Category Archives: Stories and Meditations

Un-nesting

In our family we like to nest. My grandmother is no exception. We are giving up her apartment, because she will be remaining at a skilled nursing facility. It just isn’t safe or reasonable for her to be without access to care 24 hours a day.

Un-nesting her is a significant effort: her apartment was stuffed, every nook and cranny full of trinkets and memorabilia. The walls covered with paintings and other art to where not much wall showed through, even at that there were a couple of boxes of framed items that were never unpacked from when we mover her up from California over two years ago. And a few items are in the backs of closets.

The holiday season isn’t optimal for dealing with this change: I’ve spent many hours this past week enfolding fragile trinkets in bubble wrap. Things that probably won’t be unwrapped again by us. The stuff of life, treasured and carefully tended for so long, sits in boxes, waiting until someone who is more emotionally distant sends them off to a new home. As a result of this time we aren’t having a family Thanksgiving. Some of us will be joining Grandma at the nursing home for dinner there.

I’ve sent many things off to charity: outfits that will never again fit, clothing items that are too hard to get on and off. Kitchen items that no one in the family needs right now (more of that to come). But mostly I kept things, carefully wrapping up favorite dishes and glassware, fancy china serving pieces. and so on. Maybe a great grand-child setting up a home will need them in a few years.

This “un-nesting” is the antithesis of what most people are doing over the holidays. I feel out of sync. Unlike my cat, the Empress, who settles in anywhere.

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As the wind howls…

Catching up on reading blog posts after a stimulating day of packing up my grandmother’s apartment and responding to a letter from the VA “Debt Management Department” on her behalf (see my Scared Speechless post for background), I got home before the peak winds were due to hit.

So far the lights have only flickered, but Cee’s question: When you lose electricity in a storm, do you light the candles, turn on the flashlight or use your cell phone for light? hit home: at the first flickers I lit candles in the living room, kitchen and bathroom. I also started up our gas fireplace (I’m not quite sure how to manage the electronic ignition by battery).  Before the flickers, based on the weather reports, I had already filled three thermoses with boiling water.

Here are answers to Cee’s other questions:

20150614-KSM-Puppy_FriendsDo you ever sit on a park bench for more than ten minutes? Not very often. Most park benches aren’t terribly comfortable and, in Seattle, they are often wet and cold, also I tend to be walking when I am at parks (two dogs, need I say more?).

Would you rather be given $10,000 for your own use or $100,000 to give anonymously to strangers? Tough one. Right now I am trying to figure out how to deal with a safe, yet also pleasant, way for my grandmother to live. I think I would take the $10,000. That would cover the difference to give her a private room instead of a shared one at a nursing home for about eight months.

Another concern I have about distributing a large sum is that I feel very inadequate to know enough about various charities to do a good job of making decisions that will make real improvements. I’ve seen charities that have had unintended consequences.

What inspired you or what did you appreciate this past week? We have had a beautiful fall, this past week has had some lovely days and the colors are warm and cheerful, and inspiring.

At this very moment I am extremely appreciative that I have a safe place out of the weather. I wish everyone else had that as well. Maybe if I could figure out a way to help that along I would take the $100K.

Cee’s Share Your World

Point of curiosity: Chinese eggs

In China I have at times been fascinated by the variety of eggs available. I found a few pictures of eggs that are unlike what one would ever see in a grocery store in the US. A variety of sizes and colors, and cooking treatments.

Seeing how people in China pile eggs into a plastic bag (no egg cartons) to carry them home fascinated me. Cracking the eggs I realized that US eggs have much more fragile shells (at least those sold in Grocery stores do). US eggs piled into a plastic bag would be scrambled, with extra calcium from the shells, before they got home.

I don’t know why that is, but if you do I’d love to hear about it.

Daily Post prompt:Egg

No time for an egg

My favorite breakfast is an egg, a piece of toast, and a tomato (grilled) or a piece of fruit. This weekend I’m attending a conference and have been settling for cold cereal. With a be-downtown-by-9:00am deadline, I was thrilled that it was fallback day. Mornings aren’t my best thing.

I hussled the pups around a few blocks and couldn’t figure out where my temporal margin of safety went. Grabbed my pack and headed briskly up the hill to the bus stop. It was a cold but not torrential rain during these activities.

I saw a bus stopping from a block away. I don’t run for buses on principal, but especially not when the pavement is wet. The bus lingered at the stop, long enough that I started to hope, so I made my slow pantomime of running in case the driver was looking, . The bus pulled out when I was less than twenty feet from it. So much for on-time.

I sat on the icy cold bench. To make it extra uncomfortable it is a metal mesh. Which means it conducts the icy cold ambient temperature  and allows an icy breeze through, so it stays cold. After a few minutes the rain changed to snow. The next bus was only 15 minutes later but my toes, and other parts, were numbing up nicely by then.

