Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Let the Holidays Begin

We are a passionate family. Some of our passions are peace and liberality. In December of 2003 my husband put up a huge peace symbol on the side of our house. When New Year’s had come and gone Dave began taking down our outside lights, but I suggested that we leave the peace symbol up until the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were over. In the intervening years our house has become known as “the peace house” to children. An elderly man at the hardware store told the husband of a coworker of mine that we are witches and that the peace symbol is a witch symbol. We are also a point of reference when people give driving directions.
Along in the Spring the lights, which are on a timer, begin to give out and when the sign begins to look ridiculous my husband turns it off until he can get more Christmas lights. When it happened this year we could not find any Christmas lights except at Michael’s Arts and Crafts. What they had was intended for weddings and cost more than we were willing to pay so the sign stayed dark all summer. People stopped by when they saw us in the yard or complained when they met us at work or in the store. Last week Dave had a day off and we decided that Target might have Christmas lights. We were rewarded and bought two heavy duty strings. Yesterday the lights went up and on.
We are also passionate about Halloween. Is I posted before, Autumn is my favorite season and Halloween and Thanksgiving are my favorite holidays even though we get few or now trick or treaters for Halloween. One year we got only our youngest son and his best friend. They are now past 25 and haven’t rung the door bell in a long time. We decorate to please us and now have a grandson who thinks that every day ought to be Halloween. We used to wait until October first to get out the boxes of Halloween decorations. Now GrandDave’s birthday on the 22nd of September signals the beginning of our All Hallow’s Eve celebration. Grandson Gabriel could hardly wait and had been making his own decorations for weeks and parading around in his Dracula costume.
There was snow up at Crystal Mt. today, just a dusting, and the low tonight is to be 45. I can live without the snow, but I do enjoy the nip in the air and seeing the beginnings of Fall.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The River Goes On

“Woman can change better’n a man. Man lives in jerks–baby born, or somebody dies, that’s a jerk–gets a farm, or loses one, an’ that’s a jerk. With a woman it’s all one flow, like a stream, little eddies, little waterfalls, but the river it goes right on. Woman looks at it like that.” ~Speech of Ma Joad in Grapes of Wrath

As our school community deals with the loss suffered by two of our teachers when their son/stepson was killed in a vehicle accident in Tacoma Saturday night we are doing the things that people, especially women, do when there’s a death or illness. We cook. We know that grieving families don’t need to be cooking, but need food regardless of what they think. Our sunshine committee at school is organizing meals-in-wheels. The year I was in the hospital for ten days with pneumonia and off from work for a month, the staff at my school kept Dave and the children from starving. It’s only right that I give back.

Previously I posted my Aunt Sandra’s Quick Chicken recipe, but I’m including it again because it’s what I’m making for our neighbors. It’s strictly comfort food and if there ever is a time that people need comfort and comfort food it’s when there’s been a death in the family.

1. 2 or 3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
2. a pkg. of sliced Swiss cheese (preferably lowfat)
3. a can of mushroom soup
4. 1/4 cup white wine
5. 1 box StoveTop Stuffing (chicken flavor
6. 1/4 cup melted butter

Spray a 9 x 13 pan. Heat oven to 325. Slice chicken lengthwise and cover the bottom of the dish with raw slices of chicken. Cover the chicken with slices of Swiss cheese. Combine soup and wine and pour over all. Add the melted butter to Stuffing to moisten Stuffing. Sprinkle on top of dish. Bake for 1/2 hour uncovered. It can be left in the oven longer. Can also be assembled ahead and refrigerated until baking (same day).

Sunday, September 27, 2009

My Worst Nightmare

Life can be so lovely and then suddenly so unexpectedly cruel. This morning I had been writing about the joy of being at our cozy old house in Ilwaco when technology intruded. I received a message from a friend that the step-son of a mutual friend was killed on his Vespa last night in Tacoma. You’re going along living your life, which is pretty good, and boom!

