Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Bag Lady's week in review

When we first arrive in Tucson each year, I want to get everything done that needs doing. Life is slower before high season starts in January, and tradespeople are more available, and I have more energy.

We got here two weeks ago today. Play rehearsals have started, and handbell practice, and our recovery meetings. I've had coffee or lunch with friends. Art has stocked the kitchen. Larisa the Designer Cat has resumed her winter routine.

Here's what's happened of the non-everyday variety:

  • I'm in a play this year. Two years ago I headed up ticket sales for the Voyager musical. Last year I was kind of the assistant producer and stage manager. One day an actress was sick so I stood in for her. Soon after that, the director asked me if I was interested in being cast in a play this year. I said I would do it if I was needed. I continued to say the same thing all summer, and through the first week of rehearsal. No one has come along with a burning desire to take my part. So I have made up 62 index cards with the 62 lines I have. I play a bitchy woman and that will be fun!
  • Last year I came out of a building after dark, got on my bicycle and promptly fell off into the parking lot. Last week I did exactly the same thing, in exactly the same place. Just scrapes, but lesson learned. Walk the bike to a lighted place before getting on! Depth perception requires light. Six days later, I have an enormous bruise on my right quad, so I won't start water aerobics until next week because everyone will ask me what happened when they see the bruise. I also have a few very sore ribs that hurt when I sneeze or cough. I don't think there's anything broken, but I didn't go to the doc because even if there is, there's nothing that can be done. Plus, because I belong to an HMO in Washington, I don't have health insurance in Arizona. 
  • I've had trouble with the time change. Arizona and Washington are the same time until Washington falls back in the fall. And I made an appointment with my Arizona hairdresser before we came back. I somehow managed to be an hour late for my appointment, so Marissa the hairdresser made me a second appointment - and I was an hour late for that! I have examined my memory and I appear to still have most of it, so I need to be more careful with my schedule and my calendar.
  • Each year we make a few improvements to our little winter place. I found out about a great sale at Lowe's on two-inch window blinds and I told my husband Art I wanted to buy blinds for all 19 of our windows.  He said, "Why? We already have blinds." That is true, but they're varying ages (from two years to 25) and materials (plastic and metal) and multiple shades of off white and cream, and one inch wide. We brought home samples and when I asked Art what he liked, he said, "I don't care." A good answer! The measuring guy came out - the sale also includes free measurements - and by the middle of December we should have beautiful windows.
  • For our very small back yard we went to a nursery and bought a Meyer lemon and a Mandarin orange tree. When we got home I put a notice on the Voyager Facebook page asking for someone who knew how to plant trees in our desert soil. Within ten minutes I got a response from George, a guy we've known for four years from an activity the three of us do together. He came right over and he and Art talked about what we needed to plant the trees and to set up a watering system on a timer. Within 48 hours that job was done - George and Art worked like a couple of retired worker guys - which they actually are - and the trees are now happy. The lemon tree has produced half a dozen blooms in the last three days. The watering system is very simple and I love the timer idea.  
  • We bought a new bed. I have no idea how old the other one was, but when the delivery guys came one of them told me it was just about worn out. We slept in the new bed last night. I don't quite need a step stool! I was delighted to realize, this morning, that I slept through the night without getting up to go to the bathroom. I've heard that when you wake up in the night for whatever reason, you think it's because you have to go to the bathroom, but it might be because you are tossing and turning in the old bed without realizing it.

I am still keeping track of what's going on in Greece, of course. Oinofyta camp has been closed for a couple of weeks, but there are rumors it may open again soon. All the residents were moved to apartments or to other camps, but I know the camps on the Greek islands are insanely overcrowded so it could be the Greek government will repopulate Oinofyta with refugees from the islands. Do Your Part, the nonprofit I volunteer for, did weekend security and cleaned the rooms in case they are needed again. 

The camp's business, Oinofyta Wares, will be moving to a nearby town soon and will be starting up as a Greek business. Once it is up and running I will post the web page again. 

