25 December 2015

Joyeux Noël!

Fröhliche Weihnachten Ya'll!

I hope everyone is having a safe and happy holidays!  Now is the time for family and friends to gather together and celebrate the season.   

Danny TESTET: Frohe <b>Weihnachten</b>
Holzstempel "<b>Fröhliche Weihnachten</b>" mit festlich geschmücktem ...

<b>BUON NATALE</b>!! ***

Legal Marketing: Auguri di <b>Buon Natale</b> e Felice 2013

With temperatures projected to be in the high 70's, I don't think we are in for a white Christmas this year.

I'd love to claim that our shopping was done a long time ago, but, I don't like to lie and it just doesn't seem to be in my nature.  Something about hitting the stores on Christmas eve seems to be in my horoscope.  As usual, I am stuffing the bird and wrapping gifts on Christmas morning.  At least my son and his better half are home for the holidays and we get to spend some quality time together (even if he is drinking up my beer).

Have a Merry Christmas!  And remember to save room for some pie!


10 December 2015

Reset, Re-calibrate & Reboot

Test.  Test.  Test.  Is this thing on?    

Sorry guys.   I've been absent from the keyboard a while.  Kind of a self imposed hiatus from the blogosphere.  No real excuse although I seemed to have misplaced my muse.  Things have taken a different turn down here and I have been distracted from posting anything or even keeping up with everyone.  

To paraphrase something Terri said earlier, I like to think that we are working towards a new normal.  With SIL's passing back in August, life has taken some different turns.  We are slowly settling her estate and wading through the morass of legal paperwork/probate/estate planning.  Trying to close out someone's life is not something we were trained to do.  

Momma is holding up well.  Everyone is concerned with her but she is handling the situation without needing much of my help.  I am more of a moral support, providing the back and legs to whatever needs to be done.  Clearing out the storage room, going through all of the files, fixing the sprinkler system, taking supplies to the food pantry, feeding the cats (poop scooping as well), etc.  Just another day in the hood.  We are slowly closing out things at her house.  There's no real rush on our part (or, at least I am not rushing momma).  The house is only 20 minutes away so it is easy for us to go over and take care of things.  We still have way too many cats (IMHO) but we have been able to offload one to a friend.  We are looking at other options to reduce the horde, but still keeping our promise to SIL to find good homes for all of them (no shelters) - going against the advice of some "friends".  In the meantime, they continue to live in the high life in the cat house.  They ain't suffering too much (unless it's when I leave the TV tuned into the Walking Dead Marathon).           

At work, things have taken on a whole new level of intense.  We merged with another bigger company in October and, as with any merger, things are changing.  New name, new priorities, new overlords.  I have been out traveling a bit on supplier audits with a road trip to Wisconsin and California and it looks like I am going to do a bunch more next year. We were supposed to go over to France a few weeks back right about the time all of the crap went down.  We actually had people in the air to Paris on Friday when everything fell apart.  The company made the decision to cancel the meeting and send everyone home and do the conference via skype.  Things have settled down a bit but my horoscope has a road trip to France in my future for next year.

At home, we've been busy as well.  I have been able to make most of the home football games at A&M in the trailer with the dogs.  Not overly impressed with the team's performance, but at least we had a decent time camping.  

I also have been doing more doggy stuff over the past few months.  Claire & Grayson are doing well, although Claire is slowing down a bit.  Honestly, I am worried about her - her back end is weak and she doesn't have the stamina for long walks.  Have taken her to the vet for testing but, at her age (12/13), there is not really much that they can do.  We did pick up a guest for Thanksgiving week while  my brother was off shore on a cruise.  Parents/brothers did a Caribbean cruise (I passed) and I offered to take care of his fur baby.  A 7 year old Border Collie called Dot.  A very cute, intelligent and intense dog.  At first I was worried that she would not get along with my two, but they were best buddies by the second day.  Since Dot is a trained sheep dog, it was funny to watch her try to herd Grayson when they were out running.  Cute dog.  By the end of the week, momma wanted to keep her.     

Cute?  Me?

