Archive for the ‘Up Close and Personal’ Category

It might be my mother’s fault…

Sunday, June 13th, 2021

I do not like taking naps.  Period.  Apparently, I never have.  My mother quit trying to put me down for an afternoon nap about the time I began walking.  She said that I always woke up so cranky that it wasn’t worth it.  And I’m here to tell you, 85 years later, some things don’t change.  Although…

I still do not find that naps are “refreshing” and, on the rare occasion that I do have an afternoon liedown, I wake up feeling mean and grouchy.  I think it must be some deep-seated belief in the adage that Marta’s father often espoused:  “You’ll sleep a long time when you’re dead.”  Of course, he wasn’t talking about naps; he was talking about staying up late rather than going to bed “with the chickens” as I have always done, even before I became a chicken farmer’s wife.  I say it the Ben Franklin way: “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”  (Healthy, probably.  but I’m waiting for the last two.)  Bottom line:  if I do nap, I always feel I’ve missed out on something or have wasted time that could have been used to better advantage.

All this is by way of preface to telling of my yesterday’s nap experience.  From Monday through Thursday, we had had a houseful — my son Charlie plus four cousins.  They were absolutely easy “guests” and I enjoyed every minute with them.  But, yesterday morning as we hugged Charlie goodbye, I realized that I was a tad tired.  So after lunch, I decided to take a nap.

Three hours later, Nyel woke me for dinner and I found, for the first time ever, that I didn’t feel grouchy at all.  On the other hand, I didn’t feel refreshed.  I turned down dinner, puttered around a little, watched two episodes of Jeopardy that Nyel had recorded from last week, and was in bed as usual with the chickens.  Maybe I’ve finally grown up enough to accept naps gracefully.  My mother would be so pleased!


The worst part was…

Tuesday, May 25th, 2021

Anterior cut of an enlarged heart; ACardio_20140403_v0_003

We left Oysterville at 4:30 yesterday morning.  Nyel had a 9:00 a.m. appt. for blood draws in the lab at the Seattle Medical Clinic and a 10:00 appt at the Cath Lab down on the 2nd floor for a right heart catheterization —  a test to see how well his heart is pumping (how much it pumps per minute) and to measure the blood pressure in his heart and the main blood vessels in his lungs.

The drive up — at first dark and rainy but getting lighter and drier.  Siri kept us informed — two fifteen minute traffic slowdowns but, even so, we arrived at 9:15.  No valet parking (they could have forewarned us).  Got Nyel into his wheelchair and into the front door and then the trip through hell to find the entrance to the underground parking garage.  Asked three people.  Only one knew where it was… a nightmare.

Found Nyel (Yay! for cellphones!) on his way to the cath lab (despite the Information Desk being unable to tell me where it was… why don’t they find INFORMED people to work there???).  Helped Nyel get ready — “Gown opens in the back…” and was directed to the waiting room where I spent two hours alternately reading one of Alexander McCall’s “44 Scotland Street” books and… worrying.

The procedure, which he has had done previously, sounds “routine” when the doctors and nurses talk about it.  But, inserting a catheter into the jugular vein, threading it into the heart and through to the pulmonary artery sounds terrifying to me.


If Nyel’s pressures were bad, they would keep him in the hospital but I couldn’t stay with him.  And, if was told he could go home, but got out too late, my eyes would not let me drive us home in the dark.  I had made arrangements with my cousin Ruth (Bless her!) to take me/us in… either way.  We figured we could muscle Nyel up the one small step into her house on Mercer Island.

About 12;15, here came a nurse pushing Nyel’s wheelchair.  Both (the nurse and Nyel — probably the wheelchair, too) were all smiles.  The procedure went well!  So… quick! up to the third floor to see the cardiologist to get the “verdict” — hospital or home???  Home it was.  Found the parking garage (and the car!) and were on the road by 1:20.  No rain, no dark, no traffic slowdowns.  Ate the “lunch” Nyel had packed — cheese, crackers, tangerines — as we traveled.  Home by 5:20.  Whatever the worst part of yesterday was, it was totally neutralized by Nyel’s good report!  Yay!!!

“…as ithers see us.”

Saturday, May 8th, 2021

Our Garden in Early May – Photo by Cate Gable

My take-away from Robert Burns’ 1786 poem, “To A Louse, On Seeing One on a Lady’s Bonnet at Church” has always been that we would be disabused of our pretensions if we could see ourselves through the eyes of others.  But, lately, Nyel and I have received or run across photographs of things near and dear to us that have simply given us a different perspective.  If there have been pretensions involved, they have yet to come clear.

