Saturday, February 3, 2018

Christmas in excess

Disclaimer:  I was working on this blog in Maui when the false missile alert occurred.  That seemed more timely, so I put this one on hold.  This posting is a bit unseasonably late.
Portland's outdoor Christmas Tree
 I enjoy the holidays and have learned to embrace the 'less is more' philosophy of last year*—until this year.  Being raised Catholic, our Thai student had plenty of Christmas seasons, but no country does over the top celebrating like the US, especially the commercial, excessive, and secular parts.  We decided to share the whole experience.

The Jingle Bell Walk
Special events are part of this season.  Even I participated in both, one traditional and one new.  Every year, Earl organizes a Jingle Bell walk.  They walk from downtown hotel to hotel looking at (and judging) the holiday decorations. This year since the weather was good, Skeeter, me, and the granddaughters joined in.  We were concerned that the size of our group would discourage hotel staff from allowing us in–but they welcomed our large group in and showed off their Christmas decorations with pride.  It was fun and we finished at the downtown bakery for coffee, chocolate, and treats.

Christmas Lights from car
Viewing Christmas light displays sounds great, but it's often cold and wet in Portland in December.  Kids often don't enjoy that, no matter what adults may think.  This year we viewed the lights at the Portland International Raceway from the warmth of our car.  Uncharacteristically, there was no traffic, no rain, no ice on the roads, and no tears. 

Every year, we come up with a non-traditional menu but I was running out of new ideas.  We had done Italian, Asian, Greek, Middle Eastern and were beginning to recycle through the international cuisines. I had two requirements for a fun Christmas dinner—good food and a rowdy house.  The solution came from both family and friends.  Our daughter Heidi and her husband Michael suggested New Orleans Creole/Southern food and we happen to have friends who were lifelong New Orleanians.  So launched the Mardi Gras Christmas—over the top, colorful, and fun. 
Mardis Gras Invitation

Pam, the head dΓ©cor elf, enlisted the help of a granddaughter**.  We were the perfect team—one general, one soldier, and me. It was even more perfect once I left to take my nap and got out of the way.

I always fessed up to being a big tree dictator.***  But even our Thai student was surprised at how big the tree was and how fast we bought it.  Niece Jill, the tree elf**, dutifully put over 2300 lights on (what, too much?).  Even Earl got into the 'elf' mode and created his own themed tree topper.  A star?–no, an angel?–no.  It's a Mardi Gras themed top hat with birds! 
Our over the top tree

Christmas Eve
Our daughter in law and son hosted a Christmas eve pajama party.  Having no themed pajamas, Earl and I had to order some in order to fit in.  The grandaughters provided entertainment and Porter provided extra 'sloppy dog' hugs.

Christmas dinner was quite the happening.  With 22 people in the house and three tables, it was loud and fun. There was no sign of a holiday minimalist*.  In spite of the icy, inclement weather that cancelled many Christmas celebrations, only one guest couldn't make it. Good thing or we would have had a lot of New Orleans Creole/Southern food left over. 
Christmas Dinner

The lesson:  It was certainly an excessive Christmas celebration and fun as well.

*Previous post: Minimizing the Holidays
**Previous post: The Holiday Elves
***Previous post: The Holiday Dictator

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Always Something New in Paradise*

Just when I thought we could do nothing new in Maui, the nuclear missile alert happened.  It's always something.

At 8:00 am, Earl’s out for his beach walk and waiting for the start of the Maui High School canoe races.

I’m in the condo when I get the first alert. At the same time, with canoes about to go in the water, all activity was halted.  As a wheelchair-bound person, I was concerned, but not panicked.  I mean, really?
First alert 8:04 1/13/2018

To Earl
T: Interesting alert. Where would we go for shelter from a nuclear missile?  More to the point, does it matter?

E: Not sure. Turn on the news

T: The news says if you’re outdoors, go indoors.  If you’re indoors, stay away from the windows.  They said that they will let people know when the alert is over.

E: Do they say anything about when the canoe races are going to start? (He was just yanking my chain. He really came back to the condo)
8:34 Oops. Nevermind 😳
My first clue that there was no cause for concern was when I tried to get further safety instructions and all I could find on the TV were ball games. The 'oops' came 35 minutes later.  The second clue was the total lack of sirens.  The Hawaiian islands test the warning sirens monthly.  The system is sound and residents take it seriously.

