carolinainmymind

can't you see the sunshine….

Selecting a caregiver

In the Spring, Ben went through an evaluation by the Movement Disorder Clinic at UNC. I knew this clinic exsisted. Why I waited to schedule an appointment with them I have no idea. Anyway, we are now under their care. It is a good group. Run by a woman neurologist. They treat the whole person and me too!

As part of their reccomendations they suggested that since we have no family living nearby, we look in to getting some outside care for Ben. So I could be gone from the house for more than 2 hours without coming back to some sort of disaster. So that was the project for June.

Last October, Ben and I went to the Caregivers Summit. We collected business cards from many caregiver groups that were exhibiting there. I made notes on the cards. Like, did the rep look up from her phone when I approached the booth? Did the rep speak to us? There were two that I rated highly. So, in June, they were the first two that I called.

For businesses offering care givers it seems that the inquiry process requires two people. One who comes out to ‘sell’ and a nurse who follows up to assess what type of care is needed. I called the first group and set up appointments.

Now some background. I used to interview people to hire for a job that required following driving directions. (This was in the dinosaur age, before GPS!) If possible, I would set up the interviews at a hotel in Raleigh that was difficult to find. It required the applicant to listen to me and get the directions and follow them. If the applicant didn’t show up on time or was flustered because they got lost. Strike One!

So first group. Making appointments. Two are required. Okay, how about the ‘sales’ person the first day. The nurse the next day. (this is my top choice. The one I rated highly in October) Appointment lady says okay. I confirm two appointments with her. Two times before I end the phone call, I confirm the TWO appointments.

‘Sales’ guy comes. We talk. TWO times during our discussion I mention that nurse is scheduled for her appointment the next day. Next day, nurse appointment time comes. No nurse. No phone call. After 30 minutes of waiting I call. Ohhhhh, everyone is SURPRISED that an appointment was scheduled. No one seems to be able to find this. We agree on a new appointment several days in the future.

Next week, appointment time for the nurse. Fifteen minutes after scheduled time with no arrival, I call. Thirty minutes later she shows up. No apology. No explanation. With an attitude that she shows me she clearly does not want to be there. Well okay.

We move on to the second group. I make the phone call to set up the appointments. The woman wants to send me an email. That’s fine. Now my email is not difficult but it can be confusing. I know that. It has the word ‘to’ in it. Not too. Not two. Not 2. When giving out my email I explain that it is all lower case, no numbers, all words. Then I say the email address and then I spell it. Starting with ‘t o’. It’s a phrase. ‘Too’ ‘two’ or ‘2’ would make no sense. Next day, phone message “your email address ‘two…..’ bounced back as undeliverable. Please call me.” Strike one! Sales person comes. Nurse comes. I decide to possibly overlook ding bat appointment person.

Third Group. Appontment made. Owner of company and nurse are coming. Day of appointment, about 30 minutes before, I get a phone call. Owner of company has been in an accident. Flurry of phone calls and rescheduled appointment. Appointment day comes. Basic sales person and someone else who I have no idea what her function is arrive. This sales person is the only one to comment on how well adapted our space is for Ben. And how pretty our deck is. They move up several notches. But they want their person to come 8 hours a week. We can’t afford that. We need only 4 hours a week. They agree to see if there is a person who just wants 4 hours and get back to me. Several days later she gets back to me. We make arrangments for someone to start two weeks later. But the nurse still has to come. Nurse shows up, 15 minutes before the care giver starts her first shift with us.

The caregiver is very close to my age. Looks a good bit like me. I am fine with this. For what she needs to do, she is just fine. So now, I can leave from 2 until 6 on Thursday afternoons. I can actually go shopping. Go to multiple stores and have enough time to try on multiple things. No more buying several sizes, colors, bringing them home, trying on and taking back. I could go see a movie. I could have lunch with a friend. I could wander around the library. I could go swimming. A whole world is waiting…..

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Four Seasons in a Week

That’s what life here in North Carolina is like.  Sunday, December 2, it was 70 degrees.  Each day after, the temps slowly dropped so that by Sunday, December 9 it was in the 30s and snowing.  Many of you know my passion for snow. HA!!!!!!  Anyway we ended up with about 6 inches.  Fortunately, our less than 2 year heating system which had not been working well since October was finally replaced last Monday so we were warm.  But Sunday’s icing and on/off power did the very diva like ice maker in.  So now that is broken.  It is just over a year old.  

