A PAUSE FOR GRATITUDE

Lots of people are on the road this Thanksgiving to visit family and friends.  When we first moved to Washington, we used to make the trek over 4 mountain passes to our hometown in Montana.  Both of our families lived there and Thanksgiving was a big holiday.  Year after year we would run into BAD weather either on the front end or the back end.  We both worked fulltime and didn’t have the luxury of waiting for better weather.  We also couldn’t afford to fly all of us.  Airfare to Montana is notoriously expensive!

After we moved to California, the Thanksgiving trips stopped.  The three of us created our own traditions.  Thanksgiving day involved going for a walk, seeing a movie and then maybe going out to dinner.  We also tried take out several times.  Eating out became less enjoyable because the food wasn’t ever all that great and the service wasn’t great either.  Plus, we both like turkey leftovers.  I started doing a little cooking but always kept it really simple. 

We continue to celebrate a simple Thanksgiving.  This year it includes a walk and a movie, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.  We may have crab for dinner or I might throw a little turkey breast in the oven when we get home.

I’ve been trying to stick to a daily gratitude practice.  As usual for me, it is pretty hit and miss.  But this Thanksgiving I want to take a pause for gratitude.  Like many of you, my list is long and filled with both big and very little things.

Here are just a few:

  • I am now a 6-year cancer survivor and am in OK health (I have room for improvement!)
  • I’ve been married to a kind and generous man for 44 years.
  • I can take long walks every day and do a little traveling
  • I finally have time to read for pleasure every single day
  • I have amazing friends, ranging from my first friend to my meilleur ami to my other Montana friends to my California friends to my work friends over the years to my newest friend who is also a neighbor
  • I treasure my 2 favorite necklaces – one from my daughter and one to commemorate being cancer free
  • My 2 Christmas cacti survived the summer smoke and are blooming (both are long ago gifts from family and friends)
  • Our new water heater is doing a fine job
  • Our daughters are wise and kind, the 5 grandchildren are also kind and doing wonderfully well, and we are blessed with 3 smart and talented sons-in-law

And now here is the best part – all my family (who can make it) will be coming next weekend to help me celebrate my 70th birthday!

It doesn’t get any better than that 😊.

The older you get, the more you realize how precious life is.  You have no desire for drama, conflict, or stress.  You just want a cozy home, good food on the table, and be surrounded by people who make you happy.

my_good_old_days

Happy Thanksgiving!

Allene

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GOODS & SERVICES

The problems with the supply chain for goods has been discussed ad nauseum. It looks like the issues are slowly resolving, at least to my eye.  Stores seem to have an abundance of marginal merchandise these days.

At my age, goods have become less important than services, with some notable exceptions!

Our water heater recently stopped working.  It didn’t die a gradual death, it was quick 😊.  So, we needed a new water heater ASAP.  We checked in with our trusty HVAC provider to get fixed up.

His response:

We don’t have the manpower to install water heaters.

Jesse, Sunset Air

Fortunately, he had an alternative vendor in mind and they quickly fixed us up (for an arm and a leg).  We knew that water heater replacement wasn’t a DIY project and needed a skilled worker to do the job.  Ours is gas and he had to change out all the fixtures to meet current building and safety codes.  He did a great job and we are happy.

But the point is, skilled workers are increasingly scarce and we need them!

There are many examples of a lack of workers in retail.  My friend recently went to Macy’s. The store was a mish mash of unrelated merchandise and there was no one who could assist her.  I have been there as well and it is tough to even find a staffed register for check out. And we all know of restaurants with reduced hours due to a lack of staff.

When I was working, I vowed to not go out to eat/shop during the noon hour or at 5.  I wanted to leave that time for working people who had no alternative.  When I go out to eat these days at 1 or later, the places are often packed with ‘working age’ people.  I’m not sure if they have jobs with very flexible schedules or???? 

I truly don’t know what happened to the workforce during the pandemic. 

I just know that there aren’t enough skilled workers out there to provide the services we need or will need, such as:

  • Caregivers
  • Mechanics
  • Electricians
  • Plumbers
  • Carpenters
  • Retail
  • Food service
  • And the list goes on!

