« June 2009 | Main | August 2009 »

July 31, 2009

Ashland Vacation #2

What is there about old friends that make visiting as comfortable as slipping into an old favorite chair or eating comfort food? Don and I met Bob and Carol Olmstead when the guys went to Pacific School of Religion. We lived together at 1717 Arch Street. We both had studio apartments and the third apartment in our little tri-plex was occupied by Pat and Doug White and their two children. We called ourselves the McWhitesteads and after the first year when the guys all had church appointments, we moved into separate houses but continued to eat Sunday dinner together until graduation sent us different ways.

Carol and I had our first two children together and Amy and Laurie were born in the same hospital with the same doctors as Dani and Jeni. We have kept in touch throughout the years when Bob's Methodist appointments took them miles away from our life in Santa Barbara, Woodland Hills and now Washington State. Martin was born after we left Berkeley and the Olmsteads adopted Demian and Tony. Bob and Carol are living their retirement years in Placerville, CA. A few years ago we began meeting twice a year in Ashland.

So, I'm here with Bob and Carol and Amy and Laurie. Amy drives over from Reno and Laurie from Woodland, Ca. We are staying in a flat in the second floor of an old Victorian a few blocks from the Shakespeare festival. We'll see five plays this round and in September I'll be back with Bob and Carol and Carol's sister who comes down from Canada. It has become an annual affair.

I love reconnecting with old friends. Conversations are resumed as if they were stopped the night before. Even getting caught up with our lives has a ring of familiarity because of common experiences and shared history. Don and Bob had a mutual admiration for one another. They shared a love of literature and words. They were both wonderful preachers even though they had different styles. Don was a poet. Bob, a storyteller. They used to talk theology for hours on end. They could be apart for months on end and find that they were reading the same books and discovering the same authors. So, Don is definitely here in spirit because he is so much a part of our relationship. We continue to laugh over funny experiences and last night at dinner Carol and I were telling her girls of our early years in seminary together and how newly pregnant Carol was sick every single day on the bus to San Francisco where she worked at IBM. An old story, old friends, small children grown into beautiful women with families, friends, and stories of their own -- the saga continues to enfold even today and becomes enriched by new experiences and extended families and familiar tales once again shared among friends.

Posted by Marilyn at 8:31 AM | Comments (0)

July 30, 2009

Ashland Vacation #1

I made my annual pilgrimage yesterday -- I always stop in Eugene on the way to Ashland. In Eugene, I have at least two stores that I must visit. The Pewter Rabbit is an antique store that is completely charming. I found it by accident one trip while wandering downtown getting some exercise and amusing myself before making the final leg of the journey. Each year I return and find it even more delectable. Next door is PassionFlower - a design store. I have purchased many interesting gifts at PassionFlower because their stock is unique. It is not unusual to come home with stocking stuffers for the next Christmas season. Today, alas, I bought nothing at either store but I did go down the street to discover J. Michaels Books where I splurged on three titles I have been wanting to read. I usually end the pilgrimage with lunch at Glenwood Restaurant across from campus. However, I have a rather eclectic way of getting to these places that I love - and a map is not part of that. I just wander until I find them. Not too difficult with the stores because I know they are downtown on Broadway -- but I had trouble locating Glenwood so I returned to downtown and ate at an Italian restaurant that I spotted next to the book store. I love my annual pilgrimage to Eugene, Oregon, but I shall never ever understand how the town is laid out. My problem is that when you travel south, you cannot take the same exit as when you come north -- and that is the exit which I take to find the Glenwood restaurant. That exit simply does not exist going south. As a consequence, I'm usually a bit confused in Eugene. And, I do nothing about it because I actually like a bit of adventure while traveling for hours on the road. It is a lovely diversion.

Now, Ashland is completely different. I can get anywhere in Ashland and know how to get back another day. I love Ashland and feel robbed that it is simply too hot to go outside at the moment. We'll probably take a stab at a few stores because they have air conditioning. But, my preference is to walk all over town - certainly from the place we stay. Not this year. I don't relish walking in 100 degree weather. We began our stay with Don Quixote last night. It was a very, very long evening and a fascinating staging with sheep made of socks and a wonderful Rocinante in two halves flanking the rider. But, it was hot outside and the play seemed to drag on and on with all the antics of a crazed knight and most of us were glad when the trek was finally over. We see All's Well that Ends Well tonight in the New Theatre so I will welcome the air conditioning.

