What is YOUR Life Story?

Written by Panorama resident, Mary Jo Shaw. November 2018

Think about it. Your story is only yours. It’s unique. No one else has the same life story as you. No two are alike!

I’d like to share this month’s unusual event.

The Lacey Senior Center invited me to be the presenter at their monthly Speakers Series. The manager asked me to discuss the 23 years of my life in my journey of when I was a nun and what happened when I left the convent and immediately trained to be a high fashion model.

In her phone call, Ms. Manager explained that my talk was to be “informative vs a primary sales pitch” for my Convent to Catwalk book. “You can have the book here and sell IF people request it after your talk. No problem.” She encouraged me saying that the seniors would love to hear excerpts of my stories.

Wow! How fun that would be! I was used to giving book reads & signings, but this would be different.

My opening remark usually explains that a catwalk is a modeling ramp for showing off fashions. I love the question-and-answer part during my presentations and always encourage the questions. “There’s no right or wrong question. Here’s your chance to find out what you’ve forever wanted to know about the nuns or high fashion modeling. If I don’t want to answer, I don’t want to answer.”

Naturally, I explain I don’t want to spoil the climax to the many stories, so I may give a soft hint of an answer. Invariably someone says, “I don’t want to hear the answer! It’s like knowing in advance ‘who done it’ when reading a mystery story.”

At Lacey Center, a woman posed, “Why did you write Convent to Catwalk?” Immediately, other attendees nodded wide-eyed.

My response? Actually, I answered with another question to everyone present to start a discussion. “That’s such a good question. Let’s list why you all think it was a good idea to write my story. I’ll give the first reason.”

I answered, “Why not? It’s my story, different from anyone else’s. I wouldn’t be here talking today if I hadn’t had the extreme contrast of the two life styles to write about.”

Toward the end of our hour, I summed up the reasons they offered which were true and my own added reasons:

  1. Years from now, some twig on our family tree will remark, “Oh, yeah! I heard we have an ancestor who was a nun, left the convent and was a model. Wonder what that was all about?”
  2. Even now my grandchildren (ages 11, 12 and 15) don’t know the mysterious, hilarious, traumatic, painful, emotional, near-death experiences I endured, how I handled them and how God helped me pull myself out of them.
  3. I don’t have expensive things to leave to my children and grandchildren. What I have they don’t want, except for my baby grand piano, and that will wear out and be forgotten that it was even mine.
  4. Without being preachy, I can leave them inspirational & positive ways to endure the ever-growing small and huge challenges they will experience in their lives.
  5. Most people won’t write a book as a legacy, but if we have a pencil and some three-holed paper or a simple computer, that’s all it takes…no fancy words, just writing as if we were telling our story to a friend…one story at a time.

The hour discussion with Lacey Center citizens was lively and fun, and too short!

So…what did you do that you tell your friends about when you reminisce about the 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s…? What do they laugh or cry about with you?

Here at Panorama, I’ve heard loads of life stories and learn more every day. Those accounts should stay alive for their families and for history.

I thank our 100 year-old Charlotte W., who has held free Panorama Writing Your Life classes for about 14 years twice a month. With no constructive critiques, our goal was simply to write a 10-minute story at home and read in it class. We were eager to hear the next episode in each resident’s life! Charlotte also started a program of tape-recording life stories of residents in our Convalescent & Rehabilitation Center. The activity director sees that the stories are typed and put into a folder. What a gift for the family!

After about a year, I was encouraged to attend PanWriters weekly classes, for a small fee, with international playwright Bryan Willis. He has taught at Panorama since 1998. I’d leave the class with swollen encouragement to publish my stores for others. Because of Panorama, I self-printed in 2018. Convent to Catwalk is in its fifth printing in one year. I look forward to the many opportunities to book read & sign, where I am able to donate a portion of the proceeds to the church, organization, or club; thus, giving back to my community and to my God.

I’m thankful that Panorama offers the opportunity, encouragement, the time (freedom from house maintenance and repairs, yard, etc.) and even sells our books and crafts for us in our Gifts Etc. shop!

So, what is your story? Write it right!

Panorama Welcomes My Unknown Cousin

Written by Panorama resident, Mary Jo Shaw. October 2018

In a few days, I’d be meeting a 2nd cousin who I didn’t know even existed. Our maiden names are both Italian: Barbera, which is not a common surname here in the USA.

There are many options of where we can meet on Panorama campus, but some are regularly used on Monday afternoons. I wanted a place other than our Quinault apartment. I wanted her to observe the friendly residents and their goings on, and yet not be in an isolated room where we might feel claustrophobic.

I prayed. Lord, You’ve never let me down. I know this mercenary, but You know the perfect spot for us to meet my cousin Nicole and her husband, Bruce, when they come tomorrow. I place this situation into your hands and I thank You in advance.

That evening, I observed a crowd leaving our restaurant. That’s it! The Panorama Seventeen51 Restaurant & Bistro! However, would they accommodate, understand, and allow us to occupy a large table for the four of us with room for our memorabilia and photos? We’d have access to meals, snacks, drinks—whatever—with no need to prepare them and clean up.

I ran upstairs to our apartment to gather and write down my thoughts and questions. I called our restaurant. Restaurant employee Erin seemed as excited as I was. “How fun, Mary Jo. We could push two tables together in a T-shape in the Bistro. You could be away from other tables and have a good time. We’d be nearby to wait on you when you are ready. You may have all afternoon to visit.”

The set-up was perfect.

We enjoyed our lunch, dessert, and drinks while sharing photos.

Nicole had pictures of herself and her little brother as youngsters standing at the side of a large inboard motor boat with the business name on the side in bold letters: Barbera Sports.

I belted, “Hey, that’s our boat!” Dad (her cousin) had taken the picture at the sporting goods store back in the late 1970s.

In several photos of my grandfather, Barbera Sr. (her uncle), I recognized the wallpaper in rooms at his birthday party, but I couldn’t remember where I had seen it. I took a cellphone image of the page in her album, and I sent it to my sister Jerri. She was excited, “That’s my house.”

Members of Nicole’s family, including her 80-year-old mother, called from out of town saying they wanted to come to Panorama to meet us. What a privilege and compliment! I could go on and on about our several hours of fun. Our families know Panorama is available with the hospitality to handle our next family reunions. Everyone can relax and let it happen—repeatedly!

