Author Archives: rox

Heroes Come in All Sizes



Who remembers the ones who stay behind?

My brother called today to remind me of our terrible beautiful mother’s death exactly one year ago today. Fitting it should be on Veteran’s Day actually, given how much of our lives was devoted to waiting for my father. He was an Air Force career man and he was always going away on TDY or coming home soon from some other country or the DEW Line.  He got sent into the cold for six week week stints constantly when I was a kid.

Jean Groves,  hamming it up about 1950

Jean Groves, hamming it up about 1950

During the Cold War, the DEW Line, Distant Early Warning System, was a line of sites that were monitored for enemy activity. Dad was a cryptographer and into computers very early on so he was always getting sent to some ice bound hell hole or other for temporary duty. We talked to him weekly on the MARS radio, the kind where you say something and then you say, “over”, because its not true two way communication, but kids love it because its so spacey.

My father was not a big presence in our growing up years, my mother shouldered the yoke and dragged us along the path in my father’s wake. Wait until your father gets home didn’t work with us, everyone would have forgotten the issue by the time he showed up.

Here’s the thing, no one ever talks about the families of military men, the career men whose wives and kids give up what we would call a normal life. Those wives are heroes too. The military is notoriously underpaid when it comes to families. The saying,”If they wanted you to have a family they would have issued you one”, still rings true. It was then and is now a struggle to make ends meet for families of career enlisted especially.

It goes a ways towards explaining my mother’s constant fury and  my father’s passivity. He had someone telling him exactly what to do and she was forced to comply with the stupidest regulations ever written on a daily basis. Things like a white glove inspection before we could clear quarters when we lived on a military base, never mind that the first time she flipped the lights on in the place 10 million roaches ran for the hills. Things like getting decent dental care for her kids on a military base which didn’t ever happen. I broke my front teeth when I was 8, they got fixed when I was 21 and could pay for them on my own. Things like just getting a doctor’s appointment for a kid sick with a high fever were an exercise in the power of anger.  I salute my mom for never giving up and never giving in. My ability to fight like a tiger for what is right and mine came directly from her example during those years.

My brother had Teddy and I had Rabbit, gifts our father brought to us. We had so few gifts from him, we still have them.

My brother had Teddy and I had Rabbit, gifts our father brought to us. We had so few gifts from him, we still have them.

Military kids are overlooked unsung heroes that no one ever thinks about thanking for their sacrifice, but they give up so very much. The average military brat changes schools 6 times in 12 years. They never have time to make lasting friendships or build relationships or put down roots. When they get to new schools they are treated like they are stupid and automatically put in the slow classes. They are never in sync with learning. I still don’t know my times tables because one school hadn’t started and the next one was finished with them.


We bloom where ever we get transplanted.

They are packed up and taken without being consulted to all corners of the world and they make it work. My husband is the kid of a career Army man and I grew up in the Air Force. To thrive,  I developed a Pollyanna outlook early and I still have it, It was an adventure and I was having it. I learned to pass in any society I was pitched in and I’m a lucky one. My husband grew up terribly shy and without close friends because he never had any opportunity to make or keep those friends. He had a successful career in the fire service but he still struggles with social situations and innate shyness because he never had the opportunity to be ‘normal’.

So, here’s to those other heroes the wives, and now husbands,  who do the parenting work of both mother and father for as long as they need to fill that role, when their partner is serving their country somewhere else. Here’s to the smallest heroes, the kids who didn’t ask for this,but cope and survive and live their own kind of normal. Don’t just thank the vet, thank the family who stands with him everyday.

Backwards at a High Rate of Speed


Number 3, Prieger Promenade, Ooshie and our dog in the window

When I was a kid, aged eight actually, my family moved to Bad Kreuznach, Germany in 1956. This was during the height of the Cold War and McCarthyism. Nuclear war wasn’t on the threat horizon yet but the phrase “Ugly American” was in play. After  World War II, Americans had a sense of belligerent entitlement– because America had saved the world all by itself.


Mother and Ooshie going out in our 1957 yellow Dodge station wagon. Mom is mugging for the camera and it’s obviously before my mother ripped the door handle off the car on a narrow German street.

My mother was a terrible mother in many ways with a violent temper and unpredictable mood swings. She was a narcissist, a word I didn’t know then, but I lived in constant fear of her anger and her ability to manipulate us all. One thing she did and did well, was to understand that America was filled with racist, misogynistic bullies, and a lot of them were in the armed services with us. My father was a cryptographer with the Air Force and we were ostensibly attached to an army post, not part of it but for the convenience of the base.

Mother refused to live on post. She wanted as little as possible to do with the Americans represented by the army in 1956. Most of them hated being in Germany and hated the Germans, calling them names like ‘dirty kraut’ and exploiting them at every turn because “they lost the war and they deserved it”.


The weekly market where we did our shopping with big wicker baskets. It was about 1/2 mile down the river and over the bridge from our house.

We lived on the economy, as the saying went,  on the first floor of an amazing three story palazzo for lack of a better word. We got the house at Number 3 Prieger Promenade because of the importance of my father’s job. I didn’t know that until years later, I just knew I loved living there. We were across the river from a bird sanctuary, next to the Orion Gardens and in front of us was a 3 kilometer long pedestrian pink cement promenade facing the Nahe River. It was heaven on earth for two little kids.


Our housekeeper Annie and her daughter Gretel, my brother and me on a picnic on Kuburg Hill

We had a series of wonderful housekeepers and maids we loved dearly. Ursula, aka Ooshie was my favorite. She was tiny, about 5 feet tall and we all adored her. She gave me a pair of green satin high heels to play dress up in and I clopped everywhere in those things. One night the police came and took Ooshie away. We couldn’t understand it and as 7 and 9 year olds, my brother Sonny and I were terribly confused. I found out much later she was an East German plant placed with us to try to glean information from my father. Her sister was arrested in a different household the same night. These 20 somethings did not want to be spies, they just wanted a life again but their family was in East Germany. This meant they had no choice, spy for the Russians/East Germans or your family members will be punished severely.

