Merry Christmas from our house to yours

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.

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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.img_0202

Flight of the Snow Bird:Tucson in Winter

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.”

Desert Beauty is all around one in Tucson

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.

Good friends make every trip more fun

Starbucks welcomes you, whoever you are, until their mobile app fails

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Mermaid Brand is so well-known that ads don’t have to say Starbucks

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 Starbucks my 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.

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Thursday Happy Hour at Starbucks has proven to be a success!

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 Starbucks tech 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.

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Starbucks revenue in 2019 was about $26.5 billion

 

Santa Barbara Holiday

We just spent the last six nights seven days in Santa Barbara (SB), California. We were treated to gorgeous sunny days in the low seventies though one day hit low 80s. Late January early February is the off season for the California coast. High season starts in May and continues into December. We chose California to get out of Boise, Idaho’s gray season. We could have gone to Hawaii but the draw of a shorter flight and cheaper accommodations made our choice easy. Also I’m still recovering for surgery last fall and can only walk about 2 to 3 miles a day on flat surfaces. Sand is a no for me. SB has a wonderful walk way/ bike path right along the beach. Folks without a handicap were out enjoying the pleasures of the beach including swimming, paddle boarding and surfing.

With the warm weather, we spent out mornings out walking and our afternoons napping and swimming for me. My husband, Pete, always goes to the YMCA for a couple hours anywhere we go. The report from Pete was the Y in Santa Barbara is large and new. The advantage of going to Ys if you belong at home is you can get in at no cost. Usually the facility has excellent equipment, sometimes pools and activities for kids.

We stayed within a half mile of the SB beach at the Inn by the Harbor. The Inn offers cooking facilities in the rooms, continental breakfast, wine and cheese early evening, and milk and cookies late evening. Free bikes are available. The bikes had gears and looked like nice cruisers. I just wasn’t able to use them. The Inn also has a nice pool and hot tub. The Inn was full the entire time we were there with Canadians who apparently knew each other because they gathered in the small lobby every evening for wine. We knew they were Canadians because their cars were parked outside. I think you could stay at the Inn and never rent a car. We rented a car because of my handicap.

Breakfast at the Inn was a mundane continental with cereal, fruit, juice, yogurt, muffins, and bagels. But by having a breakfast provided, we could afford more elaborate dinners. Every meal we had was excellent. All of them were along the beach and we found them through Yelp. We pieced lunch together with left overs and fruit from breakfast.

Looking for a sunny long weekend in the winter, SB may be for you.

McCall Winter Carnival: The Happiest Place in Winter

Snow Sculptures at McCall 2020 Winter Carnival

Friday, January 24 was the start of McCall, Idaho annual Winter Carnival. This family centri event is bound to please all the snow hounds in your household with everything from gorgeous snow sculptures to fireworks, parade, dog sledding and mongrel racing. Of course there are all the snow events; downhill skiing, skating, cross country skiing, snow shoeing, and sledding. We go almost every year and I am always amazed by the local creativity and work that goes into the sculptures.

We go every year. I remember the kids finding the big piles of snow to crawl on better than the sculptures. Their dad is still delighted by snow. He likes to knock it off our cabin roof. He loves to chop wood and fill the wood stove to make our cabin really cozy. The Winter Carnival offers something for everyone, a place to make family memories of good times in snowy weather.

Reflections on Martin Luther King’s Birthday

My dad grew up in the South in a small town called Lancaster, the deepest, darkest backwaters of South Carolina.  He attended the Citadel for college, alma mater to Robert E. Lee, the civil war general.  Founded in 1843, Citadel graduates fired the first shots in the Civil War.  A rigorous military school, academically comparable to our national military academies, the Citadel was not a bastion of progressive thought.

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Citadel Campus

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Similar to my grandmother’s home

My ancestors, I am not proud to say were the plantation owners who came from England  in the 18th century.  English gentry, 2nd sons without land establishing large successful plantations based on slavery.  My sister and I can still remember visiting my grandmother, Daisy, who lived to be 102.  She owned a large plantation home, a replica of “Gone with the Wind”.  The plantation land had been sold by the time we arrived in the 1950’s to visit.  But her home and surrounding plot was still a compound with a family duplex built in back.  Sections of the house had been walled off so her black maid could have a place to live.  A big white mansion had screened front porches for sleeping during the muggy southern summers and large fans throughout because it had no air conditioning.  The rooms were huge with high ceilings. We never saw the kitchen, hidden somewhere in the back.  The black maid accommodated our food needs.

When we visited our relatives in Lancaster, we could have been dropped into the book, “The Help”.  Silent black women dressed in soft pastels with white aprons would appear and take our orders for sweet tea or Coca-cola.   As small kid from Wyoming,  I found being waited on and sitting quietly in a fussy dress while adults conversed around me quite bizarre and uncomfortable.

We drove to the south whenever we visited. Days of traveling on endless turnpikes with visits to historical monuments and battle fields.  I remember asking my mom, “Why are there signs saying whites only and colored on the bathrooms.”  Her response, “We don’t do that in the West.”  Not exactly an answer but I  got the message that this was not a way to live. 

 

My mom and dad were like, the current royals, Megan and Harry.  Dad met my mom in Wyoming when he was stationed at Warren Army base. He was smitten and wrote her throughout the war.  They married right afterwards. Dad joined the family business in Lancaster taking mom far from her western roots.  They lived in the duplex on the compound.  Mom used to describe black people lined up to pay their rent every Friday outside my Grandfather’s bank.  She did not approve of making money on the backs of poor black families. My dad was a partner in the family department store, the only one in Lancaster. Dad took his funds out of the family business and moved west.  I think because mother couldn’t stand the genteel standards of the southern women and the inherent racism in the town.  But in fairness to my Dad, the war had changed him.  He had fought with men of many different races and traveled the world eventually being stationed in India.

