Thursday, October 26, 2006

Mourning the Loss

My Missouri friend, Sheryl Stone, died last night. A sudden onset of a deadly infection took her life in a matter of a few weeks. I last heard from her in late August as she was excitedly planning her participation in the Labor Day Celebration in Clinton. She was to be a judge in the Miss Henry County contest, which she was doing a bit tongue-in-cheek.

Sheryl was the one who recruited me to work for DSS and she was my boss during my tenure there. After I retired, we met for lunch fairly often and remained friends. When I moved out here to Oregon, we kept in touch by e-mail. She was a good friend and a fair boss and a generally nice person with a good spirit. She had "retired" from DSS and taken a job as a Victim's Advocate with the Court. She enjoyed working, but was glad to be out from under the pressure of the Children's Division bureaucracy.

She was looking forward to full retirement and a chance to pursue her hobbies and interests. She loved to bowl and was in a league there in Clinton. She loved to shop and once on a "business" trip to Springfield, we snuck to the mall where she splurged on a very expensive bright red real leather purse. I remember her jaunty step as she carried that bag when we went to lunch soon after.

Tonight I mourn the loss of a special friend. May she rest in peace.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Go Red Birds!

5 - 0 last night makes it two games to one. What else can I say?

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Milepost 16

One year ago today, a small caravan was making its way westward into the setting sun through the Columbia River Gorge. A Nissan Pathfinder bearing Pat, Windy, Princess Dark Star, Little Buddy and Lenny followed by a U-Haul driven by Phil connected by little walkie-talkie radios. As we drove through The Dalles and started down the Gorge we began counting off the green milepost markers…86…85…84. On the radio, entries from the Lewis and Clark journals were being read and we could envision them traveling the same path on foot so many years ago.

67…66…65 and Hood River went by. No stopping now. Press on regardless. The rest of the family was waiting at the other end at the home these children found for their mother and had spent the past month painting and fixing and carpeting to make it warm and welcoming. New carpet on the floor, new mini blinds on the windows. They chose the colors to make a sunny background for the furniture that has graced so many of their homes.

33...32…31 and the spectacular glory of Multnomah Falls whizzed by on the left. We’re on the cells phones now, announcing our imminent arrival. After four long days of cross-country travel with three people, three animals and two vehicles, we were exhausted and ready to stretch our legs and then get a good night’s rest.

20…19…18 so close. The signs of civilization along the roadside. Gas stations, some industrial buildings. We are almost there. Lewis and Clark Park and the Sandy River Delta. Exit 17 to Troutdale. One more to go.

Finally…Milepost 16 and the Wood Village Exit. A few turns and we are pulling up in front of #43 on Elderberry Circle. Home before dark to a loving welcome and a joyous reunion of the whole family. The end of the journey from Missouri and the start of a new life in Oregon.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Where’s My Polling Place?

Just about every year when I wasn’t working full time (and there were several), I signed up to work at my polling place. A few extra bucks to stand there smiling and meet my neighbors and eat doughnuts and drink really bad coffee. A civic duty I liked to perform.

When I wasn’t an election official, I enjoyed standing in line (sometimes in the rain) and chatting with other locals while waiting to get into a booth and mark my ballot. In all my years since that first election after I became of age (and voted for John F. Kennedy!), I have not missed a chance to vote. So I’m really tuned into this election day activity.

And in all these years, that activity has been linked with a polling place. A garage, a church basement, a fire station, a courthouse, a school. Usually that location would be printed on the Voter’s Pamphlet. If not, look on the little card you got when you registered to vote.

When my search through those sources didn’t turn up my polling place here in Wood Village, I called Voter Information. The first person I talked to did not know what I was talking about (young sounding voice…maybe a student intern?) so he transferred me to another person who started laughing at my question.

How embarrassing to learn in that manner that Oregon VOTES BY MAIL. There are no polling places. An American institution has gone by the wayside, and in this progressive state where it rains every day at this time of year, citizens can stay in their warm cozy homes and vote in their underwear. What a concept.

My ballot will arrive in the mail any day now. For old times’ sake, I think I will go outside and stand in the rain for a few minutes and then go into one of my unheated outbuildings to mark my choices. Which, by the way, will include the incumbent governor (D) and a YES vote on the Ballot Measures for Parks and the Library. For my State Representative I am casting my vote for Ron Brading (D) who I know to be a champion of keeping censorship out of the libraries. And I will cast my vote for Congress to Earl Blumenauer (D) who votes green.

