Saturday, November 29, 2014

Thanksgiving Sans Family

Down here they start giving out the weather predictions way in advance. What's the harm? Nothing much changes. They started by forecasting  temps might approach 80, say 78 or 79. Caution ruled; we had been having a bit of a cool spell, finally, with some days barely hitting the 70s. As the date neared, they suggested 80, then 82, then possibly even 84! Catching the morning news Friday, we found it had hit 87 on Thanksgiving!

We hadn't noticed. It was pleasant. We were more focused weather-wise on back home. Their day started below zero. Might hit the teens above. We tried not to gloat too obnoxiously while patting ourselves on the back for heading down to Phoenix. It we ever spend a summer here, the satisfaction may wane, especially as the electric bill rises. But we're not planning it in the near future.

There is a suggestion of rain occurring either next Tuesday or Wednesday. It would be nice. There's a large mulch pile burning a few miles southwest of us, and for the last few days a southern wind has left us a whitish streak across the western sky. While it doesn't outright stink here as it does other places directly downwind, eyes are irritated, coughing increases. It's tempting to wonder of allergies are getting worse or whether the pollution spreads more than the visible smoke plume.

We're not traveling much. Sleep patterns are goofy and seldom overlap. Reduced incomes and the abundance of home entertainment help keep us home. Planting the last batch of agaves left me with a sore back, further decreasing any ambition to get out and about, or even clean up for going anywhere. I've been rearranging my southwestern pottery so that it better fits cabinet spaces and origins are kept together, taking up my existing ambition. Four shelves are finished now. Two hold Navajo, one Santo Domingo, and one Hopi. Two more shelves need to be cleared off so there is room to organize Acoma, Jemez, and Mata Ortiz. Then the smaller collections can be given their spaces so they all make sense, to me anyway. Zia, Zuni, San Felipe, Sandia, San Ildefonso, Santa Clara, Taos, Nambe, Laguna, Santa Rosa, Isleta, Casa Grande, Cochiti, Maricopa... even when there is only one representative piece from a pueblo, it needs its place. There will still be unidentified pieces and other outliers, like Cherokee. Definitely not southwestern, coming from North Carolina, but represented nonetheless to honor Steve's heritage. It takes energy to organize them all. Add in the baskets and wall hangings, figure in the weird angles that have to be reached in one of the cabinets with side doors instead of front, which knees and elbows begrudge, not to mention that still sore back, and the size of the job becomes a bit more apparent.

It's just one of many. Boxes of books wait on Paul's next trip down, creating more shelving in the library. Then room gets cleared for the Christmas tree, and some selection of the hundreds of ornaments collected over the years. Fred keeps shedding, dishes keep getting dirtied, clothes keep needing washing, the patio keeps collecting pine needles and dog fur, and Ellie has discovered the fun of chewing pine cones to bits land leaving those right where bare feet could safely walk hours earlier.

At some point I will resume calling plumbers for estimates. The first one came in at $18 grand, NOT including replacing the wall and floor they would tear up, and not guaranteeing the sewer pipe replacement for more than 7 years, even if we take out the big pine tree whose roots are destroying the old pipe. After they insisted pine tree roots could/would continue to grow for up to 15 years after the tree was taken out, we decided there must be other, more honest plumbers in the state. But again I'm gearing up the energy for the search.

Now plumbing may seem an odd topic for a Thanksgiving blog post. Unfortunately, it has a lot of holiday history for me. When the kids were young, there was always some kind of plumbing disaster over the holiday. Pipes would freeze, living in a mobile home with a sudden cold snap and heat tapes that picked that day to fail. Sewer lines would clog, from I-don't-want-to-know-what got flushed  into the system. Repairs were always inconvenient and expensive. At least the current issues can be worked around and lived with, probably because I wasn't hosting this year.

