Raise your hand if you remember!

January 27th, 2020

Learning About The Olden Days

“Do you miss teaching?” my friend, Miki, asked me.  “No!  Not a bit!” was my instant retort.  Since this is the first year of her retirement as opposed to my twentieth, I thought that maybe the question was more a reflection of her own feelings than an interest in mine.  But, as I thought about it, I back-pedaled a bit.

“Actually I don’t miss the job,” I said.  “But I truly miss the kids — the first, second, and third graders.  I miss the incredibly cogent things they say.  I miss their unfiltered look at the world.  I miss their artwork and their wonderful journal entries.  And I miss reading aloud to them and explaining ‘hard stuff’ and seeing those aha moments when it would all become clear.”

All Aboard in Kelso!

Miki nodded and murmured in agreement.  “Yes!  It’s the kids and the real teaching I miss,” she said.  “Not all the proscribed, lock-step, formulaic stuff that we had to test them on again and again ad nauseam.”

I don’t know if I said, “Yes, the things the textbook companies say are important and the testing companies are making millions from.  Corporate America has been in the classroom for a very long time.”  But even if I didn’t say it this time, Miki and I have had this discussion before.  And will probably have it again.

Easel Painting

Sometimes I think that public school teaching and our political system ran amok at about the same time.  I think both were better in the 1960s when I was yet a new teacher and a young voter.   I am thankful for those years — the years we could teach kids what they wanted and needed to learn (not teach them to simply pass tests) and we still felt that we could make a difference in the voting booth!

Raise your hand if you remember…


Hide-and-Seek and Other Childhood Games

January 26th, 2020

I have trouble calling these “the golden years.”  To me they seem more like the Hide-and-Seek years.  Increasingly, a large percentage of each day is devoted to “Where are my keys?” or “Have you seen the book I was reading?” or “What did I do with that letter from the insurance company?”

I try to remember my father’s advice: “A place for everything and everything in its place.”  It is helpful, of course, if I can recall what the “place” for a particular thing is.  But I would be willing to swear that anything smaller than the couch or the dining room table can and does join the on-going hide-and-seek game in our house.  I’m almost always “it.”

Although, lately, Nyel has been “it” a few times which is kind of scary.  I rely on him to know (and remember) where the pieces of our lives are.  “Look in the microwave.” Or “I think it’s on the arm of the Morris chair.”  Or “Did it ever get in from the car?”  Those are the responses I count on to point me in the right direction.

Another game I seem to play a lot these days is akin to Pick Up Sticks.  I am forever carefully sorting mail or laundry or groceries and putting each thing in that proper place Dad lectured about.  Carefully so as not to disturb the order of those things that are already filed away.  God forbid a bill that needs immediate attention should go in the pile of correspondence that may or may not be dealt with this month. Or even next month.

The other day at lunch, Cherry said she tries to shelve her books alphabetically like we did in the bookstore when she was working for us.  “Great idea!” I thought.  Even though I KNOW a book is on a shelf in my office, I can seldom lay hands on it without a time-consuming search.  I wonder if she alphabetizes by author or title?  Which would be more helpful?  And what about the other books in our house — probably more than 5,000 of them?

And suddenly I’m into Twenty Questions.  Do you think this is what is meant by getting childlike in old age?  Perhaps…

Harbingers, Marauders, and Resplendence!

January 25th, 2020

Here they come!

They’re popping up all over the place!  Daffodils!  The harbingers of Spring!

On the north side of our house, along the verge there are a gazillion shoots promising to bloom soon.  Some were planted by Nyel several Autumns ago.  And there are several hundred that were planted this last October by our landscaper friend Eugene Busenius.  Those include some that were a house gift in September from my cousin Lina in Austria, and dozens from Jack Downer — a gift to the Oysterville Restoration Foundation — and even more dozens from him as a gift to us.  Eugene was a trooper!  I hope he does a drive-by when they bloom.

Deer Candy

Other signs of Spring in our yard include lots of deer scat and the tell-tale nibbling on our camellias.  I don’t think there is a leaf in sight that doesn’t have a bite-sized chomp out of it.  They aren’t going to make  the most attractive bouquets in the world when they bloom — but there will be a story of two connected to them for sure.  “The Marauding Deer People of Oysterville” comes to mind.

Winter Promises

Thank goodness for the Rosamundi Rhododendron in our south garden.  She is  resplendent and flowering in all her glory — setting the bar high for everyone else out there.  And I can clearly hear her saying “Nya Nya Nyaa” to the deer people, much to the envy of the apple tree and the hydrangeas and, of course, the aforementioned camellias.

