Wednesday, October 1, 2014

It's True!

Beginning in the early 80's I taught college prep English and eventually a college credit class called Humanities.  My goal was to present the arts, especially literature, as they evolved through time focusing on Western civilization. It was a special challenge to figure out how to present the future through a literary selection, and I decided to use Kate Wilhelm's Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang.  

Copyrighted in 1976, this amazing piece of science fiction featured a plot revolving around the collapse of civilization as we know it.  Members of the Sumner family residing somewhere on the East Coast try to cope with global challenges such as protecting the environment from pollution, world famine, climate change, computer technology, wilderness survival and, most pressing, how to manage the growing power of human clones.  It is a startling well-written look into the future as Wilhelm imagined it from her long ago vantage point.

None of those topics seem outlandish today, but as we studied the book in the early 80's we were astounded to even think about the problems as being real.  Within a few years, though, Dolly the sheep was cloned, climate change began to be noticed, computers arrived in the classroom and diseases such as ebola are now showing up in countries where just feeding the populace is a struggle.  In other words, the events in the novel have come true.

Scary. I remember wondering if I should discontinue teaching the book as a look into the future presented by science fiction when everything in it was becoming part of our reality.  The students said, "YES" so I kept it in the curriculum.  As I moved toward retirement in 2001, I saw that the book continued to be meaningful to students simply because it did envision our modern day life so accurately from so long ago.

Kate Wilhelm is (was? I don't know if she's still alive) an Oregonian who had teaching connections to the U of O and this book was the winner of the Hugo Award for Best Novel in its time.  I think it's been reprinted and might be available on-line.  Read it if you can get your hands on it. You'll be surprised at how accurately the future was foretold.


Thursday, September 4, 2014

First Day of School

Labor Day weekend still brings the back-to-school jitters even though it's been two and half years since I last had one.  I still feel the excitement, nerves, apprehensions and joy that knots up my stomach only I feel it vicariously through my family members who are headed off to different first days in different schools.  Amy is in a new classroom in a school that is trying to "reconstitute" its effectiveness with a population that's 80% free lunch.  Half the staff and the principal are new.  I can only imagine.  She's been fidgeting and fiddling with her classroom and her lessons all summer long and reported a good first day; in fact, she said, it was better than any good day she had last year.

Pat and I had the pleasure of walking Alicia right in to her 3rd grade room, seeing where she sits and receiving a warm greeting from her teacher.  We also enjoyed driving Mary to her first day in 7th grade keeping our fingers crossed that she wouldn't stumble over the locker combination, the room locations, and the social whirl that is so demanding of middle-schoolers. Both girls had excellent first days.

I spent the rest of the morning getting a wellness check.  My blood pressure and pulse were far more regulated than they probably were when I was doing my first days of all those years in school.  My doctor and I chatted and laughed in between talking about medical things.  He told me the story of his fishing trip to the Metolius River last September.  Out on an early morning jog, he spotted a woman leaning up against the side of the bridge there with another woman at her side.  He introduced himself as an MD and offered his help.  The injured woman's companion was an RN so between  the two of them they began to minister to what might have been a severe sprained ankle or possibly a break.  Then along came three fishermen one of which approached and introduced himself as an orthopedist.  So there at 8:00 in the morning an injured woman is helped by three different medical professionals.  How lucky was she?  I loved hearing that story on the first day of school.  Thank you, Dr. M.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

From Costco to Barnes and Noble

My entry is early this month because we had a "Costco Experience" combined with a bonus trip to Barnes and Noble today that needs to be reported. You probably know what I mean about the Costco visit.  I have to gather an odd sort of energy to make that trip; don't you? The first thing that makes me anxiously competitive is finding a place to park. Shallow breathing begins as soon as we turn into the lot and start the line up for the "best" parking spot. Then there's the weird rush to get a cart and be the first one to show our card.  This is followed by the sudden and very weird need that arises to get to the sample tables first. Then I try not to lose patience with the people who are rude about making their way around the book tables. After all, I was there first and I'm traveling in the correct clockwise direction. I finger several books including the one I want to find at Barnes and Noble although I'm sure the price here is much cheaper.  Of course it is, but I can read it on my Nook for even less if it weren't for the fact that I still need to hold a book in my hands once in awhile for that true organic reading experience. Then it was off to find the shortest check-out line, if there ever is such a thing.

I did find the exact book at B and N but it was too expensive compared to the Nook price so I sighed and turned my attention to the cook books in the Bargain Books section.  I LOVE cookbooks and have owned hundreds of them in my lifetime.  I try to limit my current collection to just one long shelf in my pantry but that is getting pretty full.  I'll soon need to recycle or give some away. (Let me know if you'd like one or ten.)

