Psychiatric Department at the Grocery Outlet

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I so love the Grocery Outlet chain of discount grocery stores. Why, just today I picked up a jar of ginormous blue cheese stuffed green olives, a bag of the best avocados (trust me, I am a guacamole connoisseur) and a set of four floor mats made for my VW. Ridiculously bargain priced. But the high point of my shopping trip didn’t center around any of the amazing deals. While reaching into the case holding the bacon, I had to ask a fellow shopper if she could move her cart a smidge.

She was apologetic, she moved, and then she said, “I am in no hurry, go right ahead.”

She was so sweet about it, I smiled back and thanked her.

“I am a retired psychiatric nurse with the prison system…those are the worst ones, the crazy killers.”

Ha! I laughed and I felt compelled to match her statement with one of my own. “Well, I am psychiatric, maybe you can lend assistance my direction!” This time we both laughed. She took my hand and emphasized that we are all a little bit crazy and she regaled me with more of her experiences in the world of the hardcore prison community. What an exchange she provided with her rich history.

This day will go down as one of the more interesting and rewarding shopping events. Right there between the dog food, the laundry detergent, and the light bulbs… the lady who offered the friendly slice-of-life within the Psychiatric Department at the Grocery Outlet.

Portland

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Introducing,dscn1440 Connie.  She and I met at one of the MAX (train) stops.  I approached her for help with purchasing the ticket.  She walked me over to the ticket machine and offered a tutorial.  But, just as soon as she had begun, she changed her mind and, pulling a tiny booklet out of her bag, she tore off a ticket (she buys them in bulk) and handed it to me. “Here, go ahead and take this,” Connie said.  I expressed gratitude and took the ticket.

I was in Portland to visit my 90 year-old mom who is displaying symptoms of dementia.  She seems to have held on to her appetite consistently, leaving only the lemon wedge on her dinner plate.  She sleeps an inordinate number of hours throughout the day.  That’s pretty much it.  No TV or radio to be found in her apartment. A couple books on the table.  I am no stranger to altered brain function so I feel a certain special kinship to my mom’s compromised state of affairs although I had to squelch my manic energy and resign myself to her slow pace.  I “entertained” her with my impersonation of an opera singer while at our table in the community dining room.  Somebody complained.

Back to Connie.  After she handed me the ticket she asked where I was going.  I answered, “Russellville.”  Connie told me she was headed to the same place and that she lives there in the apartments.  So, in keeping with her treatment of the situation, she told me she would ride the train with me to make sure I got off at the right spot.  In the brief exchange of facts and figures, Connie and I shared family information.  She was very forthcoming about the life she has lived.  Pregnant at 13 (!!) and then again twelve years later, she has two sons.  She was wearing a uniform and when I asked her what the uniform was for she replied that she is a chef by trade.  She likes the simplicity of her lifestyle, and really doesn’t want for anything.  We hugged as we stood on the platform and said our goodbyes.

Connie served as the Portland representation of the friendly New Yorkers I have met on my visits to the Big Apple.  What is the correct term for when someone is under no obligation but chooses to go the extra mile to lend assistance?  Maybe the term is, Connie.

April 16, 2017. An amazing footnote I am able to offer.  I repeated my travels to Portland last weekend. Saw my mom again.  In her dementia state, it is no longer fun to carry on conversation.  Very problematic.  But wait, a lovely circumstance presented itself.  Connie was there! In the dining room hallway I spotted Connie serving the Easter feast! She is, after all, a chef. I approached her, reminded her of how we had met the previous year, and there we were hugging again! Serendipity.

Harleys Are In Town

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imageYou know that bucket list?  Mine included a ride on a bike.  A Harley.  I don’t know a single soul in our family or among our friends who have one…wimpy folk.  But, doesn’t it just suggest a wild streak?   So, I made a pact with myself.  The next time motorcycles, specifically Harleys, come to our town, I am going to be there front row and center.  I will present my case, “Can you please take me for a ride?”  Our town is about 8,000 strong.  Not much going on.  But, I was determined to make my wish come true next time the Harleys arrived.  I did.  I walked to the downtown bar where they congregate shortly after I heard rumbling and I knew what it meant.  I walked with conviction over to the first three men I saw sporting the distinctive leather jackets and standing beside their bikes.

Before I could speak, one very intuitive biker asked, “Where do you want to go?”  I had hit the Mother Lode.  Instinctively he knew I wanted a ride.  Unfortunately, his bike did not come equipped with a passenger seat.  Second guy begged off.  That left happy Mr. #3. Well, maybe curious Mr. #3. Okay, more like cautious Mr. #3.  I had to convince him I wasn’t trouble.  I explained I just needed to fulfill this wish from my bucket.  He gave a questioning look but ultimately agreed and said, “Hop on.”  I dutifully placed the helmet on my head, and like the pros, I put my arms around his waist — time tested security measure — and off we went.  Five minutes into the ride around town I told him my name and he said his name was Jim.