Her favorite hangout

I also wound up doing a foster run the same weekend I picked up Dot.  Got a call to meet a woman down in El Campo (1.5 hours south) to pick up a OTI (owner turn in) dog that was to be fostered by our group.  Duke was an absolutely gorgeous 18 month old Golden that was full of energy.  The woman was turning him in because her job had her travelling 5 days a week and she was moving to a place were there weren't any good options to take care of the dog.  She had the dog since it was a puppy and just wasn't able to be home enough to take care of him, so she did the right thing and chose to give him up to a family that would give him the love and attention he deserved.  One of the harder OTIs I've done.  She was heartbroken to let him go.  I only had him for the short drive back to Houston, but had decided that, if we didn't already have Dot to take care of, I would have taken him home.  I just read on our website that Duke has already found a furever home with a good family and another Golden buddy.  That's one of the reasons I stick with this foster group - the benefits far outweigh the costs.         

Say hello to Duke
I am trying to get back into the swing of things, but no promises.  One step at a time.  First order of business is to go catch up on everyone's blogs and that may take me a while.  

28 September 2015

Some days you're the dog...

It's that time again for our annual GBGRR annual picnic this past Sunday.  Despite the gloomy weather and sudden downpour, the outing was huge success.  Not quite as many dogs as I have seen in the past, but there were more than a few Goldens running amok.  Good food, lots of really neat raffle prizes (didn't win any again), lots of wet dogs and no conflicts/fights.  I've been doing this gig for about 5 years now and am still amazed on how well everyone (dog & human) get along.  

With all of the mayhem and activity, I lost track of Grayson & Claire a few times (many Goldens do look very much alike), but, like a kid on a playground, they eventually found me.  

A few shots of the carnage...

Of course, my two kids were totally exhausted when we got home.  Wet, tired and happy, they pretty much crashed for the rest of the day.  

20 September 2015

Closing things out

The last few weeks have been quite full/melancholy.  I am not sure if it good or bad with being busy, but it has kept us from dwelling on her passing.  I am most saddened for my wife.  She has been holding up well, but this has been a very long and sad journey for her over the past few years.  First her dad fell ill several years ago and passed away 2 years ago after a long battle with Alzheimer's.  Earlier this year, we lost her mom due to the same illness.  Finally her sister passed recently.  She has a lot on her plate of late and I am trying to take some of the burden off of her shoulders.  We are in a kind of void right now - sort of grief/guilty phase.  Sad to have lost her sister at this age, but glad she is no longer suffering.  Will take a while for things to right themselves again.  

In the interim, we've been working on multiple fronts to take care of things for Julie.  Arranging a memorial service, working with the funeral home, drafting up an obituary, posting updated on Facebook.  Momma and I argued about the FB posting but I felt we needed to do it so that her friends would know and could post their comments.  A few were surprised with the news since Julie did not really want her condition and prognosis shared with many.  While I am not a big FB fan, a few friends were starting to mention about missing her and I felt it was our responsibility to post something in her honor.  The obituary took a bit of editing before we posted it but it finally hit the paper before Labor Day.  I wanted to write more about her career and love of cats but when we got the price for the simple obit, we were a wee bit floored.  The cost of a simple obit was running almost $6.00 per word, hyphen, comma and period.  And that's per day.  I read some of the obits in today's paper that are running 4-5 columns and cannot help but think that run somebody close to $3,000.  I told my wife that, when I go, all she needed to put in the paper is "Agg Died".  I am not sure how Julie would feel about paying this much money for a short synopsis of her life but I felt that we owed it to her.  And her friends really appreciated it.  

We did arrange for a memorial service right after Labor Day.  She did not want people to interrupt their plans/vacations and since Julie wasn't very religious, we chose a Methodist church next to the Medical Center where a number of her friends/coworkers could attend.  Very nice service, reception, a much larger turnout than we had expected.  I had spent the week prior combing through pictures at her house and what I had taken over the years to craft a slide show of her over the years.  I even stole a few pictures from friends that had posted to Facebook in her memory.  I got the idea from a previous memorial service and people really seemed to enjoy it.  A few shots from the slide show:

