Sewing for… Just Me

Dear Liza,

Isaac’s second quilt

I learned to sew back in college, when I needed inexpensive clothes to work in, and since then sewing has been a useful, interesting hobby. I sewed prom dresses for Auntie Katie, baby quilts for friends and family, and clothes for dolls and stuffties.

Tani with Naio’s quilt

Sewing has been a gift I can give to those I love.

And now, I’m doing some just for me. It may not turn out to be anything, but since I’m stuck inside and my story is on hold for a while, what have I got to lose?

Our neighborhood in Salinas…University Park School on the left

I love maps, as you know, and have spent some time trying to combine quilting and map making. I made you this map of our Salinas neighborhood, and this More abstract one of where the Salinas River flows into the ocean near Castroville.

Where the Salinas River meets the sea
Promising fabric….

A few years ago, I found this map-printed fabric. It looked perfect, like scenery from an airplane… what wonderful things could I do with it? Well, as it turns out, not what I had planned. The sections are TINY and not suitable for the appliqué I wanted.

Frustrated, I decided the printed lines were not the boss of me.
So this is my new project, where it is now. It looks pretty clunky, but we will see.

Some promises are harder to keep…

And since this project has not been promised to anyone, I can proceed into the unknown without fear of disappointing them. It is for me, and I know the risks.


Grandma Judy

Some Signs of Life

Dear Liza,

Even though most of the city is shut down to keep everyone home, socially distanced and safe, some folks are still out and about.

Urban arborists and gardeners are out, making sure the yards are pretty, and that trees are trimmed before the summer growing months.

Yesterday, I stepped out to watch two fellows from General Tree Service do some maintenance on a big alder tree across the street. Alders tend to collect dead wood, they said, and this one had branches hanging over the power lines. They had shinnied up the tree to take down the branches, then ground them into mulch.

And before they left, they swept and collected most of the leaves and bits. They did a very nice job. I thanked them for doing such a good job and giving me an interesting show. They said they were happy to be working at a job they enjoy, especially when so many folks are stuck at home.

Some restaurants are still open, as well. Last night we had a take out burrito and DIY Taco bowl from Laughing Planet on Belmont, as a change from home cooking and to support our local businesses. Then we watched “Clash of the Titans”, the 1981 version with Harry Hamlin.

Tomorrow, I’ll tell you about my new sewing project.


Grandma Judy

Auntie Katie's Finding a Way

Dear Liza,

You know that Auntie Katie has a bookshop called Books with Pictures. She sells comic books, graphic novels, illustrated histories and biographies, and all sorts of wonderful stories. Her store is at 1401 SE Division Street here in Portland and has been doing very well.

But how can you sell books when people can’t come into your store because of the corona virus shutdown? It isn’t easy, surely, but Katie is finding all sorts of ways.

She has set up a Personal Shopping page on her website ( so people can tell her who they are shopping for, what topics they like, and how much they want to spend. Katie knows her books so well, she can match any reader with something they will like.

Before the shut down…

She has set up subscriptions so that people can get their favorite newly-released comics every month, or Katie herself will choose books like the ones customers have enjoyed in the past.

Delivering for the people!

She is doing curbside pick-up of these books, so that while you are out getting groceries, you can let her know you are on the way and she’ll have the books ready for you with proper social distancing protocols.

Katie is even doing deliveries! She is driving all over town in the evenings, dropping off books on people’s doorsteps like a literary Santa Claus.

I have always been proud of your Auntie Katie. She makes brave choices and works hard to make them work. She values her community and they, in turn, value her. If anyone can make this work, she can.

Working hard!


Grandma Judy

Small Business Woes

Dear Liza,

One of the reasons we bought the house we did, here in the Southeast part of Portland, is because of the neighborhood. It is a nice mix of Victorian style homes and newer houses, full of big trees and rhododendron bushes, and just a few blocks away from fabulous Laurelhurst Park.

It is also close to dozens of bars, restaurants, and cool shops, and even a Korean grocery store. We love being able to walk less than a block for milk or eggs at H Mart.

But it is the little restaurants and the people who run them that make our Friday nights special. Pulled pork, shrimp with grits, a glass of wine while hanging with David at at the Hobnob. Watching scifi movies and having dessert with Mitch at The Nerd Out. Street tacos and chatting with Gilly at Ankeny Tap and Table. Making our own birthday pancakes at SlappyCakes. You know, the good times.

And it is exactly these small restaurants that are suffering during the shut down mandated by the corona virus. Keeping everyone safe and distant means the dining rooms have to close, and there just isn’t enough take-out business.

The only businesses close by that are doing well are H Mart and the smaller convenience stores like Plaid Pantry and Belmont Market, and pizza places like Baby Doll and Straight From New York Pizza, who are doing take out and even free delivery.

I am worried about a lot of things, lately. Staying healthy, and keeping Auntie Bridgett and Grandpa Nelson well. What this virus’s stay in our country will cost in jobs and retirement investments. Whether our Federal government, which doesn’t seem to have a good grasp on things, is going to make things better instead of worse.

But I am also worried about the survival of the small businesses that make our neighborhood special.


Grandma Judy

Happy Birthday to Me

Dear Liza,

In house decorations

I turned 64 last week, just a week or so after the self-quarantine-ing became a big thing. We three walked to Whole Foods, on Burnside, who are limiting the number of people in the store at one time to reduce crowding. We got birthday dinner fixings, and then stopped by Vino for a wonderful French red to keep us company.

