Wednesday, December 22, 2021

The gifts of 2021

This has been a year, and not just because of covid. 

Last spring, Art had a lot of pain in both his legs radiating from his back. He spent several months dependent on a walker or a wheelchair. His neurological surgeon could tell by the path of the pain that he had at least six pinched nerves in his back. Art had a laminectomy, a day surgery, on June 11. We arrived at the hospital at about 10 a.m. and returned home 12 hours later. Already the pain was much diminished.

It was a successful conclusion to a careful process. Art had two pre-surgical consultations. Art’s son Peter, a nurse with orthopedic experience, went to the first conference with us and wrote up a summary of the visit for the rest of the family. Art’s son Jason went to the second consultation. Jason and his wife Kalei and son Kaleb lived on the main floor of our Brier home, and we knew that family would need to be watching out for us after the surgery. We had extra help during the first three post-op days from Art’s sister Mary, Linda’s sister Alyx, and Peter. It is great to have multiple nurses in the family. As it turned out, Art followed Peter’s suggestions more readily than he did his surgeon’s, especially in the area of pain control. 

Between February and June, Linda was the caregiver and cook, the errand runner and shopper and laundry doer. Linda was the one who hauled Art up off the floor after the half dozen times he fell. Linda was the one who ordered a “help” button, who loaded and unloaded the walker or wheelchair every time we went anywhere in the car. It was a long, grueling time, made tougher by pain in Linda’s hip.

Linda had been diagnosed in May with severe degeneration of her right hip. She, too, had two consultations followed by a day surgery on August 20 to replace the worn-out joint. 

By the time of Linda’s surgery, Art was up and about, using mostly a walker as he regained his strength. And Linda had a walker. We rearranged our living area so we had enough room for both walkers to move around. We laughed about our “dueling walkers," but both of us were more than ready to get back to our regular lives.

Now, in December, the wheelchair and both inside walkers are in the storage shed. Art uses a walker or a cane when he goes out; he also rides his e-bike around our Tucson neighborhood most days. Linda uses a cane or trekking poles when she goes out. We know these things take time to heal. Art is way more patient than Linda.

So, here are the gifts of 2021:
  • We have excellent medical care and great surgeons.
  • Our children have all been supportive of our challenges.
  • We lived for six months in our new daylight-basement apartment, and we got to furnish and accessorize it exactly to our taste. When we get home in May, we’ll be making some changes that Linda wants. Art doesn’t care, except he’d like to sit on something more comfortable than a sleeper sofa while he’s watching TV.
  • Linda did major decluttering of boxes in the garage - brought downstairs by Jason’s family when they moved in two years ago, or taking up space for years or decades because “you never know when you’re going to need something”. She gave away or donated nearly 100 items from those boxes, from scarves to kayaking gloves to camping gear.
  • Linda went through several memory boxes. She read the letters her father had written to her grandmother during World War II, then recycled them. She read the letters she had written during college to her mother - mostly saying the same thing: “I’m really busy and behind in my classes; I’m dating this guy; I need some money”. Those letters got recycled as well. She read the letters her mother’s father had written to his wife, back in the 1920s, when he was on the road for work, and then sent them to her oldest cousin. She read the cards and letters from a man she’d loved between her marriages, and her journals from that time. When Linda was finished with all the reading, her heart was full and she was grateful for her life, but more than ready to let go of the past.
  • We got to witness the fine job Jason and Kalei have done with their son Kaleb, our grandson. He was so helpful, taking our recycle stuff to the bin on the curb when neither of us could manage it; bringing us slices of pizza and delivering our mail. For almost every task, Art rewarded Kaleb with beef jerky, and Kaleb laughed each time. Jason and Kalei, too, were patient and loving during the times we needed extra help. Having them living upstairs was an unexpected blessing.
  • Kaleb has a hamster named Ricky, who made so much noise at night that Kaleb kept him in the laundry room. One day Linda saw the hamster and felt sorry for Ricky, so she bought a running wheel for Kaleb to put in the cage. It worked so well that Ricky now lives in Kaleb’s room. Grandma scored!
  • In September, Jason and his family moved to a house nearby with more space, and in October Linda’s son James moved in. He will remodel the upstairs in exchange for rent. It is very good to have our children close by
  • Once back in Tucson, we found an inside handyman and an outside handyman who do the “honey do” things. We have enough money to hire the work done, and Art is willing to let the jobs go.
  • Linda has read to Art nearly every night for the last 25 years, before we turn off the light. We’re grateful that we can download books from our Washington library even when we’re in Arizona.
So, we’re elders now. There are some things we can no longer do. We’re probably finished with ten-mile hikes, and walking miles on cobblestones in old European cities. But we’ve done those things, and remember them. Besides, there are gifts given to elders as well: the ability to listen, to appreciate the things close at hand, to remain calm in the midst of the chaos of the world. 

The gratitude continues.

May your holidays be full of peace.

Thursday, November 18, 2021

A conversation with my Afghan friends. You're invited.

I've been chatting most evenings on Facebook with my Afghan friends. Mostly it's been with Samira, since she's 12 time zones ahead of me (I'm in Arizona, Mountain Standard Time). Samira is still in Pakistan. Because of a few donations from friends, she and her family have moved from a one-room place with a washroom but no kitchen, to a two-room lodging. Her children can play outside now. She is reaching out to make connections elsewhere in hopes of finding a way to leave Pakistan for another, safer country.

Many of us don't know any refugees, so what we learn about their plight these days is just what we read in the paper or online. That was my situation until I spent some time volunteering at a camp in Greece. Now I'm aware of it every day. 

Two friends of mine here in Tucson have offered to host a webinar on Saturday, December 4. Both Nadim and Samira will be joining us, from Germany and Pakistan. I'll be having a conversation with them, basing the topics on my own knowledge of their experiences as well as on questions that are sent to me by people planning to attend the webinar. There will be an opportunity for attendees to post their questions online as well.

The webinar will begin at 10:00 a.m. Mountain Standard time on the 4th. If you are interested in being part of this experience, please send me an email asking for an invitation. My email address is In your email, please include any questions you may have for Nadim or Samira. I'd like to hear from you by Wednesday, November 24.

"We are all in this together, and we are all the same."

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Update on my Afghan friend Samira

For those of you who have asked for an update:

My friend Samira is still in Pakistan with her husband and three small children. Last week they were living in a one-room place with a washroom but no kitchen. Because she does not feel safe, the family remained indoors.

When I sent out my blog post The Bag Lady has an Afghan Friend, I posted it more widely than usual. Not just to my blog followers and on my Facebook page, but to many people in my email contacts list. It's important to me that people have direct knowledge of a real, actual person experiencing the trauma currently happening in Afghanistan, rather than just reading about it in the paper or hearing it on the radio or TV.

Several people offered financial help. I told them I would let them know if Samira said that was what she needed. Her most pressing concern is the safety of her family. She is sending emails and letters of introduction to colleges and nonprofits and other agencies engaged in resettlement work, hoping for a helping hand to get to the US. So far she hasn't made much progress.

I've told her a story that comes from chaos theory, but it's a good story. There will be 100 rabbits at the starting line of a race. At the finish line is a basket of carrots. We know one of those rabbits is going to get the carrots. But we don't know which one. So we're gathering the rabbits for the race: a retired professor friend of mine who made calls to friends; a doctor with experience working with asylum seekers and refugees; a friend of Samira who has made it to a resettlement center in Albany, New York; another friend still in Afghanistan who knows the name of someone who made it out; a retired woman from the University of Washington Law School. Each of those people represents a rabbit at the starting line. 

