Hello, SUN!!

Dear Liza,

Sunny day at Lone Fir cemetery

With fall getting grey and damp, I had sort of given up on sunny days. But yesterday I wanted a long walk and Grandpa Nelson wanted to visit the zoo, and we got to do both under piercingly blue skies.

We walked through the neighborhoods down to the river and across the Morrison Bridge.

Amazing new building with giant flower pots!!

Because of the elevated bridge approaches, there are a few blocks by the river that feel sort of spooky and underground… not places to be after dark, anyway.

But being there on foot gives great perspectives on new buildings going up. This colorful new building has huge flower-pot shaped planters attached to the outside with trees growing in them!

Sparkles on the Willamette River

We crossed the Morrison Bridge, enjoying the brilliant sunshine reflecting in the Willamette. The stiff breeze made my wool sweater and leather jacket feel just about right.

We could have continued walking once we got downtown, but the climb to the top of Washington Park would have worn us out. We took the train and then the super fast elevator up to the top of the hill. ZOOM!

Inches away from a Bald Eagle

The zoo was practically empty, just the way we like it. A few groups of moms with small kids in strollers, some brave grandparents, and us. We got to spent quality time with the giraffes, talking with their keeper, Virginia. She told us that the zoo tries to never anesthetize giraffes. Becoming unconscious means falling down, which can be deadly for the tall, spindly animals.

Did you know giraffes love carrots?

While she was feeding the Masai and Reticulated giraffes their carrot treats, we got to see their twenty inch black tongues! It was adorable and creepy at the same time.

Virginia, goddess of carrots

We got to watch as the cheetahs prowled their enclosure. We felt a bit anxious realizing that we were just one pane of glass away from becoming lunch. The graceful cheetahs could run us down like a rocket. It was delightful.

Eyeing his lunch….

I will tell you more tomorrow!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Thinking about Turkey

Dear Liza,

Momma Billie Evans, in her Lompoc kitchen, circa 2009

It is now just a week before I get to start fixing things for Thanksgiving. The day before the holiday will also be Cousin Jasper’s 10th birthday, so there will be party preparations, as well.

It is odd that when I look back on past Thanksgivings I remember the family and games, but when I look forward to the upcoming one, I think of the food that needs making. Particularly, the turkey.

Salinas Thanksgiving set-up and eight year old Kyle

For whatever reason, I have never had any success with roasting the enormous birds. They are never done right, either too pink or stone dry, and investing that much money and energy into something that I have no confidence in was, and is, exhausting.

Ping pong with my brothers, 1960

Back when I was a kid, Thanksgiving was a dizzying blur of family and food. An assortment of my dad’s large family would show up early in the day, and we would climb trees and ride bikes until tons of food magically appeared, weighing down Momma’s old table. We ate, watched football, and played cards and Scrabble until the day just faded away.

Even when my kids came and I was THE MOM, we still went to my parents’ house for the holiday. I helped, of course, but the dinner-making magic was still my mother’s magic.

Grandpa Nelson, me, Auntie Christy and Uncle Jim, in Lompoc

The year my sister-in-law Christy suggested my then-85-year-old Momma order the dinner from the local Von’s Market was a revelation. Food and family without wearing out the Mom! Thanks, Christy!

After Momma passed we would go to visit Auntie Bridgett’s family for the holiday. There were three turkeys, three cooks, and literally a twenty-foot-long table. Again, I was off the hook for the BIG stuff.

Twenty foot long table in San Diego

We are staying home this year. There will be fewer folks around Momma’s same old table. And, at the urging of Grandpa Nelson and Auntie Bridgett and thanks to Christy, we are ordering our turkey already roasted from the local market. I can now look forward to family and games.

Thanks, guys!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Books with Pictures Update

Dear Liza,

Books with Pictures

I have told you about Auntie Katie’s store, Books with Pictures, down on Division Street here in Portland. After thriving in a rented space at 12th and Division for three years, her new shop opened this past July 6th, after a huge building renovation and a community assisted, bike-centric moving day. It was a lot of work!

It’s a big job!

Katie was able to buy the 1927 building with the help of investors, and paid for the move and repairs with a Kickstarter campaign. As with all Kickstarters, she posted it on Facebook.

