Monday, November 13, 2017

A wedding and two funerals.

The phone began to ring a few months ago with news that my nephew (47) is marrying, for the first time, in Pennsylvania on my sister's anniversary. Can they come to "stage" at our house? Sure. It isn't an issue. Love my husband's family to pieces and would be delighted to do anything for/with them.  We prepared early. Beds were readied, blankets were fluffed and life was humming.

Then my son called. My daughter in law's best friend (31) had passed away from brain cancer. They would have a memorial service near the end of the month on the other side of the country. Could I come to his house and watch the kids while he taught and she traveled?  Sure. It isn't an issue. Great kids. Love my daughter in law to pieces and would do anything for the family.

Then my daughter called. Her father in law (53) passed away while herding cattle. Could we watch the older (4&10) boys while they traveled to my son in law's home to take care of things- from burying his father to beginning the estate? His parents have been divorced for many years. There was no will and son in law (30) is the oldest. Sure. As long as it does not overlap, it would be fine. Great kids. Love my son in law to pieces and would do anything for the family.

Novemeber has always been a crazy month.
My sister and brother in law were married 39 years ago. My nephew was to be married on the same date.
My father passed away 11 years ago. My daughter in law's friend will be remembered on the same date as his funeral.
My son in law's father passed away the same day as their wedding was announced, 11 years ago.

Reminders to me.
Remember to say, "I love you" every time you part from a loved one. My sister in law announced years ago that we are to say it at the end of every call. It is habit now. I am so glad we started.
Do a will!!!! Urge your children, brothers and sisters to do a will. Do a simple will if nothing else. Say good bye to your family in small ways. Make sure there is enough money to bury you somewhere that the family can get to.
Always have more blankets and extra coats. You never know when a 20degree day will show up in the middle of a beautiful fall.
Always be open. Life is fleeting.
I am SO thankful to be retired.
Even if I am tired again :)

Friday, October 27, 2017

What do you carry on a plane

It is the season for travel.
My back pack tends to have about fifteen things that simply stay put,
no matter where I am going.
They are things that seemed to come in handy when we were traveling overseas a great deal and in the 50 states as a company person.

First, I carry a 4 lbs back pack that can be carried like a suitcase.
Since I refuse to check bags, this has become my "go to" for a week of clothing.
A bit heavier for my purposes, but the convenience is huge.
One of the things I love are the pockets and packing system. 
Packing cubes are my friends as well.
This bag has a fold out water carrier- which can be repacked. 

What stays in my bag always?
Altoids tin: $20, bic lighter, several needles already threaded, 2 quarters, tiny flashlight, Swiss army knife, a couple of wipes, small copy of my driver's license in the top.
A pen and tiny notebook (I have carried post its as well)
Travel size bottles with: sunscreen, good lotion, shampoo, Vodka
Mylar blanket
Large, light silk scarf
Change of undies and socks
A few Granola bars
Woolite laundry soap (comes in packets)
Credit card multitool 
These do not stay in my pack, but they are often packed:
seven changes of undies,
Slip on shoes and warm socks,
more wash soap,
my fully charged Kindle- loaded with books and turned on to Airplane mode,
cords for media (packed in that small top pocket),
silk thermals (underarm can melt into your skin if caught on fire)

The heaviest things are my shoes.
I just don't know how to get around that, 
but my newest hiking boots are WAY lighter then any ones of the past. 
They weigh about two pounds. 

These days trips are all family related, 
but an airport is an airport. 

Happy travels!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Contrary to popular vote

No, this is not politics :)
We are going to redo the bathroom.
The decision came because we decided that we needed a bathroom that we could use if either of us was wheelchair bound for any amount of time.

There is background for this.
My husband had a hip replacement eight years ago. He was still in his 50's.
Unlike me, my husband has always been in great shape,
a runner,
careful in his diet.

And his "easy operation"? He got MRSA.
They had to take out the new hip
give him a cement hip for six weeks
(which means VERY little movement)
and then give him a new hip.
That meant three major hip operations in ten weeks.
That also means no, realistic, way to use any of the bathrooms in our large house.

