Ode to My Battered Hiking Shoes

IMG_20171110_115424233[1]Every afternoon, an hour or so after the dog starts picketing my office, sighing in the doorway and nudging my hand off the computer mouse, I put on my walking shoes. It drives her crazy how long I take getting ready. I’ve got to put on the shoes and sweatshirt, find my glasses, lock the doors, get my keys, my phone, my handkerchief, two poop bags, and her leash. Hesitate. Do I have it all? Have I left something plugged in or turned on? By then, she’s howling at me and jumping up and down. I hook on her leash. She grabs it, shakes it as if to kill it, and runs to the door. Extending the anguish, I insist she sit and chill for a minute. Then . . . okay, let’s go!

We walk on paved and graveled roads and grassy trails through the woods here in South Beach. Sun, rain or snow, we go. It’s hard on the feet, hard on the shoes. I have just worn out another pair. In gratitude, I wrote this poem.


Drying on the hearth, these twenty-dollar

boots from Big 5 Sporting Goods

have holes among the waffle treads

that let my socks get wet.

The rubber toes are falling off.

Worn brown laces won’t stay tied.

They sacrificed themselves to guard

my tender white and helpless feet.

My puppy has her leather pads,

soft fur thick between the toes,

nails that grip the graveled earth.

Puzzled, she watches me grab my shoes

to walk through rocks and branches, mud,

newts and salamander guts

Oh, praise these battered hiking boots.

We’ve got a couple miles left.


Text and photos copyright Sue Fagalde Lick 2017

Halloween in the Spooky Old Woods

As I walk Annie down Birch Street on Halloween, I try to picture kids in costume running from house to house with their bags, the air echoing with “Trick or Treat!”

It’s not gonna happen. I avoid walking through the long dark stretches of forest between houses. What parent is going to let their kids do it? There are bears out there. Besides, the occupants of four out of the five houses on my street qualify for Medicare. No kids. I suspect the kids that do live in the neighborhood go elsewhere to Trick or Treat. They may have already gone to one of the many public events that happened over the last few days. Merchants on the Bayfront are planning to hand out candy this evening. I suppose if I had children, I’d go there.

Halloween here and now is very different from Halloweens back in the 1950s and early ‘60s when I was a kid. We only wore our costumes for one day—Halloween. We wore them to school, then fidgeted around for a few hours until Mom and Dad were ready to take us out Trick or Treating. Our costumes were sometimes homemade—I went once as a sleepwalker in my pajamas, another time as a gypsy in a long skirt with big earrings. Sometimes they were cheesy store-bought costumes of some highly flammable material that itched and offered no warmth. But in San Jose, we didn’t need it. It was warm enough. I remember those masks we used to wear, hooked around our heads with a glorified rubber band. They were scratchy on our cheeks and smelled like whatever we ate. They blocked half our vision, but we didn’t care.

We walked house to house on Fenley Avenue and Ardis, the street behind us, which offered us more than enough houses. Everyone was giving out candy. The adults at the door would peer at us and say, “Is that Susie and Mikie?” and we’re scream “Trick or Treat!” We’d watch the candy dropping into our bags and holler “Thank you!” as we’d been taught. Our friends were doing the same thing, their parents, like ours, waiting on the sidewalk to escort us to the next place.

In those days when we baby boomers were children, nobody worried about crime, razor blades or needles stuck in apples, or any other dangers. We were as safe out there as in our own bedrooms. And oh, the loot. Tootsie rolls, suckers, Life Savers, little Hershey Bars, candy corn, homemade cookies and popcorn balls. Nobody had to check our bags for danger or take out things that weren’t considered healthy. It was all good and it was all ours.

The tradition continued as long as we lived in San Jose, although by the time we were the adults handing out candy, you had to offer factory-wrapped goodies from the store. Anything homemade would be thrown away as unsafe. Parents worried about sugar. Some people gave out toothbrushes or granola bars. What fun is that? Homeowners worried about vandalism. The numbers of kids dwindled as their parents took them to safer events hosted by schools and churches.

