Senior Citizen With Benefits

Recently I discovered a buffet place in Spokane Valley that has what is called "Senior Afternoon Delight" with really low prices for all you can eat between 2:00 and 3:45. For $6.50, a senior can stuff themselves to the gills. And this place thinks "seniors" are anyone 55 and older. Heck! I qualify! Who would have thought this??

It's with mixed blessings that I can be a "senior." One – it means I am OLD. When I look in the mirror, that isn't a 59-year-old lady looking back at me. She's 40 if she's a day. (Which makes me four when I had my oldest son.) Being a senior explains all the little aches and pains. But I'm going to dwell in my happy denial that it is nothing, it will go away. And pop more arthritis-strength Tylenol. Being a senior means memory loss, creaky voice, poor eyesight – I may have to give up these Rite-Aid glasses for the real prescription strength, doctor approved spectacles.

But this is what I discovered at the Senior Afternoon Delight. I am still a baby to the majority of the people that were in there. I was about the only one without a cane, a walker, or a wheelchair. And I eat way more than any ten of them. I was a mad cow – devouring steak (I have my own teeth), mashed potatoes and gravy (my cholesterol is still under the radar), desserts up the ying yang, pasta, chicken, pork, beef, sweet rolls, dinner rolls, cinnamon rolls, something piled high with brown sugar and butter, pies, cakes, brownies, fudge. While all around me are plates of bits of salad, peas, beans, and other good-for-you stuff – nothing touching something else and no multi-layers of Food! Food! Food!

Finally I found a benefit to being "old." Now where is that bottle of Tums.



Saving Daylight Time After Time

I go through this every year – the time change. Twice a year we go through this ordeal of having Daylight Savings Time and then NOT having Daylight Savings Time. Isn't it a bit incongruous that "daylight savings" would END just as winter starts??? Shouldn't we have more light in winter, not less? And the little sayings: "Spring forward, Fall back" just doesn't work for me. I have this weird visual mindset – and I can never remember if it's that phrase or my own self-acclimated phrase (because I am naturally weird) of "Spring back, fall forward" which is how I go through life. I spring. I trip. I skip. I fall. I start up again. And I never ever fall back – that's kind of like quitting. So, here we go. Only five more evenings of light while I travel home. Next week, a week from today, those who haven't sent in their ballots will be voting in the dark. Is that a Freudian slip???



To Remember, or Not

I have gone from fairly detail-oriented and highly organized to totally discombobulated in just six months. Am I sick? Do I have Alzheimer's? Do I really want to know?

Last week I was almost out the door to go to the store when it occurred to me that I was slightly off kilter. Tipsy. Lopsided. I had a high heel on one foot and a flat sandal on the other. I had walked through the house that way, really not noticing, as I am a bit tipsy all the time. What if I ended up at the store that way?

You've done it too. You've gone to the fridge, opened it, and then stood there with glassy eyes wondering why in the heck you were in the fridge in the first place?

I've done that way too many times. Recently I was sorting through my costume jewelry, putting each piece in little plastic bags. A couple days later, I went back to my jewelry box to look for a particular bracelet. And I came upon a longer bag with three bracelets placed in it side by side. Hey, that wasn't ME that was so organized. Who did that??? I couldn't remember one single second of organizing my bracelets that way only two days before.

The topper – I cashed my incentive check for $600. I wanted one very crisp hundred dollar bill for a friend's daughter's wedding gift. A week after the wedding I was getting ready for a trip to Seattle and was going to use the remaining $500 for the trip. It was No Where in my purse. No Where! And then it occurred to me that I must have had one of my brain freezes again and horror of horrors, I must have given the bride my entire $600. I didn't even give my own son that much when he got married! I even cried on the shoulders of my friends – how stupid could I get??

This weekend I had time to read a book I hadn't been able to touch for about a month. I opened it and out from page 99 came five one hundred dollar bills. And instantly I remembered I put it in the book so I wouldn't lose it. And promptly forgot that I had done it.

So again, sick? Alzheimer's? Dementia? Senility?

Some things you just don't want to know about. On the other hand, maybe if I find out, I'll forget that I found out and nothing will change. This could be the start of something new. I could buy one book and read it. And read it. And read it. And it would always be new. If you are losing your memory but can't remember if you are really losing your memory, who would know? Is ignorance really bliss?



