Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Time to close this curtain.

There are places to sit, and contemplate, if a chair is needed. There is always time to change and view life from a different angle. Today, is one of those days. Here, in my new- easy-to-cultivate garden, something my parents who grew food for a living would never have imagined, here I say my goodbyes to sixtyfivewhatnow. 

Looking from this vantage point spoils us.
Making ourselves suffer less weakens our resolve in some ways.
We expect that life will forever get easier, for everyone.

I've counted over six hundred posts since January 2008, and over 800 followers. By tonight, I will have voted for two presidential elections, and my posts have been vocal about my leanings.

We have seen a financial collapse, the beginning and ending of two wars, half a decade of changes that included hurricanes, tsunami, drought, floods, oil spills,  record heat waves, a sweeping change in the Arab World, financial and social changes in Europe, and  melting of the ice caps.

Here at home, we have  battled many issues,  including the most painful of all, losing our son Brian in 2011. We are not over that tsunami event. 

After five years of chronicling life after retirement, I'm ready to do something else.  I have a couple of other blogs that will allow me the opportunity to continue to communicate with the blogging world, a world that has opened up many friendships, a world beyond my town and my country.

I want to thank you all, for your kindness, your generosity, your friendship. Do drop me an email if you'd like to remain in touch. If you like, join me on Facebook. Better yet, if you plan on travelling to this part of the world, know that there is room for you under this roof, and always a warm meal to share.

May your days be bright.
May your dreams be within your reach.


Saturday, November 3, 2012

I think I'm still sane.

Remember Catch 22? The Book and the Movie?
The premise was a complex conundrum: if you know you are crazy, you are then not that crazy!

Does the same apply to sanity? If you think you are always sane, you might not be?

When you go through a major trauma, you question your own ability to cope with all that's demanded of you, all that you demand of yourself. Keeping on top of these demands, coping with all that you must do to carry on will tire you; will deflate you' will make you wonder if you can make it through;  it will ask you to think short term the entire time, knowing that if you think long term, you will break down.

The people affected by Sandy have experienced the unthinkable!
Every second, they are experiencing additional doses of trauma, pain -discomfort -fear.  They tell each other that they are still coping; they manage to find positives to talk about. Yet, hunger, cold, dirt, and the devastation in front of them numb all other sensations.

We cannot picture this if we have not experienced it ourselves.

This is hell.

It took us decades for my husband, Brian and I to recover from the Northridge Earthquake where we lost our house, its contents, our savings, our child's college fund, our investments. Thank God for FEMA, for SMall Business Administration, the National Guard, Churches, employers who extended their hands and helped us cope, and even mortgage holders who modified our payments until we could begin to collect insurance.

Do you think your bills will stop coming because you no longer have a home?

It took us years to recover, and we had insurance and savings. It took us decades to find our way back financially, emotionally, socially, and even career-wise.

Tomorrow, Sandy and its aftermath will not be in the news. Yet, the harm, the sheer destruction will take years and decades to be repaired. People's nerves and finances will take just as long.
If you know anyone in these straits, know that they need to talk; they need to know you are there for them; they need to explain to you the details of their discomfort; and you need to be a giving soul, attend to them as long as they need; as long as they are hurting. Banks and many institutions will need to be charitable and kind, assisting in many ways, offering options that have never been on the table for these people who have lost everything.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The First Tree.

The rains have arrived, and we are scrambling down in the garden, picking fruit and vegetables, drying some, using some, blanching and freezing some, and giving them away to friends and neighbors.  I remember as a child getting sick of fruit. Sick of too much of this or that, so much so that I could give up the very sight of persimmons, quince, figs, grapes...

I don't feel that way anymore. I still hope for each tree, each bush, to give me an abundant harvest, year after year, so the house smells of that fruit for weeks on end, so the kitchen has scattered bowls and implements to accept the challenge of preserving the bounty.

These apples have no name. There are no others like these in the local supermarket. They taste a bit like Fuji, or Gala, more tart.  In the orchard, there are four different apple trees, and two pear trees. The apples produce yearly, more or less equally. The pears, one attempts to produce half a dozen a year, asian pears by the look, and Bosch by taste; the other goes into ebullient production every third year, and attracts a host of blackbirds and raccoon by harvest time.  This year, we stripped it naked very early, gave the fruit away to the local pantry, and used some for pear cakes and for drying.  

We actually planted persimmons, figs and grapes when we first moved here. Only the fig is thriving, and this year it has over a dozen figs coming to maturity, and hopefully all will ripen before a cold snap cuts their lives short.

All this bounty surrounds us with good will, a true miracle of nature, odors and taste perfuming the house for weeks, hard work for our weak muscles, thankful at the end of such days.

What's left is to prune  the trees while they are still with leaves! The idea is to see the full tree in all its splendor, and then figure how best to eliminate redundant branches that make it too heavy one way or another. Our plan is to go down on sunny days-if we still get a few between now and the next storm-and begin trimming away. The cut branches can be stored, or stuck in the ground to create another tree!

We ask ourselves as we work day in and day out with all our might: How did we  forgo this work, work that is not predictably rewarding, for work that was extremely stressful, but the paycheck was predictable, (unless a global recession sucks up all resources, including your job!)  with few opportunities for all our senses to be stimulated, so we could purchase food that has very predictable taste and looks, so we could then add an additional hour a day at a gym to stimulate the muscle mass that didn't get stimulated by our work, distressed in ways we couldn't imagine; so that we could hand our hard earned money to a bank to invest in some made-up scheme for a made-up product that bet against our homes, our jobs, our health, our future.

All the bounty on earth should be lessons in living, to young and old, to protect our diverse food, to invest in real products, to make all work as rewarding and as necessary to all our happiness as raising food was and it can still be.

Perhaps I'm a dreamer.

Yet, as I sit here after forty plus years of hard work, where the blood pressure was out of bounds, where we had no choice but continue to remain in those jobs until we could escape, we ask ourselves if we stopped dreaming too soon. There must have been new ways to make a living.

