Pajamas or Nightgowns? Dressing for Our Trips to Dreamland

Photo shows you woman, bearded man, and little girl about three years old, all in white pajamas, the adults holding up toothbrushes in their right hands. The background is gray wooden boards.

Can we talk about pajamas?

I hadn’t worn them except for pajama parties for decades, but the other day I put some on, and I slept better than usual. Is there a connection?

Like most kids, I grew up in PJs. My memory is fuzzy, but I think graduating to nightgowns was presented as a rite of passage to womanhood. Big girls wear nightgowns. My dirty mind is yelling “that’s so it’s easier to have sex.” I suspect that’s part of it, even though my parents were of the DO NOT HAVE SEX IF YOU’RE NOT MARRIED crowd.

Anyway, I grew up in PJs, moved on to nightgowns, and then, when I married my first husband, who was a big fan of nudity, I didn’t wear anything to bed. It was San Jose, rarely cold, and we kept each other warm.

After the marriage ended, I went back to my nightgowns.

Years passed. I married Fred. A shy guy, he slept in pajama bottoms and T-shirts. I wore my nightgowns and nightshirts, even after we moved to Oregon, where it was cold. Pajamas were hot and confining, especially before, during, and after menopause. But I kept getting pajamas for Christmas. Nice ones. Cute, soft, warm. I gave some away and stashed the rest in the bottom drawer of my dresser, the drawer that’s hard to open.

A couple weeks ago, the weather got crazy cold. The fireplace was working hard, but it was still chilly in the house. I dug out the wooliest PJs to watch TV. They were so comfortable I thought why not wear them to bed?

This insomniac slept like a rock. Over the week, as our temperatures outside hovered in the 20s and 30s, I tried the other pjs. Same thing. What is this? A return to childhood? Or am I just getting old?

The weather has warmed up. We’re back to rain and wind on the Oregon coast, and I’m back to my nightshirts. The one I’m wearing is pink with pictures of books all over it and lettering that says, “My weekend is all booked.” I love it. But I’m keeping the pajamas for those cold nights when I need a little flannel love.

How about you? What do you wear to bed? Why? Gents can weigh in, too. Pajamas, underwear, a striped nightshirt with a little hat, or skin?

We could do a whole chat about people who wear pajamas in public, but let’s stick to bedtime. Pajamas, nightgowns, or . . . ?

BTW, there’s a band called Pajamas. Here they are on YouTube. Not too bad.

Photo by Pavel Danilyuk on Pexels.com

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Instead of Sea Shells and Agates, I Find . . . Plastic

It was getting late, but it was the first dry day on the Oregon coast after weeks of hard rain and king tides, and the beach was calling.

A dead sea lion lay at the bottom of the steep ramp from Don Davis Park to Nye Beach. It was already starting to disintegrate, its face gone, guts exposed, tufts of brown fur here and there. Sad.

But I was more upset by the litter. I had been reading a long essay about plastic waste titled “Moby-Duck.” First published in Harper’s Magazine in 2007 and in the Best Creative Nonfiction in 2008, it was later expanded into a book, also titled Moby-Duck.

Author Donovan Hohn’s story begins with a 1992 spill of bath toys from a container ship traveling from Hong Kong to Tacoma, Washington. Little plastic ducks, beavers, turtles, and frogs started turning up on beaches far from the spill. The author became fascinated and met with experts who study the things that drift up onto the beach.  He researched the evolution of plastic products, particularly toy ducks, and the effects of plastic breaking down in the sea. He explored the working conditions in Chinese factories where workers were expected to turn out thousands of these things an hour for less than $4 a day.

What starts as an amusing story about toys quickly becomes alarming. Our ocean is so full of plastic we will never get rid of it. It breaks down over time into pieces, then shards, then dust, but it never disappears. Sea animals are eating it, and we’re eating the sea animals. It’s getting inside of everything, including us, and the ingredients are toxic.

Plastic was considered a godsend when it was invented in 1907. Now, that innocent toy bobbing in your child’s bathtub could be a death bomb for your great-grandchildren.

I was reading this essay at the hospital while waiting for my annual exam, getting more and more steamed about long waits and Medicare limitations. I flashed on those plastic gloves that hospital workers wear. Sitting at my father’s bedside when he was dying, I watched the nurses put on a new pair and throw them away every time they changed patients. How many thousands of pairs of gloves did they use in just one day? Where would we put all this waste?

