#375–Front doors need to look beautiful too . . .

Okay! So, I’m on a refinishing jag! I had two projects that were “must-do” this winter––the redwood deck chairs and the front door. Well, I was able to salvage one of the red chairs and it is indeed beautiful. Now, it’s the front door’s turn.

I last did a really poor job in July 2020 during the Covid lockdown. The top coat of lacquer sagged in several places before it dried, and it had dripped at several corners. I was not pleased, but it looked good from a distance. Later, it got some red paint on it that I didn’t notice until it had dried. A year later, I gently taped a message to the door—mistake. The delivery person must have ripped it off because it took the top coat of finish right off in two places. And, by this winter, all the sanding done below the top coat of lacquer was starting to show through. Up close, it definitely looked bad.

Back in 2009, I had the door taken down and laid flat, so I could really do a good job.

Back in 2009, I refinished my front door the right way. I had it taken down and placed in the garage where I could place it on a table in a horizontal position. This way, the finish coats do not drip or sag. At that time, I took it down to bare wood on all the flat surfaces, re-stained it, and put three coats of lacquer on it. It was beautiful! I was so proud of it.

At that time, a neighbor who was involved in construction and had been involved with the conversion of my downstairs into an apartment, convinced me that I could refinish my door myself. And he just happened to have a door that could take the place of my door while it was being worked on. He changed out the doors and set it up for me in my second garage, which was not in use at that time. He loaned me his rotating sander and told me step-by-step what to do.

This mostly glass door has been covered with paper for privacy. It will be my front door until I’m done refinishing the other one.

But he was not available to help me this time around. I discovered right away that you can’t just rent a temporary door, if you want to remove your front door for a couple weeks. So, I went to Restore and bought a used door of the right size. (They only had one—I really lucked out there!) And my renter’s son was able to get it to my garage. (It wouldn’t fit in my Camry! Solid wood doors just don’t bend.) Then he removed my front door and replaced it with the one from Restore. He had to so some chiseling to make the hinges fit, and he had to do a lot of adjusting when changing the locks, but he got it ready and working. I was so pleased.

He placed the door on the same table I had used back in 2009. I could take it from there.

At this point, it is a messy job with dust everywhere. After a day of using the rotating sander, my hand continued feeling like it was rotating long afterwards.

TrueValue was the store I went to and bought all kinds of stuff, some of which I didn’t even know existed. I told the gal what I wanted to do and she helped me find everything she thought I could use. I got my own rotating sander and various grades of grit sanding disks. I got flexible foam sanding pads for the light sanding of the inner parts and the main design in the middle. I got tack rags for cleaning the sanded areas and paint brushes and rags for the staining process. And she threw in foam brushes for applying the top coats. I, also, got two lights to provide better lighting in the less-well-lit garage I’ll be using this time, and the necessary stain and varnish.

I was ready and had three days where I had to be nowhere.

In the morning on the first day, I moved my car out and positioned the table where I wanted it. I got out the rotating sander and read the directions; I figured out how to use it and attached the sanding disks. I took the lights out of their boxes and discovered “some assembly required.” (Some of my least favorite words.) But I figured it out and got them set up. With my goggles, mask, and gloves handy, I was ready.

All but the inner parts and the mariner scene in the middle were sanded to bare wood.

After lunch, I geared up and began. The goggles kept fogging up, so I took them off, but kept mask and gloves on. I had the garage door open partially. It was cold—about 50 degrees. I got half of the flat places down to bare wood and took a break. Then I did the other half. Even though the sander had a collector for the dust that I emptied every 15 minutes or so, there was a noticeable layer everywhere. I finished with the rotating sander and swept the floor.

The second day, I got the vacuum and went over every inch of the door and then the floor and shook out or dusted lots of stuff. Then I did some hand sanding on all the flat areas and used the flexible sanding devices for light sanding on the inner areas and design in the middle that had not been taken down to bare wood. I really liked the flexible foam sander. Then I vacuumed the door again. Lastly, I took the tack rag to give a final cleaning. Now, I was ready to stain.

Now it has had two coasts of stain. To the right is one of the super powerful lights that I used.

The third day, I did touch up staining on all the inner area and then did the rest in three stages, wiping away the excess stain before moving to the next stage. The directions said to wait two hours before applying a second coat. So, I stopped for lunch and other stuff. Then I did the second coat. I did all of it and then wiped away the excess.

I finished about 6 and then spent an hour in cleanup. This is not water-based, so out came the mineral spirits (aka thinner). Not fun, but it got the job done.

I will post this on Friday, but will not finish the door until Saturday. At that time, I have to leave 8 to 12 hours between the two coats. It has to be dry––not tacky–which the directions says will take about 8 hours. After 12 hours, it will require light sanding, which I want to avoid. So, I will get up at 6 and get the first coat applied with the foam brushes between 7 and 8 and then 9 to 10 hours later, between 6 and 7, I’ll apply the second coat—at least, that’s the plan. And maybe even a third coat very early the next morning.

Here is the other super powerful light on the other side of the door. It is sitting on a box of books and two bins filled with recycling.

I chose marine varnish because it is tough stuff and made for boats—the above water part. I’m hoping for a smooth and easy application with foam brushes––a new experience. I’ve never used foam brushes before. So, wish me luck. I’ll let you know how it turns out next week.

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#374–The yucky job of refinishing furniture . . .

I have two outdoor redwood chairs that I have had since 1976 that are similar to Adirondack-style chairs. I just love them and they were the first thing that my second husband helped me buy shortly after we met before we were married.

My two red chairs were quite new in this 1976 photo.

Life was easier for the chairs in California where it didn’t rain nearly so often. When we moved to Oregon in 1985, I would carry them down the outside stairs and store them in the basement during the winter and return them to the lower deck in the spring. And every few years, I would give them a fresh coat of paint.

Here they are with my mom in 1986 not long after we moved here in late 1985. Looks like they were freshly painted. The little redwood table developed too much rot and was tossed last year.

