July 10, 2014

Cleary and Kimmel and me—Whoopee!

Janet Fisher, an author I knew when I lived in Roseburg, wrote A Place of Her Own, a neat historical story about an ancestor who bought her OWN farm (imagine that!) in Oregon back in the 1800s, even though a mere woman. Another excellent example of the overlooked stories of pioneer women who came out on the Oregon Trail—not always willingly! (Coincidentally, we have the same publisher: Globe Pequot of Connecticut. Who would have imagined that?)

She just wrote in her current blog about her book signing at Annie Bloom’s bookstore, which reminded me once again that I should bring my blog up to date. I did see Janet at Annie Blooms, but my big event was at McMenamin’s Mission Theater earlier this week. The program was an Oregon Encyclopedia History Event on Beverly Cleary’s Neighborhood, and the speaker was Eric Kimmel, one of my favorite children’s book authors. He taught children’s literature at Portland State University, before writing a hundred picture books of his own.

Many people don’t realize that Beverly Cleary, the author of Ramona the Pest among others, set her stories in the Hollywood district of Portland where she grew up. (As a school librarian in a Chicago suburb who loved sharing her books with students, I’d thought the setting was imaginary.) Years ago Eric, who also lives in the neighborhood, helped raise money for a Cleary splash pond in Grant Park, with three wonderful statues of Henry Huggins, Ramona, and Ribsy. Mrs. Cleary had shown Eric all the places where she had lived or that were in the book, so when I was writing Walking Portland and wanted to include her neighborhood, I asked him to show me around. So he did, for both editions, and then asked me to share his stage.

 He had a great slide show, and his commentary was fascinating. The Cleary books about everyday kids are now almost as historical as Janet’s story about pioneer days! It was fun. One of the audience questions was about the differences between children who grew up in the 1930s and those of today. Children today don’t have paper routes (would any parent ALLOW their child to get up at 4 in the morning to go out on their bicycle?) and could play freely with each other in the street and all over the neighborhood. They learned from their peers, and their parents trusted neighbors would tell them about any problems. He also pointed out that children were nicer to each then. Otis Spofford (the title character in one book) was a pest, but not a bully.

Children’s lives didn’t used to change so drastically between generations as they have in the last thirty years or so. I grew up a couple of decades or so after Cleary, and wasn’t quite as free. I always had to say where I was going, but I went there on my own. The one big rule, in the summer when we could go out after dinner, was to always come home when the streetlights went on. When I became a parent I could count on my neighbors watching the children as well—I remember once when a neighbor called me to tell me my son was walking to school—in the road—backwards.

Perhaps it’s a side effect of cars being so common now. It’s dangerous to walk backwards on the road! And no one knows who is behind the wheel—we live in neighborhoods of strangers. Adults now run most outdoor activities. As Eric pointed out, the children of today will sometime grow up to write about their own childhoods. Wonder what they will say?

FYI, my next “gig” will be at the Eugene (Oregon) Public Library on July 17th. This time I will be with Joy Rich, Karen Tolley, and John and Judy Waller; the authors of Berta and Elmer Hader, A Lifetime of Art, which just received the Benjamin Franklin Silver Medal Award. The Haders were Caldecott Medal winning artists and authors who wrote and/or illustrated a hundred books in the 20th century. It’s a full-color book showing and commenting on their art, ranging from Berta’s miniature portraits to Elmer’s impressionistic paintings, and of course all the charming illustrations in their children’s books. A hard act to follow! My new book on Berta and Elmer Hader, Drawn Together, is far more about their actual lives, and I am finding them fascinating. They were happily married, were surrounded by talented friends who helped them build their own house on a hill, fought to save their neighborhood from demolition, and adapted to the myriad changes in publishing and in life. Like Henry and Ribsy, they found solutions for most of the problems they faced.

So, add a children’s book or two along with the beach books. Ask your children’s librarians for good new ones, but don’t forget the old. They’re fun, easy, and most problems are solved by the end of the book. Perfect summer reading!

December 4, 2013


It’s only a few days after Thanksgiving, but you might not even know it existed. One of the most overlooked holidays around. Christmas is modern and speedy, with huge to-do lists, and lots of spending. It forgets that it was based on the bonding of a brand-new family a couple of thousand years ago. Thanksgiving celebrates family, not feasting, and is quietly old-fashioned, by loving hands. Most of us have good memories of our Thanksgiving meals, when family and friends gathered and shared each other’s bounty.

When I was little the holidays were at our house, where a great many relatives showed up for the occasion. Since in those days my parents’ friends were either Mr. or Mrs. or had a courtesy title of uncle or aunt, I never did figure out our relationship to many of these and still don’t know where many of them belonged on the family tree. It didn’t matter. Without the distraction of Christmas presents, we children paid attention to the family talk—at least after we were old enough to sit with the grown-ups. We didn’t learn much, but we gained a sense of our extended family, beyond the four of us usually at home.

