For Crying Out Loud Friday Round-Up

I live in a country that is deporting an 11-year old girl because her paperwork got screwed up by bureaucrats. Hopefully, her attorneys will be able to stop this madness. But think of this: whoever was in charge didn’t just step up and fix what went wrong. They let their mistake terrify this girl and her family. Who would do that? Us, apparently. Americans. We do that.

On Monday, I saw a dead bird on the beach, surrounded by a circle of carefully arranged rocks. The bird was large like a goose but wasn’t a goose and it was lying on its side, its body arranged in the circle, its long neck a perfect S. I stopped a long time to admire the bird and later tried to explain the oddness of finding it to someone but my description fell flat and sounded, even to me, strange and too fascinated.

I sat with a young friend while she nursed her 3-week old baby. She said she was going back to work in three weeks and I said right away, “that’s very soon” and then I caught myself. I told her that I’d gone back to work just a month after my baby was born and people thought I was crazy. And she looked at me in that wise way that new mothers have and said, “that must have been very hard back then” and she was right. It was. I didn’t have any explanation for why I did it, I just remember feeling like I had to.

“These people have been disappointing you for years.” Not everybody has a life partner who distills and dispenses such wisdom. He is spare in his analysis but succinct and merciless when he lets loose. This particular gem has been in my head quite a bit lately, giving me much to ponder.

We are now ten days without a dog in our house. Last week, we got a sympathy card from the vet that included two little squares with Minnie’s front paw prints. We put them in a drawer with BowWow’s paw prints along with their collars and tags. The memorial drawer, I guess. Today, we got the vet’s bill and as I read the line items, I remembered each step, a week ago Wednesday. It’s very quiet here and we have no one to worry about but ourselves.

Worn Out Friday Round-Up

The one good thing about putting a dog down is not having to think anymore about putting the dog down. I really hate dread. So much so that I wake up many mornings and say to myself, what am I dreading today? This is crazy because there is almost nothing in my life that I dread now except putting my dog down and that’s done.

While swimming today I thought an exceptionally long time about this question: why are there 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour, and 24 hours in a day? Wouldn’t it make more sense to have 60 hours in a day? Where did the 24 come from? I thought about this for many laps doing the breaststroke because my goggles leaked when I swam the front crawl. Everytime I lifted my head up I’d see the clock and ask the question all over again.

I rehung my shingle yesterday. I realized I missed making money and I missed being really busy. So my consulting business is open again. Glenda Jackson playing King Lear on Broadway at the age of 80 after she retired as a member of Parliament in 2015 after she retired from acting in 1992 kind of hit me. So I asked myself: What’s your deal, girlie, that you are too precious to lay a few bricks and make a few bucks?

Physical work is weirdly satisfying. A group of us sat around a couple of folding tables this morning and rolled, taped, and labeled men’s underwear, t-shirts, hoodies, and sweatpants. These will be used to stock Street Angels’ bus when volunteers do homeless outreach. It’s nice to do stuff where no one is jockeying (get it, jockeying?) for position, who’s smarter or more accomplished than the other. It’s all about rolling, taping, and labeling. It felt like a quilting bee must have felt.

I am tired from this week. I don’t think that’s all bad. People are supposed to be tired on Friday.

Rough Edges Friday Round-Up

The guys I thought were handsome and charming thirty years ago still are but they are grey and that is shocking but only temporarily. It’s like we all went up a flight of stairs and then another flight and then here we are, our grey, surprised selves. I saw a few of them today at a funeral where everyone was prone to be nice anyway but a few did seem very glad to see me and I wanted to attribute that to my not being a decrepit mess, not that I indulge in such juvenile thinking as to compare myself to others or that I ever worry about what men think about me.

We are watching an episode of Alaska State Troopers that involves a call about a man attacking another man with a chainsaw. We decided to do this, along with having a pizza from Target and a salad from a bag, instead of going to the symphony which was featuring a German Requiem and a mezzo soprano from Korea. I don’t know, the requiem business just seemed too much, already being in an anticipatory mourning phase about our dog, Minnie, who right now is lying on the end of the quilt I brought down from upstairs to hide in.

Methodists do things really fast. Today’s funeral was like a text message of a ceremony. I was a Methodist for a while so this shouldn’t be a surprise. I was married once by a Methodist minister, the whole process happened in the time it takes to order and get a Quarter Pounder with Cheese, not that I’m criticizing. It’s just an observation. Still, in a funeral, I’d like a hair more lamenting.

