An Entire Village was Needed (to Get Jyoti to California)

I am indebted….which is different than being in debt, of course. Neither is fun or easy for me.  But both are my reality.

two girls 1

Just look at these cuties!

When my girls’ father fell in love with another woman when the girls were aged 1 and 4 years old, I was devastated.  We lived in Phoenix—actually Glendale:  Both cities were devoid of charm or character to me.   I had left my flight attendant job with Pan Am in Hawaii to move to Arizona when he received a great job opportunity.  The company told him that they would move us to the Bay Area within three years.  Three years later, no Bay Area and I was a newly-single mother.  And even though I vowed never to return to an area with cold winters (I had lived in Hawaii for 10 years previous to the Arizona move), I packed up the girls and moved to Indianapolis to be in the Midwest and near family.  We moved three houses down from some dear college friends and found ourselves in a great neighborhood community which nurtured us for 26 years.

Let’s be clear.  That means 26 years of filling the empty spaces.  Which we did with no problem, just as everyone is wont to do.  We are talking a back yard shed.  A big garage.  An attic.  A basement (yes, you all remember all the floods and floating Barbie clothes).  Four bedrooms.  Almost an acre of land with huge trees.  And all the paraphernalia it takes to maintain such a property.  You homeowners know what I’m talking about.  And I never had a partner to help keep it all going.

The girls worked hard as youngsters.  They had to learn self-sufficiency early.  My neighbor and friend (and co-worker at Riley Hospital), Maureen, came to find me one blizzardy morning at work and told me that she found my elementary school daughter shivering at the bus stop and told her to go home as there was a Snow Day that day.  Who knew?!  We had many adults in our neighborhood who helped me a lot with raising the girls and just being there for them and for me.  This neighborhood is where the village started.

Sierra and Sage grew up to be splendid young women and left Indiana for college.  Sierra found her future husband at Oberlin College and moved to Washington DC for a great job, then on to Oakland, CA in 2008.  Sage moved back home to get her graduate degree from Indiana University here in Indy after she obtained a degree in Neuroscience from The College of Wooster.   When Sierra and Steve got to Oakland in the Bay Area, they pretty much knew they had found their home.  Their master plan was to get both of their families to follow them there and I was the first one to sign on!  Bay Area, here I finally come!  Well, in many more years when I could retire.  Ugh.  I had to wait, but I was determined nonetheless.

But with that long-term goal in mind, Sage and I started the sorting-out process.  During her last year at home, we spent time every single weekend and made the first swipe through every area of the property and house.  Having her help me with that first pass through helped me immensely.  Before I threw or gave things away that meant something to me or stood for something important to me, I was able to tell her many stories of my life and share my accomplishments and history, providing a needed catharsis.   It was usually torturous for her due to dust allergies; she ALWAYS ended up sneezing and tearing up and breaking out in hives.  But she stuck it out with me.  Without that initial push, I don’t think I could have done what I’ve done.  I was able to let go of so much that first year with Sage by my side.

But unfortunately, there were four more rounds of purging in my future—now my past 5 years.  I have literally spent much of my free time in those last 5 years sorting and letting go.  I knew that I would have a small space to live in in the Bay Area, but when I signed on for a 600 sq.ft. condo over two years ago, a deeper dive into purging had to take place.  During this time, I also saved money, updated the house.  Saved more money, did another update.  Purging and updating.  Five years worth.  Many days I was just crazy-pants, up to my eyeballs in craziness.  Always with one goal pushing me forward: moving to California to be with my family.

In the meantime, Steve’s folks moved from Cincinnati to Oakland (five blocks from the kids).  Steve’s brother and husband moved to San Francisco.  Sage moved from Nashville, TN to Oakland when little Marigold (Sierra and Steve’s daughter) came onto the scene.  Meanwhile, Jyoti is still in Indiana reading books on Minimalism, feeling both pain and exhilaration with each trip to Goodwill, with each item sold on Craigslist.  “Will this item provide value to my life?”  Nope?  Gone.  Gulp.  I was the first to sign on and will be the last to arrive.

So when my house sold in four days in July 2015, my nomadic life began.  My nomadic plan and goal of saving money for the actual move was so fortuitous.  Because now that I can move early (thank you, IPS, for that monetary incentive!), I need my saved money to live on until I can get a job and also collect Social Security 6 months later when I turn 66.   Knowing a bit more of my back story, I hope you can appreciate my complete freak out when I received that email that offered me 20k to retire at the end of this school year.  YES, PLEASE!  (I still do plan to write more about my cohousing condo later!)

