Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year's Eve!

When Loki and I went for a walk last night, the grass was frosty and the night quiet.  This morning the temperature had warmed, the frost melted and the ocean loud.  Bear in mind that the ocean is two miles from our house so if she is loud enough for us to hear her, she is very loud indeed.
Amy’s and my New Year’s company has cancelled so we have made alternate plans to go to lunch and Les Miserables in Seaside with our friend Kathleen today.  I certainly hope that Amy likes it better than she did The Hobbit.  Of the three of us attending that, I was the only one who liked it and intends to see the sequels.  Amy declared it too scary and I have to admit that the goblins and orks were pretty nasty looking, but I am anxious to see what they do about that dragon!  Hopefully singing will make the French Revolution palatable for my daughter.
I think I earned a day off.  I cleaned my mother’s apartment from kitchen to bedroom, including the bathroom.  I am hoping that we can get a new chore person to keep it up and that my mother won’t fire whomever they send.  I believe that if the agency gave a little more of what we pay to the help and kept less for itself they might find better folks.  There is the great debate over what happened to some fancy hangers I bought for my mother and a missing bottle of perfume.  And then there was the young woman who didn’t know how to make a bed.  Apparently some of these people receive no training from either their mothers or the agency.  My mother wants the sheets and blankets tucked under the mattress and the covers to come up high enough to cover her shoulders.  When she complained she was told not to expect hospital corners.  We just expect the covers to stay on the bed.
The fireworks stands began popping up in town yesterday.  I forgot about the fireworks.  I don’t remember fireworks being a part of New Year’s except on the television.  When the children were little I let them stay up and take pots and pans and wooden spoons out into the yard to beat at midnight.  Now New Year’s has become another night for dog anxiety and I left Loki’s 4th of July medicine at home.  He and I may end up on the couch for a while tomorrow as for some reason he thinks that it is safer downstairs than up.
Have a safe and happy New Year's!


Sunday, December 30, 2012

Cleaning Up for 2013
As Loki and I came down the back steps in the pre-dawn dark, the grass twinkled in the glow of the Christmas lights around the backdoor and crunched under foot as we made our way over to the barn and cottage with the laundry.  Amy and I have company coming and besides getting caught up on the laundry I wanted to turn up the heat in the cottage.  Considering the frost I was none too soon.  I’d thought the house seemed chillier than usual in the night and snuggled under the flannel sheets, looking for my furry heater with my feet.  Although smaller than last night when I walked the dog, the moon this morning was beautiful and the ocean quieter than in several days.
Winter appeals to me to work on my interior life, doing a spiritual inventory, and New Year’s appeals for working on the interior of our home.  Spring cleaning has a lot to recommend it since you can throw open the windows and drag things into the yard, but New Year’s is also a good time for making an inventory of what I’ve actually laid hands on during the last year and what I could actually do without. 
Today I am starting with my mother’s apartment and will try to get her to do the same.  I am descended from a long line of “pack rats.”  I consider myself in recovery, but I am sure that my children would beg to differ since they will have plenty to deal with when I am gone.  Truly, I am trying to pare down my pile so that the job doesn’t overwhelm them.  Right now I am tidying up for company and when I get back to Gig Harbor I plan to do some serious cleaning.
My mother’s pile has dwindled to a one bedroom apartment with limited space so occasionally it is necessary to eliminate things.  She balks at the idea of de-cluttering.  She wants her stuff out where she can see all of it all day long.  The idea of rotating knick knacks is an anathema to her.  How many Ichiro bobble head dolls do we need on the buffet and oh, yes, didn’t he go to NY?  I will be lucky if I am able to dust around Ichiro, much less get him moved for the basketball season.  Spring training is just around the corner, you know.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

New Year's Diets
The Winter Solstice came and went without the World ending.  Winter is a time for turning inward and nurturing our interior lives so that we can bloom in the Spring.  It is probably not accidental that we celebrate New Year’s at this time of year or that most people’s thoughts turn to creating better lives in some way.  The dark days and nights give us time inside our homes and heads to think about what we can do to improve ourselves, our community and the World.  If this is a new era, as was actually the Mayan’s belief, then are we not each of us a part of that?  If we make our own lives better are we not making our community better as well?
Like most people my New Year’s goals are always to be physically healthier.  Actually, I’ve been working on that since my life hit a perfect storm of my husband leaving to work out of state and my discovery of some health issues that have caught up to my Baby Boomer body.  I’ve managed to lose some weight, am working on keeping my blood pressure down (not an easy feat with Dave 1,500 miles away) so that there’s no further damage to my heart and eyes, and getting my right eye treated for an occluded vein.  A friend recently asked me how I was keeping from over indulging in the sweet goodies of the season.  It’s simple.  I don’t want to die just yet.  I’d like to live long enough to enjoy my husband’s company when we are living together again.
The other sort of health that we are working on is fiscal health.  The reason that Dave went from our home in Gig Harbor, Washington to Prescott, Arizona was to get our finances in better order for retirement.  The bursting of the real estate bubble and the “Great Recession” of 2008 deflated our plans for retirement.  We are several years behind in our plans for selling our Gig Harbor home (or even the ability to do so) and moving to our 131 year old Victorian cottage by the sea. 
Since Dave left in June of this year there have been some glitches along the way including a hiking accident he had in Arizona necessitating him coming home for surgery, going on short term disability (less money), and trying to get compensated for out of state physical therapy.  We also saw this Christmas as a last time to give generously albeit not excessively.  With the beginning of what is supposed to be Dave’s last nine months as a “commuter husband” we are working toward the birth of fiscal stability and the creation of a new life and maybe a new bathroom in our antique house.  Nothing fancy, but our current one was installed in the former pantry when indoor bathing was instituted in the house.  I’d like the pantry back to its intended function and a shower that is actually supposed to be a shower and not a shower head nailed to a piece of 2X4.
By living frugally in Arizona, Dave has been able to pay down our home equity loan from $43,000 to $8,000 today.  Having a debt-free retirement home should be a piece of cake, but we’d like that bathroom as well so the challenge is to spend as little and save as much as possible.  In the past when I have written about frugality for the Tacoma News Tribune I have been accused of attempting to undermine the American economy.  I have actually been called un-American.  It seems to me that as American individuals we have spent our way into the situation of the past four years through over-consumption, easy loans, and living beyond our means.
So our physical diet and rehabilitation will be accompanied by a fiscal diet and rehabilitation as we head into what I hope will be lucky ’13.  My mother-in-law called it “making a penny scream.”  I spent enough time as a low/no income single mother to know how to do that.  I can make do pretty well and while I’m not disposed to go to the extremes of those on The Learning Channel’s “Extreme Cheapskates” (I will NOT recycle tush wipes), I can cut the fat out of both sorts of diets.  I'm not sure whether or not the nation should or will go off the fiscal cliff.  Maybe everyone should count on a fiscal diet...oh, yeah, that would make everyone unAmerican.
I believe that the main reason “New Year’s Resolutions” fail is our belief that a day or two of falling off our wagon means failure.  Every new day can be a New Year’s as long as the sun comes up and now that we’ve learned that the Ancient Mayans saw us as not ending, but as entering a new era we can make each day a new beginning.  Things to ponder as sleep our Winter's nap with dreams of Spring.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Under the
Christmas Tree

