We built our house in 2004 for our two kids. Each child has a bedroom/bathroom on the second floor and there is giant playroom on the upper floor where video war games can be played at high decibels without interfering with adults in the lower regions. The upper floor is now empty most of the year, ghostly quiet. But this Christmas both my son and daughter are home to share the holidays with us. This is a special gift because both are young adults who have many friends and active lives in other cities far from Boise.
One of the gifts of our house is it transforms into a Christmas house when we decorate. We have 20 foot ceilings in the living room and a huge gas and rock fireplace. There is plenty of space to host a spectacular Christmas tree and hang stockings with care. We have downsized the tree and our decorations as we have aged but even on a smaller scale the house provides a cozy, Christmas haven.
The house also reflects who we are. There is a large golden retriever Christmas decoration on the front porch. We love our animals. We had a gold lab for many years, named Annie, who we all adored. Our wreath inside also carries on the animal theme.
I collect decorations from all our travels so I have many rare gems such as hand painted eggs from Prague and hand-blown angels from Venice, just to name a couple.
But my favorite ornaments are the ones the kids have made me over the years. They are little tidbits of love memorialized for our tree.
Christmas is in two days, then my son flies back off to Seattle and his other life. My daughter is having surgery for a torn ACL while skiing. So the Christmas spirit at our house is brief. But while it’s here, I will delight in the decorations that showcase a family’s life built on love and trust.
May the spirit of Christmas be with you this season and throughout the year.
On Wednesday, March 25, Governor Little ordered Idahoans to shelter in place in a effort to reduce the spread of the Coronavirus for 21 days. Our family currently at home consists of my husband, a physician who goes into the hospital daily and myself and our pets, two dogs and a cat. When my husband heads out early to do rounds, I am essentially sheltering alone. I have marked off my calendar with the days that the order holds. I’m treating it like an advent calendar. Assuming Idaho is able to bring the virus under control, we will be able to return to some sense of normalcy by April 14. I check off each day, another grand adventure at home. If we are successful at reducing the spread, the time in shelter will be worth it.
At the moment I feel lucky because my son, Scott, lives in Seattle, a virus hot-spot and has been staying home since March 1 so almost a month longer than my husband and I. Since Seattle hasn’t managed to turn the curve yet, he may be staying home even longer. So far Scott who works for the Starbucks Corporate Office has been very fortunate to be able to continue his work from home. Every day we read about more layoffs. The ability to work from home is a true blessing. I am retired so my office floats around the house. I have a lot of electrical equipment to conduct my retired affairs including an I-Phone, I-Pad, portable computer, desk top etc. I am practically computer illiterate so I feel lucky every day I am able to write a coherent sentence on equipment that is smarter than me.
Here are my lists of delights since we have moved to sheltering:
1. Walking a couple miles a day around our neighborhood. We have a mansion going in up the street from us. I remain amazed at how many workers this project has entailed. The work has continued even with the shelter order. Maybe a home for a multi-millionaire is an essential project or at least keeping a large workforce going is essential. On the nature front, flowers are bursting from the ground and budding on the trees. We have gorgeous colors all around us, pink, red, yellow. We have no tulips because the deer snap off the tops as soon as they bloom. I have to assume to deer tulips are similar to aphrodisiacs to humans. Idaho has lots of newcomers. Someone posted on our neighborhood blog that her tulips had been stolen during the night and who could be so mean. Sometimes, our wild friends are not so accommodating.
2. Sitting on my front porch enjoying the sun. The weather this weekend was so warm we could all be outside playing but that was before the Governor’s order. Now we can exercise but we are suppose to keep close to our houses. We have a gorgeous front porch. The weather has turned a little cooler but I spent all morning yesterday outside wearing a parka and covered with a blanket sipping a mug of coffee and catching up on emails. Sun is good for the soul and should be sought out whenever possible.
3. Meditation and prayer. Our minister has suggested as a lead up to Easter we pray five times a day (when we get up, breakfast, lunch, dinner, and when we go to bed). I also try to take time to close my eyes and chase away the whirling thoughts and focus on my breathing.
4. Playing with and enjoying my pets. I have an entourage where ever I move through the house. All the animals go with me. They like to be petted, chase balls and in general I find them amusing.