A homeless man who had been sleeping on church steps downtown died today. I don’t know the exact circumstances but I believe this is no one’s fault. We sometimes wish it was someone’s fault. But people often die and there is no one to blame. I fear though that my Street Angel friends who spoke with this man earlier this week and brought him a hot meal and maybe a blanket or socks will feel that they should have done more. If they would listen I would say – your act of loving kindness gave his last time of earth a gentleness he probably hadn’t known for a long time. You softened his life, if only for a moment.

I bought basil and cilantro seeds today because, even though I am a terrible gardener, spring fills me with hope. I’m going to plant them in an egg carton and put them on the window sill and hope for the best.

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.








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.






Alaska Friday Round-Up

We put on our dress sweatshirts and went to the Iditarod Mushers Banquet last night. This was a big deal because all the very cool and fresh off the dog sled mushers hang out at the Mushers Banquet plus it was our anniversary. So it was quite the gala. Mushers got their start numbers and Hobo Jim sang, frequently and for a long time. They served steaks the size of dinner plates and big slabs of chocolate cake because, you know, dog-sledding requires calories and it is Alaska, after all, where nothing is small, everything is oversize and a little bit rough. Or a lot. Depending on how rugged you are.

Iditarod musher Paige Drobny sat at our table with her husband who is also a musher but not in this race and whose name I’ve forgotten. The two of them may have been the healthiest people I’ve seen in years, well-scrubbed but dripping with sled dogs, their happiness in what they were doing bursting in the air like millions of blooming daisies. They drank heartily and without care, leaning over to nod with each other and then looking back to the rest of us to laugh and chat. There isn’t a person alive who wouldn’t rather be them than whoever they are at the moment, me included and I never envy anyone.

Yesterday I talked to a woman who, at the age of 60, took a job as teacher and principal in a 21-student school in a village in Alaska’s interior. The interior is what they call the part of Alaska that has no roads which is basically the entire state. Anyway, Susan told her husband in Oklahoma that she’d be back when school ended in June and she took off. She hires other teachers to help but they keep quitting. She says they don’t like hauling water in 5-gallon jugs which apparently she doesn’t mind. She goes home in the summer and stays inside with the air conditioning blasting. Susan doesn’t like being hot.

How white people erased so much native culture became clearer to me yesterday. In an exhibit at a native museum there was a long explanation with photos of how villagers – out of their sense of respect and accommodation of newcomers – quickly regarded white teachers and priests as the “new elders.” And in so doing, children were gradually taught to ignore the teaching of their actual elders, disrupting centuries of the transmission of cultural values and language. It was a free museum, halfway shut down because it is off-season here, and no one paid us any attention except to say hello and goodbye. It was one of those gems you find when you stop anyway.

We rented a little truck with 4-wheel drive. It doesn’t do to tool around Alaska in an itty-bitty rental car even though one would probably suffice. Places that get a lot of snow are generally very good at clearing it off the roads. Every trip is playacting though. Go to Florida, you imagine the Florida life and it has limes everywhere and smells all the time of Coppertone. Up here, it’s about boots and hoodies, road dirt that obliterates license plates, windows that roll down. We would be tough if we moved here, we think. Really tough.

Deep Winter Friday Round-Up

I can’t be in a clinical trial because I have a magnet in my head. I wrote about this a few days ago – being offered the opportunity to be in a research project testing the efficacy of an Alzheimer’s prevention drug. But regular MRI’s are part of the research design and because there is a magnet in my head that attaches to the magnet on my cochlear implant receiver, my head would blow up. So that’s the end of my lab rat career.

I decided not to find out if I have the dreaded Alzheimer’s gene. It’s knowable without much effort but it seems ill-advised to me, like buying a cemetery plot and having picnics there all the time, afraid to wander too far from the plot, you know, lest I get lost and can’t find my way back to my final resting place. Too bleak, in other words.

It is a terrible thing that it’s possible to continue a conversation while the TV news is talking about another mass shooting. How is it possible that we could become so inured to violence that the murder of five people becomes background noise? I feel it a moral duty to be outraged each time and not let such horror become pedestrian but I know I am failing. It’s sickening.

Ernest Hemingway’s advice to “write one true sentence” is the best writer’s advice ever given. Just say the first absolutely true thing and go from there. Don’t equivocate, preface, or hedge. Or apologize. Don’t hide your light under a bushel basket, my mother would say, oh, no, put your sentence on a platter like a fine smoked salmon that you bought against your better judgment.

Yearnings are just that. Sometimes they aren’t meant to become reality because if they became reality they would become pedestrian, common, and without the glow of the possible. It’s what’s possible that keeps us alive.