Category Archives: Stories and Meditations

This is the end…

Like foreshadowing in a novel the email I got this morning told me that today’s prompt was “Final“. As seems normal of late, I felt like there really wasn’t anything I could add to the conversation. Since I got back from China on April 24th I have been tongue tied…or more accurately keyboard and camera tied.

The phone rang while my husband was in the shower. It was the wife of a friend of his, the one he was getting ready to go visit. His friend died this morning. After a long and arduous battle with cancer.

The mixed feelings that go with this end came through as she spoke to me, almost a stranger to her (the friend was my husband’s co-worker and we only met a couple of times). Perhaps it was easier to talk to a sympathetic, disembodied near stranger. It reminded me of something I used to say when I was in a lay leadership position: we are all pastoral care givers, it isn’t something that you can delegate.

She invited Richard to come and say goodbye, and said “he is as handsome as ever”. He will be handsome forever in the eyes of his best, best friend…a beautiful finale.

New purple suitcase

My new purple suitcase is packed. So is the new teal one. I am, as my son used to say, bouncing off the pad. 

I got home from Arizona on Sunday and today I depart for China. That means little or no internet access. So don’t be surprised if it seems like I’m not around…I’m not.

If the restrictions are the same as before: Sometimes I can post, but I can’t get or respond to comments. One trip I could see gmail but not the last few trips. I was once or twice able to use my WordPress reader, but couldn’t 👍 or make comments.

The reduced access makes me think about how reliant I am on various technologies. I use my smart phone: I have a Chinese SIM in the second slot; and can often use WiFi to access what my son calls the InterWeb (China’s internet, which is extensive). I can use an old email address and Skype to keep in touch with family. 

Even with the restrictions technology has made travel much easier, from the standpoint of information and communication. 

The weight of my worries

The Daily Post Prompt today is Massive. Weight is mass in a gravitational field, so, on the surface of the earth, massive means weighty. I was set to not get around to writing anything, which is my usual method. But as late evening sets in it occurred to me that maybe I could offer up one idea. I am not a clever poet like some who write a post or sometimes more a day, nor am I quick with words, if there is a poem in this day it could take me a long time to formulate it.

Today was absolutely lovely, sunny and, while it was chilly at first, warm.

I spent the afternoon at the nursing home. Waiting for things that never happened. When I arrived Grandma was asleep. Eventually she awoke. The meeting I went over for was one where she had confused things, and probably not answered the phone to the person letting her know what was going on. She’s been doing that, if not doing is doing. She has trouble hearing it and if it is the slightest bit out of reach she doesn’t answer. If she does answer she still doesn’t hear well and sometimes confuses the message. I have no way of knowing what happened for sure…except that no one came.

She has a very bad cough lately. It is hard to hear her go into one of the coughing fits; she is wheezing so badly that you wonder how she can breathe.

The meeting was to have been with a potential caregiver to be hired so she can return to her apartment. Watching her wheeze, knowing that if she were on her own trying to walk to the bathroom when a coughing fit hit her she could easily, I should say more easily than usually-which is pretty easily, lose her balance and fall. Both of the roommates she had while at the nursing home got around much more easily and with less assistance than she needs now, went home and have fallen again. While we waited I got a prayer request for a dear friend of mine who is Grandma’s age who fell and broke both a hip and a shoulder.

If there’s a right answer I sure don’t know it. I feel a deep silence. No guidance. No perky words of wisdom. Just waiting. Maybe she’ll get better. Maybe she won’t fall.

My World

It’s still raining, on and off, sometimes heavily, and the skies are pretty dark, but it is a lot warmer than it was a week ago. Many of the buds who were curled up tight against the cold  last week have started to cautiously unfurl. I feel kind of the same way right now: I switched to a lighter coat, but my heavy winter one is still by the door, along with wool scarf, hat and heavy gloves… just in case.

Cee’s Share Your World‘s Questions and Answers for this week:

Do you push the elevator button more than once?  Do you really believe it makes the elevator faster? I only push more than once if the light doesn’t come on, or I notice that I hit down when I meant up or vice versa. It doesn’t make the elevator come faster.