How did Nicole track me down?

She had traced my name through ThurstonTalk online, which aired March 16, 2018. It ran a story by Anne Paxton Hammond of me and my book, Convent to Catwalk. The story was titled “Mary Jo Shaw: How a Nun Became a Fashion Model and Mom.”

Seek and maybe ye shall find an unknown relative. And thanks to Panorama!

A Resident’s Perspective – Does Panorama Consider Our Requests?

Written by Panorama resident, Mary Jo Shaw. August 2018

We love eating in the Panorama Seventeen51 Restaurant. Sometimes we wished we could make our own selection for a healthy salad. Many residents suggested this on the restaurant survey we all received. It covered menu, ambiance, noise, service, etc.

 

But how seriously did the cooks, the manager, and Panorama welcome our salad proposals? Restaurant manager Tavis explained the results of the survey in statistical pie charts on our closed circuit Channel 370, as well as in our monthly Panorama News. We looked forward to seeing just how his consideration of healthy salads would be implemented.

 

Surprise!

 

“Hey, Chris! Our May Calendar of Activities just arrived. Look! It says on the first and third Saturdays of each month, the restaurant’s going to try a salad bar from 5 to 7.”

 

He put down his magazine. “Sounds great. Let’s be sure to go.”

 

At the end of the week, we entered The Gallery in the restaurant. Chris stopped to visit and tease with a table of friends enjoying their meal. I headed straight to the food line. My jaw dropped.

 

I motioned to Chris and mouthed silently, “Come over here!”

 

Together we scoped the length of cold containers. “Wow, Chris, how nice! I didn’t expect this.”

 

We observed the fresh mixed greens, baby tomatoes, red onions, carrots, and diced cucumbers.

 

Chris pointed out his favorites. “Yum! Black olives, sunflower seeds, dried cranberries, broccoli, mushrooms, and candied walnuts…wow!

 

I anticipated the ham and turkey, but the tempting layout offered bacon bits, hardboiled eggs and delicious grilled chicken breast. “Glad I don’t have to cut all of this stuff. I love salad, but it takes so much time and then I’m exhausted after supper. Look, even bleu cheese crumbles and shredded cheddar.”

 

After filling our plates, we had to make a decision. Poppy seed, ranch, raspberry vinaigrette, honey mustard, or oil and vinegar?

 

“What’s this? A huge pot of soup? I didn’t envision that! How great…and rolls, breadsticks and crackers!”

 

As we turned to find a table, a couple who had just moved into the Quinault building down our hallway invited us over. “Join us for supper. I worked hard chopping up this big variety of items,” she joked.

 

Chris kidded back, “We’re providing the dessert. We’ll treat you to the fresh berries and mandarin oranges on the food line. You can have all you want!”

 

Does Panorama listen to our suggestions? I’ll let you decide ­­— all you want!

A Resident’s Perspective – Booking a Panorama Bus

Written by Panorama resident, Mary Jo Shaw. August 2018

For some reason, our church was in the “back pew” when Panorama buses began providing transportation for residents to churches of specific denominations years ago. In the meantime, we have been blessed with resident Maurie L. He attends Mass at Sacred Heart on Sundays and again on Mondays to obtain and bring the sacred, consecrated wafer-hosts to our Catholic Communion service at 10:30 a.m.

When resident Annie (fictional name) initiated and shared her inspiration of asking Panorama for transportation to the church for Sunday Mass, several of us threw our hands up. “What a great idea! We’ll be happy to help spread the word among residents to see how many might be interested.”

We prayed intently each day and we all began networking. Annie worked behind the scenes with proposals and answers to questions that Panorama might ask her. She gathered information, did a test bus trip herself, looked at bus drop-off locations on the church campus, etc.

Annie discussed her questions with us. We prayed with more effort that if God wanted it to be, it would happen. She finally presented the proposal to Grace Moore, Lifestyle Enrichment Director.

“Absolutely!” Grace responded, “You’ll need at least five riders to reserve a van or bus. I’ll work with you on details and get back with you.”

Annie with a teeth-showing smile and beaming, bulging eyes revealed the good news to us. I’m sure that glow on her face was the same when she received the “absolutely” from the Lifestyle Director.

Our goal was to find at least five residents required for the ride, and in a week or so we had a pool of about 15. Others still drive but wanted to be on the list, in case they suddenly are not able or don’t want to drive. The bus picks us up and returns us to our homes, but no need to pay on the spot. The small riding fee is then charged to our monthly account the Sunday we actually sign and board the bus. How easy is that!?

We call Annie by Thursday to let her know if we won’t be going the following Sunday. We realize not everyone at our age will be able to attend every week. We are not charged if we do not ride, but the opportunity is there. So far, we have had about 10 regulars each Sunday.

Of course, we will continue the Monday morning services for those unable to ride the Panorama bus and for those who wish to attend Sunday and/or Monday! Another simple-for-us-to-do blessing from Panorama!

Does It Really Work?

Written by Mary Jo Shaw, Panorama resident. June 2018

A fictional story explaining how the Panorama Benevolent Fund Social Assistance Program works. All characters appearing in this story are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons living or deceased is purely coincidental.  

 

“I can’t help it that I have all these things wrong with my legs! Why do you keep yelling at me?” Mary’s tears made Jim even more upset. He stormed out of their once happy little apartment in one of the Panorama buildings. The slam of the door matched their volume.

Heading toward Panorama Hall for a cup of coffee, Jim’s frown and fuming red face caught the eye of one of the on-campus Independent Living Services social workers arriving for work. “Are you all right, Jim? How is Mary?”

“Oh, I don’t know how I can take this much longer, especially with all the bills we have lately. I’m running out of steam trying to care for her, cook, do laundry, and take care of the house. I’m so wound up at night, I can’t even sleep. This is the first time I’ve been out of the house in days. I’m frustrated and not myself. I know our garden plot needs upkeep. I love Mary very much and want to care for her, but I just can’t keep going on and on and on.” Jamming his waving arms into his wrinkled pockets, he traced his old shoe on the parking stripe on the asphalt. Jim needed to vent; the social worker simply nodded her concern.

“We’ve been almost frugal with our spending, but I’m getting nervous with our finances…my set of dentures, her hearing aids…it all came so sudden.” After more details, the social worker offered to refer them to the Benevolent Fund Social Assistance Program to see whether they qualified for temporary help until Mary was able to be back on her feet again.

