Monday, November 24, 2014

David Johnson, Kahlil Gibran, and Jay Glerum

When I was nineteen, I apprenticed in upstate New York at the Spa Summer Theatre in Saratoga Springs. Apprentices do everything no one else wants to do and they do it for very little pay. The big reward for theatre apprentices is brushing elbows with wizened live-theatre professionals, thereby gathering experience and anecdotes to last a lifetime.  

I sold tickets and intermission refreshments, ushered ticketholders, cleaned bathrooms, swept the stage, painted a lot of scenery, helped actresses with their quick changes between scenes, and ran errands for anyone—property master, costumer, business manager, theatre owner. I laundered demanding Margaret Truman’s “delicates,” took clothing  to the cleaners for gracious Joseph Schildkraut, tidied the makeup table for kind Celeste Holmes, swept the dressing room floor for irritable Groucho Marks. The list goes on. One of the highlights was joining Paul Linde for breakfast, a man as funny offstage as he was on, after partying all night with him.

Oh, yes, we did party! Nearly every evening after the show, we closed down an After-Hours Club that produced a drag song-and-dance show starting at midnight. “We” were the four apprentices along with our seasoned colleagues, a number of professional, experienced staff― stage manager, electrician, box-office head, prop-master, scenic designer, business manager—some old enough to be my parents.  New York’s drinking age in 1959 was nineteen,  so my drinking of hard liquor was legal, as well as frequently excessive. I learned a lot about life that summer!

Needless to say, I still harbor vivid memories about that summer, not the least of which was meeting David Johnson, a young air force recruit stationed nearby. He was tall, handsome, and crazy about theatre. He’d was as close to being a groupie as the Spa Summer Theatre had. He hung around the crew and began to join us at the After Hours Club. One night he sat down next to me and began talking about poetry. The more we drank, the more he expounded on poetry’s place in the world and the more attentively I listened.  His passion for Kahlil Gibran, a poet/writer/artist I’d never heard of, was so contagious I don’t know whom I developed the greater crush on that night. Within a few months of returning to Seattle I’d bought nearly every one of Gibran’s dozen or so books in print. I read them all and marked up passages with underlining and check marks—my heart resonating with the mystical writing of this Lebanese-born mystic Christian who lived his adult life in the U.S.

In my middle-aged years I culled many books from my youth, but kept four of Gibran’s works—the ones with the most notation and highlights—because I wanted to keep in touch with my younger self. Today I pulled out my worn copy of The Prophet for the first time in a decade and fell in love all over again with the chapter called

“JOY AND SORROW”

Then a woman said, Speak to us of Joy and Sorrow.
And he answered:
Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your
laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your
tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your
being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very
cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your
spirit, the very wood that was hollowed
with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into
your heart and you shall find it is only that
which has given you sorrow that is giving
you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in
your heart, and you shall see that in truth
you are weeping for that which has been
your delight.
Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is
the greater.”
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits
lone with you at your board, remember
that the other is sleep upon your bed.

Verily you are suspended like scales be-
tween your sorrow and your joy.
Only when you are empty are you at
standstill and balanced.
When the treasure-keeper lifts you to
weigh his gold and his silver, needs must
your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.
       
I have understood from the first moment of my bereavement that if there had not been joy in our fifty-two years of marriage, I would not feel such sorrow. I am lucky to be missing Jay. This Thanksgiving-week Monday I’m feeling grateful for being introduced to The Prophet fifty-five years ago—and the pleasure of rediscovering it again today.  Thank you, David Johnson, wherever you may be, for that enduring endorsement. Thank you Mr. Gibran for your beautiful expression of truth. And thank you, dear Jay, for a good and long marriage.   

Thursday, November 13, 2014

CONDOLENCES--PART III (and final)

On a Friday afternoon I went to my local branch of Bank of Numerica to look for something in my Safe Deposit Box. Despite the lack of helpfulness at my previous visit, I wanted to feel warm and fuzzy at this branch where we’d banked for nearly thirty years. The tellers used to look up, smile, and call us by name when we entered the branch. Now all those women were retired; no one knew me anymore.

The young clerk who brought over the signature card for the safe deposit boxes had to lift up a large red flag pasted over the line where my husband had signed his name so many years ago. “DECEASED,” it proclaimed in large black letters on the red paper. She silently watched me sign my name, then escorted me to the vault where I retrieved the needed item. Mercifully, she did not offer her condolences. The experience made me feel hopeful about continuing a relationship with the bank.

When I got home late in the afternoon, I checked my mailbox and found yet another letter from the Estate and Trust Department of Bank of Numerica. The letter requested that I contact the branch where my safe deposit box is “to make arrangements to close the box or assume ownership.”

What?  I’d just interacted with a bank employee half-an-hour earlier, and she had not said anything to this effect, and for good reason. I am a full-fledged co-owner of the box; I can produce my key any time and gain access to it. I recalled the numerous times I’d gone into the box—putting away a ring, getting out a needed document, stashing a grandchild’s savings bond. I’d been there probably ten times for every one time my husband had been. Why would I have to close it or change ownership?

Because of the time zone difference, I had to wait until Monday to call Bank of Numerica’s Estate and Trust Division. After identifying myself and, once again, hearing sincere condolences expressed, I asked the service rep, “Can you explain what exactly the bank wants me to do about my safe deposit box?”

“If you want to keep it, you’ll need to put it in your own name.”

“Why? Since my husband is dead, it is now solely in my name.”

“It’s a protection for you.”

“Protection against what?”

“Against fraud. Someone could pose as your husband and get into the box.”