Every morning there are crows in our Ilwaco yard—lots of them.  I like them because they are funny, smart (supposedly as smart as a dog) and they eat the grubs in the grass that will end up being annoying crane flies, which I do not like.  We’ve never had a satisfactory name for our house by the sea and so one morning I lit on the notion of calling our house Crow Cottage.  In all honesty I like the alliteration, too.  Because I have two artist sons, this Christmas I put a sign saying “Crow Cottage” on my Christmas list.  We draw names and my fingers were crossed that one of them would get my name.
 I was pleased beyond words when I opened my gifts from eldest son Joshua at our family celebration.  Besides the first two seasons of Downton Abbey, there was the wished for sign.  It was exactly as I envisioned and even better because he made the background a soft purple, my favorite color.  I actually wanted it for the outside of the house, but this one had been done in paint that won’t stand up to the weather.   “No matter,” my best friend said when she saw it, “You need it in the kitchen where you can see it all the time.”  She proceeded to climb on a chair and hang it above a doorway.  My birthday is in February and I’m going to hint for an identical sign done in weather resistant paint.
There is one other gift that touched me and that one was a total surprise.  My youngest was asleep when I went to work the day of his departure so along about the time I knew that Joshua had deposited Nadir and my husband Dave at SeaTac to fly back to CA and AZ respectively, I texted Nadi that I was sorry to have missed hugging him goodbye.  In truth, I could have wakened him, but I am sure I would have cried which distresses him and why while I pick him up when he arrives; I no longer take him to the airport when he leaves.  He responded that he’d left a little something extra under the tree when I left.  I found it and put it into the car with other Christmas goodies and gifts to take to Ilwaco with my daughter and me.  Christmas morning I was delighted to open a beautiful copy of The Prophet.  I have all of Gibran’s works including two copies of The Prophet and while I give away a lot of books, I don’t share Gibran.  This copy, instead of being illustrated with Gibran’s sepia drawings, is graced in color illustrations done in a Persian style.  While Gibran was Lebanese, these illustrations evoke more of that part of the world and probably caught Nadir’s eye because he is half Persian himself.  This will be a treasure of the rest of my life not only because it is beautiful, but because it was unexpected and from a most beloved son.
This Christmas has been totally different from Christmases of the past, but Santa found Amy—she was concerned that he might not—we’ve had Christmas company and lots of wonderful meals.  By this time next year Dave’s sojourn in AZ will be over and he will be celebrating the holidays with us and we all look forward to that.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas Miracle
I had a Christmas miracle on Christmas Eve.  I was cooking Christmas Eve dinner at my ninety-year-old mother’s apartment when there was a knock on the door.  When I opened it there stood an angel, but at first I didn’t know it was one.  He was dressed like a Long Beach police officer and he asked if I owned The Bath House there in Ilwaco.  I confirmed that and he told me that he thought we’d had a break-in because the door at the front of the building was torn off and laying in the yard.  I chuckled and said that I’d been unable to lock the barn for months and that to the best of my knowledge the storm on Dec. 15th had caught the door and torn it off the one-hundred and thirty-one year old building.
Now Officer Cutting, had tracked me down at my mother’s because he’d seen the door laying in the yard, talked to my neighbor and found out where my mother lived.  Someone else might have knocked on the door of our house, found no one home, logged what he’d done and gotten on with his shift.  This nice young man had taken the time to prop the door in the doorway and track me down.
I explained that my husband has been working out of state since June and that I’d not yet figured out what I was going to do about the door, but I assured him that there’d been no break-in.  “Do you have a screw driver in that barn?” he asked.  I told him there was, grabbed my keys and followed him the six blocks back to our place.  Officer Jeff Cutting proceeded to nail a piece of 2X4 to the inside of our elderly barn and then screw the hinges back to the barn.  Not only was the barn door back up, but it looked like I’d be able to lock it when I return to our year round home in Gig Harbor following New Years.  As Christmas Eve truly became eve I thanked Officer Cutting for the best Christmas gift I could have received and wished him a Merry Christmas.  He smiled and wished the same to me.  Then I texted my husband that we’d had a miracle and to call me ASAP.  When I finally got to speak with him and related the story he was as overwhelmed as I.  It is as frustrating for him as for me to have him 1,500 miles away when things go wrong. Officer Cutting parents must be very proud to have such a nice son.  We are very grateful to him and heartened that such young men are willing to serve the Long Beach and Ilwaco communities.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Taking Back America--Republicans, you've been put on notice.
Before the Republicans continue to talk about “taking back America” they need to look at the election results and think about what it is they want to return to. When we are nostalgic we only see the good things of the past.  I am as guilty as anyone.  I tend to be nostalgic for a time I didn’t even live in.  I love the music, movies and the sense of shared purpose of WWII.  I grew up in the 1950s and ‘60swhich had much to recommend them.  I roamed far and wide on my bike and on foot without benefit of helmets, knee pads or what my youngest refers to as the “electronic leash”, the cell phone.  The economy was good, everyone was excited about space travel and there was a vibrant president in the White House whose family seemed like royalty.
On the other hand there was still racism, the KKK held sway in much of the south, women were discouraged from working and if they did they were paid substantially less than their male counterparts.  My father didn’t want me to go to college because I “would be taking up a spot that ought to go to a man because he will be the head of a family someday.”
We are not the United States I grew up in.  We are no longer largely the Smiths, the Jones, and the McHales and many of those bearing those names are African Americans and no longer kept in ghettos and the other side of the tracks.  We are also the Gonzales, the Sings, and the Kianersis.  Hispanics are the fastest growing group in this country and with farmers in Eastern Washington unable to find Americans willing to pick produce it’s time to address immigration.  Are we truly a nation that embraces “the tired, the poor, the huddled masses” or are we putting out the “full” sign?  If we are, some of these folks that are unemployed had better haul their butts over to the Yakima Valley and do back breaking work for little pay. 
We are more diverse than any nation on the face of the Earth and that ought to make us stronger, not more divided, but those who would turn back the clock can’t seem to see that.  As my husband commented as we watched the election returns last night (albeit communicating via cell phone), “The Republicans are on the wrong side of history.  If they don’t change their course they will find themselves irrelevant.” They will become like dinosaurs.