From our niece, currently on Oahu, taking care of her school aged twin cousins and her 80-year-old aunt with Alzheimer's.  That's when I began to appreciate the variance in response to an alert depending on one's age, responsibilities and location.  Pearl Harbor and Hickam Field are on the island of Oahu. 
Wow, classic scene in Hawaii during a missle alert, watching the paddlers pause. We’re all ok. As I woke up & rushed my little cousins to the tub (less windows), Aunty Susie sat at the table eating her breakfast & sipping her coffee with no worry 😊 while I scurried around to confirm the news. Odd—no communication from the governor or mayor over cell phones or TV.
We started hearing from friends and family on the mainland.  The threat over, most were curious about the response.  It varied between trying to get a flight out of the islands (are you kidding me?) to turning over in bed and going back to sleep.  One friend called Earl and asked if we just hugged one another.  Another friend, old enough to remember the 'duck and cover' days, texted...

The lesson: Wouldn’t you hate to be the person who accidentally pushed the button and sent the false alert? 😜

*Previous post: Nothing New in Paradise

Monday, November 13, 2017

The High School Reunion

The Lake Theater and Cafe
For the last year, I had been part of a 10–member committee planning our 50th High school Reunion.  Lincoln High in the 60s was the 'downtown' high school and was also the newest, being the 2nd iteration.  Fifty+ years later it's falling, like us, into disrepair and is slated for replacement (unlike us).

Lincoln & committee c. 1967
Although I had physical disabilities, I had only minor cognitive decline, related to being 68 rather than my ataxia.  The benefit was that I still remembered how to design and use a database—very beneficial with the data collection tasks.

Accumulating alumni information over the course of a year insured that I would recognize most classmates.  It also gave me an opportunity to catch up in advance of the reunion.  The rest of the committee members didn't have that advantage.  Incorporating the reunion planning committee as a new group into my 'village'* was an unexpected benefit. It was more fun than planning a wedding–fewer details, I didn't have to buy an outfit, and, best of all, it wasn't my party πŸ‘. 

Great weather, good view
Breaking with the common custom of having a sit–down dinner, the committee had chosen a casual, low key venue.  We selected a local theater cafe with an outdoor deck, good food, good accessibility and alcohol. Not wanting to have a big, formal do–dah, the event dress code required only shirt and shoes. After all, this wasn't the Academy Awards.  It seemed like people dressed comfortably (no glitz in sight), and that was the goal.  Scheduling the event for the last weekend of September was gutsy, but the unpredictable northwest weather cooperated that evening and the next day.  No rain, not too cold, not too hot–just right...πŸ˜….

The turnout
I wasn't the only mobility–impaired person, and had many years of getting over some of my vanity.  I was ready for this humiliation bullet.  Many people had their own life lemons with which to deal, and others to whom another's lemon just didn't matter.  I did, however, get my nails done and my gray roots colored.  There is a limit to how much vanity one can ignore**. πŸ˜‰

A 50th high school reunion can a momentous event to some, a non–event to others.  In the course of 50 years, everyone has life's ups and downs with which to deal.  Overall, the turnout was great, but it did take a little coaxing of fence-sitting alums who weren't sure that they wanted to attend.  The committee members just wanted people to come by any means possible.  We found an engaging article about ' reunion reticence' written in the New York Times and published it on our Facebook Page.  Excerpted from it:
"On the surface, high school reunions are a chance to reminisce, reconnect and discover who has been posting deceptively flattering photos on Facebook. But the collision of past and present is also a time of self-reflection, measuring who you are against what you wished for yourself and what you think your peers expected of you.

For some, reunions offer vindication. For others, they’re a dreaded reckoning. For many they really are just a chance to catch up. But what most everyone has in common is some level of anxiety, as the insecurities of the past get thrust into the present."
As retirement nears, people’s lives start to resemble each other’s once again. There’s less drinking and more talking, with conversations focusing on “remember when.” People find value in being around others they knew when they were younger because it makes them feel younger.  The 50th reunion is often the most well-attended. There’s a sense that this could be the last time you see these people. Plus, people go because they are able to attend. Like the 40th, nostalgia is strong.
High-school reunion anxiety: Facing the old you

Reconnecting and eating
The Sunday picnic the next day afforded more opportunity for reconnecting with former classmates, eating potluck contributions and leftover food from the evening before.  I had hoped that we had planned an enjoyable weekend for classmates, but was struck by the number of spouses who also seemed to be having a good time. They may have been dragged there and just were being good sports, but I didn't see any indication of it.  Between the two events, about a third of graduates came and (I think), were glad they did. 