These things happened and we accepted them. My culture vulture mother made sure we spoke German, dressed as German kids and had German friends. This meant among other things, that I was toasty warm in reindeer hide boots and long wool stockings while the American kids froze their asses off in anklets and inadequate shoes through the snowy winters. We looked German and we assimilated and we inhaled the culture of Europe like miniature vacuum cleaners sucking up  everything in sight and loving it.

It was shocking to go on post to visit other American families that I recall as rude  and pretty repulsive for the most part. I remember one kid well, Ronnie Pilcher. His bedroom was piled halfway to the ceiling with comic books. My brother Sonny and I weren’t allowed to have comics so we would go in Ronnie’s room, flop down and devour his comics ignoring him completely.1germ

Once in awhile my parents would go out to dinner with friends and sometimes the Pilchers got included. They appalled me at the tender age of 9. Ronnie would whine about how he hated the food and he wanted a hamburger and French fries. Why this left such a mark on my budding gourmet soul, I don’t know, but I tried to stay as far from him and his embarrassing ugly American behavior as possible. His parents spoke no German so they would speak English really loudly, the classic behavior of the foreign idiot. I could see my mom gritting her teeth and ordering another glass of wine just to get through the evening.

Black Americans were ignored or actively discriminated against by the ignorant white Americans in the army back then. My dad and his buddies were musicians who had jam sessions on a regular basis, usually in our giant house. A lot of the musicians were black and in and out of our house on a regular basis. I noticed immediately the Germans were pretty color blind even in the 1950s,  treating the African Americans as equals. One night Bing Crosby’s son came to our house to jam although I had no idea for years who that guy was. It was all pretty wonderful and there were a lot of nights I fell asleep under the piano.


Every single weekend we were exploring and camping somewhere from the spring to the first snow. A lot of weekends were spend on the Neckar River in Heidelberg with friends. We could run wild all over the castle, swim in the river and generally be ignored by the partying grownups. Paradise. We had a striped French tent, very avant garde, and our black and yellow Dodge Station wagon. We stopped traffic at every campground.

Germany was my first lesson in what not to be. It blew my small farm town  California upbringing away and it never came back.  When we went home again, I cried on the plane for the entire trip, on some level my heart is still broken. I never fit in to my old hometown quite the same. I had seen too much and knew too much. I spoke a foreign language and had traveled all over Europe. I had sipped beer out of my dad’s stein in Munich and  met gypsies in the Black Forest. I saw the Mona Lisa and was unimpressed but I loved the Egyptian wing at the Louvre. I had onion soup at 5 a.m. in Les Halles at a long table with working farmers and camped at the Brussels World’s Fair with people from all over the world.

What those years taught me is that Americans are not as great as they think they are and they never were. We can be appalling bigots in so many ways. I don’t want to see America great again if it’s like those years.  Women were held down and back, and they were complicit, which is the worst part. Bigotry and institutionalized racism were the order of the day. Name calling was accepted and intended to insult and hurt , Jews, kikes, wops, krauts, Japs, slant eyes, chinks, spics, beaners, and  n_____s; only white males mattered, and sadly the people that were kids then are in power now with their parents tiny values locked in their heads.

I am so grateful to my crazy mother for having a bigger horizon in her head, I hope I have been able to pass on that positive piece of my past to my children. It’s the horizon that’s important not the fence you put around yourself. Greatness may be in our future but its certainly not in our past if you understand the history  beneath the shiny feel good imagination of a bunch of old white men.


Stuck on Spin


Stuck on Spin Again, the idea that politicians with too much power are all crooks is not a new one. It’s a thought that saw print in 1770, and has been addressed down the years by many thinkers and writers. To wit:

“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.”  Lord Acton in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton in 1887.

Alphonse Marie Louis de Prat de Lamartine in his essay titled “France and England: a Vision of the Future”, was published in London in 1848 and included this text: “It is not only the slave or serf who is ameliorated in becoming free… the master himself did not gain less in every point of view, for absolute power corrupts the best natures.”

“Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it” William Pitt 1770, spoken to the House of Lords in England.wake up

All of the shrieking, head banging, finger pointing, threats and general shenanigans taking place during this election cycle is simply politics redux, exacerbated by social media that lets us be meaner in spirit and more personal without looking someone in the eye.

When one invests many, many years of his or her life in the heady corridors of power and succeeds it has to come at a cost. Imagine the adulation of hordes of people and powerful interests trying to curry favor with you? Imagine all of them throwing money at you and telling you they adore you. Hey, Hollywood falls for it why shouldn’t politicians?

Clean politicians are like unicorns, it’s hard to believe they exist but look at Jimmy Carter,Bernie Sanders, Gandhi and Martin Luther King. Unicorns, every one.

Its hard sometimes to see the need for support for a TBI victim, they can look comepletely normal but still feel so lost, navigating a changed landscape.

These are the type of people we desperately want to lead us, but in the real, cold world I don’t believe it’s possible for us to follow them when they show up. Why? We are selfish at heart and want what’s best for us individually, not the country as a whole. Why else would people fight against housing the homeless, making sure everyone has medical care and letting students get in lifelong debt to attend college? Heavens, it might make your taxes go up or cost you personally in some unknown way. Few of us see the bigger picture and are willing to make any kind of sacrifice for the common good.

We live in a global economy that is led by wolves that inhabit other countries. Wolves who don’t believe in our concept of freedom or equality and justice for all. More like justice for some and the rest should die already. Unicorns aren’t really great at dealing with very nasty threats and those very hard core customers who would really like to see America as it is end.

