Thoughts on my youngest son’s 18th birthday.

Today my youngest son turns 18. I was putting together a collage of photos from over the years and I began to feel a little melancholy. Time has gone by so so fast. It floors me.

There are so many things I would like to to do again and many things I would do differently if I could. I like to spend short periods of time in the past. But when they begin to make me sad I know I need to pull back to the present.

To stay in the past can make us miss the joys of the present time. I don’t want to get caught in a cycle of sadness over things I can’t go back to nor change. But it’s ok to step back for a moment and it’s ok to feel the joys in the memories and the sadness over the quick passage of time. I don’t want to forgo looking back in the past because it’s is the framework of what has been my life. I just don’t want to get lost there.

I know today with my youngest son turning 18 – who also was my first child (I know puzzling- but we adopted out of birth order)- there will be memories that will bring laughter and some tears. To just hold that little boy one more time – I know he’s still here to hug but it’s not the same. His hugs are quick and awkward. Appropriate and expected for a teenage guy. I am not the one he would run to for a hug anymore after scoring a soccer goal (he used to)- and good lord he shouldn’t be! But that is why sometimes it’s just nice to remember those times where you were their world.

And truthfully I hope my now adult children have the opportunity to look back someday and feel the same. Because that means they have had love in their lives and that above all else is what I want for them.

Right now I’m am writing this while sitting on the beach in Delaware. Nice start to a day. I’m looking forward to seeing my son tonight for dinner. I figure he may be looking forward to seeing us but probably is more excited to see his dog who we brought with us this weekend. That’s ok. I know we come in second or third to the dog.

I’ll take some photos and someday – yet again – I’ll look back on them and have similar feelings that I have today. Then I will make more and more memories .

It’s the circle of life. And what that means is that I’ve had love.

And that’s what matters most.

Geldings finding balance

Yukon Sticking his tongue out at me? I wouldn’t be surprised.

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Note – Gelding is a male horse that has been castrated- making them no longer stallions. Typically Geldings can be kept together. Stallions are often turned out alone – maybe some are turned out together but i have never seen it. I think that would lead to fighting. I have three Geldings living here.

Mare- female horse

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Once again this human is learning about horses and how they interact. Horses will teach us a lot…it will never stop. When Airy and Harley lived here we were very used to that dynamic of the two of them together. They ate their grain side by side. They shared a stall. Airy was the boss as many mares are when they are turned out with geldings. We were very comfortable with the routine with the two of them. After she died we knew we were going to add at tleast one new horse so Harley had a buddy.

I knew the dynamic would change and we would have to learn how the horses interacted, what their needs were and we would have to determine a new routine based on the dynamic between the new horse – and now its a dynamic of three horses since we also have my neigbors horse Hank here.

The arrival of Hank and his meeting Harley was very easy and I think I had thought this would be the case with Yukon.

Yukon arrived a few weeks ago with little fanfare. His arrival was uneventful. The truck and big trailer that was hauling Yukon pulled down our driveway and turn around and popped open the gate and out Yukon walked. Head up ears perked. “Where am I?”

We put him in one of our

Getting off the trailer with Sara the Days End Farm trainer

pastures and the current horse residents – Hank and Harley- began the dance of meeting by getting to know each other over the fence. I spent time watching all of the horses reactions.

Hank and Harley checking out Yukon.

Right off I could tell Yukon wanted to be top horse. He spent time nipping Harley – the current herd leader- from over the fence. Harley is my horse and we added Yukon so Harley could have a friend as we lost our mare Airy suddenly in August.

Hank had a few little pushing matches with Yukon over the fence but Hank is much smaller than Yukon and Hank is much different in personality then Yukon is.

Hank didn’t want to challenge Yukon at all and hung back from the fence more often than Harley did.

Over the first few days I spent some time with Yukon out in the field. I wanted some bonding time just he and I. It was a hot week when he arrived and he spent time back in the trees that line the property on one side. Hank did the same when he came.

I wandered out there with Yukon and we sat under the trees for a bit. He kept trying to chase off our barn cat Ziggy. He definitley has a bossy side and I think he is testing the waters. He;s a big horse 15.3 hands. Hands are measured at the withers of a horse- thats sits where the neck meets the back. So Yukon is 5’3″ to the withers and he has a very long neck making him oh so tall when he holds his head high. His body is very long as well. Harley is the same amount of hands but the rest of him just ins’t the size of Yukon.

