Thursday, August 27, 2009

Missing Keppy

The Rev. Katrina VanAlstyne Welles Swanson died August 27, 2005

My family was one of the outer-urban pioneers back in the ‘50s, living the country life out beyond the city limits of Kansas City, but going to work and school in town. And traveling between on that great blue-gray institution, the Martin City Bus. It was on that rattle-trap conveyance that I made a friend of Keppy Welles who lived even farther out than I did. We bonded on the long bench seat up front and discovered we shared many interests.

She was two years older and began, even at that early stage of our friendship, to influence me. She persuaded me to come to the Youth Group at her church but failed to mention her father was the Bishop. I discovered that much later. After she got her driver’s license, we gave up the bus and rode in her woodie station wagon that she drove like a maniac. We smoked Camel cigarettes and thought we were inordinately cool.

We hooked up again in Boston where we were both going to college, and then again back in Kansas City where her husband George was the rector of an inner-city church. A few years after that we both ended up in California and spent many weekends together with our new young families. She and George became my oldest son Scott’s godparents.

When she and George went to Botswana, we welcomed Peter and Hilda, the rector and his wife, from the church there with whom they were exchanging. The Bloomfields then became godparents for my second son Philip. We remained friends with the Swansons through all the years that they were on the East Coast and I was still in San Francisco. I followed her career as she blazed a trail for women as one of the first eleven women ordained in the Episcopal Church.

Scott and I visited Keppy and George in New Jersey in the early 90’s, and we saw her again in San Francisco when she and George were returning from the Olympics in Japan.

I last talked to Keppy in early July of 2005. Christmas 2004 I had sent her a shawl I had knit for her. She said she felt my love when she wrapped herself in it. In that conversation, I told her the story of buying the only eggplant in the small town where I was living, and she was the one who encouraged me to write it down. And so my book, Down Home Musings, began.

The last communication between us was a card from her that said: “Dear Patty…Love, Keppy.” Nothing in between. Her handwriting, but George had addressed the envelope. I knew she was thinking of me. She died August 27, 2005 before she received my last letter to her.

She was my friend and confidante, co-madre for my son, spiritual counselor, guiding spirit, role model, and someone who lived her dream. I miss her still.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Be careful what you ask for…you might get it.

This Letter to the Editor was published in the Oregonian on August 22nd. I thought it summed things up quite nicely. I do keep ranting on my side of the argument even though it may offend some people who support the President’s plan. I am very resentful that I will have my very good insurance taken away in order to fund care for all people. Now some have quality care, some have none. With the Reform, all will have mediocre coverage. Why is that a good thing?

"Questionable reformers

Let me get this straight.
We're going to get a health care plan shoved down our throats that is written by a committee whose head says he doesn't understand it, passed by a Congress that hasn't read it (but exempts themselves from it for life), signed by a president who smokes and also hasn't read it (and also is exempt for life), with funding administered by a treasury chief who didn't pay his taxes, overseen by a surgeon general who is obese, and financed by a country that's nearly broke.
This is the same government that oversees the U.S. Postal Service, which is in debt upwards of $7 billion, while UPS and FedEx continue to make money.
What could possibly go wrong?"


Monday, August 24, 2009

August 24, 1937

In the news:
Amelia Earhart vanishes
War Admiral wins Kentucky Derby
Golden Gate Bridge opens
Snow White movie debuts
Glenn Miller Band debuts
Dust bowl in Oklahoma causes mass migration
George VI crowned King of England
Edward VIII marries Wallis Warfield Simpson
Joe Louis becomes World Heavyweight Champion
Franklin Roosevelt is President of the United States

What things cost:
First class stamp 3¢
Loaf of bread 9¢
Gallon of gas 20¢
Gallon of milk 50¢
New car $675
New house $4,100
Average wage $1,700

