Friday, May 25, 2012

RV Improvements and Observations

Here's the floorplan of my new RV, a 1999 Four Winds 5000, 28A, which hasn't changed much in 13 years. Even without slideouts, it's roomy and feels spacious:

There is so much I like about this unit.  For one, the layout is attractive, and convenient in every way -- very well thought out.  The woodwork is beautiful.  The cabinets close securely. The color scheme throughout is attractive, with nappy gray/brown fabric on the couches and seats that will wear well and won't show dirt.  I like that it's carpeted, and the carpet is clean.  The couches are comfortable.  The couch bed flips open with one flick of the wrist, and there's still room to walk around.
I love my kitchen, complete with vented stove, oven, microwave, double sink, and window blinds, and there is plenty of storage.  Both the hot water heater and refrigerator operate on both AC and LP gas, and the fridge gets plenty cold.  And it's plenty roomy.

The windows have screens which are all in perfect shape, and they all have these very cool pleated fabric blinds that pull up and down, one for shade, the other for privacy.

L to R, Willow, Maxie, Lucky Lucy, Pepper
The bedroom delights me so much, I've taken several naps out there.  Not much walking space, but the queen mattress is  7" of memory foam, extremely comfortable. I need a soft bed.   There's plenty of storage in that room, and a form fitting bedspread and throw pillow, in colors that won't show dirt!  My dogs have already claimed this space!  They know it's all for them.
There's a side table by the bed, which many RV's don't have (even the fancy ones), with convenient electric plug placement for a reading lamp and fan, and I bought myself a little radio, casette/CD player so I can listen to radio, music or Books On Tape.  I keep it going even more than the TV. Very cozy.  After a hard day of trialing, I'm looking forward to kicking back in my plush bed surrounded by snoring dogs, and being read to sleep.  My friend Joy donated me several Books-On-Tape casettes that she buys from the Library for $1 each, then passes along to friends.

It's hard to find things small enough to fit in tight spaces, but soon after I got home I found a little wooden medicine cabinet at Lowes, for the bathroom.  It looks like a built in, a perfect color match, and was on sale for $24. I installed it immediately. It's a bit tricky finding wooden beams behind the thin interior walls, but I did. Also installed a paper towel rack inside the door of the cabinet under the kitchen sink.

I noticed right off that the shower takes up a lot of space, which goes un-used most of the time. So I measured the cavity and went searching for some stackable Sterlite drawers in which to store everything from dish towels to paperwork to small tools (stuff that clutters up the surfaces if there is no place to put it).  I found these drawers at Wal-Mart, and they turn the space into a useful dresser/closet/counter. I can remove the drawers to the bedroom whenever I want to take a shower, then stack them back in. When travelling, I secure the drawers in place with bungie cords. Along the sides I have room to store my Hokey, broom, window sun screens, etc.
I also purchased a one-piece unit for the outside compartment, very convenient for storing the myriad items of hardware one carries -- from small tools to bungie cords, duct tape, wasp spray and other things that would otherwise rattle around and make a mess.  This unit is easily removed as well when loading and unloading the rear compartment with all the porch furniture.  It fits in snuggly enough that it can't tump over, and I hope is sturdy enough that it won't break apart on the road.

You can see straight through to the other side, and the
back of the Sterlite drawers from the previous photo.
All my chairs, table, coolers, barbeque pit, fans, rugs, wagon and such forth fit in the two outside compartments. The back compartment is 2' wide x 9' across, a near perfect size for the bigger stuff, but there is absolutely NO wiggle room for our 2'x4' folding table, our 2' x 4' Xpen segments, and Lucky's large crate. These RV manufacturers need to get hip to the fact that many items that need storing are exactly 2' wide.  We need at least an extra 2-4 inches for clearance.

Most of the equipment I had purchased for the pop up camper (table, chairs, lamps, extension cords, clamps, pots, pans, dishes, etc.), work perfect in the RV.