Over the years the family waxed and waned. War intervened, but I don’t remember Thanksgiving being any less festive. Then I went off to college, spent Thanksgivings with friends who lived nearer to campus, met a local guy, and married into a new family with their own traditions.

As newlyweds, we always had the dinner with my husband’s family. His mother was a marvelous cook. Relatives came, the best linens were brought out, we used the prized Art Deco china bought early in their marriage, and the table was always beautifully set and stocked. Listening to the chatter, I learned the ins and outs of my new family.

Although I was used to the washing up after meals at home, I hadn’t realized how much information could be shared over the kitchen sink. That was when I really learned to know and value my mother-in-law as our hands kept busy. She washed, I rinsed and wiped, and we chatted with no interruptions from the menfolk who were occupied with the football games in the living room.

When we started making friends and doing things with other couples, washing up conversations were common among us young wives. After a potluck meal, we gals gathered in the kitchen, cleaning up and chatting about everything that interested us, and developing bonds to last a lifetime. As we entered into motherhood, with varied backgrounds but a common determination to do it right, we traded tips and stories and passed on the collective wisdom from the different communities and families we came from.

The dishwasher, marvelous invention that it is, effectively ended this type of casual bonding. But Thanksgiving has so much that a machine can’t handle: the Art Deco trims on the dinner plates, silver knives and crystal glasses, not to mention the large platters and pans that were brought out for the feasting. This past Thanksgiving my adult granddaughters and their mother and I bonded over some of the family china that now reside in my son’s house, while the girls chattered about one’s new job in Detroit, the other’s life as a new homeowner, and shared some of the memories they have taken with them from home. The conversation grew naturally while our hands were busy, and there was a closeness in that kitchen that is missing when we are all sitting together while engaged in games, or the television or the bulky holiday newspapers.

As a child I would have hooted if anyone suggested I would once be thankful for washing dishes. I remember how thrilled I was when we got our first dishwasher; I am still very thankful to have one. But, like so much else in life, there are trade-offs when the machines save energy but replace one of the little synapses that keep us human.

Let us all keep Thanksgiving as a family tradition. To use a new-fangled term, it’s bonding time.

November 15, 2013


A few days ago the publicist at Globe Pequot emailed me a five star review of Walking Portland Oregon that had appeared in the Portland Book Review. I was thrilled! This came out of the blue from people I did not know, and the book was judged solely on its merits, not because anyone knew me. I’d worked hard with friends and family to make it the best book possible, but I always feel I should have done more.

It takes a village to make a book, I discovered—at least a non-fiction one. I never could have maneuvered through the bewildering maze of modern publishing and map making without help from the more “with it”  friends and family. Daughter-in-law Carolyn realized I couldn’t talk modern “map lingo,” so she took over with her urban-planning-understanding of what the terms met, and then used her smart phone to drop “pins” at every intersection. Somehow—I still don’t know how—it worked! Maps were created. Other friends lent their skills and their companionship to every walk in the book.

At one of the book signings, a woman asked if Walking Portland had been influenced by my volkswalking. I was surprised at the question, but then realized that of course it did. Volkswalking is strictly a volunteer activity, started as a “people’s walk” in Germany, which came to the United States after World War II. There are volkswalk clubs in almost every town, small or large. Most walks are 3K or 6K—five to ten miles—in length, and usually there is no time pressure. The national American Volkssport Association has a national office, so it is easy to find walks wherever you want to go at www.ava.org/

Local groups usually plan walks to show off their area, choosing routes they have enjoyed over the years. Some use new trails developed on old railroad routes; others take you through farmlands, or areas of old houses, or past lovely gardens, as well as in various parks. They are always a surprise. It’s a fun way to fit in rest breaks while traveling—you see communities, rather than rest stops. The Cub Scouts in Spearfish, South Dakota, created one as a Cub Scout project, and told us about the town.

What I learned from these walks was that the ones I enjoyed most was when the map handouts included a bit about why this spot was important: a building’s history, a well-designed park with multiple uses, a piece of scenery developed by a far-sighted resident. So, when asked to write a guidebook to Portland, I tried to find out as much as possible about everything seen on each walk. Looking up to the top of buildings, or down at the sidewalks, yielded surprising bits of architecture and history. My walking companions got used to seeing me dart down an alley or side street to investigate something interesting.

Another question is, “are you going to write another one?” Probably not. Fifteen years from now people may use phones instead of guidebooks. But, as a compulsive librarian, I can’t keep from making a file of new tidbits and items that I run across. Just in case.

