Sunday, April 16, 2017

Powerless

Just when I thought Spring was coming and severe weather was behind us, we were hit with a windstorm.  Granted, it wasn't a severe tornado–like storm more commonly seen in the Midwest, but it toppled trees onto homes, roads, powerlines and (gulp) knocked out electricity to thousands of homes.  Now, I realize being temporarily out of power is a 'developed world' problem, but we are an indulged nation.  I was born and raised a spoiled citizen and can live with that.

Pollyanna to Elphaba
Ordinarily, I can maintain a positive attitude in a challenging situation, so when Earl texted me at breakfast Friday morning that the power was out, I thought, "No problem.  Surely the power would be restored by the end of the day.."  After all, it wasn't the middle of winter, there were two fireplaces for heat, a water tank with enough hot water for a couple of navy showers, gas for cooking, and emergency supplies.

My tech devices were charged (at the time), so I was confident that I could make make a phone call, text, listen to music or books and generally stay in touch with the outside world.  I wasn't thinking about the limited battery time for tech devices.  In a pinch, we could charge our various devices in the car. As it turned out however, Earl and I had way too many devices for the available charging ports and our marital harmony.

Since we had water, our septic system is gravity-based, the toilets still flushed and the drains–uh, drained.  But I worried about the neighbors with wells and sand filtration systems that depended on pumps.  There were some generators on the street, but not many.  Our emergency power supplies consisted of batteries, flashlights, and candles.  This was starting to be not adventure–like.  My 'Pollyanna' nature began to morph toward 'Elphaba'.*

Earl and I had an anniversary dinner to go to that evening and there was enough hot water for a quick shower to facilitate getting ready. When we got to the restaurant, I realized that while the power outage was widespread, it was not citywide.  There were people there who had never lost power, those who lost it only briefly, and those who had electricity restored after 4 to 6 hours.  All around us, the power came back on. But not our street. Illogically, I was beginning to resent anyone who could turn on lights by flipping a switch.  The food was great, but my 'Elphaba' nature was in full force.

A fire, a beer, and a movie
Recently, a young man from Thailand came to live with us while he completed his college studies. Although he is very independent, it was the first night Earl and I were going to leave him alone.  "No worries", he said.  But he didn't tell us that he wasn't crazy about the dark.  When we got home (in the dark), he was sitting in front of the fireplace, drinking a local beer, and watching a movie on his fully charged computer.  He had obviously gotten over his aversion to darkness and I was jealous.


We're so wired...


People with disabilities may be even more power dependent.  My wheelchair is manual, Skeeter was charged, but the weather sucked.  It was a bit of 'chicken little', but I was worried about being crushed by a falling tree.  We have a recumbent bicycle upstairs, a resistance machine, and weights, none of which require electricity.  It was time to get moving and abandon the excuses.  When it looked as though the street would remain dry,  I headed up the street on the trike.**

After a couple of days,  I was done with the adventure.  The three of us headed over to Heidi's house to charge our devices.  One, we knew we could count on the family not to give us grief about the inordinate number of devices used by three people.  Second, she had a shower.  The guys had taken cold showers that morning, but I availed myself of her hot water.  When we got home that afternoon, the power was on and we were happy campers.  I don't like to complain, but really, 60 freaking hours without power?  It was humbling to recognize how energy dependent we are.  Ugh!

The lesson:  How many devices are in your wallet?  What's the entertainment plan when there's no power?

*Previous post: Pity Party––Underrated?? 
Previous post: ** The Trike and Skeeter


Thursday, April 6, 2017

Spring Comes to the Hood

Triking up the street
In the six years I've been scooting, this was the first year I found myself often weathered in. It's been a long winter. Snow, ice, wind, and heavy rain got me out of the scooting routine.  I have to confess to some reluctance that I attribute to advancing age and cowardice. If the street is wet, my tricycle slips, so I wasn't triking either*.  I hadn't seen my 'route' friends in months**.  It's not as if I haven't been out and up the street in a car this winter.  I just missed being outdoors by myself.

The comings and goings
Earl and I, living here 36 years, aren't the longest residents on the street, but pretty damn close.  Turnover is slow here, but eventually time passes.  Kids grow, graduate, marry, move out, even though we never age.  I was able to get a closer view of the new house being built and an update on the house for sale on the street.

My new 'friends'

Looking outside, the Oregon skies were gray (big surprise) but the street was temporarily dry.  It was time to venture forth, get on the trike, and take in the seasonal changes on the street.  I even made new friends—a pair of ducks.  The first time up the street, they scurried away from me.  By the fourth time, they were bored and didn't even glance my way.  They may not have regarded me as a friend, but I did them.  If I can over–personify a scooter and a tricycle, I can befriend ducks.

