It’s time for a break…

Funny how people always ask me what I do with my day–I guess they figure since I’m home I just sit around eating bon bons and watching soaps… Well, they figure wrong. Today was a typical example.

Got up this morning at 6. Generally we’re up with the sun–the bedroom window let’s us watch the sunrise every day. After Bob leaves for work it’s my time. Check my email, drink some more coffee, etc. By 7:30 it’s time to make a second pot of coffee, start a load of wash, clean the cat boxes, run the dishwasher and generally start making enough noise that those sleepy kids wake up.

Almost every day is scheduled with an engagement of one sort or another, including our mystery shops. We had an appointment at 9 this morning so no messing around. We are now guardians for Matthew since he is a special needs adult. With that comes the state making sure we are taking good care of him. Fortunately, his social workers have been good and aren’t too intrusive in our lives. But they come regularly to visit him; make sure he’s eating, taking a bath once a month (I’m kidding), and that he’s happy. Today we have a new person so everything takes longer…and you know me, I tend to blab. It’s not hard having them come but it is mentally a reminder that Matthew doesn’t have that “normal” life of others his age.

But we move on. Today Rebecca also has a doctor visit. To her chagrin, she still needs me to sign authorization papers and to talk to the doctors. Her appointment does not take long but the doctor needs to tell me something so I leave Matthew in the waiting room. I return 2 minutes later to find him showing the other patients his new Transformer comic book. Ack.

On the way home we run some errands and discover that it’s way past lunch. Matthew needs a gluten- (wheat and other grains) and lactose-free diet. We’ve been following this diet many years and it’s old hat now but in general meals take extra planning.

Lunch out of the way we decide it’s too late to do more wash. We changed our electricity plan last year (not by choice) and in the summer the more we can limit our use from noon to 7pm the lower our bill… or so they say. Anyway, wash gets done in the morning or before bed. Luckily, it’s “cool” to be green so we take advantage of the solar heat and hang that first load out to dry. Since it is summer and we are trying to slow the meter I start dinner in the crock pot.

Time for me to work on a new website design for the church. I’ve finally got the drop down menu figured out and today needed to change the code for the colors. I do like working with the code because eventually I can see the fruits of my labor. There are times when it seems like I work and work and don’t make any progress. But this is a good day. The colors are changed and I remembered to save the information before losing it. Actually, I am very excited about this new design. Bob is not so excited…he comes home to look at what I did all day and there it is…a half inch table with ten words…

Fortunately, I am waiting for the church to give the okay for this design and don’t want to spend too much time working on it until I hear from them. That’s good, because the clothes are already dry. As I take them off the line I also notice there are some spots in the grass that aren’t getting quite the water they need so I run the sprinklers around to each area.

What? It’s already 5? I was going to read some more about those drop down menus but not today. On my schedule for this week is to read a couple of the continuing education articles that I need to keep my license current. But I don’t think I’ll get to them today either.

Bob works long hours giving me time to sweep some of the dust bunnies that have collected on the stairs and in the corners before he gets home. We’re not quite European but do eat dinner later than his mom ever did. Every day at 5:00 supper was on the table. It’s more like 7 around here.

And then it’s time to look for something we might all be interested in watching on tv. No, wait, after 7 we can do more laundry… and it continues.

Afternoon Rain

I thought you’d enjoy this picture of Matthew very much disagreeing with me about walking to the edge of the cliff. And as you look a the second picture you can see why he was not so brave…it’s a long way down…

This morning we visited Canyon De Chelly. What a beautiful spot! It’s the kind of place you could stop and visit many times and still not see it all. But we did the quick drive tour today.

I didn’t realize that Chinle was really at the fork of two canyons. Where we stayed you could hike down to the bottom of the canyon…imagine hiking where these ancients lived hundreds of years ago. Lots of interesting history and amazing architecture here.

From the canyon we headed north up towards Monument Valley. This time we stopped at Kayenta.
Well actually we stopped there for a short visit and then moved on to Tuba City. As we headed back off the reservation I was again thinking about it’s unique beauty. With every corner that I turn I think about stopping to take a picture to share… It would be fun to travel more slowly and really soak in the beauty.

We ended up in Flagstaff just in time for an afternoon shower. Just the other day I was telling Rebecca about my summer school experience at NAU. I had a class that started at 1:00 each day. And each day promptly at 12:30 as I walked to class the summer shower would begin, reminding me that I needed my umbrella. But when class was out the showers were finished and there was a lovely fresh smell in the air. Flagstaff in the summer is one of my favorite places.