My greatest nightmare is losing a child. Although I have four of them I cannot imagine my life without any one of them. As it is I carry with me the knowledge that the average life expectancy for a person with Down’s Syndrome is 50 and my daughter is 38. I would be devastated to lose her or any one of my sons. I try not to dwell on it.

Several years ago a cousin of mine lost his middle son through suicide. He was on antidepressants and maybe that’s what caused it and maybe he really didn’t mean it, but suicide is the ultimate F-you to those who love you. My cousin had sense enough to join a parent support group to help him deal with the grief, but he still stops by the cemetery regularly to “talk” to his son. My cousin’s wife dealt with it differently. She closed her son’s bedroom door and there it sits. She wouldn’t go to the support group with my cousin. Maybe she thought that no one could understand the level of her grief. I can imagine it. I don’t know how I would react. I believe I would lose my mind. In some ways my cousin’s wife did.

So a lovely sunny morning at the beach has turned contemplative as messages fly across the ether about what we can do to support this family in their time of grief. When the house is clean and the car packed I will head home to a grieving circle of friends.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Fall Morning at the Beach

Morning on the Long Beach Peninsula was Fall dewy this morning. At the beach the dew can be heavy enough to make a stranger believe that it rained in the night. I wore my sloggers when I walked the dog just before daylight and could hear the surf which is about a mile away as the crow flies, but two miles to the nearest beach approach if you are not a crow.

Speaking of crows, we have a lot in my neighborhood at the beach. They help to keep the bug population of our yard down and pick up the junk sloppy people leave lying in the road. There’s a big Douglas fir beyond Viola’s house that is a crow apartment building. I have a friend in Kilpsan who hates crows and will shoot at them with a BB gun, but I like them. Here and in Gig Harbor I talk to them when I walk the dog.

Poor Viola. She’d be so unhappy if she could see her little cottage next door to our Victorian. Her parents built the cottage in 1912 and after they passed away she lived there until passed 90. She never married and relied on her nephews, of whom there are five, to help her with the yard and house. While she was alive they would let the grass grow to knee depth. They got better about cutting the grass after she died which made me madder than a hornet. One of these aging nephews actually lives in the community so his tardiness and thoughtlessness to his aunt is unforgiveable. She was an interesting old lady and I wish I’d made more of an effort to spend time with her when I was here while she was still alive.

The oaf who could never mow her yard painted the cottage the year before she died, but only on three sides. The side that faces up the hill and in a direction Viola never went was left unpainted. He did a bad job, too. He didn’t scrape or prime and the paint is flaking off like crazy. It’s been about 14 years since he made his attempt and now the side he didn’t paint actually is in better shape than the three he did. I know plenty of people who would like to buy that cottage, but the brothers won’t sell it because their mother was born there. Apparently their sentimentality doesn’t extend to preventing the place from falling down which is what will happen eventually. One of them has a son who has made a few attempts to shore up the foundation and for reasons unknown tried to cut down Viola’s lilac tree. That made me mad, too. Those lilacs were a deep beautiful purple and since the house is almost always empty I would go over and cut bouquets of the sweet smelling stuff for my mother in the Spring. There are plenty of blackberry bushes he could have hacked on. Why he chose the lilac is anyone’s guess. Well, the lilac is getting the last laugh. The stump sent up shoots last Spring and I predict that there will be flowers again by the next one. Viola loved her flowers and sometimes I prune her roses just to keep them going. I don’t know if the nephews notice that someone is tending them and frankly I don’t care. They are bunch of nimrods as far as I’m concerned.