Insomnia has become my companion. I can discover it's midnight, sneaking up on me unnoticed and unfelt, and toddle off to bed. Once there the mind kicks in with to-do lists, or ways of organizing books or pottery or plantings or pictures to be hung or items to be packed and brought down next fall, or...  At any rate, it's not ready to sleep. And I'm a person who has always been able to be completely zonked within a minute of hitting the pillow, even in the middle of a conversation with Steve. I am guessing it has been due to years of sleep deprivation. The alarm has been set for work for so many years I can't remember when it wasn't. Even without that, the dogs had to be let out. Nobody told them about the sanctity of weekends.

I've started trying to put back the pieces of old sleep habits. If I think about being sleepy earlier in the evening, I try to go to bed then, rather than staying up to the end of a program or chapter. I try melatonin, which seems to work a few times until it doesn't. I try to get up early again, with the assistance of reminders from my bladder. I dug out the allergy filter/fan, better known as my white noise machine, a great improvement on listening to doggy toenails pattering up and down the halls. Less caffeine, including chocolate, near bedtime. Some days, many in fact, no coffee whatsoever. I have even considered - and rejected - the idea of setting the alarm on my bedside clock.

Hey, there has to be SOME benefit to being retired!

I can sleep during the day, having a nap or two even on days when the night has provided 12 hours of good sleep. But even without those daily naps I can still see that nighttime clock declare midnight, 1AM, 2AM, even OMG 4AM! before the head can hit the pillow and the brain can shut off.

I am told I will adjust, told by people who have already retired themselves, folks who presumably have come through the other side of the problem successfully. I trust they are right.

It in fact became one of the topics of after-dinner conversation this Thanksgiving. We were invited by friends to join them and other friends of theirs for an afternoon feast. We gratefully accepted. There were 9 of us in all, fortunately of similar political views so that wasn't an obstacle to our enjoyment of meeting new folks. In Arizona, opinions run strong, as we've noticed from an across-the-fence neighbor who loudly both plays Rush Limbaugh and even more loudly defends him. Note that we've not bothered to introduce ourselves. There is a lovely screening of various bushes and trees between our houses. If it gets too bad, I could retaliate with opera. I won't. But I could.

At any rate, at our ages, food conversations can easily morph to health conversations. Recipes have notations of what is included or left out, as more of us find things we can no longer eat or should no longer eat. If the system still tolerates it, the latest prescription likely prohibits it. I'm sure some people there must be taking my same medications, as they are forbidden many of the same exact foods. It's actually comforting. Had I been eating with family, nobody else would have needed to avoid the same foods and - besides simply being the weird one there - there would have been fewer foods brought to the table I could partake in. Here I fit right in!

So while I missed hugging the ones I loved back home, it was still a very nice holiday. Good food, good company, old friends and new ones. What else does one need to be thankful for?

Thursday, November 13, 2014


We used to kill honeybees here. There'd be dozens every day. It's not like we'd do it on purpose. Our favorite rec center has an open air pool and they would come in to land on the water or crawl down the walls from the floor to the water. Many of them would never make it back out. By the time we were swimming after I was done with work, there would be maybe a dozen dead ones floating on the water. Very rarely one would still be alive and I could scoop it up in a handful of water and set it on the side of the pool to dry up and leave, if it still could. Perhaps the night cleaning staff would just step on it or sweep it into the trash instead if it was too dark to fly, but I tried.

There haven't been bees this fall. Tiny flies or gnats show up, floating on the surface. So it's still a trap. But there haven't been honeybees.

There might be innocent explanations. It was a wet summer, and there have been an abundance of flowers everywhere. It is possible they haven't needed a water source with all the nectar in the flowers. Then again, I haven't seen bees near our back yard's assortment of flowers. There have been flies and mosquitoes, butterflies  both familiar and alien, the latter being represented by a huge yellow and black one which flutters its fore wings while holding the back ones folded over its back as it drinks from each flower on the Mexican Bird of Paradise. One could almost think it a tiger swallowtail but for the lack of tails and the weird fluttering, and from a distance it seems larger than a swallowtail. No bees.

