Wednesday, December 31, 2008


This year I started a blog, and was rewarded by other blogs. Thanks to "Blogs of Note" provided by the blogger people, whoever they are, I'm reading some awesome stuff, straight from the source. So, today, I want to thank the blogger people for identifying and parading blogs; and I want to thank the bloggers whose posts have been inspiring. If I mispell your blog, forgive me; I'm still a neophite in this playground of computing.

So in the order in which they get read, here are the blogs I follow:



Each blog offers a window to that person's world, and additional windows as well because each writer has a list of blogs they follow, and so on and so on. I have peeked and observed photos and opinions from different parts of the world. ( My one and only official follower, a student from Ireland, had to give up her blog because she ran out of money. Sorry.)

This perusing has taught me a few things I need to do, kind of a New Year Resolution for blogging: 1. incorporate pictures and links; 2. leave a comment every time I stop and read; 3. be adventurous and travel the world on the net.

Finally, I want to thank people who have read and left comments on my site: Matawheeze at sixtyup; Cheri at her blog; the folks at Island Press, an environmental group who have published my comments on their esteemed and learned website. In addition, I want to thank my Bandon Writers, who are generous with their attention and their comments. Without your insights, I would still be wishing and hoping.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Whale migration

Off the coast of Oregon, hundreds of whales are swimming south to Baja this week.

When we moved to this coast, we spent hours at the beach, eyes fixed on the horizon, hoping to see a blow spray. We were always rewarded with glorious demonstrations, blowing and circling close enough to be visible without instrument assistance.

But this is not just a December activity in this part of Oregon. Whales can be spotted all winter long, often close to shore, enjoying our mild weather and abundant seafood. Our school children spend a lot of time studying marine environments, delighting in the discovery of small and big animals on their field trips. No wonder the idea of digging for oil off shore did not receive enthusiastic support.

While the rest of the nation is in a winter freeze, we watch storms and whales migrating.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Another year, another Christmas

It's the end. By tonight, the presents will all be wrapped, the stockings hung and the goose stuffed. Tomorrow morning, millions of children everywhere will squeal with joy at the surprises under the tree, or in the stockings. And we too, will feel their joy and collectively sigh a big sigh of relief. Another Christmas, another major event for which we were assigned the part of provider of mirth and fulfiller or desires, has come. Mission Accomplished. We played our part as well and as fully as we could. All of us. Even if we do not believe in Christmas magic, or Santa, or Baby Jesus.

Pagan or Christian, agnostic or Jew, Muslim or Buddist, we have all stretched our understanding of celebration to include a fir tree, decorated and imposing, a spectacular dessert and gift giving. Indulgence going both ways.

And we have remembered all the other Christmases in our lives; the sad and disappointed ones too. Mostly,though, we kept fussing with our memories until something about the magic and the giving and the joy was unearthed. For me, it was about making Panettone, the sweet bread my mother made only at Christmas. It was so hard for her to get all the ingredients collected-most of the time she had to improvise when something was missing, one reason I enjoy that form of cooking also-that presenting the family with such a treat on Christmas morning with hot chocolate takes me back to all the Christmases past.

I hope my children and grandchild (and future grandchildren) will still maintain the tradition of making Panettone. It will connect them to their families for centuries.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Cape Blanco-Part Two

I spoke too soon yesterday. Rain began pelting around five, and within a couple of hours, the wind and the rain were so raucous that their noise drowned the television. The trees swayed and bent and shook out loose branches, hurling them all over, across the street, into neighbors' gardens. Seagulls will be off miles from shore this morning, mercifully looking for their sandy coves.

We get these storms from November to March, abundant rain flowing from every direction and winds from the south. Windows and doors on the southside must be sturdy, with double/triple panes; yet,after each storm, we check and recheck everything, including cars and sheds.

Cows and other grazing animals know what to do most of the time; our ranchers go out, though, and rescue many animals. Some just get spooked, and it is not unusual to find a cow wandering on Highway 101, miles from its pasture, slowing traffic or being herded by it.

This was a mild storm. Our big trees are still standing.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Weather Watching

Cape Blanco, the westernmost point in the contiguous United States, is a few miles away from my house on the Oregon coast. Storms will hit Cape Blanco at hurricane speed. Wind and rain will imprison us for weeks at a time. But we are hardy folks here; we stock up for such events, with plenty of supplies for heating and eating; we hold storm parties, and dress for all eventualities.

Fishing boats go out through the night-dozens of lights bobbing on the waves-to place and collect crab traps. This year's catch is healthy, but not spectacular. The price of fresh crab in the markets is $4.50 a pound this week. With hot butter on the side, a beer, a crusty loaf of bread, dinner is as fresh as one can get. And one fat crab will feed the two of us nicely.

We can catch our own, with a $6 license,and an hour or two on the dock.

Weather watching and crab catching are top activities during this season.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

We all need a bit of Christmas.

Every year, we spend too much, running on a threadmill with millions of others, buying and buying to feel something. to feel a bit of Christmas the way we experienced as children. What we want is that sense of magic that was the result of others' generosity and good will. And that can't be bad, can it?

In my community, the bell ringer for the local Salvation Army reported an unusual amount of donations. The local schools have collected more than ever, even though there are more children on free and reduced lunches.
Traditions that make goodwill and generosity come alive during these tough times must be maintained and encouraged. This is not the time to feel like Scrooges.

Only then, the joy of the season will warm us all over.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Believe the Weathermen!

I'm skeptical when it comes to weather predictions. Even if I hear about a storm coming our way, I will not believe the story until it has passed.

Well, I was warned about this present storm, the chill, the icy roads. And I didn't prepare much more than my usual 'make a soup that can feed us if I can't cook for a while.' If we lose electricity with the next punch that's supposed to hit us tomorrow night, we are in for chilly nights and cold bread and butter. The soup is gone, and I will not make another one. I'm now sick of soups.

Husband is a hardy type; he opens cans. He could live on Spam and Vienna Sausages and canned soups. Not I. For me, anything from a can is second rate food, not worthy of refined palate I've cultivated all these decades.

But now I must prepare. If not a soup, then a terrine,an eggplant parmigiana, or a pizza. All these can be eaten cold and become fillers when we have had enough cereal and milk, and peanut butter sandwiches. Maybe I should rig the fireplace to become an indoor grill for meats and pizzette, and hot-in-the-ash potatoes. Yummy.

Come to think of it, I better get busy and get the wood into the house, enough for a week of possible bad weather.

Wait. It's sunny outside; and the ducks are back on the lake; and the deer are munching on the fast-browning lawn. They are not worried.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Illinois Governor loves Poetry!

I just discovered a blog called "Poem of the Week". The author? Answer: the current governor of Illinois. The same one. The one selling the senate seat. On the profile page, with his picture, there is nothing else to explain why he would choose a poem a week to share with the world.

Who knew! He's a closet intellectual, living the poetic life of self-scrutiny and meditation.

Someone, please explain to me these inconsistencies.

But wait,and I quote from his profile: "if you want to choose next week's poem, it'll cost you"

That last part might be a clue to the man.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Rain, and snow, and other storms around us.

I spoke too soon, and the furies were right there behind the horizon, watching for an opportunity. And last night, all throught the night they tore at the coastline, ravaging the dunes,sending all animals, big and small to take cover. Today, and through the entire weekend they are supposed to hang around, showing their power. There is snow on the roof of my sunroom. At sea level. Snowroom.

We needed the rain. And the snow. And winter.

Today the garden will rest, while I remain indoors and use up those sticks and branches that I've collected around the yard and have not burned. The fireplace will go back to fuel coziness.

I'm watching the flames burn quickly through two boxes of wood and kindling in just one hour. Fortunately, my electricity is working, and the fireplace is not really needed. It is just a prop in a play, to remind us of the days when we couldn't survive without that fire.

Rain and snow and thunder will be the protagonists today, in a play where we can be the audience, comforted by our circumstances.

I wonder how many people will be affected by the other storms hitting our world, storms where people have been the protagonists; storms that were fueled by greed and selfishness and carelessness. None of us can rest.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Who's got our rain?

After stripping down to t-shirts for the last few weeks I'm beginning to worry. Where is the rain? My paper-whites are blooming and even the roses haven't slowed down. The arugula is going to seed after a couple of weeks of life, and the apple trees are threatening to bud.

Where is the rain?

We shouldn't be complaining, I know. But this is our rainy season, a time for snow to pile up on the mountains and flow down in our rivers and creeks in the summer time.

The geese have arrived this week on the lake, waking us up yesterday with their honking. Great big geese, usually here by the end of October, are late and fat and perhaps confused, too. How long will they stay. How much will they find to eat since the farmers have harvested their hay long ago, readying for the rainy season. It is the middle of December, but here on the southern Oregon Coast it feels like spring, with temperatures in the high fifties and sun so warm on our south facing patio that I'm maintaining my summer tan into winter.

It is hard to think of Christmas, and spruce trees, and garlands of evergreen perfuming the house. We don't get enough of summer, out here. This feels good; but weird, and abnormal. It ought to rain big time by now. Last year, in early December, we had a major storm that lasted days, and brought major havoc. What's happening out there?

Who's got our rain?

Friday, November 28, 2008

Holiday Thoughts

From Thanksgiving on, the entire holiday season has nothing but pitfalls and dead ends. While everybody shouts 'Merry' or 'Happy', nothing in the season feels happy. Guilt and anxiety hover everywhere.

In the past, shopping, started early, with and without lists, provided the remedy for the season's malady. In the present, shopping is no longer an option.

First, we live on a fixed income, and that is reason enough to give up shopping. Second, shopping for adult children is never pleasant. Their taste is hard to determine; and even if I divined what it was that they would want, the item would not be inexpensive,and kind to my budget.

