Saturday, July 10, 2010

Friend Conde Holt

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The background on Conde.  We were going to school together in the early 2000s… taking Multimedia Design and Production at Lake Washington Technical College.  We became friends there.  I had an apartment in the beginning, right after I lost my husband, but when the funding for my program dried up early… I moved into my van so that I could save the rent and utility money to pay for the rest of my degree program.  That was working pretty well… and I was surprised at how do-able it was.  I had the use of the school facilities to shower, eat, stay warm, study… and some nights I would only go to the van to sleep(and we are talking winter here), and then go back into the school facilities in the morning.  There were a number of public microwaves in the cafe area… so I could fix my own food there.  It really wasn’t much trouble at all.  My son, Rich, didn’t live too far from there and I could go visit them, see my granddaughter, and also shower there.  I had a pretty good system worked out… which no one knew about but Richard.  Well, not until Conde decided she was going to find out where I lived.  I guess she suspected I was living in the van.  She kept asking where I lived and I kept being evasive.  This was winter of 2003-2004 and truth be known, I was getting to the point where I could barely walk and I was in great pain.  She was parked near me one day and we walked toward our cars together.  And SOOOOooooo, she asked again “Where do you live?”   And so I slide open the van door and said… “There!   Now, shut up!"
DSCF0016 DSCF0022 Our graduation.
Oh, oh… that was the wrong thing to say to Conde.  She insisted I come home with her and at least have a shower and nice meal.  When I got there, she kidnapped me.  Tony and Conde gave me the spare bedroom and insisted I move in until I was done with school.  We graduated together in June 2004 and by then I could only walk short distances with great pain.  I began trying to imagine life in a wheelchair.  I got a temp job which participated in programs at WorkSource Redmond and began looking for a perm job.  I thought the updated software training I had just received in the Multimedia Design and Production program would get me a good job.  I then got accepted into the AARP program which would pay you for 20 hrs of work a week at a place like WorkSource or other non-profit place.  The other 20 hrs a week you are suppose to spend looking for a job, doing additional training (like how to write a resume), etc.  A year later, I was still had Conde’s and still not gainfully employed.  Since I have military health coverage, I looked into getting my knees fixed believing I would be more employable if I wasn’t gimping around, avoiding stairs, and walking very slowly.  Walla… my insurance would fix my knees. 
And Conde and Tony agreed to let me recover at their place.  I got the knees replaced.  Two years later, after being "released to return to work" (still the AARP-Worksource job)… and getting my resume updated (again)… I headed out to a second hand store to see if I could buy something new to wear for job interviews.  I was about a mile away from the 2nd hand store, and stopped at a light, when I saw this car barrelling up behind me… and I knew they weren’t going to stop.  There were cars right in front of me, there was oncoming traffic to my left, and a high curb to my right.  I was pinned in and could do nothing but watch that car plow into my rear-end.  Totaled… my van and my right shoulder but thank goodness the knees were o.k.
DSCF0029 Granddaughter Tori, me, and “grandson” Adam.
So, there I was… no job, no van, and now no shoulder… and I really became suicidal.  And there was Conde… saying stay as long as you need to… and little Adam (her son) saying stay forever!  He was a 50-lb 9 year old when I moved in… and I spent a lot of time with him.  He began to feel like my own son… and I really loved the boy.  But I was so depressed.  I was ready to leave their home and get my life back.  And if there is anything I hate more then “insurance” guys… I don’t know off-hand what it is.  I really just couldn’t deal with any of them and managed to find a really good lawyer who took it all on for a % after settlement.  They didn’t let anyone hassle me about anything.  Still, there I was in pain again(shoulder), still doing physical therapy on my knees, and now not having any way to go out and look for a job… no car.  And now I was experiencing PSTD and had to see a therapist for that as I was having blackouts when I drove a car and panic attacks when someone came too close up behind me.  I felt like I was loosing my mind. 

