A Close Encounter with the Law by Shirley Palmer

Posted May 17, 2012 by mylacollier
Categories: Life Story, Life Story Class, Student Info

Tags: , ,

This is a story that we can laugh about now; however, as it unfolded I was “shaking in my boots” as the saying goes.  It was October 1984, a warm day in Southern California.  My mother-in-law had passed away on September 10, 1984, in Cave Junction, Oregon.  Her instructions were that she was to be cremated, and she wanted half of her ashes to go down the same river where my father-in-law’s ashes had been strewn in 1978 when he passed away.  His ashes went down a river which was his favorite fishing hole.  So half of her ashes were to go down the same river in Oregon, and she wanted the other half divided: half on her mother’s grave and half on her father’s grave, both buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, CA.  The instructions were explicit, and all of her family understood, so after the memorial service at her church the family men set off for the fishing hole and dumped a portion of the ashes into the river.  We women of the family chose to stay home and fix dinner, since there were a lot of rattlesnakes in the area of the fishing hole, and we didn’t choose to encounter them!

Now we were back in Southern California on this hot October day. My brother-in-law and Bud’s sister Carole had driven up from San Diego, and the four of us were to drive to Forest Lawn with the bag of ashes in hand and put half on Grandma’s grave and half on Grandpa’s grave. The only detail was that in California you just can’t put ashes anywhere, and sprinkling them on the top of a grave is not allowed.  Friday night we sat down and planned our strategy: we needed a “master plan” to accomplish this illegal caper!  We decided that we would get up in the morning, have breakfast, then go over to Von’s Market and buy some flowers.  We’d go to Forest Lawn, take the vase out, put some ashes under the vase, then fill it with flowers and go on to the next grave and do the same thing. As easy as that, Bud’s mother’s wishes would have been fulfilled.

Saturday was a very warm day so I decided to wear a sundress.  My sister-in-law had long pants and a blouse on; this is an important detail of the story.  We drove up to Forest Lawn and after about 10 minutes of searching we finally found Grandma’s grave.  Well, we couldn’t find the vase to start with, but Bud with his trusty pocket knife dug around the grass, and we finally located the vase. We cut all the grass away from it, however try as we might the vase would not come out of the ground.  We pulled and tugged and twisted – all to no avail.  There was a lady putting flowers on a grave about 25 yards up from us and I noticed she got her water from the faucet, but she was watching us.  She arranged her flowers but still had an “eagle eye” on us.  I told my family that we were being watched.  About then Bud went to my car, looking for something to pry the vase loose. Here he came up with the jumper cables, which was all I had in my trunk. He thought he might be able to grab on to the handle of the vase with the grips on the cables and pull it free.  Once the jumper cables came out, the “spy” lady got in her car and left.  I told my co-horts that I was nervous, but they were too busy trying to free the vase. They didn’t pay any attention to me.  It wasn’t five minutes before here came the Forest Lawn Police car pulling up and parking right behind my car.

Here we were, the four of us, standing over a grave with a bag of ashes, a bouquet of flowers, and jumper cables – it didn’t look good.  My sister-in-law handed me the bag of ashes and said, “Shirley, sit down quick on the ashes – you have a dress on and it will cover them up!”  So down I plopped, sitting on the bag and holding the bouquet in my lap.  The Forest Lawn policeman came up and asked if we were having a problem.  Bud explained that we couldn’t seem to get the vase out of Grandma’s grave.  So the nice policeman offered to help us.  He went to his car and got something like a crowbar; he came back and BAM – he broke the vase.  So we took it out in pieces, and he told us not to worry – he’d go get us another one!  Off he went in search of a new vase.  Bud put the damn jumper cables away – I know that’s what brought the cop in the first place – and my sister-in-law Carole, who had become the matriarch of the family, told me to stay seated.  The grass was a little damp, but I did what I was told.

Back came the cop with a new vase. It didn’t fit, so off he went again.  I wanted to pour some ashes in the empty hole while he was gone, but I was voted down as he might see them and become suspicious. Maybe we’d go to jail.  Yikes! Was I a part of a criminal offense, just trying to oblige my mother-in-law’s wishes?  So there I sat for a never-ending time it seemed to me.  Finally the vase arrived and nothing would do but the cop had to go fill it with water.  We thanked him profusely, and he just stood around chit-chatting with the guys – he’d served in Vietnam, etc., etc.  Meanwhile I was still stuck on the ground concealing “the evidence.”  Then he did tell us that the lady that I had suspected of spying had reported us as having jumper cables at the grave.  Bud responded, “Honestly, officer, I wasn’t trying to jump-start my Grandma!”  He laughed and finally left, and I didn’t move until his car was out of sight.

By this time I had sat on the ground so long I could barely get up.  We quickly went about our chore and said, “Praise the Lord!” We had complied with Mom’s wishes – almost!  We still had to do Grandpa.  His grave was across the street from Grandma’s, and when we got there, we found the exact same situation that we had encountered before.  Grass had grown over the vase.  I spoke up and said, “I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m not going through that experience again – no way!”  They all agreed, but what to do?   So my sister-in-law and I took off our shoes, dumped the ashes onto the grass on the top of the grave, and worked them into the grass with our bare feet – illegal, but accomplished.  We did a very good job; nobody would have noticed.