This week also marks the second anniversary of when we packed up and moved from Italy.  Once we arrived here, the first time I bought eggs in the grocery store I cried.  I don’t even like eggs but I do miss Richard’s chickens that spent time with us too.  Now I am able to get through the grocery with only fleeting moments of ‘Oh, I miss…..”  There are predictable places for these to happen, the wine aisle of course and cheese.  But it is odd things, like these green beans.

 

Why is it so hard to get these green beans here?  I have asked at my Harris-Teeter.  I have asked at the Farmers’ Market.  Really, you would think I was asking for some exotic tropical fruit.

And boxed bechamel sauce.  The laundry spray starch that I liked the smell of.  The beef pinwheels with cheese and arugula that Esselunga made.  The gargonzola cheese covered with marscapone and walnuts.  I miss the Esselunga.  Just eating lunch there….

Any way.  Enough whining.  I bet you thought there would be snow pictures.  HA!  No, instead the last flowers of summer taken in November

Wild Ginger, cut in November before the first frost

Wild Ginger

Hot Biscuits as my Father used to call them

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Good Eating

I will admit that I miss food in Italy.  Everytime I consider going to Lidl (grocery store) I remember that in Italy, we would plan our Lidl trip to include a stop at the edge of the parking lot for lunch at the seafood store.  Gosh, we miss their fried calamari.  I miss a nice piece of grilled meat.  I miss good, thin pizza.  I miss eating lunch at Menchetti.  I miss the clean, simple seasonal food of Tuscany.  So every now and then,  I break down and make something Italian.  And if I am going to cook that much we should have folks over.

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Italian antipasta on Chinese fish china

 

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After antipasta we had an asparagus risotto, followed by braciole

What are known as braciole in the United States are called involtini in Italy.[2][3][4] Involtini can be thin slices of beef, pork, or chicken rolled with a filling of grated cheese (usually Parmesan cheese or Pecorino Romano), sometimes egg to give consistency and some combination of additional ingredients such as bread crumbs, other cheeses, minced prosciuttoham or Italian sausagemushroomsonionsgarlicspinachpinoli (pine nuts), etc. Involtini (diminutive form of involti) means “little bundles”. Each involtino is held together by a wooden toothpick, and the dish is usually served (in various sauces: red, white, etc.) as a second course. When cooked in tomato sauce, the sauce itself is used to toss the pasta for the first course, giving a consistent taste to the whole meal

(Thanks Wikipedia)

and sausages and salad.  Finishing with olive oil cake and strawberries.  Since we had a risotto I saw no need for a pasta.  Anyway, my picture taking stopped after getting the antipasta ready.  Our friends, Debby and Pat and Jim and BK came.  I was pleased that the table worked well for 6 people.  We could even have managed 8 around it, but I don’t have 8 plates.

Anyway, all of that combined with a few left overs satisfied my Italian food desires for a while.  Although I am considering getting a small grill to use this summer.  I do miss a properly grilled steak.

 

 

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Basketball, Basketball, Basketball

How I love watching ACC basketball….  We spend several week nights watching.  A big part of Saturday and then again on Sunday.

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And sometimes the games overlap so that I have to watch one on TV and one on my laptop.

Actually one of the best things about moving back to the US.  Now I am wondering if I will ever be able to see an ACC basketball game in virtual reality?

 

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Deep thoughts while unpacking

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I wondered if I had run out of boxes and staged a raid on the Post Office.  Then I remembered that Ben had a stack of these in his office in our Virginia house  (he used to mail out info about computer systems that he sold).  Fearing that he would pack these up and move them I probably ‘appropriated’ them for use  packing my Chinese fish platters.