So, I am NOT in debt!  But, oh, my lord, I am up to my eyeballs in indebtedness.  The couple of years before I put the house up for sale, my family and friends rallied around me and helped with tasks that I could never have paid for nor done myself—as I was used to doing.  The list is long.  And it starts with my Brother Kerry who flew up from Texas two years in a row and worked each time for a week at my house.  We put up a new deck fence, replaced porch walls, replaced doors, took everything out of and painted the inside of the garage, did the final pass of my downed forsythia bushes with a rented stump grinder, etc.  We worked from sun up to bedtime every day.  We took countless trips to Lowes, knocking items off of the lengthy lists until I dropped him off at the airport a week later.  Any thoughts of repayment are out of the question.  There is nothing I could ever do to repay Kerry.  Indebted indeed.

mess in family room 1

This mess is a consolidation of everything left as the new carpet was being installed in the living room and four bedrooms.

Sister Julie came for the last weekend before the sale and went home with a car full of “wonderful stuff” in “payment” for working her butt off for two days.  HAHA!  My brother Tom came for a Saturday and neither of us can remember what was on the list that day.  Brother Pat helped replace a broken step on the basement stairs—a task much more complicated that it sounds.   Steve, Abby and Larry helped lay down 5+ yards of wood chips.  Larry stayed to help me get all the heavy furniture out of the back rooms so the carpet crew could come the next day.

Cousin Barbara came and helped me clean out the garage.  Ugh.  I cleaned out the garage approximately 97 times in the last 6 years.  Dinah helped me lay mulch on the gardens and I can’t remember what she did the other time she came over.  Peppy and Jessica helped out in the kitchen and general organizing of boxes one day.  Nephew Matt helped one day in exchange for me dropping him off in southern Indiana for a solo hike one weekend.  Sallie helped me in the kitchen (I think?) one afternoon.  Virgil helped me cut down some big branches.  Ed gave me discounts on the renovation work that he did for me through the years.  The list is long and I apologize profusely if I forgot to mention you here.  (You know I have no memory.)

But, I have one friend who stood by me through the entire process.  She moved into the neighborhood two months after we did and our kids grew up together.  For years now, Peggy always seemed to know what I needed to do next.  Then she came over to help me do it.  She helped me give away all my size 6 clothes.  She sorted through my kitchen knife/spatula/small utensils drawer. Etc. Etc. Her list of helpfulness is endless.  But, last weekend, she insisted that we sort through my storage unit to make the final cut for things that will not go to California now that I know for sure where I will be living (that’s a long story).  We worked side by side on a rainy Saturday from 9am-5:3pm.  Hauling, lifting, repacking, more lifting.  She arranged a pick-up of left-over bedroom furniture.  Through the years, she made calls for me, dropped off things, picked up things…basically she did whatever was needed at the moment.  [Yesterday she told me that she got my sandals fixed and I didn’t even remember that she had taken them to get them fixed!]  I’ve told her that I’ve never been such a good friend to anyone, nor do I deserve to have a friend such as her.  I don’t even understand that kind of selfless giving.  So, to Peggy, I will remain deeply indebted for the rest of my days.  You have been my guardian angel!

The realtor for the buyer of my house was a real pain in the butt!  Like MAJOR!  My realtor and I became friends because of the craziness we had to deal with.  But, I want to tell you…she was the BEST!  She helped me so much.  She staged the house for me.  She advised me on so many things.  So, because I had to scramble and do so many additional things demanded by the buyer (install a second sump pump in the crawl space, take down three big ash trees—big stuff), I didn’t get to keep up with my own schedule.

The day before closing, I woke up and almost started hyperventilating.  I knew I wouldn’t/couldn’t finish the house in time.  In tears, I called realtor Julie and she came right over and spent the day helping me with the last cleaning.  I also called my friend Judy.  She rushed right over and the three of us hustled the entire day through the last tasks before the final walk-through the following day.  All the while there were 6 different workmen coming in and out of the house finishing up the latest demands from the crazy realtor.  It was NUTS!  I fell in love with Julie.  And now I am also friends with her fabulous husband.

dogs and me 1

We love you THIS MUCH, Jyoti!

cat with mouse

Look what I brought for you, Jyoti!!

I just counted and I had pet-sitting gigs in 16 different homes.  I turned down at least that many that did not fit in my schedule.  One home, I gigged three separate times, in another I gigged twice.

bodhi and me cropped

You’ll be my best friend forever, Jyoti!!

My pet sitting calendar did not always fit together perfectly and I was invited into the homes of five different friends between gigs.  This aspect of being a nomad was so much fun.  I got to stay with MY FRIENDS in the same town!  In each home that welcomed me I had a blast.  Friends forever.

