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Three Strikes

18 Aug

Had I’d left the store without paying?

This thought gnawed at me as I sat at my desk to balance my checkbook after doing groceries.  I had no receipt and my bank account showed no pending transactions. I closed my eyes and tried to visualize myself paying, but nothing came. I grabbed my keys and wallet and headed back to the store.

To be fair, it had already been a trying morning. I left the house before eight with three goals in mind: mail two bills, make a deposit in the credit union, and get groceries. It should have been quick and easy.

But, when I stopped at a nearby mailbox, I encountered this:

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I was disappointed – and quite angry about the politics behind this situation  – but I knew there was an actual post office not too far from the credit union.

As I approached the credit union, I was surprised to see that the ATMs had been removed. Driving past the front entrance, I  wondered when this branch had been closed and remembered that I’d seen another one opening in a location that used to house a Pier One store. I drove to the post office, where I managed to drop the bills, and on to the former Pier One location, where new ATMs let me do my business.

At the grocery store, I got what I needed quickly and opted to use the self check out. Portland has a plastic bag ban, but my local supermarket has been having trouble getting paper bags. If I went through the regular lines, I had to take plastic because grocery checkers aren’t allowed to pack bags brought from home. At that time in the morning, not many checkout stands were open. I figured the self serve line might be faster.

I had one large item that required a scan by the associate working the self check area.  I called her back a few minutes later, to scan my coupons. Once done, I drove home, prepared to spend the rest of the day in typical COVID fashion.

But, after unpacking the groceries and taking a shower, I realized I hadn’t paid for the groceries.

“I didn’t pay, did I?” I asked when I returned to the self check area, my heart still pounding.

“No, you didn’t,” said the same associate, who waved off my apology.

“It happens more than you’d think. But you came back,”was all she said.

She called her manager, who had to hand enter my order from the receipt the associate had printed when I’d absconded with my groceries. As I paid, I felt my heart rate return to normal.

 

11 Aug

For several years, in the days between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, my sister and I would ask, “When is Children’s Day?”

Every year, my mother would reply, “Every day is Children’s Day.” She was old school that way.

Apparently, Sunday, August 9th was National Book Lovers’ Day. I missed it, but can’t help channeling my mother because I believe that every day is book lovers’ day.

The pandemic has caused me to lose a bit of my reading mojo. I have lost the desire to read fiction – in print or as an audiobook. I seem to only have a desire for nonfiction, and not just the nonfiction books I have to read for the committee I am on.

I have always been able to lose myself in a fictional world. You would think that, homebound for the most part, I would easily escape to some fictional place, an armchair traveller. But, for some strange reason, I long to escape to real places: under the sea with whales and octopus, to Colombia and Washington, into politics and philosophy.

I know several people who have completely lost their reading mojo. So to lose interest in fiction isn’t a bad thing, necessarily. It’s just a thing.

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What should not be forgotten

4 Aug

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The sticky handrail
touched by the hands of
1500 middle schoolers

The rhythmic chime
of keys on a lanyard
as a colleague approaches

Second breakfast
with its mug of tea, a banana,
and a colleague with
her bowl of fruit and yogurt

The musty smell
of the locker room
as 120 sixth graders
leave for the day

The flow of students
up and down the staircase
at the beginning and end
of the day

The beep and buzz
of the lock
as you swipe your ID card
before the sun comes up

They joy in your heart
as you stand, before school,
in front of the building,
greeting families,
and one of your current,
or former students,
arrives

 

Faith

28 Jul

Lucas Cuartas was in one of my fourth grade classes in Medellín, Colombia. I think it was in 1992-93 school year, because Pablo Escobar was still on the run and times were crazy.  There were police searches, car bombs and assassinations by vigilantes, and paramilitaries on all sides.

Lucas Cuartas was absent one day. The Columbus School was a private school for wealthy families, and kids were rarely absent, so Lucas’ absence was notable. It wasn’t until someone official arrived – the counselor, our principal, I don’t remember who – arrived at our door that I knew his absence was extraordinary. Miss Vicky, the religion teacher, might have been there too.

My small class of 20ish students sat silently as they were told that Lucas and his family had gone out for pizza the night before. As they drove past a police roundabout, a bomb went off, blowing the roundabout to bits. The car was sent rolling. Lucas had a broken arm, but his mom was in very serious condition.

