Strange Realizations

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,img_5874.jpg

This morning, the day after my big retirement shindig, was very quiet and slow. I am generally a get up, get dressed, get out and do stuff sort of person, but today I was still in my pajamas at one in the afternoon. IMG_5879.jpg

Liza and I played with her new huge set of Legos from Anne Crawford. It took over an hour, but Liza persevered and got it done. I literally stopped and smelled the roses that we had arranged for the party.  I got to look at my lovely cards from friends, some of which accompanied a bottle of wine. I have such sweet friends here, which are really the only thing I will miss.

img_5870.jpgNo, that’s not true.

I have lived in Salinas 36 years. I know , I would guess, more than a hundred people. I know where things are, which buses go where, how far a walk to this place, what the weather will be like. I even know this house, Uncle David and Auntie Olga’s house, better than I know my home in Portland….since it was purchased in February, I have slept there just 22 nights.

So what I will also miss, at least for a while, is familiarity.

But familiarity is also what I’m deliberately moving away from. The same houses on the same streets in the same neighborhoods. This feels reminiscent of moving away from home to go to college…ready to move, but anxious about change. Tired of the old, but worried about losing the comfort.

Momma and Daddy’s Wedding Portrait

But your Great Grandpa Lowell was an optimist, and I am too. Time will march on, bring the new, make it comfy and warm. I will find my new normal, my comfort zone. I will put down roots in my transplanted soil and thrive.

Love, Grandma Judy

Hail the Transplants!

Keeping Busy

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

This week has been busy, even though I hardly left  the house except for the walk to school and back.

Princess Party Place in the lower right

Liza and I have been playing LEGOs a lot. I like that you can make whatever you want, and don’t have to follow the directions. This week we have been creating a party venue for Elsa, Anna, Olaf, and an assortment of creatures of our own making. Liza has a big circle bag to keep the LEGOs in one place. It makes cleaning up much easier, and we never step on blocks!

Liza’s creations

Uncle David taught Liza how to shoot rubber bands (don’t ask me why, but he did. I guess it’s a life skill.) Her hands aren’t quite strong enough yet, but it’s good eye hand practice and we made an evening of it, shooting them into a big bowl we borrowed from Auntie Olga.

Mimi card
Card from MiMi

I got mail this week! Our dear friend MiMi sent a thank you card for some candied nuts we had taken to her house. It was a watercolor picture of the bag of nuts! How special is that? So wonderful to have sweet, talented friends. I also got a card from you, Kestrel! I know it had been in the mailbox for awhile, but it was fine. Thanks so much for thinking of me.

Card from you!!

Last night we played with light. Liza had a big bag from our take out dinner from the Moss Landing Cafe, and I turned it into a hat. It went from bag, to hat, to light show! Liza has an RGB LED light in her room, which is a fancy way of saying a light that can change color and stay cool. We put some holes in the bag, put the light in the bag, and made a planetarium. It was beautiful and fun. It felt magical, but Uncle David explained why the colors separated like they did, so it was also a science lesson.

Light Show on the Ceiling

This morning was a puppet show in my room, with a tooth fairy, a girl, a flying tooth, and a stray Leprechaun. The stuffties were the audience.

puppet show
Puppet Show Audience

And the rest of the day will be spent on Report Cards. There is a lot of paperwork to get ready for the final information going into the computer…special forms for kids learning English, special graphs for reading programs…but it all is important. It takes a couple of days to get it all together.

I wonder if this is what John Steinbeck meant when he said “There’s always something to do in Salinas.”


Grandma Judy

Cloudy with a Chance of Legos

Dear Liza,

The grey has settled in pretty well today, a slow solid rain. Lucky for me, I have hot soup, fresh bread and music, and writing to you, to keep me company.

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Mossy cobblestones

Now that almost all of the leaves are down, I am noticing the houses more. In summer, it sometimes felt like the houses were being eaten by their landscaping! 100 year old trees, bushes, fruit trees and annual bulbs exploded and covered everything with a heavy swath of green.

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Noticing the houses

But with the leaves, even the brilliant yellow ones, gone, the houses are emerging to be appreciated in their own right. Lovely pointy Victorians, square and true Craftsmans, even mid-century bungalows are coming into their own. It allows me to see the yards and shape of the houses and wonder which type of yard and house we will move into!

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Bare naked Street Sign

After a nice walk out, Grandpa Nelson and I met Auntie Katie and cousins Jasper and Kestrel at The Lego Minifigs place I told you about during the summer. We were there to have the kids choose a bag of Legos each as their gifts for Jasper ‘s birthday.

Actually, we offered Jasper two bags and he said Kestrel should get one of his.

Pixelated Lego Art

I love that boy!

