Thank you, Tanzania

November 25, 2018

 

 

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I spent three weeks in October at the small village of Ipalamwa in Tanzania, Africa. It was life-changing. The village is in the highlands, at 6000 foot elevation. The vistas were gorgeous. I went during the dry season and saw no mosquitos or bugs. The temperature during the day was 70-75 degrees and 55-60 in the evenings. Perfect! Since Tanzania is south of the equator, it was spring.

 

The accomodations were quite nice. There’s a whole complex that includes the clinic, the guest house for volunteers, staff housing and a kitchen and dining room that also serves as a venue for family workshops.

 

 

Above are the Global Volunteers greenhouse where they grow seedlings for families and food for the staff and volunteers. At right is Gracie, demonstrating the hand-washing station.

Global Volunteers has a very ambitious project there called RCP, Reaching Children’s Potential: the first 1000 days. Many of the children in Tanzania are stunted in growth and intellect due to poor nutrition. Global Volunteers has built a maternity clinic which also serves the community’s other health concerns. They started with eighty families and are now up to 274 families. The mothers attend workshops on Hand washing, Nutrition, Child Development, Breastfeeding and Family Planning. Hand-washing stations, made from PVC pipes, are installed and the families report no more stomach upsets or diarrhea. Global Volunteers also provides porridge with extra nutrients to make sure the mothers’ breastmilk is nutritious and to the children of the household to prevent stunting. Caregivers visit the families every week to check on their health and to reinforce the information from the workshops

I was part of a Global Volunteers team there. I taught kindergarten in the mornings and did home visits with the Global Volunteers caregivers in the afternoons. Kindergarten is two years, for five and six-year olds. They must pass a test to go to Standard 1. There were 107 students in the kindergarten and only one teacher! The three Global Volunteers, along with a translator, held classes for the fifty-five five-year olds on the soccer field. We read books, practiced numbers and letters and taught them singing games like “The Hokey Pokey” and “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.” The school seemed to have no supplies or books for these students. The children didn’t have any toys so they made do with sticks and things they found. A soccer ball was made from strips of old fabric.

 

 

The women wore traditional dress, which is material draped around them. They used the material to carry their babies and toddlers on their backs or against their chests.

 

 

The people of the village were Christians. There were three churches in this small village:  Lutheran, Catholic, and Pentecostal. I went to a Lutheran service. I couldn’t understand it since I don’t speak Swahili, but the three choirs were fantastic.

 

The home visits were quite a revelation. I was concerned that I would be intruding, but I was warmly welcomed into homes. The caregivers were all college educated and spoke fluent English. They translated my words into Swahili for the mothers and their words into English for me. The houses were small and made of bricks that were fashioned from the red dirt and baked in outside ovens. The roofs were either thatched, tin or a stronger metal. The floors of the home were packed dirt. Most of the kitchens were in another building because they used word-burning stoves. The government had declared that all homeowners had to replace their old outhouses with new ones that flushed and hooked up to a septic tank. Not very many of the villagers had yet complied.

 

The homes were sparely furnished. I usually sat on a small bench that was no higher than nine inches. I was impressed that I was able to get up and down without assistance.

When I asked mothers what they thought was the most useful part of the project, most of them said either the hand-washing station or the seminars.

 

Global Volunteers doesn’t have enough money to give all the families the nutritious porridge. I went to several homes where the two year-olds weighed less than 20 pounds! It costs $25 to feed a family the porridge for a month. If you’re in a giving mood this season, I suggest that you donate to the project at globalvolunteers.org and earmark the donation for porridge in Tanzania. They also need volunteers, no experience necessary. I highly recommend it. Volunteers pay for their own transportation to Tanzania and a fee that covers the cost of all meals and the guesthouse they stay in. All that is deductible on income taxes as a charitable donation. Go to globalvolunteers.org for more information.

 

Ticking another item off my Bucket List

October 1, 2018

           I haven’t written a bucket list, the things I want to do before I die. I just know some things that would be on one. I want to jump on a trampoline and dunk like the Suns mascot, the Gorilla. I haven’t worked on that one yet and doubt I’ll be able to pull it off.

           I’m leaving October 2 for Tanzania to work with Global Volunteers, a non-profit, non-sectarian group. I’ll be gone almost a month. I’m flying from Phoenix to London and then on to Amsterdam. I stay there for two nights. Then I take a flight to Dar el Salaam, the capital of Tanzania, with one stop at Mt. Kilimanjaro. I stay overnight in the capital and take a 90 minute plane ride to Iringa. Global Volunteers will pick me up in a jeep and drive me three hours, over bumpy roads, to Ipalamwa, where I will spend three weeks either teaching English or doing home visits about hygiene and nutrition.

