Why Not Friday Round-Up

Why, Arizona can be a question or a place depending on whether you use a comma. The first time we came through “town” I saw the official sign for Why that included when it was established and how many people live there. So the whole time we were somewhere else I thought about how clever it would be to Instagram a photo of that sign with the caption, “This is Why,” but we couldn’t find the sign coming back without making a dozen U-turns to check out signs which you don’t want to do on AZ 85 when the sun is setting.

We’ve been gone for much of March, first to Alaska and then to Arizona. In both places we drank their local beer and we came home fat from thinking every night was a special occasion. We live now in the land of corporate beer and an unforgiving scale which I constantly adjust to make sure the line is exactly on the zero before I weigh myself. I lost half a pound that way this morning.

I stopped writing for a week and it felt good. It felt like I was out from under for a while, free of practically every obligation (being out of town and on the road a fair amount of time will do that), and free from thinking about whether anyone was reading what I had written. I quit the constant checking of my phone, turned off the reinforcement faucet for a while. I decided not to write anything until I missed writing which I did, finally, this morning. In anticipation, I started to make a list of themes last night but I forgot them until now.

Being physically present is no accident. We took a bit of a detour on our way from Phoenix to Organ Pipe National Park to see our grandkids in San Diego. And their parents. But mostly the grandkids – 5 year old twin boys and a 14 year old girl. It was six hours each way which is a lot for most people but not really for us because we like being on the road so much. The next morning while I sat watching TV with one boy, the other one, slow to wake, came out of his room, climbed up on the bed  and hugged me. I sat feeling his blond head resting on my back, his little wordless morning self. I didn’t want to breathe or speak lest he quit to run off and begin his day.

I delivered 4,379 tampons and pads and 60 pairs of women’s underwear to the Salvation Army today. This was after lunch with a good friend who asked me, quite pointedly, if delivering menstrual supplies was my end game for my Time of the Month Club effort or was there a bigger agenda and I told her, yes, that collecting menstrual supplies for homeless women gives me ‘talking rights’ on policy and programs which is true but also true is that packing my pink bags with boxes of tampons and pads and new underwear for women I don’t know and will probably never meet is weirdly the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. Don’t even ask me why. I have no clue.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Greenery

I saw grass today and it was like being transported to a mythical country.

It’s something for a person raised in the Midwest, who has lived here for 70 years, and just got back from Alaska, to be sniveling with gratitude about twelve blades of grass at the end of the block.

It’s the unique magic of winter. It makes you all happy at the beginning, stoic in the middle, and sniveling and weak at the end.

The winter has definitely contributed to my intermittent bouts of pretend frailty. I’ve made the ice on the driveway a murderer lying in wait so I tiptoe out of the back door to my car like a fairy princess lest I awake the monster. Oh little sweet defenseless me!

It’s disgusting.

After my husband read my post about my cochlear implant battery dying, another episode of weeping defenselessness, he motioned at my closet and said, “You need to put on a power suit and get your act together.” It’s one of the things I like best about him. He is the least emotionally indulgent person I’ve ever met.

He isn’t cold or unfeeling. He just doesn’t indulge a lot of weak talk. Like “I can’t get this project done.” “Nobody likes my essay.” “My life is pointless.” “The ice is too slippery.” He just yawns and goes back to reading the paper. This tactic has kept me going for 35 years. I think he learned it in some deescalation workshop when he was a youth worker a century ago. Ignore lamenting and it will go away.

I’ve come to depend on this reaction of his. There’s no sympathy here, little lady.

Being on the receiving end of sympathy is nice sometimes but it can quickly become a debilitating thing, at least for me. When people feel sorry for me, I get worse. I don’t know what it’s like for other people. I never presume.

Whispers

We were driving across town today and, just like that, my cochlear implant died. So instantly, in the space between one stoplight and another, I was back to being deaf.

