Monday, December 30, 2019

The smaller things

For the last three years I've been experiencing life larger than I had before - volunteering five times at a refugee camp in Greece, multiple other travel destinations (Sedona, Spokane, Las Vegas, Denver, NYC, Toronto, London, Iceland, Greenland).

I'm no longer traveling to Greece, and for now I've slowed my travel to other places.

But now there are the smaller things:
  • We had a low-key holiday season. We plugged in the lights on our little tree each morning. I said, "Alexa, classical Christmas" a dozen times or more, and the music of the season played on low for hours each day, bringing up the best of the memories for me. We had an advent wreath and lit the candles each night, with readings by John Pavlovitz. We went to two music presentations. I went to church on Christmas Eve with my neighbor, a new widow. And on Christmas Day my husband Art fixed prime rib for me and four friends. No gifts given or received, except love and community. I'm grateful to have had just the right amount of holyday experiences.
  • We've been volunteering at an asylum seekers' shelter on Saturday evenings. At first it was just us, but now a half dozen or so other people from our retirement community have joined us. Shirley loves to manage the kitchen; Sharon and Judy want all the donated clothes to be sorted out and available to our guests; Art takes charge of bus tickets and getting the travelers to the Greyhound station. My friend Huen is blessedly bilingual. And Pete, brand new last week, wants to go again. I'm grateful to have such company each week.
  • Last week at the shelter, there was no underwear for our guests. I put out a plea in my community, and the result was several hundred dollars in cash and checks and almost that many pairs of underwear! I am grateful to live in this generous community.
  • I'm no longer doing the accounting for the nonprofit I volunteered for. With the time I'm saving, I can spend more time reading, which I'd set aside as a primary interest. I'm grateful to be able to give up things that no longer engage me and to take up things that do. On Facebook, I signed on for a "chain letter" to post, each day for a week, books that I have loved: The Chosen; Your Money or Your Life; The Kite Runner; Plainsong; Being Mortal; A Tree Grows in Brooklyn; and The Poisonwood Bible. I'm grateful to have had a love of reading instilled in me when I was a little girl.

  • Sometime in the next week I'll go to the movies with a friend to see "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood" and "Little Women". It has been a long time since I've seen a movie other than on Netflix. I'm grateful for friends to join me.
  • As a result of supportive walking shoes, custom orthotics, physical therapy and massage, my body is realigning itself and the discomfort in my back and hip is receding. I'm grateful that my body has somewhat forgiven me for my inattention to its needs.
  • I hadn't realized that Larisa, our Designer Cat, has a daily routine. That's probably because I'd been out of the house so often that I didn't notice. But I can pretty much count on her to find my lap at 8:30 in the evening, whether I'm watching TV in our Arizona room or reading in my recliner in the living room. And she goes to bed with us until about six minutes after we turn out the light. I think she really wants to be with us as part of her daily schedule. When we first got Larisa, ten years ago, she wouldn't let us touch her for 62 days. I'm grateful that she's come around!
  • My husband and I bought e-bikes. Today he's gone to U-Haul to have a hitch installed on one of our cars, so we can ride together on Tucson's extensive bike trails. I've been going with a good friend, but I'd like Art to have the same experience. Besides, we're taking a bike-and-barge trip in May, and I want us to be prepared so we can really enjoy the adventure. I'm grateful to be able to travel still.
  • For four days in January, we will be in Sedona at a timeshare on Oak Creek. We're grateful that four of our children have decided to join us.
  • I had a joyful "pay it forward" experience. I was selling a small humidifier for $15 and a woman asked if it was still available. I said yes. She asked if I would take $10, since "I am low on funds and my baby is sick." I said yes and we agreed to meet somewhere at 6 p.m. She wasn't there, and apologized by saying "I was taking care of my baby and lost track of time." I asked when a better time would be. She said, "Really? My friend can meet you at 7. She will be riding her bicycle." I went to the place and waited for the friend. She handed me $10 and I said, "Is there anything else she needs?" She said she didn't know, just that the baby was crying. I gave her back the $10 and said, "Tell her Happy New Year and to pay it forward." Fifteen minutes later I got a thank you message from the young woman. I am grateful for opportunities to help others who haven't been as fortunate as me. 
My very best wishes to you for a peaceful new year.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

I don't have to!

Christmas is in eight days. Art and I have an Advent wreath, and candles, and simple readings each evening at dinner. We want to do this.