People were reading:
Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie
The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Also born in 1937:
Bill Cosby
Hunter S Thompson
Dustin Hoffman
Diane Canon
Margaret O’Brien
Vanessa Redgrave
Tom Smothers
Warren Beatty
Jack Nicholson

All that was 72 years ago in the year I was born. My parents lived with my grandmother in the big house near Valentine Road in Kansas City. My sister was 16 and about to leave for college at Lindenwood in eastern Missouri. Gramma Barnes was 72 then and considered an “Old Lady.” Now that I am the same age and caring for my little granddaughter, I can understand what it meant for her to have us as part of her household. Gramma read The Kansas City Star every day and she would have known of all the events above. Topics for the dinner table conversation. I think, from all I’ve heard, that it was a happy day for all concerned when I arrived.

Sunday, August 23, 2009


That weekend in the middle of August 1969, my second son Phil was 1 ½ , his older brother Scott had just turned five and was excited about starting kindergarten in September. We lived in a rented house on Magnolia Avenue in Millbrae, California. I was a happy hippie housewife schlepping around in my Birkenstocks and granny dresses, growing sprouts on the kitchen window sill, baking bread, making macramé plant holders, and getting together with my neighbor for coffee and donuts. I designed table decorations for something called The Flaming Festival and I had a little craft group that met once a week in my basement.

Although I often drove up to The City or nearby environs for concerts and outdoor music, it never occurred to me to travel to the East Coast. How could they possibly top Monterey Pop Festival which had been held two years before and seemed the quintessential hippie event? Most all the defining moments in hippie culture happened on the West Coast. New York…where is that? Little did I know.

So I wasn’t there. I am willing to admit it, but there are way more people claiming to have attended than would actually fit in the state. There’s a new movie out. I haven’t seen it but I will order it from Netflix when it’s available. A trip back in time and some tie-dye memories.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Property Rights

My neighbor has complained about my big shade tree. He is worried that a leaf or a twig will fall on his cheap plastic carport roof. The manager has written me up with a notice to trim it back to the property line. I have until the 23rd to comply. Thankfully I have sons who own tools and equipment and ladders and pick-up trucks. They will be out Saturday and we will make the cuts. It angers me beyond measure that old man Frank can create such disruption in my life. I love my tree and I love that it shades the living room and I love that it blocks out the view of the neighbors. But the law is on his side. If I don’t cut it back, Frank can have it done and send me the bill. Such are property rights in Oregon. There is no law about waking me up at 5:30 a.m.

Petty people who get upset about insignificant things are an irritating part of life. I have had some nasty neighbors in the past. One who stabbed my dog because she jumped on the fence, one who poisoned all my plants because she didn’t like native plants, one who parked in my parking space every night because I wasn’t using it, one who left country music blasting on his radio all day while he was at work because it never occurred to him that he wasn’t the center of the universe. No end to the examples!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Online Communities

Hello beloved Blog Readers. Please do not feel you need to look elsewhere to find me in cyber space. But just to be clear….Twitter is not the same as a blog. It is a very short posting of one or two sentences that total 140 characters including punctuation.

Today’s tweet: “Another quiet day at The Hideaway. Ember is watching Sesame Street and I am knitting. Summer breeze coming in the window.” Yesterday I said: “My desk is a mess with sliding stacks of paper all over it and on the surrounding floor. Crying out for a day of sorting and purging.” Twitter is not a substitute for my blog.

It is also not the same as Facebook although I am on that as well. And I’m on My Space, too. I also love my online knitting/quilting community. I enjoy communicating with friends and also with people halfway round the world that share a common interest. The stroke support group has been phenomenal. I think these social networking sites are great fun and, for me, not a waste of time.

E-mail is another form of electronic communication and I have used that quite a bit to keep in touch and send out information. However, in a Brain Fart Moment, I erased my entire address book in Outlook. So if you want to hear from me again via e-mail, please e-mail me first so I can save your address.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Hump Day

It is Wednesday and after today, only two days until the weekend. A fact that mattered when I was working. Doesn’t make much difference now, as the days run together. But it is something I always associate with my sister who never failed to mention “hump day” in her letters to me.

