Archive for the ‘Up Close and Personal’ Category

Not Even Close!

Monday, October 9th, 2017

Thank Goodness

After the ‘usual’ depressing state-of-the-world discussion with friends yesterday afternoon, I re-read Shelley Pollock’s even more depressing column in last week’s Observer:  “Hold on to your hats… I mean your wallets! Painful changes ahead for Washington insurance customers.”

Her commentary was about health insurance for 2018 – in particular, individual health insurance and, even more particularly, individual health insurance for those under the age of 65 in Pacific County.  Her information in one word:  Scary!

I have long been grateful that, in addition to Medicare,  we have coverage – excellent, affordable coverage – under the Washington State Teachers’ Retirement System.  I am even more thankful that, during the many years I was a public-school teacher and was part of the negotiations process, our bargaining teams never lost sight of our retired teachers.  Otherwise…  But I can hardly bear to consider ‘otherwise.’

Thank Goodness Some More!

Shelley’s column was enlightening in other ways, too.  Take the income requirements, tax credits, and out-of-pocket maximums she talks about for two 64-year-olds.  Not that we are, or have been, that young for a long time.  But, I got stuck on the income amount in her example – “$6,000 a month combined.”  Say what?  I had to pause in my reading for a bit.  My mind just stalled out.  All I could think of was “not even close” and “thank goodness for all those years I taught and paid into our future coverage.”

We think of ourselves as ‘middle class’ income-wise.  If that $6,000 figure is what middle class incomes are these days, it would appear that we are not in that category.  So, I went to Google and asked, “What is middle class?’  Apparently, there could be as many as five qualifiers:  income, wealth, consumption, aspiration, and demographics.  I wish I could say, “Bingo!  Two out of three!”  But, according to the information Google had for me…’not even close’ remains the way it is for this household.

Tevye and Golda’s lyrics from “Fiddler on the Roof” come to mind – It doesn’t change a thing, but even so…  Only, it’s not really very ‘nice to know.’  Not even close.

All The World Is Gray

Tuesday, September 5th, 2017

Lightening Strike

The farther south we drove yesterday, the grayer it got.  We began to smell the smoke a bit beyond Eugene and by the time we arrived here in Ashland, our eyes felt a bit gritty – or maybe we were just tired from the journey.

It seemed quiet in town – maybe just the aftermath of the Labor Day weekend.  This morning we’ll get a better sense of how things are. Our waitress last night said that there hadn’t been any appreciable lessening in business that she could tell, even though the air quality from Oregon’s wildfires have caused the outdoor performances to be cancelled on several occasions.

Chetco Bar Fire. Oregon

Although we’ve kept apprised of the situation from afar, I feel somewhat guilty that I don’t know more about the circumstances under which Ashland and the rest of Southern Oregon find themselves.  Although there are now other wildfires throughout the state – even in the Columbia River Gorge – the main cause of the poor air quality here the Chetco Bar Fire sparked by lightning in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness on July 12th.

As of yesterday (September 4th) morning, the fire was estimated at 142,857 acres and 10% contained, although an update to that local NBC news report said, “At last check, the Chetco Bar Fire has burned 167,513 acres and is 5 percent contained”.  Yet another report gave an October 15th date for complete containment. In addition to Chetco Bar, which is ranked as the nation’s top firefighting priority, several other fires near the Rogue Valley in Jackson County are contributing to poor air quality.

Oregon Shakespeare Festival Worker

In a way, it all seems rather surreal.  Visibility grays out and it’s difficult to see  buildings only a block distant. This morning on our way to breakfast we encountered the gardening crew working on the motel grounds, each worker wearing a businesslike mask as he went about his duties.  We expect that we will see the same “costume” many times over as we approach the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s complex.  Before that, however, we may well be hunting up masks of our own.  Under discussion also is the possibility of heading home early, especially if Nyel’s breathing ability seems to be additionally compromised.

“All the world’s a stage…” said Jacques in Shakespeare’s As You Like It. I, myself, like a more colorful set.  This gray look is scary.

A Full-Service Facility

Saturday, August 19th, 2017

Sleeping Sydney

By my count, Nyel (and I) have spent more than 40 days and nights here in the cardiac unit of Emanuel Hospital – usually in clumps of five or six days in a row – since last October.  I jokingly think of it (can you jokingly think?) as a Five Star Hospital with Medical Benefits, the latter part being exclusively for Nyel, of course.