When I was in teacher’s college, no one prepared us to share this sort of tragic news with our class. Maybe they do now, but in Medellín, Colombia, though it was not an everyday experience, few families or classes had been untouched by the violence of that city and country in that particular period. In the class next door, a girl disappeared from one day to the next after her father had been found, assassinated and dumped in a hole by right wing vigilantes who felt they had proof that he worked for Pablo Escobar. Rumor had it that the girl’s mother had taken the remainder of her family and fled to Argentina.

But there were my fourth graders, facing their own tragedy that touched on our classroom family. I think there was a call for questions, I don’t really remember. I do remember, though that a sweet girl named veronica raised her hand.

“Can we pray for Lucas and his family?” was her simple question.

Chairs scraped on linoleum as every kid in my class, including the one Jewish student we had in a room full of Catholics, knelt on the floor to pray.

A few days later, I went with my principal to a mass for Lucas’ mom, who wasn’t doing well. She recovered some weeks later. Lucas returned to school in a cast, but my class felt so much closer than we had before.

I think often about the contrast between the formality of the mass and the simplicity of the prayers of my class. I don’t know if one had more impact on the outcome of the Cuartas family’s tragedy than the other. But I am still awed by the power I felt in that classroom as my students prayed. There is a verse from Hebrew that says that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” That classroom was filled with faith, hope and love for others. If we all had the conviction of those fourth graders and followed the guidelines and safety protocols public health officials keep repeating to keep ourselves and others safe, we will be able to go back to normal, sooner, rather than later. I have faith in that.

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Feeding the Beast

21 Jul

Thank you for bringing Lucy in today. She is such a sweet old girl! She has a severe moist dermatitis infection on her ventral chest area and is very itchy….

So began last week’s report from the vet.

Lucy came home with two types of pills and a shaved chest. After the first round of medication, she was already scratching less. And she slept better.

And then the side effects set in.

The antibiotic she is on, Cephalexin, has a list of possible side effects

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Panting
  • Drooling
  • Hyperexcitability
  • Skin rashes

 

She vomited twice. Her appetite is off and as each meal rolls around, I have to get creative.

Each meal starts with two bits of naan, each spread with peanut butter, then rolled up to conceal the meds I have hidden inside. Knock on wood, but, so far, these have been well received. Her bowl of food is a different matter. When she first turned up her nose at her bowl of kibble, she deigned to eat it when I sprinkled small bits of turkey jerky on top. I usually reserve the jerky for positive reinforcement on walks, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

After a few doses of the meds, she turned away from her food, so I tried chicken and rice. It worked for one meal. I tried sprinkling probiotics on top. One day, I got a spoonful of peanut butter and scooped some onto individual kibbles in the hopes it would encourage her to eat. It did not. Today, when she turned up her nose at my offerings, I looked in the fridge, grabbed the bag of shredded carrot and sprinkled some on top. Success!

She has three more days of Cephalexin. I am hopeful that I have enough food toppers in the fridge to get her through.

Lucy Turns 14

 

Going Grey

7 Jul

I noticed my first grey hairs in the 90s, while I was working in Medellin, Colombia. A student named Felipe pointed them out to me and I told him they were all named after him. He thought that was pretty funny and told his mother, who was horrified, but laughed. Felipe was that kind of kid.

The really funny thing is that the conversation with his mother almost certainly took place in Spanish, but I remember it in English.

A few years after leaving Colombia – and more grey had appeared –  I was getting my hair cut and the woman in the chair next to me asked,”Is that your natural color, or are those highlights?”.

I told her it was and she replied,” You are really lucky.”

Since then, I have embraced the grey. That conversation helped me with its acceptance. I have watched family and friends both go grey and fight the grey. My mother spent years in a deep relationship with Lady Grecian Formula, stemming the grey tide, before finally embracing the inevitable. And she wore her grey well. My brother – who, like me, has my mother’s hair – has gone completely grey.

At my last haircut, on March 16th, my stylist cut my hair exceptionally short. I think she was anticipating the closure of salons. I am now at the point where I am thinking about getting my hair cut again. But I am also thinking about how ready I am for my hair to go completely grey.

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Walking with Lucy

30 Jun

The first walk comes early
out the back door
just as the sun is coming up.
It is followed by breakfast
and a nap.

The second walk comes later, still early,
as the street awakens with
cats, dog walkers,
and neighbors beginning
the journey to work.