           I’ve already scheduled my ticket to The Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam, as well as a canal cruise. People keep asking me if I’m going to go to the Red Light District. I have no interest in seeing partially-clad women in windows.

           In Tanzania, I’ll be working Monday through Friday. Global Volunteers’ motto is “making peace one person at a time.” The project is to change the stunted growth of the children in one generation. There will be a team of us, but I don’t know how many. You pay to volunteer, and this payment covers your room and board, about $2500 for three weeks in most of the 42 countries where they have projects. You also pay your own transportation to and from the project. The bonus is that you get to deduct these expenses as a charitable gift on your income taxes.

Global Volunteers built a guest house in Ipalamwa with running water. Usually I opt for a double room, so I can get to know one of the volunteers well, but this time I paid a few hundred dollars extra to have a single room. The last time my granddaughter slept over, she told me I snored. I didn’t want to interrupt a team member’s sleep.

I’ll be going on two safaris, one on each of the weekends. I bought binoculars and the new iPhone Max for its camera to better enjoy my experiences. I’ve always wanted to see elephants and giraffes in their natural habitat. That was on my bucket list.

I went to Passport Health to check that I had the shots I needed. I did, so no pokes. I must take malaria pills while I’m there. They also sold me a compound that you spray on your clothes and let them air dry. This will make the clothes mosquito repellent for five washings.

I was warned that it’s a traditional community and that I should wear loose clothing, nothing tight on the chest or rear end. I went to Old Navy and got long-sleeved cotton blouses and free-flowing pants.

I wanted to send a library of children’s books ahead of time to the village, but there’s no mail service or UPS or FedEx. Instead I’m bringing some of my favorite books and a world atlas to show where I’m from. I bought extra poundage for the plane ride in Tanzania as Global Volunteers asked me to bring medical supplies. I was a bit surprised when the package arrived and took up half of my suitcase!

I’ll be incommunicado. There’s no Internet or phone service. I decided not to bring my computer and write longhand.

I’m nervous and excited about my trip. I’ll write my next column on how it went.

 

I Can Go Alone and Have a Good Time

September 17, 2018

I eat alone at restaurants all the time. I rarely go to upscale places, so I don’t know if I’d feel as comfortable at those places. Whenever I go into Flagstaff, I try to plan it around lunch or dinner. I do cook, but I’d rather not. I usually eat at Oscar’s Burrito Fiesta, Your Pie, Fratelli’s pizza or Taverna.

Last Wednesday night, the Sedona Film Festival was showing The Cakemaker at the Flagstaff Harkins. They bring up independent films once a month. I couldn’t get anyone interested in going with me, so I went alone. It was a terrific movie and I’m glad I went. The problem is that the movie had an open ending. Viewers had to decide how it worked out. I do wish someone had gone with me, so I could discuss it. I did encounter a woman in the Ladies Room who gave me her take on the ending, which was opposite from mine.

On Saturday, Flagstaff sponsored The Big Sing in Heritage Square. Again, no one was interested, so I went by myself. I parked on San Francisco Street, north of Cherry Street so I wouldn’t have to pay. As I walked down the steep hill, I thought about the effort it was going to take to go back up the hill.

I ate lunch at Criollo Latin Kitchen, a restaurant I’d wanted to try all summer as it got rave reviews in Phoenix Magazine. I sat at a high top table by myself but didn’t bother to notice if anyone else was dining solo. I ordered the salmon tostado, which was Eggs Benedict with mounds of flaked salmon on English muffins with spinach and a lightly spicy Hollandaise sauce. It was delicious!

After a leisurely meal, I ambled over to Heritage Square and snagged a seat in the shade on a low wall. It was a bit toasty out, so I appreciated the bottled water that was given out, gratis.

The concert was a sing-along with eight choruses from the Flagstaff area. Each one sang two songs. The NAU chorus started the program out with The Star Spangled Banner and then went into Dancin’ in the Street. I was not at all embarrassed to sing along.

One group, the Flagstaff Threshold Choir, was a cappella. They sing for free in people’s homes, hospitals and hospices to celebrate the thresholds of life: births, deaths, illnesses and celebrations. They taught the audience two rounds to sing. It was very moving.

I stayed for six groups, until I got quite hot. I crossed over and had a triple chocolate gelato at The Sweet Shoppe. I revived enough to tackle the hill to my car.

