Thursday, July 24, 2014

Taking Care of Business

Getting Mom settled in her new home has proven to be a bit of a challenge. She is still in her temporary apartment, so she hasn't been able to unpack much of anything, knowing she would be moving very soon. This situation has drug on longer than we expected.

Mom wanted to open a local bank account, so we went to a bank near where she is living. They were very happy to have her as a new customer until they realized that she did not have a State issued Texas ID card, and that her New Mexico driver's license had expired ten days earlier. She hadn't seen any reason to renew her NM license or get a NM ID card, since she was moving to Texas and would no longer be driving. That left her with NO acceptable ID for opening the bank account.

"No problem," they told her. "Just go to motor vehicles and get a Texas one." We decided to put that off until Wednesday of this week, since she also needed to take care of some medical issues as soon as possible.

Stoney Brook requires either a TB skin test or a chest x-ray. Mom knew she'd need the x-ray, because the skin tests always come back positive for her. We thought we were good-to-go on this, because she had just had a chest x-ray a couple months ago, when she was experiencing some congestion. But nothing is that easy. We got the x-ray results, but they weren't accepted, because they didn't specifically rule out TB.

Secondly, Mom's NM doctor had sent her with orders to get a weekly blood test, for her coumadin levels, and have them sent to him to monitor until she is established with a Texas doctor (first appointment we could get was August 25). The clinic that did the x-ray couldn't do the lab work. We went from there to an urgent care clinic. They couldn't do the blood work either. Then on to the Belton Scott and White clinic, where they are willing to do the blood work AFTER they get her NM doctor entered into their system (he does hold a Texas license). So we're on hold for that for a couple days. (I pray they won't require an ID card . . .)

On Monday we checked with motor vehicles to find out what documents she would need to bring with her to get the Texas ID. The friendly young clerk at the front door told us: "Your birth certificate, Social Security card, and this form, to be filled out by Stoney Brook, verifying your residence." I asked if there was a waiting period before she could get an ID. "No, just bring these things in and we'll issue it to her."

So Wednesday morning we carried the requested paperwork to Motor Vehicles, and waited an hour for our number to be called. When we went up to the counter we found that 1) The form filled out by Stoney Brook wouldn't suffice. We need a notarized letter, on letterhead, with very specific information in it. 2) The birth certificate is, indeed, necessary, but she also needs to bring in her marriage license to prove that her name changed from her birth-name. And 3) There is a 30 day waiting period.

When I mentioned to the clerk that we had been given misinformation at the front desk, she just waved her hand and said, "They are just young hourly employees." As if that made it all alright.

So, we are waiting for Mom's doctor to get entered into the Scott and White system, so we can get her lab work done. We'll get Stoney Brook to write that notarized letter, dig into Mom's still-packed boxes and locate her marriage certificate, wait the required 30 days, and go get her Texas ID card. After that she should be able to open a bank account. Oh, and Mom was told, last evening, that she will finally get to move into her assigned apartment on either Monday or Tuesday.

It will all work out eventually.


Sunday, July 20, 2014

"Josie"

[Note: This is a true story, but I have changed "Josie's" first name, birth surname, married surname and current location.]

After hours of on-line research, I still had only a faint hope that the Josephine Jones, of Maryland, to whom I had sent a letter through the US Postal Service, would possibly turn out to be my childhood friend, Josie Marks, from Alaska. So when an email message arrived in my in-box, from jcjones, I opened it with little expectation of success. But there it was, not only an email letter from Josie, but an attached photograph of her with her grown children. She was 45 years older than the young girl I had last seen, but I saw in her mature face that same girl. She told me that she worked as a school social worker. I paused in reading the message, to think back on our young years together.
We had been an odd pair of friends, Josie and I. I was an only child. Josie, at the age of eleven, was the oldest of ten children. My parents owned a successful small business - Clark’s Bakery. Josie’s father drove a taxi cab in good times; he lived off the government in bad times. I never asked what Josie’s mother did for a living. I somehow knew I shouldn’t ask. I lived in a spacious apartment over my dad’s bakery, awakened every morning by the aroma of fresh baked bread and Danish pastries. Josie’s home was a three-room shack of an apartment, on the hillside, accessed by something like 60 wooden stairs. Children slept piled atop of one another like a litter of puppies. The littlest one had a cardboard box on the floor of the coat closet for her bed. The “aroma” of Josie’s house was nothing like the sweet smells that filtered up into my bedroom from Daddy’s bakery. Probably the most significant difference between Josie and me was that I was blue eyed and white as a pale lily, while Josie was a brown skinned, black-haired, full-blooded Tlinget Indian. She also wore a built-up shoe on one foot, since that leg was three inches shorter than the other one.
Despite our differences, Josie and I fell into a comfortable friendship that filled the emptiness caused by having no brothers or sisters. One thing we did have in common was the long hike, up-hill, from downtown Juneau, Alaska, to our school, Fifth Street Elementary. The three-story concrete schoolhouse sat on the hillside overlooking the old Capitol Building and the harbor below, where sea planes roared and fishing boats docked and unloaded their catch.
The walk up Seward Street, even in the bitterness of winter, with the Taku winds biting our cheeks and chapping our bare legs - for in those years, even in Alaska, girls weren’t allowed to wear pants to school - was made bearable by our constant chatter. Josie was quite a tease. Knowing how gullible I was, she sometimes strung me on for five minutes or more with some tall tale before laughing out loud and crowing, “Jokes!”, which was her quirky way of saying, “I’m just kidding.”

