Life in a Senior Residence Community is challenging and cherished.


Yesterday granddaughter Jenny came for an overnight. She is the one who could turn on a computer before she could talk clearly….climbed up and stood on a chair to reach, poked the ON button, and looked at the lights. Jenny is 25 now, and, like most in her generation, is thoroughly competent with computers.

This morning we had a computer tutorial in which, among other skills, she showed me how to use my new iPhone as a camera and then include the photos in the blogs!

We added a photo to Toast the Post. Added another to Drying Apples and two photos in today’s blog, A Day with Nancy and Ruth. Such a big step forward! I especially like the shot of the dried apples, but, then again, Jenny is a food photographer.


Friday evening, Nancy asked me, “Are we walking tomorrow? Should be a lovely day!” She waited for my answer, her pretty faced lighted by her smile.


“Okay,” I reluctantly agreed. Who could resist Nancy? “I’m playing bridge with Ruth at seven o’clock. I’ll ask her if she wants to go.” Then I forgot.

Next morning about nine, Ruth called, “I hope we’re walking this morning.”

“Yes, we are. Nine-thirty, my place.”


We three octogenarians have been walking the nearby creek paths on Saturday mornings for over a year now. We start out peppy and after a mile or so, begin to slow down. We have found a bench where we sit in the shade for a little while, wiggling close so we all fit.

We talk about anything that comes to mind. We talked again about how to pare down our stuff. I mentioned a small book called just that, STUFF, by Steve Neff, in which he says, “Identify the essential, eliminate the rest.” He also stresses (in heavy print), “Don’t leave it for the kids!”

Nancy suggested that treasured family photos be put on an e-device that shows the pictures in rotation, a few seconds at a time. Her daughter reduced several scrap-books this way and Nancy sees the photos every day. Another idea is to have a bonfire and everyone tosses pictures of relatives no one knows. One friend suggests we discard pictures of people three generations ago. Another pipes up, “Those are our ancestors!”

Each time I visit friends and family for a few days, I take a fat scrap book with me for their perusal. One of these days, I’m going to start tossing those books. But not quite yet. They are still on the essentials list; records of important parts of my life.

Ruth is going to include old photos of friends in her Christmas cards and share memories of times past.

We walked along, chatting, for an hour or so until we’d circled back to Friends House.

“Bye. Nice walk. See you at one o’clock,”

“One o’clock? What’s then?”

“Remember? We have tickets to the Santa Rosa Symphony rehearsal.”

“Oh. Right. See you at one.”

Cleaned up, not dressed up, except for Ruth who glowed in a jewel toned silk blouse, we drove to Green Music Center on the Sonoma State University campus. This is the Santa Rosa Symphony’s 89th year. Mine, too. I’m celebrating with season tickets for Conductor Bruno Ferrandis’s final year here. He says, “For my last full season as Music Director of the Santa Rosa Symphony, I want to remind you who I am through the spirit of programs and artists who are close to my heart.” His guest on Saturday was his brother, Jean Ferrandis, an internationally acclaimed flutist. Leonard Bernstein said of him, “(Jean) is Pan himself.”

“I wonder if the entire Ferrandis family is musical,” I said. “Imagine how proud their parents must be!”

What a treat to sit in Weill Hall, gaze out the windows toward the rolling rural hills, and listen to gorgeous full music, and maybe even doze a little.

Back again at Friends House, Nancy asked, “Are you going to the movie in the library tonight?”

“I don’t know., “ I answered. “What is it?”

“I forget,” she said. And Ruth, who is on the film committee, announced, “It’s The Magic Garden. Very touching. British classic. Nice.”

“Okay,I’ll go. Will you?”

“Yes. Wouldn’t miss it. Shall we sit together?”

Of course. Together. The entire day.

Good Idea!

Good Idea!

Want to know why it’s a good idea to move into a senior community?

Because when you have a computer problem, there is someone nearby who can help. For years, to print the blog, I have written it, printed a hard copy, set up the hard copy next to the computer. Then I brought up the blog site and copied…..I mean I typed again from the printed copy….the blog.

This morning Ruth came over to talk about something else and I asked her if she has a MacBook Air like mine. She does. I told her how I have been publishing the blog and she exclaimed, “Oh, can’t you just copy it into place?”

“No, I don’t know how.”

And she showed me. I will now try to follow her directions and see what happens. If it works, it’ll save all sorts of time.

And that’s a reason it’s a good idea to move into a senior community!

Dried Apples

Today I am going to dry apples. I’ve borrowed a dehydrator from Joanie and will slice apples, three horizontal slices per apple. They rest in a bowl of  watered lemon juice before I arrange them on the screens and turn on the dryer for about 36 hours.