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I unpacked boxes from places where I worked, not just in Virginia but also in North Carolina before we moved to Virginia.  Boxes, Ben had used moving back to the US from Germany even before I met him.  Boxes, used by our Virginia neighbor who moved back from SE Asia just as we were packing up to move to Italy.  Boxes used by John and Richard  (we rented from them in Italy) who had moved all over the world several times.  Boxes from Florida when I packed up my parents’ house.  Boxes Boxes Boxes.  Each one I opened, I thought about the connection it had to us.  About how far that box had traveled.  About the people that I had known.  About the times I had spent with them.  And that is just in the outside of the box.

Inside oh the treasures!  (Oh, the “why did I pack and keep this?”)  I was most excited to find

 

 

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My collection of Revere Ware pots and pans.  I was really afraid that these had been sold or given away.  I am so happy to see these again.  It is a nice set and a duplicate set which was my Mother’s.  For now I am keeping both of them but some of them might have to go.

 

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This hammered aluminum Dutch oven cooked many meals for my family as I was growing up.  Many a Sunday roast.  I can remember my mother experiencing some amount of distress if the church service ran long….”oh, the roast will be dry!”   Very happy to see this again.

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And look at this, it is Siena’s hair, snagged on a piece of furniture and packed away for almost ten years.

UPDATE 2/5/18

I wrote this back in the summer.  Super Bowl weekend I finally got around to cooking a roast in the pot that my mother used.

 

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It turned out well.  I think my parents would have enjoyed it.

There are still boxes tucked away that need to be dealt with.  I am torn between dealing with boxes or working on the projects that still need to be done.  Maybe I’ll try to do a bit of both.

 

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Feathering the Nest

When I tell the story about moving back to the US from Italy, one of the things that people always realize and comment on is “Oh, I guess you had to buy a car.”  A few folks will say “Oh, and furniture too.”  I guess the others think that we moved furniture…. Well we didn’t.  And we didn’t store that much.  Fortunately, our condo is so small we don’t need much.

From our experience where we rented I knew we needed a piece of furniture that could act as counterspace in the kitchen and table space for meals.   We looked online at free-standing islands, tables with storage, just about every configuration/name we could think of.  To me most of them looked exactly like what would be seen in any American kitchen.  I just couldn’t cope.  The only one I came close to liking was at Williams and Sonoma and was custom-built.  And they custom built the price too.  Then I hoped to get some one to build one for us but gave up on that idea too.  So good old DIY was the answer.

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Capital City Lumber to the rescue.  And these really cool moulded plastic forms.

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These forms allow someone to build shelves with straight cuts, no angles, no need to ‘toenail’ which can be hard if you don’t have a lot of DYI skills.  When we moved in, our friend Pat put this together for me.  As a temporary measure we used a door on top.

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When Wayne (the man who made my Murphy Bed) came over to talk about the bed I realized he was probably just the man to make the table top.  So we talked about it.  And he agreed.  When he delivered the bed, he took away the table base.  For a few weeks our door/table balanced on top of big plastic tubs and we got by.  I was very excited when Wayne returned with the table top.

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Wayne followed the measurements that I wanted.  The table is 5′ by 4′.  The counter top part, what we use most of the time is almost 3′.  He had just the hinges to mount the other part which is now a leaf that folds down.  And is down most of the time.

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Here’s what it looks like open.  We can comfortably seat 6.  8 in a pinch.  So the first weekend in November we had Pat (the clever man who put it together in the first place) and Debby over for ‘Duckappaloosa!’.   And the table worked very well.

I am ready now to declare the ground floor more or less done.  We have all the pieces of furniture that we need down here.  Pictures are hung.  The tops of two pieces of furniture are covered with things.  A few hours of focus and channeling Marie Kondo will fix that.  There are some projects that still need to be done.  They have always been on the ‘winter projects’ schedule.  I’ll get to them.  In a few weeks I’ll try to get to a before and after post.  We are very lucky that it has turned out so well.

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Oh Marie,

Regular readers might remember last winter when we first arrived in the US, I went to a thrift shop in Ocean City, NJ and bought a few second hand books to amuse my self with until I could get to my favorite Wake County Public library, Cameron Village.  One of the books I bought was written by the clean up expert, Marie Kondo.    And you might remember that I have written about My Ben and his NEED to keep every thing.  I mean EVERY THING!