I purchased 32' (two 16' units) of 48" high xpen to make a yard for my dogs. Ebay had a great price on these. I also built 15' of plastic lattice skirting along the bottom edge of the RV, to keep the dogs from escaping under the vehicle.  I was pleased to discover that the same edge pieces designed to cap off and strengthen the lattice, also slid on top of the x-pen segments to keep them more stable.  X-pens segments are, I've found, pretty flimsy unless you set up an octagon.  I still need to rig up, or invent, some sort of stabilizers at ground level.

Some would consider it a minus that my RV has no built in entertainment center.  Instead, there is an empty overhead bed.   However, for about $400, I designed my own.  With luck, I scored a $200 22" flat screen 1080 HDTV from Best Buy for $119 (their last unit), and a $79 BlueRay player on sale for $49, $80 for a swivel arm wall mount, and a Surround Sound Sound Bar from Target for $79, which looks/sounds great. (The regular TV speakers could barely be heard over the full blast air conditioner.) John already had a box to convert analog antenna signals to digital, and we plan to upgrade the antenna to receive signals from over 50 miles away. Of course, we expect mostly to use TV for local news, and to play DVD's and training videos. We also investigated Direct TV for our whole house with a portable box included to take on trips, but that option collapsed when they came out and told us we have too many trees on our property to receive clear satellite signals 24/7.  So we're stuck with cable. Bummer!

John and I spent all day yesterday, tearing out false walls and bottoms in the pictured overhead cabinet, to mount the TV on a swivel arm.  What a job, and we still have to hide all the wires!  But it looks great and I'm satisfied with my little "entertainment center".  And I still have all that overhead storage at my disposal.

I've repaired a bunch of little things too numerous to mention like a small tear in the drivers seat upholstery, a loose doorknob with stripped screws, etc, and added several little features like a 12 volt plug, an outside thermometer, a wall clock, driver and passenger window sun blockers, rugs on the steps, and so forth.  I love my little engineering projects, and am pretty good at problem solving.  It's heap good therapy, and I ain't finished.

When I am finished, I plan to make a list for RV developers to consider that would make their product just a wee bit better. 

I'm also getting the pop-up camper ready to sell, leaving in it all the improvements I've made. I'll be real proud if someone comes along who appreciates all the work I've done on that unit, especially claiming the vertical spaces with removable shelving.  To tell the truth, it's about as comfortable as the RV once it's set up. No kidding. Setting it up just takes too much time and energy when I have to run my dogs the same day.

So, I'm keeping busy.  Even though my vision is skewed and my Mom's health has me worried and my hip hurts so I'm not practicing agility and have yet to sign up for my next trial, at least I'm dreaming about competing again and preparing for it in what ways I can.

Upwards and onward!

My New RV

My new RV, parked at my house
I've been looking for 3 years, so my new RV is a dream come true, a 1999 Four Winds 5000, 28A, with 55,000 miles on her, new tires, and looking almost brand new.  Found her in Florida when I went to spend a week with Mom at my Dad's bedside, taking off one night to visit Cousin Lois in Bradenton and celebrate her 75th birthday.  We went back to Dream RV to see if the 32' Jayco I fell in love with last January had been sold.  It had, but they showed me this one and I loved it even more!  They wanted $21,900 for it.  I said I'd think about it, then went to McDonalds (where they have wi-fi) and cruized the internet looking for more info about it.  I found the identical unit "for sale by owner" in Mobile, AL, with twice the miles, for $15,500.  I emailed the link to the salesman at Dream RV and asked if he could match that price, he agreed, and I bought her.   With the reduced fee, I was able to afford the 4 year/30,000 mile warranty that covers all the major items (engine, transmission, heat, air, oven, fridge, road service, etc.), which will be transferrable to any new owner should I decide to sell within a few years.  1999 is the cutoff year for this warranty.

Without slideouts, power windows or power mirrors, there is less to break. I like that.

Instead of flying home, I drove her home in 2 days.  It took a bit of getting used to and there is a blind spot to be wary of, but she had absolutely no problems, drives like a dream (for a bouncy motor home), and I am thrilled.  Comfortable speed 70 mph.  John and friends lined the driveway, banging pots and pans with wooden spoons to welcome her home, and John cooked at lovely sesame/ginger stir fry for us all.

