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April 29, 2009

Seattle Arts and Lectures

My friend Judy and I are on our second year of season tickets for the Seattle Arts and Lectures. In the past ten years, I have become hungry to hear different experts talk about their field. I love the Western speaker series and have enjoyed SAL a great deal. I don't know many of the authors, but find most of them inspiring. I bought a few single lecture tickets for Donel and me over the years -- usually poets that I knew that he would like to hear. It is a lovely experience to sit in the beautiful Benaroya Hall. It is heartwarming to realize that there are so many people in Seattle that would pay for the privilege of hearing an author speak. Poets Billy Collins and Mary Oliver commented on their gratitude for the crowd that came to hear them in Seattle.

Last night Dani went with me to hear film producer Mira Nair. Judy wasn't up to the traveling and gave me her extra ticket. Dani was willing to follow the system we've worked out over the past two years. We leave Bellingham at 3:00. Any later, we run into traffic in Everett. We get to downtown Seattle just after 4:30 and we always get to park in the first parking place. Last night, we got the fourth instead. This is very important as you will see later. Then, we walk around Seattle (Dani and I spent all the time in Borders) until 5:30 when we go to dinner at one of two places -- either the Brooklyn or the Wild Ginger. Last night Dani and I had soup and appetizers at the Brooklyn. The clam chowder, mussels and salad were absolutely wonderful. Then, we go stand in line for a seat.

We have balcony tickets and usually get the first row on the left hand side. The right side has a longer line and less chance of the seats we like. Then, we read until the lecture. The lectures close with questions. After the question period, we hustle to the elevator. We are usually some of the first people out so that we can back up our car a few yards and scoot up the ramp out of the parking lot instead of following the exit signs and snaking through the garage. Once we got stuck in the line of traffic and didn't get out of the garage for 45 minutes. So, now we have our little ritual of getting out before most people get to their cars so we can get home by eleven and leaving Bellingham early in the afternoon so we miss the work traffic. It works every time!

Dani was such a good sport. Even though she had friends who usher at the series, she went along with the ritual and didn't try to break rank and visit as we left the hall and hustled to the car. We enjoyed the lecture and the evening. It was the final lecture in this year's series. Maybe Dani will join the trek to Benaroya for the 2009-10 season. For me, it is an introduction to some new authors. Dani will have already read all of them.

Posted by Marilyn at 10:24 PM | Comments (1)

April 28, 2009


Yesterday morning Charles arrived with Nico. He was meeting their babysitter, Monica, at my house. She lives near me and often picks up Nico and takes him to the library story hour and then to the park. She is a real outdoor person and that suits a two-year-old just fine. Before she came, Charles joined me in the breakfast room with a cup of tea. Nico was climbing on the seats and on impulse picked up a pillow and tossed it at me. My tea went flying all over the cushions of my breakfast nook.

I don't know if you remember that I was agonizing over spending the money at my local cushion store for good fabric. I finally capitulated and ended up with Sunbrella because it is stain resistant and will not fade in that bright, window-lit room. This was the first real test -- and it passed beautifully. That tea just sat like little beads until it was swiped away! Charles chastized little Nico who said "Sowry gramma" and that was that. Sometimes an investment pays off beautifully.

My house is really not childproofed, but Dani has run around putting covers on the electrical outlets. Nico is fast and clever. Keeping him outside is much to our advantage as well as his. He loves to garden and will spend hours digging in the dirt and keeping busy with rakes and trowels. He is a happy guy and likes to tease. If scolded, he immediately becomes sad and begins to cry. A stern look works pretty well because harsh words might bring forth a bucket of tears. I can see him ten years from now when a "who me????" look will cross his face when questioned about a broken vase. However, he is trainable and he has learned that gramma's jigsaw puzzle is totally off limits. This is the first test of every grandchild -- puzzles and books! I refuse to put them away - I'd rather perfect that stern look!