He hesitated, but a glimmer of hope helped him take a deep breath. “Maybe. But I don’t know if Mary would approve. She always worked so hard. But it sure would help.” Jim was reminded that only two people knew the names of the independent residents asking for assistance in qualifying for funds.

A Benevolent Fund worker arrived the next day to talk with the couple and gathered information about financial resources to take to the office. After several phone calls to health care agencies, and final arrangements, the Benevolent Fund office assured Jim and Mary they would be able to have a caretaker.

Olivia was well trained in her work of home care. She prepared meals, freezing some for her off-days, changed sheets, did laundry and some vacuuming. Mary enjoyed Olivia’s pleasant visits during the three days of weekly appointments. Jim joined the other guys in the Pea Patch, bringing home veggies and flowers to a happy home once again.

After a few months when Mary was ready to be on her own, she and Jim hugged Olivia. “You’ve been a God-send. Panorama is so good to us. The Benevolent Fund really does work!”

Flying False Teeth at Panorama?

Written by Panorama resident, Mary Jo Shaw. May 2018

“My children are adults now, and yet they still ask me, ‘Remember when your teeth flew?’” Those are Kathy Lee’s words.

I first met Kathy at Panorama’s Walk the Loop Group and again at Panorama’s July 4th picnic in 2012 when she and her hubby were taking a tour of Panorama. Kathy opened her large bag/purse and pulled out a copy of My Air Force Mom for our 4-year-old granddaughter, Hope, at the picnic. Kathy fanned the pages of her own book to Hope and read it to her. Hope eyed the colorful, cute pictures.

Wow! This lady has published her own book. In my Panorama writing class, Bryan Willis, his substitutes and class members keep encouraging me to print my stories of my 13 years in a religious convent, leaving, and immediately training in high fashion modeling. We need to talk shop.

I questioned Kathy about her writing/publishing experience, “When Grandma’s False Teeth Fly is my second published children’s book. It won the Silver Medal Award from the Military Writers Society of America.”

My mind went flying as I examined the silver sticker on the cover. She laughed. “It’s a fictional story that grew from factual events.”

I leaned forward to hear over the park picnic excitement. “Whoa! I gotta hear your story.”

She sipped her Dr. Pepper and pulled her folding chair closer. “As a child, I had a chipped tooth like Katie in my book. Now, I’m a grandma. I have worn false teeth for many years. On two separate occasions, my false teeth have taken flight.”

“The first time was at a party, at a club with the band playing ‘Twist and Shout’. My date and I were on a hot, crowded dance floor talking over the music. Unbeknownst to me, my mouth dried out. I took in a gulp of air and my upper plate flew from my mouth to the floor. Fortunately, the club was dimly lit. I twisted down to the floor, picked up my teeth, slid them into my pocket, twisted up to a standing position and scurried off the dance floor toward the restroom.”

I slapped my knee with laughter. Competition from the live band now playing presented a challenge, but we focused our conversation on writing.

Years later, she married and had a family. “In a heated argument with one of my sons, it happened again,” she continued. “Same thing. Dry mouth, gulp of air, and out they flew. After a second or two of shock, my son and I laughed so hard, the argument was completely forgotten. I have had first-hand experience with flying (actually falling) false teeth. Hence the title.”

“Kathy, with your creativity, you’d love our writing classes here at Panorama.”

“Oh, I didn’t know they offered them. Now I’m really getting excited about signing up. I have to tell you how this book evolved. My husband always made two cherry cream pies for our monthly church potluck lunch. This planted a seed idea that the fictional flight of grandma’s false teeth should happen at the church potluck. I wanted them to fly into banana pudding (my favorite), but the publisher changed it to chocolate pudding.”

As we both stood to fluff up our pillows aching from the park-chairs, my mind wandered. Wow! I don’t think I want to have a publisher…I’ve heard they want to change things. I’m writing my memoir Convent to Catwalk and I want every bit of it to be true.

I wanted to hear more, so Kathy offered, “I had rewritten this story six or seven times. In fact, I began writing it even before I wrote my first published children’s book, My Air Force Mom, and it took years to get it just right. After entering the story in contests and receiving valuable feedback, it eventually evolved into a book that shows children may choose to use humor to diffuse a situation with bullies.”

Kathy’s husband is fond of saying her book was a “ten-year overnight success.” Two of her five children’s books have colorful pictures with A to Z prompts, and lines and spaces where future little authors may write. Another is a poem, The Whisperwood Books & Bakery, where children enjoy snacks as they enjoy reading.

Shortly after moving to Panorama, Kathy joined Bryan’s screen-writing class.

Her darling books are spread out next to my Convent to Catwalk memoir in Panorama’s Gift’s Etc. Hundreds of resident hand-made items are for sale there: wood working, crochet, wool felting, greeting cards for every occasion, paintings, pottery, machine and hand sewn aprons, etc. Residents receive 80% in a monthly check.

Thanks, Kathy, for encouraging me to finish my self-published, successful book after writing faithfully for 5 ½ years.

Do false teeth fly at Panorama? At least Kathy Lee (author name: Mary Lee) made it a great story!

Panorama Rescues My Twin Sister

Written by Panorama resident, Mary Jo Shaw. May 2018

Emergency! My twin sister, mentioned in my April 2018 blog, ended up staying eight days at our Panorama apartment. Jerri had planned to stay with our daughter Melody and her hubby John, but their daughter, Hope, took ill. I prayed a queen size air mattress would fit into my tiny craft room. I removed my folding tray tables and my two small black benches.

All four walls had craft stackable drawers and cabinets. My laptop was on a board on top of one set of the many drawers.

“Well, the mattress fits,” Chris called to the kitchen. “But it’s bumper to bumper with all that stuff lining the walls.”

“Oh, Jerri won’t mind. We’ll have fun.” My jaw dropped and eyeballs bulged—only eight inches of “walkway” between the mattress and the sewing machine and tall plastic drawer bin.

Yes…Jerri was a sport. We laughed at the situation, and began with first things first: what were we going to wear to dress as twins for fun? She loves to shop. I detest it. I’d rather be playing piano somewhere on campus, practicing new compositions, writing books, blogging and marketing opportunities, or doing my tons of crafts. But I looked forward to going to the small shopping center a mile away to purchase matching tops to go with the black pants and tights we already owned.