Not hard of hearing, not hearing impaired, deaf except for maybe 10% of sound. We were picking up our son to go to lunch. He got in the car and I could hear murmurings of conversation between he and my husband but I looked out the window with no sense of what they were saying. None. In minutes, I had become cargo.

This has happened to me only once before. It was at a meeting to discuss kicking off a project to tell the stories of women who are homeless. The person I was meeting with, a long time colleague and wonderful person, was excited to move forward and I was encouraged by her endorsement, her great willingness to be the connection between me and women she was working with. She would be the person who would give me the legitimacy I would need to begin.

But then my implant died. Like today, it was a problem with the battery not charging adequately overnight. And so, right in the middle of our very intense conversation, I went deaf. And I couldn’t continue. I tried to explain but it is so peculiar to be a person whose life in the hearing world is so dependent on a battery. “I’m sorry but my battery died.”

My battery died so I have to run home because I have suddenly become a fawn in a forest full of cougars and bears because I can’t hear them sneaking up on me and I shouldn’t even be driving a car because I can’t hear people beeping their horns or a siren or know where the siren is coming from, I am a hazard to everyone, a witless, unknowing, unaware, incompetent former whole person.

It is just a technical problem.

At home, I switch to another battery, this one perfectly charged. The sound doesn’t immediately activate so I unscrew the battery and try again, all the while imagining that maybe something worse than a battery is broken. Maybe the mechanical stuff in my head is broken and within seconds I am on the operating table while they swap out the defective parts and put in new ones but this time they don’t have to drill a hole in my skull because it is still there, hidden behind my right ear.

All is well now, though. I hear myself typing on my keyboard. I hear the music downstairs, my chair creaking, and the dog standing to rearrange herself in her bed. I don’t take any of it for granted.

Silver Lining

What winter has going for it is hunkering down. It is in the hunkering down that we appreciate things like blankets and dogs. And we aren’t compelled all the time to be outside because it’s good for us.

We took a walk today but it started to rain. So we went home to hunker down.

We had wine and churros after dinner. There are two more churros to have in the morning with cups of strong coffee.

Maybe it will still be raining.

Ice Melt Friday Round-Up

We spent our last night in Alaska in the Bates Motel North. Its magic was putting an abrupt end to our growing love affair with Alaska. While my husband slept, I watched looped episodes of CNN news shows and scrolled through Trip Adviser reviews of our hotel. That, coupled with frequent checks of the bolted, double-bolted steel door, put me into prayer mode that we would live until 4:00 a.m. when we would have to leave for our flight home. I remembered the old adage not to sleep closest to the door. It was, I decided, my husband’s turn to be killed first.

The ice on our driveway has been epic and life-changing. It has made me a cowering, feeble, shuffling old lady. I fell twice this winter, neither time hurting myself but both times immediately flashing nursing home scenes before my eyes. You know, like the last thing you think of before you break your neck is some 19-year old who finished her CNA class last week emptying your bedpan and wiping your ass. Sorry, but aging is a festival of nursing home fears and a lot of them have to do with ICE.

I have a fascination with meals in a box or a bag. My latest love is chopped salads in a bag which I think are wonderful and clever. And so healthy. Which reminds me of a salad we ate at a restaurant in Seward where, when we walked in the door, the owner stopped us and said, “Have you ever been here before?” and when we said no she told us they only serve two things: chopped salads and bacon cheeseburgers. The chopped salad was very kale-forward as we say in the trade but the cheeseburger was not bad. And then, for some inexplicable reason, we were given two Rice Krispie treats.

It’s International Women’s Day. Why do we need a special day? There’s no International Men’s Day. I rest my case.

I still wonder what the man on the plane was doing under his blanket. He was a young guy, dressed in a t-shirt and jeans, very fit, wearing big headphones but wanting to be friendly but not too much. He had the window seat and pulled the shade down which irked us in the middle and aisle seats because we were leaving Alaska at sunrise and we thought that might be worth looking at. It was 6:00 a.m. And then I turned to look and the blanket was over his head. For the rest of the flight, he would be wrestling inside his blanket, so much so I wondered if he’d brought a ferret or other friend on board, and then he would stop, drop the blanket and order another vodka. I just read my book.