The last 10 years or so, I haven’t been carrying them up and down the stairs. So, the winter weather has been hard on them. I still gave them a new coat of paint every so often . . .  that is, until these past few years.

Last fall when I had my deck worked on, I realized how awful they looked. They had moss growing in all the crevices, ferns peeked out from below, and all over them lichen was beginning to appear. And, of course, they needed another coat of paint. So, I had them pressure washed, which got rid of all the lichen and most of the moss and ferns, but also blasted away much of the existing paint. They looked like a bad job of camouflage. I hated the way they looked.

So, on my to-do list was to refinish them. I got some CitriStrip, which is supposed to be less potent than regular paint stripper and some low-fume mineral spirits.

This is what I needed to do the job.

And heavy duty gloves and safety goggles.

I watched a YouTube video of a person using CitriStrip on a flat table with four rounded legs. She made it look easy. I, who had no experience stripping paint from anything, figured I could do this. What I didn’t realize was that my chairs were so much more complex.

The process of scrapping off the loosened paint is messy, yucky! Here is the wooden spatula that worked so much better.

I decided to do it in my kitchen because I have very good light there—both natural and great light directly overhead. And I have windows and sliding glass doors to open for good air flow. I spread plastic and covered it with a sheet and put one of the chairs on its side and got started.

I spread the CitriStrip, which is the consistency of soft pudding, fairly thick on all four sides of two legs. Then wrapped in Saran Wrap and let sit for 40 minutes. I then used, as they suggested, a plastic scraper. It was a lot of work and only got part of the paint. After a whole day of work, I got much of the paint off of two legs and the supports directly under the seat. It all looked much worse than before I started.

So, much work, and I wasn’t happy with how it was going. I wasn’t convinced that I should even continue. I totally lost my motivation.

I’ve started painting here after smoothing every surface with steel wool and cleaning with mineral spirits.

The next two weeks I was busy with other stuff and didn’t even try to find time to work on the chair. It just sat there in the kitchen. Then, the day of the heat pump installation and big snow, I decided to give it one more go. I would not try to do all of the chair, just the sections that looked really bad. And I wasn’t pleased with the rubber spatula, so I tried a wooden one. It worked so much better, and I began to feel like I knew what I was doing. Finally, I was making progress.

I spent that day and the next and got most of the paint I wanted removed, removed. Then I smoothed all the surfaces I had been working on with steel wool. Before I could paint, I had to clean every place I had put CitriStrip with mineral spirits. So, I did. Yikes! I had on my mask and that stuff still smelled awful! I had every window and the sliding glass doors open, even though it was very cold outside. I wiped off any excess mineral spirits and let it sit until the next day.

First coat and it looks good.

The painting took only about an hour and a half. A few hours later, I flipped the chair over to get some underneath parts. The next day, I gave a second coat. It looked almost new. I was so pleased. It had been worth it, after all. Now, I just had to repeat the whole process on the second chai

After the second coat, it looked fabulous! So glad I persevered.

I started on the second one by using a metal scraper and scraping off any loose paint, which I had not done on the first one. Then I flipped the chair over. That is when I noticed, while trying to pry out some embedded moss, that the wood in one area was punky! Upon closer inspection, I found one support piece was rotted through on one end and almost as bad on the other end. And one of the pieces where you sit was looking suspicious. So, I decided that this chair was not worth doing. It is now in the garage, awaiting a trip to the dump. Dang! Well, it lasted 47 years––a very good run. Time to part with it.

I have two white vinyl chairs that will go on the main deck where the two red chairs used to be. And the beautifully refinished one will go on the balcony. At the moment, however, I have found a place for it in my bedroom until the weather turns warmer and less rainy. Too much work to let it get ruined again! From now on, it’s going to be pampered.    

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#373–What a difference heat pumps make . . .

I kept thinking of Dinah Washington’s 1959 song, “What a Difference a Day Makes,” the day after my heat pumps were installed. Thursday, temperature in my house when I got up was 58 degrees, and the next day, Friday, it was 68 degrees, although the night had been colder. What a difference heat pumps make.

There was about eight inches of snow the morning of installation, although on one side of the house, the work was done under trees where little snow hit the ground.

I have a home with a central heating system that worked fine until 2010 when I remodeled the downstairs to be an apartment with an added door that stays closed at the end of the stairway. Ever since that happened, the downstairs with eight-foot ceilings and doors, heats up very quickly. My area is very open with open-beam ceilings over the living room and dining room and no doors except down the hallway. So, my area rarely got above the low 60s. In the last two years, I haven’t used the central heating at all. So, my renter and I have been using several small space heaters, resulting in high electricity bills and not particularly safe. So, it was time to consider heat pumps.

The inside unit is placed near the ceiling.

A few weeks ago, I knew very little about them. I went online and learned as much as I could. I also checked for closest retailers to my area and Florence Heating and Sheet Metal popped up. I talked to others with recent heat pump installations, and they recommended the same business. I mentioned it to my yard guy, Todd, who said his girlfriend had recently had two heat pumps installed—one upstairs and one downstairs. She also recommended the same business. Todd knows the owner, Steve Wolford, whom he had gone to high school with. So, I felt confident stopping by Florence Heating and Sheet Metal.


This is what he was connecting to from inside.

I met Steve and his wife Krystal. We chatted and he thought one upstairs and one down would work best. And she bought four of my books!! I liked these people.

Within a few days, Steve came and measured and made notes. A few days later, I received an estimate. I stopped by the office and signed paperwork and he told me about the $800 rebate from Central Lincoln. And we set an installation date.

The inside units, both upstairs and down, fit in nicely with the decor.

Installation day turned out to be snow everywhere. Not just a light dusting but at least seven to eight inches where I live at 350 to 400 feet. And temps just above freezing and still snowing off and on––not ideal for installations that involved more of the work outside than inside. I wasn’t sure they would be there, but they were and on time.

