Neighborhood Delights

Dear Liza,

The last few days have been a mixture of hard work and just plain fun. The work has come from sorting and parting with books, lifting them up and down three flights of steps, and trying to defy the laws of both physics and Tetris to make them fit.

The fun comes when my brain is full and it is time to go for a walk. This neighborhood, called Sunnyside, is even more walkable than our old place up by Burnside. We are still just a few blocks from Laurelhurst Park, but we are even closer to Belmont Ave. and all the interesting buildings and fun businesses there.

My first night back, we had dinner at the Hobknob Grille, because it is so close to our place and feels like home. Bridgett loves their pulled pork sliders, Grandpa Nelson loves their fries, and I think their macaroni and cheese is too good to be true. They also have friendly, silly waiters and good beer and cider.

The Bare Bones Bar and Grille is just across the street and down a bit, and has three sections: a breakfast place, a bar next door, and a game room in the back. I like the game room because they have our favorite, MedievalMadness, and a very fast Indiana Jones game.

Walking to and from these lovely establishments, we pass tiny libraries, murals, and spring blooming everythings.

Yesterday Bridgett and I made a longer walk of it and went to visit the dead people at Lone Fir Cemetery. It was lovely, peaceful, and full of very busy squirrels, who want to be everywhere and don’t want anyone to see them.

As you can tell, I am enjoying being home again, and sad that I need to go back to Salinas come Saturday. I will love being with you for the next month, but will sorely miss my neighborhood.


Grandma Judy

Making Everything Fit

Dear Liza,

I came up to Portland this week because Grandpa Nelson had surgery scheduled. Yesterday, we found out that the doctor was called out of town on an emergency, and the surgery has been postponed. Well, poop. This pushes back the time when he will feel better, be able to walk and sit comfortably, and have energy to enjoy life.

But being my mother’s daughter, I always see the bright side. Not being at the hospital gives me more time to get my office here organized. And boy, does it need it!

As the unused bedroom, my office has been the dumping ground for things that didn’t have a place yet, as well as my sewing and writing supplies, household files, and what seem like tons of books. Don’t get me wrong– we have been culling books for two years– and we are still choking.

We had seven floor to ceiling bookcases in Salinas, as well and bookcases in the living room, bedroom, and both offices. Now we have five smaller cases and half of Bridgett’s office. So half as many books is still too many.

Fortunately, we have good homes to send them to. The Tiny Free Library system here in Portland is wonderful, and our Sunnyside neighborhood is thick with these delightfully decorated, weather-proof book houses on sticks. They will be getting an infusion of new goodies.

Also, Powell’s Books, the largest independent bookstore in the country, has a branch in our neighborhood that buys books! How delightful! And finally, Auntie Katie is setting up her downstairs apartment as a bed and breakfast, and would like to decorate on of the rooms as a kid’s room, so my Make Way for Ducklings and anne if Green Gables will have a place to live and be useful.

So as of this moment, our upstairs landing is lined with boxes to take to Powell’s, a stack to go to Katie, and smaller bags to take with us when we go out for a walk. It’s all going to work out.

So now I just have to fit everything else in! Wish me luck!


Grandma Judy

Portland Spring

Well, I am back in Portland for the week. It is spring, damp, alternately cloudy and sunny, and blooming. Amazingly blooming. The tulips are at their peak, the camellias are almost spent, and the poppy buds are ready to explode.

But what are really cooking right now are the azaleas. Pink. Purple. Yellow. Higher than my head or low to the ground, growing like wild animals in the park or tightly pruned in a small yard, the color is intense and fabulous.

And did I mention the lilac? My mother was a softy for lilac, probably because she could get it to grow and bloom in her native Oklahoma, and because the smell is so sweet. Being from Southern California, I ever really smelled the lilac…the smell is pretty weak in the Cadillac desert. But give it twenty or thirty inches of rain, and the lilac is fabulous! Here, people take walks special just to enjoy the sniffs. And the lilac keepers know it.

Even the walkway in our condominium complex is blooming. The main archway has wisteria growing in it, and there are leaves and tiny buds already. I expect it to be in full bloom when I return.

And some yards have fairy houses in them….