Like it or not, women are no longer confined to hearth and home.  Personally, I believe that if one chooses to be a mother she ought to stay home with her children at least until they start school, but that’s just me.  Last night saw no less than ten women elected to Congress and nine of them are Democrats.  I cheer for the lone Republican, too, because women tend to be more democratic of mind and with women being 50.8% of the population it’s time that we are represented in all aspects of American life by that percentage.
To become relevant the Republicans need to rethink their hardnosed stands against minorities, LGBTs, women and religions outside of the mainstream Christian Church.  Without appealing to the above groups these largely old white men will be exhibits in a wax museum.
Pursuit of the American Dream has become harder, largely because of the economy and because of our failure to live up to Emma Lazarus’ poem emblazoned on the Statue of Liberty.  If we want to “take back America” we ought to be thinking in terms of embracing those words and our diversity and continuing to welcome people willing to work hard to pursue their dream. Life is not static or lived in a vacuum.  Our lives, needs, and expectations are different now than the 16th Century or even the 1950s.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Eyes Have It
Last Friday was my second injection in my eye for treatment of an occluded vein.  Now blood pressure got me into this situation to start out with and Friday afternoon I thought surely it would make things worse. 
My daughter-in-law Ana had agreed to drive me from Gig Harbor to Federal Way.  What I actually needed was for her to drive me home.  After the injection I have what looks like protozoa swimming around in my right eye and it feels like I haven’t slept in a couple of days.  In addition I have no tolerance for freeways anymore.  I thought I’d told her to pick me up at school at 2:10, as soon as the buses have left with those Gig Harbor High School students who don’t drive.
I stood out front with the students whose parents, boyfriends, girlfriends pick them up.  It’s a good 45 minute drive to Federal Way and we were stopping to drop my grandson off with my oldest son so he could attend his cousin’s birthday party at Odyssey.  At 2:20 I called Ana’s cell phone to see where she and Gabriel were.  No answer.  Well, if she were driving she shouldn’t answer.  Still…  I called the house.  Gabriel answered.  They were under the impression that I was picking them up.  They didn’t realize that I’d gotten a ride with a co-worker and that my car was sitting in the garage.
Ana finally arrived.  She’d changed Gabriel’s drop off point to my granddaughter’s school where my son was to meet us.  My other son, Gabriel’s dad, would pick him up from the party and we rocketed out of Tacoma headed toward Federal Way while I called the clinic to say we were late.  I was told that we could be fifteen minutes late.  That was it.  Ana got us to Federal Way Group Health just seven minutes late.  I was so glad.  Ana had shopping to do and I wanted the doctor to have to talk to me this time, not Ana as though I was a three-year-old.  I told her to go shopping.  I wasn’t going to want to go with dilated eye anyway.
It’s not that I was looking forward to having a needle poked in my eye, but once you’ve got yourself psyched for something it was going to be a letdown of I didn’t get the treatment so I was glad that we’d made it in time.  Besides, I was anxious to find out if the first treatment had helped.  I thought it had, but wasn’t sure it was just wishful thinking.
My eyes were dilated and tested by the technician and photographs taken of the inside of both eyes.  I was led to the room where the procedure was to be done and the doctor came in to look over the test results.  When I’d first come to their clinic in September they tested my eyes at 20/60.  The month before they’d tested at 20/50 in Tacoma.  This time, after one treatment, my eyes tested at 20/30 and the photos showed a nearly 50% shrinkage of the occluded vein!  “So, do you want to do another treatment?” the doctor asked.  Did, I??  Yes. 
I texted Ana the good news about my eye test and after they had me upside down in the chair and were numbing my eye she replied that it wasn’t her day.  The battery on my car was dead.  I stopped thinking about the needle and tried to remember if our AARP Roadside Service was paid up.  The technician had already told me not to talk.  I texted Ana that I couldn’t call and that the jumper cables were in the trunk of the car.  They kept taking off my glasses to put more drops in my.  By the time Ana texted asking how to open the hood of the car I could not see the display on the phone.  I tried to text that it was on the driver’s side inside, but it came out in comprehensible.  What the heck.  I trusted Ana to figure it out.  My eyesight was better, that was the main thing.  Quick as a wink, the doctor clamped open my eye, marked the “target” and the Avastin was injected.  This time I felt a little pressure in the top of my head, but it was fleeting.
My commuter-husband Dave called me after the injection, but while I was still upside down in the chair.  I told him Ana’s situation and asked him to call her.  It had been quite an afternoon by the time I shook hands with the doctor who is returning to the Everett clinic and wandered out front to make an appointment for December.  Although he called me “dear” this time I barely noticed because hee said that there was the possibility that no more injections will be necessary and I determined that since he’s coming home for ten days in December, Dave was going to take me.  It’s not that he’s less likely to get a miscommunication or have a problem with the car, but at least we won’t have to spend time parking Gabriel somewhere.  Besides, I miss my guy and any excuse to hang out with him will do at this point.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Happy Halloween!
Autumn. It’s my favorite time of year, not the least because of Samhain or what is more widely known as Halloween.  For Ancient Celts, Samhain (pronounced Sow-in) was the end of one year and the beginning of a new one.  They believed that on this night the veil between the living and those who have passed on thins.  I like to think so.
The other night my eight-year-old grandson asked, “Grammy, do you believe in ghosts?”  I truthfully told him that I had no evidence either way, but that there is much in the world that has not been explained and that I like to think that those whom I love and have died have not gone far and that on Halloween are closer still.
Contrary to what the American religious Right would have you think, Samhain has never been an occasion for worshipping the devil.  Neither the Ancient Celts nor modern Wiccans even believe in the existence of the devil although both acknowledge there to be evil in the world.  That evil was not and is not worshipped except by those who have perverted the traditions of the Ancient Ones.
In the 1990s my mother had a pastor who looked and sounded like Reverend Kane in the movie Poltergeist, who admonished their bible study group that Halloween ought not to be celebrated because it was demonic.  I was surprised that my mother had swallowed that because as a child carving pumpkins and trick or treating in our ‘50s tract housing development was a big deal that I participated in and my own children had trick or treated in the 1970s and ‘80s with no ill effects.  People like “Reverend Kane” prey upon others who are already afraid of life in this world.
