My granddaughters just got back from Iowa where they went with their mom to spend ten days with their Papa Mike and Grandma Shiree. Jamie’s family is very close and she hadn’t seen them in a year and a half because of COVID. And Mike and Shiree couldn’t wait to see their three ‘girls,’ Olivia and Morgan and Jamie. Based on the pictures Jamie posted to Facebook, the trip was a rousing success. The weather looked great, Mike and Shiree’s new house looked beautiful, and Olivia and Morgan spent lots of time with their girl cousins doing girly things like baking and shopping and experimenting with makeup and fishing. Wait, fishing? Yes, fishing. Uncle Cole, Jamie’s brother, decided to take the girls fishing.
Olivia caught a good sized catfish and Morgan caught a real whopper. In fact, according to Morgan, “It almost took me away, Nana!”
“It did? How did it do that?” I asked.
“Well it pulled and pulled and I almost fell in the lake and Uncle Cole had to grab hold of the pole and me and pull the fish out of the water. It was a little scary. But mostly fun.”
“So, do you think you like fishing?”
“I think so. Except for the worm part. And the touching the fish part. And getting the hook out of the fish’s mouth part. But the catching part was pretty okay. Except for the falling in part.”
“Maybe you can try fishing with daddy on one of your camping trips.”
“Maybe. Or maybe I’ll just ride my bike and watch Olivia fish. She doesn’t get pulled in.”
1. You must first learn to pronounce the city name, it is: Fee-nicks. There are other names to learn such as Awatukee (Ah-wa-too-kee) and Tlaquepaque (Ta-loc-a-pock-ee), but that will be included in the advanced course.
2. The morning rush hour is from 5:00 am to noon. The evening rush hour is from noon to 7:00 pm. Friday’s rush hour starts Thursday at 11:00 in the morning.
3. The minimum acceptable speed on most freeways is 85 mph. On the Loop 101, your speed is expected to at least match the highway number. Anything less is considered ‘wussy’.
4. Forget the traffic rules you learned elsewhere, Phoenix has its own version of traffic rules. For example, cars and trucks with the loudest muffler go first at a four-way stop; the trucks with the biggest tires go second. However, in the East Valley, the SUV-driving, cell phone-talking, Scottsdale shopping moms ALWAYS have the right of way. If you try to take your turn and ignore these rules, you could get shot.
5. If you actually stop at a yield sign or a yellow light, you will be rear ended, cussed out, and possibly shot.
6. Never honk at anyone. Ever. Seriously. It’s another offense that might get you shot.
7. Road construction throughout the Valley is permanent and continuous. For your entertainment pleasure, detour barrels are moved around during the middle of the night to make the next day’s driving a bit more exciting. Another form of amusement for the Arizona Department of Transportation is closing major highways during holiday weekends.
8. Watch carefully for road hazards such as drunks, skunks, dogs, barrels, cones, cows, horses, cats, mattresses, shredded tires, squirrels, rabbits, crows, vultures, rattlesnakes, Javelinas, Roadrunners, Gila Monsters and the coyotes feeding on many of these items. Also watch out for wrong-way drivers. We get lots of them. It must have something to do with the summer heat frying brains or searing optic nerves so freeway entrance and exit signs all look the same.
9. Maricopa Freeway, Papago Freeway and the I-10 are the same interstate highway. SR-202 is also The Red Mountain Freeway, the San Tan Freeway, and the South Mountain Freeway. SR-101, known fondly as the Loop, is also the Pima Freeway except west of I-17 where it is the Aqua Fria Freeway. South of SR-101, I-17 is The Black Canyon Freeway; north of the SR-101, I-17 becomes The Veterans Memorial Highway. Dunlap and Olive are the same street, Glendale Road and Lincoln Drive are the same street. Jefferson becomes Washington, but they are not the same street. Thunderbird Road becomes Cactus Road, but Cactus Road doesn’t become Thunderbird Road because it dead ends at a mountain. Thunderbird also becomes Waddell.
10. If someone actually has their turn signal on, wave them over to the shoulder immediately to let them know it has been ‘accidentally activated. Attempting to use them while trying to merge onto a freeway or change lanes will only cause the drivers in those lanes to tighten up the gap so you can’t get in. Don’t honk or flip them off. You may get shot.
