Archive for the ‘Rants and Raves’ Category

Out of the Loop

Saturday, April 15th, 2017

It was a quiet Friday Night at our house.  Only Tucker and Carol came over – neighbors bearing a bowl of delicious peanuts.  We offered “jumbo shrimp” (The ultimate oxymoron. Why aren’t they called prawns anymore?) and beverages, and the four of us munched our way through a rare opportunity for a companionable visit.  Our topics ranged from family news to the world situation and we speculated that most of our “regulars” were at the Town Hall Meeting in Long Beach.

I had actually learned through email and Facebook messaging that several friends were ‘abandoning’ us for the chance to attend a Democratic Town Hall with Jaime Herrera-Buetler – which sounded like another oxymoron to me.  I’m mildly interested in knowing if Rep. H-B appeared in person or if this was a video version of her telephone town hall the night beforehand.  We had received a phone call asking us to participate in that one, but we had declined.

I think we are burned out on the political scene for a while.  From the grass roots level right up through the world (and maybe interplanetary) situation, we are feeling out-of-synch and out-of-sorts.  And before the do-gooders and activists and rabble-rousers remind us of all manner of ‘shoulds’ and ‘musts’ and ‘don’t give ups’ let me say, “Been there.  Done that.  And probably before you were born.”

It’s not that I’m against staying informed.  Far from it.  But in this day and age I think I can manage much of the information-gatheriing from the comfort of my rocking chair.  I’m feeling like all those signs and banners and meetings and marches are up to others now.  I’d love to think that I’ve earned the right to be consulted for my wisdom but, of course, now that I’ve reached my octogenarian years, my ‘wisdom’ includes the knowledge that no one really gives a fig about it.  I wonder if that’s always been so.  Just lip service to reinforce the idea that experience and longevity have some value.

When in doubt, consult Google…  “influential elders in American history” I wrote.  Nothing substantive.  Just information about care for the elderly (say what?) or about influential Americans like George Washington who died when he was 67 (and don’t tell me that was ‘elderly’ then; many of my own ancestors from that time period lived into their 80s).  Nothing about revered little old ladies dispensing the answers to life’s problems…

So, probably this “wisdom of the elders” is just another hoax to keep us old ducks hoping and hopping.  Why am I not surprised?

Well, now I’ve done it!

Thursday, April 6th, 2017

Garden Helper

Yesterday we were back to cold, miserable, pouring down weather after two glorious days of sunshine.  I can’t say it was really warm outside on those back-to-back days – not California warm.  But it was pleasant enough for this fair-weather gardener to spend several hours getting rid of the buttercups and daylilies and the numerous other unwanteds and unknowns.  The soil was just the right consistency and, for a few minutes, I totally lost my mind.

Somehow, I decided that it must be time to plant nasturtiums.  Wrong!  But I did it, not giving thought to first soaking the seeds in warm water for twenty-four hours or, even worse, not waiting for the soil temperature to reach the recommended 70°.  The contents of four seed packets were probably totally wasted.  What an idiot.  I must have thought that the garden was experiencing some sort of greenhouse effect from this two-day surge of sunshine.

Last Year’s ‘Mastershalums’

It wasn’t until the middle of the night that I woke up with a start think about Winnie the Pooh and mastershalums and what I had done.  The Pooh Bear might not have gotten the nasturtium name quite right, but he probably was more patient about planting them.  And when he did, he was totally confident about what would result:  “…I planted it, and I’m going to have mastershalums all over the front door.”  I wish I could say the same.

              A few minutes after I had determined that I was an idiot and had wondered how I could get a handle on the soil temperature in our south garden, I did what any computer-savvy gardening simpleton would do.  I Googled soil temperatures in Washington State and found that I had probably tucked those poor little seeds into a 40° garden bed.  I am so sorry.  I have all sorts of fanciful solutions – heat strips, hot water baths, a line of sunlamps – none of which is going to happen.

