Signs of Spring’s Arrival on my Walks

As usual the Spring weather swings from warm to freezing (literally) and back again. Plus Spring rain. I’ve not been walking anywhere near as much as I want or as would be healthy, but before I took 2 weeks vacation I did get out and about.

I was out at an appointment and I heard an odd but familiar sound. Avian for sure. I looked about and up and there it was – on top of the building. 🙂 It was not alone – periodically I could see something behind that goose that made me think there was another up there. I stood there for a few minutes in the sunshine, listening to the goose trumpet a paean to Spring. Or whatever the call might have been. 🙂

The trouble with warm spring days for my walks is that I become increasingly more demanding about the temperature. Whereas in January temperatures in the 40s were WARM for walking, at this point I’m not going out unless the temps are in the high 50s. I’m tired of being cold and I don’t warm up until halfway through my walk. Good thing Mother Nature is not as picky as I am. 🙂

I just liked this cute little house, flanked by tall trees, light blue sky, puffy clouds

She Is Herself

MY chair, MY house – what are YOU looking at?

I have so many pictures, stories and thoughts that I have been sharing with you in my mind. 🙂 What, my telepathy is not working? Rats. I’ll try the old-fashioned way, but I make no promise that I’ll be able to get it all written.

Perspective – she got there all by herself – She conquers tall chairs!

FIRST, however – WC is VERY much herself. I think she has decided that she is going to live as long as I do, and make sure that my every day is all about her. Every hour. Every day. She was back to her demanding regal self within 24 hours. She is very fragile, no question about it. She no longer walks with any cat-grace. But she realized that life was happening on the 2nd floor and she came up to check it out. We locked her in the basement during Seder (carried her down gently, her yowling at the top of her lungs the whole way, plus pee’ing on the steps) and she came up the stairs several times to yowl at the door. Obviously difficult as walking is, she’s going to do it if she wants something. Not to mention getting up high on furniture to survey her kingdom and to nap in the sun. 🙂

Back to a preferred sun spot on the back of the couch for a nap

Guilt and Remorse

I am without doubt the worst cat parent that has ever been. I was trying to do what I thought was right. Instead I miscalculated and my poor little WC has paid the price. Look – her litter mate GC had the same ailments/illness as WC. GC got weak and died in a matter of weeks. GC went down to the basement, emerged only intermittently and then passed away.

WC began showing symptoms in August of 2021. Some days she was so weak, so fragile, so sad that we didn’t think she’d last a week. Some days she seemed so pathetic that we’d say “if she’s like this tomorrow still we’ll call the vet”. Then she’d perk up and eat and meow and march about giving us orders as if she’d never had a bad day in her life.

But there were a lot of those sad bad days. We kept expecting her to die any week now. We did NOT bring her to the vet because she HATES the vet. She always soiled herself on the way to the vet. Cried piteously the whole way. Cried there. So even as she got more frail, we said “well we know what’s wrong and why torture her by bringing her to the vet to hear what we already know – she’s old and sick”. We let her medicine and food plan lapse a few weeks ago because the vet wouldn’t renew them without a visit.

It’s now 9 months since we began thinking “any day now”. I ‘broke” and made an appointment for her. She smelled, she was completely matted. WC who used to have the silkiest smoothest fur in all of creation. She spent the day at the vets’. Being shaved, cleaned – inside and out. Poor thing – was given fluids inside and out. Yes, that means both ends. The vet called me 3 times during the day to give us progress reports. She warned us that WC was extremely bony and had lost lots of weight, despite the fact that we feed her on demand every 30 minutes. Perhaps cancer? But she’s over 19 years old, and we said no xrays, no heroic efforts.

They sent her home with a little jacket to keep her warm. They suggested fiber for her diet to help with ‘output’. Gave us a fatty supplement to help with her skin and health. Powder to sprinkle on her skin to help with the nicks on her from the shaving (she also had lots of old-lady growths on her skin that got nicked). Look at her. I feel so guilty, so awful, so wrong. If only I’d brought her in when I stopped being able to keep up with her matted fur?? The truth is that there is no change in her care going forward. She seemed so deflated yesterday. The bit of good news is that this morning she was back to meowing at me impatiently for her breakfast. AND she jumped up onto the couch where I do NOT have any protective cloths. I guess that might be her “in your face, mom!” moment. Sigh. My poor little girl. I feel so guilty that I seem to have done it all wrong and she had to pay the price. 😦

Her favorite spot – next to her daddy while he watches TV

Refuge in the Little Moments

Sigh. I made the mistake of looking at the news. Although it is beautiful sunshine outside, it is also COLD – in the 30sF. Too cold. My to-do list is uninspiring. At moments like these it’s good to turn to the little things in life that can take me away from this moment and into a moment that makes me smile.