Here in Lincoln County, Oregon, kids still go out, but not everywhere. My in-laws used to live in the neighborhood behind the Fred Meyer store off NE 20th Street. Police blocked off those streets and kids came by the hundreds. I can remember years standing outside in cold, wet, windy weather handing out candy. The stream of Trick or Treaters didn’t let up for hours. Fred’s frugal mom offered mini Tootsie Rolls, and we were in trouble if we gave anybody more than one. Of course we did it anyway. The last year she was there, we ran out of candy and turned off the lights. A little later, we found that our car had been “egged.” Our windows were open, and the whites and yolk ran all over the blue velour upholstery. The dog did a pretty good cleanup job, but it soured the evening.

In town today, I didn’t see as many people in costume as I expected. At lunch at Georgie’s, the hostess, one waitress, and one busboy dressed up, but the rest were in their usual black garb. At the J.C. Market, one cashier had multi-colored hair and another appeared to be a witch. Two customers roamed the aisles as some type of zombies. One of them waved at me—I had no idea who she was. Otherwise it was business as usual. I didn’t see any kids at all, unless you count the dozens of kids in costume on Facebook. Here they’d have to a wear jackets over their costumes anyway; it’s expected to get down in the 30s tonight.

These days, out here in the woods with Annie, I don’t expect to see any Trick or Treaters. On our walk, Annie and I saw the neighbors’ chickens, a squirrel, a Pomeranian, and a tuxedo cat, but nobody in costume. I have a string of orange lights up, but no pumpkins, ghosts or other decorations. The kids will be elsewhere, and we old folks at the end of the road will eat the candy we bought just in case. We always make sure it’s the kind we like. I’ve got Tootsie rolls. The big ones. I’m thinking they’d go well with Kahlua.

How was your Halloween? How is it different from when you were a kid?


Quick, What Pitch is the Smoke Alarm?

11464274 - fire alarmMy dryer buzzes a Bb. My oven timer sings out a high D and the microwave offers a B above middle C. The doorbell ding-dongs a pleasant F down to D, but the tea kettle, old and weary, starts at F# and tends to go flat. My house is very musical. I’ll bet yours is, too.

I’m a little nuts, but as a musician, I can’t help checking out the pitch of things I hear. I ping the crystal glass with my fingernail and find myself humming and running to the piano. What is it?!! I have pretty good relative pitch, so I am usually close, but I’m not sure until I check. It’s the D next to middle C, very pleasant. I try my ordinary water glass: A, not bad. I check the seat belt warning beeper in my car: C above middle C, very annoying. The Honda horn: a blatty G#.

I’m on a roll. Why write when you can Google stuff? It turns out there’s a science behind the sounds our possessions make. Sound engineers actually work hard to find the right sounds for the right purpose. Higher pitched sounds are more unpleasant and therefore get our attention. They’re used for alerts and alarms. A low-pitched siren would not have the same effect and might not cut through the other noises in our lives. Lower-pitched sounds are more pleasant and are used for notifications, things we want to know, but it’s not a matter of life or death.

Sound designers look for sounds that will get our attention as needed. If the house is on fire, you don’t want a low A hum. You want a shrieking high G# that will wake you up. The typical bing-bong doorbell is a pleasant interruption. But think if the notes were changed to something minor or clashing.

I have noticed that, with the exception of my tea kettle, everything is right on pitch. This is quite amazing.  picture some poor guy trying to tune an over or a dryer. No, that’s not it. Beep. Not quite. Beep. Almost. Beep! Damn, now it’s sharp.

Maybe you’re not a musician. Maybe you’re not obsessed with determining the pitch of everything you hear. Maybe you agree with the yoga sound healers online who say that if you have to know what pitch the sounds are, you’re not going with the flow. They’re probably right. I can see me jumping out of my full lotus in the middle of a session to look for a musical instrument or use the pitch pipe on my phone. It’s a Bb! Okay, we can continue.

Sound healing is a real thing. You can buy bowls, bells, and gongs that are said to affect the different chakras—energy centers along your spine. Just close your eyes and feel the vibrations. Don’t ask what note it is. It’s actually very pleasant. You can read up on sound healing at http://www.dreamweaving.com/dwalsg.htm or https://www.devpreetkaur.com/sound-healing-instruments.

But back to the sounds in our houses. Pitches are sound-wave frequencies, measured in Hertz (Hz) and Kilohertz (kHz). The human ear with normal hearing is capable of detecting sound waves from approximately 20Hz to 20,000 Hz (20 kHz). One to three kHz is said to be the sweet spot where human hearing is most sensitive.

