Archive for the ‘Rants and Raves’ Category

Making Lemonade Some More

Thursday, February 14th, 2019

The Stove Saga continues at our house.  These are the things that have happened since Samsung finally returned our purchase price (fourteen months after the fact):

  • Found the perfect dual-fuel stove, American-made, with known local repair folks available – just in case
  • Back-ordered
  • Came early
  • Delivered but can’t install until 110 outlet is changed out to 220 (today?)
  • Discovered it’s not the stove model we ordered
  • Dealer apologetic. Pushed the wrong button on his computer
  • Will pick up incorrect stove (today?)
  • New (correctwehopetogod) model back-ordered
  • Will arrive at the end of the month

Meanwhile – the gas cooktop of the impaired Samsung continues to be useable, but not the oven.  However, after a year of making do with microwave, roaster oven, slow-cooker and various combinations of the above, we’ve become adept at making lemonade out of all those lemons life has been throwing at us.

And lest you be tempted – we’ve had it up to here with clever suggestions, advice, and even sympathy.  Just send money.

“Judge not…”

Thursday, February 7th, 2019

Barge Hall, Central Washington University

It occurs to me that I was brought up with a lot of conflicting standards.  Well, maybe not “a lot” but certainly with a few that have prevailed.  Take “judge not that ye be not judged…”  I’m sure I heard that at home as well as in Sunday School.  On the other hand, my mother often corrected my grammar by saying, “you can tell a lot about a person by how they use the King’s English.”

It was understood (somehow) that the “King’s English” wasn’t an expression to be taken literally, but was meant as a pinnacle to which I should aspire.  I think I did all right.  I don’t remember any specific suggestions for toning down slang in my high school years though she could easily have done so.  I’m quite sure that when my mother was a teen, my grandmother must have monitored her usage along those lines,  although I have only indirect evidence.

In a postscript to a letter written to her oldest daughter, Medora on September 25, 1914 my grandmother said:  Please don’t use that word “rotten.”  It is as vulgar and unladylike as gosh or other of the Amy Saves expressions. I spent a lot of time when I was writing my Dear Medora book trying to run down the “Amy Saves” reference, but couldn’t find it.  I think it was probably the title of a book or magazine serial popular with teens of the time.

All of those thoughts flew through my head this morning as I read of the false alarm concerning the shooter at Central Washington University.  Once I had determined that everyone – including students I know from here – were safe, I scanned the reports to see what, exactly, had happened.  What jumped off the page were the words of a student (unknown to me) who had been interviewed:  It’s nerving, freaky. It’s just like spooked, like freaked to go to school tomorrow.

My knee-jerk reaction was, “as, I’ve long contended, not everyone should go to college.” and immediately those “judge not that ye be not judged” words came galloping to mind.  My belief that we should be providing many alternative options to our young people hasn’t changed.  I’m just sorry that these horrendous circumstances are what triggered my thought.  Mostly, I’m thankful that everyone is safe and am clapping and cheering for the efficient way campus authorities handled things.

One Can Pinto Beans

Wednesday, January 30th, 2019

When I saw “1 can Pinto beans” on the grocery list Nyel handed me, I’m sure my eyebrows went up to their maximum height.  We don’t do cans.  Not usually.  Except for canned diced tomatoes and canned tomato sauce, unsalted, that we order by the case from Mark Bolden at Jack’s.  They don’t, as a rule, stock unsalted canned goods plus, that’s one of the few canned things we buy.

We don’t buy packaged processed foods either.  Or those frozen ready-to-heat-and-eat things.  I tried a TV dinner back in the fifties and all I could taste was salt, sugar, and chemical preservatives.  Periodically, my friends tell me, “Oh, those frozen meals have come a long way since then, Sydney” and so I try some specially recommended item.

Chalk it up to jaded palates, but neither Nyel nor I have hit on anything we’ll repeat.  Except Costco’s meat lasagna that has become our signature offering at House Concerts.  Any uncertainties on our part were outweighed by the onerous task of making lasagna (which we love!) from scratch.  Most everything else, though — from scratch it is!

“How come?” I asked about that can of beans.  “We have plenty of dry beans.”


“Well, our slow cooker has sprung a couple of leaks…”  He didn’t have to say more.

Thirty-some years of marriage means I could fill in the blanks.  Research into a replacement slow cooker (or instant cooker or…) will be thorough and time consuming.  Meanwhile, one can of pinto beans, thoroughly rinsed, will have to do for the tostados he’s wanting to make… Works for me.

And, so it was yesterday that I had to go up and down the aisles at Jack’s looking for that can of pinto beans.  I hardly ever veer away from the outer edges – you know, the produce (which seems to be shrinking) and the dairy and the meats, so the canned good aisle is a mystery to me.  I managed everything else just fine – radishes, green onions, slicing tomatoes, romaine lettuce (but I had to get red leaf; that’s all there was), green pepper, cucumber, a package of sourdough English muffins.