There must be new ways to stay connected to the source of our inner peace.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Between the spaces.

You  know how you hear your own voice, telling you why didn't you take this walk more often, why did you take this picture? You are constantly interrupting yourself, while you  try to shush the noise inside your head.

We live in the present, and the reflective present, alert to  waves that might bury us, watching ourselves being clumsy  as we step lively to avoid being soaked by errant waves, and reminding ourselves that we have responsibilities, deadlines, expectations.

We are spectators in our own lives.

The very ability that allows us to interrupt ourselves, the very thing we call self-control, can also be a major detractor.

Today, this minute, just BE.
Don't spoil these sensations.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Our next stop.

We used to count decades:
-till children graduate from college;
-till cars are paid off;
-till we can retire;

Life was full of daily chores and must do's waiting for the big one to arrive.
Every decade brought a big sigh of relief. I remember when our last child left for college, how fortunate we felt managing to pay for all or most of their expenses, proud that they didn't have to be saddled with loans as we were. When our first went to college, we were still paying for our student loans!

When each found a love of their lives, how proud we felt for the wonderful people they met and cultivated. Each step they took, was one more goal we too had achieved, one more hurdle we managed to overcome.

Health issues, money issues, career issues. We fought the good fight. We managed to save, and plan and take steps to support ourselves and manage our lives. Responsibility and Commitment were our mantra all those decades, as we encountered detours and  stops on life's highway.

The future at this point is not so well delineated. It feels blurry and foggy. We can't earn anymore, as jobs are scarce; and there are many young people with young families to support; a lot of people have more talent and especially energy to tackle anything that comes their way. And we are already living within our means, buying only what is absolutely necessary. We know our car will eventually need to be replaced, for instance, as will our deck, our roof, our windows...

We face the season of catastrophes, situations that we can't plan for. We see people who lost houses and all their savings battling a debilitating illness; their spouses moving in with their children; their possessions sold or given away as they packed hastily and were removed from their own neighborhoods.

Nursing homes, retirement villages, help centers are waiting with open arms for those who have means to afford such services. Each stage will require new services; each service will require more resources from family members.

We may not have had a fool-proof plan for aging comfortably, but I wonder if my children can save enough or insure themselves enough to prepare themselves for such foggy situations. How much money do they have to put away from the time they start working, and never touch it, and hope the value of that money grows or at least doesn't decrease, so they can pay for all the years and months they will be incapacitated and unable to pay for the care and services they will need.

I'm curious.
Are we the only seniors worrying about such things?

Friday, October 12, 2012

We build dreams every step we take...

Here I am, after a walk on the beach.

Yesterday, a little girl told me she wanted to live in a house just like mine. I smiled back at her and told her: "Keep that in mind, for what you want, you will work for, what you dream will become energy you send to the world. You will forgo so many other things that people perceive as important, fancy shoes, jewelry, vacations, and will not miss any of those things because your dream cannot be bought at a supermarket."

Monday, October 8, 2012

All politics is local!

"This beautiful sunset doesn't help pay the bills!" The old woman stated with a toothless smile. I noticed that smile before I heard her words.

"Yes!" I stated in retort, not really wanting to get too involved in the conversation.

She was fishing on the city dock with her young grandson, both of them wrapped up in layers, though the temperatures were still mild. The jackets and sweaters were old and dirty. The two of them were sitting at opposite sides of the dock, and from the look of it, they must have been there for hours.

"Caught anything?" I chanted, still not truly wanting to be engaged, ready to move on my walk.

"Look!" She pulled a string of trout from the water, a beautiful catch indeed.
"Wonderful!" I smiled back.
"Do you like trout?" She asked as she pulled a couple off the string and bagged them.
"They are delicious." I said, not sure what to do, how to accept. I had nothing with me except my phone.
"Take them. We have lots of them." She kept smiling as she handed me the bag.
"I have to give you something back..." I was hesitating. I couldn't take something for nothing, I thought. This kind of interchange only works between friends, or family, people with whom you give and take.

"Nah. Nothing. Take them."

I did. The little boy, a first or second grader, came over and asked me if I knew how to gut and fillet the fish because he could do that for me too. I told him  it was ok.

By the time I got home and prepared the trout, and ate it for dinner, I still could not believe than anyone could just give me something for nothing. The next day, and the next, and through the week, I carried a ten dollar bill on my daily walk. I wanted so much to meet the same people and thank them properly.

This weekend I was at the Democratic Party Headquarters, at a small gathering to get out the vote. I met the woman again, and I found out her name and her status, and the names and status of dozens of other folks who represent the democratic party here in our small town. Some, like this woman, are making do, living on social security check. She wanted to know that some kind of help is available if she can no longer take care of her grandchild.

She is still looking for a job, by the way, anything that she can still do, gardening, cleaning, pet sitting. She volunteers at the local Pantry, bagging groceries, going on gleaning trips to local orchards and farms to get surplus produce for people who are worse off than her. She volunteers at school most days too, and is present at every event her grandchild participates.

She is barely eligible for Medicare, but has not enrolled yet because she doesn't need a doctor. She is happy her grandchild has Oregon Child Health card, and occasional dental care provided by local dentists who stop by in a van at every elementary school, once or twice a year.

I explained to her that she must enroll for Medicare, and see a doctor.

Her only need, she said, is that her grandchild is cared for if she is no longer around.

Monday, October 1, 2012

From sixty to seventy: Are you the person you were back then?

(November 2008, just back from our France vacation. I bought that hat in Marseilles, in a bookstore across the Yacht club. Here I am on the public dock of Lake Garrison, on one of my morning walks.)

Back then, we thought we could/would visit the world, one section a year. Let's see, by now, we would have added at least three more countries. In the previous year my husband had a couple of medical procedures and as soon as we could we managed to travel all the way to France, stopping both ways to spend time in New York, a place I had never visited.

