#280–Vaccine––Bring it on . . .

Some people are afraid to get the Covid vaccine, but I’m not. Six years ago, my first week of chemo treatment was the biggest assault I had ever had on my body and chemo left me with a compromised immune system. And I’ve had allergic reactions with some vaccines. Even so, I’m going to get the vaccine when I get the opportunity.

If I could survive this week, I can survive anything!

It was the third week in October 2014

–On Monday, I was given radio-active isotopes for a PET Scan in Eugene. I was in serious pain, and it was excruciating to lie motionless for 45 minutes in the huge scanner.

–On Tuesday, I was given more radio-active isotopes in Florence for a heart MUGA scan to see if my heart was up to the rigors of chemotherapy. But the machine wasn’t working properly. I laid there on a flat, metal surface in pain for at least an hour, before I was asked to come back the next day.

–On Wednesday, I was given even more radio-active isotopes. These are hard on your body even one time. and I had them three days in a row. I was probably glowing. This time the machine worked fine, and I passed my test––sort of. My heart function was “on the lower end of normal but should be able to tolerate chemo.” This was not exactly resounding but evidently good enough. (I did not know this until months later. Ah, the bliss of ignorance.)

My first day of chemo.

–On Thursday, I started chemotherapy in Eugene. From 8:30 a.m. until around 5 p.m. when we left, I was being injected or infused with medications, most of which were chemo. The one most difficult for the body to accept was the first one that they dripped in very slowly––took 3 ½ hours. I had four chemo meds total and a bunch of others to combat side-effects. I went home exhausted.

–On Friday, I went to the hospital in Florence for a shot of Neulasta, which I took after every chemo session. It makes your bones ache, but it helps build back the white blood cells to fight off infection when taking strong chemo. It has so many potentialy serious side-effects, that if I’d read them, I would’ve refused to take it. Once again, the bliss of ignorance.

During most of this week and for several weeks prior, I was in serious pain. I was taking Hydrocodone every three hours around the clock and it only took the edge off. But a miracle happened mid-way through that first day of chemo. The pain went away and never came back. Consequently, I became an instant fan of chemo and stopped the Hydrocodone cold. Man, if I could survive that week, I could survive any vaccine. Chemo did do a real number on my immune system, but I think it mostly bounced back.

And I survived allergic reactions to past vaccines!

My history with vaccines has been checkered, very up and down.

–When I was six, I had the DPT vaccine (Diptheria, Pertusus [whooping cough], and Tetanus) and had a serious reaction. My arm swelled up really big, I got very sick, and I still remember. It left quite a scar. When people ask about it, I sometimes make up an exciting story involving a gunshot.

The bandaid above covers the injection site of Covid vaccine. No swelling, redness, or soreness. Below is the major scar left by my DPT multiple-vaccine shot when I was six.

–When I was 14 in 1956, I received the polio vaccine injection. Later, around 1960 or 61, I had the Sabin oral vaccine administered through three doses in sugar cubes. I had no problem with those, and what a relief to be safe from polio.

–When I was 33, I had a Tetanus booster and my arm swelled up so much, I had to cut the sleeve of my shirt. And I developed a fever and was fairly sick. The doctor said to never get another Tetanus shot. And I haven’t.

–About 20 years ago, I had a fairly bad reaction to a flu shot, so I’ve never had another one.

–When I was 70ish, I had a shingles vaccine and a couple months later, a pneumonia vaccine and no problems with either.

Even though, I’ve had these problems with vaccines, I’ll take my chances with the Covid vaccine. I definitely don’t want to get sick with Covid-19.

I’m sure I can survive the Covid vaccine!

I became eligible on Monday, February 15, and thought I was already on a waiting list. I discovered I wasn’t and called the hospital scheduling desk. On Thursday, February 18, I called at 8 a.m. and was placed on a waiting list. The gal on the phone was friendly, but not encouraging. She said it could be weeks because they never knew when they would be getting some or how much. And with the cold weather, everything was delayed. She suggested that I might want to contact BiMart or Safeway and try their pharmacies.

Here s a Haiku poem about Covid Vaccine. I find Haiku fun and easy; just stick to 5-7-5 syllables.

So, I was very surprised when about 2:30 p.m. the same day, I received a call from the hospital saying that they could schedule me right then for a shot. Could I come in that afternoon? I was there 30 minutes later, and it takes 20 minutes to get there.

I wasn’t the only one there. We were all given a number, and there was a wait of about a half hour. The shot was given in a room with a doctor and no one else present. Then each of us was sent to a waiting room, where we were seated six feet apart and watched for either 15 or 30 minutes. I had to wait the longer time because of my vaccine history. Other than being a little warm, I felt fine.

After I left and was in the car, I took off my mask and looked in the mirror and saw that I was very red on my cheeks and nose and they were hot to the touch and my face felt hot––very much like a hot flash. I went home and kept an eye on it. Within an hour, the redness and heat had lessened, and within three hours, I was totally back to normal. At the injection site, I had no swelling, redness, or soreness. The next morning, I had some soreness, but it was mostly gone mid-day.

My second shot is March 11, and I know the after-effects are supposed to be worse. So, I’ll let the person who is to watch me for 30 minutes know about the flushing on the first go-round.

Bottom line: I did survive my first Covid shot in spite of a possibly compromised immune system and an iffy history with vaccines. My hope is that everyone is able to get vaccinated with little or no after-effects.  

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#279–Writing keeps me sane . . .

Note: Post #280 will post on Sunday, February 21.

What a bizarre world we are living in right now. I’ve been listening to parts of the impeachment trial and it just seems totally obvious how anyone should vote, but since it is a political, not a criminal or civil, trial, it will probably end in acquittal. If the vote were secret ballot, then I’m sure it would go the other way. But that’s now how our government works, nor should it. Enough of that.

And I in my bubble of one (bubble of two, Groucho informed me), due to the pandemic, have days of loneliness and depression just like so many others, but I try to overcome them by being busy. Nothing like a deadline to get you out of the doldrums.

It’s a bizarre world for more than one reason but writing keeps me sane. That’s why I write my blog each week. That’s why I’m writing my new book. I’ve said more than once, when I’ve finished writing a piece––whether an article or blog post or chapter of a book––once I’ve tweaked it and got it where I want it, I feel great. It gives me a high—better than any drug. So, that’s my antidote to this bizarre world we’re living in.

My view of the world this past week. Only picture me in the chair with Sir Groucho on my lap.

This week, I made progress on all fronts, and each one gave me great satisfaction, but none as much as the progress made on my own book.

Editing Jobs

I think I’m finally finished with my part on the first novel. I thought I was done last Sunday and sent it off to the publisher after putting in some changes requested by the author. But I decided to just look it over for mostly formatting changes and to look for those lines under words that Microsoft Word does to alert you to a problem. I was just going to give it a quick scan. Ha!

