Life in a Senior Residence Community is challenging and cherished.

I Think, Therefore I Blog

If I were to outline the events of 2017 on the blog, it would be longer than anyone’s attention span. However, Marian, my friend of about 65 years, has written, “I am looking forward to a long note on your Christmas card.”

So, Marian, what do you want to hear about? Travel? Changes? Health? Family? Let’s not even think about the tragic president in DC.

For starters, let’s think about getting older, which we all are doing. About 30 years ago I told myself that when I reached 80 I’d begin to think about getting old. The 80s have come and gone and NOW I’m beginning to think about getting old. On Tuesday mornings, I am taking bridge lessons because years ago I promised, “When I get old, I’m going to learn to play bridge and take a cruise, and on the fourth day out, I’ll join a table by the window to deal the cards between the whale sightings.”

In my whole life, I’d never changed addresses in July so in July of this year, I moved. Son Sam came to Friends House to remove the high shelves he’d installed three years ago and bring them over here, still in Santa Rosa, to Spring Lake Village, a senior residence that offers what I need in this last inning. So far I enjoy independent living, a comfortable one-bedroom cottage about half the size of the Capitola Cottage, where I lived at the beach for almost 20 years. I’ve met new interesting people and some from my other lives. Sheila Einhorn, whose son Greg was in Marty Love’s 4th grade at North School; Jane Jackson, whose daughter Jenny was in John Love’s class at Crocker Middle School.   Others.

We friends at SLV enjoy dinner together in the dining room, take walks around the 33-acre campus, sign up for one or more of the 37 exercise classes offered. I’ve joined the drumming circle, attend most of the meditation meetings, love the Wednesday evening musical events, and am responsible for sending birthday cards to those in Assisted Living and Skilled Nursing.

Once in a while I leave Spring Lake Village for the broader world. In January,, Joan , friend in Alamos, Sonora, Mexico, invited me to stay with her a month. An entire month! My expat life revisited. Dry warm days in which we drank Topo Chico and played canasta in the shade.

In June son Matt and I drove up to Florence, Oregon, to attend the recognition of brother David Rankin and Dianne as the best of Oregon Small Woodlot Owners. Fifty people, most of whom are also small woodlot owners, toured Dave and Dianne’s acreage, had lunch at tables Dave and their grandson Henry made from lumber harvested and milled right there!

A couple of months later, in mid-August, Dave and Dianne drove down to the Bay Area to stay with me and attend the wedding of granddaughter Sarah and Ilya Bendich at the St Francis Yacht Club. The best news about them is that they will continue to live in San Francisco, at least until he finishes his residency at UCSF Medical Center and she remains at Salesforce. See that tallest building? There’s Sarah!

Part of becoming an Ancient is diminishing physical abilities. I still walk unaided, but not up hills and more slowly than in the 1980s peace walks. Residents who have read my book, Walking for Our Lives, grin and ask, “Want to go for a walk up in Annabel Park?” Nice thought if we can stay on flat trails.

After the left hearing aid was lost down a garbage disposal, I listened with cocked head for a while and eventually asked the audiologist for a replacement, but by that time the technology had changed and I had to buy both. I think they cost more than half of what our first house in San Mateo cost! But I hear everything now! And last week granddaughter Katie asked, “Gran, do you always wear glasses?” Well, no, but I forget to take them off. I might sign up for the Memory Enhancement class.

Marian, ask about the family.

They are fine.

On October 9, Sam and Sandra were wakened about two in the morning and told to evacuate immediately. They pulled on shoes, and not much else, and raced out to their horses. Much later, Sam told me he was thinking, “If the horses are spooked and skittish, we won’t have time to lead them to their trailer.” Fortunately, all three horses were lined up at the gate saying, “Quick! Get us outa here!” They drove down to the huge parking lot at the Fair Grounds. Our great gratitude is that the fire, within half a mile of Sam and Sandra’s home, veered away.

Meanwhile, 430 independent residents of Spring Lake Village were evacuated…… also to the Fair Grounds, where Sam and Sandra miraculously found me! SLV was spared fire damage and I, after three weeks shared with Matt & Joan in Aptos and John & Holly in Los Altos, returned to clean air, hugs, and sighs of relief.

I sit here and think about this eventful year and must include the great encouragement I feel when I read about the involvement of the citizens of the world, especially in the USA. Millions of voices clambering for justice and equality and environmental responsibility. Something to think about.

I heard on NPR: “I think, therefore I blog.”*

Happy New Year, Marian.