I've been packing her and making minor improvements every day since I got her home (more on that later). I also took her to the Tanya's agility seminar just after I brought her home, and several friends got to climb in and take a look.  I was proud to show her off. 

Of course, the gas mileage sucks - about 8-9 mpg.  OUCH!  But I've heard that if I hold my speed down to 60 mph, it will improve my gas mileage by 30-40%. In any case, I had already made up my mind that this RV isn't about saving money on lodging at agility trials or on trips.  It's all about convenience, comfort and enjoyment.  This is my sailboat.   My sports car.  My airplane.  It's my luxury item.

I drove 6.5 hours the first day, pulled into the LaQuinta Inn Tallahassee where we usually stay and asked the manager if I could just park there overnight.  He said sure, truckers do it all the time.  So, for free, I found a safe spot right in their parking lot and hit the bed!  Saved about $60 on hotel fees, which put another 15 gallons of gas in my tank, which got me another 125 miles down the road.
I got my dream RV, appropriately, from Dream RV in Bradenton, FL.  They could not have been nicer about getting the unit ready for me, fixing the few cosmetic problems it had.  No razzle dazzle salesmen.  I feel like I've made some good friends there, and recommend them to everyone.  But I would only visit in person.  The prices on the website are far jacked up from what you can get in person.

I'll show more photos and give more details as time permits.

Upwards and onward,

Pepper Goes To School

Pepper, Pepper Tu, Pepperoni at 6 months,
in his natural stack.
Pepper attended his first formal class last night - my dog club's Intro To Agility.  He is 7 months and 5 days old.  I had to beg to get him in, as there were already 7 other dogs enrolled, but if not now he'd be almost 11 months before he started, and that would be way late. 

Kay Watson was his teacher, there were 8 dogs in the class and we all had to promise to be organized and stay in line.  It was shades of Maxie's first class 4.5 years ago, all over again.  Same instructor.  Same excitement.  Same results -- Pepper did fabulous.  100% enthusiastic, gung ho, attentive, no fear of the other dogs though he was by far the smallest canine on the line.  His "loose leash" behavior needs some work -- he's more like a "marlin on a line" keeping maximum tension on the leash and running too and fro trying to visit everybody, but that's because I haven't had him on a leash for a few months and he's never been in a class.

With my hip bothering me and unable to, or at least afraid to run, plus the other "components" I'm dealing with (cataract surgery gone awry, death in the family, mother emotionally unstable) I'm sitting out of the advanced classes with Lucky and Maxie for a few weeks more at least, but I felt I could handle an Intro class where we're just introducing one obstacle at a time, I don't have to concentrate much, and there's no running involved.

Several classmates commented that Pepper was a beautiful Papillon, in a "My, what big ears you have" sort of way.  More than that, though, he has completely lost his fat, pudgy, big boned, marshmellow appearance, becoming very long legged, lean and dainty looking, with a fantastic natural stance, his flat headed border collie puppy face which used to make me call him "so ugly he's cute", is transforming into a more high domed head with the deeper stop that Paps are supposed to have, and his coat and feathers are coming in longer and lusher every day.

Pepper (left), Maxie (right)
He's already taller than Maxie, heavier and longer.  I'm crossing my fingers he doesn't exceed 11".  Right now he's about 10.5", and weighs 8 lbs.  My cousin, Lois, tells me Paps quit growing at about 7 months, and that they actually lose 1/4 inch of their height by 1 year of age.  But Maxie grew an extra 2.5 inches tall from 6 months to 1 year of age. But then I was feeding him 1 tablespoon of cows milk twice daily for about 3 months to get him taller than 7.5".  It worked (as well it should since cows milk has growth hormones in it enough to grow a calf to 1200 lbs!)

Hey, I'm blogging!  Ain't that something!  What I've noticed about myself of such easy-flowing words, is that some things are too deep, too confusing, to blog about.  There is, like, a blockage in the brain that won't let you go there. It's a "seeing thru a glass darkly" phenomenon, "running at half mast" in sailing terms, I remember asking a club mate once about a dog of hers that had been run over several years back, and she responded "Oh, I can't talk about that."  When I expressed condolences, she snapped "I WILL NOT talk about this."  Some things are just too painful to process, I suspect this is when we are, or feel we are, utterly helpless to change the outcome of something that is totally unacceptable to us.