First, I need to pick the apples. We  have over 100 fruit-bearing trees here. Thirty-five years ago, when Friends House was in the planning stages, a member of the committee, professor of botany at Sonoma State University, Ken Stocking, declared, “We need 100 fruit trees and 100 rose bushes.”

So, these bright autumn days of 2016, any of us can gather apples, oranges, lemons, figs, pears, pomegranates, quince, grapes, and roses. Lots of roses. Other flowers, too. Our campus is divided into four clusters of garden apartments. Each cluster has an outdoor table set among the trees.  Ruth and her Ripe Fruit Picking Committee, residents who are tall and can reach up without falling over, collect and place on the tables a harvest of fruit for the taking.

I’m going to pick 25 apples. I think there’s a laden tree of Golden Delicious over in Cluster C.

Residents make fruit-nut breads, candied orange peel, grape jelly, apple butter, fruit chutneys and  contribute their home-made delicacies to the Friends House Holiday Faire, which is held the weekend before Thanksgiving.

The Holiday Faire-Quaker Tea is a major fundraiser event to provide Christmas gifts for members of our staff. Local artisans are invited to set out their wares in the lobby, residents organize an Albino Pachyderm Sale. For the formal tea, we make ribbon sandwiches and scones and a traditional cake. Lovely fragrances everywhere. Big doin’s. Lots of scurrying around. Many meetings.

But today, the last Sunday in September, is a quiet morning. I will gather apples; core, peel, slice, and dry them. My space here at Friends House will be as aromatic as  the canning kitchen I had when I was a fair-weather farmer living in a sprawling yellow house in an apple orchard near Elton, Oregon, during the 1990s.

Toast the Post

About five months ago, I was browsing through the thick volume named A Pattern Language by a group of Berkeley architects including Christopher Alexander, Sara Ishikawa, and Murray Silverstein, published in 1977. These were the architects who influenced the design of Friends House, where I live, in Santa Rosa, north of San Francisco.

In describing the arrangement of a living-space for one person, the authors say, “Conceive a house for one person as a place of the utmost simplicity; essentially a one-room cottage or studio, with large and small alcoves around it. When it is most intense, the entire house may be no more than 300 to 400 square feet.” (Talk about the current Tiny House movement!) My space is larger, about 560 square feet, with a separate bedroom and bath.

To compose the blogs, I sit at an old writing table in a single-room combination of kitchen, dining table, seating area for TV, reading, and conversation; storage cupboards, an open pantry, office files, and an open alcove for hanging jackets.

Each of these areas is in a niche along the perimeter of the room. The book says, “In essence, it is simply a central space, with nooks around it.”

In all the 30 years I’ve had the sofa, it has never been more conducive to napping than it is now….settled in it’s own niche beneath the windows. The kitchen along the back wall is open, but visually separated by a soffit and a change of flooring. The jackets, an antique chimney cupboard, and the writing table share a niche that formerly was a 12-foot closet. These spaces give a sense of order and rhythm to the room. Sometimes I just stand at the front door and gaze around, feeling satisfaction and contentment.

A Pattern Language also discussed columns. “A free-standing column plays a role in shaping human space. It marks a point. The main function of the column from a human point of view, is to create a space for human activity.” I walked over to the lobby of Friends House where ten columns, along with nooks, define spaces for coffee service, conversation, display of goods for sale, our mail boxes, and public notices. Sighting down the double row, I saw that the columns give perspective to the entire area, as well as creating cozy, human-scale, invitingly intimate niches.

I wanted a column!

So, in June, when I returned to Santa Cruz County to see family and friends, I stopped by Crawford’s Antiques to check out their supply of old columns. Son Sam, retired builder, had advised me, “Eight-inch diameter, Mom.” I found just the right one, except it was, as Suzy Crawford said, “front porch green,” with many layers of blistered paint beneath. She said she’d scrape down until she found a color I might like, then smooth and finish it.

I’d be back in August. It would be ready.

It was. And it was/is beautiful! Beautiful to those of us who like old, battered pieces. Beautiful to me who likes the rusty bricky color and a finish smoother than silk. We loaded it into my car.

At the intersection of the open end of the kitchen and the little hallway leading to the bedroom, Sam and his wife Sandra installed the column.  A few days later, I invited them back for a glass of wine to celebrate this addition. The column, the pillar, the post “makes the house complete.”


We lifted our glasses to toast the post.

Every morning as I come into the kitchen to put on the kettle, I pat the post. A good way to start the day.

An Ordinary Day

Remember when we worked at jobs that we didn’t particularly like, or where someone in the office was offensive or the principal was egotistical and we waded through those ordinary days until TGIF and the up-coming weekend? We had children at home to feed and to send to the orthodontist. We had spousal  duties and social obligations. We lived through decades of doing what was expected of us.

