Thursday, July 2, 2015

Home Care for the Pups for Vacation

It was a great vacation. When I download some photos, I will talk about it.

But it was pretty good for the dogs, too.

Petsitting is becoming popular, as is having a caretaker come by the house daily to do XYZ.
We got Brody from a shelter when he was three months old, but he still gets a little anxious. I don't think dogs wonder why; they simply know they are somewhere else. Gracie is sure the world is a good place, but she is pretty attached as well.

So this time, I left the dogs home in our (theirs and mine) house with a petsitter they knew--my oldest granddaughter. I left her 4 pages of single spaced, typed notes, including that she HAD to let them out no later than 8 am, wipe up any accidents, let them play for at least a half hour, come back at noon, then suppertime, water the plants, etc. etc. etc.  Four pages. Teenage girl ,16. Summer.

I never worried.

I did ask once, halfway through, how they were doing, and she sent pictures of her walking the dogs every day, something I have long planned to do, resolved to continue when I got back, and so far haven't done. They loved it.

Per instructions, in the humid heat, she watered outside pot plants daily. She gathered the mail, swept up the Corgi hair, and played with them. And she washed them before I came home.  They smelled and looked beautiful. She gave them their tooth cleaning chews, and in the evening gave Brody his Benedril for a watery eye (pill in peanut butter on a half cracker) and gave Gracie her nightcap of cracker and peanut butter at the same time.

They were REALLY glad to see me, which was good for my ego. But they looked great. So did the house and my plants. Per instruction, she had thrown away all the newsprint ads, so I had only envelopes to go through.

I told her she needed to post some ads on community billboards locally  that she is available for pet and house services. I paid her less than most would get, more than she could make doing anything else for two weeks, and it left her free time. We were both happy, and so were the dogs.

I checked out some kennels, which would have cost much more.  Corgis don't deal well with New. And Brody gets anxious.  The chance to leave them at home  with someone they already knew as family meant they were  in much of normal routine, in habitat. I noticed and expected they would spend time on my bed, and washed the sheets and quilt first thing to de-Corgi hair my bed.

If you can get someone dependable, and honest, this is a good way to go.

My granddaughter has a school-sponsored camp next week, so the timing was great.

I spent some time on vacation with a girl my granddaughter's age, very sweet, smart, honest. But she's never been taught responsibility, commitment, or how to show up on time. I would never trust living animals to her. She would mean well, but they might die. And I love my dogs. I would not risk them.

My granddaughter has parents who grumble she should have done it for free, but agree this was between the two of us. She executed perfectly, and since I was paying, had she not, I would have complained. She, I, and even the dogs, are delighted. My plants have flourished. The house did,

I actually knew some responsible adults willing to do the job for not a lot more, but she did more than they would have done.  Home  dog care is my preferred solution for the future. This was almost two weeks. A little different from even a long weekend. It felt good not to worry.

I had so much fun, I realized even retired people can use a vacation. We often are pretty busy working for free a lot of the time. It is a job. We don't just say we don't feel like it.

Neither did my petsitter.

Monday, June 15, 2015

An intimate vacation in Oregon

About six years ago, I went to Oregon for the first time and got some advice about places and sights from friends and readers--well, my hosts planned a fabulous vacation, and I saw wonderful sights, had some meaningful and fun-filled conversations with people I love, and the trip was Most Excellent.

Now I'm going back again for two weeks. One of my requests was the high desert part of eastern Oregon, and we will go to the Steen Mountains for a couple of days. There's a  wetlands bird sanctuary in the neighborhood. Most of the birds will be new to me.  We will travel in her Prius. Haven't had that pleasure before, either.

My friends have laughed about my request, because they are looking forward to it, too. After 11 years there, they haven't made this particular trip before. There's a rustic hotel with family-style meals like pot roast and roast chicken and fixins. Some light hiking for us, more strenuous for the more muscularly endowed.

We will get back to the four-mile hike through the Old Forest above Eugene, the way Oregon looked when the white man got there. I want to see it again, this untouched part of the earth.

And there's the jet boat down the Rogue River. It's a chance to see some wildlife, not a promise, but I've never been on a jet boat. And then, time to mosey around in the beautiful Oregon landscape, with greedy eyes out for what berries are ripe now. They have a lot of varieties they never ship--too fragile.  I know Costco sells a marion berry and hazelnut ice cream, which couldn't be more Oregon. I will be staying in the county that produces almost 90 per cent of the nations filbert/hazelnuts.

