Thursday, May 28, 2020

Who loved YOU into being?

The question seems corny . . . but it's also so profound, the question Fred Rogers asked audience members to think about at the awards ceremony of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in 1997. WHO LOVED YOU INTO BEING? If you're like me, you probably missed that event, but I'm sure you've heard the quote--most recently in the recent movie, 'A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood' with Tom Hanks and Matthew Rhys.

Grandmother Elmendorf  with me 1942
With nothing better to do in this locked-down existence, I started thinking about the people who loved me into being, and discovered a few surprises--even a few people who helped form me that I've not talked much about to my offspring. Of course, they've heard stories about my big three: mother, father, and sister. And my offspring have also heard about my grandmothers, particularly my mother's mother, Margaret Elmendorf.

She was always referred to as "Grandmother Elmendorf" at our house. Never Granny, Nana, Grandma or any other cozy nickname. For whatever reason from the first moment we were introduced, she was Grandmother Elmendorf, and my sister and I (for the seventy-five years we've been alive without her) still refer to her by her full moniker. And although I shared her with my entire family, it felt to me as a very little girl that she was exclusively MINE!

Of course, that was absolutely not true!. When she visited Seattle from her home in Spokane, she was there to see everyone: her daughter, her  son-in-law, and her TWO granddaughters.I am certain she loved my sister as much as she loved me, but she was just so present when she was in our presence. She was clearly very good at focusing her attention.

She died when I was five, but I have vivid memories of her. They are my own memories--not stories about her told me by others. She taught me how to knit, and I remember her sitting next to me, watching me struggle with the needles, ready to help whenever I turned to ask for help--but never, ever meddling or reaching for the needles in exasperation. She praised every eight-stitch row with or without a dropped stitch. She taught me how to sew, too, and by that I mean the very beginning basics: threading a needle, tying a knot in the end of the double thread, pushing the needle in and out of fabric in even spaces, reinforcing the last stitch with three extra stitches, measuring the doll for sleeve or skirt length. My doll had a wardrobe of beautiful clothes Grandmother Elmendorf made that lasted until I was done with dolls, as well as a few primitive pieces I made under her watchful eye.

I never pick up a needle and thread without thinking of her. When she was in the room, snuggled next to me, it was as though I was the only person in world. I had her rapt attention even in silence. Such a gift, and one that we could all get better at in this era with its constant interruptions by pings and chirps, rings and blasts from myriad media. Yes, Grandmother Elmendorf was certainly one of the people who loved me into being.

In another post, I will write about several other people who helped form me, but who aren't related by blood. They aren't people I've necessarily identified as helping to make me who I am until this solitary existence inspired the exercise. It's fun, thinking of those people. I hope my reflections might inspire others to ask the question of themselves: who loved me into being?

Sunday, May 3, 2020


Maybe the title of this post makes you think the topic will be profound. Nope--just a silly observation I made as I returned home after a short walk.

When seen close up, the little plants in these little round holes look like small flower pots with intentional
'starts' in them for some glorious summer flowers. But that's not what they are. When viewed in their rightful scale, they are weeds finding peep holes of light from beneath a rubber covering of a pathway.

It occurred to me that we can all try to be more weed-like in this current COVID-19 situation. Somehow in this dismal and dark covering of our lives, we can also find air and light (and maybe even laughter and delight). Go, weeds!

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Walk the walk

Sammamish River Trail (former
rail right of way)
Blyth Park in Bothell, Wash.
Whenever I begin to feel even a little bit sorry for myself, I only have to look out the window to realize I am one of the luckiest people on earth.

Because the coronavirus has changed so much of how we live our daily lives, many of my friends are severely limited in the ways they can exercise. In contrast, I have easy access to a variety of outdoor areas suitable for walking. My neighborhood has a plethora of wonderful places literally right outside my front door.
Former Wayne Golf Course
has yet to be named as a park.

