And speaking of the democratic process…

December 11th, 2019

Charlie and Marta, Yesterday in L.A.

The weekly phone conversation (a three-way, free, conference call) with my “kids” always involves a political component of some kind.  Happily, we are all of the same mind philosophically, Marta being perhaps the most liberal, and both she and Charlie politically “involved” in one way or another.  Both are well informed and Charlie happens to live in Adam Schiff’s district which, somehow, makes me feel more closely aligned with his present impeachment responsibilities.  A bit of a far-fetched idea, but there it is.

Alice and The Dodo (speaking of caucuses)

Last night, the conversation got around to the primaries and I mentioned Washington’s caucus system which Marta didn’t know much about and when Charlie asked when that was happening, I couldn’t really answer.  So after we had hung up, I looked it up.  Or tried to, and found that the Democrats will be voting in a regular presidential primary this year for the first time ever.  The Republicans, apparently, have been using a combination of the primary and caucus systems for some time.  2020 will be the first time that both parties in our state have used the primary system for a presidential election.

Once again, I wonder how that got by me.  The Seattle Times article that popped up on my screen was dated April 9, 2019!  The reason is probably a no-brainer – too much cost for too little participation.  I’m quite sure it’s the right decision, but I did love the opportunity to hear various viewpoints and to have a chance to express my own.  It always seemed to me to be an excellent method for ensuring some meaningful dialogue among voters and, hopefully, a better informed electorate.  On the other hand, the 2016 caucus I attended didn’t feel as though there were enough participants — at least not here on the Peninsula.  I surely hope that changing to the primary system increases voter involvement.

Fortunately, we still have a lot of time to gear up — the date of our primary will be March 10, 2020 — just a month after the New Hampshire first-in-the-nation primary.  Presumably the early date will give Washington state a  greater influence on the nomination process.  Go Washington!

The Sweet Fragrance of Christmas!

December 10th, 2019

Lina and Eva

This morning I could almost smell those Christmas cookies baking and hear the laughter of cousins Eva and Lina — all the way from Austria!  Eva’s email about their holiday preparations included pictures of  the sisters baking and  their finished products, as well!  Yum!

Unexpectedly, I flashed back on Christmas Cookies Past – not cookies of my childhood, however.  Baking Christmas cookies wasn’t really a tradition in our family, though my grandmother’s “rocks” were usually part of the festivities.  I remember them as full of nuts and raisins and maybe covered with powdered sugar.  Or am I confusing the rocks with the shortbread cookies in perfect round powdered balls?  But those weren’t the cookies that came to mind when those photos came into focus.

Carol Nordquist – Christmas Dinner 2014

No, it was  Carol Nordquist and her cookies that come to mind.  Beginning in the late 1990s, just after we moved into this family house full time, Carol would bring a festive plate of cookies to us (and to each of the neighbors, I think) a few days before the holiday.  When her daughter Betsy was able to join her,  the two of them often did the baking and Betsy was the delivery elf.  We SO appreciated those lovely treats.  There really is nothing like a selection of brightly decorated Christmas cookies — especially cookies that just “show up” once a year — to get you in the spirit!

Lina and Eva’s Cookies

Actually, Nyel did a big batch of chocolate chip cookies the other day.  They aren’t quite what I would consider “Christmas cookies” but their appearance around here is pretty rare so I think they count, maybe even double!  And the other night John brought a citrus almond cake, “Torta de Santiago” which literally means “cake of St James and the recipe originated in the Middle Ages!   Last night Maggie brought individual cheese cakes, festively decorated with different kinds of jam.

Oh my!  It was almost a relief to enjoy those Austrian cookies via cyberspace.  Especially, a relief to my waistline!  But… Christmas only comes once a year, as they say.  I’m determined to enjoy every morsel, virtual and otherwise.


