Saturday, December 19, 2020

Vacation 2020

 Around this time last year, I was on a 4 day adventure in El Salvador.

Almost 100 hours of being disconnected from work.  Rejuvenating.  I've been plotting all year for my next escape.  Adjanie and Cristian offered themselves up as human sacrifices a couple months ago, assuring me that they would take over the farm AND stay with my dogs.  Seeing as I only used up 2 of my vacation days in 2020, this was going to epic.  

Hiking in Patagonia or running in Wales. Airfare, camping and incidentals, all under $800. Solitude and a tent for 10 days. Sign me up.  Then covid happened. Chance of a lifetime to leave my dogs with two people I trust... vaporized.

Plan B: staycation.  I have lists out the ying yang of all the projects I want to cram into 10 days.  Recipes all over the place.

I will be filling the freezer again with homemade entrees for all my meals for the next semester.

Friday, Dec 18th was my last day at work.  Getting the barn ready, tasks ready, wrapping up accounts... took me until a little past midnight.  Then, it was ON!

Too excited to sleep, I made my favorite tea cakes: Madame Benoit's rose geranium cakes.  Already sliced and vacuum packed.

Not much to look at now, but I worked on the filling for my French Canadian Christmas tourtieres. 

Those meat pies are my kryptonite.  I'll spike my cholesterol level for a couple weeks, then return to better behavior.  I made 3 gallons of chick pea stew too. 

Then I crashed. 

First official day of vacation: Saturday Dec 19th... I'm cleaning out the freezer.  

Taking stock of all my ingredients.  I still have a 1/4 of my dairy cow left.

 She's spoiled me so much, I'll not be able to go back to plain grocery store meat ever again. My fridge is full of the necessary ingredients for the first phase (4 planned) of cooking.

Thanks to 27'F nights, the hood of my truck serves as backup cooler for the 30 lbs of carrots, onions, Brussel sprouts and turnips. I do not jest.  You should've seen the look on the cashier's face.

The dogs think I'm on drugs, I've been serenading them and reciting poetry to them all morning. I've been working on the 10 gallons of beef stock that I'll need for Phases 1 thru 4.  It will take 8 hours, but so worth it. My marrow bones are roasting in the oven right now.  

While I babysit the stocks, I will try my hand at soap making.

I'm attempting goat milk, beef tallow, coconut and olive oil recipes.  That should keep me busy for a while.

Rainy day projects include mountains of sewing projects.

Tonight, I will be tanning two more beaver hides.

Peter suggests we should partakes in naps.

Maybe later, dude. What else can I cram in today???  A run of course!  

On Monday, I plan to hit hard on my 1954 camper restoration.  I need uninterrupted solid days to pull the interior walls off, insulate, run new wire and slap on the new roof.  Unfortunately, I tweaked my back this week, so I'm giving myself the next two days to work inside, then, by George, ready or not, my back is slated for a full week of camper restoration. 


Friday, December 11, 2020

Fall Semester Recap

 I wrote my last exam on December 5th.

Using every flat surface to review notes from each of the 5 classes.  

3-1/2 months of doing nothing in the evenings and into the wee hours of the morning but studying.

The dogs are my source of strength when I feel like I want to quit.

But even their patience has its limits.  Dax, frustrated that we couldn't go running because I was staring at my notes after work decided to throw half of them to the ground.

The mug on him when I busted him in the act.  He was MAD. 

This semester almost got the best of me.  The Marketing class left me with a better understanding and deeper resentment of advertising.  The Corporate Finance class left me with greater appreciation for the world of economics and more scared of the stock market than before. Management saddened me because apparently flogging lazy employees isn't encouraged, somehow, I'm supposed to shower them with positive incentives. (I tried, not in my DNA, fired 3 people this Fall... better than getting arrested for flogging).  Business Statistical Analysis was tough, but fun.  

You can now give me data and I will spew out probability scenarios.  Very, very cool.  Plus, I love delving into complex formulas.  Now that I'm uncomfortably close to being half a century old, treating my battered body to one physical challenge after another isn't as rewarding as it once was.  I'm no longer able to make gains in the gym or improve my running times.  Physical status quo maintenance is all that's left and it's dull and tedious. That's where learning has taken over in my realm of what can I challenge myself with next. 

In many ways, it's exactly like preparing for an ultra marathon: yearlong, unrelenting training.  I remember heading out at 2 AM to run 22 mile training runs before going to work.  I miss those days, but now I can stay glued to my textbooks until 4 AM, soaking in all this cool stuff I never knew.

Life is such an adventure.  I've passionately hated computers for 25 years, refusing to learn how to even cut and paste until a couple years ago. Rebuffed them outright.  Guess which class has been my favorite? Data Analysis.  I gleaned much enjoyment out of organizing data into different classes and finding correlations, that I completed ALL the extra credit projects.  

99.8% final grade.  I may be in the wrong department, but it's too late to jump ship.  An accounting degree is where I'm headed... perhaps an IT degree can be next.  In January, I begin my senior year.  4 tough Accounting classes and 1 IT class thrown in to keep me sane:  Data Visualization with Tableau. I must know how to do this.  Check out this video and tell me this isn't the most revolutionary manipulation of data.  Geek out with me:

Move over all my marathon heroes, Prof. Rosling is in the house.  I can watch all his Ted Talks over and over again.  By the end of May I will have my industry certification to produce Tableau data manipulations.  Send me your data and Dr. Frankenstein here will be able to make it come to life.

Christmas break is a long 5 weeks this year and I'm going to make the most of every evening applying for more scholarships.  The aggravation is in the wait.  It can be almost a year from application deadline to awarding of the scholarship.  I'll be graduated by the time any money comes my way... if I win any.


