Sunday, May 31, 2015

Road Trip Notes

I knew it was a mistake as soon as he announced the plan: from Cortez, CO to Denver via Silverton, Carbondale, etc., in time to meet his brother's family for supper. Oh, and no lodging reservations, just because. As in, just because maybe we both secertly realized that we might not actually make it that far in the time allotted.

This was, after all, by far the best part of the trip. And we both packed fully charged cameras. And  we were packing two dogs who needed rest stops at least as frequently and even longer lasting than we did. Let's not forget that food was packed on board and needed its own time for perparation, whether that meant peeling one of the season's last Arizona oranges, spreading peanut butter on a slice of bread, fighting with the wrapping on a few sticks of string cheese, or what have you.

So Denver by supper? When we barely made Silverton by lunch? Of course, by the time it was really apparent to Steve (heaven help that I sound like I was discouraging meeting with his family! I've only met them once, though I liked them just fine.) we were in about a two hour stretch of no cell coverage. Bad enough not to make it. Worse not to be able to let them know.

We'd made unexpectedly good time from Phoenix to Cortez. That's a stretch of country I can spend days in, rather than driving through at reasonable speeds to surrounding drivers. I did pull over a couple times for shots of the San Francisco Peaks, still covered in some remaining snow.  Most times I've been by in recent years the snow is gone. May this year provided unusual amounts of moisture, from Flagstaff up through the Rockies, and at those heights, that means white stuff. Pretty pictures. We had to wait until we passed the mountain though, as the southern side was lost in the clouds.

One of my perennial AZ stops is Sunset Crater and Wupatki. I could happily spend the whole day there, though my ability to hike the ruins has been severely curtailed. It is remotely possible that I have taken "enough" pictures of that location, anyway.


OK, it'll never be enough, but we decided that Colorado held more importance for visiting on this trip. So keep chugging. That was the operational plan. But we were packing cameras, and before we hit Tuba City, we found an optical phenomenon that we just had to capture if we could. This country is pink, maybe not technically the Painted Desert, but still pink. And that color was bouncing back at us from the bottoms of the clouds sliding over the pinkest areas in the distance. So, stop and shoot. Look at the pictures. No pink there. Try again. And again. Still no pink. We realized that we both were wearing polarized lenses, and maybe that was causing the colored clouds, so we tried putting the sunglasses in front of the lens and shooting.  It changed colors slightly, but still not to the pink the eyes registered.

Sigh..... OK, move on. Tuba City has a sweet municipal park next to the McDonalds, off the highway, with skateboarding, grassy spots for dog walking, and shaded picnic tables for our first lunch stop. With the few stops we made on the way up, it was about 5 hours from home and we were ready to eat. Both of us made a note to remember this for future traveling, despite no close restrooms. We'd just gassed up and used the facilities at the station, also noting how much better prices were than Flagstaff, reenforcing our intent to stop here on future travels.

We continued on through Four Corners, deciding it was worth our while to pay the Navahos the $5 apiece to enter the area for the privilege to pay another $5 for a slice of fresh hot fry bread, lightly seasoned with cinnamon, not coated with sugar. We'd do it again! Had we not been needing to travel faster where we could make time, not just visited the site a couple years before, and not had knees loudly complaining about the abuse of the past few days of packing and cleaning, we might also have bothered to head in to the actual 4 Corners marker and visited some of the vendors set up around it.

Our route was mostly north by northeast until we actually hit Cortez, where our highway turned east and we saw in the near distance the snow-capped peaks of La Plata. Our first in Colorado! Bright, fresh snow, blinding in the soon-to-set sun. We picked up a map at the tourist center in town, wanting something bigger, freer, and more detailed than from the map book kept in the glove box. They also had a lovely park for dog walking and facilities for folks who didn't want to have to wait until after motel check-in was accomplished for a bit of relief. (You note this is a common theme. So be it.) We stayed at the Travelodge, a lovely room, great price with online deal shopping, and comfy bed. Their handicap accessible room was truly that, something other chains seem to find a challenge.

Note for next time, however: if the mountains to the east of you are spectacular in the late afternoon, don't wait till the next morning to snap that shot. What is blindingly white now will be dim shadow with the sun in your eyes, if it is even visible with clouds moving in. (Duh!) Sure, it's obvious, but when you're road weary, it's easy to muddle up your thinking with your need for speedy comfort. Just because the mountains will still be there in the morning, and you'll be closer to them since you're heading that direction, does not mean your shot will be there.

