#320–To Sir Groucho with love . . .

On January 4, I lost Sir Groucho. He was lovable, feisty, and playful right up to the end, and he was still able to beat me up the stairs. He was somewhere between 19–21 years old. As a rescue, I didn’t know his true age. I do know that he was my companion for the past 12 years.

Last photo taken of Sir Groucho in the fall of 2021.

What did him in was a large tumor on his heart. For the last couple of months, he had been doing a lot of gagging—trying to cough up something. With his history of hairballs, I thought that was the problem. When I took him in for his yearly checkup on October 29, he was doing the gagging a couple of times a day and had developed a moderate heart murmur. And this cat that had always weighed between 9 and 10 pounds, had dropped to just under eight pounds. From time to time, he did cough up a hairball.

He loved being up where he could look down. The neighbors will miss seeing him in the window. This was taken earlier in 2021.

I had no idea, I would lose him on January 4 when I took him in. He had an appointment to see what kind of anesthesia to use when he had his teeth cleaned later in the month. But when I told Dr. Barstow he was doing the gagging several times each day and nothing was coming up, she wanted to do a radiogram to see if something was causing the problem. That’s when the tumor was found. She also noted that his heart murmur had greatly worsened, and he had dropped to 61/2 pounds. She told me he wouldn’t get better––only worse––and that his time was very limited. So, we made the decision to euthanize him that day.

As I write this, it’s been a week and a day, and I’m still in shock. I keep expecting to see him and to hear him throughout the day. Losing a pet, is like losing a member of the family.

He certainly knew what a bed was for. We shared a Kingsize bed, but often I woke up on the edge and he was stretched out in the middle.

I miss his presence; wherever I was, he would find me and stick nearby. I miss his conversations with me. Even when he lost his hearing this past year, he continued to voice his opinion. I miss him sitting on my lap whenever I was at the computer. I miss his visits to cuddle during the night. He was the most lovable cat I ever had.

In his younger years, like in this 2011 photo, he was fearless. Like I said, he loved to be up high.

Now that he is gone, I don’t miss picking up the pieces of litter from his litter box that got trailed around the house because of his furry paws, and I don’t miss cleaning out the litter box every morning and evening.

I can now close doors. Before, he would scratch at any closed door, until it opened. I can now sleep in, if I want to. Before, he would start meowing somewhere between 5 and 6 o’clock most mornings.  I can now sit down and read a book. Before, he would climb into my lap and rub his head against any book, making it hard to read.

After this 2014 photo, I started calling him Sir Groucho. He had come a long way from the battered, bedraggled cat, my neighbor and I rescued.

But I would gladly put up with these petty annoyances to have Sir Groucho back. He was such a major part of my life. I miss him so.

Note: My June 2020 blog post is a photo essay of Sir Groucho with many of my favorite photos of him. And my book, Devil Cat and Other Colorful Animals I Have Known includes a chapter about my early years with Sir Groucho––“Black and White Yet Colorful All Over.”

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#319––Colonoscopy––to have or not to have after 75 . . .

Last September when I told my primary care doctor that I thought I should have a colonoscopy, he said that they are not usually recommended once you are past 75. I told him I knew that, but I was high risk due to nine polyps found in 2016. And, I told him, two of those were pre-cancerous. He then said that it takes about 10 years for a pre-cancerous polyp to become cancerous. I told him my father lived to be 91 and my mother to be 105. So, I could live 25 years or more. I wore him down.  He finally agreed to refer me to the same place I had two previous colonoscopies in Springfield on the PeaceHealth Riverbend campus.

Giving serious thought to deciding whether to have another colonoscopy before seeing my doctor and doing some research.

Months before the appointed time, I was sent paperwork where I had to fill out my medical history and answer a zillion questions. Then there was a TeleHealth phone call with the doctor who would be performing the procedure, to make sure I had good reasons for wanting a colonoscopy, that it was my decision, and I was of sound mind. Only if he was convinced would I be able to have a colonoscopy. I told him that I would be really pissed if I died of colon cancer when I was 85 or 90 and could have lived to be 105 or more. I convinced him.

Then lots of texts to me from the colonoscopy folks to make sure I called ahead and then picked up my prescription for the gallon or so of yucky stuff to take during the prep for the colonoscopy. And to make sure I called to schedule an appointment for a Covid test at the walk-in clinic here in Florence four days before the procedure. It had to be negative. And more stuff to fill out online. I heard from them every few days for weeks.

In the past, there was no Covid test to worry about. But I don’t remember so much paperwork. When I got to the Gastroenterology Center on the day of the procedure, I had more paperwork to fill out, check over, and sign—several pages, in fact.

These folks do have the process down to a science. Weeks before the procedure, specific directions were sent to me by email. What to do five days before, four days before, three days before, and one day before. And what to do on the day of—five hours before and two hours before. I followed it, checking off as I completed each one.

One major requirement is that you have to have a driver pick you up after the procedure. You cannot drive yourself. I had taken care of that back in November.

Meanwhile, the weather was making life difficult for those traveling on Hwy 126. This past week on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday were King Tides, and heavy rain. During this time, the highway was closed at Cushman for several hours around high tide twice each day. And then on Wednesday was a mudslide between Mapleton and Florence that closed the road for several hours. And another mudslide on Thursday closed the road for awhile. About that time, my driver decided she didn’t want to risk getting stuck over in Springfield and not be able to get back the same day. So, she wouldn’t be able to be my driver after all.

I made reservations for one night at the same place I had stayed a few weeks ago.