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Lego dude made out of Legos

After an hour of hard choosing, including Auntie Katie finding a great book with design information and advice for the budding lego-engineer, we headed over to Blackbird Pizza for dinner and pinball. This nifty place is on the corner of 20th and Hawthorne, right next door to Dr. Locke’s House that I wrote about the other day, so Grandpa Nelson got to see the stepping stone.

Off to bed and dream of coming to see you!


Grandma Judy

Leaf Management and Pizza

Dear Liza,

With all the wonderful pictures of changing leaves I have been sending you, you might wonder, “What happens after all those leaves fall down?” Yesterday, we found out!

It turns out that Portland, (“The City That Works” according to the city trucks) has plans for this. Twice during the fall, each part of the city has leaf days. On leaf days, several trucks come, in order, to get rid of most of the leaves.

The first truck is a small bobcat/forklift sort of vehicle, pushing what looks like a small soccer goal with brushes along the bottom. The soccer goal thing corrals leaves that have been gathered on the side of the street into piles. After several trips up and down the block, all the leaves are a pile about 4 feet high in the middle of the intersection.

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Leaf Scooper

Next comes the scooper. This is another forklift sort of thing with red “hands” that pick up this whole pile in about 3 scoops and puts them into a waiting truck. There is also a vacuum that comes and gets leaves missed by the pusher and scooper, and dumps them into the truck.

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Leaf washer

After the leaves have been pushed, scooped and vacuumed, a truck with huge water tanks comes by and squirts the street to wash the leftover leaves and slime away. Finally, a regular street cleaner truck, with rotating brushes, comes by and makes the street all clean. When the crew it done, there are about 12 leaves left on a street that had been 2 feet deep in them.

This whole process takes about half an hour….per intersection. I can’t even imagine how many crews just like this must be all over the city.

After a day of leaf watching and writing, we all went over to visit Auntie Katie and the cousins. We stopped by Skottie’s Pizza, on Division, and picked up a “Proctor Special” of pepperoni, pineapple and ‘p’olives (the kids like alliteration) and a seasonal special of squash, caramelized onions and mozzarella. Not cheap, but very good, and plenty for leftovers!

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Auntie Katie making dishes out of pizza box lids!

Grandpa Nelson played Legos with Jasper and Auntie Katie and I made wrapped baked apples with cousin Kestrel. They were delicious!

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Wrapped apples

Auntie Katie also showed us how she has improved a cape she got from a now-deceased friend from synagogue, Libby Braverman, about 25 years ago: She made the already warm and beautiful cape Portland-safe by sewing a thin line of lights to the front! It makes you show up while out in these early-dark months.

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Glowing Auntie Katie and Kestrel


Your Visit!

Dear Liza,

I haven’t written on this blog for a few days, and you know why…you were here in Portland! It was so good to see you and your daddy after these long months. You have gotten taller and smarter. Daddy is just as wonderful as always.

Of course, when you got here, there were snickerdoodle cookies to hold us until dinner. Grandpa Nelson had made reservations at a restaurant we had been saving for your daddy especially: The Laurelhurst Market, at NE 32nd and Burnside. Their specialty is meat: beef, steaks, pork, sausages…and they do it all very well. I had flank steak with chickory, which gave it a nice crunchy outside to go with the rich goodness inside.

After dinner we walked home through the neighborhood and talked about all the things we love about Portland. The tiny book-sharing libraries, the huge trees, the friendly people.


The next day we got up early and took the bus/train/elevator to the ZOO at Washington Park! It was fun seeing things I had missed the last time, and showing you some of my favorite animals. Somehow, we missed the fruit bats, which I really like, but we’ll catch them next time.

When we were too tired to smile, it was time to head down the hill and get lunch. Grandpa Nelson found The Picnic House, which is a beautiful old lobby of the Heathman Hotel, on Salmon at the South Park Blocks. The ceiling is at least 30 feet high, and there is a stuffed bear head wearing a hat and a monocle over the bar. The food was delicious and the slow pace gave us time to relax and rest from our long morning.

Too tired to smile, even on a goat….

The bus trip home was very quiet. At home, you and I had naps, and Grandpa and Daddy sat and talked for hours. Then it was time for the SECOND big activity of the day: Picnic dinner with Auntie Katie, Uncle Dave, Cousin Jasper, and Cousin Kestrel! We packed dinner, wine, toys, and chairs, and headed off to Laurelhurst Park. The rest of the family came a little later, and we ate, played, talked, threw sticks and frisbees, and dug holes in the dirt.

Making goop with Cousin Kestrel

It made me so happy to see everyone together and getting along so well. There aren’t a lot of cousins in this family, so we need to appreciate the ones we have. When it was too dark to see, we all came home and played Legos, while the Dads talked computers and airplanes downstairs. We ate the last of the cookies and sent everyone home to bed.

Legos for everyone!

This morning, the cousins went to school and you and Daddy went to the airport. I was sad to see you go, but I know we’ll get together soon.

Love, Grandma Judy