#313–Victorian Belles Christmas Bazaar 2021. . .

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

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

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

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

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

Typical tole painting seen at the Victorian Belles Christmas Bazaar.

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

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

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

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

One of many items of delightful holiday decor.

More delightful Christmas art from the Victorian Belles.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Florence Festival of Books needs committee members . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

Aleia will forward each call or email to me.

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

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

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

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

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#311–Thoughts upon turning 80 . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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#310–EcoGeneration recycling plastics just got easier . . .

If it’s plastic and has a label, I can probably figure out how to remove it without taking all day. On my first trip to EcoGeneration Plastics Recycling Take-Backs last April, I learned about delabeling yogurt containers and milk jugs. I had just learned a new word and skill and was motivated. So, I practiced on my empty containers until I got the hang of it. On my second trip in August, I learned how to delabel plastic jar-like containers, plastic clamshell containers, and plastic pill bottle containers. I was becoming an expert. On my third trip in October, I learned that I don’t need to delabel some of the containers anymore. Recycling plastics just got easier.

EcoGeneration came to Florence at the Siuslaw Middle School in April, August, and October.

I was glad to have learned the skills, but pleased to not to have to delabel so many. It’s a real pain to have to delabel one or more plastic containers nearly every night before doing dinner dishes. However, it’s even more of a pain to face a couple of large bulging garbage bags full of plastic containers all needing delabeling and having to do them all at once. I only let that happen one time. Never again!

While some of the most difficult labels to remove, no longer have to be removed, there are still plenty that need it. I’ve found two secrets of successful delabeling that work for me––go very, very, very slowly as you peel off, and use Goo Gone to remove any stickum left on the container. Then, I wash with soapy water to remove the Goo Gone!

I will no longer have to delabel plastic containers in stream #1 that are designed for screw-on lids and have a seam on the side and bottom such as this peanut butter container.

While many groups have attempted plastics recycling during the last few years, EcoGeneration is the only one I know of to be actually succeeding. It’s a plastics recycling entity that covers Lane County and seems to be quite successful. It is so appreciated by those of us who have been frustrated at no plastics recycling for the past few years, since China stopped accepting recycled plastics from the U.S. Each time I’ve gone to the Recycling Take-Backs, there have been lots of people with lots of bags of plastics and very happy to be there.  

From what I can tell, EcoGeneration’s goals are to reduce plastics pollution and to train volunteers to run the Recycling Take-Backs held throughout the county. In so doing, that will get them to what is probably their main goal––educating the public on how to recycle the various types of plastics. It’s all about the streams. Not creeks but streams like in subdivisions of plastics. The #2, #4, and #5 streams still require delabeling. Then there’s the troublesome #1s where the ones that have screw on lids and seams on the sides and bottom (like the peanut butter container in the photo), no longer have to be delabeled. But other #1s do need to be delabeled and put in the Brown Bag stream.

Examples are the clamshell containers that strawberries and blueberries come in. They still need to be delabeled. They are #1s that go in the “Brown Bag” stream. The Brown Bag stream is not free like everything else; each regular size brown bag costs $20 to recycle with EcoGeneration. I have learned how to stack and pack them. So, I can get a whole lot into one brown bag.

Don’t have to delabel translucent milk jugs. Don’t even have to take to EcoGeneration because other recycling now accepts translucent ones. Opaque ones still need to be delabeled.

Because the garbage trucks that pick up recycling now will accept translucent, but not opaque, milk jugs and the transfer stations will also accept them, they no longer need to be delabeled. Don’t even take them to EcoGeneration. Treat them like the rest of recycling—cardboard, newspapers, glass, etc.––and put them out to be picked up by the garbage company.

For me, the most difficult delabeling involved plastic pill bottles. Now, they no longer need to be delabeled. Woo! Hoo! They were the worst!

The Recycling Take-Backs have accepted lids––a gallon-size, Zip Lock bag full of plastic lids––for free in the past but no more. Now, they will be accepted only in the $20 Brown Bag stream.

Vitamins and nutritional supplements no longer have to be delabeled. So glad. These were the most difficult for me. Prescriptions still need to be delabeled.

All of these changes were announced by EcoGeneration’s founder, David Gardiepy, a Master Recycler from Cottage Grove, who founded this non-profit organization two years ago. He spoke to those of us standing in line with our bags of plastics at Siuslaw Middle School in Florence on October 3. Gardiepy, an energetic young man, jumped on top of one of the picnic tables and explained the changes in rules regarding delabeling and praised everyone for being there.

EcoGeneration will be back next year. So great to be able to recycle plastics again!

He is the perfect person to educate all of us and to be the all-around cheer leader for EcoGeneration. The stated mission of the organization is to safeguard and improve the ecosystems that humans coexist with. Their focus is on protecting biodiversity in and around the Pacific Northwest.

Funding for the 2021 events was provided in part by the Western Lane Community Foundation and several other community organizations and businesses.

Last time I checked, the schedule for next year had not been set. To find out when and where the Recycling Take-Backs will be in 2022 and for more information about all the plastics that can be recycled and how to sort them, click on www.ecogeneration.org

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#309–Backstreet Gallery—a special place . . .

All six of my books on display!

When folks come into Backstreet who haven’t been there before, I give my spiel about it being a member-owned co-op of local artists that has a little bit of everything, and if they have any questions, just ask. I also add, “You’re in for a treat!”, which is also true.

The photos of Stephanie Ames. Amazing! And no photoshopping!!! She knows when the light works its magic.

This past Monday when I was on duty as clerk, it was stormy, and we didn’t have many customers. So, I had a chance to walk around and look carefully at the variety and quality of the artwork, and I snapped a bunch of photos. As always, I was very impressed. I’m the only non-artist, so I’m in awe of what each artist creates.

These are two of my favorites of Pattie Brooks Anderson who uses ink and watercolor.

I’m an author who has lots of beautiful photos on the covers of my books, and in one of my books, Devil Cat, there are illustrations by Backstreet artist, Karen D. Nichols. That’s as close as my work gets to being considered art. Nobody ever asks me to draw anything.

Karen D. Nichols is both an artist and the author of eight novels. Multi-talented!
Gorgeous black-and-white photos by Mark Anderson
Colleen McKnight really has a way with gourds.
Beautiful scarves and more all hand painted by Carol Lorraine.