Looking at the barn from the edge of the pasture. Oh and Yukon’s long back is in the photo too

Temperment wise Yukon is pretty good with humans. As I visited with him the field I was able to lean against him and take some photos over his back. He is nudgy about treats and loves attention. In many ways he reminds me of harley.

Speaking of Harley – I was under the impression that he would try to maintain his head of household status when we let them all be together. I wasn’t off on that. He was that way at first. But it turns out he was bossy over the fence but not once they met face to face.

We decided to introduce all of the horses a few days before we went out of town. I hoped that some routine would be established with feeding and such after they were together a few days.

When we put the together all the horses met up in the pasture and sniffed one another and there wasnt much fanfare. They began to graze near each other and that went on for a bit. I thought that was that. But after about half an hour Harley decided that Hank and Yukon could not be near eachother and he bagan this odd weaving between the two of them . I guess he didn’t want to give up his friend. (Hold on loosely Harley…Hold on loosley). That behavior went on for a while and then Harley began the hazing process by not allowing Yukon too close to the overhang part of the barn.

Here Harley performs his weaving ritual!:

But soon the tables turned and Yukon began to haze Harley. He didnt have to do much- just tip his ears back and drop his head – which is a sign from one horse to another – to move.

Hank has been kind of in the middle of all this. He isnt vying to be top horse. He just wants to be friends with both guys. It seems that he is -though both Harley and Yukon boss Hank around but he doesnt seem to mind. The conflict seems to be between Yukon and Harley.

When we left last Monday for the beach it seemed like things were getting more settled. I figured Yukon won for top horse.  What I realize now is that these things take time. Since i have gotten home I see that some things are better and other things need to be settled .

One moment Yukon and harley will be hanging out in the dry lot next to eachother and the next Yukon won’t let harley under the barn overhang. He tries to claim all the hay piles for himself.

I know Yukons feeding regime is differet now, he had been fed in a closed stall- we do lock him up for his grain but have been letting him out after he finishes to allow him to share hay with the other horses.

Yukon has naviclular issues which means he has painful feet and being stalled can make him stiff so we havent wanted to stall him for too long. – I think his lack of manners when it comes to sharing hay is likley due to his being fed in a stall and not having to share his hay – and i think he thinks that all the hay that is put down is his.

One thing I feel is that the horses have to work these things out between themselves but when there are humans around them a horse cannot behave in a wiley manner and get all the other horses riled up.  Horses moving quiclky to avoid eachother and then a human being in that mix is very dangerous. So I will not allow them to behave crazily if we are working around them.

I have had to stand by while they are eating and not allow him to push another horse off the hay piles. Some posturing is normal but he cant have all the hay for himself. And he cant have the entire overhang to either especially in torrential rain. And we’ve had a lot of that lately.

I think it will take me a while to get used to having three horses. There is more crowding. More poop. More feeding. The good thing is we do have Austin -Hanks owner- who rotates in and helps with the care. Huge for me since I’m unable to do many of the chores now.

I am enjoying learning more about horse behavior. I know they will settle in- it just takes more time in some instances.  I will try to stay out of their posturing as much as possible – I know they will figure it out.

Yukon is a very nice horse. I think he just needs to settle in some.  Learn he doesnt have to own all the hay and know he will get lots of attention.

Since I began this post last week – yes last week (I can’t seem to find time to sit and write) – things have settled down more. I am pleased with this. It’s still a quite a frenzy at feeding time. I’m getting used to it.

I realize now how easy it really was to care for Harley and Airy. Three geldings together is different but fun. I’m pretty sure they will be quite the crew.

I’m sure it will make for some funny stories.

Did I mention Yukon is big?

Things on the mantle.

Things on the mantle (and hearth)….

I’ve been at the beach for a few days. I was sitting on the floor stretching by the fireplace. And I was looking at the things that we chose to place on the mantle and hearth. It’s dynamic – anything can be moved at any given time. I like that it’s fun to change things up.

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This is the lantern? Orb? Lantern orb I picked up at a furniture store. I liked its shape. It really has no function and the fake candles battery has died. But I still like the thing.