Up until the 1950s, manufacturers didn’t have the same options for sounds that we have in our computer-operated world. Think tiny hammers hitting tiny bells in a telephone. Today’s computer-powered cell phone ring tones can be virtually anything from an old-time bell to your favorite song.

Did you know you can listen to common sounds online and even download them to use on your website, movie, or recording? You can get buzzers and beeps, a duck quacking, a dog lapping water, or the noise of a busy restaurant. Visit www.freesoundeffects.com or https://www.soundsnap.com. You can buy sounds at 123rf, the same site where I often download pictures for this blog. At YouTube, search for “common sounds” and go crazy. You might want to wear ear buds or headphones for these; they’re not very loud.

I tried to figure out what pitch Annie speaks in. We had a long song session. She was trying to tell me to leave the computer alone and take her for a walk. She started with very low sounds, but as I tried to match her tones, soon we were all over the sound spectrum. That dog has a huge range compared to my tiny human one. Having won the sing-off, she dragged me down the street for a while, where we enjoyed the whoosh of the wind, the chirp of the birds, and the bark of the neighbors’ dogs.

You might wonder if I have more important things to do. Nope. I do the research so you don’t have to. What are you hearing at your house?


Text copyright 2017 Sue Fagalde Lick, photo copyright: jerryb7 / 123RF Stock Photo


Exploring Newport’s Yaquina Bridge

IMG_20140114_115206724Yaq. bridge 71417F

The Yaquina Bay Bridge that links Newport, Oregon with South Beach has been called The Green Lady for the green arch that rises 600 feet into the sky. One of five Oregon Coast bridges designed by Conde McCullough and erected between 1934 and 1936, the bridge bears the marks of 81 years of weather, waves, birds, cars, and people. Memories flood my mind, even though I have only been here 21 years, not even a third of the bridge’s lifetime: Marches to celebrate sobriety and to protest war, a parade of old cars and people in costumes celebrating the bridge’s 75th anniversary, flowers tied to the posts in memory of six-year-old London McCabe, whose mother threw him off the bridge to his death in 2014. Police reports document others who committed suicide by slipping over the side of the bridge.

Countless tourists have walked the bridge, stopping to take pictures of the bay to the east and the jetty leading into the ocean to the west, of the marina, the coast guard station, the fishing pier, sea lions, and fishing boats followed by flocks of gulls. Others walk or jog the bridge for exercise or simply to get to the other side. Yaq. bridge 71417P

Yaq. bridge 71417EI have been reading a book called Crossings, about the construction of the coastal bridges. Written by Judy Fleagle and Richard Knox Smith, it tells the story of McCullough’s designs and how hundreds of workers laboring through fog, sun, rain and wind made them real. Before the bridges, travelers on the Coast Highway were forced to take ferry boats across the bays and rivers in Newport, Waldport, Florence, Reedsport, and Coos Bay. It made for a mighty long trip, and if you missed the last ferry of the day, you had to stay the night. A friend of my father’s who lived here in those early days remembers taking blankets when he went to town, just in case he couldn’t get back to the other side of the bay before nightfall.

All but one of the five bridges are still in use. The Alsea Bay Bridge in Waldport was replaced by a new bridge in 1991, but the builders left some of the gothic pillars and other markers in place. Someday The Green Lady will go, too. Highway experts are already warning that, despite frequent maintenance, it’s getting too old and too narrow to accommodate modern traffic loads, especially as development increases in South Beach. A strong earthquake or tsunami might take it down. But today it stands as the symbol Newport uses as its logo and the one thing everybody wants to photograph.

Yaq. bridge 71417L

I cross the 3,223-foot Yaquina Bay Bridge nearly every day by car, but I recently walked it for the first time. I’d always meant to but never got around to it. Getting new tires at Les Schwab, right at the northern end of the bridge, gave me a perfect excuse. It only took a half hour to cross the bridge and come back, feeling triumphant. Also tired. I never realized how much of the bridge was uphill.

The weather was sunny with a light breeze as I played tourist, noting the sights on and off the bridge that I can’t see from the seat of my car. No wonder the tourists gawk and creep along in their cars. Below, I saw a lone guy clamming at low tide, fishermen on the pier, a family on the beach, a gull cruising to a landing on the sand, and tsunami evacuation signs pointing to the hill southwest of the bridge. Inside the little “houses” under the obelisks near the center of the bridge, graffiti told stories the writers felt compelled to share.