Heat pumps come in two parts. There is a relatively small unit that goes inside on a wall up by the ceiling and a larger unit that goes on the outside. The downstairs unit was smaller in both components than the upstairs units because of a smaller space to be heated.

This is the smaller unit sitting outside on cement blocks.

Because they are heat pumps, I’m getting heating as well as air conditioning, which is one of the advantages. Another advantage is that they run on a whole lot less electricity, which makes them much cheaper to operate.

To complete the installation, the units need to be hooked up to the source of electricity. Wires running from units down conduits from inside unit to outside unit and then through basement and up to fuse box in garage. Or something like that. That’s based on watching installation upstairs inside and the occasional peek out the window to see one outside installation and hearing sounds from the basement and garage.

This is the outside unit for the larger one. It doesn’t look like it in this photo, but it is almost twice the size of the smaller unit. It is set on a bracket that is attached to the wall of the house because of the slope. It was not easy to install this one because of the cold, the snow, the slope, and being behind bushes.


After the installation, Steve instructed me on the best way to use this type of heating and how to use the remote. With a remote, I won’t need a ladder to make changes. And his helper instructed my renter with her own remote.

He said the best way to use it, was to set it and leave it. It does best on maintaining the heat, rather than turning on and off every day. I have found that the areas where I do most of my living are the perfect temperature for me—68 degrees. And the bedroom, the farthest away is a few degrees cooler and that is just fine, I prefer a cooler space for sleeping.

Bottom line: I’m a happy camper and highly recommend heat pumps. For the first time in years, I have a warm house. And it’s working just fine during the coldest days of winter. And, of course, I’m looking forward to my electrical bill going down!!

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#372–Your help needed for new book . . .

I need your help! I’m thinking about putting together another book. It would be a collection of blog posts––some of my favorites and others would be readers’ choice. At this point, it’s just in the should-I-or-shouldn’t-I-do-it stage. And if I decide to, which ones do I choose?

There is precedence for me creating books out of my blog posts: The Crossings Guide began as segments I had created as fillers when I was not home during the first year and a half of writing this blog. And the core of The Cancer Blog is the 16 posts I did while undergoing chemo. I added more chapters but the blog posts were the main part of the book.

My nephew’s wedding in Vegas.

This time around, I may use the ones with the most intriguing titles:

#291–My throat was slit (May 2021)

#235–No, it’s not a crime scene (April 2020)

#102–Quickie wedding in Vegas (June 2013)

My sister, brother, and sister-in-law all went to Montana to scatter both mom’s and dad’s ashes in 2021.

I may use some of my favorites:

#305–Montana and Mission Possible (October 2021) and #306–Onward to Yellowstone (October 2021) both of these are about my family’s trip of a lifetime.

#298–I am woman, I am strong, I am resilient (June 2021)

And more favorites:

#264–Walking Circles in the Sand (October 2020)

#245–A life of white privilege, who knew! (June 2020)

#217–The ups and downs of a single day (March 2018)

#136–Budgets & old folks require flexibility (April 2014)

#110–Rewards and revelations of research (August 2013) 

My first class as a teacher in the first of 22 years in a building contaminated with asbestos, which I think caused my cancer.

I also like the ones where I had to do some research:

#360–The case against the death penalty (October 2022)

#321–The why behind my cancer (January 2022)

#271–Remembering Big Basin (September 2020)

#253–Restless Leg Syndrome (August 2020)

I had waited almost a year for my new septic tank.

And I especially like the ones about unlikely topics:

#300–In praise of my refrigerator magnets (July 2021)

#283–Happiness is a new septic tank (March 2021)

#240­–In praise of rest stops (May 2020)

 #234–Happiness is toilet paper (April 2020).

Sir Groucho was a good subject for a photo essay.

The photo essays also meant a lot to me:

#273–Ornaments and memories (January 2021)

#243–Sir Groucho––a photo essay (June 2020)

#241–Rhodies, glorious rhodies (May 2020)

#204–Arrival in Bakersfield (January 2017)

Mom and me in Hawaii shortly after Pearl Harbor was bombed.

A few were on a more serious note:

#315–Surviving aftermath of Pearl Harbor (December 2021)

#311–Thoughts upon turning 80 (November 2021)

#254–Anyody can be scammed (August 2020)

#190–Travel woes at SFO (January 2016)

This bookstore has carried my books since I started with Crossings.

And then there are the ones most visited by readers:

#244–Mari’s Books is now Books and More in Yachats (June 2020)

#269–Life and the Good Feet store (December 2020)

#223–Where has the summer gone (November 1918)

Here we are with Mt. Vernon in the distance––part of our trip to Washington D.C.

And some of the fabulous trips with my sister got a lot of hits too::

#197–A gen-u-ine vacation (July 2016). (A road trip to some of the famous sites of the Northwest that included Port Angeles, Victoria, Seattle, and the San Juans.)

#224–227, November and December 2018). (We flew from Portland, OR, to Portland, ME, rented a car, and took a road trip along the coast of Maine, covered in four blog posts.)

#230–232, March 2020. (We flew to Washington D.C. and spent 16 days exploring all the sights we planned to see and much more, covered in three blog posts.)


I have written 371 posts prior to this one. And I thought maybe 40 or 50 of them might make a good book. Or it could be more or less or no book at all. I would love your input on whether to do it, and if so, how many and which ones.

Each post listed has month and year to find easily in the archives, if you wanted to check out any of them. I would also like to use the photos used in the original postings. This book will not be out any time soon. At best, mid-2024.

I greatly look forward to your input. Thank you!

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#371–Stair treads––a necessity . . .

I’m still working on my stairs. Once I had the stairlifts removed, 10 of the 15 steps had four holes each where the screws that held the stairlift supports were drilled in. They looked awful, and I could either get some decorative sticky something or others to cover them or use stair treads. I opted to go with stair treads.