It is kind of scary to contemplate the future!

A skilled worker, regardless of the job description, remains a treasure.

Madeleine M. Kunin

Allene

THE BIG DARK

In Seattle:

Historically, July has the most sunshine, with 312 hours on average. Sunshine declines in fall and winter, a time known as the Big Dark, with only 53 hours on average in December.

axios.com, 10/22/22

This is the first year I have heard the term, ‘the big dark’.  But it is an apt description of our very short days this time of year.  While this November has been sunny, in past years it is our rainiest month.  With gray skies, it is hard to figure out when the sun set without checking my phone. 

Sunset today is 4:31 PM.

Speaking of sunset, Google photos sent me a collage of many of my sunset photos.  They were taken in Washington, Hawaii (the most spectacular sunsets), and Italy.  I have a thing about taking pictures at dusk as the sun goes down.

I love the sky as the sun is setting – when I can see it, that is 😊.  But I must admit that during the late fall and winter I much prefer being home at dusk with the lights on.

My mom did not like dusk in the winter months.  She said it made her feel lonely.  I imagine that was particularly true for those 12 years she lived alone after my dad died.

Seeing my sunset collage made me think of my mom and her loneliness in the early evening hours.

Long dead and buried in another town, my mother isn’t finished with me yet.

Louise Penny, The Madness of Crowds

On the subject of of Louise Penny, her new book: A World of Curiosities, is being released on November 29th.

For me, reading a book by Louise Penny is the perfect way to spend my time in ‘the big dark’!

Stories are light. Light is precious in a world so dark.

Kate DiCamillo

Allene

OLD SCHOOL

I once used the term ‘OLD SCHOOL’ in a somewhat pejorative manner.  I would call people who weren’t doing well with leadership changes, not keeping pace with technology, or just not ‘with it’, OLD SCHOOL.

I now regret both using that term and thinking that way! 

In retirement I am embracing the term OLD SCHOOL in new ways. I like this definition:

Anything that is from an earlier era and looked upon with high regard or respect

Urban dictionary

I had fun the other day coming up with my own list of my OS (OLD SCHOOL) favorites in no particular order:

  • A moleskin paper calendar – I am finally moving back to paper and letting my Google calendar go. Our daughter has also used a moleskin calendar for years.
  • Longchamp bags – still my go to bag.  I love the weight, colors, and weather resistant material
  • Cetaphil face wash – my friends and I use this reliable and gentle cleanser that works for everyone
  • Betty Crocker Cookbook – mine is from 1978 (the year we were married).  It’s had so much use the pages are falling out
  • Murchie’s tea – this Canadian company has been around since 1894 and its tea is a must buy on every trip to Canada
  • Music and movies from the 40’s – 60’s – including White Christmas and a Charlie Brown Christmas of course!

My OS list is longer, but I will stop there.  My friend would also add books on paper to her list.

I then made a list of things that are standing the test of time for me, but don’t quite qualify as OS:

The meaning of things lies not in the things themselves but in our attitude towards them.

Antoine De Saint-Exupery

Allene

HERO!

I started 8th grade in the fall of 1967 and had a fine time with my meilleur ami that year.  In addition to school, we were hanging out with BOYS, sneaking out at night, shopping, and going to our first concert: Chad and Jeremy.

The Vietnam war was in full force that year. Other than reports on the news, it wasn’t really on my radar.  I didn’t know people who served with a couple of exceptions – my first friend’s brother (1969-1972) and the brother of another friend (in 1969).

My husband was 19 in 1967 and enlisted in the Marines. He was deployed to Vietnam later that year. He was trained as a sniper stateside and, FORTUNATELY, they lost his paperwork when he landed in the country.  He was a machine gunner instead. 

He was wounded in the Tet Offensive on January 31, 1968. 

My husband was a member of the Second Battalion of the Third Marines fighting near Da Nang when his patrol was ambushed in a rice patty with little protection. His platoon was wiped out and he received two gunshot wounds in the right arm. The men/boys on each side of him were killed. He was airlifted by helicopter off the battlefield to various locations and had surgery in Japan.