Then we have the tin “S” and I don’t think the reason for purchasing that needs much explaining. The jar next to it is for collecting stones and shells we find on the beach by the Bay and ocean.

I might love this bike clock the most right now. I’m having a thing for bicycle decor recently. The clock doesn’t work right and it’s loud so we took the batteries out. But I still think it’s cool.

These are the special stones and shells that are laying inside the fireplace. I don’t know what qualities they have that makes them special. It may have been size or uniqueness that kept them from the jar on the mantle above. Or maybe I was too lazy to put some of them in the jar. Anyway I find myself checking the shells and stones out often and I think the “Joy” stone is my favorite. Oh I ordered those. (In case you thought you could find word stones on the beach. 😉

This real oil lamp is a gem. It is very sentimental. We got this from my in laws Home. It was in their home for years.

I have always been drawn to people’s mantles. Since I was a kid. I think it was because my Nana’s Neighbors used to keep items on their mantle that Kids could play with. They had a puzzle and a Newton’s Cradle. You know where the metal balls hang in a row and you pull one back and the ball on the other end is the only one that moves? I loved that thing. I think that gave me my mantle fascination. I really do like to check out mantles and hearths. They lend themselves to creativity I think.

When the kids left…

Kevin and Zach in front of his dorm on move-in day.

When the kids left for other places…boys to college..daughter to Ohio…I thought I would be fine. I didn’t think I would have tears or that empty nest feeling. I was sooooooo wanting the boys out of the house. I cannot lie. I was so done with the mess, the not helping with chores, the living like mole people only emerging for food and then taking food that was earmarked for others in the house. Be gone – be gone!

I will be honest I was not prepared to parent teens. It was harder than I thought it was going to be. Maybe because of the health issues I encountered just as they were entering their teens. One thing parenting will do is teach you a lot about yourself. Many times I felt like i was in over my head. I think we realize as parents that we really don’t know what we are doing. At least thats how I felt much of the time. With three very special kids who were adopted perhaps we did have some more challenges than some and I am very sure less than others. As my teens approached teendom (new word) I realized I wasn’t the cool mom I hoped I would be. But I was always championing for their success. I may not have been their best friend and perhaps sometimes I was their worst enemy but I never stopped trying my best help them succeed.

Motherhood will bring out the very best in us and sometimes the very worst. Over the years I was challenged with learning how to best deal with kids who had their own challenges. I didn’t always like how I behaved and I feel now like I was in a never-ending cycle of trying to improve who I was. I never really got where I wanted to be but I am always a work in progress.  And I loved my kids so much- I wanted to help them as best as I could. Thank God they have the dad they do as we balance each other out well and he picked up the pieces when I wasn’t able to.

I had my health challenges that basically covered  the span of my kids high school years and that effected all of us.  I didn’t want that to happen but it did. I often missed events and I didn’t feel well enough to become too involved in my kids school. I spent over six months mostly in bed. That is hard on your kids – and my were teens by then and not really able to process it all.

Where did the time go?  I was dealing with so much and I feel like I never got anything quite right. I sort of feel I got ripped off. What would it have been like had I not been sick? I will never know and maybe thats some of what I am feeling now. Sadness over what I wanted the years to be and what they really were.

And I miss the kids. As we dropped off kid 1 last week then kid 2 the next day I had this growing heavy feeling in my heart. Why I thought I would not feel this is beyond me. I guess it is because i prided myself on always having my own interests separate from being a mom.. I figured that these interests would still be part of me when the kids left home so I would not be sad because I had my own life. I am realizing this other stuff doesn’t protect your heart from the sadness of this new transition of your kids beginning to navigate on their own and you feeling that loss.

We aren’t a perfect family. We laughed, we cried and we yelled. But this is my family—warts and all  ..and now its changed. I will adjust.

But for now I am in transition. And I am a little lost.

I don’t hear from the boys much so far from college- and I laugh at myself for feeling sad about that bc we hardly ever had real communication when they lived here like moles. But the thing is they were here. And now its empty – and darn it – I have that dreaded empty nest sadness.

Kevin and I have things planned and intend on enjoying our new freedom- and I am excited about that. Thats one good part about the kids leaving. This empty sad feeling is just another part of it. And sadly I have to go through it.