I have heard good news about two of the Oinofyta residents I know. Mahdi is 19. He was one of my translators. Last week he left Athens for Switzerland to be reunified with family members who are already there. And my friend Nasar found out that he and his two sons should be leaving for Germany by January, to be reunified with his wife and two other children. It's immensely satisfying to know the long journeys of Mahdi and Nasar are coming to an end.

It is 80 degrees and sunny here in Tucson. In a few minutes I'll walk up to the activities center for a two-hour current events discussion. Today's topic is immigration. Participants of this group are of all political persuasions, so it will be interesting as usual. I'll take Mahdi and Nasar along in my mind.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Snowbirds again!

We've only been here in Tucson for a week, but it seems like longer. Voyager RV Resort, where we have lived for the past five winters, is deeply familiar. It's like I think a small town would be. I walk to everywhere. I wave or say hello to people I pass. Each year I make new friends. I think I know as many people here as I do at home in Washington State, where I have lived for 30 years. The Voyager is that kind of place. People from all over North America spend their winters here; in high season - January to March - there are about 3500 of us. I call it "camp for grandmas". It is a fun place.

We live in a park model (trailer) with an Arizona room - kind of like a screened-in porch, but with walls. 620 square feet plus a carport. And it is plenty of room for us. Our place in Washington, more than three times larger, is challenging to maintain. 

We came a bit earlier this year because both Art and I have been cast in one-act plays, and rehearsals started Monday. So did handbell practice. We only do these things during the winter. And current events discussions, and dinner with friends, and bicycle rides. And gorgeous sunsets, and quiet nights.

Though we are physically in Tucson, we are tethered in our hearts and minds to our home in Washington and to Oinofyta, Greece. That's one of the great things about technology. We know what's going on in both other places. On Monday night I streamed an event to my laptop that was happening in Seattle. Each morning I read on Facebook what's happening in Greece. I may be a snowbird but I am still in my other places too, paying attention.

We got here on Wednesday. On Friday it snowed in Seattle. Just in time!

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Taking care of business

My son-in-law Scott prides himself on his efficiency. On one visit we were talking about time management. I said I spent about an hour a day on paperwork. Scott said, "Oh, you just do it once a week for a couple of hours and then you're done with it."

Really? I can't imagine. Scott is 30 years younger than me but I don't think I've slowed down THAT much. Maybe it's that he has one grown child and we have eight. Maybe it's that he has a dog and we have a cat. That he lives in San Diego and we live in Seattle. That he has an enormous, diverse music collection and I don't. That he doesn't play Candy Crush.

Anyway, my husband Art and I are leaving for Tucson in five days, where we'll live until April. I'm trying to get it all done, paperwork and otherwise. And it will take a LOT longer than a couple of hours.

For one thing, I'm the bookkeeper for Do Your Part, the nonprofit I volunteer for, and last year we had about an eight hundred percent increase in revenue and expenses because of the refugee camp in Oinofyta, Greece. So instead of filing a postcard with the IRS, we have to file a GINORMOUS, INTIMIDATING FORM 990. We hired a CPA to help, but even so, it's taken me many hours to get ready. I just became the bookkeeper a year ago, and the previous person wasn't available, so I had to do a major research project to get the numbers I needed. Ordinarily I enjoy a challenge, but this was beyond the pale. I think I'm about finished but I have sent at least four less-than-kind emails to a couple of the other volunteers who had information I needed but were busy doing other things.

A couple of friends said, "Well, if it's that frustrating, don't do it again this year." Are you kidding? I've got it figured out now! That's what I tell myself. Besides, I am completely committed to Do Your Part, however I am needed.

I'm also taking care of our personal paperwork. Change our address for Netflix and Blue Apron. Cancel one of the papers but not the other since son Peter wants to read the Seattle Times while we're gone. Start the Tucson paper and Bluespan. Change the car and truck insurance. Get the passports out of the safe (we have a dentist two blocks on the other side of the Mexican border).

And some other things. Make arrangements for a Lyft ride to the airport for a 7:30 a.m. flight on Wednesday. Make sure I have a tranquilizer for Larisa, our Designer Cat, who will ride under the seat in front of me in a soft-sided carrier. Finish going through my closet to pull out the rest of the clothes going to Goodwill so we can take the maximum deduction for this year.