White Cat. Sigh. She’s not often a moment that makes me smile, I must confess. She’s over 19.5 years old. Arthritic. Ill. Unclean. Dying of starvation (literally) – we need to feed her every hour. She’s noisy – very meowy because it hurts to move (arthritis), it hurts to defecate, it hurts to be hungry, it is annoying when HER person (my husband) is NOT on the couch where he belongs so she can snuggle. Meow meow meow. I’m probably not supposed to admit or say this, but it will be a huge relief in my life when she finally decides she’s ready to quit hers. And then I catch sight of her all curled up and sweet and innocent on the couch in the sun. All I can do is melt and smile and enjoy her little pink nose and her little pink paw pads and her little pink ears.

Spring flowers always lighten my mood and gladden my heart. These pictures are from one of my afternoon walks. I’m not sure what that purple ground cover is – the flowers look like azaleas but it’s WAY too early for azaleas. I think. The magnolia tree takes me back to my childhood. We had the good fortune to live on a street that had an island running down the middle. Down the middle of the island were magnolia trees, one after the other. They were glorious for about one week, before the petals began turning brown and dropping. My sister’s birthday is a week AFTER that peak magnolia time. My grandmother, who LOVED flowers and gardening, would always come out for my sister’s birthday, and always bemoaned the fact that she was too late for the magnolias. Tradition! That is a cherished loving memory of us all happy together, even if my grandmother missed the magnolias.

Of course it’s wonderful to see my OWN garden starting to wake up as well. I think that this year instead of tying back the forsythia, I’m going to cut it way back. We are having construction done (again) on the house, beginning in May. Yes – I will indeed be documenting it and inflicting the photos and my complaints on you. For some reason I am incapable of remembering what they call the a/c unit we are having installed upstairs (split? slim?). It will have some unit that sits outside the way central air units sit outside, but we will have vents in each of the rooms upstairs. The outside unit is going to be sitting in either the forsythia or the rhododendron, although I suppose maybe we could tuck it back on the far side of the rhododendron and lose the azalea and the andromeda bush back there. In any case, the forsythia needs some heavy pruning. It’s way too straggly. And it’s fun for me to think about gardening. 🙂

There is an old sexist saying: The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. In our family we laughed at that saying because both my sister and I married men who are great cooks. We always joked that the way to OUR hearts was through our stomachs. 🙂 While my husband is indeed an excellent cook, there are a few meals that are “mine” to make, mostly in the comfort food category. I make the holiday briskets, the tuna casseroles, the ground beef casseroles and the corned beef & cabbage dinners. My husband so enjoyed his corned beef & cabbage dinner this past March 17, he insisted that I take a picture of it. 🙂 I agree – it was delicious. And now I’m hungry.

My cookbook insists on calling this “Boiled New England Dinner”

Great View Up Here

I’ve got many things I’d like to write about. I’ve taken many photos to support those things. Or perhaps I want to write about the photos. 🙂 Either way I’ve been having a hard time being creative. This morning on the way out of an appointment I heard a very loud noise. A familiar noise that I couldn’t place immediately. It came again and this time I could locate it. *smile* I used to watch the geese on top of my old office building (which is no longer our office building). I don’t know who else was up there today with this goose, but I could see something moving periodically behind its tail. Something about the blue sky, the flowering tree, and the goose trumpeting its presence to the world made me smile and gave me pleasure. I hope it does the same for you!

SeeSaw

Early snowdrops

I’m on an emotional seesaw this morning. “Up” because it’s bright sunshine and temperatures above freezing. Also my ‘weigh-in’ this morning showed me tied with my lowest recorded weight since I began this slow behavioral change back in November of 2020. 🙂 “Down” because my lower back is in agony. To the best of my knowledge all I did since yesterday was sleep. Took some ibuprofen and have an ice pack applied and waiting for relief. “Up” because I’m still feeling good about getting out for a walk yesterday afternoon. I’m not sure if I should be relieved or concerned that lately I’ve had a lot of unscheduled time at work. Not “free” time, there’s still a lot to do. But fewer meetings. I’m not sure what that indicates, but I do appreciate being able to book a meeting with myself to walk in the warm(er) afternoon sunshine. “Down” because what I have to do today is not interesting nor creative yet is essential. Blecch.

