Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Greatest Gifts

I've come to the conclusion that the greatest gifts in life are the gift of time and the gift to be yourself.

The Big 60

On Monday, the 25th, I turned 60. For the last few months, I've been feeling my age. I've been noticing new wrinkles and feeling slower in my step. I've always felt very young inside until lately. I've decided I'm going to skip by threes in reverse every year from this year forward so next year I'll be 57 or maybe I should skip right to 40 and stay there.

For my birthday, my son, Benjamin and his wife, Amanda, sent my husband and I tickets on Amtrak Cascades to travel round trip from Albany to Seattle and back. I love traveling by train. After Ben and Amanda picked us up from the station on Saturday, we drove to their home in Green Lake where I followed clues to the big surprise, which was my son, Daniel in the backyard who flew out from Columbus, Ohio to spend time with me on my birthday. I know that Daniel didn't have the time to do this but it always means so much to see him. I'm grateful I got to spend the weekend with him. Everyone made my birthday so special. This was the best birthday I've ever had in my life.

After the excitement of seeing Daniel, we drove in the car to Alkai Beach where it was crowded with everyone enjoying the sun and we ate fish and chips at Spuds. It couldn't have been nicer. Then we drove back home for the Sponge Bob birthday cake with candles and the gift of a family photo taken at Ben and Amanda's wedding. For dinner, we went to my favorite Italian restaurant, Buca de Beppo for fun and great food with everyone at the table including Alicia, Amanda's sister, and Sharon and Scott, Amanda's parents. It was wonderful.

On Sunday morning, we walked to the Rusty Pelican in Wallingford where I always order the garden skillet because it's so delicious and always perfect. Next we went to visit the troll that lives under the bridge in Fremont, the center of the universe. I'm writing a children's book about him. Then it was onto the Sunshine Cafe in Ravenna where I had a delicious slice of homemade wheat bread with hummus. After that there was a surprise by my son, Daniel who arranged for me to have a manicure at the Derby Salon with Jessie who is delightful to talk to. Then we drove to downtown Seattle to see the movie, Fool's Gold and afterwards I had a delicious luau salad at the Cheesecake Factory before taking Daniel to the airport.

When we got up on Monday, we had fun playing canasta and drinking coffee. Later we walked around the beautiful Green Lake. Benjamin took Les and out for lunch to May Thai Restaurant and I had a delicious vegetable stir fry before boarding the train at 2:20 p.m. on Cascade Train 507 south bound.

This was the best birthday I have ever had in my life and I'm grateful to my family for making it so nice. Thank you.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Chow Mien

I learned how to make chow mien through the community education program through LBCC in Corvallis tonight from instructor, Chenhui Ho. Oh, it was good! What fun it is to learn how to make new dishes and meet nice people. Chenhui Ho is such a nice lady whose smile spreads across her face and fills the room. We enjoyed learning from her. I know I did. Thank you.

I learned how to make chinese noodle dishes and soups. I learned about new ingredients at the Asian Store where I shop on 9th Street in Corvallis, like dried mushrooms. I sure had a nice time.

It was fun to see people I've met before in Master Gardening and writing. There was a biologist, a children's writer, master gardeners, an engineer, a computer software CEO, teachers, and more. It sure is fun to take these classes to learn new things and connect with people in the community.

I get in a rut with my cooking. I make stir fry but I usually make it the same way. I cut up carrots, onions, broccoli, celery, and cauliflower and mix it up in a big bowl and stuff quart size plastic storage bags to put in the refrigerator. I also add mushrooms, bell pepper, zucchini to a small bag that I put in the top of the quart bags for stir fry during the week when I'm home. I add slices of barbeque pork or teriyaki chicken on a bed of rice with the veggies. Now I can mix it up and try something new.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Oh, the fun I would have.........

I rolled on by Alsea School at 20 mph and saw the sign in front that says they are searching for a new Superintendent. My mind exploded thinking of all the fun I would have as Superintendent. First of all, I would treat all the kids as if they were gifted and talented. I would want ALL of them to win. I would set the school up to teach on three levels on every subject--review, learn at the level at which the student tests, and to teach above the level of the student for enrichment to introduce advanced concepts. This would be every day for every student. I would model the school after the curriculum I developed for my homeschool in Arroyo Grande, CA from 1978 to 1982. It would work like the classroom of Marva Collins in Chicago and the best schools where all children win.

