Time To Face The Day

There is a study floating around about starting school classes later in the day due to the students being too tired to concentrate.

I take issue with simplifying the issue of sleep, time, and clocks. Here’s the rub. Not everyone’s biorhythms are the same. I have a friend who is awake and working on her computer by 5 in the morning. She goes to bed before 9. People who live on farms are up at the cock’s crow to do chores. Many outdoors people are early risers. They also stay up late and sleep the sleep of the well exercised.

I know a person who is a true night owl. Loves to work the night shift at a hospital, sleep during the day. He’ll always be welcome wherever there is a graveyard shift. And he keeps the same schedule on his days off. Well, he varies it a bit to spend time with friends, but he has no trouble sleeping during the day.

I am usually alert and awake when I roll out of bed. But I need a nap around 1or 2. That’s when my energy tanks and I almost collapse. It hurts to be up and doing something. But after the nap, I’m good to go. How late I stay up depends on what I am doing.

I use to feel I was being lazy when I took a nap. But I did live in Mexico for three years, and siestas are normal. A mid-afternoon nap gets you through the hot part of the day. So I guess I don’t nap, I take a siesta.

For some people, their sleep cycles are natural to them, others have developed a sleep rhythm due to external forces like work or school. Some people are alert when they pop out of bed. Others take longer to wake up, get the synapses working. Some want to sit, sip coffee, and read the newspaper. Others are hot to trot — shower, brush teeth, hop into clothes, and face the world while singing an aria.

But back to students and classes. I believe that many kids who cannot wake up for morning classes are playing on electronic devices and thus don’t sleep well – recent studies have shown that working on computers or watching tv before bedtime makes it difficult for people to sleep – it’s a neurological thing. Reading a book or doing something physical doesn’t cause the same problem. But that’s a paper book, not on a tablet, nook, etc. It is the media that is the issue.

And changing the time of classes won’t change the mind of a teen. If the school day starts at 8, teens will be up until 2am. If it starts at 10, they will be up until 4am. Either way, they will be tired when the first class starts.

And then there is another way to look at it. If I am here in Portland, Oregon what time should a person in New York go to bed? What time should a person in Boston get up and go to school?

The whole thing about time and clocks is time is natural, clocks are artificial. If you are on the West Coast and get up at 8, imagine you are really living in New York and you slept in, at least according to the clock.

All That Jazz and Corn Relish

Yes. My wonderful hubby and I have written a couple cookbooks. We did this because we were running the Clubhouse at a couple of the West Coast Regional SF conventions aka Westercon.

At the Westercons, there were two hospitality suites. Our Clubhouse was the one with the baklava, home baked breads, coffee cakes, fresh salads, and other wonderful food.

Our first cookbook was called MAWS. The second was called FOOD JAZZ.

That’s how I look at food. Here’s an excerpt from FOOD JAZZ.

“Food as jazz . . . Each ingredient playing its part in a harmonious combination of flavors. Consider a salsa. High treble riff of hot chilies, a melody of tomatoes, perky notes of cilantro, a background bass of garlic, and onions keeping a syncopated rhythm.

A duo of cooks steeped – and sometimes pickled – in experience tossing salad ingredients like a Dixieland band tossing happy notes. The ingredients are like little melodies waiting to be turned like the whippoorwill’s song into a blues potato salad, a curry, or a new dip that just seems to flow together.”

‘Nuff said about that. Here’s the corn relish recipe. Homemade beats store bought any day.

Corn Relish

2 cups cut corn (1-1/2 dozen ears)
1 quart chopped cabbage
1 cup chopped sweet red pepper

1 cup chopped green pepper
1 cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon celery seed
1 tablespoon salt
1 table turmeric
2 tablespoons mustard seed
1 cup water 1 quart vinegar
1 to 2 cups sugar

To prepare the corn, boil 5 minutes; then cut from the cob. Combine with the remaining ingredients and simmer 20 minutes. Finish off by bringing to a full boil. Pack hot into hot pint jars, leaving 1/8 inch head space. Adjust caps. Process 15 minutes, following standard canning procedures. Makes about 6 pints

Corn Relish Dip

1 pint home-made corn relish, drained
8 ounces cream cheese

Mix together and serve with crackers, bread pieces, or veggies. By adding or decreasing the amount of cream cheese, this can be formed into a mold, used as a dip or spread.

