Saturday, November 28, 2020
Saturday, November 14, 2020
The McDraggals came about in 1977 to help a friend and volunteer mom who was in charge of the annual grade school talent show where three of my children were pupils. That year, The Gong Show was a huge TV hit, and that gave my friend an idea. She wanted to model the talent show that year on it. Her thought was that instead of the usual polite applause for the multiple degrees of talent and non-talent the audience usually endured, audience members would instead be encouraged to boo so the gong would ring! But, so as not to hurt children's feelings, she had a plan (one that needed and received approval of the principal of the school). She would privately arrange to have kids from each grade (with full disclosure to their parents) intentionally create awful acts that would be booed instantaneously, thus getting the gong within a half-minute. (She even planted several relatives in the audience to assure that happen). The judges presiding over the gong would be PTA moms, full of compassion and would manage outcomes so no one would be sad or insulted. She approached me and asked if a member of my family would like to invent an awful talent act. With kids in third, fifth, and sixth grades in the school, she was fairly certain one of them would rise to the challenge.
Like most families, we watched The Gong Show every week, and the idea was immediately appealing. It didn’t take long to think up the perfect act. The whole family would be needed, however, to make it work. We would play our fake bagpipes! Dad had a tech rehearsal the very same night as the talent show, however, so he couldn't (sadly . . . wink wink) participate.
And what are 'fake bagpipes'? you might be thinking. The six of us together loved to replicate the sound of bagpipes by pinching our noses and humming the classic tune, Scotland the Brave, with a deliberately nasal tone while concurrently striking the outside edge of the other hand across our Adams apples. This is not a healthy action in terms of the vocal cords and no one should do this for very long, but the sound eerily resembles bagpipes and is still hilarious to whomever hears it.
And as the kids became more inspired about developing an instantly gong-able act, we came up with the idea of everyone wearing mixed tartans and plaids, the more clashing the better! There were plenty of hats on the closet shelf (some having belonged to two deceased grandfathers), and a quick trip to the local variety store would provide more Groucho Marx glasses with mustachioed noses like the one already in the dress up box. Voila! The McDraggals were born.
The third grader was eager to take part, but not sure he wanted to be a bagpiper. Instead, he happily conducted the group with a plumber's friend as his baton, adding another dimension of silliness. The eighth grader was tickled to return to her alma mater for this silly event, and my participation gave everyone the scapegoat they needed, in case people later made fun of them (Mom MADE us do it).
Of course, nothing ever turns out quite the way one imagines it. Instead being booed and gonged within seconds, as we expected to be, the audience began to giggle and laugh and roar and applaud and call out "more, more," as we struggled to make it through repeated choruses of the tune. No one gonged us! Eventually the Master of Ceremonies urged the audience to boo, and the gong finally sounded.
In my memory, at least, The McDraggals was one of the most original and fun acts of the evening for the audience, but the immediate reactions by four of the five of the McDraggals, however, was mortification. If you've agreed to make a fool out of yourself for a few seconds, it's not fun to be kept onstage for what was probably two minutes (and, indeed, those two minutes felt like fifteen). It took a few years before we, as a family, could laugh about the experience. Now it’s always fun to remember. And we've been known to hum/play Scotland the Brave on our fake bagpipes as recently as a few years ago.
Sunday, October 18, 2020
Until recently, I could easily check out readership stats on my blog or go into an old one to correct a typo or add a missing word. Normally I don't spend any time re-reading old posts, but once in a while, when I notice that there's been a lot of interest on a particular post (especially if it's been a decade since I put it on my blog), I will re-read it.
In the case of Cindy Part II, when I re-read it, I saw a small material error that I wanted to correct, and when I did so, the post jumped to the top, as if I had just now written it. In the case of Cindy Part II, it seemed ludicrous to have it appear as if I wrote it today, with Part I appearing exactly eleven years earlier. I might be slow at posting, but not THAT slow! With a LOT of wrangling, I was able to move Cindy Part I to the top (there is absolutely no way to push something into the past where it belongs), which sequentially matches the parts. But--consider yourself warned--it's not new. It hearkens back to the first year of blogging in which I was determined to self-publish many of my personal essays that had not yet seen the light of day.