Back to the beach. Instead of shells and rocks, I found trash. Just past the sea lion carcass, where the waves had washed up near the cliffs, blue, white, red, and green plastic litter sparkled in the sun. Embedded in grass and seaweed, most of it was too small to pick up.

The beach wasn’t crowded, but most of the people walking the wave-compacted sand brought their dogs. Those dogs would surely be drawn to the trash. I know mine would. I have caught her eating pens, rubber balls, Frisbees, and paper clips. I find the brightly colored pieces in her feces. I try to keep such things away from her, but people toss them along the roadsides where we walk, and sometimes she swallows the plastic before I can stop her. I worry that one of these thingswill kill her.

In his essay, Hohn tells of albatrosses who eat plastic items and shit them out. Dead birds have been found with cigarette lighters, bottle caps, toys, and other plastic items in their guts. He writes, “Albatross chicks have been known to starve to death on the plastic their parents regurgitate into their mouths, and the intestines of the adult birds can handle only so much before a fatal case of indigestion sets in.”

In the future, will we be able to find water or food that doesn’t sparkle with bits of plastic? Will this invention destroy its creators in the end?

The sky and the ocean were gorgeous, beautiful shades of pale blue. The sand, rocks, and Easter egg-colored buildings along the shore were beautiful. It felt good to get out on the beach and walk, to hear the seagulls laugh and watch a young father run toward the surf with his two-year-old son. But what about all that plastic?

I want to discard every piece of plastic in my house, but I use so much of it, including this computer, every day. Besides, we can’t get rid of it. It will not biodegrade, and most of it is not recyclable.

The plastics industry stresses the usefulness of its products AND their recyclability. Yes, there are those numbers stamped on the bottom which in theory mean they can be recycled. But where I live, the garbage company says no to plastic bags, styrofoam, plastic cutlery, toys, large plastic items, and anything stamped numbers 3 through 7 because they have nowhere to take them. We are instructed to throw them in the regular trash. I’m sure the same is true in many places.

Even with the plastic that can be recycled—mostly bottles—the quantity being discarded far outpaces the ability to remake them into something else. All we can do is try not to buy any more plastic. What we need is a magic wand to make it disappear. It would probably be made of plastic.

More reading:

https://thisisplastics.com/plastics-101/155-years-of-plastic/  (pro-plastic)

https://plasticoceans.org/7-types-of-plastic/ (anti-plastic)

“What are Plastics and Rubbers?”

“Plastic Pollution: Facts and Figures”

“Tops Items from Beach Cleanups: Plastics, Plastics, and More Plastics”

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The Volunteer Job Nobody Ever Wants

Who wants to be treasurer? Silence.

Right? In every organization I have belonged to, the one position nobody wants is treasurer. Secretary, sure. Vice president? Easy. President? I’m so flattered. But treasurer? Nope, not me. Okay, occasionally a miracle happens and someone says, “Hey, I’ll do it,” but usually there’s some arm-twisting and hyperventilating involved.

I’m no good with numbers. Spreadsheets scare me. You don’t want me handling the books.

What is this about? We were all forced to take math in school. We all somehow manage to handle our personal finances. We can figure out a recipe. Some of us can do the calculations to build things, and some of us can do music math—eighth notes, whole notes, triplets, 4/4, 6/8, 2/2, etc. But when it comes to being the money person, it’s nuh-uh, not me, I need to get some coffee, go to the restroom, make a call . . .

Nobody wants to be treasurer. I am currently president of a writing organization where our treasurer, who took the job reluctantly last fall, has resigned. This is not the first time this has happened. Other treasurers in other groups have quit, and the books landed on my desk. Why? Because everyone else says “not me.” Do I have any special financial gifts? No. But my bills are paid, and I’m no longer afraid of spreadsheets. In fact, I use them a lot in my writing/publishing business. Think graph paper on a computer screen.

While talking to my brother about this on the phone last night, he noted that we both end up being president of every organization we join. That’s true. Our parents raised to be uber organized and to take charge. Or maybe we just can’t stand anyone else being in charge. Something to discuss in therapy.

Mike has experienced the “not me” for treasurer syndrome, too. Working in the legal field, he also has tales of treasurers deciding to borrow a little money for themselves. Yikes. We not only have to find someone who is willing but someone who is honest.

What is this fear of treasurer jobs? It’s not just writers, who claim they’re all right brain, the creative side, with not much going on in the left brain. But hey, they can calculate word counts, syllables and stanzas. If they can write a villanelle poem with its complex pattern, they can be a treasurer.