Before I knew it, I was reading it and finding the occasional introductory phrase without a comma and more independent clauses connected with a conjunction but no comma. And a few other things, so minor nobody but an editor would notice. I had to let the publisher know that I had made more changes and then had to resend to the author. So, he read it through again and, of course, he found a few “oops” and found a few things he wanted to re-word. So, yesterday, I got his last changes in and sent to the publisher. Finally, it’s ready to move forward in the publishing process.

I really enjoyed reading and editing this book and think it will sell really well. All I’ll say is that it’s set in western Oregon with lots of familiar places mentioned and that it’s a love story with legendary creatures and a wildfire. Sounds like a winning combination to me.

And the second novel is almost twice as long and has a more involved plot. It intertwines a nautical story with a military one with science fiction overtones. Very exciting! I look forward to each editing session.  In order to finish by my deadline, I need to do a certain number of pages each week. On this book, I send these to the author each Friday. He gets a chance to see what I’m doing to his manuscript and return it with his changes and comments. Yesterday, I reached the halfway point of the book as to the editing. Tomorrow, I will start putting the editing changes both his and mine into a fresh copy. When we have finished all the segments, I will send him the fresh copy of the entire manuscript for a final read though before it goes to the publisher. So, progress is being made here too.   

I have learned in editing these two books just how important it is to develop a good working relationship with the authors.  One of these authors has written several books, and for the other, it’s his first. As it has turned out, each of them has been a pleasure to work with.  I’m kind of enjoying this editing gig.

During my bald days, when I was undergoing chemo, this was my “happy hat.” Everybody who saw it smiled!

My Book

Last Monday, I sent my publisher, Bob Serra of Maple Creek Press, my possible title with a couple of subtitles to choose from. And another informative segment for the cover. By Tuesday, he had the first draft of the front cover and told me what he wanted from me for the back cover. So, I got it written and sent to him. By Tuesday evening, we had first drafts for both front and back covers. The next couple of days involved some tweaking and back and forth emails. By Thursday, we had a cover we were both happy with. I also tweaked the Dedication, the Table of Contents, and the Introduction that I’d written in the last couple of weeks and sent to him yesterday.

This book will chronicle my battle with caner six years ago. It will consist primarily of my weekly posts during my six months of fighting late-stage Lymphoma from first symptoms, through chemo, and recovery. Just like my blog posts, it will have several photos and be in color.

Since my battle with cancer, I shared some of the posts with folks newly diagnosed and was often told that I should put them into a book. I was working on a new book at the time and didn’t want to even think about another one.

Don’t know why, but right around this past Christmas, when I was running off copies for someone else recently diagnosed, it hit me that these would make a decent book! Duh! Now, that it’s “my idea,” I’m off and running, full-speed-ahead!!

Tomorrow, I’ll send the one chapter I’ve just written that was not a blog post to my publisher along with a number of photos. It’s called, “The Importance of Hair.” If I have the time, I’ll also send the first five chapters with their photos. These were blog posts that I’ve already re-worked. I am so excited and thrilled at each step along the way with this new book––much to my surprise I might add, since I pooh-poohed the idea for so long. Who knew!

So, amid all the craziness of the world, my writing (and editing) keep me sane!

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#278–Life continues to be interesting . . .

Note: #279 will post Sunday, February 14.

When I was teaching first grade and kids would show me their artwork and it was bizarre or really bad, I would always say “That’s interesting!” Well, I had one of each this week, as well as fitting in some writing and lots of editing.

Bizarre situation in the land of Zoom.

Besides my writing and editing hats, I wear the hat of secretary for Backstreet Gallery, a member-owned co-op. So, twice a month I take notes and write up the minutes from our Zoom meetings. To make sure the minutes are accurate, I watch and listen to the Zoom recording. It’s time consuming because the meetings are 1-1/2 to 2 hours long. The recording is so good, it’s just like being there all over again.

I’ve been a member of Backstreet Gallery in Old Town, Florence, since January 2016. I feel honored to have my books amid such a wonderful assortment of art by super talented people.

I learned an important lesson last night. I typed up the minutes Wednesday morning of Tuesday evening’s meeting. I didn’t get the link to the recording until Wednesday evening. I popped it open to see if it worked cause sometimes they just don’t open, but it did. It was ready, but I wasn’t. It was dinnertime. So, I paused it and minimized it, thinking I might get to it after dinner. BIG MISTAKE! I did not get to it after dinner, but on the way to bed, I did notice that my computer that had been on sleep mode had the Apple logo, a stationary bar under the logo, and under that the words, 38 minutes remaining, and they zipped by in less than 10 minutes and then the screen was frozen and stayed that way. So, I turned it off and went to bed.

Groucho woke me about 3:30 a.m., and I got to worrying about the computer. So, I got up at 4 a.m. I turned on the computer and it was still frozen with Apple logo and non-moving bar. I turned it off and on and left it on for awhile and turned it off again. Did that several times, before giving up. I got my laptop and went into another room and decided that maybe I would have to totally redo the minutes. After about 15 minutes on the laptop, I returned to my office for something and lo-and-behold my desktop was back to normal–everything was working! Go figure! Totally bizarre!

All members have a chance to be Featured Artist every couple of years. Here is a display of my books and photographs. The photographs were special because I normally don’t have photographs.

So, I listened to the Zoom recording and checked it against my minutes and was finished about 7:00 a.m. I had learned an important lesson DON’T MESS WITH ZOOM! If I’m not going to use a Zoom recording right away, I’ll close the damn file!

Bad but could have been worse

On Friday afternoon, I was editing my new author’s manuscript and wanted to get to a certain point before I sent to him to look over. I took a break, when my renter downstairs, wanted to borrow my plunger. Hmm! This can’t be good.

A little background. Last June I had my septic tank pumped, which I have done every five years or so. They had no problem with the pumping but discovered that the tank was collapsing on the uphill side. The baffles were still working, they said, and it might work for the next 10 years or may totally collapse in the next 10 days. They suggested that I do something about it. I agreed.

I saw an excavating company, and by July 2 had signed a contract with them. They applied to the county for a permit and it arrived in September. Since then, I have been waiting. Evidently, this is the year for folks to replace septic tanks. I am on the list. I call in every few weeks just to remind them that I’m still waiting.

The first day of chemo when I still had some brown in my hair.

So, on Friday, I loaned Carole, my renter, the plunger and it did no good. She tried and tried. I wasn’t sure whether this was the start of septic tank back up or if it was just a plugged toilet.

