Monday, December 30, 2013

Words and pictures fail us

Another year. A new milestone.
We have a new member of the family, exactly eighteen years after Jasmine (above with her dad, my son Scott) was born. I thought I was too young to be a grandmother for Jasmine, too young and too busy to be a proper grandmother.

Now, I feel I am too old to be of much use. I don't have the physical stamina to help with the new baby's needs as my mother helped when she stayed with me when Brian was born.  I get tired easily; feel exhausted quickly.

Fortunately, baby Nico is an easy baby: eats and sleeps and coos when he's awake.

Pictures that try to capture the mood of the moment do just that; only, that mood can truly be a slippery thing. In the photo above, there were five of us walking toward a restaurant to meet the rest of the family for lunch. My daughter in law is a few steps ahead of me on the left, cropped out of this photo, and she and I are talking. In the second row, my grand daughter Jasmine. her father Scott and my husband (cropped) are also talking. Yes, Jasmine is texting, but contributing to the conversation as well. This was the last meal we had together with a dozen other relatives meeting in Gardena, Cal. for dim sum.

I look at irrelevant things when I look at pictures. Such as the outfit I was wearing that day, a comfortable thing to help me stay warm on the  plane ride back to Oregon from California. I remember worrying about that, how cold I'd be on that plane, and the discomfort I'd suffer if I wore tight shoes on long rides.

What this picture does not capture at all was the buoyancy and excitement having the entire extended family together, having a wonderful lunch and promising each other we'd stay in touch no matter what.  

Monday, December 16, 2013

It's never about you.

The holidays tug at me with two passions. One tug is to do nothing at all except cook one traditional meal hopefully shared by all my family members together. Another tug is to become Santa and indulge everyone with their most secret wish. One side of me dreams of wish fulfilling, and the other, about being one with nature, simplifying life to its most important life source.

A different perspective will win this year.

We are anticipating the arrival of a new grand  baby in a day or two, and our lives have been directed exclusively toward making that arrival the focus of our celebration. Everything we purchase or think about will be for the new baby. I'm dreaming of baby songs, and baby names. I'm looking at my house through different eyes too. What do we need to do to make it baby-safe as well as elder-safe. The baby will become a toddler in no time, and while we won't be able to chase him around the house with ease, we want to elevate and lock all material that might be dangerous, secure doors and slippery surfaces, eliminate as many nuisances as possible. We're back to our own days of child-rearing; we are back to the most exciting times of our own lives.  We know how difficult and exciting those times were, and we want to be of help anyway we can.

This will be our second grand child. Our first one will celebrate her eighteenth birthday this month. She'll be off to college next fall just as the new grand baby begins to toddle. She'll need help with her college tuition; the new one, help with diapers.

When life is all about you, it becomes worrisome.
When life is about others, it becomes opportunities for growth and for hope.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Time to update your eyeglasses?

Nothing says you're old like your glass-wear. Sure, you may not need new glasses, as far as you know; but, do you know how old are your glasses? The old rule of thumb was to go to the eye doctor whenever you changed school, or whenever you had trouble reading or seeing objects at a distance.

I remember, in my twenties, a newbie at my job as a teacher, standing at the end of a row of thirty-five seats and looking up at the blackboard that I had just written on. It all looked fuzzy; so, I asked the young lady sitting in that last seat to read to me the last line on the board. She did. And then she asked why did I want her to read out loud? I told her to see if she could read at that distance.

How could I have missed the signs, I told myself driving home that evening. The next day, I checked with the school office to find out if an eye doctor was covered by our insurance. The secretary laughed. At that school, we had no health insurance at all.  Ladies teaching in private schools did that until they got married. Until then, they were still living at home, and supported by their parents until they married.

The trip to the eye doctor and glasses set me back an entire paycheck.


Most seniors find out the hard way how difficult life can be without good eye glasses.  I got my new set a year ago, and chose these great big ones because I have tri-vision. I need glasses for television and driving, glasses for computer work, and glasses for close reading.  My husband has three different glasses, and is constantly analyzing if he has the right glasses on!

My previous glasses were smaller and I was constantly taking them on and off to adjust to close reading or computer work. These change with light; so, my entire eye is protected when and if the sun hits them. They also feel light on my face since they are no longer made of glass, but with a special plastic. I even have insurance for replacing them should they shutter, break, begin to scratch irreparably.  My glasses sit by my bed side at exactly the same place every night just in case I need to wear them on my night errands.

A set of glasses can set you back financially. Think of them as the first robotics that help you navigate day and night, rain or shine. Is it time to update yours?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Stats tell you part of the story

When we first moved to the Pacific Northwest, we did two things. The first was to build a sun-room. The second, to purchase a treadmill. Both are hardly used in winter months. The sun-room needs way too much heating to stay comfortable. And the treadmill, it is barely used ten years after it was purchased.

I could tell you that it rains for nine months here in the Northwest, and it can't be refuted. Yes, it rains most weeks during nine months, and the view during those rainy days is gray and wet as in this photo, but in any winter month, we take our daily walk in dry weather almost every day.

How can that be?

Storms come in from the ocean with hurricane force and by the time they reach land they drop all their energy at our doors. A two to six hours dump. Then, the skies clear, the sun re-appears and the land dries up in no time.

I can take one picture of a stormy day in the morning, and by afternoon, a different picture applies. Sometimes we walk between storms, a natural lull we take advantage of for our mile run around the block or a run to the library.

The statistics for this area will tell you that there are 77 inches of rain, on average, in the winter months. If you look at a weather map for this area at this time it will show you bands of rain and a cold front. As I'm sitting at this computer, looking out the window, the sun is shining and the temperatures are hovering around 40F.

Time for a pleasant morning walk.
Yes, we own waterproofed coats and shoes. Yes, we wear hats or hoods. In just a few weeks, around January, the camellia and the star magnolia will bloom profusely, making this season quite festive.
Happy Holidays, everyone.
I hope your weather doesn't keep you tied down too long.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

As the journey continues.

How much easier would a journey be if we stopped along the way and asked for directions? Or took an inventory of what tools and supplies were needed? Or consult with our companions?

At the beginning of the journey we are confident and cocky. We hardly ever consult a manual when we attempt a new task. Even when we are confused and anxious, we fake it. We want to be perceived as people in charge and accomplished.

At the end of our journey, we are tired and grouchy. We consult everyone and everything daily, what food to eat, what exercises to perform. We say what we think; and we do what we like.

Yesterday, I told a good friend when she asked me to call her after a doctor's visit, that it was not going to happen. The call. No, I said. I'll not disappoint you. I can't promise to call until I feel like calling. Believe me, I added, I'll be so worried and anxious that the last thing I want to worry about is keeping this promise.

She nodded in agreement.

We know what it means to share news that is not good news, that will worry and make anxious the caller and the called. That certain news will just have to go through maceration.
Some things will not be shared.
Some will be shared for the first time.

Other stuff will be shared over and over again. You'll be tired of hearing about it; you'll be telling us you heard this already. And we will continue to share it because what our journey is about at this time in our lives is to make sense of all the stops and crevices, the small and big things we collected, received and gave, all things big and small that our memory can still contain.

