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

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.

TVs

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.

Computers

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!

Stairlifts

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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#365–Judy on KXCR radio about coast’s historic bridges . . .

Note: I will take a break over the holidays. My next post will be January 13. Happy Holidays all!

Nobody has to ask me twice to talk about the coast’s historic bridges. For example, one day at the Siuslaw Pioneer Museum, a woman walked in and wanted to know if anyone could tell her about the bridge she had crossed coming into town. My docent partner pointed to me. I told her I could giver her a five minute, half hour, or all-day talk about the bridge. She chose the five-minute one. And my neighbor came over for dinner a few years ago and when she left at about 10 p.m., she thanked me for the dinner . . . and the treatise on the coastal bridges.

So, when Dina Pavlis asked me if I would be interested in being interviewed about the coastal bridges for her radio program, I did not say “No.” She explained that it would primarily cover my book Crossings, McCullough’s Coastal Bridges.

Dina has a weekly program that is called “Beyond Your Front Door,” produced for the Pacifica Radio Network in the studios of KXCR in Florence. It is an adventure guide to the Central Oregon Coast. And many people associate her with the dunes because of her book, Secrets of the Oregon Dunes, that came out in 2008. It is written in “plain English” so everyone can understand; it has no scientific jargon. I did a review of it for Oregon Coast magazine and take it with me when I explore the dunes. Last year when the book Dune was being celebrated and the movie of the same name came out, Dina gave a PowerPoint presentation about the dunes preceding the showing of the movie Dune. She is considered one of the most knowledgeable sources when it comes to the dunes.

I like the way she prepares for her interviews. A couple of months before, we set the date, which we had to change once.Then a week or so before, she let me know that she would be sending some questions, so that I’d know what to prepare for. Two days before the interview, she sent her questions, and I could add to or delete them. And I could tell from her questions that she had actually read Crossings.

Dina Pavlis in the recording studio at KXCR Community Radio.

Her software program containing her questions, allowed me to type in the answers. I ran off a copy to take to the radio station. Imagine my surprise when she had the same exact sheets in front of her with all my answers on them. It was easy, peasy. She asked the questions that were on her sheets of paper, and I gave the answers that were on mine. This way, I knew that all that I felt was most important was covered. We did add a few things, though.

And then, she had an extra question, where we had responses back and forth for a few minutes. She will try to fit it in, and if not possible, she will keep it as a filler because it could stand on its own. Because the interview was not live, we relaxed and enjoyed ourselves.

And Dina knows how to operate the recording equipment in the radio station’s studio and how to edit the interview. So, I feel really good about the final result.

Besides questions about my background and how I came to write the book, there were questions about the ferries prior to the bridge, about what to specifically look for when walking across the different bridges, and what were some of the challenges encountered when writing Crossings.

Here I am in the studio ready for the interview to begin.

She also asked about favorite memories, and I told about the non-dedication of the Umpqua River Bridge that had been postponed indefinitely. That’s when folks in Reedsport realized that their bridge had never been dedicated. As a result, there was a fabulous, day-long series of activities to dedicate the bridge that Crossings and I were a part of 75 years after the Umpqua River Bridge was built. And it would not have happened without Crossings.

Another favorite story was about Goodren Gallo, who called me when she saw a letter I had in the newspaper requesting stories about the building of the Siuslaw River Bridge here in Florence. She talked for several hours, and I just kept jotting down notes. She was 95 and had just come home from the hospital and wanted to make sure I had every one of her stories. Two weeks later, I called eo verify the accuracy of what I had written only to find that she had died in the meantime. I ended up using her stories throughout the book. I felt so very fortunate to have her stories as well as that of many other old-timers––none of whom are still alive. Because of their stories, I consider Crossings a repository of remarkable remembrances. And of all my books, it is the one of which I’m most proud. And it was the project of a lifetime.

***

Here are the dates when the interview with me can be heard:

12/16, 11:30 a.m., KXCR 90.7 (stream at kxcr.net)

12/16, 5:30 p.m., KXCJ (stream at kxcj.org)

12/17, 11:00 a.m., KXCR again

12/18, 4:00 p.m., KPNW-DB (stream at pnwradio.org)

And if you missed the show, it can be found on SoundCloud.com Just search for “Beyond Your Front Door Oregon” and look for the wave.

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#364–Much to be thankful for . . .

When I listen to the news, which is mostly bad––mass killings, war in Ukraine, poverty and hunger in much of the world, and climate change manifesting itself more and more––it’s really depressing. This beautiful blue ball making its way in the universe is not such a great place to live for many of its inhabitants. It makes me thankful for all that I have.