Soil Map

The good news is I now know where to find out how the soil temperature is coming along.  And I also know that Kathleen Sayce will tell me an even better way — maybe I can simply stick a thermometer right into the dirt.  Mostly though, I probably need to just wait patiently.  Or maybe plant something that isn’t so fussy.  Primroses are always good.  Until the deer notice

I Think I’m Unravelling

Saturday, April 1st, 2017

Raggedy Ann

It occurs to me that I’m probably unravelling.  Not in the metaphorical sense of losing my mind, but in the absolutely literal sense of coming to pieces bit by bit.  Not a finger here and a toe there, though.  I’m coming apart as if I were stuffed with cotton batting and had somehow sprung a leak.

No one ever mentioned it to me when I was growing up.  No doctor has ever told me that my innards were different from those of other people.  Maybe that they were more like Raggedy Ann’s than Margaret O’Brien’s.  But, how else is there to explain the little white bits and pieces I seem to strew about without even realizing it?

Margaret O’Brien

I probably wouldn’t notice even now were it not for our wall-to-wall cranberry carpet.  Acres of cranberry color underfoot.  Since we seem to know a lot of people who enjoy spilling red wine now and again, we feel that it has served us well these last twenty-five years.  But now that I’m leaving stray snippets of myself from one end of the house to another, I’m becoming disenchanted with its color.  White on cranberry is just too obvious.

Before you jump to the conclusion that this problem is but a minor and ‘normal’ scattering of lint, perhaps caught on my clothing or left behind by visitors, let me assure you that I’ve been studying the problem for some time.  Even when I am in the house by myself, even on the rare occasions that I gallop around naked as a jaybird on a freshly vacuumed carpet, the lint appears.  And it’s getting worse.

Poised for Pursuit

I’m considering a new floor covering.  Not that I think the problem will be solved, exactly.  But I seem to remember that when a carpet is new, it more or less repels the detritus.  Perhaps we should consider a different color.  Or a different texture.  But, if in fact, I’m just fraying at a faster pace, it might be wiser to invest in a new vacuuming system.

Mostly, I wonder if this condition is just one more example of the “secrets of old age” that my mother alluded to but never explained…

A Point to Ponder

Wednesday, March 29th, 2017

“If the County is so damned broke, why are they continuing to pursue Dan Driscoll and Oysterville Sea Farms?  How much drain is their current court appeal on the county?”

We ‘ve been asked that question many times since last week’s banner headline in the Chinook Observer:  Money cliff nears for Pacific County with the sub-head Top official: Worst situation in her 30-year career.  I imagine there will be some letters to the editor in today’s paper asking the same questions.  I hope so.

We’ve certainly been pondering that question ourselves.  But not out loud to anyone who could give us an answer.  We gave up on that long ago.  There is undoubtedly some cosmic law regarding perfectly intelligent, well-meaning people saying one thing when they run for office and another as soon as they are sworn in.  Those of us who ask questions are suddenly ‘outsiders’ and don’t understand the full implications yada yada yada.

Pacific County Courthouse

Personal Privacy vs Full Disclosure?  Maybe something like that.  Whatever the reason/excuse/pretext is, it seems endemic to public officials and public employees in general to begin their jobs with good intentions and end up giving us folks outside the loop answers in governmental gobbledygook.  Like ‘these dollars’ can only be used for ‘this purpose’ or that the State makes increasing demands of Counties without commensurate financial compensation.

But I don’t think the Oysterville Sea Farms situation comes under those sorts of budget constraints.  Nope.  This is a home-grown affair and, as I see it, it’s sucking up a lot of our tax dollars.   Money that could go toward keeping staff positions that may otherwise be threatened with layoffs.  It seems a no-brainer for the County to drop their appeal and save the money

Dan Driscoll

As a result of this blog, I’ll likely hear from both sides of the OSF equation.  I hope not. We’ve had ten long years to listen to the pros and cons. We’re tired of the bureaucratic answers.  In fact, we’re tired of the bureaucracy – the entire convoluted process.  And we are dead tired of wondering how much money the County has spent on this unpopular pursuit of one of our most popular Oysterville residents.

