February 29th, 2024

February 29, 2024

Gobsmacked Sydney Laden With Birthday Wishes From Tucker And Carol!

This is a (totally inadequate) THANK YOU to my many friends, loved ones, acquaintances, blog-followers. book fans, and others who sent me birthday greetings on my Facebook Timeline yesterday.  I haven’t even had time to read them through properly yet, but I just want you and the world to learn how touched I am by your birthday wishes.  Some of you, I’m sorry to say, I don’t even really “know” and some of you I’ve only admired from afar for years, not dreaming that you knew of me at all!  Wow!

Also, I wish to give a special shout-out — and on behalf of all my writer friends — to those of you who mentioned my articles and columns in the paper, my blogs, or even my books.  For those of us who never expect NYT Best Seller status but write because we are passionate about our subject no matter how limited the readership, it is so lovely to get feed-back now and then.  I honestly have little idea whether  anyone reads my “words of wisdom” and I loved the affirmation from some of you!

As for my Big Piano Key Day — I spent it almost exactly as intended.  I didn’t want to do anything but hole up in my office and write, surfacing now and then for refills on coffee and for a bit of food.  In my excitement at this rare opportunity, I even forgot to put out the garbage (oh well!) but I did take phone calls and text messages — mainly because a friend had been taken to Portland in the wee hours yesterday and was undergoing open heart surgery for most of the morning.  The updates were infrequent but I didn’t want to miss any and the latest news is that she came through with flying colors.

In answering the phone, however, I scored many other birthday greetings — at least four of them in song from musician friends in Oregon, Washington and Arizona!  What a delight!  One call was from Tucker who asked if he could come over
for just a minute.  He sounded stressed and I was concerned about Carol who has been laying low with a cold, so I said,

Me with Marta and Charlie last summer — we didn’t get a zoom shot last night.

“Sure.”  He dashed between the raindrops bearing a dozen long-stemmed red roses, a birthday-frosted cupcake with a special candle, a lighter-gizmo for said candle, and a handmade card!  AND he was apologetic about the flowers because he had had to choose them, Carol being a bit out of commission.  OMG!  I was so touched.  Plus he took a picture — several of them at my insistence — after all I hadn’t even taken time to wash my face, let alone put on a bit of makeup all day!

But I did accomplish some writing tasks that were important to me and so the day was super-successful.  It wasn’t until my “Zoom Birthday Party” with Charlie and Marta last evening that I was aware of all the Facebook greetings.  “Mom, do you know that you have over 90 birthday greetings on your timeline?” Charlie asked.  And this morning when I finally took a look, the number was 100!  Gobsmacked is all I can say!  Gobsmacked and Thank You All!

Tomorrow just look at me and think… piano!

February 27th, 2024

February 27, 2024

Flowers From Charlie

Yep!  Tomorrow a piano and I will have a lot in common — and thankfully, it’s not our legs!   It’s the number 88!    Ye.ars for me, keys for the piano.  I was thinking about that today and remembering that once, long ago — maybe 80 years ago – my grandmother gave me the most fun treat.  I don’t think it was for a special occasion — more to keep me amused while she was busy doing something important.

She gave me a package of Nestle’s chocolate chips and told me to put one on each of the white keys of the piano.  Once I had done that, I was instructed to take one at a time, pop it in my mouth, and play the note it came from — in any order I wanted.  Well, of course, they were only for the 52 white keys.  I don’t think I knew about white chocolate then or surely I would have asked if we couldn’t do the 36 black keys next time.

Chocolates From Marta

I’m not just sure why that memory popped into my head except that I have had several birthday cards arrive which I’ve displayed on the top of that same old piano.  AND Florist Nansen delivered an absolutely gorgeous bouquet this afternoon from Charlie and pointed out that there were a couple of packages on the porch bench for me — which I did halfway open.  One had a gift card from Marta — a box of See’s Molasses Chips (speaking of chocolates) and the other what appear to be two lovely pinkish colored lipsticks — also I assume from Marta!  (We’d been having a discussion about chapped lips and she suggested.., and, of course, I never followed up, and so she did!)

Well, in any event, I can clear up all mysteries tomorrow evening when we have a ZOOM birthday get-together.  (I’ll try not to eat any of those Molasses Chips in front of them — if there are any left!)  What a lovely day to look forward to!  How incredibly lucky I am!


Birthday Greetings Atop The Old Piano


Wow, Fred Carter! Just… WOW!

February 26th, 2024

Fred Tunes His 37 Strings!