Thankful for family

My brother, Harry, and his wife Jayne, me, and my sister, Edna, last summer at the old homestead where we scattered our parents’ ashes.

I am in contact with my brother, sister, and nephews. Until Covid, I made three trips a year to California to see everyone. And my sister, brother and his wife, and I all had a wonderful trip together last summer. I plan to go to California in December to see everyone again––first time since Covid. I’m glad we all get along–many families do not.

Thankful for friends far and near

I tend to keep my closest friends even when we live far apart. I have friends that go back to seventh grade and college roommates. Whenever I go to California, I try to see two or three of them on each trip besides my family. And with one of my California friends, we usually take a three- or four-day trip that is always fun. There is nothing like friends you’ve known a long time. They are like family––family you choose. And we all need friends that are part of our everyday lives. Besides making life more enjoyable, they come in handy during crises. And that goes both ways.

My friend, Theresa Baer and I at the ghost town of Calico, outside of Barstow, California, on one of my trips to California back in 2018.

Thankful for roof overhead and money to pay bills

As an elderly widow with minimal income (yuck, sounds awful when I put it that way), I’m thankful for my own home and enough money to pay my bills. Years ago, I went against well-meaning advice and risked buying a townhouse right after a divorce. I borrowed and lived frugally to afford it and used hand-me-down furniture the first couple years until I could afford my own stuff. Ten years later, I sold that place at three times what I paid for it. With that money in 1984, I bought a new car and the house I live in now, which is worth seven or eight times what I paid for it. And I have enough money coming in to pay my bills and take an occasional trip, if I budget wisely.

Thankful that I’ve enjoyed my careers

So many people are in thankless jobs and not doing what they want to do. I almost always enjoyed what I was doing. When I went to college, I earned a teaching degree and thought I would teach until I retired. I loved teaching first grade. But after 22 years, I was ready to move on. I remarried and moved to Oregon.

I loved teaching first graders.

I would’ve had to go back to school and take classes towards a teaching credential to teach or even substitute teach in Oregon, and I didn’t want to have to travel to the UofO in Eugene to do that. So, I ended up taking a class in creative writing at the local community college, sending out stories, and getting rejections––until Oregon Coast magazine wanted one of my stories and then more and then asked me to work for them as an editor. I truly learned on the job about being an editor and how to write. I no longer had summers off, but after the first few years, I traveled all over the Northwest on assignment and up and down the Oregon coast doing stories for the magazines. I loved that. During the 21 years I worked there, we published five magazines. At times, it was hectic, but it was always a thrill to see each new issue and to see my stories in print.

Thankful that I still feel I have purpose even in retirement

Here is Debbie Boyle, President, Karen Gassaway, Vice President, and me, Secretary, of Backstreet Gallery at one of the receptions this past spring.

The secret to a purposeful retirement is being involved––as a volunteer or part owner in a business or in creating something. It gives you a reason to get up each morning and gives you something to think about besides yourself. I’m a volunteer at the Siuslaw Pioneer Museum and have been for 20 years. It could not function without its volunteers, so I’m needed there. I’m a part owner at Backstreet Gallery, a member-owned co-op. I sell my books there at minimal cost to me, but every Working Member has responsibilities. I am Hospitality Chair every other month, edit the newsletter and all press releases and posters, and am the secretary. And every week, I write about some topic for my blog. I have a need to write and that fulfills that need.

Thankful for my books

I never planned to be an author. Back in 1991, I put together a book of my parents’ remembrances of the interesting years of their lives. I recorded them, transcribed the recordings, and spent many hours tweaking, factchecking, gathering photos, getting it published, and 100 copies printed. So much work. Vowed I’d never do that again . . . until I met Dick Smith.

My books on display at Backstreet Gallery.

It took two years of bugging me, but he finally convinced me to put his research into a book. That’s how Crossings, McCullough’s Coastal Bridges came to be. And if I hadn’t written that one, I would never have written the other five. So, I blame Dick. Who knew I’d grow to love writing my own books and to also love marketing them. I’m so thankful that my books sell.

Thankful for my energy and overall health

Most people my age, 81, don’t have the energy to do what I do. So, I’m thankful every day that I can do what is on my “to-do” list for that day. I am learning to have my yard man do more of the yard work and to pay for jobs I used to do myself. And I even have been known to ask for help.