But I am useful as a writer and editor. I edit nearly all press releases before they go out and edit the monthly newsletter. And I’m currently the secretary, just starting my second year on the job. It’s a big job, because as owners, members are very interested in the minutes and let me know if something needs to be changed because it is inaccurate or could be worded differently or even deleted. I think there is only one time when I did not have to make any changes.

With much of Phyllis Laird’s artwork, you get two in one––original painting and a piece of pottery.

During meetings, I try to take careful notes. Since I’ve been on the job, the meetings have been held via Zoom because of the pandemic. So, after typing up my notes from the meeting, I listen and watch a recording of the entire meeting, where I hear everything that is said and check it against my minutes. Takes forever, but it’s worth it. I always find a few things to change.

Meredith Draper’s fabulous vintage jewelry is unique and very popular. And this is only one of her talents. Another multi-talented artist.
Larry LaVoie creates his own designs but uses a computer to finish the process.

Besides being secretary and editor, I’m also one of two Hospitality Chairs.  However, that job has been moot since March 2020 because we quit having receptions due to the pandemic. We do have hopes of restarting the Second Saturday receptions sometime in 2022. They are also where we honor our featured artists each month. We have live music, wine, and goodies. They are great fun! I can hardly wait.

Kathryn Damon-Dawson, past president of the Oregon Watercolor Society, paints a lot of birds beautifully and often with humor.
John Leasure paints with oil and teaches oil painting at FRAA. His paintings with waves are my favorites.

Each member is required to be on two committees, attend all meetings or if unable, send in a proxy with voting preferences. And everyone spends two or three days a month as clerk on duty.

Claudia Ignatieff paints with oil and does a wonderful job with animals.
Teresa Zook likes to weave, and she’s very good at it!

There are also non-working members whose work is on display. They have no responsibilities, but the Gallery takes a much higher percentage when their work sells.

Kristin Anderson creates beautiful plates, coasters, and more from fused glass. She does amazing night lights and jewelry also with fused glass.
Karen Gassaway’s lampwork flowers and little critters (adorable bees, worms, and ladybugs not shown) are very popular.

Another valuable asset to being a member of Backstreet Gallery is being a member of a supportive community. When anybody needs to trade shifts because of an unforeseen conflict, there is always somebody willing to trade. When a job needs doing, someone volunteers.

Debbie Boyle repurposes antique beads and gemstones to create unique new pieces. I wouldn’t mind having this one.
Akos St Clair turns wood into art.

When I took a three-month medical leave due to total knee replacement surgery February–April 2020, I couldn’t drive for six weeks. Besides my wonderful sister here as caregiver for two weeks and my helpful neighbors being there for me, at least three Gallery members also came to my rescue, getting me to the physical therapy sessions twice a week, follow-up doctor appointments, grocery shopping, and other errands.

Larry Bishop; can create almost anything from wood. This impressive bowl is slightly more than two feet from end to end.
Geraldine McMahon makes interesting vases and small pots with the most amazing tops. I’ve got my eye on one of them.

Being a a member of Backstreet Gallery is being part of a supportive community of wonderful, very talented, and hard-working individuals that I’m proud and pleased to be a part of.

Note: All current members are represented with a photo here, but none of the non-working members are––that would’ve been just too much. For more information, go to https://www.backstreetgallery.org To subscribe to the newsletter go to the website and click on Newsletters.

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#308–From frustrating vortex to exhilarating fall colors . .

What a week! I’m a Type A and really enjoy crossing off that which I’ve accomplished each day. So, I was a happy camper this past Monday and Tuesday because I accomplished so much and everything seemed to be going so well . . . or so I thought.

Jeff Lovejoy plays at a Backstreet Gallery Second Saturday reception back in 2018.

Monday, I attended the Backstreet Gallery Board of Directors meeting via Zoom, and since I’m the secretary, I took minutes. One topic had about a 40-minute discussion that covered a lot of important points, so I couldn’t just say “there was much discussion regarding blah, blah.” I had to really work through all my notes and try to get everything correct and have it make sense to the rest of the members.

After the meeting, I stayed at the computer and got a third of the minutes completed. I saved the big discussion for last. Then i had a quick lunch and took Sir Groucho to have his nails done (trimmed). Later, I sat down and completed the minutes. It seemed to take forever to get through the 40-minute discussion. It was after 7 p.m. before I finished. I was very relieved to get the minutes done. Whew!

The only problem I was aware of that Monday occurred when I was getting ready for bed.  The heart monitor I’ve been wearing for six days, seemed to have quit. It is tested by thumping it, and a blue light shows if it is working. Well, no blue light when I thumped it. Every other day it showed blue.

I’m wearing it because I get a strange feeling every so often that makes me feel like I’m going to faint, and I thought it might have something to do with my heart. So, wearing this monitor for two weeks might answer that question.

Tuesday, I got up early and had breakfast and then did the grocery shopping, which I do about every 8 to 10 days. I had a lot of groceries and got them all in the house and upstairs to the kitchen.

I still get up early to do my grocery shopping and still wear gloves and my mask and, of course, try not to forget my bags, list, and coupons!

It was just after 9 a.m., so I called the Heart Group at McKenzie Willamette Hospital. The front desk transferred me to a technician who was not in, so I left a message.

Then I sanitized the groceries, washed the veggies, and put everything away. After that was taken care of, I loaded the car and took the garbage in three large trash bags as well as the recycling to the dump (aka transfer station). I do this about every six to eight weeks. I don’t have garbage pickup. I prefer to do it myself.

I was a happy camper getting so much done in the past two days. . . . But that was about to change.

Tuesday, I got the Zoom recording of the BOD meeting all set up and opened my minutes file. I always listen/watch the recording of the entire meeting to check my minutes against. Often, during the meeting, I’ll miss what is being said because I’m concentrating on what I’m writing. By watching the recording, I can catch anything I missed. The owner/members of the Gallery are very interested in the minutes. So, I try to make sure they are complete and accurate.

When I opened the file containing my minutes, I was horrified to see that everything I typed up after getting home from Sir Groucho’s appointment the day before was missing, not there, gone! Only the third I had done immediately after the meeting was there. I looked in the backup and only the partial minutes were there, too. I spent at least a half hour looking through every conceivable place it could possibly be. No luck! It was so strange, so frustrating, so maddening! AARRGGHH!!

