Sophia and Sasha Begin to Play

This is a new behavior from both of them.  The first time it occurred was about a week ago (they’ve been living together for 15 months – since Sophia was a pup).  It seems like play and it seems like they are both comfortable with it.  I’ve seen Sasha frightened and fearful; it’s very loud and very scary.   This behavior is the complete opposite.

It’s amazing to watch two different species learn each other’s language particularly when it comes to dogs and cats, in which similar body language, often times, means completely different things.

Sophia’s adjusted her dog to dog play behavior to a more gentle approach to accommodate and entice Sasha. There are times when Sasha will chase Sophia and times when Sophia will chase Sasha.  There are also times when Sasha will have had enough and run down the hallway with Sophia in pursuit, not realizing the game should be over.   Even then, it all seems to remain under control.  Sasha has many places throughout the house she can jump up on that Sophia can’t and she hasn’t used them.  Nor has she retreated to the basement (her foolproof safe space where Sophia isn’t allowed).

I’m sure she’s cool with this and it fills my heart to watch her continually evolve into a confident cat with friends from different species.  For now, I remain vigilant in observation without unnecessary intervention because, well, Sophia IS a terrier with a high prey drive to chase little critters in the woods….

 

 

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Conservation Canine

After hearing a friend mention she carries a bag with her on walks and picks up the trash she finds along the way, I’ve been motivated to do the same.  Sophia and I are out there hiking almost every morning.  Previously, if I came across trash or poop bags by the side of the trail I’d carry whatever I could inside one of Sophia’s poop bags but there’s only so much one person can carry in that limited capacity.  Bringing along a larger bag struck me as something that needed very little effort yet something that could have a positive impact.

You’d think that people who love the trails enough to get out there and utilize them would also respect and take care of them.  For the most part, they do.  But there are always people who don’t.  This morning we hiked about four miles in the Blue Hills Reservation and found three bags of poop (I just don’t understand that), a plastic shopping bag and a carelessly tossed plastic beverage cup.

We like to follow the basic hiking code “Leave nothing but footprints.  Take nothing but pictures.  Kill nothing but time”.

conservation-canine

Finding Myself Again

Every new year brings with it the opportunity to look back on the past; a chance to reflect on what we did and didn’t do, as individuals, as groups and as a country.  Over the last five years, I’ve solely concentrated on the care of my father and mother with little regard to much else.

There was very little free time and when there was, it was spent mostly in a state of exhaustion.  In that time, with the exception of my dogs and cats, I let other things that were important and unimportant to me go.  Caring for sick, elderly parents is physically and emotionally exhausting but you see, for me, there was no other option.

dscn1778

These two people, built a life for my brother and I, that a lot of others have no experience with and can’t understand.  Their dedication and love for each other was matched only by that for their children.  I was raised feeling that love.  I always felt protected, safe and encouraged and as I grew into an adult, though they may have disagreed with some of the things I chose to do, I felt they respected who I had become and that I had made them proud.  I had only to walk into their home and see my dad’s open arms and big smile to have my worries fall one by one, like autumn leaves from a tree.  Every Sunday, I returned for our traditional family dinner and we’d catch up on life while playing a couple of games of 500 Rummy with a dollar bet and playfully chiding each other about cheating.  My heart holds more memories involving these two amazing souls, than I could possibly write about and each makes me laugh, smile or cry.

When tragedy struck and they got sick, Daddy shortly after Mom, my brother and I simply did what they did for us all our lives; love and look out for them.  It was hard, it got messy, I got angry with them and then myself for getting angry with them.  Sometimes I saw them as strangers and there were times when I felt like throwing up my hands and walking away from it all.  But then I’d stop.  I’d take a breath.  I’d look into their eyes and feel their own sadness.  Watching someone you love so much, try to cope with the fact that they are becoming less capable of doing things they used to be able to do easily, without thought and then watching them resign themselves to it, is one of the hardest things you’ll probably ever have to do (aside from experiencing it happening to you).  Almost as difficult as watching someone try to handle being trapped in a  body that no longer does what they ask of it, on top of the fact they’re not able to give voice to their anger, frustration, joy or sadness.

I desperately wanted to make it better for them.  I wanted to protect them and keep them safe.  I wanted to change their predicament and turn the clock back for them, make them better, but I couldn’t.  It was then that I came to the realization that the roles had been reversed and I was now the parent.  And like they did for me, I tried to be the best parent I could be, knowing some day, I was going to have to do something I didn’t want to do; set them free.

Saying good-bye, under any circumstance, is painful.  Loss is drop to your knees, world stops revolving painful.  Loss is inevitable so you have to embrace it, lose yourself in it and then find a way to unravel yourself from it and keep going even when all you want to do is pull the covers over your head.

These experiences, emotional as they may have been and still are, taught me a lot about what I’m made of and the strength I am capable of.  Knowing they would want me to be happy and to pursue the things that make me happy, 2017 is going to be the year I refrain from putting demands and time constraints on myself.  I’m going to remove myself from people and situations that bring negativity, stress and drama and instead, I’m going to pursue calm, find peace and practice mindfulness.  I’m going to get reacquainted with who I am, what I enjoy and concentrate on being in the moment.  And I’m going to say “eh, whatta ya gonna do” to things that I can’t change.

Yesterday, I celebrated my 51st birthday and on the 16th, I celebrated this little nugget’s first gotcha day.  I feel as though life is playfully beckoning with open arms and I have no intention of denying her.  Cheers to a new year.

sophia-trail-dog

Ford Transit Connect Conversion: Wall Storage and Counter Top

Last weekend brought a mix of nasty weather.  Cold temperatures, rain and snow almost curtailed the conversion plans but I ended up making the majority of wood cuts from the basement and just turned the heat on in the Connect while I was measuring, drilling and putting things in place.