After school we played Seven-Up on the sidewalk, using a red rubber ball against the bakery wall. Josie was hard to beat! She could make it all the way from sevensies to onesies, even adding in two or three claps between each throw or bounce. She never seemed to consider her leg a disability, nor did I.



Downtown Juneau was built at the base of two mountains - Mt. Juneau and Mt. Roberts - with the Gastineau Channel licking at its feet. Until a fire claimed it, in 1965, the huge Alaska-Juneau Gold Mine Mill, built in stair-step fashion up the side of Mt. Roberts sat as a reminder of the glory of the gold rush days. Josie and I, along with a couple of her younger brothers, spent many a Saturday hacking our way through the thick hillside underbrush, in search of mining ruins and relics which had been eaten up by the voracious Southeast Alaska rainforest. 

Josie and I drifted apart and went our separate ways in junior high and high school. I never really knew why. But, for some reason, locating her and rekindling that friendship had become important to me in recent years.

I sighed, returned to reading her email, and was startled at the next paragraph:

When we were in grade school, I remember, my Native friends were challenging me and questioning me about my friendships. Race was a big issue. My friends made me steal something from you to prove I was not turning white. What an experience! After that I vowed that friendships would not be based on race or the color of one's skin. I am sorry I had to put you through that experience. I also learned that I could advocate for myself and that I needed to be true to myself. A couple of my friends made wrong choices and their lives ended at such a young age. I was fortunate. Recently, I participated in an in-service concerning poverty, and it hit me . . . I once lived in poverty, and I have come a long way, but I could not have made it without wonderful people like you and your parents in my life. Thank you for that.

I halted there. Stunned. I re-read the paragraph through a blur of tears. From my childhood perspective, our friendship had been such an easy, carefree one. But now I was humbled, knowing that being a friend to me had required a measure of courage and strength from Josie that I had neither realized nor appreciated. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Dan's "Far Side" Crisis Clinic Cup


This coffee mug - with a "Far Side" cartoon showing a CRISIS CLINIC in flames and going over a waterfall - has been one of Dan's favorites for many years.

But tonight the crisis hit home. Dan was just settling down to enjoy a nice evening cup of coffee and watch a little TV. He lifted his CRISIS cup by the handle to take a sip, and . . . the handle just broke right off of the side of the cup, spilling the entire cup of very hot coffee in his lap.

He says it's not a serious burn, but that doesn't mean that it doesn't hurt! It certainly spoiled his relaxing evening.

Finally - Mom Moves to Texas

I drove to Carlsbad on Monday, July 7. It's an eight hour drive, and I left early enough to arrive before dinnertime that evening. I was impressed at how much work Mom had done, over the past few weeks, in preparation for her move to Texas. But there was still lots to do. I tried to pace myself by packing and emptying one room per day. Some rooms took only half a day; others took almost an entire day.

We stored all of the furniture that was to be moved and boxes that were completely packed on one end of the living room. The guest bedroom became the garage sale room. Luckily we didn't actually have to hold a garage sale ourselves. The River Bend community, where Mom lived, holds community garage sales periodically, and we were told to leave everything in one place so it could be picked up and included in the next sale.

Although I worked hard, I can't say enough about the help we got from some of Mom's neighbors, especially Lynn and Sue. Those two ladies were over at Mom's house nearly every day, helping me empty cupboards, pack boxes and haul trash to the garage. Sue's husband, Charlie, brought his pickup truck over and hauled away all the big bags of trash that wouldn't fit in the garbage cans. (I say "cans" instead of "can" because all of the neighbors let us add to their trash cans on garbage collection day.) Sue almost single-handedly cleaned out the garage. Lynn offered to come back, after Mom and I left, and vacuum the entire house.

