Archive for the ‘Friendship’ Category

Surpassing Forty Years of Expectations

Thursday, October 12th, 2017

Lummi Tradition, Planked Salmon

If I’d ever made a bucket list, a cedar planked salmon dinner would have been on it.  Right near the top.  It was one of the first things I wanted to experience when I moved full-time to the Northwest.  For years I had heard about the Lummi Island Salmon Barbecue, that it was open to the public for the price of a ticket, and that it was fabulous.

When I met Nyel in the early eighties, it was one of the ‘adventures’ I proposed.  At that time, the Lummi event occurred at the end of summer – maybe on Labor Day Weekend – which wasn’t ideal since both of us were involved with school – I, teaching; he, attending the U.  However, the timing wasn’t the deal-breaker.  It was that he had already had a Lummi Island experience with his former sweetheart.  He didn’t really talk about it but in true womanly fashion, I figured it out and the subject was dropped.

Just About Ready

But… I always had a hankering.  And then, the other day our friends Erik and Pat proposed bringing all the fixings for dinner to our house.  “Which would you like?” Erik asked.  Salmon or tuna?  I have both, caught this summer and in the freezer.”

Salmon was our response and when Erik said, “Oh good.  I’ll bring the barbecue and the cedar plank…”  Really?  Cedar planked salmon???  I thought I’d died and gone to heaven!  As it turned out, when they arrived laden with appetizers and side dishes, the barbecue with briquettes-at-the-ready and the most gorgeous salmon filet ever… Erik had left home without the cedar plank!

Ready to go!!

Nyel’s amazing collection of salvaged ‘stuff’ to the rescue!  Part of a bundle of unused cedar shingles!  “Perfect!” said Erik.  And the cooking began.  The result exceeded all expectations.   We both had seconds and, had we not been cautioned to leave room for dessert, we probably would have gone for thirds!  And, of course, the best part of all was seeing how it was done!  Wow!  We know full-well that the salmon caught by Erik’s own hand and on his own boat can’t quite be replicated by us land-lubbers.  But we have plenty of fresh planks ready and waiting!

Remembering the Nouns

Wednesday, October 4th, 2017

Conversation starters in our household run the gamut, at least when I’m the initiator.  It might be, “Do you know where I put my thingamajig?”  Or it could be “Remind me where to turn to get to Kay’s house.”  Or, it could even be a whispered “What is that woman’s name – the one in the red coat?”

It’s the nouns I have difficulty with.  I learned my parts of speech from Mrs. Barnes in the 8th grade at E Street Grammar School in San Rafael.  Nouns were the easiest – a person, place, or thing.  Unfortunately, those are what are escaping me these days.  Not always.  Not yet, anyway.  A few years back when I worried about it to my son, he reminded me (not very reassuringly) of the old joke – just because you can’t remember what your keys are called doesn’t mean you have dementia; it’s when you don’t remember what they’re for that you might have a problem.

Papa’s Coffee Cup

I have had a couple of good role models in my lifetime as far as dementia is concerned.  My mother, who lived to be 97, began to show signs of dementia at 79 or 80.  Her father, my beloved grandfather ‘Papa,’ became “forgetful” in his late sixties and lived well into his eighties.  Both of them retained their humor, their kindness, and their basic personalities, until the end – even when most of their physical abilities were also gone.

If dementia is to be my lot in life, I hope I can manage it with the same grace as they seemed to.  Of course, the real heroes were their friends and family – the people who treated them with dignity, no matter what.  I well remember watching “The Dinah Shore Show” here with my Aunt Mona and Papa back in the 1950s.  Papa was enchanted with Dinah Shore.  “Get that gal a cup of coffee,” he said to Mona.  And Mona went to the kitchen and brought a cup for Papa who, by that time, had forgotten his request.  “Thank you, girlie,” he told Mona with a smile.  “Just what the doctor ordered!”

Nan and Jack, 2012

My girlhood friend Nan, who was also in Mrs. Barnes’ 8th grade class with me all those years ago, wrote to me Monday:  … and the next line will be a shocker, I was diagnosed last Friday as having dementia. Oh, my dear, dear friend!  How I wish I were nearby to reassure and to help in any way possible as you journey down this unfamiliar path!  And I am so thankful that you have a loving husband and nearby family to give you the support you need.  To fill your coffee cup just as the doctor ordered!


Another Unexpected Delight!

Friday, September 29th, 2017

The View from Our East Windows

Our trip back from Portland yesterday afternoon couldn’t have been better.  It was a gorgeous day for a drive and we reveled in the scenery all the way to our front door.  What a beautiful area we live in!  It never ceases to bring us pleasure.