Our barn is slap up against Viola’s property so we get a good look every time we go out the backdoor and head toward the barn which is also where our own little cottage is as well as the laundry facilities. This morning I trudged over there in the dewy grass to put the shirt I spilled chowder on last night in the washing machine. I travel light on these weekend beach runs and that shirt was supposed to go with the skirt I brought. When I rounded the corner of the barn to go down the walkway to the cottage and utility room two errant yellow flowers greeted me from the toilet/planter that sits by the side entrance to the barn. Dave and a friend talked me into using an old toilet from the big house as a planter. I wanted it where the whole town wouldn’t see it so it’s like a little secret garden. I have strawberries planted in the bowl which the deer think are salad and fuchsias in the tank since the spot doesn’t get much sun. Two little plants popped up on their own this summer so I just kept watering them and I have no clue what they are or where they came from, but they make me smile even though the side of Viola’s garage is just feet away and so sad.

Actually, I probably shouldn’t talk yang about Viola’s nephews. It’s not like our house is looking, too great paint-wise just now. It’s been even longer since we painted, but Dave scraped and primed so the paint has held up much better. Last year we had the Southside of the house reshingled and left them bare. Painting at the coast is problematic. Once the ocean mists and rains find a way under the paint you’re done for and the wood can rot quickly. Dave was a tough sell on the unpainted look, but finally came around when the thought about having to pay someone to paint as he gets older. So the Southside is bare. We had intended to have an addition put on the North side this Summer, but the recession put all home improvements on hold. Well, not all.

Dave got in frenzy and decided that the mold and moss on the North side didn’t look good and so he spent his vacation scrubbing, priming and painting the back of the house.

The other improvement we made this summer was the addition of three arbors at each of our three front yard gates. My middle son has built us three brick walkways, two from each street on our corner and one from the driveway, to the front porch so that my elderly mother and her sister can get into the house. They aren’t speaking just now so they won’t be coming over at the same time until maybe Thanksgiving. The walkways improved the look of our yard greatly and left an area that I’ve turned into a memory garden for the adults in my life who’ve passed away. Dave picked out the arbors and I have to admit that for someone who had no sense of aesthetic when we married nineteen years ago, he did a good job. I admired them once again when I walked back to the house from the barn this morning.

There’s always something that needs doing with a house that’s 128 years old so I guess it’s good that I am forced/have the excuse to come to it so often. My excuse for being here takes a long time to get ready to go anywhere anymore. I used to get all wound up and try to rush her, but the more you rush my mother the slower she gets. I think it’s a control thing, but I just breathe and go with the flow. If I say boo I will just get a tongue lashing anyway and then everyone’s upset so I listen to NPR on the radio or read until she’s finally dress and ready to go.

Murder on the Beach

When Amy and I arrived at our Ilwaco house Friday night there was last week’s edition of the Chinook Observer, the local weekly newspaper, lying on the dining table in the kitchen. My cousin Debra, who lives down the road in Seaview, had obviously left it there not knowing that Dave had brought me a copy that week when he came down to mow the yard and take my mother out for birthday dinner. Debra doesn’t always leave the paper on my table, but she did this time because this particular one had an article about the murder that occurred two weeks ago when I was in Ilwaco last.

The Long Beach Peninsula is not a stranger to murders, but they are rare and this one was particularly heinous. Lisa Bonney, in her forties, was shot in the back by a shotgun wielded by an ex-boyfriend, Brian Keith, in broad daylight on the main beach approach in Long Beach on the Friday of the busiest weekend of the Summer, the End of the World Rod Run, and in full view of two policemen. Needless-to-say the man was apprehended immediately, but two grown children were left without their mother and the community horrified. As the investigation has proceeded it has been revealed that this man was already under investigation by the FBI for difficulties with his boat building business in Roseburg, OR. Lisa Bonney, who already had a restraining order against her murderer, had believed that meeting this man in a very public place would keep her safe. Women need to learn that if your gut tells you a man is dangerous, don’t assume that anywhere is safe.