It wasn't for us. On top of lighting and weather changes, there just were no decent places to pull over safely where there was any kind of a clear shot. Once on the back side, near/in Durango, we were down so low they may as well have not even existed.

The scenery was lovely, nonetheless. Again, however, few pullouts existed where photo ops did, and I opted for safety. Where we were able to stop, the views were breathtaking heading up to Silverton. Aspen trees were just leafing out, the tiny leaves a bright yellow green contrasting with the multicolored rocks and deep green pines, and small enough to leave pale trunks exposed. Sun lit distant snowy slopes on the first part of this trek, and sky blue chunks of sky added yet more color to this mountain pallette. My two favorite stops were one wide shoulder along a meadow giving a great view of the different layers of majesty rising behind, and an old weathered corral in the foreground with mountains rising behind. This last we accessed by turning off to go past a riding stable. Somebody had thoughtfully paved a turnaround at the bend in the road by the weathered posts.

The later in the day we drove, the more our distant views were occluded by clouds and rain. Still, there were colorful rocks, waterfalls (mostly with no stopping/shooting spots), deep gullies and steep cliffs. Signs were posted all along the route warning us to watch for wildlife. We did. The wildlife, however, didn't oblige. Oh sure, ravens, turkey vultures, one bluebird. We were hoping for elk. Mountain goats. Of course, had there been any, it would have been in a place we couldn't stop anyway.

One discovery we made was that bicyclists coasting downhill can go nearly 25 mph. It's not so much that we stopped to time them. It's that the shoulders were so narrow and bumpy that the cyclists were forced to use the same lane we were in, and I do mean the middle of the lane. 25 mph was pretty much our top speed limit too, legally and practically, through this section, so it wasn't really an annoyance to us. Other morons, however, passed both them and us in places where curves were plentiful and double yellow lines stretched beyond our sight lines. Perhaps they were psychic and knew no vehicles approached from three curves ahead?

The major reason, however, that 25 mph top speed was not that much of an inconvenience was that nearly all the hairpin curves marking this stretch were posted for 15 mph. And that seemed just about perfect. As soon as you got back up to 25, another sign and set of hairpins knocked you back down to 15. Why rush?

The plan from Cortez had been Durango, Silverton, Montrose, Glenwood Springs, and I-70 into Denver. Montrose was managed by mid-afternoon, and it was the one absolute must-stop on the trip. Steve needed to stop at his Mom's grave, a place he hadn't been able to get to since '95, a full 20 years before. On the way up out of Silverton, we passed the spot where the truck she had been a passenger in had gone over the cliff, near Red Mountain Pass. This was the worst bit of of the switchback road we had traveled all day, in fact all trip. It was spectacular. Plus spectacularly deadly.

Once in Montrose, we passed the cemetery on the way in to town. As much as the town had grown, modernized, and sprawled, it seemed a miracle that this was still countryside. Every modern chain store in every other part of the US was also here. He hoped to find the florist shop he knew from years ago, but we settled for WalMart. At least they had some baskets of flowers. Back at the cemetery, the next issue was actually finding her headstone. All were laid flat in the ground, meaning slightly below the level of the grass. You could look at it from the car and see only lawn, except this soon after Memorial Day it was liberally sprinkled with bouquets. There was nothing more than faded memory to aid in the location of her marker, but Steve managed to hike enough to pull it off, laying the flowers there and saying what he needed to say to whatever essence of her might be there waiting to hear it.

My ear picked up on one thing, I thought, and I asked Steve about it on our way out of town. Here in Minnesota the town with the same spelling is pronounced mon-trose. What I heard, and Steve confirmed, was his pronunciation of Colorado's town is mont-rose, like a contraction of Mount Rose. Subtle, yet meaningful.

By now we were exhausted, me physically, and Steve emotionally. We had managed to text Steve's brother in Denver that we'd greatly underestimated our travel time and would likely not make dinner that evening, possibly not even get to Denver at all. He'd given us a chance to check in later with our progress in case the outlook improved. It hadn't. Steve then mentioned that alternatively we had received the offer to stop in Glenwood for coffee and conversation with his cousin Mike, another lovely idea that just needed more time in the schedule to implement.