On the bus I looked at my watch and realized that I hadn’t changed it. Instead of being a few minutes late I was too early and needed to find a way to kill time and stay warm in the Sunday morning desert of downtown.

So I got my egg after all.

If I had been a little more on it I could have had it at home, where it was warm, instead of the bagel sandwich shop where I got hit with a blast of cold air every time someone came in.

I realized that my alarm is on my cell phone, which automatically updates, and every other clock in the house, plus my wrist watch was on yesterday time (my husband usually handles this chore but he is out of town). Has anyone else forgotten to change their clocks back?

Who is my neighbor?

I can always tell when my next-door neighbors are going somewhere, because my bark alarm goes off. Asta’s high pitched barks start it, followed by Ginger’s lower, but lilting “Wooowoowoo”. If it is just a squirrel or bird, or the wind, Ginger doesn’t go off. But: is the bark alarm the best definition of who is my neighbor? (In which case it also includes everyone who walks their dog in front of our house, our mail carrier, and miscellaneous other delivery folks.)

This question was asked of Jesus when he said to “love your neighbor as yourself”. As usual, he didn’t give a straight answer. He launched into the well known story of the Good Samaritan. It’s in Luke, chapter 10. Since there are so many translations out there the exact words you know may differ a bit.

Seeing this mornings Daily Post Prompt, followed by skimming the morning paper, brought that vignette from the Bible to mind.

Whether you are a Christian or not, whether you think the Bible is literally true or not, there is a power in this story that has shaped much of the Western worldview. This is the gold standard for how we are to treat each other..or is it?

Two articles in the paper show the two sides of this. The front page headline this morning was: “GOP tax plan a boon for business”. I can’t find a link for it, the story originated from the New York Times and the Seattle Times doesn’t seem to have a link for it on their site. However, the real story, the one that should have taken up the entire front page in my opinion, was this: Who wins and who loses in the Republicans’ tax-code rewrite. Every citizen in the US should read that one. There is a stark contrast between the winners and losers and the story of the Good Samaritan. This is the party that supposedly represents conservative Christians? Hmmm…Reminds one a bit of the priest and Levite who crossed the street so they wouldn’t have to go near the injured man, before the hero of the story, the merchant from a different area, came along.

The second article was in the local section, also about taxes, but with a different slant:  “How would candidates spend your money?” In it the lefty loose-y Seattle mayoral candidates are debating how they will try to solve the homeless crisis*. The article was gentle on them, after all at least they are trying to be humane, but the bottom line is that you can’t squeeze blood from a turnip.

We don’t have the resources of the rich merchant who paid for the care of the injured man. There is some talk of trying to get the money out of our local rich merchants (and developers) via taxation. Our local rich merchants are better known for buying football teams then hitting the taxpayers up for the cost of a fancy new stadium, funding U.F.O hunts, and things like that. (The Gates Foundation is a notable exception, and I am not saying that there is no charity from others, just that it isn’t as notable as using huge influence to make regular citizens subsidize their businesses.)

In trying to be both truthful (about my ignorance) and fair, I digressed from my trajectory: The contrast between the behaviors and perceptions related to “Christianity”.

To hear Fox “News”, and even loonier right-wing nuts, you’d think that the lefty loose-y’s are Godless, evil people and the Republicans are the chosen people. And yet, if one uses the Good Samaritan test, we see a very different story. The Republican tax plan and health “care” plan will likely add to the homeless problem over time: more people will be bankrupted and lose their homes as health care becomes increasingly expensive and unavailable, and we are hobbling the future for our youth with the huge increase in national debt meaning more of them will lead lives farther down the economic food chain.

Alms are fine, but that is not a good excuse for creating a system that deliberately, and it is deliberate, drops more people into the steep sided pit of needing them.

Sorry about being both a bit religious and a bit political, which I mostly am not, but I am trying to figure out how to vote.

* My personal opinion about how to approach homelessness:
Since turnips don’t bleed, I feel these mayoral debates are about everything that they can’t do as a mayor (meaning a waste of time). Homelessness is not a local problem. It isn’t even just regional. It is  nation-wide, assuming closed borders, and should be addressed at the national level.

Instead of Seattle’s candidates spouting off solutions that can’t be enacted, and, if successful, will just create a vacuum to suck more people into the area, there should be a nation-wide approach that has some consistency and cohesiveness to it (don’t let the US congress loose on it!). Mayors and governors should get it going instead of trying to go it alone, which is using a band-aid to try and stop a hemorrhage.

Mine’s not a slick easy answer, but homelessness isn’t one problem. It’s one symptom which can result from many underlying causes.

I’ll stop now.

Scared Speechless

Who needs a bloody skeleton or eerie music? The Veteran’s Administration (VA) is ghoulish enough.