Of course, this is happening on a Friday afternoon and there was no one to answer the phone at the excavating company. I did leave a message, though. And I called my plumber. He was out on a job but called me later when he got home. He came by with a “snake” and got the toilet unplugged. It was just the toilet, not the septic tank. Whew! Maybe some good will come out of this. I left rather a panicky message at the excavating company! Maybe it will cause them to move me up on the list!

One day of writing life

Most of the week was more normal. I made headway on my new book about my adventures with cancer. I came up with the main title and have three sub-titles that I like equally well. I will run them by my publisher and see what he thinks.

And I wrote the one chapter that will be an addition; it was not an actual blog post. It will be the next to last chapter and called “The Importance of Hair.” It will be primarily a photo essay with about 12-15 photos from when my hair was still brownish, then became bald in one day. After that, I show the stages as it grew back––some hair, more hair with differences, trying different hairdos––to how it looks today with its 50 shades of gray. Now, all the original writing for the book is done. I have 11 chapter left to rework and beef up. I know I can get those done by the end of March.

Hair, glorious hair!

Editing

Editing is what took up most of the week. I finished putting in all the changes on the first manuscript I was editing and sent manuscript in its entirety to the author late on Sunday, a week ago.

From Wednesday through Saturday, he sent me changes he thought should be made covering a few chapters at a time. It was his last chance to look at it before it goes to the publisher. We finished that process Saturday evening.

Now, I will give it a once-over checking breaks when scenes changes and any extra spaces between sentences or just anything that may pop out at me. Then it will go to the publisher. So, that one is practically done as far as my part goes. I really enjoyed reading it as I edited it. It’s a book I would buy.

And more editing

The second one, I started on Tuesday. I wrote to the author, introducing myself and giving him my timeline and deadline of how I plan to work on his manuscript. He is in the military stationed on a remote island in the Pacific. We had a few emails back and forth. He would like excerpts to arrive on Friday afternoons, so he can work on them on the weekends when he is not at his job.

Back to the way I normally wear my hair, but no more brown–just shades of gray.

I got started. I gave a third edit to the prologue, introduction, and first two chapters that I originally edited last December. I became reacquainted with this novel that is part nautical, part military, and part sci-fi. It is almost twice as long as the one I just finished and has a more complex construction.

I was able to edit four more chapters. I edit everything twice. I had hoped to do another couple, but life interfered Friday afternoon. I finished about 8 o’clock that evening and sent off for him to look at. (There is a four-hour time difference from where he is to Florence, Oregon. Sending at 8 p.m. here is 4 p.m. there. So, I got it to him on Friday afternoon, as requested. I sent the first 77 of 318 pages.)

Whether it’s being the secretary of Backstreet Gallery and dealing with Zoom recordings or being the landlady and dealing with plugged toilets or the author of a new book and making some headway or being the editor dealing with fascinating manuscripts and their authors, it’s been an interesting week.

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#277–Three hats really keeps me busy . . .

Note: #278 won’t post until Sunday, February 7

This has been a super busy week as I’ve tried to keep to my schedule regarding my blog writing, my editing job, and as writer/editor on my new book where I’m editing me as the original writer and since I’m also beefing up each blog post, I’m the current writer as well.

Writer

Judy as writer in 2014 signing new copies of Around Florence just weeks before being diagnosed with late-stage cancer.

I dithered on what to write about this week in my blog until yesterday morning when I realized I didn’t have much time to devote to it. So, here I sit writing on Thursday evening, although I’ve been ready to write this since yesterday morning, but just so busy with other stuff. I have other topics on my list to write about, but just didn’t have the time to do the research needed. So, this will simply update the wearing-three-hats aspect of my life during this week.

For years, I wrote weekly in my blog on what I’d done that week regarding my writing. So, this is a return to that as well as including the editing that I’m now involved with.

Editor

I had hoped to finish the first of two novels this week that I’ve been hired to edit for a local publisher. And it looks like I will make my self-imposed deadline of the end of the month.

I finished editing the manuscript last Sunday. It is a delightful book with a love story, interactions with legendary creatures that turn out to be real, and a close encounter with wildfire. It is a good read.

Me this week being totally transported by the story I was editing. Had to keep reining myself in and reminding myself that I was the editor and to get back to work.

As a non-fiction writer, I’m in awe of fiction writers, because they come up with plots, characters, and settings out of their imaginations and experiences and make them so real that it totally transports the reader.  

This manuscript kept trying to transport me, while I was trying to check the grammar and punctuation and making sure that everything fit with what had been said before, etc, etc Every time it succeeded, I had to bring myself back to the nitty-gritty nuts and bolts of writing. It helps that I go through every chapter twice.

So, I sent it off to the author late last Sunday. And this week has been spent having him read though each chapter and looking at all the edits. Some items required back-and-forth emails and reworking some parts. This writer was a delight to work with. At first, I think he thought I had “gutted” his work. But by the end of the week, he felt I had tightened it and made it better and was pleased. Whew!

Me this week in serious editor mode.

Now, I’m putting all the edits in that he has looked at and okayed. I use the original manuscript. I’ve done 11 chapters and have three days to do the remaining 15. Then I will send the whole manuscript in its entirety to him to look over once more before I send to the publisher.

I love editing a book with a good story. Even though I knew the basic plot before I started editing, it is just so interesting to see how the writer gets from Point A to Point B and to see the character development. I hope my second novel to edit, which I will begin next week, is just as enjoyable.

Writer/Editor

Twice during this week, I woke up thinking about my new book. Both times it was earlier than I normally get up, but I got up and got some work done before my normal day began.

During chemo, I was able to continue working on my fourth book on my “good days.” It was so important to be able to do something “normal.”

A few days ago, I spent some time on the Introduction. I got it all down in that early hour. Later, I spent a couple hours tweaking it. That’s the part I enjoy most.

This book is about my six-month journey through chemo six years ago when I battled late-stage cancer. During the journey, I wrote about it each week in my blog and shared some of the blog posts over the years with folks recently diagnosed. After being told over and over to put them in a book, I decided to do it.

This morning, I woke up thinking about all the folks I wanted to dedicate this book to: two doctors, my sister, my neighbors and other friends whose help made it possible to stay in my home during treatment and recovery, my caregiver during three of my “dark hole periods,” my publisher and illustrator who continued working with me on my book Devil Cat and Other Colorful Animals I Have Known on my good days, and Sir Groucho, my sweet, adorable cat, that never let me out of his sight for six months. So, I got up and wrote the dedication and then did the Table of Contents before I fed Sir Groucho or me.

My assistant in everything. No matter where I am at home, he is nearby. Such a great companion during chemo and during this pandemic.

Earlier in the week, I spent a few hours going through the five chapters I had already gone through once. I dated them as if they were written back in 2014 and 2015 and then tweaked and tweaked. Dating them, made all the difference. Now, I’m happy with how they are turning out. I’m ready to move on. Hope to get a few more chapters done next week and to come up with some title possibilities.  