saw this field of purple and green from across the street when i started my walk

I’m also feeling “up” because I was able to donate goods, not just $, for Ukraine refugee relief. I’d donated $ last week to a few organizations that were first there to help. I’d especially like to call out World Central Kitchen. I’d never heard of this group before the Ukraine news, but absolutely I am behind an organization that is ‘boots on the ground’ feeding hungry people. I’d seen several local organizations that were accepting physical goods to ship. They had slightly different lists but I collected items in my house from all lists. The first local group I contacted told me that they could only take a very limited amount of what I had because they could not ship the other items. The second group I contacted was thrilled to take it all, and if I could get there in the next 90 minutes (I could) they were preparing a shipment that day. So “up”. But of course the overall event is “down”. 😦 We need to run the world better.

empty boxes, packing tape, linens, towels, blankets, personal toiletries, medical supplies, non-perishable food items – or why it pays to be a “pack rat”

Promises of Spring

Yesterday I woke to the smell of spring air, the sound of birds chirping, and the sight of bright glorious sunshine. It was 58F at 7am and life was glorious. I went for my morning walk and reveled in the experience.

Today it was 38F at 7am. Wet snow is predicted for tomorrow. Ugh. But the days grow longer, the temperatures get warmer, and one day soon I know I’ll be digging in the garden.

Not sure which perennial this is – maybe the delphinium?

Morning Walk Architecture

Notice the brickwork all the way to the right. This house is SO LOVED.

What a joy! When I woke this morning it was already 60F degrees!! I’d blocked out time in the afternoon to walk, but it was early enough and warm enough that I could walk before I sat down to work.

I need to trespass some day to see this from the back.

One of the fun aspects of walking is seeing what everyone else has done with their homes and property. I’m planning to have someone do some small building work for me outside this spring, based on ideas I’ve gotten over the last few months as I walk. I like Craftsmen/Mission style and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie Style. When it comes to art work or selecting items for my home I’m always attracted to stone/metal/wood. You’ll see that in the privacy screens.

This for the privacy art work along the back property line.

There are also some homes that tickle my fancy every time I see them. The small house pictured here is so appealing – the colors, the facade. Attractive and makes me smile every time I go by. I also love the carve out on this very old house – what a clever way to get light and air!

Brilliant! Reminds me of how I customized my broom closet in the kitchen renovations.

I want to build a privacy screen along my back property line. I’m being very careful to NOT call it a fence, because for that I’d need permits. 🙂 But I’m calling it a piece of art that I can position in such a way that it gives me more privacy AND is attractive to all who see it. I also want to grow ivy and/or other plants on it. I want it to have some sort of bin at the bottom for additional soil. But I need a swinging panel as well between the existing privacy screen and the new one, because I’ll need to get to the back side of both. Mark says “not a problem”.

This has wheels – I’ve seen it move about. I want this for my driveway which gets LOTS of sun.

I do need to fix my brickwork from last fall, and I’m not going to change it – just level it – but I do enjoy seeing what others have done. I love the grass in the one photo. I could definitely see myself pulling up my lawn and putting in something much ‘wilder’ instead, especially if it meant I no longer needed the lawn mowed. 🙂

Love the grass. and the back brick work.
Come- walk with me! Doesn’t this pathway just call to you?

I Had My Party

I have mentioned before about my Superbowl parties. I’ve been hosting them for DECADES. It started over 25 years ago. My father had entered a “Win a Superbowl Party” one night when he picked up his Chicken Holiday dinner. To his great surprise he won the contest. There he was with I don’t remember how much fried chicken and other fried items, pounds and pounds of coleslaw, potato salad and macaroni salad. He gave it all to me and said “Have a party.” Oooookay, my daddy wants me to throw a party, I’ll throw a party.

crowd shot 2019. note the VERY cool food trays my sister bought us years ago

That year it was small. The 8 family members (including my pre-school aged son and elementary school niece) and 2 friends from across the street. The next year as all of the hoopla began about the Superbowl my niece said to me “When is your party, Aunt Ahuva? You always have a party.” My niece is very very good at saying to me after one occasion “you ALWAYS do x”. And then I find myself doing X. 🙂

crowd shot 2020 from the stairway

The party has grown to be a big event. We fly our son home for the weekend. We move the furniture out of the living room, piling it either in the driveway or on the front porch if the weather is bad. We set up folding chairs. I’ve bought a TV strictly for the party AND had my brother-in-law build a stand just for that TV. Both the TV and the stand spend the rest of the year in the basement. We (my husband, brother-in-law and I ) make a LOT of food. All the guests bring food and drink as well. By the time everyone has arrived you can no longer see the dining room table. Hot drinks and desserts are in the breakfast room, where we also have a second TV going (heaven forbid you miss a commercial when you go to that room). Out on the deck, just outside the door, we set up the cold drinks and the desserts that need to be kept cold. Paper goods and plasticware are arranged around the dining room. There are hot chafing dishes set up on the sideboard in the dining room as well.