Whatever happened to the of, by and for the people?  You’d think in a County the size of ours, we could get it right.  But, no.  We ‘outsiders’ seem destined to just keep pondering…

Two Down, Forty-six to Go

Tuesday, March 14th, 2017

San Rafael High School Bulldog

As I watched the news last night I wished vaguely that I had taken Mr. Dressier’s physics class in high school.  I’m sure there is some principal or other that applies to the persistence of the talking heads in thinking that our country’s leadership is going to turn some corner in the hallowed halls of the White House and come smack up against their senses.  No matter how consistent the tweetings and twitterings from the seat of government, there seems to be this hope-springs-eternal mentality among the mainstream media.  Frankly, I’m sick of it.

So what is that principal, anyway?  Inertia?  According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary for Kids (my particular physics speed), inertia is “a property of matter by which it remains at rest or in unchanging motion unless acted on by some external force.”   When speaking of inertia and human activity, synonyms include “idleness, laziness, shiftlessness, sloth.”

Well… I hardly think the PBS news team can be said to suffer from any of those negative descriptors.  In fact, I admire their industry very much.  It’s the reluctance on their part (and on all of our parts) to stay stuck in the rut of what we are used to.  For some reason we are all still agog that ‘things’ are different from ever before and that there are so many breaks from historical precedence.

Clearly, the folks in the Other Washington who are calling the shots (or trying too) are not troubled by inertia.  So, the rest of us, including the news media probably need to look at the Laws of Chaos and the Laws of Order.  I know even less about those “Universal Laws” than I do about Physics.  I wonder if Mr. Dressier could have helped?

Order and Chaos

It’s disheartening when watching the news sets me off on one of these pointless rambles.  I think I’ll give it all a rest for another little while – until things get back into some sort of alignment and the mainstream news stops lamenting and breast-beating and being amazed at the same-old same-old.

About Time to Spring Ahead

Friday, March 10th, 2017

Isn’t it always the way?  Just as you’re seeing a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel –well, actually, at the beginning of your day if you get up early – it’s time to mess with your clocks again.  It’s true that we are early birds.  We get up before our chickens, at least in the winter.  And right now, in mid-March, the sky is just beginning to lighten at five in the morning.

We sit and sip our coffee and watch our garden take shape as the day arrives.  It’s always a time of promise – a time of renewed energy.  We plan our day more enthusiastically than in mid-December or mid-January.  Our conversations begin to touch upon new projects and plans that will take us beyond our huddle by the fire.  Spring is almost here!  And then, with the flip of a calendar page and a backward turn of the clock dial… we are back in the darkness before dawn.  Damn!

Only Hawaii and Arizona (except for the Navajo Nation which is on federal lands) stay on standard time year-round.  Other states have petitioned Congress to stay consistent – either on or off DST. Reasons vary.  Most have to do with energy conservation but here in Washington, bills to end DST filed by Rep. Elizabeth Scott (R, Monroe) in House and Senate cite that the semiannual time switches are not only inconvenient but lead to health problems and accidents due to lost sleep.

Who knew?  She says that the bill to drop daylight saving time would reduce heart attacks, car wrecks and work accidents found to increase with the sleep-schedule disruptions. But, wouldn’t you know… a different Senate Bill would petition the federal government for year-round DST. As far as I know, neither the pro nor con bills have made much headway.

I’ve mentioned the debate to our girls in the coop but they are remaining neutral on the entire controversy.  Their days follow the sun – or on cloudy days, the light – and they don’t need a clock (or even a rooster) to tell them when to wake up or go to roost.  Smart.  We could take a lesson from them, no doubt.

Meanwhile, once we set our clocks forward at midnight day after tomorrow, we will need to wait until April 10 for our morning glimmer to come back to us as we are drinking that first cup of coffee.  Of course, it will be light later each day but, for a morning person such as myself, it’s simply wrong.  Another case of messing needlessly with Mother Nature.  We just can’t seem to leave her alone, can we?

The Art of Waiting

Thursday, March 2nd, 2017

Nyel Waits Patiently

There’s a lot being said these days about where our educational system has gone wrong or what we need to do better to prepare our youth for the future.  We read about the need for teaching critical thinking skills and that there should be a requirement for learning how to participate in civil discourse.  I couldn’t agree more.  But, right now, I’m thinking that one of the most important life-long learning necessities is How to Wait Patiently.