Beware, we tell ourselves, this is what really happened when...

Whenever we appear grouchy, it's because we are processing the present in light of our past. Or, we are just anxious that this life is coming to an end.

When we don't call, it's because we hate to waste your time.
We don't resort to gimmicks when we tell you we can't accept your dinner invitation because we can't travel easily after dark.

Somehow, we have this sense of urgency to stay on the road.
Somehow, we see dead people walking among the living.

And we pray we can still be seen and heard.

Sunday, November 17, 2013


I've been married to a thankful man, someone who is constantly expressing his gratitude, for being alive, for a good meal, for a bit of sunshine, and even for simple things like finding his glasses right there where he thought he left them.


I'm more demanding and critical; my pillow has to be this high; my food balanced in such a way...

Did I know this about him before I married him? No. I was just thankful I didn't have to impress this man. Yes, he fell in love with me in a casual way, before we had any dates, before we did anything more special than sit at the outdoor patio we shared at the apartment house where we both resided and talked about Bob Dylan's lyrics, Sartre's philosophy...

I did notice that he was not stylish, at a time when I was quite careful with my own image, allotting way more than I could afford to my attire. He wore heavy-framed glasses that made him look nerdy, and white socks that made him look like a hick.  You see, I grew up in a family that cared how we were perceived in public, that worked hard at the image we were presenting. My big brother was in the fashion business, ended up working in the great house of Valentino, and here I was talking to a man whose fashion sense was to grab whatever was clean for the day.

We married six months after we met.
Forty-seven years later, we are truly thankful for the gift of friendship and love that supported us through many storms.    

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Confronting your limitations

You can stand here and there, in museums and parks, wonder at the talent and power of inspiration in front of you, and can either get discouraged or be inspired. When you are young, and have your whole life in front of you, these encounters show you possibilities and new horizons.

When you are old, new encounters make you confront your limitations, allow you to consider the options you might have in front of you.

How long will it take to do this? Do I have the skills? Have I done this kind of work before? What will I create that is uniquely mine? What will it cost to produce? Do I have the physical skills to do this?

Most of us know a great deal about commitment and drive and ambition. Our entire lives have been spent at work and raising families, balancing all tasks and deadlines so one or the other did not suffer. All of our lives we confronted challenges and we stood up and faced them with grace.
All of our lives we were judged by how well we took up new tasks and grew with each step.

But growing old teaches us something else entirely.

We learn almost overnight that tomorrow will not bring more opportunities. People around us remind us just how difficult it will be to use our bodies the way we did. We can't walk as far; can't stand as long; can't drive much after dark.

We know that this moment might just be the best we'll have.

Tasks we did automatically, are now done reflectively. We count on our hands the things we need to have before we leave the house: keys, glasses, phone, snack, purse...
We use devices to remind us to turn off the stove, unplug the iron, take our meds...

When our children visit us we make extra efforts to get to clean the house the way we used to; that clutter has been removed, lest they think we are slipping away. (I do know that a cleaning service for Christmas would be the best present ever!)

We turn down invitations because we are afraid of driving at night; or, of not being able to digest the food they serve; or, falling asleep in the middle of a conversation; or....

And then there is the matter of finances.
That topic alone can keep us worrying most nights.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The life we forget to write about.

Calendars are everywhere, on google, phone, paper by the computer, paper in the kitchen, and one for each organization I belong to. A collated mess of dates and appointments are distinguished  in various colors and graphics.  Keeping track of time must have been a real necessity from the time we came down from the trees and roamed the savannas.

And yet, even with all the doctors and specialists' visits, writing and responding on blogs,  running organizations whose activities keep different calendars than my household's, I do not chronicle my life much. I seem to pretend that it is self evident, and who in their right mind wants to know that I skipped dinner last night?

Who indeed?

You just have to read Zadie Smith, and you will realize how these stupid details in your life can account for so much of its meaning, or lack of it.

I've been reading NW by Zadie Smith, and everything I know about writing is being challenged.

No wonder that the only thing my husband wanted to do during our visit in Boston was to eat at No Name Restaurant.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Whom can you trust?

I can tell you, this cat will not harm these partridges, or any other animal she encounters. She doesn't have a hunting bone in her body! Or maybe, she's so set in her ways that nothing or anyone can tempt her to change her habits; after all, if food appears daily in the same place, what is there to hunt for?

What if she had to find her own food. Would she then change her ways?

I wonder about humans too, how they vote for things/programs/ services that have been there automatically, provided for them by their parents. Would young people know that taking care of themselves means to control risk as well, pay for health and car insurance and fire insurance they may never need?

Some of us retirees are finding out what it is like to live on fixed income. If we experienced our own parents' demise in old age, facing mounting medical bills, wearing the same clothes, eating less and less, doing fewer and fewer activities that cost money, we might have learned that planning for old age should have started long before old age appeared in the back door.

Who is out there in government, in businesses,  that we can trust? Can we trust banks with our savings? And investment companies with our retirement funds? How do we know that their habits are fiduciary, meant to protect us?  I know that after the Northridge  earthquake of 1994 in Southern California many insurance companies stopped writing earthquake insurances, or automatically increased the premiums and the deductibles to protect their interests in the future.

Businesses are there for profits.
Their only goal is to grow their profits.

As long as our health is run like a business, profits will be the ultimate goal.  

Monday, October 21, 2013

What we talk about when we don't want to talk.

We sat in the waiting room while our respective husbands had their post surgery tests. We talked about the landscape outside the window, the beauty of the grasses, the time and energy necessary to keep that water clear and those paths debris-free. We talked about our respective garden philosophies, she exclusively with flowers, and I tending to vegetables most of the time.

I let the garden do what it wants, I told her. I try to grow what I can't get at the markets.
Oh, like what?
Fava. Fava beans. I'm obsessed with them;  I eat them fresh right off the husk...

She didn't know fava, except that remark made by Hannibal Lectern in Silence of the Lambs. Was wondering what/why that remark was there in the first place.

Her husband returned from the lab and they were off to their next appointment. When my husband returned, I told him the woman's husband had the same surgery, at about the same time. Is that what you guys talked about?No. We talked about gardening.

He looked out the window and remarked there were herons hiding in the grasses.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

What happened to the American Dream?

*a re-enactment of early pioneer days

We think of life as a mortgage note, a promissory note with an amount and a date, a place and time in the future when debts are all paid up and we can live our golden days without worries. Just sign, work hard, and see. You may not see the benefit of your hard work before you die, but your children will as they inherit the place free and clear and start their future with your help. A house will make their American dream come alive.

Our grandparents, with a life expectancy of fifty-sixty years managed to pay off their mortgages, raise five to eight children, and help the next generation become more stable and self reliant. Each dreamed that the next generation was to be more secure and better educated than the last.

About thirty years ago, in my generation, taxes for the wealthy were frozen by a series of deductions and shelters concocted so the wealthy had ways to hide their money, while the average Joe's salary and benefits began to shrink and costs for a gallon of milk, and car insurance jumped faster than the average raise.  If your company had previously promised you a pension for the many years you worked, it began to find ways to renege on that promise by  a variety of mergers, negotiations, or declaring insolvency.  