We walked a few miles to Central Park.
We walked up and down Rockefeller Center.
We walked to the theater and back after midnight.
We explored blocks and blocks of Manhattan.

Now, just a few years later, and a few more medical procedures, we can barely walk a block. We go down to the garden and can't come up the small incline without taking many breaks. We need help lifting and pushing and digging. Just a few years ago, life was looking good.

Are we the same people? Yes and no. We are still trying to remain active in ways we hadn't thought of before, in small ways, and in unusual ways, and we have accepted that certain things we used to do are now being done by professionals.

We are aware that even small things are important to do:

1. violin playing and practice most days.
2. driving to events, like the Old Time Fiddlers Concert in Brookings this weekend.
3. entertaining friends and neighbors regularly.
4. volunteering at the party headquarters.
5. making phone calls for fundraising and get out the vote.
6. volunteering to teach cooking to school children.
6. hosting book clubs and writers' groups.
7. holding public office/I am still on the school board; my eight year.

What we no longer do:
1. Heavy maintenance around the house.
2. Seasonal cleaning.
3. Major traveling.

We are aware of our limitations and build activities to strengthen our bodies, avoiding things that might injure or complicate our bodies.  Our front yard and back yard have been renovated so we can still be active and enjoy gardening, only now it is easier to move about and to cultivate. We have remodeled our home slowly, looking at ways to open up space in case we were in need of moving around in a wheelchair.

Growing old may occur quickly or slowly.  We aim to hold our own, and still be prepared for further complications.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Only in America!

In America, we feel connected to the entire world in so many ways:

One: Hubby and I have these connections: I am Italian by birth; he is American by birth; My father was born in Brazil. His mother's family came from Denmark, connected to Sweden through her father. His father's family is connected to England, Germany, and Norway. His religions: Unitarian, Presbiterian, and many more. Mine, Catholic. We were practicing Catholic when the children were young.

Two: My brother in law married twice; the first time to a native Mexican. The second one to a black woman from Texas. Their religion is Southern Baptist- evangelical.

Three: My eldest son married a native of Burma. Her mother is a native of China. Her sister is married to a native of Taiwan. Their religion is Buddhism.

Four: My daughter is married to a Jewish man whose family traces ancestry to Russia and Poland. They have a blended religion of Jewish and Catholic traditions.

(Thanks to Paul at Costco for inspiring this post.)

How about you? Are you also related to the bigger world?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Critical markers.

As late as January last year,  just  after I celebrated another birthday, five years after I started this blog, I still felt as sprightly as a sixty-five year old! My goals remained the same; my hopes and attitudes intact! Hubby and I could make this walk (Port Orford's Heads, close to Coast Guard Hill) a walk we took many times, at times walking from my house four miles away and all uphill!

But our lives took a major turn after last July. We lost a son and soon my husband's health took a major dive. He is recuperating slowly from a couple of operations; his gait is still good, but his strength has not returned to how it was before.

Now, we walk around our neighborhood, a mile or so, on even terrain. We rest often, pick and eat wild blackberries, admire birds and other sights. Everything about last year is still with us, palpable, raw. He feels pain in his hips and legs, and those pains are nothing compared to the pain we swim in as we delve into the memories of Brian and how tragic his loss has been for anyone who knew him.

We have changed in fundamental ways.
Just last January we were planning a cruise to the East. Now, we are happy to take our daily
walks, simple rituals of thankfulness and mindedness.
Thoughts of tomorrows are kept simple, listing doable tasks, put out the garbage at the curb, weed the upper garden, call the kids.

A neighbor died yesterday. A sudden heart attack. A walking companion drove her to the emergency room. By all accounts, she had been healthy, active all along, except on the previous day she had complained, not feeling well, still not missing her walking routine.

These constant reminders of death are not new in this neighborhood where the average old age is 80+; where senior citizens are seen clearing brush, walking dogs, volunteering. We see people all around us make the most of their lives, visiting with friends, tending to their gardens, helping their neighbors with chores.

We made our wills for the first time this year. A simple will. We shared it with our other children.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

We all need help sometime. Even the rich!

So, how do you see yourself this morning? Are you rich with possibilities? Are you grateful for all the riches and blessings bestowed on you by a benevolent providence, family, contacts? Are you standing in front of a mirror and examining your status in life right now?

Yes. Do.
You are young for your age? What luck!

Not luck, you say?
Did you get any help, assistance, consultations, professional interventions?

Again, I think that's sheer luck!

Did your perfect smile come naturally, without help from dentists, orthodontists? That your parents didn't insist you brush your teeth, with that special toothpaste, and even insisted you flossed between teeth and used that rinse? And  they checked that you did?

There was knowledge, support and caring there for you.

For many children I've known, tooth tending was not part of their daily routine. Money for dentists was not available; money for toothbrushes and toothpaste was not available. Many children I've known didn't even get the first well-baby visits after their birth. Their mothers brought them home, and soon after these same children became a burden she could not manage. You see, she was barely a child herself.

I wondered many times what she could have done differently when she told me she was dropping out of school at fourteen. I reminded her that school was mandated until eighteen. That's when she told me her uncle had raped her and now he was in jail, and she was sent away to live with her grandmother who might help her raise the child so she could continue attending school. She was not the only child I've known who quit school at an early age and never returned.

And then I thought how close we all are to perdition, at some point in our lives. How, if not for the help of a relative, or a good friend, we could not get money down for our first used car, so we could get to our job, to school, to the doctor.

I know my path is full of good Samaritans.

I know my husband started back to college with the help of the GI Bill. Only with that help he was able to get an education.  He and I attended graduate schools on scholarships and loans. His father provided for money down for our first home. Without that help, we could never save for that house.

So, you see, most of us are flawed from the time we are born. Without the help of family, churches, friends, and lucky breaks, we could not make the journey successfully.

Monday, September 10, 2012

My writing life.