I want to go back to the Eugene Saturday street market/festival. We may get back to the coast again, the rocky, fascinating, beautiful coast with the frigid ocean water I've actually seen Oregon children play in. Mind-boggling.

It is not just that I have known these friends for 40 years, but that we have been active friends throughout. They will have things to do at times, and I, the half and half extrovert and introvert, will enjoy a little space here and there to read, and walk, and enjoy on my own.

We didn't spend time in Portland before, and now one of their daughters lives there in a big Victorian house she and her boy friend are renovating. It will be a mixture of familiar, new, and remembered-new.

I am so glad I am going

They have Shasta daisies blooming as wildflowers on the verge of the roads. Did you know that?

I have traveled pretty widely in my life. Oregon, for me, is just about as enchanted as I have found.

I doubt I'll ever get to New England, but I'd like to, in the fall, as a leaf peeper, greedily gorging on the old New England apples. Maybe I will.

Life keeps surprising me..

Friday, June 12, 2015

Helping to build a New Library

I am getting to do something I never imagined I would do.

A year ago, I volunteered for my small town's library advisory board. I knew we had passed a bond election to build a new one, and that sounded really fun to be involved with.

I love libraries. No matter how many computer programs they store, videos, when you walk in, you can smell the invigorating odor that lots of printed books living together generate. I love that smell.

I love the  reading programs we offer for pre-school, the enrichment programs--I finally got to this week's enrichment on raptors. Didn't know we had kites in Texas. Loved the owls and hawks. No eagles this day. And red-tailed hawks are still numerous across the land.

Last week, we had miniature therapy horses and 70 kids and adults to pet them, hug them, yes, raise their lips to show the teeth. It really was magnificent fun. We have other programs coming up.  At libraries, we try to offer the virtual and the real, We have classes. We have programs. We try to deepen community experience. I can now say we, because I am a small part.

The library here is small. The new one will be at least 5,000 sq. ft., still small but bigger. And with room for expansion. We aren't paying for new stacks and furnishings. Fundraisers and grants will pay for those. We want a library with the most technology we can build into it to support the future. The new library will offer the first available community room in town outside the schools and city hall. That matters to the culture of the community,

We are ripe. New subdivisions are going in all around us, if not in city limits, then in our zip code.

Today, we met with the architectural  planners to see the bones of it. We made some early decisions on the brick, the metal roofing, the flooring. We. that means I had a vote. Heady stuff.
For me, it is leaving a little bit of legacy to a town I have come to love.

I am so excited about the future.  I want to be here when it opens. I want to contribute to further success. I want to see the dream fulfilled. I believe in libraries. I want to see our citizens using ours.

Maybe that's not on your bucket list. Believe me, it is on mine.

I am retired. I volunteer in what  I believe in, what is helpful. Oh, and fun for me to do.
Yeah, there is work involved.  I'm kind of excited about that, too.

Yet another excuse to put off mopping the bathroom floor.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Why I Am Not Eating Much Potk Now

I went into Subway today for a sandwich.

It was a difficult choice. I've given up pork. Between the cold cuts, the Black Forest ham, I could choose meatball, chicken offerings, steak and cheese, and tuna. I took tuna.

I've given up pork because of my own scruples, lately developed. I will cook the three hams I bought, and eat them. A pig died for that. I've bought turkey bacon. It's not to bad and it's actually healthier.

I'm not trying to start some movement, because I don't believe anyone would respond anyway. Somebody, sometime, may look at how we raise pigs, how we house them, how we feed them, and start some commotion about this being bad for humans. That's the only chance pigs have got. We have had 5 million pigs die recently, and all we care about is how high's the ham price, Mama?

So far, I buy cage free eggs, and I don't know how my chicken is raised, but that may be another problem. Cows have some happiness before they die, and thanks to research, we know how to slaughter them more efficiently now. They aren't frightened on the way to the slaughter. I'm glad for that. I LIKE eating meat. Always have.

But 80 per cent of our pigs grow up in small crates, where they can scarcely move. They are never touched. They never walk. The females are artificially inseminated, and the sucklings suck off tits available through holes in a board--so the sow won't accidentally roll over.

The living conditions are approved by the government. Their food includes ground feathers, rendered pigs, and sanitized chicken shit. Among other things.  Hey, you like that ham, that pork, so have I. Tasty.  FDA approved.