I don't have to send out Christmas cards or write a Christmas letter. Instead, I keep in touch with friends through Facebook and my blog and face-to-face conversations and phone calls.

I don't have to buy a Christmas tree and put on all the memory-infused ornaments, from when our kids were growing up. Instead, I put up a small artificial tree to display in the window of my small winter home, and appreciate the lovely light it makes.

I don't have to buy gifts for family and friends. Instead, I donate my time to an asylum seekers' shelter and my money to the Salvation Army toy drive - which last year provided a Christmas gift to several thousand children in the Tucson community - and to The Inn Project so volunteers can buy socks and underwear, razors and deodorant, coloring books and crayons and gloves and hats.

I don't have to attend Christmas parties with more people than I'm comfortable with. Instead, Art and I can host a Christmas Day dinner for four woman friends.

I don't have to be perfect when my handbell choir plays next Sunday. I can miss that D# and still feel grateful for the opportunity to do music.

I don't have to make the Christmas cookies from my mother's recipe. Instead, I can lick the beater as Art makes his biscotti with cranberries, which he'll give out in baggies to friends over the next week or so.

I don't have to worry about the state of our divided country. Instead, I can listen to others while they say their truth, and respect what they say, and be grateful that we are all entitled to speak our minds and hearts.

I don't have to spend time wishing I had a younger, more flexible body. Instead, I can do the stretching and strengthening exercises my physical therapist has given me, and I can buy custom orthotics to put in my shoes, and I can take three short walks a day, and I can follow my Mediterranean diet with about 85% compliance and notice as my clothes get looser.

I don't have to!

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Five days solo: What the Bag Lady learned

My husband Art had an opportunity to fly home to Seattle on Thanksgiving to assist an "older couple" who needed some help with the airports. We agreed that was a good idea, since he had a small project at home to attend to, and I was fine to spend the time here in Tucson.

Here's what I did while he was gone:

  • Had Thanksgiving dinner with my good friend Ellen. She loves to cook and she took the time to plan a menu that fits the Mediterranean diet I've been following for the last couple of months. We were joined at dinner by Mr. Doodles, her cockatiel.

  • Had lunch on Friday with my friend Connie. She and I became friends late last spring and both of us are very glad to have found each other. We are both good talkers and we are also good listeners.
  • Figured out how to use the remote for our new TV. I never had a chance to learn with the old TV. It is actually pretty easy. And it was nice to have it at my side for the five days I was alone. I found an uplifting Pandora station. For some reason, it's easier to use Pandora on the TV than on my laptop. For me, at least.
  • Watched the first three episodes of "Man in the High Castle" on Amazon Prime. 
  • Read the draft of a book a friend of mine wrote nearly 20 years ago but never published. It kept my attention to the last page. I could see it as a movie and look forward to talking to her about it tomorrow afternoon.
  • Practiced my Spanish on Duolingo every single day.
  • Got a massage from a therapist new to me. He's also a personal trainer and he told me about how he trains a person to do a pull-up, so you could pull yourself up if you fell off a cliff or a roof. I would never have guessed, and it actually sounds possible, even for me.
  • Did the exercises prescribed by my physical therapist every day. Already I can cross my right knee over my left leg and put on my sock without pain. For the first time in six months.
  • Went for a 16-mile ride on my pedal-assist e-bike and fell off, for the first time. I was going too slowly as I attempted a sharp curve. I got right back on the bike. I was a little sore later that day, but have no bruises.
  • Got a holiday pedicure with my friend Lynne. Green, with glitter!
  • Scrounged for four evening meals, since Art is the cook in our household.

And here's what I learned in my five days solo:
  • When you're alone, you decide whether to have the TV on, or the radio, or nothing. You decide what to watch, or listen to. There's no need to consider the preferences of anyone else.
  • When you're alone, and a 72-foot string of solar Christmas lights is delivered by Amazon, you can decide to have a friend put them up, or hire someone to do it. That way, you don't have to worry that your husband will scare you by climbing up a shaky ladder to put the solar collector on the roof.
  • You don't have to talk because there is no one else in the house.
  • When you learn how your husband is spending his loosely planned time in Washington, you are grateful for your own way of scheduling your days.  
  • Now that Art is home, it is quieter in our house. I don't have to talk even if there is someone else in the house. 
  • And I don't have to suggest or remind.