There aren’t many elevators in my life right now: the one I use most is at the nursing home where grandma is right now: that elevator doesn’t have a call button; you have to swipe a special visitor badge. Inside it you have to swipe and push a button to choose the floor (this isn’t logical since there is only one level you can go to on that elevator. You have to take different elevators to go to the other floors, and you have to have the right badge for each elevator or it won’t come. It’s a security thing.

Do you plan out things usually or do you do them more spontaneous (for example if you are visiting a big city you don’t know?) It may sound strange but my answer is “yes”. I spend a good bit of time researching to know what I might want to see, when the hours of operation are for different places, putting together a list of possibilities. Once I have a pretty good handle on all my options, I wing it.

For example: I have one day to “kill” in Beijing on an up-coming trip, waiting for my son to join me so we can head out together. I’ve researched my options for how to get into the city from the airport and things to see near where the airport transportation takes me. I have a list of possibilities and will figure out what to do when the time comes. Planning is part of the fun…but so is taking advantage of the circumstances.

Describe yourself in at least four uplifting words. I find myself wondering what “uplifting” means in this context…I always have trouble with this sort of thing. Not because I have poor self esteem, but because putting words on things, especially me, has always been a challenge for me.

Once in a college transfer application I responded to a “describe yourself” question by quoting a poem by Shel Silverstien (apologies if my memory of the words isn’t perfect):

My skin is sort of brownish, pinkish, yellowish white.
My eyes are grayish, blueish green,
but I’m told they look orange in the night.
My hair is reddish, blondish brown,
but it’s silver when it’s wet
And all the colors I am inside
have not been invented yet.

For what it’s worth: I got in…It was MIT.

If you had a choice which would be your preference: salt water beaches, fresh water lakes, ocean cruise, hot tub, ski resort or desert?  While the last three appeal to me less than the first, I’ve enjoyed all of them except the ski resort at some point (and I could enjoy that: although I haven’t skied for 40 years, I like mountain scenery, to ice skate, snow shoe and hike…and I’m very good at sitting in front of the fire!).

Gratitude: The weather has turned toward spring and a little spring cleaning happened. How often do those two go together?

Looking ahead: I’m hoping to get a period between showers long enough to prune my roses and dry enough to pull a few weeds. With travel coming up soon a quiet week to get things done around the house is appealing.

My world

Sunny day sweepin’ the clouds away…

is the first thought on this lovely, much warmer than a few days ago, morning. I don’t think the ground hog thing works here in Seattle. Our spring tends to come and go.

Cee’s Share Your World Questions and my answers to them make me feel like I am Seriousness itself, not a whole lot of fun.

ksm-20170205-csyw-02Do you sleep with your sheets tucked in or out? They start out tucked in, along with blankets but usually everything winds up in a tangle. My royal friend usually naps on the bed in the morning and glares if I try to bring it back to order before she moves to her late morning nap spot.

 

Have you stolen a street sign before? No. Don’t get the desire to do it either.

Do you cut out coupons but then never use them? I used to do this until I realized that most coupons are for things I don’t use. Most coupons seem to be for processed and packaged foods and exotic beauty supplies. We tend to eat simple, real food and use the more basic types of shampoo, toothpaste, etc. My shopping list tends to contain things like a package of chicken and fresh vegetables instead of frozen dinners. In the past couple of years some stores send out customized sets based on what you buy and I keep them in my purse and occasionally remember to use them. They are perforated so I don’t have to clip, tear, or whip out my pocket knife to liberate them.

Do you have freckles? No, but I am starting to develop some age spots that look kind of like freckles…does that count?

Gratitude:

Last week was rife with blessings: the safe, yet very early birth of a niece who is healthy in spite of entering the world 6 weeks early. Also, my grandmother “passed” the test of being able to do the things she needs to do to live in her old apartment (she fell and broke her hip on November 19th).

ksm-20170211-csyw-03Last but by no means least : while I wasn’t thrilled by the storm’s activities, Dad’s power was reinstated much more quickly and easily than I had anticipated when I saw the mess of downed pole and wires…as a bonus the fridge is cleaner than it has been in years!

 

Looking ahead:

This week is supposed to be “springy” and Grandma and I are going to visit the new baby tomorrow. Late winter flowers are starting to bloom.

ksm-20160125-csyw-01

I chose the closed road

…and it made all the difference.