I don’t go to events solo as often when I’m in Scottsdale. I’m not sure why, but I think I’ll make more of an effort to do when my friends aren’t interested.

 

Where is it?

September 4, 2018

I misplace my phone often:  in the car, under the newspaper, under the quilt on my bed. I used to have a landline, so I could call my phone, but I cut off that service in a money-saving effort. I do have a “Where’s my iPhone?” app, but I don’t have any other Apple devices, so that app doesn’t work.

Previously, when I’d lost my phone, I’d go to neighbors and ask them to call my phone. This was cumbersome but effective. Last fall I found out about The Tile. It’s a small device to put on a key ring. If you lose your keys, you open the app on the phone and it will make the tile beep, so you can find your keys. Even better, if you misplace your phone, you can tap twice on the tile, and it will ring your phone, even it’s on mute or vibrate. (It won’t work if the phone is completely turned off.) This device has saved me oodles of time.

When I was growing up, I remember that my mother was constantly losing her purse or keys. This was decades before she suffered from dementia. She had so much on her mind all the time that she never noted where she put the keys or her purse. My father was her “Tile.” He would find her phone or purse for her. He bought several devices, from the ads on the back pages of the New York Times Magazine, but none worked well enough to find her purse or keys.

And it’s not only my phone I misplace. Every year there are at least four or five items that I misplace between the cabin and my condo in Scottsdale. Currently, I’m at a loss as the whereabouts of the second set of flannel sheets and the sweaters, turtlenecks and winter nightgowns that I stored with them. I looked in every white garbage bag, suitcase and container in my storage shed, but no luck. Louie, my dog, is not helpful in finding these things. This is one of the few instances when I wish I lived with someone who could remind me where I stored things.

The other thing that drives me nuts is looking for an object I’ve seen recently, like my passport or a prescription refill. I know it’s in my house somewhere, but I have no idea where. Sometimes this sends me into a frenzy. On occasion, I have found the item I’m looking for in the garbage.

That reminds me of when my older daughter, Emily, was twelve and lost her dental retainer for the second time. She told me when I arrived home from work. When I questioned her about the last time she’d remembered wearing it, she promptly said, “At lunch in the cafeteria, I put it in a napkin and put it on my tray.” By now, the school was closed for the day. I drove us to the back of the school where the dumpsters were. Luckily, they hadn’t been emptied. I made Emily get in the dumpster and look for her retainer. Miracle of miracles, she found it! Then she shoved it right back in her mouth. Yuck! I wanted her to bathe it in mouthwash before she put it in her mouth. She smiled and was happy that she’d saved me two hundred dollars.

I think I have a project for next April, when I open my cabin again. I’m going to take everything out of the storage shed and purge what I don’t need and organize the rest. Ah yes, next spring.

 

The Weekend That Wasn’t

August 18, 2018

I have been dating The Zookeeper for a few months but since he lives in Phoenix and I’m in the mountains for the summer, it was only three dates. I knew he was lonely and ready to get married, but he didn’t balk when I told him I was interested in a long-term committed relationship but not marriage.

Our third date in Phoenix was for dinner at La Piñata, Mexican food restaurant in mid-town Phoenix. I had great memories of the place when it was on 19th Avenue and Osborn. I lived downtown at the time and went there often.

Unfortunately, the food was terrible the night of our date. It’s hard to mess up cheese enchiladas, but they were beyond bland.

It was the first day of his school year. He taught third grade and I thought he’d talk about his class, but he didn’t. He’s a very bright man. We talked about books, movies, and our lives. I gave him copies of two of my books.

I expected him to ask me back to his house to meet his menagerie:  three dogs, a desert tortoise, an African tortoise which will eventually weigh 350 pounds, and assorted snakes. After dinner, we went out to the parking lot and he gave me a quick peck on the cheek.

We texted the rest of that week, I got the gumption to tell him about my expectation. He answered that he hadn’t asked me to his house because it was a mess, saying he was more like Oscar Madison than Felix Unger, of The Odd Couple. Hmmm. I’m not a neat or clean freak, but how messy was he? I texted that I could be a committed relationship with someone who was messy, but not live with him.

I decided to take a risk and asked him to come up to my cabin for the weekend. I was hoping that the relationship would go to the next level.

He found a sitter for his critters and agreed to drive up on a Friday afternoon after school. I made dinner (machaca chicken/spinach quesadilla, corn on the cob, and homemade guacamole and chips.) I arranged for Aurora to clean the house and put sheets on the bed in the second bedroom. (I didn’t want to push him into anything he wasn’t comfortable with.)