Sometimes we don't even know who we are and that's a terrible feeling.

Sometimes we don’t even know who we are and that’s a terrible feeling.

Witness the mess in the Middle East, Saudi Princes don’t give a rat’s ass about anything in America but our expensive consumer goods and they are smiling at us with one side of their mouths and dealing with our enemies like ISIS and a smile on the other side of the same mouth.

Nuclear threats exist. We are in a poker game with Putin’s Russia and Communist China at a minimum, and all are held in check and balance by our strength and resolve at the global table.

There are endless lists of countries who for one reason or another have an interest in America and how we rule ourselves, they would like to own a piece of American pie, and in the case of China, they actually do. Make no mistake people, Bernie Sanders is the most wonderful man who ever lived but I believe in the world economy of today he would be eaten for breakfast.

Together we can achieve anything!

Together we can achieve anything!

Donald Trump is proving himself an unqualified outsider on a daily basis. If we really want a Bernie to lead us we had better stop bickering, put on our big girl panties and begin to build the world we want over the next four years. It won’t happen by sitting around and complaining and calling each other names and disparaging another person’s choices.

To paraphrase Lord Acton, great women are almost always bad women. Me? I would rather at this point have Hillary Clinton, a known wolf, at the helm guarding our interests from the rest of the pack of wolves. A sheep is not going to get it done at this point. Scream and yell at howl that she’s corrupt but ask yourself, you white boomers, if this was not a woman would you be having a conniption of this magnitude? I don’t think so.

Between Instagram and my new gradient background-winning! These are my first two sheep, Germany and 56 years old.

Maybe if we can all go to Unicorn World and actually work together in four years we can elect a president who more closely fits what we dream we can be, if I have a prayer that’s it, let us come together and make America great for the first time.glove

Homeless and Hoping, Olympia Washington

doorThis is an essay, it has lots of facts and I’m hoping they all got down straight as they came from my own notes. I can certainly provide access to any of the entities that gave the facts if someone wants to argue.  The big takeaway is I left this meeting with is an awful lot to think about as a member of my community and a merchant in the downtown core.

Last night I attended a State of Homelessness meeting held by the League of Women Voters in downtown Olympia. The large meeting room was packed, with people standing and people sitting on the floor. Many were older people, lots of gray in the room including me, but all ages were represented and paying close attention. The meeting was intended to bring all the providers and volunteers in Thurston County up to speed about what is a complex problem everywhere these days: the homeless.

The person that resonated most with me personally was a gentleman from Side Walk, a local group/organization focused on rapid rehousing and direct contact with street people. They started out life as a program of Interfaith Works and have grown since then. He spoke with gentle humor and his words were an eye opener for me, I’m one of the bystanders who generally gripes about the plethora of grubby street people downtown and I am one who has felt helpless to impact the situation.wake up

He said that Olympia is not a “Homeless Magnet”. People don’t come here to be homeless because we have such wonderful services or for the climate. It would seem everyone feels like their city is a homeless magnet: Malibu, Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco, Miami et al. Personally, I would think Malibu or Miami would be a better choice than soggy Seattle if I had an itchy foot and the ability to travel.

It turns out it’s not really a matter of choice. These people are from here and have remained here. Their families and their roots are here and going somewhere else is not really an option emotionally or fiscally.

In January of 2016 there was a survey conducted : I count Thurston Because I Count. I hope I got that mouthful right… At any rate, volunteers canvassed the county and its towns and counted 579 Homeless people .There were 476 last year and and 576 the year before, so that population seems pretty stable in numbers.  They did complex surveys much like a census when they could and completed 342 of those which gave them some fascinating facts.

I wrote as fast as I could, and I’m hoping I got the numbers written down right. 235 of those homeless spent the night in a shelter, 192 were on the streets all night. 150 of those counted were in transition, which I take it means there was something happening with their housing situation.  Of the 342, 226 were male. 7 of them were under 18, 26 were over 60. That leaves 116 female, but I could swear the speaker said 90 female. You get the picture,  the most people homeless are the male demographic from 20-59.IMG_0287

It gets far more complex when one drills down. 205 of those completing a survey identified as having a disability. 223 had been homeless for more than 1 year. Why? Economic and job loss counted at 161, family crisis 73, kicked out or left home, 61, alcohol and drug use as a contributing cause, 48.

Here are more numbers: The folks at Interfaith Works run a shelter which is always at 100% capacity and they turn away at least 8 people a night. Interfaith shelters the most vulnerable among the homeless population. The people most likely to die on the streets. 81% of those folks have won the trifecta: they have multiple issues. Chronically homeless for over a year with physical and mental issues along with substance abuse issues. They are the most visible and the most difficult to help. This population cannot conform to social needs and falls through the cracks most quickly. Interfaith has an approach that they call call opt in, they screen people in to their shelter, not out.  They are very hopeful that local jurisdictions will begin to implement this vulnerability model which gets the most desperate people help first and fast–and again and again if need be.

With a 40% decrease in federal budgets to address this issue over the last several years, more and more falls on local people and local assets and cities and counties don’t always have the funds they need to build or acquire housing or services for homeless people. The biggest need seems to be housing. Not a tent city, not a shelter, but a place of one’s own. Rapid Rehousing is a catch phrase I heard a lot last night. It costs $2500 to house someone for the night in the ER, $104 in a police station, $26 in a short term shelter and as little $4 a night to house someone in their own place.graffiti1

There is a levy proposal in the works under the aegis of the Housing Task Force to provide property tax funds to build 500 units of affordable housing for families with children. That’s 24 cents per $1000 for 7 years for property owners. It would seem to me that’s a pretty painless way to help out with out having to get up and do anything to address the crisis.

