Sports in Perspective

Dear Liza,

We have always been an active family. When I was young, and when your Daddy David and Auntie Katie were young, we camped and hiked.

Katie played softball for a few years and David sailed in high school.

But while watching the Olympics this week, I realize that we aren’t really a ‘sports’ oriented family. We are not competitive. We have fun whether we win or lose.

We play games to have fun, to spend time together, and to work up an appetite, more than to win.

I understand the benefits of competition, I really do, but recent year’s Olympics have shown the more harmful side of pushing young bodies to their limits, and I am glad we play just to play.

I won’t be bringing home any medals in this lifetime. And I’m okay with that.


Grandma Judy

Late Summer Magic

Dear Liza,

Welcome to August! I can’t believe this summer is racing past so quickly.

The heat wave here in Portland has sort of upended my usual way of doing things. Since it is so hot in the afternoon, I go to the vegetable plot early to water and harvest the zucchinis, and to check on the tomatoes and pumpkins.

Some days it feels like a race to harvest and eat as fast as they are growing. My gardener friend Tonya has clued us in on how to freeze zucchini to use later, when it isn’t too hot to bake.

Inside the house, Auntie Bridgett’s Sundew (which she bought to eat the fungus flies…. Don’t get me started) is blooming! The perfect, delicate spiral is so pretty!

At Laurelhurst Park, the local Faerie Folk have been out improving their summer homes.

Morning Glories are creating some accidental beauty on telephone poles. They follow the spiral growth model, climbing around and around.

And last but definitely not least, the sunflower that has made this dead chestnut tree its new home. The tree was fatally pruned to a height of about ten feet. I am glad it is having a useful afterlife.

We should all be so fortunate.


Grandma Judy

There and Back Again

Dear Liza,

For the past year and a half, we have all felt sort of trapped in our homes. Even those of us who really LIKE our houses have felt stuck. With everything closed up, there was nowhere to go. With everyone masked, there was no one to see.

It was for me, a very comfy, familiar imprisonment. I love my home, and I love my people. But being told I CAN’T do something always gets my contrarian hackles up.

And now that people can go out and travel more, I am stretching my legs. I just spent a whole week away from my dear home and people, way across town. This was a favor, an adventure, and a sabbatical, all rolled into one. It was a good time-out-of-time for me to work on a new story idea about a cat detective.

I wonder what changes other people are noticing, what ideas they are having time to ponder while they are having their own sabbaticals.

Will this pandemic lead to people making career and life changes? And when all the changes are done, how will the world settle in?

“Fasten your seat belts,” Bette Davis said in All About Eve. “It’s going to be a bumpy night.”


Grandma Judy

Back Home

Dear Liza,

I was in Lake Oswego for a week, and I got home yesterday. After a long wonderful afternoon of hanging out with Grandpa Nelson and snuggling with Mouse the cat, I had to go see what was happening in my plot in the Blair Community Garden.

My neighbor and garden-mate Tonya, whose tomato bushes are taller than me, had said she would water my plot. But you never know.

I will never doubt Tonya again! My garden looks like it is on steroids!

The zucchini plant has spread over the stepping stones, is nudging the lavender and crowding the new ladder I set up for the pumpkin. The whole place looks like it is preparing to run amok.

The tomatoes are setting!!

And there are enough zucchinis to feed us for a week.

What a wonderful homecoming. Now I just have to find a way to support that pumpkin before it snaps.

And, of course, make some cookies for Tonya.


Grandma Judy

Tryon Creek State Park

Dear Liza,

While I was in Lake Oswego, we made the most of being close to a state park. Grandpa Nelson, Auntie Katie and cousins Jasper and Kestrel all came down and we had a fun afternoon.

Since Tryon Creek runs right through the middle of the park, the trails in and out of the park are steep : DOWN going in, UP coming out. You start in an ivy covered, sparely spaced wood, and hike down to a fairy land forest of mushrooms, marshy berry patches, and ghostly trees.

The park doesn’t have any picnic tables, but we found a fine fallen log to enjoy our lunch on. Right near it was a “seesaw” , made of another fallen tree wedged in between two standing trees. Jasper and Kestrel, with Auntie Katie’s help, got it balanced and made it work!

Besides the seesaw, we found, further on, a “slide”, which Kestrel came down and lost some skin, and a “swing” created by a very loopy growing branch.

There was so much to see! Katie and the cousins climbed down to a boggy spot and found wonderful fungi growing in logs, and we found more just growing by the trail. This would be a perfect home for some goblins.

All in all, it was a day to have fun and remember what wonderful people my grandkids (and daughter!) are growing into!

(And now one with just the girls!)

We drank about a gallon of water and had nice long naps when we got home. What a wonderful day!


Grandma Judy

Housesitting in the Hills

Dear Liza,

These past few days, I have been staying at my friend Amy’s house in Lake Oswego. She and her husband are away visiting their brand new grand baby, and they needed someone to take care of the cats and water their garden. That someone is me.

Lake Oswego is different from the Sunnyside neighborhood where I live. For example, my house is a small condominium in a very crowded neighborhood. There are about 25 people living in 12 different houses in the same space as this one house and yard. This is very much ‘out in the hills’.

And because of that, the neighbors are different. I have been visited by a deer and her two babies, who stopped by but decided that the roofers next door were making too much noise. A squirrel dashed up a tree, stopping just long enough to give me his opinion.

A woodpecker knocked himself senseless flying into the kitchen window and sat on the flagstones for a few minutes, looking like a tiny, disoriented pterodactyl. He flew away just as I was figuring out what box to put him in for transport to the Audubon Society.

The sounds are different here, too. Once the roofers take a break, it is very quiet for a very long time. When the sun goes down there is a wind that fills up the space with the sound of millions of leaves dancing. You don’t hear motorcycles, sirens, other people’s music, or even the chatter of pedestrians, because, being so far out of town, most people drive to get around. It can feel sort of lonely, to be honest.