Puppy training is one thing it appears I can now wrap my mind around.  I've also been making improvements to my new motor home, and getting my pop up camper ready to sell.  These things are keeping me engaged, and I'll probably blog about them soon!

Upwards and onward!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Cataract Surgery - Part 2

It's been a few months since my Cataract Surgery - Part I post, and life has gotten in the way of me completing this post, the intention of which is to inform people of what can happen instead of the perfect vision one expects.  Here is my story, too long for some I'm sure, but not long enough for those considering this surgery.  It ain't always what it's cracked up to be, so BEWARE!

From perfect calm going into surgery to near panic afterwards, I dared not wait for my one week appointment to see what had gone wrong. While my near vision is vastly improved (I can read without glasses with the left eye), I am seeing a shadow behind each letter, and everything at a distance looks foggy. Distant tree tops look like big green blobs. There's a haze over everything. The clinic was closed on Monday so I got in Tuesday afternoon. I was put thru a bunch of tests, and the Doc says my surgery is healing perfectly, I've got 20/20 vision in that eye, and "What are you, just a big cry baby?" I was taken aback but didn't say anything more than "No, I just don't know if what I'm experiencing is normal. Ya'll don't tell us what to expect."  After the doc left the room, his nurse explained that my eye may be staying dilated longer than some people's. Everything will be fine as soon as the pupil closes back up and muscles re-trained (therapy to come) to flex the flexibile Crystaline lens I opted for (and paid $2500 extra for since insurance only covers the static lens). Apparently, my old lens was stiff so the muscles have gotten weak. It could take up to 3 months for maximal vision to be realized, the tech explained.

So I'm going into a trial this weekend, not distraught, but miffed that there are so many things the doctors don't bother to tell you beforehand. It would only take them a few minutes to allay a patient's concerns. But since they don't, I'm sharing my experience here for anyone else out there who might benefit.

The incisions nowadays are very small, because the lens comes folded over "like a taco", they said. They slip it in then flatten it, so no stitches are required. You're not allowed to bend over for about 3 days, I guess so it doesn't fall out. HA! You have to sleep with your head propped up, or on the side away from the surgical eye for a few days, too, so it doesn't dislodge. HA! HA! Can you just see yourself waking up on the wrong side and your lens is lying on your pillow! OOPS!

Oh, I could say more. Like, a lens is nothing more than a thing. A replacable thing. They make an incision in the lens pouch, suck out the old one like, they tell me, "sucking a grape out of its skin", insert the new. The lens insurance pays for are inflexible lens, set for either close up or distance, your choice. You still need glasses for one or the other. The Crystaline Lens is flexible but not covered by insurance, though they aren't much more expensive. Go figure.

Then there are what they call the "hinges". "The muscles of the eye have to re-attach to the hinges", they say, "then the muscles have to learn to bend and contract the lens according to what you are focusing on". All the years of going blind, the muscles have weakened. They require rehab. They don't tell you that ahead of time!

Then there are the eye drops. An antibiotic, 1 drop 4 times a day. An anti-inflamatory, 1 drop 2 times a day. Both of these begin 3 days before surgery, both sting, and my insurance co-pay was $120. After surgery, another anti-inflamatory is added, 4 times a day, for . . . . . they didn't say how long. I'm still dropping them in. Guess that's right.

For those considering this surgery, here are even more details:

The surgery is painless. The first round of drops sting a bit for a few seconds; there's a stick when they put in the IV drip in your hand, and you have to fast from midnight to the following morning after surgery, but that's all. Recovery takes only a few days before you're good to run and play, however it takes up to 3 months and several checkups, and maybe a lasic correction, before you're done. They don't tell you that until afterwards.

Starting from scratch, you have to get an eye exam to see if you qualify, and if so, you must schedule the surgery within 3 months. Then, you have to get a signed permission from your Family Doctor attesting to the Eye Surgery Center that you are in good enough health. Since I have no family doctor, I had to get a physical! Fortunately, I've been in process of getting thoroughly checked out as I turn 65, with an assigned doctor sending me here and there for lab tests, and explaining the results to me. She signed the form.

