Archive for the ‘Friendship’ Category

Miki, Me, and the Multigrade

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2019

Miki 2019

Miki Frace’s likeness smiled back at me from today’s paper.  Perhaps she smiled at you, too.  She’s on the front page of the Chinook Observer because she has just retired from the Ocean Beach School District.  (Was there an article about me when I retired?  I don’t think so, but it’s been too many years for my foggy memory to recall.)

I was on the team of teachers who interviewed Miki when she came here in 1986 or ’87. We sat at a big table in my classroom at Ocean Park and, as I remembered, it felt more like a chat among friends than a formal question and answer session.  That’s just the way Miki makes you feel.    And besides, her daughter Dorothy who was at the crawl-and-explore stage of life  — I remember that she was 18 months old; the paper said “seven months” which is probably closer to the truth — and we were all captivated immediately.  Miki got the job and right from the get-go we were friends.

Miki and Dorothy 2013

At first she taught down the hall from me.  She had Kindergarten; I had 1st/2nd/3rd.  We often shared ideas, talked strategies, commiserated when days were difficult.  Her room was full-to-overflowing with projects and ideas and enthusiasm.  “Messy Bessy” she called herself.  “Magic Miki” the rest of us thought.  And never mind that she is my son’s age.  Years had nothing to do with Miki’s life experiences or with her wisdom or with her huge heart.

The following year, some of her graduates came into my room and so we collaborated a little more fully.  We found that if we were writing something — a grant proposal, a curriculum expansion — we could easily begin or end one another’s sentences.  Then, suddenly it seemed, Dorothy was in first grade and in my class and  I remember feeling a bit schitzy for a minute or two.  I needn’t have worried.  Teaching a friend’s child when the friend is Miki turned out to be a non-problem.

Then came the time when my classroom was getting a lot of attention from the school board — especially from Chairman of the Board, Jack Williams. Initially, he came to observe as he did in every classroom.  “But I can’t tell who are the third graders and who are the first graders,” he said.  “That’s the point,” I told him.  “None of us come with a manual that says when we’ll learn what.  What grade you’re in really doesn’t matter.  It’s that you are continually building on the skills you’ve mastered…” said I.  And we talked some more.

“Why don’t all the teachers do this?” Admiral Jack asked.  Why indeed?  When I talked with Miki about it, she said she’d love to teach a “one-two-three.”  And soon she and I were, as she said, “joined at the hip” — taking our cause “on the road” so to speak.  We met with other teachers, other school board members, with our principal, and with our superintendent.  We met with parents and with the greater community.  We talked “multigrade.”  And we created the Ocean Park Multigrade School.

It lasted for about ten years, I think.  Maybe more.  Through it all, Miki and I continued spreading the good word — to other schools and other districts.  We even gave classes to teachers from all over the state.  I don’t think we called it Multigrade 101 but we could have.

Miki and Me – January 2019

When I was moved to Long Beach School, I missed the multigrade and when I retired, I missed the kids and my colleagues.  But I never had to miss Miki.  Our friendship has endured and I think it’s here to stay.  Thank goodness!


Now I know why my grandmother didn’t…

Sunday, June 23rd, 2019

“Grandpa” Nyel

When the Bays family arrives in Oysterville — usually once or twice a year — we are treated like honorary grandparents.  And we feel very honored, indeed!  We’ve known Willie and Owen since before they were born and have watched them grow (and grow and grow) into delightful young men.  Willie is now 17 (almost 18) and is 6’3; Owen is 14 (soon to be 15) and is a bit shy of six feet.  Both are accomplished musicians (Willie, the Irish flute; Owen the Irish concertina) and both are interested in “lifting” for fitness.

Owen Bays

We “inherited” our friendship with their dad, Randal, about the time we inherited Vespers twenty-some years ago.   Randal was one  of the early musicians (he’s an Irish fiddler and guitar player) to participate in the  Summer Music Vespers when the services were first conceived by my folks.  He played our first-ever House !Concert back in 2001 and brought his (now) wife Susan (also an Irish fiddler) to meet us shortly after they met.  I would gladly “adopt” them both, but being Oysterville grandparents to their boys is perfect.