While I felt like punching something, I didn’t. I simply put the recording on pause and started typing. I redid the easy stuff from my notes. Then I turned on the recording and started checking what I’d typed against it. When I got to the long discussion, this time around, I typed as I listened to the recording instead of using my notes. It took forever, as I listened, paused the recording, typed, unpaused, listened, paused, typed until I was done. It was 9:30 p.m. before I finished. It had taken hours. I have never been so glad to finish typing something in my whole life.

Then, when I tried to print a copy, the printer didn’t work. It was turned totally off. That, too was strange.  What was happening!!

Everytime I type something, I save it.That’s my routine. Besides, my computer is set up to save automatically every 10 minutes. But it didn’t this time! And every day, I put the printer to sleep; I don’t turn it off. I only turn it off if I’m going to be gone for a few days. So, I cannot explain either of these. There had been no electrical outage during the hour I was gone with Sir Groucho. And I realized that Monday was also the day my heart monitor quit working. I was feeling very confused!

This Douglas fir cone arrived immediately after I swept the deck. No trees overhand the deck, the wind was not blowing, and no critters were on the deck. Where did it come from? Notice the fall color of the vine maples.

That afternoon, something strange happened. Looking back, it seems to have been on omen of things to come. After Sir Groucho’s appointment, before getting back to the minutes, I swept off the upper deck and deadheaded the plants. I put the broom away and looked out at the deck where I’d been just a moment before, and there was a large Douglas fir cone in the middle of the deck that had not been there before. No tree hangs over the deck, there was no wind, no critters were on the deck. How did it get there?

My answer to all the strange occurrences of Monday, was that I was caught in a vortex from late afternoon into evening. I don’t know how else to explain it.

Tuesday was my day of reckoning, and Wednesday was back to normal. I was on duty as clerk at Backstreet Gallery on Wednesday and was very glad there were no bizarre happenings. And Thursday was a great day. After not hearing back from the Heart Group in Springfield on Tuesday or Wednesday regarding the non-working monitor, I called for the third time Thursday morning, and they said to come in after my other appointment. They said that they would take care of it. I had told them that I was already going to be in Eugene and could stop by.

It was supposed to be rainy and windy, but it was just cloudy, which is my favorite driving weather. So far, so good. And it got better. It was a bea-u-ti-ful drive along Hwy 126. I have never seen the trees with so much color. The yellow of the maples was spectacular and some of the undergrowth was red. I don’t normally call that drive exhilarating, but it was this time. I wanted to stop and take photos, but didn’t dare because I hadn’t alloted any extra time. But I did get to my Eugene appointment, the Good Feet store, about 10 minutes early—just enough time to eat part of my lunch. The gal that I always see there, Rachel, is always very friendly and encouraging. It was no different this time. She checked my progress and replaced two of my inserts. I seem to be progressing nicely.

Here is my first heart monitor that quit working for some reason. The new one looks the same, but is placed slightly to the left of where this one is placed. I hope the new one continues to work for the week I’ll be wearing it..

Then I went to the Heart Group and only had to wait a short time before being tended to. The technician removed my monitor and the patch it was attached to and gave me a new patch with a new monitor. While I was there, the technician called the company that makes the monitor and they think that the info that was on the monitor before it shut down should still be there. That’s good because the strange feeling I get from time to time, which is why I’m wearing the heart monitor, occured last Friday afternoon. That is quite wonderful because the whole purpose is to see how the heart reacts when I get that lightheaded, gonna-faint-any-minute feeling. It only happens every couple of months and lasts for a few seconds, and then I feel fine. I somehow felt that it had something to do with my heart. This monitor might just be able to answer that question.

The whole day had just gone great. The only bummer on Thursday, was that when I walked out to my car, it started sprinkling, and before long, it was raining. It was heavy rain along Hwy 126 all the way home. So, I didn’t stop to take photos of the beautiful trees like I had planned. They were still beautiful—even in the rain.

While the week started very strangely, it seems to be ending just fine. Was I really caught in a vortex?!! I guess I’ll never know!  

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#307–The Grand Tetons

Grand Disappointments

We arrived about 11:30 a.m., and our first day gave us a lot to be disappointed about. In Yellowstone there are lots of places to go and lots to see. In the Tetons, it is mainly the impressive mountains that rise up thousands of feet from the flat landscape. So very impressive! Well, not so impressive when hidden by wildfire smoke. That first day, there was not even a hint of any mountains within the smoke. I was so disappointed. I had been looking forward to seeing these mountains. I hadn’t seen them since I was a teenager. I’m glad we didn’t pay for a cabin with a view. We stayed at Jackson Lake Lodge, which has many, many cabins as well as condos and rooms in the lodge.

I bought this sticker in the Colter Bay general store. It is now on my fridge. On this trip, I was never disappointed by a bison.

Well, our “classic cabin” was the second disappointment. It was tiny and would have been small for two people, let alone the four of us.  We were all there together with two queen beds and one rollaway—almost wall-to-wall beds when the rollaway was set up. (And, of course, no chance of seeking any change in accommodations.) There was only a tiny kitchen space, that included sink, small fridge, and a coffee maker squeezed between the bathroom and a big-box like closet. No microwave—no way to heat anything except water in the coffee maker. No table, only one chair, and our reservations were for three nights. We so missed our spacious digs in Gardiner.

We headed for the lodge to have some lunch. That was the third disappointment. The cafe was closed except for takeout, and that was not very good. So, we tried to make reservations for that night in the more upscale restaurant and were told they were filled that night and all day the next day. That’s when we learned that we needed reservations there for all meals—even breakfast. So, we made reservations for dinner the night after next and for the morning of our last day.

The lodge building was impressive with the tallest windows I think I’ve ever seen to view the mountains. And the grounds were nice. We spent the afternoon walking around the whole area and browsed and bought some gifts in the marvelous gift shop. That first night we gave the takeout cafe another chance and this time, it was even more disappointing––totally awful for me and not much better for the others.

FFOB—at Times a Cuss Word (my very own four-letter ‘F’ word)

Next morning, I got up very early and bundled up because it was cold and went outside. There were two Adirondack-style chairs in front of our cabin, and I used one. I had my laptop and got started. I had received a request the day before for two articles regarding the Florence Festival of Books and they were needed right then, of course. It took awhile, but I found two articles from 2019 that I could use. I reworked them, and sent to Aleia at the Florence Events Center to put in the Center Stage publication and to send to the newspaper regarding the FFOB. Every day, I checked my email, whenever we had a signal, and there were always questions I needed to respond to from both FFOB committee members and participants. Even in the Tetons, I couldn’t get away from FFOB stuff.