How lovely to be back seeing first rate drama each evening in such an idyllic setting. Monica and her boyfriend are living in my house and watering as well as keeping Kinsey. The weather is the big topic of conversation all up and down the I-5 corridor. It is breaking records right and left. It is supposed to cool down tomorrow -- but only by a few degrees. I don't remember a time when Bellingham was over 100 degrees. It is plain confusing. A very cold winter and now a very hot summer. What can it all mean?

Posted by Marilyn at 12:19 PM | Comments (0)

July 27, 2009

Heat Wave

We are definitely having a heat wave and it gets worse if you go south from here -- and that is where I'm going tomorrow. I drive to Portland and stay all night with Nicole Marshall who is doing her post doc in a maternity clinic for difficult pregnancies in Portland. Then, I leave for Ashland, Oregon, and the Shakespeare festival the next day. It is about an 8 hour trip from here so it's nice to break it up. And, I do love Portland so it's a nice place to stop.

I'm meeting Bob and Carol Olmstead and their daughters Amy and Laurie who are the same ages as my daughters and were born in Berkeley when Bob and Don were in seminary. This is the fourth year I've met them -- we'll see five plays and I'll drive back on Sunday. It is in the 90s here and I'm afraid both Portland and Ashland are closer to 100 degrees. Ashland has a higher altitude so it does cool off in the evening. When I get back, my two writing partners and I are going to spend three days together at Bev's house on Orcas Island. I'm looking forward to that relaxing few days.

So, there you have it -- I'm actually going on vacation I do miss going on vacation with Don. We had such fun when we could get away. So, I'll have fun for him too and remember the fun we used to have. Maybe I'll write something from Ashland and let you know how cultured I am. In the meantime, I hope Kinsey doesn't bite my housesitter's boyfriend.

Posted by Marilyn at 6:19 PM | Comments (0)

July 25, 2009

Flower Lady

My neighbor, Leah, has a new passion. She has been salvaging discarded flowers from Trader Joes who toss them when they begin to wilt. She and her friend, Nancy, bring home dozens of bouquets, clean them off, pick out all the greens and good flowers and proceed to build beautiful new arrangements. I was having company the other day and was scrounging around in my yard for whatever I could find to put in a vase. Leah called for me to bring over a huge vase and then proceeded to put together a magnificent array of summer flowers which would have cost me $75.00 in any flower market.

She taught me to put sugar and Clorox in the vase and to ring it with Salal or some other greens. Leah is an artist -- a real one who makes her living making and selling beautiful memory boxes. She also makes jewelry and paints. She is older than I am, but bicycles daily and enters races where she has to pedal up mountains. She is pretty amazing. But, flowers are her latest project. She can't see anything beautiful go to waste.

This morning her friend Nancy called her to get over to TJ because they were dumping their flowers. She brought home wonderful stuff and all of us neighbors brought over our vases and made ourselves new arrangements for the weekend. Even four year old Sam made himself a flower arrangement. There were enough flowers for all -- and then some.

After I participated in the neighborhood flower fest, I picked cherry tomatoes, beans, and one lonely zucchini out of my garden. It is a green day for sure!

Posted by Marilyn at 11:20 AM | Comments (0)

July 24, 2009

Walking the Dog (Again)

Sometimes walking the dog invokes a bit of nostalgia. Halfway down our block is a little pink display of pink roses which resemble the Cecil Brunner roses that we had in our yard when I was growing up. I smile when I pass that rose bush. The tiny little thumb size roses are so delicate and sweet. I didn't know flowers when I was young. But, I knew those roses because I was chosen to be the May Day queen when I was in 6th grade and our neighbor made me a head wreath of those little pink roses. That's how I learned their names.

I don't know why I was selected to be queen of the pageant which included a procession and then May Day dances around the maypole by the different grade levels. I was obviously chosen by the principal or teachers because I was a good student. I was certainly not the average queen material. I was too long and lanky. It's not because I was especially awkward since I was a pretty good athlete. You get that way growing up as the only girl on an all-boy street and learning to play street baseball (on a hill) and very competitive kick the can very early in life. In any case, my mother was thrilled to have me chosen and I wasn't. I was very self-conscious and embarrassed to be the center of attention. I worried that my fellow students would think I was a "dumb" choice for the queen. Lois or Roberta would have been much better -- they were both beautiful and popular with the boys. If I remember correctly (and it was a very long time ago), I was just glad when the whole thing was over. In any case, I wore a long white dress and the pink flowers in my hair and I liked the flowers best of all even if redheads were not supposed to wear pink in those days.