I received my Halloween scare a day early, and it was a doozy, my heart jumped and my hands got sweaty.
A letter from the VA saying that they had reviewed my grandmother’s files and were wanting back 88% of the money she received from them for paying caregivers since the fall of 2015. We received a threatening letter in August.

I got home on August 28th, from a delightful vacation my husband and I took to celebrate his retirement, visit with family and view the eclipse, to Grandma in the hospital and the threatening letter from the VA.

I hustled around, when I wasn’t in the hospital or nursing home, or talking to doctors, social workers and therapists on the phone, getting copies of every canceled check she wrote to caregivers from September of 2015 to August of 2017 (her September check hadn’t cleared when I mailed the package to the outfit that is, supposedly, representing Grandma to the VA). Accompanying the package I sent a detailed narrative timeline carefully set up so that it was clear what the payments were for.

This is in addition to what must be at least a ream of other documentation sent over the two years.

After getting home from a trip to China to visit my son this month, I checked in with the outfit that is supposed to be dealing with VA paperwork for us and she said she had filed an extension and she needed two more things.

She did not notify me before I left on September 26th that more information was needed, and did not reply when my husband contacted her and asked if she needed more information. The deadline was October 16th. She received that package before September 15th.

So, when I got home and opened my mail last night I was…scared speechless.

Random Ramble about Recycling

I have a question. No clue whom to ask, so out into the WordPress world it goes.

This morning’s paper had a big story on how China, which is working hard toward becoming a what we used to call “first world”, isn’t wanting to take our trash any more, specifically the recycling we send over there for processing. They are concerned about the pollution from processing in their air and water.*

My question is this: what would it take to do the recycling here in the Pacific Northwest, cleanly?

I ask this because I realized that technology has been improved since the factories in China that pollute so badly were set up. It might be possible to set up clean factories today, designed and built to be so from the start.

Eastern Washington has sun and wind that can be harnessed for power, in addition to hydro (alas, Western Washington doesn’t have enough reliable sunshine to count on any solar). So does eastern Oregon, which is where a lot of our (Seattle area) landfill trash goes, and likely where the trash China rejects will wind up.

I realize that the idea isn’t sexy, but it sure seems like if we can pour vast amounts of money into building electric, self-driving cars and sending uber-rich people into space we could do something about our trash.

Second question: how does one go about finding the answer?

Here is what The Wiki has to say about recycling plastics.

*Ironically the US is rushing as fast as it can to reduce regulations in order to head back down to second or third world levels. This makes me sad. I have traveled in countries with unsafe air and water; the thing I love most when I get home (after my husband and the fluff-y family) is taking a deep breath of clean air.

Express Delivery

I have been speechless a lot lately, witness the lack of posts for a while. It seems like every time I see a prompt or read something and start to express my thoughts on the subject, I get hit with something else and never finish getting it together. It’s been a flabbergasting year.

The Times (Seattle, that is) newspaper this morning , yes, I still read the paper, has an article that disturbs me greatly, it isn’t the first of its ilk recently.

Facebook, Google helped anti-refugee campaign ads is the title. On my recent trip to China one of the movie things I watched going over was a British news magazine article about Facebook. For a while now I’ve been feeling the creeps about how much information Facebook has on me, especially given my low participation rate. Even though I never gave them my birth date somehow it’s there. All of this information is collected so that they can target advertising in ways unprecedented by anything that has ever existed. I doubt if my mom could do a better job of targeting me than Facebook, and I don’t do much on Facebook.

Google isn’t far, if at all, behind. I feel more warmly about them for some reason, which may have no basis in today’s reality. Amazon may know more than either, although I’m not sure they have realized that I ordered the knee brace for my grandmother and the cowboy boots for my son…I’m pretty sure Facebook could figure that out.

The concept of free speech is being challenged more today than ever in history. I’m sure someone out there will disagree, but here is why I think so: What is delivered, express to our inboxes and news feeds, is not even truth, it’s what the companies get paid for pumping into mail boxes. In a slimy way they carefully choose the mailboxes so that there is a “receptive”, meaning uncritical, audience. By the time less receptive people are aware of the misinformation, a bunch of people are so deeply entrenched in the weirdness that they won’t believe the truth.

This prevents people from hearing multiple viewpoints. It prevents freedom of thought, which is the ultimate purpose of freedom of speech.

The world is a messy place, the social media world is dumbing things down, only showing people what they want them to see in order to make ad revenue. They don’t just allow a warped worldview to go unchallenged, but actually benefit financially from lies in a very big way.

We need to be aware of “all the news that’s fit to print”, and maybe some that isn’t. These companies are making that hard to accomplish. One gets pigeon-holed by the data collection/evaluation and only gets to see one set of information.

Two questions to ponder:

  1. Great privilege, such as that granted by our society as a whole to social media, should have corresponding responsibility. The question is: How do you accomplish that?
  2. How does one get the straight scoop… or at least balanced crooked ones?

