Friday, March 20, 2020

Cataracts & COVID-19

I had cataract surgery on the eve of COVID-19.

Born cross-eyed and extremely farsighted, I’ve worn glasses since age two. After hiding them once too often in the sandbox, my mother assigned the task of keeping my heavy specs on my pudgy nose to an older sister.

Later, during my vain years, I tried contact lenses. The first time, a young co-ed at Seattle U, I fell asleep without removing my new contacts and couldn’t open my eyes the next morning. My roommate called my mother, who rushed to Seattle and drove me to the eye doctor. Problem solved and contacts abandoned.

A half dozen years passed. A new boyfriend preferred me without glasses, so I gave contacts a second try. Again, the discomfort, the eye irritation, the inability to read in comfort led to my return to specs. The relationship went the way of the contacts.

A decade or so later, I was back in Seattle. Now in my early thirties, I was curious to see if medical developments had made contacts more comfortable. They hadn’t. I decided once and for all, I was perfectly content with glasses and would no longer stash them in the sandbox.

Fast forward three decades. When a second specialist confirmed cataracts in both eyes, I laid careful plans. I took medical leave for the last week of the academic term to allow for the mandatory two-week gap between surgeries. The first surgery was successful.

Now I’m a tad near-sighted in the right eye and extremely farsighted in the left. Now I’m wearing a contact again. Now, but my vision is still blurred and the eye gets irritated. I can handle this for two weeks, I tell myself.

To limit this scratchy irritation, I delay popping the thing in my eye. As I write these words in the morning light, I see with the right eye and hold my hand over the left. My husband’s taken to calling me the “one-eyed poet.”

All this was expected. What was unexpected was the rapid spread of COVID-19. What was unexpected was the cancellation of all selective surgeries. What was unexpected was the self-quarantine to help stop the spread of this pandemic.

My second surgery has been cancelled. No one knows when it will be possible to reschedule, when I will see clearly again. 

As frustrating and unnerving as this is, and despite my fears for my pregnant daughter working in Harborview ER and my worries for my husband struggling to save his small business, I know I’m lucky. My loved ones and I are all (still) healthy. We are (still) financially secure. We have a small house with a yard to putter in, we are creatives who enjoy a solitary life. We’ll manage. 

My hope is that we all adhere to public health recommendations. We stay at home for the next two weeks and do our part to stop the spread of this deadly virus as quickly as possible. 

Sunday, March 1, 2020

A Full Heart

Many thanks to the readers, old and new, who attended my author event featuring The Ex-Mexican Wives Club last Friday night at the Issaquah Library. The roses are lovely, Keri. The photos are wonderful, Darcey. There is little that warms this writer's heart more than a room full interested, articulate readers.

If you enjoy my work, I'm hope you'll consider starring and/or posting a brief review or comment on Amazon or Goodreads.

Why do reviews matter? Simply put, reviews are important because they increase a writer's visibility through online search engine support, because people lean toward books they perceive as popular, and because indie bookstores may pay attention to review numbers when stocking shelves or scheduling author events.

Again, thank you for reading, sharing and reviewing my work.

Friday, February 28, 2020


Many thanks to Zlatina Encheva of the King County Library!

Sunday, February 16, 2020

All That Was Once Home

A friend shares that her husband is brain-tired after a trip to South America, finding the struggle to understand and speak in Spanish exhausting. That they both did their best to master the language and put it to use during their vacation was admirable.

Though I didn't have the words, never called it brain-tired, I remember that feeling, a memory from a time long ago. A time when I was an undocumented teacher in Mexico City, building my understanding of both language and culture while also trying to survive economically on an irregular income paid in pesos.

The comment and the memory serve as reminders each day I walk into the classroom. My students – immigrants and refugees from around the globe – are tired. Tired from low-paid, menial labor and overburdened with family responsibilities. Tired from living on the edge, unsure where their next meal will come from or if they’ll be able to pay the rent and keep the heat on. Tired from fear of current immigration policy and the constant threat of violence, family separation, or deportation. Tired of wondering what the future may bring for them and their families, here as well as back in their home countries. And yes, brain-tired from using a language and coping in a culture foreign from all they once knew and loved. From all that was once home.

Monday, January 20, 2020

February Author Events

With the holidays another fond memory and gray Seattle winter here for the next few months - 59 days, to be precise - I'm ready to settle in for some quiet reading time. If you're like me, winter is perfect for getting caught up on new releases and for checking out local author events.
If you're in the Seattle area, I hope you'll consider coming to Third Place Books for my first reading of The Ex-Mexican Wives Club. I love this bookshop and look forward to reading there once again.

6504 20th Ave NE
Seattle, WA
Thursday, February 6, 2020
7:00 - 8:30 p.m.

Or perhaps the Eastside is more convenient for you. If so, consider marking your calendar for February 28 when I have the pleasure of returning to my hometown library in Issaquah.

10 West Sunset Way
Issaquah, WA
Friday, February 28, 2020
4:30 - 6:00 p.m.

I look forward to seeing you soon!

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Finding Forgotten Joy

Why am I so often blinded by the negativity in my world? I tell myself (and anyone who will listen) that 2019 was a tough year, that I’m glad it will end soon. Too many scams, falls and financial woes – and that’s just on a person level. If I follow the news too closely, I’m ready to close myself in a dark room for days on end.

