Archive for the ‘Rants and Raves’ Category

Shoes, Pennies and Portents

Tuesday, August 15th, 2017

Our Black Stove

Okay.  I think the shoe we’ve been waiting for has finally dropped.  Or is that a penny?  Whatever it is, it’s the third one, as in ‘things happen in threes.’  First it was totaling the Prius.  Then it was our garage door going belly-up.  Now it’s our kitchen stove.

I do have to admit that we’ve had both the garage door and the stove for a long time.  In fact, the garage door guy said that ours was at least 40 years old (which might have been twice as old as he was) and is not only unfixable, it’s not up to current codes.  Our stove, on the other hand, is only about twenty years old – clearly a case of built-in obsolescence.

The stove, a Jenn Air Dual Fuel, has been on the fritz for a long time – something to do with the electrical circuitry.  Our appliance guru has done as much as he can with it.  Now the oven and all the control panel ‘buttons’ have quit completely and, though we can manage with just the gas stovetop, we don’t really want to.

Or, how about red?

But, there are certain parameters for a replacement stove.  First, it has to be a downward venting stove; there is no other possibility unless we do a serious remodel to the kitchen, which is not an option.  Second, it has to have a gas cooktop; non-negotiable according to Chef Nyel.  Third, it has to be black; otherwise, say I, our entire kitchen needs to be re-done and that is impossible – see the first parameter above.  And, finally, it has to be affordable – which means mid to low price-range – none of these fabulous custom-built or imported models.

We’ve completed our online search and find that there might be one or two that fit at least three out of four of our requirements.  (It may be the color that is the sticking point – wouldn’t you know.)  I should also say that we’ve had lots of advice and heard many cautionary tales from friends.  We are probably on IGO – Information Gathering Overload.  So, today we are going across the river to see a few options up close and personal.

I am not hopeful.

Another Bluesy, Woozy, Newsy Friday!

Saturday, August 12th, 2017

At Bailey’s Bakery and Cafe

As is often the case, we planned our day (insofar as that’s ever possible!) over our morning coffee.  As usual, the discussion was mostly about what and where we were going to eat, and since it was Friday and the appetizers that folks bring for our weekly gathering usually serve as dinner, we only needed to talk about lunch.  We hadn’t been to Jayne’s (Bailey’s Bakery and Café) for a very long time and were hankering after one of her sandwiches.  We decided, in the interest of Nyel’s low salt diet – and with the thought that half would be better than all — that we would split an “Italian.”

We walked up to the counter, mouths already watering, and Jayne greeted us with. “Before you order, take a look at the sign board there,” and she pointed to a white board with the shocking message that henceforth she would be serving only baked goods and drinks.  Soup during the lunch hour.  “Say what?!?”

“My two helpers have gone back to school already,” she said, “and without them, I can’t manage the sandwiches.”  Seeing our disappointment, she pointed to the ‘Specials’ board and said, “I can do you a tuna wrap, though.”  Done.  But our moods turned a bit toward the blue side of an otherwise gray looking day.  Damn!

Jayne’s Baked Goods

“Do you think this is a permanent situation?” we dared ask.

“It depends how much I enjoy being stress-free,” she smiled and proceeded to ring us up, and head back to her work area to fill our order.  Damn!   Being a savory-rather-than-sweet sort of person, that was bad news, indeed, for me.  On the other hand, I don’t know anyone who works harder than Jayne and deserves a break more.  And, the tuna wraps were fine – probably even delicious by some standards – but when your mouth waters for one thing and you end up with another… Well, you know how it is.

As things turned out, I didn’t even get the full advantage of the appetizers later in the day.  I came in late to my own houseful of people – Nyel ‘holding court’ for a dozen or more friends who we hadn’t seen for several weeks.  That was due, partially, to a couple of Fridays of Nyel in the hospital and to the exotic traveling of several of our friends.  My tardy arrival was due to an interview for the series of ‘heart stories’ I’m doing and so, by the time I arrived, the evening was in full swing.  And I think that a few of the appetizers were all but gone – though I couldn’t swear to it.  Too much going on, too much laughter, too much fun!

Friday Night Conversation

There was lots of news among our friends, too – not on signboards except if you count the certificate Tucker brought to share telling (I think) that he had successfully participated in a hot air balloon ride during his recent trip to Germany.  Though he described his adventure in some detail, I didn’t get my usual sweating palms thinking of the height part.  Not like when Kenny described climbing up the ladders during a rainstorm at Mesa Verde a week or so ago.  Been there, done that (though not in the rain) and not only did my palms sweat, but I felt a little woozy… glad I was on terra firma in the safety of my own home and among wonderful friends!  I do love our Friday Nights!