Often, as in now, he is simply waiting – waiting for meds to take effect so that he won’t bleed to death or have a stroke during whatever procedure is needed.  The wait-time is wholly dependent on Nyel’s system and its ‘willingness’ to interact positively with whatever plan the doctors (yes, plural; this time, three) decide.

So, yesterday it looked like the procedure that he’s waiting for might happen Sunday.  The cardiologist mentioned that, if not by then, it would have to be Tuesday.  No ‘elective’ procedures requiring an anesthesiologist on Monday.  Say what?

It has to do with Emanuel being a full-status Level I Trauma Center – one of only two in Oregon. As such, it will be on some sort of alert status Monday because of the huge influx of eclipse-watchers who are converging in Oregon as we speak.  From our standpoint (and that of Nyel’s doctors) it’s one of those ‘timing is everything’ situations.  All hospital facilities will be on standby for the possibility of serious, traumatic need.

Nyel and the Morning Crossword

As it turns out, though, Nyel’s lab numbers looked excellent this morning.  His nurse paged ‘Dr. God’ who has scheduled his ‘procedure’ (a TEE or Transesophageal Echocardiography) for eleven o’clock.  Today!  Granted, depending on what is found, there may be additional procedures, but maybe, just maybe, those can begin sooner and we can get out of here earlier.

However… we certainly are not hoping for Nyel’s discharge to be before Wednesday.  For one thing, we’ll need more gas before we can drive home and, according to the news, gasoline in the area is scarce. In fact, some service stations are closed until replenishment can occur. Besides which, traffic conditions are likely to be nightmarish on all highways leaving Portland.  At this point, anyway, we are content to remain here, safe and sound, waiting for Nyel’s tune-up to be finalized and for all his doctors to sign off on his new out-patient plan.

Who knew that the eclipse madness would be affecting us in this way?  We were absolutely content to give it all a miss in blissfully peaceful Oysterville.  Just us and the chickens…  Once again, a lesson in never counting them before you see the whites of their eyes.

Shoes, Pennies and Portents

Tuesday, August 15th, 2017

Our Black Stove

Okay.  I think the shoe we’ve been waiting for has finally dropped.  Or is that a penny?  Whatever it is, it’s the third one, as in ‘things happen in threes.’  First it was totaling the Prius.  Then it was our garage door going belly-up.  Now it’s our kitchen stove.

I do have to admit that we’ve had both the garage door and the stove for a long time.  In fact, the garage door guy said that ours was at least 40 years old (which might have been twice as old as he was) and is not only unfixable, it’s not up to current codes.  Our stove, on the other hand, is only about twenty years old – clearly a case of built-in obsolescence.

The stove, a Jenn Air Dual Fuel, has been on the fritz for a long time – something to do with the electrical circuitry.  Our appliance guru has done as much as he can with it.  Now the oven and all the control panel ‘buttons’ have quit completely and, though we can manage with just the gas stovetop, we don’t really want to.

Or, how about red?

But, there are certain parameters for a replacement stove.  First, it has to be a downward venting stove; there is no other possibility unless we do a serious remodel to the kitchen, which is not an option.  Second, it has to have a gas cooktop; non-negotiable according to Chef Nyel.  Third, it has to be black; otherwise, say I, our entire kitchen needs to be re-done and that is impossible – see the first parameter above.  And, finally, it has to be affordable – which means mid to low price-range – none of these fabulous custom-built or imported models.

We’ve completed our online search and find that there might be one or two that fit at least three out of four of our requirements.  (It may be the color that is the sticking point – wouldn’t you know.)  I should also say that we’ve had lots of advice and heard many cautionary tales from friends.  We are probably on IGO – Information Gathering Overload.  So, today we are going across the river to see a few options up close and personal.

I am not hopeful.

Couldn’t Understand a Word!

Friday, June 23rd, 2017

Israel Nebeker in Concert

The last time I had my hearing checked (which wasn’t all that long ago), I still scored in the ’normal’ range.  In a way, I was disappointed about that.  After all, if it’s not my hearing that’s gone wonky, it is probably my brain and that possibility sounds like (ahem!) a much worse option.