I wish I could write that I remained ladylike, but it wouldn’t be true. I began to yell. I railed for every widow everywhere—railed against the indignities of our corporate giants, their nonsensical rules, and their poorly trained service reps. “How could there POSSIBLY be fraud when the bank’s signature card has a huge red sign stuck on it proclaiming my husband is deceased?” I bellowed.  “Let me get this straight. You’re telling me that a man could walk into the bank, pretending to be a dead person, and a bank employee would allow him to sign into my safe deposit box? Or maybe you are worried that the dead guy himself . .  . a zombie? . . . will come in and sign the signature card with a steady (albeit bony) hand, and walk off with all my valuables?”

I was so angry I could barely think, but I kept yelling. When I was done, the service rep’s voice sounded weak and far away. “It’s just an option, Ma’am . . . you don’t really have to do anything . . . you can just leave it like it is.”

And when I said thank you (so sarcastically it scared me), the service rep replied, “You’re welcome. Is there anything else I help you with today?” 

I’m proud to say I held my tongue.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

CONDOLENCES--PART II

A month after my husband died, I was desperate to receive my Bank of Numerica Visa bill that was approaching overdue status. It hadn’t been mailed on its regular closing date because, I learned from the B of N phone representative after she conveyed her sincerest condolences for my loss, the Visa credit card was in my husband’s name only. Never mind that I had a plastic card embossed with my name on it.  As the service rep explained in a solicitous tone, “It’s as if your husband loaned you the keys to the car without putting you on its title.”

Using that metaphor, let me add that I was the only ‘driver’ of the account and responsible for all car payments and maintenance. It was “my vehicle,” and I took exceptionally good care of it.  Now that my husband was dead, I suddenly could neither unlock the car or start it up. It was useless to me.

I knew nothing about the frozen account immediately. For ten days after my husband died, I racked up a record sum (for me) as I paid for—among other things— the obituary, crematorium, and a down payment to the caterer for his memorial event.   

Please send me the bill,” I pleaded over the phone, “either by U.S. mail or electronically.”  The service rep explained that nothing could happen until the certified death  certificate was received and recorded at B of N. Meanwhile,  the bank obliterated any way for me to access the account online, because no one but my late husband had the right to view transactions on “my” Visa. I was completely shut out. It was—extending the car metaphor again—as if the service department refused to let me pay for the new brakes it just installed because I wasn’t the car’s owner, just the chauffeur.

Meanwhile, I was frantic to get the bill and pay it off.  Late is not my style. On five different days I called various departments at the Bank of Numerica to plead.  “Our family is NEVER late paying off a credit card, even if its sole owner is dead! Please send it before it’s overdue!” On each call I was read a disclaimer, always preceded by an embarrassed apology by the individual service representatives about how Bank of Numerica was not attempting in any way to collect the bill from me. The disclaimer made it clear that the bank would collect only from the representative of the deceased’s estate. “You’re speaking to her!” I’d interrupt . . . to no avail.

When an envelope finally arrived from B of N, I tore it open. It contained a copy of an earlier fully paid bill, not the one I’d requested.  I started all over again with identical narrative on my part, but this time I added, “SEND ME THE DAMNED BILL!” When it came, forty-seven days after my initial request, I paid it online within the hour. 

I know my husband isn’t rolling over in his grave, as apt as that metaphor might be at this maddening scenario. Instead, I’m thinking maybe his ashes are blowing in the wind, which—with a little bit of luck—just might clog the air intake in the nearest Bank of Numerica’s vault. I rather hope so.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

CONDOLENCES--PART I

What follows below is Part I of a three-part commentary I began writing several months ago. (Parts II and III will follow within a few days.) It is common knowledge that the red tape for a deceased person's survivors can be overwhelming. There were times when I became incensed over the hoops I had to jump through, and the meaningless expressions of sympathy that were part of the hoops.

I wrote these three pieces imagining a readership of hundreds of thousands--maybe the same people who get AARP publications. It felt good to express my anger--something that most bereaved people feel--at a corporate giant of a bank. Now I offer them with a little-bit of embarrassment . . . because I'm feeling better and--to quote Jay--"It is what it is." Nevertheless, I hope a few readers will enjoy them.
                 ~    ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   

Bank of Numerica notified me of my husband’s death, just in case I wasn’t aware of it. After all, it was a busy time, what with family visits, interment arrangements, a memorial gathering to plan, donations and gifts of food and flowers to acknowledge, not to mention the time that weeping takes up in a situation like that. It’s possible, I suppose, not to have noticed my husband’s body, moldering somewhere in the back of the house.

After expressing its sincerest condolences, the letter from B of N informed me that I had a finite number of days before I needed to produce a death certificate, apparently in the odd chance its trustworthy source (unnamed, but most likely Social Security or Medicare/Hospice) had made an error. But even if I concurred with its fact finding and agreed my husband was dead, I would be required to send the bank a certified copy of the death certificate—a twenty-dollar expense for me—to prove it. I was afraid to read ahead to see what would happen to the bank account if I failed to comply, but in deference to my Scots ancestors, I decided to take a death certificate into the local B of N branch to save the twenty bucks.

As I drove the three miles to the branch, I told myself  I was making a reasonable request. Surely locally hired bank employees would have the same ability as the employees working in the out-of-state Estate and Trust department,  in terms of inspecting a document for authenticity.  Back when I was working, I routinely signed affidavits stating I had seen―with my own two eyes―the social security cards of new employees, then photocopied the cards for the permanent files. Surely someone at the local B of N branch could examine the official “certified copy” of death certificate and swear they’d seen the real thing?  Also, I remembered that my local branch had an in-house Notary Public who would be empowered to vouch for the certificate’s legitimacy. As I mused on how companies routinely convert paper to electronic files, I became more confident in my decision to visit the branch.