We are most optimistic about his recovery and consider him fortunate, considering the circumstances under which the injuries occurred.

My husband’s father

If you aren’t familiar with the Tet Offensive, this is a great summary

In February 1968, in the wake of the Tet Offensive, the respected TV journalist Walter Cronkite, who had been a moderate and balanced observer of the war’s progress, announced that it seemed “more certain than ever that the bloody experience of Vietnam is to end in a stalemate.”

History.com

In retrospect, the Tet Offensive was a turning point for the US involvement and it stoked the anti-war sentiment on the home front.

Back to my husband. He eventually made it to Bremerton, WA for rehab before being shipped to Camp Pendleton, CA where he was eventually discharged.

When we got married 44 years ago, I didn’t fully grasp the impact of my husband’s Vietnam war experience. 

There is no way someone can go through what he did at such a young age and completely leave that in the rear view mirror. Despite that experience, or maybe because of it, he has certainly been a success in all respects and is a great husband, father, and grandfather.

I’ve learned more about his time in Vietnam over the years and am incredibly proud of his service. He is a hero to me and I know his daughters and grandchildren feel the same way!

Happy Veteran’s Day to him and all who served.

Allene

Photo credit for today’s collage: AH and AMJ

KEEP TACOMA FEARED – PROCTOR DISTRICT

We lived in Pierce County (home of Tacoma) in the 1980’s.  At that time, Tacoma was known for crime, particularly in certain parts of the city.  We moved to California in 1991.

Note: I don’t know if the crime data at the time really supported Tacoma’s reputation but, unfortunately, perception = reality ☹.

We moved back to Pierce County in 2008 and found a whole new vibe, particularly in certain Tacoma neighborhoods.  The slogan: ‘Keep Tacoma Feared’ was bandied about to stop an influx of newcomers moving into our ‘special place’.

One of our favorite haunts in Tacoma is the Proctor District in North Tacoma. It is a great mix of older well restored homes, shops and restaurants, with a small movie theater, a farmer’s market, and some apartments.  It is a perfect place for a walk to enjoy the fall colors.

We usually head there every week or so and here are some favorites:

  • Metropolitan Market – a regional market with great produce, seafood, meats, and a deli.  We are particularly enamored with their house made salmon patties and cioppino.
  • Proctor’s Farmers Market – a small market with lots of fresh stuff in season.  My favorite is corn roasted empanadas for brunch or lunch.
  • Top Pot doughnuts – also part of a regional chain.  The maple old fashioned is 😊.
  • Browne’s Tasting Room – their wines are a real treat and they offer some interesting flights in their cozy tasting room.
  • Restaurants – Cactus ( a southwest style menu with good appetizers and drinks), Pomodoro (Italian food that gets great reviews),  Viva (a vegan restaurant that gets good reviews from my vegan friend), and Crudo and Cotto (good Happy Hour and house wines). A little farther afield, we like the Rosewood Café for lunch, and Cook’s Tavern for breakfast.  Some of these have been a bit hit and miss during the pandemic but are fortunately surviving! There are a number of other restaurants in the area, but these are the ones I have either tried or are recommended by my friends.

There are other places worth exploring in the area and the University of Puget Sound campus is nearby.

It’s not necessary to go far and wide. I mean, you can really find exciting and inspiring things within your hometown.

Daryl Hanna

Generally, I try not to envy people. But two of my friends live in the Proctor district and I am green with envy 😊!

Allene

TAKING FRIDAYS OFF

When I was working fulltime, there was something about Fridays.  After an intense week (which most of them were), I wanted to change it up on Fridays.  It was great if I could take it off (a rare event) but if not I tried to keep my calendar open.  I spent my Fridays dealing with loose ends from the week and planning for the upcoming week.  I didn’t mind meetings or calls in the morning, but we all dreaded a long, and usually stressful, meeting in the afternoon that went until 5 PM.  I would leave those meeting stressed, preoccupied, and knowing I had a 1 ½ hour commute ahead.  It was even worse in the dark and rainy winter months.  When I was in a position of authority, I tried to keep Fridays manageable for my staff.

