Archive for the ‘Up Close and Personal’ Category


Thursday, 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!

Tuesday, 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


Taking another look… with love!

Monday, 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


The strangest valentine companion yet!

Wednesday, February 14th, 2024

February 14, 2024

My Valentine

I certainly didn’t plan my day the way it turned out.  Nor did I intend to spend it with this particular companion.  But, sometimes, you just need to do whatever is required and hope that it beats whatever the alternative might be.

It was a day spent trying to iron out kinks in my new computer.  And, truth to tell, my own kinks, as well.  I am the first to admit that if it looks different, I am immediately in a world of hurt and I am here to tell you that Windows 11 looks different from Windows 10.  BIGTIME!!  Though my son Charlie says he doesn’t remember that being the case.  Well, what can I say?  He’s the previous generation and that much closer to the realities of the 21st century.

The Interfering Printer

Worst of all,  it didn’t automatically embrace all of my programs and it seemed that I was stymied at every turn.  Yesterday I took it to the Computer Doctor who fixed it right up and took pains to review several “changes” with me. More than once.  I came right home and practiced and all seemed well.

But, first thing this morning, I needed to print something for the first time since TBC (The Big Change.)  For whatever reason (and don’t bother to tell me the possibilities — you may as well speak Greek or Chinese) I couldn’t fix it.  The Computer Doctor worked on it remotely and finally had to make a house call. Thinking one of the printer ports was wonky, he tried to get it to work wirelessly.  Nada.  And then… don’t ask.  I certainly didn’t.  We were up and running and I almost feel confident that I can proceed without more travail.

Compatibility at Last!

I’m trying to send good messages to this new computer — love messages for Valentine’s Day.  If you are able to read this lament (which I’m trying mightily to disguise as a love letter) you will know that so far, so good!

Here’s hoping  your Valentine Day was terrific and that your Valentine wasn’t as recalcitrant as mine!

Thanks for all your kind remarks!

Friday, February 2nd, 2024

February 2, 2024

It’s been a bit busy here this week — people to see, places to go, catching up to do.  No special reason.  It just happens sometimes. Usually those sorts of weeks are a pain in the tush.  But not this one.

For whatever reason, this was the week when my mail was full of kudos and compliments from unexpected quarters — mostly about my “Saints or Sinners” stories that have been appearing in the Chinook Observer each week for the last few months.  Not only have a number of readers weighed in with plaudits and pleasant remarks, but even some descendants of those saints or sinners have written to corroborate information and to let me know of their appreciation.

I probably speak for most writers when I say that positive feedback is not all that easy to come by and is much appreciated when it does arrive.  You’ve probably noticed, yourself, that most often the “Letters to the Editor” are more critical than celebratory.  But, what has come to me lately through Face Book or in response to my blog posts are comments and remarks that warm the cockles of my heart.  Thank you!

I try my best to respond to each person who reaches out.  I’m not always successful, though, and for that I am sorry.  Please do not give up on me!  I’ll try to answer your questions, and let you know how much I appreciate hearing from you.  In large measure, your feedback keeps me going.  Woot!  Woot!

Me ‘N’ My ‘Puter

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2024

A thinking laptop cartoon character with a question mark.

I spend a lot of time at my computer.  More than with any of my friends or loved ones and certainly more than with any other screen device.  It holds all my “secrets” (such as they are) and is the repository for much of my memory — both in pictures and words, long-term memory as well as short.

So, it’s probably not too weird that when it goes wonky, I feel disoriented and insecure.  Lately, programs that have always responded predictably have been giving me grief.  Occasionally, a familiar site presents itself differently and, scariest of all, I can’t always find my way around in once familiar territory.  I was beginning to feel like one of us has the beginnings of dementia — or maybe both of us.

So, it was a great relief to me when I called my Computer Guru and he took a look.  “You know,” he said, “your computer is pretty old now.  It may be time to consider getting a new one.”  It will have a wider screen and half-again as much memory!  At least, he didn’t suggest that it was my own aging brain that was the trouble — though I have no doubt that that’s part of the problem.  But if I can survive the learning curve of changing from old to new, my ‘puter troubles should disappear — or at least be manageable.