I keep telling all of them, “Worry not!  We are going to be SO ready for you whenever and however you show up!”  I hope they are listening!



Rainy Day Lunch and Laughter

January 24th, 2020

Barbara Bennett Parsons

We met at the Roo at High Noon — Cherry, Barbara, and I.  We hadn’t seen one another for years — certainly not all of us together — but we decided it was a lunch long overdue.  It’s not just that Barbara now lives in Hoquiam.  It’s not just that Cherry is still “working” — well, it’s volunteering but it’s every day, everywhere, on a regular basis.  Like a job.  And it’s certainly not just that I seem to always have more on my plate than I can get to.  No. None of these.

Barbara Bennett Parsons lived on the Peninsula in the 1980s.  Perhaps you remember her North Head Gallery where she sold her father Elton Bennett’s artwork as well as the work of other artists, mostly local.  Cherry Harding worked in the Gallery and later would work in the Bookvendor — first for Gordon and later for us.  It seems as if we’ve known one another always but, really how did we meet??

Cherry Harding

We tried to reconstruct all that over sandwiches and rice and bean bowls but we got stuck on the dates.  “When did you come to the Peninsula?” I asked Cherry.  “Let’s see… maybe 1989…”  “Really?  Are you sure it wasn’t ’79?”  “No….”  And we all laughed.  In fact, we laughed and talked and remembered all through lunch and, suddenly, three hours had gone by!

Missing was Sharon VanHuiet,  now living in California in a care facility.  And Lucille Pierce who, at 97, has given up driving here from Portland… “Not that the drive is difficult,” she said when she last came on her own two years ago.  “It’s just that I get so sleepy.  I know to pull over and take a nap for 15 or 20 minutes and then I’m fine.  But I have to do that so often nowadays that it takes way too long to get to the beach!”  But she promises to come in summer when her daughter will be here to do the driving.

Gordon Schoewe (1926-2014)

And we lamented our friends who are no longer with us — Gordon Schoewe and Charles and Kaye Mulvey and, of course, Cherry’s Jack.  “Did you ever know Maureen Mulvey?” Barbara asked.  “Such a warm nurturing, wonderful woman.  When I was a shy little girl and came with my folks [Elton and Charles were good friends] she always had time to visit with me.  All by myself.  That was a huge gift!”

Just as this gift of friendship is huge, I thought!  How wonderful that we can stay connected.  We decided we’d do it again in the Spring — maybe four times a year would be good.  “If we can remember…” Cherry and I said.  We put Barbara in charge of scheduling.  She’s younger by at least a generation!

And, besides everything else, the lunch was terrific!


The Long and The Short of It

January 23rd, 2020

Actually, when it comes to our up-and-back trip to Seattle yesterday, there was no short of it.  Just long and longer.  Ten-plus hours driving I-5 in the rain.  Five hours up (including two pit stops and a ham sandwich lunch break); six hours back with one fast in-and-out pit stop — traffic never at a stand-still, but a three long slow-downs between Seattle and Olympia. Two hours at the UMC Bone and Joint Center.

We liked the doctor, a specialist in orthopedic oncology  Not that Nyel’s missing hip etc. had anything to do with cancer.  It’s more a matter of which orthopedic specialists have the most experience/knowledge in reconstructing complex bone situations.  After much searching and being sent from one specialist to another this last year, we think that Nyel has finally found the “right guy.”   He was young, thorough, to the point.  He will be consulting with his colleagues.  In the meantime, all options are still on the table (so to speak) and he suggested that Nyel also aggressively pursue non-surgical options.  As in physical therapy.  Since we’ve exhausted the local possibilities, we are reaching out, first across the river and then we’ll see.

As we were driving back to the beach we learned that there had been a shooting in Seattle, not very near where we had been, but…even so.  Fortunately, we were oblivious while we were in the city.  Not like the time in February 2016 when I-5 was completely closed down between Olympia and Tacoma because of a shooter  running amok on both sides of the freeway.  That was truly scary.  This time, not so much.  But a chilling reminder that “the emerald city” is no different these days from any other area infested with gun-toting multitudes.

It was great to get home.  We warmed up Nyel’s made-from-scratch mac’n’cheese, counted our blessings, and talked about how to proceed.  There’s no place like home!  Especially after a long, stress-filled day!

Check, Double-Check, And We’re Off!

January 22nd, 2020

5:00 A.M. Alarm — CHECK!

Up, bathed, coiffed — CHECK!

Aunt Rye with Banty Chicks c. 1940

Pills taken, breakfast eaten — CHECK!

Chickens fed and watered — CHECK!