I come from  modest upbringings, few things acquired, even fewer wished for. My dreams were finite and immediate: finish homework, do your chores, and if there is time and daylight you can read a library book until Father complains your eyes are being destroyed.

What worlds I met in books, they were all make-believe, imaginary, voluble, had nothing to do with real life. I needed to finish homework with accuracy, pass tests with high marks, impress teachers with my tenacity and good manners, and develop my  brain power.  My parents lived every moment with grace and dignity, doing their best every minute of every day.  Their values were the same as their parents', the same they wished for each of their three children.

I wrote to achieve  concrete purposes. I wrote to explain, to illustrate, to collect and present information to superiors, to arrange information for the classes I was teaching. I wrote not to escape or create alternate worlds, but to explain the present world; to understand the nuances of issues and conflicts.

Occasionally, I wrote journals, slowly developing my own voice and style.

When I found myself newly retired, with more time on my hands than I knew what to do, I began sharing some personal narratives. When a fellow writer shared her blog and showed me how to start one, I was hooked. (Thank you Martha!)

I fell into my groove.

I began blogging with sixtyfivewhatnow, a title my husband came up with, just five years ago, when I turned sixty five and was flabbergasted at how difficult it had been adjusting to retirement. I  followed that with my official Memoir blog, then an Italian language for beginners blog and a beginning cooking blog  to help my grandchild learn a few things about me.  I added a creative fiction blog to share short stories and poetry I had been producing. Lately, my last blog, is another memoir, this one focused on the sudden loss of my youngest son last July.  

All these blogs pull at my heartstrings in different ways. They are all parts of who I am at this time in my life.

Blogging has been  a way for my adult children and I to stay close. Now and then, as we speak on the phone, they mention something I said in my blogs, a way for us to communicate on many issues. Blogging has also been a way for me to express my deepest fears and my strongest hopes. Blogging has kept me sane and alive.

How about you, what prompted you to start writing?

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Gardens are like autobiographies.

Brian, noticing the height of things. My boys, Scott and Brian found themselves helping me in the garden early in their respective lives. Mostly, with moving stuff, positioning stuff, building paths, digging holes, chopping down long limbs, transporting rocks. I could tell you who did what and when as I walked around the property.

I did nothing to get them to love gardening besides accepting their help. Yet, each of them went on to  build gardens in their own houses, transforming arid stretches of Southern California into beautiful landscape, for food growing, for beauty, for recreation.

My daughter Pia came late to gardening. She preferred to spend any home time she had (she was busy with lots of hobbies) playing piano, dancing, reading...  It was in her adult years when she saw how easy it all happened when a few plants of tomatoes began to branch out and produce bowlful of delicious stuff.  Now, even with deer climbing into her patio, she grows a few pots of lettuce, peas, arugula, and of course tomatoes.

When I visit them, or when they visit me, pots of something growing, basil, oregano, sage travel along. For a few months, herbs create a Mediterranean smell in their kitchen in no time. Later, the pots move outdoors, plants move to a sunny place or to a bigger pot on a sunny porch.

Even after I moved to Oregon, even during our rainy season, we have protected sunny spots to grow herbs and other perennials through winter months. Parsley does extremely well, as do sage, mint, oregano, rosemary and thyme.  I have managed to grow and keep my herbs around until they go to seed, then snip, dry and use them in my recipes the rest of the year. The seeds go into a special envelope and get replanted for a new season.

Like a visual and sensual autobiography a garden relates us to our past, to our wishes and hopes, to the memories we build together. Wherever I go, a fig tree or two get planted, perhaps an olive tree also. Then, lots of herbs, enough for everyday use and to give out as gifts. I may be far from all I love, but our love of gardening keep us close. Our use of certain herbal remedies, like lemon and honey on days when a sore throat is threatening, will keep us together as well.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Is Blogging a true regimen?

1.How long have you been blogging and do you blog regularly or occasionally?
2.Do you make yourself blog even if you don't feel like it?
3.What big lessons have you learned from blogging?
4.Is blogging worth your time and energy?
5.If you were not blogging what would you be doing?

My answers:
1. I began five years ago. I average one or two posts a week for each of my four active blogs.
2. I write when I want to.
3. I've learned that most people are generous, kind, sweet, talented and eager to share.
4. Definitely!
5. I would volunteer more.

Do you participate in contests, theme writing, memes, or other group writing activities and what have been the challenges and rewards in these activities?

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The season for losing friends.

Do we just walk down the street, and start talking to someone we happen to be attracted to and the conversation becomes the key to a rendez-vous, a promise to meet again, an exchange of vital statistics?

Remember how easy it was to make friends in school? The person in front of you in line at the bookstore or lunch line, or the one sitting in the same classroom, perhaps with the same last name/
How easy!

In blogland, it starts easily enough. One visit, one comment. If the other reciprocates, another visit, another comment. We then sign up to follow each other and continue to visit and write comments for a while.

Do people we follow or follow us in blogland become life-long friends? Do they become as good as neighbors,  as close as those we meet at church? What attracts us and repels us? I know that in my writing group we never talk religion or politics.

Does the same rule apply in blogland?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Our fantasy lives.

(picture from a landscaping blog  I no longer remember. If you recognize it, please let me know so I can give credit where credit is due!

We live our days on two tracks, the work and clean track, and the dream and wish track. It's not as though they are opposite. They are intertwined, and the amount of focus we are consciously aware of in any one field depends on the moment.

I do most of my wishing and dreaming when I'm gardening or when I'm doing routine tasks, such as driving, cleaning house, doing laundry. In the garden, for instance,  I may start with weeding a small area and then, needing another tool, I stand up and go fetch that tool. Before I get there, something catches my eye, and I'm off to something else entirely. I'm still gardening, but I'm blending in with the entire universe as well.

The effect of this meandering on my soul is most salutary. All the bending, the pulling, the carrying and positioning, the raking, the digging, the pruning, the harvesting, all succeed in numbing my thoughts, stilling my fears, positioning me in the place and the moment of the task, body and soul.