One recent discovery was the Weinhard brewery 100th birthday time capsule, which celebrated the founding of the brewery. Once, it was near the front door of the Weinhard brewery and mentioned in their handouts. I had referred to it in my first book. Since the building was torn down to create the Brewery Blocks a few years ago, it had disappeared, and no one at Henry’s Pub seemed to know. I couldn’t seem to get through to anyone else, and a search of the Oregonian files turned up nothing. Since the brewery itself was gone, I dropped the search.

Then—and this is what is so fun about walking—one day I stopped by the Vera Katz Sliver Park on NW Davis Street, and noticed a little brass circle in the sidewalk near the street. And there it was. It was installed in the original brewery in 1956, then buried here, and is scheduled for opening in 2056. Put the date on your calendars and plan a party! Want to bet there will be some well-aged bottles?

I’m still having fun meeting new people and finding out new tidbits about my adopted home. Feel free to let me know about all the things you know or find that should be shared with others...I can always add these to a later blog to keep you up to date. Walking Portland Oregon is, like the city itself,  “A Never-Ending Story.”


If you want to see the book in person in the next few weeks, I’ll be at:
1) the Oregon Historical Society book sale, HOLIDAY CHEER: A CELEBRATION OF OREGON AUTHORS, on Sunday, December 1, Noon-4 PM. 1200 SW Park Avenue, Portland. (There will be about 80 authors—check the Oregon Historical Society website for a list.)

2) SOUTHWEST WATERFRONT HOLIDAY BAZAAR in the Mirabella Retirement Center two blocks from the base of the tram. I’ll have Walking Portland Oregon and a Cup of Comfort for a Better World anthology at an authors’ table with some friends. Irene Tinker’s Crossing Centuries, is about her adventures and observations driving across colonial Africa in 1953 with her new husband; Diana Bailey Harris’s Reflections of a Civil War Locomotive Engineer: A Ghost-Written Memoir  is based on her great-grandfather’s letters and diary. He delivered the troops and supplies needed to fight the Confederates. One or more of the authors of Joyful Productions will also be here with Berta and Elmer Hader: A Lifetime of Art --a  great browsing book about Berta and Elmer Hader, fine artists who became beloved children’s author/illustrators during most of the 1900s. The book has full-color illustrations displaying his Impressionist art, her ivory miniature portraits, and many of the paper toys and books for children they created together. The bazaar will be held at 3550 SW Bond Avenue, Portland:
Friday, December 6,  3:00 – 7:00 PM, 
Saturday December 7, 10 AM - 5 PM, and 
Sunday December 8,  10 AM - 2 PM
3) The ANNUAL AUTHORS’ FAIR in Douglas County is always an informal fun affair, with a surprising amount of authors and books. It is December 14, Saturday, 10 AM-4 PM. At the Douglas County Library, Roseburg. 1409 NE Diamond Lake Blvd., Roseburg, OR 97470  (I-5 Exit 124)

October 17, 2013

Fortunately, Unfortunately


October began well. My friend Mary and I had a lovely week at the Elderhostel/Road Scholar event in Ashland--saw 4 plays: Midsummer Nights Dream, My Fair Lady, Taming of the Shrew, and Streetcar Named Desire. Loved two, didn’t much care for the others, but they were all done fantastically well.

Unfortunately, we both came back with colds.

Fortunately I was pretty much over it before I had good friends from the Hader Connection come to stay here while we spent 3 glorious days at Wordstock and the Northwest Publishers Association Convention--fun schmoozing.

Fortunately the Berta and Elmer Hader Lifetime in Art book was well-received at the convention, making a great lead-in for my biography--which Concordia University will publish next year provided the writing comes up to their standards!

Unfortunately as I was riding high and celebrating with my friends that evening, my computer turned black and beeped in a very irritated fashion until we managed to turn it off.

Fortunately the nice folk at Aloha Computer Tutor came right over the next day to check it out.

Unfortunately they discovered the motherboard was shorted out.

Fortunately my son Hal (my family’s computer guru) arrived from Providence and immediately got me a MiniMac that still uses my nice screen and keyboard.

Unfortunately the Apple Store said the broken MacAir had to go somewhere in the Midwest for repairs and they didn’t think they could find my data.

Fortunately I had discovered a year previously that the old backup wasn’t working and purchased a new one from Aloha. And it worked well. All the data on the Hader book is saved.

Unfortunately my calendar has lost all the data except the regular events programmed in it.

Good news is that means I have NO coming events to attend!

Bad news/ good news is that I am checking all my emails to see what I have promised to do and when. (They are, of course, a mess.)

So if I don’t show up or seem extremely confused, my good news is---


October 14, 2013

Hader Art Book Showing

Come to Multnomah County Library on Saturday, October 19th, from 2 PM to 3:30 PM for the first showing of the brand-new book on Hader art.