 

*donnarankinlove.wordpress.com

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You Have Choices

 

“Follow your bliss. Doors will open and guides will appear.” Remember Joseph Campbell saying that? Everyone I knew was much younger then and many applied it to choosing careers or life partners or identifying their passions.

Recently a 20-something granddaughter and I had a long conversation about the choices she has and how she will make them. She spoke of her job that she loves, the co-workers who have become real friends, her pride in the quality of the product. It provides well for her. Seemingly perfect, except she knows the job now and the challenge is no longer there. Should she try something else?

I thought of my father’s answer when I asked him what he thought I should major in. First he said, “Take pre-med. Can’t hurt. Might help.” The following year, when I got a D in a five-hour chemistry class, he said, “Do what you love. The money will follow.” I majored in psychology and have been glad ever since. Worked in the psych department at University of Oregon, taught at Sarah Dix Hamlin School in San Francisco, loved bringing up four sons while I held a copy of Gesell and Ilg (child development resource) in the other hand, led troubled tutorial students to success, wrote some books, shared my enthusiasm for writing in Saturday workshops.  Psych helped.

Here in Spring Lake Village, I had lunch last week with a new friend and we told bits of our life stories. She explained that yes, she, too, had taught school, but tired of controlling restless adolescents. Quilting calmed and refreshed her. Loving to quilt, she shared her passion in Adult Education classes. So rewarding to be teaching students who wanted to learn! But frequently she found she needed something that she’d left at home. And her students had the same frustrating experience. So she found a storefront, opened a quilting store, taught classes there and whenever she or a student needed something, they could find it on the store shelves. She loved her quilting career.

She no longer has the store, but continues to exhibit her quilts in art shows. I asked her if she had made any money when she had owned the store and taught. She shrugged a little and smiled, “Not a lot, but enough.”

That’s it! Enough! She had followed her bliss and look what happened.

Saturday afternoon three of us senior residents drove over to see a toy train set up in a house. The “engineer” has a complex arrangement in the garage. Historically correct mines and warehouses, a church, a hardware store, an Out West neighborhood. Not only in the garage, but in the dining room as well. In the kitchen, looking for a water glass, I opened a cupboard and found it full of small buildings not quite ready to be set out along the tracks. I asked the engineer’s wife, “You two live at Spring Lake Village, don’t you? Who lives here?”

She explained that no one lives there. Sometimes family members come stay over, but the house if for the trains. “My husband used the second bedroom at Spring Lake Village to set up this section,” indicating a 12 foot long, waist-high display of buildings, mountains and tracks, “but then ran out of space.” She went on, “This is our solution. Real estate is not a bad investment and trains are Bill’s passion. This gets him up in the mornings. He’s 91 now and still has a boy’s love for toy trains.”

I like these reminders that we almost always have choices. At any time during our lives, some way, some how, we can follow our bliss.

 

 

 

Up From the Ashes

 

The first time I heard that phrase, up from the ashes, I was nine years old. In 1936, the town of Bandon, 18 miles down river from our Coquille, in southwestern Oregon, burned. The Irish Furze (Gorse) was pitchy and brittle and the winds high. My parents’ friends came to our house with what they could retrieve from their homes, and stayed for a while. After the fire, I heard them talking about rebuilding up from the ashes.

Now, after the fires that ripped through neighborhoods of Santa Rosa, I hear that phrase again. It will take years to recover. The immediate need is to find housing for the hundreds of homeless people. People who have lost everything!

We 430 residents who were evacuated within one and a half hours on the morning of Monday, October 9, are back. Everything here at Spring Lake Village looks just as nice, just as orderly and cheerful as it did a month ago, before the fires. The emphasis is on the well-being of those of us who live here. Yesterday in the monthly Transitions meeting, we told our stories. What happened, what we did, what we thought and felt.

What we are feeling now. What was difficult for us and what would we have done if SLV had burned? The minute that question was asked, one woman teared up. She told us she had moved here in September, found a nice boarding stable for her horse, and was adjusting well to her new life. She had not yet heard of the emergency drills, the to-go bag, the benches designated as gathering places in case of emergency. The evacuation and her concern for her horse were traumatic and she hadn’t once thought of what would happen if she lost everything.

One man said that if SLV had burned, he would consider moving to Bali, or better yet, to Thailand. He and his wife like the weather there. He said the food is good and they have friends in Thailand. I was cheered by his remarks; I had thought if I had to, I’d go to Alamos, Sonora, Mexico, at least until I had things figured out.

What of my lost belongings would I mourn? Actually, sentimental as I am over my family treasures, I probably would be fine without them. I might collect the insurance and just live on cruise ships for the next 10 to 14 years. Come back whenever a new great grandchild was born. And for Christmas. One Christmas I tried being away and spent more than an hour sitting in the tropical sun on a friend’s patio steps, talking on the phone to family.