And yet, I travel millions of miles with each little twitch. Every time I use the hoe I see my father bent over this implement for hours, tending the vineyard. Every time I gather fruit and vegetable Mother is right beside me, reminding me of something or other. Wait another day for this one is still a bit small. Take these in and make a big tart, the way we used to make it when Grandma visited. You are lucky with a big refrigerator and lots of freezing space, you could bake a few extras and taste these delights in the middle of winter.

As I work, I take great delight in how something is bending,  blooming, fighting to remain in its position. When I realize how tired I've become, I stop reluctantly.

We worry about children not staying on task. We demand their attention for hours and hours, and put all our emphasis on routine tasks, rather than creative pursuits. We test them on specific items, as though life is a big recipe we must memorize, rather than a big labyrinth to discover.

I wonder if we allow them enough time to meander and imagine, mix and match tasks, reminisce, create scenes and dialogue about their wishes, their fears, their consternation.

We must rethink the benefits of staying on task. Perhaps the explosion of ADD (attention deficit disorder) among our population is nature's way to correct all that tasking we have been submitted to.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The resilience gene.

You just can't kill grass!

Whatever happens, however you experience life, your instincts to remain alive, to fight for your life, to keep on trying no matter the odds, just as wild grass  keeps growing on sand, you find ways to grow and survive.

Resilience may be in our DNA, in our genes. How else can we explain so many survival stories?
Despite war, famine, pestilence, natural disasters, throughout our evolution, people have managed to multiply and occupy the entire planet.

As we migrated to territories that should have killed us, we managed to find ways to fight heat, cold, frigid temperatures, even lack of oxygen. The more challenges we faced, the more creative we became.

Our biggest heroes overcame great odds. kept fighting and remained focused on their goals. Their stories are passed down and acknowledged.

Perhaps, if and when we have no more challenges, our resilience gene will disappear.

The way our tails did.
How do we make our children safe and resilient at the same time?

Monday, August 13, 2012

The plans of a retiree.

(past winter-water submerged garden)
When you retire, your calendar changes.
You no longer have five days on, two off.
Your calendar is now filled with frequent doctor'a visits, dates when your social security check is deposited, and the chores associated with your present weather patterns. 

Last winter, this garden plot was was under water for months. Hence the many activities that followed in the spring, when everything was dug up, removed, cut and disposed of, to make room for planter boxes that are elevated and moved to higher ground. Our calendar from that point on indicated these phenomena and how everything else in our lives had to subjugate to that!

What was divided between work and fun, now is divided between fun and dread.

Yes, five days, or five weeks of fun, against a month in crutches, a week on cereal and water before you have enough money to go to the grocery store to pick up coffee and milk again; the dread of something braking in your body; something else in your house that needs fixing. 
(We lived in Southern Calif. most of our adult lives. Now, we realize that maintaining a house is quite different when the weather is so harsh!)

I hear the price of meat will skyrocket because of the drought in the Midwest. The price of fish is already up because there are dead zones that are now off limits to fishing. And, in a situation like our port, too small to get automatic dredging to maintain the dwindling fishing industry, we are looking at many folks losing their livelihood, in a town where there are few jobs already.

Those folks who travel and talk about the next journey between journeys are rare birds.

Most retirees I know journey to the next town, to stock up on essentials. Their long-distance travels are necessary evils, like visits to hospitals, specialists.

We usually take a trip down to California during our wet winter or spring. We manage to get ourselves organized enough to close our home, and travel down to visit our son and family for a week or so. We count that week as our yearly vacation; and if everything works out, they can come up and visit us in the summer when our weather is better than their weather.

Long term planning?
To continue using our limbs and all our organs.
To continue to enjoy eating the things we love before something interferes with our digestion.
To keep our vision and our acuity so we can continue to drive and get ourselves around.

And, to see the world......

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Where are they now?

Trees reincarnate as trellis, furniture, fuel. Friends reincarnate too as they move from visiting next door, to sending a Christmas letter now and then, or picking up and making that occasional phone call. We are in the age of Facebook Friends.

Yes, after a decade of retirement I encounter people on Facebook I lost contact with.
We are never going to pick up right where we left off; but, we are keeping up with each other's lives enough now, through Facebook. It's not like a daily chat, more like postcards from the old countries, where all the details are there, but the context has to be explained.

When I emigrated to America, decades ago, the chance of people to reunite were slim, or non-existent. Now, with a small click of the finger on Facebook, you can find such folks on Facebook. And with translations available so readily, we can read just about any thought expressed anywhere in the world!

We are reaching out; we are sharing. Will we grow more understanding and kind toward each other?
Or, do we need to meet and see each other's eyes to read intentions?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Disney knew something we forgot.

In this hamlet, just as in Disney's movies, when Snow White fed birds on her shoulders, received all kinds of animals in her garden, 
people feed wild animals.
Raccoon, squirrels, birds, deer.
A deer or raccoon may show up at our doorsteps any time of the day.
When I call my cat in for the night, other animals might respond and follow me in.

Here, two visiting partridges looking for fresh food
on a new concrete pad.

I bet Newkie will share her breakfast with them.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

A face lift for an old landscape.

This is what you see as you drive into my driveway. The chair tells you to stop and park at this point, as the driveway goes down to the lake past this juncture. The terrain is crushed stone, pounded down to feel smooth and even to the walker. The trees in the background are all growing down by the lake.

From the street, you can see arbors, chairs, stone benches and flowered pots.

You are invited to stop here and chat before you approach the entrance. All plantings are deer-proof and mostly native to this area. In a few months the arbors will have vines growing above, with profuse flowers blooming from late summers to late fall.

Across the arbors, the house entrance sits at the end of a suspended bridge crossing a dry creek. The pots' colors are blue, sienna red, grey. The gravel is sand/grey; the stones are grey/slate. The star magnolia in the dry creek will bloom from December to February. The Camellia, from October to December.