Wall Street managed to screw up the American economy and took State and Municipalities' accounts into the same vortex as savings held in stocks and bonds and bank notes by ordinary citizens.
When Wall Street  collapsed, the economy collapsed. None of the individual investors recouped their losses. Companies liquidated. If you anticipated a pension, chances are your company was no longer able to deliver one. So many regulatory standards had been ignored; and policies to re-intestate strong safeguards came under attack.  Somehow, in our naivete' we thought, for sure, that having a lot of regulations meant we were not going to get a good return on our investments.

So where are we today? There are still many of us who are in the dark about how the recession occurred and who is to blame for it. There are still many who feel regulations are bad for our economy. There are still many who want no government at all.

I only know one thing for sure: our American dream has collapsed.
Why are we not talking about that?

Thursday, October 3, 2013

What happened to the list on the left?

I've gone a week without this computer, and what happened? It jumped to another time zone. The usual dashboard is nowhere to be found. The usual list of blogs I follow, gone. The routines have changed and I'm left to figure them out on my own.

This is not the first time.
Nor will it be the last time.

Is Blogger trying to tell us something?
Or it just doesn't like Me to be part of the past I knew.

Is this a Halloween prank? It can't be, too early for Halloween. Is this a ploy to sell me some product or app I should have to maneuver as easily as I did last week?

Or, am I in a paranoid state, a change brought about by visiting the Puritan compound at Plymouth?
You know, they believed smoking was good for you, for your lungs, for pleurisy...

Sunday, September 22, 2013

How the arts can change your life.

Port Orford's musicians.
From left, Mark Feldhaus, Bonnie Cox, Suzanne Monk, John Clute.

(The painting is "The Elk" by Elaine Roemen
the bust is called "Birdland" by Julie Hawthorne)

When I retired I had no idea that one day I'd be organizing the events above. Actually, the space is presently housing two events at the same time. 

The first one is on the wall: The Two Muses/Writers and Artists' Exchange organized by Elaine Roemen, the painter of the Two Muses, and Weld Champney, the poet who reflected on the painting. Forty-five writers submitted poems for artists to interpret visually; and vice-versa.  Begun during the last Labor Day Weekend at Siren's Cove Cafe Annex, the Two Muses will run through September.

The event has inspired artists and poets  of all ages and  locals as well as tourists,  have stopped in for an art experience that made them laugh or cry, asked nothing of them except to spend a few minutes and contemplate a unique experience that was not available on the web or on their mobile app. Siren's Cove Cafe has been a marvelous venue for the artists, having hosted many such events.

The second event is a monthly, taking place every Third Tuesday at Two, an open microphone event with live music groups and writers sharing their work, or interpreting the standards. Sometimes the place is standing room only; sometimes, just a handful enjoying a break from their routines, listening to Vivaldi, Bach, or Bob Dylan and Bo Didley.  

I have been president of  Port Orford Arts Council for the last four months, and the idea that someone with my experience would be asked to run this group was never on my radar. I come from an education background, not an artistic one. Writing had not been in my daily life. Only after I retired and had time to learn the craft, to spend hours and hours reading and writing, attending workshops, and mostly meeting with like-minded folks, I began to share what I wrote, got the courage to start blogging, encouraged others to do the same, spoke about the insights and the rewards of writing and sharing. A friend of mine who is an artist asked me to consider lending the POAC a hand as its new president.

Running an organization, obtaining funding, organizing events and communication, is easy for people who have been in such businesses in their working days.   I'm learning. I'm frustrated and elated at the same time. Frustrated that I have no staff; no real knowledge who can do what; but also elated that such a small town has so many artists who are generous with their time and their talents. 

Unlike other businesses,  the arts demand your attention not to sell you anything. They ask you to think with a perspective that is not not usual one; to consider possibilities beyond the obvious. 

The arts put the finishing touches on your human soul.
They allow your inner thoughts to stand in the forefront.

Without the artist, that chunk of marble in Tuscany would never have become The David!   

Thursday, September 12, 2013

How writing saved my sanity.

Nothing helped. Not even gardening and walking and movie watching. My disquiet after we settled in our new place did not have a clear cause. Retirement was supposed to be a happy time in people's life, but it became a serious depression state in my life.

I took long, solitary walks, noticed birds I had never seen before; talked to other retired people. Everyone was happy and well adjusted. I was the only unhappy one.

I did mention my condition to my doctor at my annual visit.  He prescribed some blood tests and later called to tell me to pick up Vitamin D at the pharmacy.
I was relieved! A Vitamin D deficiency is curable.

Weeks later, my mood had not changed.  (Did I mention that our rainy season lasts eight months?) My husband suggested we take a trip to a sunny location.

Florida, a place we had known during our graduate days was the place to go to. We had spent many winter holidays at the Keys, sometimes driving all night from our apartment in Tallahassee for a chance to  bathe in the warm waters of the Gulf as our small children frolicked for hours at the waters' edge. Sitting on the white sands  with tropical drinks made us forget our day-to-day challenges.

We booked our flight knowing the temperatures would be in the mild 80's and sunny the entire time. One afternoon in the same bar that Hemingway had frequented in Key West, I  began to think about our Tallahassee days,  the six years we had spent as graduate students, living in Alumni Village with other couples with small children, eager to get on with our lives, worried about our future. That evening, using the hotel's stationery, I penned my first story, the hurried days of graduate school. It was a piece of fiction drawn from my experience.

When we returned from Florida, I joined a writing group, learned from a blogger how to start a blog, and soon I was writing almost as much as I was reading, and gardening and walking.  The doctor saw me a year later and was happy with my new attitude. He credited Vitamin D. I knew that if I had not discovered writing, I couldn't have made that big leap.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

What do you do?

Remember when you used to be at parties and you were introduced, and the next question was, what do you do, or where do you work? Work was your identity. Almost your whole identity. People who did the same thing usually hung out together, shared tidbits outside of work, participated in hobbies, birthday parties, office parties, sports and trips together.

Your work defined you in your working life, but your hobbies will define you in your retirement years.  Do you golf? Play canasta? Paint? Write? Garden? Each group you'll meet will ask you to join them based on your hobby or outside-home interests. Forget all the other accomplishments and kudos you garnered in your working life. If you don't golf, you'll never meet that couple who moved right next door to you spending six months each year chasing golf balls in your backyard.

The biggest challenge you'll face after work, is figuring out what to do with your time.

Working defined your very being; identified your pace; sent you out to read materials and supplementary literature related to your work experience; brought you together with folks; provided a sense of accomplishment and a sense of purpose to your days; and became your reason for living.

I encountered a mini crisis of identity when I went on maternity leave with my second child and decided to stay at home for the first couple of years.  After six weeks of me and the baby, pacing our lives between feeding and changing and sleeping patterns, I was eager for adult conversations, for activities beyond my four walls, for stimulation from any source.  Going back to school for a Master's Degree in an area that I craved to explore proved most satisfying. I could still be a full-time Mom to my baby, keep the house relatively clean for the family, and take one or two classes late afternoons when my husband could get home and babysit and appreciate the work I was doing.