In retirement, I still have a fair amount of structure to my days.  I keep a calendar (appointments) and a ‘to do’ list (tasks, errands, chores), as do most of my no longer working fulltime friends (with a few notable exceptions).  I took an informal poll of my friends to be sure I was in good company and I am.  Many of us keep a list, either written or on our phones.  It is much less structured than when we worked, but a list it is. 

Here is a note from one of my friends about her ‘to do’ list:

Daily, written in a notebook!! A must, love it.

JP

Now back to Fridays.  I had a particularly stressful week recently.  It involved two commutes to Seattle and one of those on a day that Vice President Harris was in town, making for particularly brutal traffic.  We had 3 high stakes doctors’ appointments that all turned out well.  That Thursday night I decided I was going to take Friday off – no appointments, tasks, or unnecessary chores and just focus on self-care.

I think ‘self- care’ sounds good but is an often overused ill defined term.  I finally found a description that works for me:

Nurturing yourself is an important step towards feeling grateful……Focus on six categories: emotional (feel-good activities), practical (things like washing dishes), intellectual (challenging your mind), physical (stretching or a walk), spiritual (looking beyond yourself – e.g. time in nature or prayer), and social (connecting with people).

Judy Ho, Ph.D., clinical neuropsychologist

Dr. Ho doesn’t suggest you knock all 6 off on any given day, but to consciously include a self-care activity every day. I have unconsciously followed her advice for years, but it is easy to get in a rut. So, I would suggest changing them up on a regular basis.

Moving forward, I am going to try and keep my Fridays as unscheduled as possible and spend that time doing what I enjoy the most – spending time alone or with my husband, being with family or friends, reading, walking, going to a movie, meditating.  My chores and tasks can wait – that is part of the joy and freedom of no longer having a set work schedule!

Allene

AND IF YOU HAVEN’T VOTED IN THE MIDTERMS ALREADY, GET ON IT!

UNLOCKED/LOCKED DOORS

When I was growing up, I was pretty much a free-range kid as were my friends.  We headed out in the morning to play, came home for lunch, went out again, came home for dinner, went out yet again, and only came home when the streetlights came on 😊.  Our parents had a vague idea where we were but weren’t in constant contact since we pretty well stayed in the neighborhood.

“You don’t remember the times your dad held your handle bars. You remember the day he let go.”

Lenore Skenazy, Free-Range Kids: Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts with Worry

Our doors were rarely locked, probably for 2 reasons.  The first was that our parents apparently weren’t concerned about safety and, second, because they knew we would lose any key that came our way.  So, what was the point?

Note: Our hometown was then the largest city in Montana with a population of just over 55,000.

We left Montana in the late 70’s, but my parents stayed in the house I grew up in.  My dad died in 1982, but my mom stayed put.

On April 4, 1994, my mom was subjected to what would now be called a home invasion robbery.  Two juveniles (one was her paperboy), attempted to rob her at gunpoint.  They broke a small window in her front door with a stolen gun and pointed it at her.  Fortunately, the door was locked. They left when she called the police. Have I ever mentioned that my mom was a tough customer?!  She was 84 at the time. They went on to rob a gas station later that night and shot the attendant twice.  The attendant was paralyzed. 

The recent home invasion and horrific assault on 82 year old Paul Pelosi reminded me of my mom’s ordeal. 

Fortunately, she wasn’t physically hurt but I am sure the trauma continued for the remaining 6 months of her life.  She died in October of that same year.

Back to unlocked doors.  I moved back to my hometown in 2007 for a brief stint.  While the population was about the same as it was when I was growing up (just over 56,000), I know I locked my door while I was in the house or out and about in the neighborhood.  Maybe it is because I have lived in urban areas for so long that I am careful, but I also learned a lesson from my mom’s experience. I just always lock my door, regardless of where we happen to live.

Wishing Mr. Pelosi a speedy recovery!

Allene

BOOSTERS ARE A BREEZE!

Like President Biden, we also got our bivalent COVID 19 booster earlier this week.  It was ‘easy peasy’! 

