The Biloxi Mississippi Lighthouse at sunset on November 10, 2021. © Susan Alton, 2021

The Biloxi Mississippi Lighthouse at sunset on November 10, 2021. © Susan Alton, 2021
The Biloxi Mississippi Lighthouse at sunset on November 10, 2021. © Susan Alton, 2021

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Garden City, Kansas, Here We Are - Thursday, April 29, 2021

Well, last night was exciting at our home in San Antonio. Around 7:30 p.m., we had a tornado warning. The weatherman on TV was very animated, emphasizing that people in the path of the tornado warning needed to take shelter NOW. We went to our park's office building which is a designated shelter.

The office building is quite large and accommodated everyone and their pets nicely. The TVs were tuned to the weather news. After waiting about 45 minutes, we were given the all-clear to go back home. Thankfully, we did not receive any hail or tornadoes. Only a few sprinkles of rain fell, but we saw a lot of lightning!

About 2:30 a.m., we had a big downpour with thunder and lightning. It poured for a while.

At 3:30 a.m., I got up for the day. Bob, Susan Medlin, and I are driving to Garden City, Kansas, for a walking weekend spanning five counties in southwest Kansas. We picked Susan up at 5:00 a.m. 

As we headed west and north to Fredericksburg, Texas, the rain kept on falling. All of us thought we'd be out of the storms in an hour or two. Nope. Wrong. We had storms until 11:30 a.m. Not only that, it was cold outside.

It was lunchtime and we had planned to make sandwiches and have lunch at a picnic area. I pulled into a scenic picnic area. We all piled out of the Jeep. Brr! It was still cold even though the rain had stopped and the gloom was lifting. There was a stiff wind and we had to hold down the paper plates, the bread for the sandwiches, the napkins, etc. After the sandwiches were put together, we piled back into the Jeep to eat. We were overly optimistic about eating outside.

A scenic picnic area in the Texas panhandle.

A bonus to being farther north is that the bluebonnets and wildflowers are still in bloom. The dark blue of the bluebonnets in contrast with the butter-yellow flowers gave us a beautiful natural bouquet on the hillside next to the picnic table.

Bluebonnets.

Yellow and white wildflowers.

The view from our picnic "shelter."

The rest of our drive was sunny and the temperature warmed from 55 degrees this morning to 70 degrees by the time we got to Garden City, Kansas. After we checked into our hotel, we met about 14 other walkers at Casa Mariachi Mexican Restaurant. 

Lucy and Wes modeling with the
margaritas (small, medium, large).

I had a hard time choosing what to have for dinner because they had such a unique menu. I've never been to a Mexican restaurant that had so much pineapple on the menu! For example, Pollo Hawaiane was a chicken breast with ham and pineapple. I chose Pollo de Cazadores (Chicken of the Hunter) and it was yummy. It was chicken breast covered in melted cheese; a guacamole salad, refried beans, sauteed mushrooms, onions and green peppers, and warm flour tortillas. Bob had Enchiladas Elenas (three enchiladas topped with green sauce, cheese, and sour cream) served with guacamole salad and refried beans.

The Margaritas came in four sizes: small, medium, large, and jumbo. Wow!

Art in the restaurant.

A great benefit to being in AVA: America's Walking Club is getting to know people. Our dinner conversation was lively and we will enjoy spending more time with our new friends on the trails this weekend!

Dave, Ray, Gretchen.

For the next four days, our weather forecast shows lows overnight in the low 40s to highs in the high 70s-80. We now have rain in the forecast for Sunday and Monday. We'll see what develops.

Thank you to the Sunflower Sod Stompers Volksmarch walking club for organizing the "Huffin' and Puffin' on the Plains of Kansas" walks this weekend. We will walk in five different counties. Who knows what we might see!?

Friday, April 23, 2021

Mom's Celebration of Life Ceremony - Monday, April 12, 2021

[NOTE: This was written on April 23, 2021, two weeks after Margaret Van Schoten's ceremony.]

Claim Jumper Restaurant with family (2011)

Monday, April 12, 2021: Today, we had Mom's Celebration of Life service at Willamette National Cemetery. Jan, Frank, and I were able to read our poems, letters we wrote to Mom, and quotes. In addition to the poem and letter I wrote to Mom, I also wanted to read sayings and quotes Mom had collected over the years; however, I couldn't find them. I thought I had packed them when I went to Oregon, but they were not in my luggage.

