Friday, October 31, 2014

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Spa Games

One of the better things about wintering in Sun City is the system of recreation centers. We are just beginning to explore the range of offerings, both together and individually. Steve will vote at one of the rec centers next week. We've both been to Spanish Club, and are finding classes and instructors who fit our needs in learning Spanish. Both of us have library cards. Steve actually uses his, while I have a huge backlog of titles to get through on my Kindle. Neither of us will ever hit the links, even though the closest golf course has just been redone and is getting good reviews. I plan to learn more about jewelry making, waiting for enough others to sign up for a wire wrapping class that the instructor will actually hold it.

By far, the facility we both use the most is the pool system, both on our own and with guests. The big pool, kept at 85 degrees, has three sections. The walking section is a serpentine course with levels varying from three feet to four and a half. I enjoy that for the exercise without the knee pain, even in the low water sections where I scootch down as I walk so the water still supports my weight. The swimming laps lanes I ignore, leaving that kind of swimming for those with good shoulders. Occasionally I hit the last section, going from 3 to 6 feet, just for relaxing and playing in the water. Treading water is still resistance exercise.

Eventually 85 degrees gets a bit chilly. Then it's time for the spa, 104 degrees and jets at multiple levels. It's about sitting. And conversation. This is where the games begin.

So far it seems to be a guy thing. I don't know why they don't just whip them out and measure, but there seems to be some drive when any two or more are in the spa to assert their superior status to all other males in the spa. Conversational topics vary all over the place, but I'll just summarize last night's offerings between two newly meeting men. The patterns seem similar to most other nights, just minor details differing.

It starts with comparing how long each has been retired. Depending on the individual, that's either a declaration of how rich they were that they could retire early, how necessary they were that they couldn't, how vitally healthy they were/are that they could work so long. Careers may or may not actually be mentioned, which I find ironic, considering how they're used among those still working to assert status. I also find myself wondering how many early retirements actually translate to layoffs, and late retirements translate to no savings in the bank.

Then conversation shifts to how busy each is keeping themselves post retirement. Organizations they are involved with, number to times per week they hit the links with a little name dropping of favorite courses, visitors stopping by, travel done both involving grandchildren and avoiding family.

Houses are listed, sometimes by states they are ( or more often, were) located in, sometimes by remodeling projects underway or the number of years taken to accomplish creating the dream homes. Included under this topic are declarations of where they go to avoid the summer heat, even if under the layers once peeled away it comes down to which relatives they are mooching off of. Even the monster remodeling projects can be boiled down to the fourteen years it took to get the house perfect meaning it had to be done on a budget, a little here, a little there. They just don't see that. But guys, here you are, living in an inexpensive community with modest fees allowing access to an abundance of activities. If you were as rich as you want us to believe, you'd be over in Fountain Hills or Scottsdale, some place with quintuple the square footage and staff to take care of it for you.

Last night had a little extra twist in the status games. One fellow was talking about his racing car. 16 years ago he enclosed his garage and parked the racing car in it. Apparently it's still sitting there because "they" wouldn't "let" him race it any more, something to do with having had a stroke. Somebody offered him a nice price for the engine not too long ago, which I guess means the rest of the car is crap, at least to the potential buyer. But the guy who was speaking is still hanging on to it, tucked away, unused, useless.

Probably how he's feeling too. Isn't that what all those games are really about?

Friday, October 17, 2014

Piecemeal. But Progress.

The planting is finally done. Not permanently final. I still want another specific kind of tree, and some interesting aloes, something with colors beyond green and white. Other plants will demand my attention in upcoming months or years. But everything brought down or purchased here is in the ground. It took a few different days, with a couple or more days worth of breaks in between. But they're in. Two new trees, four Ocatillas, 3 ponytails, one aloe, three agaves, one nasty little but attractive dickia, and a scattering of hawarthia. Chicken wire cages surround them all. We bear assorted scratches and punctures.  I think the shovel is still in the front yard.

The knees are now demanding a few more days before something else is tackled.

