Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A Chance Encounter With Local Wildlife

Today has been more than a little nerve-wracking... It's awfully hard to be at the mercy of someone else's mortgage lender who seems to have less than an appropriate level of interest in getting this deal closed.  Someday I'm sure all the stress they are causing will be the makings for a funny story.  But that day is not today!  So a chance encounter with some local wildlife was a welcome, if short, distraction.

I walked outside to get some papers out of my car and noticed a small lizard sunning itself on the rocks of a retaining wall between this and the neighboring property which sits a bit higher on the hillside.  It wasn't very happy to pose for my picture taking pleasure but I was able to snap this with my cell phone before it scurried off and after getting some friends to take a look we decided it was probably an Eastern Fence Lizard (a.k.a. prairie lizard, fence swift, gray lizard, or pine lizard depending on your locale).

The skin was sort of a mottled gray and from nose to tail tip I'd guess it measured about 4 inches long.  As it scooted along, the underbelly appeared light, almost white.  (Which may mean it was a female... everything I found online said the males are browner and have blue-colored bellies.)

Google confirmed the identity and came up with some other facts about this cute little reptile.

Wait.  Did I just say "cute" and "reptile" in the same sentence?

I did not see that coming!

Wikipedia gives the genus name as Sceloporus undulatus.  Sceloporus is derived from the Greek word "skelos" (meaning leg) combined with the Latin word "porus" (meaning hole) in reference to this lizard breed's large femoral pores.   "Undulatus," Latin for wave, refers to the transverse dark crossbars on their backs.  And it says this 4-7 1/2 inch long lizard is found in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Kentucky, Southern Indiana, Tennessee, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Mississippi, Delaware, northern Florida, and southern New Jersey and that there's also an isolated population in southeastern New York.

A little more digging around other websites uncovered much the same information but I also learned that they are non-venomous.  Most people who were posting pictures and comments and articles weren't overly concerned when their kids caught these little lizards or the cat drug a mortally wounded one home and left his gift of prey on the doorstep.

Not poison... maybe things are looking up for that cute factor!

In fact, they are among the good guys in the garden as their favorite meals include spiders and other pesky insects that we don't want nibbling on our tender and expensive plants.  So I say welcome to my world, and munch on little lizard, munch on!!

People who've lived here for awhile tell me to expect to see lots of them.  They say there'll be gray ones and  brown ones and green ones... oh my!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Growing Up Is Over-rated

Today I'm feeling so much like I've grown up again.  I've been extra busy getting stuff set up for our new house.  It's so skin-of-our-teeth tight that I almost hate to admit it aloud, but I think I've got the finances worked out.  Almost to the last penny.  And once again I have my own accounts for utilities, cable and internet.

That's such a grown up responsibility!

And I find myself not liking it even one little bit.  Not liking the responsibility part, anyway.  I find myself wishing I could just live with carefree abandon and not be tied to unending (and sometimes difficult) decisions, obligations and responsibilities.

Growing is so over-rated.

It's definitely not what Mom promised when she said I could do whatever I wanted when I grew up.  That statement made me long for the day I got to pick my activities.  And clothes.  And food.  I imagined freedom from her choices and didn't consider what a raving tyrant the consequences of my own choices could be.

Just think about the things that you get excited about now.  Clean clothes still warm from the dryer is one of my most favorite things.  Also bright shiny new kitchen gadgets, something sparkly and expensive for Christmas, finding dish soap on sale, and getting better than expected gas mileage on a trip.  And just one chicken salad from Cafe Rio would make me smile for a whole week!

It makes me exceedingly sad that this is the nearest store so
any chance at those yummy bites of fresh Mexican deliciousness
are pretty much out of reach.  Why oh why, can't someone open
a Cafe Rio in metro-Atlanta?  I beg you on bended knee!!
Seriously... When did salad become exciting?

What got you excited and happy dancing around the room as a kid?  New Barbie clothes, sloppy puppy kisses, brand new baby kittens, going out for pizza, The Jetson's, swinging high on the playground - those are all things that made me happy. So much simpler.  So uncomplicated.  So free.