Every thing is just beach-y, but where did the time go?

I started on Monday to answer the questions posed by Cee in Share Your World…before I knew it Tuesday had come along (Tuesdays of Texture by de Monte y Mar) so I thought I would take a few pictures of beach-y textures and do one post for two.

I corrupted my Lightroom program so I couldn’t load pictures and get that post done until I reloaded it… Somehow it is now late on Saturday and nothing is done…although I did get the living room vacuumed.

Summer is shooting by like a meteor.

My answers, at last:

List some of your favorites types of teas. I like tea, both black tea and green tea. For regular I tend to drink Red Rose, which is not bitter like Lipton’s, and reminds me of my Grandparents, who always drank it. A good Darjeeling is truly “the champagne of teas and I splurge on it when I want something really nice.

In China, twice now, I have been to a tea tasting in a shop and brought home what is probably the best black (they call it red tea: hong cha, which makes sense since the brewed tea is red) and green teas I have ever tasted, but I don’t know how to get them except to go to a tea shop in china with the packages. I tried white tea but it really didn’t do anything for me flavor-wise. I’m not mostly jazzed by herbals or ones with fancy flavors.

If you had to describe your day as a traffic sign, what would it be? I only saw this sign once: End of Hard Margins. I couldn’t have my husband pull over for a picture because the shoulders were soft. It was in Ireland 23 years ago. On our last trip, in 2013, I did not see that sign, even thought I looked for it. The reason I relate to that sign is that I was a stress analyst in aerospace at the time, and we used “margins of safety” to describe how robust a structural element is compared to its expected loading. We were always being asked whether this or that part, which wasn’t quite to specification, might still be used. (I mentioned something like this in my Delta Analysis post). I thought it would be fun to have that sign posted by my desk.

What are a couple of things could people do for you on a really bad day that would really help you? Being nice. I still, 27 or so years later, remember stopping at the grocery store with my baby son in a carrier and wanting some oranges. The produce clerk not only pointed me in the right direction but he said “be careful, sometimes there are moldy ones” and proceeded to check every orange in the box to make sure I got a good one.

Irregardless of your physical fitness, coordination or agility: If you could be an athlete what would do do?   Remember this is SYW, dreaming is always allowed.

I like to swim and ice skate. I haven’t done either in a very long time. I have poor balance and never got beyond a waltz jump, but I like the feeling of gliding along and the feel of moving water.

Last week is a blur. Next week is supposed to be hot. This week has been lovely with two days on the beach.

My World

If I had to choose one word to describe my world right now it would be…beautiful. Even though the chores piled up along with the newspapers that came while we were gone for a few days (stopping the paper runs about 75% successful, thank goodness for alert neighbors).

Quick smile from today’s paper: today’s Non-Sequitur cartoon.  It reminds me of my house, except that our cat believes in species segregation, and basks in a different part of the house than the dogs.

My responses to Cee’s Share Your World questions:

What is your favorite cheese? My very favorite is a cheese called “Huntsman”, which is extra sharp cheddar and Stilton in layers. Trader Joe’s used to carry Huntsman around the holidays, but I haven’t seen it for a while (as in several years), other places where I’ve seen it charge more than I’m willing to pay. Of the ones I can actually acquire (without taking out a mortgage), extra sharp cheddar is my favorite, I usually buy Tillamook brand.

Are you left or right handed? Right. I have no signs of dexterity in my left hand. I broke my right wrist when I was in college and tried and tried, but the left hand just isn’t connected properly to my brain to become dexterous. I actually think better holding a pencil in my right hand, even if I don’t use it.

Do you prefer exercising your mind or your body? How frequently do you do either? Both. I exercise both most days. Right now I am taking online classes in HTML and CSS, which I try to practice in some form or another every day (it gets harder and harder to get things to stick in my head as I get older) and I walk the dogs at least twice a day, use an exercise dvd about three times a week. I also read the newspaper (we do not have television and I don’t listen to the radio so this is my news source).

Complete this sentence: Hot days are …enervating. I used to be more bothered by the heat than I am now, I think it is because I go at things more slowly than I used to. A few years ago I gave myself permission to just not do anything if the thermometer is above 85 deg F. (That’s about  32 deg C). Fortunately in Seattle those higher temps are fairly rare.

Gratitude
We had a beautiful, possibly even perfect trip to Mount Rainier last week. It was about a month earlier than we have gone most years so there was still quite a bit of snow in the Paradise area, limiting hiking a bit, however we got to see a different set of flowers. The avalanche lilies and glacier lilies were abundant. Most years we are lucky to see one or two blooms, not whole fields of the lilies.

 

Looking ahead
Chores, weeds. The weather forecast predicts high 70’s so it’s time to get the yard cleaned up, in addition to tilting at cobwebs, and finishing my apricot jam.