First of all, I would concentrate on individual sports so everyone would be healthy. I would buy everyone roller skates and turn the gym into a roller skating rink for one hour a day for students and teachers. We would also use the track for walking and running that includes all students and teachers. Events for walking and running would be set up and students would be encouraged to participate in local and state running and walking events. Nutrition would be taught to everyone and the meals would reflect healthy choices.

Next we would move on to the school lunch program. Alsea School doesn't have a federal free school lunch program but it would with me in charge. I would march myself over to Salem and have a talk with the Governor to fix this. We would set up a hydroponic greenhouse to grow all the fruits and vegetables needed for all the students. If Epcot Center at Disney World can grow all the food for the resorts and restaurants, we could grow all the food needed for the school. Master Gardeners would be encouraged to teach and give special expertise plus horticulture students from OSU. Students would learn about gardening by working in the greenhouse.

The money saved from team sports would be put into taking buses to the Portland Art Museum, OMSI, the Portland Zoo, the symphony, and other trips like this. We would have band and orchestra starting in grade one and by the time the kids were in high school, they would be amazing.

Every day, the whole school would read for an hour, including teachers. The school would participate in the National Spelling Bee, the National Geography Bee, the NASA Robotics competitions, math competitions, and more. We would send up rockets and kites. The students would write every day and participate in a school newspaper from grade one through 12th where they would end up submitting articles to magazines and participating in National Novel Writing Month and National Screenwriting Month.

Anyone in the area from elite distance runners to biologists and experts with advanced degrees would be invited to share knowledge. I can see the fun it would be talking to the kids about the escape speed of a ball needed to travel out into outer space from earth and never drop back down to earth would have to be at least 7 miles per second, and that if you squish the earth into a ball the size of a ping pong ball that it would become a black hole which is where the escape speed is greater than the speed of light. I believe that you can teach a five year old anything, IF you explain advanced concepts clearly enough and show them how fun learning can be.

We would debate Supreme Court law cases to teach forensics. We would learn about world leaders, history, and the Constitution. We would play chess. We would all learn ballroom dancing. We would teach logic and reasoning. We would film movies and write plays. We would learn about all the ologies, like entomology. Oh, the fun we would have and the things we would learn. My heart skips a beat just thinking about the possibilities and the joy. The best way is for me to write about my school that exists only in my head with all the students winning, who love to learn, and all go on to college, 'cause it's not going to happen in the real world. Oh, well....back to reality.

My Treatise

Be kind to all people for you
know not their experience or pain.

Work hard to be the best you can be
to gain knowledge and understanding.

Concern yourself with mastery of self,
not with control of others.

Safe guard the land and
abuse not your body.

Harm no person but
speak out when harmed.

Respect others and
demand respect for yourself.

Seek out people who encourage your best
and see your best.

Shield yourself from bullies who
limit and diminish you.

Stand in your strength and
let nothing stop you from being
unique as an individual.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

The Neverending Novel

A soap opera is a never ending novel allowing you to peer into the lives of people who live exciting lives and remain at a safe distance. Most writers scoff at soap operas because dialogue is "on the nose" meaning it lacks subtety or mystery. Characters say what they mean and clearly tell the story without veils or hidden meaning.

I love the Young and the Restless. I've been watching for years. Soap characters replace real friends when you stay home all the time. To the shut-ins, isolated, and the lonely, soap operas supply a real need.

Is this really any different than the kid who locks himself in his room playing video games or who spends hours on the Internet? I think don't judge.

I applaud soap operas. They serve a real need and they often give out important information that helps people learn about everything from the importance of keeping your child safe in hot tubs and fire safety to medical information that can save your life.

It sure would be fun to write for a soap opera and be part of a team of writers who create.


People don't talk anymore face to face.
They instant message, text message, or e-mail.
Some write in code and speak in code.
Some hint not wanting to own their words.
It would be nice to find people who talk and have opinions.

Probably the best place to find people with opinions
is in the library.
The library is filled with volumes of books standing
side by side in coexistence with a wide range of opinions.
Maybe this is why people retreat to nature to read a book.
Books don't disappoint or betray.

Maybe I should just stay home 24-7 to read, write, and garden.