My very first cookbook was The I Hate to Cook Book. My old friend Lee used it and she truly hated to cook although I really enjoyed fussing around in the kitchen even at the newly married age of 21. Still, Peg Bracken's lasagna recipe was hard to beat. I have added so many books since that first one.  I even have my Aunt Gracie's original The Joy of Cooking and have read Julia Child from cover to cover.  I don't do fancy cooking but I like to read those haute cuisine books because they teach me so much about food.  I'd just rather serve something traditionally American rather than a wedge of exotic fish plated over a squiggle of orange sauce and adorned with a sprig of arugula. I'm fascinated by crock pot cookery and acquired probably half of dozen cookbooks featuring that kind of food preparation until I realized that those recipes just imitate each other from book to book so I stopped buying them.  I like easy to fix recipes but don't like those four ingredient cookbooks.  They include too many recipes based on cream of mushroom soup.

The book I bought today is from the Taste of Home publishers called Country Cooking. I will read it at least two times from cover to cover if not three times.  I will promise myself to make at least one recipe from each section. If I don't, oh well, I got the reading's worth out of it. And just let me say that you can purchase cookbooks in the bargain section at B and N for less than the purchase price of magazines at the grocery store.

These all seem like strange musings from someone whose dinner menus are usually built around Dream Dinners.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Friday the Fourth!

It's July!  Summer's here!  It's almost time for fireworks but it's actually started already here in my neighborhood.  People have already made the trip to Vancouver for illegal stuff and are "testing" them to make sure they're loud enough or dangerous enough and figuring out if they themselves might be able to manage them after downing a number of growlers on Friday.

When I was a kid, the Fourth of July meant sparklers.  While waiting for the California sun to fade into the West, we would start begging my dad to light up "just one," sort of like asking to open one Christmas present on Christmas Eve.  We always managed to wear him down for that and we knew we'd soon have him looking for the candle and isolating himself way out on the driveway to light it.  Then the big moment arrived.  He'd light it; we'd jiggle and dance and then swoop in with screams of delight when he signaled the "okay" then he'd carefully light ours and hand them over.  More screams and swooping as we made sparkling circles and other fabulous designs in the air until all the sparklers were gone and lay dead on the cement and in the lawn with the stench of their smoke lingering for what seemed like forever.

One Fourth when I was about nine, we were invited to watch the fireworks over Lake Merritt in Oakland from the top of my mom's cousin's apartment building.  Several people we knew lived in apartments around the Bay Area but we actually rode the ELEVATOR up to the cousin's place (her name was Beans which made the excursion just that much more exciting - how could you not have fun at the apartment home of someone called Beans?!) and then went up even higher to the roof. The display scared me a little at first because the booms were so loud and the popping and bursting and wild colors seemed to be at eye level from our lofty viewpoint.  And they reflected in the water!  It was all so exciting.

When we had our own family and lived out in the country, six of the neighborhood families would gather together every Fourth of July for a gigantic barbecue and fireworks display of our own illegal purchasing. We moms would have a special meeting to plan the menu and the tables would be absolutely loaded with all the most delicious picnic food ever.  All of our kids would be excited for days ahead and ran around like wild beasts on the day of.  We all ate ourselves sick and then gathered our folding chairs for our glorious display where no one got hurt and everyone was able to make it back to the fire pit for s'mores.

This Fourth, as we have in the last several years, we'll go over to the Burton's who live on the bluff.  The party will be for adults with only one, maybe two or three little kids present.  They will shriek and run amok as all the 35 and probably more grownups will drink more than usual, eat a fabulous gourmet barbecue dinner and then retire to the backyard where we'll be able to see the fireworks displays from all over the surrounding area.  Pat and I will make the five  minute drive home and wonder how we'll get to sleep as the bombs literally bursting in the air outside our open windows rattle all the pictures on the walls.

Our house is decorated inside and out with flags and red,white and blue objects and will stay that way for a few more days as the neighborhood lets off a few more rounds of fire crackers and bottle rockets just for the heck of it.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Friends and Family

This first week in June will be one where I get to meet with different friends every day. Monday is for "Girls! called just like that with an exclamation point.  My "Girls!" group is made up of my two friends, Andrea and JoAnn, who were my neighbors when we lived out toward Redland. I've known Andrea for over forty years ever since we were neighbors in Southeast Portland.  When she moved out to the country, she mentioned that the property next door was for sale so after a look at it, we bought it, built a house on it and lived next door to them for 30 plus more years.  That's where we met JoAnn who lived across the road from our two families.  We all spent years of good times together always celebrating the 4th of July with a huge neighborhood BBQ complete with illegal fireworks from Vancouver. Between the two of them, Andrea and JoAnn know where all my bodies are buried.

Tuesday I'll meet with my friends Kristi, Nancy and Karmin.  These are old work pals.  We lived in  the teaching trenches together.  As a matter of fact, Kristi spent her whole 30 year teaching career at Oregon City High School as did Karmin who was there even longer and actually attended high school there herself!  Impressive, huh?  Nancy is our salty witted friend who tried hard to close her classroom door and just teach.  It was always good advice.  We will eat at Babica Hen in Lake Grove.  I always love seeing these women who made my workplace a better place to be.