We never want something like that to happen again.
The doors will be widened (by four inches)
A huge walk in shower will replace the jacuzzi tub
There will be access to the potty with few issues.

Yes, it may be years before we need these changes,
but we don't want to be scrambling

We decided that Israel is not in the cards.
Yup, I am chicken.
Getting blown up once in the Middle East is enough to scare me for good it seems.
Hate to admit that.
Maybe when I turn 65?

On my goals- tried two different protein bars. None that work for me yet.
Still have not shaken my chocoholic addictions- but am cutting down on the sugar otherwise
Walking has commenced. Not as often as I need, but it is several times a week.
Change jar needs to be emptied. We cleaned out some drawers :)

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Trip Goals- December is almost here!

We just got back from a whirlwind trip, with all of the family in tow, to NYC.
The 30 miles of walking in four days let me know that I have to be in better shape
when we take our daughter's children to Disney
in December
Source USANEWS

The plan is to walk between five to ten miles a day
with three kids
and four adults.

That thought puts goals on the table.
1) Walk every day. 
Start with the neighborhood and move out to the road until it snows.
Then, back to the neighborhood.
I learned on the NYC metro that my knees are not as bad as I thought
keeping them limber is important as well.
2) Learn what type of protein snacks work for me.
Try and review a different one each week until I find three that I like.
3) Start my body losing weight.  
My body needs a jump start. Fasting does not do it for me.
I am thinking of starting on a protein/veggie routine.
Gathering fresh veggies and placing them in the outside fridge so I have them longer.....
4) Save change
We purchased the full passes to Disney,
but there are lots of small things to purchase when you bring three children along for the ride.
Saving change, converting it, and then splitting it between the kids
will give them pocket money and leave my worries at the door.

Goals are not good unless they are measurable. Once a week I'll be back with small updates....maybe that will help to keep me honest.

Two other things I will do for the trip:
Stretch my toes.
My smallest toe has begun to wrap under my next toe.
I am a great believer in muscle memory and strength.

Figure out my shoes
I love my Go Walks- but they gain foot odor fast.
I need three types of shoes to interchange on the trip.
My Teva Mush flip flops will be my evening shoes.

Figure out my suitcase.
I plan to take few things
what is it that I need?

It is going to be a busy fall- a trip to West Point, crafts at my house once a month, DC and NYC for lights, Thanksgiving here. I love being busy!

Monday, September 11, 2017

Neil

Standing on the metro platform
crisp uniform
reading the Times
I, with ten school kids in tow,
tapped him on the shoulder.

Turned
Confused
and then that Irish smile
"What the heck?"

Years before
we had spent many hours
playing Risk
drinking whiskey.
A group of captains
and one stay at home mom
Friday Nights were never the same
after the advanced course.

We chatted about life,
living, family, joy and sorrow
all while taking over the world.

Our lives parted
our careers grew at opposite ends of the country
Christmas and birthday cards
The Army way.

Not surprised that he was working
in a near empty office
just "clearing the desk".

The world is quieter without Neil.
And I will remember him, always.


Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Helping to load the school backpack.

The teacher in me goes a bit crazy this time of year.
Of course there is a high need for new pencils and markers in my house....

Instead of packing my teacher desk I am working on my grandson's backpack.

A fourth grader this year, and first time in public school.
Homeschooling got him his basics
and now for the icing on the cake!

Why would I bother with his backpack?
You never know when some things are going to be needed.

Kids just don't seem to grow up the same way as I did.
I rode my bike to school in elementary and most of the way through high school.
I also took the bus more then once (the school was five miles away).

So, here is the "emergency backpack" for the bottom of his locker.
Simple, small, will take little space.

Inside that will be two juice pouches (not boxes) two power bars, a hand flashlight
Last, but not least, a printed Google street map to show the way home.
Simple, ready to go if mom cannot meet him in time.
Everyone should always know how to get home and have a bit of a snack for the hike!

