Monday, March 31, 2014

Thanks, Deaner!

A friend - Dean Cole - left this world two days ago.  He battled cancer giving it everything he had until he ran out of time and energy.  His ending seemed to me like one of the few times in his life that he couldn't beat the odds.  If anyone would ever have been able to live forever given enough strength and courage, it might have been Dean.

This quintessential educator was the head of the counseling office for all the years I taught in the Oregon City School District. He always had a small office which remained stunningly tidy no matter what huge project he was working on.  When it was time to prepare the master schedule for the next academic year, he sometimes put butcher paper over his office window or used one down the hall that was even tinier and more restrictive than his. We all knew not to disturb him during this magical process.  There were times, though, that I would stand outside his office praying that he'd have to go to the bathroom or something so that I could "accidentally" run into him and present an, "Oh, good, Dean.  I have a quick question for you!" His rare inaccessibility sometimes just stopped me in my tracks when I was trying to problem solve something related to my job.  I have to confess, though, that once in a while Sheila, my teaching partner, and I would push the door open just a smidge and if he wasn't there we'd sneak in for a quick peek at how our class assignments were coming along.  Of course, he knew we were peeking so the information would be nil or the chart would be blank with all the news still stuck in his brain.

Dean made some runs at becoming an administrator but those goals didn't pan out for whatever reasons that are probably more complicated than any of us needs to know.  But he always seemed like an administrator to me and I held him in the same kind of high regard that I held for the top principals I worked with. He was articulate, open-minded, totally trustworthy, and guarded secrets carefully.  He knew life details about students and staff that never left his office without security clearance from his own personal sense of ethics.  I took some of my stickiest professional problems to him and he always did two things:  1.) He pointed me in a direction that would help me solve the problem myself, and, 2.) He always had a way to make me feel better.

Dean was always turned out in office suitable attire with a casual, collegiate sort of twist.  I always liked it when his hair had grown out from a fresh haircut because a new one always made him look just a little on the nerdy side. He had a busy man's hustling step and I remember that quick step carrying him down the few steps from the counseling office into the main office to check something.  Lots of times he was never "right back" because he'd get waylaid by staff or student and would take a minute to say a reassuring word or make an appointment to see this or that person later.

He and his office compatriots made up a special sort of school group that had an invisible band of confidentiality wrapped around it that simply could not be penetrated by others.  I used to wonder if Dean made new employees swear a secret oath of respect for privacy when they came to work in his department.  I also wondered if Dean received secret training in how to show sympathy and empathy for the downtrodden, needy, whining, sniveling individuals that many staff members and students turned into at stressful times during the school experience. Those times might be the start of the school year, any days that had meetings scheduled, days that involved food and extra activities, grading time, report card time, fire drill days, weeks with lots of fights, days before and after holidays, spring scheduling and the end of the school year plus any days that involved a different schedule.  You get the picture. And just imagine if YOU were the Head of the Department that counseled the complex travails of teenagers.

I will miss all the goodness of Dean Cole.


Saturday, March 1, 2014

Up An Inky Creek

I've run into a little snag on my latest book project.  My graphic artist is no longer free-lancing since she got herself a full time job.  Darn.  She wants to use her free time to work on her own ideas.  No one understands this better than I do.  But I am left with only being able to row myself up this literary creek with only one oar. The manuscript is well under way but the production of it is stalling. She did suggest another artist who just happens to be Pat's niece and we have a telephone appointment scheduled for Monday.  And my original artist is willing to mentor her.  This could be the beginning of an interesting relationship for this project.

I also contacted my old friend Irv in Phoenix who happens to be a very talented photographer and a master of computerizing.  I described my project and he says he is willing to think about what I have in mind for the design and layout.  I really want to dedicate the new book to his now deceased wife, Cheryl, who was a special friend of mine since 7th grade.  The whole project would take on even more meaning if he had a hand in the making of it.

So I might call him before Monday and suggest that maybe he just work on the visual for the front and back covers.  He seemed more open to that when I talked to him previously.  Then, when I have the phone appointment with the prospective artist, I might have some more information for her about what I want for the appearance of the book.