The Seattle television stations gave the murder little attention at the time it happened. The Peninsula is nearer to Portland, Oregon which did pay attention. Seattle seemed more interested in the fact that there were 60,000 hotrod enthusiasts on the Peninsula that weekend without explaining that the murder had nothing to do with the Rod Run. Lisa Bonney picked the beach approach because she knew it would be crowded and believed that that fact would prevent diaster.

Brush has not been arraigned yet, but remains in jail on a $50 million bail. The bail indicates the community’s outrage. The arraignment was postponed so that authorities can do a second search of his Long Beach house. In last week’s paper he was pictured in tears. I don’t think anyone on the Peninsula feels sorry for him, but there’s a collective heartache for the children and parents of Lisa Bonney.

In a small community like this everyone knows everyone else and everyone’s business. As a friend used to say, “This is a small sandbox. You’d better be careful where you shit.” It is a community where if you’re smart you keep your front room picked up and, if you care, put your make-up on when you go shopping (the flip side of that is you could go in your bathrobe and no one would be surprised)—even in Astoria—since everywhere you go you’re going to run into people with whom you have at least a nodding acquaintance or someone whose ex had married your ex making your somehow family of a sort. It is what is charming and frustrating about life in a small community, but the frustration is compensated for by the beauty of the landscape and the salt in the air. I guess that’s what makes murder here seem even more tragic, but they happen in even the most beautiful places.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Runnin' Down the Road

I am an only child. My parents divorced when I was eighteen. Now my mother is 87 and I alone am left to make sure she is safe, takes her medications appropriately and manages to live independently in an apartment in a retirement building. My husband Dave is the second of seven boys who have committees of siblings in charge of various aspects of their elderly parents’ lives. I am the committee for my mother—from 150 miles away. My cell phone allows me to speak with my mother every evening and the medical alert system I pay for to sleep at night except when she falls at 2 AM and they call me. And then there are the bimonthly trips to take her shopping. Sometimes she doesn’t have the energy to actually do the shopping and will sit in the car or maybe even stays home. The trip from our home in Gig Harbor, Washington to Ilwaco where she lives in an apartment six blocks from the little old Victorian house we hope to retire to one day is a mixture of blessing and curse. I love the Long Beach Peninsula and have my whole life, but the frequent trips are hard on my budget, family and car.

I know I am not alone. As we Baby Boomers are aging our parents, those stalwarts of the Greatest Generation who saved the world when it sorely needed it, are growing frail and dying. Many of the people I grew up with have already lost both of their parents. Many of us now care for those who once cared for us. We watch their steps as anxiously as they once watched us take our first tentative steps. One friend gave up her live in Hawaii where the weather suited her health problems to move back to Oregon to care for her father when he no longer could care for himself. Her mother and three brothers gone and her sister battling her own demons, there was no one else. The situation has created resentments on both sides. Most of the time I do not resent my trips to the coast, but sometimes when I am very tired or my mother is very cranky, I long for a sibling on whom to lean. Sometimes I resent being a committee of one.

This is my weekend to see about my mother. When I leave of a weekend depends on the time of year, the weather, and who may be coming with me. If it gets dark by 4 PM and is likely to rain I wait until Saturday morning. I’d rather get up at 5 AM and hit the road than drive in the dark and the rain. Sometimes, if his rotating days off land on the weekend, Dave comes with me. Sometimes my daughter Amy comes which was the case today. The route I take depends on the things listed above and to a great extent my mood. Today, because the days are getting shorter and I wanted to get as far as possible in the daylight, I spent a bit more time on freeways than I would normally. I hate freeways and will go out of my way to avoid them if reasonably possible. Unless there is snow on the ground in Mason County I never go down I-5; instead I head up highway 16 to Purdy and then take highway 3 to Shelton. From Shelton I have a number of routes.

