Thursday, November 26, 2020

Throwback Thursday: Thanksgiving

As hard as it might seem to believe, I was a shy little kid. Looking at pictures of holidays and family celebrations, I was the little wide-eyed deer-in-the-headlights one sitting with the cousins. See, we didn't get together with cousins and aunts and uncles often--mostly just holidays--and I didn't know them well. I knew and loved our grandmothers, but the rest were just not part of our every day life. Plus, I was the youngest in my mother's family with the oldest about the same age as my mother. I was the second youngest in my father's family. Everyone seemed older than me.

Thanksgiving was the holiday of food and family. Some years we'd spend Thanksgiving with my father's family; some years with my mother's. And some years one of the grandmothers would eat dinner with the other's family. The meals were usually at a grandmother's house, but every so often we'd have the dinner at an uncle's or an aunt's house. Once in a while at our own.

Both families were so completely different than the other. At our Nanny's house, they would set up the table in the living room--the big wood table over by the door and the kids' table closer to the kitchen. There was always lots of talking and laughter. The picture in my head is of my Aunt Wilma half-standing as she is passing a dish across the table to my uncle, talking to and looking toward another aunt on her right. Then as she sat down, she was licking her fingers from the food she passed. It was lively and happy. 

At our gramma's house, the meal was more interesting. Not in the liveliness of the conversation because I never actually remember hearing them talking. I'm sure they did and had great conversations and laughter, but the little kids' table was outside! It was really cool. Gramma had a wonderful old two-story house with a wrap-around porch. The window from the dining room was facing the porch and that's where we had the kids' table! So the window was open, a food tray was between the inside table (a gorgeous ebony table that had a white plain table cloth with a lacy one over it) and the window and the outside table. I loved it! So we could eat and be silly and no one had to ask us to be quiet-they-can't-hear.

At Nanny's after dinner, the old cousins and the dads would head out to the side yard for a smoke. My sister and I, being some 15-20 years younger than the cousins, didn't join them. They scared me with their white t-shirts and ciggies rolled up in the sleeve, their hair slicked back in ducktails, talkin and laughin. We little ones just stayed away, peeking at them when we could without being seen. 

At Gramma's, the cousins were generally closer to our own age and we would play games. One game was so fun. We would walk out to the end of the porch steps wall and jump as far as we could. Sometimes we would climb up to the porch wall itself and jump over Gramma's hedge. Robert, the youngest (one year younger than me), couldn't always make it over the hedge, but he was always game to try

As we grew up and went on our own, we had our own traditions for Thanksgiving. We lived a thousand miles away from my family. My sons had their own tradition--playing Thanksgiving Day Mudball with the neighbor kids out in our rain-filled side yard. Some might call it "football," but it was too muddy and splashy for us to give it that name. My sons sometimes went to their father's for the holiday. I might be invited to a friend's for dinner at those times. If I was dating someone, perhaps we'd join his family. When I started working at the corner store, I would usually work on the holidays. And we'd always celebrate with a fresh-baked pie :)

The shy deer-in-the-headlight girl
And so it goes

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Putting Toes to the Test


I've been taller than most all my life. I think I was born tall. I always liked being tall, except when kids called me Jolly Green Giant or asked, "Hey! What the weather like up there?" I always wanted to say, "Grow up and find out!" but I was afraid I would hurt their feelings and just said, "No rain yet!" or something similar. So it wasn’t that I was sad or unhappy I was tall; I just didn't want to be teased too much about it. Like I was a freak or something. It was especially hard when in high school, you know like before the boys got their growth. Seemed like they loved to be the protector over a cute tiny girl. Oh well, I eventually dated and life went on.

Having a tall body meant I had large feet. No two ways about it, my feet were big. No one in our town, while my sister and I were in late elementary and junior high school age, sold shoes the size of our feet; we had to ride into Los Angeles to buy our shoes. Buying shoes was a big deal. The shoes cost a bit, so Dad told us to "take big steps." That was so, he said, the shoes would last twice as long. 

