Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year's Countdown

Most memorable from 2013:

1. I was able to spend my dad's last day with him, before he passed away on March 29, 2013.
In some ways it doesn't seem like he's gone at all. Other times I ache for one of his tight strong hugs.

2. My mom moved in with Mark and me in May.
"…and Nana makes three!" Not sure what you call it when empty nesters welcome an aging parent back into the nest. Whatever you call it, we like it.

3. My mom decided to be baptized into the Mormon church.
This was a sweet blessing I've waited 40 years to see.
She has a calling as the "greeter" to sacrament meeting.

4. We added three new grand babies to our growing clan.
Welcome to Avalon, Luke, and Emma! Mark and I now claim 24 grandchildren.
Stay tuned…#25 will be arriving in Ohio next month.

5. Almost half of our children went through major relocations in 2013.
Josh and Hillary moved from Utah to Arizona (new job, major choir for Hillary).
David and Holly moved from Wisconsin to southern California (new job for David).
Kendra and Chris moved from Kansas to Washington (new jobs and a separation.)
Julia and Scott moved from Oregon to Alaska (return to university for both).

6. Katie published her book!
This isn't really "my" event, but it's still pretty exciting to this wanna-be-author mama.
A couple of days ago her sewing book was ranked #8 at amazon.com in its category.

Thank you for the memories, 2013! Looking forward to what the new year will bring.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Laurel Lane Christmas 2013

 Merry Christmas!
The tree is loaded this year - with ornaments from our stash + Nana's

 Nana's fun Christmas collections

 New to the decorations this year - 

And a beautiful quilt made from Granddad's shirts.
What a treasure. Thank you, Polly!
It was fun to have Dad be a part of the day.

Christmas day
We went for a beautiful afternoon walk along the Willamette River Esplanade in Portland.

 Mom and I waved to the Amtrak passengers.
Some of them waved back.
One guy blew a kiss. :)

 Christmas Eve - time with the Palshikar grandchildren
Nana and Sarah

 Sarah with her new "pet rat." 
This one won't die in a few months.

 Kat hugging a new "pet rat" with Josh

 Sarah and Kat with the stuffed pink unicorn…I couldn't resist!
Sometimes a grandma's gotta do what a grandma's gotta do.
They promised they'd share.

 Week before Christmas - Hunter brought his mom and dad over for dinner.

Nana setting up a nativity scene.
She had so much fun decorating this year!

We loved skyping and texting and talking with dear family today. 
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 22, 2013


Mark and I took our ukuleles to school on Thursday, the last day of school before Christmas break. We played two Christmas songs for our students.

I used to think I had to be more "perfect" around my students, but I've learned to just be myself, and sometimes that means being a little silly. We wore our tacky Christmas sweaters (a school-wide effort). We wore our silly Santa hat & reindeer antlers. We put the words to the songs on the board, and invited the kids to sing along. Some of them did. Most of them enjoyed the performance (I think); at least all of them tolerated it, and Mark and I had a lot of fun.

Our 2013 Christmas ukulele repertoire includes:

"Feliz Navidad"
Of course you know this one. So do the teenagers. The chords are super simple so we sang it first. It was a good warmup for everyone.

"Mary's Boy Child"
This one was a little more complicated. The chords are more difficult, and not everyone knows it. I loved sharing it with our students because it has a fun, upbeat rhythm and a sweet message about Christ.

You don't know it yet? Well, here you go!

I tried to talk Mark into getting me a furry white cape - and he could wear the skinny white pants - but he wasn't going for it.

Oh, well. It's still a good tune for the sweet and cheerful plinky-plink of a ukulele.
Until this morning, the only version I knew was the Boney-M version (above).

Then when I looked on You Tube this morning I found this link to a calmer version sung by Harry Belafonte. I like the violin accompaniment, but I can't say that we sounded that refined.

And then I found the Glee version. Hmmm. Maybe this was what Mark worried about if he got me that white cape? Maybe this was what my students were picturing as they sang along? I don't think I'll ask.

Merry Christmas to all of you! I'm going to play a few more chords on my ukulele now...

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Family Photo

Thank you, Dorothy Jenson, for taking our beautiful new family photo!

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Moth

I attended a live performance of The Moth last night!

I've listened to the program a few times on Oregon Public Broadcasting, and the stories have intrigued me. When I saw that Oregon Literary Arts was hosting the show, I talked it up with the family and we bought tickets way back in August!

The venue was beautiful: the historic Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in downtown Portland.

Mark, Mom and I sat up in the balcony and looked waaaaay down to the stage. Julia and Scott were seated on the main floor.