We are spending time over at her house going through the records, sorting things out, making calls, feeding the cats (anybody want one?), emptying litter boxes.  Julie had a love for animals in her life and she was passionate about her cats.  My wife came from a cat family but I have slowly brought her over to the dark side and the world of dogs.  Don't get me wrong, I don't have anything against cats, but I am just not really a cat person anymore.  I am not sure how well my two furbabies would take to a feline guest.  While I feel fairly sure that Claire, old softy she is, wouldn't have too many issues with a cat (heck, she loves anybody), Grayson kinda has a personality that doesn't mix well with felines.  He's had a few close calls with neighborhood cats but I have kept him on a tight leash whenever one is around.  In my opinion, if he ever did try to go MMA with the local calico yard cat, my money's on the cat.  I'll regale you with my cat history later.  

On many of the walks I had with Julie, one of her concerns was with her cats.  What would happen to them, who would take care of them.  We had a solution in one of her friends volunteered to take all of them, but that friend died unexpectedly last year from brain cancer.  I told Julie that, because of the dogs, I could not commit to taking the cats, but I did promise her that we would do everything humanly possible to find them good homes.  They were not going to be neglected or turned over the the shelter and we would work the back channels to find homes for all of them.  Initially, she wanted to turn them over to the Animal Life-Care Center up at A&M that takes care of pets when their owners pass away.   Sort of a pet sanctuary.  Beautiful state of the art facility with the best care.  The problem is that they were very, very pricey.  A quick estimate of how much it would run for her cats came out to be more than the cost of her house.  So, in the meanwhile, the cats have the run of the house while we work on finding homes/servants for them.  

I wound up giving her Camry to my son.  I have been taking care of it for a while so I know it is in good shape and a good replacement for our old '93 he currently drives in Austin.  Ice cold A/C, new battery & tires, a working radio, and only 77k miles.   The car even came with Lojack but I don't think Julie ever activated it.  The only problem is that we cannot find the title so I am going to have to work through the state to have a new one printed and then have it transferred over to him.  Actually, I will have it transferred to me and then I will transfer it to him.  Turns out that in Texas, you can transfer a title to a family member (aka bother in law) for only $45 and save on paying the taxes on the sale.  Unfortunately, junior being her nephew does not fall in that category, so we will have to juggle the title a bit to make it work. 

Progress is slow, but we are moving forward.  

31 August 2015

Saying goodbye

I wish I had some good news but I am saddened to pass along the news of SIL's passing.  Julie passed away peacefully Saturday afternoon at MD Anderson with friends and family by her side.  

She has been struggling with her cancer for the past two years with various degrees of success but, ultimately the cancer spread and took her light.  She went into the hospital two weeks ago in a good deal of pain and nausea.  They tried to stem the pain and give her some comfort, but the cancer had spread to the point it that not much could be done.  The past few days were hard on everyone.  She had been slowly declining since the weekend and things did not look promising.  Along with my wife and I, several of Julie’s friends took turns staying with her at the hospital so she had someone with her.  Our son drove down Friday afternoon to see her as well.  We went up to the hospital Saturday to sit with her and her friend, not really sure how much time she had.  She passed away quietly around 3:00 pm with my wife by her side.       

This has been long in coming.  Julie was nephrologist (kidney doctor) and knew the score.  Ever since she was diagnosed 2+ years ago, she was pessimistic about her chances but chose to fight it regardless.  Despite all of the obstacles thrown her way, she kept fighting it.  Several months back, she and her oncologist decided the chemo wasn't doing anything but making her sick and stopped the treatments.  Afterwards, she seemed resigned to her fate.  My wife stayed with her throughout the entire process.  Staying at home with her, the multiple trips to the hospital/ER, taking care of her treatments.  She set aside a lot of things to be at her sister's side, providing some comfort.  I'll have to admit, it wasn't easy, I am not sure I would have had the stamina to do it.  