|LOOKING DOWN WHILE WALKING CAN|
YIELD SOME BEAUTIFUL AND SURPRISING
SIGHTS, ESPECIALLY IN AUTUMN
Saturday, September 19, 2020
As I mentioned in Part I of Lavendar Sticks, the new, "improved" blogger.com platform that hosts my blog is not user friendly! Especially not for photos. After searching for how to move photos around and wrap text with its new design, I've come to the annoying conclusion (along with many others who are loud and clear online about their disasatisfaction with this change) that I cannot manipulate the photos for the time being. Therefore, this is really just a postscript to the prior blog called Lavendar Sticks. The captions (a built in component) don't stay with the photos, either, so I will narrate instead.Harvest lavendar with blossoms are dry. Then: 1.) wrap uneven number of lavender stems in cheesecloth and tie off with narrow ribbon (9-13 stems best). 2.) bend stems down as closely as possible to the tie-off. 3.) Start the weave: over one, under one, over, under, etc. 4.) Pull ribbon tightly as you go, and keep going until you can't weave any longer (the stems get too bunched to continue). Wrap the stem with ribbon and tie with a loop (see Lavender Sticks Part I prior post.) As the sticks dry, you'll want to snug up the ribbon on the stems.
I have a wonderful source of beautiful and fragrant lavendar every year. My sister and her husband grow an abundant crop in their Seattle home's front yard and always invite me to harvest as much as I want. For the past few years, I've dried the equivalent of a few cups of flowers, which I then stuff into little organza bags and bequeathe to friends and family at Christmastime. This year I created Lavender Sticks, also, something I haven't done for years.I learned to make them as a teenager when my dad gleefully pointed out an article in periodical that I think was called The Herb Growers' Magazine. He was a hobby gardner and loved herbs in general, but he was partial to the scent of lavender and wore Yardly aftershave, which had a predominantly lavender scent. He didn't do crafts himself, but could elicit sachet-making activity by announcing that his abundantly fragrant crop of lavendar in a given year was ready for harvesting. At least one of the three women who lived in his household would rise to the occasion. When I first saw the photo of lavender sticks in the magazine and realized making them meant weaving stems of fresh lavender through ribbons, the challenge was on! They were so satisifying to create and I loved making them, happily giving them to my mother to use as tuck-in gifts for her friends. (None of my friends wanted a lavender stick for Christmas!)
Multiple years later, I made once or twice when my children were small and the lavendar plants were still thriving at my mother's home, but when she moved the source disappeared. And lavender doesn't winter well in Wisconsin, so after we moved there in 1972, there was no way to source the main ingredient. But even though I've been living back in Washington for the past thirty-four years, I have made sachets only by bagging loose blossoms, no sticks . . . until this year.
P.S. Part II of the article carries more photos. The host of my website, blogger.com, has made radical changes to the way its users create posts, siting 'new, easier' technology. Easier for someone, not doubt, but not for me. Seems that placing pictures with wrap-around text is impossible. It's not just that I'm a bit handicapped in terms of technology, either--I've been on help sites where I find lots of rants by other users of blogger with the same disappointed rsponse. I think my posts will probably be limited to one photo each from this point forward (until blogger.com fixes something).
Thursday, September 10, 2020
Walking in a local park where an orchard was planted in the 1930s, I had to laugh. There are a few straggler trees remaining, and this time of year the apples drop to the ground. The apple in the photo didn't fall far from the tree--it was lodged in a little crevice in the tree-- so the picture becomes a graphic illustration of the cliche. And that made me think of something that happened a couple of weeks ago. I was at my local Farmers Market, masked up, wearing a hat, carrying several cloth bags loaded up with produce. From behind me a voice called out, "Sallie?" I turned to see a friendly looking woman hurrying toward me, her arms filled with two flats of blueberries. It took me a minute to recognize who was behind the mask, but I did--just as she identified herself as L. "I was pretty sure that was you. I recognized you by your walk." What a flood of memories that brought back. My mother was easy to recognize by her how she walked, and as soon as L. said that, the expression, 'The apple doesn't fall far from the tree,' jumped into my head. I remembered lying in my hospital bed after the birth of my first child more than fifty-six years ago (in the days when a new mom rested up from the ordeal of childbirth for a full three days before returning home) and listening to footsteps in the corridor. I heard my mother approaching from a long way away, recognizing her by the sound of the her footsteps, the same ones I heard every morning as a child. Because my bedroom was over the kitchen, I woke up every school day morning to hear her stepping to and from the fridge, the stove, the table, as she made the family's breakfast. CLICK, click, CLICK. click. She favored one foot more than the other, just I apparently do.