I like Halloween because it and its Christian off-shoots of All Saints Day and the Day of the Dead are a chance to honor and remember our loved ones who have left this world.  Celtic tradition included a Dumb Supper where a place was set at the table for the missing family member.  Last week the Tacoma Art Museum held their annual Day of the Dead exhibit where artists and groups were invited to create altars honoring people.  These can include pictures, flowers, and objects that tell the story of the life of the person.  My daughter-in-law Ana and I liked the idea so well that we adopted it in our home, albeit on a smaller scale.
Halloween is fun, too.  It is a chance for children of all ages to dress up in some way completely foreign to their usual attire and celebrate the harvest.  The notion that somehow the devil is going to get children who celebrate Halloween is ludicrous and we are sad that a combination of that idea and our neighborhood becoming largely retired folks means that we don’t get any munchkins knocking on the door.  Americans are spending more and more money on Halloween each year so hopefully some inroads are being made on the Puritan notion that if something is fun it must be bad.
So on Wednesday night instead of turning off your porch light and being afraid of malevolent demons in the night, take time to think about those who have passed from this life and welcome them back for a set next to the warmth of a fall fire.  And maybe have a bit of your favorite candy.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Maybe Ignorance IS Bliss
My friend Sydney Steven’s blog this morning was about blissfully sleeping unaware that an earthquake had occurred off the Queen Charlotte Islands last night.  This caused a tsunami warning that stretched all the way to the southern tip of Vancouver Island that points right at the State of Washington.  I should have been so lucky, but my granddaughter’s piano concert and a late night snack with my grandson meant I was awake when Joanne Rideout of KMUN’s The Ship Report began posting NOAA reports on Face Book last evening about the time I ought to have been calling it a night.
I am reminded of another night during which I slept perhaps too well.  In 1964 my mother, father and I spent Easter Vacation (it was still called that back then) at my grandparents’ beach house in Seaview, Washington on the Long Beach Peninsula.  We had neither telephone nor television and when we weren’t out on the beach we read for entertainment.  Then we went to bed.  That Good Friday was no different than any other night and does not stand out in my memory except in terms of the following day. 
That night my parents and I did sleep blissfully unaware that there had been a tidal wave warning (they weren’t called tsunamis in 1964—at least not by us) in the night.  Saturday morning was the first we heard about it from a neighbor boy, Christopher, who wanted to know why we hadn’t been at the gym at the old pink high school in Ilwaco the night before.  “What?” I’d asked him.  It seemed that the sheriff’s department had gone up and down the Peninsula with a bullhorn advising people to evacuate to the school which sits atop of a hill of sorts compare the to the relative flatness of the Peninsula.  Christopher said that he’d enjoyed laughing at the teenage girls in their bathrobes and big hair curlers (another thing we still did in the ‘60s).  I was glad for several reasons.  First of all, there’d been no tidal wave on the Peninsula so we were alive , second we’d had a good night’s sleep and third, when I got back to Tillicum Jr. High in Bellevue on Monday I enjoyed bragging how I’d slept through a tidal wave.  My girlfriend Deby Bingham thought it was hysterically funny.
Last night my mind was turned to my mother who fifty years later lives in an apartment in Ilwaco and has a tsunami bag.  Ironically on October 12th they’d supposedly had a test of the tsunami preparedness up and down the West Coast.  There are big flying saucers on poles located along the Peninsula that are supposed to issue warning.  I’ve heard them test it and thought God was speaking from the clouds.  There are supposed to be robo calls to the local numbers warning people to evacuate.  My mother has received those calls in the past, but not this time.  Because she’s 90 I had warned her so that she wouldn’t freak out.  This summer I spoke to Jackie Sheldon, the manager at my mother’s apartment building, and she told me that she’s arranged for buses to arrive to take the largely old and infirm residents to higher ground. 
So last night as KMUN’s The Ship Report gal posted NOAA updates about the seemingly ever expanding area of the warning and sat 150 miles away unsure of what I’d do if suddenly the Washington coast was included in the warning area.  I really panicked when it reached southern Oregon and northern California and Hawaii, but seemed to skip over Washington.  Had NOAA left something out?  Finally round midnight Rideout posted that the warnings had been reduced to advisories along BC and OR so I turned off the light and went to sleep.
My mother has a tsunami bag.  In it she has bottled water, a can opener, and a fifth of bourbon.  The latter has puzzled us since she asked my husband to buy it for her.  My youngest says that she’s going to get blind drunk and ride out the storm in her second story apartment.  Based on the tsunami practice this month that may be her best bet, but just last week she had me buy her a thermos for her bag.  She says that she’s going to make coffee if there’s time.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Better than a poke in the eye with a sharp...oh, wait
I am not a great one to run to the doctor much—ever—but because of my high blood pressure she—my doctor—does keep tabs on me at least once per year.  This year I decided to be a good patient and get all of my tests and checks done during the tail end of my Summer Break from school.  I hadn’t had my eyes checked in about seven years and to my dismay what I had interpreted as a need for new glasses was really an occluded vein in my right eye, making a fair sized hole in my vision in that eye for which my left eye, which had not changed a bit, was compensating for.  This was the result of my HBP.  But there was treatment, the ophthalmologist at Tacoma Group Health said, but for that I’d have to go to Federal Way.  I tried to wheedle out of him what sort of treatment we were talking about, but he quickly handed me the directions to the Federal Way clinic and fled. Because my commuter husband Dave returned home for surgery, I put off getting an appointment with the Federal Way clinic until after he’d returned to AZ—at least that was my justification in my mind.
My daughter-in-law Ana made the trip to Federal Way with me.  I knew that at the very least they were going to dilate my eyes again and I had no desire to attempt to drive back to Gig Harbor on I-5 with dilated eyes.  Grandson Gabriel came along, too and our threesome trooped into the examination room.  After the dilation I was sent to get my eyes scanned and then back to the exam room where we waited over long.  Gone are the days of the eye chart tacked to the wall.  Now they have a computer screen that the doctor can see and the patient views in a mirror.  After sitting there for 45 minutes we decided at least they could offer us a movie for distraction. 