I did not anticipate the crisis I went through when I retired.

My life lacked direction. I felt empty, inconsequential. 
How about you?
Was the transition easy or difficult?

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Sometimes you just don't know.

We were taking a nice walk the other day. Not exactly here; but in a beautiful surrounding nevertheless, in Eugene, Oregon, the Willamette River on one side, runners, bikers and mothers with strollers passing us on the other side.

We  were following the river from our parking place by the Mall at Valley River Center to McGrath's Restaurant.

We got to lunch and gloated.

Yes, we had walked almost a mile from our car to the restaurant, on a pedestrian path with a beautiful view. We ate well, a salad, a piece of fish. We talked about how well the doctor's visit had gone earlier in the morning, and how our lives had been  so blessed. Imagine, we said, six months ago we had had to park close to any place, especially a restaurant. Six months ago we could not walk far without a long stop.  Yes, we kept saying, our lives are finally easing up.

We walked back to the car through the parking area until a few yards before we reached the car, when we crossed the parking area and walked toward the river path.  Hubby slipped going up a small dirt bank separating the parking area from the river path. He struggled a bit to get his balance and fell head down, wounding the top of his head. By the time he was up on his two feet the wound had opened and rivulets of blood and dirt made their way down his face.

I had nothing with me to stop the blood, to wipe his face off. The car now appeared miles away. I debated what to do: call emergency, leave him there and go for the car...
He insisted he was fine and we walked to the car among the usual crowd of runners, mothers in strollers, bikers.

Nobody looked at us.

A few minutes later, washed and wiped, we drove to our second doctor's appointment for the day where Hubby was reviewed for his usual conditions, and then the doctor decided that he needed to be assessed by the emergency personnel. Hubby insisted he felt fine, but his doctor insisted and Hubby was  wheeled to the Emergency Room and taken right in.

Head traumas are never easy to assess.
Vascular problems, internal bleeding can occur without the patient showing signs, Doctor Pacini, Hubby's Heart and Vascular Specialist advised.

Hubby was treated and released with four pages of instructions  for follow up care  that specify symptoms may appear even a year later.

After a head injury, here are signs to look for:

`decreased concentration
`difficulty learning
`memory problems
`vision changes
`headaches-especially with stress or physical activity
`mood changes
`increased sensitivity to noise
`difficulty with relationships
`decreased interest in sex
`increased susceptibility to alcohol( becoming intoxicated more easily)

If you notice any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor.
For more information related to head injuries, contact the Brain Injury Association of America

Friday, August 23, 2013

Is your life a closed loop?

This video could have been taken any sunny day on this beach, any time during these last ten years of retirement. Hubby would drive to the parking area about 200 yards from this spot and wait for me to walk from our house and join him for a walk on the beach. Usually, after a few yards, he would park himself down as I walked the length of this beach, a half a mile to the mouth of the outflow of the lake, the direction I'm walking now, on easy terrain most of the way. He would then leave for home as I walked four miles the opposite direction, toward the lighthouse, then up to Paradise Point and another couple of miles on a paved road back home.

We did this routine for many years. Just the idea that we were so close to these walks buoyed us.

(I no longer walk the opposite direction toward Paradise Point. After a bad fall, my ankle and knees scream to go home soon after the short walk.)

He usually takes pictures of the waves, the marine life, the big panorama all around. On this day, he  pointed his phone camera my direction for a good length of time. Not at all his style.

How predictable we are.
How unpredictable we can be.

There is really a big tug of war in our lives: the need for comfort and routine versus the need for adventure and surprise.

I'm in need of adventure at the moment. Stay tuned.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

How baby boomers choose to retire.

We watched baby boomers for decades, as they changed rules, moved to suburbia, drove SUV's, made shopping a sport. They knew quality, demanded respect, were bold in their lifestyle choices.

None of them anticipated a major recession just before retiring. Yet, their spirit and creativity are breaking ground again, in the way many of them choose to spend their  retirement years.

We are meeting many new retirees who choose to be full time RV residents, moving around, volunteering a few months at campgrounds or at State Parks, visiting relatives and friends they might not otherwise see often. Their goal is to the see the fifty states or as many of the fifty states while their health is good.

Just yesterday, as we were hiking along the Elk River,  we met a couple from Iowa volunteering at the Elk River Hatchery. They described the work they do and how much they enjoy staying in different places, learning the lay of the land, the history of the people they meet, trying new skills and new hobbies and how they could continue this lifestyle for many more years.

They have few possessions except for the RV. They do not shop at Nordstrom or any other name store. They have stopped shopping altogether. They now collect stories and hints of what's beyond the horizon for their next adventure. They are not afraid to stop and talk to strangers, to share their background and lifestyle with anyone who is willing to listen.

We exchanged phone numbers and facebook info; should they need to evacuate in a hurry, they know a friendly face a few miles from their campground.

The funny thing is we were all strangers before this conversation.  

Sunday, August 11, 2013

How much planning do you do?

(The Coquille Valley, a traveling route to and from the coast from I-5 Oregon's biggest thoroughfare.)

Most of Oregon is this pastoral! We can stop and count cows, or elks, or sheep many times on the hour and a half windy road that takes us from our coastal village to the big (ger) towns dotting the I-5 up and down the length of the state. Once we get inland, the weather changes, and the sights change too. By the time we reach our doctors, 150 miles later in Eugene, the second big town in Oregon with @ 150.000 people, we are beat. No way we can then turn around and return home the same day.

For visits that are planned, we take an overnight bag with enough clothes and meds for a couple of days.

Many people end up in emergency rooms in Eugene because the doctors on this coast do not possess all the various specialties and surgical expertise for all cases. So, in case of an emergency, we may end up 150 miles from home in a hospital, accompanying a relative who is being transferred unexpectedly all the way to the Riverbend Hospital in Eugene.

Fortunately, Riverbend Hospital has a guest bed in each patient's room.  All patients' rooms are private with beautiful views of the tended grounds and the Willamette flowing down river. I've spent days and nights in the hospital, and their food and hospitality resemble those of an elegant lodge. The grounds are great for solitary walks too, and stopping under a thick canopy of pines on a river's edge is the best medicine for a worried soul.

You can't plan for all emergencies; but, you should be able to survive if you are away from home for a few nights unexpectedly. 

With so much wildness surrounding us, we could be stranded without any way of getting a message out  mere miles from home, on a wet and windy night when the cell phone and the battery are both dead and we end up in a ditch or off road to no fault of our own.

This is what we keep in our car at all times:
a first-aid kit, water, paper towels, a colorful tea towel, blankets, coats, sturdy shoes, meds, snacks, a change of clothes, big flash lights and a lot of change.

If you are stranded, stay in or close to your vehicle!
If you can't be seen from the street, drop coins from the street to your car and tie your tea towel to your mirror.
Portion your water and snacks to last at least three days.

Better than anything, tell someone where you are going and when you're coming back so they can alert emergency personnel if they don't hear from you.