Wednesday is my day to meet  my Cousin Martha at Gustav's which we do every couple of months.  She is the daughter of one of my mom's sisters of which there were five along with two brothers.  We didn't grow up together but we have lots of fun comparing our lives with what we know about those of  other family members and continually deciding that we had it the best. I love her dearly and am glad to have her in my life.

Thursday I'll travel to the Glockenspiel in Mt. Angel to meet with another old friend, Sarah.  She is the daughter of my great friend, Lee, with whom I taught in the early years.  Lee and her husband Ernst were my mentor teachers.  I learned almost every thing I know about teaching from them.  Sarah is Lee's eldest daughter who went into teaching herself and eventually did her student teaching with me.  That was an a standout time in my career as Sarah and I worked hard to manage a group of tricky juniors who needed lots of specialized academic help because of their low level of literacy skills.  We found several unique ways to present reading and writing lessons so they didn't really seem like lessons but rather like fun ways to while away time in our classroom.

Friday is the day slated for Bobbie, my sister.  She has been asked to speak to an event/conference in Portland having to do with the celebration of the Wilderness Act.  I'm going along for moral support. This will definitely be an adventure.  We haven't a clue about this gathering and are sure to learn a lot.

Friday night will be a birthday celebration for Kirsten of my knitting group.  It will be an out to dinner followed by art work at a ceramic studio kind of event.  I'm not sure I can coordinate the time with my sister to attend this one but it sure would be a great way to wrap up a week full of meetings with friends and family.

How fortunate I am!!!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Sorry, Age Sage

I bumped into the Age Sage while walking in the park.  I thought she was a male.  She isn't.  When I met her the other day, she was swathed in long sleeves and pants and sporting a beret sort of hat as well as gigantic sunglasses.  She is suffering from a slight cold so her voice is deep and raspy.  My bad.  She looked more girly in her rain gear this morning than she did in her sun gear the other day so I'm on the right gender page now.  She just laughed when I told her and remarked that, like infants, old people start to look androgynous.  So I guess I'm excused.  I'm embarrassed; that's for sure.

She had more information she wants me to pass on.  She says, "You can recommend someone to sign up for an AARP card if you hear them say the following more than once,"

  •  I don't like to drive at night.
  • WHAT?
  • I don't even know what a tweet is and I don't want to.
  • It was last Tuesday, no Wednesday.  Make that Tuesday; Tuesday's not garbage day.
  • HUH?
  • Why do they make the print on these labels so small?
  • Let's sit here so we won't be staring into the glare.
  • What are those things on my back?
  • Everyone looks so young.
  • Who IS Miley Cyrus?
  • Oh, I don't think we'll put up a tree this year.
  • This restaurant is much too noisy!
  • Our grandkids are so: 
      a.  cute      b.  smart
      c.  clever   d.  talented
      d.  all of the above plus more.

Listen for these comments.  They can help you tell who's old and who's not.                          

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Visiting Blogger - the Age Sage

(This entry comes from the guru of old people called The Age Sage. He has kindly offered to help us understand what is happening to all of us who are past the age where "young" is not even remotely applicable even if 70 is the new 50.)

Hi there!  It's the Age Sage here.  The time has come to be honest and open about getting old in a culture where the younger you are, the better.  We live in a society of people who'd really like to freeze the fitness of their bodies and minds somewhere between the ages of 20 and 30. That's only been possible for Jennifer Lopez and even her success is questionable in spite of how flashy she looks.

The topic for today is, in fact, the aging body and what you'll begin to notice about your own or that of one or both of your parents. You will know you're getting old when you have to do some weird sort of body folding to get into any car other than a smallish SUV.  You will need to do some erect back stooping which includes hopping scarily on one foot.  Don't even try to get into a large SUV or pickup without a large male body to spot for you.  And as for a sports car, forget it.  Find another way to get from point A to point B.

You will begin to walk a little slower and you may notice a slight leaning forward of the torso.  Try not to do this and encourage your older friends and relatives not to do this as well.  You really don't want your face to end up at the level of your belt.  Remember when your mother used to constantly remind you to "stand up straight"?  It still goes.  One of the best things an aging body can do for itself is to stay as erect as possible.

Here's the easiest way for you to tell if you're really on the physical skids - jump.  As in "up and down."  See?  You can't really do it like your grandson can.  It just doesn't happen.

Hint of this entry:  Keep moving.  Move some more.  Move even when you're all settled in for three hours of TV watching.  Move arms.  Move legs and feet.  Get up and walk around a little bit besides the trip you take into the kitchen for some "carrots."

Bonus hint:  Breathe deeply.  It feels strange but that's good for all of us no matter how far along the path we are.