Thursday, May 25, 2017

Down by the Station

We were down by the station early in the morning, looking for little puffer-bellies, but I guess they don't exist any more, especially not at a train station as small as the one in Davis.

It was kind of a quick morning.  I had set my alarm for 4:30 so I could get up and make cinnamon rolls for Jeri's last breakfast but the alarm didn't go off (or I slept through it) and I woke up with a jolt at 5:15.  No time for cinnamon rolls, but I could whip together some cranberry-walnut muffins.  I'll tell ya, I don't think I was even fully awake when those muffins went into the oven.  I was crashing around the kitchen trying to keep my balance.

But the muffins actually came out of the oven just as Jeri was coming downstairs, so we were able to have a last breakfast together before she headed off for Santa Barbara, where she will spend a few days with Tom and the family, a "fun time" she has earned after all her work here!

We did get down by the railroad tracks just minutes before the Coast Starlight came into view. 

Only time for a quick hug goodbye and Jeri was off to her next adventure.

As for us, we came home and I immediately went back to sleep.  I was awakened a couple of times, but when I gave up and went to the couch to sleep, I was able to sleep until nearly 11, to make up for the sleep I didn't get last night.

At 1 we went back to Atria.  Habitat for Humanity was scheduled to come sometime between 1 and 3.  While waiting, we finished boxing everything up and sorted into what was going to the SPCA thrift shop, what was going to the new apartment, and what was coming home with us.

In one of the boxes filled with lipstick, makeup, scissors and other toiletry items that I almost told Walt to throw away I found buried treasure:

This is 20 Susan B. Anthony dollars and 20 Eisenhower dollars.  I put out a call to see if they were worth more than $1 each and found out that they may be worth a bit more.  Perhaps twice as much as face value.  There is a coin dealer here in town and I will go and have him check.  At the very least, we'll have a dinner out of this!

The guys showed up around 2:30 and in no time at all, they had carted off all of my mother's furniture.

I admit to going out to sit on a chair in the hall to get myself under control, because I was fighting tears.  It's just difficult seeing things you have grown up with all of your life headed off to a charity, though I'm pleased that Habitat for Humanity can use it.  Heck, they even took her ironing board (I was not emotional about that leaving).

When that was all gone, we loaded up a cart and took the last 4 boxes over to the new apartment.  It was things like clothes, toiletries, and things to put on display outside her door.  Marge has the bottom 2 shelves, my mother the top 2.  

She seemed OK, thrilled to see me since it had been so long and she had missed me (she didn't remember I had been there yesterday).  One of the things I brought over was this very nice photo of Fred from their wedding.

The first time she saw it, she didn't have any idea who it was, and then recognized it as Fred.  She kept it on the bed and would periodically pick it up and either talk about how much she missed him, or try to figure out who it is.

One more trip will remove everything else from the apartment and then we are FINISHED with that old apartment.  Now all I have to do is make space for all the stuff I brought home in this overcrowded place!  It's been more of an emotional roller coaster for me than for my mother, but I'm happy to see that she has accepted the new places, even if she doesn't understand why she's there.

And Jeri made it to Santa Barbara in time for Lacie's dance recital.


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Rollin' Along

One of the Swap Bot swaps I signed up for a long time ago was to write your partner and tell her about your day.  Little did I know the kind of day I would be having when I signed up.

It started kind of late for me, since I had insomnia and ended up writing my journal entry until nearly 4 a.m.  But I did go back to sleep and woke up sometime after 8.  Jeri and Walt were talking in the kitchen.

While I tried to come to and shake the cheese out of my head (I felt like I had cheese for brains), Jeri went on a bike ride and then Walt and I met her over at Atria.  I got there first and my mother was in the common room, asleep.  Sometimes when I look at the people sitting in couches facing the TV (it was playing a bunch of recordings from the 50s) I wonder if she really belongs there, since they seem to sit around slack-jawed, asleep or staring off into space.  But the I look at the people like my mother and realize that she does.

We went to lunch with her.

I'd like to say it was a delicious lunch, but it wasn't.  The panini was dry.  They seem to have eliminated three things in the memory unit:  1) choice (unlike the main dining room, you don't get a choice of food, which is probably OK, given that choices are too confusing for my mother), 2) water.  There was always a big carafe of water on the table in the main dining room.  There was none here and none was offered, though everyone got a choice of cranberry juice or orange juice.  When I asked for water, I was brought a glass, which was nice.  But I usually drink a lot of water, and then 3) salt.  This is probably a good thing since I have complained about how salty Atria's foods are to begin with and how my mother salts foods that are already too salty for me (and I'm a big salt eater).  Given cardiac conditions and all it's probably for the best that there is no salt on the table.

When lunch was finished, we went back to the apartment and I tried to find towels for her.  She hides them in dresser drawers.  I did manage to find a bath towel and a couple of hand towels, but no washcloth.  I put them in the drawer of the dresser we put in the bathroom.

When we moved her in, I tried to duplicate the look of her dresser, as she had it, including the three necklaces she fiddles with all the time, trying to lay them out flat.  I got it pretty much as she had it but today two of the necklace are gone.  She hasn't noticed and I suspect Marge helped herself, but it's no biggie.  They weren't expensive and if my mother hadn't noticed, probably not worth making a fuss.  However, I will gradually bring her jewelry back here to avoid problems in the future.

