Wednesday, June 12, 2019

The Good People Church

My much-loved mom, aka The Mom Unit in this blog, slipped away from us a year ago June 12— gentle and graceful to the end. She defined elegance, poise and gentility (such an old-fashioned, yet oddly unattainable quality these days). She navigated this mortal world of ours with a seemingly effortless, endless joy of life for almost 94 years.

Given all this zen, she also had the uncanny ability to serenely, but firmly, sort out a lot of the bullshit in life and distill it down into actionable life lessons. 

Here’s my favorite example this, and the most important gift she gave me. I was happy to share it with my family and friends at her celebration of life in May. And, after a year of remembering, grieving, laughing and loving, I am happy to share it here: 

I was raised Catholic, though my mom wasn’t. And I went to a Catholic grade school. It was pre-Vatican 2, so those days, matters of faith were pretty absolute, pretty black-and-white, aka, the good nuns, my teachers, called it. There were no shades of gray.

One particular day I came home in a second-grader snit. As I recall, that day’s religion class was about who would go to heaven. Turns out, according to the sisters, Catholics, because we’re Catholic, get the E ticket, the direct flight, the red carpet, to heaven while everyone else was on the “stand-by.”

I was an indignant 7-year-old. My perfect mom, a non-Catholic, was on the “stand-by list” to heaven?  My non-Catholic neighborhood besties, Peter, Susie, Steven, Pam, Barbara and Megan, were on “stand-by,” too? Inconceivable! How could this be?

Sitting with me at the dining room table, after-school snack perfectly plated (of course), Mom listened patiently to my pint-size theologic rant — probably  tamping down several major eye rolls in hindsight.  When I was finished, she thought for a moment, and then she said this: 

“You know, we actually all belong to another church — the Good People Church. I’m a member. You’re a member. Peter, Susie, Steven, Pam, Barbara and Megan are members. Nana and Papa Bailey are members. Our neighbors and friends are members. And, you know what?  members of the Good People Church go to heaven.”  She spoke with absolute authority on the matter.

Wow. The Good People Church. Problem solved. Case closed. Good people go to heaven. 

I thank my mom for introducing me to that special membership in the Good People Church almost everyday. It goes along with a bountiful legacy that includes a love for community, books, gardening, cooking, art, travel, social justice — and oh yeah, public broadcasting, prematurely gray hair and bunions. 

But the Good People Church? This membership is The Mom Unit’s most important, most enduring gift to me. My moral compass, Mom’s Good People Church has been  a life-long road map, a guide to finding and loving the Good People — the best people in my life — My Date, my kids, my grandkids, my extended family and my enduring friends. 

I’m not sure there’s a better roadmap, a better legacy.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Maui retrospective: Small

My Date and I spent last week in Maui, the Pacific crashing on the rocks below us each day, humpbacks breaching right and left in the channel between us in Napili and the dark island of Molokai, and a blicky February in The Beav a marginal memory.

But I feel small — because we spent a day at Haleakalā National Park.

Let me put it succinctly. Haleakalā is where you go if, like an insignificant flake of human lava dust, you want to stand in the palm of time.

And we all need to do THAT once and awhile, don’t we?

Just sayin’ that looking into a (kind of) volcanic crater puts a few musty things into perspective. 

First, we humans are small peanuts in the large scheme of things. Duh. Sure, we can slap together 
skyscrapers and nuclear warheads, but over thousands of year, only the forces of nature can create an enduring, mystical, other-worldly environment like Haleakalā — so large the island of Manhattan would fit comfortably in its crater. Think about that, NYC.

And mysticism itself: I am drawn to the early Hawaiians who believed Haleakalā would protect the
remains of their dearly departed AND the future integrity of their children. (Of course, the latter was
achieved by depositing umbilical cords into select pockets of the crater so rats wouldn’t make off with them. Because if THAT happened, your child would most certainly be consigned to a life of thievery. Think about that for a moment.) 

So back to mysticism: As I watched Haleakala’s micro-weather world suck in marine cloud banks, swirl them around its ageless peaks, then gently kiss them away — sometimes in a matter of minutes — I realized I am small. . . but also with the potential to be mighty.

Like Haleakela.