And since we're on the topic opf like-mother-like-daughter, there's a request that seemed silly to me when she made it while in her early sixties: "When I'm old and feeble-minded," she said, "promise me you'll pluck my chin hairs when you come visit me in the nursing home." I think of my mother whenever I stand in front of my mirror with my tweezers in hand. She didn't live long enough to need someone to help tweeze chin hairs, and maybe I won't need the service, either . . . but her comment always makes me smile in solidarity. Yup, THIS apple didn't fall far from the tree. Maybe that's one good thing about our COVID lifestyle. No one can see what's growing under the mask.
Tuesday, August 25, 2020
- 1: the fact or condition of not remembering : a state marked by lack of awareness or consciousnessseeking the oblivion of sleepdrank herself into oblivion
|The shadows of trees seem to welcome peaceful contemplation|
|The underside of branches can trigger awe|
|The sky helps bring on momentary oblivion|
|This blue heron sitting on a fallen log |
takes its viewer out of the moment
Monday, August 10, 2020
Because of Covid-19, I'm walking more than I normally would in the summer. The absence of classes at my local YMCA, not to mention having almost no social life, means it's healthy and easy to take several walks each day. And I frequently need a visor and sunglasses because this is the time of year in Seattle when the sun is out almost every day.
For many years, instead of having separate prescription sunglasses, I have chosen Takumi brand frames because they come with matched sunglasses that snap magnetically on. That way, my sunglasses can be easily taken on and off while driving, and they are so small I'm never without them--tucked behind my wallet in a small zipped essentials case with me when I leave the house. But because of their small size, they are a little more fragile--and sometimes hard to locate if one sets them down thoughtlessly after removing them.
Because of my daily walks, I wanted to keep them somewhere more accessible than my purse for them. That's when I thought of Mozart! They balance perfectly on his extended wrist. SO . . . I am letting him hold them for me. He is doing a GREAT job, too. I always know where they are; they aren't susceptible to scratching, and just seeing the little statue being useful after all these years makes me smile.
Sunday, July 26, 2020
|William Neill Hughes, Jr.|
was 85 in this photo
|He didn't want us to use "Uncle" when addressing him|
|I invited him to my high school graduation, but . . .|
Sunday, July 19, 2020
Recently I realized in a different kind of way just how comforting it is to sit quietly among trees, and in particular, to feel--stroke--the bark of a huge Douglas Fir.
I'm fully aware this is not an original observation. In fact, it's probably as old as the spoken word and perceived long before language occurred. There is always comfort in nature. But as I sat in Blyth Park across the river from where I live, no one else was anywhere around. Although two cars were in the parking lot, their drivers must have been walking on a nearby trail. It felt like the entire park was all mine . . . and the birds, of course, and various critters that live in the trees and ground.
Stroking the bark of this giant fir was surprisingly soothing. I wondered how many others had sat there and felt the bark, its skin. If I could have stayed there all day, I would have. The cares of Covid-19, even the isolation it has dealt us, seemed not to matter much while I sat there. It was as though I was connecting with everyone who has ever approached this tree. Blissfully the tree is unaware of the virus and the new distancing protocol. How comforting to think about this magnificent tree could spread its branches--unconcerned if they should come into contact with another tree's branches.
I'm familiar with the concept of Forest Bathing. Although I didn't have a certified leader taking me through a sensory connection with the forest, I made my own bath of quietude and calm. It was better than bubbles for calming stress.
Monday, June 29, 2020
It's been fun thinking about who the people were in my life who profoundly influenced me. I'm just going to name three of them in this post and identify how and why they influenced my person-hood.
Mary Anderson, lifelong friend of my mother.
