March 5, 2014
Winter, Winter, Winter
My cold is gone, but the cold weather is not. The snow melted and then came again a few days later. We've had two snowy Sundays and low attendance at church (I've been told since I wasn't there). I wake up in the morning to the ever present sounds of dripping water somewhere -- and I'm just tired of it all. I have friends in Arizona, California, Florida, and Hawaii, and I wish I were there also.
The other day I was talking to Dani who was over doing some editing at my house (a good retreat from her family when she needs to get serious work done without other demands). I mentioned feeling low energy probably following my cold. She looked at me and her father came out of her mouth. "Mom," she said (instead of Marilyn) "You always feel this way in February. It is dreary." Her father was always my barometer -- reminding me that life is normal and that all those doldrums around this time of year are fleeting and soon gone when spring arises. It's nice to be reminded. It's nice to know that Donel lives on through his children.
I'm facing another birthday and the reminder that life is fleeing. I'm so fortunate to be healthy and to have so much going on in my life that keeps me busy and satisfied. But, I sometimes wonder about ruts -- what keeps me doing the same things over and over? Or, conversely, what have I dropped that used to be a large part of my life? How much of my busy involvement in church is simply a carry over from being the pastor's wife? Why don't I do some of those things I used to love to do? Did I outgrow them? Did I get too old for them? What keeps me from trying new things? Going new places? Why am I in dreary Washington instead of sunny California at this time of year? How am I different from the person I have become?
Life, at best, is so complex. But, one thing is for certain. The main reason I feel grounded, the center of my life, and the reason for being has a great deal to do with my family and friends. Whether near or far, those are the things I would never change. I may decide to go in some new directions in the next few years, I may decide to travel more or pull away from some of my commitments, but never my family and friends. They are simply the dearest things in my life. My children are my joy, my friends are my warmth, my memories are dear.
On this, my birthday week, a week where it is dreary and cold and I'm feeling like spring will never come, I actually feel incredibly blessed!
February 24, 2014
Weather Beautiful, I am Not!
I haven't had a cold for ages -- and I have a lovely one. It's the kind where you wake up in the morning wishing you could fast forward a few hours because that is how much time it takes to feel human. Fuzzy head, sore throat, slight fever, juicy cough, and no voice. I force myself into a robe and slippers, traipse downstairs where I put on the kettle and make toast, pour orange juice, find the Vitamin C and the aspirin -- put everything on a tray and make my way to the living room and the big, comfy chair. Here is where i sit reading or on my computer until I begin to feel human again. The first to go is the sore throat and then little by little I realize that life isn't as bad as it was at 7:00 a.m. By afternoon and evening, I think I have it conquered until I go to bed and wake up again to the same routine. From very, very long experience, I know that it gradually subsides and life will be back to normal. I also know that it doesn't make a whit of difference in duration if I take fancy cold medicines or not.
At least the world is quite beautiful to look at since we have almost a foot of snow. It remains beautiful even when I feel dreadful and a fire in the fireplace just makes it even better. I'm cozy and warm and the only hitch was that we lost our Cable for a few hours yesterday when I thought I'd watch the rest of the Olympics. I started a puzzle instead. My family had all traveled to Seattle to Martin and Christine's house for our first ever non-holiday game day. We had such fun over Christmas playing games, Martin declared yesterday as a reprise. Unfortunately, nothing appealed to me once I woke up in such misery and so I cancelled. I thought about them all day and wish they lived closer because I would have popped over as soon as I began feeling better -- but not well enough for a long drive through this winter wonderland which, I understand, only reaches as far as Mt. Vernon. This snow came from Canada.
I am, however, surrounded by angels. My neighbor on the alley has decided to clear my sidewalks when it snows. I'm not sure why she adopted me, but somehow when the skies open up with little flakes, she comes up the path with her dog and shovel. She's done this for a few years now. Yesterday, unfortunately, the paths were white again in minutes. But, Katie's husband, Steve, came up with her to see the dress rehearsal of Carmina Burana at Western (Katie's women's choir is singing), and he once again cleared the sidewalks this morning before he took the train back to Seattle.