I saw some in a catalog using braided rugs that I rather liked. I also went online, and all I could find on Amazon were like carpet scraps with binding. And they all had square corners or very slightly rounded ones. None had a color I liked, and all were solid colors. I wanted something that could tie in with my mossy green rugs.

The yellow plastic protective covering was difficult to to get started on its removal, but once started was easy.

I also read all the reviews. On the carpet types, they were inexpensive, but the corners came unstuck and turned up, becoming a tripping hazard. On the braided-rug style, working with the adhesive was a pain, but the treads lasted well. One woman ordered a small rug to match the stair treads that she had ordered five years earlier, and they matched perfectly. They hold their color. After reading the reviews, I went with the braided ones.

I ordered them, and about two weeks later, they arrived. That was three days ago.

I immediately opened the package and was so glad to find that the colors of the treads tied in nicely with my other rugs.

I found that scratching, scratching at one corner eventually created an opening.

Right away, I placed the treads on all the stairs just to see how they would look. And I liked the look. But I couldn’t leave them there, because they were dangerous with nothing holding them down. They were so slippery, one step, and I would go flying.

Enter, the “installation kit,” as it is called. It’s a roll of mesh that is sticky on both sides and has a protective sheet of plastic stuck to one side to be able to handle it.

Here you see one tread firmly in place, one adhesive segment firmly in place, and the folded tread ready to be pressed firmly on top of the adhesive segment. And you can see the four screw hole, which are on 10 of the steps that I’m trying to cover up.

If you’ve ever dealt with double-sided tape, then you know how much fun this was. The adhesive roll was like tape on STEROIDS. The roll was about 6 ½ inches wide and 28 feet long and meant to be long enough for 13 steps. I had 15. They suggested 26 inches per tread. I did some math and figured 23 inches would work for 15. And it did—miracle of miracles.

The treads are on the upper and lower stairs with the entry rug in place.

I had watched a video on the braided rug website regarding installation, and, of course, everything looked so easy. I also read the reviews regarding installation and nearly everyone complained about removing the protective plastic. The video suggested folding in the middle, making a cut and working in a finger and then your hand and loosening it that way. One reviewer suggested a skinny spatula or bread knife at any edge.

I tried cutting in the middle and found it just as difficult as any other edge to try to get into. After trying various ways, what worked best was just taking my finger at a corner and scratching at it until It finally came loose. As soon as you can get a finger in, you’re in. Easy, peasy from then on.

So, I cut my roll of adhesive into 15 23-inch lengths and stacked them. Then I washed and dried each step before applying anything.

Once the stairs were ready, I removed the protective plastic on one adhesive section, took it in one hand and a tread in the other and walked over to the stairs. I determined exactly where I wanted the tread, which also determined where the adhesive segment would go.

I like the treads on the stairs as well as the entry rug. It makes a nicer entry.

I pressed down the adhesive segment first and then the tread on top of it, trying to keep the tread straight before I pressed down. Then I repeated each step 14 times. Once I got in the groove, the whole process went quickly.

The rug that matches the stair treads that I ordered to go between the stairs and the front door was too small, and I didn’t want to use it there . . . or so I thought. After a couple days, though, I tried it there again and liked it. Go figure! It was not too small, after all.

The results: All the screw holes are covered; not one shows. Mission accomplished! Best of all, I like the way it looks. I never liked the way the stairlift looked, but as long as it was useful, looks didn’t matter. Now, I’ve got my stairs back and like the new look. It makes a nicer entry. And there’s a bonus. With the treads, it’s safer because the wooden stairs are slippery—the treads are not! All in all, I’m very pleased with the results.

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#370­­–On behalf of good neighbors . . .

Good neighbors make life more enjoyable. And, in the case of those who live alone, make living alone possible. I, fortunately, have and have had good neighbors. I could even say wonderful neighbors.

When I underwent five months of chemo back in 2014–15, it was my sister (who stayed with me twice for prolonged periods), my friends, and my neighbors, Hope and Ruth, who helped me get through it. My neighbors brought me dinners; took me to doctors’ appointments, which were in town; took me to treatments (especially Hope), which were in Eugene; took me to the grocery store and on other errands, because as long as I was on strong drugs, I couldn’t drive.

Here I am with my sister, who came to stay with me both during chemo and later during the knee replacement.

Hope was incredibly helpful during my battle with chemo–taking me to more than half the treatments, having lists of questions to ask the doctor, finding supplements for me to take, knitting me caps to keep my bald head warm, and much more.

My stairlift, along with my sister’s two-week stay and my neighbors help for the next month, allowed me to stay home when I had a total knee replacement.

Later in January 2020, when I had total knee replacement surgery, it was the stairlift, my sister, and my neighbors that allowed me to stay home during the recuperation. My sister stayed with me for two weeks, after that, the neighbors took over. Once again, I couldn’t drive. This time it was for six weeks. So, neighbors took me grocery shopping and errands, as well as to to six weeks of physical therapy appointments. And there was the occasional, wonderful, surprise dinners.

In April 2020, I had a vein at my ankle rupture while in the shower. I got blood all over the place while trying to stop the flow. If it ever happens again, I will use a tourniquet. I finally called my renter, Carole, who lives downstairs, which I converted into an apartment several years ago. She came up and applied a pressure bandage, stopping the bleeding. Then she got me settled on the bed with my leg elevated and cleaned up the whole bloody mess that covered more than one room. Later in the day, she even brought me lunch. Besides being a good renter, she’s become a friend and a good neighbor.

I finally used a partial roll of paper towels and a red stretchy used for physical therapy to staunch the flow of blood.

During the Covid lockdown, I didn’t make my usual trip to California to be with family and see friends during the holidays. So, it was really nice to have my neighbor, Ruth, over for Christmas dinner two years in a row, where we both contributed to the meal.