What was hard during this recovery time? Sleepless nights, bad dreams, weepiness, lack of ability to focus, increased appetite for ice cream.

I told of a friend whom I had asked what was difficult for her. She had sighed and told me, “The other day, I had a hard time maneuvering the (golf) cart. There were so many downed leaves and little branches left from the winds that scattered the fires, I could barely go. She leaned toward me, put her hand on my arm for emphasis, and scowled. “I almost couldn’t get to the thirteenth tee.” I had thought of the enormous losses suffered by so many and could only look at her without comment.

What changes have we noticed in ourselves? Many spoke of their increased awareness and gratitude for safe family and friends. One noticed how much brighter and lovelier the autumn leaves seem this year. Some feel guilty for their good fortune and have become compulsively involved in helping others. Agencies are warehousing and distributing clothing and household supplies that have flooded in from local residents and merchants.

Toward the end of our Transitions meeting, one resident offered, “There are changes and there are transitions. When we allow the changes to change us, we are transitioned. I think that is what has happened with us.”

Someone else offered, “Remember when our three-year-old children would lean into our leg and grab hold? They did that when they were confused or hurt or in some way needed our strength. I think that we have leaned closer to God.”

 

Gus Hagelberg - Novel, Blog, Activism

Usually I am slower and less spontaneous with my posts, but I just felt like I had to get this out there.

Together with Gallup, National Geographic rated San Luis Obispo the 5th happiest city in the United States. Last year it actually had first place. Now I know why I like it here so much.

Find out more: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/destinations/north-america/united-states/happiest-cities-united-states-2017/

SanLuisObispoCalifCityView600 By Ken Broomfield [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons Speaking of the happiest place, I just had a great talk with Paula Francis who is walking from Big Sur to Los Angeles as part of the HappinessWalk.com. She has walked over 4,400 miles. From their website:

“Crossing a big country with walking shoes and a recorder, Paula Francis is researching and reporting on happiness by interviewing thousands of people during the 8,000 mile Happiness Walk.”

She interviewed me about my work with the Economy for the Common Good

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What a Week!

“What a week!” my Santa Rosa son Sam said.

In the dark about 2 a.m. on Monday, October 9, he and his wife Sandra were wakened by shouting, “Evacuate now!” They grabbed their passports, other documents, and loaded the two horses in to the trailer and fled to the huge open parking lot of the Sonoma County Fair Grounds.

About nine o’clock that morning, in the main exhibition hall, they found me among evacuees from Spring Lake Village. I count that as the miracle of the day. Not that they found me, but that we were all at the Fair Grounds. Later, after a pasta and salad lunch, brought by Community Services, I looked up to see Sam’s brother John and his wife Holly striding toward me. We drove carefully back to SLV to retrieve my car and soe possessions and headed to their home in Los Altos, two hours south of Santa Rosa.

Sam and Sandra had taken the horses and Bubba the dog out to friends who board horses on their ranch near Sebastopol and slept three nights there.

More than 1,700 homes are lost and 17,000 acres are scorched. It is a tragedy beyond comprehension.

During the week of October 9 to 16, Sharon York, Executive Director of Spring Lake Village, delivered daily updates at two o’clock on Facebook. I clung to the human interest stories. One was of the 11 cats still wandering around SLV. They were being fed, watered, and petted. Dennis, head of the maintenance department, had taken a pet bird, Felix, in his cage, with his cover, home with him.

In the early part of the week, I noticed I couldn’t get warm. My hands, feet, and ears were cold even though I had plenty of clothing during the days and warm blankets at night. Y Older people are often cold and keep their homes overly warm. I wondered if that was happening to me. Then, later in the week, I realized the weather had not changed. but I was warm again. “Must be that you were in some shock, Donna,” a friend surmised. Maybe so.

I was sleepy every afternoon and hardly awake enough in the evening to put on my pajamas. But in bed, I was restless, unable to sleep well. By Saturday, I was back to alert days and drowsing nights. What was that all about?

A smart friend asked me for details of the fire. I talked and talked and talked and finally apologized for rattling on so long. She shook her finger at me, “You must talk about this. This is a trauma that you must heal and talking about it is an important way to do that.” I asked if that could explain the veterans of WWII having always to talk abut The War. “Absolutely!” she said. So whenever anyone has asked, I have talked about the fire, the smoke, the uprooting of 450 elderly residents of Spring Lake Village, some in their bathrobes.