There is nothing more satisfying than sitting and feeling sorry for yourself while others are doing the jobs that need to be done. Man, is that cool! I suppose that is one perk of aging. It happens often with my kids. James and Charles have toted so many loads between floors, Dani pops in and makes tea and brings up my laundry from the basement. Even little Nico loves to do little errands for grandma. He takes after his Aunt Jeni because he has a good eye. He can find a missing puzzle piece that no one else can find. Once Jeni found a blue contact on a blue shag carpet. The loss was more disconcerting than a puzzle piece, but still little Nico has a real talent for finding the needle in a haystack.
So there you have it. At least I have lots of tasks -- taxes to do, puzzles to put together, a good novel to read, lots of tea and toast, warmth inside while freezing outside, email to read, Facebook to peruse, naps to take -- life can be good even when it is snotty.
January 31, 2014
My son, Martin, has been working on a novel that involves some research into early Los Angeles. He asked me the other day about streetcars. It is amazing how a quick reference to something can evoke powerful images and bring the past into the present in a flash. He wanted to know if I used to ride them, what they looked like, smelled like. He wanted all the images I could pull up and he sent me some pictures of some Los Angeles street cars from the olden days!
I grew up in Highland Park in a little three-bedroom house that had belonged to my maternal grandparents. When my widowed grandmother was dying, my mother and dad moved into her house and took care of her. They then inherited that house where I lived until I graduated from college. It was snuggled in between South Pasadena, Eagle Rock, and Glendale -- and I went to Pasadena City College and then Occidental. My parents were not wealthy, and I saw no reason to live on campus when campus was so close. Besides, at that time girls had a 10:00 p.m. curfew and boys were not allowed in the dorms. I had more freedom living at home and a car to borrow also.
I remember going with my mother and/or neighbors by streetcar into Los Angeles to shop at the big stores or to have lunch at Clifton's Cafeteria. I thought it took from 45 minutes to an hour. When I was a teen, I remember taking the streetcar to Santa Monica to the beach. It seemed like a couple of hours. Four or five of us girls would sit in the back on the long, wooden seat, and probably drive the other passengers crazy with our chatter and laughter. After talking to Martin, I was shocked to Google Highland Park and find that we were only ten miles from downtown Los Angeles and twenty from Santa Monica -- distances that took longer on the streetcar for sure, but shorter distances than my childish brain remembers. It seemed forever to get home from the beach when you were damp, sandy, and very sunburned from lying on the beach all day.
I remember the cars being green, and it seems they were green and yellow. Perhaps they were mostly green inside. I remember metallic noises, our coins clunking into the glass/metal box after you climbed the high stairs to enter. I remember advertisements along the top of each side above large windows, and a cord that draped the length of the car that you pulled when you wanted to get off at the next stop. The streetcars were lighter and more industrial than trains.
I don't remember how much it cost to ride. I probably got my fare from my parents although I began working part time in Iver's Department Store when I was fifteen. I made a dollar an hour and worked three hours on Friday night and eight on Saturday. I actually don't remember how old I was or how often we went to the beach -- because after age sixteen, I could drive and so could many of my friends. Did I still ride the streetcar after I could drive? I also had some older friends and remember going to Palm Springs during Easter vacation with them as a sophomore and junior. For that reason, it seemed like the trips to the beach came in a less "sophisticated" era and with much sillier outings -- perhaps in Jr. High.
Memory is fascinating. I am such a global person. Walk me through a room and I can tell you the impressions and feelings I got -- but I can't tell you what might have caused those impressions unless I force myself to categorize them. As I thought and thought about streetcars, impressions came slowly -- and it was such fun. Many emails traveled back and forth with Martin asking questions while I'm trying not to invent but actually remember impressions.
Thanks, Martin, for the journey back through time. It was a pleasant trip.
January 17, 2014
I guess I'm a snob, but I have found myself in a variety of situations lately where insufferable behavior has driven me crazy.
Yesterday I was at City University in Renton for a supervisor meeting. CU occupies the third floor of a large complex that houses several other businesses. The first floor also has the largest bathrooms that always seem to be bustling with people. I stopped there on my way to my car after the meeting and discovered all the paper towel machines were out. Since I know how busy that bathroom is, I decided to mention it to someone.
