Thankful

This year has been especially wonderful, and I am very thankful.

Monday, Mom celebrated her 90th year surrounded by family. Eldest sister Becky (a world class baker) made a 3-layer carrot cake, and we all enjoyed Indian food, especially Mom. lt has become a family ritual to enjoy lamb saag, naan, tandoori etc. with Mom on her birthday, or whenever we reunite in North Carolina.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, so I feel the need to share all the things I am thankful for this year, because it has been eventful.

In June, we celebrated weddings.  Rachel (Becky’s daughter) and Adam finally got married after 10+ years together.  Rachel and Adam have lived in different cities and on different continents, demonstrating the true meaning of “distance makes the heart grow fonder”.  However, they did sail from the west coast to Hawaii and back, which demostrates their ability to live in tight quarters.  They were soul mates from first meeting, and we celebrated their marriage on the outer banks of North Carolina.  A fantastic week of ocean, sand and sun.

Not to be outdone, we returned to Cary, NC the following weekend to celebrate the marriage of Rachel’s mother, and eldest sister Becky to Chuck.  Chuck is a marvelous addition to this difficult clan.  He likes football and other sports, we are not a sports family, BUT.  Thankfully for me, he plays golf.  Chuck and I played 18 holes last week, and while my score as 110, I didn’t lose a ball!  Astounding, considering Devil’s Ridge is a monster of a course, and the leaf rule was definitely in play.  Let me just say Chuck is great at finding balls under leaves or in the woods.  It is his course, thankfully.

As I said 2019 has been an exceptional year.  I was in Tucson, AZ and Palm Springs, CA in January and February, celebrating my Medicare Birthday at a Jazz club in Palm Springs surrounded by friends and family: sisters Kerry and Robin, friends: Randle & Jen, Carol & Kevin, Diane & Jon, and Deb.

If you have never experienced Modernism Week in Palm Springs, put it on your bucket list.  President’s day week (mid-February) is the very best time to enjoy the California desert.  Fabulous mid-century house tours, great weather and I am lucky to have lots of friends – especially Alaskan and Canadian snowbirds.  I was also able to get in one round of golf with Canadian friends I met two years earlier.

Returning to AZ on my way back to the east coast for weddings, I spent a week in March with dearest friend Esther recovering from hip replacement.  Esther is my Mom’s best friend from Alaska.  It was Esther and husband Dale who were our very best friends during my father’s decent and final death from alcoholism.  I am grateful to have spent a week with Esther, even if it meant sleeping on a cot in her living room.  Esther is one of a kind, with the most positive outlook on life.  I am happy to report she is walking with a cane at 90+ without pain.  Her surgery was a total success.

I am so very thankful to new friends I have met in campgrounds.  Best of all Phyllis and Chris, and their very special dog Molly.  Walking Maggie gives me the opportunity to meet fellow campers, which is how I met Phyllis.  She was walking Molly and I was walking Maggie, we bonded immediately.  Especially when she said she played golf.  My only disappointment in the coming winter in Florida, is not seeing Phyllis and Chris.  But winter 2021!

After Tucson, I drove to visit Beth north of Austin, TX on her ranch for a couple of days of riding my favorite horse Hope, and swimming in the river.  Thank you Beth!  It was an extraordinary 3 days. I would have stayed longer, but, I had to get to North Carolina for weddings!

After all the weddings I returned to Washington, D.C. for my spring check-in with friends, and former colleagues.  I am most thankful I am not working in the current political environment.  I am breaking all the rules of retirement, drawing on Social Security and pension early and not have the savings recommended – but I would be suicidal if I was still trying to work in Washington, D.C. — more like homicidal.

Thankfully, I have my sister Robin’s house in Westhampton, NY to retreat to for summer.  Everyone should be so fortunate to have a baby sister who is an Executive Producer at Disney.  She’ll be moving to France in 2020 for work there, and I will be holding down the Long Island house for whenever she can fly-in.  It is a very tough life…

Alaskan friends visited: Bruce & Lydia, MaryAnn & Melissa (with salmon and halibut) and Mary.  It was a full summer of good food, walking on the beach and swimming in the pool and ocean.  Robin has a wonderful group of friends she has shared with me, so there are always weekend dinners with Abby & Tom, Fred & Barbara, Randel & Jen. 

Tomorrow, I am so happy Liz and Tim will be joining us for Thanksgiving.  They will be flying in Tim’s Mooney, nice to have your own plane!  Becky & Chuck are hosting.  There will be pies!