Where and when we stop in route is determined by when we leave and how hungry we become. Today I had proposed to Amy that we go to Montesano at Gepetto’s Pizza. Friday is pizza day as far as Amy is concerned and having Down’s Syndrome she can be routine bound, but today she chose stopping in Shelton at Vern’s Restaurant for the best clam chowder in the State of Washington. Well, maybe we haven’t sampled all the chowder in the state, but I figure we’ve come pretty close and Vern’s has won awards so we aren’t alone in our opinion.

From Shelton we hopped on 101 to the McCleary exit, but before getting to McCleary we turned off onto the Elma Hicklin Road that bypasses McCleary and its 30 mph speed limit. I love tooling down these back country roads, passing by houses who after hundreds of trips have become old friends. I don’t know a soul along the way, but I notice when a house has fresh paint or new roof, when it goes up for sale and when the Christmas lights go up. There’s a house about 2 miles outside of Raymond and near Elkhorn Creek that decorates the outside for every season and holiday that comes along. Had there been lighter and had they gotten more fall decorations up I would have stopped and taken a picture. I may on my return flight.

We observe all speed limits in and around South Bend, which is the county seat for Pacific County. They like nothing better than stopping tourists. A new scheme they have is that if you pay your speeding ticket immediately and don’t get any more in Pacific County for six months they will take the ticket off your record. If you chose to fight the ticket and lose all bets are off and it will stay on your record for years. I sent them the money the last time I got one for going 46 into Raymond. I was slowing down, coasting down the hill actually, but by the time I passed the cruiser the speed limit had dropped to 35. I would have, too, eventually, but the officer wouldn’t budge. The ticket has since dropped off.

When I make these trips I am never alone, even if no one is with me. One of the delightful features of my yellow Dodge Neon, affectionately known as the Zonker for Screaming Yellow Zonkers which you have to be of a certain age to remember, is that it has a four disk CD changer. I can load a book on tape or music and be set for the trip. Today I chose a mixture of old radio programs and WWII big band music. I collect old radio shows and love big band so we made the trip with the likes of Fibber McGee and Molly, Glenn Miller and the Dorseys, Marlena Dietrich and Doris Day.

Because I don’t care for driving in the dark or the rain and if both are present I won’t leave the garage at least not for a 150 trip. I have deer whistles mounted on the front bumper, but deer frighten me anyway and we are getting into that part of the year. Actually, on the route to the coast deer are likely to appear in the middle of the highway any time of year. Today sunset was late enough and it was sunny enough for me to feel like making the run into the setting sun. By the time we made the turn off 101S onto the Bay Road just enough pinky orange hung on the horizon to back light the Douglas fir trees against the darkening sky. We crossed Bear River, my personal exhale spot, as the last of the glow slid into the sea.

Amy wanted to rent videos. We don’t have cable at the house and movies are the other form of entertainment, sitting on the porch being one as well. So after a stop at Sid’s, the local grocer, to get supplies like milk and snacks, we drove through Long Beach to the video store. Downtown looked like they’d rolled up the sidewalks. I know summer is officially over, but the weather is still nice, but for a warm Friday evening it seemed deserted. On the way home we figured out why. As we made the bend in highway 103 toward Ilwaco we saw the lights from Ilwaco High School’s football field. I asked Amy if she wanted to drive by the school and she grinned. She attended school there for three years when we lived on the Long Beach Peninsula and even though she spent as long at Peninsula High School in Gig Harbor (Special Education students can stay in school until they are 21) she still considers Ilwaco her school. When we made the turn into the drive at the school we realized where everyone was. High school football and basketball are the end all and be all for this community. Our house is near enough to the school that some Fridays we can hear the band from our yard.

Making this run every two weeks affords me the opportunity to watch the landscape change with the seasons. As we drove onto the Peninsula tonight Amy said, "It's a lovely evening" and it is. Were it freeway driving I probably would have found some other solve before now, but one more trip down the road is notched on my belt. Tomorrow the shopping in Astoria. For now I am going to wander off to bed with Loki the dog. He’s been standing at the doorway as much as to say, “Why are we still up?”