Another reason to give up shopping is the fact that shopping is addictive. The more you shop, the more you want to recapture the excitement and shop again. Shopping gives us all a big high. And once we begin to get high, we want to keep that up.

The best reason to give up shopping is to live like a mature individual, one who realizes what's important in life, and is not easily persuaded by advertisements.

We want to enjoy togetherness, sharing stories and recipes that tell the stories of our family and connect us to each other through generations and centuries.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Holidays-Fretting and Fussing, Oh My...

I'm a happy camper the entire year. As holidays approach,however, I begin to fret. When company is expected at any other time, I just run the vacuum and voila, the house is set.

But not around the holidays. Now, every room in the house has to be addressed-cobwebs and curtains and extra soaps. And the decorations have to be hung to set the mood-pumpkins and gourds, turkeys and pilgrims for one month, and then, quick change to poinsetta and fir, garlands and tinsel. There is so much fuss just dressing the house that I lose any desire to do anything else, see anybody, bake the traditional pies, or choose the Christmas tree for the living room.

And that's not even the half of it. Presents need to be bought and shipped to those who can't join us for the day, and stockings need to be stuffed for those who will make it to our house, literally over rivers, and woods. The children who are closest have to cross the Willamette, the Umpkua, the Smith, the Coos, the Coquille, the Sixes and the Elk, all wild rivers that might get too bloated during rainy season which starts in September and ends in May.

And then there are forests, the entire Coastal Range that might necessitate chains certain times.

If there is a big storm, as the one last year at the beginning of December that blew off the roof of our high school and shut down Highway 101 for a few miles up and down the coast, and flooded half of Oregon to the point that the National Guard had to help people evacuate,( unfortunately the National Guard and the Reserves are still in Iraq, so the lay volunteer force was called in), under those conditions even the local stores and gas stations and utilities are wiped out. Then, nobody can connect with anybody and we just survive.

Then the spirit of the holidays invaded everyone. People were out on the highway chopping trees and clearing roads, at the high school, packing books in the library that had lost a roof, clearing debris from playgrounds,churches,businesses.

Neighbors fired up their BBQ and cooked for anybody in their block that needed a hot meal. They finished cutting down the felled trees in their yards and started out on the neighbor's. The fretting and the fussing connected us all and heralded the warmest of holidays.

These are probably the ancient memories in the songs we sing, the rituals we bring out every year, to be reminded that we have survived, and we can celebrate yet another season.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Books we Read

My mother used to say, tell me who your friends are, and I can tell who you are. Or something similar to this, only in Italian. Associations have always been important in making us feel part of the group, accepted and loved and protected. I go a step further: tell me what you read, and I can tell what you think of yourself in a deep sense, the kind of person you really admire.

That brings me to books, the associations we make with ideas, the associations across time, across places and geography, across languages and cultures, across tribes. Books, and music and film, all tell a great deal about who we are.

I belong to a reading group here in town with nine members. So, during the year, we read nine books together, and share our thoughts with each other. WE also discuss other books we read on the side, as in 'if you liked this, then...'. We do not view things the same way, nor do we make ourselves read something we don't like at all. It has happened that I chose "Magic Seeds" by Naipaul thinking everybody was going to be just amazed at the depth and breadth. I was wrong. Perfectly intelligent beings can disagree on what makes a book good. Obviously, I was crushed. How could anybody dismiss this book?

In a few weeks, the group will discuss another book I chose, "What is the What" by Dave Eggers, a biographical account of the Lost Boys of Sudan. The book is over 400 pages, and my guess is that it is too heavy of a subject for most of the group. So, why did I choose it?

We choose books for the same reasons we choose different friends at different times in our lives. We want to be adventourous in our youth: we choose friends who dare to break the rules, dare to stretch their wings. WE may not have the same courage but we admire that quality in others, and hopefully, by association, it will rub on us.

At this stage in my life I no longer have to maintain my professional skills, choosing books that help me understand teaching and learning, children and their special needs. I'm hungry for adult themes, and sweeping vistas. I want to learn about the world and my place in it. I want to understand, and learn about others' understanding, too. I want to read books that tell me what the news doesn't cover, what the history books will gloss over.

"What is the What" will do that, and much more. It will remind me that I, too, was an immigrant, confused and hopeful, frustrated with my progress. This is both a private story and a public outcry for action and compassion and understanding that everything in this modern world is inextricable.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Gift Giving

Gigt Giving has become less and less personal. Because of convenience, I have chosen to send gift cards to my relatives in California. I got no satisfaction what-so-ever, no-how, zip. The holidays came and went and the bills came and were paid, and absolutely no holiday spirit was ever felt. But the cards were the easiest way to handle presents for people whose tastes and desires were not easily understood. When I asked my grandchild how she used her gift card she couldn't think of anything in particular that she purchased. So, she got no satisfaction either.

This year it will be different. Even with the slumping economy and a tight family budget. I will choose a present for everyone that I want them to have. Even if they don't like it, and that is entirely possible given the fact that I do not live close to any big shopping center and my sense of style has shriveled a bit since moving to this isolated place, I will have the satisfaction of maintaining holiday routines.

I will stop at the Wool Shop where my neighbors spin wool from their sheep and process it into beautiful caps and scarfs. Local farmers and ranchers can ship fabulous jams and chutneys made with local fruit. Or, I can stop at the art council's shop and pick up one of a kind jewelry, or pottery, or painting. If I drive just a bit south, there is a smokehouse that packs tuna fished just miles from our port.

Or, I can give them the legacy of sharing memories. I've always wanted to send them recipes and family stories that go with them. This might just be the year that I get to be thoughtful about sharing the spirit of the holidays

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Down on the lake

Lake Garrison has a thin dune separating its waters from the Pacific Ocean. Every winter since we've been here (six winters now) the dune is erased, crushed by waves an winds; then, the lake becomes a lagoon for a few years. We get almost 80 inches of rain every year, mostly in the winter, and between the marine layer, the fog, the rain and the sea spray, we are sorrounded by water. Within a few miles, three wild rivers flow freely to the Ocean. Water Everywhere.

Still, we have a water shortage. Our town's infrastructure is old, very old. Of the water we process, we lose 50% due to old pipes and leaks. Our water treatment facility needs an overall. But there are too few of us to afford a new system. We are paying for a sewer system that was totally destroyed during a winter storm before it was paid up. And we are paying for a newer system as well. Our water and sewer cost equal the cost of food on a monthly basis.

Many small towns have these problems. They seem idyllic and pastoral; but, without some government or state subsidy ( we did get a grant to rebuild our sewer system) they will cease to be vital and die out.People will move out, forced to live in congested settings.

In the next few years retirees will move to small towns and will be hit hard by the cost of maintaining such communities. Are all small towns disappearing?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Our days

This last election will be remembered with vividness and pride, an election that will frame and define a new future. We were all conscious of what is at stake, the paths we are forging. I wonder if our parents had the same self-consciousness in their days.

They experienced World Wars, the Great Depression, victories and ideological struggles, births and deaths of nations. Did they realize how each of those events would change the course of history?

We are sharing these thoughts in a more democratic way than ever before. As I read various blogs- my recent favorites: cheriblocksabrow blog; sixtyup blog; eggsmcgeeze blog; I'm excited about this age, this time. This is a good time to share, to record, to seek new insights and become more active civically.

Misquoting Shakespeare: "The future,dear Brutus, is not in the stars, but in ourselves".

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Trick is to Hang On

Whatever happens in the next presidential term, the trick is to hang on to our sense of collective pride, and good will, and not become greedy for instant solutions.

The appointed Cabinet will help the new president flesh out his plans and proposals. The trick for them all is to hang on to the fundamentals on which Obama ran, fundamentals like fair play, hard work, good will in solving our collective problems.

For the rest of us, the trick is to keep an active interest in politics, not as a game or a strategy, but as a function of the poly-the city-the collective good.

The next presidential term will ask us to pass bonds, re-adjust taxes and align legislation that will consider the common good in all actions. The trick is for us all to hang on and have faith in the democratic process.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Electing a President

Many people did their part in this election, working tirelessly to elect their candidate. Everyday people had a chance to get involved, meet their neighbors and encourage each other to vote and be involved. I know people who had not voted for decades who cast their ballot to elect Barack Obama. And these people were not young.

That's what democracy is all about: a give-and-take dialogue combining knowledge and insights, seeking solutions above blame. Elections remind us that our future is in our hands, that a democracy needs citizens who look at possibilities, and help create a more perfect union.

We need to maintain this lesson in our day to day lives, by being involved in our city councils, our board of education, our county commissions. The health and welfare of our communities depend on our staying informed and debate solutions.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A New Era

President-elect Barack Obama addressed the nation last night and set a new tone for the White House. Changes are coming. Yet, we all feel a sense of peace and resolve, a wonderful sense that things will be o.k. now.

For the last eight years the Republican Party's tactics and policies have marginalized too many people and concetrated power and wealth among few. The economy had been slipping, and the tax cuts for the wealthy have not helped.

Opportunities and sacrifices await, two wars, economic slump and a planet in peril.

Our addiction to news and polls will wane. We'll become active, roll up our sleeves and mold the new America. We'll become informed and committ to be watchdogs.

Most of all we are ready to work hard.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Count me In among the Decided

How can people still be undecided? Simple. They were always undecided, split in their allegiance, or confused by all the blabber and the fury. Undecided get what they deserve, though. If they don't take the time to educate themselves on the choices and then make a committment to one of those choices, they are either lazy or stupid.

They want somebody else to decide for them. And someone will. I read somewhere that we get the leaders we deserve. WE DESERVE. Simply put, people who run for office are interested in leading and governing, we assume. What we don't know is who is supporting them, who is financing their campaigns and gets a piece of his/her soul. So, those are the people who get elected, usually.