Taking Flight in Oysterville!

Friday, August 11th, 2017

Steve and the Test Pilot

You could have heard a pin drop.  The classroom absolutely thrummed with  concentration.  Twelve young scientists hard at work making… paper airplanes!

It was about 9:30 yesterday morning and I had walked over to the Oysterville School at Diane Buttrell’s invitation.  “Come on over to the Science Academy and see what the kids are up to.”  It was an open invitation and it just happened that yesterday was the day that one of my Oysterville neighbors, Steve Romero, was serving as GE, Guest Expert.

I’m not sure precisely what his topic was – I walked in after the class had begun.  But it seemed like an engineering class to me – or a class in aerodynamics.  Already, after just a half hour into their day, the fourth graders were using terms such as ‘lift’ and ‘thrust’ and ‘nosecones’ and ‘ailerons’.  One youngster served as the test pilot – with Captain status.  They were experimenting with shapes and designs – what did wider wings do?  How about narrower?  Double wings?

Did a plane with a blunt nose do better than one with a pointy nose?  One young scientist attached a paper clip to his plane’s nose.  “Oh!  Good idea!  Let’s see what the extra weight does,” Steve encouraged.   And how about a bigger body?  Or more ailerons?  What if we turn the ailerons up?  Or down?

Diane Buttrell, Founder and CEO – Oysterville Science Academy

In between, the GE suggested kids speculate, analyze, predict, experiment.  He wrote findings on the board – dictated by his fourth-grade engineering crew.  Good results: a happy face.  Poor results: the opposite. How do you spell aileron?  Someone look it up, please.  And all the while, he complimented, expressed amazement, gave suggestions and tested some of the planes himself.  And dignified every single response! When a student chose to not follow directions, Steve pointed out the innovation that had been made and praised that, too.

A teacher extraordinaire!  In the 39 years I taught elementary school, I had many opportunities to observe other teachers – student teachers, colleagues, master teachers, college demonstration teachers.  Great teachers, poor teachers, mediocre teachers.  Steve Romero could hang out his shingle with the best of the best. Why am I not surprised?    This is a man who does well at whatever he sets hand and mind to.

The Oysterville School

Last winter, for instance, he decided to learn how to make pottery – bought the clay, bought the glaze, bought the wheel, set up the garage…  His pots are fabulous!  He’s interested in wines, especially champagnes.  His collection has been sampled by a French champagne vintner.  For nearly two decades he had his own software company in Portland and was recently bought out by e-Bay.  He grows mushrooms in the woods behind his house and, along with his wife, Martie, made fabulous macramé curtains for the windows in their new house.

Is there anything Steve Romero won’t try or doesn’t enjoy?  If there is, he hasn’t let us in on it yet.  He never ceases to amaze.  And those Oysterville Science Academy kids were one lucky group of engineering students yesterday!  I doubt that they have even an inkling.  But I have no doubt that the lesson designing paper airplanes will be long remembered.

About that hole in my doughnut…

Thursday, August 3rd, 2017

Garage Door

“Why do you always look at the dark side?” he asked me.  Why, indeed?  We were having a discussion.  Actually, an argument.  Over, of all things, the garage door.  After forty-five years of faithful service, it had finally given up.  Off its trolley… Motor dead…  Halfway up…  Halfway down.

It wasn’t that either of us opposed getting a new garage door.  We are agreed that it’s high time.  In fact, we’ve been putting it off for years and the poor, old, tired mechanism apparently decided to make the decision for us.  We lost no time in calling for help but it wouldn’t be forthcoming until Friday at the earliest. The ‘discussion’ centered around what to do in the meantime.  Leave the car out and the garage door stuck in the open position or…

My Dad – Bill Little, 1981

I, of course, skipped directly to the “but that would leave our house vulnerable” scenario.  That was the dark side to which my practical husband was referring.  And… I had to agree with him.  I do always look at the worst-case scenario.  I think it must be some sort of insulation against disaster if and when it comes and, of course, the great relief (usually) when there is a much better outcome than I have imagined.  Plus, I come by I naturally.  My grandmother was a worrier.  So was my dad.

A prime example of my usual attitude is the “Stories from the Heart” series I’m writing for the paper.  I almost dreaded seeing the first one in print.  I had visions of all the bigots and racists coming out of the woodwork in response.  I cannot tell you how gratified I am that the reaction is the exact opposite.  Concern, and requests to help have come pouring in –, by phone and email to me, personally, and on FaceBook in ‘conversations’ between people I don’t even know.  I am so glad!