Monday, August 5, 2013

A continental and intercontinental challenge.

This is the view from our house. While it is peaceful and lovely to look at, it is also a lonely place.

We have been house-bound for the last couple of years and are beginning to wish for a change. Any change.  Do any of you out there swap your houses?

How is it done?
What precautions do you take?
What insurances do you carry?
How does it all work?

My husband doesn't think anyone would want to spend time here, too remote he says.
I think anyone who lives in a city would love to spend time on a remote beach.

What do you think?
A swap with an apartment dweller in Philadelphia? Or a villa in Italy? How about a farm house outside of Melbourne?

We are open to possibilities, for one or two weeks, or.....

Friday, August 2, 2013

Have you noticed how you have grown?

No, this sideways picture is here to show you the way we grow after we have grown! You might think I mean this in a physical way. Yes, but also in many unanticipated ways.

When I first retired, years ago, I was desperate to find a new pace, a new passion that would make me get out of bed and jump into an activity that would keep me focused for hours and hours. I knew I would enjoy combing the beaches, and that reason alone, plus the fact that these beaches are for the most part easy to walk, made us move here to Oregon.

But one cannot walk all day.

I knew I liked gardening, and my new place had plenty of space and new challenges to keep me busy and contented for hours. But I needed more. Especially for those long winter months when both walking and gardening were not possible. Whenever I heard of an opportunity to volunteer for this or that, I eagerly jumped in. Soon, I was  busy everyday, my calendar as full as the time I worked.

When you retire, you will start with a few hobbies, perhaps traveling, reading...
Then, because you want to stay in touch with friends, or make new friends, you'll join a variety of civic clubs, and soon you begin to volunteer to take leadership roles in as many groups as you can fit in. When you talk to your children or old friends, you'll list all the stuff you are doing as though this new resume will keep your reputation intact.

The truth is that we feel good when we're active, when we have a purpose.

But your life will change dramatically before you know it. A fall, an illness, a debilitating change in your lifestyle will rob you of that get-up and go self you used to be. Anticipate that you will change, that change is inevitable; anticipate that your resources will also change as you begin to hire people to do things you used to do for yourself.

But you will still have a wealth of experiences and opportunities in front of you at this time of your life.

Dive in! Everything you ever wanted to do before can be done now. Sleep late so you can go out dancing after dark. Learn a new hobby, even if you suck at it. Join groups, even if you know nobody else. If you don't like doing something, fine, don't do it. Nobody can force you; you can quit when you want.

Best of all, this "Goldergarten" experience  is free. 

Monday, July 29, 2013

The things you learn at the fair.

The annual county fairs or state fairs are a good time for citizens to become acquainted with the services available in their county. I picked up brochures everywhere, from the Oregon Department of Forestry. Extension Services from Oregon State University, and the County Health Department which is no longer run by the county.

The young men in this picture are auxiliary members of the Forestry Department offering lots of brochures on how to avoid fires and how to landscape and maintain a safe environment around your property. Areas with lots of forests, as we have here in Oregon, are prone to destructive fires.

Some of the highlights of a brochure put out by the Oregon Department of Forestry entitled: Protecting and preserving Oregon's archaeological and cultural resources, a guide for Forest Landowners and Operators walks the reader through the various ways a forested site needs to be assessed before a cabin or a new structure, or new use is adopted, mostly reminders to conduct a thorough assessment, identifying arrowheads and shards related to native tribal life, burial grounds, railroad grates,milling stations...

"Common sense often dictates where sites are located ...
-pay special attention to fresh water sources...
-areas offering a variety of plants..."

I took brochures on how to grow blueberries, (my plants seem to be way too puny), what to plant in deer areas, how to conserve water, and my favorite, how to dry everything. Yes, even zucchini can be dehydrated and kept for those long winter days when a cup of soup might improve with dried herbs and zucchini chips.  

Friday, July 26, 2013

Old Fashioned and Fun

There is always something to learn. Here, another gadget to experience.

Yep, there is a survey that can reveal your chances for making it to the good place!

Lines everywhere, some with their own sound systems!

This is Thursday, seniors get in free day!

Many displays and competition trophies!
 I might have to test my abilities one of these days.

This young lady and young man are waiting with their animal for the judges to come by. Spectators were welcomed to come up close, and then put some bids on the animal of their choice. Yes, pigs, goats and steer are auctioned off right after the judging. The winners pay up and arrange for their prize to be butchered and delivered to their front door ready for the freezer the next day! Never will you find yourself so up close and personal with your next bite of steak!

The Coos County Fair, July 25, 2013, in Myrtle Point, Oregon.

All fashioned food, fun, displays, 4H demonstrations, and auction of youth-raised animals. To my husband, who spent a great deal of his childhood in the western region, this felt just like his childhood. To me, each stall, each character, right out of central casting. Yep, this is small town rural America.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

All we need is Art!

Here are five members of our local Arts Council, ages 30 something to 80 something, representing a town membership that sports representatives from most arts specialties, posing here  at our latest yard sale where the community could pick up art supplies, including fabric samples and a music mixer for free.

Port Orford is an arts colony in the true sense of the world. Each person in this photo is an artist and patron of the arts,  also a volunteer in schools, senior centers, veterans' centers and local cooperatives. Retirees and young mothers alike have taken up painting, dancing, music, weaving, wood carving, metalwork, ceramics, glass, bas-relief, basketry, writing, garden design...

The town has more galleries than grocery stores; more studios than businesses, more residents who embrace a lifestyle that is simply dedicated to making art, sharing art, appreciating art, than any other life pursuit. Your housekeeper can be the person whose painting you bought a few months before; your handyman, the sculptor whose award-winning pieces are hanging in the Smithsonian. Down the street and painting in your watercolor class is one of Hollywood's famous directors whose life now is dedicated to other pursuits.

The philosophy here is that the arts help us understand life.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

This fleeting life.

Nothing in this picture tells me what place this is.
Rocks turning green, exposed to salt air
turning white as water retreats and leaves sand patterns behind.

I have no recollection of this day depicted in this photograph.

I'm having trouble making sense of photos, stories, letters and articles
I've accumulated;these subjects must have moved me once.
I only know that the cutting and the pasting was easy and quick and
these tools gave me instant accomplishments.

Thoughtless and careless,
I can stalk everything and everyone, any time of the day and night
hoarding volumes and volumes
that could never leave
tall monasteries, yet
I don't feel power or delight in all this wealth
through a viewfinder.
I feel as though I'm threading water in a lake
saturated with invasive species,full of reeds without redemptive powers
hiding  nothing and everything.

What an easy breezy task this is,  not worried about remembering facts
from opinions
each  position easily reversed with a new set of data
a constant shifting ground
as the next salt-water tide
bleaches space and time
from my grey cells.

Will I still be able to recognize those human intrusions
that will make my heart  soar beyond the moment
reach for a pen
jot down a name
a date
an address on a piece of paper that can witness today?