Clothes for the Cause: A Recycling, Reusing, and Repurposing Fundraiser

I’m a collector, an artist, a creator. When we took apart the old dryer, the drum became a giant, outdoor flower pot. Deadwood pruned from my Japanese maple and twisty pine became walking sticks and garden fences. Clothes are worn until threadbare and then are cut into strips and used in art projects.

But there is a limit. And that limit is: How much room do I have to store potential art materials before I end up on an episode of Hoarders? Aye. There’s the rub.

One of my friends is a member of the Kenilworth Presbyterian Church in southeast Portland. OR. The church has a small community garden, and the parish lets me cultivate a plot. In it I grow organic beans, tomatoes, corn, tomatillos, eggplant, Swiss chard, and other lovely vegetables.

I like these people. They have good hearts. And even as a non-member, I try to help the parish as best I can – buying food for back-pack buddies, donating to their rummage sale, and now, gathering bags of clothes and other fabrics for their textile drive.

This textile drive is a new thing for me. I seldom throw away clothes and purging my closet is not a common occurrence. Mostly, I put clothes in boxes and store them in the basement. One reason is I used to work at Pendleton Woolen Mills. Visualize my wardrobe.

And that’s just a small part of my horde of vintage clothing.

So I read up on Clothes for the Cause, checked out their home page, read what they collect, was impressed by how they use the items they collect, and appreciated that they paid for the textiles donated.

So I bit the bullet, closed my eyes, and started stuffing bags with clothes. Occasionally, I held something up and said, “Wow. I used to be skinny.” Other times I said, “What was I thinking?”

Presently I have nine giant black bags sitting on my couch and loveseat. I’ve held out a couple Pendleton jackets, some awesome jeans, collector t-shirts, and vintage fabric. These will go to friends (jackets and fabric), the rummage sale (awesome jeans), and a local SF convention (collector t-shirts). Ah. And sheets. I’m hanging on to most of my stash of sheets. They have so many uses.

What I do donate will be sorted. Some will be sold. Some will become cleaning rags. And some will be shredded for stuffing and insulation. Little of it will end up in the landfill. What a good feeling.

So, if you are interested in really, really recycling, reusing and repurposing your clothes, check out Clothes for the Cause. It is a West Coast organization and if you miss a fundraiser, they have drop off bins in Portland, Boise, and Spokane.

Here’s the link for more info: http://clothesforthecausefundraising.com/

My New Cure for Writer’s Block — Which I Normally Don’t Suffer From

A seemingly long and exhausting mid-morning shoot of a cooking show and a frantic editing of a cover letter and synopsis to get some pages in the mail to beat a deadline left me starving. So after dropping off the envelope at the post office, Dick and I had lunch at a Thai restaurant on Hawthorne.

We came home and I was dragging my ass, so a nap was in order. Normally my naps last about an hour – at most an hour and a half. But this one was three hours.

Oh, my goodness. Did I have strange dreams. The first was about people who built a house in the middle of a house like the one we had on the farm. Perhaps they were human wasps. We ended up hog-tying them and having them hauled off by the police.

I roused, rolled over, and fell back asleep.

So I had a second dream about Dick and I being turned into aliens. This one I had to take control of because the aliens kept besting us.

So I woke up. Yikes!

With the weird dreams and three hour nap, I expect I’ll be up late writing. And next time I have writer’s block, I’m going back to my Thai restaurant for some Sweet & Sour and Spicy Green Beans followed by a nap.

Living and Loving Life

Here it is 6:50 in the morning and I’m drinking coffee while I wait for it to get light enough to go outside and do more yard work. I love being outside trimming, raking, and weeding. And the trees, bushes, and flowers seem to enjoy the attention.