Christmas Elves

December 9th, 2019

Steve the Other Christmas Elf

Many hands make light work — or make the lights work, perhaps.  Two tall men, their four hands on high  – sometimes with benefit of ladder and sometimes just a long stretch on tiptoes — and, voila!  The upper third of that ten foot tree was lit, decorated, and icicled before you could say Rudolph-the-Red-Nosed-Reindeer.

My part was simple — evaluate, criticize, find the hooks, hand the baubles, suggest the bare spots, and clap and cheer.  Nyel left his kitchen duties periodically to come and admire.  And John and Steve probably would have continued on for the duration except that I declared it the cocktail hour!

John the Other Christmas Elf

We left the tree all aglow with lights and halfway trimmed with the promise that I would finish it up today.  Or tomorrow.  Or soon.  After dinner, Tucker came over to collect his ladder and he ooohed and aaaahed and visited a while.  It was a lovely afternoon and evening.  The tree is looking quite satisfied with progress “so far” but I can here her calling to me so… onward and downward!  The upward part is done!


Pride Goeth Before A Fall

December 8th, 2019

My friend Maggie says, “Don’t ever hesitate to ask for help.  People like to help.  It makes them feel good.”  Yeah, yeah, yeah, I always think to myself.  And then I wonder why that reasoning is so hard for me to believe.  Could it be that I don’t really like to help when I’m asked?  Or is it something about being an only child and being imbued with the thought that if I didn’t do it myself, no one was going to be there to do it for me.”  Not that those words were ever stated.  It just seemed to be the way it was.

It was probably that way for Nyel, too.  He’s another only child and, if anything, he’s more intent upon doing for himself than I am.  In fact, more than anyone I know.  So now that we have reached the old (me) and infirm (Nyel) stage of life, we (mostly I) are trying to come to grips with that whole independence/swallow-your-pride-thing.

What I have realized is that #1, if I want to continue doing some of the fun things in life, I’ll need help.  And #2, most people aren’t good at mind-reading so I have to ask.  Oh yes, and #3, Nyel would probably skip #1 instead of doing #2 which sometimes leads to #4 — one of those heart-to-hearts.  We’re getting good at those!

So, when it came to getting ready for Christmas, there was quite a bit of necessary pride swallowing around here.  First and  foremost — the whole tree thing.  If you read my column in the Observer last week, you probably figured out that the words Christmas and tree cannot easily be separated in this household.  So… I asked Tucker if he’d help me fetch, carry, and put the tree in the stand.

It all went surprisingly smoothly.  Getting the tree centered in the stand was a bit tricky, but Tucker persevered and by lunchtime yesterday the ten-foot (no eleven-footers available this year) noble fir was standing proud in our bay windows looking out to the east.  And thanks to Tucker’s good humor and a few “Christmas tree” stories of his own, our own pride is still intact, as well.

This afternoon, our friends John and Steve (who are tall!) are coming to put up the lights, the angel, and the ornaments on the high branches.  Again, I didn’t have to do more than ask and suggest a time.  I’m actually looking forward to it.  Tucker brought over his sturdy ladder for them to use — ours IS pretty rickety — and I feel that we are definitely being mindful of that old “pride goeth before a fall” expression — especially the “fall” part.  Ladders are at the top of my Not Any More list.

Apples and Oranges?

December 7th, 2019

A friend (who also happens to be a librarian) recommended a book to me based on my saying that Where The Crawdads Sing is one of the best books I’ve read —  maybe ever.  “Then you should read Educated: A Memoir,” she said.  “We have it as an audio book if you’d like.”  Perfect!  It was the day before we were going up to Seattle and a talking book might help while away the travel time.

I should have grabbed a clue, though, when she told me that she’d heard SO many great things about Where The Crawdads Sing but, try as she might, “I just can’t get into it.  One or two pages and that’s all I can do…”

Nyel and I are about halfway through Educated: A Memoir.  Though it, too, concerns a dysfunctional family and though, in each book, the story is told by the youngest daughter in the family, there the similarity ends.  Crawdads focuses on the beauty of the environment and on the ingenuity of the young narrator. Educated focuses on the cruelty and paranoia of various members of a survivalist family.  Apples and oranges!