We rode the scheduled, beautiful Panorama bus and stepped off right in front of the store. We tore through the departments for 1.5 solid hours, more out of high adrenaline rush than of time crunch. She only wears black and white, sometimes tans/browns, but NEVER pastels. I mainly wear black and white year round, but don anything that fits, or that is handed up or down to me.

I hadn’t been shopping in over a year, so I was like a kid at the candy counter readying for a double feature. Our challenge was to find items that fit each of us, but matched…and only in black and white. We found mounds of clothing and shared the dressing room, as we did as kids years ago. Eliminations went fast, mainly because what fit one of us didn’t fit the other, and it HAD to be on a good sale!

She insisted we take items home on hangers. As most stores in Washington, no plastic bags are available. Our fingers gripped long receipts with our seven coat-hangered items. Other residents on the bus teased us about the matching clothing we’d purchased. Visiting on the Panorama bus is the fun part of the trip to and from our destinations.

After laughing and reminiscing until 2:30 a.m., we arose in 8 hours, dressed identically in our thinly-striped, black and white tops, black tights, and gold loop earrings. We took the elevator from our apartment on the 5th floor down to the 2nd to Panorama’s Seveenteen51 Restaurant. As we stood deciding where to sit, residents turned to smile. I waved as I always do.

“Wow, people really are friendly here at Panorama,” Jerri commented. We sashayed back to the Bistro for a table for two by a window. She kept remarking, “The view here is beautiful.” She awed at spring’s huge red rhododendrons and numerous other blooms, and well-manicured lawns.

“Jerri, most Panorama people are very friendly, but remember: today their eyes are following us because we are dressed alike.” We laughed like kids. I added, “We’re getting the attention we dressed to get, right? Lots of residents know me, and most have just read my Panorama blog and quarterly VOICE OF PANORAMA. Both publications have been out three days and contain the story of our being twins each year, dressing alike, getting Mom to take us shopping so people would say, ‘Oh, look at the twins! How old are you? and…’”

Jerri broke in to finish my story, “Yeah! And we’d say we were both seven or whatever. We never said we were twins…they did!”

I jogged her memory, “Remember when we dressed alike as adults when we both lived in Las Vegas and we treated each other to lunch?”

During our lunch, I learned Jerri had not brought her swim suit, but swims daily at her home to aid her bad back. She jumped at the idea to go shopping tomorrow for a swim suit.

We did ride the city bus, since Panorama’s bus was not scheduled to go where we wanted to shop. She said, “I haven’t been on a city bus since I was in high school. This is wonderful. The bus is so clean.”

Our five minute ride dropped us off about a half-block from the store. We found even more bargains and a great swim outfit for her. Again, people stared and grinned. We were wearing our new broad-stripped black and white tops and black tights. This time we called out, “We’re twins!” We were surprised at how many teased back, “Oh, we thought you were escapees still in uniforms!” What constant fun!

As we checked out to pay, I asked a resident couple, Ann and Rocky, behind us, “My sister and I came on the city bus. May we hop a ride home to Panorama with you?”

What a delight. The lovely couple treated us to a 20 minute tour of Panorama grounds. We have had no car for 6 years and don’t miss it. Jerri didn’t know about our beautiful Chambers Lake with ducks. Rocky and Ann pointed out the various blossoms, trees, bushes and stopped for our picture-taking from the back seat, since it had started to drizzle.

Jerri questioned, “Who takes care of all these manicured lawns and bushes? It must take hours…who has the energy to do it when they get older? I hire a gardener at home and it’s not cheap.”

“Oh, the Grounds maintenance does it for us, Jerri. We don’t have to do any of it.”

“But how much do you pay to have it done?”

The three of us said in unison, “That’s included, as well as utilities, water…” She was experiencing the too good to be true amenities I’d shared with her since we arrived in 2011. We don’t take the paradise-looking grounds for granted, but I was renewed once again of God’s amazing work of art on our campus.

After a few days, our granddaughter was well. We had a great brunch and a full day of fun at their home. Later we invited them to Panorama’s Seventeen51 Restaurant. How convenient. I didn’t have to cook!

Jerri is highly allergic to dairy and tolerates only a little gluten. Well-trained waiters and cooks made her dining experience comfortable, relaxed and healthy. Jerri never owned a recipe book, and is blessed with gourmet-cooking talent. “My large, beautiful platter of pear salad topped with grilled chicken was tasty and filling,” she remarked. That was a real compliment.

As I’d introduce Jerri to my friends, many asked if she was the one of the main characters in my memoir. What fun when they learned they had met her “in person”. Several asked if she wanted to hit me over the head for being extremely late for the big fashion show in Mexico City when Jerri was coordinator. “I wanted to do lots more than just ‘hit her over the head’…I wanted to kill her,” she teased with her hand soaring up high.

By the way, the book I wrote in class at Panorama in 2017, Convent to Catwalk, involves Jerri too. After I had been a religious nun for 13 years, I started training to model for many of the world’s renowned fashion designers. Jerri and one of my other sisters, Patti, were responsible for that part of my life. I don’t take them for granted either.

We are encouraged to have family and friends stay with us up to two weeks at a time. I enjoyed my “twin” sister in a special way and thank my Panorama family who welcomed her with me. We are blessed again here at Panorama.

Clarifying My Twin Sister

Written by Panorama resident, Mary Jo Shaw. April 2018

“Look at the twins! You look so cute. How old are you?”

We chimed in unison, “We’re twelve years old.” Or whatever age we were at the time.

My sister and I loved to hear those questions. We were the same height and size. Year after year, we dressed exactly alike from the bow or hair clip, to the dress and jewelry, down to our shoes and socks. We gave each other the same birthday present at our shared birthday party, which Mom let us have every other year.

Unfortunately, we don’t get recognized anymore for being twins or get to answer questions like how old we are. Maybe it’s because we don’t look alike anymore, or we’re too old to be asked our age. But if we’re together, we still go out and dress alike.

When we were married and both lived in Las Vegas, we decided to have lunch at the Texas Steak House to celebrate our 70th birthday. We’d grown up in San Antonio, Texas, and it would be our treat to each other.

RRRING. RRRING. I ran to the phone in my undies, jeans over my arm and various fashions spread out on my bed.