I looked for a main entrance desk, but I only saw doors leading to various businesses. so, I went into the first one by the bathroom and said that they might want to tell someone that it was out of paper towels. The well dressed receptionist simply glared at me and said, "that is not MY business. Go tell the building management people." She was really annoyed. "And, how do I do that?" I asked. "Suite 100," she said loudly and clearly as if I were an imbecile. So, I went. And, I told a gentleman who was dressed in overalls who thanked me profusely.
Later, I wished I had talked further to the receptionist. I wish I had told her that I was a guest in the building, and as an employee of a firm, it would have been gracious to have thanked me for taking the time to mention that her bathroom was out of paper towels and nicely direct me to Suite 100. If I had been in her place, I would have thanked me and taken one second to call building management myself with that message.
Perhaps one reason why it hit me the way it did was because I'm still reeling from our Church Council meeting where we had a budget decision that included cutting the salaries of two employees. I was not in favor of doing that because I believe that is asking our employees to carry the burden of our loss of income. I was especially horrified because the same group that spent over two years trying to raise one of the salaries was now suggesting that we cut the hard-fought gain. Clearly, that employees was not favored by some of the people present. Since I was not a voting member, I tried only to speak once to give my point of view. But, I frankly was horrified by the dispassionate way that some spoke of the need to cut a salary of a person whose livelihood counts on that income and who, on our behalf, gave up other lucrative positions to expand her hours at church.
Comments I heard seemed to indicate, "She just has to suck it up," "We're cutting the position, not the person." and some insinuations (that were obviously based upon people not thinking she did a great job anyway) were couched in various ways. Many members were more centered on the argument than compassion. Clearly no one even felt responsibility that we had gotten ourselves into this financial situation in the first place. I've been in our church for 33 years and I've heard some doozy arguments around major issues -- that is what we do in a church where the congregation has the final word. But, never such a cavalier attitude centered on a person or personality.
During yesterday's drive, I listened to one of my favorite podcasts called, "On Being." Krista Tippett was interviewing two very famous Buddhists talk about honoring your enemies. It was certainly timely. But, I realized that I need to find kind and clear and better ways to respond to those people that I disagree with. I didn't mind losing the Council vote because you win some and lose some in life. I didn't want to continue to engage in an angry argument. Rather, I do want to speak to my convictions that we need to treat others with kindness and compassion even when we disagree or even don't like them.
I'm feeling sad about what I heard in the Council of the church I have loved for 33 years. Perhaps I need to follow my son-in-law into Buddhism.
January 9, 2014
Inch By Inch
When my father died, my mother was angry. That is the only interpretation that I can put on her actions that followed. First, she gave all of his beautiful handmade fishing poles to a rather distant neighbor instead of to my uncles who fished with him and loved the poles he crafted. We are talking about substantial items since they both surf and deep sea fished and those poles were capable of hauling in a tuna or a nice sized halibut. They were colorfully wrapped and beautifully varnished, and I'm not sure if her neighbor had ever been fishing in his whole life. I'm not even sure he wanted the poles. She just took them next door to be rid of them.
Next, without telling her children, she threw away all of the Christmas ornaments including those that came over from England when she was a wee child. My father was the holiday decorator, and I've mentioned before his hanging of Christmas balls by fishing line all over the ceiling in different lengths so that walking into our home was a psychedelic experience. It took him days to get the job done -- similarly, it took him several shopping expeditions just to find the perfect tree. My father was Christmas in our family. My mother was never going to celebrate Christmas again.
I have been thinking about this as I put Christmas decorations away inch by inch. I mentioned this on Facebook and others seem to be having the same difficulty saying goodbye to Christmas this year. I successfully dismantled the tree since it had to go out for the Boy Scout pickup last Saturday. During the week, I boxed up angels and Santas and some of the lights in the windows. I refreshed the candles that were mostly burned away and cleaned up the candelabra. My huge wreathe is still on the front porch, and today I began to take down the nativities and the other few decorations left.
I often rue the day that I bought such a large house and how much time both decorating and putting away decorations takes. But, somehow this year, I have loved doing the task just a bit at a time. It seems a few weeks is too little to fully enjoy the season and the decorations. I often leave out one nativity during the year on purpose (as well as forget something when I pack things away that I discover sometime around April).
