Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

Yesterday I did a dumb thing. You know, the kind of thing that if you asked your Mom if you could do it, she would say,”That sounds like a really bad idea.”

It all happened just before school started, when I was taking artwork off the walls. We are getting the end of the year, and my classroom will be used by Kindergarten next year, so everything has to come down. I didn’t want to go hunting for the ladder, so I dragged a chair over to a bookcase and stood on that to be tall enough to reach. As I was pulling off the banner asking “Who? What Where? When? Why?” to remind students important points to cover in their writing, I stepped backwards…onto thin air.

I felt like a windmill. Arms flailing, trying to catch balance somewhere and failing. I ended up sitting down very hard on my bottom and left wrist, with my head just barely missing one of my students’ desk. Well, I thought, it certainly could have been worse.

Taking inventory, I checked to see what felt good and what hurt.  My left wrist was hurt but I could move all my fingers, so I figured nothing was broken. My back and head were good. Just then, the bell rang and two students looked in and saw me sitting on the floor. They banged on the door to make sure I was all right. I explained what happened, calling it “a big stupid thing”.

During the day I managed to slip and fall against a desk, banging that same arm. Ouch! I went through the rest of the day carefully, using my left hand as little as possible. By the time I got home, it was swollen and very sore. It was useful as a paw or a stick, but I couldn’t grab anything with it. I was able to slowly chop onions to make pasta and meat sauce for dinner.IMG_5406.jpg

Auntie Olga got home and checked my wrist and arm, gently feeling it to make sure it wasn’t broken. She made me a lovely sling out of a scarf. It looked very fancy. She suggested an x-ray, but I decided not to go. I was tired and the thought of the emergency room seemed like another big stupid thing. I ate, read some Junie B. Jones to Liza, and went to bed.

Woke up this morning much better. Sore, but I could make a fist and hold things in my left hand. I got the sling on and headed off to school. Everyone asked about the sling, so I got to tell the story a dozen times. Children helped me with doors and carrying things. By the end of the day I was tired again, but less wounded.

I still napped after school, but, hey, I’m a Grandma, right? Looking forward to being even better tomorrow!


Granma Judy

Back in Salinas for May

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,


It was so much fun visiting you in Portland! Grandpa Nelson enjoyed spending his birthday with you, and we got lots of work done on our new house. But I have 19 more teaching days to do, so I am back in Salinas. Yesterday, Uncle David picked me up at the airport and took me to the Club at Crazy Horse for dinner. Good company, very tasty food, and lovely scenery!

Today started out with Liza enjoying her new comics from Auntie Katie’s shop, Books with Pictures.IMG_0340.jpg

After breakfast, it was time for a nice adventure. The weather was warm and sunny, so Liza and I packed some snacks and our overdue library books and headed downtown. We had snacks with the Hartnell Panther, who then followed us downtown. Liza says he can sense where we are, so he doesn’t need a leash.


We continued to the Steinbeck Center, and  visited the Red Pony, Tom Joad and the Pipe House, as well as fishing for sardines off a small boat. It was a fun imaginary trip.


We were hungry for a snack, but Blue Aces was closed! Liza was so disappointed, but we decided to try Portobello’s…no ice cream. The Cafe and Deli? Closed. Finally, we stopped in at the Monterey Coast Brewing Company and THEY had ice cream! Hooray! And even a lemon tart for me. No beer, though. I’m on duty.

Refreshed, we headed to the Steinbeck Library, played, and got some new books. It was getting windy and cold, and I was grateful for the jackets Auntie Olga had insisted we take along. We had to run for the bus, but we caught it and were home at 2:00…just in time for a nice long nap.



Grandma Judy

Working Hard

Dear Liza,

Yesterday I worked so hard that by the end of the day, I was too tired to remember what I did! I only realized how much got done by comparing the before and after pictures.