Willie Bays

They arrived here on Friday and, somehow, the time has flown by.  It’s been non-stop eating and visiting and figuring out what to do about their ailing car. (It was the alternator.) There was a trip across the river to rent a car, a phone call or two to find a Peninsula repair place open on Saturday and another trip or two to deliver the ailing car, pick up the repaired car, and return the rental car.

Meanwhile, Nyel’s wound-vac went wonky and kept us up most of the night.  The Bays Family Irish Band geared up for Vespers (which was fabulous!) and I suddenly realized that I had not blogged since midnight before last.  Well… my grandmother never blogged either.  And now I know why!

Are you sure we aren’t in Australia?

Saturday, June 22nd, 2019

Pat ad Nyel

When I first began teaching in Ocean Beach School District in 1978, John Snyder was a second grade teacher at Hilltop School which, for a few years, housed all the primary grades except for Margaret Staudenraus’s two  Kindergarten classes at Ocean Park.  When I was assigned first grade just across the hall from John, I asked him a little bit about the social studies curriculum.

“Oh, I always start the year by teaching about Australia,” he told me.  The more I questioned, the more I learned  — mostly that when it came to social studies,  most elementary teachers taught what they, themselves, found interesting.  There really wasn’t a curriculum.   “I always start by asking the  kids how many of them have been to Australia,” John told me.  “There are always a few hands that go up.”

Laura and Don

“This year,” he went on, “one kid said that he and his family go to Australia every year just before school starts. ‘We all get our new school shoes in Australia,’ he told me.  He thought the ride across the bridge was the best part.”

I thought of that tonight as Nyel and I went on our first outing since his Tuesday homecoming.  We were heading for the Bridgewater Bistro where, once or twice a year, a group of old friends get together for dinner and reminiscing.  Catalysts for this gathering are Don McQuarrie and Laura Creekman who lived on the  Peninsula (gulp) thirty (?) years ago and then moved with their young family to Lynden, WA.  During those years that I taught first grade and John taught second grade, Don was just shouting distance down the hall with a class full of third graders! (If you know Don, you understand my ‘shouting’ reference.)

It’s a disparate group that gathers at the Bistro.  Owners Ann and Tony are central to the group although they are always too busy being restaurateurs to actually sit at table with us.  Chris and David Jensen, Pat and Noel Thomas, and Nyel and I make up the rest of the crew.  Although some of us see one another at other times during the year, as a group it’s so seldom that we get together that we spend most of our time catching up.  And laughing.  We’re all good at that!

Tonight, of course, Nyel held center stage much of the time — not a place that he feels very comfortable as a rule.  But, everyone had questionsand even some advice.  Nyel, as usual, said little, listened closely, and ate heartily.  After all… there’s hardly anything more fun than our Annual Dinner in Australia!

Annual Dinner Party at the Bistro

Nyel’s Sweet/Spicy/Sumptuous Homecoming

Wednesday, June 19th, 2019

We thought we’d NEVER get out of the Seaside Hospital yesterday!  Nyel had wakened with a “dangerously low” blood pressure and they said if it didn’t come up they’d have to keep him.  Interestingly, there was no speculation as to why it was low.  And, had they asked, we could have told them that that happens occasionally to him but it always come back to where it should be in a few hours.

That’s what happened yesterday, too, of course, but the doctor was super cautious.  Instead of discharging him at 10:00 as planned, it wasn’t until about 4:00 that we were finally in the car and on the road.  The car was full of equipment — a two-foot-long shoehorn, a grabber/picker-upper, a stiff cloth ribbon-like item with a noose on each end for lassoing a recalcitrant foot and lifting it onto the bed.  In short, everything that a one-and-a-half-legged man might need to help him become independent!

Nyel managed to walk into the house on his own steam (with his walker) and was greeted, first thing, by a gorgeous bouquet and six chocolate cupcakes on a silver tray.  Then there was the biggest chocolate bar of all time, beautifully wrapped!  And in our fridge was a home-made lasagne (“a little spicy”) with an accompanying salad, salad dressing and bottle of red wind for our dinner.  And for dessert, fudge brownies with a hint of orange zest!   What fabulously thoughtful friends and neighbors we  have!