Grandma Judy

Coming Back Home

Dear Liza,

Yesterday you and your Daddy David drove me up to San Jose so I could fly back up here to Portland. Grandpa Nelson has surgery this week and I want to be here. There are papers to sign, of course, but I also want to keep him company and make sure he is comfortable. Auntie Bridgett has been taking such good care of him, but I miss him.

The Minetta Airport at San Jose was monumentally crowded. It was a full hour from when I walked in the door to when I pushed my carry-on bag through the x-ray machine. The TSA agents kept opening up new loops of lines, like at the Pirates of the Caribbean on a summer afternoon. Those of us feeling like we were going to miss the Portland flight bonded in line.Weird sculpture at San Jose

Flying into Portland was wonderful. The Spring weather had been warm and sunny all week, but changed to welcome me home with heavy grey clouds and quite a pelting rain. Seeing Ross Island and the bridges on the Willamette let me know I was back. For unknown reasons, we flew over the west hills rather than around the east side of the city, so I enjoyed a very different view.

Then Auntie Bridgett and Grandpa Nelson met me and we hugged and walked, and walked and hugged, to get my suitcase. I brought home books and other things that are heavy but I won’t be needing my last four weeks in Salinas. It will make packing in June easier, I think.

Then, we were home! My new house on 33rd, which I first saw on the Zillow website in January when my two people started looking at it. When I was here last, in early April, there was no furniture except the piano. It was our house, but it wasn’t a home yet.

But these two wonderful people have been working so hard! Furniture is in, IKEA bookshelves assembled and loaded, and the new couch from Dania gives us a three person sized place to hang out and be together. All the necessities of life have been put away in their proper places.

However, I still don’t know where those places are. At breakfast this morning, I asked every time I needed something. “Sweetie, where is the cereal?” “Where are the tissues?” And I know that just about the time it feels familiar, it will be time to return to Salinas and my Other Life.

Speaking of which, I am realizing why these transfers from Salinas to Portland have felt so jarring. It’s not just that I am in a different place, it’s that I need to be a different person. The expectations of me in each city are very different. As Mrs. Drueding and Grandma Judy, I am endlessly cheerful, patient, and able to adapt my needs to whatever is required at the moment.

Other people’s schedules, arrangements, meetings. Five phone calls in one lesson? “Hello, Room 10”. Watching the kids in the back row passing notes during a math lesson, deliberately NOT noticing and deciding what to do about it while keeping the lesson going? Make it work and keep smiling. It is stressful. It is exhausting. It is why teachers go home wrung out every afternoon.

And of course, in Portland, I am not Mrs. Drueding. I am Judy in the next to the end house. I am Mouse’s other mommy. I am that woman hunkered over old maps of the city at the Historical Society Library, working on a story. I am part-time Grandma Judy to Cousins Jasper and Kestrel.

I have a different life here. And I will have fun living it for a week.


Grandma Judy

Bedtime Routines

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

I have been living at Uncle David’s and Auntie Olga’s house for almost three months now, and I have noticed a few interesting things.

Their house has a lot more technology than mine. This is mostly because Uncle David loves playing with new machines and computers, and finding ways to use them.

He has an alarm clock for Liza that is a light…it starts dim and gets brighter as the sun does. There is also a melody that starts very softly and gets gradually louder, but never gets really loud. He is experimenting with different lights to make a whole room do the gradual light-up thing.

And, on the big desk in the living room, there are three computer screens. One for Uncle David, one for Auntie Olga, and one for Liza. The main way I have seen this screen used is to list Liza’s bedtime routine. Here are her Numbers:liza PJ and hat.jpg

0: Clean up toys

1: Clothes

2: Hairstyle

3: Bedside water

4: Cereal, bowl, spoon

5: Toilet

6: Flossy brushie teethie

7: Pajamas

The family has been using this list for at least a year, and Liza is pretty good at it. She can read all the words, which is nice. But more important, she knows there is a routine and knows where it leads. When we say, “time to start the numbers,” she knows she is about half an hour from bed. I say “about” because depending on her opinion of bedtime that day, she may protest, which is natural. But if she begins to throw a fit, the routine (and the optional stories or videos at the end) are called off and bedtime occurs immediately.