Let's plan on both visits on the trip back down in the fall, and be sensible about our timing this time. We can add Salt Lake City to the route too and visit Max, Alta and the kids. Only one or two extra days, eh?

We decided to aim for Glenwood Springs, hoping for some last minute lodging, inexpensively.

Uh, sure. No Motel 6, no Econolodge or Travelodge. Too tired to even spread peanut butter in order to eat, we hit a Wendy's for late supper and quizzed our server to find out what might fit our criteria. He wasn't hopeful. Steve kept the Motel 6 and Super 8 national phone numbers in our cell. We ate while he listened to a Motel 6 recording try to encourage us to stay on the line with them for half an hour. We could, the voice reminded us, easily make reservations on line.

Right. From a fast food chain parking lot in a strange town?

We called Super 8 and had the wonderful opportunity of fighting to understand English through a very thick Asian accent of indeterminate origin long enough to gain some actual information. Once we finally found that there was (allegedly) a Super 8 in Glenwood, we exchanged enough information for a reservation. We hoped. We decided to call the phone number we'd wrangled out of him because we didn't trust it was right, and I got so fed up with his attempt to sell me something else that I hung upon him without getting a confirmation number. (Yeah. Bad mood for that crap.) We also had driven past the alleged address and not seen any sign - literally - of a Super 8 within a mile.

It turns out that the Super 8 is a Ramada. (Huh?) And only twice the price of our other two night's reservations. But they took dogs. They had an accessible room for us, first floor with an outside entry. What she didn't mention, either via phone or in person checking in, was that the outside entry had its own set of stairs up from the parking lot.

Hey, Ramada Inn: TRAIN YOUR STAFF!!!!

At least the bed was comfy, and breakfast actually included a couple things I could eat, like eggs and sausage links. Of course the eating area was down a long hall and up another flight of stairs, so my gem of a partner called down to where I was staying in the room keeping an eye on the dogs to see what he could put on a plate and bring down to me. That way only one of us had to tackle the stairs. Bless him!

Glenwood Canyon was gorgeous. I would have 50 more pictures in the camera had I been the passenger and not the driver through that stretch. Another point of the checklist for next trip. Same for Vail. We agreed that it was inordinately overbuilt, over expensive. But then, neither of us has ever been a skier. Perhaps they have a different mindset. Hey, look around: of course they do!

Coming down out of the mountains, picking up I-76 off I-70 was way easier than the map of the area indicated, and after that, it was straight and 70-75 mph freeway all the way.




Flat. Home. Mountain-deprived.

Quick! Dig out the maps for the return trip!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Packing Lists

You know it: You're sitting there, reading a book or watching TV, when out of the corner of your eye you catch a small furtive movement. Was that a mouse poking its nose out from under the cabinet? A cockroach in hiding, waiting for it to be dark enough? Those legendary brownies? Or something much more sinister, just waiting to take over your abode once you shut of the lights and imagine you can still get a peaceful night's sleep?

OK, put on the list: set out the sticky traps once the dogs are in the car and before you actually start the engine. When you get back, you'll know. You expected to catch somethings the first season you headed north and the old dog door was still in the workroom disaster that locked but never really closed but still kinda functioned as a door. It broke your heart to find all the baby lizards dessicated on the glue, and amazed you at the plethora and variety of bugs caught similarly. Kinda disappointed by no tarantulas or scorpions. No brownies or creepy monsters, but you never really know....

It's also time to add to the list to throw out all the boxed foods from the pantry. No box or plastic bag keeps out the worms that manage their way in. Save the boxtops for education in the process, however. You still know people with kids in school. There will be a lot of repacking as well. Pasta, rice and beans, flour and pancake mixes, all got placed in glass and plastic containers that looked like they promised to seal bug-tight, mostly screw-top, only some didn't make the grade. So container washing and empty storing while you plan some non-food use for them for next year additionally need to go on the list. Memo to list: sort garbage from recycling, set out recycling in a cardboard box that can be removed since they stop two days after we're gone. Garbage is twice weekly, and the can is underground, so no issues there.

That cleaning that never quite got your attention during the winter now needs to be done. Dog fur did periodically get removed once the "bunnies" got big enough, but Fred has never stopped shedding, now that he no longer has defined seasons to give his coat its cues. Paper bits must go up and out, no longer left to feed silverfish that sneak their way in. Maybe the sticky traps will work, or maybe they'll find the clothing left in drawers or closets, or turn to the library for a summer feast. Floors must be swept, laundry done, furniture covered. Windows? Forget windows!  Oh wait, we can't: they all need the locks put on them, and since they are being used for climate control, that waits for the last morning. But cleaning them? LOL! They are at least as clear as Steve's glasses usually are, so what's to complain about?