And so goes the story of our near brush with the law.  The four of us laughed all the way home until the tears were rolling down our cheeks.  We knew Bud’s mother was up in heaven looking down on us and having one of her big belly laughs.  She had one of the heartiest laughs ever.  It was a story never to be forgotten.  Our sister-in-law and brother-in-law have since passed on, but to this day I’ll always remember that weekend.

All of our careful planning – it was such a good plan.  If only my husband hadn’t gotten out those damn jumper cables – but then there wouldn’t have been this story to tell.


A Story with a Twist by Juliane McAdam

Posted May 17, 2012 by julianemcadam
Categories: Life Story, Student Info, Uncategorized

Tags: , ,

I don’t actually remember very much from my early childhood. Most of my memories start with kindergarten and school years. There are stories I was told about my early years. For example, my mother took me to a playground once when I was around two and let me play in the sandbox. Suddenly she looked up, and I was playing with a large kitchen fork; I had apparently uncovered it in the sand. It was a good quality fork. She took it home and kept it in her kitchen, and it is still in my kitchen today. She told me that once a boy I was playing with hauled off and hit me in the nose with a rock. She always said that was the reason the bridge of my nose is wide—he altered it. But I don’t really remember these events myself.

There is one other story from my very early years that I don’t remember either, but it’s a story that was repeated every so often at family gatherings, so I heard it several times. And it’s a story that came back to me many, many years later.

My mother was one of four children. Her older sister Lorraine was born in 1914; Bill followed in 1916. My mother Marjorie was born in 1920, and her baby brother Dick was born in 1926. Lorraine married at the age of 18 and had her first child, Marjorie, named for my mother, one year later in 1933. Soon after, Lorraine had a second child, Mike. Margie and Mike were the pre-war cousins.

Bill, as it turns out, was the same age as my father; in high school they were good friends. In fact, the story goes that Bill repeatedly warned his friend John against dating, then marrying, his sister. The advice went unheeded. My parents got married in September 1941; Bill and his wife Elinor married three months later, in December. My aunt Elinor was exactly six months older than my mother. When the United States entered World War II after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, my father enlisted in the Navy and Bill in the Army. Elinor, who was a nurse, wanted to join the Army also. At first, she was turned down; the Army did not want married women. But when casualties started mounting and they needed trained medical people to treat the returning wounded, she was accepted. She continued to serve until Bill returned to the States after V-J Day. My father, too, returned to California after the Japanese surrender. In June of 1946, Bill and Elinor had their first child, a daughter named Janice. Three months later, in August, I was born. Family legend has it that Janice was born three months before I was because her father returned from the war three months earlier than my father. There is probably some truth in that. Anyway, Janice and I were the first post-war cousins. Our cousin Margie was thirteen years older, already a young woman and almost a generation older.

The family story is that when I was about eighteen months old, starting potty-training but not there yet, my parents went with me to visit Lorraine and her family. One evening, there was lots of excitement. Margie was rushing around getting ready to go out with friends, and I was probably feeling a little neglected. Who knows what goes on in the mind of a toddler? Anyway, Margie went to put on her shoes and found that I had left something in them: I had pooped in her shoe. Margie was, understandably, horrified. She shrieked. My mother and Lorraine, both in possession of a really good but weird sense of humor, were sympathetic but probably trying hard not to laugh. I don’t really know. I was too young to grasp any nuances in adult behavior.

And then the story, mercifully, languished. Every so often someone would bring it up, as people do with bizarre family stories, but for the most part it was forgotten, or at least submerged.

But then we come to the part of the story that isn’t about my early childhood, the part where the story comes back.

My cousin Margie, like her mother, married young—she wasn’t yet eighteen—and began having children right away. Over the years, she and her husband, my cousin Jim, had four boys and then, finally, a girl. Margie was a giving, caring, cheerful, musically talented and wonderfully thoughtful person. She had many, many friends. In early 2007, we learned that she was very ill. The reports came fitfully: first she had some unknown problem, then it was a form of cancer, then it was cancer throughout her body. Over the course of about three weeks, her prognosis became grim.

My aunt Elinor, my cousin Janice, who many years ago had changed her name to Erica, and I decided we needed to visit Margie while she was still around. So on a lovely March day, we drove out to Riverside. As soon as I saw Margie, I knew that she didn’t have much longer to live. I had been with my father in his final hours, and the signs were the same. Two of her sons were there with their wives. A call had gone out to other family members to come to see her. I don’t know if they realized how near to death she was. Erica and I encouraged them to enlist the services of Hospice.

While family members talked and reminisced, Margie, on her hospital bed in the living room, was withdrawing into herself. She was beyond chatting or responding. Then the time came for Erica, Elinor, and I to leave. Elinor and Erica hugged Margie and told her they loved her and then walked outside to join the rest of the family. I walked up to Margie.

I leaned over and told Margie how much I loved her, how many people loved her. Suddenly, she looked directly at me and in a very clear voice said, “You pooped in my shoe!” For a second or two, I was speechless. Then I told her she was right but that I didn’t mean it; I didn’t know what I was doing. I gave her a kiss and left.