Quesadillas for Dinner!

Barbara Poulshock was behind me in the check-out line.  We chit-chatted about the usual – her choir, the weather, grocery store sticker shock.  “You’re eating mighty healthy,” she said, glancing in my basket.  I smiled…

She must not have seen those pinto beans!

An Attack of The Cheaps

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2019

Piggy Bank

Periodically I have an acute attack of what my cousin Alice called “The Cheaps.”  It can happen at any time – like when you decide to get a less expensive, non-preferred brand of something-or-other at the grocery store which you know will be a mistake but…  Or when you make that house repair a do-it-yourself project instead of hiring a professional (also usually a mistake.)

When you are living on a fixed income without a lot of discretionary wiggle-room, an attack of the cheaps most often comes along to interrupt daydreams.  You know the kind.  A trip to Paris just to revisit old haunts.  Or theater tickets and an overnight at a schmancy hotel in the big city.  Or even (and I hate these particular attacks) when you think a dinner out at a favorite local watering hole might break up the monotony of winter.

Right now, both Nyel and I have caught the infection.  It didn’t come out of nowhere this time.  We’ve been working up to it, somehow.  Much like a winter cold that gets to the point of putting you to bed for a day or two.  I think it started when Nyel began getting the income tax stuff together and thinking about how much money we spent last year and for what.  He made lists of categories and added up columns of numbers and divided by twelve and subtracted outgo from income.  It was interesting, though not particularly revealing.  Mostly, it was depressing.

United States Coast Guard Motor Life Boat CG-44381 at the National Motor Life Boat School, Cape Disappointment, WA — still working without pay

Then came the idiotic government shutdown.  Not that we get any money from the feds.  Quite the contrary.  But our friends and neighbors stationed at Cape D are feeling the pinch.  Our local food banks are trying to help.  So are various grocery stores.  An editorial in the Observer urged landlords to cut tenants some slack.  There is an extra layer of worry and concern in the community.  And even though our leaders in the other Washington are talking in terms of billions and even trillions – none of which really computes for me – it all translates into belt-tightening here at our house.

Beyond that, of course, is the feeling that none of us is safe.  Not from financial crisis.  And not from the worry that life as we know is not all that secure.  I don’t know if wearing my frayed and faded Levis for a while longer will make any difference, but when it came to getting a new pair… I thought of Alice and convinced myself that tattered is a fashion statement – even for an octogenarian. And I wondered, once again, if my meager savings would be better kept under my mattress…

MLK Day! Just another Monday holiday?

Monday, January 21st, 2019

Maybe it’s just me, but I think that when most of the federal holidays were changed to Mondays, they lost some on their rai·son d’ê·tre.  Today is a great example. According to

In 1968, shortly after Martin Luther King died, a campaign was started for his birthday to become a holiday to honor him. After the first bill was introduced, trade unions lead the campaign for the federal holiday. It was endorsed in 1976… Martin Luther King Day was first observed in 1986, although it was not observed in all states until the year 2000.

It is the last of our eleven federal holidays to be established and the only one that was designated after the Uniform Public Holiday Act was passed in 1968.  Until that time, we honored most Federal holidays on specific dates – no matter which day of the week it was from one year to another.  It always seemed to make more sense to me.  To my way of thinking, it would be more meaningful to connect January 15th to Martin Luther King because that was his birthday — not whichever date turns out to be the third Monday in January.

Those Mondays seem impersonal to me.  They don’t much inspire a desire to learn more about the man or the boy for whom January 15th, for instance, was always a special day – not the third Monday in January for heaven’s sake!  And besides which, the third Monday in January is widely referred to as Blue Monday – the day when seasonal affective disorder and general winter blahs may be at their peak – or so I read on another online site,

That article went on to say:  Despite catching the popular imagination, Blue Monday has little to no scientific backing. It was conceived in 2005 by self-described “psychologist, life coach and happiness consultant” Cliff Arnall at the request of a British travel company. Arnall claimed to have used a mathematical equation to find the saddest day of the year, albeit with one major caveat. His calculations were based on Northern Hemisphere weather data, allowing the travel agency to suggest that taking a trip south of the equator was the only surefire path to mid-January bliss.

Yep… just another money-making ploy.  Which somehow I think is probably true of all federal holidays – at least the Monday ones.  Judge for yourself!  Here’s the 2019 list:

New Year’s Day,  Tuesday, January 1
Inauguration Day, Every Four Years, January 20
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day,  Monday, January 21
George Washington’s Birthday (incorrectly called by some “Presidents’ Day”), Monday, February 18
Memorial Day, Monday, May 27
Independence Day, Thursday, July 4
Labor Day, Monday, September 2
Columbus Day, Monday, October 14
Veteran’s Day, Monday, November 11
Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, November 28
Christmas, Wednesday, December 25

So, Happy MLK Day and Happy Shopping!  Or am I being too cynical?  (And how many of you remember the original holiday dates for some of those Mondays???)

