28 July 2008

Go 'way – Noah don't live here no mo'

bweeep -- bweeep -- bweeep, thunk! Darn snarg alarm dadd burn flack shimpus (scratch scratch) umpf! argh! coffee. smell that coffee. need it!

pad-pad-pad-pad-pad-squish-splish … splash

Splash? Oooooo. Aaah! SPLASH!


“Huh? Wha? DAMN!!”


“Where’s it coming from?!?”

“Under the sink. I think it’s coming from under the sink. Yes. Yes. It’s spraying out of the water filter tank. There … I got the valve off.”

I got my first deep breath and let it out with a rattly whistle as my brain adjusted to my feet being submerged in an inch of water, in our kitchen; and, the image of my heroic Patricia on her hands and knees in the swirling flood. She’d found the valve under the sink and closed it. Emergency over. I figured this was as bad as it was going to get. All we needed to do was mop up a little. Splash-splash. Well, maybe a little more than a mop. Maybe a lot more than “a little.”

I collected myself and hot footed it into the garage to dig the antique Craftsman Wet ‘n Dry shop-vac out from its parking spot, all the way in the back of the garage, under several thrown down camping trip piles and just about anything else we could have thrown around and on top of it over the years. Not too much call for a shop-vac when you don’t do any shop stuff anymore.

In minutes I had it inside, plugged in and sucking water.

“Ohhhhhhh, noooooo, it’s on my new floor,” cried Pat as she surveyed the rivulets and joint discoloration already showing up between every board of the new bamboo floor. As soon as I had the water level down to something like a 1/16th of an inch in the kitchen, I moved onto the hardwood. What can you do? The water is underneath and between the boards. I guess just suck on them anyway.

“Ohhhhhh, noooooo, it’s all into the bathroom. The carpet is ruined!” Geez, this was turning out to be a little bigger splish-splash than I’d first thought. “And it’s running off of the entry-way tile and into the living room!”

I need a bigger shop-vac.

But “The Little Vac That Could” just kept howling along, pulling water from under the baseboards, from under the floor boards, from cracks in the tile, never quitting. I was amazed. Good ol’ Craftsman. I dumped it out twice and more kept coming up.

“Look at this,” called out my bride, from the kitchen. I put down the vac hose and looked around the corner into the kitchen. There was Pat, jabbing her toe into one of the floor tiles. Every time she jabbed, a little water spout squirted out from between the grout. Oh, great.

“Maybe we better call the insurance company,” she tendered.

I agreed, “Yeah, because I could suck on this floor with this thing for a week and it wouldn't all come up.”

On the phone, the insurance company was a well oiled machine of efficiency, getting all of the pertinent information, telling us how sorry they were for our “water incursion” and assuring us that everything would be all right. They asked if we would like them to put us in touch with a company that specialized in “water incursion remediation.”

“No,” I said, “I just want somebody who can suck up all this effin water.”

“Huh?” said the insurance hot line helper.

“He means, yes, he’d be happy for you to help us out and put us through to a flood damage contractor,” said Pat, giving me one of THOSE looks.

Hey, what’s wrong with a little levity in the midst of The Great Flood?

Several arrangement phone calls and about 2 hours was all it took for The A-Team to arrive at our door. Three guys and a girl and a big truck full of big machines. This looked like the reasonable way to take care of a flood, if you ask me. I was tired of ol’ Mr. Craftsman screaming in my ears.

As the Team fanned out through the house, probing floors, walls, and probably a dog or two with funny looking beeping instruments, “Col. Hannibal” the Team Leader started the paperwork with me. Pages and pages of that paper stuff. More places to initial than a Hertz rental form when you decline all the coverages. But I was pretty sure that these folks had done this before. Man, they had the Tools and the Machines, whoo whoo!

Yet, there was one kind of ominous note to all of the recitation of form clauses and legalese spewed by the Colonel – he said, “It will be kind of loud and uncomfortable for three days or so.”

Pah! Who does this kid think he is? He doesn't know from noise and discomfort. Why, when I was in Kuwait with the CIA, right when all the oil wells were going off …

The first “turbo fan” was cranked up by one of the Team minions. Wow, that little ol’ thing can move some air! And, DAMN that little ol’ thing can make some noise!!