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Welcoming Autumn

I love Fall. It’s my favorite season so I’m always glad when the August breezes begin to whisper Autumn’s name. What’s not to like? There is still plenty of sunshine, but it’s tempered by Autumn breezes and crisp nights. My frequent trips to the coast give me a chance to watch the turning of the leaves. Spring is lovely with her flowers, but I think the yellows, oranges and reds of the Autumn leaves are spectacular. Burnham road from highway 16 up to the Target shopping area of Gig Harbor is lines with trees that seem to try to outdo each other in a breathtaking picture that last just a few days before the leaves begin to blow away.

Mabon, or the Autumnal Equinox is particularly special as it frequently falls on my husband Dave’s birthday so we have two things to celebrate. This year Dave wanted to go to see the sixties concert at the Western Washington State Fair in Puyallup. Although I like farmer’s markets, I am not a big fan of state fairs. I don’t know if it is the food, the hot asphalt or that I’m tired of looking at other people’s collections. For anyone else I would not have not only agreed to venturing to Puyallup on an 88 degree day, let alone pay for our entire family to attend the concert, but it made the man who drove 300 miles round trip just to take his mother-in-law to dinner on her birthday when I could not.

The grandbabies got to see Weird Al’s brain and ride on rides. GrandDave took Linda on the Sky Ride which was right around the time that he lost track of his wallet. We discovered that it was missing when we arrived at the Fischer Scone stand under the Grandstand. Dave dashed off towards where he’d had dinner and son Josh began searching while I went to the Lost and Found in the Administration Building. Not only had someone found the wallet, they’d given it to an officer who had taken it to the Lost and Found immediately. The ladies behind the desk said that it had been there only a few minutes. Everyone was relieved that Dave could enjoy his concert and we all had scones.

The “Young” Rascals aren’t, but it was fun to sing along with all the songs. My forty-three year old daughter-in-law surprised all of us, even herself, by knowing the words. Her reason for coming was Herman’s Hermits. Peter Noone put on a show that made me feel like we were on a cruise, but what’s an aging bubble-gum rocker to do? And we all sang along with every song. Ten month old granddaughter Lydia particularly liked Noone, clapping her hands and bobbing her head. By nine-thirty the kids were tired, especially five-year-old Linda. Josh & Jamie left to take the girls home and Frank & Ana took Gabriel to use up the ride tickets GrandDave still had in his shirt pocket, leaving the grandparents to enjoy Tommy James and the Shondells who put on a true concert and rocked the Grandstand.

We came home tired, dirty and sweaty, but glad that we celebrated the arrival of Fall with a trip down memory lane and for just a few hours been kids again ourselves.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Take a Trip to Alaska

I would have loved the Internet when I was a young mother. I love it now. Back in the 1970s if you wanted to find out what mothers in other parts of the country were doing you read women’s magazines. Some of them had pen-pal sections and you could find a woman with similar interests to yours and exchange recipes and craft ideas. Most of them were stay-at-home-mothers like me.

Tacoma News Tribune “In Your Neighborhood” blog pal turned us on to Pet Peeves and Other Ramblings a blog written by Grandma L. in Yakima, WA. Now it is my pleasure to turn on the Neighborhood to a gem up north, way up north. A Facebook friend turned me onto Scribbit, a blog written by Michelle Mitchell, an Alaska writer and mother. Michelle has a BA in English, has been a free lance technical writer, done research for the National Archives, gardens, is a wife and is the mother of four living near Anchorage.

In her profile Mitchell writes that she’s “Writing daily from Alaska, I’m mother to four children and publish my favorite recipes, reviews, crafts and giveaways with stories of life in the Last Frontier.” If, like me, you don’t get to travel, the Internet highway can take you places you’ve never been and see through someone else’s eyes.
You can get to Alaska by clinking here:

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Mind Your Manners

My mother kept two books of etiquette on the bookshelf in her bedroom and we actually looked things up in them from time to time. My mother always said that these tomes boiled down to “doing the nicest possible thing in the nicest possible way.”