When I got outside, I related to the family what she had said. Her husband Jim roared with laughter, and everyone shared in the humor. Erica, Elinor, and I drove home. We had a phone call later that same evening telling us that Margie had died.

Later, when I thought about it, and even now, I am astounded. The human brain is a wondrous thing. Margie, in saying that, told me that even though she was dying, she knew exactly who I was; in a way, she was telling me I was special. She provided a bit of levity to a very sad gathering. And I am still mystified that her brain could pull up that story at that time.

What’s In a Number? by Shirley Palmer

Posted May 17, 2012 by julianemcadam
Categories: Life Story, Student Info

Tags: , ,

I’ve noticed through the years that different things have entirely different meanings to all different people.  That’s just life.  Whether it’s food, colors, weather, numbers – anything – we all have a different opinion about certain things.  Personally I don’t function well or enjoy the heat.  That’s one reason we leftSouthern Californiaand moved to Los Osos.  I couldn’t stand the heat and my husband hated air-conditioning, so we decided after retirement if we were to keep our marriage a happy one, we’d have to find a place where I was happy and could survive without air-conditioning!  Los Osos was the perfect solution.   I enjoy my steaks rare, my mother wanted hers so well done that we’d order hers as “cremated.”  My favorite color is blue;  if I tallied all my friends and family, I’d find many other preferences than blue.

Now we get to the number subject.  It amazes me how many people win huge amounts on the lottery drawings by using birth dates of their kids, grandkids – whomever – all birth dates.  I used to buy a ticket a week when we lived down South, as there was a store very close by our home and I’d pop in and buy a ticket.  After a couple years I gave up on all the birthdays in our family – we must have been born on unlucky days.  The most I ever won was $5.00.  So then I went to buying a “Quick Pick” – let the machine pick my numbers for me.  A couple of years of that and I hadn’t even won $5.00.  So ended my gambling career.

Now apply the number game to age.  We’ve all seen and heard kids: I’m almost 16 or 18.  Then I’m 21 and really proud.  From there it goes to approaching 30, I’m almost 40, and when the big 50 hits, it usually hurts most people.  I remember when I turned 50, my son asked me how it felt to be “over the hill.”  I told him I really didn’t feel I was “over the hill heading down!”  His reply: “How many people do you know that live to be 100???”  That almost ruined my day.

However, what I’ve found in my life is your age is just a number.  I’m doing almost as much as I did when I was in my 50s and 60s.  I have a few handicaps – my broken ankle being one of them.  I can’t walk like I used to, but I’m busy every day.  My development of Spasmodic Torticollis in my 50s set me back quite a bit.  I cook and clean, I do volunteer work for my church, which is a BIG job.  I keep writing my stories (good or bad) – but writing seems to be therapy for me.  I still attend my book club and manage to have a lunch out with a friend and/or my husband at least once a week.  So what is the BIG DEAL?  I’m going to be, or should I say “turning” 80 this week.  My daughter and her husband are coming from Montana to have an open house, so everybody can celebrate me getting old.  I don’t know how many grandkids will show up, but whoever shows, that will be fine with me.  I personally thought this birthday might just be another day.  But I guess the big 80 is special, and my daughter informed me she wanted to celebrate happiness and life. So that’s what we’ll be doing, I guess.

I remember when my Mother turned 80, she was living with us.  She had no friends, as when she came from Seattle to move in with us, she left all her sisters (only 2 were living) and friends back in Seattle.  I tried to get her to go to our Senior Center for lunch and cards, as she loved to play cards.  They had a little van that would pick people up and bring them home.  But she would have no part of being with those “old people.”  Consequently, the only friends she had were our friends, who always treated her royally.  The night of her birthday I was to go down to L.A.and listen to John Wooden (former basketball coach of UCLA) give a speech on motivation.  It was a requirement of my job.  So the Saturday before her 80th I called all our friends and told them I was making a big pot of chili and we’d have cake to celebrate my Mom’s birthday.  We had about 10 people show up – everybody liked my chili and they were so kind to come and extend birthday wishes to Gracie.  Then on her actual birthday she didn’t even notice that I didn’t come home for dinner but was away at this important meeting for my job.

You couldn’t pull that trick on me. I know my birthday is March 29th, and I know it’s a Thursday, but my open house is going to be on a Saturday, the 31st.  I don’t think that I’m any smarter than my Mother was – not at all.  I just think times have changed so much since she turned 80 in 1978 and for me in 2012.  The main difference is I know I’m old, but I’m not ready to sit in a rocking chair all day and watch TV.  My Mom would have been so much better off if she had joined those “old people” at the Senior Center and had lunch and played cards.  It would have been something to do.  I don’t lack for things to do and plan to keep it that way for as long as I’m able.

And so for my “What is a Number” title – to me it’s almost meaningless.  Obviously our birthday numbers never brought me great wealth.  So my turning 80 – it’s just another birthday.  I hope to live to see at least 10 more, the good Lord willing and the creeks don’t rise!!!  Maybe in Los Osos I should say “the good Lord willing and the surf remains calm!”