Whoa! The Team was coming through the front door with many “turbo fans” and other machines that looked like sawed off refrigerators. I'd only figured they’d be showing me a really professional performance -- not setting up an Incursion Remediator’s Trade Show. Where do they think they’re going to come up with a nuclear power station to run all this stuff?

One by one, the mighty machines wound themselves up in rpm’s and gave their full voice to the ever increasing cacophony.

“What?” I asked without turning my head. Surely anyone talking that loudly must be trying to get my attention. Nope. With all of the machines running, each and every member of The Team switched to “I can’t hear you” mode and they shouted everything – mostly to each other. Imagine the noise level, in your house, so loud that people are shouting directly into each other’s faces, just to be heard and understood. Pretty loud.

But, didn’t the Colonel say something about “uncomfortable?” Whatever did that mean?

I knew the answer about 20 minutes after the industrial-sized dehumidifiers all cranked up (those “sawed off refrigerators.”) I suspect that these big dehumidifiers work the same as the little ones made for homes. The home units actually are “little refrigerators” that make metal coils very cold so that air moisture condenses onto them and then drips down into collection pans. Except these beasts that the Team was using weren’t little by anybody’s standard. Physics lesson: To make something cold, you have to remove heat from it. Once you remove the heat, it has to go somewhere. In the case at hand, the monster machines were spewing all of that heat out into the rooms. A little cool on one side … blazing hot on the other. Meh. Loud and hot. I hate loud and hot. Why did they have to make it loud and hot?

“Hannibal” told us that “sometimes insurance companies will pay to put you up in a hotel while all this is going on … I’m not saying yours will, I’m just saying that some do … but wait for your insurance adjuster to call you and you’ll have to work it out with him.” Yeah, right.

Hours later, I got a phone call at work, telling me that an adjuster had been assigned to our claim and that, “you should be hearing from him sometime within the next 24 hours … maybe even sooner.” Yeah, right. When pigs fly and when I start liking pea soup.

So, here I sit. The machines are still making NOISE (Huh? Whad ya say?), the air is dryer than a popcorn fart and the bamboo floor looks like good surfing waters do when viewed from about 5,000 feet up in the air. Waves, man. Lots of waves.

Maybe this calls for a little adult beverage. I’ll get back to you.

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27 July 2008

July 7-9: I can be such a sap

We were in Alajuela trying to get the necessary paperwork for arranging utilities and other “official” stuff when I spotted a hardware store. I’d already had no luck at the Atenas hardware stores finding a special anti-corrosion paint that I wanted and I figured that this might be a source (here in the “big city”.) Pat probably rolled her eyes as she heard me say, “Oooo. Hardware store!” At least, she should have.

No, they didn’t have the paint either but there were a number of little things that we needed so I stood by while Pat took care of ordering them in Spanish.

ASIDE: Anyone know where, in CR, to buy zinc-rich primers, also known as cold-galvanizing coatings, such as Z.R.C., or, Sherwin-Williams Zinc Clad, or, ICI-Devoe Catha-coat, or, PPG Dimetcote? Everybody I ask, in Costa Rica looks at me like I’m from Mars. I should think that with the humidity and salt air of CR that these coatings would be all the rage.

A young worker-looking lad standing next to me suddenly turned and said, in clear English, “Hey, if you ever need any iron work or welding, that’s what I do,” as he pressed his business card into my hand.

Wow! What a coincidence! We needed somebody to produce both a trash stand (for our garbage pickup) and to create a rather special burglar bar assembly that I wanted. “What the heck,” I thought, “this kid looks clean-cut and honest … and getting him going today, here in the hardware store, would be really hassle free.”

So, I told him what we wanted and he seemed to immediately know exactly what was needed. He instantly launched into an animated, detailed discussion with the hardware store clerk about the steel and consumables he’d need for the job. The next thing we knew, we’d purchased $200.00 of steel and our “soldador” was scheduled to be at our casita at 8am the next morning.

Pat discussed directions to our place from downtown Atenas and everything sounded good.

