Ban the Banshees


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I was waiting in the checkout line at my local Walgreens store after work tonight, a bag of York peppermint patties clenched tightly in my hand as a familiar stench invaded my nostrils.  The guy in front of me reeked of cigarette smoke, so much that it made me wonder if the guy had bathed in a bottle of Eau de Foulness all day.  Perhaps it was a nicotine induced hallucination, but I swear that the guy’s cigarette B.O. cloud had gathered in the shape of a hand and was giving me the half peace sign.  It was all I could do to keep from gagging into the magazine stand next to me, my hand raised casually in front of my nose in an attempt to divert the smell, my breath held.  I turned a little to see if anyone behind me was suffering along with me, only to get whacked by the same stench coming from the woman behind me.  In utter resignation, I turned and pinched my nose, my mind cursing the woman at the front of the line who was quibbling with the cashier over a few coupons.

Hurry hurry hurry, my mind begged in its oxygen deprived state.  There was no way that I was leaving.  Those peppermint patties are important to my condo’s décor, their cheery foil packages bring joyful sparkle to the crystal bowl on my dining room table.  They are a necessity, a need, not a want.  They might also be my favorite snack.  Maybe.

Finally, the cashier managed to appease the penny pincher at the front of the line, Mister Smells of Camels paid for his purchases and left.  It was my turn to pay, with only Marlboro Momma’s odor left to deal with.  The cashier greeted me with a smile and asked how I was doing.

“Ibe obe kayb”, I replied while attempting to continue to hold my breath, no longer able to hold my nose while digging my debit card out of my wallet.  She frowned and wrinkled her nose at me, obviously blaming me for the unfriendly air quality.  Winking, I turned towards the door and thumbed behind me in an attempt to implicate Marlboro Momma.  Honestly, I am not sure that the cashier believed me, but she probably did when M.M. ordered a pack of cigs as I walked away with my well earned peppermint pattie prize.  I staggered to my car, reeling from cigarette B.O. overdose, climbed in, closed the door, started the car and turned on the air conditioning.

Was Mister Smells of Camels hiding in my back seat?  In horror, I realized that my two fellow customer’s had successfully managed to permeate my clothing and person with their odor.  Lovely.  Not to waste my years of watching MacGyver, I devised the perfect fix.

It took the whole bag of Yorks….


Destination Duluth


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It’s been a while since I have been here, not by choice, but simply because I had one of those nasty respiratory infections that went to my eyes.  The infection turned to pink eye and I felt like I was running on depleted cheap batteries for about two weeks.  That kind of sucks, but it also forced me to slow down and learn to become one with my couch again, something that I haven’t done for a while.  Since it’s summer, I don’t like to skimp on my riding.

Of course, the respiratory infection started to kick in right before I left for a planned mountain bike vacation to Duluth.  Woe is me, I guess.  My first planned ride-cation was foiled by one of the wettest weeks of the summer in the Midwest.  This one was screwed up by being sick.  The infection came on strong the day before I was supposed to leave for Duluth, my destination, but I went any way.  This was my time to ride on endless new trails for four days.

Duluth is touted as a cool place to ride, an IMBA gold destination.  The day I arrived, a Thursday, was rainy.  Drat.  Instead of staying off of the trails, I decided to ride in the rain, on one of the easy trail systems in the area.  It was fun, even with the rain, and I was treated to a spectacular view of Lake Superior from the top of one of the trails.  It was cold and I knew that I likely was not helping the respiratory infection, but it felt wonderful.  The woods were beautiful and it was a unique place to ride, with lots of built in obstacles and smooth rock, something I don’t get a lot of in Chicagoland.20170810_173338

I chose to camp on this trip, mainly because I had limited funds (divorce ain’t cheap).  A friend and one of the salesman that I work with lives in Duluth, recommended the camp sites at the Nordic ski club that he belongs to.  It was cheap.  Mosquito infested, but the pests were manageable with repellent.  I chose a site close to the lodge, mainly because I didn’t want to tote my stuff back to the camp site that I had reserved (the camping was walk in).  There was another camp site in close proximity, with a tent already set up.  I was going to have a neighbor.

