An Old Friend Returns

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Old Friend

So I am still trying to expand my interests and fill my “corona” time as I remain isolated and in safe harbor in my living space. Before the hard lockdown occurred, one of my oldest friends came to visit for a couple of weeks. We knew we would be isolated and spending much time at home, but this didn’t bother us, simply because we have always enjoyed each others company and have many of the same interests. Our time was spent planning meals, cooking, playing cards, reliving old memories, and working on art projects.

In the course of her visit during one of our reminiscing moments, I lamented that I no longer had my guitar. I had loaned it to a granddaughter and it had migrated to its last known residence in the halls of the music department at La Jolla High School where I am hopeful some young budding virtuoso was strumming those strings and creating great music. In retirement I thought I might return to picking out a few tunes and was saddened when I realized my Aria was gone. When my friend heard this she reminded me that I had given her my first guitar many years ago, an act that had been totally wiped from my memory. She told me she knew where my old guitar was and that she believed she could get it returned to me. This became her mission and nothing can stop her from completing a mission.

Within a few weeks, a huge box arrived at my home and when I opened the box and removed the plastic wrap, my eyes fell upon an old friend, my learner guitar, a 52 year old companion that helped a young woman of 22 cope with life and find happiness for many years with girls scouts and friends singing around a campfire. I wept with joy at the sight.

So I began spending some time each day trying to pull the chords from the retired files in my brain and toughening my fingertips. At one point a long time ago, my fingers could fly from one chord to another and my right hand could strum and pic automatically to the beat of the song. Now I am like a toddler learning to walk…I move slowly, lose my balance frequently, then pick myself up and try again. Just in a short two week period, I have gotten better so muscle memory is beginning to kick in and hopefully in the not too distant future, I will be able to play some of my old favorites.

Make new friends but keep the old, one is silver and the other is gold! An old friend is home!

Happy strumming!

The Enemy Without

Frontline Warrior

“I don’t have it”. “I’m clean”. “I know I’m OK because I don’t have any symptoms”. I have heard these statements and many others when people are justifying not wearing a mask or not maintaining social distancing or just participating in an activity that they can’t seem to live without. Studies are showing that a large percentage of people infected with Covid-19 are asymptomatic. This means they are carriers of the virus and as such, close contact with loved ones or people in general may mean you are a 21st century Typhoid Mary, a real and present danger to elderly, immuno-compromised or other members of our population that may be susceptible to attack from Covid-19. This virus is extremely virulent, easily communicable and as family members of over 50,000 fellow Americans can attest, it is deadly. The enemy is without. It floats, jumps, hitches a ride steathily seeking a host where it can grow, multiply and morph as it spreads its wickedness. Its goal is survival. Small in size but a giant with real clout, Covid-19 has turned our world upside down and our “norm” will most probably be changing, just as it changed after 9/11.

Today is my birthday and I am by myself celebrating 74 trips around the sun. I am immuno-compromised and at age 74, I certainly fall in the elderly category. This morning was a beautiful sun-shiny day, blue skies, soft breeze and a perfect temperature of 66 degrees. I decided to don my mask, camera and binoculars and go for a walk on Lady Bird Lake. People are out and about and I was astounded by how many people are NOT wearing a mask on the trail. They are biking, running and walking, huffing and puffing as they speed past me on the trail apparently with no fear of the silently lurking virus that has the potential to snuff out their lives. Are they stupid? Or do they just not care that they may be spreading death to others? I’ve worked as a nurse for 40+ years, caring for many patients in isolation and never have I been afraid of going into the hospital and doing my job. But this is different. This virus is a killer in ways that scientists and physicians are still trying to map. If healthcare workers are fearful, then everyone should be very afraid.

So I enjoyed my short escape from my condo walls and captured some photos of a few feathered friends along the way. I sat on a secluded bench and just soaked in the dappled sunshine under a canopy of new green leaves on towering bald cypress and oak trees. Alone but not really alone sharing nature with strangers during this most strange time in the history of our planet. Be safe, wash your hands, wear a mask if not for you then for your grandmother or other loved ones. This too shall pass but unfortunately I believe we will be dealing with this monster for quite a while yet.