Our road is not considered a county road, so every once in awhile, we collect money to fill potholes and one time for a major paving project. And people contributed mostly willingly. For the potholes, it’s usually one person––sometimes with helpers––who do the work. Years ago, another neighbor went around cutting off tree branches that hung out too far into the road.  Both actions contributed to the betterment of the neighborhood.

I’ve lived here for 37 years and have seen several new houses built and people come and people go. And many folks have been here for many years. I think, what I like most is the camaraderie. I like walking around the loop and chatting with folks along the way. I like standing in the middle of the road and chatting with my neighbors. I like working in the yard or washing the car and chatting with folks walking by with their dogs on leash. It’s not just your house that is home, but the neighborhood is home also.

It seemed Jetson would turn on an afterburner when he leaped up on the roof. He did it every day for ;years! ––This painting and previous illustration by Karen D. Nichols.

One of my early neighbors, the Farms––1987–94 approximately, shared their cat with me––Jetson. He would jump up on my roof between 6 and 7 a.m, look in my second-story office window, and I’d let him in. Then at 8 a.m., I’d open the window and out he’d go. He also napped on my compost pile, stalked birds at my feeders, and sat on my roof to enjoy the sun. He simply incorporated me, my house, and yard into his territory. After his family moved a couple miles away, he returned to our neighborhood cross country again and again, until the new family that moved into the house next door agreed to take him on as their pet, where he continued his usual way of life. When they left the following year, I took on his care for the next 11 years. Jetson was a wonderful pet for me, and the most amazing cat I ever knew.  

Now, 28 years or so after they moved away, the Farms are moving back. During this past year, as they were building their new home on the lot next door to me, I referred to them as my former and future neighbors. They actually moved in over the Christmas holidays.  So, a week ago, I did an old-fashioned, neighborly courtesy. I took over a Tupperware container containing one of my favorite recipes to help welcome them back. We had a lovely visit, and I got to see their fabulous new home.

Because I had no computer for most of this past week and then had to spend Friday going to Eugene to undergo a laser procedure to correct some cloudiness in my vision, which was a result of the cataract removal surgery I had last summer, I didn’t have time to do my blog post that goes live nearly every Friday at 6 a.m. My neighbor, Ruth, saw that explanation on Facebooks where I post about by blog each Thursday.

On Saturday night, Ruth fixed a wonderful dinner and we sat and caught up for the next three hours. Because we both lead busy lives, we rarely see each other for any length of time. So, this was a nice relaxing evening for both of us.

And she called and invited me over for dinner, knowing that I would be tired, after my trip to and from Eugene for my eye procedure. What a wonderful, neighborly thing to do. As it turned out, I had just finished a late lunch and was about to take a nap, so I begged off. She suggested Saturday night, and I gladly accepted. I greatly appreciate her thoughtfulness.

Over the years, I’ve enjoyed the incredible help, friendly camaraderie, and wonderful thoughtfulness of my neighbors and know I’m very fortunate.

By the way, I hope the Farms like potato salad!

Everything I’ve written about so far has been since my late husband, Walt, passed away in 2001. But one of the most amazing acts of neighbors helping neighbors occurred in early 1988, about March, I think. Walt had just barely survived his first go-around with chemo for late-stage Hodgkins, a form of cancer. While he was in the hospital, the fiberglass greenhouse that we had ordered a couple of months before had arrived.

The greenhouse measures 17 by 8 feet––larger than I could handle by myself.

I had hacked out with a pick and shovel where it should go, while he was in the hospital. But I could not move it by myself. My neighbor up the hill, Margaret Trimble organized a group of neighbors–Chuck Chiquette and Warren Twiggs, as well as her husband, Bill, and herself. They came with measuring tape, shovels, picks, and lots of energy and determination. They were all 65+ then and no longer with us now. I split my time between tending to Walt and helping them. By mid-day, a shallow trench was dug, and the greenhouse lifted, moved and set in it. Then dirt was packed down around it––both inside and outside. I had prepared a lunch for all of us that we ate at our brand new picnic table.

A few days later, after a load of gravel arrived, Chuck wheel-barreled it around, while he and I spread it. That whole experience was above and beyond anything I had experienced before and cemented firm friendships that lasted decades. There is simply nothing like good neighbors.

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#369–What do TVs, computers & stairlifts have in common . . .

Note: My next post will go live at 6 a.m. Sunday morning, February 12.

All three played a big part in my life this past week and have been on my mind for the past few months. All three needed to be either fixed, replaced, or done away with. I had some decisions to make.


I only watch TV in the evenings, unless it’s something really special. Since early December, my TV on the kitchen counter, that I use for 80% of my TV watching  time, had started pixelating the pictute some of the time. And the remote no longer turned the TV on. That wasn’t all. The TV no longer recorded and the saved recorded programs had disappeared. I was not a happy camper.

I called Spectrum and was soon talking to a tech support person. I spent a couple hours with him, where nothing was resolved. He did send a new remote. Now, I could turn on the TV, but it didn’t fix anything else.

So, I tried to figure out the problem, and fix it. Ha!  I just made things worse as far as the pixelization and then I pushed the wrong thing and there was no picture at all. And I couldn’t get it back. It was time to call tech support again. But it would have to be a day when I had the time and patience. To add insult to injury, the Spectrum bill arrived with a $15 increase. That provided the needed motivation.

Tuesday, January 31, I called and spent 40 minutes with tech support, but only after 15 minutes with a recorded voice, and 10 minutes more with music. I explained the problems with the upstairs TV and that I wanted DVR capability installed on the downstairs TV in the living room.

I moved two bookcases and anything breakable that might be in the way of the Spectrum support tech.

Appointment was set up for the next day, February 1, between 3 and 4 p.m. I had cleared the counter in the kitchen and moved furniture and anything breakable in two bookcases to make access easier in the living room. The tech support person arrived at 5:20 p.m. I didn’t mind waiting.