We visited for awhile and then Walt and I went to her old apartment to continue the boxing up.  Boy, how could I ever have managed all of this without him!  He worked his buns off, and then Jeri came and helped.  Advice for anyone facing this situation:  before you get old and unable to do this yourself, make sure you have given birth to children who are able to help.  Ned didn't come today, but he as here all day yesterday.  Poor Jeri has spent almost the entire Davis part of her "vacation" helping to move her grandmother.  Both of them have been invaluable. 

I did what I could but eventually had to sit down because of my back, which was fine because then I could wrap up all the glassware and dishes that we are donating to the SPCA thrift store.

Lemme tell you, I thought going through all of her papers, photos, etc...the detritus of her life...was difficult  Packing up the kitchen was harder.  Every plate, every glass, every cup brought back memories.  The stack of placemats were a reminder of how she used to like to set the table looking so beautiful.  There was the Grandma cup that we used to fight over at Cousins Day, since we were all grandmas.  There were the silver decorated glasses that had belonged to my godmother, who died when I was 10.  So many memories.

At the end of 3 hours we had pretty much done all we could.  Walt and Jeri carted all the boxes that were coming to our house out to the car.

We still have another big pile of boxes that are going to be donated to the SPCA thrift store tomorrow and I think more boxes that are for throwing away, though I may be mistaken about that.  Walt may have done that today.  (Thank GOODNESS we have all those Blue Apron boxes!)

When we climbed into the car with the a/c blasting (>90⁰ outside today...cooler than yesterday, but still.....) all I wanted to do was plop in the recliner with a giant glass of ice water and take a nap.

However, that was not on the schedule.  We had a dinner date with an old friend.

Felix was one of our foreign guests in the 10 years we were doing foreigners.  He is from Croatia and was about to start his PhD in civil engineering at CalTech and wanted to have a family stay first.  I originally placed him with a woman who wanted someone from Croatia, and we rarely had one, but two days into the stay, she said she didn't want him because he wasn't from the area where her relatives stayed.  Rather than find him a new host family, we just took him here and it was her loss and our gain!  A lovely man.

We were trying to remember how long ago that was but sometime in the 1980s.  Walt saw him once about 20 years ago but I don't think I have seen him since he left Davis to move to Cal Tech.  He now works for an engineering firm in Washington and he and his wife own a B&B on Whidby Island and spend their spare time hiking in the mountains with their two white standard poodles, Storm and Bear.  The dogs are getting older now, he tells me, so they limit their hikes to "only"  4 hours instead of all day.

I had not wanted to leave the house after we got home from Atria and definitely wasn't up for a social evening, but it was a nice distraction and it was nice to see Felix again.  Best of all, we were home before 9.

Tomorrow afternoon the Habitat for Humanity folks pick up the furniture and then, I hope, we are OUT of that apartment.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Detritus of Life

Anyone who has ever had to clean out the home of someone who has died or, as in my mother's case, moved on to smaller digs, knows the excruciating pain of going through every. little. thing. and trying to decide what to save (and why) and what to throw away.  

The day started with waffles, which I almost never make, and then in 3 vehicles, the 3 of us made our way to Atria.  Walt, in the SUV, bringing more boxes, Jeri on bike, and me in our car.

Jeri and Ned went to check on their grandmother.  I didn't even see her yesterday.  I was trying to sort out all the stuff in her drawers and separate everything in the apartment into piles for the SPCA thrift shop, and for Habitat for Humanity, and then the rest of "all that crap."  Jeri reported that when they arrived, she was in the common room, asleep, and I was happy to hear that they had gotten her out of her room and with the others, even if she was sleeping!  Maybe she will have more social interactions now that she is there.

Jeri, bless her heart, decided that "Marge," my mother's pod-mate, had taken over the door to their apartment and needed to share.  I love what she did

Ned helped with the clean up and took a huge stack of puzzles upstairs to the puzzle area.
At noon, we took a break and met Walt's brother Norm and his wife at Dos Coyotes, where we had a nice lunch, which I had to leave at 1:15 to get back to the apartment to meet the people who were taking the clothes we didn't move to the new place off to be donated somewhere.

Ned and Jeri took Norm and Olivia back to memory care and they visited with my mother and I settled in to go through drawers that were stuffed tightly with "stuff." It's easier to throw away someone else's treasures than your own.  It's also interesting to see the things she saved all these years.

I think she saved every greeting card she ever got and I tossed them all.  She also had a folder labeled "treasures" in which she kept, among other things, letters that Jeri wrote to her.  My mother was almost fiendishly proud of the fact that she never wrote letters to anyone, but she enjoyed getting letters.  I think I received one letter from her in my life.

I found all of my sister's school pictures through grammar school.  I haven't thrown those away, yet, but they are in one of the boxes of things to come home with me for further consideration.  I don't want them, but there is something that kept me from throwing them away.  I also was surprsed to find one of my grammar school report cards in the treasures folder.

This was another one of the treasures in that folder.

Olivia was a huge Joe Montana fan and since she was still visiting over in Memory Care, I texted her and she said she would stop by and pick it up on her way out.

Photos  .... oh groan photos.  I threw away lots and lots of photos, sometimes whole books of photos of people I didn't know.  One, I guess, was a party for my mother's retirement.  She is dressed up, with a corsage, and it's picture after picture of her with people I didn't recognize.  My father is in the pictures too, so it was before she met Fred.  Special memories but not, alas, for me.