Sophia spent most of her time chasing tennis balls she’d drop at my feet and I’d absentmindedly kick her way.  She’s getting a lot of exposure to the loud noises of power tools and is now completely unfazed by them.  Though the errant curse word uttered because of a wrong cut or painful splinter always makes her cock her head to one side, she remains patient while my focus isn’t completely on her.  She keeps herself busy digging in the garden, socializing with the neighboring dogs, Charlie and Ace, through our fence or chewing on a bully stick.  When she’s had enough of my ignoring her, she’ll grab one of my mittens, a piece of wood or start rummaging through my bags.  She’s learned it gets her my undivided attention.  So that’s when I’ll usually take a break.

I built a shelving unit on the back, left side of the Connect.  It sits above the refrigerator box and will be fantastic for storing dry food goods and clothes.  I also cut out the counter top.

for transit connect conversion

I worked myself into such a tizzy over how I was going to deal with making the cut outs for the sink and hand-pump faucet, that I almost didn’t do it.  I’d already put it off for a week.  In the end, I just sucked it up, took a deep breath and began the cuts.  I have to admit I was rather impressed with myself getting it right on the first try.  Step drill bits are the perfect tool for cutting holes in wood or metal.  I practiced on a couple of spare wood pieces to get it right before using it on the counter top.  I think it’s easily become my favorite tool.  I also drilled a circular hole in the side of the cabinet with it.  The plumbing will go through this hole and into the five gallon holding tanks I have for white and gray water.

Ford Transit Connect Conversion

A side note on the sink; it’s not really a sink.  I searched everywhere for a sink that was small enough to fit in the TC.  It had to be big enough to do what I needed, but small enough to leave ample counter top and cooking space (in case I should ever need to cook inside).  RV sinks, even the smallest of them, were too big.  So I took measurements of the space I wanted the sink to utilize and did an Amazon search for pans with those dimensions.  Voila, enter the buffet pan.  It not only fit the length and width I was looking for but also had the perfect depth.   I just need to cut a hole in it (yay! I get to use the step drill bit again!) and fit it with a drain system.  That’s my next project (along with cabinet doors for that space).

 

 

 

Sophia Lost Her First Tooth

We were playing ball and I noticed the tennis ball had turned a bit bloody so I started looking around the floor and found the tooth.  It didn’t even faze her.  I was a wimp as a kid; a loose tooth was painful!

First lost tooth

Ford Transit Connect Conversion: Starting the Kitchen

Last weekend I worked on the fixture for the kitchen sink and cabinets. I may end up dividing the top and bottom shelves to keep things from sliding around. The top left portion will house the plumbing for the sink. I’ll drill holes in the side of the cabinet for the plumbing to reach the water tanks.

Next up will be the countertop and cabinet doors.  I’m a bit nervous about constructing those because I’ll need to cut round-edged shapes in the middle of the wood for the sink and faucet (which I’ve never done before).  But, I just keep telling myself I’ve never done any of this before and eh, it’s only wood.  If I make a mistake, I can redo it I suppose.

Ford Transit Connect Conversion

 

Ford Transit Connect Conversion: Bed, Fridge and Water Storage Cabinet

A while back, I thought I had completed the conversion of my Ford Transit Connect.  You can see that conversion and why I decided on the Connect for travel and camping HERE.  However, after spending a lot of time in it, I decided I didn’t like the way I originally set up the build.  The bed ended up being too cumbersome to open and accessing the storage underneath was too awkward.  Because of it’s height and position, it left little head room when utilized as a bench.

As much as it pained me to disassemble everything after all the work I put into it, I decided I wanted to convert the Connect to resemble my beloved but sold, 1978 Westfalia; a design I had come to know and love.  I started from scratch using much of the wood from the old setup, in addition to lots of wood my Dad had saved throughout the years.

I shortened the height of the bed by close to four inches and extended the width to a very comfortable 34 inches.

I kept the Westy’s rocker-style bed in mind with my design, but, because the Connect is a smaller vehicle, I need to make sure I’m utilizing every inch of space by putting it to work for me.  Having storage underneath the bed was crucial so instead of using the metal base the beds of the Westy have, I built the main bed from strong wood and bolted it to the floor.

Ford Transit Connect Conversion

Ford Transit Connect Conversion

The slider, easily pulls out to a lovely 68″ of sleeping space.

Ford Transit Connect Conversion

Ford Transit Connect Conversion

Ford Transit Connect Conversion

Four inch, firm density, foam is used for the bedding when open.

Ford Transit Connect Conversion

When closed, it provides exceptionally comfortable seating.

Ford Transit Connect Conversion

The hinges on the back of the bed frame allow me to open the bed and access the storage space below when the slider is closed.  The plan is to build some dividers under the bed so that items stored, don’t slide all over the place when driving, but remain easily accessible.

Ford Transit Connect Conversion

Next to the bed, I built a cabinet for my ARB fridge/freezer and to also house my gray and white water tanks.  When closed, it can be used as additional counter-space.

Ford Transit connect Conversion

Ford Transit Connect Conversion

I didn’t build a closure for the back of the cabinet unit because the fridge will run off of my Goal Zero Yeti 400 Solar Generators and I wanted to make sure the fan gets good air circulation.  I’ll probably sew a simple curtain like cover for aesthetics.

 

Ford Transit Connect Conversion

So far, the bones of the build are exactly how I envisioned them.  The next step in the conversion will be my mini kitchen, sink and cabinet area which will sit directly behind the drivers seat.  Then of course there will be staining, painting, cabinet hardware, curtains, wall and floor coverings.  I’ve got two months to finish.  I’m hoping the weather cooperates.

Ford Transit Connect Conversion

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