11. If you are in the left lane and only driving 75 in a 65 mph zone, you are considered a road hazard and will be ‘flipped off’ as you are passed by cars going a more acceptable 90 mph. If you return the flip, you’ll be shot.
12. For summer driving, it is advisable to wear potholders on your hands.
I’ve been writing about how my mom’s been messing with me ever since she passed away four and a half years ago. I’ve heard her quite clearly calling out to me on several occasions. She knocks things off walls and counters. She tugs on my sheet or sits on the bed while I’m trying to go to sleep. She rearranges objects around the house. She turns on fans and lights and small electronics, like our security camera. I’ve seen visible signs of her presence on video clips in the form of a mist and floating globes of light. She stops by often but doesn’t adhere to a regular schedule, so I never know what triggers her visits.
The latest was Tuesday night, the day after we got back from a Memorial weekend trip to Silver City, NM. Bill and I crawled into bed at about 10:30 and, within five minutes, Bill’s soft snores were the only sound in the room. As I felt myself drifting off, the mattress of our adjustable bed suddenly started to move.
The remote control units to make the head and foot go up and down were inside my nightstand drawer and the last time I’d used this feature was well over a year ago, after my double mastectomy. I would raise the head of the bed so I could sleep comfortably elevated during my recovery. But, despite the fact that the remotes were securely tucked away, the mattress began elevating on its own. The head started to rise then the foot started to rise. Bill woke up with a start, uttered a couple of choice swear words, and we both rolled off the bed before we became the center of an adjustable bed sandwich.
I told Echo to turn on the lights and began looking for the remote controls in my nightstand. The remote for my side of the bed was laying against the back of the drawer. The twin remote that control’s Bill’s side of the bed was laying an inch or so in front of it.
I began pushing buttons on my remote to lower the mattress but it seemed to be dead. I pushed down on the HEAD button, down on the FOOT button, then down on the LEVEL button. Nothing. The mattress just kept going up. I tossed Bill’s remote to him and he started pushing buttons. His remote apparently worked because the mattress stopped moving and began to slowly lower his side, pulling my side down with it, but only to a semi-level position. “What the heck was that all about?” Bill asked rather sharply as he finally lay back down. “What did you touch?”
“Me? Nothing,” I responded, crawling back under the covers and trying to get comfortable on my somewhat skewed mattress. “I was just laying here trying to fall asleep. I didn’t touch anything.”
“Well someone did,” he snorted. “And we both know who that was.”
“Mom!” we shouted together.
“That’s it,” I exclaimed. “We’re getting another bed. I’ve hated this one since we inherited it, but now it really needs to go. It’s like a deadly weapon.”
“Okay, fine. All you have to do is save up a couple of thousand dollars and we’ll get a new bed,” he replied as he turned on his side to go back to sleep, thinking, foolishly, that that was the end of the discussion.
In the morning, as I started to make the bed, I saw that the mattress on my side wasn’t level because my remote had refused to work. The head and foot were both still raised slightly. I retrieved the remote from the drawer of my nightstand and pushed the LEVEL button. I was prepared get new batteries for it but, with a muted whirling of the motor, the mattress evened out. Why it didn’t work last night is a mystery. Or maybe not.
“Mom!” I yelled. “I will not be made into a bologna sandwich in the middle of the night again. Not funny!”
My quest for a new bed starts today!
Memorial weekend Bill and I went on a road trip to Silver City, New Mexico. What, you might ask, drew us to the small town of Silver City, which sits pretty much in the middle of nowhere? It was a surprise. Our friends from Austin, Texas, Ken and Mary Lou, were celebrating their 52nd wedding anniversary. Bill, Ken and Mary Lou were good friend through high school but they lost touch. Bill was in their wedding after graduation, and then Ken and Mary Lou moved away from Pennsylvania. He didn’t see or hear from them again for 50 years until Ken called one day to say hi and oh, by the way, they were traveling through Phoenix on their way to California to take a 28-day south Pacific cruise for their 50th anniversary and how about we all get together and catch up. That was in 2019. Mary Lou and I bonded immediately and have remained good friends ever since then. We talk on the phone, text each other, email back and forth, and she’s a devoted fan of my blog.