Bob had returned home, so I called him and asked him to look for the quotes in my desk drawer and in a file box. He could not find them. What did I do with them?

In the end, the Celebration of Life ceremony gave Jan, Frank, and me just enough time to say what we had, and then it was over. Willamette National Cemetery has a strict half-hour limit on the service and we filled up the time.

Today (April 23), I was filing papers in Mom's files and I found the quotes. I would like to share them here so they are recorded in perpetuity. There were no names on any of these. I did some research and came up with a few attributions. If anyone knows who wrote the last saying, please let me know and I will attribute that quote to the right person or book.

*****

"May we always have laughter to cheer us
and those that we love near us, 
health and happiness throughout the year before us."
~From an Irish blessing?

*****

"Now I'm Free
Don't grieve for me, for now I'm free.
I'm following in the path God laid for me.
I took his hand when I heard him call.
I turned my back and left it all.
I could not stay another day to laugh, to love, to work, or play.
Tasks left undone must stay that way.
I found that peace at the close of the day.
If my parting has left a void, then fill it with remembered joy.
A friendship shared, a laugh, a kiss,
ah yes, these things I too will miss.
Be not burdened with times of sorrow,
I wish you the sunshine of tomorrow.
My life's been full. I've savored much:
good friends, good times and a loved one's touch.
Perhaps my time seemed all too brief,
don't lengthen it with undue grief.
Lift up your ears and share with me.
God wanted me now and He set me free."
~Poem by Shannon Lee Moseley

*****

"Six Best Doctors In the World
1. Sunlight
2. Rest
3. Exercise
4. Diet
5. Self-confidence
6. Friends"

[A 1996 book by English professor Wayne Fields,
titled "What the River Knows: an Angler in Midstream,"
includes a nursery rhyme closely matching the "six doctor's" saying (page 66)...The same nursery-song version, under titles such as "Doctors Six" or "the Six Good Doctors," was published in journals as far back as 1909."]

*****

"Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace
Lord, Make me an instrument of your peace.
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; 
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Amen
~St. Francis of Assisi
[Used in compliance with Copyright Notice, 2012]

*****

"And, finally, the nicest place to be is in someone's thoughts,
the safest place to be is in someone's prayers,
and the very best place to be is in the hands of God.
God bless you."
~Unknown

*****

After Mom's service, our family, "adopted" sister Kimmie, and two friends were going to eat lunch at Gustav's. However, when we arrived at 11 a.m., we found out they didn't open until noon! A quick change in plans; we ate lunch at Claim Jumper Restaurant. Because of COVID, Oregon does not allow more than six people to sit at one table. There were eight of us, so we divided into two tables of four right across from each other. It was a wonderful lunch. My brother Frank told lots of stories from our childhood and then he went to the other table and told them the stories. We were all laughing!

After lunch, my sister (Janyce), brother (Frank), sister-in-law (Gina), son (Michael), and I went to Jan's place to play pinochle and work on a jigsaw puzzle. It was a pleasant afternoon and we ordered pizza for dinner. Frank and Gina had to head back up to the Olympic Peninsula and by 7 p.m. they thought traffic would have died down. So off they went. 

It was a really good day. Mom would have loved it.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Quiet Days

The past few days have been days of low activity. A time for quiet introspection would sum them up. 

The weather has been nice with no rain, no high winds, or extreme cold. Our high temperature was 68 yesterday in Beaverton, Oregon. 

Here are the things we've done in the past week. 