Berta and Elmer Hader, the Caldecott winning author/illustrators of THE BIG SNOW (1948), were originally San Francisco artists, trained in a variety of art techniques, long before they merged their talents into creating and illustrating nearly 100 children's books in the 1900s.

The non-profit foundation has just produced a fascinating book with many gorgeous reproductions of much of their work, including the illustrated personal letters sent to friends and editors, Berta’s ivory miniatures, Elmer’s “California Impressionist” paintings of New York country landscapes, the children’s pages that were part of McCall’s and the Saturday Evening Post magazines, etc/ etc. (All in one tidy book that fits easily on a library shelf).

The four compiler/authors will all be at the Library’s US Bank Room (just inside the front entrance) to talk, schmooze, sign books, and answer questions.

I’ll be there, since this is sort of a prelude to my Hader biography that will (hopefully) come out in late 2014.

July 24, 2013

Coming Events!

This is a quick notice that I will be holding down a booth at the NW Festival of Books this coming Saturday for my new book, Walking Portland! If you are downtown in PDX that day, I hope you can drop by and see me at the 5th Annual NW Book Festival!
         Saturday, July 27, 2013
         11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
         Pioneer Courthouse Square, Portland, OR
         (corner of SW Morrison and SW Sixth Avenue)

A fun day with LOTS of Oregon Authors!

AND: this Wednesday evening July 24, from 7 to 9 pm you can also find me at The Oregon-California Trails Association's Convention Author's Night. This takes place at the Monarch Hotel in Clackamas, Oregon.

AND: on the following Monday (July 29) I will be with some students and staff from Roosevelt High School at Annie Bloom’s Books, 7834 SW  Capitol Highway, Multnomah Village, Portland. This 7 PM event will introduce their new literary anthology, Where Roses Smell the Best.

February 24, 2013


Every so often words from the past are triggered by strange words from the present. One that reappeared in my mind a few years ago was culch. The culch pile, when I was a child, was that pile of junk by the barn that we were never never to touch. It was full of nuts and wires and pieces of machinery no longer useful, but that might be needed in the future. Looking it up in a dictionary of regional words, I discovered it came from Maine, referred to ship ballast thrown overboard that later provided homes for oysters. Houses had culch tables and culch drawers, but culchy women were frowned upon. I love the word—so much more promising than the junk drawer or closet.

This month’s word find was in an article in the Oregonian, where it mentioned a home decorator often used knolling as a technique. Since I thought of knoll as a small hill, I had a mental vision of piling up the culch in an artistic heap. But no, it came from a tidy Mr. Knoll who laid out his tools just so. Knolling seems to refer to lining up your books and magazines and other home d├ęcor so all edges are square with the table they are lying on. People who knoll probably dislike anything crooked so they straighten pictures on the wall and shut open doors and drawers. We all have met--or lived with—these, but never knew them as knollers. Who knew?

Another old phrase I heard people use when I lived in the East is “redding up a room.” I suspect the root is getting a room ready for company, probably by knolling the pillows and books and dumping the culch where it won’t be seen.

If we have all these neat words for housekeeping, why don’t we have enough neat words for the company that we keep? When I was little everyone was either referred to as Mr. or Mrs., unless they were close friends of the parents in which case they were uncles or aunts or cousins. I still am not sure of my relationships with many of these people.

Families today have a very mixed assortment of relationships, few of which are named. We have the in-laws of course, but no word for the other grandmother of my grandchildren without saying she’s my son’s mother-in-law or my daughter-in-law's mother. Awkward. Recently I’ve noticed references to DILs and MILS and SILs and FILS, but SILs can mean both sons and sisters, and we still don’t know who is related to whom.

How about the people who live in the same abode without having a marriage license. Renters? Partners? POSSLQs? Ogden Nash once wrote a funny verse about “Will you be my POSSLQ?” The word was an acronym from a census form about Persons of the Opposite Sex Sharing Living Quarters. But today we need another S, and college roommates may be both S and O.

The step relationships are also quite difficult to explain, if and when explanations are needed. Sometimes there are intricacies of how people are interrelated that defy easy explanations. I’ve asked people from other countries if they have some words we can adapt, but haven’t found any beyond their own words for the immediate families: Oma and Opa, Vava and Vavo, etc.

Of course one little boy nearly broke my heart when he simplified the whole thing. He introduced a new child in school to me as “This is my brother-for-now.” There’s a lot of relationship behind that simple statement!

I’d better quit worrying about the words and be grateful for the people in my life. Most of them are not just FN (for now)  but are  FF—Friends Forever. That covers everyone, regardless of relationships.