Vignettes – Bev Hardy

Posted April 25, 2010 by mylacollier
Categories: Info for Students, Life Story, Life Story Class, Student Info, students' writing, Uncategorized

Tags: , , , , ,

Ace and I had been married less than a month when his mother’s health got worse. Grace had strongly disapproved of me 25 years before. She didn’t change her mind over the years. When she was in her 70’s she came to Calif. From Illinois to get a face lift. Her Doctor was in Beverly Hills, which she couldn’t change, but she refused to take an apartment in Beverly Hills, because that was my name. Needless to say we didn’t tell her when we married. She died 2 or 3 years later. Never having known. Ace was an only child. His father was dead. There was no question, Ace had to go back to Illinois to take care of his mother.

Johns heart cauterization had turned out well. For the first time in his life he was allowed to carry on all normal activities including gym class. Before our honeymoon I had never been farther north on Highway 101 than Rufugio State Beach. I thought this would be a great time to retrace our honeymoon trip with the kids. Ace thought I should have someone else who could drive in case of emergency. To keep Ace happy I asked Betsy Baker who was 19 and had a driver’s license to join us. She was one of 11 kids and her folks were happy to send her along. (This was a family wanted a Bakers dozen (13 – 2 adults, 11 kids) and could afford the 11 kids. Both were college graduates and he had made a small fortune inventing things used in the space industry.) So Betsy, John who was 16, Ann 12, and Barbara 10 and I headed North in our VW camper.

We didn’t spend any nights in Malibu – too expensive! I planned to have us stay at the Miramar in Santa Barbara. As we went through Ventura the kids wanted to show Betsy the “island”. We had had several fun filled Girl Scout camping trips there. It isn’t really an island but it seemed like it was. It is adjacent to the County Fair grounds, just North of it. At high tide the only way to get the cars, which are parked on the fairground side is over a railroad bridge. The North side has a fair size rive cutting off access. There are several trees, but no tables or rest rooms, so it is primitive camping. We waded over to the island, looking for a small sea horses that we usually found there and keeping our eyes out for interesting seashells. Then we saw the pelican. It just stood there, looking sad. It was skinny and bedraggled looking.

When we walked up to it, it made no effort to walk away. We soon discovered that someone had tied a cord around it’s neck, making it impossible for it to swallow. It was starving to death. We cut the cord and holding it in my arms I waded out into the ocean to let him get wet and see if he wouldn’t drink some water. (I learned later pelicans don’t drink water – they get the fluid they need from the fish they eat.) I dipped it’s beak in the water, lifted it’s head and stroked it’s neck. It seemed to swallow some, but maybe a little didn’t hurt it. Holding the pelican we waded back to the car. Betsy sat in the front passenger seat holding the pelican. We got some wild looks from pedestrians and other cars as we went in search of a fish store and a public phone, where I hoped to find some kid of listing for a bird rescue place. We found the fish store first, where we bought some medium size whole fish. I showed Betsy how to lift the birds beak up, put a fish in in mouth and message its neck to get it to swallow. So now we drove along with her feeding fish to the pelican while people gawked. We finally found a phone, but had a lot of trouble finding the bird rescuer, arranged to meet her in market parking lot, handed over the bird to someone who knew what to do and headed north to spend our first night at Mir-a-Mar in Santa Barbara.

The kids loved the Miramar. The sand cleaned up some from the oil spill, but even so I soon got adept at removing tar. There were tennis courts, swimming pools, a train to eat in, free popcorn, shuffle board and a small minature golf course. We found out we could rent a small cottage for only $35 to $45 a night and later had some wonderful birthday parties there.

On we went to Cambria. Heading North on Highway 1 we came to a place called Morro Bay, and just as Ace and I had done we drove in, looked at the rock, read the historical information and headed out. We didn’t think much of the town. There was nothing to do there. We all had fun in Cambria. We stayed in the last motel North of town. The desk clerk stall remembered me from the honeymoon. They also had a miniature golf course and it was just a short walk to moonstone beach where the kids all found small moonstones. The only thing of real interest on the main drag was the Tin Soldier Store. They enjoyed the big battle scenes in the back room. After a dinner in the smorgasbord restaurant across 1 at the north end of town, we were tired enough we went back to the motal to get ready to take off for Big Sur the next day.

We loved the Big Sur area and spent several days in a cheap motel whose cabins were just below Highway 1. We had to drive up the hill to get to the highway and as we pulled out we pulled right into the scene of a traffic accident. It was apparent that the woman who left shortly before us was hit by another car as she entered the highway. Everyone was just standing around looking and doing nothing. I parked the camper and got out. The motel was located on a straight short stretch of the road, with blind curves on each side. The worst wrecked car was blocking one lane with the drive still inside moaning. It was her side that had been hit. I sent Betsy to the down hill side and John to the uphill side to direct traffic. Then I headed for the woman to see how badly she was hurt. It was still amazing me that all the other people were just standing around looking and making no effort to help.