It might be that colony collapse disorder has hit here. We haven't caught any local news on the topic, not being here for months, to hear if it's been an issue in this area. I have been hearing about it in Minnesota. I do know that our two mature apple trees produced a total of two apples from the loads of blossoms  they flaunted last spring, though the cold wet spring was at least partly responsible for keeping existing bees hivebound. It wasn't, however, cold or wet in The Valley last spring: quite the opposite.

What I do know for sure is that we used to kill honeybees in the pool. But not this fall.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

A Better Day

The wait for a driver's license today was less than half as long as yesterday's for vehicle plates. Of course, I didn't leave until after Steve got up and put the AZ plates on for me. I could have done it in the daylight, but then so could he. And I understand much better how important it is to feel useful and capable.

The AZ services website cooperated much better this morning, so my proof of insurance is registered with the state and acknowledged. The insurance site is working as well. It turns out it was their problem last night, not mine. The right page refused to load, then, but no issues this morning.

As far as my identity documentation, this info desk tender sent me straight to a supervisor, who in turn approved my documents after seeing only what I had brought yesterday. She did look at the rest very briefly, but approval had been given by then. Debra, where were you yesterday? Better yet, where was the clerk who knew to send me to you? The new license will be arriving in the mail in 15 days. That's the official story. I note the temporary card is valid for two months.

Just in case.

I found an alarm clock at the store. Not just any alarm clock, but one where I can set the time myself. To some of you, that will not sound like anything new and different. That's the whole point. I got talked into new and different last time I needed a clock and got one that was supposed to set itself, even changing for daylight savings time and back again. It was the only kind on the shelves at the time. Apparently it was the thing.

When I plugged it in, it set the time. Three minutes early. Several months later it gained another minute, then another. Last week it dropped off daylight savings time even though Arizona doesn't even go on daylight savings. Well, unless you're on the Navajo reservation. At any rate, for the last week my can't-change-it-yourself clock has been running 15 minutes fast and an hour slow. Or 45 minutes behind, if you combine both issues. I don't need a clock that requires two mental adjustments to know what the time really is. It's in the trash. I won't even recycle it or donate it. I'm feeling too kindly disposed to the rest of the world at the moment.

I planted 4 new aloes when I got back from the store. That's after buying two on eBay. We've been chatting, the seller and I, as this is my second purchase from her, and I had to draw her attention on the original order to the shipping expectations as placed on the order by the delivery company were unrealistically fast, making me think they shipment was delayed. The plants arrived when they were actually supposed to and in great shape, and being a very rare aloe, I decided to order another one. Plus a different kind that looked like a nice addition to my garden. Then there was combined shipping to discuss with her. The upshot is that the order arrived with two babies (thus 4 total plants) of a completely different kind for me to try. Free! I guess we bonded over aloes.

They were unrooted cuttings, so they got my immediate attention. I needed not just any pot, but something to keep the cuttings down in the soil, rather than popping out during, say, watering. Something that let me see when they were actually rooted enough to plant successfully, without destroying those tender roots in the process. Plus, I was hungry.

Those of you who follow this blog will find that both a non-sequitur and a bit of deja vu. Didn't we hear about me skipping eating yesterday too? This time, though, the seeming non sequitur turns out to be relevant. Late lunch was going to be Greek yogurt with blueberries and walnuts. The blueberries came in a little clear plastic lidded container. Once the berries were out and washed, I lined the bottom half with plastic wrap to hold some water in, adding an inch of yard dirt and said water. The lid when closed was perfect to hold the cuttings down in the soil and let light through, and the slots let air circulate or water in as needed. It also incidentally protects from rabbits, as it now sits out in the garden which will be its new home while the baby aloes root.

Let me put in a good word here for an eBay seller: her business handle is "idreamofsucculents". When it's time to put more in the garden, I will be looking through her items first. If you want aloes, in particular, I recommend ordering from her, keeping in mind seasonal temperatures affecting the order. She's in California, so I can shop for Phoenix area just about any time. Lucky me. All I really need is a budget. And, soon, more yard space. And chicken wire until they establish well. And...

So Where Are The Parents?