Then, three days ago, Samira wrote and told me reluctantly that she needed the money I'd offered, to rent a two-room place with more room for her family, where her children could play outside. I sent an email to the three people who'd offered. Yesterday I went online to Western Union and sent $350 - 60,000 rupees - enough money to pay rent on the larger place for three months. I heard from Western Union this morning that the money had been picked up. And today Samira and her family moved.

The search for rabbits continues. I am hopeful. Out of 100 rabbits, Samira only needs one.

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Me and the DMV with photo change

It was nearly two years ago that I lost my credit card and driver’s license on a bike ride. I was on my e-bike in Tucson, riding with my friend Ellen, and somewhere along the Loop the documents fell out of my pannier. At least I think that’s what happened. I searched the bike, then the car, then my house. Couldn’t find them anywhere.

I had a lot of autopays on that credit card, so I decided not to cancel it unless something showed up that I hadn’t charged. Then I’d dispute the charge and have the credit card replaced. I wrote the number with a Sharpie on my laptop lid - except for the last four digits - and I have used that credit card for 18 months without incident.

I sent away for a copy of my Washington driver’s license, and it arrived within a week or so. Everything was just like the old one, but there was no photo on it. So I couldn’t use it as a photo ID. For nearly 18 months I carried my passport with me so I’d have proof of who I was. Recently someone reminded me that my photo was also on my Costco card. That would probably have been easier. 

Then, this summer, I decided to get a new driver’s license. I’d read somewhere that if I went into a DMV office I could get a new one, and that they’d use the most recent photo in their system to put on my new license.

I made an appointment for three weeks out - this was Covid time, and staffing was light. So I showed up for my appointment about two weeks after my hip replacement surgery. My husband Art drove me to the place. When my name was called, I went up to the window. The lady said, “I can’t give you a new license today because you’re using a walker. You’ll need to come back when you’re just using a cane. Maybe just a week or so. Come on a Saturday morning - there’s not usually a line and you can get in without an appointment.” I was a little annoyed, but I’m fairly compliant by nature, so I left without complaint.

It was nearly a month before I graduated from a walker to a cane. Then I showed up at the DMV on a Saturday morning. There was a long line for people without appointments. I stood there for about 15 minutes and the line didn’t move. We had another commitment elsewhere, so we left.

The next Saturday I showed up again. Another long line. This time a woman in front of me started yelling and cursing at the DMV line monitor. He called his supervisor who was unsuccessful at getting the woman calmed down. I’m thinking she was homeless with a mental illness of some kind. Most of us in line were watching her, appalled at her behavior. Once she left, the line had grown long and I was pretty sure I wouldn’t get in before the office closed at noon. So, once again, I left. We were due to leave for Tucson in a couple of weeks to spend the winter. I figured I’d just use my passport and Costco card for my picture ID.

When I got home, I decided all of a sudden to see if there were any appointments available at the DMV before November 1, when we were leaving. To my amazement, there was one available that afternoon at 3! A cancellation, I’m sure. I took the appointment and showed up yet again - my fourth trip to the DMV in six weeks.

At the window, the DMV person asked the usual questions and THEN he said, “Okay. Time to take your picture.” I hadn’t expected that, so I hadn’t combed my hair or put on any makeup. Just a T-shirt and a hoodie, with wild curly hair from standing outside in the rain for ten minutes.

I got my driver’s license in the mail the next week. The photo was the best I have ever taken in 55 years of driver’s licenses. 

Go figure! 

Me and the DMV

It was nearly two years ago that I lost my credit card and driver’s license on a bike ride. I was on my e-bike in Tucson, riding with my friend Ellen, and somewhere along the Loop the documents fell out of my pannier. At least I think that’s what happened. I searched the bike, then the car, then my house. Couldn’t find them anywhere.

I had a lot of autopays on that credit card, so I decided not to cancel it unless something showed up that I hadn’t charged. Then I’d dispute the charge and have the credit card replaced. I wrote the number with a Sharpie on my laptop lid - except for the last four digits - and I have used that credit card for 18 months without incident.

I sent away for a copy of my Washington driver’s license, and it arrived within a week or so. Everything was just like the old one, but there was no photo on it. So I couldn’t use it as a photo ID. For nearly 18 months I carried my passport with me so I’d have proof of who I was. Recently someone reminded me that my photo was also on my Costco card. That would probably have been easier. 

Then, this summer, I decided to get a new driver’s license. I’d read somewhere that if I went into a DMV office I could get a new one, and that they’d use the most recent photo in their system to put on my new license.

I made an appointment for three weeks out - this was Covid time, and staffing was light. So I showed up for my appointment about two weeks after my hip replacement surgery. My husband Art drove me to the place. When my name was called, I went up to the window. The lady said, “I can’t give you a new license today because you’re using a walker. You’ll need to come back when you’re just using a cane. Maybe just a week or so. Come on a Saturday morning - there’s not usually a line and you can get in without an appointment.” I was a little annoyed, but I’m fairly compliant by nature, so I left without complaint.

It was nearly a month before I graduated from a walker to a cane. Then I showed up at the DMV on a Saturday morning. There was a long line for people without appointments. I stood there for about 15 minutes and the line didn’t move. We had another commitment elsewhere, so we left.

The next Saturday I showed up again. Another long line. This time a woman in front of me started yelling and cursing at the DMV line monitor. He called his supervisor who was unsuccessful at getting the woman calmed down. I’m thinking she was homeless with a mental illness of some kind. Most of us in line were watching her, appalled at her behavior. Once she left, the line had grown long and I was pretty sure I wouldn’t get in before the office closed at noon. So, once again, I left. We were due to leave for Tucson in a couple of weeks to spend the winter. I figured I’d just use my passport and Costco card for my picture ID.

When I got home, I decided all of a sudden to see if there were any appointments available at the DMV before November 1, when we were leaving. To my amazement, there was one available that afternoon at 3! A cancellation, I’m sure. I took the appointment and showed up yet again - my fourth trip to the DMV in six weeks.

At the window, the DMV person asked the usual questions and THEN he said, “Okay. Time to take your picture.” I hadn’t expected that, so I hadn’t combed my hair or put on any makeup. Just a T-shirt and a hoodie, with wild curly hair from standing outside in the rain for ten minutes.

I got my driver’s license in the mail the next week. The photo was the best I have ever taken in 55 years of driver’s licenses. 

Go figure! 

Monday, October 11, 2021

The Bag Lady has an Afghan friend

In 2016 and 2017 I volunteered at a refugee camp in Oinofyta, Greece.  The majority of the residents were Afghans. There were about 500 people living at first in tents and then in small rooms built within an abandoned chemical plant. Volunteers worked long days with Afghan families. 

I made a few Afghan friends. When they moved on - to Switzerland or Germany or France - or settled in Greece - I kept track of them, mostly through Facebook.  I've also stayed in touch with some of the other volunteers. Most of these people are quite a bit younger than I am, and I like how that connection benefits us all.

I developed a bond with one of the Afghans. Nadim was a scientist in Herat, Afghanistan. His life was suddenly in danger, so he left his city the next night with his wife and four children. They endured the typical hardships of a refugee family and arrived at Oinofyta, where they stayed for over a year. They now live in Germany where they are safe. Nadim has been a good friend to me and has given me wise counsel on multiple occasions. And I have done the same for him. He calls me his American mother. We talk on Facetime every few months. He speaks fluent German now, and I tell him we need to talk more often because he will lose his English otherwise. He speaks Farsi at home and German in his community. He speaks English with me.


I participate in a Zoom meeting on current events on Wednesday afternoons. Everyone at the meeting lives - or has lived - at the Voyager RV Resort in Tucson, where we spend our winters. Right now we're in Arizona, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, New York and Washington, but most of us will be back in Arizona within a month or so.