But this election has taught us something else. Ordinary folks,those who could give no more than $100 to the campaign came together, contributed what they could, and they now have a superlative candidate who is not financed by big money and selfish interests. We have a candidate whose pilgrim's progress was humble and truly christian in spirit: helping those less fortunate. He does not have country club credentials or jet-setters interests. Both he and his wife paid for their education through hard work and hope. If we had this type of candidate in the past, we didn't recognize him. He would never have surfaced to this prominence. We needed the experiences of a six-pack George administration to understand the importance of selecting the right candidate.

Undecided will get what they get. They choose not to choose. But for me, and those of us who have thoghtfully vetted our choices all these months, we have made our choice.

After Tuesday, with Barack Obama's leadership, America will finally have a government responsive to all people.

Friday, October 24, 2008

My vote

Today I will vote, finally. The ballot and the pamphlets have piled up on the dining room table, and it is time to clear the mess and committ. Not that I had to think much about any of the choices on this year's ballot. The choices were obvious, and no amount of mudslinging or pimple finding was going to distract me.

I enjoyed the charade, the attacks, the twists and turns and word=coinage necessary to convince people. My test is to look at who is sponsoring the measure. People have motives and histories. And it is not hard to Google and get facts and sources.

We go back to our basic instincts when we vote. We look at a candidate and his/her history and form an opinion, an impression of how that person lived his/her life and whether he/she would understand the needs that we have.

And then, there is the way we all express our needs. Some of us are more selfish than others. And, at election time, we don't hide it too well. Look at who wants to save whom. And who needs to be saved. And who has done the saving in his/her past.

I don't need government's help. But I know lots of people who do, not because of anything they did or didn't do. Their circumstances in life became demanding. Most people have worked and struggled. And we had compassionate people help us on the way. Government is the ultimate expression of that compassion, of people looking out for each other to do things they could not do on their own.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The writer's life

In our writing group, two men and a dozen women who tend to come and go, we appreciate each other's efforts and recognize that any time, any minute, the maladies that afflict one will afflict us all, maladies as self-doubt and lack of inspiration. These are the dreaded ones.

They are virus, actually, surfacing now and then and blooming for weeks and months and even years. We know what we must do and remind each other to continue to write, and continue to believe in our own unique way of expressing experiences and beliefs.

Just as it happened in kindergarten when we loved all the new things around us, the letters, the words, the foods, the tactile experience of sharing close space with strangers, and we looked forward to the pleasures explored in that room, so it can be again, each time we write, each time we share with appreciative friends and helpful supporters.

Then, self-doubt will remain a dormant virus and writing will continue to be joyous.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Election Season

Ray Bradbury described the approach of Christmas, the making of fruitcake, in a beautiful short story, recounting the smell and feel of that season. Every four years we experience a season that has peculiar sensations, smells and feels.

It has the best and the worst, the homey and brave, and the icy and bully, a vision of hope, and a vision of fear, all at the same time.

When did politics become such a dividing rod? The New Yorker related how people as late as the 1800's had to obtain and carry their own ballots to the polls, and on the way to the polling places they were mugged, lost the ballots, or worse. Voting has never been a friendly activity.

We tell a lot about ourselves by the people we choose to support in leadership roles. What is best and worst in human nature comes out during election season. We tend to choose with our gut feeling, a primitive brain that had to be ready to flee or fight, eat or be eaten.

Our little town of 1000+ residents has a pretty good cooperative spirit most of the time. But, lately, it is divided and conflicted, recalling city councilors and badmouthing a whole lot of issues. We've seen these things before, and they do not end up well.

No wonder then, that the attacks and counterattacks are getting ugly. The spirit of election time brings out the competitive spirit in most people, and differences are shouted and emphasized to the detriment of cooperation and team spirit.

Too bad. Shouting and hollering prevent planning and reflecting and visualizing how the future will look for our children and grandchildren. All our children will remember of election season is its ugliness and a bad taste.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A new phase in America

We heard it for a while, but we didn't want to believe it, how America was slipping back, ignoring its infrastructure, abandoning its focus on creating jobs and prosperity for all Americans. We had an inkling that we were somehow overextended, though we could still go to Wall Mart and fill up our carts with cheap merchandise.

When we couldn't fill up our gas tanks, when the cost of one week's gas was as much as the weekly grocery bill, we began to voice our concerns.

When September came and our kids returned to schools that were a bit more decrepit, a bit less equipped, a bit understaffed, we didn't pay attention. After all, schools have been complaining all along, nothing new.

It took the big news of Wall Street collapsing for us to notice our Main Street had been ignored and forlorn for a while. When a rescue package was put together in Congress with more zeros than we would have picture in our household, we began to comprehend. These troubles are big. This situation involves all of us in America. Pensions, retirement funds, college savings, life savings, houses, jobs, health care, food inspection, environment, all, all aspects of everybody's lives are in this meltdown.

We noticed that the global markets took a hit as well. And that in places like Europe, coooperation and planning took place quickly and efficiently. We noticed that solutions have been worked out and somehow, if we are lucky, we will find solutions in America as well.

I wonder how we got so far behind the curve. In my lifetime, the European nations had become a bunch of rubble and broken people at the end of a war, and they too had domestic and foreign terrorists for decades. But they managed to coordinate efforts, support infrastructure building, life-style accomodations for all their citizens, provided for the welfare of those who couldn't do it for themselves, and built a new economy and a strong solidarity.

In a couple of weeks we will vote for a new leadership. America cannot stand alone in the world, doing the same things and expecting miracles. Let's roll up our sleeves and work at solutions the democratic way.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Parting Words and "Au Revoir".

I could go on and on about France. Vacations will continually haunt you, caress you and make you dream. As I unpacked and collected the bits of paper, maps and ticket stubs and tried to find a place to keep all this, for times when dreaming of Provence would lift my mood, I ran across the email addresses of the fellow passengers. I wish I'd spent more time getting to know them as well. Their impressions and bits of information would add to my understanding of what we experienced.

We can write to each other and share the eccentric details sticking out from each town. Like the way the elevator and the lights in Paris were dependent on our room key to operate. That first ride, how we stood there and kept pushing the up button in the elevator with no results until someone entered, put his key in and off we went. Or the flushing mechanisms in each establishment, or the fact that when we had finished eating in that beautiful place in Baune. or so we thought, and asked for the "addition", the bill, the waiter prompty advised us that the "real dessert" was still on the way. It turned out that they handed out packets of goodies as we waited for the souffles.

I wish I had gotten closer to some people, as well. The driver of the bus was from Italy, Monza, where I have nephews who'd be the same age and might, just might be known to him. But I didn't think to ask him when I chatted in Italian with him.

In the restroom in Monte Carlo, as I paid the attendant, I heard Italian spoken. I must have laughed at the joke that the two ladies were sharing, something about having to pay to pee. One of them asked me if I too came from Italy. I told them that I grew up in a tiny town. She asked me, and I told her. It surprised both of us to realize we had come from the same town, and knew many families still living there. I could have chatted longer, but my Italian wasn't fluent enough for such intimacies.

And then the Canadian couple, he from Italy, she from England, married for forty years, our age. We got along swimmingly, though the husband reminded me of all the stubborn Italian men I'd known. His wife agreed with me.

And the kitchen gardens at the winery where we had a lunch al fresco and everybody got sun burned. I made my husband take lots of pictures. These will be my reminder that I too can work my garden space to such meticulous beauty. Every square inch was cultivated or decorated. No wild spaces, no errant bush or blackberry vine sneaking up and invading the symmetry. But then, there were no birds. NO BIRDS! I can't remember the official explanation. Is it because they hunt them?

The rows of vegetables and flowers were neatly arranged, not a weed patch anywhere. Pears and apples were espaliered, and even tomatoes were trained on one main vine. The big, clunky fig trees were relegated to the end of the garden, providing a wind barrier and some shade. Throughout, fine gravel was the foot path and rose harbors stood as gates to each distinctive area. Our lunch included food from those gardens and wine from the adjecent vineyards. Did you know that in France grapes are not irrigated? The character of the fruit is inhanced by letting the roots go deep to look for water and to extract the essence of the "terroir", the earth.

My dad was a winemaker. This intimate visit brought back many memories of him working in the vineyards, tending each and every grapevine by hand, daily concentration of love and sweat. He used to make a special wine just for me, or so he said. He would show me where my grapes grew, how much was needed for a bottle of wine. It was a sweet Muscat, watered down for me for many years, just the way most children in Italy would get to taste and appreciate wine with their family meals.

France is a place to return and visit more slowly,savoring every bite, every drink.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The French Riviera

After the wine estates and the charming medieval towns, after we viewed the Camarque and the fields of Provence, artists' colonies and romantic wetlands,papal palaces and Crusaders' bastions, we headed to the French Riviera.

Out of Marseille we drove along the Aurelian Way to visit St. Maximin-la-Ste-Baune where, according to legend, the bones of St. Mary Magdalene are buried in the Basilica, in an underground crypt. The nearby school and seminary are now a hotel, catering to the many tourists who come around after the "Da Vinci Code" put this church on the map of all pilgrims.

We stopped in Cannes for lunch and pictures on the steps of the Film FEstival Centre on the Boulevard de la Croisette. We had lunch at Freddy,on the boulevard, where the specialty was a delightful paella. Spanish and Italian influences were seen in all the items on the menu. The place was soon filled with jet-setters. If we looked carefully we could have spotted Angelina and Brat. WE were surrounded by subdued natives eating and talking in whispers, loud tourists from all over the globe, and paparazzi taking pictures of anyone being dropped off in a limo. This prepared us for Monte Carlo the next day.