It’s money in, money out, pay the bills. You can use a calculator. Yet this article from the BBC tells us that 93 percent of American adults say they’re anxious about math. I think that’s a miscalculation, but that explains why almost nobody wants to be treasurer. When you throw in spreadsheets, it’s all over.

It almost feels uncool to say you like math, bookkeeping, money management, etc. But what about all those people who work in banks, credit unions, tax offices, and well, every big and little business that needs someone to do the accounting? We can do math, my friends. Don’t be afraid.

We will find our new treasurer poet and treat them like royalty. It won’t be me. I already have too many jobs. But I could do it if I wanted to.

How about you? Do you feel numerically challenged? Do spreadsheets terrify you? Have you ever been a treasurer? Would you take it on if asked?

A little extra reading:

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/22545-arithmophobia-fear-of-numbers: Some people are so afraid of numbers, or of certain numbers such as 13, that they have panic attacks. Not good for a potential treasurer.

https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20200506-how-to-tackle-your-anxiety-about-maths: “You’re not destined to be bad at maths. You just may need to tackle your ‘mathephobia.’”

https://medium.com/@wpecharsky/i-have-ptss-post-traumatic-spreadsheet-syndrome-97d7c20fbc1a “Why I Hate Spreadsheets”

Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich on Pexels.com

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Mother Nature Joins Us on Our Walk

The picture that inspired the poem that follows: seven female elk in a field with trees and a tan-colored house behind them.
Boxing Day Visitors

Almost home, we turn the corner
and skid to a sudden startled stop.
Elk. Seven cows staring at us
from the field beside our house.

Neighbors reported sightings,
we saw black-marble droppings,
but here in the coastal forest,
we thought we were in charge.

The dog frozen, it’s up to me.
Advance or retreat, act tough
or cajole them like puppies?
God, they keep staring at us.

Seven hundred pounds times seven–
Oh Lord, more leap out of the bushes.
I raise my phone to take pictures
to share if we get home alive.

One of them crosses the road
to where the women with cats live.
Run Millie, run Frosty! Hey Kathy!
A glance. The scout rejoins the herd.

It’s December. My bum knee aches.
“Come on, Pup.” Timid steps,
nervous chatter. They look alike,
small heads, thick brown bodies.

As we pass the mailboxes, the elk
turn as one and whoosh through
an opening in the trees and vines.
Could they have been afraid of us?


--Sue Fagalde Lick, Dec. 26, 2022



Happy New Year, everyone! Thank you for reading Unleashed in Oregon. These elk were quite docile, but if elk feel threatened, they might charge. I used the zoom function on my camera to photograph them. Always give wild animals the right-of-way. https://www.travel-experience-live.com/elk-safety-how-safely-observe-wild-elk/

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Merry Christmas from Sue and Annie

I shared this video two years ago, but I’m offering it again as I recover from COVID and gently exercise my voice back to normal.



We wish you a season of peace and joy and a new year as fresh and full of possibilities as a just-fallen blanket of snow.

Coming up on Dec. 21, noon PST: another virtual fireside chat with the “nomo crones”/aka childless elderwomen, hosted by Jody Day. Our topic this time is “Renewal.” Our panelists are childless by choice and by chance and are Zooming in from all over the world. Register at bit.ly/gw-renewal to receive the link. The session will be recorded, so if you can’t watch it at the scheduled time, no worries, watch it later.

Stuck for a gift? Books are nonfattening and easy to mail. Start the kids off young with classic stories or poems from your favorite bookstore.

Cheers to one and all.

Sue and Annie

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Look! Santa Brought Me Groceries! Loving that Pickup Service

I’m a do-it-yourself kind of girl. This morning, coughing and feeling like multiple blades were slicing through my head, I was out in the dark before dawn in my bathrobe loading my garbage cart and pulling it to the curb. I’m not about to whine “I’m sick and can’t do it myself.”

Why not put it out the night before? Bears. We’ve got bears who love to snack on our trash.

But COVID put a real crimp in my schedule, and I needed groceries. If I wore my mask and stayed sealed in the isolation chamber of my car, couldn’t I use their pickup service? Stores have been offering drive-through groceries since the pandemic started, but I insisted on picking out my own food, squeezing the grapefruit, grabbing whatever appealed from the sale racks, and buying those things I forgot to put on the list. Now that I was Typhoid Susie, that was not an option.

