Thursday, October 14, 2010

Back to basics ...

2 August 2010, Minneapolis MN USA

This month is not starting out well. My friend Janet had an auto accident and is in the hospital undergoing tests. Marilou has had some problems with her wound site. Lisa is being treated again for her cancer. And Barbara, the Polish woman that I helped on the flight from Amsterdam, was hospitalized with a heart attack about 10 days ago and has no travel health insurance.

On the plus side, I have reconnected with several old friends, Doug and Larry, from my old Brunch Bunch; Darryn, we trained for our first marathon in the same group in 1988; and Connie and Tom, we met in a running group at the Y in the mid-70s and she’s my hairdresser too. Janet’s son Thom and Doug helped me retrieve a sofa from Goodwill that is now amidst the boxes and piles in the living room, awaiting word from the upholsterer that he’s ready for it. I have to find fabric too. Tomorrow night I’m going to Darryn’s son’s recital at the MacPhail Center for Music. And Wednesday I’m getting a hair cut -- hooray. Connie and I will have dinner afterwards and catch up.

9 September 2010

Well, it’s been a long time since I hit these keys to add to the blog. My apologies. Thankfully the month improved as time went on. Everyone seems to be doing better. But I did have to make a quick trip to Michigan to check on my aunt and uncle. Aunt Betty has two infections that aren’t responding to any of the medications. Not good. While in Michigan, I visited with two old friends, Bruce from high school and Eve from Poland ... nice breaks to a stressful week.

Much of the rest of August and September has been spent sorting 20 years of storage and trashing, stashing, recycling and sharing what I found. Lots of old tax files now await shredding and others were re-boxed ‘just in case.‘ Lots of unused household items were left by the dumpster or taken to Goodwill for others to use. Several boxes were stashed for a garage sale to be held in October. Cherished items, photos and art have found their way onto the walls and shelves of the condo. Quite a few Hagen and Kanyr family heirlooms have been distributed to appropriate nieces and nephews; no need for them to wait to enjoy them. I’ve found all kinds of forgotten photos that I’m sharing with those photographed -- lots of good memories.

I’ve downsized to a much smaller paid storage space and have reorganized the one in my building to hold what can be stored in a damp place. Phew. Busy month. Found some muscles that I hadn’t used in a long time ... and decided to join the Y and get back in shape. So to start, I’m taking Pilates three evenings a week and a Zumba, salsa-dancing exercise course, once a week ... and walking around a lake or downtown whenever I have time.

I went to Michigan for a week because my 90-year-old aunt wasn’t doing well. She is antibiotic resistant, making her recovery from infection very difficult. My uncle repeatedly says that they never expected to live so long. It’s a good reminder to me of the importance of taking care of this body that I have while I can just in case I follow in their footsteps age wise.

To that point, my 65th birthday looms in October. I have signed on for social security and obtained my Medicare card. Does this mean I’m old? Don’t answer that question! You are only as old as you feel, right? And that goes for me too.

30 September, Washington, DC, USA

I would never have expected to be stuck indoors because of a driving rainstorm and tornado watches/warnings in the DC metro area. That’s something I endured in my mother’s hometown in Illinois every summer or occasionally in Minneapolis or where I grew up in PA. But alas, that’s what we have ... and hence, me finally getting back to this journal.

Back home in Minneapolis before leaving for DC, I continued to clear out the boxes, and I’m down to one that needs attention. It’s full of souvenir boxes that I haven’t decided what to do with yet. The Goodwill sofa is being used until I decide what I want the living room to look like. IKEA only has glass doors for the bookshelves that I want, and there’s no indication when wooden doors will be available. But I still have to get the room painted so no rush there. Ray, one of my son’s friends, has his own business laying tile and while I’m gone, he’s re-tiling the surround and ceiling of my bathtub, and replacing all of the fixtures with new matching sets. Another room done. When I return, laundry room painting is next, then living and dining rooms.