The nights were freaking cold.  And I didn’t have a sleeping bag since my ex has all of the family bags in her storage unit.  I spent all the evenings I was there wrapped in several blankets, trying to keep warm.  It probably didn’t help me resist that infection.

The camp site next to me was occupied by Carl, a guy who had recently become homeless.  He was a nice guy and we became friends, spent a lot of time together around the camp fire.  I got to find out if I have the capacity to have a positive influence on someone any more.  As he told a friend before I left, I had more of an impact on him than I could possibly imagine.  We shared a lot, I witnessed him lure two women to his tent via a dating website (scary, if you think about it at all — these women came to him and in the dark).  My last night there, I bought T-bone steaks and cooked them for Carl and I over the fire.

My second day in Duluth, I felt nasty.  Riding in the rain the day before, with a respiratory infection, then sleeping in the cold, probably didn’t help.  I got a bagel and coffee, then headed for what looked like the best trail system in the Duluth area — Piedmont.

I wasn’t disappointed.  The infection made me sweat like a pig, but I enjoyed every inch of the trails there.  There was something for everyone, with double black diamond loops over some of the nastiest rock gardens that I have every seen.  One trail loop, Admiral Rockbar, was so treacherous that I walked the majority of the trail, but I loved it.  At one point, I descended a downhill trail with high berm switchbacks, something new for me.  It was awesome, indescribably awesome.

That afternoon, I met my friend who lives in the Duluth area.  He took me to Spirit Mountain, a downhill ski area where you can pay for a lift ticket that takes you to the top with your bike.  There were four downhill trails.  I have never ridden true downhill, except for the trail at Piedmont that I rode the day before.

When I get the chance, I am riding downhill again.. and again.. and again.  I have never had so much fun.  I was tired, but I didn’t care.  I just kept riding.  My friend took me out to eat and for beer at a local Duluth craft brewery.  Things couldn’t get any better.

That night, I had the chills.  I woke up the next morning with a throbbing headache and zero energy.  Instead of riding again (it was Saturday) with my friend, I slept all morning and into the afternoon.  I was sick.

Then my friend, Sandy, an old blogging friend who has become a dear friend over the years, came to visit me.  She lives an hour or two south of Duluth.  We spent the evening around the fire, along with my camp neighbor Carl.  I won’t say much, but it was great to see Sandy again.  She has had a rough go the last year or two, but when I saw her it was obvious that she is doing quite well, has come out of the funk she was in.

I left Sunday afternoon, drove 11 hours to Chicagoland.  Got out of my car and couldn’t stand up straight.  Yep.  I was sick and my back was spasming!  The next morning I woke up to swelled eyes and pink eye.

But it was good.  I rode, not as much as what I would have liked, but I rode.



Spinning Outside of Reality

One of the challenges to cycling is weather.  By necessity, unless the cyclist is part hamster, cycling is an activity that is best done outdoors.  An axiom (not mine originally) that I subscribed to when I was a spandex sporting road cyclist, was that I would ride in rain if caught in a storm but never would I start a ride if it was wet.  Only occasionally have I ignored that little rule, usually when rain has prevented me from riding for too long and I just had to ride, even then only if my spare bike was ready to ride.  When my cycling interest gravitated more to mountain bike and riding dirt, weather became even more of a factor.  Now, it’s necessary to make sure that trails are not too muddy to ride, as well as planning my time a little more carefully due to the time it takes to drive to the trails I ride the most.

Finally, we have had a week in Chicagoland without too much rain.  Getting rides in has been difficult a good portion of this summer.  It has just been too wet.  Last month, I had scheduled a four day weekend with the hope of visiting some out of town trails.  Alas, that week was the one where there was flooding everywhere within a four hour drive.  I made lemonade out of the lemons, stayed put, managed to get some rides in at the trails I always ride.  They dry out quickly.

I am driving to Duluth this Thursday to ride what are touted to be incredibly good singletrack trails there.  Thursday, of course, has a 66% chance of rain.  I am going no matter what.  Hopefully, I get the 34% chance of no rain.  My camping reservations are until Sunday, with reasonably good forecasts for the remaining days.  I will get my riding fix.

For those interested, my status is still separated, although there has finally been correspondence regarding a settlement.  My lawyer responded to hers today regarding a request for temporary maintenance, as well as addressing some mutual debt and child expenses that she is refusing to share with me.  I am probably overly optimistic, but there could be agreement on a settlement within the next few weeks.  Honestly, the real difficult part of this whole process has been the waiting.  The other stuff is just that.. stuff.