Will my life change if I can no longer tell
what impeding decay smells like?
Will I shed tears in the face of loss
or quickly click the local heroes of comedy until the feeling passes?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Conquering Fears

Every time I look out my window, I want to cross this strip of water! The dunes in the foreground are a canoe trip across this small cove on calm days. But most days are not calm. Most days the winds blow incessantly and would definitely topple any vessel.  My children all made this trip. My husband too. After ten years of hesitation, I intend to conquer my fears , get into a canoe and get myself to the ocean a stone throw from my house, a house we bought because of its proximity to two bodies of water! (We live in the last house on the right.)

So, what will it take for me to make this trip?
Global warming! Yes, if the lake got warmer, I wouldn't mind falling in.

Or, another vessel. A canoe feels wobbly and unsteady.
Or, lessons. Yes, if I had lessons and people around me who knew their craft, I might embark on such adventure.

The thing is everyone I know canoes or boats or kayaks in this strip of water. Children as young as ten are seen paddling across these waters. And they never had lessons, just an opportunity to borrow canoe, oars, life jackets.

I conquered bigger challenges, I tell myself. How hard can this be?

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Retiring is re-directing.

Here I am, cooking at my son's house, and from the look of it, it will be pasta primavera, a dish that will fit in with my son's diet, and still feed the rest of the family, and something he can learn to whip up and make for himself as often as he wants. The dish is designed to be stored, eaten cold as a salad, or reheated, a true blessing when your schedule is tight.

As a working mom, I had no time to truly indulge in anything I enjoyed. My schedule was tight, and cooking was always the last thing I wanted to tackle at the end of the day. Now, in retirement, I look forward to trying new recipes, savoring the process as much as the end results.

I can now be the woman I wanted to be, contributing to society,spend a couple of weeks testing recipes that are easy to assemble and fit whatever dietary needs come our way.  If I had small grandchildren, I could easily spend a good portion of my time babysitting, cleaning and educating the little ones, with a lot more understanding and patience than I had when I was a mom myself.

Grandparents' primary role is to support the next generation; in a variety of ways and with whatever means available. Families who have grandparents around are stronger and happier than those who don't.  Why, the entire human evolution depended on the elderly providing support to the breadwinners, at a time when all their energy went to bring food to the household.

If we think of retirement as a time to indulge our fantasies, we'll never be satisfied. 

First, few have resources at this stage to indulge all their fantasies, and very soon, as money dwindles we'll have nothing new to do. But most have time and intellect and knowledge and wisdom to help families, neighbors, schools, hospitals...Becoming a volunteer will direct your energy into new areas; a volunteer is exposed to new people, new routines, new challenges.

As you plan for retirement, after figuring out what your needs are and how you will pay for them, figure out how you want to be useful; how you want to pursue that hobby or activity that you never had time for; how you want to belong in the new community you will relocate in; how you want your family to thrive with you around, or you long distance; how you want to contribute to the bigger good.

You really have to look at your next stage as carefully as you looked at all your life goals. This is the last chance you get to truly getting these goals identified correctly.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Everyone knows a fisherman.

Meet Carrie Courtney, a young researcher with POORT
right here in Port Orford. This organization's mission is to protect ocean resources through education and sustainable practices among all interested parties. Her project is to meet with everyone in town and ask them if they wouldn't mind posing with the sign that best describes them.

I chose the sign that said My Friend is a Port Orford Fisherman.

Read about the projects they are sponsoring, and then promote their work, even if you don't live by the sea, or have never known a fisherman.  The ocean nourishes us in so many ways, and this organization makes it their mission to spread the message.

Friday, June 14, 2013

My day.

What do retirees do all day?
I'll tell you about my morning so far. It is 9:30 am here on the West Coast of the USA, sunny and about 60F. I've been up for hours.

Three a.m or first light: Cat calls to go out.
Fifteen minutes later-cat continues to call. Irritated and sleepy, I keep one eye closed as I walk to the next room to open a window for her to crawl out of.
Four or so-cat is back in and plops down next to my pillow, trying to lick my hand. I tap the bed to indicate that she needs to lie down and do as I do, sleep. She does!!! And I take a few extra winks.

Five-cat is up again and meows to have her bowl and litter box freshened up.
Five-fifteen-I'm up, to the bathroom, void, take my pills, brush my teeth, drag myself to the kitchen and after I tend to cat's food dish and litter bowl, I make coffee.
Back in bed with trays of food and hot coffee, I set my three pillows up to watch the dawn wake birds and  seagulls  on the dunes. I can sit up like this and enjoy a cup of coffee and an egg on toast for as long as I want. Sometimes I see people walking the beach while it's barely light out there. Often, I see fishing boats returning to port, or lulling around pulling up crab traps.

Seven- Computer time; check emails; check Facebook; check blogs.

Eight- Hubby begins to stir back in the bedroom, and  I join him with a fresh cup of coffee. He too sits up to eat, and we chat about everything the world must do to get its act together. This morning, we discussed how our bacteria changed our evolution, a full half hour of evolutionary biology lecture free to those near enough to hear and appreciate all that jazz. My contribution? Why didn't that happen to other species? I got another lecture that was interrupted by another cat need. I know, she saves me at the right time!

Nine-Gardening or house chores until I'm too tired and worn out to stand and return to my computer as  Hubby goes through his routines and ends up at his computer in the same room.

Nine-thirty: Serious writing time for me and for my husband until lunch time, unless we have scheduled doctors' visits or  runs to pharmacy,drug stores, groceries. Since these are all out of town, we anticipate that lunch will be eaten out and that our morning or afternoon walks can be accommodated one way or another in this time frame. We park as far away as possible, and walk to the stores. We walk the beaches, the river, the parks available around our errands. We try to challenge ourselves this way and maintain our physical abilities. If we leave town, we may not return until late afternoon or early evening. This happens more often that we try to admit. Most of our doctors are specialists, three hours away, for which occasion we need to make arrangements to stay overnight, and to have someone care for the cat and the house.

Noon-two- Lunch is usually our big meal, and it consists of a salad, cooked veggies and a protein. After lunch, television is turned on and we watch old movies or series we have recorded and nap to our hearts' content.

Two-five-Volunteer activities. We may have to switch our appointment times sometimes, but having a place to be in the afternoons adds interest and challenges to our schedules. I run the Arts Council, teach a couple of writing workshops, sit on the School Board, perform at an open mike cafe once a week, and meet with writing and reading groups regularly. I had not done any of these activities before I retired.

Five- Dinner and news.Dinner is a soup, or salad, a half a sandwich and fruit. Many times, I cook extra food for lunch. If a neighbor has no plans for dinner, they join us. I love to have impromptu get together.

Six-nine- Television, necessary chores, more computer time.

Nine- Bed time.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Public Servants

Port Orford/Langlois 2cj school board, and superintendent, 2009.

Four of the seven members are still on the board this coming term. With each member, we gain new insights and perspectives, but we lose history and understanding of past issues.  Being a member of a school board is probably the first public elective office most people experience.

This job will open your eyes about what public servants endure as school teachers and administrators,

Some members of the board  will run for other offices and continue a political career they started at this level. Others have children in school and their interest is to see that their children get the best education possible. It will take a few years, studying many issues, before the complexity of the job and the enormity of our responsibility are understood.