When I drove away from my house the day of my house closing, everything I still owned now stored in a 10’ X 10’ storage unit, I had tubs of clothes to last me the next year or two as I nomaded through my life.  I want to publicly acknowledge those in my village who helped make this happen.  And I am absolutely sure that I have forgotten many others.  I apologize.  You know that I have no memory.  Please remind me who you are as I didn’t keep any records.

car filled1

While I have no current debt, I will be taking a sizable mortgage as a retiree (with a new job that I don’t have yet) for the privilege of living in California in my later years.  Not fun, but it is the price I am willing to pay to be near my whole extended family.  (Both Sierra and Steve’s families are now one big family.)  I will remain indebted to all of my friends and family who helped me through the years and who encouraged me when I felt discouraged.  While I worked on this last plan (being a nomad to save money to make the actual move), most of my friends encouraged and helped me; however, a couple of friends really thought that I was crazy and shouldn’t consider it.  I am so happy to say that this last year as a nomad has been a complete joy and has been more fun that I could have ever imagined.

Thank you everyone for being my friends and family.  My indebtedness will last forever.  You are welcome in my new home any time you are in the Bay Area!

My First Free-form Dinner Made for an O’possum

Ms. P’s owner asked me if I could stay an extra night, as they had the opportunity to stay at their vacation location an extra night.  I agreed.

That meant that I had to make up a dinner for Ms. P as the other ones had been mostly pre-made by her owner/mother.

Ms P 2I put together some fresh spinach and left-over chicken from the fridge and micro-waved it just a bit.  I sprinkled on some cheese. I added a spoonful of coconut milk yogurt.  I put in some sprouts.  When I put the bowl in front of Ms. P’s home, she came out immediately.

She quickly snarfed up the yogurt, finished off the chicken and spinach and sniffed around at the sprouts, but I think I put in too much because she turned up her nose at the alfalfa.  I next brought in a 2″ section of banana which she put in her mouth in one piece!  Maybe I should have cut it up.

Ms P 1After the banana, she turned her back on me and I saw her possum tail for the first time!  OMG, she really is a possum!

I brought in a few almonds which she gingerly ate one at a time.  When she finished dinner, she went back into her home.

I am working on a new resume for my California job hunt.  Do you think I can add Cooking for a Possum as a skill?

An Elderly Possum, a Deaf Labrador and a Giant Mastiff in One Gig.  Guess Which One is My Favorite!


Hi!  My name is Ms. P!  What’s your name?

When I initially talked to this pet owner, who lives east of Indianapolis, she somehow ‘forgot’ to tell me about the 0’possum who lives in the master bathroom.  As I was taking my first tour of the house and meeting Levi, the 165# Mastiff with a head as big as a watermelon and Betty, the 16-year-old deaf black Lab, the homeowner and I were in the master bedroom where the dog beds are.   ‘Samantha’ casually asked if our mutual friend and the source of this gig’s referral, had mentioned anything about a possum.  “No, why?”  “Well, because I have one who lives in this bathroom.”

We went in, me behind Samantha, and opened the lid to a box where I see the head (kinda cute, actually) of a possum nestled in a nest of towels.  She tells me that Ms. Possum comes out once a day to eat (people food), drink, poop and pee…and then goes back in to nest.  Ms. P was a rescue possum who has a bum leg and can’t walk well.  I bravely said that I had no issues with pet-sitting a possum.


I see you.  You see me.  That’s all it’s ever going to be.

I arrived Wednesday afternoon of this week to start this gig.  Levi the Mastiff is massive and a weenie at the same time.  He wouldn’t come near me when I first visited.  On Wednesday—my first day here—he ran from me and wouldn’t eat any food.  When I opened the master bedroom door that goes to the deck to let both dogs out before the onset of the huge brewing storm coming in from the west, I wanted them to do their business before the storm.


Betty, the sweetie, hasn’t left the bedroom one time except to be coaxed outside to pee/poop.  She misses her Mom.

Well, Betty the deaf Lab wouldn’t budge and showed no interest in going outside to pee.  I went back to the written instructions that I took on my initial visit and saw that there were leashes in the garage.  I cautiously put a leash on her and coaxed her to go outside, down the steps where she pooped and peed right at the bottom of the steps and came immediately back in.  She showed no interest in eating any dinner from her bowl.


Like I said–> You stay away from me, I’ll stay away from you.