But six months ago, the joy of gardening had left me. Granted, I harvested my veggies and tried to do some clean-up, but physically and mentally, I was dragging my ass. Life just wasn’t as much fun as it used to be and wallowing in my sorrows suited me. But this was not the real me. Usually, I’m out looking for new and fun things to do. Was I just getting old?

What happened is I had been concerned about taking too many Ibuprofen for muscle pain, so I switched to Naproxen, another pain killer. I had been taking it for a while before a friend of my hubby told him that it can cause depression. Trust me on this. It was a relief to find out that it was an outside force causing my depression. And I did know I was depressed.

So I stopped taking it. It takes a while for a medicine to clear the body. For me, about 4 – 5 months. Now my love of life has returned. Wow. What a difference. I want to play outdoors again. I look forward to writing and creating new stories. Walking, hiking, visiting restaurants. Being with friends. I’m game. And I feel better. I look better. I am smiling again.

I look at this as a cautionary tale. Depression and loss of the love of life can put a person so far down the well that is seems impossible to climb back up into the light. And I did have friends who saw me depressed and took it upon themselves to keep me going. I was lucky. Good friends can make a huge difference.

And then this chance comment by a friend of my hubby clued me in to what was causing my depression. So here I am again. I smile in the morning when I get up. I look forward to the day.

Not everyone gets lucky and finds a way to lift themselves out of the downward spiral. Not everyone finds a simple solution of not taking a particular non-prescription medicine. There are thousands of people who suffer from depression. If you know someone, be there for them. It was my family and friends who kept me going until I found the fix.

Time Keeps On Slipping, Slipping, Slipping

When we bought our house there were three wonderful pine trees in the front north corner of the yard. The previous owners were Japanese, and these trees had been trained into lovely shapes and the branches pruned so we could see the trunk.

Eventually, I learned how to prune the trees, although I never did the pom-poms. Just not my style. Usually, from start to finish, it took from 2 to 4 weeks. You see, I used clippers and cut out all the deadwood, trimmed back the candles, and shaped the trees. Sometimes I used a Japanese pruning saw to cut out a larger branch that had died. I did this every year. Then every other year. Then every three years.

On occasion, I slipped out of the tree and sprained an ankle, cracked a rib, or hit my head. Scratches and bruises were normal. No whining unless I needed stitches or blood was gushing. However, when I was finished, they looked marvelous.

Well, it’s been 4 years and I feel guilty every time I look at the trees. They are in sorry shape with dead needles covering the lower branches and killing the new growth underneath. So. This may be my last time to prune. And they will again look marvelous when I am finished. But I’m starting not with clippers and a hand pruning saw. I took my pruning chain saw to some of the branches that have been my bane. Bazipp. Bazipp. The branches that made it difficult for me to crawl up inside the tree or impossible to safely place my extension ladder are gone. Well, most of them.

I’m not finished, yet. I need to rest a bit. It doesn’t pay to keep on working when I’m tired. That’s the way to a sprained ankle, cracked rib, or bump on the head.

Life in the Slow Lane or An Anti-24/7 Rant

24/7. Remember. It was, and maybe still is, an idea that we must be productive every minute, every day of our lives. Even our down time had to be filled with intense activities. If you read a book, you must analyze it, dissect it, rank it, review it, and give it a star.

Looking at the whole 24/7 idea, I wonder how much came from Madison Avenue and the Ad Mongers. After all, if you can keep people in a constant state of busy, you can get them to consume, consume, consume. In other words, buy, buy, buy.

One of the downsides of this is we, or at least I, actually run out of time to do other important and enjoyable activities. Cooking is one. I used to love to cook. And I went out and u-picked veggies and fruit and preserved them myself. I made dilled green beans and corn relish. I canned pears and tree ripened peaches. I dried and froze other wonderful foods. I was creative and inventive with our foods.

