Archive for the ‘Friendship’ Category

I can scarce believe my eyes!

Friday, December 15th, 2017

Cards!  Cards!  Cards!  Against all odds, Christmas Cards and Seasons Greetings are arriving in droves!  Each day our little P.O. Box is full to over-flowing and, already, the piano-top is crowded with colorful expressions of love and friendship.

We open them eagerly – usually as we are eating our lunch, reading each message and the wonderful, newsy letters aloud.  Sometimes, I have that “we’ve turned into our parents” sort of flashback that becomes more familiar with each passing year.  Always, I save the envelopes with their return addresses – ‘just in case.’  A ridiculous habit, really, considering I just emptied the big bowl full of last year’s accumulation.

This is the third or fourth year that we (make that ‘I’) haven’t sent cards.  My exceedingly lame excuse is “no time” which makes no sense at all now that we are (make that ‘I am’) retired and, especially this year, with all those long days sitting at Nyel’s hospital bedside.  I’m pretty sure, too, that ‘social media’ and all the connectedness inherent in that phenomenon plays into my inertia.  We have never sent out cards ‘locally’ and, now, we are all closer to one another than ever.  Somehow I fool myself into feeling that Christmas greetings are redundant.

Even so, I feel a little guilty, especially as we bask in the pleasure of cards from near and far.  It’s a guilty feeling that extends right into to our little post office.  Not too long ago, it (the oldest continuously operated post office in the state) was threatened with closure and we were told that the volume of mail handled there would factor heavily in future considerations.  Now that so many of us try to buy into the save-a-tree concept, paying our bills online and even cancelling all those catalogues in favor of online shopping, it seems wrong to cut out Christmas cards, as well.

Still and all… our appreciation for all those greetings knows no bounds!  I keep vowing to send out Valentine’s Cards.  Maybe this year it will actually happen.

While Farmer Nyel was away…

Tuesday, December 5th, 2017

Pre-game Treats

Tetherball!  Carol taught those chickens to play tetherball!  Or more accurately, tethercabbage!  It might be Erik’s fault.  He volunteered to come up and clean out the chicken coop while we were off in Hospital Land, and Carol asked him if she could observe.  So she’ll know what to do next time.  (Please God.  Don’t let there be a next time.  Not a hospital next time.  Not soon, anyway.)

Carol reported that Erik regaled her with chicken stories while he was mucking out the coop.  And he told her that chickens like to play.  “Who knew?” she wrote me.  “Not I,” said the Farmer’s wife.  I learned about chicken ethics from that Little Red Hen – remember?  The one that wouldn’t let anyone else have any of the bread she baked because they wouldn’t help do the work.  I thought those Feathered Ladies were all about work… not play

Ready! Set! Play!

But, Carol was intrigued and decided to convert part of their run into a tetherball court.  I think that was done on Saturday or Sunday.  When we got home Monday evening, Tucker reported that he and Carol have not yet been privileged to see a game – or even a practice – but about a quarter inch of surface cabbage is missing.  Apparently pecked away during a righteous scrimmage.

Farmer Nyel and I have been trying to think if we’ve seen any playful tendencies among our girls over the years and we are sad to report that we haven’t noticed a one.  They love to work beside me in the garden and they are very curious about human visitors.  They are not crazy about any of the four-legged sorts that occasionally come around, though, and we could make a good case for their skills at hide and seek in those instances.  Otherwise… not so much.

Game Aftermath

One of our girls is in full molt just now – a legitimate explanation for No Eggs on her part.  Erik also says that when one hen enters molting mode, the others are often sympathetic and stop laying in some sort of fowl support.  Who knew?  And, who ever suspected that our friend Erik was a chicken whisperer?  Good to know…

Special Delivery!

Saturday, December 2nd, 2017

Mail Service!

According to the patient, “You know you’ve been in the hospital too long when you get a package via the USPS!”  Jorivic, Nyel’s Personal Care Assistant, said that in all the years he’d worked here at the UW Medical Center, this was a first!  It was big excitement up and down the hall!

It was from our Portland/Seaview friend, Ann, whose note said:  “Since I can’t bring the chocolate in person, the mail will have to do!  And ‘do’ it did!  Nyel didn’t waste a minute getting to the heart of the matter – two hefty bars of dark chocolate!  His favorite.

He kindly offered me some, but tempted though I was, I demurred.  That very morning, I had wakened to a situation that I very dimly remember happening to me once before, way back in high school.  A zit on the very end of my nose!!  Nyel, in his typical, loving way, put the best possible spin on it by christening me “Rudolph!”  No chocolate for me for a while!

Several other visitors in the last ten days have endeared themselves by bringing dark chocolate.  Nyel, ever generous, has shared; me, ever willing, has accepted.  I just hope my beacon disappears sooner rather than later!

Meanwhile, Nyel has made good inroads on Ann’s gift.  The first bar went fast.  The second he seems to be allotting himself more slowly – perhaps hoping to make it last until he is discharged.  Rumor has it that we could be on our way home before the weekend wanes!  I’m happy to light the way!!!