  • I blogged. 
  • Jan and I worked on a couple of jigsaw puzzles. 
  • Last Friday night, we had a Pizza and Pinochle party with Jan's friend Jane and my son Michael. It was a blast. We laughed and laughed. 
  • Michael and I went to see "The Courier" and had Thai food for dinner afterward. 
  • Janyce bought a 90-minute massage for each of us. What a sweetheart. We both needed that so much! My massage therapist got in there and worked the knots out of my back, neck, and shoulders. 
  • Our adopted sister Kimmie took Jan and me to lunch at a Thai restaurant.
  • We have eaten dinner out a lot because we don't feel like cooking.
  • Yesterday, Jan shopped for a new sofa. We went to SEVEN furniture stores and she ended up buying the first one we sat on. That was exhausting! 
  • We had dinner at Gustav's German restaurant yesterday after shopping. Our favorite meal is the Peasant's Trio: choice of green garden salad or classic Caesar salad; cheese bread, and unlimited lentil soup. I also had a blackberry cider which I loved.
Table setting for our pizza/pinochle
complete with crystal wine glasses!

Ayinger blackberry cider.

Tomorrow, we are going to Cannon Beach, Oregon, Mom's favorite spot. If the weather is nice, we can walk on the beach for miles. We'll have lunch at The Wayfarer Restaurant overlooking Haystack Rock.

Cannon Beach, Oregon.

It may sound like we've done a lot, but it's been spread out over a week and a half. Janyce and I are doing well. 

We're looking forward to a day at the beach! 

Monday, April 5, 2021

My Mom Gave Me Life, and Death

It is time to revive my blog. My last entry was on December 17, 2020. 

As many of you know, my mom passed away on March 26, 2021, just after her 91st birthday. She had many years of living life to the fullest. We will cherish those memories of her forever.

Susan, Mom, Frank, Janyce 
in Mom's apartment (March 2021)

She fell on February 27 and fractured her pelvis in three places. Legacy Meridian Park Hospital was her first stop after she fell. From there, she was transferred to Legacy Emanuel Trauma Center in downtown Portland, Oregon. Orthopedists consulted on her treatment. Our family and mom did not want her to be operated on. The doctors concurred that there was too much risk involved in surgery at her age.

Mom was transported back to her apartment at her assisted living facility where she was to be on strict bed rest. If you know my mom, that didn't go over well. All she wanted to do was get up and walk.

Hospice took over her care. Janyce and I decided to keep Mom company 24/7. We alternated days and spent the last month in her one-bedroom apartment. She was in a hospital bed in her living room and we slept in her bedroom. On alternate days, we took off and spent the night at Jan's place. I'm so glad we did that because Mom would yell our names in the middle of the night and we were there to help her with whatever she needed. The assisted living facility did not provide that level of care. 

Bob came to Portland for four nights. I stayed in a hotel with him on my off nights. He stayed a partial night with me in Mom's room one night. He went back to the hotel to sleep around 11 p.m. Mom passed away at 2 a.m. and he walked back to the assisted living facility and spent the rest of the night. I appreciated his comfort and compassion. My son, Michael, visited his grandma one afternoon. I am so thankful he got to see her while she was still somewhat coherent!

After Mom passed, Bob, Michael, and Randall helped move Mom's possessions out of her apartment. They were so much help and Janyce and I were glad they were there. We had breakfast one morning at Elmer's Pancake House, a family favorite.

In a tribute to Mom, I would like to give you memories of the person she was. When we were young, she made clothes for us. Her entries of bread, decorated cakes, and pies won many ribbons at county fairs. She painted, sketched, did beadwork, sewed, and did calligraphy. She was the artist in our family. 

She took us to parks to play, entered us in summer craft programs, and our house was fun central in our neighborhood. We would make forts, play crash bikes, and have great birthday parties. 

Our family took trips to the desert, to the mountains, to the east side of the Sierra Nevada. Dad would take us kids fishing and Mom would sketch and paint. It was probably the most peace and quiet she had while we were growing up. Every once in a while, Dad would rent a pull-behind trailer and we'd go camping and hiking in the mountains. I remember trips to the Alabama Hills, Mammoth Lake, Crowley Lake, Mono Lake, Devils Postpile, and Mt. Lassen.

When we were a little bit older ages 8-14, our parents bought a small cabin in Idyllwild, California. That was so much fun! The three of us kids would hike trails in the woods for hours on end and explore the mountains. There were awesome views of Tahquitz Rock. We caught lizards and found scorpions. We tried to dam up the little creek that ran next to our property, but that didn't work too well. I remember one time we found a small cave under a rock and we thought maybe it was a bear den or home to a mountain lion. We slithered into the opening and looked around. It's probably a good thing we never found out what lived there! In the winter we had two to three feet of snow and went tobogganing. 