Great Expectations Fulfilled

With nowhere to go for breakfast, we had PBJ sandwiches for breakfast. At least, the others did. I had a mandarin orange and a Clif bar. It was still early, so we took a scenic drive and the mountains were there—in all their splendor. Thank goodness! Most of the smoke had dissipated during the night and they were fabulous. I was so pleased!

The Tetons are impressive!

We loved being able to see the mountains.
I took this from the Cottonwood Creek picnic site.

We drove all over the place and enjoyed the lakes and mountains. We stopped at a general store at Colter Bay and stocked up on food. Then we could have a picnic lunch. We stopped at Cottonwood Creek picnic area. Fabulous views all day. We came back to our tiny room. Everyone took a nap except me, I went outside back to those comfy Adirondack chairs and read and enjoyed the many photos in two of the books I had gotten at museums in Montana. The day before Jayne in her walks around the area had found a picnic table on a little knoll near the lodge with a great view of the mountains. So, we packed up some of our food, walked to this fabulous site, and had a picnic dinner with a great view of the lake and mountains. It was a bit breezy, but that was okay.

The shuttle boat took us across Jenny Lake to the lower slopes of the Tetons.

The next day more of the same for breakfast and then we packed a lunch and headed for Jenny Lake. The mountains were still visible in all their glory. We boarded a shuttle boat that took us across the lake and then we hiked up the lower slopes of one of the Tetons. Harry and Jayne went farther than Edna and I. Edna would’ve gone on, but her sandals had became a problem. So, we took a loop trail back.

We saw squirrels and a deer came walking along the narrow trail heading right at us. Just as we were about to move off the trail, it moved. On we went. We crossed some bridges over lovely creeks full of water. I was on the look-out for pikas, a small, rabbit-like mammal as cute as can be that lives in the rocky talus slopes at the base of mountainsides at high elevations. This was their prime habitat. When we got back to the boat landing, I talked to the fellows running the shuttle boat about them. And they had seen some the week before and saw a few bears just a couple days earlier. Hmm!  We didn’t see any pikas or bears.

One of the streams we crossed during the hike.

That afternoon, we headed into Jackson or as tourists call it Jackson Hole. It still is an adorable town, but very, very, very crowded with tourists. We could hardly wait to get away from all the people. We stopped at a park on the edge of town where there were few people and had a picnic lunch. An elk came into the park and kept an eye on us nearly the whole time we were there as he wandered about.

Surprises in Bronze

On the way back, we stopped at the National Museum of Wildlife Art. We had noticed it coming into Jackson and decided to check it out after lunch.

The museum specialized in bronzes. Bronzes of nearly every wild animal imaginable. It was fabulous and such a wonderful surprise. And they had two special shows with wildlife themes. One was of Andy Warhol art involving valued wild animals and the other of Ai Weiwei with his Chinese Zodiac heads done in Legos. Both shows were quite amazing and also such a surprise! This museum was definitely worth a stop.

Most of this building is underground and many bronzes were also on the walkways leading from parking to the building. This museum was simply full of surprises.

Ending in Style

We ended our Teton trip in style. That third evening in the Tetons was our last evening to all be together. We dressed up a bit and dined in a really fabulous dining room, the Mural Room, and had a fabulous dinner. Everything was delicious—the perfectly cooked red trout, the roasted broccolini, the mashed Yukon gold potatoes with bacon—that I ordered makes my mouth water just to think about.

And the next morning, we were back in the same dining room having a fabulous breakfast buffet. And the mountains seen through those extremely tall windows were still gorgeous. It was totally wonderful. A great way to end our time in the Tetons!

After breakfast, we packed up and went our separate ways after heartfelt goodbyes. I headed over Teton Pass and my car had to really work as it made its way up the steep grade over the 8,431-foot pass. Then down through Swan Valley and west to Idaho Falls to the freeway that crosses the width of the state near its southern border.  The highway bypassed Boise and ended up in Ontario, Oregon, where I had reservations for the night.

All day the weather had been pleasant, the wildfire smoke almost gone, and the traffic moved with no problems. I was impressed by the rest stops in Idaho. Each one had an impressive and unique building with plenty of grassy areas. The motel in Ontario was expecting me and the room was very nice. I enjoyed the privacy, with only me in the room, after three nights of four people in one room. I slept very well.

This is just one of several very impressive rest stops along the highway in Idaho.

The trip across Oregon the next day was also uneventful. I no longer had to pump my own gas, but I did have to learn to slow down. I had gotten used to 80 on the major roads in Montana and Wyoming and 70 in Idaho. I was back in Oregon where the speed limit was 55! This time around, I did not get lost in Bend. And without the wildfire smoke, the mountains and forests were beautiful from Hwy 20 and Hwy 126––except for the 27 miles or so that were burned in the Holiday Farm Fire that began last year on Labor Day. That fire burned for weeks, burning 173,000 acres and 1,100 structures and wiping out most of the town of Blue River. A year later, I saw some rebuilding evident as well as lots of logging of burned trees.  It is still a sad, sad sight.

When I got to Florence, I did major grocery shopping, since I had been gone two weeks and had very little to eat in the house. When I got home, the best part was the grand welcome from Groucho. He didn’t quit purring or let me out of his sight for days.

The whole trip—the Montana portion and the visits to Yellowstone and the Tetons––was marvelous. The best part was reconnecting with family––immediate family that I hadn’t seen since the pandemic began and cousins I had not seen in 29 years. It was, indeed, the  trip of a lifetime—one I will always remember.

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#306–Onward to Yellowstone

This is my Montana magnet that is on my fridge! Shortly after entering Yellowstone, we entered Wyoming. Nearly all of the park is in Wyoming.

It will be no surprise if I say, that we were not the only ones visiting Yellowstone during the last week of August. On our sightseeing days, my brother Harry and his wife Jayne joined my sister Edna and I in my car because it was a four-door and easier for getting in and out. Yellowstone was so crowded that I asked my brother if he would drive. After living so long in Florence, I’m just not used to such crowded roads, stop-and-go driving, and especially, parking in tight places.

This buffalo seemed to be there just for us to take this photo.

We did learn to get up and out and about early. That way there were less people and more wildlife.

On the way to Yellowstone

I enjoyed the Montana landscape and was getting used to cruising along at 80, the speed limit. Even at that speed, cars passed me!