Instead, I decide to page through my 2019 calendar (yes, I still keep a paper planner in addition to the cell phone calendar). It’s an eye-opening exercise that I highly recommend to anyone who tends to focus on the negative as I found myself doing.  
Perhaps the holiday letters that some folks write each year are all about reminiscing the positive. So, here’s my Happy Holidays Letter to all. It turns out 2019 was not such a bad year after all, simply a very busy year with a few bumps in the road.

Last winter was a time of hikes, snowshoeing and cycling. Tom and I took part in the Seattle Viaduct Ride before demolition began. A month later we did a 3-day, town-to-town ride in Oregon’s beautiful Willamette Valley.

Spring brought another weekend of cycling, this time in Grayland, WA where we stayed in a state park yurt and explored the cranberry bogs by bike and the beach on foot. The first weekend in May we began a major home remodel that monopolized the entire summer. No regrets, just a long summer of hard work and construction chaos. In June we celebrated our daughter’s graduation from the University of Washington where she earned her Master’s in Social Work. To celebrate Mother’s Day, Erin took me on a mother-daughter camping trip – a childhood tradition revisited.

Summer was glorious in Seattle – lovely weather and no forest fire smoke. In August, we enjoyed my  mother-in-law’s annual visit, always a welcome pleasure. In early September I had the unusual experience of attending a slumber party in Las Vegas (I’d never been) with a dozen other Medicare-aged women with whom I once attended high school. An odd and rewarding event. The remodel allowed little time for hiking, but still we managed a half dozen adventures into the woods before fall rain made hiking miserable and cycling impossible

Autumn was brighter and more glorious than I ever remember, and I was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest! October was a full and fabulous month. Four days after celebrating my 65th birthday, my sixth book was released. But best of all, I learned we will be grandparents in the coming spring. I am overwhelmed joy! In November, Erin and Elliot took us to his family cabin on the Olympic Peninsula for a much-needed retreat for all of us. It was a lovely weekend of long beach walks, great food and lots of card games. Erin always wins! Now December is here and 2019 is coming to a close. Winter break from teaching has been a time to take stock and prioritize for 2020. We learned that our first grandchild will be a boy. I can focus on little else!

2020 will be fabulous, but then 2019 was really nothing to complain about either. It’s all in how you look at it. Have you taken a moment to scroll through your calendar? You might be surprised to find joy buried there.

Friday, December 20, 2019

A Lucky Day?

I find a spot in the large lot as close as possible to the supermarket. A truck, maybe an SUV, is parked on the right; an older model sedan to the left. Tight, but not too tight. Enough space for my door to swing open just fine. A shadow sits behind the wheel of the sedan. A better look reveals a heavy-bellied man who seems to be snoozing.

I sit for a moment thinking about my earlier purchases – a bathroom rug, kitchen towels, a sweater – is it too much? Money is tight. With a sigh, I gather the empty grocery bags from the passenger’s seat, brush my graying bangs from my eyes, and swing my legs from the car. With two feet planted on the ground, and leaning forward slightly to hoist myself up, my eyes glaze the wet concrete and land on what looks like a small piece of paper almost under my car. A bill. Never one to ignore even a coin on the ground – lucky penny, I say if anyone sees my awkward stoop – I pick up the money. It is folded twice, halved then quartered. For a moment I wonder about the shadow in the car. Could it be his? Unlikely, I tell myself. 

I palm the money, push myself from my car, and head to the supermarket door. As I walk, I finger the money. Glancing toward my hand, the 100 gives me pause. When I realize two bills are folded together, I freeze. Are they both hundred-dollar bills? What should I do? Turn it into the supermarket manager? Maybe, but what are the odds that someone will ask at this particular store? The supermarket is only one of many in this large outdoor mall.

I head to the restroom at the back of the store. There I settle myself, slip the crisp, new bills into my wallet, and decide that maybe, just maybe, it’s my lucky day. Then, I go about my shopping, filling the small cart with fresh vegetables for the soup planned for the evening. At the checkout I reach for my card, reluctant to use the bills snuggled next to it.

As I approach my parked car, the passenger door to the neighboring sedan is open wide. A large woman leans into the front seat. She is tearing through the car, her grocery bags, her purse. Tissues, a hairbrush, plastic bags, crumpled papers are strewn on the ground between our cars. 

She sees me, or perhaps the man still in the driver’s seat tells her I am there. When she stands and turns, I see anguish in her eyes and tears streaming down her dark face. Her tall body is wrapped in layers of threadbare fabrics: full-length skirt, multiple sweaters, scarf sliding from her head.

“Are you looking for something?” I ask.

Her arms flailing toward the gods, the woman wails, “My two hundred dollars. My two hundred dollars.”

I reach forward and touch one raised arm. “It’s all right. I found it. Here on the ground. I didn’t know who it belonged to.”

The woman stares in disbelief as I open my wallet and pull out the folded bills. Before I can hand them over, I’m folded into a dancing embrace of pure joy. 

“My money. My money. Praise the Lord. Thank you. Thank you, dear lady.”

I feel the woman’s full body shaking, trembling as her arms smother me against her ample chest.

“It’s okay now,” I soothe. “You’re okay now. Here, take your money.”

As the woman stuffs the bills under the layers of fabric covering her chest, she asks, “What is your name, dear lady? We will say a prayer for you.”

“Arleen,” I say and am again wrapped in a warm embrace. Disentangling myself, I slip into her own driver’s seat and wish the woman well.

As I drive home, a wide smile spreads across my face. “She needs it more than me.”