Postscript: I am back. Thanks to a meet-up with an old high school friend a couple of weeks of ago. She published a book about three years ago -- and then stopped writing.  We got to talking about that phenomenon: We-loved-to-write-but-then-stopped-writing-wondered-why-we-stopped-writing-made-a-few-fitful-starts-writing-then-stopped-writing-then-wonderered-why. . . well, you get the picture.

The truthful answer is a cheesy one: Life happens. . . aging parents, kids in town, grandkids in town, new friends, new adventures -- and unfortunately we forget. . . and neglect. . . to share (whether you want to hear about or not.)  

But the itch to write is back  (if I don't kill my aging MacBook in the meantime).  And next time -- we're going over the top -- of Maui.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

My feet are tired

My back hurts.

My hands don't work very well, having deconstructed at least 40 cardboard boxes today.

And I have a freakin' bandaid wrapped around the tip of my wedding ring finger, making it very difficult to type coherently. (Note: This is an issue completely unrelated to the spice trade. . . an unfortunate misdirection of a kitchen knife a few days back. But still... this bandaid.)

Today, along with 2 co-workers, I helped 164 people buy spices and herbs (well, in journalistic accuracy, probably 162, because 2 people came back, having forgotten something they needed) at my  spice shop hobby job.

I am semi-prostrate/semi-paralyzed on the living room floor. . . and smiling.

Because September 30 may be the most magical day in the world and history of spices and herbs. It is the day that seems to give us all permission to let go of summer's light, ethereal, instant meals of fresh produce and protein and start thinking of fall (and winter) -- of the things we make, consume, store and hoard that are rich and savory, family and tribal, traditional, enduring, filling, all dependent on a redolent pathway of spices and herbs that keeps us sane during the shadowed days and nights of winter kitchens.

Customers today were making caraway cookies from an 1850s hand-written recipe. . . 15 pounds of sausage. . . watermelon-pickled zucchini. . . homemade mustards. . . limoncello. . . caramelized-onion gravy. . . pots of chili and platters of enchiladas. . . roasted-tomato sauces. . . pies (apple pies!). . . hot chocolate. . . pot roasts. . .  secret-family-recipe soups,  stews and goulashes. . . stuffed peppers and cabbages. . . and, oh so many oven-roasted autumn gifts: onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, beets, carrots. The energy of cooking in fall/winter is dynamic - sometimes a comfy blanket, sometimes something that wakes us up from the sleepiness of meatloaf.

Tonight. I'm temporarily paralyzed. But already thinking about making my own mustard. And split pea soup. Picked up the ham bone today.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Hello (in Adele's deep-throated voice)

It's been a day.

A day where I feel l proud about all the phone calls and emails (mostly non-snarky) I've made about the so-called American Health Care Act, which by last night had been stripped down to the Amurican Crap Act.

A day when I'm angry that  the GOP thought it could push a comprehensive do-over of American health care in 2 weeks. That, my friends, was a joke.

A day where Paul Ryan falls on a sword handily provided by this guy in the Blight House named Trump. And a day where Trump said Dems  defeated the bill when, in fact, 34 House GOPs walked away from bad legislation, effectively killing the bill.

So many lies and distortions.

We have a sort-of comprehensive health care plan in place. Can we improve it? Sure. As a Dem, I want to learn more about what moderate Republicans like the Tuesday Group have to say.

It's time to talk.


Monday, December 12, 2016


Sigh. Has it really been since May that I shared post that was truly legit? What a wanker I am.

Well, of course, there are excuses. The election. Trump. An ongoing war with my mom's accountant. The election. Trump. Crap like that. You get the picture. But there have been changes too. Let me re-cap. In no order of priority or gravity.

1. I have a teeny-tiny job!

Well, not so teeny-tiny right now since we're hip deep into the holidays and my teeny-tiny job involves a spice shop. A very nice spice shop where I've shopped for years. By the way, spice shops sell LOTS of spices this time of year.

I sort of applied on a whim. The shop was looking for a "Saturday person" which fit quite nicely on my dance card of life. My date and I tend to bunker down on the weekends and do all our fun stuff during the week so I said to self, "Why not?" And, damned if I didn't get the job.

It certainly wasn't because of my vast retail experience -- at the prime age of 63, I have learned to use a cash register for the first time if life. Let's just say it was my winning personality.