Lots of wide-open spaces in Montana.

We got to Gardiner, Montana’s nearest town to Yellowstone’s northern entrance, and found tucked off on a backstreet, an old-fashioned motel where we had reserved a two-bedroom apartment with laundry privileges. There was a kitchen, dining area, large living room with three hidden beds, two bedrooms, and a bathroom. We were within walking distance of a store, so bought groceries and fixed our own meals and even did some laundry. We loved the two nights we stayed there.

After we settled in, I spent some time bear-proofing my car. I found half a Hershey bar and part of a granola bar under the passenger seat. I took out the dried food I have in my survival kit in the trunk. And anything else that had had food next to it in the past few days or had some kind of smell. I took the warnings seriously, and I’m happy to report that no bears got into my car during the entire trip.

Trying to see Yellowstone

A white mountain of travertine.

We got a leisurely start to Yellowstone the next morning. Big mistake; so did everyone else. We were all in my car and my Golden Age Passport card, that cost me about $15 almost 20 years ago, got us in for free. We ran into crowds wherever we went and some parking lots were full with cars parked along the road endlessly in more than one direction. We did get to see the black obsidian bluff and a mountain spouting more than one geyser. We went through a museum about the history of Yellowstone at the Albright Visitor Center. I think that ‘s where we saw a scale model of the entire park that was quite fascinating.



The Lower Falls of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River.

Then we hiked to the travertine terraces at Mammoth Hot Springs where limestone and water interact to create chalk-white travertine. There was at least one white mountain in the area with no trees growing in the travertine. Most unusual, but the unusual is the norm in Yellowstone.

Actually, I only walked part way and turned back because my left leg was becoming painful. It does that when I stress it. Down the road, I may need a second knee replacement. On the walk back, I chatted with folks from Texas and Maine. Throughout the park, there were license plates from all over.  

The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River.

We took a slow drive due to heavy traffic to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River and saw the Lower Falls and had great views of the yellow stone of the lower canyon and the white sides of the canyon’s higher elevations. As we crept along in heavy traffic to and from the canyon, a buffalo was plodding along on the shoulder, just slightly slower than traffic. It did not interfere with traffic. On our return trip a couple hours later, we passed it again—a slow journey to somewhere. We did find a spot off the beaten path to have a picnic and enjoyed the peace and quiet as well as the food.

Earlier the better

The next day we got up early and saw lots of buffalo alone and in large groups as well as a couple of sightings of antelope. And we saw several elk in the road, including some near misses with cars as one young elk dashed across the road. We had no trouble finding parking spaces at this earlier hour. This day, we were in separate cars because later, we will head to the Tetons.

Steamboat Geyser, the world’s tallest!

As we arrived at our first stop, Harry and Jayne were just leaving. They were ahead of us. We were at the Norris Geyser Basin, “the hottest, most dynamic geyser basin in the park” and walked along a boardwalk to Steamboat Geyser, the world’s tallest and one that erupts constantly. At least it did while we were watching. It was mesmerizing. We also saw a beautiful and unworldly green pool through the steam while walking along the boardwalk. And in nearly every direction small and large geysers were going off. It was a bit unsettling––especially, the sign that said stay on the boardwalk because geysers may pop up anywhere!

That bright emerald green was a bit startling!

Back on the road we pulled over when we saw a buffalo coming down the road slowly. I got photos of it coming closer and closer until it walked right by the car. It was a real hoot to see in the rearview mirror, the buffalo leading the parade with about six cars driving very slowly behind it. This is one of my favorite memories of Yellowstone.

The lone buffalo was heading down the road.

He kept on coming, getting closer to where we were parked.
Then he was right alongside our car . . . and kept going!

Throughout the park we saw signs of the eight major fires of 1988 that burned 36% of the total park. Trees have grown back, but with a much thinned out forest and many, many trunks of trees littering the ground. Eventually, they will become part of the soil.

On our trip south through the park, we took the route that followed along much of Yellowstone Lake. Yellowstone is a massive caldera, much of which has filled in with water––Yellowstone Lake. It just seemed to go on and on, providing many lovely views. It is the largest, high-elevation lake at just over 7,000 feet in North America.

Yellowstone Lake goes on and on.

We visited another visitor center near the southern entrance to Yellowstone that also was worth seeing. It covered some of the geology and wildlife that are part of Yellowstone as well as some beautiful artwork. We continued onward to the Tetons only a short ways down the road.

On this trip, we did not see Old Faithful, which erupts approximately every 90 minutes. But I couldn’t resist this beautiful magnet for my fridge. I’ve seen Old Faithful, but it has been many years. It is not the tallest or the oldest or the largest geyser in Yellowstone, but it is certainly the best known.

Tune in next week for our further adventures in the Grand Tetons of Wyoming.

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#305–Montana & Mission Possible . . .

The trip started with everything going wrong—an absolutely hellish experience—but things got better, thank goodness. In fact, after that first day, it turned out to be a most satisfying trip full of wonderful memories and a mission accomplished. Except for my brother going back with my dad when one of his brother’s died, the last time my sister and I had been in Montana was in 1992. That was the last time we had seen our Montana relatives.

What we needed to do and how to go about it

Back in 2010  my dad died, and he was cremated. Mom took care of his ashes until she died in 2017. After her cremation, my sister took care of both of their ashes. My dad’s wish was to have his ashes scattered on the homestead where he had been born and raised. And my mom’s wish was to be with my dad.

i Chuck and Jean Wilson, my parents, when they were much younger. (Photo Courtesy Harry Wilson.)

The summers of 2018 and ‘19 didn’t work out for us to go to Montana, and nobody went anywhere in 2020. So, 2021 seemed the best time to accomplish this mission. The planning began last January. My brother Harry, my sister Edna, and I had numerous back-and-forth emails and decided to go the last two weeks of August. I would contact the one cousin. Drea, with whom I was still in contact in Montana.

After numerous emails over months, it was decided to stick with the August time frame, and include cousin Drea and her husband, Dick, in our plans. She suggested a gravestone, and we agreed. We decided what to put on it, but I needed an address in Montana to send it to once it was ordered. Drea contacted our cousin Jimmy’s widow, Terry to find out who had the homestead, which was part of a much larger ranch today and to get permission to scatter ashes. And to find out about the family cemetery located on ranch property.