The other issue with housing people is they don’t stay put without support services. I heard a word I haven’t run into as a layman: siloed services. It fits. This means medical care, psychiatric care, economic support like food stamps, and housing issues must all be accessed separately in their own silo, and each one requires a separate appointment and waiting up to 30 days for said appointment.

Okay, I’m fairly normal and the idea of having to make and keep myriad appointments to get anywhere with anything is daunting. Now, if I add in no transportation,  no regular meals so I’m always hungry and low energy, or reliance on lots of bus changes and schedules, it gets worse. I’m homeless, I don’t have a phone or a calendar or maybe even a watch to know where I’m supposed to be and when. Let’s pile on a disability, whether its a mental condition, chronic substance abuse or a physical condition. I’m going to walk away and curse the system that keeps promising to help and never delivers. I’m still wet to the skin and sleeping on the street with no help in sight.

There is actually an answer to this one: it’s in the works and if you believe in prayer, or good karma, call some down for the implementation of a Community Care Center. Somehow, someway,  service providers have all managed to work together for the common good and in the works is a one stop shop if they are successful. No more silo. It will have showers and laundry facilities, a nurse practitioner on site, counseling and connecting services to help people do things like get a birth certificate or a social security card. Access to figuring how to get housing and qualifying for it, I would imagine there might even be access to job training or job hunting services. Walk in and get help immediately.

Olympia park bridge graffiti, worker bees

Olympia park bridge graffiti, worker bees

And yes, housing does work to resolve a lot of homeless cases IF you have the other side of the coin, support services available, when needed and as often as needed. Rapid Rehousing assumes everyone can be successful, and you know what? The concept has a 92% success rate. The big stickers are landlords reluctant to rent those with a criminal history or no history, all bars to being able to rent. I can understand that and I think it’s something that needs more scrutiny and support so everyone gets to win.

It costs us $40,000 per year per person (if you add it all up and divide it out) to provide the services we have now which are not working. There are 1455 homeless kids attending school in Thurston county.  That’s about one in every classroom. There are 2.5 million homeless kids in the USA and they are invisible, to me this is beyond shameful.

I still feel a little tentative and scared of the guys outside my business who yell at me. Seeing them piled up in their tarps with dogs and shopping carts and yelling and screaming at each other as they fight for a semi-dry space is horrible and tragic and I feel helpless. My own next step is to call the Downtown Ambassadors program and get them to introduce me to my street neighbors. Its about building trust I think at this point. Who are they? What is the story of these people? They are humans like me and until I know who they are I cannot change me and I think I’d like to.prayers

Grace and Gratitude: Accepting Money is Awful


The cover of the benefit thank you card

The cover of the benefit thank you card

This entry is going to be pretty brutal to write and I may hurt other kind people’s feelings, but it is my truth of what it was like from inside the fish bowl.  I am so grateful for the kindness of others. Other TBI families will face this too, wondering how to deal with people who care enough to contribute their time, money and themselves. Yes, they will be there for you.

There was a lesson to be learned from the open hearts and hard work others did on our behalf.  What was it?  To bow my stubborn proud I-can-do-it-myself head and accept what others gave with grace and a grateful heart. Above all, to  to pay it forward, because that for me is how the universe stays in balance.

Dec. 11th, 2006 | 12:15 pm

Terry is in Bakersfield now at the Centre for Neuroskills, and Torin and I are trying to paste the pieces of our lives back together. Resting up to be ready for what comes next, catching our breath and feeling like lost children.

This past weekend friends of Terry’s had a fundraiser for him/us. It wound up being stressful and successful. I got sucked in somehow doing a lot of the work for it which gave me the renegade creeps. Working to get other people to give us money made me feel  like I was somehow spidering around in the background and doing something skinky and bilking people. It was a horrible feeling and left me feeling sick and shivery.

On the positive side, I met a lot of Terry’s friends and people that believe in him. For a man who said to me, “I have no friends and I’m lonely”,  he has a lot of friends, just not the guy skills to hang out because he spent so many miserable years in a very bad marriage.   His ex came to the benefit and brought her smelly DOG to the restaurant. She swears he’s a service dog. For what? Misery? He wears a little scarf with service dog patches pinned to it. Jesus. She came in like she owned the place and said to me, “I’m sorry, who are you?” I said, “I’m Terry’s wife.” She started backing up and apologizing and saying her eyes weren’t working right. What?? It was pretty satisfying in a mean spirited way.benefit1

What I know about fundraisers is that on some level when people give you things there is ALWAYS some sort of thread of expectation attached. A lot of people donated money and I can feel there is some sort of expectation that they can dictate what their money is used for–
much like when I was on food stamps 100 years ago as a  mom in college–I never bought candy or anything frivolous because of the ugly looks on the faces of the cash customers. Even the event organizers want to count everything up and find out what was raised where and how. Let them do it. The only thing I know is that I’m NEVER doing this again, my spirit hasn’t made peace with accepting help yet.

I am done accepting free money. I think I’d rather starve. At first it was nice, but now I’m getting a little sourness around the edges. A fire chief told my friend the college president at a Rotary meeting that Terry didn’t need any benefit because EVERYTHING was paid for. Bull shit. Medically he’s got the Cadillac of coverage, but that sure doesn’t take into account that my medical insurance is now going to be Cobra at $800 per month –unless I can get my new boss to let me into the pool which is very possible.