As promised, Fred arrived a bit early on Sunday.  He and Vicki unloaded and unloaded and unloaded their vehicle — three guitars, one banjo, one dobro, one mandolin  — plus his spiffy ipad that has all the words. a stool of just the right height and a mystery box (that I, for one, didn’t really notice until well into the second set.) He got right to work — tuning all 37 strings!

And the audience began arriving.  And arriving.  And arriving.  We had to get more chairs and even snagged a couple of tall stools from the kitchen.   A FULL house!  Forty counting me (but not Fred.)  I probably didn’t keep a well-updated list — I thought we had 30 coming.  I couldn’t have been more pleased!

Fred played each of his instruments and told a little about it — including the cigar box guitar — an unusual six-string one — made for him by a luthier who lives here on the Peninsula.  Except the box.  He said nothing about it until into the second set when he just picked up and began the wild beat that accompanies “They’re Coming To Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!”  It brought down the house!

And someone brought the most gorgeous roses — forgive me but I’ve forgotten who!

Apparently, Fred had had a number of requests ahead of time — mostly music from the ’60s era. And mostly love songs.  I don’t think there was a dry eye when he dedicated “Look At Us” by Vince Gill to Vicki in honor of Valentine’s Day just past — their 35th together.  He had dedicated the entire concert to those with February Birthdays (my request, as mine is the 28th and neighbor Sandra’s is the 29th.)

Only one other in the crowd — Ray Hansen from Utah — admitted to a birthday this month and I’m not sure if he requested anything special.  Sandra did, however, even though she was unable to be at the concert.  “I was born in the year of the dragon and this is the year of the dragon,” she told me.  So, as his next to last number, Fred played “Puff the Magic Dragon” and we all joined in!

The last number was for Nyel — “Don’t Let The Old Man In,” Toby Keith’s theme song for Clint Eastwood’s 2018 movie “The Mule.”  Fred came with his guitar all the way to St. Vincent’s Hospital that year after Nyel’s final surgery to play it for him and has played it at every musical gathering here since then.  Thank you, dear Fred.  My heart runneth over.

The Honorary Oysterville Militia: Update

February 24th, 2024

February 24, 2024

From Surprise, AZ to Oysterville, WA — salutations in person!

As Adjutant General of The Honorary Oysterville Militia. it is my pleasure to report to all and sundry that last night Lt. Charlie Talbott delivered. in person, salutations from his sister and brother-in-law, Jenny and Scott Mundine, who live in Surprise, Arizona.  They had recently joined THOM as Lieutenants in honor of General Nyel’s obituary request that memorials in his name be left to “anything Oysterville” —  Oysterville Restoration Foundation, for the maintenance of the church; The Honorary Oysterville Militia; Oysterville Community Club at the old schoolhouse; Oysterville Water; or Oysterville Cemetery Association.  It pleases me very much to say that each of those organization received donations in Nyel’s name.

Scott and Jennie with hats and certificates!

Lieutenants Jenny and Scott sent in their enlistment forms last summer and, although they were sent their certificates (“suitable for framing”) in a timely manner, they had to wait an inordinately long time for their THOM caps.  We had run out and recreating the insignia design was a labor of love, our creative artisan having retired.  And where was dear Gordon Schoewe (who designed the original) when we needed him?  When the new caps finally materialized (and were perfect!) I was sure that Nyel and Gordon had been consulting angels on THOM’s behalf.

Lts. Mundine, Mundine, and Talbott

So, as soon as the hats arrived, I sent them off to Arizona.  By return mail I received very official looking photographs of each officer in cap with certificate AND in front of an American Flag.  Not too long after that,  Jennifer’s brother Charlie flew to Arizona for a visit and:  more photographs!  And, last night Charlie was back with salutations from Jenny and Scott and… yep!  We took another photograph.

I just have to say as a P.S. that Jenny and Charlie’s brother, George of New Mexico, is also a THOM member with the rank of Corporal.  Their father, George H. Talbott (1924-2016) was one of the Founding Members of THOM and his names is listed as a Corporal on the bronze plaque that is displayed with the cannon from Memorial Day through Veteran’s Day each year.  Says Charlie (with that familiar twinkle in his eye):  “Dad served in the U.S. Military as an officer and joined THOM as an enlisted man, so when I joined I (once an enlisted man in the U.S. Military) decided to muster in as a Lieutenant so I could outrank him.  But now that Jenny and Scott are also, Lieutenants, maybe I have to upgrade!”


We were a fishy threesome at dinner tonight!