I even threw away the album of the pictures of her wedding to Fred.  That was a painful day for me.  I was asked to be the photographer (I also was the cake decorator) and all day long it was "Bev, take a picture of us and so."  There are pictures with Fred's parents, with his kids, with all their grandkids, and with other people there.  Guess who was never asked to be in a photo.  The photographer.  To look through this album you wouldn't have a clue I was even there.  It set up the way it was going to be for the 10 years of their marriage.  Fred's family always came first and despite my attempts to make friends with his family, it never happened (until much, much later).  They even gave her a big party on one of those landmark birthdays (maybe 80).  It was at a winery they had some connection to, apparently a fancy place where everyone spent the night and the party was wonderful.  I didn't even know about it until after it was over.  So I had no compunction about throwing that wedding album away.

I did keep, though, letters she received from both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, thanking her for her donations to the DNC and coming with an 8x10 photo of the president and a nice certificate.  I don't know what I'll do with those, but I just couldn't bring myself to throw them away.
There were also commendations from Hospice of Marin, where she volunteered for many years.  When she finally retired, she was their oldest volunteer, and the one who had worked for Hospice for the longest time.  Sadly, those also became "garbage."

I tossed her high school yearbook which was sent to all the graduates in preparation for their 50th anniversary reunion.  

On and on and on it went.  Walt was packing up the kitchen and putting thousands of framed pictures into boxes that I don't have a clue what I'll do with.

At 3 p.m., I collapsed mentally.  I was going to put a bookcase of framed photos into a box and I just sat there and literally couldn't move.  I finally decided to go home and left Walt there working, bless his heart.

I arrived home, plopped into my recliner and slept for more than two hours.  After I woke up, we attacked one of the things that we did not throw away..

My mother was a vodka drinker and this bottle of vodka has been in her refrigerator for months, maybe years.  But we decided that it was only right that we finish it off with vodka and tonic.  

It was just the remedy I needed, but I was still exhausted and went to sleep at 10, falling asleep instantly.  Of course that meant I was awake at 12:30 and now, at 3 a.m., I have finished writing this and hope that now that it's written, I can get back to sleep for another two hours.

We should have less work to do today, but still have lots of sorting to do.  Jeri and I are going to have lunch with my mother.

Monday, May 22, 2017

It's Done!

The best part of yesterday was when my mother, sitting in her chair, looking out the window of her new apartment, found a tree that was particularly beautiful.  I knew it was going to be OK.

We had  long day and I'm sure my mother is waking up this morning not having a clue where she is, but I hope at least she can find the bathroom.

It started at 11, when Jeri went to Atria to take her grandmother out for a couple of hours.  When they were leaving she texted me an all clear message and the moving crew gathered in the apartment.  It was Walt, Ned and my mother's stepson Ed, who worked tirelessly for the next two hours to get things set up.

I took pictures of things like her dresser and the table she sits next to so I could recreate it when we got to the new apartment.

I'm wondering if there are going to be problems with her neighbor, the woman in the apartment on the other side of the "pod" my mother is living in.  She seems to have taken over.

We met Marge and the difficulty with her is that her memory is worse than my mother's.  We had a conversation with her and I stll don't know what she was talking about.  She did come in and look at the apartment and ask why Walt and I didn't get into bed, because that was all there was to do there.  I'm not sure she understood that we were not going to live there.

Things came together quickly and soon we had the apartment looking set up and ready for Nick, from the maintenance staff, to come in, and hang pictures.

Nick was still working on getting her TV hung on the wall when Jeri and her grandmother returned, so things were a lot more chaotic than I had hoped, but she didn't freak out.  

Ned went to the dining room and got cups of ice cream and Jeri cut up strawberries she had purchased while they were out and we all took a break.

We took her on a little tour, showing her the garden which she seemed to really like.

When the TV was connected, Walt found a music channel of music that my mother would know and Jeri got her singing to Nat King Cole.

The connection between music and the brain always amazes me.  She can't remember my name sometime, but she can remember all the lyrics of songs she sang back in the 40s and 50s.  Jeri had created a playlist for the car and she said that my mother sang all the lyrics of all the songs even songs Jeri didn't know.

Eventually it was time to leave.  I was surprised there was no staff person there to make sure she knew what was going on, but both Jeri and I stopped to let people know that we were leaving. 
We came home, Jeri and Walt enjyed a "dark and stormy" out in the carport and chatted for awhile.  I cooked dinner and we toasted our good work for the day.

Today we have to face the mess that we left behind and try to sort out what is going where.  Someone comes today to take all the clothes we did not move and on Wednesday, Habitat for Humanity takes all rest of the furniture.

But I slept peacefully last night for the first time in a couple of weeks.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Sunday Stealing

We found this gem from a blogger named Geebee from the blog Geebee’s Trip. He states that he was tagged by Buttercup. But, it was probably stolen at that blog as well. So, of course, that will be as far as we go. Tracing back our theft's thieves might take some time. Please consider liking WTIT on Facebook. Click here. Have a great Sunday!

Cheers to all us thieves!

Sunday Stealing: The Q & A Questions

1. where is your significant other?
He has gone to Peet's to get coffee beans and the PetCo to look at the puppies on display for adoption.