The Sammamish River Trail is plenty wide enough to maintain social distance.  Blyth Park is across the river from my house and with a bridge that connects to it just two blocks from my front door. And, if the ground is squishy from recent rains, Blyth's parking lot is a great place to walk! Four times around the loopy parking aisles is one mile. 
Blyth Park is closed to cars
      but open for pedestrians                       

On some days, I walk through Blyth and cross over to the former Wayne Golf Course, now parkland belonging to the city of Bothell. Social distancing is not a problem there. It sounds corny, but I feel blessed.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Putting myself in another world

 Recently I pasted a photo of my face on a Renoir note card and sent it to a friend. Her reaction was so positive, it inspired me to try it with other works of art.

Well, the project of looking through an art book to find paintings I wanted to inhabit was a real freedom event. It took me away from the world of solitude and isolation into an all consuming place for a little while, staving off the corona-virus blues.

The results (just two of them) are shown here . . . maybe you will be inspired to do the same. I took selfies, then shrank them to what seemed 'about right' in terms of scale, snipped them off the paper and laid them onto the art book page. Unlike my original note card experiment, no pasting necessary on this project.

I wasn't striving for perfection, just entertainment. Thank goodness there are ways to escape the suffocating presence of COVID-19.

Friday, April 3, 2020

The godsend of parks

Thanks to 'you-know-what,' local parks are getting a lot more use than they normally would during the work week. I've been walking in my neighborhood and feel lucky to have interesting places to meander in while keeping six feet away from others.

Red Brick Road Park is less than two blocks from my house. It's just a little segment (.2 miles) of a once four-mile-long road that connected Bothell to its neighboring communities. I've walked it occasionally since we moved to Bothell ten years ago. But only this week, when I stopped to look at the sculptures that represent the old-time transportation one would take to Seattle, did I realize the models were created by Bothell high school students in shop classes!

What a lovely thing it is to have a handsome school project on permanent display in a local park! One of the sculptures has some interesting graffiti on it now, which might have been added by a current Bothell High student. The graffiti isn't obscene or rude, but a radical commentary about life--maybe even directed at Covid19.

I am not alone in hating this confinement we're all living with, but at least I am able to enjoy fresh air daily. And that is a privilege not everyone in my age group is enjoying, so I am filled with gratitude to be able to enjoy the freedom and fresh air of a local park. 

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Changing Perspectives

The things that ordinarily would have annoyed me a few weeks ago, are now amazing and delighting me. I'm sure I'm not the only person who is discovering what once was a nuisance now seems rather wonderful. Such as? Well, mole hills come to mind. Always annoying in the past, now I find myself thinking, Well, at least moles don't have to know about COVID-19, and their life goes on, as always. 

I've had similarly kind feelings about the most annoying pest we have in our neighborhood, eastern cottontail rabbits, which have overrun our area and devastated many beautiful gardens. The rabbits eat just about any flower that's colorful and pretty, so they've become the archenemy of our neighbor gardeners. Now the rabbits seem more like a part of a bigger picture of sustainable life--a life without daily briefings by the White House, without the incessant chatter about COVID-19, about what new social restrictions have been put in place. Crows, robins, even a tiny Rufus humming bird have been flitting past my living room window this morning. I'm finding comfort just from their presence, oblivious to the virus.

This afternoon a neighbor friend and I will get together out in front of my house. We'll be wrapped up in winter jackets and hats and we'll sit in chairs six feet apart, but at least we can have some social 'in person' time. Who would have thought about how draining it is to only be with yourself. Sure, I can talk to myself (and I do), make phone calls--even FaceTime calls (I'm so grateful for the ability to see my family/friend as I chat), but only to have self-company for days at a time is intellectually and emotionally depleting. 

The photo is from my midday walk. I loved how this dandelion was able to plant itself in a crack in the street and bloom! Will I be that adaptable as the corona virus spreads? I hope so.  

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Social distancing gets real

It's Saturday night, and plans have fallen through. Hm-m-m. Oh, I know, I'll take my birthday 'free meal' coupon to Ivar's, a Seattle favorite fast fish 'n chips restaurant (with lots of other stuff, too, of course), and have dinner there. 

I notice how little traffic there is at 7:00 p.m. as I'm driving, but I'm still surprised to find a parking spot exactly in front of Ivar's--that's a first! 

But walking in was a real gut punch. This is a restaurant where you place your order and pay--then seat yourself. Sometimes you have to wait for someone to vacate a table--it's so popular. Not tonight.