So I opened a tote this week and there were the books I had bought in OCNJ.  Some I have read, like Marie Kondo’s book and some I have not read.  I made two stacks, resolving that I have to finish the unread ones before I can get more books from any of the series that I am reading.  And since we just really don’t have room for stacks of books, the completed books need to find a new home.

My Ben and I have been going to a City of Raleigh ‘Active Adults’ center for an exercise class and a music therapy class.  In the lobby of the center is a basket of books that folks bring in to give away.  So I decided to drop off our books.  Today, we arrived for our class.   I got Ben in his wheel chair, put the books in his lap, wheeled him in and went back out to move the car.  Coming back in, Ben immediately says in what passes for his hurt/indignant/angry voice, “Why didn’t you let me see this book?” gesturing with the Marie Kondo book.  I took a step back, fearing that the Gods of Order, Disorder or Irony, any or all of them, might shoot down a bolt of lightning.   It really took a good bit of self control not to fall over laughing or lash out with some sarcasm.  I just smiled and said if you want to keep it that’s fine and removed the other books to the basket as quickly as I could.

So now Marie Kondo has made it back in to our condo.  Beside Ben’s chair where his library book has been sitting for several weeks now.  I’ll give her a few more weeks and then try to slip her out again.  She is just going to have to do her part and fall open to a page that says “PASS ME ALONG TO SOMEONE ELSE!”

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Another food post

I don’t write as many of those as I used to, do I?  ‘Toto, I guess we aren’t in Italy anymore.’  We don’t get out that much and American food is just not that special.  A few weeks ago we did meet Jim and BK in Creedmoor for Mexican food.  ( click here if you want to see their site)  El Corral.  It was, as always, excellent.  I’m sorry that I didn’t take a picture.  When we used to come back for visits we always tried our best to stop by here since the food is good.  And it still is.

Anyway, we are still trying to find our pizza of choice.

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The box on the right is a brand that we used to get at the Esselunga in Italy.  The contents are on the left of the board.  I have to dress it up for Ben by adding more ham and cheese.  The box to the left and the pizza to the right of the board is Harris-Teeter’s brand.  It would have been excellent except for the American tendency to gild the lily and take dishes one step too far!  The zesty sauce!  What is wrong with good, simple ingredients?  Good cheese.  Good tomato sauce. Simple crust.  No need for some overly garlicy/basil sauce.  None of the take out that we have tried is acceptable.  The hunt continues.

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My tomatoes are just about finished but the green beans have started to come in.  Last night there were enough to make an Asian style dish, Gingered Pork with Green Beans and Carrots.   It was very tasty.

We are still shopping at the Harris-Teeter.  Ground has not even been broken on the Wegmans yet.  Every now  and then I venture into Trader Joes.  Now that we have a car that is not an oven on wheels we might try to get up to the Lidl in Wake Forest more often.  Our friends Jim and BK like Sprouts.  We have still not been to it, although Ben is keen to go.  (Ben is keen to go many places but he is not the one who has to load and unload his wheel chair and all his paraphernalia.  Our trips have to be tied into other errands or appointments)

I did catch on that I can order deli items online and then just pick them up at the Harris-Teeter without standing in line.  And I make our grocery list online too.  If I had a whoop de doo phone I could just have it on my phone.  Still old school, I print it out.

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I also find that while shopping I need to remind myself that the Harris-Teeter is only a few blocks and that I don’t need to over buy.  I have found that we are throwing away more food (spoiled) than I would like.  No exciting food here.  And I know we are very lucky to be in this position to be able to whine about boring food….

 

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Are we finished moving yet?

Almost!  I know!  We moved two weeks before Memorial Day and now here it is past Labor Day and I am still whining about moving.

It was not a simple move.  Yes, we managed to get all the boxes in one place, completely filling our guest room.  And I have worked at least 4 days out of every 7, every week,  on emptying boxes.  Part of the problem is that our recycling is only picked up every other week.  So any boxes that I emptied had to be stored inside until the magic once every 14 days pick-up day.  I did figure out that I could load the boxes in the car/oven and drive them to a local park and recycle them there.  And in 90+ degree weather I did that several times.  And keep in mind, Ben is not able to help.  And Ben has to keep EVERYTHING that his daughters and grand daughter ever touched and sent to him.  And the envelopes that it was mailed in.   And lastly, ten years ago, when we packed all this up, at least 40% of it was things that moved from my parents house three years earlier that I had yet to unpack and do anything with.  So it has been difficult.

