Sunday, June 16, 2019

Grandma hugs

I am a hugger. I almost always ask someone if they want a hug, and I honor their request. Usually, people say yes. I have one good friend and I know she's not a hugger, so when I see her I usually touch her shoulder and say, "Consider yourself hugged."

Last Tuesday I went to our regional mall. I had a couple of pieces of jewelry I wanted to have appraised: a rope of pearls my dad brought back from Japan in the 60s, a watch without a band that belonged to my grandmother, and a brooch with a gold locket that was also my grandmother's. I'd been referred to a jewelry store called Alana's, so that was my destination.

As it turned out, Alana's was going out of business. It was a small shop, and there were about 20 people crowded in there, plus a fellow with a large camera who might have been part of the media. I knew an appraisal was not going to be happening there. However, I needed a couple of items of makeup, which I usually buy in a little Nordstrom storefront in the mall. So I walked up there. I was assisted by a young woman, made up vividly but tastefully. As she helped me find the right blush for my older face, and eyebrow color to tame my wild gray brows, I told her about my upcoming trip to London with my granddaughter Kai (she's recently changed her name from Cory, for those of you who keep track of my grandchildren). Kai had requested that we go to London Pride, which has a parade the day our tour finishes up, and I had said yes.

The young woman said, "Oh, she's lucky to have you for a grandmother. I'm transgender, and my grandmother was the first person to call me Rosemary. Even when she had Alzheimers and was close to death, she remembered." She teared up talking about her recently deceased grandmother. I gave her a hug and she hugged me back. Then I gave her another hug and I said, "This one is from your grandmother." Then I left.

Then, last weekend, my husband Art and I flew to Spokane to spend a few days with our grandkids. The twins haven't seen me in a year, and since one of them will be traveling with me nine days from now, I thought we ought to re-familiarize ourselves with each other.

I said to Kai, "Do you have anything I can wear to show my support for Pride?" I was thinking a bracelet or hat or something. She went to Amazon right then and ordered me this shirt:

I hope I give a lot of hugs at Pride.

PS: I sold all three pieces of my jewelry at a store called "Not Just Antiques" for $12.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Alien landing - and a volunteer opportunity

It's hard to come back home after six and a half months in Arizona. I feel like an alien.

Here's what looks different when I first get back:

  • Lots more traffic in Seattle than in Tucson - and lots more than this time last year. 
  • I notice what WASN'T here when we left. New buildings, old houses replaced by new houses, scaffolding for new buildings-to-be, more tents along the highway and under bridges.
  • Green, green everywhere. Including tall weeds in our yard. 
  • Inside the house, little things in different places, from when our tenant lived here.
Here's what I've done since I got back:
  • I had to change my insurance after 30 years, because my Washington provider doesn't have services in Arizona. I visited a new optometrist the day after I got back, rather than the friendly woman I've been seeing for 30 years. All three pairs of glasses need a new prescription, so I'm experiencing a little eyestrain (no old pairs to fall back on) while I wait for the new ones.
  • My housekeeper retired, so I got references from friends and hired a new one.
  • I want blue and purple highlights in my hair that don't fade. I asked for recommendations and, after I'd traveled 25 minutes to a new person, I said, "My only requirement is that it last for six weeks." So far, so good. Still, I felt a little remorseful about not going to the salon where I've been for the last seven years or so.

  • I mediated in small claims court on Tuesday, after seven months away. Most of it came back to me - like riding a bicycle, you know - but I forgot to fill out one form and had to go confess to the judge, who forgave me.
  • Conversation with my friend Gail, as though it's only been a week or so instead of half a year. She came up with an idea for recruiting Washington volunteers for the asylum shelter in Tucson where we spend time in the winter.
  • Lunch with my friend Marilyn, just like it was yesterday. She verified that Gail's idea for recruiting volunteers is a good one, and said she might want to go with her daughter and granddaughter.
  • Coffee with my friend Lillian and her friend Cheryl, and further conversation about the need for volunteers in Tucson. Cheryl's son has Tucson contacts.
  • Conversation with my neighbor Jennie, with interruptions from her three delightful children. They are all taller, of course, and I am a little shorter. I got to listen to violin practice from a back bedroom.
  • A conversation with my former medical provider; they have a more recent prescription for my CPAP machine, which I'll need in order to buy a smaller one for travel. I'm going to Iceland and England with my granddaughter next month, and I want to have the smaller machine by then.
  • A water exercise class, more vigorous than the one I attended in Arizona. I'll get used to it.
  • Pulling weeds in my yard. Half an hour is about my limit these days.
So, here's the deal about the volunteer opportunity in Tucson. 