Yaq. Bridge 71417M

Back in the ’30s, McCullough surely never dreamed there would be a “webcam” attached at the north end of the bridge to feed pictures to the Internet, that bike racers and marathon runners would include the bridge in their course, or that a steady stream of cars, trucks, motorcycles, and RVs would fill the air with exhaust fumes. But The Green Lady is still a beauty and worth the walk.

Text and photos copyright 2017 Sue Fagalde Lick


Blessings Overflow During ‘NotMom’ Trip

IMG_20171006_113139494[1]I was sitting at the corner table at the Portland airport Radisson’s Lakeside Restaurant yesterday, devouring my pancakes, eggs and bacon when I saw someone who looked familiar a few tables down. As the woman and her companion got up to graze at the buffet, I realized I knew them from church. I had traveled across the country and was still 150 miles from home, and there were Ron and Sandi from Newport. After we all had a chance to eat our last pig-out meals before heading home to real life and diets, I joined them for a wonderful visit.

Ron and Sandi had been to Colorado and New Mexico. They were very interested when I told them I was returning from the NotMom Summit in Cleveland, Ohio. Sandi’s situation is similar to mine. She’s a stepmother, but never had her own children. I shared some of what I had learned.

It was a long and expensive trip, but worth it. I returned feeling stronger, prettier, and far less alone, with my notebook full of writing ideas. The high is fading a bit now in the rush of mail to read, bills to pay, clothing to wash, and work to get done. Rejections and deadlines loom, and I’m in charge of choir practice tonight. When I called Dad, he was full of the usual complaints—but he’s okay, and he was glad I had a good time.

This morning, the dog greeted me with kisses as I finally stirred in my warm, soft bed. Out the window, I saw evergreen trees and gray sky. No more big-city views of downtown Cleveland and Lake Erie out my window at the Hilton. What a beautiful city it is, full of   old buildings and fascinating public art.

There was a scary moment when I went walking Friday night. I was crossing a street at a crosswalk with a blinking warning light for oncoming cars. I walked right into the side of a car that had failed to stop. It took the breath out of me, but I was not injured. The driver apologized, and I staggered back to the hotel to sit shaking for a few minutes. It could have been all over in Cleveland before I even had a chance to give my speech. The picture above could have been the last one ever taken of me. But no, God was watching out for me. I took some deep breaths and went back to the conference.

This was not like writers’ conferences, where everybody is trying to get published. There, it’s all about what we do. But here, it was about who we are and how we live. I made about a hundred new friends as we sat around sharing how we happened to not have children. We came from as far as New Zealand and as near as Cleveland. I shared my session on aging without children with Gisele from Montreal. I met the fabulous Jody Day from the UK. Our accents varied, but we had this giant thing in common: we were all “NotMoms.”

God, how we talked. We discussed our families, our periods, our friends who are obsessed with their kids and grandkids, the stupid things people say to us, and so many other topics that we don’t usually feel we can talk about with other people. All the workshops were really discussions, with the women in the audience offering as much as the women up front.

We got drunk. We wore our pajamas to watch a documentary film called “To Kid or Not to Kid.” We ran around with giant bingo cards looking for women with various qualities to fill in the squares. I was the NotMom who played an instrument. Our keynote speakers taught us and inspired us. They made us laugh, and they made us cry. We talked about the hard stuff, the tragic stories of trying and failing to get pregnant or trying to get people to understand why some of us never wanted children. We asked each other whether having stepchildren means we’re not childless/childfree. It’s not the same as having our own, we agreed.

We gave standing ovations to Karen Malone Wright, founder of the NotMom organization, and her assistant Laura LaVoie, who made the conference happen. It was top-notch all the way. We pledged to come back next time and stay in touch in-between.

I also happily signed copies of my Childless by Marriage book and met readers I previously only knew online.

The hardest part was saying goodbye and walking out with our suitcases at the end. But I was blessed to spend the first leg of my trip home with Audrey from Olympia, Washington. We had met at dinner the first night, and now we discovered we were seated next to each other on the plane from Cleveland to Houston. I am so happy to have her as a new friend, along with so many others.

From Houston, I was finally on my own for the four-hour flight to Portland. That was a long one, with a lot of turbulence and a crying baby. But back in Portland, there were Ron and Sandi from Newport, making me see how the circles of my life intersect. I am so blessed.