They won't get them.

I'm hoping for the time when all the moving-in projects are done and the daily tasks are just that, merely daily tasks. That's not happening either, not soon.

Steve now has his own bedroom. It's cluttered with boxes to be unpacked, full of stuff needing spaces to be unloaded to. Spaces like the library, once two more walls are covered with shelves, and a closet is turned into an office. His room is much less messy than before we came down, since he got an attack of unpacking and we discovered where the Red Wing had been, and a few pieces glassware and of southwest pottery purchased long enough ago they had actually been forgotten. Those now have temporary homes until, again, the library shelving is completed and things taking up space in the living room cabinets are relocated so... well, same song, different verse.

Despite that work, the house remains full of packed boxes. We did organize Steve's room to the point where a full garbage bag of bubblewrap went back to the thrift store which had Steve's bed delivered, so we can now walk on the floor. The lady carrying it off to the truck had a bit of fun, going pop pop pop-pop pop all the way down the driveway.

I will finally believe the boxes are unpacked when I find the one holding my orange glass fish mobile/wind chime, and several other wind chimes. They are probably in one of the dozen remaining boxes marked "cabinet crap." Seriously. I packed a whole lot of boxes labeled "crap." Two and a half years ago.

Looking around, unpainted walls bear new colors, new-to-us furniture serves our needs, broken things have been repaired - not all, but some - and hastily placed things have been more thoughtfully located. A simple example of the last is our hummingbird feeders. We have three, formerly all located around the edges of the backyard patio. Hummers are territorial, however, and I though it might be more interesting, and better for them, if one were to be moved to the front yard. I found a spot where a hanger had been left by the previous owner, and moved a feeder there.

It's been appropriated. The back yard is full of battling females. A male has claimed the front feeder, and not just any male, but my favorite of all the hummers down here. We have a Lucifer! I fell in love with those lovely purple feathers when my parents stayed down here and a male Lucifer claimed their feeder as his own. Steve has now seen his first Lucifer, and he loves the color as much as I do. We have moved the wicker loveseat out to the front, and sitting there during planting breaks gives us plenty of times to appreciate him as he perches on the chicken wire cages protecting the garden plants about three feet from us.

We are waiting to get the "lawn" work done. That translates to having Felipe and his grandson come out with the backpack blower and rakes and rid us of pine needles and cones. He's done work for us for two years now and is appreciated enough that Steve has his business card to contact him when needed. While doing planting, we have already had 4 men stop by offering their services. Two were this morning, and the second one seemed skeptical when we turned him down with the excuse we already had somebody. I just told him that we were waiting for the first of the month so we could afford to get the work done. More needles and cones will fall by then anyway. He still may not believe we have our own preferred helper, but the suggestion of no money at the moment seems to have done the trick.

Cleaning is backed up a fair bit. It's not enough that every time I turn round, Fred has left another growing clump of hair to drift into a corner. They get picked up one here, one there, and occasionally a whole floor gets swept. That's just the normal cleaning. Mice have left presents, and not only do those have to be tackled as energy permits, but sticky traps are set out and baited, to no avail. I do not see new droppings, so maybe our return has chased them out.

Sure, right. Uh huh.

Lots of cleaning got left undone when we left last spring. It was a very short visit before hitting the road. Laundry has included all kinds of bedding in addition to the daily stuff. Food was left sitting in from-the-store boxes, and there appear to be a lot of tiny critters who are experts at invading pasts, beans, rice, pancake mixes....  There have been days spent sorting buggy from -we think - non buggy, and finding or buying sealable containers for future storage. Just to be more secure, the "good" stuff spends a few days in the freezer before heading back to the shelves.  I'm hoping that works. In case there were eggs.

Our garbage company will take all our moving boxes at once for merely $10, so we are sending them out a few at a time, mostly either as extra containers to take away recycling, or holding prickly pruned branches from yet another set of just-returned-down-here chores. Those go in the garbage but understandably our garbage collectors hate grabbing thorny stuff by hand. Non-prickly branches can be bundled with twine and laid on the ground by the can. Prickly goes in a box, thank you.