We frequent our neighborhood Rite Aid pharmacy and they all know us by now.  Scheduling was simple and we received several reminders up to an hour before our appointment.  It probably took about 10 minutes total.  All I had after was a sore arm for a few days. 

I know/hope that most of you have already gotten your booster, as well. 

According to this NYT article , there is a declining interest in boosters, even among older people.  We all know by now that people over 65 are at a much higher risk of severe disease and death from a COVID infection, so go figure!

I think there are probably multiple reasons for the dismal uptake.  There hasn’t been a full court press to get this booster into arms, many people are no longer concerned about COVID and see it as yesterday’s news, or think they can take a course of Paxlovid and be fine, and doctors (a credible source of information) may not be reminding patients.

Note: My husband and I both saw our primary care providers this week.  I was at least asked if I was up to date on my immunizations (duh!), and my husband was specifically asked if he had been boosted. 

People also may not have access to technology for easy scheduling or transportation to a nearby pharmacy. 

With a possible winter surge in the offing (infections are on the rise in Europe), get your booster if you haven’t and encourage/support/help someone do the same.

Family members, friends, co-workers and neighbors also influence health decisions and behavior, and Kaiser studies show that they can help increase vaccination rates.

For those on the fence, “asking or reminding your parent or grandparent about the new booster can make quite a difference.”

Dr. Mollyann Brodie, Executive Director of Public Opinion, Kaiser Family Foundation

My friend and I were reminiscing about October of 2020 when there wasn’t a vaccine, we were sporting our cloth masks 😊, and COVID was creating havoc. Thinking back to those times, these vaccines are nothing short of a miracle!

Before I sign off, a bit on masks.  My husband and I still wear our masks in most indoor settings. He manages to do over 40 minutes a day in the gym on an elliptical while masked. Masks are still required in health care setting here, but they are now a rare sight at other indoor environments.  With a winter surge possible and a low uptake of boosters, plus flu and RSV in the mix, you gotta wonder what the 3rd coronavirus winter will bring!

We haven’t had COVID yet (that we know of) and I would like to keep it that way if at all possible.

Allene

NO LONGER AN EXCEPTION

I just returned from a chilly (48 degrees) morning walk.  The sun is out, the skies are clear, and the fall colors are stunning.  This should be a regular experience in October in W. Washington, with the exception of days when it rains.

Unfortunately, in October 2022, this morning felt like a one off.

According to the Seattle Times, in King County we have had 13 days of unhealthy air since August 1.  I don’t know how many of those days were in October, now called ‘Smoketober’, but it feels like a lot ☹. It now seems like Moderate Air Quality is the new Good!

Since 2017, we have had 4 years with a ‘smoke season’ – usually occurring somewhere between August 1 and the end of October.  I think that we all thought each year was a bit of a fluke, but the data is saying something different. 

What is particularly concerning this year is that the smoke is coming from wildfires in W. Washington. Wildfires in W. Washington used to be a fairly rare.

The most problematic fire so far is the Bolt Creek Fire.  It started on 9/10 and is still only 43% contained – bring on the fall rains!  It is believed to be human caused and a vehicle fire is the possible culprit.  While we can’t blame climate change for this particular fire, climate change does increase the odds for wildfires overall.  I didn’t make this up, here is an article from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association about the connection.

As I write this, I want to acknowledge that wildfire smoke is a big deal throughout the West this time of year.  My point is that W. Washington is no longer an exception and I can no longer be smug.

What does this mean for my daily exercise routine?

I am following Danny Westneat’s advice and hanging on to my N-95 masks and wearing them on my walks (in addition to wearing them in crowded spaces for COVID prevention).  Even masked, I don’t exercise outdoors when the air quality is either Unhealthy or Very Unhealthy.  When that happens, I bite the bullet and go to the gym.  I am not a big fan of exercising indoors, but that is looking like my new reality for ‘smoke season’!

Hang onto those N95’s.  It turns out the whole pandemic routine of masking and staying home might have just been practice for a condition more permanent.

Danny Westneat, Seattle Times columnist, 10/23/22

Allene