Auntie Katie stepping up and learning new skills

She offered different rewards for different levels of pledges, and raised more than she asked for! And yesterday, the pledge rewards arrived. The shop is full of them! Art prints, t-shirts, tote bags and other goodies are in boxes, waiting for Katie’s supporters. Many local fans will come by and pick the goodies up. Those destined for folks from out of town will be mailed.

I am so proud of Auntie Katie. She has taken her wild dream of owning and running an inclusive, community supporting bookshop, and made it happen. When lack of money got in the way, she figured out how to get it. When too much work was the obstacle, she worked harder. She learned about plumbing, electricity, and woodworking. She hired skilled friends and worked with them.

It takes a crew!

And all this while raising Cousins Jasper and Kestrel to be kind, confident, and well-read kids.

My Kickstarter reward

Word has spread that Books with Pictures is THE place to go for comics, graphic novels, and illustrated books. When I am out and about in town and I mention Books with Pictures, people know it and love it. “Katie’s your daughter?” They say. “She’s wonderful!”

I agree.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Across the Banfield

Dear Liza,

Multi-leveled tree

I wanted to go for a walk the other day., and Grandpa Nelson decided to come with me. It looked like it could rain, so of course we left the umbrella at home.

Walking through the Laurelhurst neighborhood, we kept a sharp lookout for early Christmas decorations. We had read about a family that got scolded by their neighborhood association for putting up trees and such “too early”. But we didn’t see any!

Puzzled turkey

What we did see was evidence of Thanksgiving and football loyalties. This turkey looks bit puzzled, as though he suspects his owners are not committed to his long term good health. His family also supports the Washington State Cougars.

Down the block we found this house with an inflated Bernie Beaver out front, so there is a lot of college football love around here.

Go, Beavers!

Going north, Grandpa Nelson showed me this nifty pedestrian bridge over the Banfield Freeway. It is very noisy, going over ten lanes of traffic, but gets you safely across, anyway.

Stairs up to pedestrian bridge

What is odd that the little bridge transports you from the tree-heavy, arts and crafts neighborhood of Laurelhurst smack dab into the middle of the bustling Hollywood District.

The Bustling Banfield Freeway

By now I realized Grandpa Nelson’s hidden agenda: Fleur de Lis Bakery! Of course, I was a willing participant. The croissants were lovely.

So much yellow!

By the time we walked back home, we had covered about 5 miles and were well worn out. But what a nice adventure into the fall colors!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Winter Comes Dripping In

Dear Liza,

I know winter doesn’t really start until December 21st, but it feels like it has already landed here in Portland.

The leaves have fallen from most of the maples. The ginkgoes are still blazing yellow, as if trying to hold off winter’s arrival. But it is cold. It is dark. And it is wet.

Inside where it is warm and dry, we are planning for Thanksgiving. The turkey will be bought pre-cooked from New Seasons Markets but the rest will be homemade…two potatoes, two breads, and maybe three pies, as Auntie Katie has offered two!! And cookies, of course.

Evenings are long now that it gets dark at five o’clock. I have gotten fabric out for another ‘Circles’ pillow. I’ve gotten some books from the library to read to help me with my Teacher Voice problem.

Scrabble games are a regular thing. Last night’s went wrong in a spectacular way….we managed to play ourselves into a corner and almost couldn’t finish!

And, although it seems a bit premature, Christmas movies are being listed, researched and pulled from their boxes. The Bishop’s Wife and Charlie Brown, We’re No Angels and way too many of the Christmas Carols. We have our priorities, after all.

We are ready for winter!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Teacher Voice

Dear Liza,

THIS is the sort of reader interest I’m after…

I was a teacher for thirty years. It was my job, my passion, my hobby. It became who I was.

Teachers talk about their “Teacher voice”. This is loud (but not yelling) way that teachers get thirty kids to listen to them. It can be stern, or disapproving. It is usually just matter-of- fact. But it is never FUN. It is never meant to make folks feel at ease or get them to laugh. It is an information delivery system.

Mine was good, too. I speak fluent Teacher.