Over the years, we had quite a correspondence. For many years she used the same stationery that she bought at Pacific 5&10 in San Francisco. A collection of pastel blue, green, yellow and pink paper and envelopes. Those distinctive envelopes would jump out of a stack of bills and ads. Those letters were my lifeline during some really tough years. I saved them and they are in a box somewhere. I’m not sure if I will ever re-read them, but just seeing the envelopes makes me feel close to her.

Not very many people write letters anymore. E-mail has pretty much displaced that activity and I am as guilty as anyone else. Old age and arthritis have made my handwriting shaky and I can type faster than I can put pen to paper. But I do still write notes of condolence by hand and unfortunately I am writing more of those these days. Hallmark has also contributed to this situation as there is now a card for every conceivable life event. Although in looking at the many cards I’ve received recently, I see everyone took the time to add a personal note. Friends mean so much and knowing they are thinking of me is very comforting.

Now that I think of it, I do look forward to weekends after all. More time with Ember, fun activities with my family, my Saturday knitting group…all more exciting than a mid-week Wednesday with nothing to do but tackle the mess on my desk.

Monday, August 17, 2009

What To Do First?

Down home we say “If you want to make Rabbit Stew, first catch the rabbit.” So it should be of no surprise to you or anyone else, that before I start to knit I wind the yarn. [I could go back a few more steps and shear the sheep, but…that’s outside my skill set.]. I know there are many mechanical gizmos that twirl around and wind the yarn and all you have to do is stand there and turn a crank. Or maybe it does it by itself.

Recently I was chastised for winding my own ball of wool by a knitter who said it was as boring as watching grass grow. And why would I want to do it myself when there was an easier way? I reminded her that she could buy a sweater already knit and skip the whole process. Really… c’mon. Let me do the things that give me pleasure, things I know how to do, and…even better… things that don’t cost money.

Winding yarn is a calming task that is a prelude to knitting. It lets you feel the yarn go through your fingers so you get a sense of how it will knit up. You can also check for irregularities like knots or color splotches. You control the tension and don’t end up with a “sprung” section at the end of the ball.

Knitters are a varied group who share a common interest but have individual ways of enjoying their hobby. Just ask a group how they cast on, or if they “throw” the yarn. Straight or circular? Steel or wood? Fine points or blunt? Natural or acrylic?

Knitting is my salvation right now. As my brain attempts to heal itself, I love the repetitive rhythm of knitting. I have so many projects going I never get bored. Someday I might finish one or two. I did actually finish five and I took them down today to enter in the State Fair Home Arts Division. A sweater I made for Ember, a hat I made for myself that doesn’t fit, a felted purse I will never carry, a mauve Van Dyke lace scarf that I will definitely wear, and a pair of beaded fingerless mitts that I am saving for a night at the opera. I won ribbons for my entries last year but these are not as unusual so…probably not this year. But if you happen to attend the Oregon State Fair…look for them.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Half and Half

August is either half full or half empty depending on how you look at it. Nevertheless, this is the point when we begin the downslide to Labor Day and Back-To-School. Seems like I am just ripping off the calendar pages too quickly. Today marks eight weeks since the Brain Fart and I guess I am half recovered and half still struggling. I lost a good chunk of the summer which has had uncharacteristically nice weather. Bad timing!! Hikes not taken, garden not planted, outside projects undone. Now I am playing catch up.

All around me things are half finished. I have half the energy I used to have. And since little Ember arrived, half the time to do things. This is…if I may be blunt…a half-assed way to live. But living I am which is a bonus and I am grateful despite the snide remarks. In ten days I will celebrate turning 72 which seems like a very large number.

My calendar is filling up with activities again and I look forward to getting out more and being able to reconnect with friends. Still, though, after two days in a row of out-and-about doings last weekend, I felt like I had been run over by a train.