I ordered my groceries from Fred Meyer on Friday night, clicking the picture of each item as the price added up on the side. Would I accept substitutions if needed? Yes. I paid with my debit card and chose an 11 a.m. Saturday pickup time. All I had to do was go get my stuff—or ask someone else to get it for me.

The Fred Meyer app on my phone had a box to click when I was on my way. Sort of like when you tell a loved one you’re on your way home or to their house. Like someone cares, you know.

The pickup parking spaces are near the garden department at the far end of the parking lot. Ten numbered spaces. You park behind a blue sign, click “I’m here” and tell them what number you’re at. Then you wait.

How would the food come? Would there be fancy bags? Would a team arrive to heft them into my car? Would I need to come out and show them my debit card? It was a little like waiting for Santa Claus. Or a blind date. 

A young woman with a blue FM vest came pulling a flatbed cart loaded with blue bins full of brown paper bags. It must be terribly heavy, I thought. But she was all smiles as she transferred bags into one car after another until she got to me. I got out. She didn’t need my card, or me. So many bags! She said there was just one substitution, bigger grapefruit than I’d ordered, a two-cent difference.

I felt guilty just standing there while she loaded, but I didn’t want to get in her way or share any germs that might escape my N-95 mask. When I retested on Sunday, the result was negative so maybe I wasn’t contagious anymore anyway.

In a few minutes, I was loaded and on my way home, feeling elated. I got my groceries, didn’t have to beg anyone or do without, didn’t have to fight the crowds or stand in line to check out. Plus all my choices were pre-made and I could not be tempted by the goodies in the pastry section or grossed out by the dead animal smell in the meat section. 

I forgot a couple things, but I had bread and mayonnaise again. I got all the things I ordered. Well, the chicken was huge, and they gave me far more mushrooms than I expected, but boy, Santa Claus/Fred Meyer delivered. I even got light bulbs and printer paper for the office. 

This system is brilliant. It feels like having a personal shopper. Is it lazy? I don’t know. Maybe it’s more like the olden days when you took your list to the counter and the grocer got your stuff for you. 

Even if there were no COVID, think about people who are sick, who can’t walk, who have bad backs, who suffer from social anxiety, or parents wrangling a herd of kids. It could even help middle-aged people taking their elderly parents shopping. My father was horrible to shop with, blocking the aisles while we debated every little thing. Imagine if we could have picked everything out at home and then arrived to have it placed in the trunk, wow.

I feel empowered. Look at me taking care of myself. And God bless the blue-vested elves grabbing my goodies off the shelves.

Fred Meyer is not the only local store offering this service. Walmart and Safeway do it, too. Ray’s in Waldport has curbside pickup. I hope they keep it up when COVID is just a distant memory. It’s a big help for many people and kind of fun, too.

What about you? Have you done drive-through/curbside pickup shopping for groceries or other things? Did it work out all right?

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Housecleaning Find Marks the Beginnings of a Poet

Little Boy Blue
By Mother Goose

Little Boy Blue, come blow your horn;
The sheep’s in the meadow, the cow’s in the corn.
Where’s the boy that looks after the sheep?
He’s under the haystack, fast asleep.”
Will you wake him? “No, Not I!
For if I do, he’s sure to cry.”

How did I become a poet? What made me scribble singsong verse as early as third grade? Cleaning out some drawers I rarely open, I found at least part of the answer. Buried among the hair ornaments I no longer have enough hair to use, I found a stack of books from way back in my childhood. Most are pretty beat up from frequent fondling by children. Among them were:

I also found a collection of nature books for kids and Writer’s Digest magazines from the 1960s when Grandma Rachel was grooming me to be a writer. A poet herself, she kept feeding me poetry books, among them the poems of Edna St. Vincent Millay, Robert Browning, Marianne Moore and The Viking Book of Poetry of the English-Speaking World. Being the odd teenager that I was, I read them all and wrote poems of my own. Sixty years later, I’m still at it. 

Tucked inside One Hundred Best Poems for Boys and Girls, I found a poem of my own. Written in pencil, the words are barely visible. Great art? Lord no, although I might have had a successful career writing greeting cards. 

Don’t Forget to Think of Me

Summer is coming very fast.
Soon it will be here at last.

It’s a time to your hobbies pursue,
A time to find the real you.

A time to let your thoughts go free,
A time, I hope, to think of me.