The lesson: With Earl pushing, Thelma and I spent the weekend back in time. We were definitely a more fun and interesting group at 68 than we were at 18.

*Previous post:  Where's My Village?
**Previous post:  Scooting While Vain

Monday, September 25, 2017

East Coast Roadtrip

East Coast Fall foliage

It had been more than two years since we had ventured on our first roadtrip*.  It was time to move from using a walker to a wheelchair.  That was a particularly difficult humiliation bullet to bite.  I thought I had accepted the inevitability of progression, but I found myself whining, "No-o-o-o!"  Was this the end of the road before absolute immobility? Were my traveling days over?  More importantly, would I strain Earl's back and were my scooting days over? 😱

As with previous transitions, logic and practicality won out.  I was so freakin' slow with a walker. I didn't appreciate how frightening my precarious balance was to others.  Finally, I knew an injury was the bigger personal threat and was to be avoided at all costs.  Thelma and Louise ** became a permanent part of my next chapter.  Wheelchair use gave me greater mobility and freedom than I had expected.  It didn't impact my travel, scooting, and I didn't "break" Earl. πŸ˜…

Oh, please
So we boarded a plane and flew to Asheville, North Carolina to begin our East Coast roadtrip.  We had previously been to many major big cities on the east coast (New York City, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Atlanta) and we wanted to see new places and more rural areas this time.  We even put Mt. Airy on the travel itinerary.  Mt. Airy is the town on which the fictional Mayberry was based.  Boy, did the town ever capitalize on that 60s TV claim to fame! There was the Andy Griffith Museum, Floyd's Barber Shop, and Aunt Bee's Bakery.  Really?

Lightweight Thelma (a transport chair) was easy to get out of a rental car and much faster to get into any restaurant or site that captured our attention.  If it seemed like we would cover some ground exploring, out came Skeeter.  Asheville had a funky art scene and an interesting main street, but the sidewalks weren't 'Skeeter friendly'. It was a short adventure. Oh well, live and learn...😐

Blueridge Parkway
A major destination that called to us was the Blue Ridge Parkway, so we headed out.  Apparently, it's a popular cycling destination as well.  Since the weather was good, we saw several cyclists heading up the mountain.  Earl was a bit wistful and I knew he wanted to be out there, but he coped and kept driving.  What Easterners would call a "mountain", Westerners would call a "hill".  But, to a cyclist, elevation is still elevation.  Aside from the rural scenic vistas, museums, and 200 year old buildings, there were Gaps, Hollers, and Gulches all along the way.  That's how everything was originally named.

Shenandoah/Appalachian Trail
The Shenandoah Valley had many confederate museums, civil war history and battlegrounds.  That was one thing we were looking for, but we weren't prepared for the number of people who still referred to the "Northern war of Aggression".  Picking our battles carefully, we kept our Yankee mouths shut.  More vistas and Earl hiked a bit (a very little bit) on the Appalachian Trail.  Skeeter, Thelma, and I stayed in the car.

Niagara Falls
We thought that everyone had been to Niagara Falls except us, so we included that in the travel itinerary.  We also had the impression that it was an over–hyped tourist attraction.  It wasn't. Not only were the falls breathtaking, but the Canadians have done a fantastic job creating an accessible walkway that takes advantage of the falls.  Sure, it was crowded and touristy, but Skeeter and I were happy. πŸ‘

Seneca Falls

Nestled quietly in northern New York, was one of the highlights of my trip—Seneca Falls, birthplace of the women's rights movement. Again, it was very 'scooterable'.  Between Skeeter and Thelma, I was able to hit all the major sites.  I never thought of myself as an activist, but I found Seneca Falls to be fascinating and emotional.

Lake Placid
The town of Lake Placid (very scooter–friendly) is actually along the scenic Mirror lake. Another travel highlight was visiting the Olympic Training Center skating arenas—the 1932 Shea arena and the main Brooks arena . Earl and I talked about the skating history, realizing that there are probably few younger people who even know who Sonja Henie was (Olympic figure skating gold medalist, 1928, 1932, 1936).  In fact, there are probably two generations who think the 'Miracle on Ice' refers to a Disney skating production. Trying to take in all the 1980 Olympic venues, we drove up to Whiteface Mountain, but didn't have time to see the bobsled and jump areas.  However, we were able to see the speed skating track where Eric Heiden trained, an outdoor oval at the adjacent high school as part of my scooter tour of downtown Lake Placid.