Once Levi got outside, he WOULD NOT COME BACK IN!!  He also barked at me with his deep scary voice (which belied the softie that he really is) and let me know that he would be in charge of this new relationship of ours.  The rain clouds got closer and then started dumping their torrents.  Still Levi remained determined that he wouldn’t come in because that’s what I wanted him to do.

There is Door A in the master bedroom.  I rediscovered Door B coming from the family room.  Both open to the back deck.  I came up with a plan.  [Rain, lightening, thunder!]  I decided to lure him in by laying treats in a path coming into the open-doored bedroom—Door A—and then when I saw that he was in the bedroom (by peering sneakily from Door B) I ran through the rain to Door A and close Levi in from the outside and then run back to Door B and close us all in.   He sensed a trick and as soon as he knew that I was running through the rain to close Door A, he ran quickly back out into the storm.  We did this dance a bunch of times.  Of course, we were both soaked [Rain, lightening, thunder, storm warnings on TV!]


Yummy dinner.  You cook almost as well as my Mom!

I took a break from this extremely fun game to feed Ms. P.  I warmed up the zucchini, summer squash and chicken that her Mom left for Dinner #1, sprinkled the requisite cheese on top, added a dollop of yogurt and put it on the bathroom floor in front of the box.  I closed the door fully intending to not watch.  But then I realized that I of course WANTED to see her eating, so I cracked the door and there she was in all her glory, eating her nutritious dinner.  She was about three times bigger than I had imagined from just seeing her face.  She was really quite cute (and still is).  After she finished her meal, she went back into the cave.  Easy.


You will not win.  I am smarter than you!

Back to Levi.  I had to come up with Plan B.  I decided to entice him into Door B with a trail of treats and then run from Door A to Door B to close him in. (Mind you, he watched me from the outside through the open door of whichever room I was in.)  Several attempts failed.  He sensed my plan every time and ran back out and ran past me after snarfing up as many treats as he could in the shortest amount of time, acting deathly afraid of me.  I was soaking wet and cold.  I decided that I was tired of being outsmarted by this giant dog.  I had to think even smarter.

I made a longer line of treats and broke them into smaller pieces and made the line go through the family room to the kitchen and into the dining room.  I also turned on the TV to make noise so he couldn’t hear me coming.  This plan worked!!  When I closed Door B behind him, I ran quickly over the deck back to Door A and closed us in!!  I was so proud.  He was mad, but still avoided me at all cost.


Tonight’s dinner includes a scrambled egg!  YUM!

Ms. Possum ate with fervor.  Neither Levi nor Betty ate any dinner.  Betty is old, so I put hands-full of the dry food in front of her.  I never saw her eat it, but the little piles kept disappearing.  Since Levi didn’t touch his four cups of food, I decided to put his bowl into the bedroom so he could eat when he got hungry in the night.  Sigh.  What is wrong with me?

I got little sleep that night.  Both dogs were restless and switched dog beds often.  The laminate floor allowed me to hear each dog claw with each step.  At some point in the dark of night, Levi decided he would eat some food.  Oh. My. God.  I can’t even describe the cacophony of sound coming from that direction.  Let’s just say he is not a dainty eater:  It sounded something like rocks being ground up in a metal blender.  When he finished, I tried to go back to sleep—to no avail.  I watched some granddaughter videos on my phone for a while and eventually slept again.

Both dogs were up way before my alarm, just walking around the room.  It was light out, so I opened the door and both dogs went out.  Only Betty came back in of course.  I had to do the treat dance many times again to entice Levi into the house.  Once I corralled him, I was able to go to work.  This has been our pattern each time he is outside.  It is now Friday evening and he is trying really hard to get close to me.  I’m sitting on the deck writing and he walks by me, maybe three feet away.  When he is close I have to hold absolutely still.  If I talk or move, he jumps like he has just been electrically shocked and runs away.  I can tell he is a sweetie.  He wants to love me, but he just can’t trust me.

I am getting ready to pack it up for the night.  He’s been walking in and out, in and out of both doors which I just leave open (fortunately it’s summer and not winter!).  I’m getting ready to leave a long treat trail.  I hope he falls for the treat trick the first time tonight.

I am here until Sunday.  Maybe we’ll be friends by then, maybe we won’t.  Clearly, Ms. Possum and I have no issues, however.  She eats on time, she pees on time and she goes back to bed without any complaints.  She is my favorite!

P.S. Levi and I spent at least 30 minutes going from door to door, me on the inside, he on the outside.  He absolutely knew the plan.  He was determined to not let me win.  Exasperated, I finally closed both doors, leaving him outside to let him think about what he ultimately wanted.  Said the social worker.  HAHA.