So not salad.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Our Family Is Growing

I'm excited to announce our family is getting a little bigger!  We get twins!!

Now before you all get the wrong idea, I'm not pregnant.

Oh heavens... THAT would be an epic disaster.  Even if we were married that would be rough considering health and schedules and the lifestyle we have planned.  What really works best for us is a furry family addition.

And now we've been blessed with the opportunity to get some gorgeous puppies!

The second weekend in April we've made plans to go pick them up from Shady Grove Kennel, a breeder in Dublin, GA.  We are getting two male blue Dobermans.  The 'blue' comes from the smoky gray shading of the darkest part of their coat.  (Black is the most familiar coloring, but there are also blues like we are getting and reds who have a rich coppery brown coat.)

Our babies were born early in February to parents who've each racked up an impressive number of championship trophies on both the domestic and international circuits.  Based on their genetics and how big these little guys feet are, we estimate they'll both be very large dogs.  As in more than 120 pounds at maturity kind of large.

Wowzers!  That's a lot of dog!!

This little sweetie is Thunder.  Doesn't he look muscular already?  And ready to head up our house's living security system.  Seriously... would you want to be an unwelcome visitor and come face to face with him when he's all grown up?

And this one is called Shadow.  (I'm campaigning to rename him Lightning.)  He's destined to become my personal trainer and take me on long brisk walks down our little lane and in the many nearby parks.
I can hardly wait to snuggle with these adorable furbabies!! Just look at their cute little faces almost begging for hugs and kisses!

I've been trying to learn a little bit about Dobermans the past few days while we've been plotting and planning and trying to figure out a way to make this happen.  And they are amazing dogs!

Realizing it's part sales-hype, I've loosely pulled these comments from our breeder's website:

A Doberman is a lively dog with lots of speed, strength, and agility. He can run with a horse, maneuver quickly enough to catch a rabbit, track faster than a Bloodhound, tree a mountain lion, and beat you to your favorite chair every time!

He is also a very gentle dog with the firmness of Gibraltar... He will let a baby crawl all over him or take his six-year-old mistress walking to show her off and guide her with mature judgment.  Sensitive dogs, they are keenly alert to your feelings and wishes.  If someone visits you whom you don't like, watch the dog. He will be watching your visitor. After he has been with you a few years, you will find less need to command him because he will know what you want and respond automatically. You become a part of him and he becomes a part of you.

Dobermans are the only breed of dog originally bred as guard and watchdogs yet they are also noted for their gentleness and obedience.  They are also beautiful with ample square-ish and highly muscled bodies, a sleek dry coat with precise clean markings, a long arched neck for balance and nobility, and a dark almond shaped eye set fairly deep.

Yup... I'm gonna be a very happy pet parent with the cutest furbabies in the history of ever!

Seeking Stillness

You may have noticed that I've been pretty quiet the past few days.

I wish I could tell you in that time I've found that sense of mindful stillness we all seek occasionally to unwind from the cares the world thrusts at us.  I wish I could say I'd been able to meditate and just be still for awhile.  But that wouldn't be true at all.  Mind and body have been far from still.

We heard back from the seller that the chimney isn't posing any threat to the structural integrity of the house and he agreed to make the repairs we asked for so all systems are GO on the house-buying front.  That's comforting and stressful all at the same time.  We have another walk through to be sure all is truly okay sometime this coming week.

And with that news I've been hard at work scraping together enough nickels to complete the transaction.  This has been a major stress but I am trying my best to trust that the universe holds abundance for me.  And it seems to be coming together just in the nick of time for our scheduled March 22 closing date.

If I could land a job in the next few days life would be complete.

Or at least back on track.

For all the great plans Derek and I made, not a single one has come to fruition in the way we thought.  The path has been long and winding with twists and turns I couldn't have ever foreseen.  Several times the goal has been in sight only to be seemingly yanked out of reach.  It's been hard to not get completely disheartened.

So I think it's safe to say life has been far from peaceful.

Not that it's been all bad.  There's been many moments of happiness, too.  We've worked together to accomplish a lot.