My florist…

Auntie Bridgett even got flowers, and we walked home to read, write, do art, practice French, and wait for dinner.

We prettied things up, of course, because, you know, BIRTHDAY! It was fun getting out serving pieces that were gifts from family and friends, and thinking about the folks who weren’t with us.

My grocery delivery guy….

After dinner we walked through Laurelhurst Park, very aware that any day now, Mayor Wheeler and Governor Brown are going to put out the shelter-in-place order. We enjoyed the frisbee dogs, rhododendron blooms, and ducks. We even got a Unipiper ride by! He was playing The Superman Theme Song…very heroic.

The miraculous Unipiper

I’m sure I will find things to write about in the coming weeks, as the city shuts down. My brain has always been my best friend and has lots of interesting things to say.


Grandma Judy

Smiling Anyway

Me and Momma, having fun at Coyote Creek

Dear Liza,

My first reaction to “shelter in place to slow the spread of the corona virus” was mature and calm. NONONONONO! YOU CAN’T MAKE ME!

Grandpa Lowell, Phil Conway and Stella

But then, in my mind, I saw my Momma smiling at me. This woman was the dictionary definition of adaptable. She camped out, every weekend, with three children, in sun and rain and wind, and often, no toilets or running water.

My Dad, Lowell, was the outdoorsy type. With a 9 by 12 canvas tent, a camping box packed with cast iron pans and melamine plates, and a Coleman stove, he led us to make a new home every weekend in the forests and deserts of California.

Baby me, Grandpa Lowell and Grandma Billie
Dinner’s here!

We were a working class family, with not much money for vacations. Besides, Dad said, camping built character. It was good for kids to get out of town and run, hike, and fish. It was good to ‘figure things out’ when things went wrong.

And he was right. My brothers and I grew in ways that are hard to measure. We figured out how to create a shower stall from Tupperware and canvas, or make a beer cooler in the river.

Full disclosure: There were some snafus. I jumped into a bunch of nettles, barefoot, and had to be carried home. Brother Tim caught his ear with a fish hook while learning to fly fish. Brother Jim rebelled and stayed in the tent for a whole long weekend, reading MAD magazine. But it all worked out eventually.

Her first fish ever, caught on her honeymoon. Smiling anyway.

Momma was not originally in favor of this situation, but long before I was born, the subject had been settled. She negotiated with Dad that, since she did all the cooking at home, HE should be the ‘chef du foret’. This gave her time off from the chore, which is much harder outdoors, and let her feel more positively about the adventures. She was able to make it work.

So, when we were told, this week, the opposite of Dad’s mandate, NOT to go outdoors, NOT to be adventurous, it stumped me for a minute. But Momma’s willingness to make the best of a situation, to be flexible and smile anyway, will carry me through.

I will study French, write my story, play Scrabble, pet cats, make cookies, and smile anyway.

Happy Sheltering in Place!


Grandma Judy

Remembering Momma

Dear Liza,

Hazel, a friend, and Willie Vee, taking a break from picking cotton

As I have written in several other posts, your Great Grandma Billie was a very special lady. She was born and given the name Willie Vee Deal in Canute, Oklahoma, in 1921. She died 7 years ago today at the age of 92.

She was a typical woman of her generation, I suppose. She grew up on a small farm in Southwestern Oklahoma, picking cotton with her sisters and learning to drive a tractor at twelve.

She and her sister Hazel once daringly skipped Sunday School to watch a Nelson Eddie and Janet McDonald movie, but nearly died of fright when she caught sight of an uncle, and feared he would tell on them. “Silly,” Hazel said. “How would he explain that HE wasn’t in church?”

The two left Canute in 1943 so Hazel could be close to her fiancé, Raymond, who was stationed in San Diego. They built airplanes for Douglass Aircraft and lived the life of newly-independent young women.

Douglass was where her named changed from Willie Vee to Billie. “We’ve already got three Oakies on the floor named Willie”, said her foreman. “You’re Bill.” So she became Billie. She and Hazel joined the bowling league, used their ration books to buy sugar, and always went on double dates because so few fellows had cars.

Willie Vee (Billie) and Hazel, being like Rosie the Riveter

Momma met Dad because they worked in the same factory, but they didn’t meet at work. Momma wrote the company newsletter which was sent to ‘the boys’ who had been drafted or enlisted, to keep them up on who was dating whom and what the latest jokes were. Dad was one of the recipients of this monthly newsletter.

Dad in the Pacific (top left)

When he came to California on leave, he went home to Delano and found that his wife (who is now known as his first wife) had been using his paychecks to set up housekeeping with another fellow. He was heartbroken, his future down the drain. He did what any American boy would do, he said. He got drunk.

He somehow got on the bus and back to Manhattan Beach, the only other address he knew in California… Momma’s return address from the newsletter. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Wedding day giggles

Momma took a chance on this divorced, card playing man, against her Methodist family’s wishes, and it worked out fine. They were giddily, happily married for 50 years.

Momma was a farm girl, a riveter, a mother, a librarian, a Little League baseball hot dog maker, a camper, a seamstress, and a role model for joy and loving-kindness. She is with me everyday, making sure I do my best for those around me.

Me and Momma in Sedona, 2000

I hope you and your family are taking care of each other during this odd time of Sheltering in Place.


Grandma Judy