Saying Goodbye to a Dear Friend

Saying Goodbye to a Dear Friend

Annie Musgrove, R.I.P.

This past Wednesday I lost who I have to consider my best friend these days, after being together over eleven years. I adopted Annie from the Asheville, NC Animal Shelter shortly after moving to Asheville from my home state of South Carolina. I even sold my Porsche and got an Explorer so I could haul her around in comfort vs. style, and Annie ended up outlasting not only that Ford Explorer, but the marriage that would come several years later. She’s been with me through thick and thin and was always loyal, which is more than I can say about certain other females that rambled through my life and made similar promises.

annie dog

I almost didn’t adopt her. I was walking out of the pound when the girl that worked there urged me to play with the German Shepherd/retriever mix that had been dropped off a week earlier. I was looking for an older, larger dog, and a female. And she was a little smaller at 65 pounds than I was looking for. Older dogs are the last to go at shelters, which is a shame because they’re housebroken, appreciative, mellow, and you already know what their personality is like. When you adopt a puppy, you don’t really know how they’ll end up. But Annie was 5 years old when we met. She was very smart, which is a nice trait to have in a dog. Having a dumb dog isn’t fun, and there are some out there. I’ve had one before, and they can be frustrating. But Annie was as smart as a dog comes.


I decided that she would be a good companion and left the shelter with her on December 7, 2006. And she was by my side from that point on, through a lot of craziness. She got to see the beaches of South Carolina, the Blue Ridge mountains, swim in the Gulf of Mexico, travel through the Smoky Mountains, and live in three states. She helped me earn my MBA in Tuscaloosa, hiding out in our tiny little graduate student apartment. She accompanied me on hundreds of miles worth of walks all across the South, and we saw some beautiful sunsets and sights during many, many colorful seasons. Fall walks around the Grove Park Inn in Asheville were beautiful, and she loved to play and swim in Lake Martin with my cousins’ dogs in Eclectic, Alabama. She had a squirrel-chasing problem which she managed to give up, thankfully.  I was always worried a car would be the reason that we’d have to say goodbye to her. In fact, it was old age, as she lived a long and happy life, which was as comfortable as I could make it for her. She deserved it.  The period during which we were together was not missing hard times, for sure. And she was there for me each and every time I needed her. I’m not saying she knew how much support she provided, which of course has its limits when it’s being rationed by a 4 legged mute with a relatively low IQ and who is only able to see things in shades of grey.

But she did know she provided a service to our small pack of two. Other than clean-up duty, I mean. She lost her hearing around age 12, which I blame myself for. Long trips with my music turned up to 11 definitely wasn’t good for a dog’s sensitive hearing, which I always felt bad about. But the deafness did provide relief and peace from the horror or fireworks, thunder, and other unexplained far away demonic sounds that terrified her to the point of trembling in fear. I could usually get her to relax eventually, however. Often that kind of stress would release some of her coat and undercoat, which she shed twice a year, but for very extended periods. I have to think that over the years I brushed, vacuumed and swept away hundreds of pounds of blonde and black fur dropped by her. It never bothered me, but she was a prodigious shedder. And a beggar. She got the brains of a German Shepherd and the manipulative skills of a retriever and knew how to work a kitchen.

She was well into her 16th year of life when she finally had to say goodbye. I had tried to prepare myself for the event for years preceding it, but it didn’t seem to make any difference. It was impossibly hard to say goodbye to such a good friend who gave so much and asked for so little. She was everything anyone could ask for in a companion and offered whatever she could to me unconditionally and with a big bushy wag of her tail. She was an exceptional dog.



Cecelia Living The Dream

Chef Cecelia prepares her imaginary Easy Mac and ice cream wearing her diaper and toque, which looks a lot like a diaper. Who wants a moose lip omelet? Joking aside, she does cook her own eggs in the real kitchen and clean up after herself, which is pretty impressive.

Spring Cleaning in the Autumn of our Lives

Spring Cleaning in the Autumn of our Lives

My wife and kids are away for Spring Break, as they tend to do each year. My wife’s a teacher, and my youngest is 1-1/2, so their schedules are flexible. They go to Alabama to see family while I stay behind and take care of the aging dog, get some sleep, listen to the Grateful Dead very loudly, and usually clean the house really, really well. This year is no exception, and maybe one for the records for projects. I’ve already replaced the air/fuel sensors in the old Toyota and they’ve been gone less than a day.

Our garage was out of control with “things” and what has been passing as my “workshop” has been a bunch of old bent, rusty metal storage shelves.  Considering the setup I once had that was an enviable, organized and roomy workstation, it becomes frustrating to have to look for a socket or a certain pair of pliers or set of screws/nuts/washers for 15 minutes, sorting through “organized piles” and a bunch of plastic sandwich meat containers. It has become a waste of time/life, annoying, not good for my tools, which I have a lot of and some nice ones I try to maintain, is an eyesore, and so on. So I spent tonight cleaning up the garage in preparation for a serious reorganization.

Along the way, I had to decide what to do with a lot of junk that I realized I’ve been lugging around for nearly 30 years in some cases, and even longer in others. Things I’ve kept for sentimental reasons; because I thought I could make or repair or do something with the item later, and never have; used to use the thing and stopped, but never disposed of it (like a lawnmower and dryer that really need to go); but things that I acquired somehow, and almost subconsciously have been carrying them around with me, very carefully, for many, many years. Decades.