We had also never been to Montreal.  The second largest city in Canada, it is beautiful.  But while it paid some attention to accessibility, we didn't find it to be very handicap friendly.  In all fairness, there's only so much you can do in a city trying to preserve over 300 years of history and a European influence.
Many businesses have only stairs, sidewalks are not beveled well at intersections, if at all.   Skeeter and I never tipped over, but there were a couple of times that scared the crap out of Earl.  The US is ahead of most other cities with regard to accessibility.  Crowds walk 3-4 abreast, tune into their phones, and ignore others (a global issue).   One evening, Earl and I made reservations at a restaurant that promised great grilled octopus.  Skeeter managed the narrow, bumpy sidewalks, but the restaurant had steps into it 😲.  Rather than lose paying customers, the restaurant proprietors just walked me to the table and carried Skeeter. 
I scooted through the old port built along the St. Lawrence River and the city's namesake, Mount Royal.

The final stop before flying home was Vermont.  Our friends told us Burlington was reminiscent of Portland in the 70s.  They were right, although the East Coast does a better job of preserving old historic buildings than the west coast.  Our definitions of what constitutes 'old' do differ. We consider building old if they're 150 years.  On the east coast, πŸ˜‚.
They live in the capitol, Montpelier. Their home was very accessible and they had wine.  Earl had to do more pushing of me and Thelma, but it worked.  Although we were a couple of weeks ahead of the scheduled fall colors, we enjoyed the turning foliage in the Adirondacks, Appalachia, and New England. The east coast is heavier on deciduous trees and light on evergreens.  In contrast, the west coast is heavier on the evergreens, and light on deciduous trees.  Maybe it wasn't peak color, but it was still a magical part of the trip. 

The lesson: The East Coast maybe not as handicap friendly as the West Coast, but we had a will, so there was always a way.

*Previous post: Road Trip With Disabilities: Part 2 of 5
**Previous post: New Wheels: The 'girls'

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Can You See Me Now?

 I only had Skeeter for a few weeks when our youngest grandchild pointed out that I didn't have a helmet* 😳.  A year later when I acquired my trike, I also needed the helmet for that.  This Christmas, Earl found a new helmet on the web (of course), a product of a 'Kickstarter' project.  He felt this might enhance my safety when venturing out and would make a good gift.  I didn't really need a new helmet, but this was so cool (and high tech **).

With flashing LED lights, it's visible from a long distance—actually, any distance. I may look ridiculous, but that ship sailed long ago ***.  It really looks and weighs about the same as any bike helmet.

I have long wanted a way of turn signalling that didn't involve hands (not many people even remember what car hand signals are.  Neither did I want to be confused with someone having a seizure or needing assistance.)  The helmet comes with an indicator that mounts on Skeeter's handle bars.  πŸ‘

I should get something for advertising.  Just in the last week, Skeeter and I have been stopped by people who saw me coming a mile off and wanted to buy a helmet for their spouse/child/mother... Most of the promotional pictures are of bike riders.  I wonder if the Lumos Helmet company ever thought of pursuing the demographic of people with disabilities. 

The lesson: If a driver still can’t see me with the new helmet, they are either blind, having a heart attack or trying to hit me.😱
Maybe I could get a discount code from the company.

*Previous post:  Why Doesn't Grandma Wear a Helmet?
**Previous post:Hi, I'm Tammy and I'm a Tech Gadget Addict
 ***Previous post: There Are No Perfect Glasses

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Family Vacation 2017–The waters of Central Oregon

As has become our favorite vacation spot*, Caldera Springs beckoned again.  In truth, Central Oregon provides the best chance of good weather and offers the most options for children and adults.  Because of the big reunion  in Canada** last year, we didn't go to the area and everyone missed it.  So this year, back we went with some changes.  I had feared they would get bored with family vacations, but no.  Or if they were, they kept it to themselves.