No problem. We have boxes. Lots of boxes. We'll still have boxes to dribble out next spring. That $10 fee is simply annoying.

There's a lot of wandering through the house opening and closing windows. We kept the AC on while Rich and Brenda were working in the house. Then we got the bill, so now it's open up at night (it helps they've finally gotten cooler and dryer) and close before morning heats the house, so we can get by with perhaps an hour of cooling via the AC. Open windows of course give Ellie a myriad more excuses to bark at whatever, even if that whatever is across the street, or perhaps, if our suspicions are correct, totally imaginary. Fans are a great help at night. Rich fixed the one in the master bedroom ceiling. The one in Steve's bedroom has always worked fine, and is hanging down from a short enough stem that nobody's tall head had bumped it out of whack. If Rich had more time here, the fan in the living room - brand new and with a shorter stem than the one it replaces - would also have been installed before I took them to the airport. I guess we can stare at the hole and wires for another... what, two years? He at least climbed through the attic and put in proper bracing so that this time a fan could be adequately supported.

Did I mention that he also found out that the attic fan does not work? Another repair for the future.

Like replacing the plumbing. Rich tried to fix a clog in one bathroom sink. After two trips to get the proper tool to open the trap, it turned out that 1) the trap was so rusted in place that it could not be replaced once moved, 2) the clog was up by the sink anyway, and 3) both bathroom sinks drain into that same trap so now both are unusable.

Speaking of nights, as I was a long while back now, I've discovered a weird adaptation to the time zone change. I go to bed on Arizona time. No problem there. But I wake up on Minnesota time! For somebody whose doctor is concerned that I get enough sleep, this is NOT HELPING! Even the dogs are getting into the act, creating a plethora of noises starting about 4:00 AM. About the only positive in the whole situation is that I'm getting to see a whole lot of beautiful desert sunrises.

And I can take naps. They cut into my reading time, but...

zzzzzzzzzzz

Monday, October 13, 2014

When They Say It'll Be Simple...

Don't be too quick to believe them. Especially when they're just sending along second-hand information.

Take a piece of medical advice I received as an example. I need my coagulation levels checked, now that I'm finally conceding I need to be on a blood thinner. We're still juggling the dosages, trying to find the level that prevents a clotting stroke during some future A-fib episode, without allowing me to bleed out in case of an accident.

Moving in the middle of the start-up process is a complicating factor. I needed to find a new lab in a new state without any actual medical referrals from my former clinic personnel. They don't know who practices in Arizona, who's good or not. They have no connections.

What they do have is other patients who've turned snowbird, needing the same kind of follow-up medically. Those other patients have successfully located labs to do the testing, sending the info back to the Minnesota staff for feedback on medication levels to maintain the proper coagulation levels.

Therefore, it must be simple.  Right?

First, there's finding the right kind of lab. I wanted something associated with the local hospital, keeping travel simple, along with maybe establishing a medical relationship with someone with local admitting privileges. I started with the hospital's administration office.

 Is it too much to ask that somebody might actually know what I was talking about? Much less know how I might go about learning what the area choices may be? They did finally refer me to a clinic several miles away who couldn't figure out what I needed but would be happy to accept me as a new paying patient. Ummm... no.

 Start again.

There are medical referral systems down here. You can look them up in the phone book, after, of course, trying in vain to find the exact specialty needed in the lists of doctors and clinics names. I go way back to when Yellow Pages listed doctors both by specialty in one list and by locality in another. All my local phone book offered was an alphabetical list, leaving me to try to figure out who was local as opposed to 40 miles away, and who would know what I needed.

Having given up on getting anybody who understood the term "coumadin clinic", I figured I could at least ask for a local cardiologist, thinking their staff should know how to locate a lab. They did. It was there, right in their office. And did I want to establish a medical relationship with one of their cardiologists, so I'd have one locally who knew me and my history should something happen?