“I’m sure the taxi will know how to find you,” the eager lad said.

(Taxi? I’m not too good at understanding Spanish yet. Did I miss something?)

On the way back to the house, Pat explained that the welder-lad lived in Alajuela and he’d be taking a taxi from there to Atenas and out to our property. I felt so confused. I thought iron-work welders had big trucks with big welding machines and tools and a torch set and, well, lots of stuff.

O.K. – Pura Vida. I’ve learned to assume that the Ticos can do just about anything with just about nothing to work with.

The steel was delivered that afternoon and everything was set up for some get down burnin’ and weldin’. Except, wasn’t that awfully puny steel bar that had been delivered? (1/2” square bar and 1” angle iron) I figured that I just needed to learn to trust. Have faith.

The next day, at 9am, I was starting to wonder about our welder-lad. No sign of him. We called his cell phone number listed on his business card. “Well, no, the bus was running a little late, but he’d be there real soon.”

(Bus? Now what did I miss?)

At around 10am, a red Corolla taxi came bouncing down our road and turned up our little “servidumbre” (service road.) The grinning welder-lad jumped out of the taxi, opened the trunk and eagerly began unloading tools; and, then, the littlest, itty-bitty buzz-box welder that I ever saw.

But he had great enthusiasm!

Wanting to spare you details, I’ll just bullet the highlights of our DAYS together:

  • No torch or chop saw, so every cut was with a right-angle hand grinder and a little abrasive cut-off blade.
  • Wow, 1/2” square bar and 1” angle-iron sure does make flimsy looking stuff.
  • Welder-lad brushing black oil-base paint onto bare steel, in the rain, with a partially dried out brush doesn’t get a good rust-resistant coating of paint onto new weldments.
  • We needed more steel. The hardware store clerk made a mistake. (Certainly NOT the welder.)
  • We needed another cut-off blade.
  • The hardware store sent the wrong kind of pipe for a post for our trash stand. The welder would come up with a novel design that used 4 legs of angle iron.
  • We ran out of angle iron for the burglar bars.
  • I decided to add a security cage around the air-conditioner compressor. We needed more steel.
  • Pounding the trash stand into the ground with a hand hammer is almost impossible, even for a determined welder-lad.
  • Pounding on the flimsy trash stand with an 8 pound hammer for a half hour made one side-bar fall out and two other welds break, but, “That’s O.K., Meester John, because that will make it easier for the trash collectors to reach through the side of the stand – they will be very happy because they don’t have to lift it over the top.” Yeah, right.
  • The burglar bar frame and the burglar bar insert warped out of shape when they were welded together, but, “That’s O.K., Meester John, because that way the bar will pop way open when you release the emergency exit latch.” (I don’t want the bars to pop open.)
  • "Meester, John, I don't have enough steel for the last leg of the air-conditioner cage."

Nah. At this point I just had to step in and take over the design and utilization of steel for the welder-lad. Within 2 minutes, we had the air-conditioner cage redesigned and we’d have steel to spare.

We convinced the welder to wrap it up and took him to the bus stop in Atenas.

The next day I repainted the trash stand, burglar bar assembly and the air conditioner cage. Except I didn’t do it in the rain and I used a good paint brush. I drilled the holes and hammered the cage down into its anchor holes. A load of epoxy finished off that task. Finally, I bent and warped and tugged on the burglar bars until they sat somewhat straight within their frame and didn’t have any propensity to explode off the wall of the house when simply unlatched.

I never knew hiring a contractor could end up being so much work.

Next time I’m checking references and credentials.

Sometimes I’m such a sap.

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Early 7/14/08: Yeeeow!

Whilst using the microwave to boil water for coffee, in the casita of Atenas, I decided to test the structural integrity of a certain polymer-to-glass joint which was keeping the coffee pot handle attached to the coffee pot. Several things were learned during this investigation.