 

 

 

 

 

Deflated

Here’s the question of the day. What is the deal with chewing gum and having gas?

When did this start being a thing?

I mean I’m so dainty and so not wanting to look like some 1930’s gum-smacking dame hanging on Jimmy Cagney’s arm that I only chew a half a stick of Trident at a time. Discreet, I tell you. You could barely tell I’m chewing, I’m like a Texan who moves to New York but still keeps a wee chaw tucked in his beautifully-shaven cheek. Chaw? What chaw?

It took me days to figure out the connection. First there was the puffing up, so bad that I had to lay flat to zip up my beloved insulated skirt so I could be warm and hip at the Iditarod and then the zipper bit into my side like an open pair of scissors. What the goddamn hell? I thought. What is making me so pillowy?

And then, well, there were the consequences, only some of which I heard because, as you know, I’m hearing impaired. If a tree falls in the forest and only one hand is clapping does it still make a noise? I’m not sure but maybe. I acted as though I didn’t hear it regardless. I never acknowledge bodily faux pas. I learned that in 2nd grade. Look elsewhere. Always look elsewhere. A passing child, your companion, a distant bird.

So today I embarked on an experiment to determine if it was, in fact, chewing gum that was causing my puffery – all forms of it – and it seems to be true. No gum all day and I am now svelte and silent. I could model ballet tights, I am so sleek. But I am longing for a toothpick or a cigarette or maybe a No. 2 pencil. No gum, at least not while I’m traveling with a companion. It’s a bummer that now I can only chew gum when I am somewhere alone, by myself for days, wearing a muumuu. That’s what it’s come to.

 

 

Ambition

What a good trip gives me, oddly, is ambition.

And to feel ambitious is wonderful. I love the potential of ambition, the hopefulness of it, the sense that there are things still to be accomplished, the belief that I could do so many things if I decided to. It’s all in the deciding, not in anything else.

Ambition is powerful.

Here’s why this good trip to Alaska gives me ambition. I only have with me the possessions I can carry. I have my jeans and a hoodie and a lot of socks and three pairs of boots and my parka. I don’t have my office, the shelves full of books, and the drawers full of papers. I don’t have the ice on the driveway, the aged dog on the carpet, people wanting me to show up places. So I’m unencumbered except for my traveling companion with whom I am fine being encumbered.

Seeing people doing different things than I have done gives me ambition. The last Iditarod musher to leave the chute yesterday, #53, is a 67-year old nurse practitioner. She’s run the race before, never won, never placed, but she has finished. She’s 67 and she’s going on a 1,000 dog sled journey by herself, stopping at checkpoints for brief periods where she alone has to care for her dogs, and then taking off in the dark across rivers and mountains alone. So, yeah, she makes me feel ambitious, she makes me feel strong, and not old enough to have already reached my full potential. 

Imagining how it would be to live in Alaska makes me feel ambitious, knowing that I could move here if I wanted to, that I have the gear for it, at least, and the weather is no worse than Wisconsin in most places. There is nothing keeping me from becoming an Alaskan. One could say that about becoming an Floridian as well but it would not be relaxing moving here. I would really have to pay attention, this doesn’t seem to be the place for layabouts. 

Ambition is a gift.

I have been making a mental list of my ambitions – writing, publishing, advocacy, service, travel, physical challenges. There are a dozen beautiful things to do and knowing that makes me feel like a million bucks. It’s what a good trip does – charges me up to go be great. It’s magical.

If you are feeling stuck, go somewhere, anywhere, with your phone in your pocket and a change of clothes in a bag. Go remember how to get excited about what comes next, about what you will make happen next. Trust me, new ideas and new goals will sprout everywhere you look and you will need to keep a list.