Doctors decided my shoulder would need to get fixed… a third surgery in less than three years.  And Conde said… no problem, stay as long as you want to… forever if you want to.  She also knew I was extremely depressed over the totaled van (my first new vehicle ever – 1995 Ford Aerostar Extended van)… and so one day she said… let’s go out looking at vans. 
And so we did, what she didn’t tell me was… she wasn’t going to take me back to the house until I found one she could buy for me!  WHAT?   My kids don’t even love me that much!!!  And she was serious… she trapped me in a car dealer’s cubicle and wouldn’t let me out until I said, OK, I’ll take that van!  Literally, she kept me in that corner until I said yes.  I looked at the desk and the chair and wondered if I could climb up there… on the dealers desk… and jump off the other side and run.  Run where???  Jump how???  I don’t think my knees do “jump” yet.  So, I then and there became the proud owner of a Honda Odyssey mini van.  I told her I could not accept it as a loan… as I wouldn’t have a way to pay her back, for who knows how long???  And so it was a gift.  Now, is that a friend or what???
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(And I totally forgot about having gone to AZ after graduation for a job that didn’t work out… going broke while trying to find work there, and Conde flying out to get me and help me drive back to WA state… after which I then had the knee and shoulder surgeries.  We took time out to see the Grand Canyon before returning to WA.)
 sm_outside_bk_van_2003_0518 I loved camping from my van.
Still at Conde’s I got my shoulder repaired.  After it healed, I got the Odyssey set up for “van-dwelling.”  Guess I just have too much gypsy blood.  It was time for me to leave home.  Try as she might, and she really really tried, to get me to stay “forever” I just had to go.  My funding had fallen through again, the AARP work grant, due to me having three surgeries in two years… and when I did “return to work” at Worksource Redmond, they told me my AARP program had dropped them (WorkSource Redmond) from their program.  No body told me!  Well, I now see there is a gap in my memory and I don’t remember what happened next… but I ended up in CA.  My belongings were in a storage unit in WA state.  There had been a storm… and the roof above my unit had a tree fall on it… and water was in my unit.  I went flying(i.e. driving fast) up to WA state… only to find none of the critical stuff (family genealogy, historic family photos, film, negatives, my art work, etc.,) was damaged. 
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Green one doesn’t look totaled but it was.
The storage place gave me a new unit that they said would be good.  And due to my shoulder, I had to hire a couple guys to transfer my stuff to the new unit.  Then it was back to CA.  Darn it… a couple more months passed when they called me again… said “You know that big storm we just had… well the building with your stuff flooded and water may have gone under the door into your unit." (Damm, now what are the chances of that?) 
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I got a used bike for Adam… and got him riding again.
2006_1028_190158AA We baked stuff together.
Oh, heck… went flying(i.e. driving fast) back up to WA state to check on my stuff again.  That’s when I decided I needed to buy a trailer… but my budget was only $1,500 and the only one I could find that was big enough for my stuff but yet small enough for the Honda to tow was $3,000… and SOOOooo once again, Conde insisted on helping me get the trailer.  I got my stuff loaded up… and the stuff, trailer and van headed back to CA.  I vowed never to leave anything behind anywhere ever again.  It was freeing to know my stuff and I would be together “forever!”  The trailer and its contents were really too heavy for the Honda Odyssey but somehow we got back to CA.
How the seat broke and arm rest jammed my shoulder up.
2006_0608_115201AA Kissing my van goodbye.
Boy, when I get sidetracked, I really get sidetracked.  My point being, Conde was really a good friend to me and when I think back on all that happened during that time, I get shivers up my spine… because I believe now… that I would indeed have committed suicide had it not been for Conde’s intervention.  What a friend… “forever.”
Thanks for saving my life.
I love you guys… Conde, Tony and Adam.

Who is Swankie?

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Anywhere, USA, Full-Time USA traveler, United States
In 2006, I was shopping for a wheelchair. By 2007, I had new knees, better health and by 2008 a kayak. In Aug 2013, I kayaked my 49th state, Alaska, at the Holgate Glacier and in May 2014, I kayaked Hawaii, my 50th state, to celebrate my 70th Birthday and the finale to the wonderful adventure of Kayaking America? Next up... Solo Hiking the Arizona Trail, 820 miles? Maybe. Still healing from shoulder and trying to decide.