Within the first 10 minutes, he had the upstairs TV working with beautiful picture and set it to record. To install the DVR, we went to the basement where he followed the wiring to see where to go and then out and around to the side of the house, where he found a box with the connections he needed. He spent about 10 minutes working on it while I held a bush out of his way. Then he came inside and spent another 10 minutes or so making connections with a new box. Then he checked the upstairs and the program had been recorded. He got everything I wanted done. I was a happy camper.

The picture was perfect with no breakup into pixels. And the recording worked! Wonderful!

Since I also have phone and Internet service through Spectrum, I asked him about a stray connection for the phone and he plugged it in. Problem solved. Then I asked him about making my Apple circa 2013 computer work faster. He said I’ll have to get a new one for that. Dang! I figured that was what he was going to say.


Over this past weekend and on Monday and Tuesday, I spent hours deleting photos, emails, and cleaning out folders. I also trashed most of the photos that, when not stacked, filled the entire desktop screen. Since most are already in my photo file, trashing them from the desktop did not delete them.

These were chores I have been going to do for months. I got them done so the computer would be ready for a major tune-up with  Jolene at FTS Computer Repair. She is my go-to computer person. Whenever she gives me a computer turne-up she scolds me for having so much open and so much on my desktop and so much unnecessary stuff in my emails and duplicates in my photos and so on. This time I would bes ready for her.

If this appears on your computer screen, supposedly from Apple, don’t fall for it. It is a scam.

Then on Thursday, when I was going to call her, I opened up my computer and saw what looked very official. More than one blue and white window filled my screen with Apple logo and Apple Security Center and a voice telling me my computer was locked and I was to immediately call a certain 800 number and if I was to hit Shut Down or Restart, I might lose my data and be subject to Identity Theft. I called the number and the heavily accented voice caused me to hang up immediately. I texted Jolene, asking her about it, and she texted right back, saying that it was a scam and just Restart the computer. So, I did. Everything worked fine. I hate these scams.

Some time back, I received a message that I needed to upgrade my computer. I went through all the processes until it came time to “install.” It would not install because my computer needed to be a newer model. AARRGGHH! That’s when I realized I probably needed to bite the bullet and buy a new one—or at least a newer one. Then when the Spectrum guy said I needed a new one if I wanted faster speeds, that was the motivation I needed.

This is one of two stairlifts I had in my home for the past 23 years.

So. I went on Jolene’s website to see if she had any newer, refurbished Apple desktops newer than mine for sale. She did. She had one. I texted her that I wanted it. She said she could meet me tomorrow, and we set the time. I will bring my old desktop and have necessary info with me. I will also get the service and security plans to go with it. And I need a new back-up disk, since mine is full and probably have to update my Microsoft Word. I will get it all done in one fell swoop. I was ready to make an appointment anyway for a tune up. Now I’ll be getting a newer––not brand new, but newer––computer! I’m excited!


Back in 1999, I had two stairlifts installed––one for each of my two sets of stairs for my late husband, Walt, when he could no longer do stairs. They were a Godsend during his last two years. After he passed away, I continued to use them as dumbwaiters, as well as during two different health situations, I was very appreciative of them. In 2014-15, when, during the five months of chemo, I didn’t always have the strength to do stairs. And in 2020 when I had a total knee replacement, the stairlifts made it possible to stay home after surgery. Without the stairlifts, I would’ve had to stay in a care facility. So, they came in very handy more than once.

As of February 1, have no more stairlifts on the stairs.

But for the last year or so they haven’t been working. First one quit, then a few months later the other one. So, they have just been sitting there. I finally made up my mind not to replace them. l would have them removed.

I mentioned this to my renter, Carole, downstairs earlier this week, and she thought her son might be interested in removing them. Yesterday, he did. It took him about 20 minutes to figure out to remove one of the chairs. Then the second one only took a third of that time. Then with a drill, he got all the screws loosened and Carole followed along behind and collected them all. Within minutes of being loose, he wrapped the cords around the rails and got them and the chairs into the garage. It took him less than an hour.

These stair treads are similar in style but the colors will be different, to what I have ordered for my two sets of stairs. They will cover the screw holes where the rail supports were..

I swept and mopped the stairs and after 23 years, I have the whole stairway back. The only problem is that on 10 of the steps there are four small holes where the supports for the rails were screwed in. So, I have ordered stair treads to hide the holes. And I need to part with the two chairs and two rails presently in my garage. Do any of you know anyone who would want the two stairlifts that need to be worked on? Maybe Restore would be interested.

Quite a week, I got both TVs taken care of, will be picking up a new computer tomorrow, and have my stairs back and can hardly wait to see how they’ll look with lovely new stair treads.  My “to do” list just got a whole lot shorter this week, and that makes me happy too.

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#368–What we emphasize each day . . .

“What we choose to emphasize is a choice we can make each day.”

This quote is from a distant cousin in a Christmas letter I received this year. Must say, it’s a first to take a quote from a Christmas letter, but when I read this, it stopped me cold. I found a pen, circled the sentence, and put it aside. I decided to put it on a card and place it on my computer, so I’ll see it every day.

No matter what our lot in life, we have some say, some choice on what we emphasize each day. Those in prison, those confined to bed or wheelchair certainly have less choice, but they still have some. Whether you are the boss or employee or a freelancer, you have some choice in your job or vocation.

So, let’s look at it again, “What we choose to emphasize is a choice we can make each day.”

When I have free time, sometimes I drive up the coast as far as far as Yachats, about 25 miles. About 11 miles up Hwy 101 I see the the most photographed lighthouse on the West Coast––Heceta Head Lighthouse and the Lighthouse Keepers House, now a B & B. This drive is one of my favorite sections of coast.

If we have a day off, do we catch up on chores, go for a drive or ride (if biking or cycling), take in an event, watch anything that happens to be on TV, or do planned TV binge watching. We have choices.

About every other morning I have eggs for breakfast. I only take one prescription, but lots of supplements.

