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.