I could really use a few days of spinning outside of reality, however.

Resurrected Titanium


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I never intended to neglect her, even as I stopped to admire her pearled finish and timeless beauty as I passed her each day.  We used to be constant companions with hardly a day where we didn’t spend at least an hour together.  She was a gift, cherished in a way that expressed my true thanks to have such a wonderful machine.  Never a spot did I allow, never a fault or blemish.  My partner was too precious, too much a part of me, to allow any harm.

Then came the other one.  The dirty pleasure who showed me things that I had never even dreamed of until I met her.  She brought me back to nature, a satisfied peace that helped me escape to a place of refuge, my body experiencing a different challenge than my pearly beauty could ever give to me.  I was taken away, away from the stress of the road, away from the constant effort that the other required of me.  Sure, she had a bigger, more sturdy frame, but the ecstasy she brought made me forget all else.  With her, it was about the experience, not so much the sheer appearance.  Soon, all I wanted was my time in the woods.  Rarely did I come back to my pearly beauty, my first love.

I had to come back.  Saturday, I donned the spandex that I had spurned during my hiatus from my titanium beauty, the Serotta road bike that I have loved for so long.  Tentatively, I returned to the garage, prepped my white steed for a ride, picked it up, still astonished at how light the bike is for such old technology — the frame is over 20 years old.  It felt strange to wear spandex again, the tight material stretched over my 56 year old frame, a bit self conscious as I rolled down the first stretch of road.  The click of cleat to pedal brought a smile as my right foot found the Look Keo pedal, a surge as the first down stroke took affect.

It was a different feeling, not unfamiliar, the speed of the light bike underneath me, the resistance of high pressure road tires to the pavement much less than knobby mountain bike tires to dirt.  I rolled along at a nice, 18 mph pace after my body warmed up, content on a pleasant but humid Saturday afternoon.  The traffic was light, the ride easy.  10 miles in, I encountered an old friend at a stoplight, a fast rider who races, and settled in behind him for another 10 miles.

Home again, I realized that my muscles were sore.  Riding the road bike works different muscles than the mountain bike.  I was happy to know they still existed, annoyed that I had let them go.

Sunday found me with a text message from my “wife”, telling me that she had visited our daughter at her summer camp, where she is a camp counselor.  The air conditioning on our daughter’s car wasn’t working, so my “wife” wanted to know what to do about it.  I drove the 90 minutes to the camp, exchanged cars with my daughter, brought her car home.

The car went to the mechanic early Tuesday morning.  Instead of hitching a ride with my office manager, who lives close, I decided to take advantage of my renewed relationship with my road bike.  I rode to work.  For more than 20 years, bike commuting was something I was known for around the office, an activity I took advantage of nearly 12 months out of the year.  But since I took my new job over three years ago, I have bike commuted only a few times, not once since we changed office locations at the beginning of 2016.

Commuting by bike is different than merely riding for pleasure.  Unless one gets up to commute before dawn, a bike commute is going to mean that I am riding in the presence of a large amount of motor vehicles.  Even a dawn ride involves more vehicle interaction than an early Saturday morning ride.  Almost immediately, within the first few pedal strokes, I felt the uncomfortable closeness of cars constantly zooming past my backside.  Years ago, riding with traffic had become second nature.  It took a bit for that second nature to kick in again.

I enjoyed the ride, parked my bike in my office, a bit of pride at once again using my hobby in a practical way.  Really, I should have parked the bike in the storage unit my company rents in the basement.  Instead, I left the bike in my office window for all to admire.  She is a beauty, after all.FB_IMG_1500987905985

Last night, my second ride home on my commute.  Approaching a stoplight where I had to cross over a second lane to get to the left turn lane, a small brained motorist behind me decided to take his aggression out on me.  I won’t share the details — they are not important.  But I remembered another reason why the peace of the woods and dirt trails has become so precious to me.  I arrived home with clenched teeth, a result of stuffing the temptation to react to the angry motorist.

