I got nothing. Seriously. It was as close to a standard day at the office as one could imagine. I answered some emails. I had a meeting. I ate a lukewarm Italian sausage from the local gut truck. I sent some more emails. And then it was time to come home.
Home, as you all know, is currently slightly more chaotic, given the medications schedule, trying to equalize what animals get to spend time in which rooms, and managing all the other basic household chores. Today, that routine offered nothing substantive to discuss. There’s only so many times I can reasonably subject you fine people to daily tales of the vaguely chaotic new normal that is this extended settling in period.
Likewise, I know April is going to be filled to overflowing with gripes and complaints about the project I just love to hate and all the various ways it finds to try flopping off the rails. So just now, while things are busy enough, there’s not much more to say that I’ve already said. Not that this situation usually keeps me shut up for long.
So, tonight is a breather – a mid-week chance to regroup – before launching into Thursday and whatever inevitably batshit crazy way this week decides to end.
I’m an over thinker. I’ve been that way since I was a kid, when I’d regularly worry myself sick about whatever issue my dumb brain chose to fixate on that day. I tend not to make myself sick anymore… although my blood pressure range might indicate that’s not entirely true. Still, I tend to dwell a lot on things that other people might tend to breeze through.
Now that I’ve at least gotten Anya to roam the house for a few days while I’ve been working, the next obvious step is trying to make a decent introduction between her and Jorah. In the olden days – or as I remember it from the early 1980s, when someone who came home with a new cat would just turn them loose in the house and let nature take its course as the newcomer sorts out the household routine, resident animals, and the dos and don’ts.
Now, deep in the kinder, gentler 21st century, we have a thousand websites and experts with their own 47 step process for introducing new animals in the home. They seem well intentioned, to be sure. Maybe they’re even advocating the Best Possible Way™ to do things. The thing is, as much of an animal lover as I am, I’m not in a position to dedicate every hour of every day to catering to their every need. I’m happy to provide fresh food and water, unconditional affection, a safe environment, and if needed, specialized medical attention… but at some point, I need them all to simply exist together, even if it’s not a love match.
Much like I had to resort to old country vet methods of getting medicine into Anya, I’m beginning to think I’ll need to adopt the old ways to get these introductions over the hump. I don’t mind keeping a few gates up so the new felines have clear lines of retreat, but continuing to cycle between loose dog and loose cats every couple of hours feels like a ridiculous way to keep going indefinitely. Of course, all of this is only true for Anya, as Cordy continues to steadfastly refuse to abandon the comfort of their safe room… so we’ll need to do this all again if and when she decides to emerge into the broader household.
I’m trying to mentally prepare myself for one more big effort here – and I’m tired just thinking about it.
Time is short, so I’ll say only this: My going-to-the-office day routine is well and truly out of tolerance.
I know this because, in my mad rush to leave the house, I managed to forget my building ID card as well as neglected to feed George. Both of those activities are generally hard baked into my routine. They’re things that happen in a very specific order as I move through the morning.
This morning, of course, was not standard. If it were, it would go something like this: 1) Wake up (4:45 AM); 2) Take Jorah outside; 3) Feed Jorah; 4) Shower/Dress; 5) Feed George; 6) Fill coffee vessels; 7) Make sure bag contains all work essentials; 8) Read non-fiction for 45 minutes; 9) Depart.
This morning was: 1) Wake up (4:00 AM); 2) Take Jorah outside; 3) Feed Jorah; 4) Feed kittens / fight through giving three medication); 5) Shower/Dress; 6) Fill coffee vessels; 7) Check weather and traffic report; 8) Fight through giving one additional medication; 9) Depart; 10) Backtrack 10 miles to pick up ID.
These are minor hiccups to be sure, but in a routine that generally flows flawlessly from start to finish, being that far from the mark is downright monumental. It’s safe to say all nerves are just a touch frazzled at the moment.
It’s been a long time coming, but over the weekend I finally broke down Maggie’s crate and rejiggered the laundry room / animal services resources center over the weekend. The room, oddly large for just a laundry room, was built to spec by the original owner to use as a place to do watercolor painting. Not being a watercolorist, I pressed it into service as home base for crats, food, litter boxes, and all manner of pet supplies. For a year now, I’d been looking at Maggie’s empty crate taking up a not insignificant bit of the room’s floor space and simply didn’t have the heart to do anything with it.