Back to school we go!


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The problem of statues.

Today I was reading about the removal of the Confederate statues from various parks.
The remarks were all over the board for:
Why should we have reminders of such a dark time
to
If we take them down we will forget.

As a history teacher of many, many years
This is my opinion.

Remove them.
If you must have them up somewhere, put them on the battle fields.
I am not even sure that is appropriate, removing them is.

I am not a revisionist for history.
The Civil War period (both before and after) were dark times in our history.

There really is no excuse.
A confederate flag also makes me cringe.

What do they want to be remembered for?
That large plantation owners suppressed
and enslaved peoples so they could have beautiful mansions.
Do they really think the majority of the white people lived well in this time and place?
I know my family did not.
They were extremely poor, and had to move to Illinois in the 1850's to get away from the mess.
They did not own slaves and probably worked next to them in fields.
I am betting most of the KKK member families were the same.
Blacks and the government did not take their stuff,
 their families did not have stuff to begin with.
Like blaming the Jews in 1930's
scapegoating for being poor is an easy out.
The rich figure out how to harness that.
For years and years after the whole area was suppressed because of these people who convinced others that it was their duty to support their way of life?

We learned some horrible lessons after WWI.
If you suppress an area too much- they will raise up and come back.
That is what Hitler gained speed on, and Stalin, and Mao and Jefferson Davis.

If you  help the people rebuild after a war
then the people can come back stronger, united-
as happened in Germany and Japan after WWII.
BUT- in both Germany and Japan NO mention of the war was allowed.
They certainly did not have statues named after the top generals
even if those generals had been nice guys before the wars started.

But keeping the statues, the flags, even the words
there is not a chance for people to heal completely.
And let it go.
It has been over 150 years (four or five generations) since the Civil War.
The statues need to come down. The streets renamed. The people need to unite , like the good people of Charlottesville, and move forward. We don't need to suppress the past, we just have to remember it as the ugly era that it was. Statues are for the winners.....

Oh and don't think that the North was such a great place either
The work houses that people fled to after the war
were terrible..... Maybe we need to rename some of those "winnings" as well....

Monday, August 07, 2017

If you had the money for only one (First World Problem)

We are in a nice house
that needs remodeling and curtains and flooring and....
well, you get the idea.

It is the perfect size for this stage in life.
We are not "attached" to our houses
They are not us
They are a place to make a home
and this feels like home
a bit stripped down
but home.

It could really use a Master  upgrade
* Million gallon jacuzzi tub turned into a walk in shower,
* wood flooring through out
* good lighting
* curtains
* a real closet.

OTOH
We are really enjoying traveling with our children's families
We shoulder much of the costs since
* we remember how devastating vacations are on a family budget
* life is so much better shared.

What to do?
This house will be our home for at least five more years
possibly ten.
Maybe less.
There is a ton of new housing in our area
and ours is totally outdated---but it has the best acreage in the area
and is one of the only ranch style houses in this area.
OTOH
we are not getting any younger
At 67 and almost  60,
we realize that we want to leave the memories

and still be able to function at the house....

AGGGG.



Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Family, friends and summertime

Summer is flying by.
Sometimes sitting on the couch seems like a waste of time
but then a day of people comes along.

What has filled my summer?
My son moved across country with his family.
Ten days and two 400 mile trips up and back.
Seeing our grandchildren again--priceless!
Hikes in New York are fun.







My good friend came in from Kansas to play.
500 miles by car and 26 miles by foot in five days.
I once wondered if I could walk Hadrian's Wall in September,
and put if off for a year.
I should have gone for it.







The garden went nuts growing.
And then the invasions began.
Japanese beetles, Horned worms and blight!  Blight!
Still, there are about one hundred tomatoes on the vine,

the red peppers are beginning to turn and the summer squash has all been eaten.
The raspberry bushes look good. They should produce next year.
I know that next year there will only be three tomato plants, no exceptions.
Amish Paste, for sure.
The watering at 5 am continues. Fifer farm provides everything else that is canned :)


A high school friend's hubby found a job about 50 miles from my house.
Who knew that one day we would both be in Delaware.
Several days of entertaining and house looking. Life is good.