5. Keeping in touch with family and friends. I text my two children and my sister every morning so they know I’m still around. I try to call my sister who lives in Colorado daily. I chat with my kids weekly but send them many strange messages by text throughout the day. I have a friend in Wyoming who writes long esoteric essays on the meaning of life that I look forward to reading and responding to, and much to my amazement I have found Facebook to be a place of much humor and little politics.
6. Watching movies and reading. When I’m done with my contacts with the outside world, I turn to reading and watching movies. Much of my reading involves newspapers. We get three every day. I love old movies and with Netflix and Amazon Prime there seems to be an endless supply of things to watch.
In summary, I find my days in shelter to be generally delightful. I could view them differently as boring or a hardship. But I prefer to focus on the loveliness of the world in which we live and opportunity to experience something new each day. My blessing to you today is, may you stay healthy and find joy in the moment. And your home be a sanctuary in times of trouble.
The Wednesday night before the United States became crazy about their toilet paper because of the Coronavirus, we boarded a Southwest flight to wing our way south to Phoenix where we planned to rent a car and drive to Tucson for a four day weekend. Our plane was full with kids going to baseball tournaments and adults wanting to see spring ball. By the next day spring ball and all the kids tournaments were cancelled. We continued on with our plans to go to Tucson. We had no clear agenda from the beginning. The weather in Tucson is so inviting in the spring, it is easy to stay outdoors and away from others.
Thursday, my husband picked up the rental car from the Phoenix airport. Rentals are expensive (or were when we started because this is high season). We chose the “managers special” to save money. That means you get whatever car is available. We got a new Jeep Compass which was a great car for touring the countryside. On our way out of Phoenix, we stopped by the Casa Grande Ruins National Monument. The Casa Grande site is a tribute to more than 650 years of irrigation in the desert. Archeologists are not sure of the purpose of the site but the monument houses the remains of the largest earthen building in North America. Civilization in this location lasted over a thousand years until about 1450 C.E. The location was abandoned. Without written word the people responsible for an elaborate irrigation, farming, and trading culture remain a mystery.
When we arrived in Tucson we checked into the Westward Look Wyndham Grand Resort. The Wyndham is located in the Sonoran Desert. When looking for a hotel in Arizona make sure to pick one with outdoor pools, and places to sit. The sunsets in Tucson are gorgeous and free. There’s nothing like sitting on your balcony after an afternoon soak in the pool with a glass of wine and watching the sun set in a colorful sky.
Friday we headed to the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum. The drive took us through the Saguaro National Park. Named for the large saguaro cactus, native to the area, we had our lunch sitting on a rock looking at the grand landscape. The afternoon we toured the museum which is actually an outdoor adventure showcasing native desert plants and animals. I particularly enjoyed the hummingbird exhibit. If you have kids with you, plan your trip to see the raptor flyover scheduled once a day right now.
Saturday we headed to the Sabino Canyon in the Santa Catalina Mountains. There are 30 miles of trails in the recreation area. Once again we took a picnic lunch to eat outdoors. We had bought tickets to go on the tram which proved to be an open air crawler. Because of recent rain in the area, we were only able to get to the dams and see the flooding, rushing river. In dryer seasons, the crawler takes you all the way up to two glorious waterfalls.
Sunday we met friends. But by Sunday, the country was awash with alarm over the Coronavirus and things were starting to shut down. We were literally one of about 10 people on the usually bustling University of Arizona campus. If you were traveling during more usual times, I would recommend you plan Sunday to drive to Tubac about 40 minutes south of Tucson. Established in 1752, Tubac is a charming artist colony with gorgeous colors and eclectic items in all their stores. On the way down or back stop at the Mission San Xavier del Bac, meaning White Dove of the Desert. The Mission was built by Spanish Franciscans in the 18th century and sits on the Xavier Indian Reservations. You can’t miss it’s rising dome as you drive by on the highway.
Monday we headed back to Phoenix and an amazingly uneventful flight home. The plane was packed. As we walked through an empty Boise airport, we saw 6 or 7 people waiting for a plane to San Fransisco, one of the hot zones for the virus.