  • Coffee carafes that are filled to the brim with water are heavy.
  • Coffee carafes that are filled with boiling water are hot.
  • Heat softens polymers and the glues that bind them to glass – especially low-bidder polymers & glues, made in China.
  • Softened polymer and glue joints will not sustain the load imposed on them by coffee carafes filled to the brim with boiling water.
  • When held at an elevation of 16-inches above a stone countertop, glass coffee carafes are not strong enough to withstand a drop to said countertop when, due to heat-weakened polymer and glue, the handle departs from the Made-In-China carafe’s side.
  • Boiling water refuses to hold the shape of a coffee carafe when the carafe is suddenly, explosively, removed from around the water upon striking a stone countertop.
  • Even a possibly former CIA agent with the reflexes of a pissed off Jedi cobra cannot remove his 300lbs of lard from the suddenly expanding frontal area of boiling water, once said water is free to assume whatever shape and form gravity deems fit to impose upon it.
  • Two quarts of boiling water, engaged in near-supersonic flight through the air, are able to saturate the front of “Outer Limits” jammie pants at an alarmingly rapid rate.
  • Even former possibly world-famous CIA assassins don’t still have the strength to rip open BOTH jammie legs at once – only one; therefore, leaving one saturated jammie leg still attached around the world-famous possible killer’s left leg.
  • Even former possibly international men of mystery and superheros cannot do the hippity hop dance into the shower fast enough to turn on the cold water quickly enough to chill-flood the affected left leg and avoid all injury.
  • That much boiling water is able to convey a great deal of thermal energy into the leg of even the most possibly formerly hardened, evil, black hearted pirate, thus doing serious localized damage.
  • Pat, with her fluency in español and her calm demeanor, is a great one to have around in an emergency to help you navigate the system at the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social and obtain excellent emergency medical care.
All in all, the second degree burns only covered the top of the left quad area about the size of my hand with spread fingers, plus a dinky area about the size of a credit card, below the knee. Uhhhhhglee! The right leg only had a big ol’ sunburn (1st degree) of about the same size.

I tell you what. This here burn stuff … it’s really fun. You get all kinds of cool goop to smear all over everywhere, and shots, and pills, and really really good drugs, man. Doesn’t hurt a bit when the drugs are good enough!

Maybe from now on, I’ll be avoiding the ol’ Hecho en China label whenever possible. Ya think?

Followup: Due to the excellent care of the CAJA clinic in Atenas and intense followup with creams, etc., by the end of July, the burns are down to looking like sunburn with no sign of scarring or stiffness. Oddly, the 1st degree burn area peeled and looked horrid, compared to the 2nd degree area, which doesn't look like it will ever go through a peeling stage. Maybe this is because all the surface skin that could have peeled away was burned away the first day? (The blisters washed away in the shower from about day 3 to day 6.)

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26 July 2008

7/14/08: I Was Right All Along

I just knew that our old truck, Suzie Isuzu and I would get crosswise sooner than later.

O.K. Yeah, I’m spoiled. I’ve driven new cars for decades. After I’ve driven them awhile, they start to break, and I go get a new one. So, shoot me.

Regardless, there didn’t seem to be any sense in getting a new or near-new car for Costa Rica, driving it for a couple of weeks, then parking it in the garage for months, until our next trip to CR. Logically, we bought a 1994 ol’ beater. Dependable enough, but not breaking the bank. And NO PAYMENTS.

But then I started driving her and my love affair with Suzie started to sour:
  • She burns oil.
  • The rear doors are sticky and won’t always unlatch, without a jiggling and banging session. (And if somebody KEEPS slamming her seatbelt buckle in the door, they’re really hard to open.)
  • The outside spare tire rack rattles and squeaks.
  • The driver’s window sometimes won’t go all the way up, leaving a tiny crack that whistles air and dribbles rain.
  • Radio? There’s a radio?
  • The front windshield washer doesn’t work.
  • She stalls a lot when she’s cold.
  • She burns a lot of that $6.00 per gallon gas.
  • The hatch window lift gas struts are worn out. They won’t lift all the way by themselves and they leak down, slowly letting the window close on your noggin while you’re loading groceries.
  • She smells like an old truck that has been used to haul everything except (maybe) dead bodies.

Then I remembered, “No whiners allowed in CR.” So I sucked it up and we started to get along.

Things were going pretty well one Monday, considering that I’d received 2nd degree burns across the top of my left leg that morning.