As I schlepped  stuff from car to house, Mr. (or Mrs.) Swallow flew through the living room door — no doubt eager to add its welcome on behalf of the new family on the porch.  I know Nyel thought it served me right for not destroying that nest at the get-go.  Was there just a hint of amusement in his eyes as he sat wheelchair-bound and watched me  flail away with the broom…

Just as the bird flew out,  Erik and Pat arrived.  Suddenly, I wasn’t a bit concerned about putting away medical supplies or reading the manual for Nyel’s portable wound-vac.  It’s really amazing how many frustrations and worries a delicious meal with good friends can erase, to say nothing of the warm glow we both are still feeling about such a wonderful homecoming!  Neither of us can quite wrap our heads around the amazing generosity and support our friends (and even “friends” we hardly know!) have provided during these past months.  There aren’t enough hugs or thank yous to begin to express how we feel.  We only hope we can “pay it forward” as time goes by.


A Home and Garden Day

Saturday, June 15th, 2019

Library Mantle

You wouldn’t think that the trip from Oysterville to Seaside to visit a loved one would take its toll on the homefront, but indirectly the last two weeks have done just that.  Or maybe it’s just that being home around the edges (rather than isolated for days at a time in Portland) leads to noticing all the “benign neglect.”

So, yesterday I declared  a “home and garden day” and got some of the edges taken care of.  I finally set out the hoses and tried to adjust those pesky lawn sprinklers — the kind that go “pssst pssst pssst” around in circles.  They were no doubt engineered by geniuses and figuring out which of the multiple moving widgets and gadgets will do the trick is almost more than this woman can tolerate.  But, finally, mission accomplished!

A Work In Progress

Then there were those oversized pots in what we euphemistically call “the kitchen garden.”  There are four of them, each containing an herb we use fairly frequently — parsley, rosemary, mint, bayleaf — and weeds!  They had been pulled away (the pots, not the weeds) from the house during last summer’s painting project and needed to be returned to their proper place.  Heavy!  I weeded and trimmed and fertilized and pooped out.  It’s a work in progress…

Pesky Sprinkler at Work

Inside, I managed to scrub the kitchen floor, water the indoor plants, arrange some wild roses for Friday Night and stay dry-eyed during an online bill-paying session.  I gave the carpet a lick-and-a-promise with the vacuum and decided that paying someone to shampoo it might be necessary in the not-too-distant future.  As for dusting and polishing silver — how about a “home and garden month” or maybe two?

Kitchen Floor

All the time I was puttering and muttering, I felt guilty that I hadn’t gone to Seaside to spend time with Nyel.  I was relieved to learn that he had had a non-stop gaggle of visitors yesterday — Bill and Sue from the beach,, Petra and Michael from Astoria, and Cousin Pat from Gearhart.  Plus, of course, the usual round of nurses, therapy sessions, and other rehab niceties.    Yay!

Today, though, I am going south again.  After all, I don’t think any of those wonderful visitors came laden with freshly ironed shirts and other necessary amenities (or is that an oxymoron?)  Plus… there is only so much home and garden I can deal with in one swoop.  (Oh.  And did I mention that the chickens got into the kitchen garden pots and unearthed the parsley?  Twice!)


Wow! Lookin’ at where they ain’t!

Sunday, June 2nd, 2019

Larry Freshley once told me that his first job out on the oyster beds when he was thirteen or fourteen was cluster-busting.  The task involves giving a large clump of oysters a smart rap with a crowbar or other heavy implement to separate the oysters (which tend to cleave together) from one another.  To young Larry’s question, “Then what?” his boss said, “Throw them where they ain’t.”

I’ve always thought that was one of the best instructions I’ve ever heard.  So, when I arrived home yesterday and walked around the perimeter of our house to see what my friend Pat Fagerland had accomplished over the past few weeks…  I first had to get over being totally gobsmacked and then found myself “looking where they ain’t.”  Weeds. that is!  Gone!  Not a weed in sightf!  How she managed all that I cannot even imagine.  It would have taken me all summer long to get all of that done and, even so, I’d be going back to the beginning time and time again, never getting to the end at all.