Monte Carlo sits on top of a hill, entered through one main highway that is manned twenty-four hours a day. The traffic is controlled so the town doesn't get too overwhelming. Our bus was detained for a good hour before it was allowed to drive at the bottom of a hill and drop us off to make our own way to the middle of the action. To see the Casinos and the fancy restaurants we had to walk up, a vertical challenge for those of us used to easier walks. My husband and I and a couple of other people took our time. The winding road revealed breath-taking vistas of the Riviera and its palaces tightly packed and neatly organized around one way roads. The royal palace is visible at the very top of another hill.

The main piazza was busy with people and fancy cars. I had never seen so many Ferrari and Lamborghini zooming through, dropping off somebody and zooming away. We took a gelato and walked around the piazza, while others walked in the casinos and tried their luck at a roulette table.

When we finally settled in Nice, at the Hotel Ellington, pictures of American Jazz musicians hanging in the halls, 30's architecture and allure, we were tired and hungry.

Our trip ended a day later, after a farewell dinner and exchanges of addresses. We had made some good friends, had eaten some unusual food, and had seen sights that reminded us of San Francisco and Las Vegas.

I was ready to go home, where I could walk to the beach and collect shells and agates at leisure. I saw too many people and too much wealth in the last few towns and I longed for simple food and quiet streets.

France is a nice place to visit; but I wouldn't want to live there.

How the world sees us

During our trip to France we hung around our fellow travelers from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, England and the United States. Those of us from the States were in the minority. The Australians dominated. Next in number were the Canadians. Mostly, these people were professionals, teachers, engineers, government workers, small business men and women, taking a vacation in early fall, or early spring, as the case for the lower hemisphere.

These folks were frequent travelers,stopping in France for the second or third time in their lives, taking a couple of weeks on their trek to see more of the world. Half of the tour group had finished a cruise in the Mediterrenean, visiting France before flying back home.

The time when Americans dominated tourism is past. Our dollar bought us less than ever before; and that is the major rub.

Everyone asked us about our political views. And everyone, with no exception, voiced disappointment and incredulity at our American policies. Barack Obama was the overwhelming choice among these travelers.

Friday, October 10, 2008

What to buy in France

Most of us are shoppers, curious people, bargain hunters. The places we visited were full of shops with beautiful products made by local artisans. I kept looking for bargains as well. Since a Euro translated to one-dollar-fifty or thereabout, I was constantly adding 50% of the price of each item to have a full idea of the purchase price. Since France has a value-added-tax of 20% already in the price, it was hard to come up with the bottom line. I must add that in order to collect the value-added-tax at the airport, one must keep good receipts and read the fine print.

This is what I bought: soaps; jars of fleur-de-sel with herbes-de-Provence; jars of jams and tapenade; scarfs and berets; a wool shawl; books; hats; and two paintings. The last two purchases were made by my husband and are still on route. He fell in love with both the artists and the paintings and by the time we left the galleries, he had left his patrimony on the table. I can't wait for these to arrive.

I started by wanting to buy scarfs and porcelains. Frenchmen all wear scarfs with creative touches. It turns out one can spend the cost of a vacation on one Hermes scarf or one beautiful pill box. I gave full attention to these items and appreciated the workmanship and the quality. If any reader has the money and wants to purchase these on line, they will get the most beautiful designs and quality in the world. I just couldn't see wearing a scarf that cost more than an entire outfit I'd wear, including new shoes and new coiffure.

We had to dispose of some things to make room for our purchases, with airlines keeping tabs of all our luggages and charging plenty for going over 50 lbss. Simple, undergarment and ordinary T's. To replace them, it would just be a few dollars in the States. Besides, who wants to bring back dirty laundry?

Those readers who are curious about any of the elements of this post, from products to recipes, can obtain more information, including authentic Provencal recipes by posting a request.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

A culinary experience in Menerbes

Menerbes is a village in the heart of Provence, in the picturesque Luberon area, now on every tour guide, after Peter Mayle wrote his New York Times bestseller, "A Year in Provence".

We prepared for the experience by learning a few French culinary terms. The plan was to take a cooking lesson from the chef at Cafe Verona, and then eat the results. We were hungry and curious when we arrived at nine in the morning, the town barely waking.

We were divided in groups of twelve. A few just sat and watched. One group went shopping for the ingredients, another toured the town, and a third began chopping and prepping with the chef. Each group participated in every activity.

Menerbes is one of the prettiest villages in France,on a promontory with stunning views of the Luberon and Monts de Vaucluse. Vineyards and farms surround the town; one main road winds up all the way to the top.

Before Peter Mayle changed it forever as a tourist destination, Menerbes was famous for having remained staunchly protestant.

Back at the restaurant, Chef Maurice showed us how to prepare and assemble the various dishes. He made sure every one of us knew how to chop, roll, cut and assemble. We learned to make gaspacho, croustillant de volaile aux herbes, and clafoutis aux figues. I had made gaspacho, but the chicken rolled in phillo dough with herbs and tapenade was new to me. And clafouti? I thought it was too hard to make.

I learned more in one hour with him than all the hours of watching cooking shows on television, even from Julia Child's. I learned how to choose the brightest, freshest and most ripe tomatoes for the gaspacho.Nothing else will do.

There is something quite uplifting about being in a bright kitchen, neatly organized, with sous chefs all around promptly responding to requests. Three-four hours after we arrived,everyone had been exposed to France's patrimony of growing the best, harvesting the best, and constantly looking at ways to improve a product. In the middle of town was the Museum of Gastronomy,with a whole room dedicated to the Truffle, what it is, where to find it, how to identify its many forms, and how to cook with it. We could have spent the equivalent of a child's college fund bringing back a jar of this product.

When the forty of us sat down for lunch, the experience was enhanced by the beautiful surroundings and the knowledge that the food was prepared through a cooperative of farmers, winemakers, purveyors and restaurateurs, all dedicated to eating well and living well.

At the end of our meal, we were all appreciative as we thanked the chef and left clutching the recipes.

Now, I just have to sit down with a dictionary and translate.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Marseille and Provence

We spent four days in Marseille, taking day trips to Avignon, Menerbes, Aix-en-Provence,Arles.

Marseille was much more intimate than Paris. The hotel was right on the Quai de Rive Neuve,on the bay, overseeing boat ramps and many water activities including cruise ships and private yachts. The street was full full of shops, restaurants, museums, threaters. Everywhere, people from all over the world. Most were polite and curious. There were a few beggars who approached us on the street. I heard many languages and always, English was the most predominant among the tourists.

We had great pizza and a true Marseillaise specialty: mulles-et-frites,steamed mussels and french fries. I felt as though I was in Italy.

The day trips took us out of Marseille for a good portion of the day; but the evenings were ours,to walk to the local shops or take a free ferry across the bay to get to the opposite side of town. We visited an electronic store looking for a charger for a digital camera. This kind of store was the only one where many people did not know English and kept sending us somewhere else.

In the back alleys, I stopped at a fish-monger's shop, whole fish being sold, too small to appear in our supermarkets: anchovies, sardines, dories,mussels and shellfish, lined up on ice, brought in just a couple of hours before.

We sat at sidewalk cafes, ordered espressos and sat undisturbed. They do not give you the bill until you ask for it. Imagine, nobody rushing you. And the tip is included!

The weather was wonderful; and all people seemed to be dressed casually, looking the same, actually. Until people opened their mouths, I couldn't tell who was native, and who was a tourist.

When the bill is brought to the table, the credit card is passed through a device that spits out the paperwork right in front of you. Everything is efficient and easy.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

In the heart of Burgundy

Our stop in Beaune, in the heart of Burgundy vineyards was preceded by wine tasting lessons and a bit of history of the place. Beaune was a medieval town, with narrow streets all leading to the center of town. We left the hotel Mercury and walked to the old town, where another lesson in wine tasting awaited us, this time it was Burgundy wine.

The town was one of many small towns in the hills sorrounded by wineries and farms, typical Provence architecture, stone two-story houses with courtyards neatly lined up with fine gravel, olive and fig tree providing shade for bistro tables and chairs. Many houses had been converted to studio apartments or restaurants and shops.

Our meal in Beaune at the Jardin de Remp., a Michelin rated restaurant, was quite an adventure. We looked at the menu posted outside,all in French, and calculated that 75 Euros was a bit much, but probably worth it. The place looked like the Napa Tre Vigne restaurant, with outdoor seating in a beautiful garden setting.

The friends that joined us didn't know any French. It fell to me to order for all of us. I managed. And I was helped by an unusually sensitive and well trained staff. The food was the best we had ever eaten, anywhere.

I can tell you that each plate was a beautiful work of art, and the food tasted like nothing we had ever had. For appetizer we had a bite, yes, a bite of black cod, crunchy and salty, swimming in a foam of seagrass and curls of vegetables, resembling seaweeds nestling the fish.

A glass of Champagne started the meal accompanied by lollypops made with potatoes and beets licks, and toasted nuts acting as chess pieces on a wooden chess board.

A second dish of eggplant terrine came with a variety of breads and rolls and a bottle of Burgundy.

Our main dish was lamb medallions, small bites of really rare lamb, with pine-nuts and an unusual tomato sauce on top of a rice timbale.

The last dish was a wonderful souffle, lemony and light, surrounded by berries and drops of jellied fruit and molded ice-creams floating on a congeled bed of berry juice.

They sent us off with baskets of little cakes, candies and chocolates.

The only other time I was this impressed was in Palm Springs, fifteen years ago, at St. James. If I remember correctly, the prices were just as special.