Only weeks before we were to leave, I finally talked to my second cousin Jimmy Dean who was now the owner of the ranch and caretaker of the cemetery and got his permission and address. The ranch is still in the family and has been since it was homesteaded in 1908.

My brother who lives near Reno with his wife Jayne, my sister who lives in Bakersfield, California, and I would all meet in Twin Falls, Idaho, and travel together from there. My sister would come up to Eugene where I would meet her. Then we would spend the first night in Burns and next night in Twin Falls. My brother worked out an itinerary and made some of the motel reservations, and I made the Montana contacts and did the rest of the reservations. It was all coming together.  

The proof of the gravestone ordered.

Then problems emerged, I ordered the gravestone, but it wouldn’t arrive in time. It would be a couple weeks after our trip. Dang! So, I had a placeholder made by having a large photocopy made of the proof sent to my by the gravestone company. I put it in a plastic sleeve and added foamboard to protect it and to make it sturdy. It was not quite as large as the real thing, but it would work temporarily.

Then, my sister, who was coming to Eugene by train—the Coastal Starlight––to connect with me, found out only days before the trip that the Dixie fire had burned some of the train tracks and that route was postposed indefinitely. After some madcap, last-minute scrambling, my sister got to Sacramento where Harry and Jayne met her and then they got started on the trip.

My hellish first day

I had most things packed prior to the day I was leaving, but left clothes and personal stuff til that morning, so got a later start than planned. Finally, got loaded and put the destination on the map app on my iPhone, filled up with gas and hit the road. I had never used GPS before—one of very few, I’m sure. Two mistakes: I didn’t plug in the phone to keep it charged, and I didn’t realize I could choose the route I wanted. So, it chose a different route than I planned, and the phone died at a crucial time.

This viewpoint of a mountain peak was not even visible through the smoke on the first day of the trip.

On the coast where I live, there had been no smoke from wildfires all summer and the temps had been between low 60s and high 60s with an occasional warm day in the low 70s. As soon as I got over the coastal mountains, I was in smoke, not bad though and definitely warmer.

By the time I realized I was no longer on Hwy 126 but on Hwy 58, I didn’t want to try to go back. It’s really difficult to follow Hwy 126 through Eugene. So, I continued on. It got hotter and hotter and smokier and smokier. I began choking on the smoke and feeling sick to my stomach and was quite hot even though the air conditioning was working. Going through the mountains was truly hellish. The smokiness got slightly better on the other side of the Cascades, but it continued to get hotter. The car showed 99 to 101 from mid-day on.

I seemed to be heading north and entering suburbs of Bend. I had run off maps months ahead and planned to take a shortcut to avoid Bend. And so did the GPS. I got halfway through the shortcut and the road to turn on was closed. At that point, the phone died. Not good! I didn’t have a clue where I was in relation to Hwy 20, which I needed to find. And I hadn’t had lunch, and I was hungry.

So, I pulled into a mini-mall parking lot and plugged in my phone and pulled out my cooler. I had packed everything that might spoil from my fridge at home. After eating some lunch, my phone had enough charge to get me out of the Bend area and to Hwy 20. I was very relieved. It was a long, hot but uneventful trip to Burns.

Dinosaur skeletons on display at the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman.

When I got to the motel, I had a new set of troubles. They couldn’t find that I had previously paid for my room and wanted to charge me again. This is the motel that had a reasonable rate, but a $59 recovery tax or some such thing tacked on, which I didn’t find out about until days after making the reservation when the confirmation arrived via email. It was also the only motel of the trip that billed my credit card before I arrived. Now they wanted to bill me again. AARRGGHH!! couldn’t believe it. It took 1 ½ hours for them to resolve the problem and give me a room. This on top of being so hot I thought I would pass out as well as feeling queasy from the smoke, I was not a happy camper. Definitely won’t recommend this motel.   

What a difference a day makes

The next day, the weather cooled to mid-80s, the smoke became less and less as I traveled north, and I was more confident in using the GPS. I went straight from Burns to Twin Falls with no problems. I stopped at rest stops where I walked and ate more from my cooler. Followed my GPS without getting lost. And Edna emailed me to forewarn me about which of the buildings to go to at our motel in Twin Falls. I found it, parked, turned to grab some stuff, and turned back to see Harry and Jayne outside the car, welcoming me.

Dick and Drea welcomed us into their home.

What a sight for sore eyes. I hadn’t seen them since I was in Bakersfield in December 2019. Then I met my sister in the room we were to share. Within a few minutes of my arrival, the wind picked up and became quite wild. After awhile, it settled down and it was noticeably cooler. Very strange, but I wasn’t complaining. I’m a fan of cooler weather! I settled in, and then we all went to dinner. A lovely evening even though the noodles place we ended up at had so-so food. It was just so nice to be together again.

Bozeman

My sister and I both inherited the non-geek gene, so from time to time, we couldn’t get the iPhone to cooperate in finding a particular place in town or to figure out why sometimes we had a voice directing us and sometimes we didn’t. We always ended up where we were headed, but sometimes took circuitous routes. It was just part of the adventure.

We had a lovely visit with my cousin Ceil.

Our two cars did not travel together which meant we could stop wherever we wanted to take photos, go to the restroom, explore, whatever. We decided to meet in Rexburg for lunch. Since Harry and Jayne got there first, they decided where to eat and then called us. We hunted around until we found it. Then on to Bozeman, where even though we didn’t travel together, we arrived within a few minutes of each other at this motel where I’d made reservations.

It was a nice place to stay. We ate at a trendy restaurant called Plonk and everything was delish! Wonderful food, wonderful conversation—a great evening. We found that everything was very expensive in Bozeman. I wanted to visit the Museum of the Rockies, which we had seen back in 1992. So, that’s where we spent a good chunk of the day. Their claim to fame has to do with dinosaurs, They have great exhibits and work with excavating and preserving dinosaur bones. Very impressive displays of dinosaur skeletons and you can see the paleontologists at work.

Then we headed to Helena. We were to meet in Three Forks for lunch, but did not connect. So, Edna and I ate from my cooler and her own stash of food. We didn’t starve.

Helena & Great Falls 

Actually, we never made it to Helena. Drea and Dick live closer to Lake Helena. They have a lovely home and had two bedrooms and a fitness room with a hide-a-bed for us. Although, we hadn’t seen each other since 1992, we got along famously. We spent that first afternoon just catching up. And more lovely conversation around the dinner table that evening.They were fabulous hosts.