Back in August, when the Taliban swept through Afghanistan and the US withdrew in haste, the current events group had its discussion. I told the group about my friend Nadim, and I asked if they would be interested in having him join us for one meeting, so they could ask questions. It would be noon in Arizona and 9 pm in his German village. They were interested. So I asked Nadim if he'd be willing to do that. He said, "Yes, and I will ask my sister also. She is a Ph.D. scholar in Herat and her speciality is political science and diplomacy." I have learned to trust Nadim, so I said okay. He set up a Facebook group for the three of us.


When I had my first conversation last month with his sister Samira, she was living in Herat. One day she went to the market with her young son and on the way they saw a body hanging from a crane. She sent me a picture. I knew this was happening in Afghanistan, but seeing it in such an immediate way was jarring.

Two nights later Samira told me that she and her family had left Herat in the middle of the night. She'd been an activist and she'd gotten word that the Taliban was searching for her. The family was on the road for several days "in many cars and many buses" and crossed the border into Pakistan. At a hotel that night, they were robbed of all their possessions and their papers. She had made copies of the papers on her phone. She was distraught when she talked to me; she said if she'd known how bad it would be she would have stayed in Afghanistan. Within a couple of days, though, the family arrived in Islamabad and found lodging.

Samira wants to go to Germany or the US to live, where she and her family will be safe.

I spent some time with my friend Mr. Google, looking up the various ways people can be accepted in the United States. Here are the most promising paths for Samira:

  • Employment Second Preference (E2): Professionals Holding Advanced Degrees and Persons of Exceptional Ability. Samira has a Ph.D, and years teaching political science and developing women's programs,  If she is offered a job by a college or university in the US, the school can sponsor her for a visa. I told Samira about this, and when I woke up the next morning she'd sent me a CV and cover letter that knocked my socks off. Finding the school will be a project.

  • Humanitarian Parole You may apply for humanitarian parole if you have a compelling emergency and there is an urgent humanitarian reason or significant public benefit to allowing you to temporarily enter the United States. Anyone can file an application for humanitarian parole. Samira will need a sponsor for this option. You must include a Form I-134, Affidavit of Support, and supporting documentation with each humanitarian parole request. This form serves as evidence of a sponsor who has agreed to provide financial support to the parolee while paroled in the United States. There may be multiple sponsors, the beneficiary may self-sponsor, or an organization may support the parolee by submitting a Form I-134. [U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services]
I told Samira about these possibilities.

Samira is 33. She told me her dream was to be the first female president of Afghanistan by the time she was 40. I think anything is possible.

Today when I gave her the information about humanitarian parole, she said, "You are so kind." I said, "That is probably what the women you have helped say to you. Right?" She said, "Yes."

It amazes me how chains of circumstance link my life to so many others. I continue to believe that we are all in this together, and we are all the same.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Impatient patient

 I was pretty sure I'd be ahead of the curve in my recovery from hip replacement surgery. I like to go and do and I was eager to get on with my life. For the most part, I was compliant with the instructions of both surgeon and physical therapist.

One thing I wasn't told - or don't remember- was not to get down on the floor for the first four to six weeks. So one evening I put my padded yoga mat on the floor to do a PT exercise called "bridge" - where you bend your knees, tighten your abs and your buttocks, and make a shallow arch with your back. It was easier to do on the floor than on my bed because there was more back support on the floor. When I started to get up - difficult even before hip surgery - something in my hip area complained, kind of like the soft twang of a rubber band. I cried out and Art came over and helped me up. I was pretty scared that I'd dislocated something.

I guess I had a setback in my healing. Using my walker had gotten more comfortable before the floor episode, but afterwards there was more pain when I put weight on my right leg. I'd been able to get the leg into bed on my own, but afterwards I needed Art's help to lift it. And medication didn't seem to help. 

After five days I called the surgeon's office. The person asked me some questions - is your range of motion in PT still good? (Yes). Are you having trouble sleeping at night? (No). Their conclusion was, "Well, you probably aggravated the hip when you got down on the floor.You need to ice more, elevate more, and don't overdo it. Take 650 mg of Tylenol every six hours." I'd hoped they'd say, "Come right in and we'll take x-rays to make sure all is well." But they didn't. Maybe they didn't care about me now that I'd had the surgery. I'd need to wait until my six-week follow-up appointment with the surgeon on October 5 to find out what was going on. Maybe it would be too late by then.

So I iced more and I elevated more and I took the Tylenol. 

I talked to my nurse practitioner in Tucson. She asked where the pain was and I said it was in my groin. She said, "Well, you have spinal stenosis, and you had that groin pain before the hip replacement. Your left knee and back and right hip have compensating mightily for the last couple of years. Your body needs to adjust to this new configuration. Ice and elevate and WALK."

When I got out of bed this morning and went into the bathroom with my walker, for the first 20 steps I had NO PAIN. It's come and gone since then today, but I finally believe I will heal.

Here's what happened to me, as a person in pain who was told to take it easy:

  • I yelled at my husband twice in one day because he didn't bring my ice within five minutes after I asked for it.
  • I spent hours lying on the bed brooding.
  • I persuaded myself that no one cares about me now that I'm not "going and doing".
  • I ate extra - especially graham crackers and peanuts.
  • I drove to the dentist one day, when the only way I could get my right foot from the accelerator to the brake was by lifting my leg with the fabric of my pants. This was after the floor episode; the week before I'd gone to the grocery store with no trouble. Our ortho nurse son Peter, when he heard about it, said, "NO, Linda, you don't drive until you have your six-week appointment with the surgeon." He actually rolled his eyes right in front of me.
  • I gave my husband the silent treatment because we are supposed to be decluttering and he isn't enthusiastic enough about it. I'd go so far as to say he's stonewalling, but it's harder because I can't do much of it myself. I have this idea that we should be done by the time we leave for Tucson on November 1, hip replacement or not.
  • I complained daily about how hard it was to carry anything when I'm using my walker, since it doesn't have a basket or a seat. So I'd use one hand to carry something, like my laptop, and limp along with only one hand on my walker.
I have been a delight.

Actually, as my friend Diane pointed out, I'm seeing the glass half empty for the first time in ages. Usually I'm an optimist. I was grateful that she just described my behavior rather than scolding me for it. And I've had visits from Gail and Marilyn and Pam, friends from my church. Gail has brought food and Marilyn has brought groceries and Pam has brought food. They seem to like me just as well as before. And phone calls from Ellen and Connie. Those are good things.

I'm remembering my pain-free walk this morning and, for right now at least, feeling inklings of hope.

Sunday, August 29, 2021

The Bag Lady has a new hip

Nine days ago I had my right hip replaced. I'd been experiencing worsening pain in my right hip, lower back and left knee for three years. When X-rays this May confirmed "severe degenerative osteoarthritis" in my right hip as the primary cause of my pain - not my back or my left knee - I decided to have the hip replaced.

It's been an experience.

  • I wasn't nervous or worried. I'd watched a YouTube video the night before the surgery so I could see exactly what happened - an actual filming. I thought it was pretty interesting. It would be an anterior approach - a four- or five-inch incision in the front of my upper thigh. In this method, the muscles are moved aside for the surgery, rather than being cut. It makes for a quicker recovery time.
  • I checked into the hospital at 10:30 a.m. and left at 10:00 p.m. A day surgery!

  • None of this counting backward from one hundred from the anesthesiologist. He gave me a spinal injection, I felt my leg getting numb, and that was it.   