I don’t know if we’ll finish Educated, even though we have another trip to Seattle coming up next week.  I keep hoping for some sort of redemption but I have a feeling we’ll have to slog through a lot more horrors before we get there.   These are not people I want to know.  Not in person.  Not in a book.

Call me a weenie, but I really don’t like to invest my limited ‘leisure’ hours reading or hearing about the seamy side of our world.  There’s enough of that in the news and, frankly, I think the more we dwell on it the more we perpetuate it.  I don’t want to give it any more energy that I absolutely have to.  I’m back to that old Johnny Mercer song of my childhood — You’ve got to accentuate the positive/Eliminate the negative/And latch on to the affirmative
Don’t mess with Mister In-Between.  Yes, I think I’d much rather be a Pollyanna than a Scrooge — or whatever Pollyanna’s opposite might be.


Travelin’ with Nyel

December 6th, 2019

Subaru Forester

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Up at the crack
Off in the dark
Seattle bound.

Another opinion
Perhaps a chance
For Nyel to walk again.

Cheese Platter

Pray for dry roads
And light traffic
And a good bedside manner.

A stop at Whole Foods
Or Trader Joe’s
For cheeses we don’t see here.

Party planning I’ve found
Is a fine distraction
From everyday hard stuff.


Chickens in the Rain

December 4th, 2019

Downspout At Work

I heard the gurgling and dripping as soon as I surfaced this morning.  Way before it was light enough to see the rain, I knew it was coming down pretty steadily.  As welcome as it is (aren’t we way behind our yearly average?) I don’t look forward to slogging down to the chickens.

Back from a Rainy-Day Visit

Not because of the slogging, mind you.  It’s just that the chickens are so damned complacent about the rain.  About almost everything, really.  They simply take life as it comes — always excited to see me with treats, always eager to explore the garden, never adverse to finding a way to get beyond the fence.  Sunshine or rain, it matters not.  Even snow, after a little clucking and foot-shaking, is taken in stride… so to speak.

Sydney in Yellow Rain Hat

We chicken farmers could learn a lot from our coop tenants when it comes to attitude and equanimity.  I think the words to live by are “don’t borrow trouble.”  My mother used to tell me that when I would get to stewing about the might-happens.  I never could reconcile that thought with “plan for the worst” which was another momism — though to be fair, it was usually paired with “hope for the best.”

Well, wouldn’t you know… the gurgling in the downspouts has stopped.  Maybe the slogging will be minimal, after all.  One way or another, those chickens will be happy to see me… and their morning treats!

Hurry! Scurry! But Mostly Blurry!

December 3rd, 2019

Now that I’m well into my nineteenth year of retirement,  my memory about those 40+ working years has become a bit selective.  I’m especially blurry about the hard parts — like getting ready for the holidays “around the edges.”

How did we ever have time?  For sure we did with less sleep.  Somehow, even without the internet to help us, we managed to shop for presents, get them wrapped and sent (in time!), get a tree (and sometimes poinsettias), decorate inside and out ( swags hand-made by Nyel) and even, some years, bake Christmas cookies or plan for a party.  All the while, overseeing all the Christmas activities for 25 or 30 school children, working on the traditional Christmas program and planning/supervising the classroom Christmas party.

I realize that this very description (the school part, that is) dates me considerably.  I don’t think there are “Christmas” activities at most schools these days.  Maybe “holiday” celebrations.  Or, has it become politically correct just to ignore the whole season?

I’m not even sure and, frankly, don’t want to know.  I find those thoughts a bit depressing.  In any case, my heart goes out to teachers and, indeed, to all working folks who are trying “to do it all” at this time of year.  And not only trying to do it all, but trying to do it with as little commercialism attached as possible.