I think I hear most things okay – as well as I want to, anyway.  But there are two areas of my auditory life that have become bothersome in recent years.  The first has to do with the telephone.  Most especially with calls or messages from young people.  Not all of them, mind you, but a disproportionate number speak so rapidly that I have no idea what they’ve said.

I get this a lot because I’m the one who brides call to arrange the rental of the Oysterville Church.  More often than not I have to ask them to repeat themselves more slowly or, if it’s a message, I just have to hope that they’ll call again when I’m home so I can say, “Slow down, please!”  It’s gotten so I much prefer communications by email from these rapid-speaker types.

Sergey Antonov and Ilya Kazantsev

The other impossible situation is any kind of concert involving vocalists born in recent years – say, after 1980.  Last night, for instance, my failure to comprehend occurred at the Liberty Theater at the Astoria Music Festival.  I was so looking forward to “Beethoven and Blue Jeans” with Israel Nebeker but, as it turned out, I couldn’t understand a word he sang and only about one in ten or twenty of the words he spoke.  According to the program, musical selections would be announced from the stage.  As much as I strained, it was mostly a mumble.

Ditto for Nyel, even with hearing aids turned up.  Ditto for our hosts Paul and Lana Jane Brent, both of whom have excellent hearing.  The instrumental parts of the program with cellist Sergey Antonov and pianist Ilya Kazantsev came through loud and clear.  Ditto the accompaniment of the other ‘Young Virtuosi musicians.  However, the vocal parts… zip.  As I looked around the audience, it definitely seemed to be an age thing.  The theater was quite full and about evenly divided between the gray hairs (who clapped warmly) and the New Gen folks who whistled, cheered, stomped and laughed, presumably in all the right places.

Say what?

I was disappointed.  I liked the music and was prepared to be enthusiastic about the songs.  The last time (and only other time) we saw Israel was when he was being filmed for a music video over at the church.  We couldn’t hear him then, either.  They were filming an action sequence which, apparently, would be married to the music through the magic of technology.  All we saw were musicians and singer Israel miming something-or-other for take after take after take.  Soundlessly.

So, actually, last night was a step up.  There was sound.  Lots of it.  I’m thinking of having another hearing test… just in case.  If it’s a choice between my auditory acuity and my brain’s ability to discriminate between noise and sound, I hope it’s hearing aids that are in my future.  It seems the best alternative.

The Hard Reality of Mobility

Thursday, June 22nd, 2017

Special Delivery to Oysterville!

Every once in a while, we say to ourselves: “Selves,” (we say) “maybe it’s time to stop driving.”  And we discuss alternatives like any right-thinking, totally responsible adults-of-a-certain-age should do.  As you might imagine, that conversation took a very serious turn at the time of our recent TooP (Totaling of our Prius).  But the reality of our lives always seems to get in the way of the inevitable.

For instance… Our disaster occurred on Tuesday, May 30th.  Since then, we have purchased (and minutes ago received!) a new car and have had two rental cars and a loaner from the dealership where said purchase was made.   In the meantime, our rental/loaner wheels have taken us to Portland and back five times (doctor’s appts.), to Seattle and back once (for fun) and to Astoria and back three times (a combination of reasons we’ll call “errands”).  That’s a lot of traveling in 24 days.  2,842 miles by my count.  And that’s not considering any of the usual ‘local’ driving.  Nor did I factor in the two round trips to Longview on our car-buying mission…

The Perfect Bumper Reflection!

Part of the problem – probably a good part – is living in Oysterville.  Groceries and entertainment, medications and doctors, family and most friends are more than walking distance away.  Much more than.  Dial-a-ride only goes so far.  Pride goes much farther – as in how many people can you bother to take you how far and how often?


Our discussion usually stops at that point.  We do not talk about relocating.  That’s not an option.  Not financially and not emotionally.  We get all sorts of ‘good’ advice from (usually much younger) friends.  Our children make noises (welcome ones) about being here more often and helping out.  We appreciate all of the above.  But…

The Old and The New

Our rich fantasy life probably doesn’t help.  Like… couldn’t we win the lottery and hire a chauffeur?  What happened to the days where there were old and trusted family retainers who lived in and took care of you ‘when the time came’?  Such great ideas, but not even remotely related to reality – not in our family no matter how far back you look.  Damn!