My internet back-up/recovery program is called Bounce Back. I wish they had one for people. Just click a key and let it run and…voila…all’s well again. But progress…while slow…is steady and I am still here.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Spare Me!

Chocolate-Covered Bacon
Original recipe by PartySugar


6-8 slices thick cut, best-quality bacon
12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
4 ounces white chocolate, melted, optional for garnish


1.Preheat the oven to 375°F.
2.Place the bacon on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake in the oven, until bacon is cooked to your liking. 15 minutes for soft bacon, 20 minutes for crispy bacon.
3.Let bacon cool on the parchment paper for 5 minutes then transfer to a plate lined with paper towels.
4.Meanwhile set up a double boiler. Heat a large saucepan filled with water over high heat until boiling. Reduce heat to a simmer.
5.Set a heat-proof bowl over the simmering water. Add the chocolate chips and stir with a fork until smooth and completely melted.
6.Cover another baking sheet with parchment paper.
7.Using tongs, carefully dip the bacon into the melted chocolate turning to coat all sides in chocolate. Transfer to the clean sheet of waiting parchment paper. Repeat with remaining slices of bacon.
8.Drizzle with the white chocolate, if desired.
9.Refrigerate until chocolate is hard.
10.Once cool, enjoy!
Makes 6-8 slices of chocolate-covered bacon.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Why I Oppose Obama’s Health Care Reform Proposal

He has said, many times, that if you already have health insurance you can keep it. This is misleading and not true because part of his plan to fund his ambitious reform is to eliminate the Medicare Advantage plans that are currently available to seniors. That would leave them with only traditional Medicare.

Here’s how it works now: Medicare Part B costs Social Security recipients $96.40 and is deducted from their monthly payment. For that exact same amount, (in others words without any more out-of-pocket cost) seniors can enroll in Medicare Advantage plans. These are “no premium” plans. There are several HMOs to choose from. These insurance plans are accepted by most hospitals, doctors, and clinics. On the other hand, very few physicians will accept Medicare patients.

So forgive me if I am tempted to go to a Town Hall and start yelling. Obama’s plan is going to take away my insurance and offer nothing in its place. Leave well enough alone.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

What Are You Reading?

Just recently finished:
Powell, Julie - Julie & Julia
Shaffer, Mary Ann and Barrows, Annie - The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Adamson, Gil - The Outlander

Currently in progress:
Niffenegger, Audrey - The Time Traveler’s Wife

The Queue:
Hammond, Diane - Hannah’s Dream (September Book Club)
Goodwin, Doris Kearns - Team of Rivals (October Book Club)
Dickson, Nicole - Casting Off
Olesker, Jack - Cast On, Bet’s Off
Dye, Dan & Beckloff, Mark - Amazing Gracie

Send recommendations to

Monday, August 10, 2009

Summer’s End

The first flock of geese went over at dawn this morning heralding the annual migration that passes above my house. This is the beginning of my end-of-summer wake-up calls. The geese hunker down in the field across the road and take off at first light, calling out their greetings to one another and announcing their presence. At dusk they swoop in from the north, flying low across the River and flapping down among the weeds at the old farm across the way, honking all the way.

Princess goes on full alert at the first rustle, waiting for the gunshot that would mean a bird to retrieve. She watches the flock fly over and I sense a restlessness in her. She was bred to hunt but I chose another life for her.

It’s time to buy school clothes and shoes, stock up on supplies, and make those annual “To Do” resolutions. Things to get done after the kids are back in school. I still live by that clock even though it has been many years since back-to-school directly affected me. Especially not this year as I won’t be returning to the college. Nevertheless…I always make a list on my birthday and look to Fall as a new year and a new start.