Summer is a time of fun.
I wish no sadness to anyone,

A time to go to brand new places,
A time to see old and new faces.

I’m wishing now, a lot of fun
And joy and peace to everyone.

When summer days are gay and free,
Don’t forget to think of me. 

It’s doggerel, yes, but this is what some of us were reading in the 1950s and early 1960s. We shared Ogden Nash’s humorous verses, Rod McKuen’s sentimental offerings, and the plain-spoken poems of Robert Frost. Poetry progressed from rhyme and rhythm into free verse, rap, and slam poetry. We might roll our eyes as the singsong verse of my childhood, but it got me started.

From One Hundred Best Poems:

Barefoot Days
By Rachel Field

In the morning, very early,
  That’s the time I love to go
Barefoot where the fern grows curly
  And grass is cool between each toe,
     On a summer morning-O!
     On a summer morning!

That is when the birds go by
  Up the sunny slopes of air,
And each rose has a butterfly
  Or a golden bee to wear;
And I am glad in every toe–
       Such a summer morning-O!
       Such a summer morning!

The stuff I grew up on, that my mother read to my brother and me every night, and Grandma Rachel bestowed for every Christmas and birthday, exposed me to the joys of playing with words and sharing them out loud. It was a valuable gift that resonates today as I sit down to write a new poem on my laptop in Google docs. We no longer use fountain pens or fat pencils, but the goal is still the same: to capture what we see and experience in a compact collection of words using imagery, rhythm, word play, and yes, sometimes rhyme. 

When I meet people who don’t read, it saddens me. My brother and I were lucky that our mother read to us, and she took us to the library every two weeks to pick up another stack of books. If parents don’t read to their kids and set an example of reading for pleasure, how will their children pick up the habit? Will they ever be exposed to poems and stories that don’t appear on a screen? 

When they hear “hickory dickory dock, the mouse ran up the clock” or “Jack and Jill went up the hill,” will they know the lines that come next or shrug and go back to their phones? 

We have an obligation to pass our poems and stories to the next generation. That’s how writers and readers are born. This Christmas, buy a child a book. They’re easy to wrap, easy to mail, and might stay with them all their lives.  

PS: You can find my adult poems in my chapbooks Gravel Road Ahead and The Widow at the Piano: Poems by a Distracted Catholic

PPS: Oregon Poetry Association is hosting a “Holiday/Anti-Holiday” poetry open mic on Zoom on Dec. 13 at 7 p.m. PST. You don’t have to live in Oregon to join in. Click here to register. (Click to December on the calendar, click on the event, and you’ll see the registration screen).

Big Brother Rides Again in Celeste Ng’s New Novel

Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng, Penguin Press, 2022

This is one of the best books I’ve ever read—and one of the most frightening. In this dystopian novel, which takes place sometime after The Crisis, which made the Great Depression look like nothing, the country is ruled by PACT, the Preserving American Culture and Traditions Act. If you say anything against the government, the country, or the American culture, you are deemed a criminal. Books are banned and destroyed, mail is censored, and people’s children are taken away because of unpatriotic things their parents are rumored to have said or done.

Things are especially difficult if you happen to be a PAO, person of Asian origin. Our hero Bird’s father is white, but his mother is Chinese. Bird looks Chinese. The other kids pick on him, and adults don’t trust him. Worse, his mom, Margaret Miu, is a poet and one of her lines, “our missing hearts,” has been taken up as a slogan for the resistance movement. In this time of patriotism gone berserk, Bird’s family is in danger and his mother disappears. He is told that his name is now Noah and he should say he knows nothing about his mother. But he can’t let her go. He has to find her. The story that follows is mind-blowing and heart-breaking. It is a poem in itself and a lesson about what could happen. This book should be required reading for everyone.

In the world of PACT, Our Missing Hearts would be one of the many books destroyed as unpatriotic. In that world, the library shelves are half empty. Anything that might fill people’s minds with anti-PACT ideas has been removed. In 2022 America, we have not reached that point, but some books are already banned as inappropriate for young minds. See the Pen America list below. How big a leap is it to the book-burnings of George Orwell’s 1984? Not so big, I’m afraid. I suspect there are ways to take away all of our electronic books, too.

Like so many poets, fictional poet Margaret Miu just wanted to write her poems. She didn’t expect to sell many copies of her book, and she wouldn’t have if the protestors hadn’t taken up that one line, printing it on posters, painting it on streets and buildings, and hanging it on trees. Fearing for her family’s safety, Margaret’s family is torn apart. All because of a line in a poem that was not intended to be a political statement.