When you come right down to it, we probably spend as much of our lives in waiting than in any other single activity.  I’ve read, for instance, that the average person spends 38.5 days in their lifetime brushing their teeth, 101 days driving, and 25 years sleeping,   Granted, these are all activities we might be doing while we are engaged in waiting… but when waiting is the primary focus, how should we do it productively and with grace?  Those are the questions.

Waiting is much on my mind because, when it comes right down to it, being in the hospital – either as a patient or as a loved one – is all about waiting.  Since Nyel’s admission on Monday afternoon, we have been waiting for his system to be purged of an old medication, for a new medication to take hold and, ultimately, for all systems (including the doctor’s schedule) to be a “go” for a cardioversion. Well, actually, we are actually waiting, ultimately, to go home with Nyel in better fettle than before.

Sydney Waits Productively (?)

Current estimates are that the ‘procedure’ should occur around 2:30 this afternoon.  Once accomplished, we will wait to see if it his heart is back in the intended rhythm and then we wait to see if it will stay there until our next hospital procedure on March 15th. The operable (so to speak) word in all of this: wait.

To the best of our ability, we are waiting patiently, if not totally productively.  Nyel has been doing crosswords and watching the news on TV.  I’ve been working on the sequel to my Ghost Stories book (thanks to the possibilities of online research) and trying to keep abreast of emails and FaceBook messages.  We have also seen two of the movies offered on the “in-house TV menu’ – “White House Down” and “Reacher.”  And, of course, we eat (except not Nyel since midnight last night), we sleep, we listen to nurses and doctors, and we try to stay positive.

My only conclusion:  Waiting is hard.  It ought to be at the top of the basic learning list.  You know: ‘W and the Three Rs’.  Or wait (ahem!).  Is that a music group?

…up to and including the very end…

Monday, February 27th, 2017


For the first time in memory, we watched the Oscars from beginning to end last night.  It was the best show ever.  Jimmy Kimmel was spot on.  The recipients were spot on.  The parachuting candy, cookies and donuts were inspired, and the busload of wide-eyed tourists was a fabulous touch.  Right up until the end, the entire show was perfect.

And then… confusion, a mis-announcement, a hurried (but too late) correction and I, for one, was left feeling completely deflated.  How in the world could Warren Beatty have received the wrong envelope?  And how could he not have noticed that it had been opened before?  Or had it?  Perhaps it was the duplicate of Emma Stone’s previously announced win – the envelope that is “held in abeyance” just in case.

Just as I remember from the earliest Oscar ceremonies that I listened to on the radio – ‘before the advent of television’ as we used to point out – the accounting firm, Pricewaterhouse (now PwCoopers) is in charge of security. Brian Cullinan and Martha Ruiz, two partners at PwC, are the ones responsible for tallying the votes of the more than 7,000 member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. They not only count and tally the votes, they also make out the certificates, prepare the red envelopes and bring them in two identical, locked briefcases to the Oscar ceremony.

Martha Ruiz and Brian Cullinan of PwC

The process they undergo to ensure the names of the 24 winners don’t get out before the ceremony is arduous and, during the show itself, Ruiz and Cullinan stand just off-stage on either side and hand the respective envelopes to presenters just before they walk on stage.  So what in the world happened to cause such a screw-up?

I went to bed last night – probably like a gazillion others – with mixed emotions.  Mostly, I felt sorry for the crew of “La La Land” and thought that they were amazingly gracious about the whole thing.  I can’t imagine feeling so overjoyed, so confused, and so let-down – all within minutes and on camera!  An award-winning bit of improv theater on all their parts for sure!

Oscar Host Jimmy Kimmel

And… sure enough!  This morning I see that PwC is taking full responsibility.  Warren Beatty was mistakenly handed Emma Stone’s best actress duplicate red envelope.  (Emma Stone still had the original.)  In a process that is designed to be foolproof and has worked for the past sixty-seven years, how could there be such a screw-up?

The answer, my friends, is that shit happens.  Even in the world of magical glitz and glam.  If nothing else, it will be an evening long remembered right down to its improbably anti-climactic finish.  I commend every one of the actors – all winners in my book!  Jimmy Kimmel was right – why can’t they all have Oscars?