I'd call it chaotic bliss.

But still I seek that calm, that only comes in the moments when you can truly settle your mind and simply be still.  Maybe after we move and unpack and...

At Church, one of my favorite hymns is Be Still, My Soul.  It was written by Katharina von Schlegel (who was born in 1697!) and translated by Jane Borthwick.  Yes, it's a very old hymn.  But I'm Mormon and we tend to like the old hymns...
Be still, my soul: The Lord is on thy side;
With patience bear thy cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In ev'ry change he faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: Thy best, thy heav'nly Friend
Thru thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
Be still, my soul: Thy God doth undertake
To guide the future as he has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: The waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them while he dwelt below.
Be still, my soul: The hour is hast'ning on
When we shall be forever with the Lord,
When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love's purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: When change and tears are past,
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.
If you'd like to hear it sung by Alex Boye' click here and just relax while you look at this picture of one of my favorite happy places.  I like to escape to Swan Valley's summer sunrises, even if it's only in my mind, when the stress gets to be a bit much. This is just how I picture "my private Idaho!"

Photo:  Swan Valley Sunrise by my childhood friend, Dana Mallard.
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Sunday, March 3, 2013

Anger Management

Sometimes life shows us such contrast.

Derek has something going on with the sciatic nerve in his back and yesterday the pain got so unbearable that I took him to the Emergency Room.  Basically, they said the only thing that will fix it is time.  They gave him a prescription for some pain pills and a muscle relaxant and said go home, use moist heat and be sure to use good lumbar support sitting and walking.

The label on one of the prescriptions says "May cause drowsiness."  It doesn't make him sleepy but... oh my goodness!!!  It does make him grouchy!  And more than a little hypersensitive.

After we got home from the hospital (and I do have to compliment Cobb County General Hospital on their timeliness - I've waited longer just to be triaged many times than this whole visit took!) and got him settled, I went and filled prescriptions and picked up some Icy Hot and a lumbar support belt thingy.  Then we decided we were hungry and ordered a pizza to go with the first night of trying to get me caught up with the story line for a TV series I've never watched before the new season starts at the end of the month.

I think I've mentioned before Derek works for a national pizza chain.

We ordered, thinking a little different taste would be nice for a change, from a competitor.

Against this back drop, his mom and sister came home from shopping and started teasing him about the pizza.  They were trying to make a joke and be funny and normally it would have been shrugged off with a laugh.

But things are not normal.  We are both stressed about house buying and selling.

And he was pretty well drugged up.

He exploded like a dirty bomb to their attempted humor.

Within seconds they were all three yelling at each other like bitter enemies.  There was even a little name calling going on.  Except that there was no physical contact you'd think you'd stepped into the middle of a bar room brawl.  It was crazy!  And then almost as quickly it was over and they were the best of friends again.

I'm willing to cut him quite a bit of slack because of the drugs piled on top of the stress, but I have to admit the incident caught me off guard.  My family didn't yell.  We didn't scream.  We didn't make much of a fuss over disagreements whether they were large or small.  Both of my parents always would walk away from a fight and calm down rather than start yelling, screaming and carrying on like this.  I don't know what to do with, or how to mentally process, his family's style of disagreeing.

Luckily, we understand that about each other.  He doesn't yell at me and, on the few times we have disagreed, I've resisted my urge to withdraw.  So far that's been a good blend of styles for us. It was apropos when I happened on a short parable this morning.  While, to the best of my knowledge, neither of us had seen it until today, it's a principle we are actively striving to apply.

Photo credit:
A Hindu master had come to bathe himself in the river Ganges and, with his disciples, observed a family arguing loudly on the banks.  He turned to the disciples and asked "Why do people shout in anger at each each other?"

The disciples thought for awhile, and then one of them answered "Because we lose our calm, we shout."

"But why should you shout when the person is standing next to you?  You can just as well tell him in a soft manner what is on your mind." replied the master.

The disciples thought some more and gave some additional answers, but none satisfied their master.    Finally, he explained.  "When two people are angry at each other, their hearts grow distant.  To cover that distance, they shout to make sure the other person can hear them.  The angrier they become, greater the distance grows and the louder they shout.