Well, yes, in the near future. But right now I just needed a finger prick test done (more of a stab, actually), resulting in a number ideally between 2.0 and 3.0 that could be faxed back to Minnesota as per the "snowbird letter" my clinic sends south with its patients, allowing them to contact me with their recommendation for any dosage changes and how soon the next test needed to be done. Besides, my bills from previous work, accumulating after Medicare paid their bit, were become discouraging. If my heart would behave, my budget could get a break. Then let's talk.

Apparently they heard only the "yes" part. A letter was sent out requesting four pages of medical history, to be filled out and brought to my appointment this morning. Fine, I could do that, but the more blanks I filled in, the more I wondered just what all they figured on charging me with once I arrived.

Deciding to clarify that with the receptionist when I checked in, I caused a minor back-up at the window while she checked with other staff to see if they could do that little wee thing for me. Oh, and the copier was just fixed leaving a backup of copying to be done so she needed my Medicare card for a while so they could copy it. (Note to self: don't forget to get it back!) I finally requested to sit down while that was straightened out, incidentally allowing the next 7 people to check in.

When I was called back, we went through weighing, BP check, and the nurse was going to have me undress and put on the paper gown before I got it through to her just what I was actually there for. Now she too had to leave to see if my miniscule request could be granted. After all, silly me, coumadin clinics were only held on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. My inconvenient appointment was set for a Monday. While she checked, I should sit and the Doctor would be in to talk with me shortly.

His first question to me was whether anybody had ever talked to me about a surgical solution to my A-fib.

Really. I'm in for a simple blood test. You start talking surgery. Already I'm starting to have issues with this guy. Not getting enough money from the procedure. fella? He continues, pushing my need to establish a medical relationship with a local cardiologist in case... etc. etc. I'm liking my 50 mile commute to Fairview Southdale back in Minnesota more and more as this guy talks. Eventually, however, he decides to respect my declining another EKG, opting for a simple stethescope listen to prove to himself whether or not I can actually feel for myself when I get a flutter.

I almost think he was disappointed to detect normal sinus rhythm.

For the record, once I was finally down here, stresses removed, sleep schedule not ruled by alarm clocks, tasks accomplished by convenience and momentary need versus arbitrary schedules, there has not been a single flutter nor A-fib episode. Not a one. And leading up to the move, they had become a fairly regular part of my daily life. I hadn't realized they were gone until I started thinking about this appointment.

He also took my BP while I was in his exam room. The nurse who took it several minutes earlier got 110 / 70, my normal on medication. He got 160 / 110. I'm thinking he pissed me off. Or maybe she's just better at taking it accurately.

Finally he got me set up for the test, with a last offer to experience more care from him before turning me back over to my nurse.

The major inconvenience I caused by showing up on a Monday involved turning on a room light, getting out the test meter, inserting a test strip, getting out an alcohol wipe, setting up the "stab", squeezing a drop of blood on the strip, and reading the resulting number about 30 seconds later (2.5), then offering me a cotton ball to hold against my finger until the bleeding stopped,  and throwing away the stabber and test strip. A number was entered on a piece of paper, and they prepared to fax it to the Minnesota clinic.

That last paragraph is the usual routine for this test. In Minnesota they also offer a bandaid. It is simple. It should have been simple down here. I understand the expectations that getting tested down here would be simple.

Except that it wasn't.

Holiday?

It's always been a work day for me. Not this year, simply because there are no more work days. Long years ago it was something to celebrate, a point of pride in a historical bit of progress, a we-are-better-than-they-were kind of pride.

Not so many years ago, attitudes changed. Things that were never taught in schools began coloring attitudes. It became harder to be proud when genocide became a result of Columbus landing on the shore in this hemisphere. Proving the world was round, opening new lands to conquer, all morphed into tales of shame. Perhaps the day should be remembered, in the spirit of acknowledging the real history of Europeans swarming over these continents and the tremendous cost that accompanied that piece of history, a lesson for all of us, a more real perspective. Be as proud as you wish of our form of government, our Bill of Rights, our system of laws. Just know how we got here.