I will continue to return to my pearly white beauty for weekend strolls along less travelled roads.  I am pretty sure that I don’t want the stress of commuting any more.  Oh, I could get used to it again, as I did so many years ago.  I got to the point then where I rarely had an incident.. but the roads are different now, the congestion of the suburbs more pronounced.  I ride the bike to relieve stress, keep my body in tune.  I want to keep it that way.

Cat Pee Conqueror


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20170717_065458It is finished.  It smells finished.  It looks finished.  After much soaking, scrubbing, and blotting this cat pee conquistador is victorious.  The last step was to apply baking soda over the entire area, then a hydrogen peroxide + dishwashing soap mixture over the baking soda.  I scrubbed the foaming concoction into the carpet with a brush, waited a few minutes as it soaked in, then blotted it up.  I knew it was doing it’s job as the fluid in the towel began to come up clear, not yellow.  Crossing my fingers, I left for a few hours ride, came home to the scent of NOTHING.  When the carpet dried, the carpet was shampooed with cold water (hot water had been a bad thing earlier).  The water in the machine’s waste tank wasn’t clear at first, but it wasn’t dark.

It’s a small victory, but the small ones still make me smile.

Old Yeller


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I am going to tell you this right now, know that I am shooting straight (or at least straighter than a certain two cats) — it’s possible to teach an old dog new cat pee tricks.

This old dog is learning the hard way.


Dark picture. That’s a Fresh Wave container in the middle, bravely defending the room from the stink attack.

Finished with the painting of my recently purchased condo, mostly moved in, the place clean and tidy, the to do list whittled down to just a few things.  One of the things left on that to do list is to remedy the cat pee stains in the front corner of the master bedroom, where the previous owner kept the cat box.  One of the two cats was male and, being the typical male, he apparently missed the toilet now and then most of the time.  Let’s just say that it is very obvious where the litter box was placed in the room from the yellow outline in the carpet.  The stench was also obvious, not overwhelming, but not pleasant either.  Something had to be done.

Old Dog Lesson #1 — Do NOT use steaming hot water in the carpet cleaning machine when attempting to shampoo out cat urine in the carpet.

Remember that I said that the stench was obvious but not overwhelming.  After I shampooed the carpet last Saturday, the stench grabbed me by the collar and punched me in the face the next time that I walked through my front door.  To say that the scent is strong is an understatement.

Old Dog Lesson #2 — Expensive enzymatic solutions are not always the solution.

Not yet, at least.  I soaked the area with a popular enzymatic odor eliminator specifically formulated for cat urine.  I will dare to mention the brand as there are likely going to be people who read this blog who will recommend it.  Now the manufacturer will likely read it also.  The concoction I used is Nature’s Miracle.  So far, with the carpet nearly dry, there has been no miracle.  The stench might actually be worse.  I am not going to blame the cleaner.  Perhaps the fact that the area has been recently treated with shampoo caused the NM to be ineffective.  I have heard good things about NM, so I am not going to knock the stuff.  Unfortunately, the stuff ain’t helping.

If the odor isn’t gone once the cleaner has dried, I am going to try white vinegar.  If that doesn’t work, I am going to try baking soda with hydrogen peroxide and dishwashing liquid.  If that doesn’t work, I am going to buy gas masks and hand them to every guest as they walk through my front door.

This old dog is not pissed off.  Nor am I going to give up.  This does indeed suck, however.


Heck Might Be Too Much


I belong to a unique fraternity, a band of brothers of sorts, all of whom worked for the same company for an extended period of time with a dramatic ending for each.  That trauma gives us a unique bond, one which finds us sharing fantasies of what sort of torture should be inflicted on the specific person who orchestrated our demise, an enemy we all agree is worthy of punishment.  Each brother has a different degree of lust for revenge, dreams that at times make me flinch at their harshness.  Revenge is not my cup of tea, not something I want to allow into my mind.  While I can’t claim to perfection, my disdain for the person of disgust clear to me, I can’t bring myself to hate a person enough to want them to be harmed.  Punishment for anyone is not my responsibility.  I don’t want anyone’s unmentionables to be chopped off and fed to them, as some of my friends have intimated.