To provide some minor respite, we tried to get her out of the house for a day just to break the routine, even if for a short while.  She loved spending Saturday afternoons over at my brother's garage (GRAJ).  Between talking on cars, family, dogs and eating something from the grill, it was something that enabled all of us to forget about life for a while.   My wife would bring her over to our house every other day as another break.  Julie loved walking the dogs with me when I got home, even if it was 98 degrees outside.  She looked forward to it, it gave her some relief from the pain, and the dogs certainly didn't object.    We spend a lot of time discussing her status while walking the dogs.  We covered a lot of topics, ideas, questions.  I broached the subject of her final wishes.  With her mother's passing earlier this year, she decided to be cremated but did not want to be buried back at the family plot in Arkansas.  Instead, she wanted to remain with us, although, we haven't determined where we will wind up.  I told her that I wanted to be cremated as well but, in lieu of a burial, I wanted my ashes spread over Kyle Field.  Fat chances of that happening - something about some sort of regulations against that.  I was not trying to be morbid on these discussions and she felt some relief to unload on me as it was hard to discuss these issues with my wife.  We also talked/debated about a memorial service.  She did not really want one because she didn't want to burden everyone and didn't want people to feel sorry for her but  I kinda convinced her that her family and friends might want to have one, if for anything to remember and honor her life - sort of a sense of closure for everyone.  We have yet to figure out any details (still too painful to consider), but we have debated using the local church near the medical center.  That way a lot of her coworkers and friends could attend.

Right now, things are moving slowly.  Understandably, momma is exhausted.  I am taking off this week to help settle her affairs, play chauffeur, clean out litter boxes and serve as a general roustabout.   

22 August 2015

The long goodbye

I haven't posted much about my SIL lately.  Honestly, guys, it wasn't because I didn't care or want to share, but, the news just really hasn't been good.  SIL has been fighting the good fight and struggling against her cancer but the journey hasn't been easy. 

Julie went under the knife almost 2 years ago and it has been a struggle ever since.  A lot of infections, much pain, many trips back to the hospital.  

This past weekend we did our weekend trip across town to my brother's garage.  Sort of a break from the routine/rut but I think that Julie felt she needed one more last time with the family.  My son and his wife were down for the weekend and got to spend some time with her.  It was a good time but Julie was in a lot of pain and really not feeling well.  I think it was because she felt this was the last time she would be at the GRAJ.  We kept an eye on her and kept asking if she wanted to leave early.  We did finally pull out early and, on the way home, she and my wife decided that she needed to go to the hospital to try and see if they can do something about the pain.  She checked in late Saturday night and they diagnosed her with pancreatitis.  They were able to deal with it somewhat but she is in a lot of pain and is very tired.  They moved her to palliative hospice care to try and dial in her pain meds and she has been there all week.  My wife has been up there most days and I have been going up in the afternoons to sit with her and give her a little company.  She is struggling and discouraged and ready to go.  Her doctor friends have been by several times and have talked with us on the side and have been pretty honest with their thoughts/opinions.  Her chances of getting any better are pretty nil.  The cancer has metastasized into her lungs and has made it hard for her to breath.  We are headed up to the hospital now to sit with her and talk about what she wants to do.  Julie just turned 62 two weeks ago and the past two years have been very hard her and my wife.  We are preparing for the inevitable but I know this will devastate my wife.  I know that Julie has thanked me for being there this week but I feel really helpless.  All I can do is be there for her and her sister.  It is no longer a matter of if, but a matter of when.  Everyone asks if they can do anything but it is really in the Lord's hands right now.  

19 August 2015

Taking it easy

Claire's back home tonight.  The vet said she came through her procedure with flying colors.  No complications and they were able to remove the mass easily.  They are sending it off for a path test but the vet said it didn't look bad/alarming so he felt this was more of a cyst/growth, but I'll wait until the lab test come back next week.  

Meanwhile, Claire is on the DL for the next two weeks.  No walks, no swimming and no baths until the stitches come out.  I will take her back on Friday to have her bandage removed.  She is a bit groggy and not up to her normal personality, but it may take a day for the effects of the anesthesia to wear off.  In the interim, she's getting extra attention/loving.  


18 August 2015

Paws crossed

A lot of things on the plate right now.  We are handling some challenges with SIL that I will elaborate on later.  SIL would come over to the house every 2-3 days to walk the dogs with me when I get home from work.  It has turned into a routine that the dogs seem to love even if it is still 95 degrees.  Even though she is getting tad older and a wee bit slower, Claire still loves to roll over and do some "grass twerking" when we get to our local pocket park.  Seems to be a routine for her and who am I to deny her inner puppy.  