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There are boxes of glassware.  I considered selling it to the outfit called Replacements which is based about two hours away.  The problem was they would only take certain pieces of the set, not all of it.  And they were not offering that much money.  So I just boxed it all back up and paid someone to move it up to the attic.  In 30 years maybe it will be worth more.

And there are the pictures,

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I unpacked them all and piled them on the bed and then started hanging.  Went through 50 hangers.  Almost through another 20 and that doesn’t count the things hung with regular nails and these

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lightweight plastic frames that are balanced on very thin shelves.  A whole wall of them. I need to go through the boxes of photographs to figure which ones to fill these frames with.

Our friend Debby came over and helped with the hanging.

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Our friend Jim came and drilled holes so I could run wires through a cabinet.  Otherwise I have done all of it, working in short bursts, stopping to make yet another meal.  And truly no one can or should be going through my parents’ belongings but me.  It is a very difficult.  Some times I felt like I just moved things from one side of the room to the other.  Some times I just stand there frozen trying to decide what to do with things.

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What do I do with things like this?  There are three of these.  Paintings done by a German prisoner of war.  (My father taught/worked in a prisoner of war camp towards  the end of WWII.)  My father liked them.  They hung in my child hood home and their home.  These must have been important to him.  So what do I do with them?  There is just no wall space to hang them.

This has been the hardest part of the months and months of this moving adventure.

But I have forged ahead and hung pictures,

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I am still working on this wall.  We are missing pictures.  I know that our storage shed was broken in to several times.  I can’t believe that it was a box of pictures that was stolen.

The sun that comes in the windows to the left both upstairs and downstairs is very strong.  I fear it could fade any photos.  So, yes indeed….

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pictures of my relatives are hanging in my closet.  Ben’s relatives are in his ‘cubby’ under the stairs and out of the sunlight too.   And just a note, if you ever come to visit, absolutely no comments about ‘that picture is crooked!’ ‘That picture should be 1/2 inch over to the left.’ unless you are prepared to climb up on a ladder and fix it!

This week, we lucked out and found this piece at ReStore (the outlet that is connected to Habitat for Humanity).

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I told Ben I was just going to run in and have a quick scratch around.  As soon as I went in, I could hear it calling my name.  I really like the sort retro 60s Asian vibe.  I measured.  Came home, measured, measured more, mentally moved pieces.  Thought about it over night and finally figured out how to make it work so I went back to get it.  (One of the disadvantages to owning a vehicle that furniture can easily fit in to.  Just too easy to buy something and get it home.)  I am real tickled that it was still available and that it has worked out so well.  The two side parts have glass doors with a glass shelf inside giving a good bit of storage.  They are lighted too.  I covered the glass with black fabric since what I have stored in there is not so pretty.  The center part had already had the back cut out so that we could put all the TV stuff in there.  OUT OF SIGHT!  HURRAY!  And the “Watch Birds” are finally settled in.  To the left side, facing the door.

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We are still waiting on my bed and our table.  And I need to find some piece of furniture to give me a small non-kitchen work area and store tools.  But slowly, slowly we are getting there.  The boxes are all open and stored or gone.  I hope it will be a long, long long time before I see any boxes again.

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We bought a car

Finally!  In mid-August.  It took us FOREVER and tried every one of my last nerves.

You might remember the car we bought from Jim and BK in late January.

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“The Big Car”  a 1998 Lincoln Town Car.  For our purposes, at the time, it was a fine car.  Ran well.  Ben’s fold-up wheel chair fit easily in the back.  Large trunk that I could use for storage.  Good car…. until the driver’s side window stopped going up and down.  And then in early July the AC stopped working and then in the period of 10 short days the motors on all the other windows broke so they stopped going up and down.  Ben’s trips away from home became very restricted.  It is one thing to subject myself to riding around in an oven on wheels but something else to subject Ben to it.  (I feared being arrested for elder abuse.)  For a few weeks my trips were very short or made late in the afternoon or on cloudy days.  Even then, wherever I arrived, it appeared that I had just stepped out of a shower.  Almost totally soaked in sweat.