Our new Forester, being documented by Neighbor Tucker as we speak, is red.  I think we’ll call her Scarlett.  As in… Oh I can’t think about this now!  I’ll go crazy if I do!  I’ll think about it tomorrow.

No, No, Nannette!

Sunday, June 11th, 2017

If you have been following the saga of our totaled Prius, you may remember that the police officer at the site of the accident was Chief Workman of the Warrenton Police Department.  As I ‘reported’ in my May 31st blog, he was “especially” lovely to us – a really nice man.  I did not comment on his stenographic competencies, however.

Or perhaps, it was a “clerical error” back at the office that resulted in the accident report (which finally arrived yesterday) stating that Nyel L. Stevens is married to Nannette Lou Stevens, born February 1, 1944.  Come again???  All I can say is, if you’re out there, Nannette – you are one lucky gal!  We are really curious as to how Chief Workman (or his clerical staff) got this confused, he having copied, as he did, directly from my drivers’ license.  Granted, there are two similarities – our last names (which, in my case anyway, is actually Nyel’s last name) and the month of our birthdays (February).

Otherwise… not so much.  Nannette (with three n’s) Lou doesn’t bear much resemblance to Sydney Medora – in fact not even a whispery similarity.  Her 1st of February is an entire month away (usually) from my February 28th and 1944 makes her eight years younger than I.  I’m not at all sure how such a glitch can happen.  Some sort of weird computer error?

Nyel doesn’t seem too concerned about it.  Nor am I, really.  It’s just that Chief Workman did emphasize that our part of the paperwork needed to be submitted to the State of Oregon within 72 hours of the accident – or as soon thereafter as possible – or we risked Oregon notifying our non-compliance to Washington State which  could then result in Nyel’s driver’s license being rescinded.  A little simple math tells me it’s been ten days already – more like 240 hours than the requisite 72 – and straightening out this “little glitch” could take a while if the stories about identity theft and proving who you are and all of that stuff come into play.  Just sayin’…

I did check out “Nannette Lou Stevens” on Facebook and found a very attractive “Nannette Stevens” in Bend, Oregon.  She appears to already have a handsome husband and appears much younger than that 1944 date would indicate, so I’m not bothering to share this information with her.  No, no, Nannette!

Say what you mean – Mean what you say

Wednesday, June 7th, 2017

It often comes as a surprise to me that someone I know ‘only in passing’ reads my blog now and then.  Take the technician at my eye doctor’s across the river.  Susan.  When I was there the other day, we talked about my latest trauma – our totaled Prius.  “You must have a story that goes with that,” she said.  “You are a great story-teller; I read what you write.”

On reflection, I do have a ‘sort of story’ about that car crash.  Before the dust had settled and the fluids had stopped leaking, an EMT showed up at the driver’s window.  “Are you hurt?” he asked Nyel.  “No, but I think my wife might be,” was the answer.

The uniformed young man (maybe in his 20s – I can’t really tell anymore) came around to my side, asked for me to open the door and then knelt to talk to me.  He asked me some questions about what happened and how I was doing.  My answers were “I’m not sure, I had dozed off” and “I’m sore in the seatbelt area.”

“May I see your chest?” he asked.  And, being a literalist as I am, I pulled up my sweater and exposed by lacy 34-D bra in all its glory.  I wish you could have seen his face.  Not horror exactly – but on the dismayed side of surprise.  “No, no, no,” he said quickly.  “I just meant that I would…”  I think he was going for “…like to feel…” but thought better of it.

I pulled down my sweater, he gently pushed around on what I would call “the upper sternum (bony) area” of my (now) well-covered front, as he repeatedly asked, “Does this hurt?”  “Just a little,” I kept saying, all the time thinking “so now you know what your grandmother’s underwear might look like…”  Wisely, though, I said nothing.  Only asked how he got to the accident scene so fast.  “I just got off duty,” he said, “and I was on my way home.  I thought I might be able to help.”

 I think we were still chatting when all the emergency vehicles and personnel began to arrive – the Warrenton Chief of Police, the fire department, the ambulance, the EMTs.  Lots of young men being solicitous and helpful.  I didn’t flash any of them, though.  Probably they didn’t ask exactly the right question.

Susan loved my ‘story.’  So, I offer it to my readers for their reading pleasure and with profuse apologies to the wonderfully sincere and helpful young EMT who stopped, on his own time, to help.  I hope he chalked up my behavior to an old lady’s addled and literal response to his solicitous inquiry.