This year has been exceptional, so very much to be thankful for.  I look forward to arriving on Hutchinson Island, FL in December and spending Christmas with BBF Michelle and the Big D.

Let us all give thanks for living in the most amazingly beautiful country, to celebrate friends and family, and beating Trump in 2020.  Please pass the turkey!

ESCAPE FROM NY

After a wonderful summer in the Hamptons, I hooked up Scout and headed southwest.  What is the best way to exit Long Island trailer in tow?  Years ago, Mom and Erv traveled cross country in an RV, after they arrived to visit me in Washington, D.C. their next stop was Robin’s Westhampton, NY home.  I came along for the ride and as we crossed the Verrazzano Bridge onto the Long Island Expressway it occurred to us we should have left the RV parked outside of DC and driven my Chevy Lumina, instead of inflecting the harrowing drive on Erv.  Mom and I thought he might have a heart attack navigating the RV across Brooklyn.  Not an easy drive in a car, so an RV is really crazy.

It has been my desired escape route to go north to Orient Point and take the ferry to New London, CT or west to the Port Jefferson ferry across the Long Island Sound to Bridgeport, CT bypassing New York City and surroundings.   At the last minute I choose and alternate route north of NYC via the Troges Neck Bridge onto the Cross Bronx Expressway – I won’t be doing that again.  When a ferry is available – take the ferry.

Avoiding multi-lane expressways (incorrectly named), because there seems nothing express about them.  I ended up in Pennsylvania with no campground nearby after dark.  I stayed in a Walmart parking lot, something I pledged never to do.

Why I like FACEBOOK

As I traveled west to my campground destination of Blackwater State Park, West Virginia at a truck stop I glanced at Facebook and saw my friend Karen was visiting the Flight 93 Memorial in Stoystown, PA.  The beauty of retirement RV travel is your ability to change or add a destination as you please.  So, two hours out of my way seemed like a good idea, and it was. 

A Common field one day, a field of honor forever

The Memorial is a somber commemorative of 40 souls who fought terrorist on 9/11 and died saving others.  If you are anywhere near this sacred and hallowed ground you should visit, if only to give them respect and acknowledgement they deserve.  I will want to come back for a longer visit.

I needed to press on so as not to arrive at the campground after dark, so onward to Blackwater Falls in Davis, WV, a beautiful drive to see the fall colors. 

Unfortunately, upon arrival and hook-up, my mysterious power problem persisted.  While plugged into 30 AMP, the lights came on, but the outlets and microwave were not functioning.  Instead of staying for 3 days as planned, I packed up and left the following morning for the Airstream dealer in Ashland, VA, 200 miles east.  I was so looking forward to returning to my vagabound life.

Leaving Scout has allowed me to hang with friends Liz and Tim, and Maggie gets to be with her BFF Lola and daily trips to the Congressional Cemetery.  I hope to catch-up with all my working former colleagues in Washington, D.C. while waiting for an Airstream diagnosis.

This morning when I was checking out Facebook, I saw my college housemate Lauren was in D.C. for lobby visits, unfortunately she boarded a flight last night for Tacoma.  Darn!  But other friends know my location and have reached out for visits, so Facebook is a great way to stay in touch, but not a place to make informed political decisions.  I post lots of my political opinions there, but ignore the ads, as we all should.

I am in D.C. for at least a week, so let me know if you want to get together!

SUMMER HAS GONE AND THE LEAVES ARE TURNING

Hard to believe I was swimming in the ocean and pool just a few weeks ago.  The weather has turned cold, rainy and the sky is mostly grey.  Summer 2019 has come to an end and I am planning my departure and route south.  Summer in Westhampton has been full of friends, MaryAnn and Melissa, Tim, Bruce & Lydia, and Mary.  Melissa brought Alaskan salmon and halibut, yum!  These are all friends I met in Alaska and have known going on 30+ years.  There is something about Alaskan friends that last.  Possibly because Alaskans did not have extended family, in the 1960s we were all pioneers in the Last Frontier. 

MaryAnn, Melissa and Mary are all children of village schoolteachers, their parents came to Alaska from the lower 48, and taught in native villages, moving to Anchorage after high school graduation.  What an amazing upbringing to grow up in a native village where your family was the minority race.   Alaskan villages were more like 3rd world countries, far different than what most of us experienced in elementary or secondary school.  They have great stories about village life.  We spent our visit bobbing in the pool, walking on the beach, eating yummy dinners and playing cards.