Later I opened Door B and sat and watched TV in the family room.  Levi eventually came into the kitchen to inhale all the snacks and I stealthily closed Door B behind him.  Now he is lying on the floor beside me.  He really wants to like me.  But if I move when he approaches, he freaks and runs.  Poor baby.

That Day My Two Tubs of Family Photos Fell Out of My Car and I Drove Off Without Knowing It

The secluded property with two houses at Eagle Creek Reservoir was my first dog-sitting gig and also will be close to my last.  I spent many weeks and much time in both houses, caring for one, two or three dogs depending on who was home and who was vacationing.  I grew to love the koi pond, the gardens, and the winds in the trees.  I saw whooping cranes, hawks, pileated woodpeckers and got serenaded many evenings by great horned owls.  The place began to feel like home to me, so the day I left for the last time, I felt sad and nostalgic.


Sweet Ted and I went for daily walks through the neighborhood.  Except for that one night when he didn’t want to go.  I have two scars attesting to that night.

Ted Turner sat on my lap as we watched the huge, colorful koi swimming peacefully beneath the gurgling waterfall.  In the last three weeks, the cherry trees, the Korean Spice bushes, the lilacs, the Lilies of the Valley all bloomed and filled the air with sweet, pungent aromas.  Each blooming helped ease my discomfort living through the first spring of having none of my own gardens to enjoy.

When I was packed up and the house was cleaned, I put Ted in his crate, locked the door behind me and drove off.  Without a home of my own, I clearly become attached to the homes I stay in and the pets that I care for.  After some minutes, I pulled off the road and texted the three adults who lived on the property (and were due home from the airport any minute) thanking them for trusting me with their homes and animal family members.  I was feeling a tad dramatic.  As I was pulling out, I looked in the rear view mirror of my Forester SUV and the view was a bit too clear.  I realized that I wasn’t looking through glass, but straight out the back of the car.

I parked, got out to figure out what was going on and saw that not only was the door up, but there were big empty holes where tubs had just been wedged in for the move to my next location.  I now remembered a clatter when I went up a hill at some point and at that moment I assumed that the tubs had just shifted toward the back.  Now I saw that I had lost several containers of somethings!  Oh. My. God.  What on earth was wrong with me?  I can’t seem to save myself from myself.

Now I realized that I had to go back to the house, desperately hoping that the things had fallen out in the slightly sloped driveway and that the owners had not yet gotten home from the airport.  As I drove down the street, as much as I would have liked to see them, I was chanting, “Please don’t be home, please don’t be home.”  And…….the garage door was up and they were all taking bags out of the car.  I’m almost past any ability to feel embarrassed about my life’s ridiculous turns, but I drove up and said through my rolled-down window, “I’m BACK!”  They all laughed.

I asked if they had seen any tubs in the driveway and they said no, but there were several tubs beside the road out at  56th street!!  They said one tub looked like there were shoes in it.  They had even commented to each other that they looked like my tubs, but had no reason to suspect that they would be mine.  (I guess they don’t know me very well.)  I thanked them—again—and drove quickly to see what remained of my belongings.

And, yes, there beside the stop sign on the sloped road getting on to 56th street were three tubs laid carefully in the grass.  Someone had obviously picked them up from the road and placed them out of harm’s way.  And believe it or not, two of the three tubs were my FAMILY PICTURES!!  Those tubs were completely intact.  The other tub was a now busted up tub–in it the only shoes that I have left to my name.  By the shape of everything, I am guessing that my guardian angel picked up the strewn-in-the-road shoes and put them carefully into the broken tub, and carefully placed them, together with the picture tubs, under the stop sign.  Somehow when crazy stuff happens to me, there always seems to be an angel protecting me and allowing the outcomes to not be the worst case scenarios.

So there are two possibilities of what could have happened.  I am choosing to believe that I did not drive away with the back door up on my Forester SUV.  I was distracted, but I will not believe that I could have done such a stupid thing.  More than likely, the door was not latched and when I stopped on the sloped incline, the tubs fell back and the door flew open.  What I thought was a loud shifting backwards of tubs was actually a loud falling-out-of-the-car of tubs.  Sigh.

So today is Mother’s Day.  I moved back home to Indiana on Mother’s Day 27 years ago with two little girls.  Six weeks from today, on Father’s Day, I will be driving away from our family reunion with my sister Julie heading out for our cross-country adventure, ending up in Oakland, California where I will be reunited with those same little girls and I will move in to my new digs on July 1st.  At that point, I will have been on this nomadic adventure for 11.5 months.

Stay tuned.  I have some exciting things happening this week.  Wild animals are involved.