Inside Spring
Outside Spring
While I loved my indoor flowers, there was something about the outdoor flowering that heralded Spring.  It was good being in the fresh air again and not just being a passenger.

The lesson: There's no substitute for being outside when the seasons change.  It's hard to smell the flowers from a car.


Previous posts:
* The Trike and Skeeter
** The Northwest Scootroute Garden Tour

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The Portland Snowmegeddon

Unaccustomed to much snow, it doesn't take much to convert an Oregonian into a weather wimp.  We have neither the necessary equipment nor severe weather–driving expertise.  Western Oregon often hovers around 32 to 35 degrees in the winter, resulting in freezing rain.  If freezing rain coats a couple of inches of snow, we're screwed.  Unlike the flatter terrain east of the Cascade mountain range, the Portland Metro area and Willamette Valley have hills that add to navigation challenges.  But then, we also have our share of deniers (it's not going to happen... the kids will be home by then... how bad can it be?)Spoiler alert: It was bad.

Snowmeggeddon commute
Having disabilities and inclement weather has advantages and disadvantages.  I was safe at home in front of the fireplace with a glass of wine, while Earl was stuck in the 'Snowmegeddon' traffic for six hours.  Once again, technology was beneficial. The good news: I knew he was safe, warm, and had enough gas in the car.  Thanks to our smart phones, we could stay in contact via text.  Earl could remain updated on the weather and traffic or listen to a book.

Not today,Skeeter
The bad news: Skeeter and I were dead in the water... no scooting for awhile.  It didn't look like much outside, but the coating of ice turned any type of travel into an injury waiting to happen.  Even as the non-mobility impaired people returned to normal life, I was still housebound. Getting out wasn't worth the risk to me.  As a person with disabilities, I became aware that even the last remnants of melting snow and ice remained major obstacles.  Parking lot plow trucks pile snow in handicapped spaces, making it particularly difficult to get out of a car and stand while a caregiver brings up a wheelchair.  Even when the roads cleared, Earl had to push the chair hard to get the wheels over snow bumps at the grocery store.  Apparently, the feeling is that people with handicaps are too smart to venture out.  Oh well...*


Snow in the hood
One would think we could simply appreciate the beauty of what snow does to the neighborhood.   We actually did... for about a day. Then the cancellations started and the novelty was over.  Schools, breakfast with my friends, appointments, Sandie** (oh my).

Kids always have fun in the snow
Many of us coped with the winter weather by resorting to the remedy of escape.  Fully realizing that going to Arizona, Hawaii, Mexico, or the Caribbean was a first world solution, we did it anyway because we could.  However, winter wasn't done with us yet.  We returned home from two weeks in Maui to round two of more snow, ice, and wind, proceeding to do what we do best... whine.  While we were gone, the city had plowed our street (yea!) and piled snow in front of the driveway (seriously?). Fortunately, the neighbor boys shoveled access into our driveway, allowing us to get home from the airport before the next storm hit.  Neither Skeeter nor my wheelchair could manage the snow depth, so with Earl on one side, Jason on the other, I 'walked' into the house.  Not pretty, but OK.  Oy!


*Previous post:  The Rest of Winter, paragraph four
**Previous post:  The Help, paragraph five

 The lesson:  Spring is coming...but not soon enough.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Minimizing the Holiday

Since our next trip to Maui was planned for New Year's, I thought this was a good year to try a lowkey holiday.  For an over–the–top Christmas dictator like me, this was no small deal.*  Fortunately for our meager approach to the seasonal spirit, some neighbors have bypassed decorations for trips to a warmer clime, so we were following a trend.   Although I do love the season, the idea of dismantling everything quickly, although others do most of the work, just didn't seem reasonable.

Under the guise of not wanting to disappoint the grandchildren, I asked for their input as to good ideas for downsizing.  I have to confess to some personal resistance to scaling back, but I was up for it.

My minimizing proposal #1: No outdoor decorating
Grandchild response: But, you have to have outdoor decorating

My minimizing proposal #2: No Christmas village this year
Grandchild response: But, you have to have your Christmas village

My minimizing proposal #3: No tree
Grandchild response: But, you have to have a tree

My minimizing proposal #4: A smaller tree
Grandchild response: But, you have to have a big tree
Traditions 2016


Peaceful Dining Décor
Obviously, I was not making much progress by soliciting input. Sharing the holidays was a good concept, but overrated.** Then I realized they just cared about tradition, not the details. There is also the issue that the grandchildren might be 'aging out' of some customs and Earl and I need to be ready for that.  Fortunately, my friend the decorating elf***, had quieter themes in mind as well and wasn't put off by my minimalist holiday needs.   She introduced some silver and doves into the theme.  Earl and I didn't miss the usual multi colors at all.  There was some festive sparkle, but a peaceful green and white color scheme was so Oregon and it made me happy. 
Green, white magnolia leaves

Outside décor

OMG!  It is small
Earl (he was granted tree choosing privileges this year) and I picked out a smaller tree at our customary lot. I am usually pretty efficient in tree shopping, but in fact it was the first tree we saw and put our hands on. We were home in 30 minutes—an indoor record.  When my nieces and nephew came to do their tree light "elf" bit**, the comment was, "You know Aunt Tammy?  I think this is the smallest tree you have ever gotten."  They proceeded to light the tree with fewer lights this year.