The over weight woman probably in her late 50’s was hyper ventilating and complaining of her hip and back. From the damage to the car, it was conceivable she might have broken her back. She was jammed against the steering wheel. She was sure she was dying. The car windows were open and I reached in and took her pulse, double checked it on her neck. I timed her pulse rate (with John’s heart condition, I was an old hand at this.) I assured her that she had a good strong pulse and she was doing great and wasn’t going to die. I lied a little. Her pulse was racing and irregular, but the minute I assured her she was going to live, it started slowing down, and quit hyper ventilating. One of the things I realized when I first got the car was her little dog, a chihuahua’s left rear paw was being pinched by a crease in the body of the car. It was hanging upside down right next to the back window. It’s eyes were open, but it wasn’t moving or making a sound. I just prayed it would stay that way. I didn’t want anything upsetting the woman whose hand I held, while she continued to calm down. By this time a few people began to come over and peer into the car. Then two guys came over talking about pulling the dent out, and before I realized what they planned, they had readed in and were trying to free the dog. The dog started screaming in pain and the woman’s pulse went crazy. They couldn’t get the dog loose. About this time two rangers arrived and took over. It was probably 15 minutes after the accident, maybe more.

I headed down hill to take over for Betsy who had indicated she needed a break. The two kids had been doing a good job. I found myself very pleased to find out how nice drivers are. They couldn’t see the accident, but when they saw me standing in the road with my arm up, they stopped. Meanwhile John was letting a string of cars through. I walked up to the bend so I could see John’s signal and then I’d have my cars move to the other side of the road and send them through. We had no uniforms, we were nobodies, but everyone followed our directions. Over a half hour had passed before more rangers showed up to take over for us. We soon left Big Sur, headed for Monterey and then home. .

Easter Sundays – Shirley Palmer

Posted April 25, 2010 by mylacollier
Categories: Life Story, Life Story Class, Student Info, students' writing, Uncategorized

Tags: , ,

When we were first married Easter Sunday meant going down to my in-laws house for a family Easter dinner. My husband’s sister, her husband & their son and Bud and I would all go down to Bud’s parents home for the special dinner. Some years Bud’s other sister and; her husband would drive down from Fresno to join us – and sometimes Bud’s Aunt and her daughter would join us as well. It was a big family dinner party. My one memory of those days was that our nephew who was about 9 wouldn’t eat ham, so there always had to be another meat at the table for him. This totally amazed me, as I’d always been told to eat what was served – no questions asked. But I guess Grandma wanted to spoil him, so he always had something special.

As the years progressed and our children were born and reached the age of Easter egg hunts, we’d color eggs and hide them out in our huge back yard. They’d start out with empty baskets and run to spot the eggs before the other one did. We had a boy and a girl – 2 yrs & 4 months apart. One year after the kids were in bed, Bud took out a dozen eggs and hide them under plants, flower bushes etc – low down so they could easily spot them. He went outside with the kids and I’d hear him saying – “Did you look over here?” – “Did you look over there?” All of a sudden he came running in the house and grabbed all the colored eggs I had left in the baskets and went running outside with his pockets full of eggs. I’d see him send the kids to one side of the yard and he’d drop an egg under a tree and then say “Oh I spot one!” and they’d come running. What had happened was our Norwegian Elk Hound Dog had feasted all night long and eaten all the eggs we put out – so Bud was making a quick cover up – dropping eggs – kicking the dog to get away and calling the kids. It was quite a sight. The kids were too young to realize the eggs they found that the Easter Bunny left outside were the Easter eggs from their baskets – as they had chocolate bunnies etc. and I was quick to refill their baskets. Our trick worked – the dog (Inga) was in big trouble.

The next year we got smart and hid all the eggs up in the trees – where the branches came together. We’d fool Inga this year. Well in the middle of the night it started to pour rain – so when the kids got up to go outside we had trees with all sorts of colors running down their trunks – and white eggs waiting to be discovered – which wasn’t much of a challenge – just follow the colored tree and you’d find an egg. By this time we’d invited some neighbors kids down to join in the hunts – so it was more like 3 dozen eggs out there. Despite the bad weather one or two years – we had the egg hunt for years.

My kids left for school before I left for work, so I was usually in the bathroom putting my makeup on and they’d come in and kiss me good-bye. This one morning Gary (our son) said I left a letter for you on the kitchen table Mom. Well that was unusual – but I said O.K. – hoping it wasn’t something from a teacher where he was in trouble. They went off to school – I came out and on the kitchen table was a letter – “To Mom” – Teri (that was our daughter) and I know there is no Easter bunny – we’ve know a long time. Would you kindly leave some money so we can walk over to Sav-on’s after school and buy the kind of Easter candy that we like!” Love, Gary and Teri. Sav-on’s was about 3 blocks from our house – having to cross a major intersection, but there was a signal there. So I left some money with the instructions to be careful crossing the street and to stay together. And to call me at work when they got home. They did exactly as they were told – they were so happy to get the candy they liked – not what I had been buying. So that was the end of the Easter Bunny at our house. They still enjoyed Easter Egg hunting in the back yard, but by this time we had added a Black Labrador to our family, so the trick was keeping 2 dogs from eating our bounty!!