Mary had two sons who were younger than I. Our families spent our summers at a remote enclave of four large seasonal houses built on the shore of large Idaho lake. It was accessible only by water (or an arduous hike from an automobile 'landing' a mile away over rugged terrain), so once we arrived, we stayed put! The houses had no electricity, just plenty of sunshine, water, and socializing. There were numerous youngsters at the lake every summer, all within a ten year range, but most were older than I To fill my need for companionship, I played every day with Jimmy and Johnny, Mary's boys. Because they were younger, I got to be the boss, and we made up a lot of fun activities and games, but I was in charge--quite a treat for the younger child in a family of two children. Mary loved that I paid so much attention to her little boys, and through that relationship, I felt great kinship. She hung out with my mom a lot, and I used to love to see and hear Mary laugh. Her style of parenting seemed so joyful and relaxed. She listened to my stories, and always seemed so pleased to share tidbits of my life. Mary and I began corresponding while I was in college--it was especially fun to hear her take on my student life, because she was a faculty wife at another university. By then we'd formed a deep, affectionate bond. She reminded me of my mother, but without all the 'strings' of conflict that accompany a young woman's bursting from the nest.
Ben Weatherwax: Friend (along with his wife) of my parents.
Ben made his living as a designer in an architect's office. He had great talent and an eye for style. He designed a beautiful year-round cottage for my family on the ocean, which endeared him to all of us, but even more exciting--he had a weekly radio show! I thought he was the most overtly talented grown up I'd ever met. When Ben would visit our home (with or without his family), he and my dad could talk and chuckle together, and I loved listening to them. Ben always asked me, a young-to-mid-teen, my opinions about current events! I really wanted to be an adult when Ben sat down to visit with my dad, because their topics were so vital and worldly. Ben knew I was a bookworm and always asked what I was reading, then would share his thoughts about the book, which, of course, he would have read years before. Our first literary encounter was over Jean Christophe by Romain Rolland. When he saw what I was reading he nearly jumped up and down with glee. "Oh, how I loved that book!" In the summer of '56 we had a long talk about my adoration for Thomas Wolfe. "Yeah," said Ben, "he sure did write some magnificent purple prose." (I had to look up that term!) When he died in a house fire in November 17, 1956, I was torn with grief. He was the first person whose death I deeply grieved. At sixteen I was old enough to recognize the depth of loss when a vibrant person passes in the prime of his life. I was overcome with personal sorrow.
Gladys Phillips O'Day: Friend (along with her husband) of my parents. \
Gladys gave me a glimmer of what women could do in the world--besides being a secretary, nurse, or teacher, which were the three choices that "nice girls" had for their careers in the '50s. Gladys was an attorney! Not only that, she used her maiden name on her business cards! She wasn't stuck in the mold of just being the wife of a successful man. She made her own career and everyone knew who she was--for herself! That was a radical notion in the '50s. In addition, she was proud of her native American ancestry and shared stories and history of her family that made me think of native Americans differently from how I'd learned about them at school. Gladys had such reverence for her ancestral people, you couldn't be around her without catching a little of it from her. She was also a fellow violinist (clearly quite outstanding, as she was concertmistress of UW Orchestra), and always asked me what music I was working on. I found this immensely encouraging because she 'got' what was involved as a student of the violin. Our families drifted apart, and we completely lost touch before I entered my thirties. And--truth be told--I was intimidated in her presence. As much as I admired her, I could barely imagine myself as a bold, strong, bright woman who stood up to--and even flaunted--the expected norms of womanhood. She was a true inspiration on a very personal level.
Tuesday, June 9, 2020
|Aunt Maggie created|
silhouette for me 1958
|Chuck, Aunt Maggie, sister Judy, me|
|In fourth grade marionettes had|
become my hobby. Aunt Maggie signed
my autograph book Easter that year
|In fifth grade I had a new|
autograph book signed on the
occasion of a Memorial Day Picnic
When Jay and I moved back to Seattle in 1986, one of the first people I visited was Aunt Maggie. By then was living in a retirement community in the downtown area near my work. Occasionally I would visit her during an extended lunch hour. I can remember her asking my advice about travel insurance at one of our last get-togethers, and how flattered I felt when she asked my advice about something, after so many times I'd asked for her opinion.
Yes, Aunt Maggie was definitely one of the people who loved me into being.
Thursday, May 28, 2020
|Grandmother Elmendorf with me 1942|
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
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
|Sammamish River Trail (former |
rail right of way)
|Blyth Park in Bothell, Wash.|
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.
|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.