Itinerary
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Monday
Apr262010

Zen and the Art of Cleaning Up Dog Poop

Location: Berkeley, CA

The past four mornings I've awoken to a horrible sight. Actually, I should be more specific and say it's the smell that has done it. Wafting from the first floor, I have risen to the scent of, you guessed it, dog poop. 

Poor Apollo has had diarrhea since Friday morning. At first, I wasn't too concerned about it. One morning of finding your yellow lab has turned chocolate isn't the end of the world, despite the unpleasantness of chasing the dog out the back door to avoid poopy pawprints all over the house, then dragging the crate out to be power washed, then submitting the dog to a morning hose down. We had gone on a trail hike on Thursday, and I figured he must have gotten into something; it usually passes within a day. Moreover, he was his usual energetic, hungry self, so I didn't worry. But Friday night we went out, and after a few hours of running the local pool table, came home to the smell of shit. And woke up, hungover, to the smell of shit. And that's how I ended up spending my Sunday afternoon at the vet.

The vet told me to not feed him until this morning, which is particularly cruel punishment for a lab, and for which I was rewarded with exceedingly ornery behavior at the dog park. He appears to be on the mend now that he's on the bland food and antibiotics, but we shall see... waking to a chocolate lab is not something you want to repeat. 

In the meantime, once I shower off the poop, I've been adjusting to being semi-retired. One of the things I've noticed is how often I have to tell people I don't work. When the vet asks if I'm around during the day, or the woman at the dog park is surprised that I walk him mid-day, or I'm being introduced to a friend of a friend, or any number of other random questions which apparently occur far more frequently than I realized... I find I am still looking for a good answer that explains that I'm in fact not currently working (at least not in the normal sense). I mean, the real answer, that I'm in the process of undergoing a major change in life direction, or that I'm working on my book, or looking for property to buy in foreign countries, well, that's not exactly casual conversation fodder... not to mention it has the slight possibility of coming off sounding insanely pretentious (only a slight possibility ;). But if you simply say you don't work, people think you're unemployed, or else just a complete slacker, which is hard for me to take.

So I'm trying to come up with a good, quick explanation that ends the discussion, similar to finding your Starbucks coffee name (Lucinda is surprisingly beyond the grasp of your average barista). I could go with "I'm a kept woman." Or perhaps "I'm working on my plot to overthrow the government," which while it could get me in real trouble with the authorities, has the attraction that in Berkeley it would likely get me lots of dinner invitations and perhaps an honorary degree. 

Beyond my obviously rough life, Steve and I are continuing to work through our plan. We've figured out the basic outline of how to legally put our money to work most effectively in purchasing foreign property. Note: the operative word in that sentence is *legally*. You'd be surprised how many ideas turn out to have nasty labels... like "racketeering." Who knew? Luckily we are making progress in finding qualified, knowledgeable individuals to advise us. Our initial instinct to consult the internet, while an appropriate response to shopping for shoes, turns out to have non-trivial limitations when considering the tax (and legal) ramifications of making international investment decisions. 

So now that we believe we can make it work financially, the next question is where. Do we go with our first love? That might be like like marrying your high school sweetheart - sometimes it works beautifully and saves you from painful years of dating nightmares, as in the case of my brother and my favorite (and only :) sister-in-law... but sometimes you grow apart. I mean, how do you know they won't change after college... or hurricane season? So then I think about spending the next months or year scouting and scouring the planet to make sure the grass isn't greener somewhere else. But what if we come back to our first love, only to discover they've found someone else and we've missed our chance? 

If you were in our situation, what would you do? where would you go? 

I'm not complaining - truly I'm not - but having more options is often harder than having only a few. As hard as it was to select a place to commit to for two months, I'm realizing it's exponentially more difficult to commit for our next phase of life.

I am now remembering why college students are so annoyingly angst-ridden.

Reader Comments (2)

No great comments on where you should go (though I found the people in The Netherlands most friendly -- not that warm there), but I do have a book suggestion to help with your decision. It's called "The Paradox of Choice" by Barry Schwartz. He gave a TED talk on the book too. Your comment of "having more options is often harder than having only a few" is exactly what he's writing about (he's a psychologist who looks into why we often feel less satisfied when we have more choices). Worth a read or at least a quick visit to the TED site.

Otherwise, keep up the writing. You're on a great adventure, and it's fun to be traveling along with you.

April 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDrew Frink

Too funny - I actually know Barry Schartz - he's a professor at Swarthmore. I am very familiar with the book, but wasn't sure everyone would get it if I referenced it :). I completely agree with him.

Yes, it's a crazy adventure we're on, even though right now we're physically in Berkeley again, the adventure is still underway. Thanks for staying along for the ride!!!

April 28, 2010 | Registered CommenterLucinda

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