My sister and I were born and grew up in Wyoming, certainly not a bastion of progressive thought.  Yet, my sister and I are both liberal Democrats. We have seen and experienced racism as an ingrained culture.  We know what it’s like to be dropped, like Alice in Wonderland, into a world that is very different than our own.  We both have adopted children of different nationalities.  We have traveled the world and been open to new experiences.  The seething, undercurrents of racism in the 1950’s in the south have stayed with me always.  I don’t want to use restrooms delineated by color or belong to organizations that exclude entire groups of people.  I believe in welcoming all into our churches.

Martin Luther King Day reminds me of my upbringing.  I know he had a tremendous cultural and social battle to wage.  Unfortunately, that struggle continues.

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Why I March: One Voice Can Make a Difference

We watched Peanut Butter Falcon on Netflix over Christmas vacation.  The amusing, emotionally touching movie is a coming of age story starring a Down’s Syndrome young man (Played by Zack Gottsagen).  Another young man with Down’s Syndrome is featured in Stumptown a television crime drama. Paralleling Falcon, Ansel Parisos (Played by Cole Sibus) is struggling with how to live as a young adult in Portland.  Both of these shows are remarkable because individuals with Down’s Syndrome staring in major television roles would have seemed an impossibility thirty years ago.

My first job out of graduate school (1978) was director of the Wyoming ARC/Developmental Disability Council.   The Education for All Handicapped Children’s Act was passed in 1975.  The purpose of the federal law was to insure a public school education was provided to all handicapped children. We had a lot of trouble in Wyoming getting schools to accept disabled children into the classroom. Parents didn’t know they had rights to insist the schools provide services. I remember speaking to the Wyoming Appropriations Committee about the law and having the Chair of the committee interrupt me and say, “These kids are like Angus in among the Herefords.  If we had any of these kids, we would see them and we just don’t.”

I was young, feisty and full of energy. That comment made me furious. I thought if you want to see handicapped children than I will make sure we go out and identify them.  The Developmental Disabilities Council provided a grant to the University of Wyoming to conduct screening clinics in Wyoming’s small rural communities that summer.  The teams identified more than 650 preschool children who were in need of special education services.  There is no voice more passionate or pervasive than a parent who is told their child needs services but the legislature is too miserly to fund the services.  Believe me, the Chair of the Appropriations heard from those parents.

During this period, we were trying to fund early intervention preschools and adult work programs all across the state. We had a statewide funding formula which  cost millions of dollars.  Oil-rich Wyoming coffers could certainly afford to pay for these programs but conservative legislators were not convinced. We had the votes in the House because the Speaker of the House, a very conservative Republican was married to a special education teacher.  He recognized the need.  But we did not have the votes in the Senate.

I worked phone lines every day and every night.  I wasn’t calling legislators.  I was calling parents to call their Senator(s) and asked him to vote yes.  The day of the vote the Senate gallery was packed with parents and children.  The votes were tallied. The yes/no’s flashed up on the screen.  We were one vote short.  The bill was going to die.  I could feel the disappointment of the parents squeezing my heart.  One Senator from Newcastle, Wyoming, a tiny town in Northeast Wyoming stood up.  You could hear a pin drop at that moment. He changed his vote to a yes.  He said when he made the change, “I cannot go home and face my constituents if this bill dies.  Wyoming needs to serve the developmentally disabled.”  The gallery went wild. with applause and cheering.

Over thirty years later, handicapped children who had access to early intervention services are moving into our communities, working in our businesses, starring in television shows and movies.  They’re showing us that advocacy work on the side of justice pays off.

The Women’s March is this weekend.  I march in principle.  Black, white, Hispanic, Native American, yellow, male, female, LGBTQ-A, handicapped, old, young; we all deserve an equal chance to succeed in this great country.  We are a country where one person’s voice/vote can still make a difference.

 

New Year: New Possibilities

I’ve never been one to set New Year’s resolutions.  I do, however, believe the New Year offers an opportunity to push the “reset button”.  Instead of making a list of action steps, I resolve to be open to new possibilities.

A few weeks ago, I was waiting in line for a $2 taco when I complimented the much younger lady in front of me on her lipstick.  Believe me it was a great color, bright blue red and perfectly applied.  The woman was wearing an apron and no coat.  Later, I decided she must have run across the street from the new salon that had just opened to buy her lunch.  But when I talked to her, I was just waiting for lunch. I couldn’t resist telling this young woman how great she looked.  We got into a conversation about how I had stopped wearing lipstick because it got on everything, coffee cups and my teeth.  Since I was retired, I hardly ever wore makeup. She told me about the new products that are easier to apply and stayed on forever.  If she was an example, the new lip stains look great.

She picked up two bags of food, paid and hurried for the door.  When I stepped up to pay for my taco, the waiter told me the lady with the great lip stick had paid for my lunch.  I tried to thank her but she just waved and hurried out the door.  I’m not sure why she chose to buy my lunch.  Maybe she was having a bad day and having someone tell her she looked great helped make it better.

I do know that one random act of unintentional kindness on my part i.e. starting up a conversation resulted in a return to me that was much larger.

As I start the New Year, I am opening myself to the many possibilities that are available every day.  I probably miss most of them.  I am working on being more in the present, listening and watching more intently and being willing to put myself out there.

To get something you’ve never had, you have to do something you’ve never done.” ~Unknown

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