“Don’t you have a hoa?” she laughed when I called her.  “A what?” I think I had her repeat it a couple of times but I still don’t have a clue what she was talking about or even if I heard right.  “I’ll show you when I see you,” she said.  Of course, she made it sound like whatever that tool is made all the difference.  But, I know for a fact that, no matter what, she worked like a trojan to get things in this kind of shape.  “I’m not quite through yet,” she told me.  “I want to get it so you can easily maintain it…”

OMG!  What a wonderful gift of friendship!  I am truly blessed.  And spoiled to the max!!!  And teary every time I look at where they ain’t!



Home for A Day and Back Again

Sunday, May 26th, 2019


Days 29 & 30 —  Yesterday I left at dawn’s crack and had the road to Oysterville almost entirely to myself. Not so much mid-afternoon when I returned to St. Vincent’s — the Memorial Day traffic had, by then, clotted up the highway in both directions, but still, my round trip was without incident.

I arrived home in plenty of time for our Annual Oysterville Restoration Foundation meeting which, this year, proceeded in an orderly fashion thanks, in part, to the presence of a deputy Sheriff who had been hired to “keep the peace.”  It’s sad that things have come to that in “quiet” little Oysterville. But as ORF president David Williams noted during the course of the meeting, when some members attempt to “do business” through threats from attorneys rather than through civil and neighborly discussion, it is necessary to take appropriate measures.

I wish our new-neighbors-to-the-north had been there.  During my absence, a long construction-style chain link fence has gone up on the front of their property from our corner fence post to the newly installed driveway on their north property line.  Perhaps the  contractors for their upcoming construction project are from the big city and perhaps this is standard procedure… but in Oysterville it seems not only unsightly but insulting.  Like who in the world — residents or visitors — can’t see that the property is completely open on the east side?  Or maybe the cyclone fence comes under the heading “to be continued.”   I’m only glad that the previous three or four generations are no longer here to see what has become of their peaceful, friendly village.

Cousin Anwyn and The Cannon

Speaking of the generations — Uncle Cecil’s great-great grandchildren were in town with moms and dads and grandpa.  They came down to visit the chickens and informed me that they have given each of the ladies a name.  When I arrived, the kids were busy with hoes and rakes from our toolshed trying to get the girls out of the rhododendron bushes where they were hiding.

When I pointed out that the chickens hide from predators in those bushes which is a good thing, the tools went back in the toolshed and their focus turned to Nyel — “How’s he doing?” asked Gin.  “Will he be here on Monday to fire the cannon? asked Kahrs.  “Give him hugs from me,” Silas said.  Twice.  Even (sometimes  known-to-be-grumpy) Uncle Cecil would have been impressed.

Danielle, Me, Gabi, Amy

Later, I visited with Amy Wachsmuth and her girls, Gabi and Danielle.  Sue Holway came by and snapped our picture to show posterity that Danielle is now two inches (at least) taller than I am!  Wow!  How did that happen?

All the way back here to St. Vincent’s, I thought about the “old time” neighbors and the kids and how much I love Oysterville.    Now,  if we can only get Nyel back home soon, it promises to be a good summer, cynclone fences notwithstanding!

First Outing!

Monday, April 15th, 2019


Nyel took his first outing since TBF (The Big Fall) on February 28th.  Well… I’m not counting visits to the doctor.  There have been two of those, but I consider them practice runs, wheelchair-wise, for the fun stuff. And yesterday’s venture was definitely fun.  The final performance of “HMS Pinafore” at the Peninsula Playhouse in Ilwaco.

We’ve been to the Old Vic in London and to the various theaters at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and to many venues on Broadway – but none can compare with seeing your friends and neighbors in a community theater production up close and personal!  We loved it!

One of the ushers offered to seat Nyel (in his wheelchair) up front, “but the ship’s mast may be in his way,” she said.  My Nurse Ratched personality went into some kind of overdrive and before you could say “Damn the torpedoes” Nyel’s wheelchair had replaced one of the center aisle seats and Tucker and Carol had joined us for a perfect view – no mizzen, no mast, no disrupted sightlines.

During the intermission, Tucker asked if we’d ever been involved with community theater.  “Yes, years ago during the first incarnation of Peninsula Players,” I said.  It was during the ’80s – Lawrence Lessard was our first director; later, Alan Greiner and then Coleman White.  “Spoon River Anthology,” “Annie Get Your Gun,” “Seven Keys to Bald Pate,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Li’l Abner,” “Many Moons” – and others I’ve long forgotten about.