"What happens when two people fall in love?  They don't shout at each other but talk softly because their hearts have grown close.  The distance between them is very small or nonexistent."

The master continued, "When they love each other even more, what happens?  They do not speak, only whisper and they get even closer together in their love.  Finally they need not even whisper but only need to look at the other.  That is how close their hearts can become when they love each other."

He looked at his disciples for a long moment and then said, "When you argue, do not allow your hearts to grow distant.  Do not say words that push the other away and make the distance greater.  Or else, there will come a day when the distance has become so great that you cannot find the path to return to love."

Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Waiting Game

Job, the dude in the Bible who contended with plagues and crickets and boils and such without losing his faith in God, set an impossibly high standard of faithfulness.  I simply do not have that kind of patience dealing with all the trials the Lord saw fit to happen in his life.  Oftentimes I wonder if I have the patience to deal with the trials the Lord sees fit to have happen in my life.

Waiting, for example.

Waiting on anything important makes me anxious.  The incessant hurry up and wait feeling when you are buying (or selling) a house is a very stressful thing.  It is for me, anyway.  And it is for most people I've talked to.  I think it feels like such a terrible trial because your fate is in someone else's hands.  We all have an inner control freak that screams to determine our own destiny and it's hard to be forced to sit back and let someone else make decisions that can change your life in drastic ways.  You can make yourself a little crazy worrying about it.

Is this really the house I want to live in for the next umpteen years?  Is the funding going to be ok?  (i.e. Do we have enough cash?  Or, more often, will our mortgage loan be approved?)  Is the seller going to accept our offer?  Or counter offer to get repairs done?  Is the appraisal going to come in where we expected it?

These are the kinds of questions that have been keeping me awake at night.

A lot of people who don't even know you or care about you get to make decisions about your life.  Sellers, realtors, mortgage officers, inspectors, contractors and sometimes other people decide what happens and when.  And to them it's just business.  But to you, it's personal.  It's your future they're messing with.  And while you want to get down to the fun parts of owning a new house like picking paint colors and buying fluffy new bath towels, you can't.

You have to wait.

Have I mentioned before that waiting stresses me out?

It does.

And my body's reaction to stress is a near constant stream of tears.

And that freaks out everyone around me.

Then I feel even more stressed.

And cry some more.

Photo credit:
I really hate that I can't cry like a movie star all pretty and dainty as a single tear makes it way, with heart-wrenching mournful slowness and awesome background lighting, down a perfectly made-up face.  But, oh no, God did not see fit to make me a pretty crier.  My kind of crying has to be as big and clumsy as the rest of me.  Just a couple of tears and for the rest of the day it's.... eyelids swollen shut, hopelessly plugged nose, raspy nasal cartoon voice, blotchy skin and my eyes are so red people avoid me thinking I have a contagious disease.

All of this stress is just from being on the buyer side of the transaction.  I'm also selling a house.  Being the seller is just as stressful, maybe even a little more so, because everything the buyer asks for is taking money out of your pocket.  And... that feels a little overly personal, too.  Between the two, I am a complete and utter emotional mess.

The current issue on the waiting game is our counter offer back to the seller on the house Derek and I want to buy here in Georgia based on the results of our inspection.  We're asking to have the long list of punch out items his handyman hasn't yet completed on repairs that were already in progress done, service the ancient heater and make sure the chimney is safe and in good repair.  That's far from everything the house needs but we felt like it was reasonable to ask for a place that's structurally sound with safely functioning mechanical systems.  We're not asking for the world, just to move into a place that's safe to live.  So far he's agreed verbally but wants to have the chimney assessed before making a written commitment.  It was only fair to give him a few days to do that, because depending on the problem costs could run from a few hundred dollars to several thousand, so we won't know for sure until Tuesday.

If you've never seen an inspection report before and would like to know what you get for your money, here's a link to a sample report from our inspector's website.  See how it's helpful to hire an expert to uncover hidden problems and get a thorough understanding of all the systems in your house?  It's a good investment!