I'm keeping my fingers crossed.  I've worked really hard for this 3.90 GPA (for you Canadians, that's 94%) grade.  Just like my old racing days, my competitive nature kicks in and I put the pedal to the metal to pass everyone.  (It's a sickness, but I enjoy the Hell out of it).

Time to retire Fall semester notes.

A solemn moment of silence for the ceremony.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Medical Release

 18 months after my first foot surgery, I have been cleared for running.  Truth is I had started trotting around back in Summer, but I'm officially off the chain now!

The 4 screws in my plate are holding firm.

The hole in my heel where they harvested bone for the graft still looks like a donut, but it's not like I slam my heel on the ground anymore...

...not with the bone spurs from years of plantar fasciitis.  Ah, the joys of being on your feet all day, every day for 35 years.

As long as they keep fixing me, I can keep living my life my way.

The nerve damage in my left foot may be permanent.  To be expected after cracking the top of my foot open twice.  It's a strange neuropathy.  Sometimes my toes will unfurl of their own accord, like they'd been run over by a cartoon steam roller, the pain clears my sinuses and then they contract back to normal.  Most times, sensation in my foot is so muted, it's like a whisper.  I have to be very cautious climbing ladders because I usually can't feel if my foot is on a wrung. Adds some excitement to mundane window washing!

First officially sanctioned run Dec 3, 5:18PM

Pedal to the metal, my friends.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020


 My favorite literary character is Boo Radley from To Kill A Mockingbird.  He is the agoraphobic hermit who watched over Jem and Scout, venturing out only once to save their lives. 

I looked from his hands to his sand-stained khaki pants; my eyes traveled up his thin frame to his torn denim shirt. His face was as white as his hands, but for a shadow on his jutting chin. His cheeks were thin to hollowness; his mouth was wide; there were shallow, almost delicate indentations at his temples, and his gray eyes were so colorless I thought he was blind. His hair was dead and thin, almost feathery on top of his head.

This is who Garret became, my Boo Radley. 

The day I found him living under a dock at the farm, barely able to stand he was so weak.

All 33 lbs of him on May 9, 2015.  Heartworm positive, chronic pneumonia and a disgusting skin condition yanked $2500 out of my piggy bank just the first month.  He was promptly put on Trupanion health insurance!

My vet back in the day theorized he'd been used as a bait dog by dog fighters because of all of his scars and infected lesions.  He'd always hated rough housing and would shriek if Cole tried to play with him.  PTSD Garrett.

If only they could talk:  he could tell us how he ended up with a little bullet in his back.

Garrett was the most appreciative, quiet boy.

Deprived his whole life, food became his favorite adventure.

Tomato thief on the garden:

The original Three Amigos:

 Cole and I were still busy trying to complete our runs across America and we gained another travel companion.

For a guy who jumped on the dining room table and tried to break out a window his first time in a house and riding backwards in a car for over a month, he became an expert traveler.  He and Peter trekked through 27 states.

Acadia National Park in Maine.

Detente was more his schtick than bagging peaks and logging miles on trails, but he always gave 100%

From the Atlantic to the Pacific, Garrett had seen it all.

The boys at Jefferson's Monticello in Virginia.

Top of the Smoky Mountains:

Oregon beach:

Garrett patiently put up with Cole and I reveling in Idaho snow.

Back at home, he became my work buddy.  His favorite spot was the front drive of the barn where he could survey his territory.  

Or the front seat of the utility vehicle where he could leisurely watch over me while I worked.

Nary a bark out of his lips, he was the quiet protector.  For a guy who hated confrontation, he was always the first to step up to protect the family unit.

During a Nordic ski trip in Idaho, a dog ran into my lines and jumped Cole.  In the scrum, Peter ended up hog tied in the lines and Garrett jumped the attacking dog and grabbed it by the throat, requiring some persuasion to release him.  We left more than a few drops of blood in the snow that day.

Later that year, a neighbor's pit bull strayed up to the house and attacked Cole.  I beat it mercilessly with a shovel to no avail, before I knew it, Garrett and Peter were in the fray. Outnumbered, it ran away. I knew I'd found my Boo Radley 

Hallowe'en of this year, I noticed something was off with Garrett.  Everything pointed to a problem with his back.

I made him a recovery area where he could still be part of the pack, but he wouldn't be able to jump or run.  Something told me it was more than a slipped disc.  I started insisting on an MRI (remember he has better insurance than I have!).  The vet school neurology dept. refused, backlogged in cases for a month when I presented him with non acute symptoms.  

Undeterred, I scoured the the Southeast for an MRI appointment.  Peter's physiotherapist, Liz, came through with an appointment with a colleague  4 hours from here.  Nov 20th.  I rented an actual church bus for 3 days and planned on taking my pack with me to Huntsville. 

By Sunday before the appointment, Garrett had taken a turn for the worse, he was not walking and I brought him to Auburn once again.  This time, he was admitted as an emergency to the neurology department. He would be fast tracked for an MRI. 

For over a week, I'd promised him I would find a way to make the pain end, he wasn't going to be made to wait for the next available appointment in late December.  It was my turn to fight for my Boo Radley.

This is the last picture of Garrett while we waited at the vet school.  The images basically confirmed he was riddled with multiple myeloma

Will you take me home?

Only words spoken by Boo Radley in To Kill a Mockingbird.  

Sometimes the shittiest thing to do is keep a promise. My Baby G is over the Rainbow Bridge now. 

     Garrett Boo Smith 2010- Nov 16, 2020