A Special Celebration

I took my time choosing just the right outfit. It had to be “to the nines” and red or purple. I pulled out my purple velvet floor length dress, picked through my jewelry and found three long red-stoned necklaces and two ruby red bracelets. I added to this the matching earrings. Topped it all off with a red feather boa and ended the whole flashy display with a beautiful red hat. I looked like a party ready to happen.

Several of us took special time this morning to get similarly dressed. We are Red Hats, in particular, we are the Scarlett Snickerdoodles of the Red Hat Society. We do things together once a month – fun things. We go to antique stores and garage sales, we go to teas and plays, we travel to other towns and experience their idea of teas, antique stores, garage sales, and plays. That’s what Red Hats do – we play. Today is a special day, though, and I can’t describe it as playing. One of our members made a special request for us to deck all up in our red and purple splendor. Today is her memorial service.

We were gathering together today to celebrate her. A week ago she passed quietly away from ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). Her passing was so unlike her. No dancing. No skipping. No throwing back her head and laughing out loud.

Another member was grateful and thankful – boisterous even – that our friend was finally able to be free of the devastating effects of ALS, a disease with absolutely no cure and only certain death. I have had a hard time dealing with this – with her loss – and finding joy in her death.

The pastor related that at her graveside all her grandchildren happened to spy a deer leaping through the green grass near where she was laid. It was a sign! She was the spirit of that deer, bounding free of ALS, totally free to dance among the spirits.

So we gathered together and sat with her family and her friends and celebrated her life. ALS stole her from us, ALS stole her legs, her voice, her speech, her tap dance, her life. But as we sat together, leaning towards each other, touching each other – we started to laugh. We started to bring up all her qualities and she had no bad qualities – she was like each one of us in so many ways. She was opinionated, ornery, stubborn, funny, witty, danced through her day, sang at the top of her lungs in the shower, made Snow Angels in the snow, hugged babies, and laughed. And we all are just like her in all her ways. It’s trite to say she’s gone but not forgotten. But when I look at any other Scarlett Snickerdoodle and the flamboyant red hat, purple top, feathers, and flowers – I instantly see her. She is truly in my heart. And I could honestly say that I feel like dancing.

This is for you, dear Lois Watts



Motorhead Land

I was off to a semi-annual trek to Monroe Washington where the biggest swap meet I have ever been to is held. Did I say this is held twice of year? It's to die for if you are a motor head even if you only polish your car. There is everything you ever wished for – bolts, steering wheels, steering columns, crank shafts, transmissions, car bodies from old old old to fairly new ('72). A gazillion carburetors. I have never seen so many carburetors. What is it with carburetors anyway that they are so prolific at a swap meet? If it's greasy and fits in a car, truck, motorcycle, boat – it's there. It's acres and acres of greasy parts. (I could betcha it's miles and MILES of car parts.)

A couple weeks ago my significant other, Lovey, proudly presented me with my own little cart with a hard plastic milk box secured by bungee cords. He has since referred to it as my own personal cart. "There's Jeanie's cart." "I gave Jeanie her own cart." And I'll tell you why it's mine. I get to bring it with me wherever I go – not realizing until Saturday morning that the gift giver would be frequently telling me to move my cart out of the way, keep it right next to me or out of the way of parts gawkers. They don't "see" the cart for all the parts – kind of a forest for the trees. That cart is invisible to the diehard motor head. He could trip and fall and kill himself while he is drooling over a rusted out muffler for a '49 Chev.

We would (er, Motorhead Lovey would) steadily fill up my cart and when it was full, I would trek out to where the car was parked about a mile away from the Mile-High, Mile-Square parts plaza and unload my cart.

Heard while trudging along with my cart:

Two old guys were walking beside me with their own cart. One says to the other, "Do you want a cookie?" They stop and he roots around in his cart - further and further to the bottom. "Found them! . . . . . Smashed."

There's a moral here: Always put your cookies on TOP of crankshafts.