We’ve already celebrated my birthday with the Family Camping Adventure so there won’t be any big whoop-de-doo on the 24th. Just my own acknowledgement that I dodged the bullet this time and a thankfulness that I am here to turn 72.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

The Angst of Autumn

The angst of Autumn is in the air despite the calendar. There’s no sunshine on this cloudy Sunday afternoon, and the sounds of summer have disappeared. Kids are inside playing video games instead of running in the street. It is only early August, but leaves are falling and the stores are selling back-to-school supplies and clothes. What happened to our glorious hot sunny days? Times of iced tea and lolling around. Now…already we are drawing in. Thinking of winter and sweaters and chilly nights. I’m regretting taking the flannel sheets off the bed.

A trip to the bookstore this morning for a supply of books to have on hand once colder weather sets in. Last Friday a trip to the Marketplace at Sock Summit for a supply of yarn for hats and scarves and socks. Already a sweater is on the needles and it should be done by the first frost. This doesn’t seem right. These are activities for October. Some would disagree, but it does seem that Climate Change might be responsible.

There’s a sadness about these grey days and a pining for long lost summer days back at Terrapin Station in Missouri. Now there’s a place that knows how to do summer! Fall came later there. Summer lasted longer. But this year there will be a brightness in the house with little Ember and so the dark days of despair will be held at bay.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Morning View

Here I am with my morning coffee (1/2 real - 1/2 decaf) and my knitting (back to the wool sweater now that it is cool again). From my spot on the couch I can look out the window and see my own overgrown yard that hides the unattractive view of my neighbor’s house which he has painted baby puke pink. Unfortunately, the leaves depart in the Fall and I have to devise other means to dress up the view. On a clear day, I can see the bank of mailboxes and watch the local residents pick up their mail which can, believe it or not, be entertaining. (Do I need to get a life?)

There’s no sun today. Perhaps elsewhere, but not here at the foot of Mt. Hood. She has drawn a silvery shawl of fog over her summer dress. A chilly breeze is sneaking in the windows left open to let out yesterday’s heat. The Triple Digit Days are over and we are back in the Pacific Northwest. We are nearing the Back-to-School day that will provide some welcome relief from the constant drone of kiddies playing and the interminable ball bouncing.

The half-dead plants that greeted me when I returned from camping have perked up since the dousing I gave them yesterday. The fuchsia didn’t make it, but the rest are soldiering on. I like the look of my porch…all greenery and wind chimes...that greets me when I come home. The grass died so does not require mowing.

Ember is at daycare today and I have two Dr. appts. It is, as my sister used to say, “hump day,” and the slide toward the weekend begins. When I was working, this mattered. Now…every day is pretty much the same.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Danger of Wildflowers

On one of my walks on our Family Camping Adventure this weekend, I encountered the Forest Service Ranger. I asked her the topic of the evening’s presentation at the Amphitheater. When I got back to the campsite, the others asked what it was. Danger of Wildflowers! That’s what came out of my addled brain instead of Danger of Wildfires. I like the idea of wildflowers better.

We were able to have a campfire despite the restrictions, as long as we kept inside the designated fire circle at our campsite. It wasn’t really necessary to have a fire in order to keep warm as the weather was mild. But what is camping without a campfire? The babies learned to avoid “HOT” and kept their distance. We had five tents scattered about three sites strategically placed in a triangle to keep the wee ones contained.

Ember navigated the rough terrain with aplomb and little Oliver managed very well although he plopped down a few times. The kids ran and played and loved the long rides in the wagon. With so many uncles on hand there was always someone to pull them. We went down to the river (Clackamas) and also to a small stream nearby. The kids played in the water, ate sand and dirt, threw rocks, and had a wild and crazy time. The grown-ups took naps and the kids didn’t. Every body out of their usual routines. We had some great food and lots of snacks. Music, games, books, and for me…knitting.

We were at Indian Henry Rock Campground in Mt. Hood National Forest about 20 miles east of Estacada. An hour from home. We are blessed to live in an area that other people drive miles to visit. Home now. Tired and dirty. All the equipment is waiting to be cleaned and stowed away for next time. Some very happy memories were made to celebrate my 72nd birthday.