Sunday, November 30, 2014

Adventures in Rural Living

Cattails in the Snow

I live in Black Lake, New Mexico. It is five miles south of Angel Fire, 2 1/2 hours from Santa Fe, 45 minutes from Taos, and two hours from our county seat of Raton. And, most importantly at the moment, a 40 minute drive from my post office of record. Ocate Post Office is on the other side of the mountain, and in another county. It has no grocery store, no court house, no feed store, no WalMart, and no UPS store. In short the only reason to go to Ocate is to go to the post office.

When I first moved here,14 years ago, we had no mail service. Most of us of Twix, Tween and Beyond Black Lake rented a box at the Angel Fire Post Office. It did not come free because our post office of record (your US government at its best) was in Ocate. The Angel Fire Post Office then was not a government run post office but contract, and fees for boxes got expensive. After some lobby efforts we managed to get rural route delivery three days a week: Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Doesn't seem fair since the Ocate Post Office was once in Black Lake I am told. Now Black Lake does not even have a zip code.

The above is important because I contacted an insurance agent in Raton about supplemental Medicare coverage. Deadline is the 7th of December. I am never quite sure where this information is published but I found out late. Then found out my local insurance broker does not handle health insurance. One in Raton (who used to be in Angel Fire) was recommended. A friend even provided me telephone numbers which were not correct because of the change in area codes. The 800 number was now 866 to make matters worse. Suffice it to say it took a while to make contact.

Once we hooked up on the telephone and email I offered to drive to Raton to complete the process, and she assured me we could handle this by phone, email, and post. She would just second day air me the papers to sign. This was Wednesday. Thanksgiving was Thursday. She called me Saturday to assure me the post office said the papers would be delivered on Tuesday.

No, they won't. I explained (once again) I did not get mail on Tuesday, and she suggested I could make an extra trip to get the papers in Ocate. It is winter. And while Pepe, our contract mail man makes it three days a week it is, in spite of all maps to the contrary, an unimproved rental car road. Maps call NM 120 to Ocate a highway. The earliest I will get the 2nd day priority mail from Raton sent Saturday is Wednesday. At two PM. That is important to know because mail departs the Angel Fire Post Office at 1:45. So the earliest I can return the signed documents to Raton is Thursday. And with the second day priority mail envelope she enclosed for return she might get them on Saturday - The Dead Line.

Or I can drive to Ocate on Tuesday (if it does not snow) after I find out their new limited hours. Then drive to Raton on Wednesday with the papers. That leaves Thursday to drive to Taos for the UPS office for another purpose unless I opt for the one in Trinidad, beyond Raton. I have gone to Google Maps to look for a short cut between Ocate and Raton which does not require a Humvee. My sister says I should just go straight to Raton on Tuesday (if by some miracle I do not get the envelope on Monday) and ask the agent to print out a second copy. This is the government we are dealing with. Medicare. Do they print second copies? And if so shouldn't I be able to print out that on my computer via the internet with some sort of access code?

I am now informed that UPS has a secret office in the hardware store in Raton. That would eliminate Taos and Trinidad. It would have been so much easier if I had just insisted on driving to Raton on this Monday. The weather is suppose to be nice and I would only have to reschedule the truck oil change.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

My Pet Peeves

Frozen Falls

Number one pet peeve! Asking me what I am going to do for Thanksgiving (number two would be Christmas). Nobody ever wants to know the answer. It is just a way to lead into a discussion of their grand plans.

So I guess we are on number three: Calling from Florida so express your sorrow (always sounds more like gloating) that it is snowing again where I live. BTW I like the snow. And I am allergic to Florida. My ideal vacation is Utah in May or September. And you will note I do not call you in the middle of a hurricane and gloat.

Number four: This may be down on the list but it is huge. Yelling to someone else when on the telephone with me. We used to put our hands over the mouth piece if we were going to cuss out the dog while on a phone conversation. We always knew what was said but we still had ear drums. Worse is whispering on the call to me because someone else is in the room on your end. Only excuse for this is "the place is being robbed, please call the cops."