Blue Jay (Internet image)
Green Heron
Male Cardinal
Red-bellied Woodpecker nest site last year. Will they return this year or have I already missed their visit?
Green Heron

Happy Social Distancing!

Treasure Hunt

One wall of books in Booked Up

Adventure and things of interest can be just a short stretch down the road as my sister and I experienced a few weekends ago. We set out for Archer City, Texas with our final goal of visiting Larry McMurtry’s sprawling bookshop named “Booked Up’ to peruse our way through the more than 200,000 tomes he has ensconced there.

Quincey, a Columbian Mammoth

Along the way we made a stop at America’s newest designated park, the Mammoth National Monument. At this location near Waco, two young boys exploring a creek bed saw an interesting outcropping and the discovery was made of a huge femur bone which was identified as belonging to a Columbian Mammoth that lived approximately 55,000 years ago during the Pleistocene Epoch which spanned 2.5 million years to 10,000 years ago.  Upon further investigation, excavation determined that their find was indeed a momentous one…a nursery herd of these Mammoths had apparently been caught in a flash flood thousands of years ago.  Our young tour guide who expertly educated us on our tour, poured a wealth of knowledge into us about these huge creatures that roamed this part of Texas. Fourteen feet high at the shoulder and approximately the size of a regular sized yellow school bus, they wandered through a grassland of six-foot high grasses accompanied by camels who it is theorized shared a symbiotic relationship with the mammoths. As she explained, the Mammoths had extremely poor vision and possibly couldn’t identify real predators from grass blowing in the wind while the camels had excellent vision and became the alarm system for these huge mammals. Absolutely worth the visit if your path brings one near.

Quincey

We pushed forward to check in at our home away from home for the next two nights, the Spur Hotel in Archer City. Built in 1928, it has been totally renovated and offers eleven rooms that are reminiscent of how hotel rooms must have been in the olden days…small, cozy with homemade quilts adorning the beds but thankfully, a completely modern bathroom. We ate at Murn’s directly across from our hotel, obviously a beloved local watering hole and eatery for all Archer City residents. A long but enjoyable day and we collapsed into our beds to rest up for the piece de resistance of our day trip…Booked Up!

Being a true bibliophile, a visit to this bookstore, is the equivalent of stepping into book heaven. The main room is climate controlled and this is where the rare and expensive books are housed. Connected to this main room is a warehouse and an annex, not climate controlled, so very cold. It was a treasure hunt because the thousands of books were loosely categorized into sections (birds, poetry, civil war, history, mysteries, etc.) labeled by scraps of paper. Within those categories it was every man for himself because they were NOT alphabetized by author which made it virtually impossible to find any one certain book. To make matters even more challenging, there are at least three other buildings filled with books. It is a work in progress and that progress is apparently an extremely slow one. All that being said, I still managed to find some book treasures that I couldn’t live without after four hours of searching up and down, floor-to-ceiling aisles of books.

Literally we were on a quest for buried book treasures and along the way enjoyed the camaraderie of a shared sister experience.  Adventure can be discovered close to home so make the time, book the reservation and make it happen. So worth it!!

Happy booking!

Road Trip 2018

 

Heading down the highway!

This past November, my BFF Kathleen and I launched ourselves into what we hoped would be a memorable road trip. We plotted, planned and prepared but still had the mindset that we would throw caution to the wind if we saw a sign that enticed us to some interesting phenomena just a few miles off of our predetermined path.

To this end, I always believed that part of the pleasure of a journey is in the planning, the anticipation of said event. So many times I find myself driven to do stupid little things that probably seem inconsequential to others but I derive great pleasure in the planning. So I took a large piece of one of my many saved pieces of paper and plotted out a calendar of sorts and wrote each day’s destination and possible highlights and then going the extra mile, drawing and watercoloring some things that might be pertinent to our potential visits.