Well, apparently 20 per cent of pork is raised better. No doubt it's really expensive. I'm curious. Yeah, to feed millions of people, you have to get more practical about the pigs.

But you know, the next time you are eating a bacon cheeseburger and get all upset because some dog is kept on a chain outside in the rain? Pets are cute and cuddly. Pigs aren't. But they are smarter than dogs, and they have a lot of feelings. And we routinely raise them in sheer misery.

So I'm not eating pork, and it's hard not to. I hope I can find a source of pigs that had some happy time before they made my bacon. Misery bacon somehow doesn't taste so good.

As I look at my copy in my blog, all this empty space is there before this segment ends. I don't know why. I would love comments. I have other postings as well.  I usually think glitches like this are due to my technoignorance. 


Saturday, June 6, 2015

It was a really good party, as milestone occasions should be.

A private club on the 17th floor, with wide windows to gaze over a city that went on far beyond the horizon. Great food, plenty of wine, tea, coffee, and a lot of people dressed really nicely. The women in nice dresses. A lot of men with ties and jackets. The elders were all aging well, and the children all cleaned up and adorable. A lot of family, his, hers and theirs.

For Brenda and Bill's fiftieth wedding anniversary, their sons gave them what they would treasure most: a celebration with as many of their family and friends as possible. And it was joyous. The love is still as shining as when it began. It is infinitely deeper, more abiding, richer. While people live longer, 50 years of vibrant marriage is still a pinnacle most of us will never reach. It is right to honor it, because these two add goodness to all our lives.

If I were just caught up with the joy and happiness of a wonderful occasion, I could write this easily, freely, spilling all over. I am feeling my way to express it. Their sons gave them the party. One of my sons went to considerable trouble and effort to take me into the heart of Dallas during the Friday afternoon rush hour. Celebrating their bond strengthened ours, I think.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Reflections on aging from two points of view.

I will start with a caveat. Maybe I am wrong. Maybe I am thin-skinned and take offense too easily. Well, thinking about that, it doesn't make me wrong.

I saw a physical therapist recently for an evaluation on my hands.

Actually, her measurements and tests were done meticulously. I am pretty sure they are accurate.

It is her conclusions I find fault with, and I do so because I think she is prejudiced against the old. At the least, she has preconceived convictions.

Well, you know, I am not so old. 71. I've already figured out my ownself that those a decade or two ahead of me--and I know people who are--have different expectations, habits, and behavior. Once upon a time, I didn't. Old was old, and I didn't differentiate much.

Most people I know my age and older are doing some pretty remarkable things. A couple have been stricken with dementia. A few have had extreme illnesses occur. But most are quite active, either still working, volunteering vigorously, or both. Some are amusing themselves with sports and active vacations.

I say I am in the youth of my old age, and so I am. I have learned that 71 is as different from 81 as 31 is from 41.I lived briefly in my sixties in a retirement village where most were in their eighties. It was like socializing with my parents' friends. They lived in a different lifetime, shared a different history. Maybe you just have to be here to know this.

So. My hands have been hurting. Especially my left hand, because I am left-handed and use it the most. I realized recently, to my surprise(this stuff creeps up on you), that I couldn't lay my palms flat on a table. They cupped. And muscle strength is really down, and it hurts when I lift heavy stuff. Like a 7-pound bag of bird seed.

I saw my doctor, and she wrote a prescription for physical therapy. I was seen and evaluated by a savvy woman who may be in her thirties. Maybe younger, but I can't tell.

And she evaluated me, and she told me the reason I don't write pages and pages by hand anymore is because of my disability. I protested. I've been typing since I was sixteen, I said. I was a professional writer. I've always typed everything. I haven't had occasion to write enough to find out what she's telling me. No, she said, you don't do it because it hurts and you can't.

She basically said, "Look, you are arguing. Do you want this evaluation or not?"

I shut up. And under my choked throat and stopped-up tears, I wanted to throw something. Preferably soft, at her. I didn't. Whatever her assumptions about my attitude and expectations, I did want her assessment. She was more vague than I would have liked. But I shut up and listened.

After all, she was a standin. She won't be the therapist. Which is good. Because I don't think she believes in any meaningful progress I can make. I may need a canvas splint thing--I kind of expected that. There are exercises to do, and I am killer on stuff like that. But even before that, she showed me a magazine full of devices and tools to help me do the things I find painful or difficult now. Actually, I have a couple already. I have a number of adaptive behaviors. And the more I think about it, the madder I get. To show me the tools before I get the exercises is NOT a good message. She didn't suggest I consider them while I do therapy to improve. She suggested I consider them as permanent aids.