Like the photo of our garden that Cate sent yesterday taken from the path to the east — a path seldom taken by us these days.  “Your yard is gorgeous!” said the accompanying note, and we had to concur. In this case it’s probably one of those “can’t see the garden for the grass that needs mowing” or “the weeds that need pulling.”  It is so lovely to look again!  Through Cate’s eyes!

Sydney at Greenridge c. 1962 — Photo by Bill LaRue

And then, midst the  “treasures” (NOT!) that we are clearing out of our nooks and crannies came some photos of me taken 50 or 60 years ago by my (then) photographer husband Bill La Rue (Marta’s Dad.)  I remember that I was getting ready for work, putting on my makeup, and he was somewhere behind me with his Hasselblad.  I was in a hurry and he was an annoyance.  There are six of those photos, each 7×9 inches, mounted on heavy cardstock.  Were they once on display somewhere?  I don’t really remember.  I don’t think I liked them much.  And now???  All I can think of  is “was I ever so young!?”

Come to think of it, that’s what’s so hard about this down-sizing and purging process — at least to me.  It’s coming to grips with how we “saw” things then and how we see them now.  After a lifetime, perspectives change.  I see myself and Robbie Burns’ “ithers” from a totally different point of view now.  A better one?  Not necessarily.  And does it make the sorting-and-discarding process easier?  Not that I’ve noticed.  Not so far, anyway  I wonder if everyone goes through these agonies when the time comes…



Purging the Back Forty Report #1

Friday, May 7th, 2021

Tin File Box

That tin file box has been sitting on one of the shelves in the back forty for so long neither of us had “seen” it for ages.  It is a nondescript brown and has a handle — portable, you might say.  It also has a lock which, apparently, has been engaged since I put it  in place.  (I say “I” because it looked vaguely familiar and Nyel said, “Not mine.”)  The key?  No Clue.

Nyel spent a half hour or so going through our Memorial Key Repository.  No luck.  “Just torque it open with a screw driver,” said I.  “It’s probably full of love letters,” said he.  “Really? Do you have love letters?” I was immediately interested.  “Of course.  They’re upstairs in that blue box on the dresser in the twin-bed room.”  “Who are they from?”  “Mostly from you,” he said.  “Really?  I wrote you love letters?”  “Lots of them,” he answered, and I made a mental note to take a look sometime.

When the box popped open we saw several packets of letters tied with various colors of ribbon.  To me!!  Pre-Nyel.  From… well, never mind.  I have set them aside for now… Maybe I’ll read them.  Maybe not.  I’ve made another mental note.


A day late and… you know the rest.

Friday, April 30th, 2021

Clearing Out The Back-Forty — A Scary Proposition

As I wrote a few days back, Nyel and I are doing what we should have done during the Sheltering Time of 2020 — clearing out, cleaning up, relegating, and passing on.  It’s one of those love/hate jobs.

I love the re-discovery parts — coming across all those once-upon-a-time treasures that we couldn’t part with back in the… well, in the once-upon-a-time days.  But now that time has passed and our lives have actually taken on some semblance of “patterning,” we are almost having a good time of it.  I’m not sure “patterning” is the right term.  It’s whatever you call having lived long enough that your memories and the physical things connected to them fall into clear(ish) categories.  Mostly.

And it has something to do with having put chunks of things behind us.  Like the years before we lived here or before we met.  Or some of our vacations that we know won’t be repeated.  Or the events we participated in or, perhaps organized, that are over  and done with.  By now, all of the “stuff” associated with those things are easily parted with — but so fun to look at one more time and do some reminiscing.

Granny’s Cake Plate, 1897

We’ve also made it easier on ourselves by finding “homes” ahead of time for many of the things we’ll be sorting through.  Any Espy family related stuff — especially documents and photographs will go up to the Washington State Historical Research Center to join the Espy Family Archive.  Or to appropriate family members.  Our personal treasures, especially if community related, will go to appropriate local organizations or to relatives if items are family connected.  And then there’s the Good Will and Friends of the Library and local thrift shops.

The “hate” part of this chore, of course, is facing up to the fact that most of the “stuff” that has brought us so much pleasure during our lifetimes will have little or no meaning to anyone in the years ahead.  It’s just the way it is.  Especially when you leave no grands or greats.  No one to say, as I so often do about things in this house, “This cake plate was the first purchase my grandmother ever made with her own money, after she was married in 1897.  It cost her ten cents as I recall.  Or maybe it was twenty-five.  (Perhaps in all our purging I’ll find that list of her wedding gifts and the one of her first household purchases somewhere.)  History seems so much more “real” when it’s entwined with family and memories.  Doncha think so?