Let me explain. A few days ago, it became really clear that we didn’t have enough shelf space, even for our newly-thinned book collection. A trip to IKEA gained us a lovely modern looking shelf for the dining area and a “bridge” piece to go above some taller bookcases. Both went together easily, because we are experienced IKEA builders. The modern piece fit well and was quickly filled with our prettiest travel and cookbooks

However, the bridge piece was more problematic. It weighed a ton and, when Grandpa Nelson and I excruciatingly lifted it to the top of the other bookcases, it looked awful. Too big. Not matching. I thought Auntie Bridgett was going to cry.

We sat and stared and wondered what to do next. As we usually do, we heard everyone’s ideas and compromised between them. We unloaded all the bookcases, so that the books were running down the hallway and into the master bedroom, and took the bridge down. Then we moved the not-suitable bookcases to the other wall, moved the matching ones to the right wall, and put the bridge back up. Oy and vey.

Then, of course, the books had to go back up. My mother was a librarian and could do the Dewey Decimal system in her head, but space constraints made me less accurate. I am happy if most of the history and biographies are together. I blended humor and children’s books. I even squished my journals in with travel books, on the flimsy justification that I journal a lot when we travel.

And at the end of the day, when my back hurt and I was hungry, thirsty and so tired I could hardly see straight, I looked up and there was a room! Not a pile, a room, with space on the floor. There was still work to be done, but since it was First Friday and Auntie Bridgett’s art was being shown at The SideStreet Arts on 28th Avenue, we had places to be. We walked over to our old Neighborhood for dinner at the Ankeny Tap and Table and then a visit to the Gallery. It was nice to see her collages and Mugshots mingling with the other quirky art! I am so proud of her.

Then it was time to head home and sleep like rocks. Which we did.

AND today, with advice from Auntie Bridgett and lots more trips up the step ladder, I have gotten the room put together. The guest bed is made. Pictures are on the wall. Trinkets live with the books on the shelves and sewing and craft supplies are properly deployed.#


Grandma Judy

Grandpa Nelson’s Birthday.

Dear Liza,

Yesterday was Grandpa Nelson’s Birthday, and a good time was had by all. He slept in, and then we all drove up to Fleur de Lis Bakery in the Hollywood neighborhood for Second breakfast. Cinnamon rolls, an oatmeal muffin, and a cardamom and custard roll were washed down with tea and coffee as we people watched and enjoyed the sunny morning.

When we got home, Grandpa got his wish to sit on the balcony with Mouse and read his Isaac Asimov book. Auntie Bridgett and I started the next big chore of my visit, hanging the art!! We had 7 huge boxes of paintings, paper cuts, photographs, and prints that needed to be unwrapped, laid out, dusted (ugh!) and hung. The Bicycle was first, of course, since that location was decided before we even owned the house! Right over the fireplace.

Then our lovely french-looking clock, which still doesn’t work but looks fabulous on the blue wall….

Then some of Auntie Bridgett’s paintings over the counter by the kitchen…

After hours of going up and down ladders, we had a rest and then packed up for the next adventure, a picnic in Laurelhurst Park with Auntie Katie and cousins Jasper and Kestrel. It is so close we didn’t even have to drive, but got to walk through the neighborhood, seeing magnificent peonies blooming along the way.

At the park we were greeted by what (I can only assume) was the official Squirrel for our section. He was very efficient at monitoring our activity, but ultimately unsuccessful in extracting what he insisted was the usual fee. He was adorable.

Baseball and Fairy Houses followed. Jasper is developing a good eye for hitting the ball with his comically over-sized bat! He kept Auntie Bridgett and Grandpa Nelson on their toes.

Cousin Kestrel and Auntie Katie found a good location by a tree for a fairy house, and it was a doozy. Katie posted Kestrel’s “tour” on Facebook…amazing. There was also daisy chain making and proper crowning of the Birthday Man.

When it was getting a little chilly and nearing bedtime, we all headed off. Grandpa Nelson was sore from all the baseball, but had the energy to watch an old favorite, “Father Goose” with Cary Grant and Leslie Caron.

Then we all pooped out and slept like cats. Well, our cat, anyway.


Grandma Judy

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