I didn't mean to get sidetracked on Nico. I was telling Charles yesterday morning that there are many things in my kitchen that I actually planned and are working well. But, nothing pleases me more than finding something that works well that wasn't planned at all. One silly and minor item is clearing the dishwasher. I find that I stand still in front of the dishwasher and sort stuff three ways. The glasses go immediately above my head. The dishes and bowls go on the sink above the dishwasher and with only a minimum of turning, the stuff stored by the stove goes on the kitchen island. Within minutes, I've hardly moved and yet all the stuff is out and ready to put away. Moving the dishwasher to the right of the sink and having the little moveable island has been brilliant if I do say so myself.

I thought that I would worry about locking the island so that it wouldn't move while working on it. But, I leave the wheels unlocked and it doesn't move at all -- and yet I can push it out of the way to clean or reposition it without any problem. It also gives an extra surface to work on when people are here. Someone can be making a salad on the island. Someone else can be at the stove cooking. Someone else can be at the sink cleaning and that still leaves lots of space on the counter to the right of the sink as well as between the kitchen and the living room. I didn't expressly plan for a kitchen the could handle our whole family cooking and drinking wine and chatting. But, that is exactly what happened. How different it is from my previous situation where people in the kitchen drove me wild because they were underfoot. Oh yes, several others can sit on the new radiator cover and watch the fun.

Every day I am grateful for my new kitchen. I love the slick ways drawers open, the ample storage, my cozy tea cupboard, the openness to the view. I could go on and on. I love the bookshelves and I'm still trying to position the art. I still lose things from time to time but darn if they don't appear -- I've just done a good job of storing them.

So far I've learned that good design brings hidden rewards and smart investment actually saves you time and money..

Posted by Marilyn at 8:59 AM | Comments (0)

April 24, 2009


I've been asked to deliver a five minute homily on Laity Sunday on blessings. I said yes. Now I'm wondering why since I have to write something before Sunday. Not that I don't have a lot to say. I always have a lot to say. But, I'm usually not as careful to say it. Dani and I went to Anacortes yesterday to take my ailing lawnmower to Ace Hardware, a Black and Decker repair facility. We took Nico and he is a handfull at two and a half. But, we had so much fun. The city was repairing their streets and Nico was fascinated with the big equipment plus the enormous ship in the harbor. Dani and I took turns going into antique stores while the other watched the workmen. Nico was enthralled. The few times we dared taking him into a store, he kept saying "Nico outside!!!" We finally went into a children's shop that had a play area fenced in! He was happy. We were happy. He was contained. We were free. What a blessing he is.

There are so many things I'm trying to pull together after my remodel. They are little things like taking my metal piping to the recycle place, putting my yard back together since it had lots of lumber in it last year. Cleaning off my two new decks and putting out my table. The list seems to go on and on. I asked Charles if I could keep a list for him since some of it involves heavy lifting. It would take him three minutes to do what I cannot do even with three hours. He was nice enough to agree. So, I'm making lists these days for strong men. Another reason to miss my remodeling crew!!! They were always on hand to replace the water bottle or carry something for me.

It is sunny today and I'm heading for Lynden High School to observe a counseling student. Then, I'm hoping to edge my lawn that I mowed yesterday. I'll finish with my lawnmower story. Don and I bought an electric mower at a "green living" sale about six years ago. It has just enough juice to mow a few small lawns. I plugged it in the other day and when the green light was on I tried to start it. But, it didn't start. So, I hauled it to Anacortes as mentioned above. "Where's the key?" they said. Damn!!! I forgot it needed a key. There was nothing wrong with it after all. "Hanging in my garage," I answered. The clerk was so kind. She said, "These have been recalled to be retrofitted. I have your name. Take it home and use it and I'll call you when I get the package to fix it." I'm glad I went. I brought it home and used it yesterday. But, I will now get it completely overhauled and sharpened as soon as the parts arrive. It was a blessing for sure!

Posted by Marilyn at 8:27 AM | Comments (0)

April 21, 2009


Well, the rummage sale was a huge success and my main job (other than the book department) is to see that all the stuff left is picked up by other agencies. This year we had ReStore come in on Monday and the Friends of the Library today. Several ladies boxed up stuff yesterday and we sent some boxes off to the Hospice rummage sale. Everything left goes to Sunnyland Elementary School sale which is in a week. So, the organizers will bring a truck on Friday and haul away the rest. Whew! Another successful endeavor. Our Circle made over $7000.00 which we will now proceed to give away to charities. That is the fun part!