2. your favorite thing?
Today?  Air conditioning.

3. your dream last night?
I don't think I dreamed last night.  I often do not.

4. your goal?
That my mother's move to the memory unit tomorrow goes well and that she's not too traumatized by it.

5. your hobby?
Answering questions.

6. where do you want to be in 6 years?
Probably right here doing the same things.

7. where were you last night?
Sitting in the family room watching TV

8. what you're not?
A fan of our 45th president.

9. one of your wish list items?
World peace and a clean house.

10. your pet?

Lizzie on the left, Polly on the right
11. missing someone?
This week, my sister, dead since 1971, who should be here helping move our mother to the memory care unit.

12. your car?
Honda, though we have rented a car for the weekend and apparently we now have a temporary SUV.

13. something you're not wearing?
make up

14. love someone?
I love lots of people

15. when is the last time you laughed?
Reading Congressman Ted Lieu's cheat sheet for Trump's overseas visit.  Read it.

16. last time you cried?
I misted up this afternoon listening to my mother and Jeri having a "conversation."  Jeri was so incredibly gentle and patient with her.  She must have explained that she is married to Phil at least 10 times.  But it was fun to watch my mother's delight when Jeri told her she was a teacher.  She was thrilled to learn she had become a teacher.  Maybe that was the saddest moment of all for me.

17. favorite pastime?
Watching reruns of NCIS or White Collar, reading, writing, taking pictures with my iPhone

18. are you a hater or a lover?
Life is too short to waste time hating, though I might make an exception for the current president.

19. any vices
Is Facebook a vice?

20. favorite questions blog other than Sunday Stealing?
I think the only other question blog I read is Saturday 9.  Maybe I'll get some good suggestions from others answering these questions.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: Him or Me -- What's It Gonna Be? (1967)

Unfamiliar with this week's tune? Hear it here. 1) In this song, a man pleads with his girlfriend to make up her mind. Do you consider yourself decisive?

Good Lord.  I am chronically wishy-washy.

Since this song is all about either/or, we're using that as our theme this Saturday ...

2) Choose a condiment: Catsup or mustard?

Depends on for what.  Basically I prefer catsup for things like hamburgers, mustard for hot dogs.  But some times I mix it up.

3) Choose a sci-fi series: Star Wars or Star Trek?

Star Trek all the way, Baby!  I saw the first Star Wars, slept through the second and didn't see any others until the recent one, which I did not understand.  At. all.  But I can quote liberally from lots and lots of TOS.

4) Choose your spy: James Bond or Jason Bourne?

While I enjoy Jason Bourne, I loved James Bond.  (Is there any other than Sean Connery?)

5) Choose your winter sport: Football or hockey?

Not really big into either (unless I'm in Santa Barbara and the 49ers are playing, when I love watching with son Tom and granddaughter Brianna).  I don't really know much about hockey.

6) Choose your breakfast: Pancakes or waffles?

Waffles, though I make them rarely because they seem more work than pancakes.

7) Choose your side: French fries or potato chips?

If they are shoestring potatoes, definitely French fries.  If they are thick clunky fries, I prefer potato chips.

8) Choose your chore: Washing dishes or doing laundry?

I'm bad at both, but slightly prefer washing dishes.

9) Choose your next-door neighbors: Munsters or Addams Family?

NEWS FROM ATRIA:  Well, the big move is in  2 days and today I told my mother she is going to move.  I didn't say when, but told her why and described the room for her.  I even cried a bit, telling her now I knew how she felt when she had to put her mother in a home.  Maybe that helped.  Anyway, she said that I'm the boss and she'll do whatever I want.  Of course by now she won't remember any more.  But she has been told.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Little Friend of Mine

19 May 2017
Little friend of mine how you'd make me laugh
Hysterically, I lived for that
We had a lot of fun
Sick and unconventionally
Straying from the norm

Everybody knows how you'd question life
Philosophize and lose sleep at night
I know how that can be
I've been there before
and now it feels like I'll be visiting again.

Look at what you've done.

But you don't have to say you're sorry
'cause I forgive the ones I love
I'll just look forward to tomorrow
But look at how I cry.

I"m pretty sick of all these tears
I know this wasn't planned at all.
Still I wish that you were here.

Little friend of mine how you'd drive me nuts
Abuse your mind and push your luck
But how I adored your brain
We had something between us--
we were both slightly insane.

Little baby brother, I know you know
I'll never let your memory go
Still I feel like I should say
Christmas might be difficult but I think that
everyone will be OK.

Just look at what you've done.

But I don't want you to worry.
'Cause everybody fucks up now and then.
It's just a part of being at an early age.

But look at how we cry.

So much we want to scream
Look, I know you were a fan and all
But this is too much like James Dean.
I know you were a fan of him
But this is too much like James Dean.
Link to video of song

Quote of the Day
It wasn't just her fingers playing, her whole body was a representation of every single note that came streaming out of her heart, represented on the keyboard. I longed to be in that place so badly, to see her face and to watch her fingers caress the keys and fight with the keys and make love with the keys and wrestle and struggle.
~ David, from The Piano

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Ya Gotta Keep Up

Yesterday I wrote about my new obsession with Morning Joe and my inability to get back to sleep after turning it on at 3 a.m.  I usually switch over to The Today Show at 7 and then background TV for the morning (because I am addicted, you know....)