When he arrived, I gave him a hug. I was expecting a kiss to alert me as to his intentions, but he didn’t deliver one. He came in and sat on the couch. I sat next to him, but he didn’t hold my hand or touch me at all.

I finished making dinner and I guess he liked it because he ate it up. He didn’t offer to help with the dishes or take his plate to the sink. Hmmm.

After dinner he sat on the couch and I sat on the chair across from him and we talked quite a bit. The more he conversed, the more red flags went up. Although he wasn’t very mobile now, due to a bad knee, I gathered that he led a very sedentary life, watching old movies. He’d been married three times, not two. He didn’t count one of them since it was for one year. He had two children from his first marriage, but he moved from Oregon to the Phoenix area, so he didn’t see them much and he was estranged from them. Another red flag as far as I was concerned.

He was a Republican. Although he voted for Trump (anyone but Hillary,) he no longer supported him. He went on a rant about how African Americans were racist because 98% of them voted for Obama. Uh-oh, another red flag.

I don’t remember how the topic came up, but he said that once the pill was in wide use, women were as bad as men. Before that, women were on a higher plane, but now they’re the same dogs as men, sleeping around. Another red flag. I was sure he would be scandalized when my next book, Sex and the Single Senior, was published.

It was getting later and later, but he didn’t make any comment about going to bed. Finally, at midnight, I said I was tired. He asked if I wanted him to sleep in the second bedroom, but I said he could sleep with me. I took Louie out for his quick night walk and moved his bed into my bedroom. I gave Louie treats so he would stay in his bed and not get up on mine.

I do have a silky nightgown, but I opted for a thick cotton night shirt. He crawled into bed but kept his distance. He continued to talk while I tried to stay awake. Finally, at 1 a.m., I said I had to sleep. Then he said he wanted to get “frisky,” but I declined.

I didn’t sleep well. In the morning, I got up and took a shower. When I was dressed, he wasn’t in bed. He was sitting on the living room couch, in his clothes and on his smartphone. I told him I was taking Louie for a walk and knew he wouldn’t accompany me because of his knee. It was now 6:30 in the morning.

As I walked down the block, I called my best friend since seventh grade, who lives in northern California and explained the situation. I dreaded spending the weekend with him since I knew there was no chance for a relationship.

First, she said she could call me when I got back to the cabin and I could say there was an emergency in Scottsdale and I had to get back to the Valley. I could pack up a few things, drive behind him until I lost sight of him and then take the next exit back to Munds Park. But that wouldn’t solve the bigger problem and we both agreed that deception wasn’t the way to go. I decided on honesty.

When I got back to the cabin, he was still on the couch with his phone. He’d made coffee but hadn’t found the artificial sweetener and hadn’t wanted to paw through my cupboard. He also informed me that the coffee was decaf. None of my other guests had noticed that! I made him a cup of strong organic black English tea.

I sat down in the chair across from him and said, “I took a risk in asking you to come up this weekend. I thought it might take our relationship to another level. The problem is I don’t feel a personal connection with you. I’m not taking about “chemistry,” but a connection. You’re a great guy. On paper we look like we’re meant for each other. We’re both intelligent, love books and movies, and are into education. It just didn’t pan out in person. You’re a great catch for someone else.”

He was quiet for a moment and said, “I don’t think so. I’ll pack up and go as soon as I finish my tea.”

I felt badly. I guess he liked me, but it didn’t come through.

He left, and I moved Louie’s bed back to the living room. He’ll be sleeping with me tonight.

It’s Too Darned Hot!

August 8, 2018

As I am writing this, the temperature in Munds Park is 92 degrees. It was a chilly fifty-six degrees when I walked Louie at 6:15 this morning, but the temperature climbed fast.

The birdbath in my front yard needs to be filled twice a day. I am assiduous about closing the blinds as soon as the temperature reaches seventy degrees, to reserve the coolness in the house. It’s still warm in the afternoon in my cabin, which saps my energy and makes me sleepy. At least the hot weather is good for something:  naps.

Yesterday was hot, too. Sue, Joan and I went to the air-conditioned movies to see Mama Mia! Here We Go Again. It didn’t get rave reviews, but all three of us loved it. I cried at the end, but most of the movie is pure fun. We stayed in town to eat at Lotus Lounge, also air-conditioned. The roasted Brussel sprouts are to die for. And since I live alone, no one will hear me fart all night. By the time we got home at eight-thirty, it was cool enough to watch television without sweating.

