Friday, October 17, 2014


It's trash day on The Lane. And it's kind of a big deal.

At least trash can placement is. I learned this the hard way last week -- and have 2,000 pounds of recycling that I hope someone will take off my hands today.

It started innocently enough when we moved in. We were gently but firmly instructed by the HOA's Landscape/Architecture Czarina as to how trash pick-up work on The Lane -- this while she wrangled with a rogue trash can that had mysteriously appeared in our drive-way. (Apparently a fairly common occurrence on The Lane -- who knew?) Here's what I gleaned:

1. Friday is trash day.
2. Put trash cans out early Friday a.m.
3. Put trash cans away as quickly as you can after pick-up.

The Czarina also showed us where to place our trash cans along The Lane. W.h.a.t.e.v.e.r.

Please take note.

Little did I know. . . .

Fast forward to last week. We had missed a week of trash pick-up as we were in Everett, Wash. celebrating the arrival of His Royal Highness The Grandson.

This was not so much of big deal in terms of garbage -- after all, we weren't around generating any. But recycling -- that was a much different story: As noted above, I had accrued about 2,000 pounds of recycling. . . primarily the 18 zillion moving boxes that arrived with us in The Beav in mid-September. It is an understatement to say our recycling can was busting at the seams -- and required a team of Budweiser draft horses for transport.

And so, last Friday morning, Ben and I went to take the trash out after our walk.

Curses. The was room for our garbage can, but the recycling had to go elsewhere so I opted for in front of our single-family attached home condo.

Bad idea.

The hours flew. Garbage was collected. And, finally, the recycling truck made its much anticipated appearance on The Lane, completing its cacophonous collection of neighbors' glass, cans, newspapers and cardboard with military precision.

All, that is, except my 2,000 pounds of recyclables. Apparently the Czarina was on to something about this trash can placement thing.

Now cursing all things recyclable, I schlepped the can -- sans Team Budweiser -- back up the driveway and began plotting my next move: Which, essentially, was to defy all that is HOA-compliant and grab two plumb spots LAST NIGHT. HAH!

I'm a rebel. What can I say? That's just the way we roll around here in The Beav.

'Nuff said.

And just in case you wondering what a rogue trash can looked like.

Monday, October 6, 2014


Yes, whee-eeee-eeee! Somehow we did it.

Somehow in the matter of about 12 weeks, we bought a single-family attached home condo, sold a 73-year-old house in 9 days with no conditions or major repairs, divested ourselves of almost all our furniture; arrived in Portland armed with Ben, a bedroom set, antique chest of drawers, wooden rocking horse (priorities!), some random bookshelves and approximately 1.5 billion cardboard boxes;

and, oh by the way, our first grandson arrived on the scene.

Somewhere in there, I also up and retired, bidding a fond farewell to a 37-year career in marketing and public relations. At least I think I did. Otherwise, we have a somewhat awkward situation in that I'm sitting here in The Beav, working on my 7th cup of coffee, while a sad community college cubicle sits empty somewhere in Bermtopia.

Needless to say His Royal Highness The Grandson trumps all.
My name means "bright, insightful and wise" in Japanese. Got it?
Kei (pronounced "Kay") is perfect. (Of course, I realize all grandchildren are perfect. Isn't that why they're called "grand"?) I cannot describe the joy of gathering up that 6 pounds of love for the first time and realizing you're his grandmother, fully licensed to spoil, coddle and indulge. . . before returning to his parents. There will be many Kei stories to come.

Disclaimer: I did not push Kei down the steepest hill in Everett, Wash., to achieve the "action photo" above. I accidentally clicked the shutter as I was putting away my cell phone after taking my 804th photo of the little peanut. 


We are gradually settling into life in Portland. After three weeks of sitting on the living room floor, we have a sofa and chair. We have a kitchen table and chairs. We have a new washer and dryer that serenade us each time a load is done. Still getting used to that one.

And I have a dedicated writing desk. "Bermtopia" now resumes.