So one in Ohio, two in college – my family has spread it’s wings. I know how blessed I am to have these transitions.

Pretty soon we will have the boys rooms cleaned up, their bathroom neater, and I will learn to cook for three (kevin, mom, and myself)instead of 8 (teen boys eat ALOT.). Soon we will fall into a routine and things will feel normal again. For now I am a little off kilter. My tears are a closer to the surface.

It’s all part of life…and I’ll be ok….

This little surprise

So we didn’t get our new guardian horse Yukon yet. He comes to us next Monday. He wouldn’t load last week on the trailer we borrowed. Maybe he was too big. Maybe just a bit afraid. It had been a while since he had been on a trailer but he would not get on. So he is still at Days End.

So the rescue is bringing him to us next Monday. I think this will work out well. I am very grateful to Days End for the transport.

Harley has been doing fine. And here’s the surprise! Harley has a friend. Yep he got a buddy already. And he will have Yukon too!

As luck would have it our neighbor Austin decided he wanted to get a horse so he can do roping. Like in roping calves in a rodeo. Currently , Austin is a bull-rider. Yep a real cowboy and his sweet wife live right next door . They are the owners of the donkeys that I have posted photos of from time to time.

Austin isn’t retiring from riding bulls right now but I think he sees at some point his body may get too beaten up and it might be time to change to some other rodeo event.

So he decided to get a horse. He had a pony growing up. I saw a photo – so cute. They were buddies. His pony lived quite a long time. So Austin knows equines. So his getting this horse wasn’t jumping in to something he doesn’t know. And he rides giant bulls I don’t think any horse will intimidate him.

So anyway knowing that Harley was alone he asked us if he could keep an 8 yr old quarter horse on our property for a while. He needs to build some fencing on his land.

I knew Yukon was coming and I have never had more than two horses in our pasture. Both Harley and Airy are easy keepers. Which often -and in our case does – mean that they get very fat on grass. Grass can be harmful to horses like this so we only let them graze every other day or we use grazing muzzles which limit their grass intake. We always seem to have lots of grass and with Austin fencing in his pasture area there will be enough if we need to share.

So we agreed to have his horse here and we worked out the details and probably will tweak them every so often -and this past Sunday Mojo (now named Hank ) arrived.

Harley was very excited. He whinnied and pranced when he saw Hank for the first time. We have photos but It was dark.

We kept them apart for a couple nights. They nuzzled over the fence. Got to know each other a little. When Austin took Hank out for a ride on Hanks first full day here , Harley called to Hank and he called back. Buddies in the making.

When we put them together it was non-eventful. No kicking or biting. But I think I thought there would be no establishing for position because they got along so well over the fence. But of course I was wrong. Harley decided he needed to establish he was boss. So he pinned his ears as Hank approached him. Hank got the message and stayed away. They would graze nearish to eachother but if Hank got too close Harley would pin the ears back take a step and Hank would walk away.

This is when they first meet. Keeping a good distance but grazing calmly.

Moving closer. Notice the “dance” :

After a while , Hank came in to explore the paddock. I saw him sniffing the ground and checking out the trough and the stalls. Harley who was loading in a stall made sure Hank knew he wasn’t welcome in his stall right then. Come on Harley stop being a snob I thought.

Harley was hazing Hank and it seems mean but it’s what horses do. He might want a companion but they have to do their horse dance. Set the tone for their relationship. And after Harley was bossed around by Airy for so long I am not shocked Harley wants to be the boss now and Hank isn’t challenging that it seems.

Hank is the more spry one. Younger and a better mover but he is also one relaxed horse. Bombproof so far under saddle and very chilled out on the ground. So he let Harley do his thing and he seems ok with his place in this small herd.

Here is how calm this horse is. A ride in the corn(video by Austin Gosnell).

At one point Hank stood alone under the line of pine trees way out on the edge of our field. I came out to the paddock to check on them. I was hoping they would be hanging together. But Hank wasn’t there in the paddock so I walked into the pasture and looked all around and finally I spotted Hank hanging in the shadows of those trees. Maybe he wasn’t sure what he should do with Harley and his attitude.

I walked back to the barn and I looked at Harley who had ambled out of his stall to see what I was looking at way out in that field.

I said “Harley you have alienated your new friend and now he’s out there all by himself.”