After being shown into the personal banker’s office, I explained to my hostess the reason for my visit.  She offered her sincerest condolences. However, her answer to my request was a straightforward NO.  Despite the fact she was dubbed my personal banker, she could not possibly vouch for the certificate I’d handed her. I must mail it, as instructed, to the Estates and Trusts Department of the bank—many states and several time zones away—where someone (clearly a worker with superior powers) would enter it into a permanent file.

OK, I complied.  Ten days later, accompanied by “Our sincerest condolences for your recent loss,” I received a new account agreement to sign. Mission accomplished: The slate was erased! Years of banking history were obliterated, and I must start over with a new account agreement.   

When the time comes to close the account, I shall surely offer the Bank of Numerica my condolences.  


Thursday, October 30, 2014

Remaking ourselves for Halloween

Awaiting darkness . . . and illumination of the pumpkins
One of my sons is especially likely to invent an original Halloween costume. Not only is he creative, but he loves the holiday. Over the years, I've ooh-ed and ah-ed over some spectacularly clever and funny ideas he's had for costumes.

Last weekend he, his wife, and daughter hosted a large, family-friendly Halloween party (and I was there!). Taking inspiration from another son's "Pumpkins on Pikes" party (originating in Vermont and now a California event), this event afforded its invitees the opportunity to create jack-o-lanterns, which were then placed on pikes in the front yard. When it's dark, the pumpkins were lighted--and will be on Halloween. They are quite spectacular!
A son unrecognizable

Here are the two heads visible
At some point, every pumpkin carver needs a paper towel, right? My son moved around the party-going carvers (there were many) outfitted in this year's costume, a towel rack with two heads.

If I hadn't been there, I might have had a hard time imagining his costume. But the idea of having an extra brain is quite appealing. Who couldn't use a second to carry around all the information that's escaping from the first?  

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Web of Life

ONE PICTURE . . . NO NEED FOR 1,000 WORDS
A SECOND PICTURE . . . NOW NO NEED FOR 2,000 WORDS



Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Autumn Observations

Because my home is adjacent to a wonderful, county-maintained trail, I try to walk for exercise as often as I can. Walking is a good way to think, too--to ponder life, to sort out problems, to make plans. For years I'd return from a solo walk with observations to share with Jay. Now I have to keep my thoughts to myself, or trot them out across my blog.

About two miles from our house is the Kenmore Blue Heron Colony where a large number of these magnificent birds raise their young each year. They live year round in the area. Several days ago I was walking past a stagnant, algae covered outlet of the Sammamish River and came across this blue heron, so close it could probably hear me breathing. ( I tried to hear it breathing, but no luck.)  I stood and watched the bird for a few minutes as it tiptoed through the water.

When I arrived home from my walk today, I noticed this outcropping of chanterelle (I think) mushrooms on lawn across from mine. Nothing there yesterday; today life's magic! In our old neighborhood, Al, the man who lived next door to us, was a mushroom hunter. We always agreed to his request to harvest the chanterelles from our yard, but neither Jay nor I had any desire to take up Al's offer share the spoils--just in case he was wrong in his identification process.  

And here, right by my front door today, is another kind of mushroom growing, which was nibbled by something. See the bite out of its top? I'm wondering what munched it, a bird, a mouse, a rabbit, a snail . . .? And how is that critter feeling today? 

September is winding down. The good weather is nearly over for our neck of the woods. Even if I'm feeling anxious about the future, a walk has a way of tranquilizing those feelings. There is so much to see and think about besides myself--and that's a good thing.


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

And the mourning light, the morning light

In the twenty-first century in America (at least, in my culture) there's no way to tell, just by looking, if someone is grieving for a loved one, short of seeing him in a police-led funeral procession or seeing her weeping at a grave. Gone are the black armbands and other forms of prescribed mourning attire that let a private grief be visible.

My mother owned a small black daisy-like flower broach with a tiny emerald center that had been her grandmother's. My mother liked to tell my sister and me about it, explaining that our great-grandmother was expected to make her widow's grief visible every day for a year by wearing black. Presumably the pin was acceptable jewelry for her to wear during that year. I recently rediscovered it in my safe deposit box and thought for a minute about wearing it, but then tucked it back into its little storage bag.

No one sees my grief, and that's OK. I've always been a private person when it comes to my feelings.

That is not to say I don't have my own activities that help me ritualize my own sadness. I like to take morning walks on the lovely Sammamish River Trail near my home. When I see sunlight striking the trees and the river, I cannot help but think of Jay.

The light makes me feel as though I will heal. It makes me feel OK that I am alone and comforts me with the awe of creation. The light makes me feel hopeful and connected to the everyone I love, even if they no longer walk beside me. Walking in the morning light . . . the mourning light . . . helps me feel certain Jay is in a good place, and I will be all right. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Three Favorites

Katie, Maddie, and Mae
These three young ladies each have distinct personalities and gifts, but collectively they make up a category I call "My three favorite people under the age of fourteen." They make me smile; they make me proud. In a group of strangers they are well behaved models of polite children; in a group of familiars they can be silly and goofy, or thoughtful and wise. When they write me notes or texts, I nearly burst with appreciation. When I get new videos or photos of them, it's all I can do not to go door-to-door in my neighborhood to share. I am a lucky woman to have these dear granddaughters. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Gramps is Tigger

Granddaughter Mae has always loved stuffed animals and now—at age eight—has such a huge collection it’s hard to imagine she could make room for yet another, but she always can. As she acquires each new “stuffy,” an older one takes a backseat in the toy box, but on any given day there are the favored few who travel with her, share her bed, and have honored places in the table, her backpack and her day-to-day thoughts.