That afternoon, Pat, Jenny and I had driven to Alajuela to see our friends, Maritza and Venicio.

Time kind of slipped away during our visit and before you know it we were saying our goodbyes in the dusk. A short stop at a roadside restaurant put us out on the road home even later -- well into the darkness.

THUNK! Clang-ity-clang-cling-dinkle-dinkle-dinkle.

“What was that? Did you see anything in the road? We hit something,” I said to co-pilot, Pat.

“Didn’t see a thing, but yeah, I think we must have hit something,” she responded.

We drove for about 10 more minutes, putting us well up into the mountains, on the winding stretch with no shoulder and no pull-offs.

PHWUMP PHWUMP PHWUMP. I knew the sound and feel of a flat tire.

Absolutely no place to pull off. No way to stop on these blind curves … in the dark … with the pavement wet from the evening rains. Cripes.

Then a couple of those Pura Vida drivers started flashing their lights and honking their horns because: a)., I had a flat and was driving on it (duh); and, b)., I’d slowed down to below the speed of sound on these curves because, I brilliantly reasoned, a flat tire probably doesn’t get as much traction on wet pavement curves as does a fully functioning tire.

Tensions went up inside the cockpit as the girls tersely informed me that I shouldn’t be driving on a flat tire and that I needed to … well … uh … do something! Okey dokey.

It was probably at least a half mile before there was even the hint of a semi-flat spot along the shoulder of the road. I started in towards one and then saw that it was probably soft mud. Bailing back out onto the road irritated yet another Tico and earned me his ire, manifest by a little ol’ blast on his horn.

Thankfully somebody lives somewhere back in them thar hills as a driveway entrance suddenly loomed in the headlights. Driveway = flat (ish) and driveway probably = gravel. I pulled right in.

We’re parked at the top of a hill, at the end of a blind curve, about a foot off the road’s pavement. I hit the 4-way flashers. Yee-hah, they work. Score 1 for the home team!

O.K., we might as well get on with it. I knew the location of the jack due to an accidental discovery of its little hiding cubby while poking around inside one afternoon. That much we had going for us. And, oh yeah, we knew where the spare tire was … right there on the back hatch, always in the way. Two things going for us!

In very short order, the jack was out of its storage, and yippee, the lug wrench was in there too. Three things to the plus column!

You just know there are going to be some inhabitants of the minus column, don’t you. Bingo. You’re right.

First, pop that spare tire/wheel off the carrier on the back hatch. Slip the lug wrench onto the first bolt … skreeeek … it squeals loose and backs out; do the second one … ooof! … tighter but out it came … the third one should be easy because it’s on the bottom and I can put all 300 pounds down onto it. Nope.

By the time I was finished jumping up and down (painfully) on the lug wrench, the head of the bolt was starting to round off and there hadn’t been so much as a little “click” of promise out of the stubborn fastener. A couple of times I just let my arms drop to my sides, figuring that the game was over. That 3rd bolt was not coming out.

We momentarily discussed locking up the mess, calling a taxi and getting a wrecker to take care of the problem in the morning. That didn’t sound fun. One last go at it. The hell with how my leg was feeling, lean into the bolt head with everything I’ve got and then kind of fall down against the lug wrench. It squeaked a little! Re-purchase the bite on the bolt head … and pound down on it once again and it turned. That pig was completely cross-threaded – who knows how many years ago – and was probably hammered home with an impact wrench. It ground out of its hole by hand, but not willingly.

Pat started to cram the jack under the side of the car. But I knew that there must be some exact spot for this jack to go and that just anywhere wouldn’t work. What I didn’t know was that the inscrutable engineers at Isuzu had thought long and hard about how to set up their jack/vehicle “exact spot” in a location most likely to cause pain, anguish and suffering for any stupid old gringo loony enough to get a flat tire in the dark and then park over sloshy-wet mud/gravel. Oh, yeah. Let me.

I found the old owner’s manual in the glove box (amazing!) and dug into the “Changing A Tire” page. Oh, lord. The jack must be positioned directly under the rear axle, immediately next to the inside of the leaf spring bracket. In other words, WAAAAY the hell up under the stinking car.