Lunches made, thermos of decaf filled — CHECK!

Books for inevitable waits ready — CHECK!

Car packed  — CHECK!

7:00 a.m. off to Seattle — CHECK!

We hope and pray that this specialist has some

Oysterville Stagecoach c 1880

positive suggestions for Nyel’s “next steps.”  It sure will be worth this and every other up-and-back trip to Seattle no-matter-what-and-weather-be-damned!  Cross your fingers for us!

But… does that apply to chickens?

January 21st, 2020

“Joy of Life” by Ni  Mao 

“There is a fine line between a genius and an idiot…” begins a quote by Ni Mao,  (or sometimes written Mao Ni) who is a Chinese author of xianxia novels.  I am totally unfamiliar with that genre or with author Ni Mao (or Mao Ni, as the case may be) either, but I really like the sentiment.  Especially when it comes to chickens.

Specifically, I’m talking about Snowhite here.  You may remember that she is the chicken who was pecked almost to death by her chick-mate when they were still hatchlings living under a heat lamp in our back forty.  For whatever reason, a somewhat older black chick — a bit bigger but still just a ball of fluff — took an aversion to Snowhite and pecked the top of her head down to the bone.  (Black Bart turned out to be a rooster that had to be re-homed with the help of the Auction Barn.) Dr. Farmer Nyel doctored Snowhite’s bloody skull, fashioned a little protective neosporine-lined helmet for her, and separated her from her nest mates.

She’s always been a bit different; I’m pretty sure she’s brain damaged.  Her eggs aren’t ever quite egg shaped and no matter how much calcium she gets, their shells tend to be fragile.  Too, she’s the one who got mites and is still half naked as a result.  She’s somewhat of an  isolate — not because the others don’t like her, but more because she keeps a fair distance from them most of the time.  (An actual no-brainer if you ask me!)


Lately, she hasn’t been going to roost with everyone else.  She hangs out by the coop door and when I come down to close everyone in for the night, she hops right out to the water trough for a drink of water.  Every night.  It’s weird.    And every night I explain to her that it’s bedtime, not an optimum time for getting drinks of water  (although, come to think of it, I remember when I was four or five, calling to my parents that I wanted a drink of water — which I didn’t. I just wanted to prolong the bedtime routine.)

This morning I thought it might be time to add to the water trough and, in so doing, found that the last time I’d done my water duty, I had neglected to return the safety cap to its resting place after I was finished.  Consequently, no water was getting from the tank to the trough.  Thank goodness it’s been raining.

Snowhite and Slutvana – Temporary Detente

It’s patently obvious that Snowhite has been trying to tell me about the problem for five or six days now.  Why else would she stay up until after roosting time and deliberately go over to the water trough each evening?  Here I’d been thinking “What an idiot!” when all along she’d been trying to show me that there was a disaster pending if the rains stopped.  I apologized profusely.  Who’s the idiot here, anyway?

Oh… and the last part of the quote is “…and that line is possibility.”  In this case, the possibility is that Snowhite is far smarter than I’ve been giving her credit for!  Way to go, Snowhite!

Martin Luther King Day

January 20th, 2020

Joan Baez in the Sixties

It was totally coincidental (but oh so timely!) that we watched the Neflix documentary “Berkeley in the Sixties” last night.  For me, there was a lot of déjà vu in the film — familiar faces, familiar places, familiar experiences.  This is the description that was on the CD sleeve:

University of California, Berkeley, alumni recount how their quiet school became the epicenter of 1960s campus activism, starting with the free speech movement and evolving into organized opposition to the Vietnam War. The students also championed civil rights, the women’s movement and the Black Panther party. Archival footage is interwoven with present-day interviews and songs by the Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, Joan Baez and Jefferson Airplane.

Mario Savio in the Sixties

In 1961 I was newly married to Marta’s father and I had just begun my first teaching job in Hayward, CA which is just 17 freeway miles south of Berkeley.  Although we didn’t know the term then, we were a ‘blended mixed-race family’ and had purchased a home in a Joe Eichler development — a development that purposely reflected the diversity in the Greater Bay Area. Eichler’s post-war philosophy of integrated middle class neighborhoods was on the cutting edge.

My husband Bill taught in Oakland in “the flats” — all black neighborhoods, though no-one used the term “ghetto.”   He learned of an after-school program for inner-city kids in Berkeley that was looking for volunteers, preferably teachers.  We went to a meeting with the organizer, UC Berkeley student named Mario Savio, and we signed up to work three days a week.