A large stuffed “Tigger” (Disney version) was given to her when she was just a baby, and he has maintained a certain status for the duration. Although he rarely ranks as “Number One stuffy,” he hasn’t been relegated to the bottom of the pile, ever. He has the dignity accorded to a senior citizen, in no small part because of the role he played in bridging the gap between a little girl and an old man grandfather. In this case, a grandpa who had all but forgotten how to talk to little children by the time he was sixty-six years old and she was born.

Once Tigger was on the scene, Mae’s grandfather would hold Tigger and move him around, all the while talking in a gruff “Tigger voice” to Mae. Mae would respond, as if talking to Tigger (not Gramps), and frequently the comments Tigger made caused her to get the giggles. By the time she was four, Tigger was a staple in visits to our house—and when Jay and I visited Mae’s house, Tigger was waiting in the doorway with his owner. Tigger was a kind of interpreter for Mae and Gramps—allowing two distinct generations to find common ground.

When Jay had cancer surgery last summer, Tigger made a video to be viewed remotely in his hospital room. Tigger addressed Gramps solo, (his “operator” lying below the camera lens so she couldn’t be seen). Tigger spoke with the gruff  Tigger voice that Gramps had bequeathed him, telling him how sorry he was to hear about Gramps—a wise old stuffy consoling a wise old man. No wonder Mae wrote this as the first line of a poem she composed after learning about Jay’s death:
Gramps is Tigger 
He’s a mustache, too.

Blue shirts with pockets
and glasses cases.

He’s a dolphin that
splashes with his tail.

He’s a wizard
behind the curtain.

But I’m missing
the most important:
He’s my grandpa.

I say “is” because he is
still with me in my heart.  (poem by Mae, age 8)

Five weeks after Jay died, we celebrated his life with a party in his honor. Naturally, the entire family was here—many of them sleeping at my house. When everyone had gone, I walked into Jay’s office where Mae and her parents had been camped while they were here. This is what I saw, a note from Tigger himself: 
 I can’t erase it—not yet. Tigger is Gramps, just as Gramps was Tigger.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

And I Will Ever Hope

Looking across Saratoga Pass
Whidbey Island, Washington
2006
TODAY, AUGUST 16, 2014, WOULD HAVE BEEN
JAY'S 75TH BIRTHDAY.
AND I WILL EVER HOPE

The  light will be as
dazzling and beautiful as
a Cascades’ sunrise.

A silent morning scarlet sky.
A silent teardrop-wake.
A crimson River Styx

flowing inside mourning hearts.
I and the others still
will be in the night,

and you—my love—
will be in the
morning light.

Then the mourning light
will be diffused
and the sadness

will be shuttered
and the razzle-dazzle sunlight
will be blinding.

I, behind you,
will feel sorrow,
missing you and envious

of those who greet you now.
And I will ever hope for

me, too. I will ever hope.
       
                    Sara J. Glerum                      
                          Copyright © 2014 by Sara J. Glerum


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

August 3, 2014

A number of Jay's friends have asked if Jay's "Cast and Crew Party" on Sunday is some kind of exclusive "theatre-folk-only" event. The answer is a resounding no. We will remember Jay in his many capacities, and all his friends are welcome. ACT Theatre is in downtown Seattle at 700 Union Street. Parking for the event is probably the most reasonable at the Washington State Convention Center parking garage. Its entrance is on Eighth Avenue underneath the convention center. You can take Pike Street (one-way east bound) or from Seneca Street (one-way west bound) to get to Eighth. Follow the walkways into the convention center, and take the escalators (or elevator) to the main floor. ACT has an entrance from the convention center, and a street presence on Union Street at the corner of Seventh Avenue. We will gather at 1:00 with tributes starting about 1:30--and afterwards friends and family will mingle and "party"--just as Jay wanted us to do.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Afterwards

There is “afterword”—as in what authors write at the back of their books—and there is “afterward(s)”—as in the unmeasured period of time following an event. As Jay’s recent widow, living on after his life was over, I am finding myself feeling rather numb in this place called “afterwards.”  

The first few days weren’t like that; the gambit of emotion is nothing but feelings. In the presence of our four adult children, I shed tears one minute and giggled in delight the next, as we shared collective memories and highlights of our lives together as “the nuclear six” (so dubbed by one of our sons to refer to his family of origin). Being in the presence of nearest and dearest kin at a time like this defies numbness. Now that same son is referring to us as the “fabulous five,” a term that doesn’t feel very fabulous, at least, not yet. Once in a while, even he slips up and says “nuclear six,” only to correct himself. There’s a lot to get used to afterwards.
 
One heartening reality in this period of time is the outpouring of tributes from Jay’s friends and fans.These two wonderful pictures of Jay in action—teaching classes to stage riggers—were uploaded to Facebook’s “Friends and Fans of Jay Glerum” group, and I unabashedly copied them here. I can hear his voice when I see these pictures. Thank you, Ethan Gilson and Jim Utterback (two men I’ve never met), for sharing these dynamic images of Jay—afterwards. 

In that spirit, I offer this link to his SeattleTimes obituary, in the belief that if you appreciated his presence in your life you'll want to read this little blurb about him now—afterwards.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Hubby

During the six years I’ve been writing this blog, I have been careful never to use my husband’s actual name. By dubbing him “Hubby” in anecdotal references, no one who was doing a Web search for him—looking for the professional theatre consultant, rigging instructor, inspector, or teacher―could accidentally stumble onto “Beats Talking to Myself.” Needless to say, Hubby approved of my discretion.