When we were out last Thursday on our normal walk, I spotted something odd with one of her paws that I hadn't notice before.  I thought one of her pads was cut or inflamed but it turned out to be not the case.  Some odd growth on the side of her left paw.  It looked red and swollen and I initially thought it was some bug bite but it wasn't bothering her.  She wasn't limping or showing any signs of distress even with me poking at it.  Not something I wanted to see.  Goldens are susceptible to getting mast cell growths, some of which can be cancerous.  One of our club members just lost her dog of 12+ years yesterday due to a massive tumor under her neck and this kind of discovery frankly scares the shit out of me.  I booked an appointment with the vet on Saturday and had it checked out.  The vet said took a simple biopsy and said there were some suspect cells and growth that needed to be addressed soon.  Not willing to wait, I booked her into surgery in the morning to have the mass removed and sent off for analysis.  Right now, it is small enough to be removed without having major complications but I am still concerned.  Claire's a tough old girl but I still worry any time they put her under.  I am sure she ain't going to be happy but I'll post her progress tomorrow when she gets home.   

15 August 2015


I normally don't do movie or book recommendations.  I feel that my tastes in books & movie differ from other (normal) people.  My picks can be somewhat twisted (or warped as the wife tells me) and what I find funny/interesting doesn't always follow the norm.  I'll leave the movie reviews to Abby.  She is way better at finding good movies and is pretty much spot on when it comes to her reviews.  That said, I did want to share one of my recent screenings.  I have a number of different movies queued up in my Netflix account.  They are all over the road from new releases to comedies to classics.  One that I bumped to the top of the list recently was the movie Wild with Reese Witherspoon.  Based upon Cheryl Strayed's tale of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail alone. 

Basically a story of a woman of finding redemption by hiking over 1000 miles on the PCT one summer.  The PCT is over 2600 miles long and runs from the Mexico border all the way up to Canada crossing a wide variety of terrains/mountains.  Not your typical Sunday stroll in the park.  Definitely not for the novice or faint of heart.  Cheryl hiked it solo back in 1995 after some personal tragedy as a means of finding her self.  An interesting saga of how an ill prepared person with grit & determination can overcome some daunting challenges.  Cheryl was definitely not prepared at the outset of her hike but she managed to conquer the trail despite all of the obstacles she encountered along the path.  And, while I am not an overly huge Reese fan (was a pretty good June Carter), I really liked her portrayal.  Very compelling.  Something that I is on my bucket list that I will probably never cross off.  And I found the story so interesting that I went out and bought the book.  I've only done that 2-3 times when I found a movie interesting enough to dig into the back story.  Again, I normally don't recommend books but this one was a great read.   

I've hiked small portions of the Appalachian Trail (AT), but nothing more that a couple of weekend treks.  Backpacking has always been a passion for me.  Hiking & camping along the mountain trails was something that I would prefer to do in lieu of a vacation at a spa resort.  That's why I was really into our treks at Philmont in New Mexico with the scouts a few years back.  Unfortunately, we don't have too many mountains down here on the on the coast.  I guess it started out when my family spent a few summers camping out in Colorado when I was a young pup.  Long road trip from New Jersey in the old Pontiac station wagon.  Later, when both brothers were off at college, my parents & I spend a few weeks in Red River, New Mexico.  My dad & I hiked up to Middle Fork Lake and spent a few nights camping out.  That sort of sparked my passion for backpacking/camping and led to my walkabout in 1977.  The summer prior to my junior year I was taking some summer classes and working a minimum wage job down at the Chrysler dealership.  Things were at a lull at the time and I was taking one of those motivational speaking courses for.  One of the exercises was to express your passion and what you would do given the time and availability and I expressed my desire to go backpacking in the mountains.  The instructor encouraged me to follow through on that desire and I jumped on the idea.  Mom wasn't exactly thrilled with the idea but supported me nonetheless.  I loaded up the Plymouth and headed west to West Texas and New Mexico.  I spent 2.5 weeks roaming through west Texas and hiking the mountains of New Mexico.  From the Guadalupe Mountains to Cloudcroft to White Sands to the Gila National Forest to Red River to Palo Duro Canyon.  Nothing like the trek that Cheryl made, but it was a cathartic road trip for me.  Something to recharge the batteries.  Deep down, I'd love to make a long hike like she did but, at this stage, I have too many obligations and conflicts.  