I think for the next few weeks, my blog post will simply update each week as to my roles as writer, editor, and writer/editor. While it’s keeping me busy, busy, I’m enjoying all of it.

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#276–Three hats––writer, editor & writer/editor . . .

For the next several weeks, I’ll be wearing more than one hat. I’ll be a writer and an editor, both of which I normally consider myself to be. But I also have a project where I’ll be both writer and editor. For the next several weeks, I will be active in all three roles. Here’s what I mean:

Writer

Every week, usually on Thursday, I write my blog post that goes live on Friday mornings at 6 a.m. As a writer, I’m constantly alert to possible subjects to write about. And I write best when I have a deadline. There’s nothing like a deadline to kickstart motivation. You don’t have the luxury of “waiting for inspiration” or “suffering from writers’ block.”

This is where I’ll be spending most of my time in the next several weeks. Sir Groucho is keeping my chair warm.

With my self-imposed deadline, I need a topic every week. I usually know what I’m going to write about two weeks ahead, but I’m flexible enough to change whenever something happens that I want to write about. Only about half the blog posts are planned.

I often get my ideas about what to write between 2 and 4 a.m. on those nights when I wake up and can’t get back to sleep. I’ll think of something, realize that it would make a great blog post, and have it half written before I get back to sleep. Sometimes these pass the “light of day” test the next morning. Sometimes they don’t.

I will continue to wear my writer’s hat during these next several weeks.

Editor

Last October, I was offered the opportunity to edit two novels for a publisher who is also a friend. I wanted to, but everything seemed to conspire against it.

The day I was going to look over the sample chapters and see if I was interested, was the first day of two days of power outages and then another couple days before we had Internet access. So, a delay of four days right at the get-go.

My plan was to read over and give an initial evaluation to determine if I was interested. If I was, then I would edit a few chapters of each to see how long it took. Then, I would take into consideration how many pages each book would have and the complexity involved, before coming up with what I would charge for each one.

My well-used and trusty Chicago Manual of Style guide.

After the power outages, I was able to come up with an initial evaluation, and decided that I would like to do both of them. But I had a busy week coming up. I would be participating in the Victorian Belles Holiday Sale at Three Rivers Casino. I had signed up ages ago, and it would be the only direct sales opportunity I would have this year for selling my books. So, from Wednesday through Sunday, I was tied up with that. The next week was Thanksgiving with cooking and sharing with neighbors and working two days at Backstreet Gallery. During those two weeks, I got nothing done regarding the two novels.

I did get started on what I call the preliminary editing the week after Thanksgiving, but my computer mouse kept acting weird. I recharged it and it still was causing trouble. It moved like it should, but the curser didn’t show––you had to guess where it was, extremely frustrating. Then my keyboard died. New batteries didn’t help. So, I went online and ordered a new one. By now, I felt the editing project might be jinxed.

It took nearly a week, but the new keyboard arrived. I set it up and realized that a couple keys on each side were different; I’m still adjusting to that. Then my desktop screen started doing strange things. It took another couple days for me to figure that one out. By now, I just knew the editing project was jinxed.

Finally, about a week into December, I was able to edit a few chapters of each manuscript and send to the publisher. After some emails back and forth, we signed a contract. Then I could start editing in earnest.

I actually got half of one book edited before I had to pause for Christmas activities. As an editor, you read very slowly and try to notice everything––does it make sense, does it fit with what has previously been said, is the sentence grammatically correct, is the punctuation correct, and so on. And then looking up words that may potentially need to be compounded or hyphenated—rear view or rear-view or rearview. (The third one is correct for rearview mirror.) And whenever I have a question as to grammar or punctuation, my trusty Chicago Manual of Style is always handy.

Even with the pandemic, I tried to have as normal a Christmas as possible, so it meant putting up a Christmas tree, shopping, wrapping presents, Christmas cards, baking, cooking, etc.

Then shortly after the holidays, Backstreet had its once-a-year all day meeting, where I took notes. I‘m the new secretary since November 1. I got them written, sent out the minutes in draft form to all the gallery owner/members, and many changes had to be made until they seemed to be acceptable to everyone. That took the better part of a week.

It was this week before I got back to editing one of the novels. My plan is to finish editing the first one by this coming Sunday. I have only five chapters left. Then I’ll be in contact with the author next week and hope to finish up the editing work on this first novel by the end of the month. That gives me one month to work on the second one. My deadline to finish both of them is March 1.

I’ll be in serious editor mode for the next several weeks.

Ready to start chemotherapy back in October 2014. Notice all the brown hair I had then.

Writer/Editor

Since deciding to put together another book, I’ve redone the first five chapters. This is something I’ve previously written, so I’m the writer. But since I’m giving it a serious edit before it goes to my publisher, I’m also the editor. Besides, editing, I’m beefing it up, I’m adding to each chapter. So, I’m not just the writer who wrote it originally six years ago, I’m also the writer who is adding to it now. Confusing, I know.

I’m really enjoying going through it, even though, it covers a period of my life that I would never want to relive. It’s the five-month period when I was on a journey through chemo in my battle against cancer. Although a serious subject, it does have a certain amount of humor, which makes it worth reading.

As I was working on the first few chapters, I was having trouble trying to figure out past and present as to how to tell it. Each blog post is talking about the present time, what was happening that week. But I’m now looking back. If I rewrite it as looking back, I have to do a lot of changing. That is what I was doing, and I didn’t like the way it was turning out.

One of my wonderful hats I wore to keep my bald head warm. This one needed another knitted hat under it to fit right. At times during chemo, I was wearing two hats.

About 3 a.m. one night, I was thinking through this problem and came to a very obvious solution. The next morning, it passed “the light of day” test. I will simply date each chapter the date that it was originally written. That way I can stay in the present of what was happening that week. A weight had lifted off my shoulders. Now, I’m back to being excited about it!

I want to have it available for sale at the Florence Festival of Books in September, if we’re able to have the festival this year. That means, I need to have my new manuscript and photos ready to send to my publisher by April.

I’ll be doing double duty as both editor and writer on this new book.  

So, if I look a little distracted over the next several weeks, I have good reason. I’ll be wearing three hats!

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#275–Storms, swarms & crossword puzzles . . .

Storms

This past week, we had a major storm where many people lost power, a landslide closed Hwy 126 between Florence and Eugene for days, a section of Hwy 101 by Otter Rock sunk so traffic is restricted, flooding occurred along rivers, sneaker waves caused a serious threat on beaches, and so on. Like I said, it was a major storm. And it didn’t just blow through, it lasted from Monday night through Tuesday and through Tuesday night, which is when it peaked.