Years ago I bought Lovey a couple of walkie-talkie things so I could drop behind him and actually look at girly stuff. Before the walkie-talkie things, I would glance down at a Duncan Miller Canterbury bowl, check the price, dicker with the vender and lower the price, and Lovey would be GONE. I'd look and look for him and finally find him staring at me (he was focusing his brain in my direction, knowing he has a hypnotic affect on me and I am drawn to him by some kind of invisible ray). "How could you miss me!?" he would yell, "I'm the biggest guy standing in the middle of the pathway." Yeah, but, I'm a short Hobbit and all I see are millions of plaid shirts with greasy hands sticking out of them.

We've moved on to cell phones. I lose him, all I have to do is press "2" and call him. Sometimes I can even hear his phone ringing, so I know he's really close.

The weather was wicked cold Saturday. I packed enough for three days and Saturday I looked at all those extra clothes and made an executive decision. I wore everything I packed. I topped this off with gloves, a hat, and a hoodie to cover the hat (to keep in what little body heat I had). The only thing I lacked was a kleenex for my suddenly running nose. There are food booths scattered throughout the acreage so I managed napkins when I needed them.

Gas was $3.19 in Moses Lake. Tada!!!! I came home with a miniature tea set in a miniature tea pot shaped box. Lovey came home with tools – very, very heavy tools. Why do I know this?

Well, I'm the one who pulled the cart.



You know it is almost winter, because. . . . .

1) Your coat is buried in the back of the closet and you just don't want to break down and really admit that winter is coming, so you wear your black sweater that really doesn't stave off the cold.
2) You were saving all those luscious tomatoes on the vine so you could process them next weekend and this morning you woke up to discover a killer frost came through at 22 degrees and zapped them all to shiny, transparent, globes ready to rot right there on the vine.
3) Your tires look ok to you but you know if you put good snow tires on or even studded tires, it won't snow for ten years but if you leave them alone, we'll have a record blizzard before our children make it out the door to go Trick or Treating.
4) You have a gas furnace from hell and it takes someone with an iron will and total lack of caring for their life to light the dang thing without it exploding in your face, so you bring out the little bathroom space heater and try to heat the entire house while sitting in front of it enveloped in your king-sized comforter.
5) You think seriously about starting a fire in the bathtub and just living in the bathroom.
6) You have ten foot high piles of leaves waiting for your summer lawn guy to get in gear and start winterizing your home for $10 a day. What do you expect???
7) You start to brush your teeth and discover the water has frozen in all the lines
8) You move in with your significant other because he is a big hot teddy bear and you just don't need all this get-warm stuff. It's built in!

What's on the Menu?

I have mentioned my four women friends who meet once a month for dinner. We've been doing this for 30+ years. I came into it last, when I was 35, 29 years ago. We are tighter than sisters and have been each other's confidante and motivator ever since. As we have grown older, the various subjects of our monthly dinners have morphed through men, marriage, divorce, children, teens, dating (them, not the teens), debt (our children's, not ours), etc.

Through the years we have also aged and in the aging process we have acquired aches and pains and what I call{drum roll} "Pet Diseases." We each have something with a capitalized name: Lupus, Parkinson's, Polycystic Kidney Disease (that's mine – isn't it cute?), and Breast Cancer (survivor of). The fifth woman in our group has depression so we have capitalized it to Depression (probably from listening to the rest of us with something clinically bad enough we see special doctors that handle only that particular disease).

Our Parkinson's gal (I'll call her Parkie) was relating a story to us at dinner a couple months ago that she had with her doctor, who presented her with the following scenario:

What would you do if God showed up with a plate of "the disease of the week" and offered you to replace your Parkinson's with what was on the plate?

That question had a huge impact on all of us, me for sure.

I just wrote a little about my friend Lois. (See Lois Leaves.) She received a Disease Plate with Mini-Stroke on it and then the plate got switched to ALS, without her even getting to choose which one she wanted.

We all will get a Plate sometime in our life, nobody is immune. How about it? If you have one thing on your Plate, would you gladly switch it for the other Plate?

I decided I would keep my "pet" disease, thank you very much.


Lois Leaves

My friend, Lois, beat the devil of ALS to the ground on Friday and then walked into the arms of Jesus and left that useless body behind. She was so through with it. She took her favorite hat with her that she wore to all our Red Hat gatherings. In sparkling letters it said "Bitch." She was very fond of that hat.