Friday, October 3, 2008

A taste of France

Our stay in Paris was way too short; we missed visiting The Louvre, and the rest of the wonderful sights. We were headed south to Provence, the foodie places associated with France. On the highway, we marveled at the beautiful countryside, green and sparkling in the sunshine. It felt a lot like Oregon, our home state, without the pine trees. Many times our bus stopped at toll booths, paid the fees and was back on the road at a good speed. It turns out that roads charge a pretty sum. Our bus went East and South, stopping at a highway food stop for snack breaks and to fuel up. These highway grills are a lot like those we had met in Italy, with quick meals as well as freshly prepared entrees. There were also good places to purchase souvenirs.

Families would sit outside in a park-like setting, pulling out their picnic lunches and allowing children and pets to wander and explore before heading back on the highway. Italian, Spaniard, German, Russians car plates indicated the country of origin. We heard English as the language used at the counters, and various other languages spoken at the various tables. All had the need to eat, use the restroom and return on the road. I was amazed at how well behaved the pets were, many off leash, easily accepting life on the road.

Our stop in the Mercier Champagne vineyards gave us an education on the manufacturing and the storing of this special wine. I was very surprised to find out that Pinot Noir grapes make up the base of Champagnes. Our very own Oregon best grapes are the base of Champagne!

Towns passed by. We stopped at Reims, Epernay, Troyes, before stopping for the night in Beaune.

Beaune will forever remain in my memory because it was the place where my husband and I and a couple of friends had the most memorable meal in France.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

An Evening at the Moulin Rouge

The Cabaret stands as it did for years, crowds lined up around the block at 7:00 p.m. hoping to get in for dinner and show, or just get in for one of the shows. It is probably the most famous, most photographed cabaret in the world. Those of us who chose to go on this optional excursion were warned about the adult nature of the performances. Most of us wanted to connect to a bit of history. And some of us wanted to compare the experience to what is available in Vegas.

Our group occupied two front row tables, and were seated as soon as we arrived. The place was already full, and I wondered how the people outside were ever going to get in. The stage area seemed small until the show started and it suddenly increased its size expanding out and jutting against the dinner tables. We couldn't have had a more convenient place.

The music felt familiar, and the costumes were barely covering the dancers' bodies. The numbers were polished, fun, and the attention went to the athleticism of the dancers. Their nude bosoms were just a minor distraction soon dismessed.

We all looked forward to the most famous number, the can-can dance, which came toward the end and was quite subdued. The numbers in between, ventriloquists, impersonators and comics, drew from many cultures. There was even an audience participation that drew people from all over the world on stage. The atmosphere was charged with more genuine excitement not found in Vegas.

On the way out of the place, around ten thirty, we saw a bigger crowd ready to take in the second show. The place has too much history for tourists and natives to miss.
The meal and entertainment, which included ballroom dancing before the show with a live orchestra and international singers, were worth every euro we spent.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Paris in the Fall

We stayed at the Marriott, in Neuilly, a ritzy suburb of Paris where the streets were wide and lined with exquisitely hand trimmed horse chestnut trees. We learned from our French guide Mirelle,a specialist in the history and life-style of the city, that there are only two types of trees allowed to grow there, and they are trimmed by hand. So French! She spent time reviewing the history of France during Napoleon, whose tomb we visited and studied. There, she injencted other tidbits about French life, from how many hours in the week that they work, 35, and how flexible their work schedule is. We saw that first hand as we lined up to board the bus at 9:00 a.m. and saw dozens of parents,dressed to go to work, but leisurely walking their children to school before getting into their cars, or getting on a bike to get to work. There are bike kiosks everywhere, and for a fixed fee, people can borrow a bike and drop it off somewhere else. Bikes, cars, buses and motorbikes competed to get into the streets and off the streets. The traffic was horrendous throughout the day.

Paris was built like most European cities from a small kernel, an island, actually, outward. Notre Dame cathedral is on that island, the first city proper on the Seine, and on our boat tour on the Seine we saw all the major places while a beautiful weather and instructions in four different languages made the trip quite enjoyable and easy. Throughout Paris one can look up and see the Eiffel Tower, a major marker for direction.

We entered Notre Dame while Mass was being celebrated. We became a river of tourists circling the cathedral as the main nave was set up for Mass. The noise and the flashing photography was deafening. I noticed that a small candle cost three euro to light up. Inflation of devotional stature.

No matter where we were headed, we passed the Arc du Triomphe,and some of our tour members returned later to visit and take pictures. My husband and I were happy to be transported everywhere, avoiding the hassle of driving or finding our way around on the Metro. But people who ventured out on their own had no trouble finding assistance and people were happy to help. We were amazed at how many people spoke English, and when they didn't, they would help us communicate with our limited French.

What we knew about Paris unfolded in front of us at every street corner: cafes with outdoor seating, well dressed Parisians, charming buildings with well kept frontage. Our tour guide explained that buildings must be maintained according to specified standards on the outside. But, there are no standards for the inside. Many times, we stopped to have coffee at a beautiful place, and when we looked for a restroom, it was relegated to a tiny, tiny basement, accessible through a winding, skinny circular staircase, hard to see, and harder to manuveur around. Each time, the appliances were different, the flushing mechanisms were different and the places were all too stuffy.

We only had one rude encounter the whole time we were in Paris. It was at a cafe in Montmatre,full of artists and small shops, accessible by a funicular. We looked at the menu and I asked a question in French. The response was a rude: "What do you want to eat?" I put that in the category of someone who had not had much experience with the English language. The meal was not remarkable.

Monday, September 29, 2008

French twist:Part One

Vacationing in France during an economic downturn is probably not a wise thing to do. But we did and enjoyed every minute, every euro that we spent. What encouraged us to take this trip was our age. Our age. We're not going to be healthier or richer than we are now; and who knows what will happen to the dollar? Those were our thoughts when we booked this trip with the assistance of April S. at the Eugene AAA travel agency. April researched and booked all the details, including transfers to and from airports. Great job, April.

The minute we arrived in Paris, and we met the Trafalgar representative, our vacation started.

Our day started with a bus trip around the city. It was still early in the day and the tour guide explained that half of the tour group was still missing and it was too early to check into the hotel. After we had checked in at the Marriott Courtyard, in a beautiful section of Paris, he gathered us for introductions and a welcome drink. The introductions revealed that most of the group was from Canada and Australia. The Americans were in the minority. He couldn't get us the welcome drink, he explained,because of the timing and the fact that the hotel was not quite ready for us. Something about an Arabian princess and her entourage staying at the hotel at the same time was complicating all the arrangements.

By late afternoon we were shuffled back into the bus to visit Notre Dame and have our first meal together at a cafe across the river from the cathedral. The view was typical Parisian, outdoor seating, strolling couples beautifully dressed in Merino wool or cashmere sweaters with scarfs and mantles smartly adorning their necks, and numerous tourists clutching maps, and wearing sensible shoes.

We stopped at the Eiffel Tower, all illuminated with starts ( for ten minutes each hour) to celebrate the occasion of France becoming the head of the European Union. Even the Arc du Triomphe had new items, two flags, the French and the European Union, to celebrate the new status. In the two days we spent in Paris, we traversed the Arc a few times and each time, though the traffic was horrendous, we all looked up and admired the flags.

Some people stopped to shop at the glamorous places on the Champs Elisees. Most of us got back to the hotel and collapsed, happy to discover that CNN was covering the world affairs for us in English. Come to think of it, with our guide and the rest of the passengers all speaking English, with the hotel staff speaking English, we were not going to have much of a challenge communicating. Even at dinner, as we ordered in French, the waiters eagerly answered in English, proud and eager to practice with us.

The only challenge on this first day was figuring out how to flush the toilets in the different places. No standard flushing equipment here. Everywhere, a new and enchanting twist to get rid of waste.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

New York Moments: Part Three

Two weeks after our first visit, we stopped again in New York, to rest, visit and take in another show. This time, I was not going to be intimidated. The super shuttle had clear directions and we were not getting off at the wrong place. Except, this time we were at a different place.

Two passengers in the bus began an animated conversation that drowned everybody else. The older woman would stop just long enough to question the driver on his choices of streets. He calmly explained how he had to navigate and drop each of us off but certain circuitous moves were necessary because many streets were blocked.

And it didn't take us long to figure out that with the United Nations holding conferences that week, and numerous diplomats zipping with their entourages brought the city to a halt, we were in for numerous delays. Two and a half hours later we were deposited on 42nd Street at the Hilton Times Square. Good thing that the driver actually knew the place was a hotel. It had no apparent sign that I could see. It is built above a multiplex theater, from the 23rd story up. A kind doorman guided us through to the right elevator.

Later,we left the hotel to find food and were smack in Times Square with its walls of illuminated billboards blaring above us. Feeling like Alice in Wonderland, lost in Television Space, we stared at the billboards, catching the bits of news, rotating bits of English reminding us that we were in a bubble world where fantasy and artifice mix and thrive. People all around us seemed happy to be pushed along, part of the throb and the blood of the city.

We ate at the Hard Rock Cafe having our picture taken in that hallow place as first timers to Disneyland. The evening ended at "Mamma Mia" where we joined the packed theater singing along to ABBA's music. New York is both "cheesy" and "pushy".

You can't observe and digest what you see. You are force fed, stuffed like a sausage and swept in the city's fast pace.

The next morning, we took a taxi to Central Park and visited the Metropolitan Museum, a true restful, thoughtful pace for weary feet and jambled nerves. Then , we visited the Park appreciating the trees and the water and the calming atmosphere of children and nannies enjoying a perfect day. We were tempted to row a boat at the boathouse, rent a bike, take a carriage ride. But we walked slowly, sat down often, admired the many seating places, the clean paths, the manicured lawns, the constant presence of a helpful police force constantly assisting tourists make sense of the city.