The third walk comes mid morning
sometimes against her will,
mostly for my benefit.

The fourth walk comes after lunch.
On a sunny day
she might lay down on the sidewalk
taking a sunbath.

The last walk comes after dinner
her tummy full we take
one more turn around the street
before returning to the house
and she puts herself to bed.

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A visit to the library

16 Jun

School ended for kids on Thursday and for teachers yesterday. That’s big news. But the best news was that I finally went somewhere new.

In normal times, I go to the library at least once a week. My last visit was on March 9th. When it was announced on March 17th that public libraries would close, I regretted not stopping on my way home from my last day at school to pick up my holds.

Two weeks ago, Multnomah County Libraries announced that they would begin offering holds pick ups. The first branches would open on June 8th. My local branch would open on the 15th. I was elated. On Thursday, I called the number they posted and made an appointment for 10 a.m. on the 15th. I can’t tell you how excited I was.

I arrived early, but they were already open. There was only one person ahead of me so I stood on the spot that marked our new norm

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The process was quick and efficient. I walked up to the table that filled the library’s doorway and gave my name. They found it on the 10 a.m. spreadsheet.

“You have quite a few,” the masked librarian told me.

“I know. I brought a bag,” I replied, holding up my library bag.

She walked over to the piles of books in neatly arranged around the lobby and grabbed  my stack. Back at the table, she placed them on a tray and slid them towards me. I stuffed the books in my bag and she slid the tray back.

“Do you need to see my card?” I asked.

“No. They are already checked out,” she replied.

I had already read one of my new books, so I dropped it in the book drop. When I made my appointment, the person on the other end of the line told me that any books I returned would be quarantined for a few days before being checked back in. It seems a reasonable precaution.

As I walked back to the car, I looked through the library windows and saw piles of books stacked atop bookcases in the children’s section. Must be the rest of today’s pickups, I thought.

Through the next window, I saw the books in quarantine. Apparently, I’m not the only one happy to be able t use the library again.

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Frozen in Time

9 Jun

Lucy and I were a little ways down the street when my neighbor came down the front steps of the Normandy Court Condominiums where we both live.

I waved.  She waved. It was that strange moment when, before, we would have moved closer to each other to chat. This day, as we do now,, we chatted from afar.

“Can I ask you a strange favor?” she asked me nervously.

I assumed she’d ask me to water her plants. It’s not a strange request – we’ve watered each other’s plants before, but so many things seem strange these days.

“Sure,” I said. “What do you need?”

She went on to tell me that, despite walking to work instead of taking the bus, she’d gained almost 17 pounds. That led us to a discussion of self-medicating with carbs and the need for second breakfast. Then came The Ask.

“I’ve signed up for Nutrisystem,” she began, “and they are sending me a month’s worth of food. Some of it is frozen and I don’t know if it will all fit in my freezer. If it doesn’t, and if you have room, would you be able to store some for me?”

I smiled. It was a strange request, but I said yes. I went on to tell her how, in the first two weeks of shutdown, when toilet paper had disappeared off the shelves, and we all felt as if time had frozen and every day was the same, I stocked up on food in my freezer. I made batches of soup and chili and stew and packed the freezer. For weeks, I didn’t touch the frozen food, unsure about what was going to happen. Over the last few weeks, I’ve begun eating them. So, I have some freezer space I can share and told her so.

We chatted a little more, then Lucy and I carried on down the street to take care of business.

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What a difference a year makes

26 May

Last year, on the last Tuesday of May, I wrote about my 2019 Summer plans. This year, I have no plans to make plans. In fact, I have a list of the cancellation of things I’d planned or hoped to do:

  • the ALA Annual Conference in Chicago
  • the Black Sheep Gathering, a fiber festival in Albany, OR
  • the Oregon Basset Hound Games, which I help organize.

I have already heard that one September event I usually attend, the Oregon Flock & Fiber Festival, has been cancelled. I fear that this list might grow.

Things are starting to open up, but I am leery of venturing out. So, I decided to compile a list of things I could do to have a terrific summer staycation 2020.

  • choose a location then read books and watch movies about that place
  • knit a blanket or large sweater when it is hot outside, but cool inside with AC
  • learn something new – a craft, a simple musical instrument

With only three weeks (11 days!) of school left, I am resolved to focus on the positive. I am thinking of other things I can add to the list to make summer staycation 2020 as fun to anticipate as last year’s trip to Montreal.

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