My son, the Explorer

When he was about 5 or 6 years old, my youngest was in the morning session of kindergarten. I would have frequent parent-teacher meetings with his obviously frustrated kindergarten teacher. Tim was always late to school even though I made sure he was ready and left the house when I left for work. It would take him 30 minutes to an hour to walk the two blocks to school.

There were things to do, places to go, bugs to meet. He was utterly fascinated with nature. With leaves. With blades of grass. With bugs of all kinds of legs. There was never a bug he didn’t like. (Frequently they would reside in his pockets for me to discover on laundry day – dead or alive.)

He looked for four-leaf clovers and would examine hundreds of inches of lawns for that prized find. He would pet every dog and cat that came his way. Besides bugs, there was never an animal that he didn’t love. He could charm a wild animal, I am sure.

He would greet little old ladies out weeding their gardens and check their bugs. Many happily relinquishing some centipede or caterpillar or spider.

He would arrive at school with dirt on his hands and face. Teach wanted to know if I EVER gave him a bath. {sigh} She didn’t understand that the second a boy leaves the bathtub, he steps in dirt. It’s inevitable.

The thing is, where does this fascination with all of life go when we become adults? Have you ever leaped off the front porch in your business suit and pounce with joy on discovering a multicolored bug in your yard? Or gather four-leaf clovers by the handful?

We are way too serious today. It’s time to get into some dirt and play!



What Would You Do?

Eeek - it's been ten days since I've written.

I love my life because usually I am my own comic relief. I am channeling Lucille Ball most of the time. Things happen. Can't explain it.

But lately, life and the process of living has been depressed, much like our economy. Have you noticed that nobody is really saying we are in a depression???? It's a recession, they say. I had to look up both words.

Depression – a slump, a recession (I hate words that define other words that I'm trying to define in comparison. How can Webster do that????), slump, downturn, fall. Ok – those all can be applied to my poor skeleton of a 401(k) plan.

Recession – depression (see????), slump, downturn, collapse, decline – Well, this definitely applies to our situation today. Maybe there is no difference?

Anyway – back to depression – I'm kind of in the human depression of despair and hopelessness. I've mentioned my friend before, who has ALS. I have started taking care of her Friday mornings before I went to work. She now needs 24/7 care and our Red Hat chapter is taking turns helping out her husband so he can go to his day job.

I just got off the whirligig of doing the same kind of care for my mother-in-law; doing the same for someone my own age is startling. I'm kind of paralyzed in what to say to my friend. She's the one with a sense of humor. (I like to think I have a sense of humor – but it's hard to be funny when you see your friend's body steadily slipping away, muscle by muscle.) She can't speak, can't walk, can't stand. The first thing that happened was that she slipped out of bed onto a foot stool. By the time I got to her, I was horrified to find out that I am not wonder woman like I thought. I had no strength whatsoever to pick her up and put her back to bed. After several attempts to lift her, I was debating calling 9-1-1 just to have someone pick her up so I could get her into her motorized scooter. She flung her arm out towards the front door and I asked if she wanted me to get the neighbor. Yes! Yes! Yes! She nodded in a frantic sort of way. (At the same time it was finally registering with me that she was naked. She well knew it – I was just getting the hang of it – she kept patting the bed and I didn't get it – well her clothes were folded at the end of the bed. How could I not see that she was naked???) We threw clothes on, I raced next door and woke up the neighbor, who blearily came over and between the two of us, she was miraculously back in bed. Heavy sigh. The rest of the morning was pretty uneventful. We maneuvered into the living room and into her easy chair. The dog happily bouncing along beside her. Later she kept trying to get the dog to sit with her but he was focused on me. Finally she got out her only means of communication – a white board. And she wrote, "I have taught that dog everything he knows, but I forgot to teach him how to read." That whiteboard was her lifeline to the rest of us. She once wrote "I'm working on my bucket list." Her bucket is almost full.

I am signed up for Fridays, 7-9 in the morning. I promised her I would go directly to her bedroom and help her get up for the day, instead of waiting to find her squatting on the floor.

So, what kind of friend are you – and I mean this in a double-sided coin way. Would you help your naked friend with natural ease? On the other side, would you be a pleasant patient if a friend picked you up naked from the floor?

She and I decided that next time I even think of calling 9-1-1, I will call Hospice instead because they have promised to send the tallest, cutest, hottest firemen to our aid. She is making motions of fainting even now.