My assignment was to be the “adult presence” at an elementary playground where I doled out basketballs to kids — mostly middle-schoolers as I remember — who honed their skills and occasionally played work-up or had an impromptu game if enough kids showed up.  At six o’clock they helped me return the balls to the equipment closet, I locked it up, and we all went our separate ways.  Once in a while Mario, himself, would come by to ask “how’s it going?”

1969 – Sydney and Another Notable

As the sixties progressed, we would see Mario and other Berkeley students in the news.  We’d watch the confrontations and police riots with concern.  We’d root for the students and the activists and joined the peace marches.  We felt way too old (after all we were well over 30!) but we also felt much more kinship with the students than with UC’s President Kerr and the trustees and the uptight Governor Reagan.

As I watched the almost-familiar footage last night, I felt saddened and discouraged.  How hopeful we all were that we could help change the world!  And… here we are sixty years later.  Still hoping.  But now the operative words are  “to save the planet.”


Sunday Mornings At Our House

January 19th, 2020

First Presbyterian Church, Alameda

Even in retirement, Sunday mornings are different from all the other ayems of the week.  For starters, I never know whether to think of them as the last day of the weekend or as the first day of the week.  Both and neither, I guess.

I’m sure if I’d been a lifelong church goer — an eleven-o’clock-in-the-morning-dressed-up-and-nod-to-the-other-congregation-members sort of person — I’d have a different take on Sundays.  But maybe not.  I have a vague memory of my elementary school days in Alameda when I went to Sunday School at the Presbyterian Church every week with my friend Verna.  The walk was a little over a mile each way from my house.

Vespers 2017

I remember learning that “on the seventh day He rested” and I could see by the calendar that Saturday was the seventh day… So why was Sunday the day my folks “slept in” while I was sent off to color worksheets about Jesus and practice for the Christmas pageant?  As I recall, those Sundays ended the week, they didn’t begin it.  No question.

All my working years, whether or not I slept in (usually) or went to church (occasionally) or took a “Sunday drive” (often), I always considered Sunday the last day of my weekend.  Monday began the week — never mind how the calendar was arranged.  And, in the summers in Oysterville, even the Sunday afternoon Music Vespers Services seemed like a fitting end to the week.

Sunday was a day to laze around and read the Sunday paper.  (Remember those big comic sections?)  Sunday was the day for a big brunch or a special dinner — maybe roast beef or fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy.  Sunday was the day to think about and mentally prepare for “next week” which, of course, began the next day.

It’s still that way at our house — never mind the calendar.

A sad, sad situation…

January 18th, 2020

1952 VW Beetle

On this date in 1949 — 71 years ago! — the first VW beetle was introduced in America.  It would be thirteen more years — 1962 — before I got my first VW and then I had them more or less continuously until 1985.  Of all the cars I’ve known in my 67+ years of driving, the beetle has been the most memorable, most important, and actually, without peer.  If they were still making them, I’d surely be driving one.

As it is, we have a big, boxy, supposedly “safe for old people” Suburu Forrester.  It’s  “okay.”  But it’s not fun to drive — too many bells and whistles.  And it’s too big.  It hardly fits through our old single-car garage door.  So far, I’ve scraped both rear fenders and knocked the passenger mirror off.  (Well, not totally off.  But  I broke the outer housing; it’s only a matter of time.)

1968 VW Bug — The Best of the Best!

Granted, even back in the mid-eighties when I traded in my final VW for a Chrysler, I had been feeling a bit like I was riding a roller skate on the freeway.  Those eighteen wheelers, sometimes one on either side of me, were massively intimidating.  But, in all other ways, I loved my bug.

Air-cooled engine — no radiator worries.  Engine in the rear — no problems on minimal ice or snow unless.  Gas mileage — I don’t remember except that during the oil crisis of the 1970s, I was better off than most.   And best of all, it was small enough to tuck in almost anywhere on the crowded city streets of the Bay Area.

Sydney’s Super Beetle – Painting by Nancy Lloyd, 1980

The first VW bug I had was a ten-year-old ’52 with the split back windows and starter on the floor (I think.)  I actually “married into” that VW.  Marta’s dad had bought it used several years before I met him.  It was the first time I’d driven a four-on-the-floor transmission.  In the summer of 1968 I bought my own VW at the factory in Wolfsburg, Germany. Charlie inherited it when he graduated from high school just after I had picked up a ’74 super beetle in London.

I miss every one of those VWs.  I’ve had a number of cars since, and only the PT Cruiser came close to the satisfaction I felt when I was behind the wheel of the bug.  And maybe the Prius came close.  Meanwhile… I sure do wish there was a way to skinny down our present car — especially for entering and leaving the garage.