That’s too darn hot! It’s also a good excuse.It’s too darn hot to cut and rake the weeds in my yard. I can’t sort and organize the tiny shed. I can’t cook or bake because it will heat up my 800 square foot house. I can’t play Pickleball after 8:15 a.m. or I’m a sweatball. Louie’s afternoon walk is severely curtailed due to the heat.

I know it’s 114 degrees in the valley, but there I have air-conditioning and can choose to stay inside all day. I do have a portable air-conditioner up here, the kind on wheels. There are two reasons I haven’t hooked it up. One, you must start it as soon as it gets to seventy-five degrees and when it gets hot, it only cools it down to eighty-four degrees because it’s only meant for two hundred square feet. Secondly, it doesn’t fit perfectly. I have windows that open side-to-side, so I can’t get a regular air-conditioner. No matter how much duct tape I use, there’s always a gap where the bugs can get in. So far, I haven’t had any mosquitos in my house and I want to keep it that way.

I was down in the valley last week, when it was 110 degrees and humid. That was much more miserable. Since I was only there a short time, I packed too much into the two days and nights, forgetting how much the heat takes out of you. I had Abby and Savy overnight, my hair colored, my nails done (both mani and pedi,) dinner with The Zookeeper, a date with Mr. GQ, breakfast with my youngest son, a sonogram on my legs, a haircut, and dinner with my older two sons and their families. Whew! I crawled into bed each night, exhausted.

The bedrooms are the coolest rooms in my cabin because they’re in the shade all the time, but I still wear my lightest nightgown and don’t get under the sheet. It’s a good thing I’m not sleeping with anyone but Louie. He knows to go to the bottom of the bed and not touch me.

The weather forecast is for the heat to break tomorrow, with the monsoons coming back. Hallelujah!

When It Rains, It Pours

July 22, 2018

 

It’s been raining for two weeks, thunderstorms with cracks loud enough to lift me out of my chair and rain falling so hard it bounces up from the pavement like a kid jumping double-dutch.

 And it’s been pouring dates. Last Monday, I went to Sedona to meet Mr. Vortex. I named him this when he suggested we meet at a coffee shop, then adjourn to a red rock vista to fill up with the energy of the vortex. He was a massage therapist and I thought perhaps body nirvana was in my future.

I drove to the Firecreek Coffee Shop. It was one in the afternoon and I arrived before him. He texted me to let me know he was running late. I don’t drink coffee, only tea. They had no black tea, so I ordered iced green tea. It was awful. I sat down at a table and started to read.

Mr. Vortex showed up, looking like his profile photo from Plenty of Fish. He got himself a cup of water but didn’t order anything. He started the conversation talking about cranial sacral therapy and an institute he had attended in California to learn it. I was getting bored until we segued on to our families. We got into our philosophies of life. He was into transmigration of souls and was a bit taken aback by my total lack of belief. Then he got into “Everything happens for a reason.” I told him that didn’t work in my life. I saw no reason why my daughters were killed in a plane crash. He answered that I had a lesson to learn from a previous life. That reminded me of why I broke up years ago with Mr. Spiritual Journey. He gave me the same line and I didn’t accept it then or now.

After a few minutes, I told Mr. Vortex that our philosophies were too disparate for a relationship.

“That’s it?” he asked.

“Yep,” I said as I got up and headed out into the pouring rain.

 On Tuesday afternoon, Mr. GQ drove up from Phoenix to see me. We have a casual relationship that suits both of us. We had a good time hanging around downtown Flagstaff.

On Thursday, I did a quick trip to the Valley. I had to pick up some things at my home in Scottsdale. I had breakfast with my youngest son and his fiancé at The Cracked Egg. Their $4.99 breakfast can’t be beat.

I met The Zookeeper at the Musical Instrument Museum. It was our second date. I call him The Zookeeper because that was his job for ten years at The Phoenix Zoo. Now he’s a teacher. He texted me to let me know that it was Teacher Month at the museum, and if I had a school ID, admission was free. I dug out my retired teacher ID from Alhambra School District. What a deal!

I was disconcerted to see him limping toward me. The last date we had was at a Starbuck’s, and I didn’t notice the limp. He said his knee was hurting but he would be fine. He was dressed nicely in a long-sleeved striped oxford shirt and khaki pants.

I wanted to see the exhibits from Africa, particularly Tanzania, since I’m going there in October. He looked miserable walking around, but he soldiered on. When my head was too full of music to tell the differences from one country to another, we went to the café for a drink. I had Diet Coke while he had a lemonade and yogurt.