My purpose in writing the stories has been to shine a bit of light on those in our community who are desperately afraid and are feeling confined to the shadows.  It never occurred to me that readers would respond by sending money or by asking how to help.  For the record, though, there is a group (working title:  People Power Immigrant Advocacy) who are trying to get a GoFundMe account up and running for the families in need here in our community.  In the meantime, contributions for families in need can be sent to “Stories from the Heart,” 12912 N Alley, Long Beach, WA  98631.

As for the garage door – in a mighty burst of energy, Nyel managed to get it down after the car was safely in last night.  I, of course, am already trying to figure out how to keep various commitments at the other end of the Peninsula if the car is now trapped. And maybe I need to go to the bakery for a doughnut hole or two…

…and another ‘rule’ bites the dust!

Tuesday, August 1st, 2017

Yes or No?

What with the real news, the fake news, the old news and the new news – it’s hard to keep up.  Case in point:  As the sun became more reliable this summer and we found time to be out in it more often, we replenished our sunblock.  Wrong!  Wrong! Wrong!  As it turns out, dutifully slathering ourselves in this protective lotion causes more skin cancers than it prevents!  Who knew?

According to an article in, California scientist Dr. Elizabeth Plourde has provided proof that malignant melanoma and all other skin cancers increased significantly with ubiquitous sunscreen use over a 30-year period. She emphasizes that many sunscreens contain chemicals that are known carcinogens and endocrine-disrupting chemicals. And, lest we are not comfortable with that bit of news, an extensive Swedish study found that women who avoid sunbathing during the summer are twice as likely to die as those who sunbathe every day.  (Which does beg the question — do the others not die?  Well… maybe something was lost in the translation.)

Sydney – 1940, Before Sunscreens

Suddenly, I find myself feeling guilt-free concerning all those years before sunscreens and sunblocks – the years when we smeared cocoa butter all over ourselves and laid by the pool in the California sunshine, tanning and staying on the lookout for cute boys who might make eye contact.  Not that I fully believe the ‘studies,’ You don’t get to my venerable age without learning that, given enough time, the research will reverse itself.  As in, remember Saccharine?  And Red Dye No. 1?

But…wait!  It seems that every time I turn around, I find various sunscreens and sun-blocks being advertised and touted.  I even heard a friendly public service reminder about summer slathering on our public radio stations.  You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to wonder how strong the ‘sunscreen lobby’ is and why we are still being encouraged to “apply liberally and often.”  Must be some powerful companies.  Oh, yeah… Johnson and Johnson is one.  ‘Nuff said.

And, once again, I’m back to the advice given me from my earliest years:  Moderation in All Things.  Mothers (at least in my generation) were always right!

Really? When did THAT happen?

Sunday, July 30th, 2017

At Bay and Vernon, Not So Long Ago

We discovered it was gone yesterday afternoon.  Nyel noticed it first – if you can be said to notice something that’s not there.  No flashing red light on the Bay & Vernon intersection in Ocean Park.  We weren’t sure when it went missing, having been away for all of the previous week.

Later, I mentioned it to a group of people at Adelaide’s where Colleen was having a ‘do.’  “Oh, yes!” said one woman.  “That’s been gone for a couple of months now.”

“Really?” said her friend.  “It’s gone?  The one at Jack’s corner?  I go by there almost every day.  I can’t believe I haven’t noticed.”

Now, An All Way Stop

I’m not sure the “couple of months” is correct, but the whole situation clearly shows that the flashing light was superfluous to our lives – at least traffic-wise.  We automatically stop there and if there is a car stopped on the street to our right, we let them go first.  What good did that flashing light do, anyway?  Now it’s replaced by four stop signs that say “ALL WAY” just in case you can’t figure it out for yourself.

The biggest use the flashing light ever got (besides being a measure of IQ) was as a landmark to visitors coming north from Long Beach.  As in, “Travel north on the highway until you come to the flashing red light; then turn right” (or “left,” or “continue on,” as the case might be).  I hope replacement isn’t in the plan.  I think that “at the four-way stop by Jack’s” should work just fine.

Gone! July 29, 2917 at Bay and Vernon, Ocean Park

As for IQ points – there was a saying (still viable, according to some) begun in the days when Ocean Park and Long Beach schools were serious rivals – back in the day when they were both K-8 schools.  Long Beach kids razzed Ocean Parkies by saying that you lose ten IQ points every time you go north through the light.  (Actually, in those days it might have been a stop sign…)  Ocean Park’s answer, of course was – “We go north on the back road so it’s not a problem.”  And sometimes they added, “And besides, every time we flush, Long Beach gets another drink of water.”