Mom loved the look of saddle oxfords. I hated them. Not only that, but she loved the sparkling look of white bobby socks with all-white oxfords. Her taste wasn't very reliable because she also loved the look of our hair in a ponytail--no bangs--pulled tight on our head. I hated that, too, but that's a whole ‘nother story. I hated bobby socks. First, no one was still wearing bobby socks. Secondly, no one was still wearing saddle oxfords. 

The final straw was that the ugly bobby socks with the super ugly all-white saddle oxfords looked like BOATS on our gigantic feet. We couldn't even have two-toned saddle shoes to break up the walking film-screens! Just white. Big ole white boats. See, we were already big girls; now we had to wear these clodhoppers. I was afraid that people would scream as we approached, worried we would stamp down all buildings and trees, people as we stomped our way through town.

1930s saddle shoes

Here's the thing about saddle shoes. They used to be really popular. They got their name from the saddle-like shape of the piece of leather sewn across the waist of the shoe, usually in a contrasting 2-tone color. They debuted as a woman’s fashion in the 1920s. First they were for male golfers—the black and white went with their golf outfits—back in the 1910s. But by 1920s, women really liked this casual wear and took them over as their own. In the 1930s, Spalding—the company that made the shoe—started making the shoe "depression affordable" By changing the composition of the sole—from rubber to cork—and the style continued. 

1950s Bobbysoxers

By the 1950s, the style hit its full peak of popularity. They were so popular and comfortable that housewives wore them to do their chores. School girls wore them day and night. They wore them with their poodle skirts. They wore them with jeans.  They wore them with white bobby socks. Perfect for dancing and playing and sitting in class. 

And then came the 60s and the style tanked. The 1960s was a decade of rebellion. We were eager to forge our own path and balked at the traditions of our parents. The saddle shoe fell victim to this trend. The iconic black and white shoes were now seen as a symbol of the establishment that we '60s teens were rebelling against. The popularity of the saddle shoe dropped drastically.

Unfortunately, Mom didn't understand this. Unfortunately, Mom loved the look of all-white saddle shoes with turned down white bobby socks. Also unfortunately, I hated them. I would take off my socks on the bus to school so I at least didn't have those stupid bobby socks that no one else wore. My sister says, "Yes, two of us would get on the bus wearing socks and only one of us would get off the bus at school wearing socks." When I could buy my own clothes, I bought some flats with pointy toes and tried to wear those. Never again would people scream in fear that their town would be stamped to the ground! Of course, my feet were still too big for those flats, but dangnabbit I was going to look like everyone else!

And then I went farther than most. I tried to go to school barefooted. Yeppers, I had some cooooool barefooted sandals that really fooled them for a couple of days. And then *sigh* I was once again sent home to change my clothes. But if I actually returned to school, I wasn't wearing any stupid saddle shoes!

I still have big feet. I was told that a tall person needs large feet to hold them up. With little feet they would simply fall over. No's all about the base. But also know I still don’t like the looks of a saddle oxford. Boats can sink; bare feet rule.

And so it goes

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Weird Portland Wednesday: The Green Green Parks of Home

I love parks with green grass flowing within banks of paths, with trees spreading their umbrellas of shade. Parks with sounds of children laughing, squealing with delight on swings and slides and fun. I love parks with trails that meander throughout the trees and bushes, leaving me thoughtful and content.

Portland has probably the most parks in the lower 48 with at least 279 parks and natural areas. We have one of the largest parks with Forest Park's nearly 7000 acres as well as the smallest park in the world: Mill Ends Park. Rated the smallest park by the Guinness Book of World Records, Mill Ends is about two feet in circumference. Like many of Portland's parks, there are often protests held there. 

One of the most beautiful parks in Portland is also one of my favorites: Cathedral Park. It sits under the enchanting St Johns Bridge, which is a suspension bridge from the Art Deco era. I was married under this bridge, a barefooted bride with daisies in my hair. My fella and sons and Doug's stepson wore Hawaiian shirts. Along with the sprinklers and the train and other chaos-makers during the ceremony, it was a splendid day.