Finally the doctor returned pointing out the engorged vein in my right eye and explaining the treatment would amount to injections of Avastin into the eye every four to six weeks for one to two year.  This was what I’d been afraid of.  I somehow knew that it was not going to be as easy as a pill.  Treatment had a 50/50 chance of improving my 20/50 sight in that eye.  There was a small chance of infection, damage to the cornea or damage to the retina.  Cheery.  He said they would numb my eye thoroughly.  Ana asked about the rest of me.  The doctor said that he’d never heard of anyone taking anything for nerves before the procedure.  I’m glad that Ana was there because she asked lots of questions including “How many of these have you done?” and “Would you recommend this procedure to your mother?”  Hundreds and yes were the answers.  Because I was intending to drive to the coast to shop for my mother I allowed as how I was NOT going to do it right then.  I did make an appointment for a week later and thus bought myself some time to talk to Dave and mull it over.  I could always cancel the appointment.
The next seven days were not pleasant.  I was reminded of being a child and knowing that a physical was coming that would include a shot and how the days seemed to fly by towards an appointment like that but the days to Christmas crawled by.  During that week I’d conferred with Dave who said that he was 100% behind whatever I decided to do.  My aunt counseled that I do it as did four women friends for whom I have the utmost respect along with Smitty, my dear friend from high school.  If I could give birth without drugs surely I could do this.
Too quickly it was Friday again.  By the time it did I just wanted to get it the heck over with.  We dropped Gabriel with my other daughter-in-law and headed north into the teeth of Friday rush hour and a truck that had lost a wheel reaffirming my dislike for freeways.
I had to sign a consent form so I could not hold the doctor or Group Health responsible if I lost the sight in my eye.  I told Ana I’d just find someone named Guido to take care of the doctor if there was a problem.  The doctor has an Italian surname and he laughed.  My eye was washed, numbed, numbed and numbed again.  By the time the doctor came into the operatory I was upside down nearly and doing my best to go to my happy place.  My eye was clamped open; the doctor told me to look down and left.  He marked the “target,” I felt a pinch and it was over. I was releaved that I had not been able to actually see the needle coming at my eye.  The procedure was over, but I had amoebas swimming around in my eye.  The doctor said it was the Avastin.  It was a little like the old “light shows” done on an overhead projector back in the ‘60s, but without the color.  The doctor was way too young to get that analogy so I kept my mouth shut.
I was given drops for my irritated eye and the doctor addressed Ana about not letting me touch my eye like she was my mother or as if I am in my dotage.  That annoyed me, but I was just glad that getting a needle in my eye wasn’t more painful than it was so I didn’t mention that either and will try to seem more competent when we meet next month.  That evening my eye felt like I hadn’t slept in a very long time so I closed both of them with an early to bed.  The next day it was as though nothing had happened. 
I close my good eye and try to determine if this procedure did any good.  At first I would have said, no, but now I say maybe.  Working in Special Education I am good at spotting tiny amounts of improvement so just maybe…just maybe this will be worth it.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Honoring the Harvest
They claim that politically the country is pretty well split down the middle between Democrats and Republicans.  There are other denominational differences.  There are Summer people and there are the rest of us.  I suspect that the Summer people outnumber the rest of us.  Any of them who live in the Pacific NW are welcome to move somewhere that never knows the changing of the seasons.  We mossbacks will get along without you just fine.
I am an Autumn person.  Much as I love the summer flowers, watching the changing of the leaves makes me happy.  I love the cool crisp mornings and evenings, flannel sheets, and soup in the crockpot when I get home from work.  I even love the rain and am hungry for it during this interminable dry spell we are having. As much as anything I love the holidays. 
Halloween or Samhain is the Celtic New Year and when it is believed that the veil between the living and the dead thins.  This notion was incorporated into the Christian Church when Europe’s pagans were converted.  As with most Christian holidays, pagans kept their holidays and simply called them something else such as All Saints Day and All Souls day.  With the growth of the North American Hispanic population we’ve seen more attention paid to the Day of the Dead.  As Americans, we tend to bury our dead and that’s the end of it.  My daughter-in-law Ana and I have embraced Day of the Dead, creating altars that include our beloveds who have passed over.
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because it can’t be commercialized and it’s for everyone.  It is not a religious holiday and doesn’t involve anything save family and food.  What’s not to like?  I am sure that Native Americans do not celebrate or view it in the same way since the holiday was meant to celebrate the survival of a white settlement in a land and bounty they willing shared only to be annihilated one way or another.  Thanksgiving is not about the Pilgrims for me.  It is about the ritual of eating with family and friends, honoring the harvest and bounty of Mother Earth and getting ready for Winter when all of Nature turns inward to rest and prepare for Spring.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Weighing the Odds
Well, Dave left last Wed.  I had Ana take him as I doubt I would have even slowed down at departures.  I doubt I will ever get used to this commuter marriage thing.  It took a call to Group Health customer service to get his doctor’s release faxed to Lockheed and then signed off on by the flight surgeon.  He’d been trying for several days.  He never did get an MRI on his shoulder because the records for the ear surgery he had twenty years ago are in a warehouse in Tukwila along with the Lost Ark of the Covenant.  We did find out that Group Health will pay for physical therapy and acupuncture in AZ so hopefully he will get some relief for his shoulder and some rehab for his knee.
Last Friday I had my consultation with the Group Health ophthalmologist who specializes in treating occluded veins in the eye.  The treatment involves injections into the eye once a month for one to two years and has a 50/50 chance of helping and a one percent chance of hurting.  Left alone the eye might stay stable (as long as my blood pressure is stable) or it could get worse.  Swell.  Right now I am scheduled for the first treatment this Friday to which I am looking forward to like—well, a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.  Ana is taking me and hold my hand.  I’m not impressed with the odds or the idea that I could devote a couple of years to getting my eye poked and be no better off than I am.  And then there is the question that nags me: if I get my eye poked with a needle does a voodoo doll somewhere feel it?