Although the rummage sale itself is fun. There is a special feeling working with old friends for a good cause. When everyone pulls their weight, it makes less for individuals. However, our two organizers do a terrific job of pulling all together and they spend almost all of their time at church before, during and after the sale. The rest of us sign up for blocks of time and some are able to do more than others.

The weather here has been glorious and today I gardened with Dani for awhile and came home to my own garden. It got so hot, however, that I came inside for awhile. Time to clean out the beds and plant for the summer. Dani is enjoying watching different plants begin to grow and bloom because she doesn't know what spring surprises are planted around her yard. They have been spending hours clearing brush and pruning. James is building a treehouse with some school friends. All is busy around the McClellan/Wheeler home.

I'm not very clever or creative today -- just decided to report what is going on around me. Charles is in Los Angeles so Dani and James and Nico are coming for dinner. Not much else to report.

Posted by Marilyn at 3:10 PM | Comments (0)

April 18, 2009

Rummage Sale Days

When I moved to Bellingham, several women in my husband's new church took me out to lunch at a restaurant in Fairhaven. Seems they were in the Pilgrim Circle and they basically took me under their collective wings. I visited all the church circles, but Pilgrim was the obvious choice. First, because they took me out to lunch. Second, because they were (mostly) my age. Third, they were (mostly) educators of some kind. And, fourth, because they said I was in their circle. No argument! Our former church had given up women's circles many years before -- but not the First Congregational Church of Bellingham. Circles were very strong!

The church simply wowed us on first visit. It was so lovely and well tended. There was a beautiful parlor where the circles held their meetings. We found out later that the ladies bargained with the men of the congregation when the new church was built. They would help out if the men built them a parlor. And, they did. I even put my mark on the room when I talked Larry Green into installing a gas fireplace insert so we could have a fire without all the trouble.

The old(er) women's circle was in charge of the kitchen, the SILVER (kept locked from the rest of us) and the RUMMAGE SALE!!! My husband loved the rummage sale and they knew it. He was always coming home with something they had saved for him. But, more important, they always invited Womens' Care and other charities to come in BEFORE THE SALE began to take what they wanted. This was my idea of giving!

Our circle members have now grown mature enough to inherited the awesome legacy from that dwindling group of women who carried it for so long. We have organized a Hospitality Committee and a Freezer Ministry to take over the kitchen and the silver and we have revolutionized the famous rummage sale. No more one day sales -- now we begin on Thursday night and go through Saturday with the congregation invited to pick over what they want from the leftovers (which they previously donated) on Sunday! We have now done it for several years and have it down to a science. My friend Barb and I are in charge of books. And, I think we will definitely hit $5000 this year -- money which we then give away the rest of the year to whatever charities come to our attention.

Anyway, that is what I have been doing for the past few days and what I will do this afternoon before James and I drive to Seattle to see Nicole in her play. It is exhausting, but fun too. It is fun to work with those same women who took me out to lunch over 25 years ago when we were too inexperienced to be trusted with either the silver or the rummage sale. I guess we have finally grown up.

Posted by Marilyn at 10:20 AM | Comments (0)

April 14, 2009

Happy Easter

Easter has come and gone and left candy wrappers, dabs of food, and decorations that need packing in its wake. Our Easter lamb from Costco was not as tender as expected so it went into lamb stew which Dani and family helped devour last night. Jeni and family left on Easter evening feeling a bit under the weather. The girl's empty baskets are still in my entry hall. My stove needs cleaning and everything feels a bit leftover. But, it was a lovely Easter with 2/3 of the family. We had nice conversations, walks, church, lovely meals, and I feel a bit more caught up with their lives - always in flux. Jeni beginning a new business as well as school, Ron busy on several computer fronts, Charles finally able to be in Bellingham for more than a few days at a time, Dani running a business, a home, and running after a 2 year old. Allie trying to manage life with a back problem, Nicole finishing elementary school and in a play, James blossoming in jazz band and a wonderful school placement -- life is busy on so many fronts. And, we hardly ever just sit and visit. I love holidays for that reason. James and Nicole played games for hours in the new basement room. Nicole claims that room when she comes to visit and puts a mattress on the floor in front of the fireplace. Allie has lots of friends in Bellingham due to the conference youth getting together -- one of them came to visit from Ferndale and I swear that half the congregation smiled and waved when Allie came to church on Sunday. At least the half under age 18.