And the park. The park is magnificent. It's not that large, just a bit over 21 acres, but it quietly says, "Peace" at every turn. The opening of the park has some lovely concrete steps out onto a circular platform and the park gently sweeps from there. Standing on the platform (which is where we held our wedding) looking out toward the Willamette River, you have a view of the cathedral pillars holding the bridge.

This park site is quite historical, as well as beautiful.  It is believed to be one of the 14 Lewis and Clark landing sites in the Vancouver-Portland area: William Clark and eight men camped there on April 2, 1806. It has also been a fishing and camping site for local Indian tribes. In 1847 the founder of St. Johns, James John, trapped and hunted on the site and operated a ferry to the fishing town of Linnton across the Willamette River. 

Apparently Cathedral Park is the one number historical landmark of Portland that is most often posted on Instagram.  The TV series, Leverage, was filmed in Portland and would use the park for many outdoor shoots. The television program, The Librarian, used the park as it's headquarters. Their library lair, or annex, was located at the base of the bridge.

The park, which was built in 1980, is home to many festivals and events. The year we were married, the Hood-to-Coast biking event was stopping at the park for a breather that weekend. This is why we were married on Friday rather than the expected Saturday. The Cathedral Park Jazz Festival, which started in 1981, is the oldest and largest free jazz and blues event west of the Mississippi. 

Cathedral Park, sitting beautifully under the St Johns Bridge, is one more way we keep Portland (happily) weird.

Friday, October 09, 2020

The More Things Change...

We are over eight months into the Coronavirus pandemic here in the United States, almost a year worldwide. So far, over one million people have died, with 214,000+ of them within in the United States--the largest number of deaths from one area. Brazil is the second largest group with over 150,000. And the numbers are rising most places daily.

Our lives have changed drastically. In our house, we have been staying-in-place since mid-March. My fella has been working from home. We go out only for essentials, like groceries and fabric (it's an essential, right?).  Fortunately we like to hang around with one another because we are together 24/7.

Faces of some of the 200,000 plus deaths in the US
Oregon does not have high numbers of cases compared to some states like California and New York, but most of our counties are are still under Phase One. Our governor is being very cautious in opening up the state. So far we have had 600 deaths from over 35,000 cases. While we are one of the lowest states in the nation, our numbers are starting to spike again mostly due to Labor Day celebrations and college parties.

Even with Phase One opening up restaurants and hair dressers and other shops, Doug and I are hesitant to jump out into the world too fast. A hair cut for me is not essential, so I am easily living with COVID-hair. Because of my neuropathy, I can't cut my toenails (I end up cutting my toes!). I finally broke down and had a pedicure. 

We make most our meals on the stove at home, with the once-in-a-while dinner brought home from pre-ordered food. We are not interested in trying to eat in a restaurant--not essential. I miss traveling around but I am making it through okay. Grocery shopping is every Friday morning at 7 am (a time originally designated for old people and people with disability). And the big WOW every Friday on the way home: Starbucks. 

The safety measures to get around have changed. I believe in them. I've been to the dentist three times since they have reopened. I'm not adverse to having my temperature taken nor questions asked about my health. I have no problem wearing a mask. I've been making some that are cute and fun. My kids and family are well-stocked in masks.

And today the big return to another universe is that I invited my house cleaner to come into the house and clean. Yes, it became essential. I used to think I kept a pretty good house. Apparently only because she came here and did it :)  She's wearing a mask and gloves and spraying disinfectant everywhere. We were going to be gone for the day but my fella had to work on a last-minute project. So we stayed away and let her do her thing. I sewed. My fella worked. It worked out okay.

While everything is upside down and backwards. While we have to think more to move around in order to fix problems. While we are careful and take care of one another. While all this is going on, we have some normal stuff in there as well. We still brush our teeth and bathe, make the bed, and feed the pets. We still keep the yard up. My fella still plays music. I still sew. But while we are doing these normal things, we are kind of doing them differently. 

