Monthly Archives: September 2019

I’m typing this in my new office, on the second floor of the Dog House.


This picture implies much more order than actually exists up on Vista Drive at the moment; this room has just been unboxed (to the extent that it has, indeed, been so) and so has an artificially low level of visual entropy. N.B. – those books are NOT in any order on the shelves, and only have the loosest of groupings.*

An illustration of this truth: the left bookcase has a Bobble Head Bill Wilson on the second shelf. And his head has bobbled off to some other location.

But much of our lives right now is a mine field. (Hint: don’t go into the garage. Either garage – the new or the old. I’m not going to take a picture of either of those explosions; suffice it to say that when I walk through the garage, I keep my eyes straight ahead. To look to either side is to succumb to despair).

Much of the house at present looks orderly; Ethel’s done a good job. But, again, the order means “items aren’t strewn across the floor in crazy heaps”; however, the fact that something is in a cabinet, or drawer, or on a shelf does NOT imply that it’s in the place that one would expect it to be.

So I spend much of my day going “Honey, where is the….<insert noun>?”

Some of these things will have to move. Right now, on the longest counter in the kitchen, the coffee pot is at the far left, under the coffee cups and other beverage containers; the flatwear is in the Fancy Flatware Double Drawer at the far right end.

This makes plenty of sense to Ethel, because Ethel drinks her coffee black. But I take cream and sweetener. So I have to go to the far left, pull down a cup and pour the coffee, go to the far right to get a spoon, come back to the far left to add sweetener and creamer, stir, then go to the middle to put the spoon in the sink. No wonder my Garmin is showing 20,000+ steps at the end of the day.

The whole kitchen has things where things ought not to be.

And then there’s the fact that so much stuff is still in boxes. Quite often, the answer to “Where is the…?” is “I don’t know. Might be in a box.”

I am grateful that my dresser still has the same clothing assignments per drawer. I’m on the same side of the bed. But I walk into the closet, and I’m on Mars.

That’s inside the house. Outside, the landscapers have broken down the universe, and are now rebuilding it in the image of the landscape plans. Here’s the current state of the front yard:


I said “the image of the landscape plans” but, of course, no battle plan survives contact with the enemy. For instance – the house foundation is surrounded by a beautiful rocked area going out from five to ten feet, bordered with a think plastic border, with preplanned plantings every few feet. But one thing that nobody noticed on the plans is that there was a shrub – which will grow to a great size – directly in front of the side door out of the garage. Thanks to Dan the landscape man who asked me – “Hey, Jim – uh, do you want this here?” – especially since it was his boss who drew up the plan. That takes moral courage.

That open flat area there will be a berm in a few hours. However, the berm – as planned – was suppose to have two aspen flanking a blue spruce. But, as it turns out, Ethel and I bought multi-trunk clumps of aspen instead of single trees, and the clumps that we picked out are too large, so we could either let the berm grow to take up most of the front yard to include all those, or move a clump to the other side of the driveway. (We will now have two groups of aspen in the front yard. Well, can’t ever have too many aspen).

Yesterday, we thought that they’d be laying sod by the end of today; now it looks like tomorrow. And that’s a problem, because the landscape boss is going elk hunting next week. I am so, SO grateful that this house got done this week, as one elk season starts, all construction stops. (I’m pretty sure that somebody will be here working the landscape gig next week, though, because I only paid ’em half up front).

Ethel is downstairs working on the final draw; and it looks like we just went over our planned construction loan, with a few more items still to show up; I’m grateful that we didn’t go much over, though, given how many, many questions came up where we said “Oh, go ahead with the more expensive option”.

The landscaping and fencing was always planned to be out of pocket. But I didn’t expect it to be even half as much as it wound up.

I’m okay with all this expense, really; I know that selling stock now to pay for stuff will NOT result in us eating dog food when we’re 75 years old. But it still feels weird to be shelling out so much cash when I’m bringing none in.

So one of the “Where is…?” questions is about my money 🙂

*the upper shelf on the right bookcase is all conference-approved material, either AA or OA with one Narcotics Anonymous basic text from the 1980s. Then things start getting much looserer – with the exception of the second shelf on the left, which is all Louis L’Amour.