Thursday, September 27, 2012

And I Don't Have Bette Davis Eyes
Right around the time that Dave was making his decision to go back to work which meant going 1,500 miles away from hearth and home, I had to schedule a doctor’s appointment in order to get my HBP medication renewed for another year.  The appointment was the day after Dave left.  Not surprisingly my blood pressure was through the roof; 157/97.  The doctor took it again a little later in the appointment—after I’d told her what was going on in my life.  It was down, but only to 140/80.  She also heard a heart murmur she said she hadn’t heard the year before and sent me for an EKG.  The doctor upped my medication which is an anti-anxiety medication and that made life more tolerable in more than one way.  When she got the results from the EKG she said that the damage dated back more than ten years.  Funny, how come no one ever mentioned it before?
It was the end of the school year and I wanted to take my daughter Amy and go to our home by the sea because I knew that I could deal with Dave’s absence there better than in Gig Harbor so I put off all the maintenance type medical appointments until later.  The last week of summer break I spent my days at Group Health Tacoma having an ultrasound of my heart, getting a physical, getting the girls pressed and having my eyes tested.  I don’t like to take time off from work for medical appointments 1.) because no one takes as good care of my student as I do and b.) because I try to save my sick leave for when my 90 year old mother gets sick.
Half of the results of those appointments went well.  Unfortunately the ultrasound confirmed that I have heart damage caused by HBP and possibly dating back to the ‘90s when I took ephedra in order to lose weight.  I am at risk of heart failure. When Dave left I'd felt like my heart would break, now I realized I'm in danger of just that. I’m taking my meds and eating more healthfully and I’ve lost ten pounds in three months.  At this rate I should reach my goal weight before I die—I hope.
The other bad news was that I have had some bleeding in my right eye.  My sight cannot be corrected in that eye.  In fact the glasses that I have, which are about ten years old, would probably be just fine if there wasn’t a twisted blood vessel that had caused the pooling of blood.  So tomorrow is another eye appointment at a different Group Health ophthalmologist in Federal Way to determine if the situation can be treated.  I am not looking forward to this, no pun intended.
Bette Davis was right when she said that getting old is not for sissies.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Here GrandDave enjoys a special treat with Granddaught Lydia.
And Now We Return You to Your Irregular Programing
This morning I got up at five as usual.  I took my shower, cooked breakfast for my daughter, fixed my lunch and took the dog upstairs with some dog treats so he could go back to bed with Dave, as usual.  I tiptoed out and went to school as usual.  Except that it wasn’t usual.  As I backed out of the driveway of our Gig Harbor, Washington home I knew that when I returned after school Dave would not be home as usual.  He would be on his way back to Arizona and I cannot expect to see him for five months.  I could not bear to wake him for I would have been lost.  Saying goodbye was not an option much less taking him to the airport.  No, my daughter-in-law did that for me.  Both Dave and I thought that best.
Our “commuter marriage” went on hiatus for a month when my husband Dave hurt himself hiking and had to come home for surgery and recuperation.  It was stressful to have him injured, but it has been lovely to have him home and have life feel more normal even if he’s been limping around with a leg brace and sore shoulder.  Prior to his injury he already had planned a return home for a ten day period so it was not totally unplanned, just sooner and longer than expected.  Now there is no expectation of his return for five months.  The good news is that by that time we will be more than halfway through this fifteen month venture and nearly halfway to his permanent return when hopefully we can begin to pursue our American Dream of retirement which was put on hold by the economy.
Our two months apart this summer made us appreciate each other more.  Although I had never grown tired of having him around after he retired, after twenty-two years of marriage we took each other for granted to a certain extent as many married folks do.  Now our time together is too precious to let petty annoyances blossom or to not think to pay a compliment or feel gratitude for the qualities we first fell in love with.  His month at home demonstrated how we never tire of being together, never run out of conversation; never feel anything but blessed for each and every minute.  Dave’s accident on Granite Mt., which could have been so much worse as articulated by one of his brothers at their mother’s 90th birthday party recently when he said, “We could have been gathered together for a far different occasion,” Phil said earnestly certainly made us treasure our health and time together.
Parting this time was certainly no easier than it was in June.  Actually the contrary is true.  In June Dave knew he could return for his mother's birthday.  This time there is no expectation that he will return before mine.  I am hoping for a pleasant surprise.

