Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Friday, April 12, 2013

The trials of a super-young college student

I was 17 1/2 when I went away to Pacific Lutheran in Tacoma, Washington, a fine school and my father's Alma Mater.  I was almost 18 when I left college, defeated.  I'd completed one semester, spent all my money, and was being driven nuts working for a budding psychologist going through medical menopause.

Many years had passed since my father attended Pacific Lutheran College.  He arrived with an inheritance that paid the bills, was a good student, and had a lot of fun.

Ready for college?



I arrived with a $200 scholarship for Youth Leadership that almost paid for my tuition and another $250 saved by babysitting kids over the summer to pay other expenses.  I also had the promise of a job working for room and board.  I had been working in someone else's home for money since I was 10 or 11.  I didn't think it would be hard.  It was.

My boss (Ginger),  seemed determined to be sure I failed.  If I tried to wash the dishes, I was told their two daughters had that job.  If I was asked to tidy and clean the living areas, I had to find a bit of time between the preschool she ran in two of the rooms, her friends visiting, and the family watching TV in the living room.

The harder I tried, the more I failed.  Not only that, but I was having trouble with school.  I was in a nursing program that led to a BS in nursing.  In the summer I was supposed to study at a hospital for practical training.  I didn't know how I was going to earn the money if I worked through the summers.  Everyone reassured me that I could do it.  No one was putting money in my pocket.  I didn't have the resourcefulness that my grandchildren have.  I didn't know how to work and go to school at the same time.  Give me a break.  I was only 17.

It all flew apart when Ginger's nephew Mark got married.  He was in the service and hadn't seen his fiance Jean in a year.  Mark would be home for two weeks, marry Jean, then be gone again.  Ginger was very fond of her nephew and seemed to be taking over the wedding plans.  (Not my problem.)  However, Jean asked me for a special favor.  She and I knew that if Ginger was there to meet the plane, Jean would hardly get a chance to kiss Mark hello before Ginger took him away.  Jean wanted me to tell Ginger that the plane was coming in 1/2 hour after the actual arrival so Mark and Jean would have a few minutes for themselves.

It was a simple favor and a no-brainer to a 17-year-old.  I told the lie.  Jean and Mark thanked me.  When she found out, Ginger blew her top.  I was ungrateful.  I was sabotaging her relationship with the new couple, etc., etc.  It was all heaped on my head.  Not on Jean and Mark's.

And then there was school.  I had never learned to study.  I easily passed my high school classes hardly reading the book.  I didn't think college would be different, but it was.  I was no longer the smartest kid in school.  I was one of the smart kids, but not the smartest.   I was taking Human Anatomy and Physiology, Chemistry, History and the accompanying labs for a total of 20 credits a semester.  I didn't have  the sense yet to know this was too much.  I was always broke while my few friends always had plenty of money to spend.

I was in over my head.  When Ginger screamed at me, I called my parents several times.  They urged me to stay in school, promising to send money they didn't have.  Frankly, I didn't expect the money anyway.  I had three brothers at home.  My parent's money had to go a long ways.  After waffling over several days, I packed my bags and went downstairs to call a taxi.  (No cell phones yet.)  Ginger had her own standards and her husband drove me to the train station.


I knew my parents would be very disappointed in me.  I was understandably reluctant to actually tell them I had quit school a few weeks into a new semester (yes, fees and such were paid and not refunded).  Worse yet, I had been at the mall wandering through the stores while I pondered what to do.  I had spent most of my remaining money on two cashmere sweaters (on sale).  I know,  it sounds just like a teenager.  I was one.

I didn't have enough money to get home.  My plan was to go to my grandparents home in Portland and stay there, get a job, and move out when I could.  I called them and told them I was coming.  They undoubtedly thought it was for a weekend.

My grandfather was a gentleman, a German who had migrated to the US at the turn of the century.  He wore three-piece suits, white shirts, and a Homburg on his head.  People looked up to him. Respected him. My father said he was a tyrant of the old school.
Grandpa Mau with my daughter Lisa.



The weekend came and went and I stayed.  Unknown to me, my grandparents were talking on the phone with my parents.  Then grandfather came to me.  He asked if I was missing school and I said that I was.  He asked if I was going back to school and I said that I wasn't.  He then explained that while he and my grandmother loved me very much, they were too old to have a teenager living in their home.  If I found work, what would it be?  How would I get there?  Where would I live?