Art and I volunteered every Saturday night from November to May at a shelter for asylum seekers. I have talked about that several times in this blog. We miss those Saturday nights.

The shelters in Tucson need volunteers in the summer and fall because snowbirds, who make up much of the workforce, have gone home.

I have a friend at Voyager, the 55+ RV resort where I live in the winter, who has three rentals (park model trailers). He will make them available to volunteers for $45 a night from now until October. There are a LOT of summer activities there, as well as three swimming pools, hot tub and sauna. Tucson has theatre, music, a university and excellent medical facilities. It is hot, but "it's a dry heat". For me, that's far easier than when it's humid. And Tucson sunsets are spectacular.

There is also a family offering an RV spot with full hookups, available free for volunteers.

You can come for days or weeks. You can work as many or as few four-hour shifts as you want. Or you can be a drveer. You can bring your children along. Each shift is guaranteed to have a Spanish speaker, in case you aren't one. On your first shift, it's guaranteed you will have someone experienced to show you the ropes. It's not strenuous, though it can get hectic. It's a fabulous experience. If you're interested, let me know and I will give you more information and help set you up. 

So, I've landed in Washington, feeling less like an alien. But I've still got my eyes on Tucson.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

The time between

Usually, at the end of the winter season, I fly from Tucson back to Seattle. It takes three hours and then I shift immediately from warm desert to cooler green. I don't have much time to process the change or adjust myself to the different surroundings that await.

Art did that this year. But I'd made plans with my traveling friend for a road trip from Tucson to midcoast California (Los Osos, just west of San Luis Obispo). My friend's sister has a place there, and the sister would be in France for a month, and my friend - and I - were invited to spend some time in the coastal cottage.

It was a two-day drive, with a stop in Yucca Valley for the night. We avoided Los Angeles by taking back roads through the high desert east of there, including Joshua Tree National Park.

The freeway went by Lancaster, in the Antelope Valley, where I lived 45 years ago as a young married woman. The only thing that was familiar were the street names and the mountains around it. But just past Lancaster, going north, it looked exactly the same as in 1975 - scrub desert.

Between the vineyards south of Bakersfield and the Pacific coast there's a mountain road - Route 166, I think, passing through the Cuyama Valley  - with gorgeous views. The early afternoon sun provided contrasts of sun and shade among the greens and golds. I've spent many years in California but had never traveled this road.

We've settled into my friend's sister's place in Los Osos. 

So far we've explored Los Osos, Baywood and Morro Bay, eaten unhurried midday meals at local cafes, explored state parks and hiked on cliffside beach trails.

Our "cottage" is heated by a gas stove, just right for cooler evenings and rainy days. We read, and snack, and nap, and break the silence of the place with occasional conversation. It is the perfect place for me to be in this time between.

In four days I'll get on a plane in San Luis Obispo and fly to Seattle, ready to embrace the challenges and the pleasures of the suburb we've called home for the last 25 years.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

The Bag Lady is traveling again

Where to this time?

To Iceland and England? No, that's in June with my granddaughter Cory.

To Iceland - again - and Greenland? No, that's in August with my friend Terra.

To Denver, to Tyler and Jake's wedding? Nope, September.

To New York City? No, that's in October with my friend Ellen.

Our next trip - on May 15 - is to Seattle. To our house, where we lived for 25 years - full time until eight years ago, and now for just six months of the year.

We're going home. Leaving our little place in Tucson, where we spend the other six months.

Going home. Well, that's not entirely true, because Tucson is now home as well. It's where Art rehearses all winter for a spring play. Where I play handbells and go to discussion groups on current events and foreign affairs. Where we chat with friends and neighbors at the post office and play dominoes with our neighbors. Where we ride our bicycles. And this year, where we volunteer in town at a shelter for asylum seekers.