It doesn’t take into account the fact that Terry cannot work and he may not be able to work again–he will get disability insurance at 60% for 55 months but not social security ever. Fire fighters don’t pay into that pool. And 60% of his salary only pays 60% of our bills–it doesn’t count the part where I have to fork over money to visit him in Bakersfield.It doesn’t count the refrigerator that died and has to be replaced or a leak in a roof that has to be fixed.  His firefighter’s pension got split down the middle when he got divorced. The ex-wife  with the stinky dog walked off with half of it, enough to make the house payment. Things are not going to be easy for us, but I am working now and I refuse to give up.

terry ticket

I’ve been trying to unpack, clean up and get ready for Christmas. We are going to have Christmas. We need hope and joy and to know there is going to be a tomorrow for us.  Yesterday I took my 7 and 9 year old granddaughters shopping for dresses to wear to the Nutcracker ballet in Seattle. I took my own savings out of the bank and decided this year I was going to make Christmas one to remember.  I can’t make a lot of impact on the future with my three thousand dollars,  but I can make a life long impact on the our memories and we can all stop and have an island of magic in the middle of this dark endless journey.

I am doing something special for each of my children and their families and it makes me happy. There won’t be anything under the tree because I’m doing this all now and it’s not about things to unwrap. These are gifts of the heart that last longer than a package. I guess I’m giving myself Christmas to hold the sadness at bay. Terry won’t be part of it this year but then again, he’s still stuck somewhere back around Halloween and learning to have an organized schedule. I won’t be able to visit him until later but I think that will be fine. It gives me time for me, which I need desperately about now.

So, fund raising? Money gifts from others? Nah, we’ll be fine without any more of them. I want to want to finish the thank you’s with gratitude and move on. I have to laugh again. I have had six comfortable years in my whole life–the last six. I love Terry so much for taking me and Torin on and giving us things like vacations and a nice car and dinner’s out and to him it was just the way things should be. Thank you for that, wherever you are tonight, Mr. T.

Going back to managing reduced resources is familiar territory and I know how to do this. Most of my life I have been poor– but happy and resourceful. My life has always involved Good Will for wardrobe and making do and being okay without a lot of stuff from department stores.    , I’m not some little princess who can’t get dirty or who falls apart. Sometimes I think people are offended because I won’t fall apart. If I did they could suck up some grief vapors and feel better.

I think my personal metaphor is that I’m like one of those old iron skillets. They get rusty and sometimes even get a crack in them–mine has one on the side. But if you steel wool them up and oil them and season them, they come right back and work again. They are useful, you can feed people with them and use them as a weapon if the need arises.

Life goes on. I’m managing, I’m not grieving because I don’t know what I’ve lost yet. But please don’t offer to raise funds for me, I’m likely to go all skillet on your ass.

Back from Billings, in the Belly of the Bird


 Fabulous nurses and the pilot. Getting Tired Now –, entry from my journal of September 25, 2006.

It’s Monday and I had high expectations for what the day would bring, news that would send us home if not in one piece in several pieces held together with the potential of wholeness. Today, I walked in to find a giant machine here. “Heart murmur, testing.” “Look is that a tear? Oh my God, please don’t let his heart have a rip in it. I just don’t want more bad.
I’m nearing the edge of what I can endure with equanimity. Today he had a swallow test, did he pass? I don’t know. He talks some but makes marginal sense. I show him cards from family and he doesn’t know what they are. I want the tube out, I want him to pass the test.The nurse in charge couldn’t tell me when he gets to go home, she said we wouldn’t know until about five minutes before it happened. Nice, how can you make any plans at all?
I don’t even know when to fly Faye in. Information would be good. This is frustrating and exhausting.

So now, two days later, we are finally getting kicked to the curb with not a lot of notice. September 27th we head home. Finding a way to get Terry from Montana to Olympia was an exercise in fear, frustration and ultimately, jubilation.  When the doctors began to make rehab noises, I started the hunt a week ago. Our lovely insurance company refused to pay to transport him anywhere but the closest rehab facility: Denver, Colorado. Home is Washington State, thousands of miles away and Denver was not an option for us, a bit difficult to just drop in and find friends to visit Terry and all that.

Loading onto the plane

Loading onto the plane

The only answer for us was a life flight home on a small plane. I began to investigate flights and it was all I could do not to faint at the cost. Five grand, which insurance didn’t cover and I had to find somewhere. Second Mortgages are the pot of expensive gold at the end of the rainbow, thank you Leprechauns, where ever you are.


Have I mentioned how annoying insurance companies are? Their goal seems to be to play with the lives of paper doll people and steam roll the real people flat in their quest to make sure investors have pots of money to spend.

Our case is not regular rehab. We have to have minders with Terry 24-7, because he is not mentally connecting to the world and he’s becoming more mobile every day as his bones heal. What happens when he has a working body, no balance and no judgment or way to know what’s real? He’s still very  physically crippled with all those broken ribs and lungs perforated in a few places, recovering from pneumonia, a broken neck, eye socket and arm, he is still learning to walk and eat and all the things we do without thinking, so  the type of rehabilitation available in a hospital setting is the next step.

On our way

On our way

The Emily Gamelan Pavilion  houses the St Peter Hospital rehab facility a few miles from our home, and he is booked there for the next step but getting him there in a hospital bed,  casts and bandages is the next mountain to climb. Enter the magnificent male nurses who joined us and the pilot on the life flight.

Nurses tending to Terry

Nurses tending to Terry

It was a crisp, cold morning when he was moved by ambulance to the plane. The nurses who were flying with us were the same two that flew him in to Billings from the accident. They were grinning ear to ear and so happy to see him. They had been pretty convinced he wouldn’t make it and seeing him beat the odds lifted us all, all the way home.  Terry was quiet, he was sedated for the flight and slept through most of it. I  loved it. I got to sit right behind the pilot in the plane and take in the view which was bathed in sunshine all the way home.

How often do normal pedestrian people see this view off the wing of a plane?

How often do normal pedestrian people see this view off the wing of a plane?