Monday, September 3, 2012

A Weekend of Mixed Emotions
Today is Labor Day and this weekend has always been bittersweet to me.  Unlike most parents, when my children were school age I loved having them at home during the lazy days of summer and was as sad as they to see summer vacation draw to a close.  Now I work for the schools and still am sorry.  On the other hand it means that my favorite season is around the corner.  Although the calendar and the moon say otherwise, Autumn is whispering her name in the foggy mornings.
Just as though I am a student myself I have to have back-to-school clothes as compensation to begin our ten month march back to Summer.  This summer I was busy with doctor appointments for my mother, myself, and my husband, not to mention Dave’s knee surgery, but I did manage to find a new jumper that will be snug this Fall and Winter and there’s always the tie-dyed blouse I bought for our class picnic last month which I did not get to attend in the long list of things that have gone by the boards since mine became a commuter marriage.
I had plenty of projects that have gone undone such as painting the porch furniture, getting that bird house put up and does anyone ever get all their summer reads read? The furniture will have to go back in the barn and the bird house wait.  The books can be read evenings and weekends when Mother Nature turns our attention inward.  Summer may be over, but there are still the delights of Autumn to look forward to and just now my attention is turned toward SeaTac because today the baby comes home for ten days!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Commuter Marriage After the Fall
My commuter-husband Dave returned from AZ on Sunday evening hobbling on a hiking stick that he'd purchased after his fall on Granite Mt near Prescott, AZ.  Monday we were able to get him into Group Health Tacoma to be seen by an orthopedist who scheduled surgery for today, Friday.  Because I had already scheduled a series of medical maintenance appointments we have made too many trips to that building this week.  I will be glad when this week is over, but unhappy that the last of my summer break from school has been such a whirlwind of activity, much of it not fun.
We will have to see how Dave does with the surgery to reattach his right quad and his fancy new brace to see how much fun is in store for us, although I admit to being very, very happy to have my “running partner” back with me.  Over the last two plus years we had grown used to being in each other’s company a great deal and his removal to AZ to work had been felt keenly by both of us.  It is not as though I live in an empty house, but it is not the same without Dave.
Dave’s mother’s 90th birthday is coming up next week and her party is on Sunday.  Will a day be long enough to get him righted enough to attend?  I doubt it, but to miss celebrating his mom with his six brothers, five sisters-in-law and many nieces, nephews and his own grandchildren will be a great disappointment for both of us. We also have tickets to the Willie Nelson Show at the Puyallup Fair on the 7th which could become the fourth event that we have been unable to attend this summer.
My youngest son is coming for a ten day visit beginning Monday.  It will be nice to have an extra pair of hands to help care for Dave when I return to work on Tuesday so the entire load does not fall on daughter-in-law Ana.  Thank goodness she is a stay-at-home/home-schooling-mom!  I am sure that grandson Gabriel will be vying for Uncle Nadir’s time and wanting to walk down the road to our woodsy park.
I will be glad when the surgery and this week are over and we can focus on getting Dave better.  That will be bittersweet because when he is righted up he will be returning to AZ, not to come home until February of next year. I am resolved to just have to wring the most out of each day right now.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

It has been about eighty days since my husband Dave and I made the decision for him to take a job offer at Lockheed Martin in Prescott, AZ and seventy-three since I drove away to work, leaving him behind, packing his Honda Hybrid for this three day drive away from the life we had had together for nearly twenty-two years. Because of the economy ours had become a commuter marriage. Today he is coming home for a visit and I am as excited as a young girl preparing for a prom.

During the last 73 days it has become more tolerable to have Dave gone, but not easier. By that I mean I do not cry every night, but trying to be two people has been stressful and it is no wonder that my blood pressure went through the roof right after he left. The doctor upped my medication. That helped, but I still have to be two people.

Dave’s time at home has been planned for some time in conjunction with the 90th birthday of his mother and I had been making Honey Do lists for things I hoped he could do. I say had because his fall while hiking last week put the kibosh on that. Now he is returning nearly a week early and injured from his fall. Well, no matter that he cannot tame the backyard, I will get my son to help me with that and no matter that he cannot do the same at our summer home. I am hiring the daughter of a friend to do that.

I thought I would have an entire other week to put the finishing touches on the house inside, but the entire household has pitched in cleaning and sweeping, polishing and dusting. Clean sheets on beds, bathrooms scrubbed, plans for Dave’s favorite food. Plans, too, to get him to Group Health and an orthopedist to see how much damage was done when he fell. I know what the Yavapai Region Medical Center had to say at the time, but will feel better having his knee and shoulder checked out by the people to whom we have entrusted our health care the last 22 years.