I was a two dog household for a long time and expected I would be again – sooner or later. Part of my reluctance thus far, has been never expecting to find a dog with as good a temperament and personality of my chocolate lab. Another part is the undeniable fact that Jorah can be a bit temperamental and selective about the dogs he meets. Alighting on the wrong one would throw this fortress of domestic peace and tranquility into abject chaos… and that doesn’t really feel like any way to live. If I’m entirely honest, the simple fact that everything from dinner time, to vet care, to taking them on the road, is simply easier when contending with just one dog also has something to do with my continuing hesitance.
Crates and bowls are tucked safely away ready to be called back into service on short notice, because I’m absolutely not ruling out another dog. It was time, though, to not have the house rigged for something that might not happen for months or years yet. Since the rhythm of the household was clearly in turmoil over the last week, it felt like a good opportunity to get all the “newness” out of the way in one go, so I can drag the world inside these four walls back towards business as usual.
I’ve been in pretty steady contact with the project manager who’s going to be in charge of Operation Functional Bathroom. It really does look like this show will be getting on the road starting next Monday – with the 9AM delivery of a 20 cubic yard dumpster. I’m sure the neighbors will be thrilled with that sitting on the curb for the next 20 or 30 days. Fortunately, the master HOA agreement covers many topics, but giant dumpsters isn’t one of them.
I’m still fiddling with the plan on how to keep the resident critters separated from the working party. What I’ve come up with is mostly a reversion to Jorah’s misspent youth – with all of us spending our days blocked in the kitchen or pressed into the laundry room if there’s a need for truly close confinement at any point. That should be fine in theory. In practice, I’m mostly worried how Hershel will take to this temporary new normal. His food and litter box has resided in the bathroom since the first day he came home… and with cats being creatures of habit, I definitely have questions about how well he’ll respond to suddenly finding them located elsewhere.
I’m also contemplating abandoning my bedroom entirely for the duration of this project and decamping across the hall to the guest room. I mean it would be comfortable enough, even if space would feel a bit tight. The cable jack in that room is, of course, currently buried behind one of the jam-packed bookcases holding the nonfiction section, so there’s one minor drawback to an otherwise decent plan. How well the furry critters who have never known a different sleeping arrangement on the homestead will take to it, remains to be seen.
I’ve hired a good crew. God knows getting that right was something I obsessed over. Now that we’re just a few days from the line of departure, though, the full weight of how radically this whole effort is going to impact my cherished daily routine – and how little direct control I have over the details – has left me feeling a bit wild-eyed and twitchy.
Over the last couple of months, I’ve been spending a bit more time in the office than I have been since the outbreak of the Great Plague. What I’ve observed in that time is that Jorah, my wonderfully loyal, if slightly neurotic dog, has unexpectedly developed an ability to tell the difference between my go to work khaki pants and my stay home jeans.
On mornings when I’m working from home, Jorah joins me in the kitchen while I’m having my coffee and puttering around. He’ll stay put there until we head back to the sunroom to get the telework day properly started. For days I’m scheduled to schlep over to the office, instead of hanging out with me and making himself comfortable on his bed in the kitchen, he detours back the hall and sprawls out on my bed. He’ll stay there until it’s time for me to leave… When I’ll usually have to lure him out with a peanut butter stuffed Kong before I head out for the day.
The only real difference between home days and office days is the pants I wear. If I pull on a pair of jeans, all is well. If I pull on my khakis, the fuzzy little bastard pouts… as if spending all day in cubicle hell is somehow my idea of a good time. I think the implication here is pretty clear. I’m going to have to declare myself his emotional support human and just start toting him along wherever I go and can avoid having him abandon me on what are already the worst days of the week.
I’m an early riser. I like to blame the yearly days of my career when crawling out of bed at four in the morning was the only way to (usually) beat the worst of the day’s traffic heading into DC. That old 6:30 AM – 3:00 PM is still my favorite, though I haven’t worked it in years because various bosses have seemed to want people in their cubes as late into the afternoon as possible. From my seat, it’s always been the earlier in the day you can get out of the office, the better the day overall.
As much as I want to blame a job I haven’t had for almost 15 years for doing this to me, I really do like the mornings. It’s a few hours of enjoying the world before other people wake up and ruin the experience.
Maggie, an ever loyal and supportive chocolate lab, is usually game for being awake and moving. She’s never far from my side, gamely following along whether it’s cooking breakfast, sitting with a steaming cup of coffee on the porch on a cool fall morning, or working through email long before the sun’s up. Jorah, though, couldn’t be more of a contrast – a case study in “not a morning person.” He’ll grudgingly get up at 4:30 for the promise of breakfast, but lately he’s added a new trick to his repertoire.