Flooding along the river was caused by extra high tides and prolonged heavy rains.

There was heavy rain off and on throughout. What was most impressive to me was the wind. It was strong Monday night and Tuesday. But it got truly fierce Tuesday night. It had a steady roar with the occasional gust that would make the house shudder. My house is two-story and very sturdy; it takes a lot to make it shudder. My neighbor whose bedroom faces south, slept downstairs in her guest room because the noise of the horizontal rain and wind kept her awake in her bedroom. With trees that tower higher than my house on either side, there were plenty of small branches and cones hitting the house, adding to the noise.

This storm reminded me of storms of the 1980s and ‘90s that I’ve experienced in this house. There was the July 4th storm of 1986 that knocked over my brand-new woodshed and smashed four of my newly planted rhodies. It was unusual because it was summer and the wind came from the north. There was the snowstorm of February 1989 that dumped 11 inches of snow here, and we had icicles the size of spears. In the aftermath of that storm, the high temps didn’t rise above freezing for 12 days, and we were without power or a cleared road that we could drive on the entire time. Then there was the 100 mph windstorm of December 1996 that came right up the coast.  Each town would let the next know when it hit them. With that storm, a lot of trees went down, and we were without power for six days. It definitely caused the house to shudder, but that storm blew through in a couple hours. It was not sustained like the one earlier this week.

These are some of the branches picked up after the storm. More were hauled away by Todd, my yard man. He pulled down a very, very large branch high up in a tree because it was broken off but hung up on another branch. Any wind might have brought it down.

None of these storms measured up to the Columbus Day storm of 1962 when rain and wind damaged a 50-mile wide swath from Northern California to Vancouver Island with windspeeds that hit 138 mph in Newport, 116 mph in Portland, and 127 mph in Corvallis. And the barometer hit a low of 28.85. There was incredible damage throughout. Neither I nor my house were here then.

Old-timers, who survived the ’62 storm had quite the stories to tell. I heard many of them when I attended the opening reception for The Mightiest Wind exhibit of the Columbus Day storm at the Oregon Historical Society in Portland on October 12, 2012. It marked the 50th anniversary of the storm.

Swarms

In the past few weeks, I’ve endured swarms of phone calls that I think are scams. Some I’ve received over the years and some are new. They are mostly robo calls.

I kept a partial list:

–Medicare calls about various things but the latest is to advise you of cancer screenings. I’m sure all are scams.

–Social Security wants to talk to you regarding some aspect of your benefits. Another scam.

–IRS has a warrant for your arrest. Press 1. This got my attention! Definitely a scam.

–Your Amazon account is charging your credit card $799.99. Sometimes it’s a different amount. You are instructed to press 1 if you dispute this charge. Who wouldn’t dispute it? Another scam.

–Subscription to use your own computer is expiring and your credit card is being charged $299.99 for an unlimited subscription. If you have any issues with this, call a number that they give only once. This is new, but I’m receiving it weekly. So, it’s becoming old fast.

–Stay at Marriott in Orlando, FL, which may be legit, but they aren’t paying airfare, meals, etc. I receive a similar call like this about once a year for a free stay in Orlando.

–Four credit card companies have agreed to lower your rates, just press 1. Similar calls don’t use the four-credit-cards line but do tell you to press 1 to find out how to lower your rates.  One time, it started with “Attention! Attention!” All scams, I’m sure.

–My least favorite has to do with the extended warranty on my car. Every time I’m assured that this is my final courtesy call or that it’s their final attempt to reach me. I wish!  I’ve received this one for years every few months.  During that time, I’ve had more than one car. I always ask, “Which car?” Never get an answer!

My new favorite passtime.

–My favorite so far is the American Sweepstakes where I’ll be receiving a check for $8 million. They are surprised that I have not received the notice in the mail or by email. All I have to do is pay $3,000 for a Golden Medallion seal! This one had an actual voice who kept reassuring me it was for real, whenever I told him I thought it was a scam.

Although I keep pressing ‘”2” to delete me from their calling lists, I’m sure the fun will continue!

Crossword puzzles

My dad used to do crossword puzzles and several people that I know do them. Back when I was in my 20s, I used to try the crossword puzzle in the Sunday paper. But I would usually get frustrated and not finish it. Eventually, I quit doing them until . . .

. . . we had a power outage that lasted a couple days last November two weeks before Thanksgiving. I was going through a pile of stuff on the counter and found a booklet of crossword puzzles that I forgot I had. I thought, “Why not!” It was something I could do by candlelight.

Probably not the most difficult. Definitely not the New York Times’ puzzles, but I enjoy them.

So, I selected one and worked it as far as I could without help. Then I turned to my iPhone and the trusty Internet, which continued working in spite of the power outage. I punched in the word or clue and asked for a definition or synonyms, and I could usually find the answer. Of course, the more letters you fill in, the easier it gets. And, yes, I do them in ink. I’m not always right, but I don’t mind scribbling them out when I realize something’s wrong. It doesn’t have to be pretty!

Apparently, I’ve become addicted to crossword puzzles. I use them as a reward when I finish a project, and I’m really enjoying them. Who knew!

This last week was filled with a major storm, unwanted phone calls, and time spent doing crossword puzzles––all with the backdrop of the pandemic at its worst, continued shock at last week’s violence at the U.S. Capitol, increasing concerns of more violence by the far right, and now a doubly impeached president. Who knows what next week will bring as we inaugurate our new president?

Let’s hope for the best. 2021 is supposed to be better!   

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#274–New Year’s resolutions, hmm . . .

My New Year’s resolutions are usually the same each year, which means I don’t succeed in accomplishing them and need to try again. And they will sound familiar––lose weight and exercise more. As usual, I say that this year I’ll really try.

Last year, another resolution was to organize house, garage, and basement and I did. So, I did succeed in accomplishing one of my New Year’s resolutions.

Sometimes I have more than one pile like this accumulating.

Keep up with reading matter

This year, besides losing weight and exercising more, I want to keep up with the newspapers and other stuff that piles up. I usually just give stuff a quick look and add to the pile that I seem to get to only every few months. Well, I’m going to try to stay on top of all the reading matter that comes in every day. My plan is to go through everything at least weekly and not let it pile up. We shall see!

Lose weight

As to losing weight, I have done some research on the Keto diet. I’ve paid for and downloaded a bunch of Keto cookbooks. I now have lots of recipes and meal plans. And I’ve done some research on the downsides, the side effects of the Keto diet. In so doing, I discovered a supplement that is advertised as being able to do the same thing as the Keto diet without doing the Keto diet. Of course, I don’t totally believe it, but it might help. So, we’ll see.

There will be some good recipes in here to use.