Working with limited budgets, dwindling enrollment, a national agenda that has emphasized assessment rather than opportunities, a public disinterest in taxing itself to improve the common good, a public servant has an uphill battle to fight at all levels of politics.

Add to this mix the fact that for decades, at the national level, the trend to dismantle public education in favor of charter schools, or to support and encourage independent schools run by for-profit corporations with public funds and no public oversight, all of which is sold to individuals as the only way to improve public schools, all of this means trouble for public entities. We have already dropped our financial support to a point where school buildings are crumbling, buses eat up a big chunk of the budget, and local municipalities are scrambling to pass bonds to maintain basic services.

If you add health care woes and a citizenry that is getting grayer and less concerned with the needs of the youth, problems will never be addressed by the local politicians.

Who is to blame? Why the employees, and their unions, who dared to ask for raises and for a duty-free half hour lunch! Not!!!

We have forgotten that public servants have a vested interest in their jobs,  committing their own money and resources to support their classrooms, and who, when they retire will live on a meager pension that was never enhanced with bonuses, stock options, matching 401K investment funds.

Does the public understand that these folks were serving them loyally for decades, often just earning enough money to skip over the poverty line, paying off their student loans slowly, taking summer jobs to live to September, and when everyone was gloriously cashing in their bonuses and paid vacations, they lived on a meager salary that paid them only for the nine months in front of children, and not for all the preparation time that it took to collect materials and organize lessons.

Ask your local teachers how much stuff of theirs is stored in their garages. Every teacher I know has boxes and boxes of materials and lesson plans stashed away in their homes, books they bought to enhance reading, workbooks to assist with math, projects for science and history, and innumerable stashes of supplies for those days when the office runs out of everything, sometime around March.

One of my children has been teaching over twenty years, and his salary was less than what his younger brother was offered on his first job. Teachers, on the average, make less than twenty dollars an hour.

If we just remember that every one of our citizens has a vote in this country, we should be concerned about his literacy and thinking skills, his commitment to the public good, his understanding of what a community can be if everyone is equally involved and equally educated.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

On writing memoirs.

"I had never thought about these things until I wrote them down..."

Writing your story is like standing under a big rock that had been there all along and just now, in this moment, you see all its fissures, colors, fossils embedded deep in its veins. As the water laps in and out of sight, you notice the intricate ecology all around, and you marvel at how much history reveals itself once you stand still and wait and pay attention to the minutiae.


Thursday, May 30, 2013

When a cat takes over your house.

(Newkie and Brian, @ 2003)

Rain puts me to sleep. Sunshine wakes me up.

Newkie, here in bed with my son Brian, her dad since she left her mother, has her own sleeping patterns, and rain or shine, she likes to get up and about at four in the morning by jumping on my bed, lying next to my face for a few minutes or so, then, lick my hands and begin to call me up with gentle meows.

If I tap my hand on the bed I encourage her to lie down and rest by me for a while longer, and sometimes I succeed for a few extra winks. Just a few winks.

She enjoys the opportunity to go out even if there is a storm. If I open a window, I can then return to bed and fall back to sleep for a while. Soon, she'll be back, and will wake me again with more licks and more meows until I'm up and about with my morning routine, while the world is still asleep.

She waits for me at each station in anticipation.
She calls me from the hallway if I spend too much time in the bathroom, or in the laundry room. If I settle down in the living room instead of at my computer in the office, for instance, she stands by the office door and calls me until I get back to that room. She then hovers in the background, coming in and out of the room the entire time.

When she wakes in the middle of a nap she comes down by my feet and stretches all out, calling for a brushing. Yes, she has a special call for that brush, and rolls on the carpet, positioning herself and rolling from side to side just perfectly so all of her long fur is brushed and brushed and brushed.  

When we eat fish, she anticipates her own portion. (I prepare hers "tartare", and serve it on a special plate).
When we eat anything else, she leaves the room and eats from her self-feeding dish in the kitchen.

With visitors, she checks them out when they enter the house by remaining at the end of the hall, and if she approves of them, she might drop in for a very short visit;  if not, she hides for the entire time.

If I call, she comes.
If I motion for her to climb up, she does.
If I go for a walk around the property, she waits until I invite her to come along.
I wonder how I can train her to sleep late into the morning.

Monday, May 20, 2013

The stuff that keeps us.

In my pantry I keep bags and containers of dried food, shelf after shelf of things that I will use one day. All  can be easily picked up  at the supermarket. An entire room with shelves like this one!

I have closets full of boxes with important papers, and more papers hidden in back drawers, piled under underwear, usurping space, keeping me busy year after year, when guests arrive and I need those closets for other uses. I'm constantly reminded of our modern obsessions.

I have papers I have written; and papers others have written, from people I will never meet, from people whose sole pursuit is to create trails of evidence, to point out that whatever goes wrong in life is not their fault.

Did you know the amount of insurance you bought in your youth, regardless of how much you paid, and for how long, that amount diminishes with age? At my present age, (forget those insurance claims that you can get guaranteed insurance at any age!) a onehundredfiftythousand life insurance is worth a meagerly onethousand dollars!

I was cleaning up a drawer, and there I saw the fine print, the print that was not sympathetic to my situation any more. Nobody can buy a cemetery plot for that amount, I thought.

What to do with all your stuff? Store if you have storage room. Let the supermarket store your dry goods. Just buy what you need when you need it, and keep your pantry shelves clean and bare. You are not going to go hungry these days.

Better yet, convert your pantry space to an artistic pursuit!

And for papers?
Read and shred. Feed your compost pile. If you want to keep them because you anticipate collecting benefits, be sure you read the small print, on some tiny line somewhere at the end of the document.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

A day in paradise

This is what I see out of my back windows: the ocean and dunes in the distance, the lake, my fenced-in garden plot with vegetable boxes built last summer and planted again this spring. The boxes are made of local Port Orford cedar, a wood that turns grey with age, rot resistant.

Cultivating these boxes is easy for any age, especially mine.

I stand up the entire time; I can stretch across to weed and to plant, and since I am short, I do very little reaching or bending down. I've made only two planting mistakes last season. The first one is the planting of artichoke plants, the tall plants in the top row. I'll have to wait until they die off from the main stock, and then transfer the little shoots on the ground.  Artichokes take a lot of room and need space to expand as they send shoots that will continue to produce for a few years more.

The second mistake was to plant strawberries in the bottom right box with cucumbers and nasturtium all of which sent shoots out, everywhere.  For this season, the strawberries will keep their own box.

Looking up from my boxes, the sea and the sea stacks across the lake, and dunes and clouds offer their own version of a day in this paradise. I never tire watching, listening to the waves and the birds, delighting in the small and big things that continue to surprise me every time I look this way.

This is whale migration season, and we are accustomed to see spouts from entire families on their way to Alaska stopping around here to feed and play.

I can do some fishing here on this stack of rocks, just dipping my pole in. People do catch marvelous eating fish here. I might just do that!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Can we still afford to dream?