But I ran out of time. And in a 24/7 world, concessions had to be made. Thus, more processed food came into our life. And no matter what the label said the ingredients were, it never tasted as good as what I made following my Mom’s and Grandma’s recipes.

Plus, life became a constant battle of weight and health issues. All those chemicals put into boxes of flour, cereal, cookies, breads, cake mixes, and all those chemicals put into canned food just cannot be healthy. And no matter how hard I tried, they had a funny aftertaste.

So, a pox on Madison Avenue. I don’t need to buy and try all those food products full of all those chemicals. As a matter of fact, I don’t need to buy all those clothes, all those shoes, all those gadgets and doo-dads that clutter the house. Ad Mongers, take your advertizing and stuff it.

Me. I’m going to go outside and putter in the yard. Then I’ll do some SCBWI stuff and a bit of writing. In there will be a nice salad for dinner and a bit of tidying around the house. Not too much. Not too little. But just right.

And a bath. I feel a bubble bath is in my future as is a nap.

Black Friday and Warm Feet

My soul is still intact. I do not feel like a lesser being. As a matter of fact, I have a good feeling today. It’s Saturday morning. The morning after Black Friday. I feel comfortable inside. Happy.

And I did shop on Black Friday. Wow. I should be burning in the flames of consumerism. But I am not.

Perhaps it was because I shopped after 8:30 a.m. Perhaps it was because I do boycott Walmart and some of the other Big Bad Boxes. Maybe it was because Portland people are less intense, which I doubt. But I was out three times yesterday. Two times I shopped. One time was a post office trip. And it wasn’t that bad. I didn’t experience any feeding frenzy. I have all my fingers. No one shoved me, ran over me, stole my i.d., bullied me out of a parking spot, or subjected me to any of the indignities the news stations love to show. All in all, people were nice.

My first trip started with a brief stop at Freddies. I picked up a couple things that I otherwise would not have been able to get. Parking was easy. I did avoid the electronics. I can do electronics online through NewEgg. Granted I had a shopping cart, but as I maneuvered it past the other shoppers, especially the sock-table shoppers, I said excuse me and thank-you, as did other shoppers. We even smiled at each other and said, “Hi”. We weren’t horrible, rabid animals fighting over crumbs.

While I shopped, I didn’t feel tainted. And as I checked out a few of the specialty sales, I mulled over the anti-shopping hype.

Folks, it is not logical for people to wait and pay full price for socks when they can get them at half-price. In this part of the world, good socks are a necessity, not a luxury. Bare feet in rain boots or hiking shoes get cold. If you want to feel smug and superior for not shopping on Black Friday, that’s your thing. Maybe you don’t wear socks. Maybe you run everywhere barefoot. But don’t tell me not to go out and buy socks. That’s just mean. If you have a burning need to lift yourself above the biomass, buy some socks at half price and give them to the homeless people gracing our streets. It’s better to give people socks then to give people flack for Black Friday sock shopping.


Leaving Freddies, I didn’t feel any black spots on my soul. Nor did I see any other shoppers who were obviously tainted. So I continued to my next stop, Costco. This was the second reason I went out to brave the crowds. My son wanted a Costco membership for Christmas. Having just spent Thanksgiving Day with the kids, I know how tight it is for them. So I decided to get the membership Friday – Black Friday was my first chance to get it – and send it to them early. Not your usual Black Friday trip, I know. But here I was continuing my morning journey on the day superior people love to hate.

When there, I picked up the gift card, cruised the aisles, and headed to the check-out. It was still mellow. All the Costco cashiers were happy. It’s a great place to work. Kudos to Costco. From here I headed home.

This leads in to my second outing. I came home for a quick breakfast and then headed to the post office to put the card in priority mail. The kids will have it by Monday. Wow. There were two other people on the customer side of the counter. Guess it was busy earlier. Guess it would be busy later. But for that bit of time, the post office was empty and peaceful.

After my quick trip, I headed home again. Hubby and I chatted a bit, did some correspondence, made a list, and we went out to Dave’s Bread, Morrow Brothers, and a second cruise through Freddies.