This is a really important election, both locally and nationally, and a chance to tip the balance and make some important changes. So if you live in a state that still has polling places, go there and VOTE!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Salmon Festival

The Chinook are spawning in the Sandy River, and yesterday this annual event was celebrated at Oxbow Regional Park. It poured down rain and, in true Oregon spirit, many people gathered to mill about, listen to music, eat really expensive food, and drop by the many craft and information booths set up inside the giant white tent.

It was a fashion parade of rain gear for adults and children and by far the most common brand name seen was Columbia. (This just happens to be my son Andy’s place of employment.) Kids were decked out in bright colors and all the kiddie transport devices had umbrellas or rain shields. Vendors sold items that were, of course, all natural such as handspun wool and native clay pottery. Lots of booths had interactive games for the children (designed to facilitate learning) and prizes and most of the folks had tote bags full of helpful information for living green in the greenest place on the planet.

The booth with info about Measure 26-80 was my first volunteer stint of the day. The measure will add about 4,000 acres to Portland Metro’s park system as well as provide funds for 140 “neighborhood” projects. Through this measure, Wood Village will receive a substantial grant for wetlands restoration. (I serve on the Parks and Recreation Commission and I’ll have a say in developing the plan.) Residents of the Metro Area will vote on this measure on November 7th.

After a short lunch break, I moved over to the Friends of the Columbia Gorge booth where I passed out information about the Hiking Program and answered questions about the effects of a tribal gaming casino if Warm Springs builds one in Cascade Locks. I had an especially interesting conversation with a member of the Wasco tribe who was there for the dancing exhibition. He had not made up his mind where he stood on the issue and was very grateful for the facts I provided him.

The rain continued throughout the day but that did not douse the spirits of the outdoorsy crowd. The wagon ride behind two Percheron draft horses was very popular. And there were people of all ages dancing in front of the band. The parking lot became a mud bog and it was the first time in a year of living here that I used the four-wheel drive on Rider.

Home to take the dogs for their walk and then a hot shower. Crashing on the couch to finish reading the Sunday paper and to watch the Cardinals get trounced by the Mets. Now it is Monday and I’m glad I don’t have to be at work this morning!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Foggy Foggy Dew

This morning, Mt. Hood has hidden herself in fog to cover her nakedness, the result of the end of a long dry summer. She will no doubt remain behind this curtain until the first snow arrives which is being predicted for tomorrow. At least a foot is expected and the skiers are already lining up in Government Camp in anticipation. The season is shifting and it is evident in the fading afternoon light and the crisp chilly mornings.

Soon we will officially signal the change by resetting the clocks and going back to Standard time. Daylight Saving will be over for this year. It will be dark at 5:00 p.m. and we will draw in to our homes and firesides. But yesterday was a glorious fall day and Phil and I were out with the dogs.

A leisurely hike on the cedar bark trail through the beautiful arboretum at Wood Village City Park. Followed by a ball throwing/chasing exercise for Princess. Buddy likes to watch her run but he does not join in the chase. He does like to run around at random dragging his leash and barking at bugs.

Tonight will be fun. Barbecuing (a garden burger for me) on the deck at Scott & Phil’s place followed by a DVD movie marathon. Last chance to kick back on the big green couch before it’s sold. I’ll take white cheddar popcorn and other snacks for the film festival. This casual get-together is why I moved to Portland. I spent many lonely Saturday nights in Missouri eating Jump Stop pizza and watching Cops on TV. It’s a joy to be so close to the kids.

Tomorrow is the Salmon Festival and I hope the snow holds off till at least four o’clock. I guess the Chinook don’t care, but it may make standing outside for four hours a bit unpleasant. I’ll be passing out literature in support of Measure 26-80 which is a Natural Areas initiative on the ballot in November. And also working at the Friends of the Columbia Gorge info booth.

Early on this socked-in Saturday morning, I am cozy inside catching up on e-mail and knitting and being lazy before the weekend begins in earnest

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

It’s All About Me

This little essay didn’t make it into my book, but I was reminded of writing it by a TV ad this morning encouraging me to “Tune in to Ron and I giving you the latest news.” So after a rummage in the old files…here it is.