After church on Easter we tried to do something special. One year I remember we drove up to Solvang and walked the village and had a Danish dinner. All dressed in our fine duds – I wonder how I walked all day in those high heels.

Well now fast forward to Grandchildren. One year our daughter and her husband wanted to go away for a week for their April Anniversary, so they brought their 2 kids down into the LA area. The other Grandparents had them the first of the week – I was to get them Thursday through Sunday (which was Easter). When the other Grandpa delivered them to me – his comments were – “Well good luck – we’ve been sick all week!”. Encouraging introduction!! I was working in Glendale at the time and went down to the Cuban bakery to get some of their meat pies for Easter lunch and was going to make a spaghetti salad – had a nice menu planned. By Saturday my husband was sick – bad flu! The kids were much better. They were like 2 and 5. Bud was laying out on the chaise lounge on our deck as the weather was warm. He was doing better by Sunday, when it hit me hard. I tried to get John outside to hunt for Easter eggs – I had only hid a few on the deck – above the dog area. I felt just awful and kept running back into the house to the bathroom – to do “my thing”.

Finally I came outside and here is John with an empty basket and I started saying – “did you look here?” – didn’t work. Finally he handed me the basket and said – “This is dumb!!” I said O.K. with me – and went and laid back down on the couch. About noon our daughter and husband arrived. Bud’s outside on the lounge – I’m in the living room moaning on the couch and daughter Teri says – “What’s wrong?” I explained the kids came down sick and were kind enough to pass it on to Bud and I. She asked me where Candy was – I told her in the Den destroying our telephone! At that point I could have cared less about the phone. She went in and got her and said, “Mom – she in her warm jammies – it’s almost 100 degrees outside. My comment was that I hadn’t noticed and I was sorry – but this had not been a good day. So they packed up their kids – together with the meat pies I had purchased and headed out. Bud and I spent the rest of that Easter Sunday stretched out, sleeping – running to the bathroom – and wondering why Grandchildren are so quick about sharing their germs. The next thing – I woke up Monday unable to open my left eye – I bathed it with eye wash and went to work. My fellow workers told me how bad I looked, which brightened my day. Then my boss came into my cubicle and said, “Shirley – I want you out of here and to the Dr. pronto – I’m sure you have Pink Eye” I got it from my grandkids last year and you look exactly the same. So off to the Dr. I went and yes, I did have Pink Eye. John had been kind enough to share that with us along with the flu.
Well we’ve had many pleasant Easters since those years, but it’s fun looking back. Life seems much simpler when you get old – go to church, make something to contribute to the dinner you’ve been invited to, eat, enjoy the company and then go home and rest. Praise the Lord for Easter and all my Easter memories.


Posted March 22, 2010 by mylacollier
Categories: Life Story, Life Story Class, students' writing

Tags: , ,

Some people had condos in Baja. Some in Hawaii, some in Florida but we were able to take our condo everywhere we went. The COW was our Condo On Wheels. Life with the COW began with the purchase of a Dodge Cummings Diesel truck in 1990. The goal was to pay off the truck and then buy a fifth wheel trailer before I retired. We already had the list of the National Parks where we wanted to volunteer. We subscribed to Trailer Life magazine so we would have some idea of what we wanted in a trailer. Our parameters were thirty feet long and a slider (something new at that time). 30ft. was the maximum for many state and federal parks. The slider because we were sure we wanted to entertain and have that extra space. After all, we were moving into this trailer from a four bedroom house, full time.

We searched in Oregon, Washington and California. We even checked out places like Quartzite and Yuma where all the snow birds hung out. The deal was made near Disneyland. We bought the COW with the understanding we would stay on their lot the first night and do all our cooking, showering and etc. The next morning, having never towed a fifth wheel, I pulled our brand new thirty foot fifth wheel onto the Santa Ana Freeway. Our first stop was Camper’s World.

Any time you take up a new hobby or interest there are always those minimal expenses required to be a groupie. For full time RVers there are the sewer hoses and their leveling tracks. The decal that has you fill in the states you visited is another requirement. My wife made a flag that gave our home town. There are electrical adaptors, water pressure controls, bubble levels on three corners and a very large one front and center so you can see it through your truck rear window while backing into you place for the night. If you are not level all kinds of bad things happen. First is no sleep. The coolant in your propane/electric fridge will puddle and cause great expense.

Our second stop was supposed to be Tip’s Restaurant. When I pulled into the parking lot and around the back, they had blocked off the far end where I had expected to park and pull out. I was now in a long narrow parking lot with a right angle bend and impossible to back out. On the other hand, that was the only way out (how many have backed any kind of trailer?). My wife had to jump out and give me hand signals. It is amazing how difficult it is to keep someone in your mirror when this mammoth trailer keeps getting between her and the mirror. This is when I found out it was a mistake to not buy walki-talkies. This was reinforced when we pulled into a RV campground in Bakersfield and people in lawn chairs watched and listened to the entertainment my wife and I produced while trying to back into a space. This was the last time we would be the evening’s entertainment. Of course, we were often in those lawn chairs waiting for other RVers to entertain us.