Folks have asked me about this -- how can I write about Bermtopia since we don't physically live there any more? But, of course, I can: In its essence, Bermtopia is a state of mind. There are still seasons, dogs, kitchens and gardens (wait till you see what I have to contend with out back!) to navigate here in Portland -- along with The Beav (a little corner of suburbia that My Date and I are vaguely surprised to be enjoying), homeowner associations, the aforementioned musical home appliances and The Mom Unit, who now lives about 6 minutes away instead of 6 hours. And so much more.

So, yes, we're back. And ready to rock and roll. With Bermtopia: The Portland Edition.
I have my very own creek.
And I am happy to report there are squirrels in Portland.

Monday, August 4, 2014

How I spent my summer vacation


Hello there.

I seem to recall something about this blog.

Oh. That's right. It's MINE.

Welcome back, me.

With this, my 500th post, let me catch you up on summer in Bermtopia.

It all started with a trip to the emergency room with the Mom Unit the first weekend in June.

And Le Grande Macaron Tour. (There will be more about that over at the also-sadly-neglected Because I Said So Kitchen later.)

Annnndddd ANOTHER trip to the emergency room with the Mom Unit.

This go-round resulted in her hanging in a skilled nursing facility for two weeks. The Mom Unit was not impressed.

But we did watch a lot of World Cup. And she's back to fighting form.

Take THAT, Disturbance in the Force.
I seem to recall our purchasing a single-family attached home condo just outside Portland right around the Fourth of July.

And selling the Nine One Four last week.
This is the cleanest eff-ing house in Bermtopia.
This all in between 1,483 trips to Goodwill.

And. Oh. By the way. I retire in 25 days. . .

Move to Portland. . .

And await the arrival our first grandson in September.

But other than that, it's been a pretty quiet summer in Bermtopia.
Please tell me there are Milk Bones in Portland.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

To grandmother's house we go

I think most of us vividly remember the homes of our childhood -- where we grew up, our grandparents' homes. I know I do. Especially my grandparents' house on West 29th in Vancouver, Wash.

They sold the house when I was about 10 but until then I had full run of the place, especially on Sundays when we came for dinner and the grown-up folks were enjoying a high ball in the living room.

The house seemed to have endless nooks and crannies to explore: The fruit room in the basement, jars of home-canned Queen Anne cherries, so good warm with a splash of cream, arranged with Scandinavian precision along deep shelves. . . Papa's "man cave" with its worn, cavernous black (or was it brown?) leather arm chair flanked by a brass stand-up ash tray, the interlocked antlers of two leaping antelopes creating a handle  convenient for transport. Of course.

My mom's childhood bedroom and her brother Bill's were on the second floor. Uncle Bill's room was All Boy -- I seem to recall a fair amount of knotty pine paneling (the house was built in 1924 with various combinations of the Bailey family living there from the early 1930's to early 60's) and a small, mysterious door. Of course. I opened it each time I visited, always nervous with anticipation. And, of course, each time, a pitch-black crawl space dared me to enter and explore its shadowy, dusty contents. I can't say I ever did. But developed a healthy addiction to Stephen King novels later in life.

I loved my mom's bedroom. The comforter on her bed was a dusty rose sateen, pale with age but cool to the touch no matter what time of the year. The faded wallpaper was dotted with big cabbage roses, and her chest of drawers still filled teen-age treasures: Costume jewelry; party gloves; scented, embroidered handkerchiefs.

Those memories, and many more, crammed themsleves into the front seat of the Mom Unit's car as we sat across the street from the house on West 29th on Mother's Day morning.

"It seems smaller than it did when I was growing up," the Mom Unit observed. I had to agree. And snapped a picture with my cell phone.

We circled the block and parked across from where Papa Bailey's garden used to be. That was another great place for an 8-year-old's cocktail hour Sunday expeditions. Stern, stiff stalks of corn and voluptuous tomato plants mingled with ditzy dahlias and petunias. But everyone got along.

Papa Bailey's orderly vegetable garden was long gone, but The Current Owners obviously had a love for perennial gardening. Under the protective arms of a ginormous shrub rose, plants poked out of the backyard fence, here and there, like curious school kids.  I liked The Current Owners already.