Snip! Snip! And… goodbye pigtails!

Saturday, April 10th, 2021

Goodbye Pigtails!

They were fun… until they weren’t.  By the time my pigtails were getting long enough to braid — which had been my CHG (Covid Hair Goal) — I had to face up to the fact that I my old gray locks were just too wimpy to do anything with.  Eighty-five-year-old hair, at least on my particular head, doesn’t have the volume it takes for even one braid.  Damn!

Indistinctive Again

So, I called on the kindness of a friend and she did the dirty deed — a serious haircut.  I wish I could say that eleven months of sheltering robbed me of my natural curl.  But no such luck.  With each snip of the scissors, a new curl emerged.  I could clearly hear each one say a different cuss word — as in what Mary Anne Shaffer, author of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society famously said: “Naturally curly hair is a curse and don’t ever let anyone tell you different.”

Fun While It Lasted

Short, curly hair is also the “norm” for almost every little old gray-haired lady who is still up and taking nourishment.   So, now I are one again. (Is the opposite of distinctive, indistinctive?)  I couldn’t even feel badly because I knew full well what would happen.  Nyel, however, apparently did not.  As I was making my to-cut-or-not-to-cut decision, I made the mistake of showing him a picture of a “pixie haircut” that I liked because it partially covered the ears.  (I hate my sticky-outie ears!).  “My hair is too curly to look like this.  I just want her to leave it long enough for ear coverage,” I told him.

He didn’t get it.  (Do guys ever?)  When I came home for the Big Reveal, he looked absolutely dumbstruck.  And not in a good way.  “What???” I asked (even though I knew.)  He hedged a bit but under pressure finally said, “But I was expecting it to look like the picture…”

Oh well.  Some days are like that.  And now, they will all be like that.  It’s a curse, for sure!

Doncha just hate when that happens?

Saturday, September 26th, 2020

Sydney’s Neck

Not that I can understand the specifics behind my severe neck pain, but here is what I learned yesterday from my Primary Caregiver.

The x-rays showed:
Grade 1 anterior spondylolisthesis of C2 on C3, C3 on C4 and C4 on C5.  Plus moderate to severe degenerative changes fron C4-C5 through C6 and C7.

It’s probably fortunate that I really can’t read X-rays with assurance and that I don’t know the ramifications of big, scary-soundy words like spondylolisthesis.  Because of my age, “corrective surgery” is not an option, and I’m not sure it would be, anyway.  It would involve fusing some of those pesky vertebrae and I would then have little to no ability to move my head.

Sydney, 1941 — In the days when head-turning wasn’t problematic.

So, for the foreseeable future, I will depend upon muscle relaxants every eight hours as needed, tylenol for pain, and giving wide berth to activities that are likely to exacerbate the situaltion.

And, FYI,  as of today, I’m up and about and going on with life as usual, but a bit more slowly.  End of story.  But, probably not the end of the pain in the neck!


A Footnote to Our Local History

Saturday, September 19th, 2020

Sealand-Nahcotta 1890s

Perhaps you read my article about Sealand in the July 23rd Chinook Observer.  If not, you should be able to read it by cutting and pasting this link:

It was the fifth story in my series, “Once Upon A Time in Early Pacific County” and it’s one I thoroughly enjoyed writing — perhaps because I had a bit of first-hand knowledge about Sealand “the town across the tracks.”  Although I was a generation too young to have known it personally, I grew up hearing my grandparents refer to it — always.  When it came to the town four miles south of Oysterville, they never spoke of Nahcotta.  Only of Sealand.

Dorothy at Graduation fron IHS, 1948

So, I can hardly express to you the pleasure I felt when I received a note the other day from my friend, Dorothy Trondsen Williams.  Dorothy grew up here on the Peninsula — in Ocean Park — and was the granddaughter of J.A.  Morehead who figured prominently in my Sealand article.  Some years ago, I had written about Dorothy’s growing up years in my series “North Beach Girls of the Teens and Twenties.”  I drew from some of her reminiscences for the recent Sealand story.

In her note to me she said:  I especially enjoyed the Sealand Morehead articles in the Observer recently and thought you might be interested in the fact that I recently obtained J.A. Morehead’s desk.  Daughter Barbara plans to laminate the stories and they will be stored in the desk in a cubby hole for future generations to enjoy.

I couldn’t be more pleased!