I know I should replace some of the carbs that I eat with more protein and that’s what the Keto diet does. I won’t jump into it totally, and I’ve already begun using the supplement. So, between the Keto recipes and the supplement, I should be able to lose 12 to 15 pounds. What’s different this year is that I have a plan. In the past, I didn’t. I was just going to eat less. Well, that never works for me.

Exercise regularly

As to exercising, I organized and cleaned out the garage. So, I have an exercycle that I can get to and use, as well as a small trampoline that is set up so I can use it too. The trampoline used to be on end behind a bunch of stuff. I know me; if the exercise equipment is not set up ready to use, I won’t use it.

My plan is to work out on the equipment in the garage on days that are cold or raining.  And on other days, I’ll go walking around the neighborhood. So, I have a plan. In past years, I was just going to go walking and then it would be too cold or raining. Then I wouldn’t go out. Before long, I didn’t go at all. This year, I have a plan. We’ll see how it works out.

My exercycle and trampoline are tucked in between boxes of books.

Put together new book

One last resolution is to write another book and have it ready to sell at the Florence Festival of Books in September. Of course, we don’t know if we’ll be able to have the festival this year, but I’m going to use September as a deadline anyway. And the book is already written and has photos. Well, not exactly. I will be using 15 blog posts and put them together as a book.

When I was undergoing chemo, I wrote about the whole experience on my blog. Since then, I’ve run off and put together about eight or nine of those blog posts and shared them with folks newly diagnosed. I’ve done it at least a half dozen times and some of those were passed on to others. I was told more than once that I should put them into a book, but I’ve always poo-poohed the idea.

I was talking to a friend just a couple weeks ago who has a friend recently diagnosed, whom she wants to help. It was the same type of cancer I had, so I suggested my blog posts. It’s been six years since my cancer and a couple years since I had to run off any copies. This time, while I was running off copies, I read them. Rereading them after so much time, I decided that 15 blog posts would, indeed, make a decent book. There was a compelling beginning, all five months were covered, and there was a satisfying ending. So, I think there’s a book there and a market for it. Best of all, it won’t be hard to put together.

This photo and the next one are one of the 15 blog posts I would use in the new book. Somehow here the first page is last and I couldn’t get them to change.

As 2021 begins, I have four New Year’s resolutions that I believe are actually doable!

I wish you the best of luck with your New Year’s resolutions!!!

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#273–Ornaments and memories . . .

The reason I have a seven-foot Christmas tree is because of my many ornaments. I really look forward to getting them out and remembering what they represent and hanging them on the tree. It takes me a day to decorate the tree and days to redecorate it, as I move them around until I think it looks “just right.” Today, I’m going to share some of their stories.

From Students

I taught second grade for five years and first grade for 17 years all at the same school––Blossom Hill in Los Gatos, California.

––Lisa made this ornament at the age of seven in my second year of teaching. She was one of those ideal students who was good at everything. It was 1964, and it still looks brand new.

––Many students gave me “favorite teacher” ornaments over the years. I loved them all.

––Noel gave me two adorable handmade Raggedy Ann and Andy ornaments when he was in first grade. In his case, I suspected his mom made them.

––Steven, another first-grader, knew I loved chocolate and gave me a Hershey’s Baker ornament, not knowing that I already had two and that they were among my favorites. And all three are different.

––One mom gave me a gift from her to me that she had made—a llama. Every year, it goes near the top of the tree.

As Trip Souvenirs

––In 1986, I had been living in Florence for a year, but connected with a teacher friend for a trip to England, France, and Switzerland. This clock ornament is from Switzerland.

––From 2002 to 2013, I often stopped in Gridley, California, to see friends when heading to Bakersfield to see family, which I did three times a year. I usually stopped in the fall and ended up with a shopping bag of pomegranates and another of kiwi. And a large 50-pound bag of uncracked walnuts. My friends had 15 walnut trees and were surrounded by neighbors with pomegranates and kiwi. I found the walnut and pomegranate ornaments in a Christmas shop in where else? Gridley! I couldn’t resist.

––On a trip to England in 2006 with two friends, we primarily stayed in Cornwall, but we spent a few days in London before heading home. That’s where I found these two British guards.

––In 2011, I visited friends in Gilbert, Arizona, a suburb of Phoenix. We visited the Heard Museum and I found this colorful chicken in their gift shop. The museum highlights the cultures of the local Indian tribes.

––In 2017, my sister and I went to Oceanside for a few days and visited Mission San Diego where I found painted tin ornaments. I bought several.

––In 2018, my sister and I rented a car and explored the coast of Maine. I found this elegantly decked out elephant in a middle-eastern shop in Portland. It had nothing to do with Maine; I just loved it. When I see it, I think of the coast of Maine.

––In 2019, my sister and I spent 16 days in Washington DC, which included a cruise on the Potomac to Mt. Vernon where I found Benjamin Franklin. When I saw the kite, I couldn’t resist.

On Assignment

 As part of my job as an editor and staff writer at Oregon Coast and Northwest Travel magazines, I did a fair amount of traveling. It was a favorite part of the job during my 21 years working there.

––In 1996, I spent almost a week on a cruise of Puget Sound. One of our many stops was Port Townsend, Washington, and that’s where I got this ferry ornament. On a later trip, when I was driving, I got to ride the ferry.

––A few years later, I attended a multi-day birding festival headquartered in Leavenworth, Washington, and visited the Nutcracker Museum there. That’s where I got this nutcracker ornament. When I pull the string, his arms and legs move––great fun!

––In 2002, the staff of the magazines was on a familiarization trip (fam trip) to the South Coast. We split up to take part in a variety of activities. Theresa Baer and I went fishing on the Rogue River. Before heading out, the guide set a crab pot. Within 15 minutes of being on the river, Theresa caught a silver salmon and it was good size. And the crab pot yielded a few crab. So, we did all right! The next day back home, Theresa and I had a fabulous crab feast. On my next trip through Gridley, I found two blue crab ornaments. I kept one and gave one to her to remember our fishing trip.

––During one of my last years at the magazines, I spent a few days in Lincoln City preparing for a profile piece. One of the places I visited was the Christmas shop, which is where I got this octopus.

From friends

––Ever since the blue crab, Theresa has given me ornaments as a Christmas present. Everything from the whimsical to the elegant. The whimsical is of a girl, that reminded me of Pippi Longstocking, holding a gray cat. That cat represented Jetson, a cat that was part of my life for 19 years. And the elegant was of Blue Boy and Pinkie, famous paintings at the Huntington Museum in Southern California, where Theresa and I visited just a few years ago.

––Back in 2005, I visited Theresa in Southern California and we went to LA’s Chinatown where I got these beautiful Chinese Lantern ornaments. I just love them.