My choices were: go back home, dead end, or road closed. My trusty car is in the picture above, where I parked to do recon.

ksm-20170210-dead_end-01Our area was hit by several rain and wind storms after the snow last Monday, much of which is still slowly melting on Vashon, adding to the storm run off. It has created a very water logged world rife with mud slides and fallen trees. Yes, there are rain drops on the camera lens. The predicted rain was starting as I headed into an area where there were already problems.

But I had walked the road and knew I could get into where I needed to. My car was full of coolers so I could empty the fridge since I knew the power was out (it had been out for two days) and I didn’t figure they would get it on very quickly since they needed to replace a power pole that had snapped. I just didn’t know if something would happen so I couldn’t get out.

ksm-20170211-dead_end-03Just over 24 hours later, however, I came back out, the sun was shining, the power was on and the road was still closed…even though they brought some pretty big equipment in to plant a new power pole last night.

KSM-20170210-Dead_End-01-2.jpgThe county moves, or not, in mysterious ways, but Puget Sound Energy rocks: less than 12 hours from the time I called them about the downed pole they had replaced it, restrung the wires and the power (and heat!) was on.

Cee’s Which Way Challenge.

Words are all I have…

The world is filled right now with folks speaking out. It was almost a relief that today’s newspaper hasn’t come (or maybe it is in the bushes or under the porch). Yesterday’s had me in emotional distress all day.

This got me thinking a very unorthodox thought: Perhaps the most effective way to Speak Out in today’s world is for us to start reading newspapers again, and turn off the boob tube.

Show the media that they have to start reporting fact, not opinion, “alternate facts”, or just plain old fiction, by hitting them in their ratings. Everything is being turned into a made for TV drama. Wise up folks: The way to stop toddlers from having tantrums is not to give them attention for having them. Even in print reporting should be strictly about issues, with names not listed in the headlines, so people don’t get ego boosts from seeing their faces and names on TV 24-7.

If there wasn’t the instant ego gratification of “news” coverage, the incentive to do dumb stuff in rapid fire would go away. We need to cultivate a society that values thinking things through over having temper tantrums on stage. Everyone, on both sides, feels like they have to speak out quickly. This results in a barrage of opinions getting the headlines and facts showing up so late that no one hears them because we have moved on to the next sensation.

I live in a nation which has a constitutional right to free speech. This is a good thing. It is, of course, a two edged sword: people who don’t agree with your point of view get to speak freely as well. That doesn’t bother me so much.

My concern these days is that people are coming out with opinion, “alternative facts” (aka, what they wish was true) and even false news and presenting it as truth. They have the right to do this. Even legitimate news programs have taken to reporting opinion as if it were news. I don’t have a TV so don’t know when this started, but one night over at Dad’s the local news channel presented tweets and Facebook entries! Excuse me??? Apparently this is a regular feature.

One problem is that there are way too many “news” shows for the amount of actual news that American audiences are willing to watch.

There is a good deal more going on in the world than what we hear on the 5 o’clock news. If we were less parochial perhaps presidential candidates would know where Aleppo is..although maybe was is more accurate in this case. Heaven forfend that the media tell us about things elsewhere in the world, those long drawn out battles and hardships in Africa, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Asia are so tedious, not the way to boost ratings.  They are complicated and can’t be explained in 140 characters, so off with their heads. You can watch for 15 minutes and have a handle on everything they are going to bother to report in the next two hours, but most people numbly sit there for an hour or even two, and with every repeat they become hypnotized into thinking they know what is going on in the world. Of course actually knowing about and trying to understand those issues might make us stop and think about the consequences of our actions, that’s not much fun.

Okay, off the soap box. The sun is shining on the day before the groundhog pops up: what will tomorrow bring? Hopefully not another executive order…it’s getting tedious.

It’s a Downsy-Daysy

Today is grey, not dark grey just medium, it’s chilly but not cold. With no set appointments I am trying to get phone calls related to Grandma’s health insurance made. Not the best way to cheer ones self up.

So far Swedish wins the just answer the phone and get the info into the account race (2 min 48 sec). The loser so far is Seattle Radiology-Integra at 15 minutes. Two more calls to go.

I am (perhaps too easily) amused when the robo-voice thanks me for my patience. It makes me wonder: is it patience if you put up when you aren’t given the option of shouting out your frustration?

I always used to think that patience was a serene state of mind while waiting or repeating for the nth time the same information. Now my standards are slipping. It’s a bit like surviving vs thriving.