She let me know about 2 p.m. on the day before my procedure, and panic began to set in. I went over the paperwork from the colonoscopy folks and found a place to click on for acceptable drivers in case you don’t have one. No, on taxis or Uber or Lift. But medical transports were okay. So, I went online and clicked on that and picked one and called. They could pick me up at the medical facility after my procedure and drop me at my lodgings and they could also pick me up in the morning at my lodgings and take me to the medical facility. So, I signed up for the round trip and gave them the times.

Now, I needed to find some lodgings. I called the same Comfort Inn Suites where I stayed a few weeks ago. (See “#316–Much ado about nothing . . .”) I reserved a room for one night.

Then I called back the transport folks to tell them where I would be staying. Then I called Comfort Inn back because check-in time is 3 p.m. and I would be picked up there at 10:15 a.m. and returned around 1:30 or 2 p.m. All of which were before 3 p.m. They said I could drop off my stuff in the morning when I got there and they would keep it safe for me, and I could check in whenever I got back from the procedure. Whew! The panic subsided.

Now, all I had to worry about was Hwy 126. I checked the tide tables, which were going down each day at high tide. Driving over would be between tides, which should have no water on the road. The weather report was for heavy rain and windy while I was going over, so mudslides were still a worry. I checked TripCheck the night before and morning of about 6 a.m. I decided that if Hwy 126 was closed this side of Mapleton, I would leave at 7 a.m. and go through Reedsport and Cottage Grove to get there. If it was open, I could wait til 8 a.m. to get to the Comfort Inn by 10 a.m.

As it turned out, I got all the yucky stuff taken—2/3 by 8 p.m. the night before and 1/3 between 4 and 5 a.m. the morning of. I packed a small overnight bag with just the essentials and a cooler with lots of food for afterwards. At 6 a.m., TripCheck had Hwy 34 closed but not Hwy 126. So, I took off at 8 a.m. on Hwy 126 and except for an accident that must have happened just moments before I got there, where I had to skirt my way through all kinds of stuff all over the highway that had been dumped by a trailer off the road on its side, the ride over was uneventful. No high water, no mudslides, no problems. Thank goodness. I worried as much about that as about getting a driver and lodging at the last moment.

I was picked up by the medical transport on time, got there and prepped and the procedure took place while I was out. Technically, I’m not totally out, but as far as I was concerned, I was Afterwards, it took me awhile to wake up. The procedure was over shortly after noon, but they kept me until 3 p.m. because there would be no one to keep an eye on me in the hours immediately after the procedure in my room at the Comfort Inn. They prefer that someone be with you for a few hours after the procedure.

My cooler can hold a whole lot of food and I had it packed full. As it turned out, I only ate half of it.

By the time I got back to the Comfort Inn and checked into my room, I was ravenous. It had been 27+ hours since I had eaten solid food. So, I had some lunch—small portions, not too much, nothing spicy, no alcohol. I followed directions. Then I took a nap. After I got up, I ate some dinner—more of food I had brought. By then I was beginning to feel almost normal! The next morning, I felt totally normal. I had a wonderful complimentary breakfast and had an uneventful drive home on a lovely day of no rain.

During the colonoscopy, they did find one polyp, and it has been sent to be biopsied. I hope it is benign. I’m glad I decided to have one more colonoscopy, in spite of the obstacles put in my way.  

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#318–New Year’s resolutions—not . . .

2021 RESOLUTIONS

Keep up with reading matter

This pertains to newspapers, magazines, and other reading matter that comes through the mail on an almost daily basis. I did better this year; I got to the accumulating piles more often. But this is an area that still needs work.

Lose weight

Not so good. I actually gained weight. Now, I have even more to lose. Yuck!

Working in the yard is my main exercise.

Excercise regularly

Not so good. Basically, my only exercise was working in the yard. I did walk a lot when on the trip to Montana, Yellowstone, and Tetons.

New book

Yes, yes, yes! I got it done ahead of schedule. I wanted to have it ready for the September Florence Festival of Books, and I did! Yay!!!

Considering all four resolutions, I’d score myself 40%–not so good.

2022 NON RESOLUTIONS

I won’t try to lose weight.

I do need to finish the fudge and chocolate chip cookies I made and gave away as gifts. There are still cookies left as well as some fudge. And, of course, I need to finish off the eggnog and whipped cream. This is the only time of year I indulge in fudge and eggnog. And there’s the cookies and muffins given to me as gifts. I do love to eat, including all these fattening foods.

I use the same recipe each year, and I’ve had it since my best friend gave me her mother’s recipe when I was in high school.

I won’t exercise except what is required as Physical Therapy after leg vein surgeries.

Once my veins are operated on, I will need to wear compression hose, put my legs up above my heart a few times a day, and walk or use the exercycle 30 minutes a day for a few weeks.

I won’t worry about keeping up with reading matter.

I always start off good. Then I get really busy and piles begin. I will get to them when I get to them and not worry about it.

I won’t worry about clutter accumulating.

During the Covid lockdown, I cleaned and organized everything. Now some areas are beginning to show need of that again. I’ll get to it when I get to it, and not worry about it.

By the way, I should mention that I believe in reverse psychology!

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#317–Looking back at 2021 . . .

Winter in Yellowstone

In spite of Covid, this turned out to be a productive and memorable year. This post is basically what I sent out as my Christmas letter.

Last spring, I put together a book, The Cancer Blog, a compilation of the blog posts I wrote during my five months of chemo, while fighting late-stage lymphoma in 2014-15. I shared them with folks similarly diagnosed and was often told I should put them in a book. Once I reread them, I agreed. The book went to the printer in late May, and copies arrived in July. I like the way it turned out.