Although, as I think back to my first experiences in CPU-Land some forty  years ago, I don’t think my personal confusion has changed much with regard to cyberspace and its denizens. Dealing with my own aging mind, however,  would not be a matter of replacement as we all know. Becoming confused when dealing with my computer is scary enough.  I hope we can leave it at that for the foreseeable future!

I had to see it with my own eyes! So will you!

Friday, January 19th, 2024

I wish the young artist who drew my picture had signed it!

Yesterday I finally managed to visit the Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum to see their current exhibit, “The Heart of the Museum Part II:  Seeing Local History Through Scrapbooks.”  And about time, too!  The exhibit has been up since January 5th and, though it runs through March 9th, I wanted to leave plenty of time to see it again.  And again!  As I knew I would, I loved it!

First and foremost, self-serving as it sounds, I loved seeing how my own scrapbooks were displayed!  Not all of them, of course — I think there have been 80-some donated so far.  And I loved the way “they”  (read: Betsy Millard) selected those they thought exemplified the collection and how they chose to display them.  My scrapbooks were in three different groupings and in three different areas.  First was was a stack of “Long Beach School, Room 5” scrapbooks — one for each of the last five years I taught– displayed beneath a sign about me which begins: “Sydney Stevens, former school teacher, author and historian…”

Croquet Scrapbooks!

Next was a display of some of my “Croquet Scrapbooks” with a special “exhibit” of the pages from the 1987 book showing scenes from Nyel and my “surprise” wedding that year.  So fun!  And, finally, as part of an exhibit of church scrapbooks, a number of mine are sitting on what appears to be a church pew.  “Since the pages are fully protected by Mylar,” Betsy told me, “we thought it would be fun for people to be able to look at these.  Everyone loves the Oysterville Church!”  Amen to that.

The most spectacular part of all the exhibits are the complete collection of Gordon Schoewe’s scrapbooks which he kept up from his college years (1944) until shortly before he died (2014).  Fifty years of scrapbooks in Gordon’s inimitable style — complete with a drawing of Ambrose-the-Rabbit, Gordon’s alter-ego!  There are also a few pages featuring one of his and Roy’s early ’80s Christmas Parties with Gordon’s cryptic word bubbles added to our photos.  So bittersweet to revisit those memories now that most of the party-goers are celebrating in the Great Beyond.

Have a seat and take a look at one or two Oysterville Church scrapbooks!

And others — so many others!  Joe Knowles’ scrapbook about his adventure into the Maine Woods in 1913 and schoolteacher Mrs. Osborne’s scrapbook with that infamous 1948 “all school” picture from Ocean Park School — and there I was again, in 7th grade!

And lest you think it was all about me — NOT!  It’s about all of us — our wonderfully intertwined and complicated greater community — a look back of over 100 years!  Be sure to check it out.  You are bound to run across someone you know or a place you’ve been or an event you attended.  Or, perhaps, you’ll be able to spend a few precious moments with a friend long gone.  It’s a great exhibit!




“Full Disclosure” …as they say.

Sunday, August 27th, 2023

After dinner last night, I put my feet up “for just a minute” fully intending to write my blog before bedtime.  End of story, almost.  I did surface long enough to turn off the lights (most of them) and go to bed, never giving a single thought to the blog title I had written earlier in the day.  It was a great title (I thought) and would immediately trigger whatever pearls of wisdom I had decided to share with my stalwart readers.

This morning, when I finally got back to my computer, there were those provocative words, “Full Disclosure.”  Unfortunately they didn’t provoke a single thought.  Damn!  But that’s the way it is these days now that I’m on the shady side of 87!  I don’t like to think that “I am losing it.”  Rather, I look at these little memory lapses as flashes of brilliance that were so amazing, they burned themselves out before I could fully grasp them.