  • I'd had a tooth pulled last month so that when I was intubated for the surgery I wouldn't have a risk of aspirating the tooth. Needn't have worried. I wasn't intubated.
  • For the first 48 hours after the surgery I was slightly loopy, but felt good enough for a visit from my sister and brother-in-law. We ordered takeout from a local Italian place and the lasagna was delicious.
  • Days 3 and 4 were horrible. All the medications from the surgery had worn off. The medication I'd been prescribed for afterwards didn't seem to be working. This was the first major surgery of my life, so I didn't know there would be a lot of pain. The doctor had warned me there would be some, but I had forgotten.  I was supposed to hydrate, but if I did I'd have to get up and walk to the bathroom. I hated when the physical therapist who came to our house the day after surgery told me I needed to walk at least every two hours. Didn't she know how much it hurt? I needed help getting into bed and getting into the shower and putting on my pajamas. The grab bar by the toilet was set an inch too far back. Stepping into the shower with my right leg meant I had to lift my foot a little, and that hurt. 
  • My husband Art was my primary caregiver. Two months past his own back surgery, he did the best he could but it wasn't enough. I yelled at him twice - and I'm not a yeller. I remember saying, "Right now this is supposed to be all about me, not all about you." That was because he took a nap one morning and couldn't hear me when I called for help. I'd needed him for five days to cook, prepare the ice machine, help me into bed, get me water, do the laundry, cook the meals, feed the cat, supervise my shower. My control issues were on full display, and they were not pretty. At all.
  • On Day 5 things turned around. The physical therapist who came to our house watched me walk and recommended a couple of simple foot exercises to tweak my gait. And the nurse who called to review my medications adjusted what I would take, and when. Fine tuning of my PT and my meds made a huge difference.
  • Each of the last three days has been a little better. I cooked one night and did the dishes another. I can take my own shower and put on my own pajamas. Two days I got dressed. Today Art and I went out to brunch. I'm reading for pleasure again and watched TV last night. Yesterday my walker and I took a bag of trash up our hilly driveway to the curbside bin. My PT is getting easier. Tomorrow I go to the clinic for new exercises and reinforcement.
  • My friend Gail had asked how she could help. She visited me four times in the first five days: made a pot of steel-cut oats, fixed a big bowl of quinoa with fruit and nuts, changed the sheets, spoke in a quiet and friendly voice, and listened to me complain. As far as I know, she is still my friend! Another friend, McKenzie, stopped by with Starbucks and orange juice and homemade zucchini bread. Each time I've posted on Facebook I've gotten encouragement and congratulations from friends from all over. I've gotten phone calls to check in on me and brighten my mood. I've been counseled by my nurse sister Alyx and my nurse sons Russell and Peter.
All in all, I'm lucky. And grateful.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

It is what it is

My hip replacement surgery, scheduled for tomorrow (August 18) at Kaiser Permanente in downtown Seattle, required a number of things to be done first: a dental checkup, a physical exam, a covid test, an online learning course, designation of a caregiver, and no anti-inflammatory medications for the seven days before. I did all of those things. The toughest has been doing without a medication that did much to relieve the joint pain.

This morning I was awakened by a call from Kaiser. "Your surgery has been cancelled because we have no beds available. The will be, instead, on Friday, at Overlake Hospital in Bellevue. They will be contacting you."

I'm waiting for that call.

Life happens, you know!

Friday, July 30, 2021

All the Things

It's been a month since I last wrote a blog post. Usually that kind of a delay is because not much is going on. This time it's because so much is happening.

Art had his back surgery about seven weeks ago. 

  • Yesterday he drove for the first time in six months. His right leg is strong enough now, and he's not in any pain. This achievement will free me up a bunch. Yesterday he had a massage appointment at the end of a series of errands we'd run, and he would be late if he dropped me off at home. If I went with him I'd be sitting in the massage waiting room for an hour. Instead, he dropped me at an intersection a half mile from our house, then went on his way. And I walked home. It was wonderful to have him out and about without me! 
  • He has cooked breakfast for me twice in the last week, and he stacks the dishes after dinner each night.
  • He has repotted tomato starts and watered the garden.
We are rehoming many things stored in the garage. I spent three days going through correspondence I'd saved:
  • Letters from my grandparents to each other between 1912 and 1925; I gave them to a cousin who carries the family name. Both of those grandparents died before I was born. 
  • A box containing all the letters I wrote to my parents when I was in college; my mother saved them. I read them all, then threw them away. I was a little chagrined by their common theme: I had been too busy to write, and I was overloaded with work, and I was dating various guys, and I needed more money. 
  • Cards from a man I'd loved between my marriages; he died in 1989. I saved all those cards and also the journal I kept during that time.
We donated 15 cans of latex paint to Ridwell, a recycling organization we belong to. And Art will be contributing windshield washing fluid, antifreeze, three sets of snow chains, and other man things. He wants to be sure none of our kids wants them, but we only have one more kid to go through them.

I went through all the Christmas decorations. My older son was interested in "the ones we had when we were kids." I sent him pictures and he said yes or no. I have a box for him with about 20 ornaments and books. The rest I re-homed through Buy Nothing Brier, a Facebook group I belong to in my town. The leftovers went to Goodwill. I saved only four ornaments. I'll take them to Tucson and hang them on our little tree in the window this winter.

I contacted the Dispute Resolution Center in my county. I was certified as a mediator through them and wondered if they needed me, and they said yes. I was especially interested in small claims court, in which I've mediated many times. These mediations are currently being done on Zoom, so I said I'd log in next Tuesday as an observer to see how it's done, and then sign up. Small claims happens once a month, and I can do it remotely, from Brier or Tucson. The lady told me that when the rent moratorium expires, the State expects to be overwhelmed by court cases, so people will have to go through mediation before appearing in court. That will also happen on Zoom. It sounds interesting to me, so I'll attend one online training session before I start that. I love mediating - I've been doing it as a volunteer for over ten years, plus I use it just about every day in real life.

And then there's this story. A friend of mine has a son who's a drug addict living on the streets. One day last month she saw some unhoused people near where she knew her son was living. She showed a couple of them his picture and asked if they knew him. One man pointed at someone lying in the dirt nearby, sleeping, and said, "that's him." My friend walked over to her son and lay down on the ground beside him. She asked him if he'd like to come home and get some food and take a shower and he said yes. Later that evening he decided he wanted to get clean, so she found a detox center for him, and she and her husband drove him there. The son was there for four days and then transferred to an inpatient treatment center. My friend sent him a box of clothes, and a week later the package was returned. The son had left the treatment center after three days and returned to the same location on the streets. This happens a lot. The image I keep in my mind is my friend lying down in the dirt beside her son. I am filled with admiration for her courage and her love, and grateful to have such friends.

All the things. After five months of being Art's advocate and caregiver, I am gradually reentering my life in the world. 

And, three weeks from now, I'll have my hip replaced in a day surgery. Once I've recovered from that, I'll be able to ride my bicycle and walk my neighborhood or further. Maybe even hike in the desert this winter.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

What the dentists said

I have a dentist in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico who takes care of my teeth during the six months we're in Tucson each year. And I have a dentist in Lynnwood, Washington who I see the other six months. I see the Mexican dentist in November and March each year (very good and much cheaper, but 95 minutes away by car.) I see the American dentist in June or July. Three cleanings a year, carefully scheduled.

In March I was at the Mexican dentist and I was told that one of my top right midway-to-the back teeth, previously fitted with a crown, needed to be extracted and replaced with an implant and another crown. I decided to wait until next season because there was a three-month lag between the extraction and the implant, and I was leaving before three months. The tooth was a little loose sometimes but I figured if I paid attention I could keep in my mouth for six more months.

In May when I returned to Washington, I learned that I need to have my hip replaced. I am scheduled for August 18. One of the pre-surgical requirements is a release from my dentist that I don't have any infections in my mouth. I decided to use my summer appointment for cleaning and a signoff by the dentist.