Think about it. Even in our society today, one statement can get people in hot water. People get fired, their reputations are ruined, they are shunned. It’s illegal to kill people or take away their children just because of what their parents say or write, but it’s not impossible. Add to that bias against certain ethnic groups, in this case Chinese or anyone who looks Chinese, and it could happen.

Ng notes in her Afterward that children have been taken from their parents in the US before. Slave children were separated from their parents and sold. Native American youth were sent off to boarding schools to be Americanized. Not long ago, children were taken from their parents at the US-Mexico border. Look at the Japanese internment camps. It has happened, and it could happen again. That’s what’s makes this book so frightening, especially if the person reading it is a poet or any kind of writer. What if our words come to be used against us? What if these words I’m typing right now are seen as disloyal to my country? It’s a chilling thought.

Beyond that, Our Missing Hearts is a fabulous book, suspenseful, beautifully written, and so original in the nonviolent ways the resistors find to fight the national brainwashing. We all need to tell our stories, whether everyone agrees with them or not.

Have you read Our Missing Hearts? I welcome your thoughts and comments.

Pen America’s list of most frequently banned books:

  • Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe (41 districts)
  • All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson (29 districts)
  • Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Pérez (24 districts)
  • The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison (22 districts)
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (17 districts)
  • Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison (17 districts)
  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (16 districts)
  • Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews (14 districts)
  • Crank by Ellen Hopkins (12 districts)
  • The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (12 districts)
  • l8r, g8r by Lauren Myracle (12 districts)
  • Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher (12 districts)
  • Beloved by Toni Morrison (11 districts)
  • Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin (11 districts)
  • Drama: A Graphic Novel by Raina Telgemeier (11 districts)
  • Looking for Alaska by John Green (11 districts)
  • Melissa by Alex Gino (11 districts)
  • This Book Is Gay by Juno Dawson (11 districts)
  • This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki (11 districts)

A Tale of Two Beds or Goldilocks Doesn’t Know Where to Sleep

I’ve been bed-hopping a lot lately. No, it’s not what you’re thinking. I’m in there all by myself.

I have been switching from master bedroom to guest room and back, trying to get comfortable with my broken rib. When you live alone in a four-bedroom house, all the rooms are yours to sleep in. I have slept on the couch, too. Also the hot tub, but you can’t do that for eight hours.

If you don’t remember the story, which I told in detail last week, a board in my deck collapsed under my foot, my leg plunged in and the rest of me went backwards. I wound up with a severely bruised leg and a broken rib. It could have been so much worse.

Back to bed-hopping. The master bedroom is probably the nicest room in the house. It’s pretty, color-coordinated in pinks and blues, with my stuffed bear collection there to keep me company and my shrine to my late husband next to his side of the bed. Everything I need is close by. But the queen-sized pillowtop mattress my husband talked me into years ago is more firm than soft. There is a school of thought that a firm mattress is better for your health, but when you’re nursing a broken rib, it’s like sleeping on a slab of wood, and no position feels good.

The mattress in the guest room is soft. It feels like sinking into a marshmallow. Too soft, some might say, but after a couple nights of pain, I decided to try it. My bones liked it. That room is not as pretty. Goodwill dresser, random art, needs new paint. Plus there’s too much light. Despite the blinds and curtains, the new hyper-white street light pours in. Blue and green lights shine from my Internet and cable TV boxes. I prefer a dark room. But the bed is so soft.

I spent the last week and a half sleeping in the guest room. Now the rib is better. I still feel some soreness, but I can sneeze without dying, and I don’t need pain medication anymore. I moved across the hall again. Last night, I slept in the master bedroom. I dreamed my brother won the Olympics. At age 69. What sport? I think it was speed walking, which I’m not sure is a real event, but it was a fun dream, and our parents were still alive in it.

Now I wonder if maybe I have lived with the harder bed long enough and should switch beds or buy a new one. The queen-sized bed won’t fit in the guest room, so . . . I don’t know. Maybe I’ll just keep the neighbors confused with different lights in different rooms. Does she have company? There are no cars in the driveway . . .

Like Goldilocks, I’m still seeking the bed that feels just right. And no, I’m not buying a “Sleep Number” bed. I have tried them. That much technology keeps me awake.