Donel worked so many hours during his ministry. He worked six days and six nights most weeks. He did take off time here and there -- but we always loved vacations where our family was together and there were few demands upon our time other than to start the fire and eat before the bears appeared at Tenaya Lake, doing the dishes before walking around Balboa Island, playing games and visiting with friends over a meal and a glass of wine. Those were times to just let the world go and enjoy the people you loved most. Leisure time -- what a gift for those who are working full time and who are so busy keeping their lives together. As those lives swirl around me during my retirement, I wonder how I ever did it. I am in awe of the energy it takes to raise a family.

As I return to my quiet life, I glance at my calendar. The church rummage sale is coming up and it is my circle's baby. We raise almost $5,000 to give away to charities during the year. This year we are holding it for two days instead of one. We begin by having a celebration on the night before -- inviting the congregation in and having refreshments and entertainment. It is a very big undertaking, but we have honed it over the years into a pretty smooth process. I want to visit my friend Judy who is in the nursing home after a medical procedure and my house needs cleaning. I have some City University interns that need a supervised visit. That is what will keep me busy this week. I'll let my daughters handle teens and toddlers. That is more than I ever want to do again -- except as a loving grandma!

Posted by Marilyn at 10:15 AM | Comments (0)

April 8, 2009


I have not wanted any pets. I didn't want the bother. I didn't want the responsibility. Been there. Done that! So when Dani and Charles had to get rid of Kinsey because he nipped at Nico and broke the skin, they asked me to take him temporarily. He had to go. Somewhere!

The first time he nipped at Nico was before he was legally adopted. They were frankly afraid of losing Nico. So, Kinsey went to live with friends for a time. They got him back just before they moved here and after Nico was legally theirs. But, Nico at two just will not leave Kinsey alone and they live in a tiny house. So, when it happened again, it was the last straw. Actually, Kinsey himself was adopted from the pound a few years ago. He was a skitterish, abused dog who was frantically afraid of everyone. Dani took him in hand and he is joined with her at the hip. He worships her. She has brought him out of his shell, taken his fears away, and loved him into being a pet. I think he is jealous of the usurper in the family. Although I don't think he would ever attack Nico. He just lashes out when surprised or cornered by him.

I have now had Kinsey for about three weeks. I have many reasons to want him gone. He has peed on my new carpet and my wall, he is shedding hairs in my bedroom, and he barks at everyone. Having found no one to take him, Charles made an appointment with the vet to take care of the problem. But, I just couldn't let him do it. This is really a wonderful pet. He has taken me for so many walks that I have lost three pounds! He loves going for walks. He is very obedient and will come when I call. He guards me jealously at night and likes to lie around near where I am working during the day. He is so eager to please me that I can't possibly betray his loyalty. This is one sweet dog. Most of his bad habits are disappearing. And, I don't have a two year old around to pull his tail and to poke him here and there. When the two year old is here, Kinsey can easily escape from his clutches because the house is so much larger than theirs. And, of course, they can un-banish him when the "little whirlwind" gets bigger and is beyond the "pulling tail" stage.

Of course, Dani is still number one! If she is over, that is where you will find Kinsey. But, in her absence, I seem to be #2. Like Avis. I don't mind. I guess I have a dog.

Posted by Marilyn at 9:52 PM | Comments (0)

April 6, 2009

The Sun is Shining, The Grass Is Green...

I can't believe how my mood is connected to the sun. I was under the weather yesterday but the sun still made me smile. Today, I can hardly wait to get out to do errands in the warmer weather. I have shed my turtleneck and have on a short sleeve shirt. I would go out and do some yardwork, but Charles has filled my garage with their stuff to move into the basement and I can't get to my gardening stuff. Well, I could get to a few things -- so maybe later on.