Small towns!  You gotta love ‘em!  Especially our small towns here at the beach!

Midst the Hospital Hustle-Bustle

Wednesday, July 26th, 2017

Late Monday afternoon, Nyel’s nurse snagged an idle wheelchair and suggested that we might like a visit to the Children’s Garden just off one of the main halls on the first floor.  We didn’t need a bit of prompting!  We were in the elevator and heading four floors downward before you could say “Never Neverland!”

We had been within the temperature-controlled hospital for days and, even though people coming in from the greater world had said it was hot out, we were unprepared for the wave of warmth that greeted us as we entered the garden.  Fabulous!  In combination with the lush greenery and the sound of dripping, splashing, flowing water from various fountains and ‘water treatments,’ the effect was magical, indeed.

We meandered slowly along the paths, stopping here and there to take a picture or just to sit and enjoy the lushness.  Favorite childhood characters were everywhere – a larger-than-life Tinman (holding Dorothy’s slippers) was my favorite.  Peeping out from the foliage were life-like sculptures of wading birds and frogs and other little creatures that almost made you want to whisper so as not to disturb them.

Here and there we passed other visitors, all adults as it happened.  Perhaps the time of day – dinnertime-ish – was not optimum for children.  Or, maybe, the garden was simply intended to evoke the rediscovery of childhood for all of us.  If that was the intent, it was totally successful for these two old folks – even though Nyel has always insisted to me that he never was a kid.  As I watched him smile at one garden discovery after another, I knew that well-worn idea simply wasn’t true.  Either that or, more likely, he’s well into his second childhood!  Me, too, and it’s not at all a bad place to be

The ‘feels like’ Report

Monday, July 24th, 2017

One thing about spending time away from home – even when it’s in the hospital – you have an opportunity to see a whole new selection of television channels.  Not that we are big watchers.  Usually a couple of hours in the evening – PBS News Hour, Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy, Big Bang Theory and, now and then a Ken Burns special.  And, I have to admit, it’s not really what you’d call “quality watching.”  Lotsa nodding off, especially on my part.

Here at Emanuel Hospital in Portland, not only are all the channels and their programming highly mysterious, the powers that be have it rigged so that you have to see some Good Health Programming on the hospital’s “Get Well Network” before you can get to the rest of it.  The first time around, those messages were tolerable.  But now that we seem to be taking advantage of the hospital’s revolving door policy, the messages are getting a little old.  Perhaps I should write a note suggesting they change their presentations occasionally.

But being forced out of our TV comfort zone (for lack of a better description) is sometimes illuminating.  The other night, for instance, we landed on a news program coming directly from the Midwest.  Same- old, same-old news, perhaps with a bit of a right-leaning slant, but the weather report was what really amazed us.  Apparently, it was hot there, but how hot we never found out.  The attractive weather reporter kept saying that “it feels like 96 or 97.”  Yes “feels like.”  What it was on the thermometer was never reported.

In Oysterville we are quite familiar with the “feels like” weather reports – but not coming from a national news channel.  Our “feels like rain” commentaries are more likely to be made one friend to another, perhaps while at the post office getting the mail.  Or, in the winter, it could be “feels like snow.”  But when it comes to temperature… not so much.  We do talk about how cold it feels relative to the wind chill factor – but that report always includes the actual Fahrenheit number as well as the ‘feels like’ temperature with the wind velocity figured in.  It is not a ‘feels like’ standalone like we heard on that news report.

We should have taken note of the channel and the specific news program so we could check it out again.   Maybe it was just a substitute news reporter doing the best she could.  Or maybe that channel is on the cutting edge.  Maybe they are reaching beyond fake news to ‘sensitivity news’ – not how it is, but how it makes you feel.  You know… like ‘Congress appears more alert today’ or ‘England seems lonely this morning’ or ‘it’s feeling a lot like world peace now.’

I guess the best we news consumers can do is to be alert.  Real, fake, or sensitive –in the long run it’s what we can see, hear and touch for ourselves that matters most.  Or so we hope.

Far be it from me…

Sunday, July 23rd, 2017

They are slow to reveal themselves to me – those ‘secrets of old age’ my mother used to speak of.  She never actually identified what they were and I assumed they had to do with the inevitable decline in one’s physical abilities that were never discussed in ‘polite society.’  You know.  Those problems that ultimately lead to purchases of shoes and clothing with Velcro fasteners or maybe to exploring the choices for Depends® and other “Adult Incontinence Products, Underwear, Pads & Protection.”  YIKES!