We’re moving everything that wasn’t moved yesterday, besides the furniture. I have two pairs of underwear and two T-shirts upstairs, and some shorts – but Ethel just had to bring me back some clean jeans from the house, because it’s too cold today for shorts, and I got the pair I’m wearing dirty cleaning our grill before the move.


This is my 14 year old Vermont Castings grill; we bought it when we moved back to Arizona in 2005. We’d lived in Vermont and seen Vermont Castings wood stoves, but didn’t realize that they made gas grills; when I saw it in Home Depot in Cave Creek, I just bought it. No questions asked. It’s lasted 14 years and gets used – a LOT.

So every few years, I pull out a full bottle of 409 and a big tub of soapy water, and clean it. It was definitely time.

See, the new house is full of cool stuff – and today, I got the training room almost completely set up; just waiting on the longer HDMI cables from Amazon to finish that. All the screens are mounted. Also got the 55″ “PAC-12 After Dark” bedroom TV mounted, as well.

But we have to deal with the old ugly stuff as part of the move. For instance, SOMEBODY decided that we needed a Husky puppy, and the Husky puppy decided to chew up the trim by the front door. So we pulled that chewed-up trim off –


…got some new trim cut to fit, and now it’s in the garage, letting the second coat of paint dry before we put it into place.


No, I don’t have any sawhorses; why do you ask? Heck, I’m surprised I still have a paint roller – Ethel is carting everything out of this place and taking it across the highway to the Dog House. I’m doing the best I can with what I have.

The Dog House – today they are sealing the granite, and Ethel’s getting all the locks keyed to the same key (which is an exercise with a very low ROI – I don’t even lock the doors. This is Whitefish); tomorrow, the builder shows up for his last tasks (including the handrail on the stairs; the banister is in place, but code demands a handrail as well) and the city shows up to inspect and give us a COO – “Certificate of Occupancy”. Heck, I never knew such a thing existed.

It’s raining, raining, raining, by the way – the landscapers came out and tried this morning, but then gave up. So, no, there will NOT be any sod laid before we move in, even though I scheduled the landscapers to start in late July. (This is where I would say “I don’t think I’ll prepay folks again a month in advance to wait and show up five weeks late”, but then, I’m never going to build a house again, so it doesn’t really matter).

So the critters are going to the animal shelter the kennel for a few days; I want to leave them there until the lawn is established, but Ethel’s a real softie, so she’ll bring them home in a few days, and then force me to take them out, one at a time, on a lead, down the street to a vacant lot so they can do their business.

We’re building the *&^%$#@! house so that the $%^&* dogs can have a yard, but the yard that we built the house for won’t be there. This is called “the way things are”, and there ain’t no use in fussing about it.

Believe it or not, this kitchen is almost completely loaded now. Pots, pans, plates, glasses, flatware, pantry – all of that stuff. And we’ve still got lots of empty cabinets.


Today we had some great friends who came to help, so even though the furniture doesn’t go in until Tuesday, we moved a whole lot of our lives in today – clothes and linens and small appliances and ski stuff and bike stuff – heck, the list is too long. LOTS of stuff.

ALL of the stuff came down off the walls, and is now stacked sideways in the garage, waiting to go up on our new walls.

Boxes and bins and boxes and sacks and boxes.

So much so that there isn’t that much more for us to move, other than the garage.

Tomorrow I’m putting up TV mounts and finishing setting up the training room, and possibly starting the task of putting up the garage shelves – because it’s obvious we’re going to need a LOT of garage shelving. Get that stuff off the ground.

Maybe five more hard days. But then we should be mostly done.

I’m tired of this move, and I’m tired of moving in general. But I’m also self-aware enough to know that – let’s tell the truth and shame the Devil – it’s probably going to happen again.

And, despite what I say about it, it’ll still be just as difficult next time 🙂

*yes, I’m aware that Boxing Day is a British Commonwealth holiday that comes the day after Christmas. But here, and now, today was Boxing Day. And Wednesday, Thursday and Friday will be Unboxing Days 🙂


Here’s the training room in our current condo – after removing everything except the dresser.


The training bikes, Wahoo Kickrs, and supporting equipment are already over at the Dog House, waiting for the carpet guys to finish so they can go up in the Bama Room. I had to get that stuff out of here so I could (ahem) start painting.