After a few days in Los Altos, I drove over the hill to Aptos in Santa Cruz County, to visit son Matt, his wife Joan, and their James. Each morning I assessed the clarity of the sky and found that the color blue had never been more lovely. No wonder the Virgin Mary wears a blue gown. The air quality in Sonoma County is being compared to that of Beijing, the worst in the world.

At noon one day, I met Joanie to have lunch and to talk about how the Santa Rosa fires have affected us. Joanie is a friend whom I met when I lived at Friends House. She and I have traveled to Cuba and Iceland together. We are dependable friends. When I saw her crossing the street to meet me, my heart swelled. My 92-year-old friend with her handsome cane and brightly flowered vest saw me and smiled her wide smile and we talked for three hours! Mostly we appreciated our good fortune in the midst of devastation: our residences are still standing and we have loving supportive families. We compared our evacuation experiences, recent sleep patterns, tensions, blood pressures, and emotional states. We both admitted feeling guilty, but decided “we can’t help anyone right now but we will when we return.” I came away from that conversation feeling much more grounded.

Yesterday Sam. called. When he asked what I was doing, I told him I was sitting in my car in the parking lot next to Tonic Salon in downtown Santa Cruz and, “I just got my hair cut.”

“Me, too,” he chuckled. “I guess things are getting back to normal.”

Outta Here!

Is this what it feels like to be a refugee, homeless, without some basic necessities? In fact, I am an evacuee from Santa Rosa.

October 9, Monday pre-dawn, I wakened to the sound of gongs. A deep authoritative voice (the voice of God?) intoned, “This is not a drill. Repeat. This is not a drill.” I sat up. “This is an emergency evacuation. Meet at your Emergency Bench.” I rushed to push my feet into Birkenstocks, grabbed a sweat shirt and flashlight, and, still in my pajamas, started out the door.

Stop! Catching myself in this panicked motion, I retreated into the house and shut the door. Not everyone is going to react so quickly. I needn’t hurry.

Back into the bedroom, I sat again on the side of the bed, then put on yesterday’s pair of pants, put on a t shirt and sweatshirt, didn’t care if my socks were color-coordinated, and tied the laces on walking shoes. Grabbed a nice shopping bag from behind the door and headed for the bathroom. Brushed my teeth. Dropped the tooth brush into the bag. Washed and dried my face and dropped the towel into the bag. Remembered to include tooth paste. Brushed my hair, added the hair brush. Moved to the kitchen and opened the refrigerator door, and took out what was in front: half a loaf of cinnamon bread, a block of cheese, an apple, two small containers of orange juice, and my water bottle. Added a sharp knife and the iphone. Picked up the flashlight and bag, turned out the lights, considered watering the house plants, and walked out the door over to the Emergency Bench.

Others were gathering. Some with pets, a gentleman in his plaid bathrobe, several with walkers. We studied the pre-dawn sky: to the east, a dark gray and to the north a pulsing pink. “Something’s wrong,” said the man in the plaid bathrobe. Our volunteer resident warden checked our names, some offered to drive to the Sonoma County Fair Grounds, our evacuee shelter, a few miles away. I chose to be among Jack’s passengers, because Jack looked big and healthy and capable and maybe in his mid-70s.

Once in the vast parking lot, we spilled out of cars, milled around with others we recognized, checked the sky. Same ominous gray and pink. Someone said, “We are surrounded by forest fires. Those 50-mile-an-hour winds last night whipped flames from one ridge to the next.”

Once inside the main building, we signed in, sat at long tables, sipped water or coffee, ate small oranges and large Costco muffins, chatted, re-assured each other. At the end of one table, four people played bridge . I was impressed with the general demeanor of the SLV residents: calm, cooperative, helpful, mildly cheerful, appreciative.

One worried woman leaned toward me and said, “I am not comfortable here. I hope we don’t have to stay long.” I, ever the cheer-leader, reminded her that we were safe, dry, had warm water, clean bathrooms, outlets to charge our iphones, food, medications, and people to care for us, and we had each other.” She looked resigned and said, “Well, as long as we don’t have to sleep here.” I didn’t point out to her that at the other end of huge space, cots were arriving.

My Santa Rosa son Sam and his wife Sandra had mandatory evacuation around two o’clock Monday morning so loaded the horses into their trailer. Sandra drove the truck/trailer, Sam drove the family car with Bubba the dog, and Sandra’s mother Betty drove her car to the parking lot at the Fair Grounds. They took nothing from their house. Not even Sam’s beautiful new guitar.