You have to decide whether to have the standard lens put in (that insurance covers), or the Crystalin lens, which costs $2650 per eye, out of pocket. In any case, you have to begin a regimen of eye drops 4 times a day for 3 days prior to the surgery -- one an anti-inflammatory, the other an antibiotoc. Even with insurance, these drops cost $125! OUCH! And doing anything 4 times a day, on schedule, without fail, is a strain. Thank god for my I-phone's wonderful alarm system.

You are required to have someone come with you to drive you home. They have to stay in the waiting room the whole time -- can't leave. No problem, as John was with me and brought his book. With surgery scheduled for 7 a.m., you are told to fast after midnight. I was told I could have black coffee, water, or unsweetened tea over at the eye center a few weeks earlier, so I made myself up a big cup and walked into the surgery center with it. They asked me if I had been drinking it, I said yes, and they had a fit, saying "Who told you that?", I was NOT allowed coffee or anything but water. I would have to reschedule, or I could wait until 9 a.m. and could NOT leave the waiting room in the meantime.

I had received a letter in the mail a few days prior to surgery saying they were going "paperless in compliance with new laws" and would I please go online and fill out my forms there. I did that, then saw no need to bring my folder of papers along, then they couldn't pull up my online papers and I had to fill them all out by hand anyway. Good thing the surgery was pushed back!

It all worked out. About 8 they began putting drops in my eyes to dilate my pupils, and moved me and John into a dark TV room, where we sat back in recliners and watched an I Love Lucy DVD. Every so often someone would come in and add more drops to my left eye. I've never found Lucille Ball funny, just loud, obnoxious and silly, but there must have been a sedative in those drops or I was more nervous than I thought, because I found both her and Desi hilarious! I was sorry they came to get us at 9.

John stayed behind. They laid me on a gurney, fully clothed, shoes on, with a hair net over my head and footies over my shoes. The anesthesialogist stuck an IV in my hand, nurses added more drops to my eye, I told jokes, and we all chatted and laughed for about 15 minutes, It felt like a party. Then the anesthesialogist said he was beginning the drip but I'd remain awake and aware, they wheeled me what seemed like a few yards out of the room into another one. When I got in there I asked "How long before the surgery", and they said it was all over! HUH! I don't remember a thing.

They sent me home with dark sunglasses for outside, an eye patch to wear at night, and instructions not to bend over or lift anything heavy for 48 hours, not to cook, to sleep on my back, and keep up with my eyedrops as before, plus a new one, for a week. No computer work for 24 hours.

I was to come in the next morning for a checkup, which I passed. That's when they explained that it could take up to 3 months for complete healing to take place and I might need to schedule a lasic correction at some point. I passed the test with flying colors, though. All seems perfect at the moment.

There was some sensation of gravel in my eye the first few days. Also a sense of eye strain. My eyelid wanted to stay shut the first day so I let it. It was like looking thru vaseline, with a violet haze. The next day the world looked blue instead of the yellow tint I'm used to. Like those new blue headlights I despise, or those white light lightbulbs that make everything, including people, look garrish. My depth perception is a bit off. I reach for something but it's still half an inch away.

So, here I am 2 months later and the left eye has made NO IMPROVEMENT. I am extremely sad, disappointed, and angry. I had scheduled the second eye for 3 weeks after the first, but I cancelled that until the left eye started feeling like my own. It still doesn't. While I'm not in any sort of pain, after 11 days I am still a tad disoriented and have slight headaches behind both eyes. My reading glasses don't work any more. The left eye doesn't need them, the right eye can't see without them. So I read with one eye shut depending on which one is tired. For distance, I use mostly the right eye. The new eye has horrible distance vision.

Just for the hell of it, I Googled "cataract surgery"+Alternatives, and the first page that popped up said "Cataract Surgery Obsolete" and goes on to describe what cataracts actually are, how they form, and drops that dissolve them within 6 months. That made me feel like crap. So shitty, in fact, I can't finish this post. I feel like a fool for not checking out alternatives to begin with. Me, the gal who has preached "alternative medicine" for years. What a fool I am.