Don Bowman, Terry’s biker bud who was with him when they got in the accident is also a fire fighter. He had gotten permission from the fire department in Tumwater, two towns over, to have transport from Terry’s own fire department meet the plane at the local small airport.  I stepped out of the plane and burst into tears when I saw an entire group  with the rig walking out to meet us. Ear to ear grins were on every face and Terry recognized each and every one of them and said hello to them as they loaded him for the ride. It was wonderful and I didn’t even try to stop the tears rolling down my face. I realized later I lost an earring on the tarmac and I think its a fitting offering to the gods of  homecoming.  There were hurdles to get over and too much too accomplish, but seeing Torin and our  home and having Terry back in more or less one piece mended a big hole in the center of me.

Mt Rainier means we are home.

Mt Rainier means we are home.

5 prairie house

Road Photos

I kind of love taking pictures that are informal and catch the feeling of a trip, like old photos you see in a junk store and wonder who took them and why? I just got back from a trip home to Colorado from Washington State, racking up over 3000 miles through what I fondly refer to as the Great Wide Open, thank you Tom Petty.

1 dog is my copilot

Dog is my copilot

A lot of people think the high sky empty spaces of Eastern Oregon, Southern Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, Colorado, Montana and basically all the western states, are empty and boring. Kind of like having to fly over the desert to get to Oz, aka the West coast, something to get past as fast as you can.

Into the great wide open

Into the great wide open

As a child visiting Indiana every summer to see my grandparents, getting through the Mojave desert from our Southern California home was kind of like that. Hot, terrifying and it was the DESERT. This was in the days when cars went slower and didn’t have air conditioning. We usually traveled at night those first few days, and it was mysterious and scary and included swimming at midnight in a Phoenix motel pool where the water was as warm as bath water.

Leaving Oz

Leaving Oz

Travel is so different now, you don’t see overheated cars on top of passes or cars in the desert with those canvas camel bags draped over the radiator. Now travelling through the empty is a pleasure and it isn’t empty either.

Eastern Oregon wind turbines

Eastern Oregon wind turbines

These places have tall skies and room to breathe and they are fascinating and filled with patterns and people if you know how to look. Growing up in my own version of the empty bright spaces in Southern California, I learned to love the arid almost desert east of Los Angeles and west of Palm Springs. I learned early to admire the shapes of the earth, the way brown hills look like giant paws and plowed fields look like quilting blocks. I’ve never lost my love of landscape.4 oregon wind

I finally decided to do it differently. I wanted to see the world as a road tripper not a photographer and catch the ephemeral out of the window of my truck as we went flying by or pulled over on a highway shoulder with cars whizzing by, or just cruising down two lane black top back roads where I found all these fantastical wind turbines.

Somewhere in Eastern Colorado

Somewhere in Eastern Colorado

10 wyoming snow fence

Wyoming Drift Fence

I started looking at a lot of the pictures I ‘snapped’ and the commonality was that I was looking for juxtaposition between man made and aggressive nature. These are places you have to be tough and fight to live, too much snow, too much heat, too much wind and so much beauty.

Stop for Wyoming

Stop for Wyoming

I have lots of other shots of more pastoral places but I think these dreamy post cards shots and old photo treatments are perfect to express the idea that we can only borrow the land, its not ours to keep.

Maggie, dog of the West

Maggie, dog of the West

Afterwards: The Miracle

white camellia


I lost my beloved crazy sister just before Thanksgiving, tragically and in a house fire. She died of smoke inhalation and when the firefighters reached her it was too late. She was cremated and I wondered about that and wrote this.


There is beauty in this can of ash that is not ash
It is the story of you.
Sometimes I still hear your voice and always, your laugh.
I opened the container,
Just a cookie can from an old Christmas,
and I looked inside.
Would it make you smile,
to know you sit on a child’s chair in my living room?
The chair you found for me,
The one we both loved in Carlsbad.
You put it in a cardboard box and mailed it to me with that antique bowl,
The one that was Oaxacan green and it was broken before I got it.
It was so beautiful I saved all the broken pieces from the box,
And we both cried over losing it.
I wanted to find the perfect container for you, as perfect as that bowl was,
but there you are in a cookie can.
My sister and my first best understanding of unconditional love,
my measuring stick of love and crazy.
I wondered if I had your kneecaps in that can,
or your beat up dancer’s feet or your collar bones
made strange by childhood pellagra?
I love that your bones are the story of you,
everywhere you lived, the water you drank, the food you hoarded,
all those dances you danced, the pain and the joy that marked your life,
everything was saved and marked in your bones,
unique and amazing.
It seems that we are each a map sketched out by the table of elements,
all of us one-of-a-kind wonders,
our bones like fingerprints or snowflakes.
I love knowing that since the beginning of time
things had to happen just exactly the way they happened
for us to be sisters.
Miracles really do happen don’t they?
And I think you were mine.

Me and Marji on a beach day.

Me and Marji on a beach day.

The Violet Mystery



It isn’t often that I am flummoxed by research into something I’ve found, but this case had me chasing my tail. Here’s the back story: I recently acquired a batch of stuff being sold by a gentleman whose very old mother had gone into assisted care, he was beginning to sell her bits and pieces to pay for her stay in the facility. It’s a common story and a sad one, but sometimes it lets me send lovely things back into the world for another life so I try to be positive and honest. In this case he had a silver Mexican bracelet that was to die for, I gave it back and told him it was worth in excess of $150 and he needed to get more than I could give him for it. Its just good karma to be fair in my world.



None of what I got had a ton of value other than curiosity and my love for bits of Odd Stuff. One of the other people I was with acquired lots of depression glass and some serious pieces of carnival glass, I opted for stranger things, like two shoe horns, one from JC Penney and the other Sears and Roebuck.