Tomorrow home…but more importantly to Matthew…to see the Transformer movie.


You know you’re in the heart of the Navajo Reservation when all the radio stations have Navajo commercials.

I’m writing this morning from Chinle, AZ. We are looking out the hotel window at the foot of Canyon De Chelly. After we eat breakfast Matthew and I will take a tour there. It’s one of those places that’s long been on my list to see. So why not today?

Yesterday we drove across the Southeastern part of the Navajo Reservation. (The Rez as those in the “know” call it.) Driving for miles across sparsely habited country reminds me of how big the Southwest US is. We started in the red rock country of New Mexico and after driving for a day are still just inside Arizona.

This is beautiful and varied countryside. Window Rock reminds me of the Payson area. Lots of pinon and juniper pine trees with beautiful mountains in the background. There are some areas that look just like the Mars Explorer photos with vast red rock blown into giant hills. There are also parts with high cliff mountains like Sedona. But much of the land is treeless. The piles of tumbleweeds caught on fences are the highest thing around. I was surprised at how green everything is–lots of grass for the horses and newly sheared sheep out grazing.

Oh, here’s an interesting tidbit. Guess what we saw in the meat department of the grocery store? Yep, mutton…and lots of it. Apparently the sheep aren’t grown just for the wool.

My husband is the only person I know who has travelled extensively up here. So he is a great resource of what to expect, where to stay, etc. As Matthew and I drove to Pinon (can you find it on the map? Right in the heart of the reservation land) I was chuckling to myself. “That Bob…he told me how bad the road was to Pinon and here it is 10 miles of straight, wide, newly paved road.” I could have easily driven 90 (you know the silver bullet is up for it) but Bob had also warned me of the police and reminded me the very high cost of a ticket…so I stayed at a reasonable speed. Anyway, just as I thinking how I was going to rib him about the road things changed. My first clue was a “tire repair” sign. “Well, that’s pretty strange for out here in the middle of nowhere…” Then the road narrowed… Then the road lost its new pavement and there were potholes galore… Then the road narrowed some more. Fortunately, just before it turned in to a horse path we arrived in Pinon. Lesson learned…listen to Bob…

Hope you are having as much fun as we are. Both the sun and Matthew are up so it’s time for us to get moving.

PS The first picture is one of the MANY stray dogs greeting Matthew, who is always happy to see a four legged creature… and the second a hogan outside of Pinon. There are still many hogans but it appears that most people live in a more modern style house next door.

The Road Less Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
and sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveller, long I stood
and looked down one as far as I could
to where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
and having perhaps the better claim
because it was grassy and wanted wear;
though as for that, the passing there
had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
in leaves no feet had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less travelled by,
and that has made all the difference
–Robert Frost

The Road Less Taken has always been one of my favorite poems. This week we’ll be seeing a few of these roads.

Today Matthew and I visited Bagdad, AZ. It’s a small (think tiny)mining town in the Northwest desert less than 100 miles out of the valley. Those of you who have driven to Las Vegas likely sped right past the turn off without even noticing it. Before going, I looked it up on Google maps and could see that the mine is probably ten times the size of the town. Besides the mine, Bagdad boasts one grocery store, one gas station, a school, at least two churches and a pretty town park.

The drive up was easy enough. I expected more traffic but it was “summer” light and not too busy. At the turn off it was just me and Matthew for many miles. We drove the roller coaster ride up and down and around the turns and then were surprised to see several semi’s. I’m guessing they have something to do with the mine. We kept to our side of the road and they just sped right past. I like the high desert. Lots of green creosote brush peppering the landscape and giving it some texture. We had gone through the Joshua Tree forest and there was an errant Joshua tree dotting the landscape. I was disappointed that we didn’t see any burro’s. Just a few cows hanging out at the windmill run water pond.

We were up there on a secret mission so I can’t go into more detail but after we finished we drove past the school and to the mine entrance. Mom said it’s possible to get mine tours so I’ll check further next time. The town is a very nice community. Some yards have grass and trees but most are desert landscaping. I’d go back again, if just to see the mine closer.

The rest of the week Matthew and I are heading up to the Navajo Reservation. We’ll follow pretty much the same route that we did in the spring. We’re excited…the road less taken is always interesting.