––In the winter of 2014–15, I underwent chemotherapy to fight late-stage lymphoma. The treatment was successful, and before the second go-around, I lost my hair. It was winter and my head was cold without something to cover it. I had a wig for going out in public, but what was absolutely perfect were the stocking caps that my neighbor, Hope, knitted for me as well as a neck scarf and pair of socks. She also took me to about half of the doctor’s appointments and treatments. The next year at Christmas, she gave me a ball of yarn with knitting needles as a tree ornament. Absolutely perfect.

––And my newest ornament is from Carolyn Nordahl. I had such a hard time choosing from her fabulously elegant Christmas tree balls, that I got two. She uses seed beads and crystals to make a skirt to put over a clear, glass ball. I sent one to my sister, who also has a great collection of ornaments. It must run in the family!

I’m spending today, New Year’s Day, taking down my Christmas tree and putting away all my wonderful ornaments until next year. I wish everyone a very Happy New Year. It’s just gotta be better than 2020!!!

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#272–Home Alone––Christmas 2020 . . .

Call me a traditionalist when it comes to Christmas. I want it all—the tree and decorations, choosing and wrapping presents, writing a Christmas letter that encapsulates the entire year, actual Christmas cards, baking goodies that I only do once a year, a special Christmas dinner. And spending time with family and friends.

Most years, because I am gone for about three weeks right around Christmas, I compress all this (except the last two) into a two- to-three-week period right after Thanksgiving. Just like clockwork, my tree goes up on Black Friday and I complete my decorating that weekend. But not this year. . . .

This photo was taken about six years ago, but shows family together for Christmas. That is what I missed most about this year.

This year, I could not go to California to be with long-time friends and family due to Covid-19. So, I stayed home and had Christmas alone. One good thing: Because it was not compressed, it was more relaxed. I missed terribly seeing family and friends I love, but there were numerous phone calls and text messages. And next year, I plan to drive there as per normal.

My seven-foot tree holds hundreds of special ornaments––the only things I collect!

Tree and Decorations

This year, I drug my tree out of the garage, up the steps, and into the house. The best spot to put it is between two recliners in the living room right in front of the center window. With the lights on, it looks very festive from outside too. I attached the top section and was disappointed when I plugged in the cord to the top lights with the cord for the rest of the lights and nothing happened. So, my tree is 80% lit when plugged in. I guess, I could get a small string of similar lights to string around the top for next year. I’m afraid to mess with any of the lights, because I don’t want to jeopardize the rest of the lights going out. This is an artificial tree where the lights are already strung and firmly attached. It is in its sixth year or so, and I really don’t want to replace it.

I have many, many ornaments. Some are from students from my 22 years of teaching first and second graders. Some are from my travels on assignment for Oregon Coast and Northwest Travel magazines during my 21 years as an editor and writer. And some are from my travels, especially since 2009, when I retired from the magazines. Every ornament has a memory. So, I need a seven-foot tree just to display them all. Because ornaments are the only thing I collect, I enjoy the decorated tree every day it is up.

I always put up a wreath outside above the garages, but not this year, I waited too late, and every one was sold out. Dang!

My Corona Series cards that I sell. These are humorous and timely and make a great stocking stuffer. I tie them together with a ribbon.

Presents

I like to buy Christmas gifts throughout the year, and I usually do that when I’m traveling. With no trips to California and no travels up and down the coast and inland to sell books, I went nowhere this year. But I did manage to acquire two gifts ahead of time. Mostly, I used my own stuff as gifts. For example: I gave my Corona Series cards with the Haiku poems in bundles of three, I gave CDs of a PowerPoint program I did at the Siuslaw Pioneer Museum last November about The Oregon Coast Guide to the UNEXPECTED!!!, and I gave copies of the brand-new book Time to Heal: An Anthology of Hope, where one of my stories is included. All were items I wanted to share, and I didn’t have to go shopping.

I spent half a day wrapping three presents and then a whole day doing the rest of them. I enjoy wrapping presents, if I have the time, and this year, I did. Twice, I had to go to the post office to mail packages, but because I got there right when they opened, it was easy. Most years, I only mail a couple of presents. That’s because I take all the presents with me, already wrapped, when I drive to California

As soon as I was through with wrapping presents on the dining room table, I filled it with cards and address book and last year’s cards that I received. Since I did some each day and not all at once, the table looked like this for quite a while.

.

Christmas Letter and Cards

My Christmas letter was not a “I did this and this with various groups I’m involved with, and I went here and there in my travels,” but more about projects within and to the house, as well as my knee surgery and recuperation. I always limit my letter to one page. This year, putting it together gave me a chance to reflect on 2020 and just how fortunate I am.

Many folks don’t do cards anymore, they do their Christmas greetings online. However, I prefer old-fashioned cards. The last two years, I found humorous cards that I just loved, but I didn’t find them this year. Since I only had one box left over, I sent mostly traditional cards. I’ll start looking earlier in 2021 for those wonderful humorous ones. Some folks who do Christmas letters don’t do cards, but I do both. I simply fold up my letter and insert in the card.

Making Cookies and Fudge

Christmas is my excuse for making my favorite cookies and fudge. I usually package them and put in bags for neighbors and other locals to whom I give gifts. It usually takes me a whole day. I used to do three types of cookies, but I’m slowing down. I do just one kind now. I use the recipe on the bag of semi-sweet morsels for what they call tollhouse cookies, but I call chocolate chip. They are my favorite cookies.

My favorite cookies––chocolate chip!

For the fudge, I use a recipe given to me by my best friend’s mother when I was in high school. Her mother probably gave it to my mother, but I was always the one making the fudge. So, it became my recipe.

When making candy of any kind, timing is crucial. This fudge is five-minute fudge. You start timing when the ingredients are at a rolling boil––not a sorta boil but a full rolling boil. And exactly five minutes––not four minutes or six minutes. Once I start timing, my eyes are glued to the second hand of my watch, and I try to keep careful track of how many minutes as they pass. Meanwhile, I’m stirring frantically. It’s a heavy-bottomed pot, but I still don’t want anything to scorch and ruin the flavor.

Year after year, I’ve made this fudge. I love it!

Once the five minutes are up, I immediately move the pan off the heat and add the remaining ingredients. You have to stir quickly, because it will start setting up. Then I put it in the pans. I used to be able to hold the heavy pot with one hand and spoon the fudge into pans with the other, but my hands aren’t strong enough anymore. Sigh! So, now, I use a measuring cup.

Once the fudge is in the pans, my favorite part begins. It’s the cleanup. I don’t leave a spec of fudge on the spoon, pot, or measuring cup. And I have a small glass of milk to help wash it all down. Yum!!!

My favorite part is cleaning up the mess! Yumm!!