Home in Seattle is where I mediate in small claims court, meet friends for coffee. Where we plant and maintain a fruit and vegetable garden. Visit with our kids from time to time.

For me, more and more, home is Tucson. For Art, home is still Seattle, where he has lived nearly all his life.

So I have my going-home list of things to do. Stop the paper in Tucson and start up the one in Seattle. Forward the Tucson mail and unforward the Seattle mail. Stop the cable/internet in Tucson and start it up in Seattle. Change the address with Netflix, Amazon, our medical insurance companies, and the magazines. Make arrangements for summer care in Tucson, make an appointment to have our Tucson car battery disconnected for the summer, find a ride to the airport in Tucson and from the airport in Seattle. figure out what to take to Seattle that I'll need when I travel to Greenland (jacket, gloves, hat). Say goodbye to good friends in Tucson.

Traveling again. Going home.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

What is an ordinary life?

When nothing out of the ordinary is going on, I don't think I have much to say. I'm looking back on the last two weeks, to a bunch of ordinary things, and thinking maybe they're worthy of a post.

  • Larisa, the Designer Cat, wandered off one evening and picked up some plant material at about the same time as she relieved herself. A rough, tangly mix of feline poop and desert flora. I didn't notice when she came indoors, or when she slept in our closet instead of in her own bed. I noticed when she didn't eat. Picked her up, discovered her predicament. Ran warm water and a bit of soap into the kitchen sink, wrapped her upper half in a towel and lowered her hindquarters into the water. What didn't rinse out, Art cut out with a pair of scissors. You know the drill with an indignant cat; Larisa yelled at me, and the scratches on my chest required two bandaids. Art and I tried to dry her off, but she would have no part of it. Apparently she preferred to be half wet over the next few hours, with dreadlocks as she dried. She looked more like a Feral Animal than a Designer Cat.
  • To add to the indignity of it all, we took Larisa to the vet the next day for her yearly checkup. She refused to allow a urine specimen to be taken, so she was sent home with a jar of plastic beads. I emptied her litter box, added the beads and waited, TWENTY-FOUR HOURS later, she gave it up and used the litter box. I saved a sample in the bead jar and took it to the vet.

  • My husband Art has been fighting some ailment for nearly two months but was not much interested in paying a visit to the doctor. He coughed, and caught a cold (which he gave to me and I passed along to a friend), and coughed, and got a 48-hour virus (which he gave to me), and coughed more violently. Finally, last Monday, he got in the car and I drove him to the VA. Between our car in the parking lot and the door of the VA, he had to stop to catch his breath. That had never happened. The doc said, "I see this all the time. These old guys try to tough it out until they're miserable for a month or two, and then they decide to turn themselves in." He prescribed an antihistamine, an expectorant, and a z-pack (antibiotic). Plus a chest x-ray and CAT scan of Art's sinuses. When Art left the VA and walked back to the car, he had to stop three times to catch his breath. I gave him the first two pills before I started the car in the parking lot.
  • Recovery has not been swift but it has been steady. Art moved past the diarrhea which is a side effect of the antibiotic; began to hydrate - after being nagged by my sister (a nurse) and me (a concerned wife); began to eat (two pieces of toast on the first day, 30 percent of a lunch by the third). His excessive fatigue has lightened a bit each day. This morning he said he's feeling just about back to normal and wants to cook a simple Easter meal and go to a low-key event tonight.

  • The Inn2 asylum-seekers' shelter where we have been volunteering since November has been closed since mid-March because many of the volunteers are snowbirds returning home. We'd planned to spend April recruiting other volunteers, and we did, with some success. Then last Sunday happened. ICE dropped off a busload of asylum seekers at the Greyhound bus station. All the shelters were full. Inn2 was asked to open on an emergency basis at about 4:30 in the afternoon. By 6:00 Art and I were at the shelter with a dozen other volunteers, to set up our space - with a capacity of 20 - to house 46 over a three-day period. Our volunteer coordinator sent out a request for help, and people showed up with food and clothing and to volunteer. In that three-day period we acquired 13 new volunteers. So Inn2 will be opening again on May 1.

Everyone has their own ordinary life. To my mind, ordinary doesn't necessarily mean mundane. Mundane is like grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning and laundry and paying the bills. Ordinary adds in things like a distressed cat, a sick husband, an unexpected request for help.