Here’s a possible morning of choices: Whether to sleep in or get up early. Do I have time for breakfast or just coffee and what to fix if I do? Can I fit in a walk or a run? Can I do some work in the yard between rain showers? Do I turn on the radio, a podcast, or the TV? And so it goes through the day.

Some of us are very self-disciplined and are good at delayed gratification. That’s me. I’m always buying something I will enjoy and then keep myself so busy with stuff I feel I have to do that I don’t take the time to enjoy it.

I watched a few seasons of “A Place to Call Home” and really enjoyed it. So, when I saw it on sale for half price for all six seasons, I ordered it––last March. I’m just now getting round to watching it.

And some of us feel guilty, if we don’t stick to our schedule and get things done each day. That’s me, too! I love making lists and crossing off that which is done. I just need to include the fun stuff.

And some people don’t have much motivation. They need a giant push to get anything done. These are folks that probably should not live alone, but have someone to help share the load and provide motivation.

Keeping a balance of doing that which must be done, doing some of the doesn’t-have-to-be-done-but- should-be-done stuff, and including some of the fun activities too, sounds like a good daily goal for all of us.

We also have choice in our attitude. Some folks are positive, some negative, and some feel they are the victim with everyone out to get them. Nobody wants to be around an always cheerful Pollyanna or a constant complainer or a whiner who feels nothing is his/her fault. It’s all about balance in attitude also.

One more time, “What we choose to emphasize is a choice we can make each day.”

There are endless situations where choice comes into play daily. So, when you or I say, “I believe in choice!,” it gives a whole new meaning to the word.  

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#367–Reading––the most important skill . . .

While I was in California visiting my former college roommate, Dr. Alice Ruzicka, who is now a neuro-pediatric psychologist, I helped her work with a five-year-old boy. He was being tested to see if he qualified to be in a highly selective private school. And I got to help. She had lost her voice and could only whisper, so where a sentence had to be read, I did the reading. It has been a long time since I was in the classroom teaching, but working with this little boy, put me right back there. I loved it! He tried his best and did very well. When he responded to Alice, he did it in a whisper and to me, it was with his voice.  He was just adorable. He reminded me of the six-year-olds I used to work with.

The most important skill taught in first grade is to read. If you learn to read before first grade, that’s great, but if you can’t figure out how to decipher words by the end of first grade, this world brands you a failure. Many of the inmates in prison got into trouble because they couldn’t read. Can’t read—can’t drive. Can’t read—can’t use a computer. Almost any job requires some reading.  Not being able to read, really limits job prospects. Not only is reading the most important skill taught in first grade, it’s the most important skill any of us will ever learn. It correlates so closely with success in life.

I’m lucky I ever learned to read. I learned in spite of my mother and the school system. When I was very young, I don’t remember being read to, but I do remember my dad telling great stories.

I don’t remember being read to.

My mom did not like to see me sitting down with a book; I needed to be doing something, helping her—even at a very young age––four, five, six, seven.

The year I was to turn five in November, my mother took me to school in September to enroll me in Kindergarten, but they turned me away, saying I was too young. So, the next year, she tried again. They put me in first grade—with a whole class of students much better prepared than me. I had never been in a classroom before. My mother had not worked with me, and I had no preschool or Kindergarten. I was at a definite disadvantage. And it was the look/see approach. Fortunately, I was a visual learner and eager to learn. So, I succeeded.

Here I am about six with sister, Edna, and brother, Harry. At six, I was thrown into first grade––not Kindergarten as I expected.

In spite of mom and the school system, I learned to love reading. I would let my sister get in bed with me, and I would read to us under the covers with a flashlight. That way, my parents couldn’t see any light, and we wouldn’t get into trouble.

I’d go climb a tree, find a comfy spot, and read.

As I got older, it got even harder to sit down with a book. When we lived in Portland, I went to the basement, which was a great spot, or outside I’d climb the cherry tree and sit on the garage roof. Later, when I was 12 and we had moved to California in the Sierra foothills, I would climb a tree and find a comfy spot to read or perch on a rock––always out of sight of the house. When I was in high school, I would put the textbook covers on non-textbook books. Then when I sat down with a book, my mom thought I was studying. That was acceptable. Growing up, it was never easy to read just for the enjoyment.

I’d also perch on big rocks and read.

The school system made it hard for me to start my education by not allowing me in one year and bumping me ahead the next. And they almost derailed me again when I wanted to continue my education at college. The high school was not much academically speaking—I only had two really good teachers. The advantage was that you could participate in everything if you wanted to. You could be a class and/or student body officer, be homecoming princess, be on the tennis team, be in school plays. My last semester of high school, I was able to walk to the elementary school and help the teachers after the children had gone home. Since I wanted to be a teacher, this was great. By spending an hour there every day, I got to pick their brains and help them prepare materials. It was a valuable experience.

I graduated Valedictorian of my high school class, and I was the only one from my school going to college. Because my high school was lacking in so many ways academically, it was not accredited then. I could only be accepted at the community college in Bakersfield, the nearest large town.

Here is how Bakersfield College looked in 1959, when I began my college education there.

Because I was Valedictorian, I was placed in accelerated classes for just the best students from all the high schools that fed into Bakersfield College. Boy, was I in over my head. I had never heard of a term paper. I had never taken notes in class. It was a very steep learning curve. I had to read every chapter three times. So, I stayed up late most nights just trying to keep up. It was not easy, but I persevered and received top grades. I was on a $200 scholarship that first year and needed to have more scholarships if I wanted to continue, so I had to do well. I made money by working summers in high school and college and that with scholarships, made it possible. My second year, I had two part-time jobs at the college and that helped. My parents only gave me $10 or $20 now and then. If I wanted a college education, it was up to me.

Here I am on the day I graduated from Bakersfield College in 1961.

In spite of my mother not encouraging me to read and the school system making it difficult for me in entering first grade and later, in entering college, I did graduate and with honors and with a $500 scholarship to go on to a four-year school. I went to San Jose State for the next two years and graduated with honors there too. i got a job in the district where I had done my student teaching and taught second grade for five years and first grade for 17 years all in the same school. I loved it.