Looking at New Cars

Years ago I talked to my grandmother who had just bought a new car. (Don’t ask me what it was…Bob knows.) Anyway, she was excited about it as she had a big trip planned. Then a few days later I got a letter from her complaining that the salesman must have drugged her because she got a letter showing her signature and agreement to pay $300 a month for some extended length of time. Those who knew my grandma will be nodding their heads–grandma was eccentric and had some reality issues. I dismissed her problem as just that until yesterday.

Now I think I might have inherited some of her genes…at least the one with the inability to “just say no”. There I was with a simple mystery shop at the local car dealership.

My mission was easy enough: go for a test drive, get a price and get out. Bob had his doubts about this shop…I never, never go when he buys a car. He excels in dealing (in fact I remember Rebecca pleading to go in to the “sweat box” with dad). To me it’s like haggling in Mexico. Why can’t we just pay a reasonable sticker price and go home? But I assured him I, an educated woman, could handle the job. Wow! Was I wrong!

Oh, at first it seemed easy enough. There was the nice young man just waiting for me as I drove in. “Park here,” he invites and then politely waits until I am out of the car. “How can I help you this wonderful day?” Well, I should have known then that I was in trouble. But I smile and we head off to look at the cars. I have a specific vehicle to check out. “Oh,” he tells me, “What a great choice! This car has all of these terrific features.” He shows me all of them and then sneaks in the, “You really should take this car out for a test drive.”

“Hey, this is a pretty nice car,” I think. Then I remember and tell myself to focus… We take the car out for a spin and I decide the car is as nice as the salesman. As we get back in the lot he asks me if I’d like him to just run some numbers. Part of my evaluation is to get a price so I agree.

It all seemed so innocent. “This will just take a few minutes…” and then, “Are you interested in trading your car?” And before I knew it the salesman was back but he brought another guy.

“We really want you to be happy,” they say. “How about a $750 a month payment?”

It seems pretty steep to me so I think I can easily get out of here with a quick, “No, thank you. I’ll need some time to think about it.”

Apparently, I was only fooling myself as the salesman’s pal stands up and says he’ll be right back. He returns less than 30 seconds later with a better price. I again remind him that I’m not ready to make a deal and he leaves, returning this time with no less than the store owner. “What can we do to make you happy?” asks the owner, a very nice man.

At this point I start to think about my grandmother. It feels like there might be some fog setting in as it’s getting harder for me to think. Thankfully, the owner steps back out but the sales pal comes rushing back in. “You have such great credit! You could finance the whole car!” They’ll give me twice the value for my current car. AND THEN… here comes my salesman…with a tray of fresh baked COOKIES!

“Yikes!” I say to myself. “This is much harder than I thought.” So one more time I say no, this time more emphatically. Sales pal guy feverishly scratches out all the other numbers and with each “NO” he writes something lower. I think, “If I don’t leave soon, they’ll be giving me the car!” And once more I remember my grandmother getting that letter listing her new car payment. I have to get out of here…now!

Fortunately for me, I manage to drag myself to my feet. And even more fortunately, the salesmen allow me to walk out. As I prepare to write my report I can’t help but think that this time Bob was right. I’m not really cut out to just look at a new car.

A Helping Hand

Sometimes you’re the windshield…sometimes you’re the bug… Sometimes you lend a hand…and sometimes you need it…

This weekend we needed a helping hand.

It was a simple enough problem. We were driving to the mountains on the I17 freeway when the truck began vibrating. At first, Bob thought it was bad pavement or remnants of the road work. Then he tried adjusting his speed. But neither faster nor slower helped and within minutes it got worse. He began to slow down and thought he could make it to the next town but no, the vibration was getting more serious.

The symptoms indicated a tire gone bad. So we opted to pull off at the next exchange and fix it. Fortunately, Cordes Junction was coming up and we limped in. There’s a McDonald’s and a self-serve gas station at the junction but nothing else for miles. Still, all we needed was a flat place to change the tire and we’d be on our way.

With some very sharp eyes for the right things Bob was able to determine which tire was bad. As we watched, the bulge grew larger. No doubt it would have blown on the freeway within a few miles so good thing we were in a parking lot.

Bob is pretty handy and changing a tire is no challenge. Except for this day. We pulled the jack and tools out from under the seat. Well, we pulled the jack out…but where were the tools? Good grief! We realized that we never had checked for them and even though the truck is several years old we’d not had to change a tire. The previous owner must have and not put all the parts back.