In a bit of ironic timing, my step-grandson Brandon and his wife Ashley gave birth to a baby boy early this morning. Welcome, Kayden. I wish Fred were here to share the news.

Thank you all for being here.

In Spite of It All, We Still Have Hope

Sometimes our world seems hopeless as we watch people getting shot at a country music concert, wading in waist-deep flood water with no home left to go to, or fleeing wildfires that seem impossible to stop. Our government, however you feel about it, is in constant turmoil. We face so many challenges close to home. A friend just had a stroke. My neighbor just told me about a husband and wife who were both diagnosed with cancer on the same day. One of my father’s caregivers crashed her car into his garage door. It all seems hopeless, right? Let’s just go back to bed and stay there. But no. We still have hope.

It shows every time my father does his leg exercises in the hopeful belief that he will soon be able to let go of his walker and tell his caregivers not to come back. I’m not sure it will happen, but he has hope. It’s what keeps him going.

I thought about this the other day as rain soaked the chaise lounge cushions on my deck. I ought to admit that summer is over and bring them in, but no, I had hope that we would have some more sunny days. And we do. I see blue sky out my window right now.

I started making a list of the things we do that show we have hope that whatever the situation is now, it’s going to be all right. The list got long. I’m sharing some of my favorites here, and I invite you to make your own list and share it in the comments.

1. Hope is continuing to water the African violet although the leaves are turning brown and you haven’t seen a flower in a year.

2. Hope is buying two chicken breasts in case company comes.

3. Hope is showing up at a dance alone.

4. Hope is leaving the door unlocked.

5. Hope is casting your line out again.

6. Hope is planting two-year-old seeds in a muddy yard.

7. Hope is pruning your artichoke plants down to sticks.

8. Hope is unhooking your dog’s leash.

9. Hope is buying a lottery ticket.

10. Hope is calling him (or her) one more time.

11. Hope is getting a mammogram.

12. Hope is stepping on the bathroom scale.

13. Hope is going to get the mail.

14. Hope is pouring your heart out and hitting “send.”

15. Hope is taking your turn at a four-way stop.

16. Hope is buying jeans that fit a little tight.

17. Hope is putting a roast in the electric oven during a storm when the lights are flickering.

18. Hope is making a dentist appointment for six months from now.

19. Hope is buying a Christmas gift in August for someone who is very old.

20. Hope is leaving your jacket at home.

21. Hope is saying “I do” again.

22. Hope is stepping into the plane.

23. Hope is not defrosting anything for dinner.

24. Hope is leaving your birth control in your purse.

25. Hope is getting out of bed anyway.

Okay. Your turn!

Unleashed in Oregon blog book is born

Unleashed PB coverWell, I did it. Soon I’ll be holding a paperback book copy of Unleashed from Oregon: Best from the Blog. It will have tangible form, unlike these weekly blog posts in cyberspace, which could disappear if something happened to WordPress, Wi-Fi or the Internet. It will also put together related posts from various times and places to create a new story.

What’s in it? You’ll find the answers to these questions and more. What is a Californigonian? What was waiting by the door that night? What possessed us to adopt two puppies at once? How is playing the piano like ice skating? Why stay in Oregon when it rains all the time and the family is still back in California? Chapters will look at the glamorous life of a writer and the equally glamorous life of a musician, true stories from a whiny traveler, being the sole human occupant of a house in the woods, and dogs, so much about dogs.

With over 500 posts published over the last 10 years, I had to leave a lot out. Frankly, many of those posts deserved to be left out. They made sense at the time, but now not so much. The photos in the book are black and white because the cost of color photos was prohibitive and this isn’t a coffee table book. I refuse to charge people $40 a copy. I wanted it to be fun and inexpensive. And it is.

Putting Unleashed the book together has been a challenge. The cover I loved for the e-book didn’t work for the paperback, so they’re different. Choosing the posts, finding the files, and finding the original photos (I need a better system!) took time. Remind me not to try formatting another book with pictures. Also remind me to use a real camera instead of my phone. Getting photos, page numbers, and headers to line up, yikes, but I think you’ll like the result.

The e-book is already available at Amazon.com. The paperback will be there soon. Click on my name and take a look at my other books while you’re there. It’s not too early to start thinking about Christmas presents. If you can’t wait, you can buy copies of the paperback right now at CreateSpace.com.