February 22nd, 2024

February 22, 2024

Martha, Sydney, Rose

It was Martha’s idea and, I must say, it was a great one.  She suggested that Rose and she and I all go out to dinner to celebrate our birthdays.  We are all Pisces and so, for starters (for this blog, not for our dinner) I took a look at a succinct definition of our sign:

Pisces (February 19 – March 20)
Pisces, a water sign, is the last constellation of the zodiac. It’s symbolized by two fish swimming in opposite directions, representing the constant division of Pisces’s attention between fantasy and reality. As the final sign, Pisces has absorbed every lesson — the joys and the pains, the hopes and the fears — learned by all of the other signs. This makes these fish the most psychic, empathetic, and compassionate creatures of the astrological wheel. With such immense sensitivity, Pisces can easily become swallowed by emotions and must remember to stay grounded in the material realm (appropriately, Pisces rules the feet).

Hmm.  Yes, I remember all that from “back in the day” — the ’60s and ’70s in California when “What’s your sign?” was the quintessential question when meeting a member of the opposite sex.  I thought it was pretty lame then and I still feel that way — possibly because I’m not especially psychic, empathetic or compassionate and staying grounded has never been a problem for me.  At least not from my own perspective!

I  wish we had talked a bit about that over dinner.  I’d like to know how Martha and Rose perceive themselves (and me) in terms of that traditional Pisces definition. But we never did get around to our mutual sign, though we seemed to talk non-stop.  We discussed food, of course, (giving the restaurant a mixed review) and travel, education and the wildlife refuge,  heritage trees and true crime stories in Pacific County History!

Martha had a “fortune” for each of us, too. Mine said: “the best is yet to come.”  I think I said, “I doubt that” which led to our few comments about men and marriage.  We agreed we should do it again —  have dinner, not get married!  Maybe we’ll try a place across the river next time.  Oh and did I mention that Martha chauffeured us, as well!   What fun!

Am I or am I not? What do you think?

February 21st, 2024

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Today I went to lunch with an old, dear friend.  We were celebrating both our birthdays which are three days apart, though there is also a slight matter of ten years between us.  (Funny how those years make less and less difference as we age.)  We don’t get many chances to get together these days and it was a wonderful treat just to have time to “catch up.”

During the course of the conversation, she mentioned that I was outspoken — not in a critical way, but in a very matter-of-fact tone of voice.  I wasn’t exactly shocked…  Well, maybe a little.  Me?  Outspoken?  “Yes,” she insisted, “you always seem to say what you are thinking.”  (Lordy, lordy, what a jumble that must be, I thought.  But I didn’t say it out loud!)

When I got home, I went straight to my handy-dandy computer dictionaries and found these definitions from various sources:
1. Someone who is outspoken gives their opinions about things openly and honestly, even if they are likely to shock or offend people.
2, unrestrained in speech; frank.
3. spoken boldly or candidly.
4. uttered or expressed with frankness or without reserve.

Robert Burns

Oh my!  I’m not sure I like any of those definitions overly much — at least not when applied to myself.  Two quotations instantly came to mind.  The first by one of my favorite poets, Robert “Rabbie” Burns:
O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us
To see oursels as others see us!
Is my friend’s observation what everyone sees in me?

And the second thought — one of the few pieces of advice my mother ever gave me:  “When you speak, speak the truth.  But don’t always speak.”

I think I’ve failed on both counts.  Certainly I’ve never seen myself as “outspoken” — in fact I often chide myself for being too timid to speak out.  And, although I do try to speak the truth, I think I don’t do so often enough and not always when it most matters.

I wonder if this lunchtime comment will end up being a game-changing revelation.  Will I be more chaste of tongue and increasingly keep my thoughts to myself?  Or is there another proverb that may take over at this point?  “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks…”


Can you hear it? The garden is calling!

February 20th, 2024

February 20, 2024

Here it is, just a few days past the mid-point of February — often a time when we might expect a snow flurry or even some icy weather.  But, instead, it was a mild 52º outside with no wind at all — not even a zephyr!  No wonder I could actually hear the garden calling me!

I took a little walk-about, wondering if it was time yet to set up a mowing schedule (I decided not) and cursed myself for not braving the stormy weather the last few weeks to spray the camellias with deer repellant.  While I have been hunkering, the deer people have been munching.  The camellia leaves are definitely looking tatty and I have no doubt that those garden visitors have been scoping out the York Roses, as well — never mind that they are still without leaves or blooms.

I went right to work with my magic spray bottle with lots of apologies to the primroses and hydrangeas (as well as the camellias and roses) for my neglectful ways and with promises to do better in the days ahead.   Actually, the primroses look pretty good and both of the camellias are starting to blossom beautifully.  I’m so curious about that.  The last few years they began blooming in December and now they are back “on schedule” with the first blossoms coming shortly before my birthday.  Go figure.