No matter what she was hinting at, I knew that I would never learn precisely what she meant.  She was of the generation (and maybe I am, too) that believed there were only certain subjects that were fit for open discussion.  The biggees to be avoided in public, of course, were sex and politics. One never  broached those subjects, even with friends, no-matter-what.  But there were definitely other topics that weren’t discussed beyond a one-on-one conversation.  Certainly not at the family dinner table.

These days, of course, all bets are off as to what is acceptable conversation — at dinner or otherwise.  No longer is that the measure of what is acceptable to speak of out loud and in public.  And for good reason.  No longer is “family dinner table” a standard.  Period.  I can’t, in fact, wrap my head around the concept that there is at least one entire generation that hasn’t ever experienced “around the dinner table” as a regular part of daily life. One statistic I read said that the average time spent around the dinner table sixty years ago was ninety minutes.  Today, it is twelve!  Not much time for polite conversation or even for conventional manners.

So… I’m thinking that one of those secrets mom referred to is the slow-but-sure change in our entire way of life and those mental adjustments that go with it.  The changes in values and mores are happening faster than we oldsters can accommodate – a fact of life we’d just as soon not deal with.  I’m not sure we could, even if we wanted to.  Too many little subtleties lost.  Too many new attitudes coming from too many directions, I think.

Not a new thing, to be sure, but certainly an escalating one now that technology has entered the picture.  My folks used to marvel that the world their folks had grown up in went from the age of horses to the age of airplanes and that they, themselves, had watched Neil Armstrong land on the moon.  What they didn’t talk about were the day-in-and-day-out mental adjustments and accommodations that they had to make in the name of progress.  Those, undoubtedly, were some of mom’s ‘secrets.’

Or maybe it’s just that they were not a generation of complainers.  Maybe mom’s reference to those secrets was her way of saying “suck it up!”  Back to that old adage of accepting what you cannot change – even if that means those insidious results of ‘progress’ that we begin to experience and lament as we grow old.  The things that younger people don’t want to hear – actually are incapable of hearing until they, too, grow old.

The Tree Time of Year

Friday, July 21st, 2017

On I-5

I wonder if anyone else who lives in this neck of the woods (ahem) thinks of Joyce Kilmer at this time of year.  The trees on this western edge of the state are now out in all their glory and, although his poem has gotten a very bad rap over the years, I still give him a silent nod as I look around on these green and gray and golden summer days.

I think “Trees” was the first poem (other than nursery rhymes) that I ever ‘learned by heart.’  It was Miss Hamilton in fifth grade who had us all learn it, and I remember it being a revelation in many ways.  For starters, I was surprised that Joyce could be a man’s name.  My neighbor Joyce was a freckle-faced girl and even though I, myself, was named after my great-uncle Sidney (an ‘i’ for boys, a ‘y’ for girls, I was told), I had never extended that concept to any other boy’/girl names.

In Seattle

Furthermore, although I knew what a poem was, it had never occurred to me that an object such as a tree could be called one.  Same with comparing earth with a mother’s breast (and never mind those boys in the back of the room giggling and snorting into their notebooks.)  I was also quite amazed to learn that my parents and even my grandparents also knew that poem – my first realization that there might be a universal interest in and knowledge of poetry or of any other literature for that matter.

Along I-5

Later – much, much later and even to this day – I read severe criticism of Kilmer and his poem.  Of course, I read recently, “Trees” is a notoriously awful poem. It is singsongy and saccharine. Its imagery is preposterous…  Probably true, but you know what?  I don’t care.  I still recited it softly to myself — maybe more than once — yesterday as Nyel and I drove from Oysterville to Seattle to do some errands, and then from Seattle to Portland where he will be admitted to the hospital this morning.  The trees were gorgeous.  They softened our view and they lightened my thoughts.

In Prtland

I also remembered the woman from Texas who stopped in to see my mother after a trip to Alaska.  “All those trees,” she said.  “I am absolutely sick of trees.  I don’t care if I never see another tree!”  OMG!  I can’t imagine what a barren world it would be without them!  What if all the roads and streets we drove through today looked like Bay Avenue in Ocean Park?  I truly hope that some fifth-grade teachers out there are still encouraging kids to memorize “Trees.”  Maybe, just maybe, it will make a difference somewhere, someday.  We can but hope.