And several of our family members have hiccups in their lives right now, which pulls our thoughts and hearts toward them.

Anyway, my next post will be from Tucson. We'll be in our 620 square foot trailer instead of our family home. In the sun!

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Comes the rain

The Washington rains usually start in October, after a wonderful long and dry summer. While the sun is shining then, I rejoice to live in the Pacific Northwest. Even though, for the last two years, I've spent much of the season elsewhere.

My husband Art and I have a small winter place in Tucson. The date we leave for Arizona each year isn't decided too long in advance. It depends upon when the rain arrives. This year it was Monday of this week - a wild and windy four days that included our first power outage of the season. On Tuesday I made our flight arrangements. Within two weeks we'll be gone.

I've made plans to have lunch or coffee with friends most days between now and November 1. I call these special women "sisters of my heart", and I miss them when we're gone. I'll look forward to the last two congregational services, this week and next, where I share time with like-minded others. I'll be running errands: taking old eyeglasses to an optometrist's office to be donated to the Lions Club; recycling a broken Kindle and a worn-out iPhone; picking up prescriptions and getting my flu shot. I've got reminders on my calendar to cancel the paper in Seattle and start it up in Tucson, change the car insurance to put the Washington car in storage and take the Arizona car out, change the address on our Blue Apron and Netflix accounts.

We've already got plans for Tucson: a friend waiting in the cell phone lot, dinner that night with friends, play rehearsals that begin the next day, hair appointment with my "dry climate" stylist, massages. High season - when many of the activities start - begins in January, but the slower autumn pace is relaxing too. And, after three days, neither of us feels any arthritis. It's all good.

The transition between summer and winter is familiar now, with its losses and its gains.

On a parallel note, I spent a lot of time and energy and passion this year volunteering for Do Your Part at the Oinofyta refugee camp in Greece. That project is coming to an end.  It feels bittersweet, like a loss, to know we've made our last trip there. Still, I know something new will come along. I wonder what it will be!




Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The refugee camp at Oinofyta is closing. Here's what comes next.

This post was written by Lisa Campbell, my friend and Executive Director of Do Your Part, the nonprofit I volunteer for at the Oinofyta refugee camp in Greece. Her words are better than mine would be.

Linda
.....

Hello to all of our friends and supporters,

Fall has arrived and has brought many more changes to the camp and for the residents of Oinofyta. Last week the Ministry of Migration announced that the camp WILL be closing this year, and Friday it was confirmed that they plan to close it in November - next month.

This has come as a huge disappointment to us, but we have been anticipating this inevitable decision for a few months. We have a come up with a plan, and with your continued support and financial assistance, we will be able to continue to provide services to our former residents. These services will be much more targeted towards integration for them into the Greek society. This is necessary because migration to other countries is, in most cases, no longer available, so integration is essential.

As with everything else we have done here, we have consulted with the residents to find out their needs, and they have asked us to create a Community Center here in Oinofyta. We have found a large building to rent which  will provide space for a Community Center where we will still be able to offer Greek lessons, English lessons, Computer classes, a women’s space and some distribution. It will also allow us to move the Oinofyta Wares shop into the space.

Oinofyta Wares began as a social enterprise with the generous donations of several sewing machines and supplies from LDS Charities, and now employs 19 residents. These residents work 5 days a week making products from recycled tents, clothing and other items from the old factory. We are in the process of incorporating it as a Greek business and already have two contracts for bulk orders! The business is run and managed by the residents themselves. Some of them were trained as tailors back in their home countries and one of them is a clothing designer. Others have learned to sew here in the camp. This business will eventually give those who work there the ability to support themselves and become contributing members of Greek society. 

We have been in contact with the Mayor’s office in Schimitari and he is very supportive of our plan. We will be working with them to provide us assistance in the Community Center with teaching the residents how to navigate the Greek medical and social assistance systems as well as helping them find work.