The best comment on the day came this morning out of the Stephanie Miller Show, from Chris Lavoie. I don't know if it originated with him, leading the relatively sheltered life I do, or whether he was quoting a well-used phrase. I do know it sharply caught my attention:

"Columbus discovered America like the asteroid discovered the dinosaurs."

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Plant Sale At The Desert Botanical Garden

I had been looking forward to this sale for nearly a year. Last October Steve and I went plant hunting for the yard, after finally getting the water-wasters dug up and gone, with mixed results in finding things we liked. One of our stops had been the gift shop at the Garden, where a few lonely specimens remained from the sale which had just ended.

We were too late.

However, the staff gave us assistance in choosing likely plants, along with the information that they held plant sales twice a year. Coming down a couple weeks earlier would enable us to shop this year's fall sale. The spring sale we ruled out since nobody planned on staying the summer to water newly establishing plants. We started planing our shopping list.

My priority, after seeing one in a friend's sister's garden, was a palo blanco tree. I added a palo verde to the list, loving that smooth green bark. With a third space in the back where a dead citrus tree had been removed, I kept my mind open for something to attract wildlife, particularly hummers. Steve and I planned on establishing a series of clumps of ocatillo along the east backyard fence. It would be multi-purpose, part privacy screen, part source of blooms in season, part cover/shade to maybe entice the quail into our yard. More aloes and agaves were on the list, of unspecified varieties. The plan was to look them over and get what we could agree on, adding as much variety to the yard as possible.

We had planted aloes and agaves last fall, only to discover to our anger that the local rabbits found them exceptionally tasty, leading to our finding them exceptionally gone the next morning. The few remaining were hastily protected with chicken wire, which remains as a garden accent to this day, and for a couple years to come at least. I read somewhere that it's the rich soil the plants are grown in at the nurseries which attracts the rabbits, and after a couple years the nutrients wash away, no longer tempting the predators.

The plan on sale day, aka this morning, was to leave the house at 6:00 AM, arriving by 7:00, the start of the sale. It turned out that coffee, showers, and dressing were starting at 6:00, and arrival at the sale was much closer to 7:30, including assembling our scooters for leisurely perusal of the goods.

It was early enough. 

A volunteer assisted in emptying the car and in scooter assembly, followed by directions to the section of the parking lot covered by plants. Another volunteer helped with a flatbed cart, selecting trees, and loading. There were, alas, no palo blanco trees. It seems growers didn't bother much with producing those this last year. A well-branched palo brea substituted for an ordinary palo verde, and its miniature leaves will be much easier to ignore as they litter the landscape. For a wildlife-attracting tree, he recommended a variety of desert willow, and seeing one in bloom convinced us to go with it. It will produce seed pods, and if the critters don't scarf them down, at least they will be easy to rake up. Both trees, once established, can be mostly ignored, water-wise: a major point to us.

We found a spot out of the way to park the flatbed while doing more shopping. I grabbed a couple more aloes while Steve detoured over to some goat-milk fudge. (He shared: YUM!) We found some baby ocatillas, selecting the four best from the large patch of pots. An agave finished the selections, as well as the budget for this year. Besides, some of these still needed holes dug, meaning now that the kids had gone back north, that Steve and I have the upcoming thrill of putting the strain on our own knees for the process.

Paying and arranging delivery for the lot put the finishing touches on our trip. We already knew that the trees would require delivery rather than hanging out the back of the car and being blown to shreds on the freeway, and with no extra cost for the rest of our pots, we opted for simple in loading the car back up for the trip home. Once back at the car, the same volunteer who helped unload the car assisted in dismantling scooters and reloading the car.

All of the volunteers we encountered were more than helpful. They had information we needed for our choices plus planting tips (prune or no? how deep? shade, sun, or mix?) and when one plant I really liked had somehow missed being cataloged by light requirements, brought in all sorts of resources, written and breathing both, until the question was answered. With all that help so promptly offered, we were done and out of there in time to go have breakfast on the way home, and plan where exactly the unanticipated plants would go.