 The dry creek is made up of sand, rocks, and gravel. Plants and bushes and ferns appear here and there.
Outside the front door, on the far side of the picture, the dry creek under this footbridge spills out on the concrete and meets the arbors at the opposite end.

And finally, a place to turn the car around once out of the garage, or off the concrete pad!

Now, we are going to walk down to the lake, past the boat house, and into the deer-proof enclosure to visit my vegetable/fruit garden.

These rusty chairs will greet you at the entrance. They are supporting  small grape vines too small to stand on their own at this time. The posts are set for a future grape arbor right here.

In this enclosed area I grow my vegetables in raised boxes. I can stand up and putter around with ease. In this box, my salad greens are ready to be thinned. Arugula, fennel, basil, parsley and sage grow among the various musculus mixes. I can decide to harvest just bibb lettuce for a special recipe, or escarole to use in a pasta dish.

Having a variety of greens makes it easy to plan meals.

Notice the bird netting, suspended by a metal pole, to keep birds and other critters out. The boxes will be equipped with drip irrigation on timers. Even if I ended up in a wheelchair, I could still manage to grow my own veggies here.

I have ten boxes, each with different variations. I'm even attempting to grow corn here; though, I don't think I've ever seen corn growing around these parts. This area faces south, and it is protected from the prevailing north winds that blow in summer. I might get lucky!

We spend mornings down here, watering, weeding, planting.
With coffee at hand, we forget the world here,  listening to the ocean, picking berries, weeding roses.

We were meant to be in gardens.

Note: design and construction done by By-the-sea Gardens, in Bandon, and by Mike Hewitt Construction and Excavation in Port Orford. Our thanks to these fine professional for a job well done.

Friday, August 3, 2012


(Hubby, Jasmine, our granddaughter,  and me, February 2011, in LA.)

There were times, not too long ago, when we could drive to a museum across town; stop for lunch downtown; drive to another attraction; and get ourselves to the beach before rush hour traffic to enjoy the sunset on the Pacific.  We could get a good six hours or so of activity and another two-three hours of driving time in a single day.

Not now!

A year later, just a small cross-town jaunt to get groceries or plants will wear us out. We make appointments with our doctors for late in the morning, or for early afternoon, for instance. We give ourselves plenty of time to get up and get ready before hitting the road, and  make sure to carry snacks should we be stuck on the road for any reason.

We always stop for a meal when we are out of town. A meal out is our reward for the trial and tribulations of getting in and out of a doctor's office.  Just this week, because I had an eye exam, and a long wait in a busy waiting room where the receptionist had misplaced my appointment, though I showed her the appointment card, and was making a big fuss about how I should have called them the day before to confirm, when I never had to do that with any other doctor, I declared myself stressed and hungry just a couple of hours after our lunch meal.

Hubby understood! He tried to stir me to a healthy snack we always carry. NO! I wanted a burger and fries and a milkshake!

We do get rattled about little and big things that are just erroneous, or at people who make mistakes and do not take responsibility for such. When processes are messed up, we become cranky and vociferous. Yes, we get tired; and we lose any patience we might have stored ahead of this event.

Now, navigating in a new town adds its own brand of crankiness, I might add.

At the end of the day, that stress causes us to collapse before our bedtime.

Yes. Cranky and Tired are our new status.

We can't even imagine how we could get up at five, drive an hour in heavy traffic, work for eight-ten hours, more traffic, stop for supplies or food, and be home in time to check children' s homework or    supervise an activity such as soccer practice, and retire with a book after ten.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

A year later for Newkie.

If you thought Newkie would tire walking the rails of this deck, you'd be wrong. All this year, she has enjoyed the smells from squirrels and gulls and occasional deer that roam this deck, and has taken to this house as though she lived here all her life. Even while romping around, she tries to figure out where we are, which room we are moving to, all because she wants to get back into the house quickly if something out there spooks her.

The family was vacationing with us for the  last few weeks. They would go in and out, up and down the hill to the dock, on the dock, on the waterfront, in the upper garden, in the lower garden, Newkie was kept busy figuring out what moves to make, where to rest, when to sneak to her food and water, when to hide from everyone.

She loves being brushed, and the girls won her confidence by offering the brush, and watching her stretch out to accept the activity. At times, she would peek into their bedroom, sniff around all the stuff that was laying around, and return to her usual sleeping quarters satisfied that her place was still unchanged.  Her sleeping area is at the side of my bed, across a heater vent, with views of her deck and the world beyond. She loves this configuration the best. Second best place, however, is under a blanket, with barely a hint of nose sticking out, fooling all of us that she is out playing for the afternoon.

One morning, she followed me to the lake garden where I've begone to plant (Yes, we plant late; but this is the latest I ever planted!) The place is still under development with machines and implements all over the place. She follows me if I wait for her; then, she becomes free and easy, and wanders around the place, always watching where I am, when I move to the gate on the way up the hill.

(ten new planter boxes on the water-front garden)

Mostly though, she looks down at me futzing with the vegetable boxes below deck, and cries out, until I return to guide her down.  I'm sure, in a few weeks she'll wander off on her own and begin sniffing the many plants growing down there.

For those of you who are anticipating pictures of the completed garden projects, you need to wait a little longer. Too many interruptions have occurred, and completion is not in sight yet.

However, we are all very happy with the results so far, and look forward to a big garden party before summer is over. I do know that my neighbors are all looking forward to a big shindig.

I wonder if any zucchini or cucumbers or peas will be ready.
So far, lettuce and herbs are cooperating.

Pesto pasta, anyone?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

First day of Summer in Portland.

We love summers in the Northwest. Every sunny day is a golden day. We love to show off our natural beauty to our visitors whenever possible. This picture is of Multnomah Falls, in the Columbia Gorge, a few miles North of Portland. If you look carefully you can see the lower part of the fall on the left side of the first picture. The upper part is way up, above the bridge where people are standing.