And, then when we got here, we found the biggest surprise of all.  Despite months of deferred maintenance and neglect on our part, our garden looks spiffier than it has for a long, long time!  The lawns (yes, we have several!) have been mowed and trimmed, and the rhododendrons along our east fence – which had been threatening to totally block our view of the bay – have been beautifully pruned.  And besides that — the meadow has been mowed!  Our view is back!  Our yard looks like someone lives here!  We keep going to the windows and looking out – totally enchanted with all of it.

The Newly Mown Meadow

Big kudos to Chuck Messing and Vivian Wattum – the lawn fairies – and to Jay Short and his crew of hedge-pruning elves  and to Jim Kurtz, the meadow-mowing-man.  We feel hugely indebted to all of you.  I’m thinking hugs and chocolate-something-or-other for starters…

And it wasn’t only the garden that surprised us.  We had left in a frightful scurry two weeks ago today, with a Poetry Gathering scheduled for Sunday afternoon – a gathering of thirty or so, at least according to the RSVPs.  Three poets, a potluck dinner, and no host or hostess.  Neighbors Carol and Tucker to the rescue!  A hurried meeting as I packed the car and Nyel struggled to get ready for yet another hospital stay. Little did we know it would be for two whole weeks.

I showed Carol some of the tricks of getting the house ready but realized long afterward that I hadn’t shown her where the plates or silverware was.  Tucker knew (from many previous events) how to move the furniture.  Charlie Talbot would be here the following day to help set up.  I showed Tucker where the vacuum lived and where the breaker switches are in case the stove should go wonky again.  And what else???  I wondered what would greet us yesterday when we opened the door.

Burn Pile

But, like the garden, the house looked to be in apple-pie order.  Furniture returned to familiar spots.  The carpet, far cleaner than the way we left it.  The kitchen neat and tidy – the dishwasher empty.  And, as far as we know to this point, everything returned to its proper place.  Wow!!  The best homecoming imaginable!  Thank you, everyone who helped!  We are ever-grateful!

P.S. – If this blog goes up later than usual, it’s because I keep going to the windows to look outside!  Wow!  Even though it’s raining… wow!

A Breath of Oysterville

Thursday, September 28th, 2017

Oysterville Bouquet

Short of arriving home in person yesterday, the next best thing happened.  A bit of Oysterville came to us!  Anne and Jim Kepner came visiting bringing with them the most beautiful bouquet from their garden just up the street from our house.  Dahlias and hydrangeas and sweet peas all in purples and pinks and looking like autumn in the village.  (Except that Nyel says they are not sweet peas… I defer as he’s usually right, but what are they?)

We had a lovely visit – caught up on the latest Oysterville happenings and (of course) filled one another in on our current medical concerns.  We hadn’t had a real one-on-one (actually, a two-on-two) visit for ages and it took the sting out of our disappointment that Nyel didn’t get to go home yesterday as hoped.  Maybe today…

It’s all about numbers and stability…  Every morning at four ayem (or so) the lab tech comes and draws three vials of Nyel’s blood.  About the same time, the night nurse comes in to check vital signs.  By the first distribution of the day’s medications at nine ayem, the doctor has seen the results and has determined what meds and in what quantities Nyel will receive, the pharmacist has delivered them to the day nurse and… the day progresses.  Sometimes technicians wheel in important- looking machinery and look at the numbers.

Checking the Pace

Yesterday, his numbers weren’t so great plus he had two bad dizzy spells on walk in the hall.  Not good.  No one is exactly sure why for either – just that the magic formula for Nyel has not yet been reached.  We have high hopes for today.  Again!

Meanwhile, I’m sorry I jumped the gun with yesterday’s blog.  I feel like I jinxed our homecoming plan.  On the other hand, we had so many lovely greetings from FaceBook friends – even serious offers of assistance.  It warmed our cockles.  And everyone knows that warm cockles are the best heart medicine of all!  We are forever grateful.

…with Te cheering him on!

Saturday, September 23rd, 2017


Along the lines of ‘you never know who’s life you might be influencing,’ our friend Te comes to mind.  ‘Te’ is short for Terralene  and we met her years ago through our friend, the late Larry Weathers.  As we did our friend Linda.  They were all friends growing up in Raymond in the 60s (I think) and went on to lead separate, though intertwined, lives over the years.  Te (like Linda) lives in Seattle and we go year in and year out without actually seeing her face-to-face.  Even so, she is a presence in our lives, whether she knows it or not!