The Cancer Blog is my sixth book. Book sales were bleak in 2020 and only somewhat better this year. I have great hopes for 2022.

I went nowhere for 15 months, except Eugene and Yachats a few times. Then in July, my roommate from college days, Dr. Alice Ruzicka (aka Teeta), and I spent five days exploring the coast north of Yachats. Each year, I visit her in California, but not in 2020. We stayed in a historic Victorian B & B in Astoria for two nights and one night each in two of my favorite places—the Inn at Otter Crest at Cape Foulweather and The Adobe in Yachats. Teeta was doing a test drive of her brand-new Tesla, and I was her tour guide. We had a grand time!

Then in August, I put 2,800 miles on my car—my brother Harry and his wife Jayne, my sister Edna, and I all went to Montana to scatter my parents’ ashes on the old homestead where my dad grew up. That was my dad’s wish, and my mom wanted to be with my dad. We all met in Twin Falls, ID, and traveled together from there. We visited cousins, saw museums, did the scattering, and had a gravestone placed at the family cemetery on the ranch. The homestead portion of the ranch has been in the family since 1908. Then we left Montana and headed to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons for a few days each. The whole trip took a lot of planning and turned out fabulous. It was the trip of a lifetime!

Last of ashes being spread by my brother, Harry, at family cemetery. Notice temporary placeholder for gravestone. Two weeks later actual stone was placed there.

I have continued being a docent every Sunday at the Siuslaw Pioneer Museum—next year will be my 20th year as a docent there. And I am very involved with Backstreet Gallery. I am now the secretary and chief editor. My books are on sale at the gallery. I love being a part of this wonderful community of talented people.

After months of debating whether to have the Florence Festival of Books, we held it in September with Covid protocols in place. By allowing only 2./3 normal amount of tables, there was room for social distancing.

William Sullivan and in distance Bob Welch at their tables. My publisher, Bob Serra, is speaking with William Sullivan.

And to celebrate our 10th milestone FFOB, we had Bob Welch and William Sullivan as Friday afternoon panelists and they were terrific. And our Keynote Speaker was Melody Carlson, one of America’s most beloved and prolific romance writers with more than 200 books to her credit. She, too was terrific. We did not have large crowds, but everyone who came seemed to really enjoy themselves. I considered it a success.

My oh-so-lovable companion, Sir Groucho!

Sir Groucho, around 20 years old now, is doing all right, even though he’s lost his hearing.

We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Judy and Sir Groucho

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#316–Much ado about nothing . . .

This is a tale with many twists and turns––just like the road between Florence and Eugene.

In November, I had vein procedures for both legs scheduled to be done during the two weeks prior to Christmas. This triggered a cascade of events:

–Cancelled trip to California to have Christmas with family.

–Rescheduled clerking duties at Backstreet Gallery.

–Made motel reservations for night before and night of procedures.

–Arranged for care of Sir Groucho while I was gone.

–Planned for month of no bending over or heavy lifting after procedures.

     –Ordered light-weight carpet sweeper.

     –Changed Sir Groucho’s litter box to elevated location to make it easier for me to clean.

I simply put the cat box on the futon couch when it was stretched out to its bed length. I even added a step to make it easier for him. And he actually uses it!!!

The schedule from the surgical team looked doable

 First Week, left leg, December 13-16

    –Monday—Pre-op in Eugene. Then pick up four prescriptions back in Florence.

     –Tuesday––Back to Eugene with everything needed and check into motel.

     –Wednesday––I prep for surgery, arrive by cab at 7:15 a.m., vein laser surgery takes about 2 hours, picked up by friend afterwards, alternate between elevating legs and walking, ice leg while elevated.

    –Thursday––24 hours after surgery, remove surgical dressings and shower. Cover any incisions with band aids and put compression hose back on. Drive home

 Second Week, right leg, December 21-23

    –Tuesday––Post-op left leg, pre-op right leg in Eugene. Check into same motel.

    –Wednesday  & Thursday––Same as previous week.

How it actually played out, First Week, December 13-16

 Monday––Headed for Eugene and gave myself extra time because of big storm on Saturday. Thought of rock or mud slides or trees might be down. First sign of trouble was snow before the tunnel a couple miles past Mapleton. That was totally unexpected; no mention on radio. Snow got heavier and slushy on the road, and it was snowing off and on. Had to concentrate to stay in two bare pavement tire tracks and not get caught in the shush. White-knuckle driving all the way to Veneta. Made it to medical center in Springfield with about 15 minutes to spare. Glad I had time to eat part of my lunch.

The snow was a total surprise to me. White-knuckle driving for sure. —Photo from tripcheck.com.

The pre-op prolonged ultra-sound that measures veins went well, and then the technician drew lines on my leg. I was then given detailed instructions on what I needed to do before and after the procedure.

When I said I would have a cab take me and pick me up, I was told that would not work for the pickup. It had to be a friend or family member–not a stranger. So, I called a Eugene friend I used to work with at the magazines. I was still in contact with her but had not seen her for about eight years. Fortunately, she was home and said that she would be glad to pick me up. Whew! Left medical center and headed home with orders to pick up four prescriptions before returning to Eugene next day.

Got as far as half way up Badger Pass and traffic was stopped due to major accident several miles ahead on other side of Walton. The snow was still there with more falling. Waited nearly an hour. When it got close to 4 p.m. and temp dropped to 34 degrees and the car behind me was gone, giving me room to maneuver, I turned around and headed back to Eugene.