“Who are you trying to make jealous?”  Jim asked. “No ulterior motive, I just wanted a ride on a Harley and I took this as my opportunity,” I assured him.  The ride would not be complete until I asked if he could make sure to pass by some teenagers I knew.  “Look, is that Mrs. Wright on that Harley?”  I imagined they would exclaim.  My plan did not take root.  In the 15 minute ride, I never saw a single teenager.  Damn!  Where are they when you want them?!

So, the ride ended, and it was so worth it.  Jim came to trust me, and we parted with an amicable handshake.  Most importantly, I fulfilled my bucket list wish with a little bit of moxie and a lot of glee.

They’re Back

The raccoons. On several occasions, over the past six months, we have heard and seen ample evidence to support the fact that our backyard plays home to raccoons. Up to five on one evening. They make strange sounds. I knew it wasn’t the familiar feral cats — six of those mangy felines make the yard their stop-over, but that’s another story. The raccoons are much more interesting. When the quintet appeared it was with some fanfare. I heard their weird chatter and I turned on the patio lights to witness the animated display. The smallest of the group was in the pool. It looked like the two larger members were disciplining the smallest. Eventually, peewee got out of the water. The atmosphere, charged with a lot of high energy just moments before, was reduced to calm.

As for tonight, I spied a solo member of the tribe sitting in a wood patio chair outfitted with a brand new cushion. The interloper made itself at home in the comfy arrangement. That is not to suggest that the raccoons are not welcome, on the contrary, they are nocturnal guests with an open invitation to surprise us and entertain. They never make a mess. They display proper decorum.

Curious animals. They appear to come out of nowhere. We do have a “wall” of ivy running the entire length of one side of our backyard. Do they hide in there throughout the day? Are they burrowing animals?

Mindful of the fact that these creatures may potentially carry rabies (although ours appear healthy) I never venture out while they pay us a visit. From inside the house, I enjoy watching our masked friends accommodate themselves in our yard. They have carte blanche to make future appearances.

So, How Did I Do?

Those who know me well know that I would never bluster, boast, or brag. Not gonna do it. Instead, let’s make this a revelatory tale.

Grades. Those sometimes troublesome assessments that are inescapable components to our journey throughout academia. They are ingrained within the system. An “A” serves to buoy. “C” is a bit unnerving with the potential to crush our dreams. “C-” is precariously close to “D” which might as well be a failing grade. At the college level, “D” represents a failing grade. I escaped the wrath of “D” — barely. My low grade in Introduction Methods Communication Research nearly proved to be my undoing. This was a statistics class. Foreign. Painful. Mind-numbing.

I re-entered college as a 51 year-old co-ed. Determined to let nothing deter my efforts, everything had to flow uninterrupted. I closed my eyes and cringed when I went to the computer to accept my fate. There on the screen was my final statistics-class-from-hell assessment. “C-” clearly stating that I had, in fact, passed the class.

Going through desk clutter the other day, I discovered the transcript heralding the news of my work.

B
A
A-
B-
A-
A-
That nasty C-.
A
A
B
A

Looks like I did alright.

Get Along Home Cindy Cindy

As we all gather ’round the campfire (well, our patio fire pit) we launch into singing that popular refrain.

It wasn’t popular in our house until about thirty minutes ago. We had established that a song with that name — my name, misspelled — is a traditional folk song. We debated whether the lyrics included “Get along home…” or the alternative version, “Get on home…” It was covered by Elvis, Johnny Cash, and even The Mormon Tabernacle Choir to name a few.

Apparently, according to a number of Google entries, the song lyrics serve to remind us Cindy was so sweet that the honeybees swarmed around her mouth. Really? Ick! I take it the bees suspended their inclination to sting while making maneuvers around Cindy’s lips. It wouldn’t do to wind up with swollen lips. Although some women, not even named Cindy, pay a fortune to have a plastic surgeon inject into their lips a substance that will produce similar results to what Cindy might have gotten for merely being sweet.

“Get along home Cindy Cindy, I’ll marry you some day.” Well, that part sounds promising. But, how about this? There is a version that ends with one phrase that defies all things sentimental where this song is concerned. You thought the honeybees swarming around Cindy’s mouth came off as a bit strange?

My Cindy is a pretty girl
My Cindy is a peach;
She throws her arms around my neck
And hangs on like a leech.

What?!?

Never give rhyming jobs to someone from the swamps.

Pues Yo Llamé A Tu Psiquiatra; Hace Mucho Que No Lo Ves

And I called your psychiatrist; you have not seen him in a while.

A psychiatrist will take his know-how to dispense meds. Multiple meds. One pill to regulate mood swings, and another to offset the effect of the mood regulator because the mood regulator has impacted the thyroid gland which now needs to be regulated. Got that? Then there’s the sleep medication. Without this there would be no sleep. Ever spent days and days in sleep-deprivation mode? A person can be host to all manner of delusion and other signs of compromised sleep patterns and impaired equilibrium.

The dutiful people that we are we march ourselves to the doctor. Well, that is unless you are willing to go off meds and suffer the consequences…plentiful as they are. Lab will take your blood, six vials of it. Results will arrive at your doctor’s office and he will relay the outcome. And perhaps he will adjust your dosage. Up or down. My doctor likes to remind me that one of my meds leads to weight gain. Not if I don’t take it.