He had me.  My poorly thought out plans had been exposed and found wanting.  My grandfather said I should go home.  I told him I had no money.  Well then, he said, we gave you a $25 savings bond when you were born.  Do you still have it?  I did.  Truthfully, I hadn't been allowed to touch it.  Grandfather said he'd loan me the money for a train ticket to California if I would pay him back by cashing in the savings bond.  He didn't leave me any other options.

So, I bought a ticket on what they called the "milk train" because it stopped and delivered milk and produce all along its route.  Usually the only people who rode it were on railroad passes.  I wanted to ride this train because I wasn't in a hurry to get home.  It also stopped in my home town so my parents wouldn't have to drive to another city to meet me.  I was a puppy coming home with her tail between her legs.

As you might guess, my parents greeted me with love and confusion.  They didn't understand what the problem was and I would only cry.  They let me cry and sleep for a month.  At the end of the month they told me I either had to return to school or get job - a real job.  My father had made inquiries and a job as a telephone operator looked like it would work.  It did.

Life often isn't as bad as you think it is when you're young.  I took the job, made lots of money, went back to school with money in my pocket and an old car to drive.  I hate to say it, but having the money made a huge difference.

Having family that loved me enough to help me work things out - that made a difference to.

Marilynne




Wednesday, February 6, 2013

People ask me: What's your favorite book?

To tell you about my favorite book, I have to tell you about when I was five or six.  We had moved from a small country town to a townhouse (row house) in the city of Philadelphia.  It was a new world for me and my brothers.  I was sent to Kindergarten where I contracted every disease known to children in quick succession.  It's no wonder I have few memories of that time.

My favorite book was given to me by a man, a bachelor, who was interning with my father.  I called him Uncle Bert.  He just heard I was sick and brought me this book, A Child's Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson and illustrated by Fern Bisel Peat.  I still treasure this battered book .

This is the back of the book.  The front is long gone.

I read it and read it and memorized the poems and tried to visualize what the poems were about.  One was about being sick and I imagined his (Robert Louis Stevenson's) toy soldiers marching up and down my counterpane.  (A word I learned from the book.)




I could imagine myself as Mary Jane leading this parade.  She looked about my age and had my blonde hair and blue eyes - and brothers.

Marching Song
Bring the comb and play upon it!
Marching here we come!
Willie cocks his highland bonnet,
Johnnie beats the drum.

Mary Jane commands the party,
Peter leads the rear;
Feet in time, alert and hearty,
Each a Grenadier!
(there's more)

That's another new word:  Grenadier.

Time went by and I named all the children in the photos and made a long list of names in the back of the book.  I fully intended to name my children from that list.  Kathleen and Cynthia are on that list, but my middle child, Lisa, is not.  I think I hadn't heard that name until I was much older.

I also colored in the black and white pictures with my colors.  This one looks like colored pencil.  It was done with love.  I wasn't defacing the book, I was loving it with my own additions.  I loved the illustrations of Fern Bisel Peat as much as I loved the poetry.




Time passed and I grew up and when I became a mother I shared my treasured book with them.  They weren't allowed to write in it, but somehow a page was torn and the cover lost.  I don't blame them.  They were children and they loved this book too.

By the time the grandchildren came along, the book was too battered and fragile to share.  Nevertheless, I still love the book and even now I read through it now and then.

I still am amazed that a sickly little boy who grew up to be a sickly man could bring me and so many other children such a beautiful view of childhood.  How did he know those things?

Marilynne





Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Fascinated by Little Houses

I've been reading Tiny Homes by Lloyd Kahn.*    For quite a while I've been interested in the concept of small homes.  I've lived in a few of those.  Now here is a book about really small homes - even tiny homes.

It comes to this:  how much shelter does a person really need? Well, personally I love a large comfy home, but the idea of living in just enough room is fascinating.

In his book Kahn gives us a look at nineteen Tiny Homes all over the country:  snow country included.  The homes are shown with lots of photographs so you can really see what it's like.

If you live in a Tiny Home, how do you live your life?  Very well, though most of them seem to be outside a lot.   They have different reasons for wanting to live here.  The houses are cozy, but not cluttered (for the most part).  They provide shelter, a place to cook, and usually a place to read, though I see some computer and TV setups in many of the Tiny Homes.

One particularly clever arrangement has a TV/Computer hung on the wall.  Underneath is a small table that folds back against the wall when it's not needed.

Sorry, I can't provide a photo for you, but check out the websites. 