We talked about our families, his job and my writing. This man wants to get married, which I nixed on the first date. I told him honestly that I didn’t know if I could live with anyone. There was hope, as a friend had lived with me for five months while her condo was being re-done. But I do like the freedom to eat ice cream for breakfast with no one giving me the stink eye. He didn’t seem the type who would censure my terrible eating habits.

I do like him and will see him again when I’m in the Valley. We made a date for dinner after his first day of school with the students. I’m going slowly with this one, as he has the possibility of more than a casual relationship.

I haven’t sent out any more messages to men on the dating website. I think I’ll wait to see how things with The Zookeeper turn out.

 

 

Mr. GQ and My Epiphany

June 20, 2018

I named the new man Mr. GQ because he dressed like he walked out of that magazine. He was stylish and impeccable with perfectly coifed white hair. I would say he’s my height, but I’ve lost another inch, according to my Medicare “wellness” exam last week, so he’s at least an inch taller. He’s got some meat on his bones, so I won’t crush him. He also grew up in New Jersey, and miracle of miracles, he’s Jewish. Although separated from his wife for many years, he had gone over every morning to make their breakfast and drive them to school.

He had one liability. He wasn’t divorced yet, although he had been separated for years.

We had a good time, exchanging some of our life stories and doing a lot of laughing. That’s what piqued my interest. I needed lightness and chuckling in my life.

We texted for a few days, and I suggested we go dancing at The Rhythm Room, my favorite music venue. The crowd was generally our age, with a sprinkling of younger people to keep the place from being an old fogey’s hangout. I drove myself and met him there.

The Bluesmen Feat with Geo Bowman & Diva Missy played a mix of oldies, including Motown hits. He ordered a Diet Coke and Malibu Rum, while I stuck with Michelob Ultra. I tasted his cocktail and decided that could become my drink of choice.

He said he’d dance whenever I wanted to. He didn’t need to down two or three drinks before going on the dance floor! He danced “free-style” like me. There were several couples showing off their moves from lessons, but I felt very comfortable dancing with him. I shocked him when I alluded to getting intimate with him. Not that he wasn’t thinking the same thing, but he was surprised I verbalized it.

He seemed open and honest, but I’ve said and written that before and been wrong.

Our third date was to the movies to see “I Feel Pretty” with Amy Schumer. It didn’t get good reviews, but we both laughed and enjoyed ourselves. We went back to my house and drank Malibu rum and Diet Cokes. We shared more of our life stories. I told him about the plane crash that killed my daughters and mentioned that I would like some support on Mother’s Day. He said he was having dinner with his children, ages 18 and 21, and their mother, but he would come over afterwards. I appreciated that immensely.

We did more than kissing, but not THE DEED.

In between dates, we texted, some mundane matters and other sexually suggestive ones.

He has mentioned toys that former lovers had used. I only owned “Mr. Buzzy,” a silver bullet vibrator. I made a mental note to go to The Castle Superstore, an “adult” retail establishment. I hadn’t been to one in years.

One day, I drove to the Castle Superstore in Phoenix. As soon as I entered the store, I noticed I was the only customer. It was ten in the morning. The young salesman came right over and asked what I was looking for. I told him I would like a “couples” toy. He took me over to a section and showed me the anniversary edition of a set of two objects. He went into detail about how to use both. I was surprised that I wasn’t at all embarrassed. I agreed to buy it, along with lotions for Mr. GQ and me, and a toy cleaner. Only when the sale was rung up did I have sticker shock. The anniversary item was $229! I was so sold, I figured it was an investment in my sexual future. The salesman saw a sucker as soon as I walked in. Of course, I had to try it out that night. I wasn’t at all sure I got the mechanics right.

On Mother’s Day, Mr. GQ did come over. He was incredibly kind and supportive. We used the toys, but I didn’t think they were worth the big bucks I spent on them.

The next day I went up to Munds Park for the summer. I told him I’d be home in two weeks. I wondered if such a fledgling relationship could stand the summer separation.

We texted every day. I wouldn’t say I thought about him all the time, or I was in love, or even in lust, but I liked him.

When we got together two weeks later, there was no awkwardness. We went for Chinese food and talked about the trivial and the deep.

Later, the sex was good, even without using the couples’ toys.

After sex, I asked him, “Are we exclusive?”

He didn’t reply. Hmm. Since both of us had been refraining from intercourse for a long time, we didn’t use condoms. We’d had the conversation that if he had sex with someone else while we were dating, he would use a condom. He hadn’t used one that night, so I assumed we were both being monogamous.