This is a hitch in the writing process that hasn't happened to me before.  I am threatened with having to abandon the project if I can't coordinate the productivity of it.  I was more disappointed than I thought I would be as I face the prospect of not being able to publish this book, but I'm resigned to the possibility. Sometimes writing ideas just can't come to fruition, I guess.  I hope this isn't the case with my latest and last published writing adventure.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Out of the Black and Blue

I was driving along King Road on my way to my friend Mary's to return a vase. Then I planned to swing up to Trader Joe's to look for some different snacks to take with us on our annual winter trip to Seaside. A final destination, and one of real pleasure, would be a stop at the yarn store for a leisurely look-see at what's new and what might catch my eye for a new project.

Out of nowhere, I was flung backwards. I saw my mittened hands fly in front of my face and heard the sound of a blunt impact.  I saw the windshield begin to spiderweb crack in the lower left hand corner as smoke billowed up from the engine and began pouring into my car. I could barely breathe as my knees slammed into the dash.  I don't know what happened in the next few moments as I struggled to understand what happened and where I would land.  The next thing I knew, a man in a yellow sweatshirt was yanking on my door asking if I was all right.  No. I was not.  But within the next several minutes, he managed to get the car door open and I was tended to by a paramedic. Next, I was led to a bench not far from the sidewalk.  Pat came soon and we took off for the emergency room. I had bruises, bumps, and contusions.  Some of my ribs were bruised.  My right knee was extra swollen and hurt badly. By the next day, my chest would be swollen and the right side was very black and very blue as if a tattoo artist had dropped the ink and let it run off my shoulder and into my armpit.  Not a pretty sight whatsoever.  But I was okay.  Nothing was broken, bent or twisted.  The doctor said I'd recover within a couple of weeks.

I was hit by someone making a left turn into the front of my car.  She "didn't see me" because she was looking for a parking place.  She was cited for making a dangerous left turn, for being uninsured, for driving with a suspended license and for endangering the life of a minor.  No one in her car was hurt, thank goodness.

Now, almost two weeks later, I am still without a car.  I'm trying to be patient.  I'm trying to understand that my insurance will pay for her mistaken judgement because she doesn't have any.  I have forgiven her but the experience is one I'm having trouble letting go of.

You can help yourself and me by driving extra carefully from here on.  Understand that you can be hit and not even see it coming.  That was the scary part.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Found Dog!

The doorbell just rang.  It was Amy and her family with KOBE!  That little dog had gotten as far as Chapin Park where a good lady picked her up yesterday.  She took her to the vet and then posted on Craig's List which Amy and Alicia decided to check one more time before they went to bed.  They saw the post, called the lady and went right over to pick her up.  Then they came over here to share the good news.  I am SO grateful that she's been found.  Go hug your own dog again and be sure she's chipped, ID-ed and collared.  Glory BE!!!!!

Lost Dog

Amy and her family left their dog, Kobe, in our care while they spent the first few days of the new year at the Coast.  Around noon on New Year's Eve, she escaped from our backyard and went on a journey of her own making.  We began the search.  The neighbors alerted all the vets in the area and I got into touch with Dog Services of Clackamas County.  Pat and the neighbors spent hours searching for her and talking to everyone they ran into. 

Kobe is a 13 year old Shiba inu.  She looks like a small Akita dog and she resembles a little caramel colored fox.  Even though she's old, she has a cute puppy look about her.  She is skittish around crowds and people and does not obey the "Kobe, come!" command very well.  She is throwing her coat so she looks a little tattered if she isn't brushed often.  She is a beloved pet and has plenty of life left in her.

This story lacks a happy ending.  As of today, there has been not a single sign or clue about her whereabouts. We can only hope that some nice dog lover coaxed her into their care and that she is warm and safe with another family.  And we advise all our friends and relatives to make sure your pet has a chip, a collar and and an ID tag.  Give your pet an extra hug tonight in Kobe's name. 

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Candle War

The Filter Queen man started it.  He visits our house once or twice a year and always causes some kind of uproar.  Last time he was here, he talked Pat into setting our air cleaner on top of the dresser in our bedroom so that it can "circulate better."  Well, could be, but it sure adds nothing to the already questionable decor in that room.  I went along with it until some space opened up in that room and I relegated it to a corner where it can do its thing and not look so odd. That's just a small example of the domestic disturbances caused by this man who services are overly expensive vacuum cleaner.