The lesson:  Less really is more—until next year.

*Previous post:  The Holiday Dictator
**Previous post:  Sharing the holidays
***Previous post:  The Holiday Elves






Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Getting Out the Disabled Vote


Like everything else, voting when you have a disability takes more effort, affecting every aspect.  However, I figure if people braved beatings, prison, and forced feedings for the vote, I can quit whining, figure it out, and just do it.   
 
In all fairness, there are many special accommodations to facilitate voting for people with disabilities.  Oregon's mail-in election ballot makes it as easy as possible, but there is always something to deal with. 

Issue:  Discussion is limited by my speech impairment.  Solution: Patient listeners.  I'm still opinionated, but slower and slurrier. 

Issue: Filling out a ballot requires some hand eye coordination–certainly more than I have. Solution: I make a dot on my choice, and Earl fills in the box.

Issue:  The outer envelope requires my signature.  The only one on record was an old legible signature.  Solution:  I had to send a copy of my new illegible signature to the election board.  Didn't even know they checked. 

Issue:  Getting to the ballot box.  True, in Oregon, you can mail it in–that is, if you don't procrastinate.  One year, I did but scooted down to our library to put my ballot in the voting box–just in time.  Solution: Ever since then, I vote early and depend on Earl to take it to the Post Office.


The lesson:  Easier doesn't mean effortless.  But l've learned to focus primarily on what's important. To me, voting is one of those things.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Nothing New in Paradise

As we neared going to Maui for nearly a month, I had some concerns.
We had been going for ten years and I was worried that we'd become stuck in our routines and run out of things to do*.  Ah, the arrogance of a first world problem!  Earl could hardly wait for the chance to bike more in a warm climate.  Having a disability, I do less and do different things.  While I'm used to that and perfectly content with daily solitude, no longer driving ended our custom of Earl biking somewhere and me meeting him in the car*.

From sea level to 10,000 feet
We had friends coming to visit and were looking forward to their visits.  That pretty much solved my concerns.  Firstly, there's always something new to do.  Secondly, it's enjoyable to share familiar places with people who have never had that experience.  Thirdly, we had a friend to facilitate Earl's plan to bike up the Haleakela crater–his latest 'bucket list' adventure**.  I knew the way, she drove..and stopped...and drove..and stopped...and drove for 37 miles (longest paved cycling climb in the world).




From the bar to the roof
We had four Portland friends in Maui at the same time, but 20 miles to the west.  We met them in the middle for happy hour in Lahaina. We started at a round table (yea), in the bar (OK), near the live music (uhh...).  When we couldn't hear ourselves talk, we had to admit to being too old for loud music.  It was better on the roof, and I'm sure the waiters were glad to see us go outside.  Tough life— friends, peaceful entertainment on the roof, an ocean sunset and wine.



This is not your mother's sno–cone

We can get some of the best shave ice on Maui only about a mile from our home.  It has become a mandatory treat for us, and fortunately, for our flight attendant friend who schedules a layover to coincide with our trips. 

So, what is this eating activity that we foist on visitors?  'Routine' sounds too boring and 'cultural experience' too lofty.  I'm going with 'tradition'.




The sipping tour
 When our final pair of friends came, we took them upcountry for the latest new thing.  Actually, it was our second tour in two weeks, but it was so cool!  Even though Earl and I aren't big hard liquor drinkers, the tour of the Ocean vodka distillery was fun, picturesque and Skeeter–navigable.  I just had to pay attention and not run into walls or concrete curbs.  Fortunately, our friends were game for everything.  They accompanied us on our long morning walk. Earl was conditioned, I rode and only expended battery power. We almost broke them.



The lesson:  Even paradise takes a village


*Previous post: The Travel Scooter
**Previous post: Driving Miss Tammy
***Previous post: The Bucket List Trip




Saturday, September 17, 2016

Affairs in Order

Some may view this life task as morbid.  For me (and consequently, Earl) it's just housekeeping and organization.  Spoiler alert: We're all going to die sometime.  I figured that if I can discuss depression*, leaky bladders** and suicide***, I can certainly talk about endoflife issues.  I appreciate that, to some people, such decisions are personal and private.  But, that never stopped me from blogging before.