Walking miles and miles toward Times Square, we could spot the entourage of diplomats going to lunch, cars, police, streets suddenly unavailable to other motorists, dozens of security on the street. New York is always ready, I thought. Ready for the pace to get quicker and tougher.

We left the hotel at three, got to the airport at seven, with minutes to get through baggage check and ticketing. The trip this time was aggravated by closed streets, an accident that our driver did not cause but was involved in, lively discussions with the police who took the report and gave him a ticket, a frustrated driver who kept making one mistake after another, trying to save time. After all that, the plane was delayed for another two hours due to changing weather patterns and rerouting.

By the time the winds and floods hit the East Coast, we were safe back in Portland.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

New York Moments: Part Two

A couple of days in New York is enough to soak in the atmosphere,enough to feel the beat of the town. The town felt safe even though the movement of people on Broadway in the Theater district where we landed was curb-to-curb people moving at a quick pace, crossing the streets anticipating the lights to change a minute ahead, darting between cars, taxis and all sorts of carts, bikes, and transport.

Everywhere, a curteous police force walked the streets, engaged with the citizens.

We walked to Rockefeller Center for a prearranged walking tour. The guide met us in the candy shop of NBC Center, and though he had four different language groups among the visitors he promptly ignored their needs for translation. It was a walking tour, around the block, examining the art and the history of Rockefeller Center. The visitors were confused and annoyed. A few of them left before the tour was over. I too was tempted.

The city is very accessible. Everything you want is right around the corner, including MacDonalds with music and videos blaring loudly a la Hard Rock Cafe.

We walked to see Jersey Boys, right down the street. And when we walked back home late in the evening, the city had not slowed down at all. Disneyland is a walk in the park compared to the pace of New York City.

People don't need to go to the gym to stay in shape. And they don't need to drive either. Subway, buses, taxis, bike taxis and horse carriages are all around, right where you need them.

On this first round visiting the city, I never looked up, too busy holding on to my balance and my wits, realizing that I was being bumped and pulled in a river of people that was constantly moving. Young and old, rich and poor, clean and dirty, tourists and residents were all pinballs in a giant game of darting and bumping and avoiding and keeping a lazer beam focus on their destinations.

I can see how people are pulled to this place that throbs with vitality and energy day and night.

New York moments

These last few weeks my husband and I travelled to France, stopping in New York both ways to rest and visit a city I had never visited.First admission, I'm terrified of traffic and crowds, though I spent most of my adult life on the L. A. freeways.

New York is a new category. It is an experiment in assault of the senses. Our first experience was catching the super shuttle to the hotel in mid=city Manhattan. The trip from the airport to the hotel should have taken forty minutes, max. First, the driver of the super shuttle managed to do his own arranging, selecting his passengers rather than follow the number system that the people at the information desk had arranged. When we complained, and another driver was found for us, we spent inordinate amount of time circling the city, to drop people off and to avoid traffic, according to the driver. Some passenger who knew the city knew better and kept arguing with him. He kept following his own beat.

He dropped us off at the wrong Sheraton, across the street, as it turned out,giving us a chance to cross a busy street in the middle of the night with suitcases in tow, tired, disoriented and pushed along to cross streets with traffic coming at us in all directions. Fortunately, the porters at the Sheraton rescued us right away and we were swiftly checked in and into our room that was big enough to contain our bed and our luggage without much room to turn around. Out the window, we were so high that we couldn't see the street below.

Hungry and tired, we managed to get out to have a bite at a lovely diner with singing waiters. Really good entertainers working in a diner, charming the tourists and keeping us from collapsing. New York at its best and its worst, on the same street, in the same evening.

The next morning, we walked to a deli for breakfast, enough food to feed an army. I ordered a corned beef sandwich that had enough meat to feed an entire family for a week.

Sunday, September 7, 2008


I've prepared for my upcoming trip to France by following French television on satellite, listening and absorbing, testing myself by translating for my hubby who speaks no other language but his mother tongue, WesterEnglish, English redux, all affirmations, negations and abbreviations.

The Europeans' handling of political discourse, pitting the history of Western Thought against Thought-redux of modern media personalities, utilizes history in all its complexities to understand present dilemmas. The palaces and the castles of yesteryear right outside their windows must help them maintain a sense of proportion every time they come up with a new thought.

"What would Descartes make of this?"

In America, we tend to retreat to the Maverick myth, the lone cowboy on the frozen Rockies, heading for cover.

But, we are no longer lone cowboys. We no longer hunt Moose to survive. Our guns and rifles are not necessary tools. We communicate across the globe; smog and tinted products affect us all equally. To have modern cultural literacy, we cannot pretend the world doesn't exist, don our rifles and disappear in the Rockies or the Cascades for weeks of hunting and camping.

Once, America didn't have to shout, "WE are the Greatest Country on Earth." Its actions and can do spirit were valued and imitated across the Globe. Once, we were the standard bearers for leadership, vigor, and integrity.

What we need is to travel again, see the world, follow other routes to enlightenement, discover the complexities of the world we share and must preserve.

We'll experience museums, palaces and vinyards. We'll stop in libraries, concert halls and restaurants where sights, sounds and tastes will make us appreciate the achievement of civilizations before us.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

WE're off to see the Wizard...

People who collect facts and keep informed, people who attend their council meetings and school meetings, people who vote for people who represents their values and their aspirations have learned the lessons in The Wizard of Oz.

Yet, every time we vote, the experience feels like a trip to Oz, a land of promises and magic convolutions, information fit into a tight script, symbols chosen to create a mood and a reaction.

All the facts and information we accumulated before going to Oz is forgotten. We are now scared children in search of magic beans.

We look for courage to face the unknown, brains to differentiate the good witch from the bad, and a heart that beats in concert with our loves and aspirations. We look for a Wizard to solve all of our problems with a quick magic trick, forgetting that he is just an illusion.

In the story, the Wizard is a regular man, a man who waves flags, magic wands and anything else, media savvy and technology rich, coining words and projecting himself bigger than life.

The story teaches us that we don't need Magicians, Mavericks, or Heroes. We need to pull together to fight evil, roll up our sleeves and provide a safe and healthy community for our children. And when we choose our leaders, we select men or women who are willing to do the same, helping us connect to our courage, our brains and our hearts. We choose people who have shown in their lives a willingness to be men or women connected with ordinary problems, at ordinary times, someone who, like us had the same challenges and the same obstacles to overcome.

Auntie Emm would be proud of us!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Sarah, Michelle, Cindy and Hillary

It's a good day for women. A good year, actually. We are meeting strong, intelligent, accomplished women in both parties. We are parading them and comparing and setting them up on stage like novelty items, new Barbies to admire.

And they have history and substance and style to boot.

What we are forgetting is that the choices we have made already, the real candidates who have been vetted for the last eighteen months are Barack Obama and John McCain. Regardless of the women they are associated with, or choose to have around at this time, a convenient time, indeed to have women lend substance in some way or other, not just for decoration or trophy, I might add, but to draw out a whole bunch of votes, regardles, these men are our candidates and will run the country for us.

We only get to choose once every four years. For Most of my life time, people with money and prestige have had access to power. For a miniscule state race here in Southern Oregon it would cost upwards of ten thousand dollars for starters. Who has that much money? Or who has that much influence and popularity already that he doesn't need people with money to support them? Whom are we kidding? Money is the currency and will always be the currency.

This time, though, it is different. We have a candidate in Barack Obama who has no connection to money or Washington lobbyists, someone who knows how to organize an entire country, millions and millions of people to donate what they can to elect a candidate who is free to be the people's choice, not the oil industry's, not Wall Street's, not the insurances'. not the Military complexes'. We have never done it before. And we will never be able to do it again.

We have a candidate who has the concerns of small towns, families, the economy and the environment. The Republicans can talk all they want; but they blew it big time, under McCain's watch. The environment, the economy, the lack of responsible government, the lack of appropriate response to people's plight and emergencies. And they lied to us all. They duped us into a war to fatten the wallets of their cronies, who were given contracts without bidding, who are running shameless and lawless operations in Iraq . And let's not forget the DEFICIT, THE SQUANDER OF RESOURCES.

No wonder they are parading with new flags and new chants. They are the sane people. Let's have change we can believe in.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Obama has my vote

I am concerned with some democrats who expected Obama's speech to do everything plus have those code words that other politicians have used in the past and we have come to anticipate. One member on the democratic blogsite Hot Curry complained that Obama didn't ask for his vote. Some things are UNDERSTOOD! Obama has asked us to change Washington, to get involved intimately with this and all other elections, to be the change agents in our own lives.

So, to Hot Curry, examine the entire message from Obama. I agree, certain code words are standard verbage. But as a life-long learner of English I can tell you that the message can get lost when we insist on cliches and code phrases. And that's what you are doing, with due respect to your passionate point of view.

Obama will be speaking and sending out many messages. And some of them will feel like canned phrases we have come to expect. But let the Republicans do the swiftboating and the nitpicking. We democrats have higher standards of conduct and communication.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Obama's Hour

As a dedicated public service worker, I have always been a democrat, sharing a committment to help those less fortunate. Tonight's speech by Barack Obama will be a momentous occasion for those of us who have lived long enough to remember the other people who could motivate and excite us, who could unite and inspire us to ask the tough questions and dedicate ourselves to work together to benefit others.

Tonight, Barack is expected to speak not just to democrats, but to the nation, a nation that has suffered during the last eight years under an administration that has been incompetent and callous about the needs of ordinary Americans, and criminal about the needs of the veterans.