Weekly trips to see the "local" grands are pretty limited. I miss the babies.
Our trips to the pool have been few and the park is missing us.


Our old dog (13) continues to get older- having "opps a poopie" about once a week.
She can barely get up without help.
Dread is moving into my life.
We do not hang on to our dogs, submitting them to treatments while they are in pain.
As mean as it sounds as I write it down.
Dread.


School shopping has begun.
My grandson will reenter public school this year
and his school turned over almost every intermediate teacher.
School shopping for me included a cool set of things for the teachers.
What a blast!


What are you doing with your summer? One more month!

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Should our children care for us in our old age?

I have been reading lots of blogs that state that the writers are not interested in being a burden on their children near the end of their lives. They plan on living in independent style until they can be pried out of their homes. After that they see themselves in "stepped up care" (an upper middle class way of nursing homes).
My own mother has chosen this road. She lives in an independent care facility.  She is in her late 80's now and seems to be doing well. Except. She is not so keen on how many people die around her---all of the time.
She does not want to be dependent on any of us. She made that abundantly clear many years ago. We are lucky that my dad made sufficient funds as to make that possible for her. She lives, safely, in an upper middle class facility, with a large buy in, amongst people "like her".
But,
is that really what we should be doing?
I know of no other peoples who place their elderly in facilities so they do not have to care or encounter them.
Think about it.
Yes, end of life nursing care, but not facilities that you enter in the end years and live with only the other elderly until you die.
One of my friends asked recently, "What about multi generational housing?"
"Oh no", says another friend, "you would be setting yourself up for abuse at the hands of a loved one."
Really?
There is no abuse at these facilities? (Not my mother's of course.)

Do we, as a society, accept that elderly are useless?
That they (we) are too much trouble
That they (we) have nothing to offer to the young except a check for the birthday.
That they (we) are too ugly to deal with because they (we) remind them that someday they will be old and needy sometime.
Is society setting 80% of the population up for failure?
About 20% can afford the independent living.
The other 80% will be hoping to be loved enough that someone will bring them soup when they are weak and tired. If they do not save enough (which is an astronomical sum if you are looking for a "good facility"), will they be ignored because, "they should have known better."
Are the elderly really a burden
whom the next generation sits and waits until they pass so that the money can be freed up?
Are they a burden, like children are burdens?
Oh wait---those people are put into care as well.....

Yup, it lays heavy on my heart.

Monday, July 03, 2017

Blueberry picking is like teaching children to read

The blueberry picking is fine this year.
When I am home, my mornings consist of gardening,
and blueberry picking.

The bushes are perfect for wandering
and morning prayer.

The berries that are ripe, roll right off into your hand.
Just a gentle touch.
Much like how children learn to read.
When they are ready, they just roll into the book.
People often think teaching a child to read is magic.
Maybe it is.
After years and years of doing it, my experience was that they read when they are ready.
If you force it early,
they will sour,
just like those slightly red blueberries.
If you hold it away too long
their brains get mushy,
just like those old berries on the bush.
The nice thing about those old ones
when they roll off
they are sweet as can be
just like those old readers.

Anyway-- Her Squash, hibiscus and peppers. All ready for the week of growing in the garden of life!


Monday, June 19, 2017

Can we all get together now?

Long haul.
So far the country has not fallen apart.
We need some changes.
That is what people, in many states, voted for.
Can we PLEASE pass a tax reform law?
And, maybe, attempt to fix the health care system?
Just get it together and get to work!!!!!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Saturday, June 03, 2017

Ancestry finds

Downtown Abby. I blame that show for my renewed interest in my extended family. What were my ancestors doing at the turn of the 1900's? How did they do during WWI? Spanish Flu?