My fellow Teacher- Speakers

Writers also talk about their Voice. It is their point of view, their style, their way of choosing words to make readers feel a certain way. It needs to be easy to read, entertaining, quirky. FUN.

Unfortunately for me, my Teacher voice seems to be getting in the way of my Writer voice. After months of studious revision, I still write with a very strong Teacher accent.

On the way to the Japanese Garden yesterday, Jasper asked me to remind him about Sacajawea, whose statue we passed. “But don’t say it like a teacher,” he said.

First, I determined not to be offended. This is a perfect “out of the mouths of babes” moment. I needed to learn from it.

Then I saw that if I couldn’t use my Teacher voice, I needed to use another voice, any other voice. You can’t speak without a Voice! So I borrowed a New York/ New Jersey gangster voice, jiggling my shoulders like James Cagney to help it along.

“Okay, see, there’s this President, see, Thomas Jefferson. Nice guy, writes well, even doh he owns slaves. He sends these two guys, Lewis and Clark, haulin’ clear across the country. Go! He says. These poor slobs had No Idea where they were going!” I went on to tell a shortened version of the story, just enough to make Jasper laugh and let him remember what he knew about Sacajawea.

Ironically, the main character of my story is a little girl who has become mute due to trauma. She has literally lost her voice.

How can I find my own voice to tell this story? How could I possibly write my story, in someone else’s voice?

Love,

Grandma Judy

Japanese Garden with Cousins

Dear Liza,

I love visiting the Japanese Garden here in Portland. It is a wonderful collection of smaller gardens situated on a hilly section of Washington Park. There is always something new and delightful to see.

Stunning fall light in Ladd’s Addition

Yesterday, Cousins Jasper and Kestrel went with me! We usually visit the Lan Su Chinese Garden downtown, but Jasper suggested going up the hill and Kestrel agreed.

Jasper being scrambled eggs

After we caught the number 2 bus and got downtown, we had fifteen blocks to walk and about half an hour to catch the 63 bus that would take us up the hill. We strolled through the city streets, playing with public art and making up stories about the statues.

Kestrel at Providence Park bus stop

There was a long line at the entrance to the garden, and the kids worried about not being able to enjoy it because of the crowd. We decided to risk it.

Finding the space between the crowds

It turns out, crowds in a garden are like freight trains in a neighborhood. They are noisy and annoying, but if you wait a minute, they blow through, leaving peace behind.

There is an art exhibit at the Pavilion Gallery called “Re-Fashioning Beauty”. The brochure says it is about “embracing past icons of Japanese beauty while looking forward.” There were several articles, never meant to be worn, showing the natural but ridiculous evolution of the platform shoe.

They make my toes hurt just looking at them!

There were also three foot tall Geisha-style hairpins, but they weren’t as interesting as these swords and other pieces of sculpture set into perfectly clear blocks of resin. We all became fascinated with the refraction of light though the blocks and spent a long time just moving, squinting, and looking.

“What am I seeing?”

Because of the way the art was displayed, I would never have noticed the refraction on my own: The kids found it because they were at exactly the right height. Playing with light became the new game.

Multiplying Jasper

We told stories, climbed steps, crossed bridges, and had a high old time.

Our trip home became a cascade of bumps on the road. We got hungry and checked out the Umami Cafe, but found food not acceptable to picky eaters. I remembered our friendly vendor at the Rose Garden. We headed down for kid friendly snacks, but he had packed up for other locations for the winter.

Fabulous, but stinky, Gingko tree

We made do with a candy bar from the gift shop and went to catch the bus back to town. But (another snag!) that bus wouldn’t arrive for almost an hour! I made an executive decision. We would walk down the hill.

The last of the roses for this year…

This was not a popular idea, as it turned out, but one I was willing to stick with. We actually had a nice surprise, running into our old friend, Rabbi Bruce Kadden, on the way! But energy and patience were running out, so a quick hug and how do you do, and off we went.

The cousins and I chatted and rolled balls down the path until we got to Burnside, where we caught a bus to another bus and eventually ended up at Auntie Katie’s store. Minutes later, Auntie Bridgett picked me up.

It was time for a quick dinner and restful evening. Being a Grandma is fun, but hard work!

Love,

Grandma Judy