Over the years Americans have abandoned etiquette like rats leaving a sinking ship, thus making us the ugly Americans we are renowned to be. We have had ample proof that people are not interested in, in even the most formal situations, being civil. Many Americans have become so self-absorbed that they believe that the world is interested in their every move. If we were not, things like Twitter and Facebook would not exist. I admit to using Facebook because it is a place where I find and communicate with people I don’t see daily and maybe haven’t seen in forty years, but I try to refrain from posting my every move. “Stephanie: hasn’t had enough fiber…”

The abandonment of etiquette and manners paved the way for Representative Joe Wilson’s monumental breech of it during the president’s speech to Congress on health care. Regardless of your stand on health care reform, if your mother raised you right you were outraged. Clearly Wilson was standing behind the door when his mother attempted to impart manners. He sure didn’t have my mother.

And then there is Serena William’s outburst. It was shocking when McEnroe behaved like a boor and certainly came off just as bad in this ill humored prima donna. I am happy to say that up until recently I neither knew nor cared who Kanye West or Taylor Swift were, but I hope West’s mother gives him a serious dope-slap the next time she sees him. Crying on Jay Leno’s program doesn’t absolve him from being a lout when he interrupted Swift’s award acceptance speech to say that someone else should have gotten it. Whatever made him think that was a good idea?

The rules of etiquette grew out of the notion of Chivalry during the Middle Ages when society was attempting to be more civil. I am sorry that so few people care about them anymore. It’s the reason we have children who are rude, road rage, and outrageous behavior on Little League fields and in the halls of Congress. It would make the world a much nicer place to live in if we could return to some more genteel behavior.

That’s the view from my broom.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Dealing with Technology

Blogging pal Grandma L. of Pet Peeves and Other Ramblings posted her frustration with technology failure, wondering if there is something in the atmosphere that could account for it. It set me to thinking about my screaming yellow 2002 Dodge Neon. Over the past couple of years it has developed some idiosyncrasies for which there seems to be no easy fix.

About two years ago the tachometer in the Zonker (as in Screaming Yellow) began to act erratically. When it’s been working perfectly well while I’ve been driving it will spin around and hit the top peg when I turn off the car. This can last several minutes. Nine times out of ten the tach won’t work when you restart the car for as much as two weeks, then suddenly one day you start the car and the tach is back. On a long trip it will work until I stop for more than five minutes. Leave it more than that and it will just lay there. It works about four days per month. It’s okay since I know when to shift, but it is kind of weird.

Then there is the radio. I like the sound system in the Zonker. I can pull San Francisco at night with the radio and the CD changer has four slots. I fill it when I’m headed on a long trip and there’s no need to change a CD until I get to the beach. It’s really very cool. Not only that, but it has a tape player which is nice because I still own tape cassettes. The problems started out with the volume control. If I have the volume cranked up to listen to tunes as I fly down the road, turning it down when someone else gets into the car proves difficult. When you turn the volume control to the left, which ought to be down, it is just as likely to go up and continue doing so until at some point it begins to go down. You might think that turning it to the right would make it go down if left makes it go up. Wrong. Right just makes it go up no matter how much you twist the knob.

And then there is the sound system and the weather. It does not like the hot. If it gets hot and stays that way for more than a day or two the sound will cut out and you will be left with nothing. It may not work for days and days and then suddenly start working again and not be a problem for a year or more. Finally my husband took it to some shop in Tacoma who said that it would have to be replaced. Since our sound system was an upgrade after market we are unlikely to find one that fits the car from a wrecked Neon and the chances of finding one with a tape player and 4 CD changer is remote. After not working for a couple of weeks it appears to be working now. Maybe our rainy cool weather was just what the doctor ordered.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Worst Vacation Ever

I have relegated the last week of my time away from school and the first week of my husband’s vacation to the “worst vacation ever” category. It started out well enough at our beach house with a visit from my father’s little sister and husband. Although my mother got weird and refused to come to the house while they were there (my parents divorced when I was 18), we enjoyed two evenings and one whole day with them that included dinner out at the 42nd Street CafĂ© in Seaview to celebrate our anniversaries. The fun ended when we waved goodbye to them the next morning.