I recommend that you check out Lloyd's web site, Shelter Pubs or check it out on amazon.com

Happy reading. 
Marilynne

___________________
* Shelter Publications
PO Box 279
Bolinas, CA 94924

Lloyd's web site:
http://www.LloydKahn.com

Friday, January 18, 2013

A little catch up here - Christmas



Christmas has come and gone and here are some statistics:

I love foot photos.  They're at the beach in December.


  • Two Christmas trees:  a small one inside and
    a large one just outside the slider.  The white "blobs" are fake roses from our Christmas tree the time I was so very sick.
The outside tree
  • Company for 17 days
  • 15 family members visiting
  • 5 different ways of eating:  diabetic, gluten free, milk free, egg free and the traditional 'I don't like its" (of which I heard very little)
  • Ham for Christmas dinner.  Lisa and Brynne made traditional Finnish dishes for Niko, but he laughed and said it wasn't quite right
  • My daughters and granddaughters cooking the suppers
  • Eating leftovers for lunch
  • Eggs and bacon too many mornings
    • Sheets and such that we washed and put right back on the beds so the next person could move in
    • Sneaking naps and still ending up way too tired
    • Riotous opening of Christmas gifts.  When everyone had their gifts, my oldest granddaughter just yelled and started tearing paper and throwing it in the air.  I laughed so hard.  Everyone joined in.  I found bits of wrapping paper for days
    • The dish washer died.  I put a sign on it.  I drew R.I.P. on a tombstone.  I used it for a dish drying rack.  (I actually did very little dish washing.)
    • Waking up mornings to the smell of coffee.  Only once was I the first one up
    • A few warm days with sunshine, then the air  cooled way down and there was no more sitting on the porch and talking
    • Fresh tomatoes from the greenhouse and tangerines from our own tree as well as a gift of tangerines
    • Gifts I love, but don't remember who gave them to me
    • A crazy puzzle called the Red Shoe - you had to find the shoe when you finished the puzzle.  My family all worked on it at one time or the other
    Puzzling

        Our visitors loved going to the beach.  One of them actually went in to get wet.

        A happy beginning to a fishing trip - where at least
        half of the guests got sick.


        We had a great happy time together.  Only our Marine grandson Holden didn't make it.  

        It was so sad when everyone had gone home.  We had a last minute heart stopper when we arrived at LAX with Brynne and Niko, our Finnish guests, and the airline said they had no tickets to go home, but in the end the problem was solved and they arrived safely home.
        For days later I woke up and listened for voices or sniffed the air for the smell of coffee.  The house felt too quiet.  Everything was still out of place because I was too tired to put it back.  Maybe I liked it that way.

        Roy said this was the best Christmas ever.  I have to agree with him.


      Tuesday, December 25, 2012

      Monday, September 3, 2012

      Fear and my big dog

      I was watching TV the other night and through the open door I heard the most horrible screeching.  The dog barked and barked.  I had no idea what it was.  I was in stocking feet.  I let the dog inside and he was trembling.  Poor puppy.

      Looking for someone to investigate, I found my hubbie watching his cowboy movies, oblivious to the need for him to DO SOMETHING!

      He insisted there had not been a noise.  I tried to describe it.

      I thought something, a cat of some sort was being killed.  The scream sounded full of pain and fear.  Something outside was dying or dead.

      He hadn't heard anything.  I wasn't sure he was hearing me, so I went outside in my stocking feet to look for myself.  Nothing, just the night wind and the little frogs cheeping, bugs too maybe. No moans, groans, or horrible dying sounds.  Nothing.

      Well, the dog heard it.  Not a lot scares him and he was inside on the landing shaking.

      I went back to my TV.  My hubbie finally got up from his TV and went outside to look.

      "Told you there was nothing." he said, greatly put out.

      When I went back inside, the dog was asleep on the landing.

      Jake was sound asleep still clutching his bear.  He's owned that bear since the day we brought him home from the breeder.  It's his house toy.  The thing he reaches for first.

      I kept wondering what it was that frightened my dog and I, but not my hubbie.

      Yesterday I went on the web to see if I could identify the cat sounds I'd heard.  I hadn't found a dead cat.  I found what was left of a dead bird, but not a cat.

      I listened to umpteen recordings.  I finally found the sound on a recording of two cats making kitties.  It was the final statement of the act.  So, now I know what it was I'm a bit let down.  It had to be something more special than a mating of cats, don't you think?  Well, no.  That's what it is.

      I still have that cute photo of Jake though.  Good enough.

      Marilynne