Stay safe
Take care of yourself and your neighbors

Thursday, October 08, 2020

Throwback Thursday: Turn Around Bright Eyes

When you are in a pandemic and have lots of extra time that is not being taken up with lunches with friends and running errands, you have lots of open time to think about things. You know, things like how to raise goats, why people won't wear masks, what's it like to walk on the moss in Ireland. You know. Thinking things. In that, I was thinking about the few times I have actually had a broken heart. 

A wonderful friend of mine's marriage just broke up. He and I have been talking for long periods of time about his relationship and his feelings. His fears and his depression. He has been very hard on himself. I remember that behavior.

In my 70 years, 25 of them between marriages, I've had many loves and lots of break-ups. I was recently reading my past diaries--I kept a diary from a year following my divorce in 1976 through the 1990s when I met my partner. As I was reading, I'd come across a name of someone I dated and wonder who the hell was that person. Mostly I'd smile at the antics--25-30 years gives you perspective. But I was also reminded of the few who left me with a broken heart.

Heartbreak really really sucks. I know it is a part of being human, experiencing life, but it really sucks. There is a wonderful article from Queensland Health, The Science Behind a Broken Heart that takes you behind the scenes of heartbreak (March, 2019- It says, "Studies show that your brain registers the emotional pain of heartbreak in the same way as physical pain, which is why you might feel like your heartbreak is causing actual physical hurt." Some of the natural hormones your body produces can be lowered, which causes stress hormones to increase that bring on your fight-or-flight response. Unbalanced hormones can then contribute to anxiety, nausea, acne and weight gain. Heartbreak stuff.

So yeah. I've experienced heartbreak. We all have. Once in high school I had my heart broken. At 16, it is a forever angst sentence, isn't it? But, also at 16, it is a bit easier to get over. I fell in love again in my late 20s, early 30s. That heartbreak took me much longer to recover. I didn't date for a couple years following that break up. It brought on a depression that nearly wiped me out. But it didn't :) And then I had my heart broken again in my 40s. Those Internet loves can be intense.

Break up songs. So many break up songs. Songs that seem written just for you. I was long past the acute heartache and pain of my 20s heartbreak when I heard piano keys and then Bonnie Tyler sing "Turn around" ( It knocked the wind out of me and zoomed me once again into a total eclipse of my heart. I have always loved a solid blues beat but at that time came to really understand how the blues can fill you up. Music is comfort to your soul.

Obviously my style is to write about it. I use writing as something to get things out in the open, out of my head. When I was working on my relationship with my mom, I would write her letters that poured out every teeny tiny hurt she had ever caused me. Then I would read them the next day and shred them. When I quilt smoking, I wrote about it. It really helped me pull things out of my head and toss them away. In my diary, I once wrote, "I must be really sick. I reread these words to remember this pain. The pain is better than feeling nothing."

Funny that my divorce didn't cause me heartbreak. Perhaps because I was so glad to not be married to that man any longer. Unfortunately, he can still cause me heartache, but not for me; heartache for my sons. He keeps hurting them and in their own ways, they still keep trying to make some connection to him. So, never heartbreak. Mostly still, after 43 years, anger at this uncaring man.

So yeah it's a heart ache. It is physical and emotional pain. Mostly you gotta mourn through it. Don't try to avoid it, but take your blanket over to the corner and curl up, suck your thumb, and eat ice cream. Write about how you feel. Listen to sad and loving songs. Try the blues. Make some changes. As a woman, I cut my hair :) The one thing I had control over. And when you've given yourself some time to mourn, think about what it was that attracted you to the other. They are undoubtedly traits and aspects that others have. Then look for those qualities in others.

Those are the types of things that I did. According to my diary, I eventually moved on. Dated some guys names Alan and Doug, both of whom I don't remember. While I still have a difficult time to moving on, I can work through it. Just yesterday my fella put the winter quilt on the bed. THE WINTER QUILT! I had to breathe deeply a few times, smile and walk away in order to realize it didn't matter. It's just a quilt and he likes this one best. I know...that I had to breathe, smile and walk away to get over it makes me laugh, too.

And that's what I did, too :)