Not that I ever wrote anything that would cause him embarrassment. I thought of it as a courtesy and the least I could do as a wife who respected her husband's career. So . . . keying in his nameJay O. Glerumlast Friday was a sobering moment. Writing his name in this space almost broke my heart, signifying, as it did in so many ways, the end of our life together. 

It turns out, I’m so glad I posted that brief announcement. Numerous people whose lives Jay touched have made contact with me. Thank you. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

Jay Glerum



Jay O. Glerum


August 16, 1939 - June 26, 2014

Rest in peace.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Five easy steps to access Google Admin for your Blog

Last year I made thorough notes on how to get into my Admin Account on Google so I would NEVER have the same frustration renewing my blog's domain again. Guess what! Google made changes in early 2014 to its Admin Account design and set-up, so last year's tips didn't work this year.

The domain name, "Beats Talking to Myself," was set up to auto-renew, so I shouldn't have needed to worry. But my bank changed the account number of my VISA earlier this year (due to one of its "Your card MAY have been compromised" letters), and that was the number filed with Google. I knew I needed to update the number.

Repeatedly I got frozen out of my Admin Account, despite Google's detailed instructions on its new version of the admin function. Eventually (on and off I tried for almost three weeks) I found my way to a chat room where 88 people were ranting and discussing the same problem. One of the conversations contained this approach, which--mercifully--worked. (I was ready to watch the name of my blog be unavailable, so it truly was a merciful event.)

1.  Log out of EVERYTHING Google (any gmail accounts, any searches).
2.  Bring up CHROME as your browser.
3.  Hold down three keys--shift, control, and N--to get to CHROME Incognito. 
4.  When you see the signon site, enter your user name (your name, the one your domain is registered to, not your gmail name) followed by @"yourdomainname.com" (quotation makes are mine--just write out your full domain name.com).
5. Enter your password (which is likely not the same one you use to sign into your blog).

If you are as lucky as I was, the five steps will get you immediately into the Admin System--at which time you can go to the billing tab, or the domain tab, or whatever else you're there for.

From the bottom of my heart, fellow bloggers, I wish you well. I have received more comments and thanks from that post of June 10, 2013, than any other, so I know this is a whopping frustration for a lot of us. If I can help just one person, I will feel a little better about the time I spent solving the problem.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Happiness is . . .

Happiness is chinning yourself alongside your sister. 

Accomplishing a feat of strength generally makes us feel good, but it's rare to get a photo of just how good it really feels when we succeed.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Worth their Weight in Gold!

An excursion to the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park (Museum) near the International District of Seattle was one of the fun things we did recently, when our family from the Midwest was here for a quick visit. The museum is small and housed in an old hotel; most Seattle tourists don't know anything about it. Yet it's a real gold mine of information on the influential role Seattle played in the Alaskan gold rush.

In the first snapshot you'll see the monetary value today of our granddaughters, eleven and almost thirteen, if they were gold (instead of people)--$3,380,902.40! In 1897 their value would have been $41,924.57.

But the real value of these dear young girls is portrayed in the note we found written on the white board in Hubby's office, as we were putting away the air mattresses and folding bedding after they left. Grandpa had lent the girls his office for the weekend.

Try $100,000,000.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

GiddyUp, Bike!

videoAt Mae's school it was Ride Your Bike to School week and Wear a Costume to School Day--both! Here is what she, a second grader, dreamed up for a get-up that covered all bases. You may need to watch this short video more than once to grasp the nuance of the costume. Enjoy!
If you cannot see the video, here
is a still shot that will give you
a good idea of the combo-costume.
P.S. I just learned that Mae won FIRST PRIZE for her costume!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Singing the praises of scissors


At the risk of sounding foolish, I want to gloat over my newest time saving kitchen device—a pair of scissors that lifts apart for easy, thorough cleaning. I’ve wished for scissors like this all my cooking-life, but had no idea they could be purchased for about twelve dollars at a local kitchen store! I’ve always resisted using regular scissors for preparing food that isn’t going to be cooked, worrying that the scissors might have residual germs caught between the pivot point. No such concern with these!

I’ve just finished making Tabbouli (and now I will boast about this best-ever-tasting version of it)—the easiest preparation in memory and all because of the scissors in place of a knife. Before these dandy new scissors, I’d always chopped the fresh parsley, the fresh mint, the green onions. Today I snipped. 

Here’s my recipe—it beats just about any Tabbouli available at the deli.

Tabbouli Salad

2 cups uncooked bulgur wheat
½ c. olive oil
½ c. fresh lemon juice
1 t. salt
½ c. chopped fresh parsley
3 T. chopped fresh mint
1 bunch chopped green onions (and tops)
3-4 tomatoes, diced

Pour over the bulgur wheat whatever amount of boiling water suggested on the brand you buy. (One kind I’ve used calls for 2 cups water per 2 cups wheat; another says twice that amount of water.) Drain after 1 hour, if necessary. Add remaining ingredients and blend well. Chill at least 2 hours.

Friday, May 9, 2014

People on the Pipeline

Frequently I’m blown away by the talent and creative capabilities of family members—so much so that I occasionally have to boast. 

Today I’m providing a link to a Web page where you’ll find Denise, my Canadian daughter-in-law, acting the part of “Janice Colder, Executive of  ‘name withheld’ Corporation” in a short video she directed. Once on the site, be sure to page down to the two-minute film that succinctly and satirically demonstrates an ugly truth we’ve all experienced, regardless of what country we live in. 
Below is Denise’s comment on the link when she sent it to me: 
Here's a link to a spoof video we produced to launch a contest we're hosting to increase public discussion regarding the Northern Gateway pipeline.  The website shows the video and information regarding the contest.     

