
(Cross-posted from Facebook, but with cuts for length.)

What a terrible night of dreams.

Dream #1: Just a hint of stressCollapse )

At this point, I woke up for some reason. Don't remember why.

Dream #2: Now with 50% more stress!Collapse )

I woke up again because Frankie, our 19-lb cat, kept walking over me. Also, I had a stuffy nose and gross cotton mouth, and had to go brush my teeth. This was around 4 or 5 am.

Dream #3, part 1: Enter more stress, stage rightCollapse )

By now it was 7 am and my alarm was going off. In between slaps of the snooze button, the thread of the dream-story was still there, but it was now changing locations and people.

Dream #3, parts 2 and 3: 100% pure organic stress!Collapse )

Apparently, I do not have subtle, mysterious dreams that need to be decoded. Oh no. My dreams have all the subtlety of a shark gnawing on my leg.


Playing catchup

Man, it feels like I'm always running pell-mell on a moving sidewalk that's running in the other direction. I'm never actually getting anywhere, and I'm always exhausted.

I'm going to outwit this, though. I have to. I can't catch up entirely today, but I can make a few substantial strides in the right direction.

Reverting to older social media

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I don't know who actually reads this anymore, but it's where I put thoughts, so read and reply if you'd like.

Time to avoid Facebook for a while. Imagine walking up to a house party. You see all your friends in there, and you can't wait to get inside to talk to them. When you walk in, though, you enter a space where at least half the crowd is shouting about the latest piece of bad news or stupid Republican/Democrat antic or guns or reproductive rights or what-have-you. Some of them are arguing with each other (loudly), but most of them are shouting the same stuff over and over, like a really bad version of "row row row your boat" that's out of tune, offbeat and LOUD. And they're throwing crumpled-up magazine articles at each other. It's a complete cacophony.

Not everyone is like this. There are plenty of FB friends who actually post stuff about their lives, and avoid political/'news' reposting. I want to read those posts. A friend said there's a way to prevent links from showing up in my FB feed; I'll have to research that.

In the meantime, I made it difficult to look at FB on my work machine. This will force me to only look at FB when I'm on my iPad or laptop or phone. It's just better this way.


Meanwhile, back on the ranch...R and I have picked up our activity level. We're walking almost every day in preparation for Yellowstone. He used to walk like a farmer when I first met him; now he's much slower, but today he practiced lengthening his stride again, and if he can keep that up, we'll be able to keep a respectable pace. Maybe not the turbo-pace of jwaneeta or keswindhover, but they won't be waiting for us forever. :) Also want to incorporate squats and lunges into our daily routine to prepare for the trip. Strong legs = good hikes!

My bad foot (the one with plantar fasciitis) is still bad, and is complaining mightily about this sudden increase in activity, so I should see the doc about that and maybe start a cortisone shot regimen before the trip.

Gotta get R a hydration pack and a walking stick or two. I was thinking of upgrading to carbon sticks, so he might inherit my old ones. Wish I could find the ones I saw a while back, with tilted ergonomic grips...


I am experimenting with vegetarianism. I'm not going vegetarian, but I feel this need to be more conscious of the meat I do consume. Where does it come from? Are the animals treated well and killed humanely? Are they stuffed full of antibiotics and crap before they die? How much fossil fuel is used to transport them from farm to table? So, occasionally, to avoid the side dish of guilt, I'm choosing vegetarian options when I can get them (and still get enough protein).

Veganism is right out. No way am I giving up eggs and honey and dairy.


Last but certainly not least: my dad's in the hospital. His blood pressure plunged on Saturday night and he was admitted for a possible pacemaker. However, they found some sort of infection, so they did blood tests to find out if it might be Lyme disease from a tick-bite back in May. Right now he's on IV antibiotics, and he might have a pacemaker installed as soon as the test results are back. We're in the hurry-up-and-wait phase.


One more thing: Looks like Corky will be a permanent part of the household. He seems to think he should be a permanent part of my desk. He's parked himself on my Wacom tablet right now. *sigh*


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More good and bad news from the FIV house. Good news: Three more FIV cats got adopted! One was in the foster system, but two of them were House-cats, Boo and Larry! So glad about both of them. They're both sweet as pie and mellow, and Larry got picked on a lot, so it's good he's going to his forever home. But now I can't quote Big Lebowski quotes at Larry anymore. Aww. :)

Bad news is that we lost Jessie. Jessie was a non-FIV cat who had been at the house since I started there in 2010. She was Pansy's buddy, but they'd grown apart once we started taking in so many more cats. She hadn't been well for a while and finally succumbed to whatever it was that affected her.

So now we have four new FIV cats at the House: Leo (big orange furball), April (a small, lean, active tabby, possibly still a teenager), Cotton (a big proud tabby boy) and Noelle (a dilute tuxedo). Noelle has the most fascinating markings; she's tabby inside the dark parts of her tuxedo markings, but the tabby stripes are so dark that they're almost an optical illusion. She's a real beauty, and she will be adopted quick, I guarantee.

So, back to real world stuff. Bought a car. Yep. I pick it up tomorrow (today) at 10 AM. His name for now is Colossus. He's a 2013 Subaru Outback 2.5i Premium. I'll take photos later.

Got a con and a deadline this weekend. Yaaaay. :( So far behind it's stupid.

Furkids FIV House updates

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It's been a roller coaster of good and bad news from the FIV House. FOUR FIV cats got adopted in the last week -- that's amazing! We go from no adoptions for six months, to four in a week! Congrats to Scraps and Mr Peabody, who got adopted together, and to Baxter and George who got adopted together! That's beautiful!