This visit is what caused the all out war.  He was here just a few days ago when, fortunately, I had an appointment and couldn't be here.  I'm always glad to be gone when he's here because he is a talkative sort who easily engages Pat and they march around the house talking excitedly and waving their arms as if to produce dust and air currents that they can "test" with the vacuum in strange ways that only the two of them understand.

The issue this time concerns candles. Pat smugly reported to me when I got home that we will no longer burn candles in our home.  They create too much pollution.  After all, do you realize what they are made of?  They are made from really gross smudge found only in China and then somehow vanilla-ized and sent to Target where we buy them by the basket loads.
 "Just look above the microwave, Terry.  See all that soot that makes the ceiling look like the Sistine Chapel before they stopped burning incense in there?"
"So what?" I replied.  "It's easy to clean."  He then silently and ever so accusingly ran his forefinger over the Filter Queen filter recently removed from our vacuum cleaner.  "See that? THAT'S FROM CANDLES," he said as he waved his sooty finger in front of my face.

A heated discussion followed with me bringing up such subjects as wood burning fireplaces and frequent drives up and down I-5 and ended with me dramatically throwing my favorite wicker wicked candle into the trash.  (Don't worry; I retrieved it as soon as he left the room.) Each of us turned on our heels and stomped off in opposite directions and so began a nasty little deep freeze between us.

The war began to show promise of ending when I met with my knitting group (the Knitwits) for our annual Christmas potluck and gift exchange.  I shared my domestic disturbance with them after two people opened candles as part of their gifts.  They were as offended as I was and quickly offered to come over for a candlelight vigil.

That didn't happen but I did do some research and found out that it really is far wiser to burn only soy-based candles or the kind that run on batteries but somehow still smell nice.  The war is over and the candles of Christmas are saved in our household.

Monday, December 2, 2013

It's Never Too Early

I love Christmas.  I love all the commercialism from the 20th time I hear "Jingle Bells" to the appearance of even the smallest string of crooked lights that seems just as full of holiday spirit as the biggest display of lights in the neighborhood. I really like Christmas cards and I buy an extra box or two each year just because I can't resist the scene or the sentiment. I get funny about magazines at the grocery store.  I like to pretend the pictures of the elegant holiday tables would be easy to replicate in my own home and that the plates of cleverly frosted and decorated cookies would be artfully sitting on end tables in my house. Our tree (which always goes up the day after Thanksgiving) would look like the fancy ones at Al's Nursery with their themed ornaments and matching colors. Or maybe it could be like the ones done up by the Nordstrom ladies with all the handmade-looking decorations.  The gift packages under it would be wrapped in just the right shade of red or green paper and feature a candy cane tucked into each fluffy bow.  Tasteful Christmas music will float around the room while a warm fire crackles invitingly.

It's a pleasure to listen to people in the mall talk about what they might get for Eugene or Alice. Going past Bath and Body Works with its great sale causes me to stop in and buy a bagful of good smelling foam for the bathroom sinks.  And I never forget to stop by See's for a sample of whatever candy they're handing out that day.  Even if it's chocolate covered cherries which I can't stand, they taste different, better at this time of the year.  Maybe they cut way down on the amount of sugar they use in the syrup for Christmas. The seasonal books at Barnes and Noble are a pleasure to handle and smile over even though I won't buy a one of them since they are nearly unreadable and not suited for reading except for the few holiday weeks in December.  Who wants to read a tale about "Secret Santa Surprises" in January?

I still spend a day or two or even three making Christmas cookies - sugar cookies, gingerbread men and maybe biscotti. Sometimes I even throw a cookie decorating party for my family members who attend somewhat reluctantly except for my grandchildren who are THRILLED to be here licking big wads of frosting off their fingers and yelling about who's going to "win."

Christmas starts around Thanksgiving time for me.  I have my lists ready and the calendar starts to fill up before we eat turkey.  I don't mind one bit how early Christmas shows up in the stores.  It only extends the joy of the season for me.  I confess, however, that it was a little weird to be looking at light displays in Costco wearing shorts and flipflops in August.  I decided to skip those aisles until after Halloween. I won't get tired of them until the 50% off signs disappear in January.