Our “Shoalwater Storytellers” evolved from those first Playhouse years – Lawrence and I plus Patty and Noel Thomas and Senta and Bob Cook at first.  Eventually just Lawrence and me and then Nyel and me – for almost 30 years!  I loved it all.  Would I do it again?  Nope.  Been there; done that.  I am content to enjoy this new generation of Players!  Encore!

…and not the jingle-jangle kind!

Sunday, April 7th, 2019

Rooster Spurs

I got a lot of razzing when I announced to the Friday Nighters that the roosters were gone.  Also, oh nos and expressions of sympathy for them.  Say what?  Obviously, no one had paid attention to or believed my tales of distress as a victim, and no one had any idea of the damage the boys were causing to the hens.

Rooster Damage To Hen

Nyel and I, on the other hand, were both absolutely jubilant that those bad boys were gone, spurs and all.  Erik-the-Chicken-Godfather to the rescue!  He came over Friday afternoon well prepared – protective eye gear, heavy gloves, a heavy-duty fishing net, two strong cardboard boxes, and a new role of masking tape.   I had called and asked if he could box up the roosters so I could take them to the poultry auction in Chehalis and he had done his rooster-capturing homework.  Besides getting prepared for battle, the choice was to try hypnosis.  We thought he’d made a good call!


He began with the baddest of the bad boys – the black rooster.  The capture wasn’t the biggest struggle, though.  Getting him into the box and taping it shut was the dicey part.  Surprisingly, the white roo was harder to capture.  He put up more of a fight than the black rooster.  My theory about that: as the beta male, he was used to being on the defensive.  And he was good at it.  I saw the alpha roo confront him many times but the white roo’s fighting stance with white ruff extended always caused the aggressive black alpha to back off.  (More than once I wished for a white ruff – maybe like Queen Elizabeth the First wore.)

Making Capture Look Easy

To top off the capture, Erik offered to drive the roosters to Chehalis the next day! I hope he knows how truly grateful I am!  When I called last night to see how it went, he reported that it was a smooth delivery.  I hope those boys fetch enough money that Erik’s trouble will be repaid – at least a little.  A suitable thank you will need to wait until Farmer Nyel is able to participate – maybe a chicken dinner??

Quadruple Taping

Havetos and Gettos

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2019

Sydney in Oysterville, 1939

When I was a young girl, I hadn’t heard of “the power of positive thinking” or of “the cup being half full.”  My life was simply a matter of havetos (as in you have to go to the dentist and get your braces tightened or you have to clean up your room)  and gettos (as in you get to go outside and play until dinnertime or you get to go see the new “Road” picture with Bob Hope and Bing Crosby.)

It seems to me that most of the gettos were connected to ifyous.  If you put away your toys you get to listen to “Let’s Pretend” on the radio.  The havetos, of course, were decided upon by forces beyond your control like your parents, or by circumstances like getting sick.  And they were really serious like having to stay in bed or go to the doctor.  But, as I remember, my life was mostly gettos.  Thank goodness!

I didn’t realize until long after I was grown that not all of my playmates had as many gettos as I did.  For me, for instance, school was a getto.  The only haveto I associated with it was having to eat some breakfast before I left the house.  That always left me feeling a bit sick to my stomach and as soon as I went away to college, I gave up eating first thing in the morning.  (Ever since, breakfast is a getto if I can wait a few hours for it.)

I was amazed when I learned that some of my friends looked upon school as a haveto.   They thought of visiting the relatives as a haveto, also.  And, even of going to camp as a haveto!  They were the Eeyores among my friends.  I tried to stick with the Poohs and Piglets.

I remember hearing some older people made dire predictions and ominous statements – “when you grow up, you’ll realize…” or “enjoy being young while you can…”  I knew even then that they were referring to the grim realities and responsibilities of life as an adult when it would be all havetos and very few gettos.  But, I hadn’t heard of “making lemons out of lemonade” back then, either.

I’m happy to report that my life is still more gettos than havetos.  The number of doctor’s appointments are creeping up, of course, and housework and gardening definitely fall into a gray area… So far, though, the gettos are way out in front.