I like this system. Cleaning up daily prevents chaos accumulating. Big projects, like LEGOS, can be waived for a few days. Laying out clothes and hair styles for the next day prevents tempers in crucial morning minutes. Getting breakfast things out speeds this along, too.

It’s not perfect, because perfect parenting is a moving target. Some evenings go more smoothly than others. But the simplicity and consistency make for fewer arguments. It also, over time, has lead to a more disciplined Liza. Self-disciplined, that is, which is the best kind.


Grandma Judy




Earth Day at University Park

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

Sunday was Earth Day! Liza and I celebrated in several ways. First, we used some wonderful sunflowers given to Liza’s Mommy Olga to make a huge bouquet for the table.IMG_5030.jpg

Then we went out for a walk, to see the lovely flowers everyone has in their gardens. We walked past University Park Elementary School, the school I have worked at for 28 years, which had invited parents, teachers and families to come make the school more beautiful. Liza and I stopped by to help.

Mrs. Gaynor and Miss Nichols

Before we knew it, we had gloves on and were pulling weeds. Rakes and shovels helped, too. Mrs. Gaynor and Miss Nichols, the sixth grade teachers, were in charge of the operation and Ms Laird, our Vice Principal, was there as well. I worked with some former students, as well as younger kids who would be my students if I was teaching next year.  Valerie Beltran is the only current Dragon that I saw there. She and her Mama both worked really hard. Everyone was so helpful and friendly!


Most of the activity was focused on the garden. This area was fenced in a few years ago and equipped with planter boxes. The big school lawnmower can’t get in, so the grass grows like crazy. The planter boxes themselves were also getting overgrown and needed help.

In a different area, kids were painting wooden flowers and long green stems to be placed along the chain link fence that goes around the garden. This will make it prettier and more cheerful. Liza got to paint a flower and then came and helped me pull weeds.img_5060.jpg

At noon, Miss Nichols’ Dad and Mom, who I have known since Miss Nichols was student at University Park, made us all hot dogs for lunch. We were all so hungry, tired and sweaty! But it was fun working with old friends, and getting to know new ones.

Two young people who worked very hard were Brandon and Isabella, third graders in Mimi Nolan’s class. They worked together carrying heavy loads and pulling giant weeds. I taught Brandon’s older brother Christian, so it was nice getting to know him.

I am proud of my school for pulling together and proud my granddaughter helped out, as well.

Love, Grandma Judy

A Very Salinas Birthday Party

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

Yesterday was Cousin Liza’s birthday party. Uncle David and Auntie Olga got the tent, bounce house and tables set up at Hartnell Park while Liza and I put her LEGO Rapunzel tower together. She is very good with all the tiny parts!IMG_4914.jpg

The party started at 12, so I had a little bit of time to play in the bounce house before all the kids got there. It is HUGE and strong enough for grown ups to run around and around in circles. Very good exercise. And a nice place to rest, too.IMG_4919.jpg


When the guests started arriving, the Very Salinas part of the birthday became clear. Most of them were children from Liza’s school, but some of the parents were friends of Uncle David from when HE was in school. Rusty Hammersmith, who I knew when he was 8, came with his wife and daughters. Rusty works for a company that fights salt water intrusion. Here in farming centered Salinas, that’s really important. Tony Hartfelt, a good friend from high school and beyond, came with his wife and twin daughters. Tony is a child psychologist and his wife Maryanne is a teacher. We talked about education and parenting…. things we had in common.

IMG_4960 2.jpg
Rusty, David, and Tony

As I was chatting, I saw our old neighbor Leroy walking by so I went to talk to him. He has adopted our old cat Sassy, who didn’t get along with our kitten Mouse. They are all still happy. As we were talking, a group of former students hollered “Hi, Mrs. Drueding!” as they headed to the park.

Then it got even more Salinas-y. Sitting there, surrounded by my son’s childhood friends and their children, my friend Pete Andresen jogged by. His mom, Ruth, is also a friend and tells me all about the history of Salinas. Pete’s coming by made the circle of Salinas feel complete.


When it got to be three o’clock and the party was over, Liza wrapped herself in the Periodic Table of Elements blanket and we headed home while Auntie Olga and Uncle David cleared things up. Naptime!IMG_4997.jpg


Grandma Judy