We must elect someone who is willing to change our domestic policies and reestablish our standing abroad. We must be clear in our vision. We must stay strong in the face of the smug lies that will be splattered all over television and newspapers to swiftboat the Democratic Contender. We must be clear in our pursuit of truth.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Michelle Obama

It was the last scene of the evening, mother and daughters connecting with dad electronically, interrupting each other, sharing a fleeting moment. Barack asked the girls how Mom did. Good, Sasha said.

That was the moment I will take out of the entire convention. A family connecting, asking questions, congratulating, sending love and support. This is what we are all like, working and loving, day in and day out, catching fleeting moments to connect and support each other.

Michelle Obama was introduced as the little sister. She talked about herself as the daughter, the wife, the mother. She is all those roles, a vital link in any family and in any man's life. She is not the little wife, the woman who bakes the cookies and disappears until she is called again to serve. She is Everywoman, born out of necessity, like the pioneer women who forged the western frontiers alongside their husbands and children, pulling together, building the dream that became America.

We have forgotten those women. Those women represent all of us who put ourselves through school, put our husbands through school, pulled ourselves by necessity alongside our husbands to create a better life for our children.

Republicans want us to believe that women could stay home and just be moms. Not in my world, not in the world where it takes two salaries to provide a decent living condition, and it may just buy one house. America understands this family; their dream is our dream.

Her words spoke for all we stand for.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Writing buddies

I depend on critical friends to help me with my writing. We meet on Mondays in Bandon, we read our creations out loud, and we listen to feedback,for discrepancies, incoherence, lack of flow. Most of all we declare that we like or dislike a piece.

It takes an act of faith to trust others to read your writing, to taste your food, to look and give you an objective view. Well, not your view, but theirs, so, it is objective to you, subjective to them. Sometimes you don't want the truth. The saying from that movie with Jack Nickolson shouting, "You Can't handle the truth", that saying is always in the back of my mind when I ask for feedback. Our acceptance of others' truth is directly related to our acceptance of their abilities to recognize good writing.

After a while together, sometimes years, writing buddies have shared their lives and careers,their hopes and dreams and challenges. They understand each other, accepting others' style and flaws. Then the truth gets dished out more carefully and delicately. Friendships can be bruised .

Writing buddies are best as motivators, as prodders, as reminders that time is running out. Each Monday, we count heads. We know who comes regularly, who shares regularly, and we wonder about the others. Are they sick, did something happen to them or their families? We experience a communion of sorts that feels so different from anything else. Dreamers need others to dream with them.

A teacher might read my pieces and concentrate on the structure, the development, the choices of imagery. A writing buddy would get past all that and just say: "I like that." Or, " I didn't get it!" And we would to return to the writing with those insights, those kernels of truth. Best days are those when we get an applause, a thundering approval telling us that our work was appreciated. Just like good food, I guess.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Vacationing on the Oregon Coast

The World Newspaper had a great write-up recently on the local farmers, people who have decided to go back to farming or started farming and producing food for locals. We have already known Abby's greens and the chickens from Joe Pestana. I'm sure there are more people out here that we can connect with for mutual benefit.

Ever since I've been cooking with Martha's fresh eggs, we have been having these small rendez-vous, my hubby and me, experiencing farm tastes and farm flavors without the bother of farming. Some bother is good, though, to help us appreciate the work and the sweat and the caring that goes into food production.

Next time my grandchild and friend visit us, they will exoerience a farm-food connection they'll never forget. We'll pick vegetables and herbs, visit the chickens for eggs, and help with the preparation of food before sitting down to enjoy the labor.

They'll be tired, and hungry. And they will know what real, unpackaged food tastes like. Who needs to go to Provence for French food when we can gather the lavender on our hill and mint from our patch, mix it with our blueberries, add a touch of cream and voila, bon Dieu, c'est la belle vite sur la mer. Or, as hubby says, life is good by the sea!

I might start a new career, farm-kitchen -summer -camp- for all grandchildren who come up from congested cities with smells of malls and sounds of crowded freeways, and plastic toys in their pockets.

They'll go home smelling of heathers and lavender, stained with red, black and pink berries. They will be awakened by the thundering Pacific hitting the rocks and teasing the shore lines. The surf will spritz the grasses and chase the gulls. Ducks,blue herons and ospreys will compete with the sun for worshipped attention.

And they'll have shells and agates and multicolored pebbles and sticks and sea stars in their pockets. At wash time, their mothers too, will get a glimpse and a sniff of the Oregon vacation the girls experienced

Saturday, August 16, 2008

New roles for retirees

In these times, people think of growing old as the time to be selfish. I don't remember selfish old people in any books. In ancient civilizations, old people were venerated, listened to. In our world, we see them on the beaches of Florida or the casinos of the west, admitting that they like doing nothing but have fun.

Making it to a point when we longer have to work seems like a financial paradise of sorts. But, since we spent so much time working and complaining about it, we have lost the thread, the real role we should be playing at this stage in life.

Our role has always been that of teachers, wise guides for the next generation. We helped care for the children; we taught them the ways of the world. We assisted the young generations in making decisions and navigating difficult waters. We admitted our mistakes and listed our accomplishments and told the truth about life. That role made us valuable in the circle.

This last week, when my grandchild and her friend were visiting, I was the doting grandmother, spoiling them and letting them off with bad habits. It was wrong for me to let the girls stay up late watching television. Even on vacation, there are house rules for a good reason. It was wrong for me to let them serve themselves cookies whenever they wished. Nutrition education is an ongoing lesson, delivered on all fronts.

It was late in our visit when I told her that what she eats will affect her health for the rest of her life. She probably knows that already, but how many people need to tell her these things before she is convinced? I said something about manners and good habits also late in the visit.

I have become self centered in my old age, forgetting my role in life, not just with my grandchild. There will be many retirees in the next decade, and we have roles to play in reminding everybody what is worth preserving and what is important for living a good life. Who else has the background and the experience?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

What to do on the Southern Oregon Coast

This week I had my pre-teen grandchild and her friend visit us from Los Angeles. Their passtimes in order of frequency are: talking to each other and others via texmessaging or phone, reading, computer activities, shopping, and sleeping.

Whatever we had planned for them to do with us, old and slow grandparents, could not interfere with above activities.

The good thing about pre-teens is that they can multitask better than anyone. So, on our drives to shopping, they would utilize their phones, computers and books. We shopped at book stores, used ones, where books are inexpensive and abundant. Besides, no sales taxes in Oregon made the purchases even more attractive.

Then, we sqeezed in some purely outdoor fun, the kind that you can only experience here on this windy coast.

We took them on a Rogue River adventure, with Jerry's Jet Boats. The whole day was spent getting wet, sloshed by waves, and avoiding dangerous rocks. Disneland has nothing like this. And yes, we saw bears, eagles, ospreys, turkeys, ducks and more wild life up front and personal. The folks at Jerry's had it all planned, including the rest and food stops and the water fights with kayakers.

The Bandon horseback riding on the beach caused the girls to make plans to move to a farm and have horses. I didn't want to bust their hopes explaining the tasks of taking care of animals. These children have grown up with virtual pets. But I think just the smell of horses brought them close to real pets.

The Floras Lake Windsurfing experience was another unexpected delight. I thought, for sure, that they would give up the lessons after the first hour, after the spills, after they began to get cold and tired. But the folks at Floras Lake windsurfing had it all figured it. They provided a one-on-one coaching, with plenty of support staff to shuffle the girls back to safe waters whenever they got a bit too carried away by the wind power. The day was actually perfect for beginners. The serious windsurfers remained on land, waiting for the wind to pick up. But it was just right for our novices. Surprisingly, after two hours or up and down and pulling and balancing on a board with a sail that they had to pull up after it fell and pull themselves up with it. after all that effort, they wanted to return in the afternoon for more. And they did. And the day was glorious for them and for us. We watched and worried. But we saw their coaches right next to them, fussing and directing their moves, encouraging, adjusting their manuvers. We were getting a front row seat view of man versus nature struggle, with none of the real dangers, and all of the fun. This experience cannot be duplicated on any lake in Los Angeles. And did I mention that they had one-on-one coaching from a grandfather and his grandaughter the same age as our girls? It could not have been planned any better. My appreciation to them and to Will Brady, the owner and manager of the outfit. After the girls warmed up in the sauna and returned home, they asked us to sign them up again for next summer. This time for more than one lesson.

These are the jewels we have on the coast that are not seen often. Most of us will collect agates on the beach and watch the surf. Those activities will be enough to rebalance us and refresh our minds. The girls will remember these riches the rest of their lives.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Stop before you unravel my world!

We can actually drive up the coast from Port Orford and visit 'our' farms! Well, not really, but farms that literally nourish us. We can point to the cows in the Browns' pastures, the blueberries in the Jensens'grove that looks like a great, big grand piano from a distance, the chickens and their eggs that Martha delivers to me weekly, the greens that Abby tends so lavishly.

These are close,immediate and peaceful places that thrive or dive into the same weather patterns that hit us out at Capo Blanco. When the hurricane winds last December closed streets and blew off roofs, the farm families had to worry about the crops and the animals stressed and blown all over.

We are close to water sources and food sources, and we understand the connectivity of all physical and cultural factors.

When railroad companies decided to close their routes to Coos Bay, when air carriers decided to stop the connections to Portland, they disturbed the necessary relationships in a modern society. The world depends on each one of us having abilities and tools so the the food can travel where there are no farms, the wood can reach people who are building homes and businesses, the information can be shared in a timely way to improve everybody's lives, and people have access to medical and commercial facilities necessary for the smooth functioning of society.

When people visit my town and marvel at the wild rivers and the pristine beaches, when they eat the fish and chips at Crazy's and are amazed at such delicacies in a hamlet so far from centers of commerce, when they recreate in the woods, on the dunes, on the golf course, on and around the rivers, and wish that these places remain intact and pristine forever, they can get their wishes fulfilled if they understand that we all must act in concert, support industries and living wages, spend money in research and development, and invest in maintaining pristine places.