The stories were powerful and moving.

When was the last time you listened to a story on the radio? Music and ads, sure, but very little human story. We do so little oral sharing. More and more, our culture is moving into a culture of text--mostly digital, but still print, too. Listening to the storytellers tell their very personal stories drew me in and held my attention for over an hour.

I got to thinking about the roots of oral storytelling.

The Odyssey is part of the curriculum for our high school freshmen. I always try to describe the oral setting of the ancient stories when I am sharing the epic poem with the ninth graders. I do my best to set the scene of the big hall, the wandering storyteller, the flickering firelight, the spell of the story.

In fact, I used to dress up as Homer and try to get the kids in the mood.

This is me in my Homer costume. He was reputedly blind, so I use dark sunglasses and tap with a stick. I tell the kids that their teacher is down in the office for a while and I am the guest speaker. Cheesy! They know it's me, of course, but they seem to find it entertaining, so they play along.

Stories are so powerful. Brain studies have shown that our brains are wired for story. We try to make sense out of our daily experiences by composing them into stories.

If you haven't heard The Moth yet, I recommend checking it out. Good stories.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Big sale on original art!

My wonderful friend Dorothy is an accomplished artist. She has been honing her skills in pastels for the last couple of years. Here are some of my favorite paintings by Dorothy. She has sooooo many more!

"Looking Back" (Sparks Lake) 

"Jefferson's Glory" (my favorite fall tree in O.C.) 

"Presume Welcome" (hmmm…that front door looks mighty familiar!) 

Here's the amazing thing:
Between now and Christmas, her originals are on 1/2 price sale!!

Like her on Facebook and you'll get regular updates.

Click here to go to her art blog - so many wonderful paintings.

This is her specific post about her holiday sale.

This is the link to her Etsy shop with her art on notecards.

And here you can order prints of her most popular originals.

This is your chance to own a fine art original at a very reasonable price!

Disclaimer: Dorothy Jenson and I have been friends for over 30 years. I love her artwork and have one of her originals in my own home. I asked her permission to post about it on my blog. She did not ask me to do so; all opinions about her art are my own.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Gone by this weekend

My next-door neighbor is dying. She has been on dialysis for some time, along with numerous other health problems. She had a heart attack last week, and the doctors have come to the conclusion that there's not much more they can do.

Her husband came by to tell us. We have been neighbors for 34 years. I don't know how it ever gets easy to give (or receive) that kind of news.

She told the doctors that she's tired. Tired of treatments, tired of bandaids, tired of dialysis. She's done. She wants to go home to Jesus. Today was her last dialysis treatment. She will surely be gone by this weekend.

She won't have Christmas. No more birthdays. Thanksgiving was her last holiday. Last night there were over a dozen cars parked out in front of their house--which made Mark and I suspect that things weren't going well for her. Her husband told us that their kids surprised them with a big gathering - a party! - of family and friends. "Everyone you could think of was there," he said.

We asked if she was up for a short visit from us. Yes, he said, but make it soon. She won't be here much longer.

Last year another elderly friend of ours died after he decided to stop dialysis. He was blind and confined to a wheel chair in a nursing home because his wife was frail and couldn't care for him on her own. After several years of living in those circumstances, he said, "Enough." He died peacefully a few days later, surrounded by his family.

I hope my neighbor's passing is that easy, that rich, for her and her family.

We gave her husband a hug and thanked him for including us in the news, and we sent him home to his wife. Every moment is so precious for them now. We'll make a short visit later this evening.

It just makes you think. About moments. And how precious they are. Every last one of them.

Saturday, November 30, 2013


Some months ago I read an article in Smithsonian magazine about Cai Guo-Qiang, who is a gunpowder artist. Well, gee...those are two words you don't often see juxtaposed. 

Anyway, the gunpowder artwork was a little beyond me, but some of the things he said in the article about the process of creating his art resonated with me, and I got to thinking about his words again tonight. 

This, to me, is the essence of patience:

"Many things don’t have an immediate solution, and many conflicts cannot be resolved immediately. Sometimes things take time to heal and when you take a longer time you might be better able to accomplish your goal.

"[As an artist] the things you’re trying to relay, they can be full of conflict, and you do not necessarily have to use art to resolve all these conflicts. As long as you acknowledge these conflicts or address the conflict in your art, that is already meaningful.

"John Keats [expressed] the idea of “negative capability”: the distinction of a first-rate mind is that it can entertain conflicting ideas, “is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts without any irritable reaching” after certainty."*

Thank you, Mr. Cai.