Yesterday I discovered that it has become important to be aware of the news all day long or you miss things.  Things I found out yesterday:

- First, McMaster, who stood so confidently and strongly in the rose garden and told reporters that the report of Trump giving confidential information to the Russians was absolutely false.  "I was in the room.  It didn't happen," he said.  His next statement after Trump admitted giving confidential information to the Russians ("I am president.  I can do whatever I want") was "OK--it happened, but it wasn't really a big deal."  His next statement was something along the line of "OK, it was a big deal but only because it was leaked to the press." Finally, after it had been revealed that the biggie was that Trump had outed one of our operatives, "'The president didn't even know what country was involved."

- Next we learn that he did and that he had outed an Israeli operative who had infiltrated Isis.

- Then there was a report that Kim Guilfoyle announced she's in interviews to become press secretary. (Does Sean Spicer know about this? Or has he checked his mail for a note form the president?)

- Then I learned that Trump is going to Saudi Arabia to give a speech on Islam.  Well this should be interesting.  I hope someone can get him a graphic novel so he can learn a little about it before the plane lands.  This trip should be interesting.  He's visiting England, where Parliament has voted NOT to allow him to speak to the House of Commons, as very other US Presidents have done, then he goes to Israel, where he has just outed one of their operatives and has stated that the Western Wall, the holiest place where Jews are permitted to pray, is not really a part of Israel, and finally he ends up talking to the Saudis about Islam.  I can hardly wait to read the reports

- Next I heard that Trump is turning on son-in-law Jared.  Is this why we haven't seen anything of Trump's right hand daughter Ivanka lately?  Or is she too busy promoting her clothing line to be Daddy's backup this week?

- I loved his comment at a graduation speech that "No president in history has been treated as badly as I have."  Since he admittedly doesn't read, I assume he has not read a newspaper in the last 20 years.  I suspect Obama, Clinton and Bush would disagree with him! (When interviewed, John McCain said even he has been treated worse than Trump has)

- And then just before we went out to dinner, I learned that Robert Mueller had been appointed Special Counsel.  We were going to a dinner at Woodstock's pizza, which was a fund-raiser for Citizens Who Care, the group Walt has been on the board of for many years.  We sat with another member of the board and his family and then joked "Guess what we're taking about" (Trump, of course), but they had not had their TV on in the previous hour and had not heard of Mueller's appointment.

So see?  If you want to be informed, the headlines change hour by hour. and it behooves you to Be Aware.

Dinner was great.  We rarely go out to dinner in Davis, and never for pizza, so this was my first trip to this restaurant, which has been in Davis longer than we have (we have been here 43 years).  I once was called by some survey taker on pizza parlors and the only pizza place I could think of was Steve's Pizza, where we have eaten rarely when we get a hankering for pizza (or are meeting someone for dinner).

Walt ordered my favorite pizza -- Italian sausage and mushroom.  He added pesto to it and it was amazing

We need to get out more!

In the morning I went to the dementia support group, which I had not been to in some time.  With the upcoming move of my mother to the Memory Unit on Sunday, I was in need of support and got it in spades.  Everyone seems to think that I'm doing it right, and reassure me that with her level of memory loss it won't take her long to adjust to her new apartment.  Let's hope.

The best part of going to the meeting was that the two leaders work with Davis' consignment store, "All Things Right and Relevant" and are willing to come and pick up the clothes that we are donating and take them to the shop.  

Habitat for Humanity is coming the next day for the furniture and by this time next week, it will all be over and we settle into our new reality.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Joe and Mika

I don't remember when I started watching MSNBC's Morning Joe.  I heard of it for years and had checked it out once or twice, but Joe Scarborough's far right wing views and his holier than thou delivery turned me off.

But during the election, after I really had seen all the reruns of Golden Girls and Frasier that I could handle and needed some other middle-of-the-night show to put on in the hope that it would put me to sleep, I turned on Morning Joe.  Scarborough didn't seem quite as obnoxious then, probably because he was feeling about the election the way I was.  I never watched the show much anyway -- I turned the sound down to very quiet, the talking heads droned on and on and in no time at all, I was asleep.  My nightly soporific.

[aside:  I was reading an old journal entry of mine from 2008 and discovered that even then, and probably before then, I was writing about waking up every night at 3 a.m.  I still do.]

I've been watching at the show for so long now that I feel like a regular.  I have come to like Mika Brzezinski and I had to laugh when I heard she and Scarborough were engaged.  I envision a home life similar to what it must be to live in the house of James Carville and Mary Matalin.

Since the 45th president ascended the throne of power in the White House, the news reports have been getting more and more...what's the word?... depressing? infuriating? frustrating?  And as the last two weeks have progressed, with each day bringing a new tweeted scandal, it has been impossible to turn down the sound and go to sleep.  So I'm essentially waking up at 3 a.m. and just staying awake until later in the morning.  I should do what my sister-in-law does and tape the show to be watched later, but I never seem to have the time to watch it later.

A White House staffer was quoted recently as saying "can't we have just ONE crisis-free day?"  That's kind of how I feel about Morning Joe.  It would be nice to turn it on at 3 a.m. tomorrow morning and find he is talking about less incendiary topics like missile launches from North Korea or rioting in Africa or something I don't mind sleeping through.

