At long last this story is over. I will provide more detail privately as time permits, but here is the short version: We won a few rounds and lost a few rounds, but at the end of the final appeal to the state supreme court we lost 3 to 2. That left us with a choice of either making expensive changes to our property to suit the HOA (plus living in a neighborhood where we were not welcome), or leaving.
We couldn't afford all that work even if we wanted to. We also couldn't afford to move, but oddly my 401(k) allows us to withdraw to buy new property but not to modify existing property. After some shopping around in November and December 2010, we found some property not too far from our current location: 12 acres right on Happy Jack, meaning no more long drives down an unmaintained dirt road, and no HOA meaning we can build however we like (sort of...) We bought the property in January and worked out an arrangement with a construction contractor to begin installing driveways, well, septic system, and a basement in March. They finished the septic system and make a mistake; we called them on it and they moved their work -- partly, still blocking the area we had marked off for a driveway. Not looking forward to similar problems for the remainder of the work, we went hunting for another contractor and found one in May, got all the contracts worked up, and they quickly had our well installed and a big hole dug for the basement. That's when things got... interesting.
It turns out their construction equipment was needed at a few other sites, and since we were a last-minute addition to their schedule we had to wait at the end of the line. Some early summer flooding delayed their work and threw off their schedule. We had already put half our belongings into storage, including all our winter wear, because we knew we would not need any of that stuff during the summer construction; we even bought a tent we could live in for the two or three weeks between pulling up our house from the old site and getting it approved for occupancy on the new site. But as summer wore on with limited and sporadic work on the foundation, we started wondering if we had made the wrong decision. My boss just laughed every time I said "This is definitely the week I am moving!"
There was some major panic at one point when we had burned our bridges... had the phone and and internet service disconnected because we knew that Monday the house would be disconnected, and then the guy who was going to move our house stopped answering calls and didn't show up the day he said he would -- or the next, or the next. He finally showed up on Saturday and cut all the power and water lines going into the house, and put the wheels back on it. We moved into our RV and drove it over to the new property, and Sunday our house came lurching around the corner.
By now it was November, and that tent we got for a fun week or two in the summer sun remained in its box mocking us. Some of the construction work had already been delayed by heavy snow. We had a gas generator for the RV, but it was costing us as much in gasoline as a stay in a hotel would cost, and Sylvia was not able to get comfortable sleeping anywhere. So we bundled up our small subset of belongings once again (including both of my computers) and headed off for a week in a motel. They got the house settled on the foundation, and by the end of the week we had electricity but still no gas and water; those took another couple of weeks.
Meanwhile we discovered we were still not free of regulatory bureaucracy that prevented us from living in our own home. The county inspector declared that our house was unsafe to live in until the *outside* stairs to the basement had a railing and the *outside* porch light, which was loose, had been fixed. Don't even get me started. We had those done, he blessed the house, and we were able to live in it although it was still another week before we had running water with no leaks.
Now it's mid-January 2012, a full year after our adventures started, and we're more or less settled. All our day-to-day stuff is unpacked; the stuff we rarely use is in boxes where it will likely remain in the basement until I die; we even have a hole cut in our living room floor with stairs going down to the basement (cue another rant about county inspectors). We still receive mail at the old address, but if you do not yet have our new address let me know and I'll get it to you.
Pictures of the move and the new house to follow as time permits
Finally graduated from the U of W in December 2011! I can't say anything about the extra semester; I took several summers and an extra semester to graduate from SFA myself. The main thing is she has that pedigree. It may not be as valuable as it was 30 years ago, but it still opens the door to better job opportunities than she would have with no degrees.
Alas, the veterinary thing didn't work out. She ended up with a very respectable GPA and a degree in Spanish, but not in biology. For now she's working full-time on customer support at Sierra Trading Post, where a number of our friends from church also work. After she saves up enough money to get a place of her own, she'll review her options. A likely possibility is getting a vet tech license so she could work with veterinarians even if she can't be one herself. She certainly had her fill of cleaning cages and giving pets their medication while she worked in Laramie!
On July 16th, Daniel graduated Basic Combat Training at Fort Benning, Georgia. That was followed by 16 weeks at at Fort Gordon, Georgia for his Advanced Training in MOS 25U (communications support). He came out of there knowing more about computer networks than I do. In case there is somebody I forgot to tell, I'm so proud of my son I have to tell the world.
Daniel almost went to Kaboomistan to get blown up, but a shoulder injury delayed that plan. He had surgery to fix the blown shoulder and for a while he was back home with us and working three part-time jobs. He was driving for a fundraising organization, working security at the UW stadium on game days, and of course he still does his weekend warrior thing with the Guard. After yet another graduation (that's three!) from prison guard school in Rawlins, he now works in Torrington as a guard... I mean, as a "correctional officer". He still does Parkour from time to time, but I think he's starting to realize that he is no longer invincible after he turned 20 in December. College may yet happen. He tried a semester to humor us but his heart wasn't really in it, but now he's taking some sociology classes at the community college in Torrington. I think his cop friends convinced him that a degree can make it easier for him to move from prison guard to law enforcement.
We have been married almost 24 years now, can you believe it? Nobody thought it would last, least of all us after those first rocky years. Sylvia has retired from nursing due to health problems, but she keeps herself busy moderating about 8 dozen Yahoo discussion groups, coordinating the local Freecycle groups, taking care of family finances so I never have to learn how, playing landlady to our tenants in the Laramie rental house, and selling candles and quilting supplies from her online store. You can see all of Sylvia's stuff on her own page here. She'll deny it at every opportunity, but she's also a gadget freak just like her dad. Kindle? Got it. Smartphone? She has two or three. Today she got a new tablet PC. Hey, at least it keeps her out of trouble. As far as I know.
Of course the big news is that she almost died twice. A couple years ago she had some problem I still don't fully understand with her kidneys, I think a bad reaction to one of the medications she takes. She was just recovering from that when an unrelated blood clot broke loose and clogged up her lungs; the doctor who treated her later said he couldn't understand why she's still alive. Obviously God isn't done with her yet... and I sure don't want to have to learn how to manage our bills and bank accounts.
THIS JUST IN:I dropped 100 pounds. No, really. Read all about my transformation from blimp to zombie here. As it turns out I also gained 25 of those pounds back over the following year, but I really was kind of skeletal when I got all the way down to 160. When the weather warms up I'll start walking more and hopefully chop off 10 or 15 more pounds.
I got a new job! Sort of... see the Work page for details. Still with the same company after nearly 20 years, but this old dog is learning new tricks
From July 2005 through December 2008, I was the director of the Wyomingaires. Our real director passed away in 2004, and the general consensus was that as a bass I'm expendable (we have too many basses), so I got "blessed" with the role of directing. At first I was so scared I couldn't even lift my arms in front of the group and I didn't know how to make the zigzag motions. Eventually I became less terrified and I know how to do the zigzags, but I never really got the hang of knowing how fast or slow to do a song (or part of a song), whether a section is out of tune, etc. When I had to move to Laramie, I told the gang I couldn't direct. They went out and found themselves a new director, a lady who actually knows music and can hear when one section is out of tune. I visited a couple of times when I was able to get to Cheyenne on a Monday, and she's doing a swell job. Now that we're back out Happy Jack, I go nearly every week and it's still the most fun you can possibly have in two hours.