That has become a punch line between myself and Steve. It started with insomnia.

Which started with a day full of frustrations. Well, and the first cup of caffeine in about a week. After my last fibrillation episode, I pinpointed excess caffeine as the proximal cause, and have been laying off. This leads to excess inactivity, leading to a stretching didn't-do-it list, leading to feeling useless, and on and on. Yesterday was to be the get-'er-done day.

It was to start with an early shower and breakfast, but while we were still catching the morning news and feeling depressed at the hoards of "citizens" who don't bother to vote, we had a visitor. He's a nice young guy who cycles past each morning with his young son on the back of his bike, then cycles back with an empty seat. When we're out in front, working on the garden or watching our little Lucifer hummer, we wave and say, "Hi. He wondered if he could rake the pine straw off the front yard, quoting a price less than half that of the guy who's been doing it and whom we haven't quite called yet. Moreover, he wanted to earn the money so that he and his fiancee could move out of her parent's house.

So we hired him, after negotiating adding in the back yard. The combined price was now under a third of what we've been paying. He left, we found out later, to go buy garbage bags and look at a house they were considering. Not knowing how long he would take, and feeling constrained by his presence to delay showering and leaving, I let my departure be delayed. By over two hours, and then finally three, since I had a meeting I wanted to attend about supplemental Medicare, and the original delay prevented my running the other errands in the remaining time until the meeting started. I did, however, squeeze in breakfast. At noon.

Yeah, I know.

By then the raking was done, bags strewn around the garbage can for pickup, and the guy offered to dig out and rake up the remaining spurge I hadn't gotten to yet, which was getting ready to go to seed while I continued to not do it. He only wanted another $10. I offered him $20, and counted the job cheap at that. I'd already spent two large chunks of time on it, and the worst was ahead.

The meeting went well, and I signed up for a plan that only will cost me the small penalty for not getting Part D yet, not even the Part D regular premium, and offers some great savings on what has become a rather onerous monthly sum for Rx refills. Yes, I know what my medications really cost. Do you? I also picked out a primary provider, and will get her recommendations on a cardiologist, etc. The guy I'm using for lab work now and am not impressed with? He's not in their system. That all starts Jan. 1.

By now it was 3:00, and time to head to the DMV. We'd tried stopping by the one in Surprise on Tuesday, and the line was SRO and half a block down out the front door. No way were my knees up to that. So I'd spent some of the morning time "wasted" looking up the Glendale location. We'd gone there for Steve's drivers license the previous year, but I forgot just where it was. After five websites that dead-ended around downtown Phoenix locations, I finally located one which gave me the information I needed. They may have long lines, but even more seating, so the waits are not intolerable. Even for my knees.

By 3:30 I was at the info desk. I had two goals, new car plates and new drivers license, making the residency change official. I thought I had all the documentation needed as well.

Yeah, well, not so much. The first issue was the drivers license. Arizona is pretty paranoid about non-citizens getting documentation. I had the birth certificate, but there's this little thing about having done a name change back in '68. How were they to know that I was the person my birth certificate said? Note that it was never an issue in Minnesota, where I got the drivers license after being married - and a mom as well - or in Georgia, or back in Minnesota again. Just Arizona. And hey, I look like I hail from Mexico or something, right? The birth certificate was just fine with the feds for applying both for Medicare and Social Security, even though my social security card still has the old name on it. But... this is Arizona. I need a certified copy of my divorce decree to show how my name got changed from Maxson to Rosa.

33  years later, you think I can put my hands on that? Well, as it turns out, almost. I have a copy. It shows the seal, but only as it comes across on a very old Xerox copy of the divorce decree. However, in the hunt, I came across the original wedding licenses, yes, two copies, original signatures of best man, matron of honor, and  minister, and imprinted seals. They aren't divorce papers, but perhaps if I take the whole kaboodle down with me today, they will suffice. Otherwise, I have to search out Fayette County, Georgia and find out what it takes to officially copy an ancient divorce decree.

If that doesn't work, I'll know before waiting two hours like I did yesterday to get a little piece of metal for the rear bumper.