But perhaps that isn’t a goal these days either — another thing I’m really not sure about anymore.  And, now that the internet has become our strong right arm as far as shopping goes… and, actually, now that shopping for ready-made gifts has replaced the home-made presents we once labored over… perhaps “the season” is easier for working folks.

I hope so.  I hope there is still joy in joyeux Noel and merry in Merry Christmas despite all the hurry scurry and ready-made everything.  Mostly, I hope that all of us take time for a little nap or two along the way .



Doncha just hate that?

December 2nd, 2019

The Box

We (mostly I) go though a lot of copy paper.  Especially when I’m in a writing mode.  For me, it’s difficult to proofread on the screen and, depending upon what I’m working on, there are often multiple drafts to read and correct.  Which means using lots of paper in my printer.

We used to pick up a case of copy paper every so often at CostCo but now that I’m the one who has to wrestle such items into and out of the car and into the house… not so much.  Hooray for Amazon Prime and UPS!  But when the package arrived, delivered directly onto the table on our front porch, I saw that the corner of the case was broken (or slit) open.  Otherwise, the box looked great — no dents, no scrapes.  Perfect!

I opened it right then and there on the porch and took out one package at a time, carrying two or three into the house and setting them on the hat rack just inside the door.  Eight 500-sheet reams altogether.  I was stacking ream four or five when I noticed that the corner of each individually wrapped package was ripped open.  Just a bit.  Just enough, perhaps, to take a look at the contents.  Every single ream!

Opened Reams

I immediately fantasized that the narcs were looking for some sort of paper-thin drugs sandwiched between the individual sheets of copy paper.  I didn’t see any dried doggie drool, but my imagination told me clearly that drug-sniffing canines had been involved — maybe as the box entered or left the warehouse.

Of course, when I shared my imaginary story with Nyel, he actually ROLLED his eyes!  I showed him the tears in the packages.  He shook his head.  “Well, how can you explain it?” I demanded.  “I can’t,” he said.  His next few words — “and neither can you” — weren’t spoken or even murmured.  But I could hear them loud and clear.  He did say, though, that perhaps I’d been reading too many mysteries…  Doncha just hate that???

Another First For These Old Ducks!

December 1st, 2019

November 30, 2019

Yesterday (and right on time as it turned out) we received a small package in the mail from Austria.  The return address said “Richardson” — my cousins Eva and Lina (and friend Dietmar) who were here in September at the time of Our Grand Affair!  How fun!

We opened it to find a cheerful-looking Christmas card — a special one according to the greeting inside.  In neat “European handwriting” (so different from our public school printing or cursive) it said:  This is an “Adventkalendar.” Beginning with Dec. 1st you open a little window each day until Christmas Eve.  It is an old Austrian tradition and we thought the two of you would like it.  So Merry Chirstmas from over here.  Many many hugs and love, Lina, Eva, & Dietmar,”

Though neither Nyel nor I have ever participated in the Advent tradition with regard to lighting candles or celebrating each day of advent with a small gift — not as children nor as adults — we both associate it with friends and relatives who do.  When I was a child, my good friend Trudy (whose mother was Jewish and father, Catholic) celebrated both Hanukkah (which I also knew  little about) and Christmas.  In my little girl mind the menorah and a small gift for each day leading to Christmas were totally confused and were definitely things I thought our family should be doing as well.

Advent Card, December 1, 2019

So, here at last came a small version of those advent calendars I’d wondered about.  No presents attached to this one.  But, I did a little research to learn that, this year, advent begins on December 1st, so the package from the cousins (and Dietmar) arrived at the perfect time!

This morning, over coffee, Nyel and I opened the tiny window marked “1.”  It revealed a picture of a little girl in a pretty hat.  We didn’t know if had significance or not.  Perhaps we’ll understand a bit more as the next nineteen windows are opened.  At this point, however, the greatest meaning of this lovely little card is that it came from my beloved cousins in Austria and I will be thinking of them each morning as I anticipate the arrival of Christmas!