Earl and I wanted to minimize the hassles falling to a surviving spouse or children at a difficult time. Nothing would be worse than to have them wondering, "What would mom and dad want?"  Instead, our children encouraged us (or rather me) to stop blabbing about it already. 

POLSTs everywhere...
To that end, Earl and I updated our wills, trusts,  durable powers of attorney, and Oregon's POLST (Physician's Orders for Life–Sustaining Treatment).   The POLST forms needed to be signed by our healthcare provider and entered into our health records. (Skeeter now sports a bright pink POLST tag, there's a sticker on the back of our driver's license and obnoxious magnets on the oven). Woe unto the wellmeaning person who gives inappropriate CPR.  Someone explained to me the difference between an Advanced Directive and a POLST, but I'm still confused.

Have notary stamp, will travel
Earl and I thought getting our important documents signed and notarized would be a slam dunk, but no-ooo.  Our bank had always done that for us easily and for free, so I made an appointment and we showed up on time.  Turns out banks can't notarize wills, so we had to go home, having learned that not all notaries are alike.  Some documents needed only our signatures, others our notarized signatures.  Wills need to be witnessed and their signatures (not ours) notarized.  Oy!  Give me strength!  After realizing that no single institution had everything we needed, we opted to have a notary come to the house.  Our friends agreed to come over and witness the wills.  I think the task's been accomplished, but I'm not sure. I may have discovered why people don't get around to this.  It's a pain in the ass!

However, those are the obvious end-of-life decisions.  We turned our focus to the less obvious ones that can be such a nuisance to deal with these days.  Bank accounts, passwords, door locks, smart phone passcodes, address lists, Facebook, for Pete's sake!  Even though I know it's just computerized advertising, it still creeps me out when I get a Facebook post from my late relative who died two years ago.

I'm taking the scooter
Should I get hit by a truck while riding Skeeter, the children need to know that Craigslist is an efficient way to sell what's left of her (and Thelma & Louise).  I found that disabled people and elders are a great target group. They haunt (pardon the pun) Craigslist, knowing there's always stuff on there if they're just patient and strike while the iron is hot (or when the former user is ...uh...cold).

At a friend's recommendation, we joined the Neptune Society, a pre–paid cremation service.  Since erecting another great pyramid was out given our non-belief in an afterlife and lack of slaves, making minimal 'arrangements' in advance seemed logical.  The idea that no one would ever have to walk into an establishment was just too attractive to pass up.  Having one number to call, from anywhere in the world, sounded great to us.  When the Neptune Society representative came to the house, she explored our final needs, but wasn't quite prepared for our cavalier attitude.
Now a card–carrying member
Cremated remains buried in coffin?
"No thanks", we said.
Cremated remains scattered at sea?
"No thanks", we said.
 When she discovered that Earl had been in the military for two years, she asked if we wanted full military honors.
"No thanks", we said.
She shook her head when I tried to explain our view of the difference between spending time in the military and serving in the military, so I just gave up and pointed to the tree waiting for our ashes in the backyard ****.
"You're kidding", she said.   Having heard that before, we assured her we were not*****.
Since this was a 'no frills' package, two days later, our Neptune storage boxes arrived UPS (for important papers and ashes), we put them in the attic and told the kids where to find them when the need arose.  
"Give me a break!" came the eye–rolling response.

Once again, technology played a part in our planning.  Earl had already put most of our bills on autopay.  Paying bills automatically saves time and is one less thing to be concerned about.  He replaced our old front door lock with a digital one that can be locked and unlocked remotely.  Our various accounts and passwords are entered into a phone app (of course there's an app for that).   We are automated, protected and prepared as best we can be.  If there's something we forgot, it won't be our problem.

One more thing—The 'family conversation'.  Our children are used to my 'If I ever [fill in the blank], "Shoot me" cracks, knowing no one will.  But this was serious and I had to respectfully balance my flippant sarcasm with their difficulty discussing the topic.  Surprise, surpriseEarl was more sensitive than me.  Overall, we think they have an idea how we view quality at the end of life.  They can handle their parents' differing (but pretty much on the same page) plug–pulling criteria.
Question: Organ donation? Answer: Sure, if there are any parts worth taking.
Question: Food?  Answer: Sure. Put that tray over there.  If I can get to it, fine. If not, too bad.
Question: CPR?  Answer: Sure, if you see me go down.  If you find me down and unresponsive, step away.
Question: Wine?  Answer: Always, unless I'm dead.
The lesson:  Whew!  That's taken care of.  Now on to Maui and planning the next road trip.

*Previous post:  Snap out of it!
**Previous post:  Untoward Exits
***Previous post:  The "S" word
 ****Previous post:  Bringing Down the House, paragraph 13
 *****Previous post:  The Bucket List Trip, paragraph 6