I moved into my motel room with my bag of medications and PJs and toothbrush. Felt like a real bag lady.

I went to Freddies on West 11th and asked to have all four prescriptions from Freddies in Florence switched there. Two of them would be no problem, but two I would have to call and have the doctor issue new orders. because they fell under heading of narcotics. Then I got a pair of PJs and a toothbrush before heading to the motel in Springfield. This was the motel where I had reservations for the next two nights, but not this night. Fortunately, they did have one single-bed room left. First thing I did after getting in the room was to call the gal taking care of Sir Groucho, to see if she could also take care of him this night and Tuesday morning. She could. Whew!

I walked half a block to Denny’s and had a very good dinner. Could not sleep much because of restless legs. I did not have my medication that controls it.   

 Tuesday––After a great comp breakfast, I called the surgical team and talked to one of them about needing orders sent for two prescriptions and told her which ones. Then I called my primary care doctor’s office in Florence to see if I could have about six pills of my meds for restless legs ordered. All morning calls went back and forth, but the end result was that all the meds should be ready for me to pick up that afternoon. I started writing this blog that morning.

That afternoon, I waited one hour in line at the pharmacy, and then another 15 minutes while the gal waiting on me rounded up each one individually. Then, of course, the insurance refused to pay on one. I said I would pay it–– all of it. Finally, I had all five meds. Then I got some food, more toiletries like toothpaste and dental floss and the lotion for my face that I use, Saran Wrap to wrap my leg the morning before the procedure after I rub a prescribed numbing cream all over it, and loose fitting shoes to wear after surgery that I will be able to walk in–even with heavy bandaging in the way.

The Comfort Inn at RiverBend is a great place to stay and they even gave a medical discount.

I came back to my motel room and was just about to call the cab company to arrange morning pick up, when the phone rang. It was a surgical team member. She was calling to say that they had to cancel my procedure because the laser machine was not working properly! What the hell! AARRGGHH! That was simply the capper to a very bizarre week. They had no idea when it would be working. They would call and reschedule! #%&$#% I was not a happy camper. I called my friend to say not to pick me up the next day after all. Then fixed some dinner from what I had bought and learned that a major wind and rain storm was to hit Florence next day and to stay off mountain roads including coast range. That meant I couldn’t head home the next day even though my surgery had been cancelled. Double AARRGGHH!!

Took my restless leg medication and went to bed about 8:30 p.m. and slept well until 6 a.m. Love that medication.

Wednesday––After another wonderful breakfast, I showered. It felt good. I had been under orders not to wash off markings from Monday. Now, it didn’t matter. Then I reworked what I had written for this blog post. After that, I called the bookstores that carried my books since I was in town and had books in my trunk. Had some great conversations but no takers.

The salmon dinner was very good and inexpensive!

I then went over to Willamette Valley Cancer Institute, where I’d had treatment seven years ago. I left a copy of my latest book, The Cancer Blog, for Dr. Buchanan who had treated me and was still there. The book is dedicated to him and others. The gal I gave it to was thrilled. Then I went over to Creative Clock and exchanged a clock I had bought a month ago. I think I’ll be much happier with the new one. So, I did get a couple things accomplished. Lastly, I went over to Denny’s and had another very good dinner.

Thursday––After another wonderful breakfast, I watched the TV news and took my time getting ready to leave. I even ate an early lunch in my room before I left. I didn’t want any problems on the road, so didn’t leave until 11 a.m. As it turned out, the road was absolutely fine with very few remnants of snow here and there. The heavy snow of last Monday seemed a bad dream. On this day, it was easy peasy!

The totality of all the planning and frustrations of the week turned out to be much ado about nothing! Even with the best planning, you just never know!

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#315–Surviving aftermath of Pearl Harbor . . .

My story is not harrowing, but I was there when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on the morning of December 7, 1941. I was one month old, so I have no memory of the attack. But my Mom did. We lived in Honolulu in a house with other wives and children of Navy service men stationed there. This is our story told through my mom’s words that I recorded in 1991 when she was 79.

Here I am at 10 weeks old.

Here is how she remembered the morning of the attack:

“Early in the morning on December 7, I was sitting at the kitchen table trying to feed Judy some Pablum. I gave her a bottle, which she promptly threw up.  My sister, Edna, joined me at the table, we commented on the extra loud maneuvers. It was unusual since it was a Sunday. Evie (my cousin who was beetween 10-12) went out to see a friend.

“It wasn’t long before Evie came dashing back in with tears streaming down her face shouting, ‘Turn the radio on! Something horrible’s happened!’

“We turned the radio on. The first thing we heard was, ‘Everybody keep calm. The Japanese Imperial Fleet has bombed the American fleet in Pearl Harbor!’ {Just remembering this gives me cold chills.)

“About half an hour later, the voice on the radio said, ‘We have just been bombed and are going off the air! Please, keep calm!’

“We ran out in the yard and looked up just in time to see seven bombers. They were quite low, and we realized they were Japanese. We ran back inside.

Mom giving me a bottle.

“I put Judy down in an old buggy that I used as a crib. Just as I laid her down, a bomb hit not too far away. She just bounced right back up into my arms. (Ironically, that bomb hit a Japanese girl’s school. Fortunately, it was Sunday and nobody was there.)

“Later the radio came back on. We were told not to go out of the house and everything was to be kept closed and all lights off after dark. For three days, we weren’t allowed out of the house. The authorities thought the island would be invaded.