Very few of the 40-some people who come to the party actually care about the game. 🙂 Oh, many of us do like to watch football games, but we have a core of NY Giants fans. Enough said, right? If I recall the loyalties properly, others have had better fortune: Patriots, Steelers, Cubs. For most people it’s about the food, the friends, the commercials and the boxes.

table view BEFORE the rest of the food starts arriving

We set up a grid, 10×10, or really 11×11. We write one team across the top and another down the side. We block out the 11th row & column. People ‘buy’ a box for $1 box, writing their names into the grid. Someone acts as banker, collecting the $s and then handling the payout.

setting up – notice the big grid awaiting names and the cool food trays awaiting food

Once all the boxes have a name, we remove the blocking from the 11th row & column. We begin to pull numbers out of a hat, 0-9. As we pull a number we write it into the next box on the 11th row, then do the same down the 11th column – picking from a DIFFERENT hat with the folded up pieces of paper, bearing the crucial numbers. From that point on the score becomes personally relevant. We start at 0-0 and pay out $1 a score change. When the score changes, we find the intersection of the last 2 digits of the scores. We pay $10 at the end of the first quarter, $15 at the half, $10 for Q3, and the remaining pot at the end of the game. 🙂

2019 more food 🙂

The last time we had the full blow-out was February 2020, just before the pandemic. Last year I was completely bummed – no party. My friend Pam did convince me to put together a Zoom event. It was okay, much better than not doing anything, but it was a pale shadow of the true party. This year I knew that people were still not ready to come and exchange air inside the house. It doesn’t matter that everyone we would have invited has been vaccinated and boosted. Our emotional state had not caught up to the physical. I fled to Tempe, as you know, and I told my son that were were going to have a party even if it was just the 2 of us.

2018 – pre kitchen renovation and bad weather precluded using the deck

Before I even left I called the Thirsty Lion, a gastropub within walking distance (3077 W. Frye, Chandler, AZ) of the hotel. I told the lovely hostess on the phone, Joyce, that I wanted to reserve a table for 4 outside for the whole length of the game. 🙂 I asked my son to invite friends to join us. By the time I landed he’d found 4 others to join us, late-notice though it was. *laughing* He had to spend a lot of time explaining that it was NOT about the game. In the meantime I decided we could STILL do the boxes if folks would play along. I texted my niece on Friday and asked if she would put together a digital grid. I emailed all of the party regulars explaining where and how the digital grid would work. I told them to trust me about the finances – I’d figure out how to pay out when the time came.

My niece made a fantastic grid. More folks played along than I had anticipated. I guess we are all missing the ‘real’ party. We also set up a group chat for everyone during the game but fewer played along there. We had AZ, NC, DE and CA in the group chat. 🙂 We tracked the scores and the grid and posted to the chat. 🙂 Meanwhile there at the Thirsty Lion we kept our waiter Jeffrey hopping bringing food and drink through the entire game. Jeffrey (unless of course it is Geoffrey) was one of the BEST EVER waiters. Good spirited, upbeat happy, joking with us all, fitting right in. We didn’t call him Jeffrey by the way. We called him Aaron Rodgers because he was wearing Rodgers’ jersey.

That year we had to not only post the grid but ban political discussions.

I had an absolutely fantastic time. I cannot thank our friends enough for joining in long distance and in person to have a party with me. I was ‘high’ from that joy well into the next day. I’m still smiling as I write this post. And as my son said – we didn’t have to clean up or move furniture!!! Maybe next year when we resume in person I should rent a large room at a restaurant. *grin*

And a good time was had by all

Canyon Lake

I love the Arizona deserts: the rocks, the cacti, the mountains. There is a LOT of desert. That’s why it’s even more stunning to find blue blue water nestled among the mountains. After we hiked up to Praying Hands and back, the afternoon was still young, and I’d not had my fill of gorgeous scenery, fresh air and sunshine. We’d seen signs for Canyon Lake on our way to Lost Dutchman State Park and so we thought we’d head that direction. According to the maps, Rt 88 would lead us directly to Canyon Lake. Canyon Lake is one of 4 reservoirs created off the Salt River.