I was such a good athlete that I was often chosen first for teams and had the honor of beating Connie Lamb at tetherball. I considered myself the tetherball champion of my class. And, as I said, I was a good baseball player. Barbara lived around the corner and would come begging me to play in her playhouse or roller skate -- but I loved playing baseball with the guys better than dolls with Barbara. I did like to roller skate and when we were teens, Barbara and I spent two nights a week ice skating in nearby Pasadena. I was once asked to model in a fashion show on the ice, but was too self conscious to say yes. I skated for years, however, and biked like a maniac. All without helmets of course.

All these memories are evoked by a rose bush -- how powerful is that?

Posted by Marilyn at 11:14 AM | Comments (0)

July 18, 2009


I've mentioned before that I absolutely love my neighbors. Today Dani joined three of us as we put on a garage sale in my front yard. We didn't make gobs of dough, but we chatted and munched on goodies and greeting those who came and looked and even bought. Charles supplied early morning treats from Rocket donuts (Nico's favorite), Leah supplied melon in the late morning. I made tuna sandwiches for lunch and Lisa brought us brownies in the afternoon. Dani had the most stuff and made the most money. Amy Sue, Leah and I made less -- but still had fun. Charles sold a small guitar. Amy Sue had two sick boys, so she spent the day running back and forth across the street. All in all, it was a neighborhood bonding experience.

Speaking of neighborhood bonding, I was walking Kinsey the other night and ran into my neighbor Millie's son, Joe, who is home from Korea where he is working for a few years. Joe used to cut my lawn and I've watched him grow up. He was walking Charlie. We converged as he turned the corner on my street and I came towards him. "Marilyn," he said. "I thought it was you." "Hi, Joe," I said. "Welcome home." As he came closer we intended to give each other a welcome hug. However, he had one hand on Charlie's leash and was holding a plastic bag of Charlie's nightly deposit in the other. I, also, had one hand on a leash and the other similarly occupied. Awkward, but we managed a no-hands hug with the plastic bags extended as far out as our hands could reach. This dog walking does make for some interesting moments!

Posted by Marilyn at 6:04 PM | Comments (0)

July 14, 2009

Walking the Dog

This morning I was walking Kinsey. It's something I do twice a day grumbling all the way out the door. Of course, as soon as I get walking, I realize how lovely it is outside and how nice it is to take a walk. But, trying to fit it is when I have other things to do can be annoying. For instance, if I have to go anywhere in the morning, I must make sure I add twenty minutes to walk the dog. Then, at night, I have to think, "let's see -- when will I walk the dog?" I make little compartments in my mind about the times I have to spend tending to the animal -- but really, I'm actually tending to myself because walking is exactly what I should be doing. In fact, perhaps I should say that the dog is walking me! I'm the one overweight and under exercised. I may not need to take care of natural needs outside instead of inside, but walking the dog simply makes me healthier and that is no joke!

When I was walking Kinsey this morning, I was contemplating how interesting it is that all of us walkers come equipped with plastic poop bags. My neighbor even carries a bottle of water. I don't even want to know what she does with it -- she says it is not for drinking. What a bother it all is. We never worried about poop bags when I was young. In fact, I haven't a clue where my dog deposited his daily job -- probably in my back yard since I did scoop quite a bit of poop. But, this fastidiousness is a fairly recent affair. It's like wearing bicycle helmets or children's car seats. Who ever wore a bicycle helmet except a motorcyclist? I rode my bicycle without a helmet, roller skated without kneepads, drove my children everywhere while they lollygagged in the back without carseats. When did we get so careful?

Don't get me wrong. I do see the reasoning behind the safety rules and the respect for neighbor's property -- but sometimes I yearn for the days of yore. The other day on a walk, I scooped Kinsey's poop and then sneaked it in a neighbor's trash can to get rid of it. Much to my chagrin, a few blocks later Kinsey proceeded to poop again and, oh my gosh, I had no more plastic bags. I looked around for the tallest bush to hide me from the prying eyes of my neighbors. Did anyone see what my dog did? Can I pretend that it was someone else who was so very irresponsible? I had visions of the whole neighborhood shunning me or sending the pooper scooper police to my door. I was humiliated, scorned, and guilty. I couldn't have been more embarrassed if I had deposited the object myself. I turned my head aside and scuffled the dog home as fast as I could separating me as fast as possible from the evidence.

Now, when I walk down my street, I'm sure that the neighbors are saying, "There goes Bad Marilyn. She lets her dog poop on our lawns. It's disgusting! She should be ashamed!" And, I am.

Sigh! I miss the good old days.

Posted by Marilyn at 3:28 PM | Comments (0)