Sunday, April 26, 2015

It's the little things

This has been a great week because of a bunch of little things.

  • One of my husband Art's sons, Peter, has been accepted into nursing school. At 30, he has been out on his own for over ten years, in a variety of jobs. He's a smart guy, articulate and easy to be around. Pete decided to conserve expenses for the next two years, so he asked to rent a room from us and we said sure. My philosophy is, do we only support college-bound offspring when they go to college right after high school, or can we help out later? We actually feel kind of honored that Pete asked us to be his landlords. It means he thinks we're okay to be around and that we can provide an environment that will be supportive of his current endeavor.
  • Art has given up his office to provide Pete with a bedroom. Art's extra spaces are usually filled up gradually with things he brings home, so clearing out the room was a major labor of love. At least three trips to Goodwill, full bins to the trash. Art worked on this project for several hours a day for the last week. He ran out of time, so half a dozen boxes are residing temporarily in our bedroom closet or the hallway. I know he'll finish the job, though. He's in the zone. I told him how impressed I am with his effort; it's "for Pete's sake".
  •  I've been asked to be a co-lead in one of the small claims courts in my county. To that end, this week I went to two of the other courts to observe the similarities and the differences. I ended up doing two mediations in each court. I love this stuff! Once I've given the introductory remarks in the courtroom and in the mediation room, I'll be certified as a small claims mediator. I look back on my IT career and now my voluntary mediation work and I feel doubly fortunate. As one of my fellow mediators said, we can do this work for as long as we are in our right minds. When I'm 80, maybe?
  • We may be spending more time in Arizona next year. Art had a small part in the musical Guys and Dolls at the place we live in the winter. Before we left to come home, he tried out for  next season's production of Oklahoma! He found out this week he has a supporting role - with a solo, a duet and several ensemble numbers. And rehearsals start in November. Last night he watched a version of his character singing. I think it hit him then that he's moving up in the theatrical world. What a pleasure to see that he's found something new at 72! 
  •  The radishes and beets in our garden are coming up. Another year of miraculous life! And my sister and I pulled out a bunch of St. Johns wort to allow our raspberries to spread; they're growing in that direction anyway so we might as well clear the way for them and the fabulous berries they're growing for us.
  •  I'm turning back to books after a number of months spent reading magazines. I'm reading a great new book by Anne Lamott. I've reserved a book I've read before from the public library. It's called Quiet and I should have it in a couple of days. I've reserved another book called All the Light We Cannot See but I probably won't get it for a month or so, as it's a bestseller.
See? Just little things. I'm a lucky woman.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Who should I know?

We've been back in Washington for two weeks. Almost everyone I know here is middle of the road or progressive, both politically and faith wise. As far as I know.

In Tucson, where we live in the winter, half the people I know are conservative. It's a different environment down there. Some people "stick with their own kind". One group I attended this year sees itself as a haven for progressives. However, this year we had several fascinating conversations. One day we had a transgender woman as our speaker; the next week we were visited by a woman who was trafficked as a prostitute from age 16 to 22. She is now 52, and she's advocate for those trying to get out of the business. I learned hugely from these two women. Maybe I'm naive, but it seems to me that conversations with "others" are broadening, regardless of our political or spiritual views. I relish the idea of a diverse group participating together in these conversations.

Another group I attended this year is mixed. Of the 30 or so people who meet at 2 p.m. on Wednesdays to discuss current events, views range from tea party conservative to far left. We're not avoiding each other on Wednesdays. We're encountering, on purpose, people who think differently from us. I doubt that any minds are changed, but we sometimes educate each other.  And most of the time we're respectful of each other's opinions. I like that. I am learning how conservatives think, and although I will never be a conservative myself, I'm grateful they're sharing their views.

I am slightly left of middle of the road politically and further left faith wise. But I benefit from my conversations with people whose views diverge from mine.

One day in March my handbell choir played at the in-resort Sunday service. In that service I noticed a number of the conservatives from the current events group. It was the first time I had seen most of them outside the Wednesday afternoon discussion. It's been many years since I listened to a sermon given by a conservative Christian, but I well remember the message. I realized again how my world view differs. But again, I was grateful for the exposure to the differences.

I believe we're all in this life together. I try to live in a loving, compassionate way. I feel accountable for how I use the talents I've been given; I want to be a good steward of those talents. I suspect many of us,  Tea Party or Far Left, Baptist or Unitarian Universalist, have similar inclinations. I think we have more in common than in our differences.

So who should I know? People like me and completely different from me. The very young and the positively ancient. The libertarians and the conspiracy theorists. The panhandlers and the preachers, the illegal immigrants and the holders of work visas. Whoever crosses my path.