So we were off, leaving Austin after I completed a day of work, to head for San Angelo for the first night of our road trip… a stressful four-hour drive because of rain and poor highway conditions combined with construction along the way. But we arrived at our hotel, albeit very tired, none the worse for wear, dropping into an exhausted sleep.

Up early to hit the road again with iconic stops along the way to enjoy some of the delights of the infamous Route 66, a hard push to Roswell to visit the UFO museum (the truth is out there!) and on to Winslow Arizona to stand on the corner. The 7th Wonder of the World, The Grand Canyon was breathtaking followed by the red cliff beauty of Sedona and culminating with a few days in Tucson with the highlight for me being the National Saguaro Park where thousands of giant Saguaro stood like soldiers amidst the desert landscape.

Area 51, Roswell Arizona – The Truth is Out There!
Standing on the Corner

Two tiny people compared to the Grand Canyon
Sedona
Chapel of the Holy Cross
Montezuma Castle National Monument-Occupied between 1200 & 1450 by the Sinagua people, a pre-Columbian culture
Saguaro National Park
Western Bluebird
Mission San Xavier del Bac

Road trips should be an opportunity to just relax and enjoy the beauty of the landscape and the wonders encountered throughout the journey. This trip lived up to my expectations and my only regret was in the thousands of miles traveled, I failed to encounter one of my favorite birds…The Roadrunner. But as luck would have it I did find a suitable substitute on the way home.

Fort Stockton, Texas Roadrunner

Swamp Things

Mr. Gator

I love swamps. I have traversed various swamps in my day and in each one I enjoyed the beauty of Bald Cypress trees, Tupelo trees, Spanish moss, water lilies, and the slow moving murky waters where a submerged tree stump might be a lurking alligator awaiting his next meal. Best of all though are the magnificent birds that inhabit these scary but beautiful places. Great and Snowy Egrets, Great Blue, Little Blue, Tricolored and Green Herons, Night Herons, Vultures, Osprey, Anhinga to name a few.

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Anhinga

I’ve been in canoes and air boats and no matter what the vehicle, I find these moments with nature to be restorative. They help me remember the permanence of time…how things continue even in adversity, recover from blows that seem to knock the wind from sails only to grow stronger and more beautiful from it all. Forest fires are devastating but the burn gives rise to new growth. A hurricane, tornado or any of the major disasters wipe clean and when the rebuilding comes, it may be superior in many ways.

I’ve only experienced one swamp that I didn’t like, one swamp that made me fearful, unsure of survival. A swamp inhabited by bottom sucking leeches and loathsome creatures that cared naught for the beauty of nature, or clean water or clean air, or the well-being of all who inhabited that piece of real estate. And yes…that swamp is the infamous cesspool that has grown and blossomed like a red tide bringing hardship and adversity to all who abide in America. I don’t believe that all of Washington DC is a swamp, but I certainly do believe that the tRump administration has transformed the People’s House, the White House into a swamp of unimaginable horror.  I’ve watched environmental regulations and animal protections wiped carelessly away, the corruption and misuse of our money, your money, the people’s money being squandered frivolously all to fulfill the whim of unscrupulous appointees.

Swamps tend to be self nurturing…an ecosystem that repairs and fixes itself to restore a natural balance that keeps it healthy. I had hopes that my fears were unjustified and that the men and women of the tRump administration would rise beyond their greed and truly devote themselves to protecting and defending all the good that America personifies. But I have waited in vain. I know that the only cure for the decisiveness that has permeated America today is the sweeping of that giant blue tsunami across America this November. Vote the swamp things out of Congress or in tRump’s words “Drain the Swamp!”