Paris Souvenir bracelet

Paris Souvenir bracelet

I also got a small wooden box of things including ten tiny ceramic deer, a cool brass souvenir of Paris bracelet, a hat pin and sundry bits of things that will be used to create other things.

My tiny deer accidental collection

My tiny deer accidental collection

My favorites in the mix were of course, the French bracelet and the ten tiny deer. I seem to have accidentally begun to acquire deer. They are seeking me out but that’s another entry entirely.v16 I  also got a set of very old Lancôme perfume bottles still  in their box and an odd little wooden case. More about that in a moment. The Lancôme bottles go back to the late thirties and were well and truly stuck shut. A little hot water unstuck the tops and I could pull the stoppers out and smell the heavy old perfumes in them. Did you know there are serious collectors of empty and almost empty old perfume bottles? Who knew. Those will be on their way to a new home soon…

Rieger violet Coffret

Rieger violet Coffret

Now, for the wooden box. It’s 2.75 inches tall and looks like an old cannon barrel standing on end. It’s actually a coffret, a tiny wood case, of maple that is threaded about an inch down and unscrews. The exterior has a purple and silver metal paper label that reads Florosa Fanoma, W Rieger, Frankfurt A/M, which is most likely for Am Main. At the bottom is the single word, ” Violet”.

Inside the tiny wooden coffer, or coffret more properly, is an eight-sided lead crystal bottle with a cut glass stopper. This stopper was also stuck shut until I gently ran warm just over the top, at which point the crystal perfume dauber/wand slid cleanly out. No label on the bottle inside and amber colored liquid fills the bottle about three-quarters of the way up.

Open Sesame!

Open Sesame!

A little background here: My favorite scent in the entire known universe is violets. As a child in Germany, I loved that they grew in the parks and lawns in Springtime with great abandon and very long stems. I would take hours and pick huge bunches of them to take home. Their scent was so haunting and so elusive and the air smelled like heaven wherever they perched in the water glasses my mother gave me for my bouquets. In France a few years back I brought home a bottle of Violettes de Toulouse and I have hoarded it until I can go back and get more. That’s enough of a reason to go back to France for me. Yes, I love violets.

I am serious about my violets, so it was with both  fanfare  and trepidation I pulled the stopper out and sniffed it carefully. Holy Cow! It smelled like it was bottled last week! I dabbed some on one wrist and then the other and sat there with essence of violet all around me.

How could this be? The container was old, the label was old, so how old was old anyway? I started digging and found very little information on the elusive W. Rieger. I know that he was part of Wilhelm and Guillaume Rieger and they founded a perfume company in 1860. I found a reference to Violet Perfume then and in about 1910. The style of the label tips me off that this is an old, old bottle but how can it still smell so good?

And there is another Rieger connection:Paul Rieger of California was famous for his ‘flower drops’ perfumes from the early part of the 20th century. There are a ton of Paul Rieger ads for sale on eBay, all clipped from magazines that survived until now. Apparently flower drops were THE perfume to give and wear as the ads are everywhere. There are still many actual flower drops bottles around with CALIFORNIA flower drops printed on the labels.v6

The two Rieger thing was making me as crazy as a raccoon with a can opener and a six pack of tuna. Paul Rieger and Wilhelm Rieger? How does this whole thing go together? That’s just too much of a coinkydink as my mom would have said. A few more hours of digging (God bless the internet and my research abilities) and I uncovered the 1910 San Francisco Crocker-Langley City Guide. Bingo. Paul Rieger, big wig San Francisco perfumer, is the owner of Paul Rieger Perfumes but guess who the manager is? William Rieger. I’m betting Wilhelm became William in America. There is even a Mrs. Paul Rieger, widow, listed so there may have have been even more Rieger generations in the Bay Area.

  Croaker Langley Directory

Croaker Langley Directory

Paul Reiger must have been a marketing genius, his perfumes were in Saturday Evening Post, Sunset Magazine, Photo Play and every magazine out there at the time. Reiger’s Flower Drops was the 1910 creation of Paul Rieger, but I’m betting someone else in the family made them first back in Germany and the family took the concept to the new world and unleashed it.

“Reiger’s Flower Drops were advertised as the ‘soul of the flowers’ and ‘lasting 50 times as long as ordinary perfumes’ and ‘the rarest and finest perfume ever produced. One bottle holds all the delightful fragrance crushed from thousands of living blossoms. The acme of elegance and refinement-entirely different from any other perfume you have ever known.’

The regular sized vials were about 3ml and retailed for $1.50, sample sizes were available for 20 cents.” (quote from Cleopatra’s Boudoir perfume blog)

The secret to the fragrance and my own ah ha moment was in discovering they used no alcohol in the process. In addition it’s been stored in the dark for all that time in it’s little maple coffret, and probably somewhere nice and cool to boot. This is straight concentrated oil of violet, and that is why it has lasted perhaps 100 years. If this fragrance was acquired as late as 1929 it’s still  74 years old.

Why 1929? The McKinley Tariff Act of 1930 meant everything imported had to be marked with its country of origin, as in “Made in”.  This says Frankfurt a/M, it does not say Germany, therefore it landed in the USA before the tariff did. Additionally, it predates the California Flower Drops labeling although it is similar. This purple foil label is so over the top that it has Victorian style all over it, so I’m educated guessing it was made about 1890 or so.

Imagine, this scent was created before there were telephones, or record players, or commercial airline flights, or typewriters, or plastic, or refrigerators or ball point pens or mechanical pencils, or flush toilets, washing machines and running water in every house- and it’s still alive.

I will keep it and wear it and enjoy every single lovely drop of time I wear on my wrists, I think it’s better than a watch because it doesn’t just mark time, it has kept it alive.



Perris, Trains and Tracks and Time


Marji in front of our house, you can see the railroad tracks and downtown behind her in the distance.