My great grandparents had three boys in the service during WWI. Grandmother Carrie was a founder of, what is now called, Blue Star Mothers of Baltimore.

My grandmother was the life of the party. Lots of photos of her dressed from full length, serious, with gloves to this one in 1917 near her DC front porch. She worked until she married at 30.












My grandfather was one of her beaus. He joined the war effort and served in France. He kept the letters of introduction his uncles had written if he had been captured or killed.

 My mother's father's parents were in Tennessee, editors of a small, new newspaper.  They succumbed to the flu, leaving my grandfather an orphan. He ended up on a train west--at six.

My son in law's family were homesteaders and physicians in the Oklahoma territory. They worked on the reservations. 
My husband's grandmother was a widow very young, remarried a man with 12 children and lived a tough life in a railway station. This is a more recent photo- but she was born into a "push cart" LDS family and was part of the beginning of Utah.
Last, but not least, is my husband's grandmother. I hope to find her name at Ellis Island. She was 14 when she got on a ship, alone, amazing!

Thursday, June 01, 2017

The White Privilege of "Independent Living"? Stepping into it.

Nursing Care, Home Care, Assisted Living, Independent Living
First, let me say that I am bias.
I do not believe that the elderly should be removed from society in anyway.
It diminishes the input of wisdom that comes with age.
It glorifies only being young, and/or privileged.

Next, let me say, that this is an issue that is something I think about, but have no answers for.

This topic continues to return to me.
Is it possible that Independent and Assisted Living is really just a "White privilege" ?

My mother lives in a beautiful independent living facility.
Really, it is amazing and she is well cared for. For her, it is exactly what she desires and I would never deprive her of her choice.

As I walk with her it comes to my attention that there is only one color in those rooms
White
There is only one status in the building
Middle Upper Class wealth.
Here is an entire group of, mostly professional, people
who worked their way up,
or inherited their way there,
but was that "on the back" of the minorities?

Is this actually the exact same thing we have seen for years with the public school systems.
White sections of a city keeping the minorities in their place by offering them schools, but at a lesser extent.
Separate but equal. Pay more taxes and you get better- but it is still equal. Right?

In old age it is worse. Nursing homes, and what they imply, are quickly being abandoned by the privileged class and being filled by the minority, working class. The middle uppers are moving into the cool Independent Living places. "We"save for it. Buy insurance for it. Deserve it.

An example of the expanding supply of alternatives to nursing homes is the rapid growth of assisted living facilities. However, these facilities cater primarily to relatively well-to-do people with private health insurance, and they tend to be concentrated in areas whose populations have high levels of education, income, and wealth in the form of equity in the value of personally owned housing.8 Such areas are typically suburban and predominantly inhabited by whites.

Growth of Racial and Ethnic Minorities of US Nursing Homes

For, as we see the growth in the predominately white Independent Living centers, we see the equal amount of growth in "Nursing Homes" for minority

I "see" lots of privileged white people who rail against how their minority members are cared for. They are willing to spend more of the working people's money on more education (while moving to lower property tax states or out of the country all together).  They insist on higher pay for all, but rarely shop in the stores or eat in the places that "those" people work in. In fact they are hell bent on keeping "big box" stores out-- especially Walmart---but spend the majority of their money on Amazon while the poor pay extraordinarily high prices at little mom and pop stores in their neighborhoods (instead of foods at those big box stores at a reasonable price). They are upset about illegal immigration, but rarely think about the exploitation of the migrant working --even in their own houses or gardens.  

Something just does not ring true to this plight.  

I do not have an answer, even one. I just am beginning to ask the questions. 
Isn't that where social justice really starts?
My Jesuit upbringing  taught me to think of such things, even when I see that my teachers in those schools retire to beautiful San Francisco hills to be cared for, in the way they are accustom, for the rest of their natural lives. 

The ultimate, do what I say and not what I do?

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Memorial Day 2017

A stroll through Arlington National Cemetery.
Lest we forget.