This shot is actually from the hike down from Praying Hands but that rock face is seen on Rt88

I was slightly better this trip than I’ve been in the past. I only pulled the car over once so that I could inhale scenery and take pictures. It is so beautiful. My photos never quite capture the magnitude of the views, but I keep trying. Rt 88 is an incredibly twisting curving winding 2-lane road. When we headed out of Lost Dutchman the posted sign said ’25 mph”. I mentioned to my son that I thought perhaps that was unduly cautious and wondered why. He said, being prescient, that maybe it was because the road was going to be twisting ahead. (I was driving, he was looking at maps.)

view from Rt 88

Rt 88 is definitely twisty. With beautiful views. There was a lot of traffic on the road. It was a Saturday, gorgeous weather, out in the country. A LOT of motorcycles. We came around a curve to a stupendous view but there was no place to stop. As soon as I saw a spot ahead I pulled over – as had several other cars. Unfortunately where I was did not have as great a view as the middle of the road just prior to my pulling over. I decided that it was probably NOT a good idea to walk back and stand in the middle of the road by a blind curve. 🙂 Just take my word for it.

view on the OTHER side of rt 88

I got back in the car and we continued on and reached the overlook for Canyon Lake. Breathtaking. As we made our way down Rt 88 to the lake I pulled over yet again to take photos from another angle. Between the rock faces and the water I wanted to stand there and stare forever.

Our first glimpse of Canyon Lake

We got down to the actual parking and boat launch area and got out of the car to walk around a bit. We shared the water’s edge with some ducks. I took a video of the gentle lapping of the water at the edge – poetry for my soul.

There is a little town, Tortilla Flat, right along the lake. It was jammed packed with people. It looked to be the most amazing “tourist trap” I might have ever seen. My son kept describing it as the epitome of kitsch. 🙂 Yes, we were probably being unduly harsh. There IS a US post office there – it’s a real town. And if you click through on the link you will see that there is an official population of 6. I really should have taken some photos but I had no idea I was going to want them. 🙂

According to the website: “Tortilla Flat is an authentic remnant of an old west town, nestled in the midst of the Tonto National Forest, in the Superstition Mountain Range. Tortilla Flat started out as a stagecoach stop in 1904 and neither fire nor flood has been able to take away this historic stop along the Historic Apache Trail.” We did see lots of folks enjoying ice cream and further down the road a motorcyclist told me that the “best fudge ever” can be had in Tortilla Flat.

We decided we were not in the mood to deal with all those folks so we continued east on Rt 88. According to the map we could reach Roosevelt Lake, another reservoir created off Salt Lake. More twists and curves and bends, but now there were very few cars.

Can you tell yet that the text is merely an excuse for the photos?

The road climbed up and there was an overlook and a sign. The sign said that the road was closed ahead and that there was no pavement past the sign (that was true – we could see that). I pulled over and got out to take some photos. There were 2 motorcyclists there as well and I asked one of them if it was true about the road.

He said that it was, that the Woodbury Fire of 2019 that raged through Tonto National Forest had destroyed the road and the bridge. He said that the only way we could reach Roosevelt Lake was to go back to the highway (a good 30 minutes away) and head NORTH, and then approach Roosevelt Lake from the north. I did a little research once I was home and it was not actually the fire that destroyed the bridge. It was the horrendous rain storms in 2020 over the fire-scarred terrain which caused massive landslides and wiped out the bridge.

View from where we had to turn back on Rt 88

It was already late in the afternoon by that time, and it would have been getting dark by the time we reached the lake. We’ll have to do that another time and hope that the roads are open and we can get there. There is, of course, a lot of controversy over re-opening Rt 88. Arizona DOT has said they will NOT reopen the road until it is reforested (which will take years). We will have to get there from the north when we go.

Superstition Wilderness, Tonto National Forest

We turned around and headed back the way we’d come, all the way back to Chandler. By that point I was exhausted. I’d gotten something in my eye at the last stop and my eye was hurting and tearing – I made my son do the drive back home. I got into the hotel pool & hot spa to recuperate before we headed out to dinner. I leave you with this video of gentle waves upon the shore. 🙂