For most people that wouldn’t be much of a big deal. But during the time I’ve accumulated this crap, I’ve lived, and moved among, 7 states. That’s a lot of back and forth and boxes and tape and sore backs. I’ve probably now lived in 20 different houses and crummy apartments. I know I once lived in 11 places in a 10-year span, which was a true nightmare. That’s a lot of packing, unpacking, carefully choosing where to put this stuff in my new place, and then doing it all over again without ever stopping to think of why I’m hauling all this stuff around. Also during that time I’ve had things that mean a lot to me broken, stolen, or just abruptly removed from my life somehow. Every time I’ve moved, something valuable has been broken no matter how careful everyone is. And we used to have 2 cats, now down to one because the male was so terrible, which destroyed a loooong list of my once-nice things. So I’ve had to say goodbye to a lot of meaningful things in my life, so maybe it’s natural as we get older to not mind parting with material possessions as much. Just a theory.

Upcoming project next week: build an appropriate work bench and reorganize the garage to be useful, clean and navigable. I’m using these as a foundation. The reviews were flattering to say the least. And it is a great idea. Just add 2x4s and benchtops/shelves. I’ll be going for the deluxe model, however. It’s going to be pimp-tight as they say, and I’ll post photos upon completion. Here’s a taste of what I’m starting with. It doesn’t look nearly as bad as it really is, but as you can see it’s just piles of rusty tools:

tools and shelves and rust and unorganization

I’ve spent 2 days de-rustifying my tools, which were ruined during a stint of mine in Montgomery Alabama, when I had to use a front porch to store my things underneath. Basically just sitting outside in the dirt and elements. I had nowhere else to put them because of the size and layout of the house and no garage or shed. So at least 50% of my things I’ve collected over the years were ruined; wood, metal, power tools, drill bits, machinery, etc… I’m salvaging the rest using soap and water to clean them all and break the surface tension, then a chemical bath, which I’ve gotten in all my cuts on my hands. Who needs gloves when handling acid? But that should help to not have to replace every single thing at least. Tip: Dust and dirt attract moisture, so keeping tools and wood dust-free in your shop is important. Putting silica packs in your toolboxes will help, or using an old-school wooden toolbox to keep them dry. Not only are quality tools expensive, but they’re a pain to obtain a lot of the time, so save yourself some time and money and maintain them.

How to Get Amazon Prime for Free, Plus Other Cool Stuff

How to Get Amazon Prime for Free, Plus Other Cool Stuff

How to get Amazon Prime for Free

All you need is patience, to spend at least $580 a year on, and decent credit. And before you click away after seeing me mention the word “credit,” bear with me. This is how to put a card to work for you properly.

This is simply an explanation of how I just managed to get it for free. You'll have to make some personal decisions, but to me this is a no-brainer. Free! (Well, about 10 minutes of your time)   

I’m already a member of Amazon Prime, which we get our money's worth out of in many ways: cloud storage, videos, music, discounts, 2 day shipping and all the rest. It's a great deal if you're a consumer. You can even have a free trial if you aren't sure it's for you.

It costs $99 a year. Order a few large items and you recoup that easily in shipping costs. But it offers many more benefits as well. Obviously I don't need to sell you on Amazon Prime, since you're here trying to get it.

Also, when you get the Amazon card, you get $70 credit in your account, which knocks that cost down to $29 already. I'm not here to sell you on getting a credit card either, per se. I hate credit cards, normally. It's just a step in a pretty smart plan. If you have credit issues, maybe this might not be the best idea. You'll have to decide. This is what I did.

Apply for the Amazon card, which along with the aforementioned $70 credit, you get 5% off Amazon purchases. That can add up, fast. And 3% at gas stations, restaurants, and some other places you probably visit. And 1% on everything else. And it offers some great travel perks, unlike most cards that give you skymiles that expire in 3 months. Check out the list of benefits; they're pretty good, and useful.

That card, after approved, becomes the default payment method for your Amazon Prime account automatically. Perfect. Then I set up for my balance to be automatically paid in full each billing cycle through my bank's website. Easy enough. 

So even though I'm technically using the card, it's just like using my checking account, with the money passing through the Amazon account briefly. I don't intend to carry a balance because the interest rate is WAY too high. I would advise you to avoid that as well. Note: You can call Chase, who manages the Amazon card, and negotiate a better rate, especially after using it for about a year or so, to build up a history of “paid in fulls” with them. That’s a good practice anyway with credit cards. You should be able to negotiate a much better rate if you pay your bills. If you like to carry balances, again, this is probably not the card for that, and it blows the whole plan I'm outlining here. The idea is to get Amazon Prime for free plus all the benefits of the Amazon card automatically and free. And build up some credit while you're at it. 

With the 5% you get back on your purchases, you only need to spend $580 in one year to make up that remaining $29. Or 3% on gas, food, etc… Should be pretty easy. That isn't going to be any problem for our household. Free Amazon Prime FTW, baby!

free money

Free $


My Sweet Old Dog Annie

My Sweet Old Dog Annie

Annie and I have been together for a long time, even though I adopted her when she was 5. She’s a great dog, and her health is great, even though she’s about to be 15 years old. Even by human standards she’s well-travelled. She was born in Asheville, NC where I got her and we’ve been to the beaches to the mountains to the snow to the swamps and everything else. We’re inseparable, and I’ve made sure she’s had a terrific life.

For example, I sometimes like to surprise her with a treat when she’s asleep for when she wakes up.

annie dog