Problem Solving Our Shifting Priorities

Saturday, June 3rd, 2017

BAM!… Damn!

An automobile accident, a sudden illness, a friend in need – it’s amazing how rapidly a single event can change the course of your day… or your life.

I can’t help but think of those sorts of catastrophes as unbidden tests of character or other life traits. Where am I on the flexibility meter?  Able to jump into problem-solving mode or stuck in some sort of unalterable rut?  And how graciously can I deal with all the well-meaning advice of family and friends?   And is my primary partner in life on the same page as I am?

Sad RemainsWith regard to current events transportation-wise… so far so good.  We’ve never had a car totaled before and we’ve been ‘problem-solving’ to beat the band!  The research opportunities available through the internet have been wonderfully helpful.  Too, we are genuinely grateful for all the commiseration and suggestions of loved ones and friends/acquaintances.

A big plus is that Nyel and I are in perfect harmony!  For now, my greatest challenge is waiting patiently for the insurance company to provide us with bottom lines, for the vehicle we want to be located, for the paperwork drudgery to get accomplished.  Patience doesn’t come naturally to me.  Nyel, on the other hand is patient to a fault!  Together, we balance perfectly.

Coming Our Way

Around the edges, we try not to lose sight of what we had on our plates BTA – Before The Accident.  For me, a writing deadline coming up.  “Stay focused,” I remind myself.  For Nyel it’s “follow doctor’s orders” – which involve routines and regimens, easily disrupted by our after-accident chaos.

In third grade, when my classmates and I were introduced to story problems in arithmetic, I remember that our teacher, Miss Hamilton, said, “Life is a series of problem solving events.”  I didn’t really get the point back then.  Now, however, I’m grateful that I loved the challenge of those story problems.  I think they’ve stood me in good stead over the years. (Although I don’t remember any of those dollar amounts being quite so high.)

Well… damn!

Wednesday, May 31st, 2017

Prius, – 2:30 p.m. May 30, 2017

There we were on our way to CostCo yesterday, on 101 headed south, just opposite Young’s Bay Plaza and approaching the traffic light at Neptune Street… BAM!   I don’t know when I had dozed off – maybe on the bridge.  We were listening to a book on tape… soothing voice, story not too gripping.  It was a lousy way to wake up!

Nyel isn’t sure what happened – did his foot slip from brake to accelerator?  Or did his attention drift?  Whatever occurred, he was fine; I hurt from the seatbelt but otherwise seemed okay. And where were those airbags Toyota touts? Nothing. Nada. Zip.  They simply did not deploy.  Should I be complaining to someone?  And would they care?

Airbags – Undeployed

The driver of the SUV in front of us called 911.  She said she was fine and it looked as though her car wasn’t much damaged (although there is always more than meets the eye.)  An off-duty EMT was there almost immediately.  And then Warrenton Fire Department.  And Warrenton Police Chief Workman.  They were all lovely, especially Chief Workman (even though he gave us a citation — following too close.)  Had us get out of the car because it was leaking everything… No, I didn’t want to go to the hospital.  “I’m sore but I think I’m fine.”

Some of the men (there were at least six or eight) thought the car was probably totaled.  Someone else said that it probably looked worse than it was.  Nyel put in calls to our insurance company and to Triple A and to Hill’s Auto Body in Ocean Park. Cars whizzed by in both directions while we signed releases and provided information to everyone who needed it.


All I could think was… isn’t it ironic that just last week our insurance company notified us that they were lowering our rate because of our excellent driving record?  And what’s with those non-functioning airbags?  And, we’ve never liked this car anyway.  None of which was helpful.

“It’s odd that nobody we know has gone by,” I said (also unhelpfully) at one point to Nyel.  And right then, here came Mike Carmel. “Do you need a ride somewhere?”  He was headed home to the Peninsula but said to call and he’d come back to get us.  That was the first time I felt teary…  As it turned out, we had the tow truck guy take us to Lum’s where we rented a larger sized Prius to see if we like it better.  (So far… no.)  More paperwork.  More phone calls.  And then… to CostCo as intended.

Today… talk to George Hill.  Find out for sure if the car is totaled…  Not the way we wanted to end the merry month of May.  Damn!