Number five: Launching into a comment about the weather because I posted the absolutely most awesome and beautiful picture of a snow covered wood. This comes under the heading of "if you cannot say anything good . . ." etc. We all heard it from our mothers. What the photographer wants to hear is AWWW, how wonderful!

Number six: Wet sleeves. I absolutely cannot tolerate having wet sleeves on my wrist. I have been known to totally change what I am wearing in seconds when rinsing out a cup at the last moment splashes water on my wrist. Frankly it is about the only time I am cold. (I do not do swamp heat).

I am going to stop there. Pet peeves are always in flux. Obviously in summer Number 1 and 2 do not make the list. And if I have just been sitting around a doctor's lobby there is the "I am sicker than you" pet peeve. Interestingly enough with the cataracts this spring and follow ups this summer all the people in the waiting rooms seemed so grateful and well and wonderful. Mostly.

And there are what I call my polite company pet peeves. I just think we need to return to a kinder and gentler time as far as manners and conversations and politeness.

It is wise to remember about now that I came out sane on the OCD test.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Snow! And thoughts while shoveling

Country Lane with Snow

Living in the mountains I always watch the weather sites. I say sites because nobody ever gets it right so I monitor three or more and draw my own conclusions. For weeks now it has been sliding snowflakes. This is that weather forecast where a slight chance for snow drifts across the week always beginning tomorrow but never quite showing up.

Friday they dared drop the slight and go with chance for snow - up to 1" over night. Pardon me NOAA but living in the mountains of New Mexico let me say one inch is not snow. It is flurries. We did get the one inch, perhaps a bit more so I paid a bit more attention to the forecast for Saturday day. Three to five which we didn't get but overnight Saturday into Sunday the prediction went up to five or eight. Yeah, we'll see, I thought as I checked outside before heading to bed Saturday night with just a hint of a flake here and there in the dark skies.

The Corolla Entombed 

Sometime in the middle of the night it must have decided to snow. We had eight inches before dawn and a good foot by the time it grew light enough to seriously check on all my snow gauges -- buried cars, picnic tables, garden fence, etc.


Picnic Table at Dawn

It snowed past noon (NOAA said it would be out of our area by 11) and dropped another 5 to 8 inches. Total at my house was close to 18". The weight of snow makes measurement of total fall difficult because it begins to collapse in on itself. Wading through it to get to the wood shed it was up to my knees and that is 18".

That is the point when you can no longer look at it through your windows. It must be brushed off cars and raked off the edges of roofs. I had a van that suffered a shattered windshield due to the weight of snow on the car. So you dawn the winter ware and get out in it. A few quick notes here: 1) Always know where the snow shovel and push broom are after October 31st, 2) wise also to unstore the snow shoes, 3) nothing uses as many muscle groups as wading through 18" of snow, 4) you cannot shovel snow and take pictures of it at the same time. My tip on the camera is to take pictures first and shovel second. And store your camera in the seat of the vehicle you are shoveling out of the snow.

Camera case?

The minute I saw all the snow after the sun dimly lit the scene I knew I wanted Big Blue ready to roll. Hey, I confess, I bought my 4 x 4 GMC pickup as the ultimate photographic accessory. Yeah, I know I gave some far more practical reasons for it not the least of which it lets me get to all my pet sit gigs in all sorts of weather. And yesterday it proved it does not even have to wait for the county plow or the driveway cleared.


Ducks in Open Water


 Oh, I know, there was a lot more snow to shovel at home, firewood to bring in from the shed, walkways to brush off, the Corolla to dig out. BUT there was also pictures to take.

Snowy Country Lane

Check out my artists page on Fine Arts America for other photographs. The snow is going to stick around for a while so there were be more photographs no doubt.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Past Due



I am past due on the usually weekly blog here on Sidetracked. I am behind on a lot of things. I spent the fall working for others to get their houses and property up to snuff. Helped my budget but got me way behind on everything at my house.

The polar event that plunged my area down to 7 degrees at least a month early work me up. I quickly rounded up straw and covered my beloved hollyhocks of this summer. And got the supplies to "winterize" the apartment. Did the actual draining of water lines a day after the first bone chilling temps saying thank you's about escaping any frozen pipes. Scheduled in the oil change for the truck though because everyone else was doing the same thing, it does not get done until next week.