CS has something foreveryone
The last time we were here, we saw indications that indeed the kids were maturing.  This year, they were in full blown 'independent' mode. At least twice a day, they went off on a cousins bike ride—no adults allowed.  They could ride to the pool alone and that became a new custom.  Actually, it was kind of fun watching them participate in an activity that didn't need chaperoning. But, since adults weren't invited, we have no photos of that momentous event.

A random pile of pine logs in the back yard looked to be fort potential and became another project that challenged their increasing physical strength and creativity. 

New for Jack
There was another change this year. We took our Thai friend with us.  He had never been to Central Oregon, so everything was new.  As in Lake Oswego, viewing a familiar setting through different eyes is an enjoyable experience.  He even rose to the challenge of preparing a Thai dinner for 10 without whining.  Although a 25 year old man, Jack looks younger, the four grandchildren granted him honorary "kid status". We had to keep reminding them that he was an adult and could go to bed when he wanted.  But he didn't have to ask permission to enter their domain. Jack even walked every morning with my granddaughter, Earl, Skeeter or the trike, and me.
Skeeter and the trike

The hazard of going back to the same place every year, it Is the fear of running out of new things to do. I forgot the benefits of the 'maturing factor'. The grandchildren were still children, but they weren't little any longer.  They were ready for more adventure.  We had never taken them boating on Cultus Lake before, or tubing on the Deschutes River, but everyone was old enough now and up for whatever... No one seemed to miss the horseback ride or the Mt. Bachelor snow slide from previous vacations.

Cultus Lake
Of course they were still willing to play games (Scrabble, Uno, and Taboo), but came to the table with their game face on and a 'take no prisoners' attitude.  That was another change.  They had become fierce competitors.  Even Jack joined in, being competitive by nature.  However, winning a game when english isn't the first language, was pretty humbling for the native–born adults.

The house had a fire pit that became dessert central (S'Mores) on the last night.  Jason,the group photographer,  took the photos, but is conspicuously absent.  Professional hazard.

The Man...
Another custom on the last day was the Pacific Coast Duathlon.  Earl chose the Olympic distance (A 25 mile bike ride, transitioning to a 10 K run) and placed first in his age division of 70–75.  Being the only person to compete in that division didn't matter a bit.  A friend told him, "Hang in there long enough, stay upright, and victory is yours—eventually."

The lesson:  Kids don't age out of family vacations if there is fun to be had.  And, there is always fun to be had.

*Previous post: Family Vacation 2015—Time Happens
**Previous post: Oh, Canada!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Rain, Children, Field trips in paradise– oh my!

Bad weather seems to be following Earl and me this year.  We couldn't even escape it in Maui.  Sure, it was nice at first, but then the blue skies and sun
Lake Kai Makani
gave way to clouds and the rains came.  It was different from the more persistent, but light rain in the Pacific Northwest. Rain in the South Pacific may be warm, but it can also come as a tropical deluge. Our sweeping lawn became Lake Kai Makani, the parking lot flooded, the beach views turned gray.  In fact, it was 64° and sunny in Lake Oswego and 64° and rainy in Kihei.  Go figure.  Bad weather in paradise?  It did get better.  It always does.

No pool?  I'll bike instead
Devices to the rescue?  Sue us.
The highlight of this trip was hosting two of our grandchildren (the first two had come in January). Of course, they were looking forward to all the Maui attractions, but especially our pool.  Except that it was closed for resurfacing.  Damn! Fortunately, there are beaches, biking, ziplining, field trips, and various forms of media (I know, I know) , etc.  It just took more planning time.  Keeping young people entertained can be challenging, and for grandparents, tiring.  I was reminded why younger people have children.  Earl, Jason and I were sure the girls would enjoy visiting the nearby Kealia Ponds Wetland.  Not so much.  It turned out to be an adult field trip to the Pacific Flyway— lots of flora and fauna.  Jason could indulge his photography interest, I could scoot, and Earl could walk. Without Skeeter, there would have been minimal entertainment value for the younger set.  Skeeter carried me with the 8 year old and provided a driving experience for the 11 year old. Ah well, live and learn.
The Kealia Ponds
Boogie boarding & beach walks

We head Upcountry and visit the Haleakala Volcano nearly every time and it never gets old.  It's just plain fascinating whether you're hiking, camping, biking or simply looking!  It's even scooterable if it's not freezing.

The lesson:  Climate and geological diversity, devices, shave ice, tacky tourist shops = entertained grandchildren

*Previous post: Powerless
**Previous post: Nothing New in Paradise