Great. I’m dressed in cut-off jeans – cut off so that my bandaged leg didn’t have the pain of anything pressing against the burns – a brand new shirt and Crocs. Pura Vida. No whining.

Under the truck you go, boy. Not that hard. Just skud the jack through the mud and feel around in the dark (I had brilliantly taken our flashlight out of the truck the day before and forgotten to put it back.) The jack nested right up under the axle tube. The jack actuator wheel turned easily as the jack rose up and made contact. The actuator wheel stopped turning. That thing was going no further without a serious handle.

“Anybody see a jack handle?” No answer.

Dragged my bod up off the mud pan and started through every nook and cranny of that *&%$ truck. Nothing. Yikes.

Oooo. Oooo. The owner’s manual.

Remember those inscrutable Isuzu engineers that designed the lift point for the jack in an impossible place? Well, the same guys were on the team to find a place to put the jack handle. Without the owner’s manual, nobody would ever find it. Ever.

Here’s the trick. The rear seat and seat back fold down to give extra load space. While folding the seat forward, the very underside of the seat becomes visible. It is completely covered with the same carpet/fabric as are the floors. That (I guess) is supposed to be a clue. “Why would anybody upholster the underside of the seat?” you’re supposed to ask yourself. As you may have guessed, with a clever array of Velcro closures, the underside upholstery peels away. And, there, amid the springs and foam rubber, are little clips holding the two long jack handle pieces.

Oh, uh, but they are just straight bars. No handle off to one side so that you can crank the durn things.

Owner’s manual is no help on this one.

Search, search, search. The girls looked everywhere while I lay on my back underneath Suzie trying as best I could to turn the jack’s wheel with no crank.

“Are you SURE that there isn’t a handle under the seat somewhere?”

Jenny is standing near my feet, holding the lug wrench. “What does this little slot do?” She asked, examining the lug wrench handle.

Sure enough, punched through the middle of the lug wrench handle was a little slot that I guess we were supposed to simply know was the exact size of the flats machined on the end of the jack handle. What a leap of logic.

O.K., now I bet you’re thinking that all I had to do was to just slide that handle in place and spin the jack up.

Nah. Isuzu has engineers.

Some little geek in god-knows-where, Japan, designed this jack’s gearing so that the jack handle, which is already too long to rotate a reasonable arc beneath the truck, can’t possibly exert enough force to lift the truck smoothly, given the normal strength of a regular person. You get to lay on your back, way under the truck, let out a karate shout, while simultaneously pushing with all your might on the jack handle. It moves a quarter turn and then clangs into the truck’s undercarriage. (If you pull on the handle, you just lift yourself up out of the mud.) Re-set the handle for another push and repeat.

So with way more effort than I EVER expected to put forth while on vacation, I grunted and groaned the damn truck up a good two inches.

I was resetting the wrench/handle when I perceived the truck moving. I shouted something to the girls and did a twisting roll out from under the truck as it slid in the mud and fell off the jack.

Hey, this is getting fun. Now the gauze on my legs is fully saturated with mud – it feels really good – and we get to start all over again.

The girls went on a rock hunt and somehow came back with several stones big enough to wedge under the tires, ensuring that Suzie wouldn’t take any more unplanned strolls.

I went back at it and finally got the beast up high enough to remove the flat.

But not high enough get the new tire onto the lug studs.

Crank; clang. Crank; clang. Crank; clang. And then the engineers struck one final time. Ya see … they didn’t want to waste all of that money designing and building those fine jacks with ¼” of extra, useless lift capability … so they didn’t. The ol’ jack ran out of travel and quit with, oh, maybe 1/16 of an inch of clearance under the spare as it finally slid onto the studs.

But it went on and the girls took over the final installation and tightening of the lug nuts. And the jack cranked right down, with ease, so long as the weight of a whole damn truck was pressing it down.

Within 15 minutes we were home, covered in mud and grit (all 3 of us). Those on-demand water heaters proved to be up to the task because we all wanted and took some really long showers.

I love this car.

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22 July 2008

Goodbye My Faithful Friend...