I would not call it a spoof—I’d call it a profound commentary on one way that large, well-funded entities get what they want.  I would also call this video exceptionally well done. Click here (and page down to the video) to see the film: 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Urban Splendor

As I came out of my bank the other day, I couldn’t help gasping at the stunning display of wisteria. Planted along a fence delineating the boundary of a strip mall, these bushes that I’d never noticed before were in full bloom. Thank you, whoever you are—or were—for taking the time to nurture these plants that would provide so much unexpected delight to a bank customer on the lookout only for cars traversing this alley-like driveway.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Seattle hosts Salon

Like Paris in centuries past, Seattle is hosting an art salon for international painters this weekend. Before today I didn't even know there was such a thing as an organization of decorative painters.
Hubby and I made a trip downtown this afternoon to look over the shoulders of artists after reading this story in the Seattle Times. Watching painters create faux marble, wood-inlay patterns, tiles, trompe l'oeil and other imaginative creations was a real education. Usually, when I watch an artist in the act of creating in a museum gallery or Plein Air, I have to sneak a peak (pretending to be interested in the work of art being copied or the landscape) because being watched renders many painters unable to continue. These seventy artists from many countries were encouraging their watchers to ask questions. We saw some amazing work up close and personal, watching the application of paint with fat brushes, rags, and skinny little brushes.

To make the afternoon even more fun for us, the event took place in the recently restored Union Station, a huge, light, and usually empty hundred-year-old former train station in what's now known as the stadium district. It's a beautiful space and one we haven't seen since its makeover.

In case you want your old card table to look like it's made of rarest mahogany, it's a sure thing that one of these talented people could make it happen. The salon continues through Sunday.


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

LOST AND FOUND

The essay below was published in Northwest Prime Time in 2008.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

When I was working, variations on the phrase ‘I’ve lost it’ often could be heard over the cubicle walls. The expression was a shortcut method of notifying colleagues you were in a bad mood, couldn’t tolerate any more work shenanigans, or were simple fed up with all the frustrations of the day. Now that I’m retired and mostly at home, the term ‘I’ve lost it’ means something entirely different—I’m an old ding-a-ling who forgets where she puts things.

Take the orthotic—the insert for my right shoe—that I haven’t seen since a week ago Tuesday. When I finished my yard work that day, I carefully removed both orthotics from my gardening shoes. I set them on the counter by the kitchen telephone, the usual rest stop for stuff on its way to the back of the house. The next time I saw them, ‘they’ (plural) had become ‘it’ (singular). Only one orthotic ended up in the bureau drawer where it belonged. The location of the other? Who knows. After a week-long search in which my husband and I upended the trash can, poked through garbage in rubber gloves, and peered inside every shoe worn by either of us in the past month, we’re blaming a poltergeist. Apparently the right orthotic took a walk.

Then there’s the ace bandage—the one my husband set carefully on the table where he assembles items essential for his business travel. When it came time for him to pack, the bandage had disappeared. Only after he give up the search and packed a substitute did it reappear inside the cupboard where we store paper and printer-ink toner. A bandage? In that cupboard?

I am wondering if I could offer something to appease the gods of forgetfulness. For many years my bureau’s top drawer has been the designated holdover for separated items: lone earrings, unidentified buttons, unpaired socks. It’s like a personal lost and found, a singles bar where individuals hopefully wait. Although the items usually find no relief to their yearning, occasionally there’s a joyful reunion. Perhaps if I took the most precious item from the drawer—that single ivory clip-on earring from high school days—and tossed it into the woods behind the house . . .. But I’m convinced that as soon as I did, the other would turn up—even though the earring was widowed in 1970.

Over the years I have experienced some significant disappearances—usually explainable by careless behavior. Take, for instance, the family album with three years of photos that went missing in 1979. Eventually I realized it must have been buried in the stack of old newspapers swept up in a generous impulse when the Boy Scouts came begging at the door for their paper drive. And those favorite, most-expensive-ever sunglasses stayed behind at the beach like naughty children, hidden among the long shadows of the summer evening. A new pair of leather gloves apparently made tracks when I stepped out of the car without looking down (at least they departed together), and my driver’s license slipped behind the toilet in a restroom at SeaTac when I failed to replace it in my wallet after flashing it at the TSA maitre-d. (That day I coupled my “I’m losing it” rant with another about skimpy pockets in women’s clothing.) Thanks to a very nice person who left a message on my home phone, my license returned to the fold (pun intended).

The recent episodes of the orthotic and the ace bandage feel mindless, the misplacements inexplicable. Are occasional memory lapses are part of the aging plan? Perhaps it’s good to lose something insignificant once in a while. Maybe peppering our ordinary days with small losses helps prepare us for the big ones, the heartbreakers. Maybe adapting to loss is designed to keep us emotionally toned. I’ll try to remember that as I hobble around on one shoe insert—still hoping to find its mate. At least I know what’s missing, so I haven’t totally ‘lost it.’

copyright © 2008 by Sara J. Glerum

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Easter Egg Tree

For many years I have created an egg tree as part of our Easter decor. I was inspired after I purchased several beautifully decorated eggs in Munich in 1991 and wanted a way to display them. Somewhere I'd seen and Easter egg tree, so got the idea to fashion my own using a bare branch from a shrub or tree just about to bloom. When the branch is put in water indoors, it usually bursts into leaf and/or bloom, making a splendid scaffolding from which to hang the eggs. 