Yesterday I went for my checkup. The dentist looked at my mouth and said there was no infection, but my iffy tooth was a little wiggly and he was concerned that  when I was intubated during my hip replacement the tooth could break and I could aspirate it. He recommended removing the crown and filling what remained of the tooth so it would be stable for the hip surgery. Then I could have the implant done next fall in Mexico, and get the crown in Mexico in the winter. One advantage would be I could have the work done in two different calendar years, which would make better use of my dental insurance. 

We decided I would come back today for my cleaning and that tomorrow he would do the filling.

I arrived at noon today for my cleaning and there had been a cancellation right after my appointment, so the dentist asked if I would like to have him do the filling today so I wouldn't have to come back tomorrow. I said yes. 

He removed the crown and saw immediately that there wasn't enough tooth left to fill. The tooth would need to be pulled as soon as possible. My hip replacement is in about six weeks, so I only had a couple of weeks to get the extraction to have enough recovery time before the surgery. 

He said he'd give me a referral to an oral surgeon, or he could do the extraction today. It looked like a pretty simple job to him.

I said do it today. 

He asked if I wanted to have a bone graft. I asked why and he said it would increase the odds for the implant to work, since there would be a difference of several months between the extraction and the implant, and the remaining teeth start to shift after an extraction. He said it would cost $400 and that insurance wouldn't cover it. I asked where the graft would come from. He said a cadaver or a cow.

I said do the bone graft. If the implant didn't work I'd have to have a bridge and  I don't want that.

I got moved from the cleaning room to the extraction room. I got several numbing shots. The dentist and his assistant worked on my tooth for 45 minutes. The remaining half inch of root - which had had a previous root canal - gave up after a lengthy struggle. The dentist said, "I'm not going to charge you for the bone graft. This took much longer than I led you to believe."

I got stitched up and, with gauze pressed into my mouth, I left to have the antibiotic prescription filled. I looked weird with gauze sticking out of my mouth but I had a mask on so no one noticed. I go back in ten days to have the stitches removed. The dentist will make sure I don't have an infection and then he'll sign off on the dental exam part for my hip replacement.

That's the plan, anyway.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Summer gratitudes

 A list again! 

1. Art's laminectomy was successful. The back surgery was done on L1-L2 and L3-L4. We checked in at noon and checked out seven hours later. He could already move his legs by then.

2. Art had been in a wheelchair since our return from Tucson to Brier six weeks earlier. Three days ago he put the chair in the corner of the room and is now using a walker. He be starting PT in a couple of weeks to strengthen his legs and walk on his own. He is off all his pain medications and his only complaint now is that his incision itches. I can live with that one!

3. We had help for the first three days post surgery, as I had planned. Everyone showed up and they were all magnificent. Thanks to Art's sister Mary, my sister Alyx, Art's daughter Melissa and his sons Jason and Peter.

4. I only had one meltdown, but I ran away from home for two hours and then I was over it. I had continued my caregiving role post surgery, and since Art could now get around without pain, he didn't need it to the same extent I was offering it, and he let me know. I've backed off somewhat now and no longer cater to his every wish. He's mostly reading the paper, working the puzzles, and watching TV as he waits for PT to start.

5. It's my turn! I have an ortho consult for my bad hip in just two more days.

6. Our two-family residence is exceeding even my best hopes. We see Jason and Kalei and Kaleb - the "upstairs people" - nearly every day. They are being really kind, picking up the mail and sharing their meals every few days. And when they have multiple loads of laundry on "their" days, I move loads from the washer to the dryer or I fold; it's only six feet from our door. The best part is when one of them comes downstairs just to chat. Jason told us yesterday that when he tells people his dad and stepmom live downstairs, sometimes they go "uh-oh", but Jason tells them it's really working out well. So it isn't just me thinking that.

7. Jason is doing yardwork now that it's summer and nearly every plant in the yard is going berserk. Yesterday he brought in a bowl of radishes and strawberries from the garden for us. I'm looking forward to later in the summer when Art and I can both spend time outside. Maybe we'll even be able to help out.

8. When we lived upstairs, we had two sets of Corinthian wind chimes and a  fountain on the porch. They're not being used now, so I've asked them to be brought downstairs and set up for us. I love the sound of the chimes. It's not windy here very often, so the chimes give us that notice of a weather change. And the porch fountain will provide a drink for the birds and bunnies and other critters who share our property with us. 

9. I have been doing the cooking for nearly three months now, and I have to confess I usually like it. If I'm too tired there's always scrambled eggs and toast or soup. What I don't like is meal planning and shopping, but we use boxes from Sun Basket, Hello Fresh and Home Chef. Once a week we go online, decide which company has the most interesting meals, tell the other two "no thanks this week" and order what we want. So the deciding is already done when the box arrives. It is a little pricey, but it's worth it for the aggravation I don't have, and the shopping. We've been doing this for three years now.

10. We're just about at the end of the rain and heading into Washington's dry season at the same time as the days are longest. That is wonderful.

For today, life is good.

Sunday, June 6, 2021

While we're waiting

My husband Art is having back surgery - a laminectomy - this coming Friday. He's got at least half a dozen pinched nerves in his lumbar spine that are affecting his legs. The surgery should relieve much of the pain and restore his ability to walk. Later this summer I will have my hip replaced, and possibly my knee. 

We're at home in our apartment in Brier, Washington, waiting. Here's what we've done this week:

  • Got our eyes checked. For me it's been two years. For Art it's been five. Here's how the morning went:
    • Backed my car out of the garage, then pulled it back in with enough width on the passenger side so Art could get his wheelchair from the apartment to the garage, then transfer from the chair to the car. Backed the car out again, then pulled it back in with enough room on the driver's side so I could get out of the car, open the trunk, fold up the wheelchair and put it in the trunk. We have not yet downsized and decluttered enough to reclaim sufficient width in the garage to have this happen in just one step.
    • Once at the eye clinic, find a handicapped spot, leave Art in the car with the morning paper, and get my eyes checked. No changes, no new glasses required. Yay! 
    • It's two hours until Art's eye appointment, so we drive to a Greek-American deli for breakfast. Open the trunk, get out the wheelchair and set it up for Art to transfer into it. Walk down the sidewalk to locate the ramp from the street we can use. Walk back to the car and push Art in the wheelchair - in the street - to said ramp, continuing on to the tables set up outside the deli. Two men offer us their table. I say, "Thank you! I will pay your kindness forward sometime today." One of the men says, "No need to do that. We're Republicans."(!?). I say, smiling, "There are good Republicans." The man says, "There are LOTS of good Republicans." We have a delicious breakfast. We do the getting-Art-back-into-the-car thing. We drive back to the eye clinic.
    • Once at the eye clinic, find a handicapped spot again, get the wheelchair out of the trunk, and get Art transferred into it. Push the chair in and out of the elevator. Note that the tire on the left side of the chair has come off the wheel. Once in the waiting room, transfer Art to a chair, turn the wheelchair over and, assisted by two friendly strangers, put the tire back on. (It was probably at this point that the "Help" button, attached to a lanyard and tied to the wheelchair, fell off. We called the clinic the next day but no one had found it, so a replacement has been ordered).
    • Art gets his eyes checked. No changes, no new glasses required. Yay again!
    • Arrive home and reverse the process to get Art and me out of the car and back in the apartment.
    • Take naps.  
  • Review the items in the storeroom. 
    • Notice six Kirkland (Costco) jars full of coins, from all the years Art emptied his pockets at the end of the day and put the change in a jar. Ask Art if he'd be interested in sorting them and putting them into coin rolls. Getting a yes, haul them out to the dining room table.
    • Two days later, put five Kirkland jars full of coin rolls into a rolling suitcase to take to the bank. Put the suitcase in the car. Do the get-Art-into-the-car routine and drive three miles to a Bank of America, which you have read accepts coin rolls. We don't have any accounts there, but we do have two Alaska Airlines Visa cards through that bank.
    • Put the rolls of pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters into plastic racks provided by the teller. When finished, slide the racks under the plastic divider for the teller to process. Receive $490 in bills. 
    • Drive to the neighborhood Mexican restaurant. Do the getting-the-wheelchair-into-the-restaurant thing. Enjoy an excellent lunch indoors. Do the getting-Art-back-into-the-car thing. Drive home. Do the getting-us-back-into-the-apartment thing.
    • Take naps.  
  • Take Art to and from his presurgical physical appointment. He passed. Yay!
  • Get my first online physical therapy to prepare me for my upcoming hip replacement, so I'll be strong and the process will be easier.
  • Did the things Art has done for the last 25 years but can't now until he can walk after his surgery, plus the things I usually do.
    • Make shopping list
    • Shop for groceries
    • Prepare breakfast
    • Fix lunch
    • Cook dinner
    • Order what we need from Amazon
    • Send emails and texts asking for help during Art's first few days home after his surgery.
    • Listen to a family member having a personal crisis.
    • Talk to a friend having a family health issue.
    • Attend a Board meeting on Zoom for The Inn Project, a cause in Tucson I'm devoted to.
    • Attend two Olli classes on Zoom.
    • Drop out of two Spanish classes on Zoom for lack of time to do the homework.
I am grateful that I'm strong and healthy, even though I hurt. I'm grateful to have the financial resources we need. I'm grateful for a supportive personal and family network.