So there we were, about to become panicked. There was no way to lower the spare tire (one of the tools was a special lock to do this) and we didn’t have the right tool to use the jack. We could call AAA and maybe they could help but we were miles from any town and likely the closest tow truck. But…we could look for another Chevy pickup and maybe they would have all the parts.

Bob looked around. There were several semi’s parked in the lot. Maybe they could help; but not likely. Lots of cars in McDonald’s and then, one red Chevy truck. He walked over. Hopefully, it would be someone willing to talk to us and more importantly someone willing to let us borrow the tools for a few minutes.

The guy was friendly enough; but he did not speak English. Still, he didn’t dismiss Bob, instead he went to get his kids who spoke English well. After a short three way conversation, “Of course, they had the tools,” and “Of course, they would help.”

They drove their truck over to ours and the work began. The dad was tall, handsome and most definitely a cowboy. He was well dressed wearing nice black Levi’s with a peach colored shirt. What really caught my attention were his bright orange ostrich skin boots. It appeared that the family was out for more than just a picnic.

The dad talked to his two young teen sons. They worked with Bob to change the tire. At one point all four of them were on the ground. I walked over to rewind the tire holder and the younger son ran over offering to do it. From that point it didn’t take long to get the tire changed. I felt bad that they had dust on their good clothes. But no matter, a wave of the hand from the kids and a handshake from the dad and they were on their way.

Yes, we will pick up the tools this week. But more important, we look forward to the opportunity to soon be the ones helping.

My Back Yard

It’s been unusually cool for mid June in the Phoenix valley. We’ve been able to enjoy the back yard when we normally would be hibernating in the living room with the blinds closed trying to keep the heat outside.

This morning we headed to the patio, coffee in hand, to savor a few quiet minutes before the day started. The orchid tree has finished blossoming and now is dropping its giant seed pods. The mourning doves love these seeds. But since the tree is pretty close to our chairs they are torn. Should they be brave and take advantage of the opportunity to gorge or hang around the outskirts waiting for me to leave? One intrepid dove decided to take a chance and we watched him timidly walk closer and closer looking for his breakfast. Any movement on our part startles this bird with a very tiny head, but finally he found his treasure. He called to his mate but she sat up on the roof talking to him. I’m not sure if she was telling him “All is safe,” or maybe it was “Watch out can’t you see those people sitting right there!”

I am always surprised at the hummingbirds in the yard. They zip and zoom from one tree to another and appear to have staked out territory. For such little birds they are surprisingly aggressive. Of course, they are no match to the mockingbirds who apparently “own” the Australian Bottle trees in the far corner. The big black grackles come in and try to boss everyone around but the mockingbirds will dive bomb and pester them until they move on.

Our apple tree is loaded this year and about two weeks from being ready to pick. The apples are still pretty green and very sour–I know because, not being as observant as the birds, I took a big bite out of one yesterday. The birds are out early each morning checking on the fruit and I expect they will be calling in their friends as soon as its eating time.

Time for another cup of coffee…but first we have to watch the house sparrows chittering to each other. They always seem to travel in flocks. And out of the corner of my eye is a desert cottontail. I expect, like Peter Rabbit, it has high hopes of finding something good to fill it’s tummy…and like Peter Rabbit it knows exactly where the hole in the gate is for when the dog finally takes notice.

Let the Scavenging Begin!

In my fair city we are offered “loose trash” pick up monthly. They’ll take just about anything that isn’t toxic, dirt or cement. We always try to cut our tree limbs and do major landscaping just before our pick up date. On the rare occasion we actually get rid of a piece of worn out furniture it’s easy to just set it out on the sidewalk. But as you will see, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

This month we tossed out the carpet and pad from Rebecca’s room and an old freezer that wasn’t worth repairing. Monday morning I helped Bob put the freezer out. We laughed wondering if the freezer would last until the city came through.

Around nine AM I heard some loud music outside and peaked out the window. What a sight it was. The music was coming from a guy in a pickup truck next door. He found a new treasure in a pool chair that the neighbors had set out. Then more movement caught my eye and I realized there was a second truck–this one in front of our house. This guy had a trailer and had already loaded the freezer. He was putting the door into the back of his pickup because the trailer was now full of assorted “treasures”. I watched him chuckling and then noticed yet another truck, kitty corner, scavenging something across the street.

My folks came in about noon and mom complained. They were too late…there was nothing worthwhile out on the sidewalks.

The city came by today. It didn’t take them long at our house. There was only one dead tree branch left to be picked up.