I did go over to Atria at 1 p.m. today and found someone just getting ready to take my mother to lunch, so I went with her and had a second lunch.  She always loves the flowers on the table, always checks to see if they are real (they are), and sees them for the first time several times throughout lunch.

We ordered cheeseburgers which were so thick my mother didn't know how she was going to wrap her mouth around hers.

I told Walt when I got home that it is getting more and more difficult to find something to talk with her about.  She asks endlessly what my plans are either for the rest of the day or for the rest of my life.  I try to find something that I'm doing that she can follow, but she seems to be having difficulty following even simple sentences and often just waves me off with "I can't understand a thing you're saying."  

I used to try to make her laugh and tried that today.  She was commenting on the brown age spots on her arm again and how they made her look old and that they were ugly and she wanted to just chop her arm off.  About then, her nose began to itch, as it seems to do constantly, and she took her napkin and rubbed her nose with it.  I told her that if she chopped her arm off she would not be able to scratch her nose when it itched.  That was entirely too complicated for her to follow.  A couple of months ago we would have had a nice giggle over that.

We did talk a little about politics.  She asked me how the world was doing and I said "terrible" and then gave her a very brief outline of what is going on (she has never heard of Donald Trump, though she read the newspaper every day).  She kept demanding to know what I was going to do to fix things.

But we had a nice lunch and I told Piyush, the server from Nepal, who is my favorite (she always called the women "mama" because she can't remember everyone's name) that she would be moving to memory care next week and she was very sad, because she would probably not see her again.  I was so happy to take a picture of the two of them.  I've printed off a copy and will get it to Piyush when I am at Atria tomorrow or the next day.

I came home and took a 2 hour nap and when I woke up, I discovered that there was yet another chapter to the sharing secrets with the Russians story.  Please can't we have one non-chaotic day?  I can't even imagine what it must be to work at the White House right now!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Customer Service

This letter, unearthed in the morass of this house recently, was written in February of 1988:
Dear Pacific Bell,
You will note that my payment is for $2.90 less than the so-called "current charges" on my bill.  This is because the bill includes a charge of $3.58 for a local call charged to my calling card from a phone booth.  I spoke with someone at 811-3111 (after getting no answer at 800-288-0606) and he agreed that the charge is excessive, although he did not know what the proper charge should be.  On checkig my previous bills, I find that local calls charged at the SE rate to a calling card are 50 to 60 cents.  Allowing 10% extra, the call shoud cost no more than 68 cents, so the overcharge is at least $2.90.
Please make the necessary correction.  The call in question was placed on December 7 from 415 ###-### to 415 ###-###.
Thank you
Walt doesn't remember what the response (if any) to this letter was, but since we are still permitted to have a phone, I assume they took him at his word and subtracted the $2.90 from our bill.

Those were the days when people actually cared about customer service.  I had a few spectacular responses to respectfully worded complain letters, sometimes with photos included, like the time I complained that the bag of sugar I bought came out as a 5 lb rock, instead of grains of sugar.  I think they sent me a coupone for another sack of sugar.

When the flea spray I bought from Hartz Mountain stopped spraying after two uses, and the next can I bought also stopped spraying after two uses, I wrote to complain and a Hartz Mountain representative showed up with a whole box of Hartz Mountain products and dog toys.  The funny thing about tht is that the flea spray included in the box also stopped working after two uses.
Walt and I have Haagen Dazs mini ice cream bars for dessert after dinner but one of them I had recently was not creamy, but icy.  Rough textured.  I wrote to Haagen Dazs and received  letter of apology and SIX half pints of various ice cream flavors.

The best response, though, must have been to a letter I wrote to a fancy restaurant where every thing that could possibly go wrong did, including our table being between the stations of two waiters and each one thought the other one was serving us, so we sat and sat and sat while it got darker and darker and darker and nobody even came to light the candle on our table.  There were also problems with the food (in this very expensive restaurant).  I wish I still had the letter I wrote because it was one of my best and I got a return letter from the head chef telling me how much he enjoyed my letter, apologized for the problems, and gave me a coupon for enough that we were able to return and bring Char with us the second time.

But interest in pleasing the customer has gone downhill since then.  A restaurant we used to like here in town moved to a new location and we were anxious to try it.  We went twice and each time was a disaster, mostly due to terrible, terrible wait staff (keeping us waiting for 20 minutes when we were only one table of three with customers)..  The first time we went at 5:30 on a Sunday and they were out of THREE of the specials advertised on the menu.

Once again, I applied all my polite eloquence to my letter of complaint, certain that they would comp us on something to make up for the problems we had experienced (especially since they were essentially a brand new restaurant and I would think they would be eager to keep the customer happy).  But all I got was a letter of apology and a promise to do better next time. You don't do that to someone who is somewhat "known" in this town and who writes a blog (though I don't remember if I was writing Funny the World at that time or not, but I certainly was not shy about sharing my experience with others.  The restaurant closed about a year later and is now a successful Irish pub).

My most recent complaint letter was about Ritz crackers.  I have been eating Ritz crackers since I was a child.  My grandmother spread them with something cheesy during cocktail hour when we had dinner at her house.  I haven't bought them in awhile, though.  I did pick some up when Caroline was here to have a selection of crackers if she wanted to snack.