Oysterville Connections — Then and Now

Saturday, November 25th, 2017

The Holway Family, Next Door Neighbors

Katherine Holway Smith, an Oysterville neighbor in the days of our girlhood, came visiting for a few minutes yesterday.   Her brother Johnny and I were the same age – almost.  He was a week younger than I, but by the time either of us cared about who was older, he was taller and stronger and didn’t much give me the time of day and, probably, vice-versa.  I was more apt to play with his younger sisters Ruthie and Annie and maybe a little bit with Susie.  Katherine was the youngest and I remember feeling important when we older girls were asked to “keep an eye on her.”

The Holway family had close Seattle ties, especially with the University of Washington.  Their grandparents lived right near the campus in a house handy for their chemistry professor grandfather (in the very house Katherine and her family live in now, if I’m not mistaken) and it was their dad Ted’s connection with the biology department at ‘the U’ that brought him and his young wife to Oysterville in the 1930s.   Their Uncle Vance, a research professor of zoology, was also affiliated with ‘the U.’  When the kids talked about Seattle, I was fascinated.  My own family connections were mostly in Portland – not nearly as exotic in my young mind.

Transportation to/from Portland, early 1900s

Those ‘big city’ connections are still interesting to me. For the earliest settlers in Oysterville, the go-to ‘urban’ areas were San Francisco and, a little later, Portland.  With the main transportation routes by water, that made perfect sense – down the coast to San Francisco or up the river to Portland.  Plus, as my grandfather used to point out, Seattle “wasn’t much” until the end of the nineteenth century. He once showed me that on the map of Washington in the 1891 Encyclopedia Britannica, Oysterville was in larger print than Seattle – a sure sign of which was most important, he said.

Even getting to the Territorial Capital of Olympia was difficult.  In those early days, it required three steamers and three stage lines to carry mail and passengers from Astoria via Fort Canby, Oysterville, Bay Center, South Bend, Riverside (Raymond), Woodard’s Landing, North Cove, Peterson’s Point (Westport), Montesano to Olympia.  Total time for that incredible mail run: sixty hours, no doubt beating today’s record!

South Bend Train Depot

Despite the train to South Bend and steamer connections to Nahcotta by the 1890s, it wasn’t until roads and automobiles “came in” (as the expression went) that the Peninsula began to have a greater association with Seattle and other points north and east.  That was in “the teens and twenties.”  By the time young Ted and Virginia Holway came to Oysterville in the 1930s, Seattle had discovered us and vice versa.

Although it is changing these days, it still seems that folks with pre-automobile roots here on the Peninsula are more likely to have connections to Portland and those with later associations (since the days of autos and highways) are just as likely to have a Seattle connection.  Check it out, next time you meet someone whose family has been here “a long time.”

Oysterville Connections Past and Future

Thursday, November 23rd, 2017

Thanksgiving in Oysterville 2013

Even though there is the promise of a turkey dinner in the cafeteria and a hint of holiday atmosphere among the nurses and care assistants, it seems strange to wake up this Thanksgiving morning far away from home and family.  We are counting our blessings, nonetheless. Nyel and I are together and we are looking forward to better times ahead – surely more than many can say on this November 23rd in 2017!

And, even in Seattle, Oysterville has a presence!  Yesterday, our newest neighbor – so new we had not yet met him – came by to say hello!  Cardiologist Dr. Bert Green is now retired, at least from this Medical Center, but came in to introduce himself and have a short visit about Oysterville – a subject always near and dear to our hearts.  It was such a serendipity for him to stop by and we had to laugh that our first meeting was here in his old stomping grounds rather than over our shared fence in Oysterville.

The House of Neighbors Future

Later in the day Leigh Wilson stopped by – laden with imaginative gifts from paperback books and a warm fuzzy blanket (with a pass-it-on history), exotic snacks (organic pears and dark, dark chocolate) and great tales about big city living.  I can’t really remember how long ago Leigh moved from Oysterville – in some ways it seems ages and ages ago, but in others, it is like yesterday.

The House of Neighbors Past

No matter what, though, Leigh will always be a part of our Oysterville family – just as will Marilyn and Ann, Gail and Fred, Gretchen and Lisa, Ginger, Nancy, Hal and Diane, Larry and Marion, and Jean and John and the many who have “gone to their greater reward” as my mother used to say.  It’s another blessing we think of often – to live in a village where we know everybody and connections remain strong forever.  To have visits from a past and a future resident right here in the far-off University of Washington Medical Center, was an unexpected pleasure and a wonderful way to begin our stay here!!   The start to a Happy Thanksgiving, indeed!

Outside, Inside, Top to Bottom

Tuesday, October 31st, 2017


Yesterday, Nyel had two appointments at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) in Portland.  The first was a nuclear test to see if his DNA contains a certain kind of protein that would explain his Congestive Heart Failure.  The second appointment was with a cardiologist who was reviewing Nyel’s situation at the request of Dr, God (Nyel’s primary cardiologist whose team is associated with Emanuel Hospital).