Summer extended all the way to the end of September, and Abby and I went for our last ocean swim on September 22.  While we bobbed in the waves we laughed that “Indian summer” was no longer the correct term, but we were very glad for indigenous people’s weather that allowed us to swim late into September.

Robin’s house was under construction most of the summer, but the two remodeled bathrooms and replacement of deck is now complete.  Scout has a new bathroom fan, and a new dent.  Backing into Robin’s driveway I was careful to watch the tires and missed seeing the tree branch scraping along the top.   

Parking in Robin’s driveway all summer allows me to pull everything out and sort.  It is amazing how much stuff I can get in a 20’ travel trailer, so purging of clothes and other unused items in addition to a deep cleaning, has been my summer activity for Scout between house guests.

She is now road ready and we will be leaving on October 21, heading to West Virginia to take in the fall colors, and then onto North Carolina for Mom’s 90th Birthday and Thanksgiving. 

Winter 2020 will be spent on Hutchinson Island, FL.  I have rented a lot for the entire winter December 7, 1019 – May 7, 2020.  Hutchinson Island is a barrier island on the Atlantic side, with wonderful walking access to miles of beach.  I hope friends will come and visit Florida this winter.  I plan on making some trips around the state, but will leave Scout parked for most of the time.   Stay tuned.

 

REMEMBERING 9/11, ALWAYS.

Every 9/11, I will share my memories to commemorate my friends and colleagues at 32BJ. I wrote this blog in 2017 and edit it each year as appropriate.  I appreciate you reading it.  In memoriam to the workers who died that day. Give us PEACE.

18 years ago, I rose from the McPherson Square Metro to walk the 3 blocks to my office at the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) office at L Street NW, Washington, D.C.  It was a beautiful Tuesday morning, no humidity and the air and sky were crisp and clear.  There was an announcement in the subway, which was garbled like all the announcements in the Metro.  All I heard was “blah, blah, blah…Pentagon”.  As I walked toward my office, I realized there was an unusual amount of horns honking, traffic congestion and people streaming out of office buildings.

The city was in complete panic, and the subway was now closed.  When I got to my building, a colleague told me the city was evacuating.  She offered me a ride home and we sat in traffic for an hour traveling only a few blocks.  Because she was trying desperately try to get home to her family in Maryland, I got out and walked home to Capitol Hill.   I am certain I got home before she did.

A few day later, I was sent to New York to assist SEIU 32BJ navigate the federal, state and local government bureaucracy in the time of our national crisis.  32BJ is the largest building services local union in New York City.  The members are doormen, cleaners, property maintenance workers, security officers, building engineers, school and food service workers, and window cleaners.  24 union members died on 9/11. “Roko Camaj spent nearly half his life suspended from ropes over 1,300 feet above ground working outside of the original World Trade Center. Born in the small Balkan country of Montenegro, he immigrated to the United States in 1969.”  He was known to say he loved his job, “at the top of the world”.  Another window washer was instrumental in saving lives, “A man standing next to Jan Demczur reached into the window washer’s bucket and seized the Squeegee handle. It took them 90 minutes from the moment the elevator cab had halted in the shaft, but they reached safety only minutes before the tower collapsed—the second tower to do so. The tool that saved their lives, the Squeegee handle”  The handle is now part of the Smithsonian exhibit at National Museum of American History.

Why on earth was I being sent to New York, what could I possibly do to help?  I was a Legislative Advocate (Lobbyist).  But my experience representing public employees and understanding the unemployment compensation system and other government programs would come in handy.

In the mist of such tragedy, the benefits of union membership were paramount to the 1,200 plus workers who worked in the World Trade Center buildings and had lost their livelihood.  The buildings were gone and so were their jobs. 

32BJ offices were only a few blocks away from the World Trade Center.  Those blocks were filled with pages and pictures, “have you seen this person”.  I am haunted by those flyers fluttering in the wind.

Yet, I was incredibly proud and privileged to have met and helped union members in the days following 9/11.  I was concerned that some of the janitors might be undocumented, but the World Trade Center was the premiere building in New York City.  The least senior janitor had worked in the building over 10 years.  They weren’t undocumented, but there were major language barriers to overcome.