Take today, for instance.  I, as Nyel’s Head Cheerleader, have decided that we will ramp up his walking regime.  That thought immediately brought Te to mind.  She is a walker.  Years ago (maybe ten?) she embraced the 10,000-steps-a-day program and has followed it religiously ever since.  Often, she has those 10,000 steps accomplished before the rest of the world has had breakfast but, even so, she doesn’t slow her pace (so to speak.)  She is relentless.  She is also attractive, trim, slim, healthy, enthusiastic, and fun – the poster girl for that 10,000 Steps a Day idea.

All The Rage

Te’s enthusiasm is catching, and she soon had all of her friends using pedometers, checking their steps, trying to keep up with her numbers.  When I discovered that I average between five and six thousand steps a day just going about my usual day inside the house – not even venturing outdoors, mind you – I sort of gave up on my diligence.  Lately though, I’ve read that 15,000 steps are better but whether it’s ten or fifteen thou, it’s the intensity with which you walk that makes the difference.

Well… right now, that’s neither here nor there.  Nyel came into the hospital a week ago yesterday unable to walk more than five or six steps (and slowly, at that) without having to stop for a minute or so to breathe.  Now he can walk the length of this hallway and back with no problem at all – taking it slow, to be sure, but much like the proverbial tortoise, on his way to winning this race.

Outside Nyel’s Door

One round trip in this hallway equals 230 feet.  The little labeled hearts that are every five feet along the way tell us so.  Nyel says his stride is three feet.  So, for him, a round-trip  along this Unit 51 hallway is about 80 steps.  Reaching Te’s 10,000 step goal would take Nyel 125 round trips.  It would probably take every waking minute of his hospital day excluding mealtimes, meds-time, vital signs time, to say nothing of nap-time.  Maybe ten round trips today might be more realistic, stepping it up (so to speak) each day as he can.  I hope Te would approve.

Has decorum deserted Oysterville?

Saturday, September 16th, 2017

Irregular Behavior from a Friday Night Regular

When the doctor’s office called Nyel at 10:00 Friday morning and said ‘they’ wanted him at the hospital in Portland by 2:00 we said, “We’ll do the best we can.”  Panic!  Kitchen to clean up.  Carpet to vacuum!  Bathroom to tidy!

It’s not that we have some sort of anal problem about leaving a “lived-in” look behind.  We had other things on our minds.  Two, in particular, were looming in our immediate future –  our usual ‘Friday Night’ gathering and our very unusual Sunday “Celebration of Poetry” – an event of some importance happening at our house involving three poets of note, an audience of thirty, a potluck supper and… Damn!  Not only were we going to miss both of these events – we were not going to have time to prepare so that someone else could play host and hostess.

Friday Night Gathering – Photo by Tucker

I scurried and prioritized.  Pack a bag for an indefinite stay.  Help Nyel get up and get dressed. Deal with the chickens.  Load the dishwasher.  Call Carol and Tucker.  Put extra leaves in the dining room table.  Show Carol what needs to be done for Sunday.  Ask Tucker to help Charlie Talbott to schlep chairs and move furniture tomorrow.  Load the car.  Out of the village by 10:40. Whew!

A call from the doctor’s office a half hour from home – no hurry.  We have a bed secured for you. Damn!  Mental apologies to Carol and Tucker.  We could have taken longer and left things in better shape!  I might have had time to grab my earrings.  Naked ears are the least of our worries…What else did we forget?  So sorry to leave in such a rush.  So disappointed not to meet the Poet Laureate of Washington – I had so many questions to ask him…

Cruise control to Emanuel Hospital.  One stop on the way to get sandwiches at Safeway.  One other pee stop in Longview.  (Damn diuretics said Nyel.)  Arrival to find everyone expecting Nyel – nurses we know, doctors we know, a menu all too familiar.  Ditto the all too familiar cot for me.

Thank goodness for the best neighbors EVER!  Tucker even sent photos of the Friday Night gathering.  All we can say is… any dignity and decorum that was ever in Oysterville is now the center of all sorts of attention here in Room 5301.  I hope they get him back on his feet before Oysterville really tips over an edge!

On This Day in History – 1987

Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

The Bride and Groom

Thirty years ago, today, the dawn sky looked a little iffy.  It was a Sunday and the 3rd Annual Oysterville Croquet and Champagne Gala was scheduled to begin at 2:00. Drizzle or not, we had chairs and tables to set up, signs and balloons to put in place, food to arrange, cases of champagne to ice and costumes to put on.  I was a bit nervous – “a bit more tightly wound than usual,” Nyel would later say.