And I looked at Harley and he stared out in the field – we couldn’t see Hank from there but I bet Harley could smell him. And what did Harley do? He called to Hank. I was like dang Anne he understood your scolding- wink wink.

Harley got no answer from Hank so he walked into the field and called again. Soon Hank was seen slowly walking towards Harley and what does that big oaf do? Decides to give Hank a run around. Harley head down trots toward Hank and Hank trots away from him. It’s a horse thing. Again it’s seems anti-social but it actually establishes the social hierarchy of a herd. Harley is not fast so it was funny. But I thought that may have been the final haze ritual Because once that runaround was completed they both began to graze much closer together.

That afternoon we had to head out of town for a few days to take my sons to college so we left Austin to care for the horses. Happily the next morning he reported that they were together and massaging each other. I’m not sure what that looked like but ok!

Later in the evening Austin couldn’t find Hank in the paddock and was surprised to see he had been invited into Harley’s stall. Just like he and Airy used to be. Watch the video by Austin Gosnell.

Now all this bliss will be shaken up on Monday with the arrival of Yukon. So that will be another story unto itself.

Hopefully three will be ok and not a crowd. Yukon is big and confident but lame (as in bad feet) so it will be interesting to see how it all flushes out.

More to come on that….

Here are some more photos of Hank (and family). Courtesy of the Gosnell’s.

Clarissa and Hank

Hank eating hay

Austin the bull rider and Hank

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Ziggy. The awesome cat.

Things are changing

Boxes for the boys dorm rooms.

I’m starting to get a little flustered and a nervous because we are facing a lot of changes right now.

In a way it’s good Yukon wouldn’t load on the trailer yesterday. He will be coming on the 28th via transport by Days End. They have a bigger trailer and the trainer will get him on. So that’s all good. So it’s good we are delaying it because I just have too much to deal with this coming week.

I was feeling like I was rushing getting the horse here and I was because I wanted Harley to have a buddy. But he’s doing fine. I think I feel the delay in getting Yukon here was a blessing. We have to leave Tuesday to take my boys off to college. That’s a huge change.

I have spent weeks getting forms together, getting medical appointments done and buying all the stuff they need for their dorm rooms. It’s all packed and ready to go.

We will be empty nesters in a few days. Well we will be if you don’t count my mom living here! My daughter is in Ohio and the boys wont be too far away from us at Salisbury University on the Eastern shore. It’s actually only 40 minutes from our beach house. Which gives us more reasons to spend time there.

So I’m trying to wrap my head around how I’m feeling. So many people are posting how sad they are that their kids are going off to school. I am a mixture of sad and happy.

I’m happy for them because this is a great opportunity for them. They will be living in separate dorms by the way. I’m hoping they will at least say hello to eachother if they see one another on campus. They aren’t the best of friends at this point. One can only hope that might change in the future. Anyway we got them to the door now it’s up to them to open it and make College a success. We will see. But I am so happy for this for them. Two boys born almost 18 years ago in a far away country and being sent to an orphanage the future wasn’t looking great. But God had a hand in guiding their lives to this point. They may not see it the way I do but I hope they take advantage of this opportunity . And I hope they have fun too.

I am also happy they will be out of my house!! I’m done with the pigsty we call a basement. Which is where they live. We are taking back the area and consolidating them to one bedroom. We will make sure they have privacy when they come home to visit but no way is it going to look the way it does now ever again! God bless those that have teen boys that aren’t messy. I gave up a while ago trying to get them to be organized. I feel for their college roommates.

I also will be glad they are gone because I know how much they will learn by being away from home. Maybe they will appreciate more what’s been done for them over the years when they have to navigate the world on their own. I know my daughter is realizing a lot living on her own in a city five hours away. I’m also excited for them to have these new experiences. It will help them to mature.

I’m sad because they won’t be around. The boys live like mole people sleeping much of the day and banging around at night. They really don’t want to be around us yet they do. I know they have that desire to be free but they have the fear too. We don’t see the m much actually. Sometimes they make their way upstairs to eat all our food. They often forget there are other here who may like to eat as well. They eat in epic proportions. It’s uncanny.