I needed your words tonight. 

When I googled the artist this evening, I found these cool images of his recent show in Australia. And this is the artist's home page.

Just watched this video from Cai Guo-Qiang's web page. I liked it.

*From Smithsonian, April 2013, article about gunpowder artist Cai Guo-Qiang

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving 2013

Today is a beautiful day on Laurel Lane.

I slept in until 9:00 am. Ahhhhh….

We went for a walk along the OC Promenade.

Mom marching bravely across the catwalk over Hwy 99E.
 Snazzy new WARM jacket from REI.

 Yes, it really is this pretty here today.

I made a pumpkin roll from this recipe.
I calculated the points using the Weight Watcher's e-tools.
It will be 8 points for one slice.
Totally worth it.

Mom is making a pan of homemade lasagne from scratch.

I will make some of my delicious and beautiful single-serving green salads, and Mom is also making a squash-and-apple dish.

Turkey? Nope, not this year. Keepin' it simple.

At dessert we'll read our annual Thanksgiving poems. Mark and Mom have written theirs, but I haven't seen them yet. I'm giving you a sneak preview of mine.

This year my poem is a sonnet (again), which makes me happy. The first lines of the first two stanzas came to me in a dream last night, and I actually remembered them when I woke up this morning. I wrote the poem out longhand before I typed it. I like writing poetry longhand because it slows my thoughts down. Writing longhand lets me access different places inside me.

I Would Not Be

I would not be a stagnant pond—
algae-bound, where fish must grope for air—
though still and sure, complacent, always found
the same. There is no freedom there.

Oh make of me a heaving sea, a froth
of foam, a cauldron surging round its depth and height
that feeds its citizens with life, a broth
of air that fosters hope and joy and life.

God, make me lively, sensitive to all
the subtle senses of the unquiet soul,
that listens in the breath between the fall
of leaves, and silent seeds that rest in soil.

Awaken me to every moment’s birth:
Alert to daily miracles that crowd this spinning earth.

Hazard Canyon, central California coast, Dec 2006

Happy Thanksgiving 2013, dear blog friends! I'm so happy to be here on the planet with YOU!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Simple Sewing

I'm not part of Katie's amazing blog tour or anything like that, but I do want to tell you about Katie's book.

Probably I'm not part of the blog tour because I didn't begin the post saying something like, "I'm so excited to be part of the blog tour for this amazing little book! It's by Katie, who blogs over at The Red Kitchen…" I just don't have that sewing-craft-blogger voice. But that doesn't mean that I'm not really excited about Katie's book. (Well, that was an awkward sentence. Which is why your English teacher used to tell you to avoid double negatives. Because what I was trying to say is that I am really excited to tell you about Katie's book!!)

The first day I had my very own real honest-to-goodness print copy, I carried it all around the high school and showed the other teachers. The sewing teacher. The teacher who has his own publishing business on the side. The teacher who wrote a YA novel and sent it to an agent but it never made it (yet) to a publisher. The teachers who ask about my grandkids and know my kids' names. The teachers who taught Katie when she was in high school. The teachers who know nothing about sewing or Katie or my grandkids. Yeah, basically anyone who would listen.

Because, do you know just how cool it is when your daughter is a published author!!

Um, it's pretty amazingly cool.

You see books out there on the shelves of stores and libraries, and it's hard to imagine that it hasn't always been…a book. This thing, with the cover and the table of contents and the page numbers and the wonderful story or the dandy information or whatever it is that this particular book is. Books are…books, right?

But I'm the lucky mama who got to watch this book come together, from the time when it was "a twinkle in its author's eye" to the time when my very own copy came in the mail. I got to help Katie proofread some early drafts. I got to be her cheerleader on the sidelines. I got to brainstorm with her when she was writing her book proposal for her publisher (!!).

This book started out as a dream. Then it moved into a notebook filled with instructions and dimensions that came to life when Katie started making patterns and trying out the projects on her sewing machine. (Oh, and that would be the sewing machine that Mark and I gave her as a wedding present.) The book became a photo file with several thousand photos that Katie took to create the step-by-step photos. It turned into hours and hours and hours and hours of Katie working away in her little basement sewing room…or writing away while Olivia was in preschool…or editing again the instructions and the photos because she wanted it all to be right.

She just did it.

And now it's a book. In time for Christmas. Perfect for beginners, no matter the age. Dandy for experienced sewers who want simple, classy, classic ideas they can customize to their heart's content. Ready to jump its cheery little self into homes all over the continent (the world??) to bring sewing goodness to everyone.