But it wasn’t the Croquet Gala that had my nerves a-tingle.  It wasn’t the sixty people pre-registered to play on ten competing teams.  Nor was it the fifty-plus spectators we expected to come.  At the forefront of my mind was the biggest secret of our lifetimes – we were getting married that day!  Right there in the garden in front of friends and family.  Right after the games were over and right before the Awards Ceremony.  And it was a secret.  Yes… I was a bit nervous.

“Oystereville Croquet Gala” by Norma Walker

Five (count’ ’em, five besides us) people knew what was in store that day.  My son Charlie, who came up from L.A. for the event – the only time in 19 years that he attended one of our Croquet Galas.  Gordon Schoewe and Roy Gustafson who agreed to stand up for us.  Judge Joel Penoyer (actually, probably Betsy, too) who agreed to bring the paper work and to officiate.  And Dr. John Campiche (probably Val, too) who we called to make sure there were no medical requirements before marriage in Washington State – which there weren’t.  Not one of them breathed a word.  Even so… I was nervous-to-the-max.

No one else – not my parents who were the nominal hosts of the event since it took place in the garden of their home.  Not my distinguished Uncle Willard who, for many years served at the Master of Ceremonies of the Croquet Galas.  Not Ann Kischner who was President of the Water Music Society which was to be the recipient of the proceeds that year.  (Did I mention that we put on the Gala each year as a fund-raiser for a non-profit organization in Pacific County?)  Yes… nervous enough so that I could barely tend to my job as registrar!

I happy to say, we pulled it off with hardly a hitch.  (Just a rather tense argument with Willard who insisted that it was HIS turn to award the trophy. I literally had to push him out of the way… and maybe I was just a tad snappish.)  The weather turned bright and sunny, after all, and I look back on that day as setting a tone for all the years that have followed – years of friends, family, fun, and memorable events!

The Wedding Pillow – from the Frank family

And here we are, thirty years later.  No plans to celebrate this year.  No signs or balloons.  Just a lot of remembering and basking and maybe a stroll or two out in the garden.   But did I say… it looks a bit iffy outside this year, too!

“… Pack up your pack…”

Monday, September 4th, 2017

The Elizabethan Theater, OSF

I don’t know if an earworm slows you down or speeds you up.  I hope it’s the latter because I’ve got one and I’m behind.

We are scurrying to get on the road – off to Ashland for our yearly rendezvous with son Charlie and a short bout of theater glut at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.  It’s a halfway meeting place, more-or-less – a bit more from Charlie who is driving from L.A. and a bit less for us.  We have tickets for four plays this year, two of them, unfortunately, in the outdoor Elizabethan Theater.

The weather news is not good.  In fact, it’s dreadful — the very worst!  Yesterday the measurement went from “unhealthy” to “hazardous” on the Air Quality Index, but so far today it’s back to “unhealthy.”  We know that the outdoor performances are happening on a day-to-day (and sometimes hour-to-hour) basis, so as they say:  “You pays your money and you takes your chances.”  Meanwhile, the Chetco Bar Fire near Brookings (which was caused by a lightning strike and was first reported July 12th) is only 10% contained and now covers 142,857 acres.  The smoke is affecting almost all of Oregon.

“The Bricks” at OSF

Tickets to the plays are a traditional Christmas gift from us to ourselves and to Charlie.  We take advantage of our OSF membership and order in early November, not knowing which plays audiences and critics will deem “best.”  It really doesn’t matter.  In the sixty years I’ve been going to Ashland, I’ve only been disappointed once or twice.  And, of course, we never know what Mother Nature might have in store for us when our dates are eight or nine months in the future.

We’ve never experienced being ‘smoked out’ but we have been at the Elizabethan theater in the rain – not so bad as to shut down because of danger to actors in fight scenes etc. (slippery stage) but wet enough that the action took place in street clothes.  As one of the actors later told us, “The costumes are far more costly than an actor’s salary!  They are the first to be saved!”  On those rare, rainy evenings, rainchecks are offered to those who want to leave by the intermission.  We are usually prepared with garbage bags to slip over our heads…  But I don’t think there is an ‘easy fix’ for smoke problems.

Shoalwater Storytellers Poster, 1981

So, here we are, packing the car with high hopes.  Our chicken-sitter is in place.  Our chickens have promised (we think) to be on their best behavior and we are optimistic about Nyel’s health and our car’s battery.  We have arranged to have brunch with Bob Cook, an old friend from the very first configuration of the Shoalwater Storytellers back in 1980.  And, we hope to hook up with Sharon VanHueit who also has relocated from the beach to Ashland.