This is an extremely difficult room to paint; what you don’t see is behind me, which is a bunch of angles, door, closet doors, and of course the en-suite bathroom. All of this has to be taped off and cut in before I can actually start rolling. It’s taken me the last 24 hours to just get this far; I have to admit that I’m pretty scared of this task. Like the Furyan Spirit Lady told Riddick just before she gave him the power, “….it’s gonna hurt!”*

The worst part is that the Puckett best suited for this task is the Puckett that is currently laying down with her leg elevated; she saw the doc this morning, and now she is allowed to sit up for thirty minutes, but then she has to lay down for fifteen. He didn’t mention any reasonable interval for “taping off and cutting in”; he just slid right past that topic.

That little white box over in the lower right is a Sonos amplifier, so’s I can listen to Gin Blossoms Radio while doing this most unpleasant of tasks. I have to admit; that helps.

Full disclosure – I only came up here to post this diary entry because that allowed me a little respite from the baseboard taping. But now – alas! – I must go back to it. Those baseboards aren’t going to tape themselves.**

Understand – it’s not that I don’t like this because it’s hard or unpleasant. I don’t like this job because I’m no good at it. But then, I’m not good at anything else, so there’s that 😉

House update – it’s really, really almost done. The landscapers are the farthest behind, but they aren’t essential to the move. The carpet is almost done. The tub is finally in. I think that while I’m typing this, the electricians are finally putting the oven and microwave into the space in the cabinets. And the construction clean up guy said that he was going to start the clean up this afternoon.

Since they are really almost done, that why our work has just now gotten hardest 🙂

*I’ve always found it interesting that the spirit of the Furyan race was a cute girl in a short skirt, with knee-high go-go boots.

*but, if they COULD tape themselves, they’d do a better job than I can do.

…all at once.

I’m worn out. I’ve been packing and painting the loft – my office produced 11 boxes of, well, stuff. Sheesh.

Meanwhile, everything is happening all at once over at the Dog House. For instance, the landscapers have finished the flagstone patio, and spread the topsoil:


The carpet guys are busy. Turns out that when you buy carpet that has patterns, they have to finagle the different sheets to make the patterns contiguous. If’n I’d’a known that, I’d’a bought something easier to install.


The granite is in – and most of the appliances, as well. Here’s the sink and the Bosch (oh my gosh):


And, then, finally – the Black Taurus Waterfall:


When we left a while ago, the steel guy had shown up with the corrugated metal accent siding. I didn’t hang around to get a picture, because Ethel had to leave.

Ethel, it seems, has a blood clot in her leg.

Yep – it’s called a Deep Vein Thrombosis, but it’s pretty much a blood clot. It’s why her calf has been swelling for the last three weeks – and now she’s on blood thinners and bed rest. Since we’re currently five days out from the movers showing up, it’s pretty much the worst time to go onto bed rest. But the Deep Vein Thrombosis did not check with us regarding scheduling.

Ethel has named her blood clot “Clumpson”. College football fans will understand.

Now that I’ve typed this, I have to hurry back to pack and clean and prep for painting. That’s what I do now. Ethel is supposed to be on the couch with her leg up, but I think that I hear the vacuum cleaner going, so before I can go back to PCP (pack/clean/prep) I have to go do an intervention on Ethel and her Clumpson.

I bought my first house in 1986 – in Decatur, AL. And I bought a lawnmower.

Then I sold that house, got rid of the lawnmower, and moved into an apartment, as I was going back to school. Then moved into another apartment – and then, moved into another house, and bought another lawnmower.

Then we sold our next house, and got rid of that lawnmower – in Decatur, AL, again – and moved to Bisbee, AZ, where we rented a house, but it had no lawn; then bought a house in Tucson, put in a small lawn, and bought a lawnmower.

Then we moved to Vermont, and rented a house. I don’t know if I bought a lawnmower there, or if there was one in the garage; but we left there and moved to Park City, where our “lawn” was a mountain forest.

For seven years – no lawnmower.

Then we moved to Anthem, AZ, where we had a small lawn – bought a lawnmower. Moved out into the desert in New River, got rid of the lawnmower.

Moved to a townhome in Park City – no lawnmower. Moved to Bozeman, bought a lawnmower. Got rid of it when we moved to this townhome in Whitefish.

Now, next week, we’re moving back into a house.

Guess what we had to buy?