“Wear your white pants and your nice, black T-top,” my sister laughed. “I’m wearing mine!”

“Oh, of course! Why not? Sounds fun. Wear your long, red scarf like mine.” I dashed into the closet.

“I’ll pick you up in fifteen minutes.” She slammed her phone down.

Only fifteen minutes? I scurried around, but lost precious time during her next three calls. After a disheveled closet and bedroom, we matched black earrings, shoes, and shoulder-strap purses. I held tight to my seat belt in her shiny red Jaguar racing down Sahara Avenue. She accelerated more to beat the stale-green light at Decatur.

We were grinning Cheshire cats strolling into the steak house. She was much shorter than I. My hair was turning gray; hers was thin and colored dark brown.

The hostess swiped a look at our matching outfits, raised her eyebrows, and hinted a side smile, “Welcome, ladies.”

I relieved her curiosity, “Oh, we’re dressed alike because we’re both seventy years old today.”

Relaxed, she alerted the waitresses. “We have special twins today celebrating seventy years young.” She royally escorted us to the highly polished, but western, hammered-to-look-old table-for-two. We were at the center of many crowded tables. Clients dressed in business attire to cut-off western shorts, bandanas and straw hats.

Booths around the walls were raised, looking down onto our table. We waded through empty peanut shells, strewn across the wooden floor. It was allowed in those days. Customers tossed them after nibbling the contents.

“Happy birthday, ladies!” Waitress spoke with enthusiastic volume. “It must be fun to be a twin. Thanks for celebrating with us.” We delighted in the attention of smiles and nods over menus, huge deep-fried blooming onions, and platters overflowing with Texas-sized steaks.

AAAHH! The aroma from peppered, mesquite-grilled steak snuggled close to steaming, baked yams dripping with butter and brown sugar, and heavy hunks of homemade cornbread: carriage back to our Texas home. All was washed down with cold ice tea for her and Lone Star Beer overflowing from a frozen mug for me.

We were queens-for-a-day. A parade of servers ushered one large dessert bowl of double-chocolate brownie fudge cake, topped with two extra-large helpings of vanilla ice cream slobbered in hot, chocolate syrup. This heap of luscious lust was crowned with fluffy whipped cream, crushed Texas pecans and two shiny red cherries. Two 12-inch spooned-straws shot out diagonally from the base of the fudge cake. The entire restaurant belted, “Happy Birthday, dear Twi–ns, Happy Birthday, to you-u-u.” Then a loud finale of cheers and clapping. We each blew at our never-go-out candle, while we entertained the crowd of spectators who eventually left us to ourselves.

My sister and I fidgeted with pursed lips and bug-eyes. She was diabetic! Worse, she was severely allergic to dairy: anaphylactic. If a spoon had stirred anything with milk, and it hadn’t been washed thoroughly with hot, soapy water, her tongue would swell within seconds. She had warned the waiters about her condition, but obviously in their energetic enthusiasm, they’d forgotten. We didn’t want to disappoint a generous heap of loving kitchen kindness.

We stared at its majesty ruling our table and swallowed hard. With two fingers, Sister gracefully removed a long spoon and began carving a portion of the heap. “Mary Jo, you eat fast on it, and I’ll just stir so it looks like I’ve dined on it too.”

We bent over the mound and energetically worked on our plan. I held my head, “OOOH!  I’m getting brain freeze.”

Squirming and straining laughter, Sister admitted, “I have to go to the restroom. You eat lots while I’m gone, you hear?” She sprinted to the back, ahead of her shoulder-strap purse. Sister took her time in the ladies’ room to give me time to gulp ice cream, hot syrup, and brownie fudge cake while waiters were occupied elsewhere. My brain was a solid glacier.

Sister returned. “Mary Jo! You didn’t!! You finished the entire dessert?”

I loosened my belt. But why did I feel I had to finish it? Was it because I didn’t want to hurt the employees’ feelings, or was it because I couldn’t resist the indulgent luxury? Was it because I knew we couldn’t take it in a doggie bag? Maybe it was all of those. It was the last day we’d be the same age that year. Jerri was born before I was a year old, making us the same age for a week. We never said we were twins. When asked how old we were, we simply answered their question and enjoyed the consequences.

A Resident’s Perspective – Art Inside An Old Envelope?

Written by Panorama resident, Mary Jo Shaw. March 2018

After the unusual display of many Panorama residents’ recycled art projects, I found out that we were going to have another recycled display using only recycled envelopes. We had to fill out a form in order to participate in the first event’s display.

I started gathering old envelopes with and without security linings. I spent two solid weeks in my limited free time working, designing, doing and undoing. I was planning a wall hanging. I stayed up at night and rose early the next day to work in my extremely disheveled craft room, wading in sorted-by-design and sorted-by size envelopes. I needed at least 35 exactly 4” by 4” perfectly cut squares to make 7 paper flowers and other items on the wall hanging. Most security envelopes I had only provided enough paper for one 4-inch square.

After two weeks, I had used nothing but glue and envelopes. For a large 9” x 12” background, I used a Panorama envelope with return logo and electronic stamping, made sturdy with other envelopes inside the large one.

For the hanger, I cut three long, thin, brown envelope strips and braided them for strength.

But…I had not yet received the entry form for the project, and I wanted to have it ready ahead of time.

When I inquired from an art guild member when the forms/rules were to be available, I glared, stunned at her answer, “Oh, the class is on April 4. Just bring lots of envelopes to learn how to use them and how to make a fun project.”

What? A class to learn how? That would have saved me lots of time. My project was already DONE! READY! Now what was I going to do with my masterpiece?

“Lord, this seems mercenary, but what will I ever do with this beautiful project? You always answer my prayers…even when I don’t know you’ve answered them and sometimes not always the way I had thought best for me.”

Instantly, I was inspired. How simple. I filled out a consignment sheet and took it the next morning to sell in our Panorama Gifts Etc. shop.

Before it was hung for display to sell…a resident bought it!

Now I am working on a duplicate…no need for planning, deciding, doing/redoing…

Only at Panorama!

A Resident’s Perspective – Free In-Home Exercises?

Written by Panorama resident, Mary Jo Shaw. February 2018

“If it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t.” Not this time!