Can I share with you the best moment?

It was opening up the cover and reading the dedication: "To my mother, who taught me how to sew. And write."

Oh, and then to turn the page to the acknowledgements and read, "Heartfelt thanks to my mother…"

And then finally, in the author bio at the back of the book: "She first learned how to sew as a child in her mother's makeshift sewing room and this early love of creating has continued throughout her life."

I'll say. We used to call her the Engineer because she was constantly twisting wire and bits of this and that into…this and that.

Thanks, Katie. Thanks for letting me share those things with you. They mattered to me, and I'm glad they matter to you, too.

Anyway, it probably won't surprise you too much to hear that when I was dragging my bee-you-tee-ful copy of Simple Sewing  around the high school that I sometimes introduced it as my "newest grandchild." It's just pretty darn amazing.

And then, last night when I stopped in at Barnes and Noble just to see it on the shelf, the clerk told me they were all sold out and they would call me when the next shipment comes in. (Go, little book, go!!) So when he asked me, did I give him my number? You bet your little sewing book.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Best teacher

Today in Sunday School, the teacher asked us to reminisce about the best teacher we remember.

Mr. O'Connor, 6th grade. Awesome. It was a 5-6 blend, and it there were several pairs of siblings in the class. One of them was me and my brother, Maury. Not sure how Maury felt about it, but I loved it. There was also Judy and Phoebe Froggat and Joan and Nancy Nagano (although the Naganos were actually cousins). But I digress.

Mr. O'Connor made us do isometric exercises out of a little book from the Canadian Air Force. I thought they were dumb and I didn't like doing them. I loved Mr. O'Connor but I didn't like his exercises. But he also taught us a new game called Speedball, which I loved. This was in 1965, and soccer was not a big deal in the U.S. In fact, I had never heard of soccer. But speedball must be soccer's little brother. Very similar. It was great fun.

(I looked up "speedball" on google and came up with: 1) mixing heroin and cocaine, 2) a game that involves some sort of bunkers, 3) a brand of pens. None of those is the speedball I am referring to. Many thanks to Mrs. King and her homepage, which provided the above link. Actually, I think Mrs. King has some work to do on her homepage. I found her speedball page. Then I clicked on "home" at the bottom of the speedball page to see what other awesome links she has. She has a great picture of a tiger, and an animated title ["Mrs. King's Homepage"] that inches across the screen, but that's it. No links to anything. Not even the speedball page. So I hope she'll contact the tech department at her school district in South Dakota and get some help. Her url begins with jk065.k12.sd.us, which means she works in a school district in South Dakota. I did a quick google search for jk065 and I got a link to flag football! Awesome. Do you think Mrs. King teaches P.E.? I did a little more sleuthing and I think that in South Dakota "jk" means something like Junior Kindergarten. I know that seems a big much, but I found some schools that prided themselves on being JK-12 public schools. Here in Oregon, we refer to school districts as K-12, meaning Kindergarten - 12th grade, so what else are you going to do with the "JK"? They can't mean "Just Kidding - 12th grade," right?)

Anyway, it's time for bed and we are now so far off track that I don't think I can say much more about Mr. O'Connor. Not that I could have said much more anyway…it's been almost 50 years since I was in his classroom doing Canadian AF isometrics and playing Speedball. Beyond mentioning that I remember doing awesome poster projects (the entire process of photosynthesis in a leaf) and giggling a lot with my friends while Mr. O'Connor gave us the evil eye and said, "Ladies, you are babbling like a brook," and…um…yeah. That's about all I remember.

Oh, except that I remember feeling valued and loved in his classroom. He was a really awesome teacher.
Just like Mrs. King is, too, I'm sure.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Sun Salutation

For years I have wanted to be able to do the Sun Salutation. It is a series of yoga poses, and even though I tried several times, I never could quite learn it.

Then I found this video.

The description on the video says, "This video explores the traditional Sun Salutation: a simple, and effective series of Yoga Postures that invigorates the whole body. Guided by Brooklyn Yoga School founder, Lily Cushman, learn the sequence step by step with detailed instruction. No Yoga experience required. Open to all Levels. Enjoy!"

That is a good description! I did learn it step by step, and now I do at least one Sun Salutation every morning when I get up. Sometimes I do 4 or 5, and some mornings I set a timer for 10 or 15 minutes and just keep doing them. It's a wonderful workout that stretches me, strengthens me, and gets my heart rate moving.