I think I have given up adding photos to this blog. I have dial-up. I have problems sending photos to my family at any of my e-mail addresses. I've given up on this too. Dial-up stinks when you have had the taste of high speed Internet. It isn't even fun to be on the Internet anymore since everything takes so long.


"Where in the heck is Alsea?" you ask. To which I reply, "Out in the middle of no where!" Alsea, Oregon is not incorporated so you won't find it on a map. It has about 600 people in the general area with a school serving students K through 12, a general store called John Boy's Mercantile, a gas station, a post office for zip code 97324, a library, the Hope Grange, 2 churches [Assembly of God and Baptist with a nearby Church of Christ in Lobster Valley], and a restaurant. Alsea is on Highway 34 on the scenic route to Waldport on the central Oregon coast. That's about it. I live about 2 miles from the post office. Nice people live here and the kids are the luckiest of all who go to a school where everyone has the opportunity to go on to college thanks to the Clemens Foundation set up by a timber family years ago.

Alsea, Oregon was listed in a book on the best places to retire in the United States, probably because it is unlikely that taxes will ever go up.

I always say that it takes me about an hour to drive into Corvallis because I like to leave early to make sure that I get to my destination. There are 2 1/2 miles of severe, narrow curves at Mary's Peak with a speed limit of 20 mph. You can reach Corvallis in 45 minutes but sometimes you have to wait for road construction or farm equipment rolling along at a slow crawl. The sign says that Alsea is 25 miles from Corvallis or 20 miles from Philomath, and I've checked it with my speedometer. During the snow and ice last week, I was crawling along at 10 mph to 35 mph. If all conditions are just right following all the speed laws, it is possible to almost make it to Philomath in almost 30 minutes but I like the slow, lazy, looking out the window at the trees, mountains, and scenery pace.


The first time that I became aware of hydroponics was when I visited Disney World for the first time in Orlando, Florida with our children, and went to Epcot Center to see the hydroponics exhibit which grows all the food for the resorts and restaurants in Disney World. It was amazing. The vertical growing techniques in nonsoil mediums in PVC pipes was exciting to witness. They grow everything you can imagine.

Later I attended a workshop through OSU Master Gardening about hydroponics and even helped out at the Oregon State Fair in Salem at the exhibit answering questions. Although I have never had a hydroponic setup at my home, I believe in hydroponics and all the possibilities to grow fresh tomatoes, herbs, and salad greens year around in your home ready for the dinner table. I would love to do this someday but can't afford the electricity for the grow lights plus my house isn't big enough for plants and two housecats to coexist.

I would love to have two windmills on our acreage that pays for all my electricity with extra left over to sell, IF I decide to stay here. I'd love to set up a greenhouse using hydroponic equipment but all this takes money.

I've never understood why our country doesn't invest in hydroponic equipment and greenhouses. There should be tax incentives. In Canada there are massive hydroponic greenhouses heated with solar energy and the same in the Middle East. With our water shortages throughout the United States and the need for fresh food, why don't we do it here? Hydroponics uses 1/30th the water because it recycles the water. The growth rates are up to 10 times that of soil gardening. It works and it uses less space.


I have had several ideas for inventions through the years but have not had the money to do anything about it other than dream. One of my best invention ideas came to me in 1997 when my husband took me to Disney World in Orlando, Florida for our 25th wedding anniversary. My mother had been refusing physical therapy and her legs were starting to atrophy so my concern generated an invention for passive exercise which I later shared with several professors in the engineering department at Oregon State University asking for help to get my invention off the ground to no avail. This invention could also work for long distance flights for passengers who sit for hours with the potential of creating blood clots in the legs because of lack of movement. I told my son, Benjamin who recently traveled to Singapore 17 hours each way to be sure to walk the isles several times during the flight and to raise his legs up and down while sitting to which he said, "yes, Mom," while probably rolling his eyes on the phone.

My invention for the day is for a new type of shower which I'll share with you since I have no money to do anything about this or anyone to work with me. My shower is a cylinder with several layers of jets up and down the body of the inside that recycles the water with a large ceiling shower head. There might even be a heat option so you don't even have to dry with a towel. There could be different choices of intensity for massage features that could be beneficial for everyone. My shower would have a nonskid bottom. This shower would make it possible to shower in minutes or longer since you don't have to worry about the water useage.