Art and I are in Tucson for the winter, as usual. We’re quite comfy in our little park model even when it’s cold, as it has been for the last week or so. In April we had to replace our heat pump quite suddenly; the temps were in the 90s some days then, and the a/c was worn out. So now, during the darkest days of the year, we’re toasty.
We’ve had a pretty good year, all things considered. We continued our involvement in the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (Olli), which has active chapters in Tucson accessible via Zoom when we’re in Washington. Usually we take two 90-minute classes a week. We’ve taken courses in history and political science, among others. I’d decided I wanted to become a bit proficient in Spanish, so I signed up for the introductory level. I’ve been doing Spanish on Duolingo for eight months as well.
I’ve gotten involved with Braver Angels (braverangels.org). It’s an organization whose mission is to bring Americans together to bridge the partisan divide in politics. We welcome opportunities to engage with those with whom we disagree. We treat people who disagree with us with honesty and respect. We look for common ground where it exists, and if possible, find ways to work together. I’ve attended online workshops and debates and engaged in one-on-one conversations with people whose views are quite different from mine. Some of my own views have shifted, and I’m much less likely to stereotype people who have different opinions from me. Braver Angels also aligns well with my mediation work. I became recertified as a mediator in Washington State just last month.
I’ve continued to volunteer at The Inn of Southern Arizona. We provide temporary food, clothing and shelter for documented migrants crossing the southern border to apply for asylum in the US. In April I made 12 trips to the airport to take migrants from the shelter for their onward journey to sponsors all over the US. Now I’m on the Executive Board as we transition from a church-affiliated group to a nonprofit corporation. In years past we had 10 rooms available. Now we’re funded partly by FEMA, the State of Arizona and Pima County, and we use at least 40 rooms. In the month of November we served 1,500 people from multiple countries: Venezuela, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Haiti, Cuba, Ukraine, Russia and India. Many people are on the move. I’m grateful to be able to serve this population. Art has been an active volunteer in the past, but he was seriously ill with sepsis in late February and had a slow recovery. He wants to wait until he’s stronger.
In June Art and I traveled internationally for the first time since before Covid. We took a Road Scholar small ship cruise from Barcelona to Sudbury, UK, with stops in Tangiers (Morocco), Porto (Portugal), Bilbao (Spain), Medoc (France), San Malo (France, to Mont Saint Michel), and Cherbourg (France, to Omaha Beach, one of the five landing points on D-Day). To make our trip easier we flew business class; it was an expensive but excellent experience.
In October I went on a second cruise with my friend Shelley - a Viking cruise that was too good a deal to pass up - from Basel, Switzerland to Amsterdam, with a two-day extension to Amsterdam and The Hague. Also a small ship, but with only one field trip away from the Rhine, to the Black Forest (Germany). I met up with my friend Nasar in Koblenz; I met him in 2016 when I was a volunteer at the refugee camp in Oinofyta, Greece and he was a refugee there. He is now settled in Germany.
On both of these cruises I took a cane and trekking poles. My hip has recovered from its summer 2021 replacement, but my knee will need to be replaced next May and I use the devices when I’m walking more than a couple of blocks so I can continue seeing new places. Art and I have learned that wheelchair assist in airports is a wonderful service.
In early December I wasn’t much in the holiday spirit. We’d just lost Larisa, our Designer Cat. She was 17 and developed an aggressive sarcoma in her jaw. It was hard to watch her decline and on December 1 we had a vet come to our home to help her cross the “rainbow bridge”. The next day I went into town to run some errands. I’d left our two small artificial trees in their boxes on the porch, not really motivated to do anything with them. When I got home, my next door neighbor Sharon and my down the street neighbor Diana had set them both up and decorated them! I was touched by their generosity and kindness.
We’re lucky to have supportive and interesting friends in both Tucson and in Brier. I know that, for older people, social connections are critical for remaining engaged in life. On Friday nights in Tucson we go out to dinner with friends from Washington, Missouri, Colorado and Arkansas. We take turns deciding on the restaurant, make reservations for 4:30 (before the dinner rush) and are almost always home by 7!
We have plans in February to meet up in Sedona with several of our children; it’s a good destination for everyone to hike or shop or have adventures during the day, then gather for a common meal at dinner.
We’re in our 70s now. We’ve made some good choices, and we’ve been gifted with luck and grace. We’re grateful for 2022.
We’re wishing you the best of the season.