Tribute to a Newspaper

There used to be two newspapers here in Spokane until one folded in the mid-80s. Recently the remaining paper has experienced huge layoffs, 25% of the staff that skated past the last layoff 11 months ago, got their tickets this week.

I want to offer a Eulogy of sorts, a tribute and acclamation of Spokane's The Spokesman Review and its entire staff, a tribute to the former Spokane Daily Chronicle, and praise for all newspapers everywhere, as the technology age of the internet erodes away the benefits of news print on paper, books, magazines, the ability to READ.

I have been in the newspaper world since I was born. My Dad graduated from the University of Idaho in journalism in 1948. I was born and we moved from Moscow to Lewiston where Dad made his debut as a reporter at the Lewiston Tribune. His friendships grew to include all the Tribune writers, photographers, linotype operators.

There is a story of when my dad invited the newsroom staff to his house for a cocktail party. All were young (in their 20s) and all brought their wives. Everyone put their hats in the hall closet and all the women put their purses on the closet floor. Fine times were had and people left giggling and slapping each other on the back.

Next day all the men, and I mean all of the men, showed up to retrieve their hats and their wives purses.

There was a family feeling, an open invitation to barbeque and play games in the park kind of feeling.

Dad got an offer from The Chronicle when I was six (1955) and we caravanned with a couple other families to Spokane – one, Bob Larrigan, started at The Spokesman Review, Dad (Don Rice), started at The Chronicle. Same building. Same owners.

I spent many, many hours at the paper building. Many field trips were taken to the paper simply because my Dad was a reporter. Another student was the son of a reporter for The Review (Petty – can't remember the first name). We would tour both areas and end up in the printer room where a man would make all our names out in individual lead "stamps." I still have mine.

The friendships continued to grow involving both papers. It was a great life.

My dad was a true "investigative reporter" and would often work very closely with cops, attorneys, and judges. He investigated as good as any of the best PI's around. There was a long history at the papers for honesty, integrity, and printing the truth. They lived by that old standard, "who, what, where, when, why, and how." They answered each one diligently, honestly, truthfully.

[From a blog I posted at earlier in the day:]

My dad was one of the editors of The Chronicle. His name was Don Rice. Any article with his byline was considered factual and objective. He worked there from 1955 to 1982. He was well respected by all media outlets in Spokane, including the Spokesman. Interestingly, his friends included both papers, all television stations, cops, lawyers, and judges. He was known for his integrity and objective approach to news. He was a reporter first, a writer second. He was my hero and a giant in my eyes. I adored him and looked up to him. He passed away in 1993. I wept when The Chronicle closed. You do know that the two papers were owned by the same family - the Cowles. I don't remember a competition between the two; they each had the opportunity to scoop before the other just because of timing. There was a lot of old news in The Chronicle from events the night before, just as there was a lot of old news in the Review from events from the morning before.
When I was in school, we would take field trips to The Chronicle/Review building. It had a beautiful elegant hallway that stretched from Sprague (Chronicle) to Riverside (Review). There was a kid in my class throughout grade school whose father did the sports section for the Review. We never seemed to pick sides, we simply went through both papers and had a great time!
There is nothing like the drumming of several people typing on ancient Royal typewriters on half sheets of paper, the humming of the teletype as the keys seemed to tap dance their urgent message. I was fascinated with that place.
Today, it is very sad that the Spokesman is letting go 25% of their staff. I relate to this very well, because 18 months ago my office did the same thing. We are still recovering from that, the loss of friends, losing floor space to other tenants, trying to adjust to Dilbert-like cubicles, and trying very hard to regain the camaraderie and sense of purpose we left behind.

So – here's a tribute to you, Spokesman-Review and to your wonderful people. You all have carried the torch that my father once carried. With dignity, respect, honesty, and integrity. Your marble hallways will be less noisy but the echoes of all the people who have passed through your halls is lingering still. The smell of my Dad's vanilla tobacco still leaves hints in the air. I can still see the giant paper rolls turning and gliding and getting printed every single day with great news, columns, comics, recipes, announcements of births, weddings, deaths. Every year there was a story for kids for the month of December that I clipped and saved. All of my siblings read the paper, really read it, because our Dad's name was a byline every day. All the writers, reporters, photographers, machine operators, all were celebrities!