Even before my paternal aunt and uncle left, I had been called by my maternal aunt in Seaview to come to the house she shares with my cousin to try to persuade the cousin to go to the ER because she was in pain from a lower digestive complaint which reoccurs from time to time. I found her to be less than rational and totally unwilling to go get help so I walked her dog for my aunt who is frail herself and went back home. Not long after we’d waved goodbye to our company the next day I was summoned to my relatives’ house again for the same purpose. My aunt was clearly upset by the behavior of my cousin which was not rational, but clearly indicated that she was in great pain. My cousin suffers from a host of autoimmune diseases which had been somewhat under control, but had spun out two days before.

After forty minutes of cajoling and threatening to call the medics I got my cousin into the car and into the ER at Ocean Beach hospital. Thus began a stint of eleven hours at the ER waiting to speak with a doctor and listening to my cousin implore God for relief in between bouts of diarrhea. Every time a nurse or attendant came in to check her vitals I asked when we might expect a doctor and I received a shrug and the information that they had several critical patients and only one doctor. They took body fluids, some given freely and others by force, for testing and x-rays were taken. All the while my cousin seemed either a zombie or writhing in pain. Beyond calling her mother who was at home and her brother who was at work in Vancouver, there was little I could do besides read and pray that we’d get help.

Eight and a half hours into our ordeal a doctor appeared, cheerfully ticking off the list of tests he had ordered and the results which showed that my cousin was in good health. I starred at his unearthly white teeth which seemed too large for his mouth and tried to fathom what he was saying. I also knew that she was too ill to go home for my 85 year old aunt to care for.

It came down to that he thought her problems were mental. If I had as many illnesses as my cousin I’m sure I’d have mental problems, but I could not believe that it was her mind that was calling out for help from God. “What about the pain that she’s crying out for help with?” I asked him. He then questioned my cousin who seemed confused about the location of her pain, but finally she laid her hand on her lower abdomen. Dr. Power Smile left and soon my cousin was taken away for a CATscan. Half an hour later she was returned to the operatory and I learned it would be another hour before we received the results. I did manage to get a nurse to hook up some IV fluids for my dehydrated cousin who had had nothing by mouth for two days.
More than another agonizing hour had passed when Dr. Power Smile returned and informed us that my cousin had an inflamed bowel due to her Lupus. After eleven hours they had decided to admit this obviously very ill woman to the hospital and I could go home.

The balance of my time on the coast was taken up with seeing to my cousin’s dog until we could get him boarded with the Humane Society, visiting with her at the hospital along with her brother who had arrived from Vancouver, and meeting a very nice doctor who seemed genuinely to understand autoimmune diseases and to be willing to help my cousin recover. I was not able to return to Gig Harbor on the day I had intended to as I promised to take my aunt to do her first of the month banking and bill paying. My cousin was released from the hospital much earlier than expected and probably due to her desire to return home where she could smoke and to get her dog back with her. Murphy was overjoyed to see her.

All the while this was going on my husband was left to paint the North side of our house and feed himself and my daughter. In the midst of this we had dear friends arrive for the weekend and what a blessing their presence was! They helped me shop for my mother and aunt and buoyed up my spirits.

My cousin seems to be recovering from this latest bout with the ugly symptoms of her illnesses, illnesses that many doctors do not even acknowledge as legitimate. For now she and her mother are making their lives work in a drafty 100 plus year house from which they refuse to move and I am back at school and to a semblance of a normal life and finding time to write again.