 

 

For the Love of Friends

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God gave us memories so we might have roses in December – James M. Barrie

Last week I traveled a relatively short distance to visit my oldest and one of my dearest friends. From second grade, we have shared our lives even over great distances and when she met her husband at age 17 and 3 years later tied the marriage knot, he too became a part of my life. Time passed and, oh so many years ago, we kept in contact by writing letters. With the advent of email, we have stayed in touch and we have never missed the annual ritual of sending a birthday card to each other. We both have two daughters and grandchildren now and have lived out dreams and fulfilled most of our aspirations.

So many wonderful childhood memories and so many lifelong events have shaped our lives. And through those many years we have watched each other grow old and witnessed the inevitable scourges of time…the patterns of wrinkles and fading scars paint a picture of lives well lived.

Bí mật giật mình trong quả sung và nước sốt cà chua
A private message

I cried most of the way home that day because illness and age has ripped a familiar loved one from the person I once knew and twisted him into a shell of his former self. He was there inside that shell yet a light had flickered out somewhere within. My friends epitomize what true and lasting love is. Through good times and bad, fortune, fame, loss and tragedy, they have weathered every storm with grace and dignity…stood by each other and through those years they have woven the fabric of a beautiful family. They have lived what most people eternally seek…days and days filled with love in the Spring, Summer and now Winter of their lives.

Witnessing the changes in people we love brings us face to face with the reality that each of us will one day step through life into death to the unknown beauty of what we hope awaits us. Most everyone at one time or another has heard the analogy of a fetus in utero…safe, warm with all of its needs constantly and fully met and the fear that ensues when the birthing process begins. A fetus is thrust into an unknown world and this is scary, just as we are afraid to face the reality of our own eventual demise.

I am so thankful that my life has been blessed with these special friends and I hope I will have many more days/years with them. There is a peaceful comfort now in just being around old friends. They know me. My strengths, my weaknesses, my very inner self. We have history. I love them both and each time we reconnect, it is as yesterday, nary a missed beat. I think of you both each and every day.

Be well dear friends.

Oh, By The Way… Home Warranty Hell!!

For the past six weeks I have been without a refrigerator. Trust me this is NOT a pleasant experience and if you have experienced it then you know how frustrated I am right now.

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Background…I purchased a home warranty policy for the first time this year because I was worried that my ac was 20 years old and might kick the bucket. Well, so far (and I am holding my breath) the ac is still cranking but my refrigerator conked out. No worries, file a claim with the home warranty company, right? Only a $45.00 service call charge for me and it will be all fixed. In my dreams! Easier said than done.

After a couple of days the first (yes there has been more than one!) service company came out to diagnosis the problem. He determined that the compressor was bad and ordered a new one. One week passed and he came to install the new compressor. Next I received a text from him saying the new compressor blew the mother board and oh by the way it will be two-five weeks before the parts are here. After I flipped out, he said the mother board had to come from China. I yelled that I knew there were planes flying out of China each day and I was willing to pay for overnight shipping. Didn’t happen and the home warranty company said they don’t offer overnight shipping of parts.

So I waited and waited and waited.  After another two weeks, I called the first service person for an update. He told me that the new compressor was in but he was still waiting for the Mother board and oh by the way (starting to get the feeling in my gut that this is a living nightmare and something isn’t just right moment) three different supply places said this compressor is the right one but LG says it isn’t and oh by the way…the home warranty company wants to send out another company for a second opinion. And oh by the way, can first repair person come by and pull the compressor that he put it that blew the Mother board. I said it was inconvenient and no way in hell am I letting him take away what could be evidence that he installed the wrong compressor which caused the mother board to fry!! I don’t know that for a fact, but count me seriously suspicious at this point in time.

So I wait again for the second company to come and diagnosis the problem. And oh by the way, please pay this company another $45.00 service call fee.This one unscrewed the plates behind the refrigerator looked at it (no diagnostic tools) replaced cover plates and left and I haven’t heard from him since. And oh by the way…he isn’t authorized to work on LG products. Question??? Then why did said home warranty company send him out to diagnosis it??