The box I bought had four sleeves of crackers and when I opened the first sleeve, every single cracker turned to crumbs.  It was the same with every single sleeve.  I ended up using them as toppings for a casserole.

Thinking that the problem was with the store's handling of a shipment, I bought another identical box.  I very carefully lifted each sleeve out, opened it with scissors, to avoid putting pressure on the crackers, and the exact same thing happened with each sleeve.  On the off chance that you could lift out a whole cracker, as soon as you got it in your hand, it crumbled.

I sent a letter, along with the above photos to prove my point, thinking that I would at least get a coupon for another box.  But, no.  These days nobody gives a fig for customer satisfaction.  I guess that's one of the advantages of overpopulation.  If a shmuck like me gives up on buying your product, there are a bunch of others waiting in line to buy boxes.  Ritz doesn't seem to be hurting for customers.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Mothers Day

Another Mothers Day is in the can, as they say.  And it was a nice day.  I slept until 8:30 and when I woke up, Walt was off at Mass because he's the good on in the family.

But when I got up, I found these lovely roses on the kitchen table and an envelope which I chose not to open until he got home.  I'm glad I waited because if the table were turned, I would have wanted to see his reaction when he opened it. 
I knew I had to share it, so I made a brief, 20 second video, if you're interested.

We went to Café Italia, where I have lunch with Kathy once a month and it was a very nice meal, which started with mimosas...
They have a special menu on Mothers Day, the only day you can get crab cakes Benedict, which are delicious.
While we were eating, a man came around with a big tray of chocolate covered strawberries only for the mothers.  Walt was not offered one.

It was just 11 a.m. when we finished and I decided that was too early to go to Atria, so we waited until 1 and then went to visit my mother . Each holiday that we share together, I wonder if it's going to be the last one.  Whether she is here next year or not, it really was the last video in this apartment.

Walt came with me this time and he got to see her when she is good, but making no sense in whatever she talks about.  She did spend a lot of time talking about the trees outside and that made her smile.

Since conversation was all but impossible, we didn't stay the full hour, but I did snap pictures of the furniture we want to donate because Habitat for Humanity is interested but wanted to see what we had to share.  I have to go back tomorrow anyway to pick up laundry, so I will visit more then.

Walt went up to the University to visit with Ned, who was working at the sound booth of the Whole Earth Festival, as he has done almost every year since the festival started (except for the years when Lawsuit performed there).  In the afternoon, after a nap, I had a nice chat with Jeri. 

Tom called in the evening, but the girls were too tied up with TV to do anything but wish me a happy Mothers Day.  However Tom told me they had gone to a stage version of Into the Woods in LA that afternoon. It was their first real stage show, and reports were that they loved it.  Makes me feel good!

I asked Walt if he would mind picking up dinner somewhere.  I had planned on cooking, but for some reason, my thigh muscles on both legs ached as if I'd just climbed a mountain, or performed 100 squat exercises, neither of which I had done.  I often have sore muscles (it's tough work to be a couch potato!), but this was worse than usual.  He agreed to go out to Panda Express for dinner and we enjoyed honey walnut shrimp, orange chicken, chow mein and fried rice.  I will try not to take it as a bad omen that my fortune cookie was empty.

So all things considered, it was really a pleasant Mother's Day and I am a happy mom, headed off to sleep.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Sobering Thought

I have talked before about Swap Bot.  It is an on-line group you join for the purpose of sharing things with people.  Lots of different things.  You may sign up to send certain kinds of post cards to your partner, or partners.  I like the "journal" swaps where you create a journal out of art things or writing or poems or whatever.  There are exchanges where the more crafty among us will share things like quilt squares or different kinds of art work.  There are postage stamp swaps and tea swaps and chocolate swaps and sticker swaps. I learned about Pocket Letters from Swap Bot (though my passion for them seems to have run its course at the moment).  There are lots of pen pal exchanges, the hope being that a pen pal relationship will develop between partners (so far I have not achieved that).  I join a lot of pen pal swaps, but avoid the ones where it is mandatory that letters be hand written.

Occasionally you will find a swap where you answer a series of questions and either mail it or email it to your partner(s).  Kind of like Sunday Stealing.

I stopped doing most international exchanges when I package I sent, which was suppposed to be something like $10 worth of things purchased at the dollar store, could not be delivered.  The package was returned to me with a note saying it was undeliverable, though I had the right address.  It had cost so much to mail it to England (far more than it was worth) that I didn't want to recreate the package and re-send it, so I offered to send my partner the something else instead.  I was marked down for that and was unable to qualify for some swaps since then.  So now I only do international post card exchanges, or exchanges that are sending a Sunday stealing type of swap by email to other countries.

Maybe it's a "you had to have been there" kind of thing, but I have been with Swap Bot for six years and enjoy it -- it's always nice to get some sort of oddball thing from a total stranger in the mail, now that snail mail is all but dead.

Recently I signed up for a swap called "Know it All."  The partial instructions for this swap read, "you will write a letter (around 2 pages long) about something you are very knowledgeable about to TWO PARTNERS: for example a favorite hobby or passion of yours, or even something you dislike but happen to know a lot about."

It amused me to see that when the deadline for signing up came only three people had signed up for the swap.  One was the woman who initiated the swap, I was the second, and a woman I have come to know, somewhat, through one of the discussion groups which are also a part of Swap Bot.  I was not surprised to find her listed, as she does come across as someone who knows a lot about a lot of things and I am eager to find out what she chooses for her thing to write about.  Apparently nobody else felt like a know it all!