For those who don’t know, Dave’s Bread is organic and very tasty. It’s our go-to bread. And the outlet store for Dave’s Bread is right across from Bob’s Red Mill. We PDXers are so lucky on so many levels. Now let me clarify, I was out shopping on Black Friday for bread from Dave’s and produce from Morrow Brothers. And by the way, Morrow Brothers had a new, to me, apple called Sweetie. I picked up a couple to enhance our fruit salad. FYI. Neither store had any Black Friday specials. I didn’t expect any. I was happy with our score.

If by now you’ve noticed a theme for this third trip, that’s good. Sometimes when people go out on Black Friday, it is for basic shopping. So get off your high-horse. Up there, you are looking down on people, not at them. I believe it is important to look at a person. To see without judging.

But our journey was not over. We needed t.p., kitty food, milk, and a few other sundries. Since Freddies was on our way back to our house, we pulled in again. Nope. None of the grocery items were on sale. Didn’t expect them to be. But I did split off from my Hubby and picked up a couple more otherwise-not-able-to-afford items. Plus more socks. It just doesn’t make sense to wait one day so I can pay full price. That is not logical. So I guess I could feel smug for not shopping on Black Friday, or I could be logical.

We finished our shopping with a final stop at Grocery Outlet. Neither one of us expected any SALES!, but it is part of our SE PDX shopping loop. Right now, hubby is fixing some breakfast pancakes from the gluten-free, organic pancake mix we picked up at GO. Mmmmm. I can smell them.

After GO, we were finally home, and I was finished with my outings. I checked out my soul, spirit, self-esteem, ego, the invisible part of me that connects me to family, friends, earth, and the universe. Everything was still good.

Today, I feel a lightness of being. Warmth seeps into me from my toes and flows up to the top of my head. Maybe it’s because I bought socks.

The Sadness Filled My Soul

She was my friend. She was one of the few people in a local group who believed I had talent and encouraged me to write and draw. She wanted me to illustrate one of her stories. But that never happened. Susan Petrey died on December 5, 1980.

I was in Europe at the time, traveling through the British Isles and then on to the Continent. Although I had contact with people back home, I did not know about her death. Later, after I returned to Portland, I was told they took a vote and decided not to tell me Susan had died. They did not want it to ruin my trip.


In Ireland I met the wonderful and gracious writer Anne McCaffrey. I was so pumped with Susan’s writing and our friendship, I chattered about her stories and how Susan was going to write so many more.

Now, news of a writer’s death in the F and SF world travels. I expect Anne knew about Susan’s death, but she did not say a word. Not wanting to ruin my trip? I don’t think so. Perhaps she thought I was in denial, ignorant, or just plain callous.

I continued on my holiday through Britain and across the channel. The head of BBC Scotland gave me a private tour through the studios, a sweet Swiss gentleman bought me a metro ticket and kissed my hand as I boarded the car, and I met my good friend Robin at the Youth Hostel in Den Hague. I was oblivious to the sadness that awaited me on my return.

But I did return, and on being told of Susan’s death, I was stunned into silence. Perhaps my apparent lack of response was taken for agreement that I should not have been told or indifference to Susan’s death. But it is the response I have when I am so overwhelmed by a lack of understanding that I cannot get any words out of my mouth. I was frozen in place. I should have been told.

My friend, Susan, was manic-depressive or what is now called bipolar. She took meds. Often when she was in a depressive mood, she would give me a call and ask to come over to my apartment. The meds flipped a switch and she became manic. She would come with her bottle of Scotch and talk and rock and talk and rock and take a sip of Scotch. There was no getting the bottle away from her and she knew she needed watching.

So I would sit with her and listen as she told her stories, the whole time making sure she never had too much Scotch or too many meds. Susan would rock and rock and rock. We’d talk about our joys and sorrows – regrets and dreams. She was my best friend. She is gone and I still feel the emptiness.