I must be getting nostalgic in my old age. I told Dani the other day that I wanted to make a turkey dinner because I didn't get one at either Christmas or Thanksgiving -- maybe I just wanted the smell of a turkey to make me feel cozy and comfortable. Here are some pictures to last me a year. By the way, after my mom threw away all of the ornaments, I made her a little tabletop artificial Christmas tree that she faithfully put up every year for the rest of her life.
I think she felt a little sorry for throwing away all our family ornaments.
December 28, 2013
Twas Three Days After Christmas and all Through The House...
...not a creature was stirring! Everyone but one has disappeared. Dani is upstairs with some editing while Charles takes the boys and dogs home across town. Martin, Christine, and Lionel have just left for Seattle. Jeni and Ron and Nicole left on Friday and Allie left the day before in order to go see the Nutcracker with friends. Here is the snapshot of Christmas:
1) Games played during days and evenings -- some of them lasting until the wee hours of the next day. Mostly different strategy or word games. All of them a raucous experience and sometimes laughter until the tears flowed. The constituents kept changing as people wandered in and out to make food or go to bed or check in with children -- but in between meals, the big round table was usually occupied by game players.
2) Good and sometimes great food -- different cooks taking turns -- eggs benedict, beef wellington, Welsh rarebit, clam chowder, veggies, salads, peanut butter, spiced nuts, candy, cookies, pie are just a few of the many items that passed through the kitchen sometimes casually and sometimes more formally -- but always shared with love and anticipation! Oh yes, gallons and gallons of tea -- we used to drink much more coffee.
3) Two little adorable boy cousins who played continually with Legos and trains, books and puzzles, under the piano and up and downstairs without one angry word or deed and lots of hugs and kisses from the big people -- then outside so the 7 year old could teach the 3 year old how to ride his new Christmas Razor scooter.
4) A garage full of trash bags overflowing with Christmas wrappings and a recycle box filled with empty wine bottles.
5) Neighbors dropping in for a chat and a cup of tea.
6) Everyone sitting around in a variety of dress during solitary moments with I-phones, laptops, Christmas magazines and/or books in between the raucous almost continuous game playing. Not a great deal of music playing this year for some reason. Lionel reciting "Twas the Night Before Christmas." James building Legos with Nico. The oldest grandchild, Allie, playing a boxing game with Nico. Nicole disappearing with her new novels.
7) Musical bedrooms and sheet changing as people came and left -- everyone finding a place even utilizing sofas as needed.
8) The persistent sound of coughing as four family members recovered from the recent bug going around Bellingham and Seattle.
9) Remembering and sharing the remembering of the past and present -- family traditions, personal recollections, recent experiences, work, play, school -- all with people who care deeply and love each other.
10) Enjoying Christmas cards, holiday greetings, Facebook greetings, pictures of new babies born to friends. Keeping close friends near and far in my thoughts and prayers. And always grateful for the ability to just be together once again with the people I love best in all the world - my wonderful children and grandchildren.
Some Christmas snapshots:
November 18, 2013
The Best of Education
When Dani & Charles made the decision to send James to the Waldorf School, I thought they were a bit crazy. I am a proponent of public schools, and I thought he could get what he needed there -- especially in Bellingham where the schools are quite good. Dani politely listened to my concerns and indicated that they were items that they, themselves, had debated. But, still, they sacrificed a lot to send him to Waldorf.
They made the best decision. I watched James thrive in a small environment that not only made learning an adventure, but gave him all the tools he needed to enter Bellingham High School and succeed academically. What Waldorf also gave James was the kind of experiences that we used to give our students in public education with the emphasis upon child development, providing enrichment activities and meaningful electives, instead of gathering statistics on teachers and standardized testing. What Waldord instilled was the love of learning.
I saw that again this past week as I watched Nico's first grade class at Waldorf where they begin teaching Spanish. Nico indicated that his Spanish teacher only speaks to the first graders in Spanish. He hated this at first, but actually now understands most of what she is saying to him. His class sang about 6-8 songs with some other hand or body movements to emphasize their words. They also counted in Spanish up to 20. They were on stage about 15 minutes performing in Spanish. Then, it was the 2nd grade's turn. They're counting included all the numbers above 20 and several more complicated songs and gestures. They began to sing a song where they removed a word each time -- the teacher would say "uno" and they would leave out the first word, or "tres" and they would leave out the third word.