I sill have a long list of stuff I need to do, inside and out, but the weather was horrid and so I did the inside things first. Number one has been setting up my photography site at Fine Arts America. Been meaning to do that for several months. No sales yet but they can do prints of all sorts cheaper than I can. Better for my fans.

And there have been a whole host of things which came up to occupy my time. None of which had been on my original lists. And new items for the lists. All of which boils down to still being behind. My father always said to be worried about catching up. Means you are done. I probably could live another ten years and not have caught up. Not that I want to live that long. I certainly do not want to be the last to die in my social circle. Though frankly I am getting too much experience in saying goodbye to others.

There was this period in my early 30's when I plunged into one of my periodic depressions worse than normal. Fate conspired to give me plenty of reasons to be depressed other than genetic cycles. And I seemed surrounded by friends also in the same pickle as myself. Thoughts of suicide became such a topic of discussion I and a friend hosted a Suicide Survivors Christmas Party. Oddly enough it cheered us all up. And may have well be the first suicide support group in history. Mother told me I was silly. I was just at that age (and all my friends) where it seems the thing to do.

Well, I am at that age now when all my friends seem overly concerned about their health. I really am not in favor of discussing results of bowel exams at morning coffee. Everyone my age seems to believe they are approaching their expiration dates, and yet I am surrounded by people in their late 70's and even 80's who are not wintering in Arizona to die.

I have always, since those suicide party days, believed I was living on borrowed time. And that has only been amplified by my ski accident in 2001. I am past due. So maybe I need to heed my father's advice and not finish my todo lists. At least not this winter.

BTW the opening photograph has nothing to do with the subject beyond the fact it was a really shiny chrome grill in a junkyard. There is a poem or essay in there somewhere.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Open Letter to the DNC

Stop Already

This goes out to the Democratic National Committee and all Democratic candidates who felt they had the right to abuse my email addresses and my telephones just because I am a registered Democrat. I read you messages and replied to some. I even listened to a few of the robo calls in hopes a human would come on and we could dialog. Now you get to listen to me. I plan to change my party registration before the 2016 election cycle begins tomorrow. Green party sounds good. Independent sounds better.

I know you wanted money. Because of the economy I did not have it to give. And until the repeal or an amendment to nullify Citizens United SCOTUS decision I do not intend to donate money again. I stand fully behind any effort to reform our campaign system. In fact I demand it NOW. Giving you money just seems to encourage this democracy for sale concept. Besides it is ridiculous to pay a politician to merely run for office. Let's be realistic representatives will have to begin campaigning the day after elected. When do they govern? Sorry, stupid question, because as far as I can tell the House of Representatives never governed in the last two years. I no longer hold any hope they will ever govern again as the system stands.

Campaign reform is no longer an option: It is necessary for the survival (make that recovery) of our representative republic. If the Australians can file, campaign, and be elected in 90 days so can we. And nobody should spend more to publicize their candidacy then the salary they will be making in that office. (Please do not raise your salaries so you can spend more.) It cost you nothing to swamp my in box on two email accounts with no fewer than 30 emails a day. Sorry DNC, KING, LARA, UDALL, and President and Mrs. Obama but when you ignore my request to minimize email, and then to unsubscribe from your lists which you give out freely to everyone, I call that abuse and I have reported you to Yahoo Mail and Gmail for same.

I will be going out to cast my vote this morning at my small precinct voting location I have used for a couple decades now. I have never missed voting. I have voted early a few times. And by mail a couple. One such vote was returned to me after the election because it got lost even in its official envelope. It is a ten minute drive to the Community Center, and I rather enjoy the process. To vote early requires a five hour round trip at hideous gas prices and at a time when good weather is not guaranteed. I have requested several times for our huge county to have an alternate early voting location on our side of Cimarron Canyon. Also ignored, along with all those requests to not e-mail me any more.

I figure as a loyal Democrat (what woman in her right mind could be a Republican these days) I should warn you ahead of time that any presidential hopeful who begins campaigning for office prior to November 2015 will not have my vote. Especially if that person decides to abuse my email inbox and telephone. You will note I am changing my party registration so I do not need notified of any primary campaigns.