This morning I went to my church and sat with 200 people of divergent spiritual views or none. We are a community of love and service. We listened, we sang, we laughed. These are my people. I am glad I am home.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Bag Lady cancels a trip

My husband Art and I were scheduled to fly to Bucharest, Romania on April 24, two weeks from tomorrow, as the starting point of a Viking longboat cruise to Budapest. Our plans were to take the train to Prague at the end of the cruise and spend a few days there before flying home.

Art has an implanted pacemaker/defibrillator and this winter in Tucson he got shocked a couple of times; the device did its job. But the doctors would prefer the shocks not be needed. So Art's meds have been changed and his doctor here at home has recommended we not travel internationally until Art has been on the new meds longer. That's fine with us, as we're engaged in trying to figure out what the heck is causing the problem. We suspect an electrolyte imbalance, as does every medical professional we know except the doctors.

So I'm canceling our trip, and I have a couple of issues already:
  • I called Viking and they told me there are no credits available for future trips. "That's why we recommend travel insurance, which you declined." What are they going to do with that $8,500?
  • I called the travel insurance company we did buy from. For cancellation, we're covered for half of our expenses. Filing a claim requires I send them a copy of the brochure with a statement they don't issue credits; a copy of the e-ticket for the airline (British Airways) with their cancellation policy; and a statement from the doctor advising against travel. It's almost as complicated as buying a house.
  • British Airways charges a $275 rebooking fee for each passenger, and rebooked travel has to be taken by January of next year. We paid 80,000 air miles plus $170 for each ticket ($1,170 each). What if we don't plan another trip for this year?
Seems like everyone is happy to sell you something, but not much interested in letting you return it. This pushes my unfairness button. 

The best way for the Bag Lady to handle this situation is to tell herself that she spent the same amount of money not going to Eastern Europe as she would have if she were going. The only difference is that she didn't have the  experience of the trip. The money would be gone in either case.

For some reason, this makes sense.

Sunday, April 5, 2015


Last week was the first Sunday in a very long time that I didn't have a blog post. It wasn't that there wasn't anything going on. It was because there was so much.

We got back yesterday to our Washington home. As we settle into a house that looks very large compared to the 600 square feet where we spent our last four months, I've got many things to be grateful for: 

1.Friends old and new in Washington: Vicky (saw her at church this morning and we'll be having lunch in the next week), Carol (having lunch tomorrow), Vicki (will have coffee as soon as she's back from Mexico), my writing friends, my sister Alyx, my niece Colleen, my neighbor Jennie, the Vashonistas (five of my blogging friends). And all the women I know from meetings we attend together. These women can listen and reflect and care. They are the sisters of my heart. 

2. Friends in Arizona: Hanna and Peter (fixed my flat bicycle tire and took us to the airport yesterday), Bob and Sue (taking care of our place this summer, gave us screws to put up our blinds, dropped in with their smiles from time to time), Mer and PJ (lent us their pickleball paddles and were always available for a chat), Eve (helped me through a tough time), Carol, JoAnne (facilitated a group for me when I had to pick up my sister at the airport), Rae (we went to breakfast one morning when the heater was broken in the pool where we did water aerobics), Florence (an older woman of great wisdom), Casey (a Canadian and a liberal like me in our current events group), Chuck and Jane (our former landlords and now our friends), Pothen (an optimistic man full of curiosity), Tammy (painted our place and reminded me to laugh), and Joan (met her just last week but feel like I've known her forever). And others. Where we live in the winter, it is easy to make friends and be part of the community.

3. A faith community. I was near tears and at peace this morning as I listened to words and music and saw familiar faces after a winter away. I touched the face of a very special woman who lost her husband recently; I wished I'd been there for the celebration of his life. I believe in this community.

4. Modern medicine can be a miracle. We sought it out in December, February and March, and today we are well. 

5. Sunny weather in Arizona and sun breaks in Washington.

6. The convenience and efficiency of our dentists in Mexico.

7. Our children, all eight of them, and their partners: Melissa and Scott, Jason and Kalei, Karl and Angie, Russell and Amanda, Laura and Brian, James and Cinthia, Peter, and Greg. We don't always see them, but we are there for each other.  

8.Our grandchildren Kyle, Mary, Malayne, Alex and Kaleb. And Sam, Mikaela and McKenzie.

9. Our Designer Cat, Larisa, who endured two plane rides to spend the winter with us.

10. The ability to appreciate each person, whether their views are similar to mine or completely different. We are all in this together.