Mom with Lynn and John

Mom and Sue

And then there were the farewell meals. Lynn and her husband, John, invited us over for a wonderful home-cooked meal at their house. Sue and Charlie treated us to a very good meal at a classy restaurant, on Sunday afternoon. And one day, after finishing our lunch at a Chinese restaurant, Mom and I learned that someone had picked up our tab. The cashier said it was a random act of kindness by someone who wished to remain anonymous.

We also enjoyed lunch, one day, thanks to Mom's very special friends, Pat and Gloria. Mom has known them since they were all living in Anchorage, Alaska, many years ago. They have been so good to Mom over the last 14 years, while she lived next door to them. They have included her on road trips, shared holiday meals, and been almost like family. It was Gloria who threw a farewell party for Mom at church. This party took place the Sunday before I got to Carlsbad. Although I wasn't there, I did see pictures of all the dear people who showed up to send Mom off with hugs and good wishes.

Mom with Gloria and Pat

Mom also said her good-byes to the sweet lady who has done her hair, every week, for all these years. Her name is Lee, and, although Mom will have to find someone else to do her hair, here in Texas, she won't be able to replace Lee, who has become a good friend.

Mom with Lee

The night before the movers were to arrive we couldn't stay at Mom's house. Everything was packed and/or sold, so there was nowhere to sleep. Mom's friend, Ursula, who has a little guest house in back of her house, let us stay there. We had a perfectly comfortable night's sleep before the big moving day. Mom met Ursula way back in 2008, when she was in the hospital, after the fall that resulted in a broken pelvis. Ursula was recovering from some surgery, and the two of them went through physical therapy together in the hospital. Since then Ursula has become an amazing friend with a big heart.

Mom with Ursula

The movers came on Monday, July 14. They were finished loading the trailer by noon, so Mom and I locked up her house for the final time and drove as far as Sweetwater, Texas. That's pretty close to the half-way point between Carlsbad and Temple. We spent the night there in a hotel, and drove on to Temple the next morning. I think it was around two o'clock when we arrived home.

One of the movers - Diego. He was especially helpful and accommodating.

Mom stayed at our house Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights. Her belongings were delivered to Stoney Brook (her new home) on Wednesday. We unpacked just the essentials yesterday, and she will spend her first night there tonight. Sadly, there was a "glitch" in the apartment assignment. She was supposed to be moving into a one-bedroom (for now, until a one-bedroom-grande opens up - who knows when?), but at the last minute the previous tenant in the one-bedroom was delayed in moving out. So they put Mom into a two-bedroom, supposedly for only a few days, and will move her into the one-bedroom as soon as it is open. So we can't really say she's settled yet. But she has her bed and we set up her bathroom, got her TV hooked up to the cable, set up her computer with a new email address, and got her Keurig coffee maker ready to brew her morning cup of joe.

I hope her first night there goes well.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Update on Dan

Dan had his six-week post-surgery check-up with his doctor on Wednesday. The doctor was very pleased with his progress and his x-rays. He was given the green-light to drive again :-) and to go ahead with surgery on his other knee. He wasted no time in scheduling that surgery - for August 7.

Between now and August 7, I might be a wee bit busy - getting my Mom packed up and moved from New Mexico to her new home here, in Belton, and reporting for jury duty beginning July 21.

Happy Fourth of July

Earlier this week Tim came to see us for a couple of days. It was good to see him again. He left around noon on Wednesday to visit some friends who live south of Dallas/Ft. Worth, and to spend the Fourth with them.

Dan and I considered driving to Katy to see Chris, Kelsey and the grands today (technically yesterday, since it's now after midnight!), but came to the conclusion that we shouldn't try to fit another event onto our already-too-full summer calendar. Instead we stayed home and had a nice dinner of grilled brats, potato salad, baked beans and watermelon. Then, this evening, we went to the All American Family Fun Fest at Miller Park, to take in the outdoor concert and the fireworks.

The opening act was country singer Jenna McDaniel. Then came the main performance, the Sloppy Joe Band, which I really enjoyed. They are a fun group that does classic rock, blues and RandB hits from the 60s, 70s and 80s. The entertainment ran right up until 9:30, when the firework show started. For me, it's not REALLY Fourth of July unless I get to see fireworks, so this was the perfect end to the day.

Swans at Miller Park pond

The midway at dusk






(Photography notes to self: Fireworks shots taken at F8, 1.3 seconds, ISO 100 with Pan. FZ200)