Sunday, July 26, 2015

And I thought I was bored

I'd had a boring week. This hardly ever happens; the last time was a couple of years ago, I think. But here's what I noticed that led me to believe I was bored:
  • I need daily conversation to keep my spirit engaged. When we live in Tucson in the winter, I have daily multiple conversations. When we come home there are not so many. My husband Art is not a big talker, so the house is quiet.
  • I love being a mediator, but I've become disenchanted with those involving a divorce or a parenting plan. Where I live, if people have a contested divorce they are required to go to mediation before they go to court. Often, mediations are like a checkbox for people. There's lots of negativity between divorcing couples, and often the children are in the middle. I like to do one mediation a week, but if I don't do the dissolution ones, I don't mediate as often, and I miss it.
  • I like mediating in small claims court, and now I'm qualified as lead, but that's mostly about paperwork which I'm not yet as competent at as I want. And it's only for a couple of hours every other week.
  • My sister Alyx is the primary gardener this year. She does almost all the work of planting and watering. Such a good thing! And yet it leaves me with a smaller role.
  • For the last year and a half I've been a watchful advocate for my husband Art's health since his cardiac arrest in January of 2014. Now he is living his own life, taking care of his own health and medications and appointments. He is quite stable and doesn't need me as an advocate now. I'm delighted about his health, of course, but it means there's less for me to do.
Even though there are good things going on too (good exercise program, lots of book reading) I was pretty sure I needed to find a few new things to energize my spirit.

And then my brand new car had a bad week.
  • I went to Cost Plus on Monday and parked in their lot. Drove home with my new scarf. My stepson Pete came in and said, "Linda, what happened to the front quarter panel of your car? It's got a big dent." I went outside and, sure enough, something had hit my parked car. I have a $500 deductible on my insurance so I called a local guy to see if he could recommend someone reasonable. The next day I talked to my barista. He said the dent was from a shopping cart banging into the car. He got a rock from his parking lot and pulled most of the dent out. I can still see it if I look, and every male I've talked to told me I should have it fixed, but I hadn't decided what to do yet. We drove 800 miles to and from a family wedding this weekend, enjoying the quiet ride.
  • We have a large pile of bark in our driveway, waiting to be shoveled into our yard to keep the weeds down. Our grandson Kyle will be doing that tomorrow. I pulled into the driveway around the bark and hit a landscape rock. Backed up to extricate the car. Art took a look and says there are three or four scrapes over a foot of length and four inches wide. It will need to be sanded and painted. This one was my fault.
  • I was so upset I set the brake and got out of the car to rant. However, I had left the car in gear and it slid down the rain-wet, bark-dusted driveway. I leaped into the driver's seat and hit the foot brake just before the right side of the car smashed into the side of the garage. 
  • That was when I started to cry.   
So, tomorrow, at least, will not be a boring day. 

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Reflections between trips

After nearly three months at home after our winter in Tucson, we've begun leaving town again. Here are the past and upcoming adventures:

Atlanta and around - July 1 to 7

This much anticipated trip - for a convention, sightseeing in Charleston SC and a high school reunion - didn't turn out as expected because I got sick. We came home a week early. Even so, here's what I remember:
  • Atlanta has a great public transportation system. The train to the neighborhood of our lodging left directly from the airport and we got off three blocks from our destination.
  • Our first Airbnb experience was a great success. Our original four-night stay was extended to six. We met interesting people from all over and shared a kitchen and bathroom with no problems.
  • Where we live, the most common non-Caucasian ethnicity is Asian. In Atlanta, it's African-American. On the trains and in our Atlanta neighborhood, our white faces were in the minority. At first it felt odd and unfamiliar, but quickly became ordinary. When I got home, everyone around me looked positively pasty! I was reminded once again that it's a matter of perspective.
  • I lost my CPAP ("breathing machine") on the train and did my due diligence on finding it. When I got home and ordered a replacement I learned my insurance will pay 80% of the cost. Only $144 for me. Lucky Medicare recipient!
  • I may have lived on the east coast for a dozen years of my childhood, but the summer heat and humidity are way too much for me as a retiree. The Pacific Northwest is the place for me in the summertime.
A southern Oregon wedding - July 24 to 26

My ex-husband's niece Bridget is marrying Gilbert on July 25. Bridget was born after my ex and I divorced, and I met her only two years ago at a family funeral. She and Gilbert live in Tucson. I am the mother of her cousins James and Russell, so we are indirectly related. Here's what's good about the upcoming weekend:
  • Bridget comes from a welcoming family. Even a long-ago aunt and unrelated uncle are welcome to join the festivities.
  • Both my grown sons (James and Russell) will be in attendance. And both their girlfriends (Cinthia and Amanda). And my twin granddaughters (Mary and Malayne).
  • I will have conversations with my ex-inlaws, all of them good people.
  • We have a choice of two vehicles to make the 800-mile round trip. Husband Art's Prius gets the best gas mileage, but my new Honda Accord is quieter and more comfortable, and needs to be road tested. I'll let Art decide. He'll probably want me to decide. Stay tuned!
  • We're having dinner one night with Jeanne, an old and dear friend.
  • Art and I will have a conversation with my ex-husband John and his girlfriend Shirley. We have known each other for a long time and it will be good to see them. Even after John and I divorced we continued to communicate as our sons grew up.
Visiting Canadian friends - August 5 to 12

Judy and Ken were our neighbors for three years at the Voyager, where we live in Tucson in the winter. They sold their place this year and I was sad about that, but we're continuing the friendship which is wonderful. They live a couple hours north of Toronto in the summer. Here's what I'm looking forward to:
  • I laugh more with Judy than just about anyone else. She doesn't realize she's so funny!
  • Art is staying home, tending to local business. He will get a nice break from me.
  • I'll be staying by a lake ten miles from town where it's quiet. Judy tells me I should bring a good book, so I'll load up my Kindle.
Eastern Europe - Attempt #2 - August 28 to September 16