With essentials located both south and north, you had foolishly held onto the belief that packing up for the summer would be simple: traveling duds, dogs and supplies, cameras, meds, electronics. And chargers: do NOT forget chargers! That simple list is not exactly working out for you though, is it?

Start with hauling back the borrowed chop saw, brought down to help with creation of and installation of 3 walls of shelves in the library. Add the gift Rich bought for his daughter that was too fragile - and too big!- to take back in the plane. Not to mention the fancy dancy knife - way too modest a word - that no airline would allow on board. Add the bagfuls of late season oranges supplied by neighbors, the lapidary items you spend the last several months grinding and polishing and can spend the summer wire wrapping or whatever. Of course there are maps, but this year you have to add alternative plans for routing in case the abundance of late May snowfalls in the Colorado Rockies clog the chosen pass, plus access to weather reports in case the spring tornadoes work their way up across Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota.

You've been working on eating everything in the fridge that won't last a couple more days in the cooler with ice while traveling, but already bagfuls of stuff in addition to those bug-infested ones have gone to feed the garbage landfill. The gas shut-off has been scheduled, but due to their convenience, it will be off three days before you leave. You're left with the microwave and luke-warm water, yet another parameter for sorting foods and packing. In an emergency there's always daytime access to the community center showers, but not the most optimal, nor private. After adding bottles of water to the crevices in the car, how much room is left for a cooler? It is, after all, merely a hatchback already hauling two adults and two dogs.

We have decided the yard plants will survive without watering, being desert natives and with unusually abundant May rains to help tide them over till Monsoon season. The three late purchases will head north to be babied over the summer, then brought back to plant next fall, giving them a long time to set roots enough for next summer.  So, memo to list: pack plants, roll up hoses and store in shade. We did hit the stores for tent stakes to hold down the chicken wire, but not before rabbits lifted cages to access one of the baby ocotillos, the palo verde and palo blanco trunks, and ate three aloes to below ground levels.  If the remaining plants are a little water-deprived, it should stop them screaming "All Night Buffet Here!" to all the wascally wabbits.

I do so-o-o empathize with Elmer Fudd.

Memo summer project: research poisons that disappear from the body so quickly that dead rabbits won't in turn poison their scavengers.

Other outside chores include a final pooper scooping, water shut-off, and bringing in decoratives, because if our neighbors will steal rocks out of the yard, how much more likely will they be to go for the wicker, the tree man holding the gazing globe, or the glass birdbath? Scooters will come inside as well, staying plugged in and charging, the only spot with electricity still feeding the house now that the new circuit breaker box is easily accessed and well labeled. Note that the patio did get swept clean after most of the wicker got put inside, but Ellie decided that it was too bare and grabbed a pine cone to demolish right in front of the sliding door. You know, right where bare feet trod. Despite abundant rawhide chews.

Medical needs are being attended to, a bit of a trick when our insurance company doesn't cover us up north. We have been negotiating between doctors, pharmacies, and insurance to make sure enough of our medications will be traveling with us to last at least a few days past our return. Appointments for fall are already on the calendar. Emergencies won't be allowed. Period.

OK, what else do we need? Let's see....

Memo to self: this year, actually read the list and check off everything before you drive away!


Sunday, May 10, 2015

No More Bank Robery For Me

What? Oh, you thought that title meant I was the one doing the bank robbery? My my, you haven't been keeping up, have you? No, what I'm celebrating here is my end to a relationship with a bank that has been robbing me!

Five years ago I transferred funds as my CDs matured into IRA CDs in US Bank. They were offering 3%, and back then that was the best deal available.  It was coming down from 5+%, a big disappointment, but everybody else was down in the 2s, and you can see what interest rates have been doing since then. Bummer for the investor. But 3% was still 3%.

At least that's what I thought.

I transferred two CDs in, about 3 weeks apart, because that's when they matured. They weren't huge, nor even a huge part of my investment portfolio. I liked to keep things a bit diversified. Simple, too. CDs were supposed to be simple. You put X dollars in, leave it for Y years at Z% interest. When the time is over, you get your original amount back with compounded interest. End of story. Well, unless you take early withdrawal so the bank doesn't have it to play around with any more. Then they can take out a penalty fee, which seems fair.