We also love our quirky-creative establishments. Here is the famous Powells Bookstore, a three story wonder with old and new books. Our young guests spent a couple of hours perusing, talking to Portlandians. Both of them were visiting colleges in Portland, and soaking up the atmosphere.

In this scene, the young lady in the pink shirt at the street corner across from Powells is soliciting support for her cause. I stopped and talked to her, amazed at how well she engaged her audience, most of whom were willing to talk at length with her.

This area of Portland, is an urban renewal wonder, having both residential and commercial units, easily walkable, close to public transport, accessible small eateries and coffee shops open at all hours, and green spaces with splashing fountains full of families enjoying a summer play day. Notice how everyone is wearing comfortable walking shoes, and trying to tan their bodies on this first day of summer.

Yes, this was July 5th, the official first day of summer in Portland!

We took our rests where we could, happy to impart wisdom to our captive audience of future scientist, teacher, artist. (Our granddaughter and her friend have many interests at this point.)

While we were in Portland, The Waterfront Blues Festival, a 25th anniversary concert that lasted all week, benefiting the local food banks( was going on downtown, and we took our granddaughter and her friend to the event.  The last time we went to a blues concert was in Long Beach in 2000. In twelve years, our bones have so deteriorated that sitting on the grass was not as fun as it used to be.

The music, however, was just as good!

Last year, the concert raised a million dollars and more than 110,000 pounds of food at a time when Oregon's food banks have faced the highest level of demand. Oregon has one of the highest number of people with food scarcity.

A few days in Portland,most enjoyable, and most tiring.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Seeking the new, even in paradise.

The Northwest. 
Green landscape with water here and there: rivers, creeks, lakes, ocean. We can breathe, temperatures cool and steady throughout the summer, hardly a day of discomfort. 
Yet, even on a sunny day by the lake, we crave foods that don't grow here, like corn, avocados, limes.
Even paradise has snakes!

Happy Summer!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Renovations to grow in place.

Just last week, men and machines were roaming the front and back yard. In a couple of weeks, fences were mended, grass and bushes cut down, boxes built and filled with new soil and compost, gravel compacted, cement poured and formed, beds cleared and bushes removed,  and now new pots grace the front door and the stream appears to move gently away from the house,
I can follow the stream from under the front door foot- bridge to the driveway, to the street side of the front yard. 

Some things were incorporated to be easily accessible should the need occur for us to be in a wheelchair:

1. The new concrete pad allows us to park, and wheel right into the house with no problems.
2. At one end of that front dry pond, (in the second picture), I can now step easily into the area and turn on the water faucet, or do some cultivating.
3. We opened up a side area so we have a T-a way to back out from the garage easily.
4. We removed trees and stumps to give us more light,  better security, and more ease in parking.
5. The front yard will include benches and arbors, so we can entertain seamlessly from front to back to the lake.

The project is half/way done, but progress is being made.
Our weather is cooperating.
Our machines are all repaired and working well.

I'm just hoping that new arbors, benches and pots will sit across the front door before my relatives begin arriving in July, and that new gravel will be poured and compacted from the cement pad all the way to the street and to the lake. Right now, we're all parking here and there and walking gingerly through the back door to reach our house.

Lighting and irrigation are all in place. Everything else should come together soon.

The good news is what has been accomplished so far is most pleasing!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Dream Act and other promises to keep.

Senator Ron Wyden, Oregon. (Warning: this post is of a political nature.)

I get a chance to ask Mr.Wyden questions every year, face to face, when he spends an hour or so at our Town Hall. You have the same opportunities with your statesmen when they return home and visit local municipalities, present you with their accomplishments and goals, and then take questions from the audience.

What does an audience ask? It depends on the local needs, actually.
If Mr. Wyden dropped in this month at the coast, anywhere, he'd get an earful on the dredging issue. Here at our local ports, sand accumulates around the mouths of rivers and bays, keeping boats from leaving the port and go fishing.

Without dredging, clearing the sand bars, there is no fishing.

Dredging is expensive and is provided by specialized crews, mostly run by the Army Corps of Engineers. The work is necessary for the livelihood of the fishing and recreational industry around rivers, bays and ports.

Without dredging, everything comes to a standstill.

I might ask Mr. Wyden how he will vote on the Dream Act as well. You see, I too was an immigrant, and I remember full well the difficulties I encountered, difficulties that most people would rather not think about. Most people like me, might just forget to speak up, afraid to make a fuss, afraid that someone might make things more difficult for them or their families.

Most people, though,  think both of these issues do not affect them.


Regarding dredging:
1. Fish will cost you more than ever because local fishing industries will shut down.
2. If you own a boat forget about using it anywhere except your pool.
3. Vacationing on a beautiful bay might change to vacationing on a mosquito infected pond.
4. Goods from and to the Pacific Rim countries will have to arrive by plane.
5. All cities and towns on water will become ghost towns.

Regarding immigration reform:
1. Agricultural work will not get done in time, or as cheaply as it is done today.
2. Wine, produce and meat will be prohibitively expensive.
3. Restaurants and fast food places will have to charge more, because they have to pay more for their employees. Minimum wages do not apply right now to many seasonal industries.
4. Construction industry will come to a standstill.
5. Nannies and housekeepers will be hard to find.

We might all have to rethink what America will be like, if all immigrants disappeared, (including our relatives, best friends, our neighbors, etc...) if only the people who could afford visiting us would be found at our shores, would be setting up businesses here and exploiting our natives, would be shipping profits to their banks in most instances rather than investing in the community.

Ugh, come to think of it, this is already happening....
What about you? What issues would you bring up with your statesmen?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

What kills us.

(in the photo: I'm eating steamed mussels at Redfish Restaurant in Port Orford. Hubby took this picture, sitting across me.)

You add up the hours and sigh. So much of our energy goes into thinking about food, exploring food, selecting food, preparing, eating, cleaning up. In one day, the activity of eating could take up half of our waking hours.