They found me among the SLV residents! A miracle! Sandra said, “Look at that sky. Darker and darker. I want outta here. We’re going to a friend’s ranch near Sebastopol. Want to come with us?” I was tempted, just to be together, but by then, I was expecting son John and Holly who were driving up from Los Altos (SF peninsula) to rescue me from the dust- and ash-laden air.

When John and Holly arrived, I signed out and we drove back to Spring Lake Village where John collected the computer, address books, and calendar from the desk. Holly closed the windows, reminded me to take the vitamins and hearing aids (which I, in my pre-dawn haste, had forgotten), and I jammed some clothes and necessities into a bag.
John drove my car and I climbed in with Holly and we were outta there. I’m safe and counting my blessings.

The first step in a long process. Now what’ll we do?

 

 

A Week With Louise

About 20 years ago, after I had not been visiting Alamos, Sonora, Mexico as frequently as I had in the past, my friend Louise, sitting at her computer on her portál where she lived in an old tequila factory just outside Alamos, sent me an email. “Merry Christmas,” she wrote. “Where the hell ARE you!”

That spurred me to resume my flights to Tucson and overnight bus rides to get to Alamos. It was Louise who met the plane in Obregon and drove us the hour to Alamos.

IA few years ago, Louise purchased a house on Indian Lake in southwestern Michigan where she is close to some of her family during the summer months.  Another Alamos friend, Robin, lives in Sonoma County, California, as I now do, and we answered Louise’s call to come see her.

At the end of August, Robin and I boarded the airport express bus,in Santa Rosa, the plane in Oakland, the Blue Line at O’Hare Airport in Chicago, a taxi, and Amtrak, all book-ended by two cars, and thus arrived at our destination where Louise jumped up and down in the parking lot waving, her silver blond hair swinging wildly. We hugged and swung around like teenagers, which we haven’t been for six or seven decades, but still sometimes feel as though we are.

It didn’t take long for us to get into a routine. Every morning for a week the three of us in our bright pajamas, took our tea and coffee, slices of IMG_1391local peaches, and banana bread out to Louise’s screen porch and hunkered down among her plants and colorful pillows. The sun rose over the lake, the man next door brought out his folding chair where he sat to dangle his fishing line into the water. Bees buzzed against the screens. Robin told of her twenties in Manhattan, her career choices, her romances, her lecherous New York bosses. Louise referred to a popular novel, Amor Towle’s Rules of Civility, about twenty-somethings in New York City in 1937. Not a lot has changed.

Listening to Robin’s and Louise’s tales, I sometimes felt drab because six weeks after I finished school, I married a college boyfriend, taught school for a little while, and had four sons in five years. A good life, but not material for breathless novels.

We three never ran out of words. We were never tired of listening. We never had a single moment of potential friction. We laughed and agreed that we are, indeed, grow-ups. I hope so! They are each 74 and I’m 90.

Eventually, each morning about eleven o’clock, one of us asked, “Well, what’ll we do with the rest of the day? Can we go junking?” Yes! Louise needed more stuff to furnish her house. I was looking for a wooden bird to perch atop the painted post that I brought with me when I moved from Friends House to Spring Lake Village. When the post was at Friends House, it was wedged below a soffit and appeared to be holding it up. Now, in Spring Lake Village, the ceilings are high, vaulted, and beamed. The post looked lonely and forlorn with nothing to hold up. It had nothing to do. No purpose. I’ve seen old folks who feel the same way, useless and set aside. Happily, we here at Spring Lake Village don’t suffer those feelings. Our daily lives include involvement of many sorts, all contributing to our sense of well-being.

As a quick solution for the lonely post, I lifted a bird’s nest to the top. That worked, gave something for the post to hold. But the nest needed a bird. So in Michigan I searched. Found one in a store named Rust. Good name. Everything in there was old and rIMG_1398usty or missing a part. The bird I liked had no beak.

So when I returned home, with the rose-clippers, I cut an inch or so from a chop stick, whittled it sort of round, sharpened the end in a pencil sharpener, and gave it a squirt of flat black paint. The bird’s round head and small eyes remind me of Winston Churchill smoking his cigar, but I don’t mention that.

Our best buy was at a Goodwill Store. A large (3′ x 4′ x 3′) wooden red lacquer box that Louise bought to use as a coffee table. She had hesitated; wasn’t sure about the $35. But Robin and I talked her into it and after we had settled it in front of the sofa, Louise opened its doors, reached inside and found a card. The big red box had been imported from China and had retailed for $3,800! Louise had paid less than 1% of the original price. We wiped up the banana bread crumbs, put coasters under our IMG_1387cups and with our napkins, polished all over .

“Well,” said Louise, “let’s get dressed and go see what else we can find.”

 

 

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