Plays or no plays, we’ll have a great time.  As my earworm keeps telling me… “We’re on our way, Pack up your pack, And if we stay, We won’t come back.”  I don’t think that last part is true, though…  But you never know.

Full Up in Oysterville!

Sunday, September 3rd, 2017

The Final Day of Vespers 2017

It’s Labor Day Sunday – traditionally the time of the last hurrah of summer here at the beach.  Almost everybody ‘is down’ as my grandparents used to say during times when relatives and visitors were overflowing all the residences.  Added to that, it’s the last Sunday of the Music Vespers series at the church and it is the day of the Williams Family Reunion, this year hosted by the Red House cousins up the street.

There could be as many as 80 at the church for this final service featuring Deacon Dick Wallace of St. Mary’s in Seaview and Portland musicians Geri Ethan (pianist/organist) and Barbara Walden (flutist).  Add to that ‘as many as 160 at the 76th Williams Clan Annual Picnic.  “But there probably won’t be quite that many,” Williams Clan Elder Kuzzin Kris said last night.  She’s here from Eugene for the weekend with her friend Ray but says it will be younger clan members Mike Williams and David Williams who will be hosting and emceeing the proceedings.

Red House

In any case, it will be an impressive lineup of cars along the streets and, probably, in the lanes today.  I always wonder if the town sinks down just a little bit when it’s full like that.  High tide today is at 12:58 p.m. – just about the time the Williams festivities are in full swing.  It will be a respectable 8’11” tide – not enough to overflow the banks, at least not unless we sink a foot or two under the weight of all those vehicles…  Maybe the saving grace will be that Vespers doesn’t start until 3:00 which is about the time the cars at the Red House will be clearing out.  Still… it’s interesting to think about.

Aunt Rye, Judy Heckes, Jim Kemmer – c. 1940

One big difference between Labor Day Weekend of my childhood and nowadays –no longer does this weekend mark the end of the visiting season.  Nowadays, with our amazingly mobility, year-round tourism has become a reality and the town is likely to be ‘full’ on any given weekend or during any holiday, even in the midst of winter.  No longer does this particular weekend have quite that same bittersweet feeling of ‘the end of the season’.  We’re likely to see our loved ones several times before next summer rolls around!  Hooray for that!!

Quadruple the Fun… Exponentially!

Monday, August 28th, 2017

After-Performance Photo, 2017

What a weekend it was here in Oysterville!  The Rose City Mixed Quartet (Mark, Cameron, Dale, Helen) arrived Friday night and the fun was non-stop until their departure Sunday afternoon.  At least, that’s the way it was from our point of view.  From theirs… I’m not so sure.

Up until the day before their arrival, Nyel was still in the hospital in Portland and the plan was that the RCMQ would stay at the house anyway, as originally intended.  So… in addition to their play clothes and performance outfits, they came laden with food and surprises.  Just in case we got sprung from confinement.

Mark, Nyel, Dale – The Graybeards

Their Sunday vesper performance had been planned for a long time.  So had their stay here at the house.  It was Regatta Weekend in Oysterville and they had been invited to all the attendant festivities here at the bay side of the Peninsula.  It was also Kite Festival Weekend in Long Beach so they planned to do a bit of playing on the ocean side as well.  And I’m happy to say that all of those things happened.

The only possible confusion to the weekend was who in the heck was hosting whom.  It wasn’t really us.  Nyel was in recovery mode and more lowkey than usual.  I was in frantic catchup mode for some writing deadlines and locked away in my office for hours at a stretch.  So… the meal preparation and serving fell to the four you-know-whos.  It was magical!  Just like having four house-elves à la Harry Potter, but without the mischief (as far as we know.)

Æbleskiver Skillet

And, despite an unexpected early departure directly after Vespers (Cameron’s husband Bill works for FEMA and had a hurricane-related deployment so the RCMQ sped homeward so she could see him off), they still found time to wash sheets, re-make beds and clean the upstairs within an inch of its 148-year-old life.


Perhaps the most unexpected serendipity of their stay was Mark’s Sunday morning breakfast treat — Æbleskiver!  This was our introduction to the traditional Danish pancakes made in the distinctive shape of a sphere.  Mark brought the special skillet and other ingredients but counted on our girls to supply the eggs, which they did. When he was growing up in Luck, Wisconsin, it was the pièce de résistance at church events and he is an expert at making them.  I’m so sorry I missed the cooking process, locked away as I was in my office.

But… I ate at least a half-dozen of them, some with cinnamon, some with applesauce, some with blueberry jelly!  Wow!

And I don’t even eat breakfast!