Sorry, I can't write any more on this topic right now. I'll try later when my thoughts aren't so scattered and I'm not so upset. . . . . . . . . see Cataract Surgery - Part 3, finally written in March 2013.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Components Training

Going through a rough patch these past 2 months, I haven't been blogging much.  Then Susan Garrett's Components Training blog post came along, and suddenly I feel I have a better handle on how to get through all of this.  Agility Training is like that.  It offers many lessons that can be applied to life.  Here's a short synopsis of what's going on with me:
  • My cataract surgery did not go well last month and I'm dealing with vertigo, fear and  disappointment. I had such high hopes to get improved vision, but it is worse.  I feel sad deep down inside, always on the verge of tears, like our disabled veterans must feel.
  • My right hip started hurting last month and I'm having trouble running and going up stairs. Anti-inflammatories and ice packs have done nothing to heal it. What's up with this? I need to see a doctor but don't have the time.
  • My Dad died yesterday after a long painful illness.  I spent a week with my Mother at his bedside in Florida, watching him grow weaker and saying goodbye, and that was sad.
  • His funeral arrangements, and moving my Mom into an assisted living situation closer to home, are all up in the air, especially with the long distances we live apart.  She's very independent, too, so is making all the decisions, but my activities are on hold until all this is settled.
  • With me out of town for a whole week, the yard and house have gone to the dogs, and I'm not at all ready to receive the company that's coming in for Dad's funeral.
  • I came home to learn that my husband's young son in law was killed in a car crash while I was in Florida tending to Dad, leaving behind a widow and 7 young children. Inconceivably sad, far sadder than what I'm going through. 
  • My new RV needs some minor work before I take it to a trial, and I don't have time for that with all the other stuff going on.
  • My new puppy needs training and I have neither time nor concentration for that.
  • I brought home some mangos from Florida, and along with them came fruit flies, which are now all over my kitchen.  The fly catcher strips I've hung up are no where near as desirable to these pests as a banana peel, so I interwove one of those into the strip last night.  This morning there were 100 or more flies on the strip!  One small victory!  But at least 500 more flies are still on the loose.
  • The stinging caterpillars all last month have my dogs so afraid to go outside, they are peeing and pooping in the house.  They've been stung several times, and despite my diligent efforts to clean up after them, the house is getting "that odor".  With company coming for the funeral, that makes me frantic. 
  • My grieving mother has been on an emotional roller coaster regarding my Dad's illness and now his death, making us all fear for her health as well.
And I am getting impatient. With everything.  My mind is a jumble of thoughts about unfinished business and disappointing outcomes.  I go through the motions as best I can but the pile doesn't seem to be going down.  Sheesh, I can't even blog lately -- very weird for me.

Then yesterday I read a blurb on Susan Garret's blog about Components Training, breaking it up into little tiny pieces and just doing one step at a time to get the desired result.  Not trying to teach nor expect the final behavior all at once.  Back chaining as necessary to build a solid foundation.  Just as I've done teaching Montessori pre-schoolers throughout my professional career.  Break complicated skills down into tiny components, then put them together, and ordinary kids perform what seem like extraordinary feats.  Everyone is gifted with the right training.

The article gave me just the advice I needed to tackle this mountain of details facing me.  Start somewhere, doing one little thing at a time, whittling down the pile bit by bit.  Of course I already know all that, but the reminder came in at the right moment, and suddenly I don't feel so overwhelmed.  I must feel better.  Looky here, I'm blogging!

I have Tanya Lee's agility seminar to blog about, what I learned recently about how to tug properly, my new RV, my puppy's progress, and my cataract surgery.  The little post I put up earlier entitled 'CATARACT SURGERY - Part I' received more hits than most others I've posted, so this must be a very hot search topic.  I promise to give it it's due, when I get time.  It will keep.  I have to prioritize.  Baby steps.  Baby steps. Baby steps WILL get me back on top of the pile eventually.

As well as, always, the 3 P's:
  1. Patience,
  2. Persistence, and
  3. Prayer

If not upwards and onward for the moment, at least maybe I'll not be going downward and backwards.