Bill got a text from Ken a couple of weeks ago asking if we’d like to meet up with them in Silver City, New Mexico. It was going to be a surprise for Mary Lou. I wasn’t sure if the surprise was being stuck in Silver City for their 52nd anniversary or seeing us again. But I learned from my son, Ryan, that it’s a pretty nice little town and that the last scene of the movie, The Rat Race, where they found the money at the train station, was filmed there.
Since Bill and I are always up for a road trip off we went. We left Saturday morning at nine o’clock and six and a half hours later, we pulled into the parking lot of the Holiday Inn Express where we had made a reservation.
The surprise, which I eventually learned was seeing us again, was scheduled to happen at the motel where Ken and Mary Lou were staying. We got there a little before five o’clock and parked outside their first floor room. I marched up to the door, knock sharply and exclaimed loudly, “Room service! Maid service! Whatever service!”
Ken opened the door with a big smile on his face and Bill and I wandered in. Mary Lou was lounging on the bed, working on a word-find puzzle. She looked up at me, clearly confused. “Hello?” she said tentatively.
“Hi there, Mary Lou. Happy anniversary!” I exclaimed as I tossed an envelop containing a card onto the bed followed by a bag of Ghirardelli milk chocolate caramel squares. “I brought you a whole bag of chocolates because you told me the two wafers I put in your birthday card last month just wasn’t’ enough,” I said as a hint.
“Well thank you very much,” she replied, still not catching onto who I was or who Bill was. “Did we check-in at the same time? How do you know it’s our anniversary?”
Ken finally piped in. “Mary, it’s Bill and Patt. From Arizona. They drove here for our anniversary.”
“Oh my God,” she exclaimed, leaping up off the bed and coming around to give me a belated hug. “Ken, is this my surprise?”
“Yes, dear, this is your surprise.”
“Well, it’s the best one ever,” she exclaimed beaming like a kid who found a five dollar bill on the floor of a candy store and giving me another squeeze. “Even if I didn’t know who the heck you were.”
Bill is still walking every weekday. Six to seven miles. I’m very proud of him and also sort of envious. I wish I could start walking again. Or maybe not after his experience yesterday.
We were sitting in the office having a light breakfast of juice and English muffins when Bill turned to me and asked, “Did I tell you I saw two coyotes on my walk this morning?”
“No. Were they on the other side of the street?”
“Nope, they were standing in the middle of the road. They looked full grown and seemed to be pretty healthy.”
“Did they move away from you when you got closer?”
“No, they just stood their ground, staring at me. And they looked a little hungry.”
“Well that’s unusual that they didn’t move. Were you kind of scared?”
“I gotta say, I was a little freaked out. I got out my pepper spray just in case. And even when I was almost right across from them, maybe ten, twelve feet away, they didn’t budge. It was creepy.”
“So what happened?”
“Well, a car came along so they both ran to the other side of the street and trotted away toward the golf course. I can’t figure out why they let me get so close. Maybe they were just young and cocky.”
“Or maybe they were checking out your drumsticks,” I replied with a grin and a wink. “They do look pretty yummy.”
We lost a beloved member of our landscape family over the weekend. Sheldon, our 30 foot tall Saguaro decided to fall on our roof. We don’t know why. The afternoon winds we’ve been experiencing for months died down for a change. He looked perfectly healthy. His six foot circumference and 30 foot height was lush green and his razor like pickers were hard and sharp and fungus-free. He even had the beginnings of an arm on his side. But for some reason, he decided to tumble onto our roof, smashing the gutter and coming to rest at a 45 degree angle, waiting for us to wake up Saturday morning and discover his cold, dead body. Maybe he was trying to give the house a goodbye kiss.
On Sunday, Bill was talking to his brother John, who lives in Iowa, and was telling him untypically how windy it’s been here and how we got up this morning to find our 30 foot saguaro had fallen our roof. Apparently there was a brief pause in the conversation and then John asked, “How the heck did you get a 30 foot cactus up on your roof?”
They know about corn in Iowa. Cactus? Not so much.