“After those three days, the authorities still didn’t know if the Japanese were going to invade, but they had a plan. In the district we lived in, everyone was to pack a bag with one week’s supplies and be prepared to leave on a moment’s notice for the Punchbowl. We got ready but never had to go.”

The Punchbowl is a volcanic crater outside of Honolulu. And since 1948, it has been home to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific and is the resting place for 53,000 service men and women. In 1941, though, it was a huge empty crater that could be a hiding place in the event of an invasion.

My Dad was one lucky sailor.

My mother was in Hawaii because my Dad was in the Navy and stationed there—that is until September 1941, when his tour of duty was up. He opted to be discharged stateside and would send for Mom and me when he got settled. He was one of the luckiest people that ever lived. He had been aboard the USS Oklahoma, which did not survive the Pearl Harbor attack. It was bombed, exploded, capsized, and sank with 242 lives lost. Timing is everything!

Here are more of my mom’s remembrances:

“We were told to put up blackout curtains as soon as possible. If even one little crack of light was showing, you could be picked up and taken to jail. We got some heavy denim for our windows.

“Right after the attack, the order went out to dig a bomb shelter. Evie dug most of ours. It was basically a hole in the ground big enough for a couple of people to hide in––if they ducked down. Right behind us lived the Pedros, who were pure Hawaiian and had several children. They dug the grandest bomb shelter I ever saw. It was about 25 feet by 8 feet with tables and chairs and all kinds of supplies. Compared to the Pedros, ours was a poor excuse for a bomb shelter.

Evie in the bomb shelter.

“We didn’t really know how bad the attack was until about four days after the attack. Roy Johnson, my doctor’s nurse’s son from Long Beach, was in the Navy and stationed on the USS Nevada. He came to see us. He had been to visit before the attack.

“That poor boy––only 19––was still all covered with dirt and grime and had on a uniform that was much too big. He’d borrowed the uniform because he’d lost everything he had in the attack. He even had to bum carfare to come see us.

“He came in, sat down, and burst into tears. He was still in shock. Since the attack, he had been helping find the wounded and the dead among the wreckage. It was a horrifying experience for him, and he was a mess.

“He needed to get cleaned up. We didn’t have a hot water tank, so we boiled water, poured it in the bathtub with some cooler water, and he took a bath. Afterwards we let him sleep in one of our beds. While he slept, I took his uniform over to our neighbor who took it in so that it would fit him better. After he awoke and dressed, we gave him a good dinner. He looked and felt like a new person when he went back to Pearl Harbor.”

Roy Johnson, my mothers doctor’s nurse’s son, stopped by when he could. Here he is with me.

The USS Nevada, as the only maneuverable battleship in the harbar after the initial attack, put up a heroic battle, using all the firepower it could muster in spite of being torpedoed once, bombed numerous times, and strafed over and over. The crew were able to put out the fires, but too many leaks caused serious flooding. The ship was beached and slowly sank in shallow water. Of the 1,500 crew and officers only about 50 lost their lives. Later, the Nevada was raised, repaired, and returned to fight the war.

Mom was told that pregnant military dependents and mothers with babies would be leaving December 19 on the first convoy back to the states, but that didn’t happen. A few weeks after the attack, the district where we lived was designated a safe area. After that, the Navy wasn’t in any hurry to get family members back to the states. So, six months went by before we could leave.

Here are more of Mom’s remembrances:

“Judy and I and Edna and Evie boarded the USS Wharton––a troop transport––on May 4, 1942. The ship sat in the harbor until May 6, keeping everyone guessing as to when we would leave. We were on that ship eight days before getting off in San Diego.

“The Wharton was the flag ship of the convoy and in the center. Destroyers were protecting us and the other ships also in the convoy. We spent a lot of time in evasive maneuvers. We zigzagged all over the Pacific, avoiding submarines. I remember spending one day and night when the ship was outrunning one particular Japanese sub. During that run, the whole ship was shaking because we were going so fast.

Mom and Dad reunited after harrowing trip from Hawaii to Seattle.

“We were supposed to come into San Francisco to a great big welcome with Navy bands, the Red Cross, and friends and relatives. My two best friends were there and had a reception all set up for us. But we weren’t there.

“Our ship left the convoy the night before, unbeknownst to the passengers. The next morning, we were very surprised and frightened to find ourselves alone without the rest of the convoy. Down in the hold of the Wharton were wounded and dead Marines. The ship was headed straight for the Naval hospital in San Diego. We were the only ship in our convoy to miss the big welcome in San Francisco.”

The Red Cross came to the rescue initially. Then my mom contacted her Aunt Nettie in Los Angeles. We took the train to LA and stayed with Aunt Nettie and her family until Mom was able to contact Dad in Seattle. Before long, he sent money for train fair. Then after a long train ride, Mom and Dad were reunited. And Dad got to see his daughter for the first time––far from Hawaii and the horrors of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Note: Dad reenlisted early in 1944 and stayed in until after war’s end. The quotes from Mom were from my first book––Chuck and Jean: The Interesting Years.

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$314–End of fall activities collides with Christmas prep . . .

This is always a busy time, but this year more so than usual. Because of rainy weather on days I could work outside in October and November, I got behind in fall yard chores. And because I will be having surgical vein procedures done on both legs the two weeks before Christmas (one leg each week) and have to take it easy for a total of one month afterwards, I need to get all Christmas preparations done early.

My Christmas tree is all up and decorated. I love seeing all the ornaments–each has its own story!