About that grocery list…

Sunday, January 20th, 2019

Nyel and Sydney, 2012

“It’s better to laugh than to cry” is always my motto.  Take yesterday, for instance.  Nyel and I were planning an “outing” (his term) to make the “dreaded CostCo run” (my term, especially right now since Nyel can’t leave the car without more wheelchair and walker fall-dee-rah than either of us can manage.)  I was doing the lunch cleanup; Nyel was sitting at the kitchen table making a shopping list.  This is how it went:

Me – I think we need tea.

Nyel – Pepper jack?

Me (a little louder) – No, not cheese.  Tea.  With a ‘T’.

Nyel – Oh, yes. Peas.  See if they have those little ones – the petite pois.

Me – (a lot louder) – No!  Tea!  Like what you drink now instead of coffee!

Both – gales of laughter.

Nyel and Sydney, 2018

We came home with the tea and the peas, but I forgot the cheese entirely.  Nyel already has hearing aids from CostCo but he hates them.  Unfortunately, they don’t have memory chips for humans yet, but if they did, I’d undoubtedly forget that, too.

Noreen, Nordstrom’s, and Nowadays

Thursday, January 17th, 2019

BIG but Too Small

“It ain’t like it used to be” is almost a mantra in our household these days – a sure sign that we’ve grown long in the tooth and, probably, not gracefully.  This morning it had to do with Nyel’s current foot and shoe problems.

Although he has his surgeon’s okay to put weight on his foot, he is finding it impossibly painful to do so.  As in so many problems to do with health and lack thereof, the reasons for this are probably multiple, arthritis being the main culprit.  For years now, Nyel has worn custom-made orthotic inserts in his shoes which help alleviate said pain but, currently, his left foot is so swollen that he cannot get his shoe on.  The reason for the swelling says his primary care doctor is “a combination of surgery aftermath and his congestive heart failure problems.”  Great.

First Nordstrom Store Seattle

“Maybe you’ll have to have a custom-made shoe,” said I (helpfully, I hoped.)  Nyel already wears a size 13 Triple E which is the largest he’s been able to find in the type of shoe he needs. There was a long silence following my suggestion.  You know – that kind of silence which tells you that you have been the opposite of helpful.  But then the conversation segued into “remember when Nordstrom used to specialize in foot and shoe problems?”

Nyel got his first Nordstrom credit card (which they won’t let him use anymore) in 1966 – just three years after the (then) 55-year-old store had begun carrying some items of women’s clothing.  They had started as a shoe store, Wallin and Nordstrom, in 1901 and prided themselves on service.  As we “remembered” all that, Noreen came into the conversation.

Noeeen Robinson (1925-2006)

Noreen Robinson had suffered from polio as a child and it left her with disparate sized feet.  She once told me that she had always purchased her shoes at Nordstrom – the left shoe and the right shoe each from a different pair.  And even though they had to break up two pairs to make the sale, Nordstrom’s only charged her for one pair.  Noreen swore by Nordstrom!

Now that they are digitized, incorporated, up-scaled, and out of our network, we doubt that their customer service extends as far as it did in Noreen’s time.  But… maybe it’s worth a phone call to see what would be entailed in getting a custom-made shoe.  Especially if elevating, wrapping, icing, and all other shrinking methods don’t work.  But… I suspect we’ll find “it ain’t like it used to be.”

Can we ever get back on track?

Sunday, January 13th, 2019

Presumably, our Founding Fathers thought through every contingency when they designed our Constitution.  That balance-of-power thing?  And the checks-and-balances thing?  And all the oversight contingencies?  What the hell happened?

We seem to have become a nation of slogans.  “Make American Great Again.”  “Me Too.”  “Lock Her Up.”  “No More Thoughts. No More Prayers.” “Stronger Together.”  And on and on and on.

Meanwhile, our friends and neighbors are not being paid, our food is not being inspected, our prisons are not being funded, and the nominal leader of our country confuses his own fictions with fact  and is incapable of telling the truth.

When I was a child, our shining moral example was the story of George Washington and the cherry tree and “I cannot tell a lie.” It seems a sad commentary on our nation’s “progress” that the story has now segued into a scowling man and a wall and “I cannot tell the truth.”

I really don’t care about where we went wrong.  I’m much more concerned about how we can get back on track.  Fast.  Before it is too late and there are no trees left at all, cherry or otherwise.