I promise that they can keep my money to do whatever bank thing they want to with it, the government insures it (us both) against risk, and they promise to pay me back compounded interest at a rate specified when we both sign the initial deposit contract.

What's so hard about that? Well, unless SOMEBODY, aka US Bank, lets greed triumph over ethics.

A few months in, I got this letter in the mail from US Bank. It explained how they were going to renege on our deal, and keep doing so for the length of time my CDs were deposited. It seems I wasn't a BIG ENOUGH depositor, and they actually admitted that the whales were the only clients they were interested in. Now if I wanted to increase my funds left in their tender care to, oh say, $25,000 or more, then nevermind this letter. However, since I now had 2 CDs on deposit with them instead of just one, they were going to declare this to be a retirement account, and charge me for their services in managing it for me. Every year.

Two CDs: what's to manage?

It's locked in for 5 years. I can't reinvest in some other form of account, move it around, choose different stocks, bonds, whatever my funds might be sitting in at any given time. There are no choices to be made by me about risk levels versus possible returns on investment. I can't even change my mind and withdraw my funds without a full 10% penalty, one of the harshest penalties I'd heard of to that point.

You can well imagine I stormed into one of their branches at my first opportunity and demanded to know how they could change the contract terms on me like that. The young squirt I was shunted off to in his turn expressed Shock! Shock, I tell you! that somebody in the US Banking system had actually written up CDs for a full 3% interest! OMG! Heads would roll!

Apparently I was supposed to be so overwhelmingly grateful that I would rush right out and kiss the ground that the bank was built on. Or maybe the squirt?

When I further pursued their supposed rationale for changing the terms of the CDs, inquiring just what I was supposed to be getting for the fees they were removing from my money, I was told it was for "advising" me.

Hell, what advising? Once again, in case you've missed it somewhere here, these are simple cotton picking CDs we're talking about here. Never once was there any "advising" being dished out. Not when I walked in with my first deposit. Not when I walked in with my 2nd. Not when I complained. Not when they sent me their annual salt-rubbing letter reminding me they were removing another chunk of funds from my CDs. Never. Nada. Nothing. No sirree. Uh-uh. Zip.

As the years have passed, I have taken every available opportunity to express to anybody who could be forced to listen to me to badmouth the policies and integrity of US Bank. I've spoken, blogged, finished surveys both written and over the phone, mentioned to other financial institutions I do business with, and done everything else possible to let the world know just how US Bank thinks it's appropriate to let their greed rule over their manner of doing business.

I don't fight their right to make a profit. During the time they controlled my funds, they had plenty of ways to profit from  the original contract. Loans on cars, mortgages, all kinds of transactions would have brought them a profit without cheating me. But no, they thought they needed more.

They locked me in a contract, then turned around and changed the terms without allowing me any chance to back out. They said I wasn't a good enough customer for them? Well, guess what? I'm never going to be a customer of theirs ever again. I haven't overdrawn an account, created extra work for them that they didn't put on themselves in the process of changing the terms and setting up yearly withdrawals, or done anything else to earn anything other than respect from them. If I ever again have liquid funds large enough to meet their preferred customer profile, those funds are going elsewhere! A credit union, a mattress, even a coffee can would be preferable to letting US Bank ever get their hands on my money again. I consider what they did to me to be bank robbery, even though most others think of that term as referring to the customer robbing the bank rather than the bank robbing the customer.

So never again, US Bank. I withdrew the last of my money from you last week when the last CD matured. I waited and took it out under your terms. One of us is ethical. You'll never see me again. NO MORE BANK ROBBERY FOR ME!

I will, however, continue spreading the word.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Tipping Point

Literally! Honest!

I found it next door, which turned out to be a lucky thing if one is absolutely determined to tip. Or even, as I was, simply klutzy enough to tip. It was one of those curb cuts in the sidewalk for the driveway. The three-wheeled scooter always tilts a little on the top side of those, but it's much more drastic next to the street. Steve likes to avoid them completely, preferring to ride along the edge of the street. I have seen those nuts out there driving down our streets, and figure the sidewalks are safer.

Even though they tip.