I’ve been in DC for 10 days so far, visiting with friends, reconnecting with overseas contacts and enduring a day-long interview for an overseas country director position with Peace Corps. I know, you thought I was retiring ... and I may yet. None of the other full time jobs I’ve been asked to consider has been challenging and interesting enough to make me want to go overseas full time again. But this one does. I have been passionate about PC since it was formed when I was 15. It took me 30 years to get to be a PCV (volunteer), and that changed my life and my career path. The PC opportunity was too good to pass up. The process was daunting and exhausting but also worthwhile. I had six individual interviews plus a panel of three recently returned PCVs over the day. One interviewer was the woman who had been CD in Macedonia when I was there, and her PCVs had worked with our tourism group. I’ll know in early November if I’m a candidate. Fingers crossed ... positive thoughts ... a few prayers even -- all appreciated.

Spent my first weekend here with Elizabeth and Zoran, two friends from my Macedonia days. We went to “Opera in the Outfield” on Sunday afternoon -- the National Opera Company simulcast its opening production, The Masked Ball, at the Washington Nationals’ ballpark ... on the big screen where you see fans waving from the stands and larger-than-life instant replays. It was free and I was pleased to see so many young people and young families, the latter especially taking advantage of the grassy outfield to spread blankets and picnics.

Last weekend a friend from my BAH days (Regina) and I went to Somerset PA for my high school classmate’s 65th birthday. Regina’s had more surgery (you may recall she had foot surgery in February, and I helped her for a few weeks) and her divorce is dragging. Since the boys were going to be with their dad and his brother, it was a good time for her to get away and relax. Google Maps took us along a variety of roads from interstate highway to back country, and I only I missed one turn. We stopped for lunch in the Cumberland Gap area ... lovely huge resort where we could sit outside in the fresh air and sunshine and relax while we chowed down.

Friday we had dinner with Suzie (one of my oldest friends) and Lance (the birthday guy), Saturday we drove to see the temporary memorial for 9/11 Flight 93 at the crash site which is not far from Somerset, then on to Ligonier for the afternoon. Ligonier is a town left over from US colonial days with a French & Indian War fort, a quaint town square and traffic rotary, and lots of small shops and cafes. Regina enjoyed a ‘next-to-new’ shop a lot, filling two bags with items new to her. Too bad we were too early for the best of the fall leaf color and for Ligonier Days, when they shoot the fort’s old cannon across US Route 30. Quite a spectacle in early October. We also drove through the countryside, passing Rolling Rock, the Mellon family estate that seems to go on forever, and where we watched steeplechase races from the roadside when I was a kid. We drove through Linn Run State Park, visited so many times in my childhood. Linn Run is where our family had picnics and hikes, where my parents filled old jugs with spring water and where virtually every child in the family fell into the creek. It’s a magical, spiritual place for me and where my ashes and what remains of Peter’s will be scattered when the time comes.

Visiting friends in the Washington area always means OD’ing on an international variety of cuisines in a short timeframe, and that I did. Startrd with a Mediterranean dinner that Zoran made for himself, Elizabeth and me. Nancy, Ann and I had dinner at Georgia Brown’s, a Southern soul food restaurant that I’ve wanted to try since my DC-McLean commutes; I walked past it daily. I met Peace Corps friends Michael and Tamara for a Thai dinner near Dupont Circle while I lunched on Thai in Arlington with two development colleagues Alicia and Mike. Veronica (my Booz Allen officemate), Regina, her sons and I Sunday-brunched on dim sum at a Chinese restaurant frequented by tour buses full of Asian tourists. Peggy (from my Poland days and with whom I stayed during week one) and I did Mexican while Susan from TechnoServe picked Indian. The Ethiopian restaurant where Edwige (a Booz’r) and I shared a vegetarian platter and lamb tibs is only a block from where I was staying with Stacey (my PC roommate), her husband Michael (also a PCV) and their girls. And while I was at their place, Michael continued a tradition he started when we were all PCVs -- making incredibly delicious meals that respected Stacey’s vegetarianism yet fed our occasional need for something else. And believe it or not, I didn’t gain weight. All that walking does pay off.

My weekend on Block Island, off the coast of Rhode Island, visiting Marie from the Acapulco group with a stop in CT to see high school friend Jane was postponed due to a bad cold and worse weather. I just couldn’t face a long train ride to the ferry when it was so cold and rainy. And thankfully I didn’t leave ... the weather caused the ferry to be cancelled!

The month is closing on a better note than it started ... my friends are all doing well, the bathroom is done and my chair-bed will be delivered when I return. Now to face birthday #65 ...

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