I am probably a tad sunburned, but that's my own fault for no hat and open neckline, ignoring the need to prevent burning that early in the morning just because the air was comfortably cool. (Note to self: this is Arizona, not Minnesota. Duh!)

 I am also beginning to think about next year's fall sale. There were, after all, hundreds of varieties we didn't pick from... this time.

Monday, October 6, 2014

When Do I Write My Blog?

I just responded to an email from a good friend who located a new blog posting about 3AM and sent me the above query. I answered her, and brought her up to date on what's happening,  then decided to mostly copy it and do the same for everybody. Yes, it's the lazy way, but you'll begin to see why as you read:

"The simplest answer - and the least helpful - is whenever I need to.

Been really busy, both with company and getting house stuff done. Jordan flew back Saturday, Rich and Brenda tomorrow afternoon. We're scrambling to get the last stuff off my wish list done before they leave. There's a bit of painting still, Rich crawling through the attic to put in proper support above the ceiling for the two fans that pulled off when tall heads bumped them - or if not off, then loose enough to fall if used in the case of the master bedroom fan - digging holes for planting, including two trees yet to be purchased (Desert Botanical Garden plant sale this weekend) and replacing the dead dead dead ponytail with what I'm calling a curly-haired agave, real name unknown because it was too cheap to label, apparently. There's been cleaning (yes, we packed dirty laundry to move down, now hanging in closets and no longer dirty), some picture hanging and Rich will put the insulation skirt around the water heater because we can feel the heat through the door vent as we pass it in the hall.

The really awful motion-sensor light fixture over the patio has been replaced with a modern, non-motion light, and some decorative dragonfly lights in a X-mas-like string were hung as well for very minimal lighting there as an alternative. Imagine sitting enjoying the darkening evening when an arm motion starts a glaring light to ruin night vision, followed by sudden departure of light, usually when eating out there, because nobody moved in exactly the right way. What idiot installed that?

Then just for fun and reward for the workers there was a two day trip to the Canyon and nearby scenic/historical spots, shopping for Brenda and Jordan at Navajo stands along the road into the Canyon, and a day off to visit some giant 55-acre flea market for Rich and Brenda yesterday topped by a visit to her uncle and aunt in Mesa. (I stayed home for that one.) And where ever did I pack my camera before the move?

I haven't hunted for any more of your drapes or curtains because everything in both extra bedrooms is covered in drop cloths for the painting, and right now nothing is findable. Steve can't even locate his Kindle! What I have found is a great color match for the living room, and I'm looking forward to their addition to the decoration scheme.

I'm also looking forward to feeling retired, eventually. Oh yeah, plus sitting down and sorting through the bills, of which there currently is quite a stack. Now is the first month with the imposed budget, so I need to see just which medical bills, for example, get paid how fast. And those don't stop just because of the move, unlike the second house bills. In fact, I meet my new cardiologist Monday, along with seeing how my coagulation levels have or haven't changed in two weeks of a higher dose of Warfarin.

Whee.

So back to your first question, I blog when I must, because then I take time for it. Eventually too I plan on sitting down to turn on the TV at news time and beginning to catch up with the rest of the world. I heard there was an Ebola thing happening in Texas. I imagine, without any more information than that, that it must be 1: overblown, 2: Obama's fault, and 3: well, it's Texas, so maybe they deserved whatever it is with all their opposition to regulations which might control outbreaks and to taxes which might help pay for medical infrastructure necessary to help its citizens and other residents. But of course I spout off from a point of knowing nothing. OMG, I'm turning Republican!!! 

LOL.

Hope you are feeling better, and yes, we need to get together for our endless conversations sans phone bills.

Hugs, Heather"


Note: I see the drapes comment is confusing out of the context of knowing the rest of the story. She replaced hers when redecorating and thought I might be able to use the old ones, still in excellent shape, and as it turns out a good color match. They were dropped off over the summer, as they have the key to the place and check on it for us periodically. In all the chaos, some were misplaced.