The cats here are different, too. Terri and Charlie were strangers to me when I arrived, and I didn’t see them for a whole day. Then one evening, Terri came down to the guest room and stared at me from the doorway, dashing away when I moved. The next day was the same. The third day, I found her in her cat tower and gave her some scritches.


Now, she and Charlie come down every evening to get petted, pounce around, and interfere with my solitaire Scrabble game. They still haven’t sat in my lap, but I will be patient.

I am missing Auntie Bridgett, who is in San Diego with her family, and Grandpa Nelson, who is home taking care of Mouse. But we will all be together soon.

And then, maybe you can come visit!


Grandma Judy

Out and About in Lake Oswego

Dear Liza,

Grandpa Nelson came to take me out to lunch the other day. I like it here in Lake Oswego, getting to know the cats and watering the garden, but I do love company!

We drove down to the actual Lake that Lake Oswego, the town, is named for. It is a very pretty lake, surrounded by groves of trees and houses, piers and small boats. There are lots of shops and restaurants, too. People rich enough to build and buy houses on the lake want fancy places to shop and eat. Once these lovely places are built, other folks, like us, come to visit and shop, too.

We walked in the sunshine past public art and fountains down to the lake, looking for a place to have lunch. We saw folks out on the lake, on kayaks and SUP boards, enjoying the sun and the water.

Stickmen’s Lakeside Smokehouse and Brewery served us a wonderful lunch. The staff was very friendly, the pulled pork sandwich excellent, the beer cold and sweet, and the views delightful.

We saw crowds of happy, pretty people, walking, eating, and driving all around town. Families with kids in swimsuits, life jackets and flip flops, teenagers on colorful skateboards, and lots of well-cared-for cars.

Up ahead, I saw a Salt and Straw Ice Cream shop, which I thought was Grandpa Nelson’s destination.

But nope, we continued past, finding a new and different ice cream parlor!

We have visited Tillamook, where they make Tillamook ice cream, and know that they do good work. Besides, a place to sit in air conditioning seemed a good idea. And so it was.

Once we had finished, Grandpa Nelson drove me back to ‘my’ house in the hills, and headed back to Portland. I had a quiet evening with Amy’s cats who are becoming more friendly by the day. Here is Charlie, showing how pretty he is.


Grandma Judy

Living with Intention

Dear Liza,

Walking in a different part of the neighborhood the other day, I came across a printed page in a small display case. It was a list of life instructions, written as a gift from a departed friend. In order to help you remember these good lessons, I will illustrate them with family photographs.

1. Walk to the edge

2. Listen hard

3. Practice wellness

4. Play with abandon

5. Laugh

6. Choose without regret

7. Appreciate your friends

8. Continue to learn

9. Do what you love

10. Live as if this is all there is


Grandma Judy

Takin’ it Downtown Part 2

Dear Liza,

After we said good-bye to Jack at Cult, we headed off for a sit down and some refreshment. We knew where there was a good coffee place, so we headed a block up and a block over to Barista. Iced coffee and some A/C sure help on a hot day!

Grandpa Nelson felt better, but was wearing out quickly. He decided to get on the number 20 and head home. Auntie Bridgett and I still had a few places to visit, since we’d come all this way. Along the way, we passed this delightful doorway. Of course, they are a frame shop!!

We continued to Oblation, where they sell nifty cards and writing supplies, including selections from their International Pencil bar. I thought it was a joke, but Auntie loved it!

We also enjoyed looking at their collection of restored manual typewriters.

Our final stop of the day was Dick Blick, a good sized art supplies store. They have just about any pens, pencils, paints, brushes, paper, canvas, beads, plaster, or clay you could want.

They also have a very earth friendly up-cycled basketball court as their floor.

Well, downtown is coming back to life. There are some folks still living on the sidewalks and in the parks, which isn’t really good for them or the city. Some stores are closed and some are damaged. But I am crossing my fingers that the worst is behind us.

And with that happy note, I show you some of our lovely old skyline… trees, clouds, and the Benson Hotel, built in 1913.


Grandma Judy

Takin’ it Downtown Part 1

Dear Liza,

We haven’t been to downtown Portland for a long time. The pandemic shut down, followed by the riots and the damage they caused, made it feel just too bleak, like a scene out of a “Last Man on Earth” movie.

But on Saturday, we all got on the number 15 bus and went. With so many people vaccinated and stores being repaired, it is bustling! There are still some boarded up or empty storefronts. It is not 100%, but it is so much better than I expected.

We walked from downtown a few blocks north to the Pearl District, finding interesting things along the way. The Doc Martins shoe store has closed, though their building is easily spotted by the giant shoe print. Their window is now being used as an ad for Sizzle Pie, a local pizza franchise. We walked through the pop-up Moon Market, finding delicious cookies at Butterbakes. Yum!

And then we found what we had come for. CULT! This is a quirky, artsy shop, selling toys, collectibles, art, and books. Our friend Jack Kent, who does a series of cartoons and books called “Sketchy People”, was there, signing and selling his latest work. It was good to see him and pick up a new book.

CULT has more weird and wonderful things than I can show you here, but let this incredibly realistic hand flower holder give you an idea. There were also models of old school “Visible Man” biology models, but with ‘aliens’, and kitchenware with a dark sense of humor.

It was a silly, odd and thought provoking feast for the eyes.

And there was drawing paper! Of course Auntie Bridgett stepped up and put a little Auntie Beeswax up for the world to enjoy.

As the afternoon progressed, the shop got really crowded (hooray for sales!) and we needed to step out. But we weren’t done yet. I’ll tell you what happened next, tomorrow!


Grandma Judy