The next morning, I couldn’t fix him breakfast as I had no milk for coffee or anything in the refrigerator since I’d cleaned it out when I left for the summer. We went to Randy’s, my neighborhood restaurant, for breakfast.

He mentioned that he had many errands to do since this was his day off. He needed a battery for one of his hearing aids. I didn’t realize he wore them.

“It’s long story,” he said.

“That’s okay, I’m ready to listen.”       

His tale went back to 1987, in New Jersey, when he was divorced from his first wife. He told me about a couple he knew. The husband died, and he started dating the widow, Laura. The gist was that he’d been seeing her off and on for thirty years. She moved out to Phoenix and into his apartment sometime after he separated from his second wife. The shocker was that Laura was currently living in his house, in her own bedroom, as a tenant, paying him rent.

I excused myself to go to the restroom. I sat in a stall, shaking my head. I’d found a guy I liked but he wasn’t divorced, and his ex-lover was renting a room in his house. What to do.

When I got back to the table, I told him I’d have to chew on what he’d said.

I went to my hair appointment and stewed for a while. I gave him points for being honest. I knew I came to any relationship with my own heavy baggage: the death of my daughters in a plane crash and my youngest son who was a recovering addict. But could I handle his baggage?

I talked it over with a few friends. No one gave me advice that hit the mark. I went to dinner at Goldman’s Deli and had cheese blintzes, my quintessential comfort food. I decided I would call him and tell him I wanted out.

When I did call him, I chickened out. I told him we should talk. He agreed to come over to my house after work. At least now I knew why I was never invited to his house.

We hugged when he came through my front door. I still hadn’t settled on what I would tell him. We sat in the living room, on separate loveseats, with glasses of water. We made small talk before I dove into the matter at hand.

“I was surprised to learn that your ex-lover was living in your home,” I said, “but I’m glad you told me.”

“She moved in about a week before you and I met,” he said. “I thought I’d wait a few weeks before I told you, to see if we’d continue going out.”

“I understand. If you’d told me right away, I probably wouldn’t have seen you again.”

“She really is my tenant, with a separate bedroom. I do let her know when I’m not coming home.”

“That’s only polite, when you have a roommate. When I asked you the other night if we were exclusive, you didn’t answer.”

“I was surprised,” he said, leaning forward. “When we first met, you said you didn’t want to get married or live with anyone. And your profile on the dating website also made it sound like you were into casual relationships.”

That took me aback. I had said that. Wasn’t that what I wanted? “I meant monogamous,” I lied.

“Oh.”

“Remember I asked that if you had sex with another person, you would wear a condom.”

“If I do, I will certainly wear a condom. I have blood tests quarterly, and I assume they test for STDs.”

“Not unless you ask the doctor to write the order that way.”

“Hm. So you’re good with casual?”

“Sure,” I said, knowing that I wouldn’t make supreme efforts to be in the valley as often.

We hugged when he left, and I felt good about our discussion.

Later, however, I had to question myself. I was brought up short, hearing myself quoted as about wanting only casual relationships. That may be what I said, but it’s not true anymore. What changed? I still don’t want to get married or live with anyone. I value my freedom and independence. However, I finally admitted to myself that I do want a committed relationship, not only monogamous, but emotionally all-in. I’ll continue to have casual relationships until or if I find someone I want to commit to, and who feels the same way. That may not happen. Or it may.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moving North

May 15, 2018

 As I parked my car in my driveway in Munds Park, I saw that my lilac bush was awash with blooms. They smelled divine.

Lilac bush in bloom

I’ve made two trips up so far to “open” the cabin,” but now I’m here for the summer.

As usual, I couldn’t get the satellite dish hooked up to the TV. Direct TV was able to schedule a technician for tomorrow. How lucky was that!

Last summer I left with one job not done. One day late last September, I bought a bag of ice, but it was all stuck together. (When I bought a new refrigerator a few years ago, I opted out of an ice maker. It’s just another device that breaks.) I didn’t want to pound the bag of ice on my kitchen counter as I’d had granite installed two years ago. I went into the half-bathroom and pounded the bag of ice on the vanity. I was shocked when a large piece of the sink broke off. I lived with the broken top for the rest of the season, but now was the time to fix it.

broken vanity

Last week when I came up, I went into Flagstaff to Home Depot to get another vanity. They didn’t have the right size in the right wood. The helpful salesman called the Home Depot by the mall, and they had one. I hurried over there and bought it. Donna and Ty were very accommodating and brought it into my house. I called the plumber and he said he’d get to it before I came back.