In the past few months, we have been providing more integration activities and programs for the residents. We hired a teacher to give conversational Greek lessons to the adults. This will be essential to them as they move out into the communities. We have also been purchasing monthly train passes for the residents who are going to Athens to attend classes there. We have residents taking Greek, English and German classes as well as many who are taking computer classes. We are currently providing 57 train passes at a cost of 70 euros each. We are still looking for sponsors for this program. Once the residents are resettled in other locations, these train passes will be invaluable for them to be able to continue to get their education from wherever they are living. Two of our residents have been able to secure employment because they were able to take classes to improve their English enough to become translators.

We have been told that those who do not get offered housing will be transferred to other camps. The residents who are working in the Oinofyta Wares shop will be looking for housing here in the area. We are asking for sponsors to assist these families with their rent so that they can become established here in the area and continue to work. Housing prices here in the Tanagra municipality are much less expensive than Athens. For a family of 6 or less, rent can be as little as €250 per month. If you are interested in sponsoring a family for rent, please let us know, and we will give you information on family size and needs.

Much of what we have in Oinofyta as far as supplies and infrastructure will be able to be moved into the new Community Center. Our warehouse will be boxed up and the majority of its contents will be sent to the Pampiraiki warehouse in Athens so that we will still be assisting the refugee and homeless population in Greece. We will utilize some of the items to help supply the homes of the Oinofyta Wares team. We have been given access to a piece of land to place our containers until we can find another organization to donate them to, or sell them to be able to offset the cost of moving everything from the camp.

We will still need volunteers to run the Community Center and we will still need the financial support that we have had in the past so that we can continue to help those who have come here to escape the war and persecution in their own country. 

For those of you who follow our activities here, you know that this is a bittersweet time for us. Many of the families have been moved into housing in Athens and there are still more to follow. What we have learned from those who have gone to Athens is, there is no support system in place to help them integrate. They are dropped off at their housing and left to fend for themselves. This is why a Community Center is so vital to them. It will give them support and assistance to learn how to live here in Greece.

We are very grateful for all of those who have supported our work here in the past and look forward to continuing to be able to offer dignity and hope to our residents through your generosity as they make this transition to life in a new country. If you are interested in helping us continue our work and need any further information, please email me at DYPLisa@gmail.com.

As always, please feel free to share this update with those you feel would be interested.

Lisa

.....

I know many of these families. Their faces are in my head even when I'm home. They are good people. I'm reminded of the saying: "Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime." I believe we - the volunteers and the financial sponsors - are doing just that.

You can find out more about Oinofyta Wares on their Facebook page or at www.oinofytawares.com.

If you'd like to help these families by sponsoring them for train tickets or for rent, let Lisa know. If you have any questions,  let me know in a comment to this post.

Linda

Friday, October 6, 2017

These things take time

I've been quieter than usual since we got home from Greece just over three weeks ago. Resting and thinking and reading. A couple of lunches with friends, a simple activity at church. I'm not sick, though. Just quiet.

These things take time:

1. Being fully home in body, mind and spirit, after being fully away for six weeks.

2. Sleeping and awakening at times appropriate for the Pacific Northwest rather than southeastern Europe.

3. Becoming accustomed to my older body's response to increased humidity and decreased heat, and taking walks on hills, and driving in traffic.

4. Deciding what I will do with my time and energy when the Oinofyta refugee camp closes and I'm not going to Greece every three or four months. Not just my time and energy, but the passion and involvement that keeps me out of my own head and fully engaged in something bigger than me. Or whether I'll go back to my "normal" life and activities - and if I do, whether that will be "enough".

5. Considering how I want to participate in civic affairs in the current political and social climate. That would be both outside my home and online. I can decide to remain silent and not read the verbal wrangling and name-calling and feel the hostility. Or I can decide to participate, my message being "if we're respectful to each other, we'll be more inclined to be heard and to listen." And then being respectful to everyone, and listening.

6. Pondering whether, as a mediator, I have an ethical responsibility to participate in our current cultural challenges. I think that might be the case.