I had the energy to be a witch at Halloween during the Old Town trick-or-treating where some of us from Backstreet Gallery dressed in costume and passed out candy.

This year, it seemed like I was always going to Eugene or Springfield for medical appointments and procedures. I’m thankful that I’ve finally finished having the ablation and sclerotherapy surgeries on the varicose veins in my legs and that I had an easy time of cataract surgery.

Bottom Line: I have lots to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.

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#363–Victorian Belle’s Christmas Bazaar—More successful than ever . . .

It’s the holiday season with more than one holiday shopping bazaar to check out. In my opinion, the Victorian Belle’s is the best and probably the one with the most longevity. This group began with about 12 tole painters 45 years ago. Now, it’s a much larger group, who put on a fabulous Christmas Bazaar each year held at the Three Rivers Casino Resort Event Center on the weekend before Thanksgiving.

They spend all year creating hand-crafted items for the Christmas Bazaar. Expect to find crocheted and knitted stocking caps and scarves, endless variations on Christmas tree ornaments, larger decorative Christmas items for the home, a variety of wreaths, accessories for dogs and cats (especially dog beds), soaps and lotions, candies and fruit cakes, jewelry both lovely and whimsical, and always some Ducks’ and Beavers’ paraphernalia. My favorite is the tole painting on various household items; i have several pieces that I put out during the holidays. And each and every item for sale is hand-crafted.

An example of tole painting.
This year during the start of set-up. You can see the beginnings of structures being built to display sale items.

A few other folks, not Victorian Belles, are invited to join the Bazaar. Isham Hobby Photography was there this year with many gorgeous photos––the 8th year to participate. Two authors––Connie Bradley and I were invited to participate with our books in 2011, and the next year, Karen D. Nichols joined us. So, this year was the 12th for Connie and me and 11th for Karen.  

This year’s Bazaar was very successful. There were crowds there on Friday from 9 a.m. when it opened throughout most of the 10-hour day. At times, shoppers were lined up 9 or 10 deep, waiting to pay for their purchases. Saturday wasn’t quite as busy and had a lull in the late afternoon/early evening before a rush just before closing, and Sunday started off slow before picking up steam. Even though, the Bazaar was held in 2020 and 2021, there were not as many tables, masks were required, and only about half as many folks attended. This year was back to more tables, masks optional, and lots of attendees––back to pre-Covid. I think, folks were more than ready to get back into the Christmas shopping groove.

Here are Karen and Connie back in 2019. (I forgot to take any photos this year.)

For the Belles, the set-up is quite involved. Besides decorating the many tables, they construct a free-standing entry way and several structures for holding sale items. And there are Christmas trees of every shape and variety and nearly all decorated—mostly with ornaments for sale.

Set-up and take-down is impressive to watch. It takes a few hours each year on Thursday that involves the Belles as well as husbands and sons and daughters and friends. Many strong men provide the muscle, and hammers and drills are a familiar sound. And the Belles themselves are everywhere bringing in the results of the past year’s creativity, setting it all up, and applying finishing touches.Then it all happens in reverse on Sunday afternoon during the take down.

And this was me last year. I wore a mask this year, too, except when I was eating. I had basically the same display this year.

The preparation actually starts before Thursday as each participant makes sure they have everything they are going to need. For us three authors, that means making sure we have enough books and getting to the bank for money to make change and hunting down everything else we’re going to need. Then on Thursday morning, we pack everything we’ll need in our vehicles, and that afternoon, head to the Casino’s Event Center to set-up.

When we first started, we only had one or two books apiece, so we fit around one fairly large round table. Nowadays, we need three tables, which some years, we have to provide. This year, we did not have to provide any, but I had my six-footer in my car, just in case.  We bring our own table coverings and holiday decorations, display necessities like vinyl holders with prices, business cards, of course, the books, and in my case, my all-occasion cards with my photographs and poems and my bridges’ chart. We also handle our own money, so we need a change purse and our Square readers and mobile phones to handle credit card purchases.

This is from a previous year, but shows more how it looks when set up.

Once set-up is completed, the actual event is a bit of a marathon. On Friday and Saturday, the hours are 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and on Sunday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. We brought crossword puzzles for the lulls, as well as doing a lot of catching up with each other. And each of us made the rounds, doing our own Christmas shopping. We also brought our lunches, which we nibbled on throughout mid-day, and candy treats that we shared with each other during late afternoons.

We all sold more books than ever before. And on Sunday, Connie sold 63 books––a one-day record for us. Over the three days, I sold a total of 42 books and made more than $735. I was very pleased. And Connie and Karen were also very pleased with their sales. And the Belles had record sales. So, it was successful all around.