It doesn't matter that I'm clumsier than Lily in the video. I'm getting stronger and more graceful every day. I love the way Sun Salutation helps me breathe deeply and stretch at the beginning of the day.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Meditations for Women who Do Too Much

I recently rediscovered a little book on my bookshelf:

Meditations for Women who Do Too Much
by Anne Wilson Schaef

It has 365 short meditations. After I found it on the bookshelf a couple of weeks ago, I've been reading one each morning. Here are a couple of my recent favorites.

October 22: Being Direct
If you can't be direct, why be? -- Lily Tomlin
     Being direct is almost archaic in this culture. With all the "spin," "handling," innuendo, and outright lying it is difficult to know what anyone is saying and what is real or not real.
     "Feminine" women have been trained in smooth talk, inference, manipulation, and control. Our mothers and grandmothers were masters of the "soft sell." They had to be. They were raised to be impotent and dependent.
     We often feel resentful and sad because we find ourselves dealing with illusion. It's not that we don't perceive reality. We do! We just don't want to have to dig it out all the time.
     We women are good at seeing the whole picture. We are good at seeing the fine details. We are great at generating creative options. And we are excellent at understanding the emotional as well as the intellectual nuances.
     As we women are changing and our roles are changing, do we want to slip into the male form of smooth talk and spin? We have some choices to make here. This particular choice may not seem like such a big one, but it has great implications.
     Why not be direct? Being direct takes so much less time and energy. Why be if we can't be direct?

October 30: Being Obsessed / Needing Others
She who rides a tiger is afraid to dismount. -- Proverb
     Being obsessed with our work is often thought to be a requirement for success. Yet, when was it that the tail started wagging the dog? Where was the point at which we stopped doing our work, and it began doing us?
     It is a lot harder to get off the roller coaster in the middle than it was to get on it. This is why we need the companionship of others who are struggling with the same issues: they support our process of getting unhooked from our obsessive doing.
     It is only with the support of others and the renewed connection with a power greater than ourselves that we can hope to become whole.
     I suppose I can dismount if I have a few people helping to hold the tiger. I have been known to dismount!

…and so on. Some of the meditations are a little cheesy, and a couple haven't resonated with me at all, but for the most part, my morning meditation is a helpful moment of stillness as I begin another busy day. I'm grateful for the encouragement to slow down, to stay with what is truly important, to speak up for myself and my needs.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Weight Watchers

I've joined Weight Watchers off and on over the years. Two years ago I joined an "at work" group, which is really nice because the meetings are just there after work once a week. I'm lucky because my insurance company pays for policy holders to join WW, as long as you attend regularly (10 x in a 13-week cycle).

I'm not a lot overweight. My body mass index (BMI) is currently in the "normal weight" category.

The problem is, if I'm not careful about what I eat…and I love to eat…my weight steadily creeps up. In September I was 4 pounds heavier than I am right now, and I was at the absolute upper limit of the "normal weight" category for my BMI.

You know, that place where your pants are too tight and you feel bloated and lethargic.

So this fall I re-committed to attending the meetings regularly and making the Weight Watchers healthy eating + activity program a lifetime commitment. Even though I'm technically at a point where I could go to the meetings once in a while, I'm trying to weigh in and stay for the support group every week. It's making a difference.

It's so easy for me to be a weight-loss snob. I'm not that fat. I know the principles of good nutrition and I often follow them. I carry a backpack around in the woods for days at a time, for heaven's sake!

On the other hand, it's not as if I have the weight-maintenance thing nailed down yet, either. I've been keeping daily track of my morning weight for 6 years now, and I repeatedly fluctuate between 129-141 pounds. I'm 129-ish when I live the Weight Watchers healthy program consistently. I'm 140-ish when I don't.

Three weeks ago I bought a new tool to help me monitor my activity levels. It's called the "ActiveLink" monitor and it's just a dandy little gadget.
Here's why I like it:

  1. It's easy to wear. It's very inconspicuous. 
  2. It gives me detailed data on activity levels every day when I plug it into the computer. It also gives a quick look at my activity levels during the day so I can see if I need to take the long way around next time I walk from my classroom to the office.
  3. It helps me set goals that gradually increase, so I can build up my activity and movement.
  4. It measures all my activity, not just the 30-40 minutes I spend on a walk or other activity.

Here's a screen shot of what my data screen looks like today. Cool! I made it over my activity goal!

 Since I began attending the weekly meetings in September, I've lost 5 pounds! Hooray! Tomorrow I'm going shopping for new pants in a smaller size!

Update - The Young Women in Excellence program on Thursday night was awesome…and no one said anything to me about the Canadian spelling.