Port Orford's little league field, as all little league fields, is supported by volunteers, coaches, managers, field preppers, concession moms and dads, sponsors of uniforms, bench builders and transporters. City fathers who see that  the premises are safe and cleaned up before and after the season is over, know that these were  dreams they had, and their cousins and fathers had before them. Keeping up the tradition of little league is a matter of honor for everyone involved.

Nobody ever complains that we are spending so much time and money and labor as a community to see that children experience what we experienced at their age. If we own a business, we'll support the team by writing up the cost of uniforms, awards dinner, trophies. The picture of the team will remain prominently in the halls of the business, to remind the community that this was a very good thing! Even if the team lost. Even if the team lost year after year.

Helping children fulfill their dreams is a natural high for a parent; for the community.

How often we buy stuff we don't need from a boy or a girl who comes to the door and tells us about this dream she/he's pursuing?  A child who dreams of becoming something or someone must be assisted to achieve that dream.

How about more basic dreams, about being safe, educated,  with access to great health care, to experience what every child should have in the course of his/her development?

When I started college, the cost of education at Los Angeles City College was $10 a unit. Everyone could afford  college then; and everyone who couldn't pay even the ten dollars received scholarships and other assistance.

Nobody I knew became bankrupt before they started their career.
When did education become a luxury?

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

You must remember this...

Do you find pictures of yourself you don't remember anything about?
This is me, or a woman with the same stride, hair color, size and general build.

It must have been taken a few years back, when Brian was still alive. The clue is my son's dog, Butters, behind me, stopping to sniff another dog. My son must have taken this picture with his phone, when I wasn't watching, his object to chronicle Butters's better pursuits.

Butters was just a year old or so.

(I found this photo as I perused the downloads from his phone after his death.)

I can tell you that we walked, Brian and I, all through his neighborhood, and with his dog. I remember attempting to hold on to her leash with determination because she had a habit of grabbing the leash and playing tug with me. It was not a game I enjoyed with such a strong young dog. My son, on the other hand, enjoyed his dog's strength, agility, playfulness.

I worried out loud about this habit. He reassured me that he had all under control.
Grown up children don't know everything, I thought.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Do you know your neighbors?

We lived in Los Angeles most of our adult/working lives. In our last place, we occupied the same corner house for twenty years and except for families with children in the same sports as our son, or the same activities as our daughter, we didn't know too many people. People didn't stop and say hello to anyone.

They were on a tight schedule; we all were.

We retired to Port Orford, on the Southern Oregon Coast, a small hamlet that sits quietly behind pines, day in and day out, looking out on the Pacific and bordering the forest.  In winter, the town seeks relief from the constant wind and the constant rain by shutting itself in and exposing its thoughts through artistic pursuits. A town of twelve hundred, maybe half of whom are full time inhabitants, here and there and in the surrounding hills, manages to support the arts and wild life with equal fervor.   There are fourteen art galleries in this town.

I've begun to feel like an artist here; something in me wants to live without schedules, between days and nights; garden in the moonlight, write in the sun, cook only when hungry, declare love at every thing and everyone who's listening, take up music, poetry, watercolor, and drop love stones wherever I've walked from the beach with a pocketful of agates.

There is a rumor that this town lives in its own time zone; people wake up and show up at the Post Office when they know they have mail, and the rest of the time you might not see them for months.
Once you know someone's schedule, you honor it. You manage around it and soon it becomes a normal thing to meet for coffee at the spur of the moment when both of you are not running off to a doctor, a dentist, an errand to the hardware store you hope stocks sprinklers for your new lawn that is dying out because, unlike every year since you have moved here, this year, for the first time, the weather has been dry for weeks and you need to turn the sprinklers on your new lawn.

Unlike many beach towns where Main Street is full of trinket places, this town supports small enterprises that provide needed services and support, hardware and lumber stores, a laundromat, four or more RV parks and campgrounds, a school, a park, coffee shops, restaurants, motels and B&B's, a car repair, a hair salon, real estate offices, a quilting shop, an ocean resources office, a dentist, a newspaper, a data business with offices all over the nation, a couple of manufacturing places for machine parts, and unknown numbers of small home businesses, in addition to ranching and cranberry growing.  The port served commercial fishermen as well as sports enthusiasts. A marine reserve, run by the Marine Studies Dep. of Oregon State U. sits right off Table Rock at the Visitor's Park. The reserve is set to study the future of marine life in this part of the world

This town is full of part timers; yet, when they do show up, they fit right in! Unimaginable anywhere else. And since everyone knows someone you don't know, if you need a repair person, start asking around. Did you know that your neighbor used to be a plumber?

Did we know this before we moved here? No!
We moved here to be on the water.
We moved here for its beauty and affordability.
All things that everyone knows.
But what's keeping us here are the people; smart, open minded, eager to engage, perceptive, well read, good stewards of the environment, and mostly, friendly and acceptable of each other's idiosyncrasies.

We are lucky, that way.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The distance that defines us.

(From right: Hubby, eldest son, his daughter, I and my son's wife)

We spend more time facing our mobiles than  
walking side by side
the way people do in 
other places
other countries
other times.
Each time we see each other, we re-learn habits
on an hourly rate
negotiating every little decision, where to go for dinner
what to do for fun. 

We notice how much and how little
we have changed;  how little and how much we know of each other's
daily challenges
as years and months are rolled up and stewed down to their essence
each time we see each other.
We talk, or avoid talking; we share or avoid sharing;
initiate and extinguish difficult conversations
reveal and dispel fears.

Which each hour
each day
each activity
memories return brighter
ties grow stronger
a new balance is re-established. 

Saturday, April 20, 2013

We have to face the truth.

My dad used to tell his friends of the time when barely a toddler I blurted something out while he was negotiating to sell his horse. I told the other party they were trying to find faults with the horse because they didn't want to pay what the horse was worth. I was three years old and truth came out of my mouth like a wild spring.

My parents worked hard at modifying my enthusiastic delivery.

Now that I'm older and wiser, I pride myself on the simple principle that truth, the whole truth must come out somehow, and much of it in plain speech. I tend to appreciate food when it is presented in ways that all its elements are easily identifiable too.

And that brings me to today's topic. At our age, with our experience, with few days ahead, we are obligated by ethics and morals to state the truth and face it with grace. We can't hide it to save face; we can't hide it because someone will be offended; we can't hide it because we'll lose friends and acquaintances.

The horrible truth on my mind this morning is the tragedy in Boston and all  the tragedies that involved young people, in Columbine, in Newtown. The perpetrators all felt like outsiders, friendless in most cases.  As a nation we say words like "mentally ill" and then we bury that truth in the rubble of blame and the carnage of fear.

People with mental illnesses, people who are suffering unbearable abuse, people with major paranoia and insecurities, people who hurt and can't cope with life's bumps, all of them just a minute away from committing abominable acts towards themselves, or towards innocent victims, living right in our house,or next door, among sane, smart, law abiding folks, these people walk right along us in malls, schools, churches, public and private offices.

Can we say we don't know what to do?
Can we say that just throwing a label their way does no good?
Can we say that we have been silent too long?
Can we say that "mental health" has to be our new frontier?