So, I got busy this week. Two days after Thanksgiving, I got my tree up and decorated. The only items I collect are Christmas tree ornaments. My tree has ornaments from students I had during 22 years of teaching, trips I took for Oregon Coast and Northwest Travel magazines during my 21 years working there, vacations I’ve taken since with my sister and friend Theresa Baer, and other ornaments that I’ve acquired here and there. Each year when the tree is up, I get to enjoy them for a few weeks.

I try to do my Christmas shopping throughout the year. Then try to remember where I stashed everything. This past Sunday, I poked around and I think I found everything. Because of the surgeries so close to Christmas, I won’t be driving to California like I planned. Which means I have to mail nearly everything. So, Sunday and Monday this past week, I got everything wrapped as a present and then put in boxes for shipping. I went to the Post Office Tuesday and only had to wait behind two people. (That’ll change in the next week or two.)  

I also got my Christmas letter written that I will include with the Christmas cards I send. I know, I know. Most people just send their Christmas and New Year greetings online, but I’m old-fashioned that way. I still send out cards. The ones I got for this year, have bison in Yellowstone. After our trip to Yellowstone this summer, I couldn’t resist. I just love them.

I did such a good job on my car, it looks brand new.

Then on Wednesday and Thursday, the weather was unusually nice for this time of year. In the 60s on Wednesday and a little cooler on Thursday with no wind where I live. So, I worked outside. I finally got my car washed and vacuumed since coming back from Montana, Yellowstone, and the Tetons. I had cleaned the inside, but not the outside since the trip. So, it really needed it. I took some time on it, and it looks quite spiffy! Just like new!

And I got some work done outside. All the positively pathetic petunias on my deck and balcony have been replaced by particularly pretty primroses. In the main yard, just before Thanksgiving, I cleaned up the fir needles in the driveway, the drain, and the steps up to the house. I used my broom and dust pan and carried away enough stuff to fill a wheelbarrow twice. Then I raked the front yard area. It looks so much better. I carried away 14 loads of leaves, little branches, cones, and other tree debris, including some good-sized branches.

Newly planted rhody that will have red blooms in the spring.

I planted two rhodies that replaced two that were more dead than alive. And I cleaned out a flowerbed and weeded the gravel area below the back decks. Several, and I mean several, plants need pruning. That will be my next outdoor chore. So, I’m hoping for more good weather days!  

Still lots to do on both fronts––Christmas prep and fall cleanup. But, I made a big dent the past two weeks. I still have lots to do in the week and a half to go before my first surgery—besides the outdoor pruning, there are the Christmas cards, baking cookies and making fudge, getting presents for locals and . . .

Yes, a busy time of year. After each surgery, I have to take it easy for three weeks. I do have to walk every day for 30 minutes and put my legs up for a little while a few times a day. But I also will have time to read, do crossword puzzles, and anything else I enjoy doing that is not strenuous––for a whole month. At the moment, that sounds pretty darn good!

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#313–Victorian Belles Christmas Bazaar 2021. . .

What a difference a year makes. The Victorian Belles Christmas Bazaar held at the Three Rivers Casino Events Center was almost back to normal. Last year was a very strict protocol to enter the Casino, only half as many tables were set up by the Victorian Belles, and only about 1/3 as many attendees were there to look and buy. I sold less than half as many books as I usually sell.

Here I am at my table filled with my books and cards.

This year had no strict protocols to enter. You did need a mask, however, and most people social distanced. Nearly all Victorian Belles’ tables were set up this year. Some of the invited participants did not show, but two writers in our “Book Nook” were there. There were about 3/4 the number of usual attendees. And I sold 32 books, which is almost as many as I usually sell. So, it really was almost back to normal.

Karen D. Nichols shared the “Book Nook” with me and she sold about as many books as I did.
.

The Victorian Belles are a group of talented women who started out as a small group of tole painters and has grown to a fairly large group that do all types of arts and crafts such as crocheted and knitted items, jewelry, and ornaments, wreaths and other forms of holiday decor.

Typical tole painting seen at the Victorian Belles Christmas Bazaar.

The Belles mix and match their various crafts at tables and special display areas that they consstruct, such as here.

The Belles spend much of the year preparing for this event, and it takes a crew of several husbands and sons as well as the Belles to set up each year. The sounds of hammers and drills were all around. Containers were brought in and stacked everywhere filled with crafts and artwork. The belles mix and match much of their crafts and art at the tables.

Linda Westlund is multi-talented and quite a character. We enjoyed having our tables next to her displays.

Some members don’t have their work intermingled. They have their work separate, such as Linda Westlund, who has fruitcakes, earrings, crocheted scarf-and-hat sets, and many crocheted hats of more than one style. This year I got one for me and a few years ago, I got some of her outragious earrings.

One of many items of delightful holiday decor.

More delightful Christmas art from the Victorian Belles.

We writers are usually set up in a corner and put up our sign––Book Nook. This is my 11th year to participate. The first few years we had a number of other writers join us, but the past several years have just been the three of us––Connie Bradley, Karen D. Nichols, and me. Connie was unable to attend this year, but Karen and I were there––the same situation as last year.

Besides the Victorian Belles, most years, I am a part of about 25 to 30 different events. They include my own PowerPoint presentations, book fairs, farmers markets, and craft shows. Last year, I was a part of only one and that was the Victorian Belles, and this year two events, the Florence Festival of Books and the Belles. So, my book sales have really taken a hit. Some of the booksellers that sell my books returned to buying my books this year, thank goodness.