There is one difference between this mower and all the rest – this is electric. It’s a Greenworks Pro 60-volt self-propelled. Unlike my grandfather’s electric mower, this one doesn’t require a cord 🙂 Reviews say that it will mow over a quarter acre on a single charge. I got it for about half the list price, between the sale and my veteran’s discount.

It says “Life gets easier” on the box. As far as I can tell, these new electrics are much simpler, easier to use and maintain, and much quieter. But it’ll take some getting used to. I did a good bit of research some weeks ago, but when I saw this one on sale today, it didn’t take me long to decide.

Of course, I have to have grass to mow, if’n I’m gonna mow. And, so far, still no landscapers at the house. Just some landscape equipment. But I have faith!…or, at least, a suspicion! 🙂

I was serving at church this morning, and also doing the Eucharistic Visitor thing, which meant that I left church with a pyx, carrying the Host, to take communion to folks who couldn’t make it to church.

This is the pyx we use:


The Gospel today was from Luke 14, 7-14, in which Jesus says that if you show up at a banquet, He suggests that you don’t take the best seat. If you do that, then the host might show up, and say, “Uh, excuse me, but those seats are reserved for other folks. You sort of need to take a seat in, uh, this area” and lead you to a worse seat, and then you’ll be all “dang, don’t I feel sheepish”. (I’m paraphrasing).

Instead, He suggests that you take the worst seat in the house, and then, either you’re cool, or the host will show up and say, “Dude! Naw, naw – we want you up here, near the head of the table!” and then you’ll be all “cool, yeah, I like this better”. (paraphrasing again).

I’ve always loved this passage, and have made good use of it. Specifically, this describes what I always did during our performance review cycles. For a long time, the companies where I’ve worked have started those processes by having the employee prepare some sort of self-assessment, wherein one lists how he’s doing in various areas, or with various accomplishments, or what-have-you.

This might be followed by possible peer reviews, but it always ends up with an assessment by the manager, in which the manager gives his own perspective, and also might comment on the self-assessment that started the whole thing.

I always played those things down. I’d take an objective look, and then, well, shoot low – there’s no sense in getting all uppity. I’d list some stuff, but I would tend to give a lower number, or use one of the adjectives from the lower ranges; sure, I’m as egotistical as the next guy, but I’m also aware that I’m as egotistical as the next guy, which means I’m probably lying about how good I am. So let’s curb the enthusiasm, shall we?

This is the “taking one of the worst seats” part of the parable.

What would inevitably happen is that my boss would show up and tell me that I was doing better than I thought I was, and that meant that he would be praising me, instead of telling me how I had an over-inflated opinion of myself .

You know what? There’s no way to say “you have an over-inflated opinion of your performance” and make it sound good. On the other hand, it’s impossible to say “you’re actually doing much better than you think you are” and make it sound bad.

That’s the “let the host move you to a better seat” part of the parable.

Now, this may sound dishonest, but it isn’t – it’s based on the fact that I know that I really don’t know how well I’m doing, so all I can do is give some evaluation in a range; and this really shows up in that quite often what the boss winds up praising me for is something that I really didn’t think I was doing well, and he might point out improvements where I was actually feeling confident.

And it’s always better to hear nice things than un-nice things.

I don’t know what the actual effect of all this might have been on my career – but, then, I’m not managing my own life, much less my career, so that’s none of my business. I’ve been overpaid for the last ten or fifteen years, so it certainly had no bad effects on my salary.

Now, here’s a thing – Ethel doesn’t like it, at least in the other areas of my life. I don’t like tooting my own horn; Ethel chides me for being “self-deprecating” and says that she doesn’t find that very attractive. (I have a suspicion that women of my generation all still have some sort of early-teenage fixation on arrogant bad boys, while consciously looking for solid citizens; they can’t admit that, but it’s like Rodney Dangerfield said: “These Jewish girls in the Bronx aren’t fooling anybody. They date Vinnie all through high school, and then marry Irv because he’s a good provider”).

I don’t worry too much about her distaste for “self deprecation”, because there’s a very simple fact about this – you don’t clean house by bragging about how shiny things are. You clean house by finding the dirt and dust. And my whole life, in Alcoholics Anonymous, is about housecleaning – not just my character, but my activities and qualities. Focusing on how great something is never improves it; finding and admitting what is wrong is the only way that things get better.

And, while Ethel may chide me for taking the worse seat at the banquet, she stays married to me – so, at the end of the day, I have the best seat in the house 🙂