So I wait and eventually fire off another angry email to people on the other end of cyberspace and receive a notice that a third company will be coming out a week from now to diagnose the problem. And oh by the way…that will be another $45.00 please. By this time I am blowing a gasket and am at my “breaking point”. And oh by the way the name of the third company scheduled for next week is…wait for it…Breaking Point!!! Is this kharma or what???

I called and eventually get hold of a manager who only succeeded in making me angrier if that is even possible. And adding insult to an already old, tired, frustrated, angry woman, she had the audacity to offer me $389.00 to resolve the whole issue. This on a refrigerator that originally cost $3000. She must have though I was brain-dead or just maybe this is the run around scam that they pull on everyone. I have no way of knowing, but count myself wiser and more knowledgeable at this point in time after digging further on the internet into this company. Turns out that all those glowing reviews that enticed me to choose this home warranty company may have been falsely secured by them offering incentives to previous customers to write nice things. At least that is what the BBB and a judge determined when they fined this company over $800,000 in a class action lawsuit for a breach of rules that clearly state you can’t solicit new customers with lies from previous customers.

So I am waiting. Waiting for my refrigerator to be fixed, waiting for a company to do the responsible good faith thing, basically waiting for hell to freeze over in Texas on a 102 degree day. And oh by the way, I never paid a second or third service fee!  And on the plus side…I have become the refrigerator police and now know that I can manage with very little and not starve to death.

I think I’ll have a cup of tea and try to zen my way to being more tranquil. It appears I am at the mercy of powers of which I have no control, so Ommmmmm.

Addenda: Finally reached the owner of said company and we settled with them giving me $1000.00 for a new refrigerator and as Lady Luck finally returned, the one I want was on sale for $999.99! I am finally free of refrigerator hell!! I’m chilling now!!!

Keep your cool!!!

 

Rites of Passage

This past weekend I jetted my way to San Diego to witness a rite of passage for my youngest granddaughter…high school graduation. Last week I enjoyed a similar experience with my oldest grandson as he too began a new journey into college. Rites of passage are launching pads for young people. Whether they are being pitched into the work environment, academic advancement through college studies, entering the military or taking a gap year to explore the world and all its wonders, it is a new beginning.

New beginnings give us second chances. A second chance to be better, to change attitudes, to become acquainted with the “real” world and all of its problems, speed bumps, rewards and excesses requiring the use of judgement and intelligent thinking to navigate the pitfalls along the way. In their journey, they will have successes and failures and the best we can hope for is that each of these will be learning experiences that will benefit them when they arrive at the next “new beginning”.

Some of us take the long road to reach an ultimate goal and some of us are more goal oriented and driven to pursue those dreams in the shortest period of time. And then some of us make mistakes that slow our journey. Whatever our path, reaching the end of each journey is a joyous occasion and cause for celebration. Balloons, flowers, leis, graduation cards stuffed with cash and filled with encouraging expressions for the future, celebratory food and drink, elaborately decorated sugary cakes, the clicking of many cameras recording the momentous occasion are planned and implemented as a reward for a job well done and an enticement to forge onward to the next life goal.

Goals may change for that is the fluidity of life. A child’s dreams build castles in the air only to become more focused when life itself may force the adjustment of life’s dreams. Most of my dreams have passed now. Many have been realized but a host of others remain unfulfilled. I am learning to accept that many of my dreams, wants, gotta haves may never be, but that really doesn’t matter anymore. I have sweet memories of the many rites of passages of my life and feel blessed to have had the plethora of my dreams reach fruition.

Dream on !!!!

 

 

Precious Cargo

Children are precious cargo. From conception to birth through years of learning and life shaping experiences, they are a great responsibility as well as the source of much joy. A poignant memory for me was my arrival home from the hospital with my first-born daughter. Everyone has Kodak moments in their lives. I vividly remember laying her gently on my bed to change her diaper and being overwhelmed with the enormity of the responsibility of it all. At that moment the thought that raced through my mind was …what I did would determine whether she lived or died. That was a heart stopping, brain exploding moment. I was young, barely eighteen, and the weight of that thought catapulted me into dedicating my every waking moment to giving her everything she would need to grow into the beautiful person she has become.  She was my world, my everything and from the moment she was born I could not envision my life without her, separated from her in any way.