I must have been tired yesterday. I was certainly inattentive, nearly home after a morning of lapidary and ready for lunch. At any rate, I let the scooter roam too close to the street side, then tried to over-correct.

Didn't work.

Even so, I count myself lucky. When it happened to my dad, tipping over in his extra-heavy scooter, he had to be whisked away by ambulance to the local hospital in order to get one of his artificial hips replaced in its artificial socket. They needed to be replaced yet again because this set was prone to having this happen.

No such fuss for me. My scooter is smaller, lighter, highly portable. This is the second time I've tipped it over, and while everybody around me freaks out, I just get away with a little bruise. Or anyway, I did the first time. This time I was wearing shorts, so let's start with a little pavement rash, landing as I did in the street. It's such a little thing, but so-o-o-o-o annoying. I knew a little clean up and a Band-Aid (large) or two with antibiotic cream would take care of those spots, even though that was what was hurting. Heck, they weren't even bleeding, a surprise once I thought about it enough to remember I'm taking Warfarin this time around.

The scooter, however, was pinning my lower leg under it. It's light enough that I just used the other foot to push it up, slide my leg out, and start to sit up. That's as far as I was going by myself without either help or a lot of planning. I do not do well getting up off the floor. Yes, I can, but the knees give me hell, and I try my best to avoid that.

Help was coming from two directions. Ahead I could see the neighbor across the street rush out of her house, but stopping when she saw I was getting help from behind. The vehicle I had been hearing coming up the street and stopping had disgorged two strong and helpful Hispanic men, likely one of several sets who regularly do yard care in the area. Their first and frequently repeated question was, "Do you need to go to the hospital?" It was followed closely by, "Do you need us to call an ambulance?"

While they were setting my scooter up, putting the battery back in correctly, and helping me to my feet without managing to kill my shoulders - a pretty neat trick - I continued to reassure them I was fine, merely needed to get on my scooter, and hey: home was right there, one yard over. It wasn't until the last that they finally decided that I was good enough to go those final hundred feet or so and they had done what they needed to. I thanked them and they left after I turned into my driveway without tipping again, presumably assuring them that this crazy gringo lady really was OK.

Steve was up, finally. He'd been running a light fever and spent much of the last 48 hours in bed. I asked him to fix me an ice pack while I went in to my bathroom and cleaned the dust off and some of the dirt out of the scrapes. Even if I wasn't bleeding visibly, and couldn't see it yet, I knew I would be bruising fairly spectacularly fairly soon. After all: Warfarin.

I kept the ice pack in place for nearly an hour. It was big enough to cover the two sorest spots, the front and side of my downhill knee. Despite the ice, my pavement rash was still the loudest complainer. I never felt the bruising. Once the ice melted and we found the leak in the ice bag, I applied a little first aid to the scrapes and finally fixed lunch. Then I got to spend the rest of the day watching the color rise to the surface.

The kneecap is the ugliest, full black and purple, skin still stretched tight over the extra volume within. That bruise in much lighter form heads halfway down the front of my shin. I thought it was just how the living room light was hitting my leg last night, but then Steve saw it. It really is blue-grey. At least it's not painful, unlike the kneecap and that pesky pavement rash off to the side. This morning revealed another spectacularly blue bulge lower on the inside calf, where the cart was sitting on my leg. I never felt it, saw it, nor of course iced it.

Yeah, now that I know it's there, I feel it too. But that damn silly pavement rash is still the worst part, and in that I'm lucky.

It's also strategic. It needs a big enough dressing that it's hard to keep one on without adding extra tape, which is stark white. That's enough to draw attention when I run to the bank to withdraw my last CD from them ever. EVER! If you want to know what that's all about, read my next posting.

Meanwhile I need some breakfast.

Monday, May 4, 2015

It Hurts To Love An Addict

It hurts to love an addict. I love/have loved two of them. Different relationships, different trajectories, different kinds of hurt.

The first was my son. I use "was" not because I no longer love him, or because he no longer is an addict according to the understanding of 12-step groups which take recovery as being one day at a time, not recognizing any "cure". I use "was" in the sense that he is not actively using, has not for a long time, and is busy putting his life back together.

When he was using, he was much like the stereotypical idea of an addict, out on the streets or wherever he could find to flop, behavior aimed at finding the next dose of whatever was available at the moment, up to and including heroin. His so-called friends did him the favor - in their minds - of shooting him up. He came so close to an OD that they thought they'd killed him, but they left him alone rather than seeking any help for him. This was at least enough of a scare that he never took that particular drug again.