This, too, shall pass!

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Old folks at home

"Just this minute the surgery scheduler called. Art’s surgery will be Friday, June 11, and the surgical consultation for my hip will be June 22. Life is good!"

That's the email message I sent to a friend who asked how we're doing. We've had a challenging couple of months. My husband has half a dozen pinched nerves in his 78-year-old back. One of them controls strength and movement in his right leg. Others appear to initiate sciatica. He's been pretty miserable. In Tucson, we live in a park model (trailer) and the doorways are too narrow for a walker or a wheelchair. So he had a few falls while transferring from the walker to the toilet, or from the walker to the bed. We have four stairs which he could descend with difficulty, but impossible to climb back up, even with several helpers. So we were looking forward to being back in Washington, with wider doorways and no stairs in our remodeled-last-summer apartment.

I decided to talk to our doctor once we got back to Washington. I said, "I know my left knee needs to be replaced. My back hurts, and my right hip aches. I think they're all related. Can we figure out how, and do something about it?" So the doc ordered x-rays. And sure enough. My left knee has severe arthritis (which I knew) and so does my right hip (which I didn't know). I have struggled with that hip for a couple of years now, with no improvement. A front-view x-ray taken a year ago of my pelvis and hips showed mild arthritis. The new ones, taken from different angles last week, reveal the severity. I am so relieved! That's the reason for the consult on June 22.

My friend said she thought I'd be lunching with friends now that I'm back in Washington. But I don’t have a village up here like I do in Tucson. I’ve got a few friends I meet up with. I’ve seen two of them already, and am having coffee with another on Friday. It is much quieter here. I’m considering volunteering to mediate in small claims court, but I sent a letter of inquiry a few weeks ago and haven’t heard back. I suspect that agency is shuttered for now and that my records of certification and competence are locked inside the physical building, so the current assigners of work - if there is any - don’t know I’m qualified.

My friend wondered if I could go out and leave Art alone or whether I am a full-time caregiver. Yes, Art can be left alone. He is fairly self-sufficient except for things like shopping, cooking and driving.  I do the grocery shopping and the cooking. I run errands. I get massages. I bought a new pair of Birkenstocks last week. I bought a Lazy Boy recliner.  I’m the only driver, so I’m out and about. On Friday we went to IHOP for breakfast where I encountered people Not Like Me and observed unconcerned sexism. I gave our server an extra-sized tip and a few moments of commiseration. Last night we ordered pizza and shared it with our upstairs kids. I ordered peppermint oil spray to keep the spiders out. Next week we’re having a couple of dead trees cut down, and half a dozen cedar trees trimmed to let the sunlight in upstairs. After that we’ll have the windows washed. 

We have an enormous amount of stuff. I am rehoming them a few items at a time. Yesterday it was seven decorative pillows, a bag full of plastic containers with matching lids, two extra artichokes, and a silk ficus tree. I’ve come upon three vacuum cleaners in the storeroom. One of them is labeled with the name of the housekeeper we had until three years ago. I have to get in touch with her. I’m getting ready to rehome a set of Travelpro luggage we haven’t used in ten years. 

At the same time I’m making this place our home. I’ve ordered from Amazon: bench seat for the shower, bathmat for the shower, a right-sized coverlet for our bed, a light blanket exactly like one we have in Tucson, for naps. Picked up a set of pots and pans from Buy Nothing Brier, took what we needed and donated the rest to a family whose rented home burned down last week. I am busy all day. Most days my Fitbit says 5,000 steps by the end of the day - some days when I haven’t even left the house.  

My son James came by yesterday and installed a grab bar for the shower, two clothing hooks for just inside the bedroom door, two window blind gadgets so we can raise or lower the shades, one more security light for the path to our apartment, a brighter light for the storage room. He bundled device cords by my desk and by my recliner. All useful things.

I get testy with Art sometimes because he’s not in the fix-up mode I’m in. He’s mostly content to read the paper, work the puzzles, read, and watch "kill and maims". In the meantime, my knee and my hip make themselves noticed just about every minute, so I’m in some discomfort and I have a shorter fuse. This too shall pass, though. I’m grateful that neither of us is sick, that we have the financial resources to do what needs to be done and that kids are willing to help.

As we say in AA, “more will be revealed”.

Monday, May 10, 2021

Unexpected Transition

We live in Tucson between November and April, and in Brier, a Seattle suburb, from May to October. So there's a transition every year as we move between our little places.

Last summer we remodeled our daylight basement in Washington to create a no-stairs apartment for ourselves. The previous year I'd had trouble sometimes negotiating the stairs with a cranky knee. So Art designed a downstairs living space, and he worked with my son James on the remodel. It's a beautiful, warm and welcoming home for us, as well as being ADA compliant. Just what I'd hoped for.

We really thought the remodel was for me.

But last summer, while doing the wiring for the new apartment, Art strained his back. By fall he had to walk bent over to avoid the back pain he experienced when standing straight up. In late fall he had the first of three lumbar epidural injections. The last one, in early April, resulted in weakness in his right leg. Art fell several times. Two CT scans revealed multiple pinched nerves. The pain increased, requiring a trip to the emergency room in Tucson. He'd used a walker for several months to stabilize himself, but by May 1 he preferred a wheelchair. Two days after we returned to Washington we saw his primary care doc, who confirmed Art would need surgery. Four days after that, we met with the neurosurgeon. We're hoping surgery will happen by June.

We're adapting to Art's current disabled state. I'm doing the shopping and cooking, which Art has done for 25 years, plus most of the other tasks of living. Art is learning to maneuver in our apartment, becoming more self sufficient each day. And he has learned to stay ahead of the pain, with tylenol and ibuprofen and a prescription medication. 

We're getting great support from our family. Art's son Jason lives upstairs with his family; he brings the paper and the mail and spends time each day with his dad. His wife Kalei brings down food goodies. Son Peter is a nurse and went with us to see the neurologist, sending a summary email to everyone afterward. Daughter Melissa is a pharmacist and is a wonderful resource. Son Russ in Oregon is also a nurse, and has been very encouraging. Son James, who did the remodel, came over two days ago to install grab bars in the shower and beside the toilet. My sister Alyx is a nurse as well, and she's been actively involved; her husband Virgil flew to Tucson to help Art close up our winter place and then fly home with him, while I drove with a friend for three days to bring the car back. 