No remarks from the peanut gallery, please.

2. This guy!

This guy -- and his parents too -- have moved to Portland! The Number One Son accepted a job as outdoor education director at a prep school here in the City of Roses. They landed here in July and now live about 15 minutes away. The joy of having a grandchild -- and kids -- in the same town simply cannot be described.

Every moment, whether it's time here on The Lane, trips to the zoo, gym class or other adventures, is precious. It's good to remember this when it's so easy to cross over to the dark side these days.

3. And Ben.

Photo credit: Cindy Shaver Photography
Our beloved squirrel-herding, bathroom-hiding, beach-combing Australian shepherd left us in early July. He was 15 1/2-years-old, loyal and loving to his last breath. I will stop here because I am crying. We miss him so.


So, those are my excuses. Mostly good -- and full of fodder for future posts.

I promise. It feels good to get these old fingers banging on the laptop keyboard.

Friday, September 23, 2016

I''m back -- only because Cardio Blast was a bee-yatch

I'm back. It's been a ridiculous summer. And a ridiculous day. Starting with my version of Cardio Blast old-folks style. Except these are young folks. But this is how it rolls:

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The bikers of Bald Peak State Park

Last Sunday was a ridiculously beautiful day in Portland -- the type of day where law enforcement officials should be out arresting people holed up in their homes watching FOX News. (Oh wait. Those people should probably be arrested regardless.)

That being said, my date suggested we take a drive in the country, specifically to explore Bald Peak State Park.

(Note: I just took a look at this website. It's actually called Bald Peak Scenic Viewpoint. . . if you consider a cracked, circular parking lot and picnic table as "scenic". . . . apparently the state parks department does. Sigh. Hang in here with me.)

We first got wind of Bald Peak during a visit to Raptor Ridge Winery last fall. It, too, was a glorious day (it happens here on occasion -- really) and we were captivated by the tasting room's view of the tippy tops of Mt. Hood, Mount St. Helens, Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams. The pinot gris isn't bad either.

The tasting room guy  said, "You ain't seen nothin' yet" -- in a far more articulate way, of course -- and pointed us in the direction of Bald Peak, noting that the view from there is downright breathtaking. We were intrigued.

And thus, with the help of The Lady inside My Phone Who Talks to Me, we found ourselves pulling into Bald Peak State Park Scenic Viewpoint Sunday afternoon. . . along with about 150 bikers milling around at the top of the park scenic viewpoint, their "hogs" shimmering like so many jewels in the May sunlight.

Uncertain as to where the brilliant views were to be seen, we inched our way up toward the bikers, me helpfully advising my date to not "pull a Pee Wee Herman."

Despite being trussed up in copious amounts leather, with record-setting tattoos to boot, the bikers were a congenial group and waved us through with whoops and whistles. No view, though.

And so we parked. By the picnic table pictured on the BPSVP website as you would have it. From there, an older lady and gentleman (also a biker) pointed us in the direction of a large stump, and sure enough, there were all four -- not just the tippy tops, but the whole gosh darn mountains. Pretty dang impressive.

But the best was yet to come.

There are no hiking trails at BPSVP per se, but our older biker friends told us about a footpath that takes you a short way down the other, non-mountain-view side of the peak. The biker gentleman then sent us on our way with a psychiatrist joke. And a pretty good one, at that. I think he practiced on the ride out toe Bald Peak.

The footpath is indeed short. And there we joined more bikers -- all completely geeking out about the view: Below us all was one of the best, panoramic views of the Willamette Valley I've ever seen, a giant green patchwork quilt of orchards and vineyards, farms and grazing meadows, creeks and ponds. I think we were all quite pleased to be sharing this treasure on such a fine day.

If you haven't seen some leather-encrusted, mustachioed, top-to-bottom pierced/tattooed biker
get all giddy about Nature, you haven't lived. Just sayin'.
And with that, the bikers gathered up their copious leather items, flexed their colorfully impressive tattoos and, in small groups, so as not to shatter our non-biker ear drums, headed off for their next destination (all mapped out on Facebook -- who knew?) which I believe was somewhere on the coast.

A few even popped a farewell wheelie in our honor. Or so I like to think.

Safe travels, friends.