She didn't expect much from me. As a former therapist in another field, I know how unhelpful that is.

I have high expectations for the therapist I actually will work with. I think I can change some of this. If I can't, then I'll do it anyway and grit my teeth. The evaluator said she knows a lot of people my age who can't do much. Duh. This is what she does for a living.
I think she thinks I should trot out to my pasture and chew the grass.

I doubt if this is her technique to get me to work harder. But I suspect the initial result is, I probably will.

Then I'll get on with the rest of my real life.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Memorial Day reflections

Today is Memorial Day. We are so much more solemn about it than we were 60 years ago. Even 50.

Everyone went to the cemetery in the 1940s and 1950s and cleaned up the plots and put out flowers grown in the garden. In Alamogordo, New Mexico, the mulberries in the cemetery were ripe then, and we kids would climb the trees and eat the berries and throw them at each other.

We didn't have a war veteran in our plot. I was in elementary school when I was hurt and astonished to find out that, though we went to the cemetery to clean the plot and visit with the other families, the day wasn't about my brother at all. He, who died fighting cancer before he was four, wasn't a part of the day. His war had not been about country.

We didn't call the Korean War a war at the time; it was a conflict. And then we practiced ducking under our desks in case of an atomic bomb (I always liked that, especially when it got me out of arithmetic). We had The Cold War.

So we were lighthearted, and tended our cemeteries to go home and eat steaks and hamburgers, potato salad, corn on the cob, the first tomatoes and sun tea. There were speeches in the park, which my dad, as a city leader, attended. Usually Mom stayed home with me and we cooked, snuck tastes, and laughed.
Maybe there was a parade. I think so; I think in the 40s, 50s, some WWI vets as well.

War was over, and we celebrated our vets by giving them good jobs and college educations. We built new housing for starter families while the vets worked on their college credits.

The war was paid for. The population invested in freedom. My dad never went to war, though he signed up to go. But he sold a LOT of war bonds. He bought them, too.

Maybe the solemnity today and flag waving is because there have been so many more wars in my lifetime, wars that sill continue, risk on our shores as never before. We honor our veterans. We don't, however, see that they get good civilian jobs when they come home anymore. We don't seem able. Do we make room for them? I read a lot of rhetoric, but I am not sure what really happens.

The VA benefits they are entitled to are still a scandal. Each war teaches us something about medical care. In Vietnam, for the first time, we saved so many paraplegics that would have died in WWII. Iraq and Afghanistan have taught us about prosthetics, partial blindness, closed head injuries and finally recognizing PTSD.

In every war, we lose some of our finest. We have always more quietly lost the women, too; the women who flew cargo planes as "non-combat", the nurses, the doctors the medics. We still lose the women along with the men. Men and women of color fought for freedom in this country and still do. Today, we honor them all. Once, we didn't so much....

We paid such a terrible price in the Civil War. I am told so many of our church hymns from that period touch on heaven and meeting in heaven because so few families were left intact. Almost everyone lost somebody. I think the damage from that war still resonates today.

We lost so many in WWII. And so many men came back from years of war forever changed. They shaped so much of our society, out world today.

Vietnam almost broke us in two again. It didn't. But. Rough years.

So many wars since those happy days as a child, when we finished a war we thought fixed things for a long time. The economy was booming. And everyone could celebrate! and we did.

I remember when the Vietnam war ended, President Nixon was reported to have asked his staff, "Why aren't people dancing in the streets?" After all, so many hadn't wanted it. It was over. But we were tired.

We have soldiers today who are risking their lives honorably and heroically. A lot of them can't tell you why.

We are tired. We are absolutely, bone-dead tired of war.

We are Americans. We ARE united in this. And we honor our vets with a great deal of ceremony and flags. We don't know if or when conflict will ever end.
We will last, our military will last, we will go on. Not a one of us expects a carefree future with war no more. Not yet.
We don't sell war bonds any more. We don't invest. We don't pay as we go along.

We do salute. All of us. Churches pray every Sunday for those in harm's way.

It is a military holiday. It is meant to be.

But the little girl in me, who was never old enough to remember him, still remembers on this day taking yellow flowers to the cemetery for Albert Edward. a little boy who tried so very hard to live and didn't make it.

If he had lived, he would have made a fine soldier.