The Victorian Belles Christmas Bazaar was almost back to normal this year.

So, greeting people, giving my spiel about my books, and selling them, was just such a treat. I loved it! I was back in the saddle again. I enjoy this aspect of being an author and have missed this contact with people these past couple years. I’ve very glad the Victorian Belles Christmas Bazaar was happening once again and that they invited us.

It is usually held the weekend before Thanksgiving, so mark your calendar for 2022.

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#312–FFOB Last Hurrah––let’s hope not . . .

The following Letter to the Editor (actually letter to the community) appeared in Florence’s twice weekly newspaper the Siuslaw News last Saturday, November 13. It was written by me, co-founder and co-chair of the popular event:

Florence Festival of Books needs committee members . . .

The Florence Festival of Books for authors and publishers returned this past September. Much was the same, but much was different. It had the same events—Friday afternoon panel discussion, Friday evening Keynote Speaker, and book fair from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday. And all events were held at the Florence Events Center.

One of the characteristics of the FFOB is that it is a book fair for publishers, such as First Steps Publishing seen here.

But there were differences. Everyone, participants as well as attendees, wore masks. And there was a much wider space for walking from table to table because one-third of the tables had been eliminated. This allowed for social distancing.

The crowds for all events were small. But those that attended seemed pleased to be there and bought books. Friday’s events, held also with masks and social distancing, allowed nearly everyone to participate in the question-answer segments. Comments heard over and over were how pleased both participants and attendees were that the Festival of Books was happening in 2021. There was a happy vibe!

And we always have many more authors than publishers, such as H.S. Contino seen here. She has participated nearly every year since we began in 2011.

It was not easy. The committee spent much of the spring debating whether to have the festival. In May, they decided to plan for it with Covid restrictions and be ready to pull the plug at a moment’s notice. They got the applications out a month late and were amazed when it was booked up within weeks. The committee did the usual planning and were ready. Then the Delta Variant hit and participants started dropping out and Public Health tightened restrictions. The committee didn’t know until the week of the event if it would actually happen. (This paragraph was deleted before I sent to the paper, in order to keep it to 300 words or less.)

In spite of Covid, rain, and small crowds, the Florence Festival of Books was a success for its 10th milestone year. Held each September at the Florence Events Center, it has become one of Florence’s major events.

This was the committee in 2019. Of these members, six are still on the committee. (One member is taking the photo.) Of those six, three have day-jobs that take so much of their time that they are not able to contribute as much to the committee as before. Of the other three, all are having to cut back due to age or family illnesses or other commitments. So, unless we have more members, we will definitely not be able to continue with the Florence Festival of Books.

That brings us to the purpose of this letter: The FFOB Planning Committee needs new members. Some members are no longer able to continue and others are having to cut back due to day-jobs. Without more members, there may not be a Festival of Books next year. The committee meets only half of the year––once a month April-May, twice a month June–August, and once a week in September prior to the event with an evaluation meeting afterwards. Next year’s festival is scheduled for September 23-24. All interested in helping keep this popular event alive, contact the Florence Events Center, 541-997-1994 or aleia@eventcenter.org.     ––Judy Fleagle, FFOB Co-founder & Co-chair

***

Aleia will forward each call or email to me.

Here is Kathryn Damon-Dawson who pitched an idea in 2011 at the 1st FFOB to publisher Bob Serra. The next year, 2012, she was there with her book for sale. Her idea had become a book. Here she is with Bob.

I am the only original member still on the Florence Festival of Books Planning Committee and will be stepping down as co-chair. I will stay on the committee but need to cut back after 10 years. As co-founder, I consider it “my baby” and hate to see it die.

New members will not be overwhelmed with responsibility but will be eased into whatever role they feel they can fulfill. Think it over, maybe you would be just the right person to help.

The Florence Festival of Books is a wonderful event for the town of Florence and is considered one of the best book festivals in the state! But it will only continue with more members on the committee.

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#311–Thoughts upon turning 80 . . .

Today (November  8), I’m turning 80. With a family that has long-life genes, I’m not surprised I lived this long. However, I doubt if I’ll reach my mom’s age of 105 with no Alzheimer’s. My dad reached 91, but he’d had Alzheimer’s for several years before he died, as did his sister and my mom’s sister. So, with Alzheimer’s on both sides and having had a serious cancer seven years ago, I will probably develop another serious cancer and/or Alzheimer’s and not live as long as my mom. That’s not being morbid, that’s just being realistic. I’ve always been a practical realist who sees the glass as half full.

This expresses my sentiments exactly. Actually, I feel no more than 40.

On this milestone birthday, I will not have a milestone meltdown. I did that when I was 10. On my 10th birthday in 5th grade, the spelling word for the day was “decade.” The teacher explained that is what you called a time span of 10 years. Then she went on to say that people lived about eight or nine decades. I was horrified, I had just used up one of my precious decades and only had seven or eight left. I was devastated for days but kept it to myself. What was actually happening was that I realized that someday I would die. It happens to everybody and is always difficult to accept.  So, I had my milestone birthday meltdown at an early age and haven’t had another since.

When I had late-stage lymphoma seven years ago, the doctor told me it had been developing for at least a year and possibly two. I had been too busy with other things to pay close attention to myself. There had been signs that all was not well, but I totally ignored them. Well, not any more. That was one of the life-lessons learned when I survived the cancer. So, I’m trying to pay closer attention to my body these days.

Here I am hooked up to chemo treatment, wearing a wig on my bald head. One of the life lessons learned, during the whole cancer experience was to take better care of my body. Listen to it and not let things progress to such a serious stage as I did when I had late-stage lymphoma.