At some point, life in the US will return to normal. Americans love to travel abroad as witnessed by the lines at the 13 funnel airports this weekend. But we have wonderful sites here in the states. If we have to stay in our country’s boundaries for while so be it. We live in a glorious, mysterious place.
Tonight and tomorrow many women will be watching Pilot Pete, the Bachelor star, give his final rose in a 4 hour finale . The Bachelor has been going strong for more than 20 years though few engagements have led to marriages. The Bachelor is so popular that there are many spin offs such as The Bachelorette, Bachelor in Paradise and Bachelor Live on Stage which made it’s way to Boise at the Morrison Center last week.
I admit to a minor distaste for the popular show which seems to have the potential for meanness, bullying and great pain for some participants while viewers are voyeurs watching on national TV. I have walked through the living room right when my daughter was watching a guy dump a girl on TV for his second choice. I’ve seen pieces of many shows over the years because we did have a member of the viewing audience, my teenage daughter in the house. The only redeeming part is the participants, who get paid nothing, know what they are signing up for. The bachelors and bachelorettets do get paid.
Even though I have never watched an entire Bachelor show much less a full Bachelor season, I bought two tickets last fall to the Bachelor Live in Boise. I gave one ticket to my friend for Christmas. I bought the tickets because I wanted to see how the producers condensed months of magical, emotional couple moments into a 90 minute extravaganza that could be moved around the country for a live audience. I thought it would either be a hoot or at the worst boring. There can’t be too much drama among people who have barely met.
The show was hosted by former Bachelor Ben Higgins who remains unmarried as far as my sleuthing can tell and Becca Kufrin, a former Bachelorette engaged to her choice with no plans to marry, too busy getting to know each other, making money on Bachelor podcasts and traveling with the live show.
The Boise show opened with pzazz; dancers, music and great backdrop. The chosen bachelor was an Air Force engineer who brought some of his buddies with him. Here in Boise, we have great respect for people who serve in the military. He had the audience with him from the beginning. Ben Higgins encouraged the Bachelor Nation crowd, almost exclusively women, to participate. Boise Nation, never a place to engage in polite decorum, hooted and hollered all night long. The airmen up front helped their buddy along.
In 90 minutes, the roses go by fast and furious. Twelve women introduced themselves, all of them dressed up, lined up on risers, and the first rose ceremony came, an introduction and your on or off. Somewhat shallow at best. Then there was a game show about how the bachelor had answered questions. The woman getting the most answers right got a rose. There was a dance off called Lip Stix. The dancing provided some of the best entertainment of the evening. Two of the women were fabulous dancers and our bachelor even had some moves. Best dancer got a rose. Then the girls lined up again for a rose ceremony and the numbers dwindled quickly. There was slow dancing with women cutting in and then a rose ceremony cutting down to six.
There was a intermission for the bachelor to meet 6 young women and engage in intimate conversations in 20 minutes. Mainly, I think this was for potty break. The Morrison Center is known to not be kind to women built during a period when male designers didn’t provide enough female restrooms.
After the intermission and cozy chats with a half dozen women, 3.3 minutes per minute, the second half opened with another rose elimination. Now down to 4 women, big chairs were brought out. The bachelor got to ask each woman questions. The big chairs are large so the bachelor can go sit next to the woman if he wants to. Two of the women had children in grade school which surprised me. I had a hard time imagining myself on a show like this with my children. But let’s face it, if your single with kids and you want to date you have to put yourself out there.
After the chairs, we were down to two and the fantasy suite. A colorful bed with gauzy screens was pushed on stage. The bachelor picked his two top choices. While one couple was in the suite for 3 minutes, the other sat on stage visiting with one of the hosts. The first couple engaged in necking because we heard a lot of cheers from the main floor. Our seats were in the mezzanine, no peaking through the gauze from that vantage point. When the first woman jumped out of the suite, her dress was unzipped. The second young woman obviously more cautious tucked her legs demurely beneath her when she hopped on the bed providing a physical barrier.
In the end, our bachelor picked the second young woman. She was an audience favorite. With a psychology degree from Boise State University, she worked at Saint Vincent dePaul with homeless clients. Her dating plan was to go hiking in the Sawtooth Mountains. Besides showcasing caring and adventure, she was stunningly gorgeous with a perky pony tail, lithe body encased in a tasteful twinkling midnight blue mid-calf, slip dress with spaghetti straps. Our airman got lucky.