My bundle of two bridge books for $5 off. I think I sold five bundles.

Here are some of my favorite memories. More than once, a wife would come back minus the husband to pick up one of the ribbon-wrapped bundles I had created of the two bridge books for their hubby’s Christmas present. And there were the heartfelt moments, as well as a few tears, as folks recounted their experiences or that of a relative with cancer, when picking up and looking at my book The Cancer Blog. That book was my biggest seller on Friday.

My most memorable moment, though, was when customer Joyce Harrison came to my table to tell me how she had used The Crossings Guide that she had bought last year. She has used it to walk across every bridge covered in the book with either family or friends accompanying her. She was just so excited about the book. Who knew! After talking to her, I was excited too!

This blue and silver beaded pen is the one I bought for book signings while shopping at the Christmas Bazaar.

Next year, Connie, Karen, and I plan to be back at the Belles Bazaar, and I will be signing my books with my new pen that I purchased this year. It’s covered with tiny blue and silver beads that sparkle in the light.  I just love it! Besides, it matches the blue of five of my six books.

So, mark your calendars for the Victorian Belles Christmas Bazaar in 2023 on the weekend before Thanksgiving at Three Rivers Casino Resort Event Center. See you there!

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#362–Living at the coast, living on the edge . . .

During the last couple weeks, the rains have begun. Oregon is known for its rainy weather but only half of the state fits that description—the western half. The eastern half is high desert and much drier—more snow than rain and much lower humidity.

Toadstools grow in this crack in my railroad tie steps.

Those of us who live in western Oregon jokingly say that moss grows on our backs and our toes are webbed. And that we have only two seasons—“rainy” October through April and “less rainy” May through September.“ The only months that usually have no rain are July and August, and then not always. This past summer I used my hose to water the entire yard only four times, and I have no sprinkler system. Four times––that was it. Plants in pots and planters on the decks get regular watering, but not the rest of the yard. It rains or drizzles enough that we don’t need to.

Under my large rhodies in the front of my house, the weathered, 40-year-old branches are covered with moss.

There is moss growing on the ground, up the base of the trees, and coating the branches of trees and large shrubs. Bright green moss lines the edge of the 40+ foot long drain in front of the garages, and on almost anything that is outside during the winter. And lichen grows on anything that has been in the yard for 10 years or more—even wood patio furniture left outside. My maple that I planted back in the late 1980s, lost all its beautiful leaves that had turned yellow this past week. But it didn’t look bare, the branches are covered with lichen. And ferns will simply grow anywhere.

Ferns will simply grow anywhere!

Those of us who live at the coast like to say that we live on the edge. And we are on the edge––the edge of Oregon and the edge of the entire continent. The coast is more humid than the rest of western Oregon all year, cool even in summer, and rainier and more stormy in winter. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

Stormy weather can be quite wild at the coast with drift wood being tossed around on the beach. Best to watch the waves from high up on a bluff. Storm-watching does draw people to the coast in the winter.

I remember one September when someone called from Portland asking me if we were going to cancel the Florence Festival of Books because a storm was forecast for that day with wind speeds reaching 30 to 40 miles an hour. I told him, “No way! At the coast, that’s just a normal summer afternoon.”

We might cancel something during a major winter storm when winds get to be 50-70 miles per hour at the headlands and beaches and only slightly less in the Florence area. That’s when the weather person says “High wind warnings!” and means it!  And that’s when we stow the stuff that could blow around and hunker down. I live on a ridge a few miles north of town, and it can get mighty windy. Back in the 1980s and ‘90s, our power would go out on a regular basis—sometimes for days, even a week a time or two. Not so much anymore, and when it does, it’s usually just for a few hours.

Here is the Dolly Port in Port Orford, one of only six Dolly Ports in the world. The boats are moored on the elevated dock and are only lowered by crane into the ocean during mild weather. This is just about the most westerly point on the coast and gets ferocious winds and seas, but the boats stay safe at the Dolly Port.

The towns are small on the coast. The smaller ones have a couple thousand population and the larger ones have close to 10,000. And the largest population area, Oregon’s Bay Area, where North Bend and Coos Bay blend into each other has a combined population of about 26,000. Living in small towns is not always convenient. Not too many “big-box” stores on the coast where you can stock up on basics at lower prices, and for major medical situations, you generally have to go to one of the larger cities inland.