Otherwise, things don’t look too shabby.  The daffodils are beginning to bloom and the rhododendrons are budding — the Jean Maries whispering, “We’ll see you in May! We’ll see you in May!”  And, of course, I answered, “Yes!!”  And sooner than that I’ll be out here a bit more.  Daylight Savings begins in a few weeks and it always seems to give me more time to be outside.  And four weeks from today is the first day of Spring!!   No wonder the garden is calling!


Taking another look… with love!

February 19th, 2024

February 19. 2024

Kitchen As Seen From Stairway

A blog reader wrote me the other day and said she remembered “my” house (now belonging to my cousin Lina and her husband Dave):  I remember seeing this house and reading about it in one of the Northwest Home books. It was so charming…

I was touched — both that she would remember and that she would contact me!  The book she referred to is Northwest Style: Interior Design and Architecture in the Pacific Northwest by Ann Wall Frank with photographs by Michael Mathers, ©1999, Chronicle Books.  I scanned my bookshelves and found the book, rereading what the author with the improbable name of Ann Frank had written about the house all those years ago.

This cabin is a miniature house with a maximin story; a place where five rivers and a million memories meet.  A few feet eyond a moss-encrusted gate, an evocative shape rises like a gothic dollhouse from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth, so intimate with its environment that it becomes a private world.

The Living Room

I remember being a bit aghast at that first paragraph when I saw the book for the first time.  Yes, the gate was moss-encrusted, but almost 1,000 feet from the house and unseen beyond the road’s curve into the trees.  But, actually, the rest was close to accurate — after all, the original design was by Noel Thomas who, in those years, was making museum-quality miniature houses with his wife Pat.  And “a million memories”… at least!

The author went on a few paragraphs later with a more literal, less fanciful description which I think more closely fit my own feelings about the house:  The 900 square-foot cottage is a departure from the quaint romantic vernacular of Oysterville’s old Victorian houses, most of which are made of California redwood, reused from the ballasts of ships that arrived for trade.  With its cedar board- and- batten siding, simple A-frame open floor plan, and rustic charm, it is more reminiscent of the fish canneries, covered bridges, boathouses, and old barns of the region.

Yes.  That’s more the feeling I had about the house.  Except I wish she had understood what ballast was.  The redwood siding for the old homes in Oysterville WAS the ballast on the oyster schooners coming up from San Francisco.  Ballast might be anything from lumber to pianos to top hats or potatoes that the storekeepers had ordered from the Captain on his last voyage north (maybe two or three weeks before).  That cargo was used as ballast to help control the ship’s stability and to ensure safe passage.

But… the photographs are wonderful… and right now bittersweet.  Michael asked for an “introduction” to the house the first time Nyel and I met him back in 1998.  And, within that rule that says the world gets smaller and smaller, Lina and Petra probably crossed paths years ago in Portland when Tucker and Carol owned a toy shop just down the way from Tucker’s cousin’s bookstore where Petra worked!

The Book


Back in the family, again! Well, more-or-less!

February 18th, 2024

February 18, 2024

Sydney’s Bay House c. 1985 Photo by Dick Hawes

Tucker is my seventh cousin on the Espy side if I’m remembering correctly what Cousin Ralph told us long ago.  That being true, his children are my seventh cousins once removed and (I think) they and Charlie are eighth cousins!  Which is really neither here or there except that Tucker’s daughter Lina and husband Dave  have bought my old “Bay House!”  I couldn’t be more delighted that it’s back in the family!

They are the third owners since Nyel and I sold it in 2001 to Ann Chiller who, in turn, sold it to Cyndy Hayward.  Ann kept all the furniture and knick-knacks we didn’t have space for in this old house,  and she added and outside bat house and bird feeders with microphones.  Inside ssounded like outside and we often sat there over a cup of tea just wondering what those birds were chattering about!

Charlie made a model house…

It wasn’t long after Ann moved in that our cat, Bowser, died  — of old age mostly (she was 19) — but she never really adjusted to being an inside cat here in Oysterville after having 18 acres as her own personal prowl.  Nyel used some of the left-over blue-stained pine from the inside walls to build her a little coffin — so she’d be surrounded by “home” –and Ann allowed us to bury her under a large spruce just south of the house.

I can’t remember how long Ann had the house — maybe six or seven years.  She returned some of its treasures before she left — she thought they should stay with us.  One was “Fern” the granddaughter of a plant Sue Cowell had given me from the library back in the seventies.  (Fern is still thriving, now at age twenty or so.)