When we lived in our twenty-four-year home, I frequently snipped still bare branches from the star magnolia tree in the front yard. Usually the blossoms would bloom around the eggs. The effect was fragrant and spectacular. The last few years, however (ever since we moved), pickings have been slim for branches, as I'm at the mercy of our condo landscape team.
This year with Easter so late, I decided not to bother with an egg tree. The deciduous trees and bushes were already leafing out, and, besides, I couldn't find any plant that looked like it could spare a branch. When I realized this would be the first Easter ever when my seven-almost-eight year old granddaughter would be here at Easter, I felt sad. I really wanted her to see my egg collection. 

On sudden inspiration three days ago, I asked my friend, Gail, who was exercising next to me in my fitness class and a known expert gardener, if she--by any chance--had a deciduous branch she could give me from her lovingly tended garden.

Her answer was affirmative: "Follow me home! I know I can find something."  Within an hour I was back home putting together my 2014 egg tree, which I proudly show off here. Gail gave me a wonderful gift--most of a small tree that was about to burst into pink bloom. "I'm going to be taking this little pear tree out, anyway, here . . .," she said, chopping its trunk with her pruner. You can see how gorgeous the effect is.

Here's to generous gardening friends--especially the ones who have abundant flora in their gardens--and most particularly to Gail. Happy Easter!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Spring Eagles

Our neighborhood has hosted a nesting pair of American Bald Eagles
for many years. The tree is protected by federal law.
In the early morning hours, we hear eagle calls, which are surprisingly wimpy for such impressive birds. The "whitewash" (bird watchers' euphemism for bird excrement) has begun to appear on the road below the Douglas Fir where the old, familiar nest resides. Both the sound and the sight are a sure sign that spring is here, as the nesting twosome appear to be satisfied with these surroundings for yet another year.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Another Young Poet in Poetry Month

In prior posts I've shared poems written by two of my granddaughters, one of them then ten years old, the other twelve.

Here is a sample of the poetry my youngest granddaughter writes. She was six when she wrote this one, published in Rattle Young Poets Anthology 2014. I couldn't be more proud of the young poets in our family and would like to celebrate their talent during Poetry Month.

I Was a . . . 

I was a rat when the wind blew
I was a butterfly when the sun was out
I was a monkey when it was hot
I was a rain cloud when it rained
And
I was love when you needed it.

              By Mae  

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Omni Abbey

This group was small compared to some times of day
 when I counted eleven waiting staff!
Recently we stayed at the Omni Hotel in Fort Worth, Texas. I did a lot of walking and a lot of museum hopping while staying there. Every time I returned to the hotel I was reminded of Downton Abbey in terms of the receiving line that waited to greet me. Not once did I have to open my own door in either direction.

Although my given name (Sara) means "Princess" in Hebrew, I generally don't expect to be treated like royalty, but I loved being treated as "Her Ladyship."

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Angel sighting?

I was sitting at my computer a few days ago when I noticed my neighbor, Joe, carefully picking his way along the uneven underbrush by the river's edge. Officially known as the Sammamish River, the slough (as it's known by locals) is the sole outlet from Lake Sammamish into Lake Washington. As are most bodies of water, it’s seasonally fickle—lazy and gentle in the summer, strong and forceful in the winter. It gets especially lively during early spring as the mountain snow melts and spring rains descend. This year the water level has been especially high and turbulent.

As usual, Joe was wearing his billed hat to protect his bald head, but not as usual, he was carrying a machete. Joe is a nonagenarian and WWII veteran. Although he’s lively, strong and capable, seeing him with a lethal weapon got my attention. “Wow, Joe must be on a mission of some sort by the slough,” I said to Hubby, who walked over to the window to peer out. I was back working at my computer when I heard Hubby gasp.  

“Oh, no! Joe fell!  He’s fallen—and . . . I can’t see him!”  

I haven’t seen Hubby move that fast for a long time. He zipped down two flights of stairs, rushed out the garage door, and strode quickly along the canoe path where he crossed over into the underbrush. “Joe . . . Joe,” he kept calling. By now I was outside, too, standing on our deck with phone in hand, ready to dial 911, if necessary. (I knew I wasn’t agile enough to help physically with the rescue.)  I watched, my heart pounding, as Hubby traipsed through the weedy, uneven ground by the river edge, trying not to fall the same way Joe must have fallen. “Where are you, Joe?”  

Joe answered, allowing Hubby to locate him in water at the undercut at the slough's bank. I watched Hubby trying to get into position to safely reach him in the water and maintain his own footing. I could see Hubby was having trouble, and began to dial a neighbor to ask for help, when suddenly a man--a stranger--appeared, leaping diagonally down the sloped hill in front of our building.

He had dark hair and full beard, trim body, horned-rimmed glasses—was maybe thirty years old. I gratefully watched him race to Hubby’s side and kneel down to help. Together they pulled Joe from under the embankment and brought him up onto dry land. Joe stood up, dripping wet, and took the arms of both--one man on each side of him--and got his footing in the tangle of underbrush. Joe had no hat, no machete, but he was OK. Wet, shaken, cold, but OK.

Almost as suddenly as he’d arrived, the stranger freed himself and darted around the house the same way he came. I scurried to the front door to see if I could see him running down the street. Nothing. No one. As I ruminated, I realized others in the neighborhood couldn't have seen what happened because of the orientation of the houses. Our house has the only view of the shore at that particular spot. 

The stranger must have been walking across the pedestrian bridge that looks down at our townhouses and must have seen Joe fall. That means he was on the path outside our complex.  But . . . if so, how had he opened the locked gate? Had he leapt over our fence to come to the rescue? And how did he disappear so quickly? Leapt back over the fence? It’s six feet high!
The tiny blue dot seen from my office
window is Hubby, as he searched the next day
 for Joe's machete, which he found.
Joe had planned to help out the
gardening crew by removing a stray tree limb.