After breakfast has been served and he’s patrolled the house while I’m showering, Jorah sneaks back to bed. Any of the five dog beds aren’t good enough, of course. He finds is way to my bed before burrowing into the covers and catching another hour or 90 minutes of sleep before really coming out to start his day.
We’ll see if this is a short-lived fluke or if it’s going to become part of his established routine. The only thing that’s certain is that the youngest member of the household appears to not share a love of mornings with the rest of us. Thank God he’s still fully supportive of our geriatric bedtime, so it’s not quite like having my own teenager.
It’s Saturday. By now it shouldn’t be a suspense to anyone that I have a plan for that. Even in the absence of a plan I’d have a routine to surely keep myself in track.
Wake up. Do dog stuff. Shit, shower, and shave. Coffee. Pay bills, check finances, etc. then my favorite part – after establishing that the household will be on a sound financial footing for at least the next week – the 90 or so minutes of calm and quiet before launching out to get groceries and run the other errands necessary to keep the homestead functioning.
Its probably the most singularly peaceful block of time in my entire week and I love it for that.
Cecil County has most of the problems every other semi-rural county in Maryland is facing – drugs, pockets of poverty, a questionable education system, and a government that occasionally verges on dysfunctional. It also has some remarkable natural beauty, low cost of living (for Maryland), and a convenient location between Baltimore and Philly that’s close to both, but far enough away to allow those who prefer the quiet life to avoid big city fuckery.
What the county lacks, however, are the kind of supermarkets I got use to while living in the DC exurbs or during my west Tennessee exile. The local Food Lion is convenient, but comes with limited options. Walmart has decided they’re no longer interested in my money. There’s an Acme, a company that I assumed had gone out of business 20 years ago, but its location in the heart of Elkton attracts a certain element that I’d just rather not step over, walk around, or studiously pretend to ignore just to get my weekly shopping done.
I happened to be off my usual Saturday path last week, which put another option in reach. Even looking a little dated and feeling like the aisles were too cramped by half, Safeway has it all over any of the more local options. It’s not a Kroger or a Giant, but by comparison to what I’ve gotten use to out of convenience there’s no contest.
As much as I am a creature of habit, I’m also adaptive enough to adjust when there is a better alternative available. I hate the idea of adding an extra 20 minutes to the standard Saturday errands run (and probably spending a bit more than I would otherwise on groceries), but the trade off with more and better options is too enticing… and makes me wish I’d have reconciled myself with driving to Delaware for groceries much sooner.
I’m reasonably sure the hardest part of all this will be remembering that the new routine takes me across the county from west to east instead of east to west. Pity me my first world problems.
Electronic License Plates. My beloved home state of Maryland is launching a program to test “electronic license plates.” I have no earthy idea why bits of stamped tin that have been good enough and dirt cheap to make for more than a century needs to be made electronic – and more expensive, and trackable, and more prone to being damaged and needing replaced. It can’t possibly be as a means to make some state service less expensive or the process to receive it less onerous because God knows that’s not how we do things in here in Maryland.
Sleeping separately. Over the last ten years you can count on maybe all your toes and fingers how many nights I haven’t slept in the midst of dogs – some in the bed, some in crates, some loose on the floor, but always close enough to hear every snore and snort. With Maggie’s second accident in as many nights, though, I banished both dogs to the laundry room and their crates in wee small hours of the morning. They didn’t like it. I didn’t like it. I’m fairly sure the cat was fine with the arrangement, though. At least for the time being, this will have to be the new order of things. The alternative is planning to scrub the bedroom floor every night between 2 and 5 AM, which feels like a complete nonstarter for any number of reasons. Since we don’t have a definitive diagnosis yet there’s no way of telling if this is the short term fix or the long. In either case, it’s annoying and displeases me greatly.
Landlording. I bought a condo back in about 2001, fresh into my first professional job and figuring I’d be there for the long haul. Two years later, I was pulling up stakes for greener pastures and I’ve been renting the place out ever since. I’ve never been at risk of retiring off the rents received – once the property manager and inevitable repairs are paid for, it’s a break even proposition most of the time. I got a call this week that my property manager was winding down his business and I think that means it’s probably time for me to settle up, take back a little bit of equity, and finally let the condo go. There’s no one thing that’s really getting me out of the landlording business, but the steady drumbeat of needing to find new tenants, make repairs, replace appliances, and now the prospect of needing to learn to work with the quirks of a completely different management company are all combining to tell me it’s time to accept that the capital gains tax isn’t going to get any lower and move on.