Hopeless in Astoria?

Saturday, February 25th, 2017

FisherPoet Venues in Astoria

We spent the morning coffee hour trying to figure out the logistics of attending the FisherPoets Gathering in Astoria tonight.  Hopeless.

With seven venues and three to five time slots per place and three poets per time slot… tonight’s schedule is more than daunting.  Factor in the parking possibilities, weather (icy cold, windy, 100% chance of rain) and our ages and conditions (old and infirm) and it’s a logistics nightmare.  Plus, we are wanting to see certain performers – Geno Leech and Mary Garvey and Irene Martin and Hobe Kytr and Patty Hardin plus The Brownsmead Flats and Spud Siegel – some of whom are onstage in different venues at the same time.  I don’t know how to choose.

The FisherPoets Gathering is always on the last weekend of February which coincides pretty closely with my birthday.  On stellar years – those with a 5 or a 0 – we often have a Big Birthday Bash and we have to miss out on the Astoria excitement.  But this year our plan has always been FisherPoets or Bust.  Or, it was until we started trying to figure out the where, when and how of it.

“We’ll have to eat dinner at three o’clock right before we go,” I said.  That did not go over well. (Did I mention the problem of being set in our ways?  That is one of the subheadings under the “old” category.)

“Or we could eat afterwards… a midnight supper,” was the counter-proposal.  That didn’t go over well, either.  It’s hard enough to stay up past my 8:30 bedtime.  Eating in the wee hours and risk the heartburn consequences?  No way!

Whatever happened to spontaneity and going with the flow? How did we get so locked into routines and ruts?  When did life begin to revolve around creature comforts instead of new and exciting experiences?  Sad.  Very sad.

As the plan stands now, we’ll bundle up, go early, try to park in place nearby one or two of our venue/poets of choice, and eat when we can.  Right now, at six in the morning, it does not sound like a good time.  Hopefully, my ambition and stamina will build as the day unfolds…  Or, we could wait for the movie.

Finishing Up My Dink Year

Friday, February 24th, 2017

In four more days it will be my birthday.  Not a stellar one but, nevertheless, it marks the end of yet another year and the beginning of the next. Even though I have lived ‘quite-a-many’ it’s still a stretch for me to think that celebrating number 81 will really mark that number of years that I have lived and breathed and that the following day I begin on 82.

As always, I am looking back on what I accomplished this year.   Pretty much nothing.  I had plans to finish up my House Inventory Project, do a re-write of my book about Willard, and get the first draft of a new book underway.  I dinked around with all of those things but there was no finishing up, no closure.  In my mind, it was a Dink Year – sort of the octogenarian equivalent of a young person’s ‘gap year.’

I think those gap years are supposed to be a positive thing – an opportunity for a high school graduate, for instance, to ‘find’ himself.  Actually, that’s how lots of us perceived the purpose of our college years when I was coming up.  Now, though, the Gap Year has become a Big Deal. But I often wonder why big sighs accompany parents’ remarks about the status of their Gappers.  Is such a year really helpful?

The Gap Year concept began in the United Kingdom in the 1970s as a way to fill the seven or eight month gap between final exams and the beginning of university. The intention in the UK was for that time to contribute to the development of the student usually through an extended international experience.  It shouldn’t be surprising that when the Gap idea arrived in the United States twenty years later, it took on a life of its own.  We Americans have a way of putting ever good idea on steroids.

Here, the Gap Year embodies every manner of program and opportunity imaginable, both domestically and internationally, all with the shared purpose of “increasing self-awareness, learning about different cultural perspectives, and experimenting with future careers.”  I’ve also heard that they serve to “mitigate a sense of academic burnout” – another new age concept that takes the place of the “suck it up and get a job” attitude parents had back in my day.

I don’t know if most young people view their Gap Years as successful.  On the plus side, when you are just flirting with your twenties, you can probably afford a year to take a break.  Not so much at my end of the spectrum.  I wish I could look back at my Dink Year as a good thing instead of a year of wheel-spinning and time-wasting.

On the other hand, I have four more days to finish up SOMEthing.  I wonder if reading a good book (instead of writing one) would count.