It has been such a dreary winter. We thought it would never warm up. I hope this really is bringing in spring. After all, it is Easter week. However, I do remember that our first visit to Bellingham was in April and we had rain, sleet, snow, and even some sun during the first visit. The church committee that was looking at Don said, "Welcome to Bellingham!" It was weather as usual. The fact is that the problem with Bellingham weather is not that it is rainy -- it's that it is unpredictable. It could be pouring in the morning and gloriously sunny in the afternoon or visa versa. You could plan an outdoor wedding in August, but you can't promise that you won't get wet. I suppose it's a bit like the stock market at the moment.

It looks like I'm having Easter dinner this Sunday. Jeni and family are coming up to Craswell's on Friday and, of course, Dani and family are here. Martin and Christine are just arising from sickbeds where they have been all week. I don't ezpect that they will want to travel. Some families have this all planned months ahead -- we are usually scrambling around at the last minute to make plans for holidays. Drives some people crazy. But, I've learned to live with it. I don't plan anything until I hear the final word from all parties.

I spent much of last weekend finishing my income taxes and actually get a refund thanks mostly to the generous amount of sales tax I have after my remodel. The tax, the refinance expenses, and the new computer offset all the extra income I took out to cover the remodel. Yea! I was so worried that I would owe the government a few thousand dollars and it turns out that they owe me!!! And, this year my budget is getting back to normal. I'd like to keep it that way, so I haven't moved my desk downstairs to the new room because I don't want to heat it. Besides, it is not finished -- meaning that it doesn't have the wet bar in yet. It will come sometime in the future after things like tile. I'm definitely taking a break from any kind of home repair!

I'm off to do errands. Wonder if I will even need a sweater?

Posted by Marilyn at 10:54 AM | Comments (0)

April 2, 2009

Income Tax Time

I'm working on my income tax. I have had to sleuth into files in order to do it the old fashioned way -- gathering facts from paper after paper instead of just hitting Quicken and taking stock of what I spent all year. I remember how it used to be and definitely like the new way better. Fortunately, I just had to search from January to June and then I had it all there electronically. What would we do without modern conveniences?

I was annoyed that my new Quicken was so fancy that it took me a long time to find how to set it up to print out the year's (or half year in this instance) expenditures in separate categories -separating those items that are tax deductible from those that are not. I also enjoyed looking over how I spent my dollars in 2008. I don't travel extensively, but I make up for some of that in going out to eat. I'm always surprised at the end of the year by how many times I eat out. It is my entertainment. I like to use my debit card for three reasons. 1) Everything I spend is automatically recorded, 2) I don't have to pay for checks and 3) I can analyze what I spend. So, I have now pulled all expenditures together and I'm ready to do my taxes with Turbo-Tax.

I've always done our taxes. I love to do finance. We went to a CPA two years in a row when we sold our California house and moved to Washington, but I soon found that my calculations were the same as his and I wasn't saving any money. Also, I knew the rules for clergy better than most CPAs. Now, I just pay for an hour of his time when I have any burning questions. It works for me. I'm hoping this year that my huge amount of sales tax for my remodel offsets any amounts I took from investments to pay for everything.

On another note, half my family is sick. Martin had to call off his 40th birthday celebration because he has the flu. Jeni had to call off her trip to Bellingham because Nicole has a fever. Dani has had a child with a fever and I'm trying to duck them all. I can't believe that Martin is 40. How did that happen? It seems like yesterday that he was the first child born in Santa Barbara with his father present in the delivery room. Donel got such a resounding welcome (for breaking the "no father's allowed" barrier) that I had to remind people that I was the one having he baby. What a wonderful occasion that was! But, forty years ago???? Could it possibly be?

Not much else happening in Bellingham except that we are all sick, sick, sick of winter. Yesterday two friends were here for writing group and it had snowed yesterday where they lived. It seems like the snow will never fully retreat this year. Today it is cold, but rainy. I am so ready for spring. I'm wishing Dani still lived in California so I could go visit and get warm.

Back to my income tax.

Posted by Marilyn at 1:03 PM | Comments (0)