We'd planned a cruise in Eastern Europe for April of this year, but cancelled it because of a medical issue of Art's. He is now doing well so we're doing a land trip to the same area.
  • The travel insurance payout for the cancelled cruise just about exactly covers the cost of this trip.
  • The cancelled flights from April were partially refundable, so the new reservations didn't cost so much.
  • Art and I both feel confident that he's medically stable. Nothing like the correct meds and adequate hydration for a fellow with every-once-in-a-while cardiac arrhythmia! I'm especially fine with this because, on our trip to Atlanta, we walked seven miles in heat and humidity on our first day there. I know we've got the stamina for travel walking in Europe.
Our financial advisor told me once that people usually travel for five years after retirement, and then they come home. It's been just five years. I thought we might stop traveling since we live in Arizona in the winter - and we did cut back last year after Art's cardiac arrest - but it appears we're still on the go to some extent. I'm glad it's turned out that way.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Atlanta did me in

The International Convention is held every five years in a North American city. It draws over 60,000 people from all over the world. Since I joined the 12-step program nearly 25 years ago, I have attended every convention; San Diego was the first, followed by Minneapolis, Toronto, San Antonio, and now Atlanta. This is an anonymous program at the level of press, radio, film, and social media, so I won't be giving many specifics, since my blog is a social medium. I am not personally anonymous, though, so if you have a face-to-face conversation with me I'll be much more specific.

Our flight had a 200-person capacity; I'm estimating that half the passengers were attending the Convention. The mood aboard was light and friendly, as strangers became friends in a couple of seconds. Some of the people I talked to have been to all the conventions I have, plus earlier ones. The flight was smooth EXCEPT at the Atlanta end, when we went through a cloud and had a shrieky kind of bump - you know, when several passengers shriek and suddenly everyone starts talking with the energy of relief that the plane is still in the air.

Finally found our luggage and the MARTA train and our station and our ride. Got to the Airbnb place and realized my CPAP case and machine, with my meds, was not included in what came out of the car. Got to spend a couple of hours getting numbers for the lost and founds for the airport and train. Also considered how best to get my meds refilled - I had a week's worth in my daypack so was not in a total rush. I was not even thinking yet about the cost of replacing the CPAP when we got home.

We stayed in our first Airbnb - $68 a night for the two of us. Large room in a six-bedroom place, with a shared bath and kitchen, less than half a mile from the Oxford City station of Atlanta's MARTA transportation system. Spotlessly clean with interesting guests and three friendly rescue pit bulls.

The next morning we walked to the Oxford City station and boarded the train for Five Points, where all four train lines meet. Transferred to a westbound train and got off at the first stop. Made our way to the Georgia World Congress Center - an enormous convention venue - rode four escalators down to the registration hall. Lots of noise and unbelievable positive energy. Spent half an hour or so sitting quietly watching people in the lobby, then walked to the Marriott Marquis - about a three-quarter-mile walk - where I'd be attending some of the events of another 12-step program I belong to, for families of alcoholics. The heat and humidity in Atlanta is intimidating. We drank lots of water and walked slowly. Stopped for an Indian lunch and eventually found our way to the Marriott. Boarded the MARTA train at the Peachtree station and went home for a two-hour nap. Then back to the city for a light dinner and country music at the Omni. And home again. We used the trains, but even so, my fitbit says we walked seven miles.

The convention started on Friday at about the same time as my gastrointestinal virus made itself known. Art spent the day at workshops, checking in from time to time. He had a busy, interesting time. I slept and kept company in the bathroom.

Art also enjoyed the Saturday convention events. My body had completely cleaned itself out and left me tired and weak and without much appetite. Again, Art called from time to time to ask if I needed anything. I said crackers and 7-Up. I slept most of the day and woke to drink liquids and eat rice and bread and bananas. We listened to the 4th of July fireworks in our neighborhood rather than in downtown Atlanta.

This morning - Sunday - Art attended the final big meeting of the convention. I slept until nearly noon and awakened for a snack of banana and Greek yogurt. As I thought about the rest of our itinerary for this trip - a 300-mile drive to Charleston for two days, a 250-mile drive to Jacksonville, NC for three days, and a 460-mile drive back to Atlanta -- all in the unaccustomed heat and humidity of an east coast summer -- I knew I didn't have the recuperated energy or spirit to do it. Art agreed we could shorten our trip and go home on Tuesday. So I changed our Alaska Airlines flight, then canceled the car rental, the Airbnb in Charleston, the hotel in Jacksonville, and the Evergreen Club reservation in central Georgia. Not at all what I'd planned, but definitely the right thing.

We went out for dinner and I ate some real food for the first time in three days. I noticed my sense of humor returning, always a good sign.

Tomorrow morning we'll take MARTA to the Five Points station and see if my CPAP is in the lost and found. Then we'll take MARTA one more stop to the Peachtree station and pick up my replacement meds. Then we'll take MARTA south to the airport and see if my CPAP is in the lost and found there. Then we'll go back to the Airbnb and I'll rest. I should be ready for our Tuesday flight.

Travel is like that. We make plans. Sometimes things go exactly as we have lined them out. Sometimes they don't. Oddly, it's the things we don't expect that we remember longest. About this Atlanta trip, I'll remember I have much, much less tolerance for heat and humidity than I did when I was growing up on various military bases in the east. And that the best remedy for being sick is still rest and liquids and a bland diet. And that, in 2015, Art had a wonderful time at the International Convention in Atlanta.