I didn't hear the story until years later, after he'd sought treatment, returned home, and declared himself free of drugs because his only drug of choice was alcohol. He still had a ways to go, obviously, but at least I knew where he was. While he was living out on the streets, I would not hear from him for sometimes over a year at a time. I wasn't sure he was still alive, left to wonder whether he even carried enough ID for me to be notified if he weren't. I was left to hear the TV news about the victim of a shooting or bar fight, or the latest body pulled out of the Mississippi, knowing only that the deceased was male, wishing they'd give further identifiers so I could guess whether this person might have been my son or whether some other mother's heart would be broken by the end of the day.

Tough love isn't just tough on the kid.

As a parent, it was all complicated by the guilt of having raised an addict, wondering how much of who he was and what he did was my fault. I poured over my list of sins and shortcomings regularly, doling out more blame to myself than anybody else possibly could or did, including my finally-returned son himself. At its worst, when asked inside a support group what it was I wanted, I replied that I wished I could permanently sever the relationship.

Of course, I never could. Thank goodness! And now, many of my best conversations with one of my children, the ones where we talk about real stuff,  is with him. I'm proud of who he is now, how far he's come, the kind of human being he's become. (I do reserve the mother's right to worry just a little. Just in case.)

The second addict I love is the friend I call  "Rae". If you read me regularly, you've heard about her through the years, most recently here. We stay in touch via phone while I'm 1800 miles away. Lately her news hasn't been good. She's fallen off her particular wagon.

There's a lot going on in her life, and at least for the sake of her kids, she's struggling to continue functioning. She thinks her family has no clue what her real situation is, that she's effective in hiding her behaviors. But she can talk to me. I don't judge or shame her, and I understand a lot of what she's dealing with. I also suspect that 1800 miles makes me a little "safer" to confide in. She tells me things she can't tell her therapist. I won't tell her friends or family.

Her husband was laid off due to a downturn in business where he works. Fortunately it was temporary, but there is a financial strain, compounded by the expenses and caregiving demands of a special needs child. One result is that they live in a 3-generation household. The older generation not only does not understand her addiction issues, any awaremess they may have of it comes with blaming. They can drink one or two beers every night, so why can't she? It's just a matter of character, right?

(Hey, if you go along with that thinking, just ignore the rest of this post. It's obviously not for you.)

So not only do they flaunt their drinking in front of her, they presume she can/should join them in their favorite evening social activity. Even her husband, no matter how many times he's been told otherwise, including by doctors and therapists, believes his wife should join him in weekend drinking.

Some support, huh?

Speaking of support, of course she goes to NA meetings. Her sponsor, coincidentally, has fallen of the wagon. In her case, it's meth, and Rae has confided that she has joined her sponsor in using it a few times. Rae believes she won't get hooked on meth because it primarily reminds her that she'd really rather be on heroin. I'm sure she finds a kind of logic there, but I'm not sure if it's just that meth isn't good enough for her to seek it out (though beer is even less close to the effects of heroin) or that she believes she can draw a line before she gets back into using heroin again.

I fear for her.

I'd love to "fix" her, but I can't. I'd love to change her need for pain relief, but I can't. I know where her pain is coming from, but I've promised not to tell, even with her name disguised. What I can do is listen, ask questions that I hope can get her to think, help her gain awareness of who/where she is and what she wants and is willing/able to do about it. I can share what I know without "shouldding" her about what to do. I'm a trained facilitator who has helped others deal with similar issues in a support group setting.

But I'm not a therapist. I try to encourage her to locate the right kind of therapist for her issues underlying her addiction, but  she hasn't found one she can trust. I suspect in her case that is because, first, it will be hard to find one with the right kind of understanding of her issues, a specialist with the right attitude, and second that it will be so painful to deal with the issues that the emotional pain would have to get much worse before she could begin to get better. Heroin, meth, alcohol, all kill the pain faster, just wear off much sooner. Not to mention they bring a host of new issues along with them.