Another lesson learned was when, in a hurry, I forgot to chalk the wheels before yanking the release on the trailer hitch. Unfortunately there was a slight up hill and the trailer immediately rolled backward and landed on the sides of the bed of the pickup. Ouch! The hurry was for a doctor’s appointment. When I arrived late and he checked me out he claimed that I had high blood pressure and prescribed a medication. That charting follows me to this day and every doctor asks me about it.

In short time we had seconds of everything for the kitchen and minor repair tools. There were still times when we wanted a spice or tool and remembered it was out in the trailer. There were many shake down cruises with a group of others with the same interest.
Soon I was volunteering every other weekend at Redwood National Park, taking the COW and spending Saturday night up there with a view of the surf on one side and Fresh Water Lagoon on the other side.

In Feb. of ‘98 I retired and in March of ‘98 we were on the road as full time RVers. Our word for it was homeless. Our second National Park was Rocky Mountain National Park. There were two big surprises with the COW there. Our first morning there was no water. The supply hose had frozen. On June 19th we got three inches of snow. The snow piled up on our awning and bent the rods. The solution is to leave one end down and let gravity keep the awning clean of snow.

The water was also frozen the morning, September 13th when we took off for our third volunteer position, Padre Island National Seashore. When we got there the water temperature in the Laguna Madre was 82 degrees. We arrived a day ahead of schedule so we pulled out on the 65mile stretch of free camping beach and were pleased that we were self contained. We woke to the sound of surf. I peeked out the window and the salt water was coming up to about four feet of the COW. WOW! Vicki was not even fully dressed when I had the truck running and trying to do a quick U turn to head back up the beach and the only driveway. You guessed it. I turned too sharp and got stuck in the sand. We ended up unhooking the trailer and dug a trench in front of the tires and filled them with our leveling blocks and dirty clothes and managed, in four wheel drive, to drive out. We then hitched the COW back on and drove the wrong direction till we found a blow out to turn around in. A blow out is a place where there is a space between dunes and high tide washes all of the trash that arrives along that part of the gulf coast, but that is another story. And that is just part of the first year of six and a half years with the COW.

Chuck Mills

*Friends are……………..*

Posted March 22, 2010 by mylacollier
Categories: Life Story, Life Story Class, students' writing

Tags: , ,

Generally speaking, life is good; very, very good, as a matter of fact. But “sometimes sadness is all there is”, a partial quote borrowed from Rick Bragg’s recently read memoirs entitled _ All Over but the Shoutin’_. Sadness overcame me during the month of February, 2010, for within a two week period, three long time friends passed away. One was a gentleman who had been part of a cluster of family friends dating back to the early 1960’s. The other two gentlemen were also long time friends, but even more crushing was that they were mates of two very close girl friends. Ouch!

These happenings stirred me to reflect on friendships over the years that have certainly helped bring richness to my life. Webster defines a friend as a person (or persons) whom we know well and are fond of; a close acquaintance; one who is helpful and reliable. I go on to add more personal definitions of a friend throughout the following passages.

“Friends always have a special place in the heart, have special understanding and are thoughtful; one who shares and cares”. Enter *Elaine. B*ack in 1962 she came into my, I should say our, lives with her husband and two young children around Jill’s age (then two years old). Our family and hers seemed to have so much in common: loved our kids, attended a newly-formed dance club in town, participated in church activities, hosted dinner parties, sun-bathed, picnicked on the beach; you name it. We moved to San Jose in 1964 after Harvey’s Cal Poly graduation, had our second child, Jodi, in 1965, relocated in Santa Maria and returned to Morro Bay in 1968, stepping right into our life of four years previous. Then things changed drastically for her and her husband (and, consequently for us too). They separated, reunited, separated again and finally divorced. A totally contented stay-at-home Mom was forced to plunge into what turned out to be a successful career, but not without some very difficult times that brought us even closer together. To this day, no matter the miles that separate us, we are able to continue right where we left off from the last contact. One of our very close long-time mutual friends is one whose companion of thirty years passed away in mid-February, as mentioned above. Our shoulders are there for her to lean on through this troubled time. After all, isn’t that what friends are for?

“It’s the friends we meet along life’s path who help us appreciate the journey.” Enter *Mary*, dating back to the late1960’s. We first met when a large group of stay-at-home Mom’s congregated at a neighborhood vacant lot to play volleyball three mornings a week after the kids were sent off to school; except for Jodi, who was still a preschooler. She became very adept at amusing herself along the sidelines during the games! An off-shoot of the volleyball group was our own Weigh-in Club, of which Mary was also a part. Any resemblance to the popular Weight Watchers meetings was purely coincidental, for we rushed into a member’s house, removed every article of clothing short of indecent exposure, hesitantly stood on the scales, cheered as though we had won a million dollar jackpot when we we would eek out even one-eighth of a pound loss from the previous week, reluctantly placed $1.00 into a kitty for every pound of weight gain, and hastily gathered around the table for, you guessed it, refreshments! I shudder to think of the collective number of pounds gained and lost over the period of the two or three years we went through the motions of dieting. No matter, we all have fond memories of that time in our lives.