The third grade began singing in parts and the fourth grade gave a play based upon the Three Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf -- all in Spanish. All instructions to the classes on stage were given in Spanish. It was obvious the we had a master teacher with the ability to show as well as tell the students what to learn and use hand movements or body language to emphasize the learning. The facility gained throughout the first four years was impressive.
I was aware, as we sat in the assembly, that the upper grades (through grade 8), not only could appreciate the younger children and applaud their work, but understand all of the Spanish having "been there, done that."
All educators know that young children learn new languages better than older children. We had to fight to get Spanish into the middle school several years ago -- and it is still only an elective. Otherwise, you begin foreign language in high school when it is not so easy to learn.
If I had seen such an assembly when my children were young, I would have sent them to this school in a heartbeat. When will we remember that learning is child centered. It has nothing to do with how much we adults wish to pour into their brains. It has everything to do with the child's readiness to learn, the appropriate environment to make learning fun, and the care and feeding of children -- education that is out of the hands of politicians who hold our public schools hostage to the cult of standardized testing. It is no longer most important to provide an enriching environment so that a child is groomed and receptive for learning. Waldorf School has not forgotten that consistent and long term interaction with the arts and physical education prepares the body and mind to understand math and science.
Nico's teacher would not have a position in our public schools. No one would hire her to teach the very classes where a foreign language should be taught. I, for one, am glad that my children are sacrificing to send my grandchild to a pretty special school environment. He is a most happy learner.
November 6, 2013
I met Millie Seidman when she and I volunteered to make a safety film for Calabash School's PTA where our daughters were in 3rd or 4th grade. I drove the car that supposedly hit the child, and Millie handled the camera. Her Nancy, and my Jeni, were the actors. I also had Nancy in the choir that I conducted for the school. Our husbands met when Millie and I volunteered them for a PTA fundraiser. Of course, they both charmed all the residents into giving and consequently got an award for raising the most funds. That began a friendship that has lasted for these many years.
Don Seidman was a well loved dermatologist who had met Millie when she was a nurse. He began his career as a teacher because, as a Jew, he was not accepted in UCLA's medical school for many years. Sometimes it appeared that both of the Dons shared several contacts -- our parishioners were often his patients. Millie was a gourmet cook and would call on a moment's notice with an invite for dinner because she wanted to try a new recipe. We spent many, many lovely evenings together. Nancy was the third of their five daughters.
They were a playful family. Once when their eldest daughter was flying home from school abroad, every one of them dressed up in funny costumes and placed themselves strategically around the airport waiting room. Kathy had to search to find even one member of her family. When she spotted her mom in a funny costume, she got the idea and had to find the rest of her family who were all disguised. Even the day that our Dons went door to door for the PTA, Millie dressed up as an old lady and followed them around the blocks until they finally realized who that person was that kept popping up.
I saw Don Seidman in August when I was in California. He was dying. Since my visit, he has passed away. I was so fortunate to be able to see him and spend time with Millie and Nancy. Now, their daughter Kathy, who is a teacher, is near death from the cancer that she has been battling for the past three or four years. My heart is with Millie because I cannot imagine losing your husband and your daughter within a few months of each other. It is one of those times that I wish I didn't live so far away.
Nancy, who lives close to Millie, has been keeping all of us, near and far, apprised of Kathy's condition for over a year. She has taken it on as her job -- tending to her sister's needs and keeping us abreast of the progress of the disease. We know from her that Kathy is in her final days. I love the way that she described the fact that her father is hovering in the wings to help Kathy along. The family is gathering to say goodbye just as they did just over a month ago with their father.
So, my heart today is with the Seidman family and all the wonderful, rich memories of our time together. They are beautiful people -- some of the best. I love them dearly.
November 2, 2013
I've been a lifelong member of Weight Watchers -- not a lifetime member where you reach your goal weight -- a lifelong member because I started going in my 30's after having a few children, and I'm still going. I've never reached my goal weight, but I've learned a lot.