Bulimia was just one of those, and she has now been in a treatment facility twice as an inpatient and another once as an outpatient, with very limited results. But her insurance has run out. It shouldn't need to be said that there are severe self-esteem consequences for using again. Even with all the teachings of twelve step programs, there is still that inner voice that got there first with society's message that it's all just a character flaw, not a disease. I know just enough about the permanent effects of meth that it scares the crap out of me for the additional effects it can have on her. That, of course, presumes she'll survive her reduced but ongoing level of bulimia, after three heart attacks. Let's not even talk about the potential legal issues.

When she calls to talk, she has this habit of apologizing to me for the next revelation in how bad things are going for her, both in sobriety and in eating. It's like she thinks she's hurting me personally. She wants to know if I can forgive her, do I still love her, am I mad at her? Will I still be her friend if she tells me whatever? I tell her she's not hurting me but only herself, that of course I still love her and support her, that I hope she can figure it all out somehow and find her road to recovery, that of course she can call me whenever she needs to talk. And yet I ache for her, grieve for her.

Perhaps she knows more than I do when she apologizes to me.

Post Rainy Morning Musings

After about a third of an inch of rain overnight, enclosed in enough thunder to remind Ellie that it still terrifies her, I stepped out this morning to that wonderful fragrance of fresh-washed desert air, part sage, part... life. Ahhhhhhhh!

We've made it over 100 two days in a row already, hot enough that I gave in and turned on the house's AC. For a few hours. Each day. Then off as soon as we could stand it. The heat is triggering some nearby saguaros to bloom early, though.

It's impossible to sleep in, no matter how late I stayed up the night before unable to shut the mind down. A loud chorus of doves and quail, along with several other species of birds, all think it's time to impress the ladies starting about 3AM, and yes, the windows are open then to cool down the house. The neighbor across the back fence set out a corn feeder before they left for northern climes, and makes sure his irrigation system for his citrus trees also fills bird baths on the ground while it runs. While it's nice to watch the accumulated wildlife while we're awake, there is a down side.

There's another down side as well. The new crop of bunnies loves the corn too, and the spillover to my yard is fierce. They have learned to tip over the chicken wire protecting my plants, eating several aloes and agaves down to brown nubs an inch below ground level.  The youngest mobile sets of teeth can get through the chicken wire to gnaw the green bark of my palo verde trunk up over a foot high, turning it into a collection of white branches. As even the adult rabbits can hop through fences as if they weren't even there, even the coyote packs have little success controlling them. I sincerely do wish them better luck this summer. The coyotes, that is. The dogs just ignore the rabbits in favor of chasing the birds, but only if they're feeling in need of some exercise. Chances are they got enough of it inside the house running around to find new vantage points to bark away passing dogs taking their owners out for a stroll and some bend-over-touch-the-ground-and-bag-it stretches.

The outside house wiring got moved in record time. The new box looks great, incorporating the meter inside itself rather than as a separate unit on the wall.  Incidentally, the old box got - you guessed it! - a new cover made for it to keep the elements out, just as part of the project. Irony? The breaker box didn't have to move as far as the electrician wanted. The new location would have put the wires well away from the big pine but right in the path of the newly planted trees after a bunch of years. APS, our power company, nixed that. Now it's free of their future growth, and mostly out of the way of where the pine is likely to spread to. The shorter distance took a few hundred off the total bill, always a welcome bit of news.

The baby quail are getting hard to find. Not sure how much of that is attrition from predators and how much is just wrong place / wrong time observations. I do regularly see a family with one baby, but I could actually be seeing several different families whose brood size has shrunk since hatching. The one chilly post-rain morning was the only time any held still long enough for some photography. Mostly they are spotted running from here to elsewhere, and even more so behind a fence or under bushes, completely impossible to shoot. I did get a chuckle one early evening as a threesome ran across the street into the front and then side yard. Crossing the street the baby scuttled along behind its parents waving its wings madly as it tried to catch up as if that could make it run faster. Who knows? Maybe when you're that uncoordinated still it actually helps.

Now that we're no longer waiting on the electrician, we're starting to seriously plan our northward trip. The where is pretty well figured out. The when is a little more iffy. When I'd like to go puts us smack dab into holiday traffic, making accommodations harder to come by, especially traveling with dogs. Back when it was October through March down here, not such an issue. Plus, routing south through Texas rather than up through Colorado, not such competition for spaces. I mean, who actually chooses the panhandle for anything other than something they need to get through as quickly as possible in order to go somewhere else? But the Rockies? Oh yeah!

But I wish I could safely put out poison for those pesky greedy rabbits as we leave!