Here is a shot of the Siuslaw River Bridge and Florence, only a few miles from where I live. It’s where I shop and where I am very involved in the community.

But nobody misses shoveling snow or having to have air-conditioning. We do have snow, but most years, if you sleep in, you miss it. Every so often, we have a whopper. I remember several inches and icicles forming everywhere in November of 1985, about 11 inches with icicles from the roof that looked like spears back in February 1989 and that time the snow lasted for weeks, and eight inches in March 2012 that lasted about a week. And there were a few storms that had 100 mile-per-hour winds—maybe three in the 37 years I’ve lived here.

So, those of us who live at the coast enjoy the small towns that have no smog, much less traffic, and cool temps. And we’ve learned to accept having to make the occasional trips to a large city to stock up or for medical reasons. And we’ve learned to live with the rain and winter storms. Most of us enjoy living at the Oregon coast, living on the edge, and we wouldn’t live anywhere else.

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#361–Recycling is as easy as 1, 2, 3 . . .

In the news today, I heard that both Berkeley and New York City were cutting off new natural gas hookups in new building construction–-particularly housing. They are encouraging all electric. That means that the central Oregon coast is so far behind that we’re actually ahead of the curve. We’ve never had natural gas available. So, those of us with fully electric houses are now in the forefront.

The BottleDrop green bag program is fairly new to the Florence area.

Speaking of being in the forefront, when it comes to recycling, Oregon has prided itself on being in the forefront. Right now, I sort my recycling into three categories: 1) the deposit returns; 2) the sorted stuff––cardboard, newspaper, cans, glass, some plastics, scrap metal, etc; and 3) all the other plastics.

1. Bottle Return––For years, I’d save my plastic water and V-8 juice bottles and my glass root beer, Guinness, and tonic water bottles because I’d paid a 10-cent deposit on each one, and I wanted it back. When I had a bunch, I’d take them to Fred Meyer here in Florence, where I do my grocery shopping. Very handy.

For the last couple years, they have limited to 24 containers per visit. I had a couple bags with 24 containers each in my car last week, when I was going to do my grocery shopping and planned to take one in that day and the second one the next day. I discovered things had changed. Now, you have to sign up for their BottleDrop program with its large green bags. They have had it for awhile, but there was always the other option. Not so anymore.

Apparently, you sign up at a kiosk within the store and buy 10 bags for $2, which will be deducted from your account. Each bag is about the size of a 13-gallon kitchen bag and holds about 67 bottles. There will be a location to dump the whole bag, instead of one at a time. When redeeming the bags, there is a 40-cent fee per bag. You receive a voucher at the store’s kiosk, which you can take to a checker or customer service and redeem. Sounds simple enough, but . . .

I watched a friend try to get tags for his bags with no success––just lots of frustration. I don’t know about the tags, which I assume are needed before returning the bags. At any rate, now I’m torn between signing up for the green bag BottleDrop at Freddies or just dropping off my bags of deposit returns for Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore, which I do from time to time. They have a handy place in back for returns. Besides, it is one of the cause’s I contribute to, so why not!

2. Sorted Recycling––The sorted recycling can be picked up by the garbage service provider or you can take it yourself to the recycling center here in Florence at the Lane County Transfer Station. I still refer to it as “the dump.” Sorry! It has been so upgraded this past year, I thought a new highway was going in leading to a new subdivision. It turned out to be a very upgraded recycling area. After all that, recycling is still free.

About every seven weeks or so, I load up the car with my recycling and my garbage and head to “the dump.” I’ve done it for 37 years. Where I live, we have bears that love to knock over garbage containers and rummage through the garbage. When they finish, a big mess is strewn all over the road, which nobody appreciates. So, I simply divide my bags of garbage from my two trash cans into three large garbage bags and put two in the trunk and one in the passenger seat. Then I load up my recycling that is all sorted and take off. I have compost bins for my wet garbage, so I feel okay about transporting my dry garbage in my car.

EcoGeneration is held at the Siuslaw Middle School. Always a great turn out.

For the recycling, I put newspapers, magazine/catalogs, flattened boxes (like cereal boxes), other paper, cans, and some #2 plastic bottles and jars in the co-mingled dumpster. Cardboard, glass, and scrap metal/appliances are in separate locations but all easy walking distance from my parked car.

3. EcoGeneration Recycling Take Back for Plastics––This group comes to Florence about three times a year and works with local volunteers. Everything needs to be clean, dry, and sorted by number. And many have to have the label removed.