That said, I guess there could be some things I might wish on my enemies.  If I were to put together a list, the top five things I might wish on my enemies might just look like this —

  1.  Chronic hemorrhoids for eternity.  I’m thinking that spending every day scootching along the carpet with the family dog might be sufficient punishment, especially if said enemy ends up in hell.  That adds a twist to the phrase “itching and burning”.
  2. Bette Midler singing “Wind Beneath My Wings” and stuck in their head 24/7 for one month.  I’m thinking one day of this torture might cause the inflicted to jump off of a tall bridge.  Fllllllyyyyyyy… flllllyyyyyyYYYY….
  3. Bad health insurance.  I’m pretty sure someone cursed me with this one years ago.
  4. Cub fans for a lifetime.  Sadly, this one exists and some people choose this curse.  As a Cardinal fan who has known baseball heaven on earth my whole life, this punishment would indeed be hell on earth.  The only worse punishment might be the curse of being a White Sox fan for life.  Let me just say this — professional baseball should be banned from the city of Chicago (wait.. it has been for some time).
  5. Put them in a minivan with three elementary age children who have just consumed three supersized frozen cokes each, make them drive a 1500 mile turnpike without exits and 100 miles between rest areas.  Bonus if the rest area toilets require $2.00 in quarters for entry.  Extra bonus if there are plenty of rivers and waterfalls to view along the way.  Heck, for added grins the van’s stereo should have Wind Beneath My Wings stuck in a loop and the off button broken.  Those hemorrhoids should burn even more as the butt cheeks clench.

I would love to hear further suggestions.  My mind is already beginning to churn out more ideas, an evil chuckle passing my lips.

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[i] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (Matthew 5:43-45, NIV)

Jesus was right.  But, but, but JESUS, come on… just a few little thoughts?  You have to admit, the minivan thing is pretty good, Lord!


Stupid Is As Stupid Does


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I hate it when my actions exceed the threshold of stupidity.

Shut up… it’s not a daily, hourly, or every minute of my life occurrence.

One of the necessities of riding a bicycle, especially when riding off road, is being prepared for a flat tire.  There are some who avoid that unpleasant experience with tubeless tires, but I am not a tubeless guy (I like my tube) so I still need to carry a spare tube, patch kit, and CO2 inflator with me when I ride.  When riding my mountain bike, I have all I need stashed in plastic bags, tucked inside my hydration pack.. right next to the baggie of folded toilet paper.

Sunday morning, I decided to venture to the trails for a BCD (butt crack of dawn) ride.  It was going to be a sweltering, humid day, thus necessitating an early ride while it was still relatively cool.  As I unloaded my bike at the trailhead, the birds chirped merrily around me, greeting me in my revelry.  This was going to be a great ride, I just knew it.  True to expectations, my body felt fantastic as I zipped up the first trail, strong and good-for-me fast.  My warm up always takes me from the front of the park to the back, roughly a mile to a water crossing that leads to a nice, challenging loop of trails.  I got to the water crossing FAST.

The water crossing was a little deep.  Hikers have been damming it up, probably so they don’t get their dainty little feet damp as they cross.  Mountain bikers, who build and maintain the trails in the park, have been removing the dams.  Back and forth, build and tear down.  It has been a dam war.  When I came to the top of the drop into the water crossing, I noticed that the hikers had built yet another little dam.  Confident that the water wasn’t too deep, I swooped down the trail and into the water, my elbow wet as the water splashed around my bicycle.

*Fssssssshhhhhht fssssssshhhhhttttttt fsssssshhhhtttt*

Oh ssssssshhhhhtttttt.  A front flat.  The hikers must have been fighting back, booby trapped the crossing.  No worries, it was a front tire flat and I had my kit with me.  I removed the wheel, whipped the tube out of the tire, took out the spare tube, replaced it, inflated the tire with CO2.


Crud.  I thought I had inspected the tire for the cause of the puncture.  I was out of luck since I only had one CO2 cartridge and one spare tube.  I replaced the wheel, carried my bike the mile or so back to my car.  Shucks.  The birds all pooped on me as I got back to my car, blew raspberries as they flew away.

Sunday afternoon, at home, I decided to fix the flat tire.  As I pulled the punctured tube out of the tire, a thought struck me.

Is it possible that I had put the same tube, the punctured tube, back in the tire that morning?

Intrigued, I pulled the tube I had put back in my hydration pack.  It looked new and unused.