Really glad for our new living space, for Art as well as for me.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021


I'm an optimist by nature, but the last month has been a challenge.

On March 16, at 9:30 in the morning, I finished up my computer banking to look at my email. I had four messages from Facebook, sent within ten minutes of each other, while I was doing my banking.

(1) Someone had logged into my FB account using a confirmation code.

(2) Someone had changed my password.

(3) Someone had changed my email address from to

I tried to get help from  Facebook for the next two weeks without success. I was apparently in some kind of loop, or at the end of a VERY long help queue. 

Then my brother-in-law created a new account for me from his computer. Five days later Facebook told me I had been deactivated for good for "violation of community standards". I have no idea what I did, and Facebook is not going to tell me.

I wish I hadn't lost 13 years of data, or 200 friends, but these things happen. And I wish I hadn't lost my 4500 completed levels of Candy Crush.

Now I am using my husband Art's Facebook account. His name has been changed to ArtLinda Myers. I'm spending much less time on Facebook now. There are a couple of groups I want to participate in. Especially the one in Brier, Washington, called "Buy Nothing Brier" where you can give things away to people in the community. I have a lot more downsizing to do over the summer, and I need that group!

I do wonder why some people hack into the accounts of other people. This one had nothing to do with money. My old account disappeared from Facebook on the 30th day after it was hacked. None of my friends were contacted by the hacker, and the day before the account disappeared there were no posts other than mine.

Oh, yes. I did send an email to, asking the person to change the email account back so I could get into my account. That didn't happen.

Of course not.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Pop-up Sunday

From 2016 to 2018, I made five trips to Greece to volunteer at the Oinofyta refugee camp. I was usually the oldest volunteer by about 15 years. I didn't have the stamina of the younger people, but I had enough wisdom and life experience to be useful. Friends would say, "Why do you do that?" My response was, "We're all in this together, and I won't always be able to do it." That last phrase, "I won't always be able to do it," came from my brain, but part of me didn't really believe it.

I believe it now.

In the last couple of years my left knee and my right hip have begun to act up. The x-rays show bone-on-bone arthritis in my knee and a bunch of confused and compensating muscles and ligaments fighting each other in my right hip capsule. In spite of orthotics in my shoes, physical therapy, massage, and injections in my knee and hip, I'm sometimes walking like the elderly woman I never believed in my heart I would become. I do a lot of e-bike riding and some swimming, but no hiking and not a whole lot of walking for exercise.

Last year I read about the Arizona Department of Health Services. They were looking primarily for volunteer healthcare professionals but also for interested non-healthcare volunteers, to register in advance so they could rapidly identify and mobilize health care volunteers in emergencies.

I signed up and was accepted as a volunteer, and was contacted twice. Once was to work with a Covid screening project on a Native reservation. But at that time the vaccine wasn't available and, as a person over 65, I was in a high-risk group. Then, when Pima County (where we live, in Tucson, in the winter) opened large vaccine drive-through events, I was invited again. But the shifts were six hours long and I'd be on my feet most of the time, which those same feet would not be happy with. Remember "I won't always be able to do this"?

Then the county opened up pop-up vaccine events. By this time I'd gotten both Moderna shots. I was a January recipient of the first dose because I volunteer one day a week at a local health clinic, so I'm considered a healthcare worker. The pop-up events sounded more doable.

So on Sunday I volunteered for seven hours, from 7am to 2pm, at an elementary school near the airport.  No one had to sign up ahead of time;  they just had to be qualified according to the current Arizona status (anyone over 55, plus front-line workers: grocery store checkers, restaurant servers, etc). There was a drive-through and a walk-in. The venue was in an underserved area of Tucson. I'd say 85 percent of the vaccine seekers were Latinx. We had registration materials in Spanish and English. 

The other five volunteers at the walk-in venue were younger, so when I needed to give my feet a break I sanitized clipboards and pens and collated registration materials to put on the clipboards to send back out with the other volunteers. I'd colored part of my hair blue the day before; I figured I'd look more relevant to the younger people than if I just looked like an old grandma. That turned out to be a good idea!

My feet hurt A LOT at the end of the event, and I went straight home and fell soundly asleep for an hour. My whole body hurt until I went to bed that night. 

I may not always be able to do this!

Thursday, March 4, 2021

This week, next week

We're four days in to our annual visit to Sedona. This year my sons Russell and James were the only offspring who made it - but they're just about the only ones who've never been here before. Russ flew down from Eugene and James came from Seattle. They met up in Phoenix, rented a car and drove the two hours to our timeshare in uptown Sedona. They've been busy - climbed Bell Rock yesterday and hiked Cathedral Rock today. 

The four of us have shared several meals - the first dinner at Cafe Jose, a comfort food place nearby, and tonight, James grilled T-bone steaks, which we ate with a salad and baked potatoes. 

Meanwhile, Art and I are spending our time reading and napping. Art found a new author - Vince Flynn - in the resort library, and I downloaded and read the new Stephen King novel in a day and a half. We're in a single-story villa this year. It's on the second floor, but there's a lift along the stair railing so Art doesn't have to climb the stairs with his sciatica. He looks like an emperor!

Sedona has been a great place for our family to gather over the years. Just a few minutes ago James said, "From now on, Mom, when you're coming here, I'll be coming here too." That's what they all say!

Russ and James leave tomorrow, making a stop at Montezuma's Castle National Monument on the way back to the Phoenix airport. We'll be here for one more night, leaving early Saturday afternoon for our four-hour trip back to Tucson.

This week has been relaxing. Not so with next week's calendar.

Now that Art and I have had our second covid vaccines, and two weeks have passed, we can be more out and about in the world. The asylum seekers' shelter has reopened, and we will be volunteering in some fashion, whether providing meals for the guests or providing airport transportation. Strict covid safety measures are being implemented. I've been asked to join the board for The Inn, and am having breakfast on Monday with the board chair. Diane and I have been friends for a couple of years now, so our meetings are fun. Usually we have breakfast in her back yard, but Monday we'll be at a local restaurant with safely distanced tables.

While I'm at breakfast Art will get X-rays taken of his back. The pain clinic doc wants to a get a close look at what's going on in Art's lumbar spine as he plans next steps. 

In the afternoon the carpet cleaning man is coming, finally. Tucson is a dusty place and I rotate three area rugs in our living room. Right now they are all just about unpresentable. Fortunately, hardly anyone has been inside our place for nearly a year except for us.

Tuesday it's my turn at the pain clinic. I'm getting a shot in my left knee. Hopefully This course of action will prevent a knee replacement for a while. When I got my first shot a year and a half ago, I'd thought I'd pulled a muscle. The doc said, "Nope. Arthritis." It's taken a while, but I've adjusted to the idea that I'm old enough to have arthritis. For some reason I thought that would never happen to me.

Wednesday it's Larisa the Designer Cat's turn. She'll have her annual exam and the vet will probably say, "Well, she's 16, but she's looking pretty good." Over the last 40 years, all but one of my cats has lived a long life. 

Art sees the pain doc on Friday for a consultation. Usually I go with him to his medical appointments. I'm the question asker. These days, only the patient can go in. I've asked Art to call me when he's in the doc's office so I can hear what's going on and ask my questions.

Oh. Also next week each of us has a PT appointment, and each of us is getting a massage.

We're still taking online courses and two are scheduled next week for each of us. Zoom has been a good option for us during the pandemic.

This week, next week. One day at a time, right?

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

The chef and the concierge

For nearly all the 29 years Art and I have been together, he has been the food shopper and the cook. 