I remember one perticular eastern European woman, she had been a school teacher  before she immigrated, because her English was not very good instead of being a teacher she worked as a janitor.  She had been cleaning the same floor of the World Trade Center over 15 years.  She was my age, single, educated but worked as a janitor.  Her English was still not very good after years of being a U.S. citizen, because as a cleaner she didn’t converse daily with co-workers, she worked alone and was invisible to the people who occupied the offices she cleaned.  There by the grace of being born in the U.S.  I really identified with her.  She was alone, no family and her co-workers spoke many different languages.  But her union family step-up and took care of her.

The union officers and staff worked to get all the members onto unemployment as quickly as possible.  The NYC phone system had collapsed, because of the thousands of people who lost their jobs that day.  Also the unemployment system only offered translations services in Spanish and a few Chinese dialects.  32BJ workers were from all over the world, but the World Trade builings were mostly Eastern Europe, Africa, and Asia.  We helped them complete paper applications giving each member personal assistance.

Each day a union meeting was held on the first floor of the union building.  32BJ leadership told all the displaced workers “they were family”.   The union was going to get everyone back to work.  In addition, the union extended health insurance and granted a supplement $100 unemployment benefit from the union trust funds.  At those meetings workers cried and hugged each other.  I was never so proud to be with union members, the union was an extended family taking care of one another, as it should be.  Later the union was able to negotiate an early retirement program so that older workers could retire and the 1,200 displaced World Trade Center workers would move to other buildings.  The union got everyone back to work in 6 months, without any government assistance.  (U.S. Senator Hilary Clinton was no help at all.)

I was incredibly privileged to attend those meetings and see firsthand the joy expressed by workers who had experienced such loss and tragedy.  I felt guilty that week, because being there was a priviledge, and that week was one of the best of my career.  

Each anniversary of 9/11, I remember the wonderful 32BJ members, staff and officers.  I am proud to be a union member, and now retiree.  

TUMBLE WEED TUESDAY, THE END OF SUMMER.

I remember how hard it was to go back to work after Labor Day.  Ironic that Labor Day marks the end of summer.  My last 17 years of work revolved around the Congressional Calendar, and we all lived for August.  Congress left town and we all got a breather.  I love summer.  I never want it to end, my Airstream life is a true blessing.  I follow the sun.  Summer on Long Island, in Westhampton and winter in warmth.

This year I am staying in Westhampton longer, until late October.  I hope for an Indian Summer, and today sitting on the deck with a beckoning pool, it still feels like summer.

The Tuesday after Labor Day Monday is called Tumble Weed Tuesday.  Who Knew?  There is not a tumble weed within a thousand miles of Long Island.  But the city people have gone back to work and the Westhampton village is full of 50% sales, and the shops are soon to close.  The full-timers are always glad to see the tourist leave, but it is a mixed blessing.  Marginal restaurants will close never to reopen.  Next summer will bring new owners with great expectations.

Anyone who wants to open a restaurant should be committed to the nearest “nut house”.  To prove my point The New Yorker just republished Anthony Bourdain’s first article on eating in restaurants later turned into Kitchen Confidential.

I am not a foodie, but I admired and loved Anthony Bourdain, as so many of us.  I still isten to Kitchen Confidential when I can’t sleep.  His voice soothes me to sleep, but I have also incorporated his cooking ‘orders’.  I no longer buy garlic, shallots or any other herbs in plastic tubes.  I chop in his honor.

Time is flying by.  Soon it will be November, Scout, Maggie and I will head south with the snowbirds.  Last summer I had too many things to do, remodeling Scout’s interior.  This year I have been totally lazy.  My plan this summer is to take everything out of Scout, and re-evaluate.  The rule of living in an RV is throwing something out if you want to bring something new in.  But more to the point, if you haven’t used it in the last 12 months, it has to go!

So today I pulled all my clothes out of Scout, and I plan to reduce by 50%.  Even in a 20’ trailer I seem to accumulate too much STUFF!

I also have a few things to repair.  The bathroom fan quit working, which means climbing up on the roof.  I also put a good size dent backing into Robin’s driveway.   Those tree limbs are dangerous, (Stop laughing Michelle).  I have been watching lots of YOUTUBE video about pulling out dents and bought a dent puller tool at Harbor Freight.

I can’t tell you how beautiful it is today in Westhampton.  I will be jumping into the pool after writing and posting this.  Maggie and I will go to the beach at sunset.  I am writing this on sister’s Robin’s beautifully (newly remodeled) deck, how lucky am I?

GRATEFULL