#1 jugs and bottles, the type with threaded, screw-on caps, DO NOT HAVE TO HAVE THEIR LABELS REMOVED and neither do nutritional packaging, like over-the-counter supplements and medications (not prescription bottles, though). Love these #1s.

This makes removing labels and their sticky residue possible.

#2,#4, and #5 plastics need to be clean, dry, and have no labels. I remove labels at the time I empty each one. I don’t let them accumulate. It’s much easier to remove one label, than 100 or more. I keep a spray bottle of Goo Gone and a Nitrile glove handy under the sink. I have found the secret to removing labels is to go slow. After the label or as much of it as I can is removed, I use Goo Gone to get rid of any sticky residue and/or any portion of label that is left. Wipe clean with a paper towel and then wash with the rest of the dishes, but not in the dishwasher.

For the “clamshells” that berries and bakery goods come in, they have to be clean, dry, and all labels removed. (I use my method, but some folks use an Exacto knife and cut out the label.) They will only be accepted by EcoGeneration in a large brown bag, what I would call a grocery-store size bag. Here’s the bad news; each brown paper bag costs the recycler $20 to recycle. Also, in the bag can be plastic bags, up to a gallon-size bag of plastic screw-on caps, ink cartridges, pens and markers––all stuff that is more difficult for EcoGeneration to find a place to recycle.I always have at least one brown paper bag. For questions about accepted materials, visit EcoGeneration.org.

Now you know! Recycling is as easy as 1, 2, 3!

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#360–The Case Against the Death Penalty . . .

When Nicolas Cruz, who killed the 17 students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, was in the news recently, he was about to be sentenced. The choices were the death penalty or life without parole.  And that generated a buzz around the country regarding the pros and cons of the death penalty.

Most people think that he deserves to die after what he did. It would be hard to not feel that way. But wouldn’t killing him, make us all murderers. You may say that we are not individually injecting the lethal dose; it’s the state or county or federal government that does the actual killing. But don’t they represent us, making us all culpable?

Most of us have the capacity to feel the urge to kill. It’s the ability to control that urge that is the mark of a civilized person and by extension––a civilized society. I remember times when I felt as if I could kill––the brutal behavior of the bully down the street when we were growing up, a couple of fellows on dates during college years who couldn’t understand the word No, the patronizing misogny by men that many of us felt when entering the workforce as young women in the 1950s and ‘60s, and even today seeing anyone mistreat animals or children or the downtrodden. I may have the urge to kill, but I don’t act on it. The only time I would condone it is in self-defense or to protect my family.

Just as we as citizens of a civilized society shouldn’t kill, neither should civilized society. There are many reasons pro and con regarding the death penalty, but I come down on the side against. There are more than 117 nations worldwide that have done away with it. In 1976, the United States reinstated it, putting us in company with Iran, Iraq, and China. Hmm! I can think of many other countries I’d rather be aligned with.

My main argument against the death penalty is that innocent lives are lost. Since 1976, 138 men and women have been released from death row. Some were released within minutes of execution, which begs the question of how many were not saved who were innocent. This information is from an article by Oregonians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. I have no doubt that men and women have been executed who were innocent, which is absolutely, totally, morally wrong. I feel it is a risk we should not take.

Also, not everyone is treated equal in this country. It is not inconceivable that being the wrong color, being poor, being in the wrong place at the wrong time, or having poor counsel that results in an inadequate defense could land an innocent person on death row.

And it’s so expensive to maintain a death row and to go through the endless appeals process. “In Oregon, in 2000, a fiscal impact summary from the Oregon Department of Administrative Services stated that the Oregon Judicial Department alone would save $2.3 million annually if the death penalty were eliminated. It is estimated that total prosecution and defense costs to the state and counties equal $9 million per year.“ This is according to Oregonians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. If that is what the cost was 22 years ago, then I’m sure it’s much more today. And I can think of far more positive ways to spend that money.

I also am concerned about the corrections officers that administer the lethal dose. Nobody should be asked to kill another person as part of their job description, even if it is considered legal. I would not be surprised if these folks have high rates of PTSD and suicide.

The only pro-death penalty argument I ever considered to make sense besides the eye-for-an-eye vengeance one is that it will deter crime. But study after study has shown that not to be true.  In our country, there are states without the death penalty that have lower murder rates than neighboring states with the death penalty.

After doing some serious thinking about the death penalty, I have not changed my mind. After researching a variety of sources, it has only made me more convinced. And I would think for a young person like Nicolas Cruz with his whole life ahead of him that life in prison without parole would be even worse than the death penalty.

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