I now have a large hand print on my forehead.





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I tried not to hesitate, but that’s the point.

Last Friday, I ventured a few hours south to Brown County State Park, Indiana.  My goal for the past few summers has been to soothe my soul with sweet single track trails, a goal I haven’t really been able to attain yet.. but I am getting there.  Life keeps getting in the way, not always a bad thing.  So I decided that I was going to make a solo trek, a semi spontaneous trip with little planning except to load my bike on the back of my car, with a change of clothes and nutrition for the ride.

It feels a bit unnatural to be doing things on my own right now, even though that has been the case for some time now.  Now I have that separated, living in divorce limbo cloud hanging constantly over me, so that gives me that disjointed feel.  It doesn’t help when people look at me like a broken toy when they find out that status.  I hate it.  I hate the waiting, the real desire to move on with my life.  That even includes wanting a companion, something that really isn’t right for me to do until I am a divorced, recovered from said divorce, man.

All of the above necessitates keeping active, not sitting around and letting depression take over.  Thus the bike trip.  As much as I like to ride Brown County, I almost had to force myself out the door.

The previous Wednesday pretty much forced me out the door.  In one afternoon, I found out that my company may not be able to pay me at the end of the month, I need a root canal, I owe an additional $6813 federal tax from 2016, and my homeowners association is requiring me to buy a $855 window for my condo.  All of that hit in about a two hour time period.  I looked at what I have socked away from the sale of the house, carefully planned in preparation of the coming divorce storm, and realized that there likely will be nothing left of that money come the end of August.

I will make it, I know.  I keep telling myself that God will provide.  The storm may be heavy for a while, but I won’t sink.

Geez… what a depressing blog!  The ride was great.  Just what the doctor ordered, even though it kicked my butt.  The time alone was therapeutic.  The quiet and change of scenery, heck the scenery alone was calming.  At one point in the ride, a mountain bike skills instructor told her three students to watch me as I cleared a large log obstacle on the trail, clapping for me as I passed by them, beaming with pride.

July 13th is a status hearing.  Ummmm… I wonder how much the lawyer is going to charge for that…… lol

Poo-ten Place


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One of the essential items that made the move from the house to the new condo was something that any man would be lost without.  Worried that someone else would grab it, I snatched it up and made sure it was stashed in a safe place for the move.

Fake poo.20170604_163239

And here it sits.  Now I can pretend that I have a pet dog.

It goes with the décor.

OK, that might not be accurate at all.  My place doesn’t even smell like poo.  It smelled like primer and paint for a while, but even those scents are gone.  Even the nicotine stench is mostly gone, a bit remaining in the walk in closet, the only room in the condo that did not get fresh coating.  Right now, my bachelor pad smells like cupcakes, the vanilla cupcake candle providing the illusion that I have been baking.

The décor in the place is starting to round out slowly, thanks to the generous gift of a red framed Farmall tractor puzzle that my father lovingly assembled for me (he made the frame, too), as well as the pictures that my precious daughter framed for me.  She also gave me a nifty old bicycle thingy.

Yesterday, I brought the dining room table and chairs up from my garage.  I put the legs on the table this afternoon, set the chairs around it.  There are floor to ceiling mirrors on one wall of the dining room, so it’s good that there is furniture in that room now.  Up to today, “friends” were suggesting that I put strobe lights and a stripper pole in the dining room.  After all, it’s every single guy’s dream, right?

Adjusting to sleeping in the master bedroom has been a bit of a trick.   Last weekend, I moved from the second bedroom, the room I moved into first, to the master.  The master is large, with two large windows that face the courtyard entrance to my condo unit, facing east.  When I go to bed, the courtyard light becomes my night light.  Used to total darkness when I sleep (no snide comments, please), that required some adjustment to get the blinds set just right.  I still sleep great.  In the morning, my room is lit by morning light as soon as the sun begins to peak the horizon, thus serving as a very early morning wake up call.  I am one whose body clock rarely allows me to stay awake late and which also will not allow me to go back to sleep once I am awake in the morning.  Right now, due to the the invasion of friendly sun, I am awake at 5:30 AM.

Getting there.  Slowly, I am getting things unpacked and in place.  The all important fake poo is out and ready to greet visitors.. so I guess I am set!