Joined at the Hip

Tuesday, January 8th, 2019

Miki and Me

Last night I went to a meeting at Ocean Park School with my friend Miki.  I felt like I had stepped back in time about 30 years.  Sort of.  Of course, the school has been remodeled since then, the educational staff is for the most part unknown to me, and the community members who attended probably were students, themselves, 30 years ago.

But, aside from those small details, there was a lot of déjà vu to the evening.  Miki and I attended dozens of such meetings back in the early ’90s.  The reasons might have been a little bit different, but they were still billed as a desire by the school district to get community input.  Last night it was “reconfiguration” that was under consideration.  In the early 1990s it was a multi-graded first, second, third grade school that was being considered – also a reconfiguration of sorts.

That time, it began when, on a routine school visitation, School Board President Admiral Jack Williams came into my first-second-third grade classroom (the only one at Ocean Park in those days) and was amazed to find that he couldn’t tell who were the ‘youngers’ and who were the ‘elders’.  He couldn’t distinguish their ages at all – not by size, not by the work they were doing, not by their behavior.  He asked if he could come again.  And again.  Admiral Jack was smitten.

Multigrade Classroom – 1992

“Why can’t all the primary classrooms be like this?” he asked.  We talked.  Then Miki and I talked.  Then we spoke to the superintendent, only to find that Admiral Jack had put in a word or two way ahead of us.  The game was on!  We met with teachers, first, to see if there were enough like-minded folks – teachers who understood that every child learns differently and at his or her own rate of speed and that mixing up ages in the classroom works in all sorts of magical ways.

Meetings and meetings and meetings later, the multi-graded school was created.  It lasted about as long as the turnover to the next superintendent – a stick-up-your-butt traditionalist who wanted every six-year-old “where s/he belonged – in first grade.  Period.”  I (probably viewed as a trouble-maker) was transferred to another school.  Miki, ever the diplomat, stayed on at Ocean Park – and still she is there with a “blended 1-2” class, doing what she believes in as she readies herself for retirement… maybe.

Meeting at Ocean Park School, Jan. 7, 2019

And now… the reconfiguration being considered is more along the lines of the whole district — perhaps K-2 at Long Beach, 3-4 at Ocean Park, 5-7 at Hilltop and 8-12 at the High School.  However, most of the people sitting near us were in favor of keeping ‘neighborhood schools’ much as they are now with K-5 at both Ocean Park and Long Beach.  The sticking point seems to be that they’d be one classroom short at Ocean Park School. And a portable would cost money.  And arranging for one class to be “off-campus” (perhaps at the library) would be a safety concern.  And never mind that the numbers will change with time…

Am I glad I went?  You bet!  It was the best visit Miki and I’d had for years!

The Age of Slippage

Sunday, January 6th, 2019

1969 – Sydney and Paul (before slippage)

More and more frequently there are pauses in conversations with friends that are punctuated by their irritated comment, “Right now the name escapes me…”

“Welcome to my world!” say I.  In our house we call it the “age of slippage.”  We stick our tongues out at each other for corroboration that there is something right on the tip of it.  We blurt things out hours later when it’s no longer appropriate but… you have to capture the thought when you can.  And, we often say things like, “I told you about that just this morning.”  But, did we?  You couldn’t prove it by me say I.

More frequently than we’d like to remember (even if we could) we head from one end of the house to the other but by the time we get there we can’t remember the why of it.  Sometimes, the easiest path to total recall is to go back to the beginning.  Fine for me.  Harder for Nyel as long as he’s in this wheelchair.

Nyel and Sydney, Summer 2018 (Mid- Slippage?)

And there’s that whole piece of “losing” things.  Mostly, it’s a simple case of misplacing or of not putting something back where it “belongs.”  Usually, we find whatever it is…  eventually.  However, we never have found Nyel’s car keys.  It’s been almost a year now since they disappeared.  But as son Charlie says, “It’s not losing the keys that matters.  It’s when you find them and you don’t know what they’re for that you have a problem.”  I hope they’ll turn up before we enter that stage in our slippage.

On the plus side, though, my memory usually works pretty well in past tense. I remember the names of my childhood friends (Jackie, Joyce, and Robert)  and the name I gave my bike (Faster) and the name of my dog (Zipper) and the name of our 150-year-old desert tortoise (Nebuchadnezzar.)  Closer to recent times – like in Charlie’s childhood – I sometimes need a little memory jog.

“Happy 96th!” Sydney and Mom, 2007 (Learning from the Queen of Slippage!)

Like with all those cats we had. I remembered the one who gave birth to four kittens without a pause as she walked down the hallway.  That was Sadie.  But Charlie had to remind me that the quintessential mother cat, who nursed 13 kittens one spring without comment, was named Zorba.  And right around the same time, we had a cat named Hecate.

And speaking of slippage – I thought I started out with a point to this blog.  It sort of escapes me now…