The outgrowth of the weigh-in group was the formation of a Birthday group, if which Mary was a part. To this day, we gather to celebrate each of our six birthdays over lunch, we break our necks to find the best “You are special” cards and bring small token gifts to replace the lavish gifts we once exchanged.

It was Mary’s husband who became quite ill before this past Christmas, was whisked off to the Hospital Emergency several times, but was ultimately sent home to be surrounded by his family before losing his fight against lung disease in mid-February. Helping her get through one of the most difficult journeys of her life by listening, caring, and attempting to bring cheer, love and kindness to her has been, and will continue to be, my mission.

“Bestest” buddy. Favorite memories wrapped up in our friendship. Our paths crossed; forever grateful”. Those and similar phrases appear on greeting cards or face-to-face frequently from *Cindee*, a friend since the 1980’s, when our paths crossed at Morro Elementary. She was working as a clerical aide and I was teaching. Harvey and I had just started getting into bicycling and I encouraged her to venture out… and the rest is history for us. What adventures we’ve had! A couple credit-card bike touring trips with our husbands to San Diego, a week long Pedal the Peeks tour in Colorado to celebrate her 50^th birthday, a week’s tour looping around Idaho, Utah and Wyoming with another friend Maureen for starters. Cindee and I were also instrumental in organizing a group of six other Bike Club gals (named ourselves Wild Wacky Women) who were interested in loading our touring bikes with all the necessary gear for an annual four or five day camping trip, pedaling as far north as Carmel and down Highway #1 on one trip and south to Ventura and back on another trip. In the past two or three years, the Wild Wacky Women trips have been greatly reduced to a day ride, without packs, followed by a nice lunch, where we can catch-up with each other’ happenings. Cindee and I continue to bike as much as her full time job schedule will permit and we also are two of a Morro Elementary alumni group of six, self-named the *Sexy Six*. Who but ourselves would bestow that title upon us? Periodic get togethers keep our friendships alive and well.

Another group of seven Morro Elementary alumni, again self-named the *Nymphs, *also add dimension to my well-being. If laughter is good for the soul, and I truly believe it is, it’s no wonder that I have these “laugh lines” a.k.a. wrinkles as a result of our gatherings throughout each year. Truly a terrific group!

“You know, we are the luckiest people in the world to have a circle of friends who get together almost every Friday night for food and fellowship!” Truer words were never spoken than by one of our *T.G. * (short for Thank God It’s Friday) *Group* last Friday night as we were sitting around our dining room table; a fire blazing and several lively conversations swirling around over dessert and coffee. This group is comprised of nine people; three couples and three widows and for most of us, dates back to the early 1980’s. The idea was born while we were all still working and looking forward to unwinding at the end of the work week. We are all retired now, but still look forward to getting together almost every Friday night at someone’s house to unwind, as some of us lead almost as busy a life as we did before retirement. We’ve been there for each of our widowed friends, one whose husband passed away in 1996 and the other two who lost their husbands in 2002. But we’ve also shared many happy times. Our relationships are even further strengthened through involvement in organizational and fitness activities.

“Friends always seem to go out of their way to make other people feel special”. This statement certainly holds true with the *San Luis Obispo Bicycle Club*. The Club’s mission statement is to promote safe and legal bicycle riding for recreation and transportation. But in all the years I have been involved in the Club, I have witnessed a much broader unwritten mission; that of being there for our members in times of need, whether it be a death, a major injury, a surgery, an illness, an accomplishment or any reason to make someone feel special. Connecting with members through choices of daily organized rides, special rides, lunches, bi-annual potlucks and volunteering for our big fund-raiser rides helps build friendships. Gatherings with a small intimate group is an added plus!

“Friends are fun, fantastic, fabulous, warmhearted, free-spirited, amazing, amusing, extra-special, super sensational…. and a whole lot more!” This message came to me in 2008 from a wonderful eighty-six year old gentleman, Walter, who was one of the participants on my *2003 Cross Country* bicycle trip. He passed away last year, but this was exactly the same feeling I had for him and the other cyclists on that trip, particularly Elizabeth, my roommate; Daniel, my riding buddy, Steve, Bob and Peter (who succumbed to a heart attack last October).

“A Friend is one who listens and cares”. Relatively speaking, the *Life Story class members *are the “new kids on the block” of acquaintances for me. For two and one-half sessions, I have had the privilege of listening to a member who has shared about her growing up in Hollywood (a sharp contrast to my early years on an Iowa farm), the trials and tribulations of traveling cross country with toddler twins in a Volkswagen bus, the wife’s exacting memoirs of a husband who unfortunately was unable to write his own story, a daughter who has patiently, but happily, recorded dictated stories of her mother’s life, the on-going debate of whether the toilet paper should roll over or under the roll; to name just a few of the heartfelt interesting readings that I have had the privilege of listening to each week.

Sadness *had *overcome me when I started to labor over this segment but by the time I finished, I took to heart the belief that friends have a gift for seeing the sunny side of things. They have a natural enthusiasm for living that flows out to warm the hearts of those around you. My heart has indeed been warmed through the many friendships over the years. Hopefully your heart has been warmed in the same way!

Joan Petersen