The test took place in the Nuclear Medicine Department at Sam Jackson Hall at the top of “the hill” as the location of the main OHSU campus on Marquam Hill is called.  We’ve had long associations with that campus in past years and finding your way around is a Nightmare with a capital N.  If you go by car, as we did, finding your way hither and thither involves underground parking, several banks of elevators, sky bridges between buildings and maps and information desks at every turn.

OHSU Parking Map

Right here I need to pause to give a shout out to our friends Diane and Hal Buttrell.  Early in the morning, before Nyel’s release from two weeks of captivity at Legacy Emanuel, we received an email from Diane:  Can you use help with getting to the OHSU appointment? We know that they have dealt with OHSU more than most because of their granddaughter’s serious illness but… even so.  The offer was one of those ‘measures of friendship’ that are indescribable. We would have taken them up on the offer in a nanosecond had we not had two appointments and were then heading directly home – an all-day ordeal.

It wasn’t until we were at appointment #1 that we found that our second appointment with the consulting doctor was at the Bottom (with a Capital B) of the hill.  “Take the tram,” was the advice we were given. “It’s a construction zone.  There’s no way to tell you how to get there.”  Great.

There was a pretty brisk breeze outside (20 mph I heard) and  I am a weenie about heights — especially hanging-from-a-wire-heights.  We would have had to go down and then come back up for our car.  No way.  We fetched the car (four elevators, one sky bridge, two buildings) and gritted our teeth when our GPS took us (three times) to walled off areas full of hard-hatted-jack-hammer- guys, and finally found our way by accident and dumb luck.  It took 45 minutes (as opposed to the 12 minutes our GPS directions had estimated.)

Buddy System

Fortunately, he had time to spare, even accounting for our very slow walking progress once we left the car.  (Despite walking the halls at Emanuel, Nyel’s two weeks of being mostly bed-bound has left him very weak.  ‘Slow and Steady” are our operable words these days.)  We couldn’t help shaking our heads over the campus being all about sick people – the least likely candidates for negotiating the ups and downs and inside outs of it all!

Nevertheless, we liked the consulting doctor very much and have a follow-up appointment with him in three months.  Time enough to build our stamina and gird up our loins in preparation!

Flowers, Music, and Pumpkin Pie!

Sunday, October 22nd, 2017

Hospital Concert

All the way from Olympia they came!  The Bays Family Band!  Never mind that they were minus one important member, (Dad) Randal Bays, who was in Texas teaching at the O’Flaherty Irish Music Retreat.  And never mind that (Mom) Susan Waters didn’t arrive with her fiddle – “It’s right by the front door where I put it, ready to go!”

Brothers Willie and Owen brought (respectively) flute and concertina and serenaded Nyel much to the delight of the nurses on duty who filled up the doorway with smiles and foot-tappings.  There’s nothing more cheerful than a jig or a reel no matter where you are and, up close and personal in a hospital room, it was THE perfect rainy Saturday afternoon experience!


We hadn’t seen Willie since his fabulous experience as a Next Gen Monterrey Jazz musician last summer.  Nor had we seen any of the family since they went to Ireland so the boys could compete in the Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann in Ennis last August. Not only did we hear the highlights from three perspectives, but thanks to cell phone cameras, we got a glimpse of the Fleadh, itself, known in the Irish music world as the most important event in the traditional music calendar.

The conversation, as always, ran the gamut — from the egg laying slow-down of their chickens (and the total shut-down of ours) to the story of their new dog, Ivy — a four-month old rescue puppy from Hurricane Harvey — and Susan’s news of an AmericCorps worker who has been assigned to her on-going pollinator project.  (Besides being a ‘pretty face’ and a fine musician and a wife and mother, Dr. Susan Waters is a biologist working on pollination research.) Meanwhile, Owen had a stuck concertina key which he fixed and Willie corrected a screw-up on his YouTube application for the Grammy Band.  It was a jam-packed two or three hours!

It was an added bonus to get the first-hand evidence that 13-year-old Owen has finally surpassed my 5’2″ height and 15-year-old Willie is now up with the 6’2″ height of his dad and Nyel.  Wow!  And even beyond all that – they came laden with flowers and a complete pumpkin pie!  Wow again!


Later, after our guests had said their goodbyes, and after we had eaten the hospital dinner, Nyel used a plastic knife to cut the pie into eighths.  He and I each had one slice, along with a cup of decaf coffee from the nurse’s lounge, and then Nyel sent the rest of the pie to the Nurse’s Station for the staff to enjoy!  I hope they thought it as delicious as we did!

It was definitely a day to remember!  One of those “beyond the call” days on the part of the Waters-Bays family!  We can’t thank them enough!  (Plus, we’ve already had two inquiries as to whether there will be another concert today!!)

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!