Every morning Jenny Leyva, Aquatic & Fitness Coordinator, and resident Reath wake Chris and me up in time for 9 o’clock exercises in our own apartment– it’s FREE!

Actually the best part: we are in our jammies or showered and ready for the day. Our own TV screen shows two videos filmed by Greg Miller, Marketing Retirement Advisor. Other residents across the campus are sharing the experience at the same time!

Jenny teamed up with Reath who demonstrates the modified version of each exercise so residents can have options.

Video #1: Exercise for Independence – about 15 minutes

*  Total body exercise

*  Simple, functional exercises designed to help keep us active and independent.

Video #2: Strength & Balance for Fall Prevention – about 20 minutes

     *  Fall prevention exercise

*  Key lower body strength exercises that have been proven to help reduce the risk of falling

Jenny reminds us to breathe deeply and gives us 10-second water-breaks.

What do I like about these exercises? I can do them on my own during the day, watching TV or waiting for our meal in the restaurant. No, not putting my hands over my head, but the simple foot bends under the table. In the elevator, I practice breathing deeply and exhaling. I’ve learned to feel the weight on my heels before getting up from my chair and to take control of myself as I sit down, instead of ploppin’ down as I usually do. When writing on my laptop, I stop a few minutes to do the arms-over-the-head exercises, or stretching forward. I don’t always remember reminders, but I look forward doing them out of habit.

The first day I started, I noticed being more invigorated walking the Quinault halls. Chris and I remind each other to sit and stand tall. What’s nice, too, is on a day we might not be home at the assigned time, we will be able to do the exercises on our own. The schedule time is good…it’s over…there’s no temptation or distraction to stop to check a do-list or email. But then I’m the only one that has that problem!

Jenny says the idea to create the videos began as a direct response to the Quality of Life survey that was given to us by Panorama. The results of the survey indicated that a large percent of residents feel afraid to fall or have experienced a fall recently. The team of Sharon Rinehart, Dr. Behre, Grace Moore, and Jenny Leyva laid out the foundation of the fall prevention video. At that time, they also decided to update the Silver Sneakers video that was currently playing on our PCTV. That was where the idea came to show two different videos.

Another great innovation and example of how Panorama constantly asks for our suggestions and needs, and implements them when feasible for many of the residents!

Thank you again, Panorama, Jenny, Reath and the other team members!

Christmas Eve Acts of Kindness

Written by Panorama resident, Mary Jo Shaw. January 2018

The short elderly couple in the grocery line bent over their wallet.

But the young couple behind them, beaming with teeth showing, shot a credit card toward the cashier, “Merry Christmas!! We got it!!”

“Oh, my! I don’t believe it. Thank you, thank you! But why?” The man’s eyes welled with tears as his wife kept repeating, “I just can’t believe this. Why us?”

“It’s our traditional Christmas Eve Acts of Kindness. We’ve been doing this every year with our daughter since she was three.” Melody and John nodded to their grinning, obviously excited, ten-year-old named Hope.

Still in shock and trembling, the couple questioned, “Wa-what are you going to do with that basket full of Christmas blankets?”

John said, “We’re going to offer them to residents in assisted living. We just want to cheer them up. Some might not have family with them tonight…maybe a little lonely.”

Melody broke in, “We’re heading to Panorama where my parents Mary Jo and Chris Shaw live.”

The little pair stood taller; their jaws dropped. “Panorama! That’s where we live! We know Chris and Mary Jo! Oh my! We’re Nancy and Bob.”

Five minutes later, the little family sped down Sleater Kinney to assisted living with two hearty bags of about 35 colorful Christmas blankets. Staff member Jay was ready to escort them to residents who were in their rooms.

As we waited for an elevator, Hope asked another Bob if he’d like a blanket. “Oh, yes. I really need one right now. It’s co-o-ld out there. I just came in. I’ll wrap it around me when I sip my cup of hot coffee after a while. I’ll remember you when I enjoy the rest of my evening watching the game.” He held the soft, gray bundle close to his chest, “It matches my clothes, too, look! Thank you very, very much.”

Residents especially treasured the little girl in their midst. Hope with her tender, sincere smile was the pearl of great price that evening.

Christine and her family were relishing their own refreshments. They all agreed with Christine they knew “someone who would especially appreciate a warm, cheery blanket. The red, white, and green one” would be delivered the next morning, Christmas Day. Perfect!

When Hope smoothed Patricia’s long-haired cats, we saw Patricia’s smile, despite her oxygen tube. She had tutored me weekly with my memoir Convent to Catwalk for over three years. I’m grateful for her and grateful to my family for offering her a snug blanket.

I recall their first Christmas Eve Acts of Kindness. Hope was three. At a gas station when a husband and wife in studded, matching leather outfits (Christmas gifts to each other) went inside to pay their bill, Melody and John handed the cashier a credit card, “Merry Christmas. Have fun!” After hearing about their Acts of Kindness, the impressed couple almost flew out of their new fancy boots! They immediately cell phoned their motorcycling buddies to meet right there to do the same elsewhere around town. (Few people owned cell phones “just for fun” in those days). “Our buddies have nothing special to do tonight…like us. They have plenty of bucks, too. Thanks for the idea. We are going to make so many people happy. We’ll do it again next year. Maybe a tradition. We’re all really close.”

At first, I thought it would be better to give the money only to those who really needed it. But observing what happened with that group, I understood that they were able to give even more, and the network could be never-ending. Everyone giving out of love…what a world!

We’ve been with our little family on most of those nights…in coffee shops, stop-n-go corners, discount stores, big and little places, sidewalks, etc. Actually, it does really work…wherever there are people!

What joy Chris and I experienced as our Panorama friends’ arms opened wide to accept the warmth of love bound up in a simple, warm blanket! I stood back now and then to take in the entire scene of exultation exchanged between residents and Melody, John, and their precious Hope.

Here is love in action. We know Hope will continue extending her own already daily, little Christmas Eve Acts of Kindness.

We are blessed again.

 

Do We Like Our Move to the Quinault?

Do We Like Our Move to the Quinault?
Written by Mary Jo Shaw, author of Convent to Catwalk

We loved our neighbors, our garden home on Woodland Court, and figured we’d be there a longer time. But, after six years, the time was now. Do we like our new apartment in the Quinault Building?