Several months ago, we started looking for a new vehicle when Ben’s whoop dee doo wheel chair arrived.  Most folks buy what is known as a ‘conversion van’.  This is a passenger van that has  been altered.   Seats removed, bottom lowered or roof raised to accommodate the height of a wheel chair with a person sitting in it.  New conversion vans start at $45,000.  Used conversion vans… well you might find one.  “How about this nice one, a 2007 with only 75,000 miles and it is only $30, 000.”  Yeah, right!  We were suffering from serious sticker shock.

Because I was very focused on getting us unpacked I had let Ben handle looking for choices.  He gave his name and email address to car dealers!  Oh nooo!  I would be asleep and wake up hearing him committing us to driving 30 miles away to visit a car dealer.  And what we would be driving in?  Yes, the oven on wheels.  In 90+ degrees of heat and 80% humidity.  I had to put a stop to that.

Finally, we found a ramp system, called Roll- A- Ramp.   click here if you want to see their site

This started a whole round of measuring the inside spaces and door openings of vans.  Silly me, I thought we should be able to find specs like that online.  Not really.  So visits to car dealers along with a tape measure were called for.  Traveling there in the mobile oven.  Keep in mind, we lived in Italy for 10 years.  Thinking that foreigners would be a problem, at a car dealership in Italy, no one really wanted to sell us a car.  The two cars that we bought were from a dealer ship where we were friends with the owners’ son.  No high pressured sales tactics were used.  It was ” Ah Marta, how much you gotta spend? I show you what we have.”   Here, whoa.  They were at the oven door before I even got Ben out.  And the questions.  With some amount of shame I have to confess that I lost my cool. (My cool had left me even before we had left the parking lot at home.)  JUST GET THE KEYS! OPEN THE DOOR! LET ME MEASURE AND TAKE PICTURES!  And then of course Ben would want to see.  And oh the questions he would ask.  Frayed, frayed, frayed last nerves.  It was torture.

And then there was the ramp installers.  Three choices, one nearby, two about two hours away.  Took weeks,  Really WEEKS! to get in touch with them.  Because Ben has questions.  One is off fishing.  One is on a ‘mission trip.’ One doesn’t bother to return calls.  And then there is the installer of the ‘tie down’ systems.  Just as hard to get in touch with them.  Be prepared to hear this story in great detail if you make the mistake of saying something like “well in Italy/France everyone goes on vacation at the same time.  The whole place just shuts down.”  That is true.  But you know when it is going to happen and you know that the whole family will be away and you can plan.  Here, dealing with small family run businesses, it is crap shoot about who will be working and when.   Not just in a concentrated few weeks of August, it has been the whole summer.

So after considering possibilities, costs and thinking about it, we realized that while it would be nice to have a van that Ben could ride into in his motorized chair we just could not afford that.  So we picked a Ford Transit Connect.  It is a small van.  Many workmen use it.  Fits well in tight spaces.  Handles well.  We will be having a  ramp installed in the back which will come right out on to the sidewalk or parking lot.  Ben will still have to walk from the back of the condo to the front parking lot and get in and out of the passenger seat, then get in the motorized chair  (after I get it out) when we arrive somewhere.  Honestly, when he is no longer capable of doing that the chances are very high that I will no longer be able to manage taking care of him.

Ben’s very diligent search finds a brand new 2016 van.  It had been hiding on the lot.  We got a great price but they only want to give us $100 for the ‘big car’.  What an insult!  Why there is enough room to bake 10 pizzas inside that car if it was parked in full sun shine!  Really!  A good pizza oven would cost more than that and this one was mobile!  I list it on Craig’s List and sell it for $700.  Probably could have gotten more but I wanted it to go to a good home.

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So, this is the new car.  It is cute as a button.  His name has not yet revealed itself to me.  (Long time friends remember Sven) It is such a pleasure to ride around in.  Now we are working on getting the ramp and tie downs installed.  Maybe, just maybe, we can get that all done and take a little trip before winter arrives.

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