When I had my wellness checkup this past summer with my young, doctor that I’ve had for the past year––ever since my beloved Dr. Pearson retired––I whipped out my list. This is a doctor who listens. So here were my health concerns: Dry eye eye drops not working so good, varicose veins ugly and getting worse, think I should have one more colonoscopy, and since I will probably need cataracts soon, will I need to go through him.

  • Dry eyes: He suggested I use the dry eye gel at night as well as the drops during the day, which I’ve started doing. Not much difference so far.
  • Colonoscopy: They don’t usually schedule colonoscopies once you’re past 75. I think their reasoning is that most people only live eight or nine decades and because it takes about a decade for a pre-cancerous polyp to develop into a cancer, most people will have died of something else. Well, I sure-as-hell don’t want to die of colon cancer some time in my late eighties when I might have lived longer. I had two pre-cancerous polyps last time plus a number of others removed. So, I’m at risk and asking for one more. I have a telehealth consult scheduled this week.
  • My varicose veins six years ago: During my recuperation from cancer after I had completed chemo, Dr. Pearson recommended I see a vein specialist in Eugene. I did. They spent no more than 20 minutes examining me and blew me off by saying I only had spider veins and anything they could do would be considered cosmetic, which my insurance would not cover. That was that, . . . until last year on April 3, 2020. That’s when a vein started spewing blood across the shower and did not stop. It took a heavy-duty pressure bandage to stop it and five months to heal.
  • My varicose veins today: The veins are worse and there are many more of them. My new doctor referred me to a different vein specialist in Springfield. This time around, I had to fill out two hour’s-worth of paperwork, and the physician assistant who examined me asked questions based on my paperwork in his hands. He was most impressed with the spewing vein and how long it took to heal. I was then scheduled to wear a heart monitor for two weeks, since I had mentioned in the paperwork that sometimes I have a feeling like I might pass out and thought it might be my heart. Evidently, my heart was not the problem. Then I was scheduled for an ultrasound and an appointment with a surgeon. The ultrasound found I had problems in both legs, of which one problem could be helped with procedures involving a laser that could be done in the office and would not be considered cosmetic. Yay! Since that appointment, the procedures have been scheduled and will take place in Springfield in December during a three-week period.
  • Cataracts: My doctor won’t be involved, just kept in the loop. I’ve just had my yearly eye appointment on this, and, yes, I do need cataract surgery. I just filled out the paperwork for that and will be meeting for a consult regarding the surgery here in Florence in December.
  • Skin cancers: A few weeks ago, I had my six-month checkup for skin cancers. As usual, my dermatologist found some. Two pre-cancerous skin cancers on one arm were zapped with liquid nitrogen and a biopsy was taken of a potential basal cell skin cancer on my nose. Since it turned out to be a basal cell skin cancer, I have an appointment to go to in Eugene to have it taken care of with Mohs surgery just before Thanksgiving. I will then have a five Mohs nose, as it will be the fifth Mohs surgery on my nose.
I lost a fair amount of blood and had some difficulty stopping the bleeding when I had a vein just start spurting out blood continuously when I was in the shower April 3, 2020,––a sight I will never forget. Illustration is by Karen D. Nichols.

So, for the next few months, I’m taking care of me. Because the varicose veins procedure involves five different appointments on both sides of the Christmas holiday, I will not be driving to California like I planned. That is a disappointment.

How am I going to spend my birthday after I finish writing this? Well, after I run some errands this morning, I’m going to do a crossword puzzle, since I just love doing them. Then, I’m going to soak in my walk-in tub and read for as long as I want. Then, I planned to have a seafood dinner that I would fix from what I picked-up at the Krab Kettle. Well, the Krab Kettle is closed from November 1–14. So, I will get their freshest catch on November 15 and celebrate my birthday again. A friend will be taking me out to dinner to celebrate my birthday tomorrow, November 9, since the restaurant we want to go to is closed Mondays. Apparently, I’ll be celebrating all month.

When I look back over my life, I have no regrets. I wanted to be a teacher, and I majored in elementary education while in college and taught second grade for five years and first grade for 17 years in the school district that I wanted to teach in. I got married right after college and that lasted 12 years before ending in divorce. When he wanted to get back together a couple years later, it was not in my lesson plan. I did remarry after a few years and when my second husband retired, we moved to Florence, Oregon, in 1985.

Once in Florence, a neighbor talked me into taking a class in creative writing, which led to joining a writer’s group. That led to becoming a magazine editor and staff writer for the next 21 years for Oregon Coast and Northwest Travel magazines. I loved being able to travel all over the Northwest and up and down the Oregon coast researching and writing stories. During that time, my second husband became seriously ill numerous times and passed away in 2001. I was his caregiver off and on for 14 years, and the last couple, I had to hire a caregiver while I was at work. Those were difficult years.

Here, at Backstreet Gallery, are the six books I’ve written so far. After each book, I think that’s it. But I’ve learned to just see what happens. Who knows! There might be another.

Since I left the magazines in 2009, I’ve written six books. And that was not in my lesson plan. I got talked into writing the first one, which led to the next one, and so on. And I find that not only do I enjoy writing books, but I enjoy doing PowerPoint programs about them and selling them at various venues. Who knew!

At this point, I’m living where I want to live and doing what I want to do. What could be better! I intend to live the rest of my life to the fullest.

One of my role models is Grandma Moses, who started a career as a serious artist when she was nearly 80!

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