Although we miss our neighbors, we still are able to see them often. After all, we live only a few blocks away on our Panorama campus. We attend the same events in the large auditorium and Aquatic & Fitness Center, and we walk the Circle Loop on Tuesday evenings during the warm season with other residents for exercise and visiting.

Now, there’s no need to walk to the large Quinault building where I have always played weekly in Assisted Living and where Chris and I attend many events in the smaller auditorium. I take art, weekly Bible, and other classes there. I’m one floor up from Monday Catholic services…reading often and playing piano.  Exercise rooms/classes are on lower level, close to where Chris enjoys the coffee room, movies, and newspaper. I use the Resident Council office and business area where all residents are welcome to run off copies. That same office has a laminating machine, latest computers and other office advantages, always with an expert to help us! I itch as I pass the Weaving Room, Wood & Metal Shop, and the closed-circuit TV studio, also available in the lower level. I can’t wait to participate in those opportunities.

Metal Shop

Woodshop

In the adjoining Panorama Hall building, we have banks and the gift shop where I consign my crafts and books almost daily (and pick up my check once a month)! We also have the convenience of the beauty salons, and the pharmacy with its last minute stop-n-go type foods and necessities. The community living room with a large fireplace offers the activity desk where we can sign up for events; it also features sofas, tables, and the friendly Executive and Lifestyle Enrichment offices. Chris reads and visits there faithfully.

Panorama Hall

Then the best part! Every time we walk out of our fifth floor apartment, we are greeting friends. If time, we visit or search for puzzle pieces together in the many areas with large windows. We are closer to the Seventeen51 Restaurant & Bistro where we can relish the unusually cordial atmosphere of residents for many organized brunches, luncheons, and dinners. We love impromptu meals, or as an arranged date! What fun to invite other residents to join us and chat as long as we please.

To do all of this indoors, we simply walk the steps or elevator ourselves from our small apartment with the latest flooring, kitchen and bath upgrades, granite counters, light fixtures, and cabinets-and-pantry pull-outs. We have plenty of storage and a nice-sized family room with huge wall-to-wall windows that display our small balcony with patio furniture.

We are able to attend the over 100 published monthly activities on our campus, but now we have the additional Quinault Activity calendar of events planned by our #1 manager, Dodie. Her energy and planned get-togethers and parties include her homemade cookies, huge bowls of homemade foods, including, potato or bean salads, meatballs and spaghetti, pigs in the blankets, apple streusel, campus Bistro brunches, games, planned off-campus trips to restaurants…etc.

Our Resident Council on-campus transit is still available for our use. Panorama provides the late model vans with volunteer dispatchers, drivers, and maintenance.

Then there is the adjoining Convalescent and Rehabilitation building where I play piano in three areas regularly, including a Christian service monthly on Saturdays. I play in the building’s entrance on a beautiful grand Yamaha piano often. Must I continue?

No, we don’t like our move to the Quinault…we love it! Aware of new reasons daily, we thank and praise God for the many blessings for our new home, its friends and advantages.

A Resident’s Perspective – Amazing Grace in Christian Hymn Song

Panorama Corporation has no religious affiliations.The community of residents at Panorama is active in pursuing a variety of hobby & interest groups; the Corporation and Panorama staff enjoy helping to support these groups as needed.  Membership to any group on campus is voluntary.

Written by Panorama resident, Mary Jo Shaw. November 2017

“Christian Hymn Sing” is a resident-driven happening that meets at Panorama on the first Wednesday of each month in The Gallery at Seventeen51 Restaurant & Bistro to give praise to God in an informal way, not to perfect our singing skills, but just use what’s left in us to enjoy praising in song, visiting with new or old friends and enjoying a no-host breakfast together. No RSVP needed. All are invited from on or off campus.

In 2010, words of their pastor’s sermon preyed on two Panorama couples’ heartstrings, “…even if you’re old, you can still do something.” They “prayed,” worked, studied, used individual talents to begin what God nudged and named, “Christian Hymn Sing.”

Mary N. and Mary P. selected copyright-free hymns. Bill used his computer to copy them, and Les worked at his piano. Excited, loving hearts beat nervously long hours and days. The four aimed at making the event a monthly hour of inspiration for Panorama residents. Did they have too many ideas, or not enough? That first event had to be a success so the participants would return. The four weren’t afraid, just had hopeful concern that people would come whether they could sing or not. Maybe five or six would attend and help spread the word for the next months.

Chris and I had just moved to Panorama in July 2011. Our closed-circuit TV caught my attention, as well as notices on bulletin boards: No RSVP needed and ALL invited. Can’t sing? HUM ALONG…

I was one of 19 who showed up to the smaller dining room. A little basket held tiny papers with a short Bible verse for each to take home. We enjoyed visiting with old and new friends over a no-host breakfast, followed by hymn singing…with Les leading us at the upright piano.

Each month we greeted 20, 24, 25..then up to 30! Nov. 1, 2017, we welcomed 39!!! Maybe we’ll overflow into the main dining room. We are invited to share anything for a few minutes. Several have played an instrument, given a testimony, read a snippet, or ?? It’s over in 60 minutes!

Doug has led us now for a couple of years with his strong, beautiful voice and tidbits about the hymn itself, and wife, Patricia, collates and staples the song sheets. I enjoy “advertising” with posters, PCTV reminders, and with this blog. Together we make a “joyful noise to the Lord.”

The poem below that Betty C. brought in November tells the story:

MUSIC TO MY EARS
By JoAnn Miller

How I long to hear the old hymns
That I sang when just a youth
In the church that I grew up in –
Where I learned the Gospel’s truth.

Those hymns contained great messages
Of Jesus’ love for me
Told how He purchased my salvation
When he died “At Calvary.”

Today’s repetitive choruses speak
To our youth, some people say.
But I wonder how many have ever heard
Those old hymns of yesterday?

“I Can Hear My Savior Calling”
He calls me ‘Just As I Am”
And now “I Belong to Jesus.”
“I’ve Been Redeemed By the Blood of the Lamb.”

Since “I Serve A Risen Savior”
And He washed me white as snow
“Where He Leads Me I Will Follow”
He will “Abide With Me”, I know.

“Love Divine, All Loves Excelling”
“Blessed Assurance”; “Love Lifted Me”
“Halleluia, What A Savior”
Draw me “Nearer My God To Thee.”