Christmas Dinner

Usually, my sister and I spend days planning the Christmas dinner, which has anywhere from six to eight or more family members. In fact, when I’m with family in California, there are four to six for dinner every night. So, my sister and I usually spend every other day at the grocery store. We don’t usually have turkey. We’ve had Cornish game hens, lobster, special pot roast, and paella. It’s always great fun to plan these special meals.

This year, my neighbor, Ruth, and I planned to have dinner together. And each of us would be responsible for part of it. I planned on fixing clam chowder and would provide nice crusty Artisan bread to go with it. And I’d have fresh asparagus to go with the rest of the meal. Ruth would provide a bacon-wrapped pork loin roast, quinoa salad, and fruit-filled muffins for dessert.

We could stay six-feet apart, while eating at my dining room table.

I spent Christmas Eve preparing the clam chowder from a recipe in the Good Housekeeping cookbook I’ve had since I was 19. Of course, I added a couple things. And I always think when soups and sauces are prepared a day ahead, they taste better. That was true this time. The soup was delicious and so was everything else. We sat down at 2:30, and it was 7 before we cleared the table. It was a lovely, relaxing meal, and we were six-feet apart across the round table from each other.

So, even though I was home alone, I was able to celebrate Christmas in most of the ways I normally do. And it turned out better than I thought it would.

I wish everyone a Happy New Year and hope it is a much better year than 2020.

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#271–Remembering Big Basin . . .

Hiking the trails in the woods among towering redwoods in Big Basin Redwoods State Park is a fond memory.

The oldest state park in California. We used to visit many years ago.

On a map, you can see that the park is located in the Santa Cruz Mountains between the ocean and the Santa Clara Valley on the other side of the mountains.

We lived in the Santa Cruz Mountains on Summit Road just a mile off Highway 17. That’s the highway that still connects Los Gatos and Santa Cruz. We lived there in a one-room cabin from the mid-60s to the mid-70s––my hippie years.

It was easy to get to Big Basin from where we lived. Just head north on Summit Road, pass over Highway 17, continue north a few miles, and turn west at the intersection with Highway 9. Before reaching Big Basin, the two-lane, windy road passed through Felton, Ben Lomond, and Boulder Creek.  I remember them as villages. They, too, were impacted by the CZU Lightning Complex Fire that ignited last August.

I loved hiking the trails in Big Basin.

That fire was one of many that were started by dry lightning strikes, and windy, hot weather conditions helped spread them. The CZU fire burned nearly 90.000 acres through most of Big Basin and destroyed between 600-700 structures in and around the three towns along Highway 9 and Scotts Valley near the western end of Highway 17. Within a couple weeks of that fire, Oregon was also beset by numerous fires. And I forgot about the California fires. . . .

. . . . until last week when NPR aired a major feature on California’s Big Basin Redwoods State Park. They gave a brief history, covered the fire damage, and marveled at how new growth is already sprouting at the base of the redwoods. Some of the redwoods in Big Basin are 1,000 to 2,000 years old. Those giants have survived many fires. As the oldest state park in California, Big Basin dates back to 1902. And in 1904 it survived a major fire and recovered. But CZU was much worse.   

Almost all of Big Basin burned to some degree, but with varying intensity. Some areas only saw burning in the understory, but the core of the park, which included the headquarters and nature center and much of the forest canopy was destroyed. At least one campground was also destroyed. It will take time, but Big Basin will recover. However, It won’t be in my lifetime.

Some of the giants are 250 feet tall and 1,500 years old.

But I have my memories.

I remember hiking the trails and marveling at huge Father of the Forest, about 250 feet tall and 1,500 years old, and other giants. I remember the quiet and majesty that a redwood forest imparts. When you meet others on the trail, it isn’t long before their sounds are totally muffled.

I remember tent camping in the campground. I only remember one campground.  We were having breakfast at our picnic table. The Coleman stove was set up, and we were cooking bacon. Without warning, a brazen Steller’s Jay plucked a crispy piece of bacon right out of the frying pan and flew off. It happened so fast and was such a surprise that we couldn’t prevent it. But we didn’t let it happen again. I kept an eye on all jays and had a stick handy.

I remember picnics where a curious raccoon untied my shoelaces under the picnic table while I ate, totally unaware until he was on the second shoe. Another time, a really brazen raccoon hopped up beside me, poked its nose under my arm, and reached for my food. I shooed it away before it got anything.

Here’s my most amazing memory. To avoid weekend traffic on Highway 17, we sometimes took a longer, scenic route to the beach with our two dogs, Eric the Irish Setter and Pepper the English Setter. On one visit, on the way back, Pepper let us know that he needed a pit stop. So, we stopped in a clearing in a heavily wooded part of Big Basin where no people were around, and Pepper did his thing.

Pepper loved to run.

But our timing wasn’t so good. Just as he was about to jump back in the car, a deer zipped by. In a flash, Pepper was off after it. Eric just jumped back in the car. We called and called and kept it up off and on for a couple of hours. As it was getting dark, we left our name and contact info along with a description of Pepper and his name at the park headquarters. Dejectedly, we headed home.

I was sure that was the last we would see of Pepper. But my husband, Alden, had more faith. After dinner, he called a friend, Tony, who used to be our neighbor when we lived in town. And he talked him into helping him find Pepper. But first, he asked Tony to stop by a market and pick up a roast. This was just the kind of adventure the two of them would enjoy! Sort of a mission impossible.

Finding the same spot in the woods of Big Basin in the dark of night, would be hard enough. Expecting a dog last seen there hours before to still be around––not likely. But miracles do happen!

Here’s how it played out. They stopped at a dozen places before Alden felt it was the right one. They got out of the car, and Alden called Pepper’s name only once. Then the darn dog came running out of the woods with tail wagging––really glad to see them. Alden simply couldn’t believe it. What Tony couldn’t believe was how quickly Pepper ate the entire roast.

One of the historic buildings that were destroyed in the fire. And this is where we reported Pepper as lost in the woods.

It was after midnight when they got back. And I had been worrying about all of them––Pepper as well as Alden and Tony. I could just picture the two guys getting lost in the woods of Big Basin wandering around with a flashlight calling Pepper’s name over and over. I was so relieved to see them and to find that they actually did find Pepper.  I couldn’t believe it, until I looked out on the porch. There he was, all stretched out sound asleep, totally unaware of all the fuss he had created.

So, these are some of my memories of Big Basin.

Note: The park will be closed for at least a year. And the Sempervirens Fund, an organization whose sole purpose is to protect the redwoods of the Santa Cruz Mountains and buys land with redwoods when available, has set up a recovery fund where !00% of donations go to recovery efforts and are tax deductible. To date, they have raised more than $443,000.

BIG BASIN RECOVERY FUND – https://bit.ly/bigbasinrecovery #BigBasinRecovery

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