And now? Where I live, in a senior community, we can choose to be dutiful and responsible, or, without guilt, we can choose to sit in the sun and do nothing or sit on the couch and read. Such are some of the rewards of getting old. But, when we look idle, we are still alert. We are appreciating the stillness, the spaciousness, the serenity of our lives. Even with twitches of pain and fallible knees, we gaze affectionately at red zinnias in a neighbor’s patch of garden, we share still-warm applesauce, we feel a part of an intimate group and a universal “oneness.”

Katrina Kenison, in her book, the gift of an ordinary day, says, “I realize there are qualities of mind and heart in me that I am grateful for. I recognize, emerging slowly from beneath the layers, the optimism that has always made me me. My faith in other people, the sense of wonder that dawns as fresh in me each day as morning. The idealism that is both my nature and my gift. The creation of a self, it seems, at this late stage of the game, is more a process than a project, more about opening and allowing than forcing and doing.”

Living daily, the view back longer than the view forward, reminds me that a simple change in focus can improve the tone of a day. Recently one morning, I wakened and asked once again, “Tell me. Just why am I here?”

I answered, “You are here because you want the experience of living in a community. You chose this place so your children someday would not have to choose.”

“Oh, yes, that’s right.” So, reminded of why, I recalled the admonition, “Thoughts are things. Choose the good ones.” As a proclaimed peace activist, I prod myself to create peace nearby. To start at home. Within myself.

Again, Katrina Kenison, whom I paraphrase, “If we are going to live the life we’ve dreamed, if this place is to become a home built not just of walls and beams, but of love and peace, then both the dwellings and the people in them will require steady care and attention. Peace, patience, and understanding will have to grow and be nurtured here first, if ever we are to carry peace and compassion out into the world beyond our door.”

These days, these ordinary days, life is shifting and I need to welcome the change and shift along with it, hopefully with a light heart. Clarissa Pinkola Estés says, “Mend the part of the world that is within your reach.”

Perhaps it does not have to be such hard work after all.



Take Care!

“Take care of yourselves!” our mother told us as we bolted out the door and jumped into the car. She stood on the porch, waved, pretended she was checking the border flowers as she lowered her eyes to hide her tears, waved again, and called out, “Take care! Take care of yourselves.”

I thought of that scene as I listened to the millions of words shouted out during the Republican Convention two weeks ago and in the Democratic Convention last week. Such unabashed demonstrations of people exercising their right to gather and speak out, supporting the candidates they believe will take care of them. Lots of speeches promising to do just that.

And then we heard from President Obama whose greatest one-liner was a throw-away three-word phrase: “Don’t boo…VOTE.” Not shouted, not demanded; spoken almost as an aside, as a spontaneous thought.

And I whooped with excitement! That’s right! We need to take  care of ourselves. We each need to vote! It’s imperative that everyone votes. That’s our democratic way of making an effort to take care of ourselves.

In recent years, since I’ve moved into this residence for the elderly, I have heard complaints, moans, and whines from people who now, in their impaired states, feel helpless. As though they need someone else to care for them. And, yes, that is true, to some extent. But not to the extent that they might believe. I think it was (almost) 101-year-old Leslee who I heard demand, “Stop your complaining. Draw up a petition and have everyone sign it. That way you’ll have a chance of changing whatever you feel is important. You want different food? Get organized. Get a group. Go tell the cook. See what happens.”

When I told a staff member in the front office of a situation I felt helpless to change, she gently reminded me, “You know, you need to take that to Resident Services. That’s the office right down this little hall. Let them know. See what happens.”

Another time I complained to a friend here that whenever I drove off campus, I came back to find someone had parked in the space assigned to me. I stormed around in frustration, and she asked, “What are you going to do about it?”

I realized I had to take responsibility for myself and my parking space, so with a red marking pen, I highlighted the sign that said “Resident Parking Only,” three times underlining Only. I left a note on the intruder’s windshield. It worked! Now when I return, I zip right into my own reserved parking space.

Several years ago I was in Oregon saying goodbye to my youngest brother, David. Our brother John had died some time ago and I’ve lost track of our other brother. I patted David’s chest and looked up at him. “You take good care of yourself, David. I used to have three brothers and now I have one, you.”

He grinned and patted my shoulder. “You take good care of yourself, too. I’ve always had one sister, you.”

What is Bernie Sanders saying? He’s saying just what Mother said, “Take care of yourselves,” just what Leslee is saying, “Get organized,” just what David is saying, “You are important,” just what President Obama is saying, “Don’t boo….Vote.”

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