In rummaging about for an appropriate offering for Throw Back Thursday, a fun Facebook phenomenon, I found a wonderful old photo of my sister standing at the gate of our house in Perris. Looking at the photograph  brought back so many memories of times that are fading. Like it or not, I have become one of those people who remember “the old days”. It seems very strange that the old days are the 1950s and the 1960s. As a teenager of about 13, I used think how appalling it would to be 50 and so very old. At the age of 65 I look back and realize just how young 50 is.

Grocery shopping in Germany was a little different

Grocery shopping in Germany at the markets was different but I loved it.

I had  most of a real American graffiti childhood in a small town in California. It was rudely and wonderfully interrupted when I was 8 and my Air Force father was sent to Germany.  That was 1956, I got home again in 1962, and I never quite fit in again. Looking back now, I think it was a blessing instead of a curse, although at the time I would have begged to differ. I thought how different my life would be if I had never left, if I had always been one of the gang instead of trying to figure out to reinvent myself to fit.

Because I was always a little out of step, I felt like that person at the dance that is watching everyone else’s feet to try and figure out the dance steps. Trying not to be obvious about not knowing what to do and watching my surroundings like a hawk I developed an artist’s eye and sensibilities early. That was the blessing although I didn’t know it until later.

Perris Train Depot

The Perris depot, right down the street from our house

There were some halcyon days and months in my childhood in Perris among the tough times with my mother.  I remember having dinner on summer evenings and then being allowed to go out and play until dark. Escaping into games of hide-and-go seek and tag until the stars came out.  There was always one cat under every streetlight, like they had been assigned to catch each night’s moths.   I liked to sit at the open window in my upstairs unheated bedroom, which was freezing in the winter and meltingly hot in the Southern California summer, listening to the engines purring on the tracks. That was my lullaby, locomotives just waiting, rumbling like big cats all night long half a block away.

We lived in a farm town, and onions and potatoes and the sheds where they were packed and shipped were a fact of life. The tracks ran right behind the main street, right behind the single row of town businesses that made up downtown. Packing sheds were strung along the tracks the entire length of the town and locomotives would pull in and park on the sidings waiting for their loads. The depot was just two blocks away, we could see it from our house when we crossed the dusty empty field that was railroad property.

As kids we never wore shoes from about February to November and I have a love/hate relationship with shoes to this day. I love them but they are off my feet far more than on. We were grateful when the city put new white markings on the street to warn of the railroad crossing half a block away.  In the summer, that white stuff never melted in the heat like tar and you could pelt across it barefoot without burning the soles of your feet before jumping into the blessed dust on the other side. Sometimes my mother would send us to Kirkpatrick’s market, a kitty-cornered block from our house to pick up things she’d forgotten to get for dinner. We crossed a field full of stickers, railroad tracks full of  glass and splinters and assorted trains, usually barefoot on a regular basis. Back then you could go in a store with no shoes if you were a kid, I remember still how cool the linoleum felt on the bottoms of  my scorched feet.

Grocery Store in Perris, it was Kirkpatrick's when I was a kid but I'm happy its still there!

Grocery Store in Perris, it was Kirkpatrick’s when I was a kid but I’m happy its still there!

The trains scared me when I was small and I was terrified that I couldn’t get off the tracks fast enough, although walking on the rails themselves to the sidewalk was easier than crossing 20 feet of rusty nails, rock and broken glass. We would stand close enough to the trains to feel the breeze they kicked up as they passed but we knew enough not to get close enough to get hit and to make sure all the tracks were clear before we scampered across.

In my sister’s picture you can see the railroad tracks and the railroad crossing sign in the background. That’s how far away the trains were, from our house. Early one warm spring Sunday morning when I was about 15, I was sitting in my window watching the world go by, when I spotted our fascinating neighbor, Mildred Caylor who lived one block over on B Street.

The back of our house, their is a staircase right behind the window and then fence is a whole other story.

The back of our house, their is a staircase right behind the window and then fence is a whole other story.

Mildred was a blind woman and probably in her late 60s at the time. She had a series of German Shepherd guide dogs and we could see them in their pen when we climbed the Chinaberry tree in the vacant lot down the alley. That tree always had four or five kids building a fort in it and we probably sent the dogs around the bend with our noise and proximity.  On this morning, one of the loopier later members of the menagerie of dogs was guiding Mildred to town. She had a net shopping bag and her handbag and her dog, and they proceeded briskly down the street in front of me and turned the corner and then turned the corner again.

Mildred’s dog  was taking her right down the railroad tracks like something out of a bad movie. I yelled at the top of my lungs. “Mildred’s on the railroad tracks!”  I sprinted down my steep flight of stairs and found my Dad had run out of his bedroom  half asleep to hear my frantic screeched explanation. He bolted out the front door and I ran outside after him, watching in horrified amusement. My father in nothing but his underwear, consisting of tidy whities and an undershirt, was sprinting down the street barefooted. He ran down the tracks, collared Mildred and the dog and hauled her off the tracks. A train came through about sixty seconds later. I don’t know who was shaking most, Dad or Mildred when they got back to the house. Mildred never knew she had been saved by a middle-aged man in his skivvies. She would have been so shocked.

Dad put his clothes on and Mom fed everyone coffee and doughnuts. Later, we got Mildred home in one piece. The dog was replaced a week later and life went on, the trains kept coming and we kept growing up in that magical time and place, Perris, California in the “olden days”.

Main Street, Perris. This hotel was never a hotel in my memory. The Reynolds sisters, elderly ladies lived there, but I was so glad to see it still stood when I was home last year.

Main Street, Perris. This hotel was never a hotel in my memory. The Reynolds sisters, elderly ladies lived there, but I was so glad to see it still stood when I was home last year.