The Bachelor Live is different every night depending on the Bachelor, ladies, and audience. Boise is a good place for audience engagement and I think everyone had a great time. I wouldn’t pay to go again but I would recommend it if you are interested in a fun girls night out.
P.S. Ladies if you ever get on stage and you don’t know what you’ll be asked to do wear a jump suit. The contestants in jump suits looked great, could do everything asked without worrying about their skirts creeping up and were able to move better than those in long dresses.
I collect story teller dolls. They are handmade pottery figurines with small children gathered around them and an open “O” mouth. They were first made in the pueblo cultures of New Mexico and because people found them cute there are now many variations of them. For example, my sister gave me an acrylic one with a cat and kittens, obviously not out of the Native American culture.
The dolls are cute but more importantly they reflect how traditional cultures passed on history, through oral story telling from one generation to the next. I attended a presentation by a black female story teller last weekend and she pointed out that during slave times almost all Black history was oral. Storytelling is an essential component of the human condition. We share the stories that weave the fabric of our families and ultimately our culture with our children.
We were in Arizona a couple of weeks ago. We had the opportunity to tour the Amerind Museum in Dragoon, Arizona. The museum focus is Native American and cowboy art. One of their displays showed how the art work of one family was passed to their children and relatives. All the pieces while beautiful had a similar look to them.
When I returned home, I reviewed the makers of my collection. I have two sets of similar dolls. Not unexpectedly one set was produced by Lucero family who live in the Jemez Pueblo. The other set was produced by the Lewis family who live in Acoma Pueblo. The Lucero pieces are uncannily alike, as if I bought the same thing twice. The Lewis family is becoming known for their bright colors and variations on the tradition storyteller motif.
We have visited the Acoma Pueblo, west of Albuquerque New Mexico, also known as the Sky City Cultural Center. The Pueblo provides a window into Native people’s history. The Pueblo is built atop a sheer-walled 367 foot sandstone bluff. There is no running water or electricity but there are still Native Americans in residence making gorgeous pottery.
My dolls remind me of fabulous trips across America with my husband. They also symbolize the history of the first Americans. Maybe most importantly they represent that human souls are all linked together by our need to share stories and be part of a community of friends and family.
My husband and I spent a long weekend in Tucson a few weeks ago. The topic of the border wall, and US military activities along the border are not only salient for Arizonans but in your face.
We ate lunch with friends in Tubac, 40 miles south of Tucson, and 20 miles from the US/Mexico border. Every car returning from Tubac to Tucson is stopped by the military and checked by a dog for drugs. There were at least 30 cars parked in the parking area as we passed. I don’t know if the cars belonged to the many military personnel on patrol or people who were stopped. Either way, a lot of human manpower in one location.
As four older white adults, we didn’t raise many eyebrows at checkpoint. I’m sure if we sported young brown Hispanic faces our experience might be quite different. Ironically, we weren’t even crossing the border. This stop, is not at the border but rather between two U.S.communities. According to my friends, our cursory stop was the shortest wait they had at this particular check point. Sometimes, cars are backed up for 30 to 40 minutes.
While visiting, we attended a presentation by a national expert on Asylum. The expert told us that the rules were changing so quickly that no one could provide a clear answer to anyone wanting accurate information about what steps to take to seek asylum.
I had hoped to tour the wall while visiting the southwest for a better personal understanding of what we are talking about when we say the U.S. is building a wall to “protect” us. We are going back in March to Tucson with a different set of friends. Unfortunately, all the tours by the Border Community Alliance, a Tubac, Arizona nonprofit, committed to wider public knowledge of border issues are booked through March. My husband and I may drive down to the border crossing at Nogales just to view what is going on. But Tripadvisor recommends against American tourists going further south than Tubac unless on a legitimate tour.