And, if truth were told, I think I’ve always had those momentary blank spots — probably we all have them.  The difference now is undoubtedly one of frequency and duration.  Or maybe it’s that I’m now overly fond of some of my brilliant thoughts and losing the ability to share them is more annoying than it used to be.  Who knows?

I remember saying to Nyel (back in plummier days) when he was trying to remember something “important” to tell me just before bedtime — “If you think of it, don’t wake me up.  Tell me in the morning…”  I can’t remember now whether he did or didn’t.  I guess whatever it was, wasn’t all that crucial.  A lot like whatever I was going to “fully disclose.”

Happy Birthday to the Legendary Ray Hicks!

Saturday, May 13th, 2023

Sydney and Ray Hicks on the Occasion of His 93rd Birthday

It’s not every day you get to visit with a legend!  And it’s hardly ever that you have your picture taken with one!  But, in Pacific County there is no doubt whatsoever that Ray Hicks is a legend and yesterday we finally had our picture taken together!

I say “finally” because… well, it’s a long story.  I think I’m going to save it for one of my “Saints or Sinners — Characters of Pacific County” stories (if he okays it first! Suffice it to say that yesterday was Ray’s 93rd birthday and I went with neighbors Carol and Tucker Wachsmuth to wish him many more!

Ray and I almost met near here in 1954!

Ray’s party was scheduled from 12:00 to 3:00 at the Pacific County Historical Society.  I was eager to get there early so we might have a chance to visit… and we did!  We spoke of our memories, of our failing eyesight, of the books we are reading (and the trouble with small print), and of some of Ray’s jobs over on the west side of the bay.  He talked to me about cables and other mysterious (to me) job-related “stuff” and, also, about a couple of bad accidents he’d had years ago — 400 stitches!! OMG!

But the man is apparently indestructible.  Thank goodness or he never would have made it to legend status and I’d have missed the photo op of my lifetime.  Happy, happy birthday, Ray.  And many more!



Reliable? Only sometimes…

Tuesday, May 2nd, 2023

1969 VW Bug — The Best of the Best!  (This wasn’t mine, though.  I never had such fancy wheels.)

It’s my Forgetter I’m headlining here.  They can talk about “short term memory loss” all they want, but for most of us old ducks it’s just that our Forgetter is working overtime (sometimes) and is unreliable (all the time.)  Or that might be the Recall Button that’s unreliable.  I forget.

Anyway, take today for instance.  I was on my way over to Lum’s Dealership for my second (free!!! yay!!!) scheduled service on my barely year-old Prius and I got to thinking about the old VW Bug days.  There were lots of them.  I think I had a 1957 — part of Bill LaRue’s wedding dowry — a 1964, a 1969 and, finally, a 1974 Super Beetle.  (Charlie may remember the years more clearly.  He inherited the ’69 and had it a good many more years) The ’64 and the ’69 Bill and I picked up in Europe, drove over there for the summer, put in storage for a month or two and imported them as used cars.

The SuperBeetle I picked up in London and drove my folks to all my favorite European haunts on their first-ever trip there.  Charlie and Marta met us in June of that year and we turned the car over to them (gulp!) — Charlie had just graduated from high school and Marta, the older sister, was already playing and singing with Bay Area bands.  I was sure they’d do fine — and they did!

Sydney’s Super Beetle – 1982 Painting by Nancy Lloyd

When I moved to Oysterville full-time in 1978, I still had the Super Beetle and I kept it until just before Nyel and I were married.  I never did like it as much as the Bugs and only our P.T. Cruiser came close to any of the VWs.  The Prius comes in at a firm third place.

But the Forgetter Part is about those VWs.  I don’t ever remember getting them serviced.  Surely, I did.  But where?  And when?  I remember getting a few dings repaired and even who did the body work — (one of Marta’s boyfriends.)  But I have NO memory of oil changes or carburetor adjustments or tire rotations or any of that other stuff that might be connected to servicing.

But then if my Forgetter MUST click in occasionally, I guess that’s as good a subject about as any to forget, eh?