A Charlie Russell painting of himself on his horse Redbird.

The next day, we went to Great Falls to see Drea’s sister and our cousin, Ceil. We had a lovely visit, but she would not be joining us in going to the ranch, since her husband was recovering from a stroke.

Since we were in Great Falls and I had always wanted to see the C.M. Russell Museum, we did. And it was fabulous. I have never seen so many Charlie Russell paintings and sculptures at one time. He was a favorite of my dad. Because of that, I would get Dad a Charlie Russell calendar every year. We also saw and toured his home and saw his log cabin studio where he painted. I was thrilled to be there. It was one of the highlights of the trip.

That evening, we got to see old video tapes taken back in 1992 of when my Dad, and his sister  (Drea’s mom) and his brother—the only ones of eight children still alive—talk about when they were growing up. We had all been there when it was taped and Dick had done the videotaping. It was great fun to watch and remember. We sat up and talked and didn’t get to bed until after midnight. The next day, we would be heading to Roundup.

Roundup

On the way to Roundup, Drea and Dick had a few places in mind that we might want to see. One was the Charles M. Bair Family Museum. It was a large, lovely ranch house preserved as a museum of primarily western and native art, of which many were Charlie Russell paintings. Charles Bair was one of the largest wool-growers in the world at one time. Then he went to Alaska during the gold rush and made a fortune inventing a way to extract gold from the frozen tundra. He came back to Montana and continued with sheep and built a fabulous ranch house. It was definitely worth visiting. . . . Gee, three museums so far on this trip. Love it!

Harry in the background with Jayne, me, and Edna in front at one of the old, weathered remains of a building on the old homestead.

Although, Roundup is about 45 miles from the ranch, it was the closest place with a motel. It had three motels, and we picked probably the best one. We had three rooms–Edna and I, Harry and Jayne, and Drea and Dick.  We would be spending two nights.

The restaurants were limited in town; both nights, dinners were so-so. But the breakfasts were wonderful at the Busy Bee Cafe.  It was the typical small town diner where everybody knows everybody, so we instantly stood out as out-of-towners. The cook came out to welcome us the first day and the second day, so did the owner. The food and service were wonderful. Too bad they didn’t also offer dinner.

The Big Day

We stopped at a grocery with a deli and ordered a dozen sandwiches and got some sodas and chips. After a wonderful breakfast, we picked up the sandwiches and headed for the ranch. This was the big day. This was the reason we had come to Montana. Harry had the two sets of ashes. I brought some cups to help with the scattering, and I had the placeholder gravestone.

Edna and I rode with Drea and Dick in their large four-seater pick-up and Harry and Jayne were in Harry’s sporty Accura. Unfortunately for Harry, the road from the nearest town to the ranch was 12 miles and unpaved. I was surprised that Melstone, a town of about 300 population, had no paved streets. That’s how I remembered it from when I was a kid visiting Montana relatives back in the 1950s Some things don’t change.

After we had scattered the ashes.

We arrived at Jimmy Dean’s ranch house and his wife, Pattie, was there to greet us. We brought the sandwiches etc into the house. Jimmy Dean was still out bushwhacking the area at the Homestead, so we could drive into it. After he arrived, we chatted awhile, becoming acquainted. We had never met Jimmy Dean and Pattie in person, but we were connected by family.

Before long, we were back in our vehicles following Jimmy Dean in his pickup. We headed to the homestead where no buildings were left standing in good shape. The couple that were there were in ruins. We looked around, took photos, got out the ashes, and scattered them. It was a gorgeous day in the 70s, sunny with high clouds and a light breeze—perfect for out purposes. Then Pattie arrived with Terry, Jimmy Dean’s mom. She had been at the 1992 reunion, and I remembered her.

The placeholder gravestone looks small with its rocks to keep it from blowing away.

We went to the cemetery, where we scattered the last of the ashes. Jimmy Dean got a rake out of the back of his pickup and smoothed a spot for the placeholder gravestone. We laid it down and had to anchor it with rocks. That way, it would not blow away. We spent some time there checking out all the gravestones of dad’s parents and brothers and sister that surround where he and mom’s gravestone will be. After awhile, we all headed back to the ranch house, where we chowed down on the sandwiches and chips we brought with potato salad and other goodies that Pattie had prepared. We sat and chatted late into the afternoon. Jimmy got out the cemetery book that went back more than 100 years. And we had at least three copies with us all trip of the book I had written back in 1991.

The actual gravestone has been set in place between two of Dad’s brothers. This photo was taken two weeks after we had returned home about the first of September. (Photo by Jimmy Dean Wilson.)

I had sent Jimmy Dean a copy just before we left for Montana. The book was called “Jean and Chuck, the Interesting Years.” And Dad’s part was his first 18 years growing up on the homestead. I had my copy and Drea had her copy, that I’d sent her and all the relatives back in 1991. More than once I heard someone say, “Charlie said . . . “ when reading from the book. Because of that book and because Drea had just been to Dick’s family reunion, Drea helped spearhead the family reunion back in 1992. And this trip had turned into another family reunion.

That night we had a so-so dinner of pizza at the Mavarick bar and casino in Roundup, one of the only places to eat in town that was open. The next morning after another fabulous breakfast at the Busy Bee, we headed our separate ways. Drea and Dick headed back towards Helena. And Harry and Jayne and Edna and I were off to Yellowstone and the Tetons.

On this first half of the trip, we accomplished our mission to scatter the ashes of our parents. And we got to reconnect with cousins we hadn’t seen in decades and met a second cousin, all of which was quite wonderful.  

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#304–The Florence Festival of Books is back . . .

I’m back to writing my blog post every Friday!!! And the Florence Festival of Books is back––as of last weekend. Much was the same, but much was different. It had the same events—the Friday afternoon panel discussion, the Friday evening Keynote Speaker, and the book fair from 10 to 4 p.m. on Saturday. And all events were held at the Florence Events Center.

William Sullivan and Bob Welch in the background, Friday afternoon panelists and Festival participants, with their books at the Saturday book fair. Sullivan is speaking with publisher Bob Serra of Maple Creek Press (my publisher).

To attendees at the book fair on Saturday, it must have seemed the same except for the masks, which everyone wore. But when they entered the display area and started walking from table to table, they realized that the configuration was different. There was a much wider space for walking around. That’s because instead of four rows in the middle, there were only two and the tables were spaced more widely. Thus, allowing for social distancing for participants as well as attendees.