12 August 2015

Warm enough?

Been a wee bit warm down here of late.  I guess we are making up for all that rain we had earlier...

Working on staying cool, keeping the yard alive.  Thinking about giving the dogs a Chihuahua haircut, but, not really.  I would probably wind up ostracized from the Golden group.      

I would write more but I think my keyboard melted.  

09 August 2015

Psst. C'mere. I gotta deal for you.

H-town.  Ya gotta love this place.  Granted, it doesn't have the majestic peaks and vistas of some places.  No interesting trails like the Incline or historical sites like the Arch, but we do have a beer can house and the Space Center.  And we have our share of interesting people with a talent for turning a profit.  

From localized flooding to irrepressible heat to alligators in your yard, there is always some story or event that really stands out and makes us unique.  From last Tuesday, we had a incident at the local Victoria's Secret shop down in Rice Village.  For those not familiar with Houston, Rice Village is in the hoity-toity district with a bunch of high end stores that tend to cater to people with more discriminating tastes.  Not your normal Target or Walmart crowds.  Anyway, there was a break in at the Victoria's Secret.  Seems that some folk decided to drive a van through the front of the VS storefront and make off with some of the goods.  Speculation is running amok about who would do this nefarious deed and what would be the market for said items.  Yea, right.  I always buy my wife's unmentionables s from a roadside vendor or off of Craigslist.  Oh, wait.  If I am mentioning them here, can they still be considered as "unmentionables"?

That sort of reminds me of one of my old scout stories.  I got a million of them but, to paraphrase the Vegas slogan:  What happens on the trail, stays on the trail.  Well, not so much the trail, but one of many scout stories.  Many, many moons ago, when we were knee-deep in scouts, we did a lot of things to raise money for the troop (keep it clean, folks).  One of our many fund raising ideas was a community garage sale.  Everybody donates items for sale to the troop ans we have one massive yard sale with all proceeds going to the troop.  Was a fun/interesting event.  If you have ever done a garage sale, you know that you can see/sell a lot of interesting things.  And with other people donating stuff, anything is up for sale.  While sorting through all of the incoming donations, Tracy, a friend and one of our scout moms, picked up an interesting thong that was up for sale and noted that:  "Oh, yea, I always get my underwear from garage sales".  That cracked up most of us running the whole sale.  I just have to wonder, exactly what is the market for a van full of hot undies?    

01 August 2015

Tails from the road

Points to Shadowrun.  I figured she might know where I was a few weeks back.  After all, I was kinda in the neighborhood (if not across the state).  I had a business conference in Chicago for a few days at the end of June.  I'll admit I've been to Chicago many times but usually it is either passing through or visiting plants on the west side of Chicago.  I have never been downtown so I took the opportunity to check out the local flora and fauna.  I got in a couple of nice long runs along Lake Shore Drive, found an amazing pizza place (Blaze Pizza) that makes your pie in 3 minutes, hiked across downtown to visit some of the tourist sites, took the "L" train back to the airport.  Pretty good conference, a nice break from the daily headaches at the office.  One more city off my bucket list.       

Chicago Skyline
Navy Pier

Cloud Gate

Water wall
Two guesses where what TV show this fountain is featured in
Some really good pizza

Last weekend I took an extended trip up to New Braunfels (south of Austin) with my brother and his family to spend some time tubing on the Guadalupe River.  It's sort of a summer tradition down here in Texas.  Take a scorching day and go spend it floating down the river on inner tubes with a few hundred other people trying not to get fried.  Momma and SIL were not able to go so I took the furry kids instead.  First time they've been to the river.  For two old hot dogs (who don't swim), it was an interesting weekend.  Hot, wet, & overfed but I think they made out just fine.  

We even squeezed in a side trip to a local dog park that just opened up.