I heard on National Public Radio (NPR) today. That we have just changed Asylum regulations again. Anyone who is visibility pregnant is not allowed into the country even if they have a legitimate already assigned court date to determine if they qualify for asylum. Since these pregnant women are stopped at the border trying to get to their court date, they miss the appointment. One of two things happens; best case scenario they get another court date after the baby is born or they are disqualified for asylum because they failed to show up for their court date and were unable to provide notice. The obvious reason for this policy is to keep their babies from being born in the United States and qualifying for citizenship. There is an churlish unfairness underlying this change in policy. Poor, probably homeless and abused pregnant women are trying to follow our rules and we are constantly changing them without notice.
The border problems have not been part of the Democratic debates but they certainly should be part of every American’s civic discussions. We are a country of immigrants. We should be able to agree on a policy on how to process entry into the United States that is easily understandable for individuals legitimately seeking asylum, protection from persecution or fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, or political opinion.
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” Message on Statue of Liberty Plaque.
We just spent the past few days with long-term Wyoming friends in Tucson. Our friends used to escape Wyoming’s long hard winters in Tucson but now they have sold their Wyoming home and moved permanently to Arizona. They live in a Robson community for 55 plus seniors called Quail Creek near Green Valley, Arizona. The advertising says, “Living here is like being on vacation every day.”
We spent our mornings drinking coffee on the veranda, swimming in the heated outdoor pool, and going for walks. We spent our afternoons exploring the gorgeous desert landscape and viewing Native American and cowboy art. We ate wonderful food at exotic restaurants ranging from a five course Valentines dinner to a lunch on the patio of the resort used to film the movie, “Tin Cup”. We spent an afternoon in the quaint community of Tubac. We saw kitschy art and gorgeous Native American Art. We were stopped by American soldiers driving back, checking for drugs coming into the country. One afternoon we attended a lecture on “Asylum”. The politics of the wall and border are very salient in an area less than an hour from the border.
The temperatures hovered in the low seventies during the day but dropped drastically at night to the 50’s requiring jackets.
I go every year to visit my friend who I have known for thirty years. I would visit her if she lived in Alaska. But over time, I have come to welcome this break from Idaho’s winter. We enjoy the sunshine but we enjoy each other’s company more. As I age, I have come to appreciate the joy of shared memories. We laugh spontaneously over silly things we did in our youth. It’s great to be in vacation land but it’s better to be in vacation land with our very good friends.
This past week I experienced problems with Starbucks’mobile app. The subsequent follow-up through on their mobile helpline was horrendous. I now know the frustration volunteers experienced in Iowa with the Democratic Caucus, though I live in Idaho. I sat waiting 30 minutes to get a real person on the Starbucks phone line. During this period, I listened to terrible electronic music and a pleasant female voice would break in periodically and say, “Help will be available shortly”.
Here was my problem. The Starbucks app automatically downloaded $25 on Wednesday. On Thursday without being near a Starbucksmy phone was reporting that I had $.67 and needed to reload. I was able to purchase two lattes for a friend and I during the Starbucks Thursday happy hour. I received a receipt saying I had $20.42 remaining, the correct amount. But my phone app continued to report $.67 available and direct me to add more funds. The Starbucks’ baristas told me to call the helpline but had no number. One barista told me that her mother’s Starbucks account had been hacked and she lost $60. The barista suggested I had been hacked and lost my money. She recommended that I change my password immediately.
Given the potential for hacking, I called the helpline as soon as I was home. Erin, the helpline assistant, was very pleasant but he had difficulty helping me also. He finally contacted his supervisor. I spent a total of 60 minutes on the helpline. Erin came back from visiting with his supervisor and told me I was locked out of my account following his advice. I was given a reference number and told to call back in 24 hours. I would need to go through the same phone triage and wait again. At which point, maybe someone else could help me.
I am pleased to let my readers know I solved the problem myself or more likely some anonymous person in Starbuckstech land fixed the glitch overnight. When I successfully logged in the next day, everything was working perfectly.
I now have great sympathy for the volunteers in the Iowa Democratic Caucus. We are increasingly dependent on technology. When an app doesn’t work correctly, we are dependent on anonymous voices stationed all over the world to help us.
I believe a huge, successful, customer-service company like Starbucks can afford to pay enough people to not have folks waiting substantial amounts of time on the phone. At the very least they could offer to call back so the customer is not chained to the phone. Starbucks is known for their great customer service. Yet their move into mobile apps is thwart with squirrelly technology errors and back to the past phone system.