Sartorial Splendor and Quality Control

Tuesday, June 9th, 2020

Summer Wardrobe

I swear to you, half or more of my sheltering time has been spent trying to get a new pair of blue jeans.  So far, I’ve had no luck at all.  I blame it on sloppy quality control with a tad of over-zealous marketing thrown in.  Plus, I’m convinced that as Americans have chunked up, manufacturers have changed their sizing so we’ll all feel better about ourselves.  For those of us who haven’t chunked with the times, it’s not working.

For 20 years or maybe more, I’ve bought the same brand of jeans.  I don’t mind telling what brand they are — NYDJ.  “Not Your Daughters Jeans” which, they promise, will fit and enhance the “mature” figure.  Hmmm.

Not Measuring Up!

When I bought my first pair — size 6P, one size smaller than usual as advised — I was five-feet-two and weighed 120 pounds, give or take 5.  Now, I am five-feet-one-ish, still weigh 120-ish and am, perhaps a little thicker through the thorax than previously.  Twenty years can do that to a girl.

Add to that information that I have two (count ’em 2) wardrobes — summer and winter.  In summer, I wear blue jeans and a sweatshirt with, maybe, a tee shirt beneath it.  In winter, I wear blue jeans, a sweatshirt over a tee shirt, Nyel’s old down vest, and a rain hat.  When I “dress up,” no matter the season, I usually wear black NYDJ jeans and a black sweater and, if I remember, a colorful scarf.  Neat and tidy is my goal, not fashion plate.

Winterized Sydney

So, when I ordered a new pair of jeans, same size as usual, my expectations were also as usual.  The pants came and they seemed a bit loose around the middle.  Washing in hot water should take care of it I thought.  It didn’t.  So, I hung that pair in the closet and ordered a pair of size 4P.  For some Covid-19 related reason, there was a long delay.

Last night the package finally arrived (bless Fed Ex).  I’m here to tell you that 4P fit me perfectly!  Except that my legs seem to be three inches too short.  Despite my last experience, this new pair is in the washing machine.  If they are still too long, I’ll send them back — none of this hiding them in the closet until they change their mind.  Daughter-schmaughter!  Could we just have a little quality control?


Another Wednesday… and so it goes.

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2020

Perspective really is everything when you come right down to it.  Right now, during this sheltering time, my perspective has mostly to do with what day of the week and what week of which month it is.  Today being Wednesday, there are two all-important concerns on my agenda.  It is Observer day and it is garbage day — usually thought of in that order.

My interest in the Observer is often quite personal.  Take today, for instance.  It’s the day my column usually appears — the first Wednesday of the month.  Plus, I have a series going about early settlements here that are no more — “Once upon a time in Pacific County.”  There is no set time for the articles to go into the paper but, once I turned one in, I am ever hopeful.  I’ve been looking for several weeks for the most recently submitted — on Bruceport — and even took a look online this morning rather than waiting until I can get to the post office for our hard copy.  Sadly, not yet in print.

The other biggee on Wednesdays is getting the garbage out in time for the new, earlier pick-up time — 8:30 a.m.  Depending on which week it is, I try to get everything in the dumpster on Tuesday night so I just have to wheel it out in the morning.  Sometimes I even remember to place the car in the garage so I can get that pesky dumpster past it without backing out, repositioning, or whatever.   Putting the garbage out the night before is not an option, of course.  Bears!

Then, there’s every other Tuesday when we cross the river to Fred Meyer’s to pick up our grocery order.  That’s an adventure in and of itself — especially the unpacking part when we get home to find out what’s missing or what’s extra.  Yesterday, no Johnsonville brats and, instead of unsalted butter, it was salted.  And still no bread flour.

But we are well-stocked for the next two weeks, and therein lies the impact on this particular Wednesday morning.  By the time we put away all those groceries, re-packaging some things for the freezer, dealing with plastic bags (I thought those were outlawed in Oregon…) I had forgotten all about garbage day coming up.  Or was too tired to care.

And so it goes.  It all reminds me of that great book I used to read to kids:  The Important Book by Margaret Wise Brown.  Each page followed a pattern in which the author told us what she thought was most important — never mind all the other characteristics — of a spoon or an apple or a shoe.  The kids often had their own ideas and didn’t always agree with Ms. Brown.

That would lead to the kids writing  their own “important books.”  One of my favorite (and, therefore, still memorable) pages was by a second grader who wrote:  “The important thing about me is that I am kind.  It is true that my name is Steve and that I am seven  and that I have two sisters.  But the important thing about me is that I am kind.”

The important thing about Thursday is…