So I find myself quite distraught, heartbroken and tearful imagining the suffering and pain that the parents must feel when they are separated from their children not knowing where they are, who might be comforting them or even if their basic needs are being met. What has America become when we are engaging in practices such as this, practices employed by Nazi Germany when families were torn apart and endured unspeakable atrocities and millions were gassed and burned in ovens, disposed of as trash. This didn’t happen over night. The steps to death, destruction, loss of freedoms are small ones. But cumulatively, they are earth shattering, life altering cataclysmic events.

Germany to give Holocaust victims pensions

Photographs taken by British troops on their arrival at Belsen concentration camp Photo: The Holocaust Centre
History will not be kind to the people who support this diabolical plan. Just as there were no excuses for following orders in Nazi Germany, if one doesn’t protest this inhumane practice, then you are part of the problem and as such will bear the same guilt when history comes calling. Silence is complicity! And there is a special place in Hell for the creators and enforcers of this horrible tRump policy.

What is Faith?

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Science or God’s palette?

Faith is a difficult entity to define. According to Webster, faith is “a belief and trust in and loyalty to God” or “a firm belief even in the absence of proof” or “complete confidence”. But how do we believe in something we can’t see? I have heard and thought that we can’t see the wind yet it exists as evidenced by the trees that sway as it passes or the feel of it on my face or skin. There are many things that I can’t see yet accept their existence. I have faith that the bridges I cross with my automobile will stand firm and erect without collapsing. I have faith when I board an airplane that it will get me to my destination. I had faith with every seed I ever sowed that it would spring forth from the earth and grow into a beautiful larkspur, zinnia or poppy.

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I want to have faith that the political nightmare America has been enduring will eventually come to an end. I want to have faith that laws apply equally to everyone and that the guilty will be punished for their transgressions. I want to have faith that America will survive this assault on our democracy, our Constitution and the Rule of Law. But as each day passes I find it more difficult. Perhaps I am just weary from worry.

Evidence of faith may be in the birth of a baby which in my entire nursing career never failed to move me to tears. Every single nanosecond of cell development has to go exactly right for a baby to be born with all working parts.  I have seen the miraculous disappearance of a cancerous tumor accepted as a result of fervent prayer when the actual scientific explanation may be misdiagnosis or an immune system that simply won a territorial battle.

A newborn baby wrapped in a hospital blanket crying in MiddletownPhoto by Tim Bish on Unsplash

Each of us may have experienced diminished faith at some point in our lives. I know I have had moments when I have questioned the presence of a higher power yet revert to prayer when I am seeking solace or help from an entity that many times seems capricious in his or her governance of our lives. I call these times a “crisis in faith”. I don’t want to think it, feel it, and I truly want to believe, but the pragmatist in me jumps up and down screaming the impossibility of a higher power. Yet I still cling to a hope that there is more than this.

But my brain will not comprehend nor accept a world where there are people who would deny healthcare or food to the poor, the elderly or children. A world where the color of your skin defines you. A world where men and women who give their all to protect and defend our country end up living homeless on the streets of what is supposed to be the greatest nation on our planet. A world where the top one percent own ninety-nine percent of the wealth and through that wealth, lobby elected officials to do their bidding rather than the will of the people they have sworn to protect, defend and serve. A world where bigotry and racism are allowed to flourish. A world where our children are no longer safe in their schools. A world where owning an assault rifle has more value than a human life. A world where children are ripped from their parents and placed in warehouses or in cages in processing centers.

But faith  leaps up in the form of high school students who refuse to accept that things can’t change and be better. With a small voice that has become a shout that will not be silenced, they have begun a movement that makes me believe that there may be hope for the return of sanity and decency to our world. And only history and time will tell us if America survives. Their road to change begins with one small step.

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Believe or not. The choice is yours.