I snapped another picture. And, on cue, one of The Current Owners popped out of the backyard, wisely armed with a rake. After all, you never know what a 61-year-old woman, her 89-year-old mother and one high-speed walker might be up to.

"Hi. What's your name?" he asked.

I introduced myself and the Mom Unit, adding that she grew up in his house. We told him it looked great.

Gary, aka The Current Owner Part One,  was cautiously pleased.

"Ummm. Would you like to come in?" he asked.

"Oh no. Oh no. We wouldn't want to bother you," The Mom Unit, ever the lady, demurred.

"Hell yeah," I said. Well, truthfully, that was the bubble over my head. I think I actually said, "Well, gosh. That would be great" and scrambled out of the car.

Gary disappeared inside to let The Current Owner Part Two she was about to have company and rejoined us in the backyard carrying a note book. Using city directories at the Vancouver Public Library, Gary had carefully recorded the names, professions and telephone numbers of everyone who had lived in the house on West 29th. There were the Baileys in all their glory!

The shrub rose that grew next to (and now over) the back door was truly magnificent.

Annnnnnd we were in.

Aside from new cabinetry and stainless steel appliances, the footprint of the kitchen hadn't changed a lick. Beautiful hardwood floors had long ago replaced  the comforting brick linoleum and, instead of a table for two, a buffet now stood under the little cupboard with the glass windows where Nana Bailey neatly stacked her Franciscan everyday dishes. But it basically the same. . . the same kitchen where I sat with Nana and Papa eating a bowl apple sauce, and a dab of cream, still warm off the stove. (Yes. Cream does have a recurring theme here. It's a Danish thing.)

Gary and Kaitlyn were thrilled to learn that it was my grandparents who remodeled and added on to the kitchen. It was a long-time mystery they about their house of 20 years they had always hoped to solved.
The Mom Unit busting a move to the living room.
On to the dining room. The Mom Unit and I both gasped a little. Beyond a new dining room table and curtains, we could be sitting down to Christmas dinner, Papa Bailey at the head of table, Nana scurrying back and forth with plates heaped with fragrant turkey and oyster dressing. The same two built-in china cabinets with leaded glass windows still stood at attention, timeless sentinels wondering whatever happened to the Baileys' Spode china.

(I whispered back, it has lived a long and productive life, first on The Mom Unit's holiday tables, now on mine.)

And the living room. My heart ached a little. The built-in bookshelves were still there where I could still mentally place each of Nana's treasured Royal Doulton and Royal Copenhagen figurines. The fireplace, still magnificent with its tile surround, had been preserved. I loved to run my hands across the rippled tile, counting and re-counting each coppery square. And why, why, WHY did it seem to take hours to light the Christmas Day fire, an almost unendurable delay to an 8-year-old itching to explore beneath a Christmas tree laden with foil icicles and popcorn garlands?

As for the rest of the tour, The Mom Unit confirmed that, yes, there was once a laundry shute in the downstairs bathroom but had been covered over at some point in the house's history. It's where they found the family dog, safe and sound, after a small house fire, she recalled. And, of course, she pointed to the exact spot on stairs where Uncle Bill, such a quiet, gentle man as I knew him, threw a typewriter at her during a rambunctious sibling squabble. (No one was harmed, but the typewriter ever was quite the same.)

And, although we didn't make upstairs, Gary and Kaitlyn were tickled to learn that decorating the second floor's small bathroom had been The Mom Unit's culminating high school home ec project.

We finally took our leave, thanking The Current Owners profusely for sharing the home on West 29th with us.

"It was a wonderful house," The Mom Unit said thoughtfully, once in the car. "But I didn't realize it was so small."

Small? Maybe. Or maybe not. What makes a house seem so large and comforting to a child?

Family? Traditions? Generations growing up and old together? Secret nooks and crannies? Or maybe it's cabbage roses and oyster stuffing? I know what I think.
L to R: Me (the bangs and jumper explain a lot about my adulthood), Nana B,
my cousin Charlotte and my Nana C.
How about you?