It’s All About Me

Speaking of the grammar police, have you noticed that the decline and fall of the objective pronoun “me” is becoming more evident every day? I remember learning to parse sentences in English class, and drawing little lines every which way to show the sentence structure and identify nouns, pronouns, verbs, objects of verbs, etc. etc. etc. Apparently that has fallen out of fashion.

My readers of course do not make the egregious mistake of mixing up the subjective and objective pronouns “I” and “me.” But if you know someone who does…try this. Ask them to answer this question: “The clerk gave the tickets to Bob and ___.” Have them fill in the blank. “I” or “me”? Not sure? Well, tell them…forget Bob. “The clerk gave the tickets to ___.” ME. ME. ME! The correct answer in both cases is ME. With Bob or without. It is ME. It is all about ME.

This is the guiding rule: Forget the other person and choose the pronoun you would use if you were the only one there. You would not say “He gave them to I.” Would you? So don’t say “He gave them to Bob and I.” Do you think this morning’s reporter would have said “Tune in to I giving you the latest news” if Ron was not around?

This “I/me” confusion is one of the most common mistakes made today. Here are some more things to worry about: its/it’s? which/that? your/you’re? could of/could have? who’s/whose? data is/data are?….on and on and on. You can think of other examples. If you want to look up something when you’re not sure, I recommend Elements of Style by Strunk & White. For some humor, try Woe Is I by Patricia T. O’Conner. Or, a book recently on the bestseller list, Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss.

Just's all about ME.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Heat Is On

Despite my intentions to wait until November, the cold snap necessitated turning on the furnace. It was down to freezing in many spots last night, but not quite that low here at The Hideaway. Nippy nonetheless. So I twisted the thermostat around and let all the summer dust blow out the vents and now it is warming up in here. Ordinarily I would reach for a flannel shirt or a sweatshirt, but all the winter clothes are packed away in a big plastic tub and not exactly easily available. The dogs are back sleeping on their fuzzy velour cedar beds which they avoided in the summer. And we are reminded that winter is not so far off.

Yesterday I made several trips to the mailbox, first wondering why the carrier was so late, then wondering why for the first time ever my box was empty. Somewhere around five o’clock when the news came on I realized it was Columbus Day, and a bank and mail holiday. “Fourteen hundred and ninety two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” I don’t remember any more. Do you? I used to call it the Native American Day of Despair.

It was in 1992, 500 years later, when I went to the Columbus Day Concert in Mountain View to hear John Lee Hooker and Carlos Santana. A family moment etched in history was when I stood up suddenly and fell and rolled backwards down the hill at Shoreline and caused my daughter to pretend she did not know me. Ah…memories.

Monday, October 09, 2006

The Coupons Have Expired

Yesterday I cleaned out my desk and the surrounding areas which constitute my “office.” It was a rainy stay-in-the-house kind of day with football and baseball on TV to keep me company. What a giant task. Amazing as it may seem, I brought drawers full of miscellany from Osceola that I didn’t bother to sort before I packed. Then a year has transpired here and resulted in sliding stacks of papers of all kinds covering the area around my desk including the floor. So I just dug in and went through it all and sorted it and put things in brightly colored file folders and put current stuff in the desk (what a concept!) and older papers that needed to be saved in a file box destined for the storage building. Also filled a green garbage bag with unnecessary stuff like flyers for events long over and coupons long since expired.

I thought this cleansing would perhaps clear the fog around my brain. You may have noticed not much has been coming out of it lately. Friends have even e-mailed to see if I am alive and well. I have not expired. Just been very busy. I seriously over-programmed myself for October. Everything I committed to is something I want to do, but it jammed up the calendar. In fact, there is not a single day that doesn’t have at least one entry on it.

Except for yesterday, so I lounged around in my sweats and only went outside for a quick walk with the dogs between rain downpours. I took a break from the sorting to watch the Cardinals win. If you are from Missouri you will understand that. Especially if you lived or spent any time down home, you will remember listening to those games on the radio with Jack Buck announcing. The next game is with the Mets on Wednesday. Stay tuned.

Now that my work space is in order I can turn my attention back to the outdoors where the sun is shining and autumn is in full swing with scarlet trees and beckoning trails. Time to head out.