Like my mother, I was never a chubby person. I was tall and skinny, athletic, and active. I danced, ice skated, loved physical education (which we had daily my entire school career), loved the beach and swimming, and probably never very quiet for long (unless I had a good book in my hands). After having children, I began to take more after my father who, though not fat, always had a few pounds to take off. So, in Woodland Hills, I went to Weight Watchers and lost some, quit, went back when the scale began to climb, quit, etc.
When I moved to Bellingham, I tried to continue Weight Watchers, but it just didn't work out as well. So I gained more weight than usual and decided to return. I've now joined and quit about four or five times over the past 30 years. I did lose all the heaviest weight, but then would gain back 10 pounds or so, return and lose them, gain them again, return again. This time (as in the past), I am determined to reach my goal weight.
Don and I went to the hospital classes once on low fat eating, but I'm convinced that the low fat groceries (ie mayonnaise, ice cream, dressings, etc.) have such horrible ingredients in them that it is better to eat a small amount of regular products than larger amounts of fillers. Once I took a Weight Watcher's chocolate bar to a movie. I began to eat it slowly - loving the rich taste. By the end of the bar, I was physically sick. The same things happen to me with low fat ice cream -- I feel sickly. As much as I absolutely love Diet coke, I just cannot drink it because it makes me achy.
So, Weight Watchers is for me -- not their diet products, but their philosophy. Write down what you eat, stay within the appointed amount of points for the day and week, eat slowly, move your body with exercise, eat all the fruits and vegetables you want without counting (except for stuff like potatoes), and come to meetings regularly. There is nothing that I really learn new at meetings (although there is more scientific stuff and research they are quoting that is interesting), but a commitment to go to a meeting is a commitment to stay on the program. I'm reminded weekly that this is a lifelong commitment, not a fad diet; that I need to make it a priority in my life if I really am serious about my well being and health; and that losing weight is not all uphill, but a series of weekly ups and downs -- lose, lose, lose, gain, lose, lose.
Since I have returned to Weight Watchers, my last 20 lbs. have disappeared over many weeks, I've thrown away the Tums, I have gone back to walking, I have more energy, my clothes fit better, and I'm proud of myself for choosing to do something and sticking to it.
Weight Watchers isn't for everyone -- but it is for me. Could I do it without joining? Probably! Would I do it without joining? Probably not. I guess I just respond to external stimulus. I love seeing those lbs. disappear in my little check-in book. Every time I get out of my car in front of the meeting, I am pleased that I'm doing something about myself. Each week, the one thing that I commit myself to is this. Everything else I would like to accomplish comes second, third, etc. That is the only way it works best for me.
Maybe this time I can go all the way and reach my goal.
October 22, 2013
Goodbye Beautiful Tree
My once beautiful Tulip Poplar tree is gone. After a long and arduous campaign with the City of Bellingham, they have removed the tree at their expense which is going to exceed $10,000 after repaving the street, driveways and sidewalks.
First they sent out a crew to break up the concrete and blacktop so that the contractor could get into the roots around the stump. Then, last week, Henifin's crew came to remove the tree. It was an all-day project. They were amazing considering some of the tree was over my garage. They used a huge lift that, straightened out, just topped the highest branches. A large backhoe picked up the debris that was deposited in many, many very large trailers hauled off, one right after another, from the closed-off street. They began at 8:00 a.m. and finished that evening after 9:00.
I'm posting lots of pictures which can only remind me of the excitement all day. Keith and Eulalah were here, Allie was here, Dani and Nico were here -- and I could not do one thing other than take pictures and mourn the demise of a tree that (the person who wielded the saw told me) was over 110 years old. The cutter said he had done this since he was a teen and he knew his trees.
Unfortunately, for the city, they should have let us take it down when it began it's destruction of the sidewalks and street (as well as our sewer system which we had to reroute because of the invasion). But, alas, they did not and over the ensuing years they dug massive holes right in front of it to fix the neighbors sewers -- leading to the tree's demise. Every section of the tree including both arterial limbs and the main trunk showed signs of dying. I'm fortunate that it didn't have longer to live and take out part of my house.
But, it is still sad to lose such a grand old lady -- one that has stood as a sentinel to guard this lovely home on Bellingham Bay. Oh, the stories it could tell! Goodbye, lovely lady!
The Next Three Pictures are the First Cutting of the Lower Branches
Large Limbs Showing Interior Damage