“I Have A Song I Love To Sing”
With my voice raised high in praise,
I’ll “Take The Name Of Jesus With Me”
Throughout my earthly days.

He is the “Rock of Ages”
He’s been “My Help in Ages Past.”
So “Count Your Many Blessings”
Knowing His love for you will last.

“I Have A Song That Jesus Gave Me”
“Oh Happy Day”; “Amazing Grace”
”I Will Sing of My Redeemer”
Someday I’ll see Him “Face To Face.”

This is just a tiny sample
Of some hymns that touched my heart
And led me to the Saviour
“Precious Lord,” “How Great Thou Art.”

I pray the songs I’ve mentioned here
By title, line or phrase
Stirs your heart with “Precious Memories”
Prompting you my God to praise.

So “Sing Them Over Again To Me”
Those old hymns I love to hear.
“Sing The Wondrous Love of Jesus”
Ah, sweet music to my ear!

Bus Flight to Lawton (Excerpt)

Bus Flight to Lawton (Excerpt from Convent to Catwalk)
by Mary Jo Shaw, Author, Panorama Resident

(I was on my way to my mission to teach in Lawton, OK).

Alone and feeling self-conscious, I was dressed in my long, black and white habit in 1967, the year the popular TV show The Flying Nun was playing its first season. Because of the wacky, naïve, silly antics played by Sally Fields, I felt the public thought some real nuns were somewhat ridiculous, especially the young ones.

I chose a place to attract the least attention in the crowded Greyhound Bus station in San Antonio, Texas. My chair happened to be in the center of the large room. The hustle and bustle of travelers alternated with periods of still and quiet.

A wound up, small, five-year old boy, began running back and forth on the long, shiny floors in the wide space between my strip of seats and the row facing me. He’d pick up momentum, then slide the last few yards in his slick-soled Buster Browns. After about eight such rotations, he noticed my black garments. He continued his laps, but as he passed me, he slowed down to study my presence.

I strained not to play, entertain, or converse with him like I normally did with my students or when introduced to little ones. I was familiar with out-of-the-mouths-of-babes incidents. I didn’t want this babes’ attention, not in this place, not while I was alone, and certainly not while everyone was noticing my growing unease.

My head was down, but distracted from my book. My headpiece failed to conceal my eyeballs from the crowd as I watched his footsteps.

At his third time of pausing and staring for about fifteen seconds to ogle me from head to foot, I kept my head bent toward the pages in my lap, completely ignoring him.

The little sprinter stopped short, parked his feet firm and far apart. He stared at me with hands on his hips and blurted out for the entire station audience to hear, “CAN YOU FLY-Y-Y?”

Travelers snickered. Newspapers jerked closer to their faces. Complete silence.

I lifted my head, stared the boy down and gave him a loud and slow response, “Little fella, if I could fl-y-y-y, I wouldn’t be sitting in this bus station.”

Newspapers collapsed. Surprised at my own clever response, I smiled across the crowd to relax myself and others. Everyone laughed and applauded. “Way to go, Sister!”

That little boy didn’t know how much I detested The Flying Nun.
————

Mary Jo Shaw
Great gifts!
Author, Convent to Catwalk
maryjoshaw3@gmail.com (for more info and source for a book copy)

A Resident’s Perspective – Praying for Money or Money for Prayers

Written by Panorama resident, Mary Jo Shaw. July 2017

“Cold water from bottles —– cents. Lemonade for —— cents. Cold water….cents. Lemonade….cents….???”

Two approximately 4th and 5th grade boys were enthusiastically failing to hail down passing cars on one of the first “hot” days of 80 degrees in June. Each waved a frayed spiral sheet of paper. I strained to understand the price.

I walked slowly to enjoy the situation up ahead, then, stood back on the dirt walkway for safety from the travelers. A large pickup sped south on Golf Club Road and passed the young entrepreneurs. It stopped short. VER-R-U-M. Backed up quickly.

With no other vehicles in sight, Older Boy crossed over to the truck, stretched his neck to take an order from the driver and ran back to his make-shift lemonade/water stand. Smaller Boy quickly filled one cup with water, another with lemonade and handed them to his brother.

Strong, hairy arms reached down to exchange coins for the cool drinks.

“Thank you very much, sir,” the two youngsters yelled over VER-R-U-M. Large high wheels made up for lost time.

Obviously excited boys skipped over to the rain-washed unpainted board that extended beyond the row of six mail boxes. The plank held their lineup of little cups, a sweaty pitcher of lemonade, and a tall cold bottle of commercial water. This was staged at the gravel road entrance to humble homes a few yards away. The boys’ heads closed in over the coins, animated with their small earnings.

I stood smiling, letting them enjoy the moment.

My turn. “Hey, what are you selling? Yooo hooo! Look! I’m over here.” I swung with my long, skinny arms.

Older Boy looked both ways and sped across the road.

“Yes. What would you like?” he mashed his worn, paper flag across his chest. Penciled cursive script was too light for me to read.

“What are you selling?”

With a Cheshire cat smile, he jabbed his chubby finger to his poster, “Cold lemonade, 15 cents, and cold water from bottles, 5 cents.”

Bottled water seemed a special commodity.

I lowered my voice, “I want you to know I admire you two energetic little workers. My 10 year old granddaughter had a lemonade stand last week to earn money by herself to buy her own golf cart. It’s hard for her to walk a long distance, but she is an excellent junior PGA student. Your excitement reminds me of her.”

He and I gazed intently eyeballs to eyeballs. I continued.

“I tell you what. I’m going to give you some money, so you can sell my portion to someone else.” I pressed a bill into his sweaty little palm.

He took a big breath as his eyes danced over his huge smile, “Can’t I give you something?”

I paused. “Yes, you can. You say a prayer for me, and I’ll say a prayer for you. Tell your little brother. Okay? I have to get home now.”

“Yes, I promise we will.” He turned quickly to dart across the street.

“You’re excited. Be careful. Look both ways.”

Their dad had come to see what was happening. I turned to go home.

“Daddy, look! The lady gave us five dollars!! But she said to pray for her—all of us.”

Above the excitement and advice dad was giving them to spread out to give people time to slow down, Big Boy insisted. “We have to say a prayer for that lady.”

Sound of quiet. I side-glanced, and noticed they’d formed a circle with bowed heads.

Praying for money, or money for prayers? Why not!?

Mary Jo Bio - Test