Teaching six-year-olds how to “break the code” and read was one of the highlights of my life. And that little boy I worked with brought it all back.

Note: If anyone reading this has contact with three-, four-, five-, six-, seven-year- olds, read to them if you get the chance. That is the best preparation for learning to read and instilling a love of reading in children. And as they can, have them read back to you. Reading is the most important skill that any of us will ever learn.  

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#366–Christmas cards, winter driving & loved ones . . .

Christmas is not a good time to travel—flying or driving––and we all know that. But, regardless, most people either are traveling or hosting travelers––especially now after three years of Covid.

This year I put 1,800 miles on my car, as I drove to California to see friends and family over Christmas. It was my first trip to California in three years, and I was gone 3 ½ weeks. I really threaded the needle weatherwise––just behind bad weather going down and just ahead driving home. It was the most nerve-wracking trip in my many years of driving to California in winter.

This is the card I sent this year from “me, myself & I.”

While I was able to avoid most of the bad weather, I didn’t know that would be the case, while I was planning routes and behind the wheel. I was constantly checking Oregon’s TripCheck and California’s CalTrans to check on the highways before I left and after I began. That way, I could take alternate routes, make sure I was at higher elevations during mid-day where the weather was below freezing at night, and get far enough north to avoid flooding rivers and falling trees.

And last Monday, only a few days after I got home, along Oregon’s southern coast on Hwy 101 between Port Orford and Gold Beach, a section of highway was covered by landslide and dropped about 15 feet. So, 101 is closed for several days between Port Orford and Gold Beach with no alternate route. That is not unusual for that stretch of road. Good thing it didn’t happen a few days earlier, when I was passing through.

I chuckle every time I look at this card that I received last year.

Going down, I planned to take I-5 since my first stop was in the Sierra foothills east of I-5, but there was snow between Ashland and Redding––about 200 miles–– with blowing snow and zero visibility over Siskiyou Summit on the day I would be passing through. So, I decided to take Hwy 101 down the Oregon Coast and one-third of the way down through California turn on Hwy 20 to cross the state to get to the Grass Valley area where I was headed. It would be windier roads and further to drive, which would make the trip between two and three hours longer. Since I don’t like to drive after dark, it was a two-day trip, instead of normally a one-day trip down I-5. I was right behind a storm, so while it was sunny, it was cold with icy spots and some snow on higher elevations going across on 20. Where my friends live, there was hardly any snow, a few miles away at a higher elevation in Grass Valley, a few inches, and just another few miles and higher still in Nevada City, almost a foot with blowing snow and Hwy 20 closed east of there. I was just behind that east-moving storm.

A few days later when I left the foothills, I headed for Marysville, where I connected with Hwy 70, heading south to Sacramento where I would merge with I-5.  I headed south through the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys—known for their winter fog. And it was foggy (yucky) and stayed that way until I got over to the west side south of Stockton and close to foothills. From there to Bakersfield, it was fine—lots of speeding traffic but no more fog.

I think this is just priceless!

After 2 ½ weeks in Bakersfield, I headed north to Palo Alto on the Friday before New Year’s weekend. The weather was fine, but the traffic was horrendous. It was stop-and-go from King City to San Jose. Once I got on Hwy 85––shortcut from San Jose to Cupertino––it started moving again. So, the last hour was in darkness and the rain had begun. But I made it.

While I was in Palo Alto, it rained steadily, and there was a lot of flooding throughout the Bay Area. We tried to go to the Stanford Shopping Center, not far from my friend’s home, but her usual route involved a flooded underpass. Street closed. We had to take an alternate route.

This is my absolute favorite. My brother gave it to me many years ago, and I put it out every year. It is by Edward Gorey!

A few days later, when I was heading home, there was lots of roadwork through San Francisco––a result of the New Year’s weekend storm. It closed three lanes down to one lane, much of the way, which caused near gridlock. It was January 3, and I was not the only one heading home. After crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, there was heavy traffic for about 100 miles on Hwy 101 before it thinned out.

I got to Eureka about 4 p.m. and could have stayed there, but a very windy and rainy storm was expected to begin that night with possible flooding and trees down predicted along 101 north of Eureka. I opted to keep going. The stretch between Eureka and Crescent City goes through the redwoods and along the cliffs around Trinidad. Lots of two-lane, windy road with a few one-lane sections due to roadwork that are operated by signals. And the rain had begun. This stretch is very dark after dark. So, once it was dark, I got behind a couple cars and stayed glued to them. Much of it was white-knuckle driving, trying to see the lane and stay in it in the glare of oncoming traffic. I got to Crescent City by 6 p.m. and stayed at one of the first motels I saw.  The ride home up the Oregon Coast next day with only drizzle and occasional sun––easy. Glad to be home!

So, was it worth it. You bet! It had been over a year since I had seen my brother, sister-in-law, and sister and three years since I had seen my nephew. I have two friends from college days where we were roommates for two years at Bakersfield Junior College. It had been a year since I had seen one of them, who lives in Palo Alto, and five years since I had seen the other one, who lives near Grass Valley. It was simply lovely to see family and friends. We did lots of catching up, exchanging gifts, and eating lots and lots of good food. Wonderful memories!

Since the photos on this post are of some of my favorite Christmas cards—a couple dating back many years—I’m going to end with one that is part of a Northwest parody of the Twelve Days of Christmas. I received it back in 1990. I get it out every year—just love it! Enjoy!

On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me:

Twelve rainclouds raining,

Eleven ferries tooting,

Ten geese a leaping,

Nine apples dangling,

Eight lattes steaming,

Seven salmon swimming,

Six tulips swaying,

Five golden slugs,

Four crawling crabs,

Three steamed clams,

Two waddling ducks,

And a seagull in a fir tree.

–1990 Kevi Sutter, The Wild Card Company

Happy New Year!

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