7. Figuring out how to discern whether what I'm reading and hearing is true.


I am blogging a little less often these days. That's because I want to be aware of the threads of thought in my mind and see if I can find a commonality among them. I find that's usually the case, and once the theme becomes clear I want to write about it. In the case of this blog, it's about transitions.

These things take time.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Bag Lady's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

It happens now and then. I have a bad day. I'm an optimist by nature, but every now and then the stars do not align.

Yesterday was that day. Here's what happened:
  • For the last five years we've carried an umbrella liability policy. I figured if we had a business issue we'd be covered. Yesterday I read the policy and then called the insurance company. Turns out, nope, the policy would cover us if we were sued under our homeowner or auto policy for more than the policy limits. But not for a business interest. "You're on your own, honey," I said to myself.
  • I owe the Bank of America $1.50 in interest charges. We had a credit card bill arrive while we were in Greece. The bill was for $11.30. Before we got home, we missed the cycle. When the new bill came I owed $11.30 plus $1.50. I paid it. Then the new bill came. I still owed $1.50! I called the bank and, after making numerous selections on the automatic line, finally chose, "Yes, I want a one-time courtesy reversal of the interest I owe." How convenient! I must not be the only person who's gotten on that merry-go-round.
  • My husband Art told me he'd called to check on his massage appointment and had been told he didn't have one. We both have weekly appointments. His had been cancelled for today and all the others, through November, had been cancelled also. I called about my appointment. No appointment, for today or any time in the future. Someone had a field day with the delete button, apparently. I had been looking forward to that time on a table in a peaceful room. I was annoyed but there was no one to shout at. Besides, I am not a shouter.
  • I am the treasurer for a nonprofit company that grew tenfold last year, so we can no longer file a postcard with the IRS. Instead, we have to fill out a longish form with numbers I have no idea about, since I was not the treasurer last year. We hired a CPA to do the tax work for 2016. The return is due on October 15. Three weeks ago I sent an email to the other principals asking for the information I needed to send to the CPA. No response from anyone. Yesterday, I sent another email. This time I sort of yelled. I don't yell very often either.  I got a response, but I had unkind thoughts about the quality of other people's helpfulness.
  • I failed my optometrist's vision test. I've had two cataract surgeries in the last five years and I haven't been wearing glasses to drive. I was fine without the cataracts. Yesterday when i took the test, the top line of letters on the chart looked like Chinese and the other lines were blurs. Turns out my distance vision is quite bad. Who knew?  So now, in addition to an office prescription (computer and reading) and readers (reading only), I have to buy distance glasses. I went to Costco and paid $379 for the glasses.
  • My iPhone battery died when we were in Greece. I have a second phone I used there, waiting until I got home to replace the battery. The same iPhone has a crack across the screen. I took the phone to the Apple store for a new battery, which costs about $80. The guy told me that when the tech person opened the phone to replace the battery, the crack on the screen would get worse. He suggested an upgrade; I could replace my iPhone 6 for ONLY $299, since the model been discontinued. I decided to put it in a drawer and use my other phone.
  • I had a slightly heated discussion with one of my grown children for the first time in several years. He and his girlfriend had come to Seattle for the weekend. I saw them for ten minutes. His version of the story was that he tried several times to get in touch with me to come over for a longer visit. My version is that I held several parts of my weekend open to see him and he didn't make it over any of those times. The truth is somewhere in the middle, I guess. I managed not to say several things my own mother would have said to me. But barely.
  • I had a spat with my husband about the remote. We were watching the Seahawks game. He changed the channel and all of a sudden the players on the screen were wearing different uniforms. I said, "Why did you change the channel?" "It's halftime. What's it to you?" I said, "There are two of us sitting here and you don't check with me. You just change the channel." He said, "You always want to be in charge." The conversation went downhill from there.
As I look at this list, I realize I may be cranky. That doesn't happen very often. None of the issues in the list are a major deal. But there are more issues than usual. I suspect it's because since I got home from Greece two weeks ago, I've been quieter than usual. When I was working in the refugee camp I was in near-constant conversations, with very little down time. Now I am taking that time. And the world is interrupting me.

Breathe in, breathe out. Be grateful. That's what I'm telling myself.