Neither Hubby nor Joe had the presence of mind to thank him— everything had happened too quickly—but all three of us saw him. Was he an angel? I’m leaning toward yes. 

Post Script: The picture to the right shows the view from my office window. Hubby is tall and standing up. Joe was invisible (from my window) after he fell.

Friday, March 21, 2014

In Memoriam

Because my mother had just one brother and my father was an only child, my sister and I weren't long on extended family. We had only two first cousins. Now we have just one.
Liz Sedler 1941-2014
Photo taken in 2011 at
Davenport Hotel, Spokane, Wash.

Our family (mom, dad, and two daughters) lived in Seattle. Our uncle's family (uncle, aunt, and two daughters) lived in Cleveland. Between gasoline rationing during WWII, the lack of an Interstate system, and very different interests and focus, our two families rarely got together. By the time the four of us cousins were adults in the early '60s, all of us had gone our separate ways--and very different ways they were.

After our sibling-parents died (many decades ago), contact between families completely ceased. We might as well have had zero cousins. Then, in the late '90s, my sister located the older of the two, Margaret, living then in South Carolina. Margie put us in touch with her younger sister, Liz, who was living in Idaho. Over the subsequent years we developed a comfortable rapport with Margie, thanks to the Internet, telephone, and an in-person visit my sister made. It's lovely to be connected with Cousin Margie, a funny, smart, selfless woman whose present life is dedicated to rescuing animals (click on the link and follow the path).

Liz, although gracious, was less available--less interested in cozying up to long-lost cousins. 
Sis and I finally arranged a meeting with her a few years ago when our mutual, long-deceased grandfather was honored at a centennial celebration in Spokane, Washington. Liz drove several hours from her home in Idaho to have lunch with us. We had a lovely time chatting about our shared family heritage, and promised to keep better in touch. Compared to the first seven decades of our existence, we did do better--but we never progressed beyond the 'barely know you' stage.

Liz died last month. As I read online homage to her, I began to comprehend what a remarkable a woman she was. I'd like to share this lovely tribute to her, which appears on the Kootenai Environmental Alliance Web site.

May she rest in peace.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Spring Break-ing: Bad?

Watching the sunset at Mallory Square, Key West
Never having been to South Miami or the Florida Keys, I didn’t know what to expect as I anticipated my first visit. Of course I’d read about the locale in travel books, but I wasn’t ready for the ambiance of “Spring Break,” the youthful Bacchanalia celebrating a temporary release from academic studies, as well as life-giving  sunshine.

Hubby and I traveled for two weeks this month in a group of age-peers, Road Scholars, sponsored by the Elderhostel travel organization. The trip was varied and interesting with varied exposure to sights and insights. In addition to the usual scenic and civic highlights, we had opportunity to hear special presentations on Truman’s ‘Little Whitehouse’ in Key West, Flagler’s railroad to the Keys, South Beach’s hosting of troop training for WWII, 400 years of Cuban history, as well as a talk by two veterans from the Bay of Pigs. We enjoyed architectural tours, visits to animal rescue and research centers, botanical gardens, state parks, scenic boat rides . . . the list goes on—rich and varied. One of the most interesting, to me, was a tour of America's Orchestral Academy, "New World Symphony," housed in a gorgeous building designed by Frank Gehry.

South Beach, South Miami
What wasn’t in the published trip-description, however, was interaction with thousands of college-age ‘kids,’ who’d come to the same places we were visiting. We came to learn and relax; they came to party and relax. In South Beach the streets were swarming with the "Breakers," sometimes to the point of barely being able to share the sidewalks. The South Beach walking path along the ocean was jammed with rented bikes weaving through walkers, runners, lovers, and rowdy goof-offs. The line at Walgreen's Collins Avenue store   extended out the door in early evening with Breakers buying snacks, rude tee-shirts, sunscreen, and booze.

Initially Hubby and I were off put by the presence of so many high-energy young people, but not until we arrived in Key West did sharing the time and place become intimate and challenging. Many in our group were awakened the first night by loud crowds of Breakers returning to the hotel at 3:00 a.m. Much breakfast table conversation ensued that first morning in Key West. “How dare Elderhostel plan a visit for our demographic during Spring Break!” was the prevailing opinion. As we gathered to meet the guide for our first walking tour of Key West, we watched carloads of arriving Breakers as they unpacked their cars in front of the hotel—bottles of orange juice and Margarita mix rolling around in cargo space, as towels, pillows, and backpacks were offloaded. Beautiful young bodies scantily clad in hot-weather beachwear, giggling, high-fiving, hugging and yelling out, Dude!” More harrumphing ensued.
Versace's former house brings gawkers
by the hundreds in South Beach

But something wonderful happened during the course of the five days in Key West. As we interacted with the Breakers, especially while sharing hotel elevators, Hubby and I began to appreciate their energy, their zest for life, their healthy release from stressful studies, their high hopes. We realized that it was good for them, too, to share their hotel with people who’d lived on Planet Earth five or six decades longer than they. Our mutual presence benefited each other and brought a ring of sensibility to our respective vacations. Together we represented the cycle of adult life. 

By the end of our visit, we were genuinely glad that we’d been in south Florida during Spring Break, but we may have been in the minority. All the individuals in our group were—it’s safe to say—past our prime, and some were still angry about having to share our time in Key West with “those kids.” But for me, sharing the space with people yet to reach their prime served only to enhance our trip.