In today’s news we have people all over protesting right now: they are communicating frustration. Sadly, I feel like they are doing the equivalent of when I lose it and tell the robo-voice that its wrong, I am not patient. I have no choice. Or, worse, hang up.

Better to laugh. Every call that gets through to a real person costs them money and helps rationalize a job for that human being.

Don’t get me wrong: it is important to have a voice, even if the powers that be disregard it. I am being frustrated because I don’t feel like I know enough on the subject to have a valid opinion. Everything I read seems biased one way or the other. I have taken to trying to read both sides to get an idea of what might be real. The problem is that the knee jerking judgement on both sides puts me off.  I wish that I had confidence that the policy makers were doing something other than just jerking their knees…and jerking people’s lives around as a product of ignorance, but I don’t.

It’s grey, in the sky, in the world and in my head. I think I’ll go buy some primroses to prime my pump.

 

It’s complicated

What could be more Simple? Here’s today’s list:

  • Put Christmas decorations away
  • Do dishes
  • Pay bills
  • Scan Grandma’s bill so they can be submitted to DSHS
  • Take her walker/wheelchair to the nursing home
  • Order her knee brace
  • Take my son in to fund his IRA
  • Get his tax forms and documents together
  • Clean the bathroom
  • Cook dinner
  • Buy gifts for the nursing home staff
  • Put vacation pictures on a thumb drive for my dad

The tasks are simple. No individual item on my to-do list is complicated. However, getting through the list always is. Many tasks have little features or factors that make just doing it tricky.

For example: I need to scan my grandmother’s medical bills into pdf files so that they can be submitted. But my son is asleep in the room where I keep the scanner. He’s still on Beijing time. I’m not quite off of Buenos Aires time, so our blocks of being conscious and cogent aren’t lining up too well, a little twist to many simple tasks.

Then there is managing the list, just the number of simple tasks is a bit daunting so I try to figure out how to batch things up. Every “I need….” from Grandma is a minimum of an hour of travel time, longer in rush hour so you have to keep a tight eye on the clock, plus budget time looking for parking and sometimes a significant walk in to the facility. If I have any errand that is between here and there I try to insert it into the same trip…but lately that hasn’t worked so well.

I call it “the frazzle factor”, and it’s become a major roadblock. We had to go out to dinner the other night because I was so frazzled from a trip to the nursing home that I didn’t stop for food. I just couldn’t face finding parking again, a crowded grocery store and making a decision about what to fix for dinner.

How can I feel so worn out when I just got back from vacation?

Dear Santa

I’ve been thinking about you this week. I came across these pictures from a time more magical. Even though I haven’t visited in quite a while, and the magic just isn’t there for me any more, I really appreciate the joy you brought to me through the years.

JpegThis, in case you have forgotten (understandable since you have your picture taken with so many children every year) was taken in 1994, the last time we came to see you with “Grandma” Barb. James was in school all day after that so our little tradition of visiting you and having lunch on the Monday after Thanksgiving came to an end.

James has grown up and lives in China now. Not all traditions are dead: I sent him a package with stockings for him and his co-English teachers and a new girl friend. It is fun to share that tradition. He uses the stocking and a present to teach his students ideas like in, out, under and over.

We don’t do stockings at home anymore…my husband never caught on and there are just the two of us now, I don’t need to fill my own stocking. Maybe someday…he has warmed to having pets. The Empress rules him with an iron paw in a velvet glove and he has really taken to the little dogs.

This has been a good year: filled with love and good memories. As the year closes we are still working toward a stable situation for Grandma, who broke her hip November 19th. However, she is improving, slowly but steadily, and we go over to visit taking the pups, a treat or two, and British humor DVD’s to watch every week. Keeping up the little things is more important to me now than the big gestures of Christmas, and my energy is low enough that I can’t really do both.

So the stockings are in China, the relatives here will get glazed pecans and baked goods. We have a few decorations about the place, but no tree, and we play some of our favorite Christmas music now and again. Christmas has dwindled to a cozy, low-key celebration of family and love, and that feels right for now. In a world full of violence and vitriol it has its own magic.

Thanks for all of the memories…and, who knows, maybe things will again shift toward the magical. I know you’ll always be there for those who believe.

 Christmas Writing Prompt: Write a letter to Santa