She told me it'd be one hour. She lied. But hey, I was sitting down. And people watching. I didn't bring in the Kindle so as not to miss my number being called from being too engrossed in some book.

I also hadn't bothered to eat anything since leaving the house, hurrying to the DMV. It got to be a very long two hours.

Things went wrong. She quoted me a price for the license plate, but reading it upside down, she got the cents wrong. Luckily, I had a purse full of change, and just added in the right amount, another $.42. I didn't have, or couldn't find, the insurance information. It's always in the glove box, you understand. Just not where I could put my hands on it after official closing time, trying to get everything taken care of before they locked me out. There was an alternative. She gave me a website I could go to and add the information, said website and I getting along about as well as we had early in the morning when all I wanted was an address. But that's later, after supper. (Yes, I finally ate!)

One thing that went right was her observing me walking back in after hunting for the insurance papers, and asking if I wanted my Minnesota handicap placard replaced by an Arizona one, no cost, no paperwork, and good for 5 years. I just had to walk back out to the car again and bring in the old one. It took all of about three seconds for me to decide the walk was worth it. After all, I had just been resting my knees for two hours, right?

On the way home, Steve asked me to pick him up some tacos. He'd been thawing hamburgers on the counter, but was hungry now instead. The burgers could go in the fridge for later.  Of course, "now" turned out to be a more relative term than expected. Thunderbird had some kind of incident near the hospital, and two squad cars were diverting traffic. After driving in a twisty loop for a slow residential mile, we all ended up a block east of where we were diverted from, and needed to head back east to the 101 and down to the next exit instead. All of us. So it was extra slow. For all of us.

Even after eating supper, my blood sugar level wasn't immediately high enough to make sense online of either the DMV's or my insurance company's websites. That's assuming it's me and not the site that's the issue. I decided to do something useful and go out and replace the license plates. That needed a screwdriver, and the workroom holding all the tools has no light. Steve finally finished his pipe, just in time to go rummage around and locate the proper tool, so out I went. The front plate came off fine. So did the back plate. But the new one didn't go back on fine. I couldn't properly find the right set of holes that were small enough to hold the screws in place tightly enough to not have the plate fall off while working in the dark and at about the level of my toes. So I gave that up too until daylight and with a chair brought out for the job.

I wound up leaving voicemail for my insurance company, giving the new license number and requesting a hard copy version of the proof of insurance, as the printer is still not functional. The insurance company loves e-documents. I don't.

I also decided it was time to watch TV with Steve until bedtime. Bedtime became a more relative term as well. My body still hasn't decided on a time zone. I couldn't get to sleep. The room was too cold/hot. Maybe both/and. The dog had to sit next to my head and work on an itch. Pipe smoke came wafting in the open window. Etc.

So I came out to watch TV again. Steve had recorded a movie that he advertised to me as terrible sci-fi but I'd get a kick out of Elizabeth Shue, something before she joined the cast of CSI. He was right about the terrible sci-fi part. The movie was "Piranha." We agreed about it being even worse than "Dante's Peak" as far as science goes, quite an accomplishment. What predator has red eyes that glow? Isn't the point to sneak up on your prey rather than to let them know where you are? How can green plants grow in a cave totally cut off from light? I could go on and on here, but it all served as a good chuckle. As for Elizabeth Shue, I'm not sure what kind of a kick I was supposed to get. He made it sound like she was silly. For my nickel, she was the one sensible character in the whole flick, and well-acted. Don't know how they got somebody that good in something that bad.

We had a few good chuckles during the flick, poking fun at the movie rather than laughing along with it, cheering when certain characters added to an astronomical body count, wondering how others remained breathing rather than bleeding out instantly from loss of half their body mass. The biggest yuk came at the end, however, once everybody you cared about was rescued and the characters were congratulating themselves. The line was never finished, and it was hilarious. It was to have been, "So where are the parents?" and how it got cut off left us both laughing repeatedly. And finally, after 2:00 AM, ready for some sleep.