One third of the tables had been left out. Instead of 80+ participants, there were about 55. I think the break down was 50 authors and 5 publishers. It was hard to keep track. Because of the virus, several participants decided during the last week before the Festival not to participate. That made it so we were able to provide a table for everyone on the waiting list. Then one participant showed up Friday evening that we were not expecting. He didn’t find his name on the list, but he had paid and had his receipt. He emailed me. I emailed Aleia at the FEC and by 8:30 the next morning, when the doors opened for the participants, we were ready for him.

We were thrilled that the Oregon State University Press was one of our participating publishers. It was their first time at the FFOB.

Saturday morning a little after 8 before I headed for the FEC, I checked my mobile phone and no messages from participants. But after I arrived, I checked again and another one was dropping out. He was coming from Portland and had set his alarm for about 4 a.m., but the phone rang even earlier to say his son needed him cause his daughter-in-law was going into labor and they were heading for the hospital. He got up and went over to stay with their toddler. And the baby—a little girl—was born that afternoon.

So, right up to the last minute we were making changes, and all but one were due to the surge of the Delta Variant.

And we didn’t know for sure if we were even going to be able to hold the Festival. As of August 21, we could have a total of 200 people maximum occupancy in the FEC. But that could change at any time. Lane County often made restriction changes on a Tuesday that would take affect the following Friday, and sometimes, the FEC didn’t really get the word until Wednesday. So, when we made it to Wednesday evening with no occupancy changes, I felt we could actually pull it off.

Bob Welch listening attentively to a potential book buyer.

The FFOB Planning Committee normally starts meeting in early April, but this year we spent all of April and most of May debating whether we should even try for a large indoor event during a pandemic. If we did, would any participants sign up? Would they want to stay indoors for several hours surrounded by people not in their bubble? And would the public even attend?  

 We decided to plan for it with Covid restrictions and be ready to pull the plug at a moment’s notice. So, we got a late start with a smaller than normal committee that met at first via Zoom. We got the applications out a month late, and were amazed when we were booked up within a few weeks. and started a waiting list We didn’t expect it, but we didn’t really know what to expect.

In May, I asked two of my favorite Oregon writers, Bob Welch and Bill Sullivan, if they would participate in the Friday afternoon panel discussion. Because of the pandemic, they were not solidly booked up and they agreed to do it. I was thrilled; I was over the moon. I had asked them a few years before, and they were too busy. This was a positive that I could chalk up to the pandemic.

Melody Carlson (left) was our Keynote Speaker. She is one of America’s most prolific and beloved romance writers with 250-300 books to her credit. We felt very fortunate to have her. Vicky Sharbowski (right) is part of the planning committee and a fan of Melody’s books.

Our Keynote Speaker, Melody Carlson, who had been scheduled the year before—the year we had to cancel—agreed to wait a year. What a sweetheart! She writes for children, teens, and grownups—mostly women. She has written between 250 and 300 books, which are mostly romances. She learned as a young mother to write when she could find the time and to write fast. She doesn’t know what “writer’s block” is. She has won numerous awards for her writing in the romance genre. She also has a Hallmark movie to her credit and another in the works.

We felt very pleased to have this all-star line-up, for our 10th Festival of Books. It was a milestone year for us––in more ways than one.

George Byron Wright, a returning participant from Portland, has a terrific set of books that he has written. I have a couple and want to get more.

Then we did everything we always do. We contacted sponsors (without whom the Festival would not happen), sent out press releases to the media in June aimed at participants and again in August aimed at attendees.  We got flyers/posters designed and then distributed by mail from Portland to Bend to Ashland to Astoria to Brookings to their newspapers, libraries, bookstores, and tourist hot spots Then we got them plastered even more so in Florence, Eugene, Reedsport, and Yachats.

Lori Tobias, from Newport, was a reporter for the Oregonian for years and her new book, Storm Beat, is her memoir of being a coastal reporter. She has attended the Festival at least four times and recently did an article published in a couple of places where she interviewed me about the Festival. (See on my Facebook page)
Joe Blakely, a Eugene author, comes most years to the FFOB,
and his books are quite popular.

We lined up and trained volunteers for each of the activities. We had advertising in a regional magazine. We had an advertising package with KCST where they recorded radio spots (by me) and an interview for Our Town by two committee members and were there on Saturday with a live feed, interviewing everyone. We had an advertising package with the newspaper too with ads, articles, and the insert filled with articles writen by committee members (mostly me this year) and the table layout with participants and their table numbers (some of which got changed after it was printed). The insert goes out with the paper the Wednesday before and is our program at the book fair on Saturday.

Marianne Rudd, a new Festival participant this year, wrote a book about riding this bicycle across the country. It was quite an attraction.

This is what we do every year plus more that we just didn’t have time for this time. This year, we always had the fear that in spite of all our efforts, it may not happen. With the surge of the Delta Variant right in Florence in September, we were worried. At our last committee meeting just a week before the Festival, we voted on whether to go ahead, postpose with date to be announced, or cancel. My agenda for the meeting had a Plan A if we voted to go ahead and Plan B if not. We voted to go ahead.

We also lost a committee member one week before the Festival. Ellen Traylor has been on the committee since its inception. During the last few years, she was unable to attend many meetings because of her husband’s health. The day before she passed away, she emailed me to say she would be unable to attend the meeting via Zoom because she had been in the hospital for a few days, but to let her know what we wanted her to do re the Festival. Then we learned the next morning that she was gone. We were stunned and still find it hard to believe.

This was taken in 2019 of the FFOB Planning Committee. It includes Bonnie MacDuffie, Karen D. Nichols, Maire Testa, Julie Jarvis, Vicky Sharbowski, me, Kevin Mittge, Aleia Bailey, and Ellen Traylor. Meg Spencer was taking the photo. We will miss Ellen on the committee.

In spite of everything, I’m glad we went ahead with the Festival. The crowds were small due to the pandemic, but everyone seemed upbeat. I heard over and over how glad people were to be there. The same was true of the participants. Lots of networking went on. Everyone was just so pleased to be around other writers. And at the panel discussion and the keynote address, the crowds were small, but very involved with the question and answer segments—a happy vibe. So, my takeaway of the Festival was that I loved every moment, sold about 2/3 as many books as I normally do, and thought it was all rather wonderful!

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