How about you? Are you a fan of soft beds, firm beds, or something in the middle? Does your partner feel the same way? Where was the best bed you ever slept in?

Some sleepy reading:

https://www.mattressclarity.com/blog/firm-vs-soft-mattress/  “Firm vs. Soft Mattress: Which is Best for You?”

https://www.sleepfoundation.org/mattress-information/firm-vs-soft-mattress  Sleep Foundation: “Do I Need a Firm or Soft Mattress?”

https://www.sleepjunkie.com/firm-vs-soft-mattress/ Sleep Junkie: “Firm vs. Soft Mattress”

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Beware of Rotting Boards Underfoot

The weather on the Oregon coast is . . . wet. The wetness eats wood. The carpenter ants probably don’t help.

On Oct. 6, when I walked out on my deck to take some pictures of the trees looking kind of romantic in the fog, a rotting board collapsed underneath my foot. My leg went through, and I fell backwards across the edge of the deck onto the wet lawn with my leg still stuck between the boards.

I live alone. There were no neighbors within shouting distance, the young ones at work and the older ones too far away to hear me. I had been holding my phone, but it flew out of my hand and onto the grass when I fell. I had no choice but to push myself up and pull my leg out. If I couldn’t push myself out, I don’t know what I would have done.

Thank God the leg was not broken, but it hurt, and I had this weird pain in my back. I told myself I’d go to Urgent Care the next day if it wasn’t better. I had work to do.

I was watching TV that night when I turned slightly and something in my side popped. Uh-oh. A minute later, I sneezed, felt agonizing pain, and couldn’t catch my breath. I have to go to the hospital, I thought. Something is really wrong. Carefully I put on my shoes.

Unlike the time when I drove to the ER at midnight with chest pains, which was stupid, I knew I should not drive myself. I was shaking all over and couldn’t stand up straight. I called a neighbor. She was out of town and so sorry she couldn’t help. Screw it, I thought, and dialed 911. After my first-ever ambulance ride to the hospital, X-rays showed a broken rib and contusions from hip to ankle. All they could really offer was painkillers. Everything will heal in time.

“Do you have anyone to be with you?” the nurse asked as I lay on the hospital bed in my green gown and yellow Covid mask.

“No,” I said, holding back tears.

“Do you have anyone to drive you home?”

“I thought I’d take a taxi,” I said.

She shook her head. “Since Covid, taxis are hard to get around here.” We live in a small town with no Ubers and sparse bus runs. “You’d better try to find a friend or family member to come get you.” She handed me my phone.

I wanted to cry so hard, but I held it in. I had to find a ride. It was midnight. Most people I knew were asleep. I called a church friend who stays up late. It was a bit of drive, but she said she was happy to do it. I waited by the door in a wheelchair. I was so glad to see her.

Then I was alone with my dog again. I couldn’t sleep, my brain reliving the fall, thinking about what could have happened. I couldn’t find a comfortable position in the bed. I’m not a fan of recliner chairs, but I wished I had one. I wished I had someone to bring me my pills. I wondered how I would change the Lidocaine patch over my ribs by myself (turns out it’s not that difficult).

The next couple days brought me a lot of attention as the word spread. Friends brought medicine, dog food, flowers and dinner. They prayed over me and assured me I am not alone, that they care. My family lives too far away to be of any immediate help, but I am blessed with great friends.

Now I’m taking care of myself. Some things are difficult, but I’m managing. The pain is easing. I am so grateful that this was not the event that would send me out of my independent life and into a nursing home.

My handyman has already replaced the rotting boards in my deck and assures me it should be secure for a few more years. When I do replace it, I will not use wood. There are new products that can handle the moisture much better.

I have been looking into those emergency-alert devices, even though I hate the whole idea of wearing one. Boy, do they do the hard sell. Pushy! I’m not ready to wear a device around my neck. I am considering a “smart watch” that includes an emergency call function. For now, I’ll keep my phone handy.

Meanwhile, this incident has shown me that I need a better emergency plan. I need a team of friends who are ready to go if I need help. The people are there. We just need to make it more formal, so I have names and numbers ready for me—and the hospital—if/when this happens again. In return, I will do the same for them.

Did you know that 27 percent of American households are occupied by people living alone? Some have family nearby; some don’t. We all need a plan for when things go wrong.

We also need to watch out for rotten boards. I never dreamed the deck would break under me. It must have been the weight of that extra chocolate chip cookie I ate the night before.

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