What matters to me is that my best friend is going to be around the house again, at least for a little while, and I can fuss over and spoil him and we are that much farther down the road to his permanent return in October of 2013. Right now I intend to wring out every minute of our time together between now and September 12th.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Those Who Wait, Also Serve

The reason that Dave decided to accept a job 1,500 from hearth and home was to earn and save some money for our retirement, so he’s been on the lookout for inexpensive forms of entertainment. In a recent blog I told about his love of bike riding so he was pleased that Mike, the gentleman with whom he is living, as keen to get his bikes in working order and go riding with him. They even have added a third man to their bicycle jaunts. On rainy days Dave goes to the movies, using his senior discount. He also has cards for two libraries where he checks out CDs. In addition to that he has gone hiking on a wide variety of trails every week since he arrived in Prescott, AZ. I was uncomfortable about yesterdays plan from the beginning.

Around 9 AM Dave called me from Granite Mt. He said that he was not at the top, but that the trail did not go that far and he had already gone on beyond the end of the trail and that he was going to head back to the car. He said that it would be slow going because he had to climb over some boulder. I had a friend in for tea yesterday morning and so I was diverted for about an hour, but after my friend left I started thinking about Dave and wishing that the phone would ring. To keep busy and because I knew it needed to be done I went shopping for my nearly 90-year-old-mother and did some chores around her apartment while watching the end of a Gene Kelly movie on TCM. What I did not know was that around nine fifteen, minutes after I had had a good connection and conversation with Dave, when he told me he was going to turn around and head back the three and a half miles to the car, he had fallen. His foot slipped on a boulder and he heard a pop in his leg. His shoulder was sore, but instead of call 9-1-1 he decided to walk out. His leg did not hurt, but depending on how he turned it he collapsed. For some reason this was not enough for my hardheaded nearly sixty-one year old husband. He got himself up, dusted himself off and soldiered on. He would later tell me that before being reached by help he fell twelve times. Two of those falls were into cacti.

At eleven fifteen I tried to call Dave again. Although we had had a good connection at 9 AM now I got no answer so I texted Are you okay. At eleven nineteen he texted that he was working his way down the trail. I said, okay. I asked if he wanted me to call someone, was he lost, did he need assistance. What I did not know was that a hiker had contacted Search & Rescue in the area on another call and they had made contact with Dave at eleven thirty. Later he said that he was trying to prevent me from getting upset. No news is not good news. No news is no news and I began to think of another incident that earned Dave the family name of Dangerous Dave.

It was the summer of 1998. We had a large family gathering at our house in Ilwaco, WA. Everyone save Dave, who was still asleep, had walked to the port to go to breakfast and when we returned our station wagon and his kayak were gone. He left behind a note saying he would be back by 4 PM for our family barbecue. He also left behind his wallet. At five o’clock I began to get irritated as we needed to be getting dinner under way. At six I began to get upset. A friend and I drove out to the Willapa Wild Life Refuge and found the car at the boat ramp where he had gone into Willapa Bay, but no sign of Dave. A couple came in with their kayak, but they had not seen Dave. I was distressed to see that the tide was out and knew that the bay bed became muck and envisioned him stuck and sinking in the mud. I think my imagination was working over time.

We drove the ten miles back home and I called the Pacific County Sheriff who went and looked at the car, too. A lot of help that did. Finally, my father, who was an old Navy man, called the Coast Guard and suggested that they take their helicopter from Astoria and see if they could spot Dave and whether or not he was in trouble. At round 8 PM my father called them back and demanded that they look for Dave as it was beginning to get dark. My uncle stood vigil on our porch, his face turned in the direction we expected him to come. About eight thirty the sheriff’s department called to say that Dave had come into the boat launch and was on the way home, just moments before the Coast Guard helicopter was to leave Astoria to search for him. Dave was incredulous that we had called the Coast Guard even though he was five hours over due. The escapade earned him the moniker Dangerous Dave and my calling the Coast Guard became a threat I issued any time he went off in the kayak or out hiking or biking.

At noon yesterday I drove the six blocks back to our Ilwaco house to fix my daughter Amy some lunch. The headache that had begun around 10 AM had gotten its legs and I told my mother that I was going to eat lunch with Amy and lay down. I figured that any moment I would hear from Dave that he was back at his car and headed home to shower and maybe go to a movie. A little after twelve I texted Dave asking if I needed to call the Coast Guard. I was only half joking because I did not see how it could have taken him three hours to make a trip down that took one to go up. I followed that text up with one asking to confirm if it was Granite Mt. he was on. I got no response. At twelve twenty I texted and asked for his exact location. Twenty minutes later he answered that he was on Granite Mt. trail #261. I asked if he was okay. Nothing. I knew that nap was out of the question so I began organizing our recycles, something that I had to do before heading back to Gig Harbor, and drove them to the port recycling. That done I returned to my mothers, hoping that another Gene Kelly movie would distract me.

Just before 1 PM I texted and asked if he wanted me to call the authorities or if he needed assistance. He replied that he had assistance. I was both relieved and upset. I was relieved that he was not alone, but upset that he needed assistance. I asked him if he were hurt. An hour later I asked again. When I still got no response I called a friend who was at work and asked her to find out what county Prescott was in and then get me the number of the sheriff’s department. I wended my way to a dispatcher who told me that indeed they had dispatched Search & Rescue to assist a man with an injured leg and that about twenty minutes previous they had been in contact with Search & Rescue and that they were a mile from the end of the trail and that if I had not heard from him in an hour I could call back and get a status update.

Fortunately at three twenty-five Dave called me from Yavapai Regional Medical Center to say he was waiting to be x-rayed. He asked me to call Group Health in Tacoma and find out how to get this adventure covered with our insurance, which I was happy to do, but then had a two hour wait to find out exactly what had happened. He had torn his right quad and sprained his right shoulder and was headed to the pharmacy for some meds. This morning he feels worse than yesterday and is working with Lockheed HQ to get short term disability so he can come home and see our doctor. Dave was already scheduled to come home for twelve days beginning on the 1st of September.

I had two Honey Do lists going for Dave, one for Gig Harbor and one for Ilwaco. Yesterday they shrunk to nothing, but at least he is alive and I am hoping to very soon have him home in Gig Harbor for some R&R. Dangerous Dave is off the trail for a while.