They are also terrible conversationalists. Me: how is packing going? Do you need any toiletries? The boy: good. Ok … I asked too many questions. Me: do you need any toiletries bc I can get you some before we go to the dorm. Boy: ok. Me: tell me what you will need we leave soon. Boy:ok. I will have to guess at what they need! Hey at least we talked.

But I’ll still miss them. They will be absent. The house empty their essence. The little boys are no more. I know the next phase for them has begun. But the change is going to be hard on me even when some of me rejoices they are gone.

One son just had a short convo with me to discuss possible crime in the city where his school is. He is my shy one. The anxious one I worry for but have to push out of the nest.

Nobody can ever prepare you for parenting. I have been in over my head too many times to count. I hope we’ve made some influence on their lives. I hope they have felt loved.

So many changes. It’s inevitable. Sometimes they happen close together. Like the new horse and the boys leaving. I have seen so many changes in my life in the last five years. I guess am better at rolling with it but I also know that I sometimes have to stop and let myself feel the feelings associated with each thing. Losing horse … very sad. New horse.. very exciting and scary too. Boys going to college ….very exciting and sad and scary too. If I honor my feelings it helps the flustered feeling and anxiety. If I take things a step at a time it helps slow my mind down. I’m an incredible planner. It must be the IT person in me. I can take some event and plan the heck out of. I Extrapolate the what’s ifs and I get everyone organized and I have contingency plans. It’s what I do. But I often get too far ahead of myself and I sometimes become overwhelmed or anxious. Especially if the things taking place are really life changing. Like your kids leaving.

But this is life. There was a time when I found out I had breast cancer that I considered maybe I wouldn’t be here for these events. But here I am. So in reality I’m so grateful even if changes are sometimes hard.

So off to college (and wow College is so awesome these days with all the food choices! ) I’m jealous.

Go get ’em boys. We love you.

Ps – boys we may use your new updated bedroom as a guest space and hobby room. But you are always welcome with advanced notice.

Of course I’m kidding. Or am I?

I am.

Blessings.

Meet Yukon

Yukon

Update – ok so after many attempts Yukon wouldn’t get in the trailer. A storm was coming in and I’m sure he sensed that before the humans did. So he is now scheduled to be brought to us her on the 28th – after we drop the human boys at college.

Stay tuned!

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Today we pick up Yukon. (Rescheduled for aug 28). He’s a 19 year old quarter horse from Days End Farm Horse Rescue. Days End is a well know rescue in Maryland and probably in the Mid -Atlantic and now they will become nationally known because of a partnership they have with a non-profit whose job it is to spread the word about horses in need of homes -esp companion horses -which are horses that can no longer be ridden. There are many places for companion horses – like in our case we need a buddy for Harley.

Days End (DEFHR) has made national news from time to time for their rescue efforts after natural disaster like Katrina. When I go to their farms (they have two now bc of the sheer number of horses they are helping ) I always am amazed at the dedication of the staff there and the care they give the horses.

When we set out to meet Yukon last weekend we headed west towards WV into the beautiful hills just East of the Catoctins. We landed at the farm in Maryland which is shy of the WV line. It was pretty and clean and the horses – most of them companion horses- were well kept.

We walked back with Kelly who is a caretaker for these horses. It’s a big job and she does it well and with a smile on her face. She was thrilled to introduce us to Yukon who is a big chestnut gelding. He is immediately friendly and reminded me a lot of Harley. I love gelding because of their puppy dog like demeanor.

Yukon is a bit nudgy for treats as is Harley. Nothing we can’t handle. I’m told he likes to get in and out of gates first. Airy was like that- except she was last to come in off pasture. Grass was king to her. She loved that more than anything.

Yukon led well and was happy to stand in a grassy area and eat grass as we swatted away bugs.

Yukon has navicular issues which is a bone in the hoof of the horse. I won’t go into details as I’m still learning about it. But let’s just say he has sore feet and is on medication for it. I’m looking for supplements that can alleviate inflammation as well. He won’t be stalled like he is now. He will be free to walk around which is better for his foot pain. I think we will have to rake up rocks in the paddock as well. But the pasture will be a nice comfortable place for him.

So back out to Rohersville Maryland later today. He seems like he will be a great fit.

I’ll write more about him soon. I’m nervous and excited both.

Harley by the way is doing well. We keep telling him Yukon is coming ! More later….

Harley – who is Yukon?