Unfortunately, we miscommunicated. He called me and let me know that the sink on the vanity had a hole drilled it in and it wasn’t the overflow. I would have to return the vanity and get another. He said he was surprised I hadn’t also bought a new vanity for the half bathroom. I told him that’s what I’d done. There was silence on his end of the line. He’d taken out the sink in the master bathroom! I think he expected me to yell and scream. That’s not my style. The deed was already done, so why get upset? He called me later in the day to apologize. I told him I’d go up to Home Depot today and get a vanity for the master bathroom.

Meanwhile, I knew there were no vanities like the one I wanted in the half-bath. I got on line and ordered one I liked in the right size and wood and it will be delivered to the Flagstaff Home Depot next week.

Today, after I unloaded my car and gave Louie food and water, I looked carefully at the master bathroom to consider what color wood I wanted. I decided on white. I measured so I’d get the right size.

As I loaded the vanity with the hole in my car. I noticed that there were deep gashes in the sides. I’d been sold a return and it hadn’t been checked.

I drove to Flagstaff. As I parked at The Home Depot, I realized that my hands were shaking. I’d drunk too much Diet Coke on the way from Scottsdale to Munds Park. After I made my return and new purchase I had to get some lunch and eat slowly to calm down.

The customer service department was embarrassed that such a damaged product was sold and returned the money to my credit card.

I found the right vanity for the master bathroom. I got a salesperson to load it on a cart. He had to ask someone else about what size faucet would go with the vanity. He got the answer and that decision was easily dispatched. After it was loaded in the car, I mentally checked it off my “Things to do” list.

I headed for Oscar’s Fiesta Burrito, my go-to restaurant in Flag. The New York Times had been delivered to Munds Park this morning, so I leisurely ate my fish taco and read the paper. As I returned to my car, I called the plumber. He said he’d install the master bathroom vanity tomorrow.

I can’t watch the news tonight, because my satellite isn’t talking to my television. It’s just as well. I’ll settle down with a good book after I finish this column.

 

 

 

 

Mr. GQ

May 1, 2018

 

I’ve met a man, through the Plenty of Fish dating website, with whom I connect. If you read my column in the last issue, you may be wondering, “What happened to the fellow from her past?” Nothing happened and I’m glad.

My first date with the new guy was supposed to be on a Thursday night at The Vig on 40th Street in Phoenix. I got there early, and the place was so packed that even the parking lot across the street was full. I had noticed The Attic Alehouse on my way, and the parking lot was not crowded. I called him and suggested a different meeting place. He readily agreed.

The Attic Alehouse was not very crowded and not noisy, conditions I prefer for a first date. I don’t want to have to shout personal details of my life, usually shared at the first meet.

He was on time. He looked like his picture from the profile on the dating website, only more handsome. I was a bit star struck, which was very superficial of me.

I’ve named the new man Mr. GQ because he dresses like he walked out of that magazine. He’s stylish and impeccable with perfectly coifed silver/white hair. I would say he’s my height, but I’ve lost another inch, according to my Medicare “wellness” exam last week, so he’s at least an inch or two ntaller. He’s got some meat on his bones, so I won’t crush him.

We had a good time, exchanging some of our life stories and doing a lot of laughing. That’s what made me interested in dating him. I need lightness and chuckling in my life.

We texted for a few days, and I suggested we go dancing at The Rhythm Room. I love that place. The crowd is generally my age, with a sprinkling of young people to keep the place from being an old fogey’s hangout. I drove my own car and met him there.

The Bluesmen Feat with Geo Bowman & Diva Missy played a mix of oldies, including Motown hits. He ordered a Diet Coke and Malibu Rum, while I stuck with Michelob Ultra. I tasted his cocktail and decided that might become my drink of choice.

He said he’d dance whenever I wanted to. He didn’t need to down two or three drinks before going on the dance floor! He danced “free-style” like me. There were several couples showing off their moves from lessons, but I felt comfortable dancing with him.

He seems open and honest, but I’ve said and written that before and been wrong.

On our third date we went to the movies to see “I Feel Pretty” with Amy Schumer. It didn’t get good reviews, but we laughed and enjoyed ourselves. Afterwards, he came over for a drink. I’d bought Malibu rum but I made a mistake. its was pineapple, not coconut. We drank it with Diet Coke. I may prefer the pineapple to the coconut.

I like him. We’ll see where it goes.