But we also lost one of our cats. Teddy Bear was actually non-FIV; we have about a dozen non-FIV cats at the house. Teddy was one of eight black cats at the House, which means he always got overlooked for adoption. It's the curse of the black cat. Which is too bad, because he was a real sweetie.

My own personal Teddy story: A year or more ago, I arrived at the house to discover Ted had an infected ear; his ear had swollen up like a balloon and he was clearly in distress. He got treated for the infection, and eventually his ear deflated (literally) and became this little crinkled nub. It looked like he only had one ear because the other one had wrinkled down to his skull.

Ted had the softest fur, with the possible exception of Sheena Bear, another black non-FIV black cat and possibly his sister. Ted also had the most adorable vampire fangs, which I find utterly adorable on a black cat.

Gonna miss Teddy's smiley fangy face with its crumpled ear. He was a genuinely calm and gentle sweetie, and in recent weeks he wanted more attention than usual. Maybe he knew that something was wrong. I don't know.

It will be very weird to go to the House tomorrow night and there won't be any Baxter, George, Mr Peabody, Scraps or Teddy there to love on us. It'll be interesting to see if some of the quieter cats' personalities come through more, now that the most demanding attention-beggars are gone.

Apr. 17th, 2014

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Here we go's 11 pm, I have 20 pages to color by tomorrow at 6 pm at the LATEST. There's no freaking way this is going to happen. Who am I kidding? It's ridiculous.

But I'm going to sit here and doggedly color
and drink coffee
and cry a bit
and put my head down on the desk for the only 15 minutes of sleep I'll get tonight
and lament my lack of focus
and wear support socks because my ankles swell up
and take painkillers for my neck
and push cats off my desk
and sneak into the kitchen for a PB&J at 4 am
and beg all the gods to make me color faster
and wish so hard that I could slow the clock down
or that I'd gotten my work done earlier
and think about hiking
and dream about a spa day
and wish I could sleep just an hour or two
and suck down an energy drink
and search for the few remaining crime investigation TV shows I haven't watched yet on Netflix
and panic when I hear that bird start singing at 5:30 am
and cry some more
and take more painkillers for the headache
and doggedly color.
Because that's how I roll.

Rest in peace, Laura McCracken

A longtime LJ and FB friend, webwawa, died yesterday from complications following full-brain radiation therapy for two aggressive tumors lodged behind her eyes. She survived brain surgery and chemo earlier this year, and she survived chemo for lung cancer a couple of years ago. Even though she'd had cancer already, even though it had metastatized in her brain, it's still hard to think that she didn't make it through this latest round, just on her sheer will to live. Adorable, sweet, talented, active, funny, genuine, bright, clever, warrior spirit...I really envied her in many ways. Not so much her cancer, of course, but everything else. I'm going to miss her, even though I've never met her in person.

This is the truest example of "life isn't fair".

SnowBlameStorm 2014

escaped with my life
Everyone in states/countries that actually gets snow on a regular basis: Ha-ha, Georgia's freaking out over two inches of snow. That's not a storm!

Georgians: Shut up. And don't come cryin' to us when you get above 85 degrees or 50% humidity in the summer.

What we learned from the 2011 ice storm: The city got out the snowplows earlier and most of them were actually working this time. Major highways were being cleared within 24 hours of the snowfall. Last time it took 3 days.


Also, meteorology 101: IF a line of storms is moving east-southeast across the state, and it shows snow on the front edge of it, and that edge shows up on the radar as being south of Atlanta...wouldn't it stand to reason that there might just be snowfall BEHIND that front line -- i.e., north-northwest of the front edge? YES. IT WOULD. I couldn't believe my ears when I heard the radio say something about "hey, they're predicting the snow line to be further north than expected". What? did they think the snowstorm that was rolling over Atlanta was going to HOLD IT like a kid needing to go to the bathroom until it got past the airport*?

Don't blame the weather forecasters, politicians. That's disingenuous.

The biggest mistake: In 2011, the storm first hit on a Saturday night/Sunday morning. There wasn't anyone on the road to get stranded. This time, the storm rolled in in the middle of a workday. Instead of calling for closures on Monday night or early Tuesday morning, Mayor Kasim Reed called for all the open schools and businesses to shut down all at the same time. BAD IDEA. Suddenly there's a flood of cars, buses and trucks, worse than any rush-hour traffic that would usually be rolled out over the course of 3 or 4 hours, jamming the roads at the exact time when it starts to snow and the roads get slick. This LITERALLY occurred within the space of 45 minutes. There were a MILLION inexperienced snow drivers on the road at once, and they all freaked out and started speeding and driving stupid, and that meant slides and crashes and jackknifed trucks and all manner of insanity -- and where did this happen the worst? In the northeast sector, because all the damn snowplows and emergency vehicles were sent SOUTH, because the weather reports said that the worst weather would be SOUTH of Atlanta (as if it would just SKIP Atlanta somehow), and no one bothered to de-ice State Road 400 or Fulton Industrial or any of those major thoroughfares that people take to get OUT of the city.

It's a perfect blamestorm.

What kills me is that there were friends stranded out there on those northeast thoroughfares for 8, 10, 12 hours. HOURS. One friend is still stranded at a hotel and will probably be there until tomorrow. I wish I had a 4WD and could go out and get her, but I don't; our cars are not ice-worthy by any means, and we are not experienced ice-drivers, so we would only add to the melee. Really hoping that one of our network of friends has the means and ability to get out there and pick her up, or that the city gets its head out of its butt and gets the roads up there cleared. This is near the exit to a MAJOR HOSPITAL, for crissakes. You'd think they would clear that up really fast.

Ah well. I'm done with my impotent outrage now. Guess I'll get some work done.

*Hartsfield-Jackson Airport is generally seen as the southernmost point of metro Atlanta.


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