Oregon has been in the forefront on the race to preserve the environment. Oregon legislature should make sure that these places we love and cherish remain alive and vital and connected.

Friday, July 25, 2008

A citizen of the world

McCain and Obama have a different world view and who is chosen to be our next president will face a world that has changed in the last decade at a speed none of us saw coming; yet, our world view tends to stay the same.

When Barack Obama addressed the world in Berlin, he spoke as a citizen of the world, with concerns for the entire globe and its problems. He connected present and past history and challenged the Europeans as well as his compatriots to view the world as interrelated.

We'll all gain if we look at solutions and options rather than maintain rancors and old beliefs. Barack Obama has challenged us to go the distance, to work at solutions together, because one country's ills and problems will touch us all.

We can begin the conversation in our towns and we can carry it to the entire world with one hit on the computer, instantly communicating in multiple languages to a world that is not confined by national borders. When we sit down at dinner tonight, enjoying the Alaskan salmon, the California wine, the Chilean mango salsa, the Mexican salad mix and the Italian biscotti, we need the assurance that our food is safe, the environment was not harmed, and no human being was abused.

We can't ignore health issues around the world. We can't ignore human rights and labor issues. We can't ignore poverty, hunger and lack of education. These issues will harm us in ways we can't even assess.

Finally, our future leaders must have the sensitivity and awareness that match the challenges in our world.

And, as we look at the Olympic ceremony in the smog and pollution of Bejing's environment, we will all be reminded that the conversation should always been about global consequences.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Home, sweet home...

I can't wait to leave town; and I can't wait to get back. It turns out that everything I have now I have always wanted. I'm talking about living in a small town on a gorgeous sliver of the Pacific coast.

For decades, we'd pack our kids and our camping gear and head up to Oregon from Southern California, to spend two weeks appreciating breathtaking sights. We made it up to Astoria one year, awed the whole time we were driving, we coveted the coves and the sea views at every corner of the 101 Highway. We have camped up and down this coast for years, and it was just natural, when we began to plan our retirement, to choose this coast as our final destination.

No matter where we visit, and what we see in other cities, we can't wait to return and resume our daily routines in and out of the house, the weather never pushing too hard to keep us in or out. We feel priviledged to have landed here in Southern Oregon, the Pacific on the West, the wild rivers mapping the land on the East, inviting us to the great outdoors.

We can canoe on the rivers and the lakes, swim in various warm spots, fish, crab, clam, garden and walk. If that is not enough, we can sit back and watch the osprey, the pelicans, the jays and the deer as we sip an Oregon Pinot and thank God for our good fortune.

I am home, and I'm not in a hurry to leave. And did I mention the friendly people?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

How they do it in big cities

This month, we have spent time visiting Eugene, Portland and Seattle.

All these cities have one thing in common: freeways and traffic. I am amazed at how the entire west coast is still dependent on the automobile to navigate. Didn't we learn anything in the two-hundred years before the west was won?

I like Portland's public transportation; the various mid city neighbors can move around by hopping on a metro rail, or walk or bike.

Seattle feels burdensome. First, visitors cannot afford to stay downtown. So, to see the sights or to get on a tour bus, we need to drive on freeways,find parking, pay dearly for that, and then hope to get in and out of places by walking or getting on a bus.

In these days of high gas prices and global warming concerns, we need to help the average Joe get to work and back easily and inexpensively. The average Joe needs accessible, clean, and well maintained transportation that encourages him to leave his car at home and reduce all congestion.

As I make my way back to the south coast of Oregon, I will not miss the cities. (Well, just a little.) I will return to my hamlet where I can walk to the post office, the church, the grocery store. And, yes, the beaches. I hope my town stays that way. But when it starts to grow, I hope we plan its growth carefully, creating its arteries carefully and beneficially.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Gardening on the coast

I've been coaxing my six tomato plants for the last two months. I planted three types outdoors in pots, and two in the sunroom. Both sets have grown tall and lanky with few flowers. The warmest place is a south-facing deck, warm enough in the past to coax cherry tomatoes into maturity. Not this year. This year is cooler, and the tomato plants are unsure about their future. At this rate, they are just vines with tiny flowers and pungent smells. Perhaps they will attract bees and birds.

All my summer plans to grow yummy ingredients for pizza and salsa have changed. I will drive the sixty miles to the farmers' market and buy other people's successes.

My respect to all growers out there. And my respect to restaurant cooks who can only prepare good food if good ingredients are available. It only takes a salmonella scare to make us appreciate the work of others.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


All the good titles are taken. Seriously! All good titles for books have all been used. Not for movies, though, as movies use strange titles. Example: "Magnolia". We expected a southerly scent, a slow moving romance. The experience was shockingly misnamed. Totally mistitled. It should have been titled, "Shit Happens". We would then know!

Back to book titles. I like perusing shelves of new fiction, picking up a book and examining the front, the back, the reviews, looking for something that tells me what it is that I am buying.

And most titles are not the original title thought up by the writer. Most titles are word-shopped, tossed around in some kind of universe where clever twenty-something smack their lips and connect with their peers with text-subtexts-and ramble away, searching for deep trivia=connectivities.

Book titles have come up the same path as lipstick colors. Can I just buy a berry red, or do I need to know all the different shades of berries, and which season they mature to be engaged in the experience of selection? Help. Adjectives Overload.

What happened to plain American speak?

Thursday, June 19, 2008


Writing a blog feels like writing a journal knowing your mother will find, read and comment on it in a public way. It's a bit unsettling, a bit of a tightrope. But, then, that's the prize we pay for going public, for sharing, hoping there are kindred souls out there who will read and appreciate. If only they would comment!

I make a point to respond to any blog I read, letting the person know how I interpret, how I enjoy or am affected by his/her words. Words are penetrating tools, in how far they touch you as well as how long they continue to touch you, much longer than the initial sensation, a lingering that keeps on and on.

And words help to shape our thoughts, our conceptual images of the world. How wonderful when we find a phrase that says what we feel; what a joy we feel when words capture our experiences so clearly.

Words do more than weave or smith or shape or tell or paint or build or...Words expand our very sense of who we are.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


If you are going to volunteer you need some guidelines up front. Most organizations are too small to have written guidelines. Some are so happy to get anybody to help them that they put up with whatever they get from the volunteers.

I used volunteers in my working life, and I have seen volunteers come and go, sometimes unhappy with the experience and badmouthing the people they left behind. Most people who volunteer just walk away instead of discussing problems they encounter. So, here are some guidelines to make the experience worthwhile for everybody.

Rule #1 Assignments should be in the interest/professional area of the volunteer.
Rule#2-Assignments should be for a defined amount of time.
Rule #3-Volunteers should be paired with a mentor or be part of a group.
Rule #4-Volunteers should be trained regularly and provided with written procedures.
Rule #5-Companies should make time for appreciation and public recognition.

So, with these ideas in mind, go out and find a place where you will feel connected and fulfilled.

Monday, June 16, 2008


What, give up my precious time? No, and yes. You do give up something, but you gain more. You and your experience are priceless; and at your age (retired, I presume) you are no longer beholding to anybody. This is not really about you, but about what you hold dear, what you want to endure in the world, and what matters most in the big scheme of things. (As in 'our troubles don't amount to a hill of beans..', almost a quote from Casablanca)

Both my husband and I are thrilled at this time to be able to do things that need to be done. He volunteers with the Rotary and with the local Food Bank, and I volunteer in education as an elected official in the local board of education. We budget our time and resources to support each other's interests and efforts.

We have never felt more fulfilled. Every where we go people state their appreciation and support for what we do in our community. Yes, the place we chose to retire to has become home, to have, to hold and to pass on to others better than we found it. In turn, we feel we found heaven, and are glad to contribute to its present and future state.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Reading, Writing, Growing....

Besides this blog, I write memoir pieces, short stories, poetry, essays and lesson plans. Movies, books, magazines, cartoons, blogs, all forms of communication inspire me. Sometimes, in the middle of a movie, I get this feeling that something important was expressed. I pull out my trusty notebook and jot down the word, the feeling, the phrase.

Just this morning, as I reviewed the cover of the latest New Yorker Magazine, I got an idea for a lesson plan. (Yes, I teach in my spare time, time when I'm not writing, reading, cooking, gardening). So, the lesson plan idea is this: Magazine covers tell a whole lot about the state of things, capturing cultural attitudes, historical moments, popular phenomena. These covers stand and communicate, but we do not explore their significance, do not confront our own attitude and stance within the popular culture.

By writing how these covers affect us, we see our bias and our vision. By confronting we understand. By sharing, we grow.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Do you speak bloggeese

The staggering arsenal of jargon generated by computer geeks and geekettes boggles or globlogs my mind. Even as I begin to navigate the waters, I find myself stuck in limbo, between a typing/posting initial episode and a preview/compose/edit final product. This is ridiculous stuff, I say to myself. The whole experience should be logical and instinctive, the fingers should know where to go next. Then, a second later I notice the shortcut prompts: "press Ctrl with:Bold.." Someone is really, really working at his job, somewhere in Google-land.

Before I posted this musing I was distracted by all the new features on the "dashboard"-a word borrowed from another setting to make me feel in charge of what I'm doing, I am guessing, reassuring myself. Now, you think I am protesting, right? Wrong. I'm just commenting that just as I learn to do a new task, someone is busy, again in Google-land, making life easy for me, again. Wrong, again. All this is, in my world, is overload. I am ready to shut down, stop playing with all the children whose idea of fun is to give you a toy, show you how to use it and then rearrange its parts so only the initiated continue to play and have fun.

This is testing my patience.