My mother's routine of getting the main meal on the table was to get up at seven, get us to school with a slice of bread and jam, a glass of milk, make the beds and clean the house, then walk across town to the meat market, the vegetable stands, the bakery. Along the way she caught up with friends and relatives. With her shopping bag full, she walked back home, slipped out of her heels and prepared the main meal of the day.  Housewives spent many hours in food preparation.

When we returned home to eat the main meal around noon or so, the pasta would be ready to go into the boiling water, the vegetables had been prepared, the meat was grilled or stewed.  Dad too had returned from his work, and after washing up, he'd take his seat at the head of the table and poured wine for himself and Mother, and added a dash to our water glasses. School work was discussed first, then other affairs.

My routine and my husband's, during our working years was nothing like this. I woke the children; they fixed themselves cereal, grabbed snacks, and all of us dashed out of the house way before seven. We all returned after six; the children had after school events and child care providers, hubby and I worked way past our eight hours shift.  Back in the fold, sharing a quick meal together, we all returned to homework or housekeeping chores that couldn't wait another day. Bill paying, laundry, vacuuming. Most of the time, we all collapsed in front of a television set to watch the news or a favorite program.

No wonder we relied on drive ins, pick-ups, take-outs, frozen meals, fast food meals, eat in your car meals.Who had the time to sit down, with a glass of wine, across the table with someone? 

We have arrived to a time in our society's evolution when what kill us is our modern way of eating.
We eat poorly.
In a hurry.
Under stress.

Eating has become a leisure activity, to be done only if time is available. No time during our working days. Better get work done while we can; while the Stock Exchange is ticking; while deadlines loom.

And so,  after horrendous commutes, we pick up Kentucky Fried Chicken's big bucket meal. Tonight, plenty of food. And no one has to clean up.
Tonight, we might be able to sit with little Abby and read her that favorite book of hers. Tonight, we might watch Jeopardy together.

Too bad we can't skip eating completely. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

There is no hurry in Curry!

This is only the second week of the landscape project, but it feels as though months have passed already. Fortunately for both Hubby and me, we are not new at remodeling/construction projects. We have had plenty of experiences, and can't recall anything in the past that was completed ahead of schedule or under cost.  With the removal of the old septic tank, tasks have had to be postponed and reassigned. With the break-down of machines, delays and extra costs have popped up.

With all the noise and pollution, Newkie the cat huddles by Hubby's desk, right above his computer, a place she had never ventured to before these events, and stays there, alert, as tractor scrapes the driveway or moves rocks and dirt. She  wants to go out of her usual window which happens to face the entire mess. She has tried the back door, but runs into the house as soon as work starts about 8:30 each morning.

 There is a saying in these parts: "There is no hurry in Curry."

Curry County, with few inhabitants, mostly part-timers, and even fewer providers of basic services, seems to be an odd place for people who are used to the hustle and bustle of San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York. It's difficult to get anything done in the time frame most of us anticipate.

Most service people have  the habit of not showing up, not calling, or showing up without calling. We chose well-established contractors. We researched and visited their previous projects in and out of the county, and spoke with clients.  We consulted ahead of time, agreed on a design, on a price, and signed on the dotted line. We know these people well, and we trust them.

Only the weather and breakdowns will inevitably  throw  monkey ranches on the project.

We have two projects going on: The upgrading of the front garden/driveway, and the upgrading of the garden by the lake. By now, I anticipated my vegetables boxes to be in place by the lake behind a deer fence. But the fence posts needed replacing, and when the neighbor saw the work in progress, he informed us that our fence line was incorrect, and proceeded to show the recorded survey of the land. So, the entire side fence needs re-positioning-might as well settle this now and not let this fester any longer-and we can't do that until the lake recedes a yard or two. Now, without a fence one cannot grow anything.

So, everything by the lake has been postponed.

The front garden/driveway is proceeding according to plan, mostly.

Did I mention that the tractor broke, and was fixed, and then broke again, and again?
Did I mention that there are no places nearby to fix these machines, and our contractor/operator spent days working on these repairs?

Hubby reminds me that everyone used to repair their own machines on the farm back in the days when he was a child in Montana. All machines. They built their own whenever necessary. His grandfather strung electric lines, and built  pumps and irrigation channels  to bring electricity and water to his farmhouse.

We have lost these skills now-a-days. Our machines, big or small end up in dumps, or in China, where they are re-purposed.

I'm reminded daily that these views and walks on the beaches are to be enjoyed while the body still moves and the senses are still acute.

Perhaps the saying, there is no hurry in Curry, means  " slow down, enjoy what you have, while you have it, and don't be in a hurry to get to the next stage".

Sunday, June 10, 2012

We've become people who need people.

Men, women, machines, tools, supplies, gadgets, specialized tasks, and lots of coordination, and logistics. Usually this type of work is done in stages, lasting a couple of seasons, or years. We chose to have everything done at once.

First day of work.

Here, you see four different crews: tractor work, edging/laying out concrete pads work, clearing old vegetation work, and lighting and irrigation work.  A dozen people  at various stages, delivery,  leveling, spacing,  digging and adjusting to get the right slope identified and prepared before the concrete men can be called to pour out the concrete, and a crew on the outskirt doing the clean-up and prepping work for different areas.

Most of this work was done in the rain.

Notice the lighting and irrigation tubing before it is buried under the concrete or stones. I took these pictures to have an understanding of the layout should I need to call a repairman in the future. Even the special soil that will form the various beds has been delivered and put together according to specifications.

The weather has not cooperated too well. We are still waiting for a dry spell to complete the tasks.
On top of everything, machines broke halting many steps, and an old septic tank was discovered in the region where the concrete pad was scheduled to go.

So, stop everything,  remove above tank, fill the hole, re-level the pad!

The good news? Everyone is working at peak performance!
Now, if only the weather would cooperate.