After I finished middle school, our parents moved us to Oregon from Southern California. For me, it was the best thing we ever did. I never felt like I fit in with the surfer crowd. Once we moved to the countryside in Newberg, Oregon, I met friends my age just riding my bike around that summer. When I started ninth grade (still junior high in Oregon), I already had friends.

Life was good in Oregon. We lived on a five-acre farm six miles from Newberg. A large part of the property became our vegetable garden. That was wonderful to have fresh lettuce, tomatoes, summer squash, strawberries, green beans, rhubarb, zucchini, etc. Janyce and I learned how to can fruits, vegetables, and applesauce.

In addition, our farm had a couple of barns. One was modified to make a chicken coop with an outside fenced-in yard for the chickens. The other barn was for our Suffolk sheep. We also raised turkeys and, for a time, quail and pheasants.

In the summer, we'd take our sleeping bags and sleep under the stars in our yard. We'd fall asleep watching shooting stars and listening to the foxes yip. A beautiful family of red foxes lived under our back barn. They never bothered our chickens, but we did see a chicken from somewhere else that they had brought back. The foxes had beautiful, curious little kits who we would watch endlessly. They were so adorable. We also usually had cats and a dog around.

My main point is, Mom and Dad provided endless opportunities for us to learn and live life to the fullest. When we lived in Oregon, we kids worked picking strawberries, blackberries, boysenberries, blackcaps, blueberries, and pole beans. We had to use our earnings to buy our own school supplies and clothes. That taught us the value of hard work, budgeting, and the responsibility of getting ready for our ride to our bus in the morning (Mom packed lunches for us and drove us to the pick-up point).

Fast forward 53 years and Mom had aged to 90. She passed away at 91. Her Celebration of Life service will be Monday, April 12.

Here is a poem I wrote in her honor:

My Mom Gave Me Life, and Death
by Susan Alton

A new cry upon the earth;
my mom gave birth.
I squawk
I walk
I talk.

She taught me about others, 
my mother.
At the playground, I caught a glimpse
of other imps.
She kissed my cuts,
I drove her nuts.
She healed my hurts,
I grew in spurts.

As a prepubescent adolescent emerged,
over and over, our emotions were purged.
She became a teacher, preacher,
screecher, and beseecher.
Somehow, I survived and thrived.

I moved away for a life of my own.
My, how I thought I had grown.

Life's lessons were hard,
my innocence was jarred.
At times, I had no support;
I lost my friendly cohort.

I had three marriages:
one ugly, one healing, one best
that put my mother to the test.

We didn't see eye-to-eye on a belief
that caused her to experience grief.

She taught us well; how to read, cook,
get along (?!), enjoy life, and party.
Her laughter and enthusiasm were hearty.
One of the things I liked best? She was art-y.

The years have rolled on
through seasons and time.
I have seen my mom in her prime, 
and sublime.

Dad was sick for many years
which caused in us tears and fears.
Hospice stepped in at the end of his life
which gave great relief to me and Mom, his wife.

Now, it's Mom's turn to be hurt and in sorrow,
not knowing if she'll have a tomorrow.
My sister, brother, and I are all in a dither,
as we sadly watch our dear mother wither.

Again, we have hospice to thank for her care
as Janyce and I are actively there.

The breadth of her life
and the depth of her feeling,
cuts us like a knife
to see it unreeling.

Hallucinations, anger, moments of peace,
our family knows her pain will soon cease.
Loss of appetite, indignity, sleeplessness, pain;
whenever these end, will be her gain.

A new cry upon the earth
about my mom who gave me birth...
She is not yet leaving,
but I am actively grieving.
Tears flow freely,
I'm not okay, really.

This isn't the way she wanted her end-of-life to be;
she wished to die in her sleep, peacefully.

Life doesn't always go as planned, 
that's one of life's lessons I understand.

She's my best friend
to the very end.
And with her last breath,
she'll teach me death.

[NOTE: Written Saturday, March 20, 2021, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Mom is 91 years young. Mom passed away on March 26, 2021.]

Copyright © 2021, Susan Alton

Please do not share this poem on Facebook or other social media. Thank you.