… and sent instructions all the way from Valencia, CA where he was a Senior at Cal Arts!

My friend and neighbor Cyndy Hayward was the next owner.  I don,t think she ever lived there — maybe for a minute or so — but mostly she provided it as housing for her CEO at her Artist’s Residency.  He and his family were there for a good many years and it was during that period that a number of changes took place to the house.  Even so, like other aging beauties (human or otherwise) her bones are good and she is still a delight.

Today Lina and Dave came by and picked up the original architectural plans and other “beginnings” — including the first rough sketches Noel Thomas made when I was confiding my dream to him back in, 1977 or ’78.  I also showed them my first house “scrapbook” documenting the step-by-step building process by Ossie Steiner and the Mack Brothers!  Lina and Dave would like a  copy of the whole book — “I’ll bet Tucker could make one!” Dave said.  “Maybe two,” we agreed.  After all,  the other seventh cousin should have one, as well.

Fern’s Grandmother Would Be More Than 50 by now!

It’s one of those “I shoulda known” things!

February 17th, 2024

Saturday, February 17, 2024

Papa and Aunt Dora c. 1896

If you are one of my faithful (or even not-so-faithful) blog readers or a follower of  my “Saints or Sinners?” stories in the Observer you are likely acquainted with my Great Aunt Dora.  I credit her with my interest in storytelling — especially stories about the sinners which were always Aunt Dora’s favorites.  She also is the one who referred to any woman she admired as “a fine double-breasted sort of woman” and, though I’m not just sure what she meant by that,  I’ve always considered her to be that sort of woman, herself.

As I mentioned in my blog a few days ago,  I was contacted by someone working on an exhibit about women in Lake Oswego’s history asking for photographs of Aunt Dora.  Yesterday I received a “thank you” for the ones I sent plus a great deal more information about Aunt Dora than I had ever heard from her or from other family members.  And what’s more, I might have been given a clue as to that pithy saying of hers.

First, what I already knew about her:  Born in 1872,  she was the oldest of  my great-grandparents’ seven children and was 4 years older than my grandfather, Harry.  She grew up in Oysterville, became a teacher, and in 1895 married King Wilson, an attorney from from the East Coast who had received his law degree from  the University of Oregon in 1893. They lived for some years in Portland before moving to Lake Oswego where King became mayor and served until the time of his death in 1918.  They had three children, all of whom I also knew well.  Aunt Dora never married again and I think lived in (or perhaps ran) a boarding house in Portland.  She lived until 1955, visiting family often.  I think it was my mother who told me that she had several rather serious “suitors” during her widowed years and when her daughters Julia and Mary found out about that (when they were in their 30s I think) they never called her “mother” again– only “Dora.”  (I don’t think her son Bob was so self-righteous.)

So… what I learned yesterday:  “Mrs. A. King Wilson, Oswego, Ore.” was listed as a member of the Oregon State Equal Suffrage Association in 1912   In 1916, she was elected to the Oswego school board, was reelected in 1917, and served as chair of the board.  The Oswego Times article (22 June 1917) announcing her reelection also noted that the district budget report was exemplary. Her name appears often in Oregon City newspapers.  Until 1929, Oswego did not have a regular newspaper (except for the Oswego Times 1916-1917) so local events were covered in the Oregon City papers.

Dora and King Wilson wwith Robert(“Bob”) and Mary, 1903

And, best of all, my correspondent said this:  “When I get back to the library next week, I will take a picture of Dora’s voter registration card from 1913.  It was the discovery of a set of these cards in the Lake Oswego Public Library’s collection that set me off on this project.  As you may know, Oregon women got the vote in 1912, so these cards are particularly exciting.  One of the cards, for a Mrs. S.H. Crookes, is signed by’Dora E. Wilson, chrman Election Board.’  I will send that image as well.”

So Aunt Dora was a suffragette!  Why am I not surprised.  Right at the time she was casting her first vote, her brother Harry (my beloved grandfather) was serving in the 13th session of the Washington State Legislature as the Senator from Pacific and Wahkiakum Counties.  And, over the years, more than one person has suggested that “a fine double-breasted sort of woman” might have alluded to a man’s double-breasted suit (popular in those days) and to the fact that such a woman had a mind of her own and was not one to be left at home, still widely thought ‘a woman’s place!’    How I wish I’d know all of that long ago.  But. as I think about it, I didn’t really need to.  Aunt Dora was a force to reckon with and even I, yet too young to vote, myself, when she died, knew she was special. What I didn’t know was how much she would influence my life!