This is the reason people see their psychiatrists. Be diligent. Do it. Or not. There are stories of those who self-medicate with various substance abuse. It seems there are those who think they are under control. False control.

Y voy a llamar a mi psiquiatra en un ratito.

The Worst Hard Time

The title of a book I finished some months back. It deals with the accounting of the dust bowl era, the 1930s. I happen to have a husband who was born in Oklahoma. You can express your sympathies now…just kidding, honey. I have spent a few years “kidding” my husband about the destitute folks in and around Oklahoma (a small part of Kansas, New Mexico, Colorado, and Texas) as their world was coming apart. Actually, the makings of the dust bowl intiated in the late 1800s. Many factors conspired to bring it all to full bloom.

I have wagged my finger at my husband all the while chastising his compatriots because they blew it. They created their own demise. Poor farming practices and the godforsaken, unrelenting wind. I know that weather patterns change over time, but I also know what it is to be in that scheme of things. Nine years of knowledge.

Dust bowl went like this. Land stripped of everything. Trees, shrubs, crops and native grass — eventually, the bison left the area and when they left, there was no meat to be had. That old nag didn’t even have enough meat on her bones. This was an agrarian society, so, crops were fundamental. Gotta eat. The book mentions just how dire things became. Cracks in houses had newspapers stuffed in them. Horrendous black clouds of dust dotted the landscape. School was cancelled. Dust pneumonia claimed the lives of babies, women and men. They choked on and coughed up black phlegm. Tumbleweeds were pulverized and seasoned with salt — and eaten. People committed suicide.

These conditions did not subside until around 1939. Seven long years of hell.

I question, where is God when these things happen? And I recommend you read this book. It won’t answer the question, but it did serve to educate me.

There are some places where one should not live. Not unless you like futility.

The Mightier Pen

I think the proverbial pen is mightier than the sword. I don’t care for violence, real or imagined. I have never been able to brag about my physical strength…I don’t have it. Brauny types always impress me. Muscle beach in Venice CA. Jack LaLanne. Iconic symbols of braun.

Unfortunately, if I had predestined myself to coming from physical strength I would not have come from my bio-family as they proved what it is to be passed over for such a thing. No athletes in my family. However, words seemed to come fairly easily from within the unit. Wordsmiths do exist there.

Writing is cathartic and it remains my favorite method of communication. Phones are a bother. Bad connections & missed calls. Back in letter-writing days, stationary, cards, envelopes, stamps and pens were the means by which I sent news, birthday & baby congratulations, asked for advice, and made pen-pal friends. Technology has robbed us, in a way. So infrequently does someone write letters. One does not write an email, one composes it. To write is to suggest effort. To email is to suggest immediate gratification. I don’t argue against email, I do it, but it doesn’t take place on gorgeous stationary placed in a matching envelope. I still have remnants.

I can keep running a journal, otherwise known as a blog. I take a peek at the blog posts of others. There is nothing mightier than leveling an adversary or conveying appreciation to someone by using the written word. And I concede, a word is better than no word.

Poolside

 

106 degrees. I will go with 98 degrees as well. 89 degrees is perilously close to no swim time. I like it hot…blistering hot. I love swim time. My life growing up in Southern California was replete with opportunities to swim. Our family did not have a swimming pool in the backyard. Instead, I was invited to join in the pool fun at the homes of a couple of neighbors. Ate it up.

When I wasn’t enjoying myself in somebody’s pool, I was at the beach. Seal Beach, Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, wherever our bikes could travel, or on rare occasion, when a girlfriend had a car to take us there. Hot sand, baby oil, towels, and we were set. Surf shack nachos, quite the delicacy. A very good friend of mine, Tina, had her own bicycle which matched mine. For one entire summer, each week, she and I rode bikes from our Garden Grove neighborhood to Seal Beach, eight miles, one way. We hit the streets at 9:00 a.m. And didn’t return home till 5:00 p.m. Scorched, burnt sienna red, we repeated this routine until Labor Day. My face was so dark when the yearbook pictures were taken, I was nearly unrecognizable. So, I had options. The pools or the beach. I guess a pool is just more convenient. No bicycling.

I come full circle. Now, I do not frequent the beach. Too far inland for that. But, oh! What a shift of good fortune! I have enjoyed our backyard pool for 20 summers now.  It is a 1970 pool. That’s about the same time my neighbors were putting pools in their yards back in Garden Grove.

We have extended invitations to our neighbors to join us in our pool. They have taken us up on the offer. After all, it is 106 degrees.

Did you know that swimming is considered the all-around best form of exercise? No jarring impact to the knees. Buoyed by the water, we are free to move in any number  of strokes for healthy exercise. Having water available to me for at least 5 months at poolside is the definition of summer contentment. My oldest son and I represent the strong swimmers in the family. We compete diving and swimming to the opposite end…he wins. My 22-month old grandson is making the water a friendly place as his dad holds him close for comfort. Whatever the summer high may be, we treat ourselves. Poolside.