Do you ever think you see something in your peripheral vision, but when you turn to look straight at it, there’s nothing to see? Or have you ever walked into or out of a room and had the distinct impression someone was behind you, but when you turned to look, no one was there? Or maybe you’ve experienced sitting alone in a comfy chair or nestled on a cushy sofa, reading a book or playing solitaire on your tablet, and suddenly you think you hear someone walking across the floor in the next room, but when you call out or get up to look, the room is empty?
Welcome to my world. Here’s an example.
Hanging along one side of the long expanse of wall in the hallway is a grouping of eight family photographs that I had reproduced on light weight 8 x 10 canvas. I originally put them up with removable Velcroed stick ups, but one after another, they would randomly fall down. I assumed the arid Phoenix climate was drying up the adhesive. So I decided to switch to small nails and rehang each picture from the sawtooth hangers that were already in place along the upper back of each frame.
One afternoon last January, while Bill was away at the carwash, I carefully peeled the removable tabs from the wall and the back of each picture frame, measured and hammered a nail in the wall for each picture and rehung all eight. It seemed to do the job… for a little while.
But roughly a month or so later, one by one, a different photo would find its way to the floor. Sometimes in the middle of the day; sometimes in the middle of the night. Sometimes once a week, sometimes two or three times.
This went on throughout February and March. I would go into the hallway and there would be a picture on the floor. It wasn’t until the middle of April that I realized that it wasn’t the house settling or undetectable earthquakes that caused the photos to leap from the wall. It was Mom.
Bill was outside filling the birdbath and I was doing the Saturday laundry. I was carrying a laundry basket full of dirty clothes down the hall and, as I started to make the left turn in the kitchen toward my ultimate destination, the washer and dryer in the garage, I heard the crack of another picture hitting the hallway floor. I turned to take a look and out of my peripheral vision I swore I detected a misty shadow hovering in front of the series of photos. When I looked straight down the hall there was nothing to see except one of the prints lying face down on the floor.
I placed the laundry basket on the kitchen counter, walked back down the hall and put the picture of my son and daughter back in place on the nail.
“Mom,” I hissed. “Stop doing this. One of these days you’re going to tear a picture.”
This was answered with a loud response as my laundry basket tipped off of the quartz counter, spilling clothes all over the kitchen floor.
“That’s it!” I shouted. “If you don’t quit this, we’re selling the house and not leaving a forwarding address!”
She’s been behaving herself for about a month now. But I’m sure she’ll be back eventually to let me know she’s still looking after me.
Miss you, Mom.
We were babysitting Morgan and Olivia and were just about ready to head into the kitchen for dinner. It was also, apparently, the perfect time for Olivia to start showing off her gymnastic skills.
“Okay,” Bill announced, coming into the living room from the kitchen, “it’s time to eat.”
“Papa, did you know I can bend over backwards? All the way?” ten-year-old Olivia asked.
“Nope, didn’t know that, sweet pea,” he replied. “Let’s go have dinner.”
“Watch, watch,” she shouted as she proceeded to bend her body into a perfect backwards arch until her hands were flat on the floor. “See, Papa,” she said with an upside down grin. “And I can do the splits, too!” she exclaimed as she rolled into an upright position and leaped gracefully to her feet. She then proceeded to slide her legs apart in opposite directions until she was sitting on the floor atop a perfect split. “Not too many people can do this, you know,” she said as she stood back up.
“Well that’s just really great honey,” Bill said. “I’m very impressed. Now, how about we eat dinner while it’s still hot.”
Seven-year-old Morgan was sitting quietly on the couch watching her sister perform her various and amazing feats of elasticity, when she suddenly announced, “I can touch my nose with my toes.”
We all stopped on our way to the kitchen and turned toward her. “See,” she exclaimed, as she deftly put her big toe into her left nostril.
“Well now, that is really and truly amazing peanut,” I said with a grin. “Can you do it one more time so I can take a picture?”
“Sure, Nana,” she said with a big grin plastered on her face as she lifting her foot and once again inserting her big toe into her nose. “I can do gymie stuff too!”
“You sure can,” Bill said with a laugh. “Now how about coming to the table and putting something in your mouth.
“Okay,” she replied, smiling broadly. “Just not my toe!”