As I thought over things that I know lots about, I thought of the "periods" of my life.  When I have been interested in something, I jump in head first and often go overboard learning about that "thing" that I am currently interested in.  The pocket letters are a good example (though I by no means know all about them).  

In my childhood, I could have written about animal books that I loved and my obsession with Albert Payson Terhune and his collies.  I could definitely have written about Judy Garland, since I kept a 12-volume scrapbook about her and still have a whole shelf filled with just books written about her 
I probably could have written a decent tome on cooking and cookbooks.  I once had a huge collection of cookbooks that I finally gave away, leaving only three shelves of books remaining.  I almost never use those books any more now that you can google just about any recipe you want, but there are some interesting ones, like the book written for housewives during World War II, for how to make things out of the little that they were rationed (Walt used to make a lamb chop recipe from that book that I always loved).  There is a whole book about pies that I keep just because it has my favorite recipe for Lemon Meringue pie.  There is a bread cookbook that I haven't used since I got my bread maker, but keep because I might want to make cumin bread again some day.  Likewise, the soup book I keep in case I have a leftover lamb bone and want to make Lamb Soup of the Middle-east, my favorite soup.

But what I chose to write about, and perhaps it is the thing that I really do have the most knowledge about, is The Lamplighters.  When I started thinking about how to explain my knowledge of The Lamplighters (and peripherally Gilbert and Sullivan), it hit me that I am perhaps the only person in the world who knows as much about the Lamplighters.

There are people who have been around for decades, but the people currently performing, even if they have been with the company for 10 years or more, don't know the early history, especially since those people don't even know there have been two published histories (no longer available).

Co-founder Orva Hoskinson, who died this year, at age 90, stopped being involved several years ago, and his partner, Ann Pool-MacNab left the company in the 1960s.  She is now more or less housebound by physical problems but has not had any but the most peripheral contact with the company in many years.

My co-author, Alison Lewis, knows as much about the early years of the company as I do, since we worked together to write the two histories, but she has stopped being involved for the last many years.  Walt and I still attend shows, and a few social events, so we are still keeping in our oar, as they say.

I may well be the person who knows more about the Lamplighters than any other person and that is quite a sobering thought.  My knowledge of the goings on outside of the shows themselves is less intense than it was when I was working in the office for those years that I worked, and those years when we were collecting material for the books, but I am still at least peripherally aware of what is happening, which keeps me up to date.
So I wrote my "Know it All" entry about the Lamplighters and managed to condense it into three typed pages which may or may not be of interest to my partners.  I am still humbled by the thought that all things Lamplighter are stored in my head!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

A rose is a rose

Today Ned and I took my mother to the McKinley Park rose garden in Sacramento.  Ned has been wanting to do this for months but had to wait for the roses to bloom...and then when they reached their peak, he was on the road, driving from Houston to Sacramento.  So the roses are slightly past peak, but still an amazing, dazzling display of color.

We almost didn't make it.  When I went to Atria she was asleep and didn't think she could stand up.  I became Ned or Jeri and jollied her to sitting, then gave her coffee, which woke her up a bit.  She got emotional when she asked "where's Mom?" and I had to tell her that her mother had been dead for 60 years.  She was sad that she didn't even know that.

But eventually I got her out into the car, not having a clue where she was or where she was going, but by the time we got to the park near Ned's house, she was a bit more with it.  Ned, bless him, met the car, got us out right across the street from the entrance to the park and then took the car and parked it, so we would not have to walk far.

Ned was such a good guy.  He had packed a lunch for us and thought of everything.  He bought white balloon bread, which he remembered my mother always made her sandwiches on when she made lunch for him as a kid.  He went and found olives because my mother had always said "it's not a party without olives."

He made a delicious fruit salad and he packed beverages -- wine for himself and his grandmother and water for me.

We were at a bench in the shade, just outside of the garden itself and my mother kept exclaiming over and over about how beautiful the flowers (and trees!) were.

I left the two of them sitting there and I went off to wander through the garden and take some photos.
Eventually, my mother was getting cold so they joined me in the garden and we wandered around looking at all the roses.  My mother especially seemed to like the huge bushes of white roses.  In fact, whenever we were talking about anything, she would interrupt to say "aren't those white roses beautiful?"

It was finally time to leave -- I needed to get the car home for Walt, who was going to San Francisco that night.  Ned went and got the car for us and parked it in "movie star parking" (directly opposite the entrance to the garden--Thank you, Gilbert) and we said our goodbyes.

Instead of getting on the freeway, knowing how much my mother loves trees and knowing that Sacramento is officially a "Tree City," I drove through town and, not surprisingly, she just loved looking at all the trees.

I dropped her off at Atria and while she didn't know where she was going, I knew she would be able to find her apartment (I won't be able to do that after she moves next week) and I came home to nap for a couple of hours, since I'd had so little sleep the night before.

While still vague and demented, she was so much better at the end of our adventure than she was when she woke up, that I felt good about the trip and am encouraged to think about the possibility of her having more social interaction with folks in the memory care unit, which can only be good for her.

Thanks, Ned, for following through on this.  It was a great day and you made your grandmother very happy! (Me too.)