I'm reminded of this quote by L.R. Knost:

"Life is amazing. And then it's awful. And then it's amazing again. And in between the amazing and awful it's ordinary and mundane and routine. Breathe in the amazing, hold on through the awful, and relax and exhale during the ordinary. That's just living heartbreaking, soul-healing, amazing, awful, ordinary life. And it's breathtakingly beautiful."

Monday, April 8, 2019

Rattlesnake crossing!

This year in Arizona I took up bicycling. One of my friends started a group called "Easy Riders". We started off riding, I think, about eight miles, and by the end of the season we were doing fifteen. I usually rode once a week. There's a 55-mile bike loop around the city of Tucson. At first we began our ride at a trailhead a couple of miles from home. Eventually we were traveling half an hour to get to our start point. By the end of high season we'd ridden the entire Loop, one segment at a time.

Turnaround point
"High season" in Arizona is January to March. Our RV resort is full of snowbirds for those months. On about April 1, people start leaving for home - unless there's still snow in Minnesota or Michigan or Wisconsin, or still rain in Washington or Oregon. Many of the activities at the resort end in the last week of March, so there are LOTS of end-of-season potlucks. We say goodbye to the people we discussed current events or foreign affairs with, or quilted with, or hiked with, or played handbells with. It slows down at Voyager, so instead of a bus-every-day life, days are wide open for things like sleeping or sitting on the front porch reading or catching up with whatever has been put off for the several previous months. I like this time of year.

Last Saturday - April 6 - I went for a bike ride on the Loop with my friend Tom. We'd both missed a ride the previous week on this particular section of the trail, and we wanted to accrue another 15 or 16 miles on our bikes. Our start point was at the Christina-Taylor Green Memorial River Park, just to the north of the city. Christina was born on September 11, 2001 and was killed January 8, 2011 by a shooter who was targeting Gabby Giffords at a constituent meeting in the parking lot of a Tucson supermarket.

The ride was especially beautiful; we had a lot of rain this winter and the desert blooms were spectacular. About five miles in, we saw a dozen people standing on the trail ahead of us. We slowed.

A rattlesnake was crossing the trail.

I stopped. Tom threaded his way through the bystanders and passed the snake, which rattled.

I had never seen a live rattlesnake outside of a zoo.

As Tom continued on his way, I heard a couple of remarks about how "He should show some respect." I said, joking, "Well, you know, he's a snowbird from Minnesota. He didn't know." They nodded, and when the snake reached the side of the trail, I rode away.

When I caught up to Tom, I told him what had happened. He said, "It's MICHIGAN, Linda. And we have rattlesnakes there."

Yesterday afternoon, a friend told me that last year she had seen a rattlesnake inside the RV resort, on a main street. "April is when they come out."

I guess Larisa, our Designer Cat, will need to stay inside this spring. I wonder if cats stalk snakes. I don't want to risk it.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

What the Bag Lady learned this month

Even in normal life there are learnings. Here are some of my recent ones.

1. If your husband is in a play, rehearsals are the most important thing. Once it's over, the calendar opens way, way up.

2. I can experience Las Vegas with some appreciation about every five years.

3. A criminal investigation has to gather enough evidence to convince a jury. The expert witness has to know every detail in the report they filed, because the opposing attorney will question their competence if they need to refer to their report at all.

4. Walking the Strip on a Wednesday evening is a colorful and safe experience. If you are a grandmother with purple hair, a slightly inebriated millennial may give you a high five.

5. Cirque de Soleil has come a long way in the last 25 years. The gymnasts are still astonishing athletes, but the sets and lights and sound are just about overwhelming, in a good way.

6. If you catch your husband's cold just before a road trip, you will absolutely pass the cold along to your travel companion.

7. One cold requires at least five boxes of kleenex.

8. Walking in a slot canyon is more impressive than the photographs you've seen.

9. Sometimes if you decide you're not going to buy a recliner for the front room this year, you meet a new neighbor who would love to help you shop for one. Or maybe two.

10. In a winter resort, sometimes your friends will move away. You will be glad for them and sad for you. Where you live in the summer, someone will die while you're away and you won't know about it until months later. You will wish you could have gone to the memorial service.

These things happen.