I was a single mom when we met, working full time and scrambling to get everything done. I had a pantry, but it was mostly empty because I bought groceries on the fly. When he first started spending time with us, he'd arrive with grocery bags full of canned goods, and within a few months he'd stocked the pantry shelves.

I'd been fixing meals for my elementary-school boys for six years by then, but they were simple affairs, dictated by the needs of the kids rather than by any enjoyment I had for cooking. Once Art's three youngest children started visiting (Tuesdays, Thursdays and every other weekend), it was harder. One night his six-year-old son Peter said, "My mom is a better cook." I said, "I'll bet she is!" (She is!). So Art started preparing dinners for everyone, and he has done it ever since.

Art is a coupon clipper and sale shopper. Maybe it's because he was one of ten children in a working-class family. He'll go to five stores and pick up what's on sale that we need. I take my list and go to the closest place. He says, "You don't shop. You buy." So he has done almost all the grocery shopping for 25 years.

Last summer, Art did the electrical work for the remodel of the lower level of our house. He spent a lot of time on ladders, reaching up. He has spinal stenosis in his lower back, and it got aggravated. After three months of pain, he got an epidural cortisone injection, which helped, and then he overdid and reinjured himself. He has been waiting for three months to get another injection. In the meantime, he walks bent over, because that's the least painful position for walking.

For nearly all the years Art and I have been together I have been the person who does the paperwork, operates the computer and talks on the phone. He is a man of few words and I am not, he doesn't like computers at all and I like them enormously. It used to be easier, but now we are older and we need to contact health care providers for appointments and medications and Medicare coverage and coordination of benefits between Kaiser Permanente for the six months each year we live in Washington, and Banner Health for the six months we live in Tucson. 

Recently I've also been the person who gathers the trash to put it at the curb, who retrieves the newspaper most mornings, who changes the overhead lightbulbs on the porch, who rehangs the shower curtain after it's washed. Art hasn't got a lazy bone in his body, but he does have sciatic pain all the way down his legs since his back injury last summer. And, also recently, I've sometimes felt like he was taking advantage of the situation. 

Then I had an insight. I am serving as a concierge to Art. That sounds more positive. And, thinking about it, I acknowledge that he has been my personal shopper and chef for a very long time. Seems fair.

I feel better now that I know I'm a concierge!

Art gets his second epidural injection on Friday morning. It's about time.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

In the Costco parking lot

Sometimes when my husband Art and I are out together, he wants to go grocery shopping because he's seen good sales in the newspaper ads. He'll say, "We can make a quick stop at Costco. And purple grapes are on sale at Fry's." Sometimes I get annoyed because I have other plans afterwards, and he usually hasn't said anything about stopping until we've already left home.

This morning we went to Lot 49 at Tucson Medical Center so I could get my first shot of the Moderna vaccine (I volunteer at the clinic in our retirement community on Thursdays, so I'm considered a health care worker.) I'd invited Art to go along with me because his was scheduled for next week (he's over 75) and I wanted to show him how to get there. I'd Googled the travel instructions and I was pretty sure he'd miss Wyatt, the side street where he'd need to turn right.

The drive-through vaccine line was quite short and the site was well organized. When I got to the place where a young woman asked for my name, appointment time and ID, I said, "Would it be possible for my husband to get his shot today too, instead of coming back next week?" She asked her supervisor, and we were directed to a tent off to the side just in front of us. I asked again at the tent. "Sure, we can do that." I said, "You have made our day." "We try."

So I got my shot and Art got his, and we'll go back for our second dose on February 20. You never know unless you ask, right?

Then we stopped at Costco. I was still annoyed, because I hadn't brought my phone with me. I usually play Candy Crush while I'm waiting in parking lots for Art to shop. 

Sitting there in the parking lot, I thought for a few minutes about the physical therapy appointment I had yesterday. I got a cortisone shot in my right hip several weeks ago, and while the discomfort is much, much less, I want my right leg to get stronger so I can walk distances. And, I'm thinking, maybe if I get physical therapy the inflammation pain won't come back when the injection wears off. I told Andy, the physical therapist at my first appointment yesterday, what my goals were. He did a strength test and said, "Your glutes are atrophied." I said, "How can I have a big butt and atrophied glutes?" He laughed. He gave me two PT exercises that I'd never heard of. They were hard, but not painful. He told me not to overdue it. Twice a day, he said, and come back early next week. 

I was lucky, I thought, to have good insurance that would pay for two sessions a week for six weeks. 

The Costco parking lot wasn't very crowded at 10:00 a.m.  Maybe because today was the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. I turned the radio on to NPR and Kamala was taking the oath of office. I turned the volume up. I opened my car window. I listened to Lady Gaga sing the national anthem. I listened to the commentary. Art was in Costco for half an hour, so I had all that time, alone in my car, to listen and reflect.

I felt full of relief. It was glorious to listen to hope again.

Hope.  What I have because Andy the physical therapist says he can help me. What I have because of the vaccine injected into my arm. What we all have because of our new national beginning.

I'm thinking of the last few lines of the poem spoken today by young Amanda Gorman: "For there is always light, if only we are brave enough to see it - if only we are brave enough to be it."

May it be so!

Friday, January 1, 2021

The gifts of 2020

Wow. What a year.

Many of us have been held captive by the news. Maybe even become news junkies, waiting for the next headline on Fox News, MSNBC, CNN or NPR to raise our blood pressure and our anxiety level. We may swear off and then be drawn back into the melee. That has been the case for me. I said I would only read the news when I first got up in the morning, but then an email would come in from the New York Times or the Washington Post and I'd feel compelled to read it.

In spite of my continued captivity to the news, there were gifts in this unforgettable year. These are mine:

1. We decided to convert the daylight basement of our family home in Brier, a northern Seattle suburb. We'd been talking for several years about making a change in our residence. After five years as snowbirds in Tucson, I was ready to move to Arizona full time, to our small (620 square feet) park model trailer in a retirement community. But Art was not. Born and raised in Seattle, he'd lived elsewhere only during his stint in the Marine Corps in the late 60s. He wasn't ready to make a permanent change. We considered renting apartments or buying a smaller one-story home, but Seattle housing is expensive, and if we were spending half our year in Tucson, the unused Seattle dwelling would be money wasted. Deciding to remodel the basement in our family home was the optimal solution.

2. We had the financial resources to do the remodel.

3. We hired my son James to do the work based mostly on faith that his work ethic would lead to success. We were right.

4. I saw James more often this summer than I have in the last 20 years. I realized that he is now a man of honor, which was a primary goal I had as a parent.

5. Everything in our new apartment was chosen by me, from furniture to teal accent pieces - none of it expensive. There are a LOT of unneeded things still in the garage! My preference for minimalism has a chance in this new place.

6. During the pandemic, I got to choose the degree of risk I was willing to take on. I always wear a mask in public as my contribution to the greater good. I almost always refrain from having any non-household member in my home or in my car. I think I've eaten inside a restaurant maybe three times since March. 

7. I used my first stimulus money to pay rent for an Afghan refugee now living in France. We had the financial resources to do that.

8. On Thanksgiving Day, we had a Zoom call with the kids in our blended family. Six out of eight of them turned up. For a few, it had been years since they had seen each other. I'm pretty sure one of them was watching a football game at the same time. 

9. On Christmas Day we invited two friends to join us for dinner. We set up a large table in the carport and, socially distanced, enjoyed a communal meal of ribeye steaks, cheesy potatoes, corn bread, and green bean casserole, with apple crumble for dessert.

10. On the third-to-last day of the year, I got an ultrasound-guided injection in my right hip. I am looking forward to more frequent walks and better sleep. 

When I look for the gifts, I can always find them.