On Monday, June 30th, my little Boston Terrier, Holly, suffered a seizure during the night. She had been refusing to eat for the previous 2 days and I think she knew we were leaving on a trip. She became weaker and weaker, taking only water. On Tuesday, John and I made the difficult decision to let her go. Wednesday my dear friend, Nancy (Holly’s "other mother"), came over to spend time with us. I held Holly cradled in my arm for a good part of the day. Her breathing was very labored and she keep looking at me with these sad eyes that broke my heart. I told her "thanks" for all the wonderful years we had shared and told her that if she needed to go, it was okay, I would always miss her, but I would always hold her memory in my heart. I was waiting for John to pick us up and take up to the vet at 3:15 PM on Wednesday, July 2nd, when Holly took her last breath and died in my arms.

Holly was with me for almost 16 years. She was my best friend and we went through a lot of tough times and blissfully happy times together. She saw me through a divorce and the empty nest syndrome when my boys left home and married. She tolerated all the grandkids pulling at her when they were babies.

She fell in love with my John at the same time I did. I think she knew we had found true happiness when I met and later married John.

It is still too painful to talk or write about Holly's passing and I can’t begin to tell you how hard it was to come back from our trip this past week and not have her at the door to greet me.

Greta and Randy seemed a little down when we got back. I think they miss Holly too. Holly never let Randy usurp her position as the alpha of the pack and she was still putting Randy in his place up until two days before she died. Greta never spent a day apart from Holly from the time she was born.

We are all having to adjust to not having her in our lives. I am going to start another blog about Holly, our life together and how much I loved her. The first post will be what you see below, "An Ode to Faithful Companions".

A Dog's Plea (An Ode to Faithful Companions)
by Beth Norman Harris

Treat me kindly, my beloved friend, for no heart in all the world is more grateful for kindness than the loving heart of me.

Do not break my spirit with a stick, for although I should lick your hand between blows, your patience and understanding will quickly teach me the things you would have me learn.

Speak to me often, for your voice is the world's sweetest music, as you must know by the fierce wagging of my tail when your footsteps falls upon my waiting ear.

Please take me inside when it is cold and wet, for I am a domesticated animal, no longer accustomed to bitter elements. I ask no greater glory than the privilege of sitting at your feet beside the hearth. Keep my pan filled with fresh water, for I cannot tell you when I suffer thirst.

Feed me clean food that I may stay well, to romp and play and do your bidding, to walk by your side and stand ready, willing and able to protect you with my life, should your life be in danger.

And, my friend, when I am very old, and I no longer enjoy good health, hearing and sight, do not make heroic efforts to keep me going. I am not having any fun. Please see that my trusting life is taken gently. I shall leave this earth knowing with the last breath I draw that my fate was always safest in your hands.

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20 July 2008

It's Suzi Isuzu or the !@#$%^& Car

The votes have been tallied and there was a 3-way tie. Pat's vote for "Suzi" breaks the tie, but we all know John will always call her the "you-know-what" car. Especially after the blowout we had, in the pitch dark, just outside of Atenas last week.

Name ....... # Votes ... %
Sparky............ 4 ... 20%
Suzi................ 4 ... 20%
Tex................. 4 ... 20%
Other............. 3 ... 15%
Roadie........... 3 ... 15%
Joe or Joey.... 2 ... 10%
Total Votes 20

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17 July 2008

We are back from our trip to Costa Rica

We just got back from almost two weeks in Costa Rica where we spent most of our time making our new apartment and garage livable. It is now comfortably furnished and we are looking forward to using the "casita" as our vacation home until we retire. Then we will live there while the "bigger" house is built. We have some very funny and a couple of scary stories to share with you. We will post them later when we've had a chance to write them all down.

Jenny came down from California to spend some time with us while we were there and she intends to stay for awhile to take more Spanish classes.

We still have some finishing touches we plan to address on our next trip. But, all in all, it's already pretty comfy. We already have a cell phone and land line. The land line was installed 4 days after we paid our deposit. We understand this is some sort of record for I.C.E., but we're not complaining.

We need to do some landscaping, build a proper fence, plant fruit trees and get an internet connection. We will probably get a television too, but this is not a place where we plan to spend much time watching TV.

More later...

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