80th Birthday Bundle

Written by Panorama resident, Mary Jo Shaw. August 2019

A huge bundle of birthday gifts and surprises arrived for me for my 80th birthday. It also included offerings for my hubby Chris’ 87th birthday too!

I had the table set. Pancakes, eggs, bacon, and syrup were just about finished when DING. DING. DING. DING!! Our son CW, his wife Teresa, and our granddaughters, Sarah and Emily, flew into my opened arms when I swung the door opened. After two years, the girls had grown almost as tall as me. They drove straight here from SeaTac Airport after traveling all night.

I ran to the stove about 20 feet from the door, “Oh, the last pancakes are ready. Wash your hands.”

After cozily gathering around our small table (expanded with our card table), we bowed our heads as CW voluntarily offered up a prayer.

“Granny it’s so hot and humid in Austin. We’ll get used to this nice cool air, but this hot chocolate is just perfect.” Emily sipped slowly.

Sarah asked, “Last time we were here, you had just moved into this neat place in the Quinault. I forgot how updated the fixtures are and all the storage for such a small place. I like how the cabinets and drawers close automatically after a little nudge.”

We chatted about school, camp, and their exciting attendance at Steubenville Catholic Youth Conference. After breakfast, exhaustion set in. The parents’ eyelids drooped, despite the noticeable efforts to keep it secret. Hearing I had prepared our bedroom for a nap, they needed no mother-hen wings to push them down the hallway.

We matched the teens’ adrenalin-high and looked forward to Granny-Pawpaw bonding for a couple of hours. The girls were not little ones anymore. They were attentive, caring, helpful and considerate of my needing a walker on this visit. After two years, they had overcome shyness, as they were friendly and personable to the elder residents, smiling, asking, and answering questions.

Another present in our bundle of birthday blessings: our daughter Melody, her husband John and their daughter Hope, who live in Lacey, all enjoyed our Aquatic & Fitness Center’s large pool, warm pool, and the spa several of the 10 days they were here. What a perk to have built-in, indoor pool entertainment that is refreshing, beneficial, and fun with all the extras: fins, sponge balls, rods, spin machine to dry swim suits, and dressing rooms for men, women and family.

One of my most memorable and highlighted gifts was on Monday when my little Shaw family attended our Panorama Chapel for Mass with pastor Fr. Tim from Sacred Heart Church. Afterward, we had a delightful walk through our McGandy Park, recalling hide and seek behind the large trunks of the tall trees when they were younger. We packed a picnic in baskets and strolled over to the Panorama Auditorium porch where lovely tables with umbrellas kept us shaded. The cool breezes inhaled smells of our juicy ham, lettuce, bacon, cheese sandwiches, bugle chips, cookies, and watermelon.

They tried out the new electronic piano in the Assisted Living dining room where I entertain during lunch on Mondays. We peeked into Panorama’s closed-circuit TV studio that films “Meet Your Neighbor” interviews, announcements, residents’ picture stories, and loads of other interesting things for our closed-circuit Channel 370. Most of the main events on our campus that are held in our large Panorama Auditorium Theater, the Quinault Auditorium and McGandy Park are filmed for future showing on our television channel. Run by volunteer residents who have learned a new skill, it’s under the daily supervision of a professional.

The men in the Wood Shop had kept in touch with our son CW by phone, photos and emails for two years. So he spent a couple hours on two different days with them, exchanging knowledge and skills, especially on the CNC machine. “How old are you, Chris?” they asked.

“Oh, I’m only 47, so it’s going to be a while yet before I can be a Panorama resident. I can’t believe all the activities and opportunities Mom and Dad have here. I hear even some staff members are on the wait list.”

Our package of birthday gifts included being able to share our annual Panorama Patio Sale, an event our Texan family had only heard us try to explain. They stood in amazement and wonder. “The organization is mesmerizing. How long did it take to set all of this up? Where do we begin to shop? What happens if it rains? Oh, my! I’ve always wanted this kind of waffle iron. Whoa, Granny, didn’t your grandmother have one of these nutcrackers? Good thing we flew here, otherwise, we would have stuffed our car with so many of these treasures. The prices are sooo reasonable. We don’t even have to look at the price tags.”

I remarked that the proceeds of the event come back to us residents. The remarks went on and on.

I was busy finding items I “needed” at the sale, when over the crowd I heard, “Granny, hurry, it’s almost one o’clock and we’re supposed to meet in the Seventeen51 Restaurant at one. Pawpaw just called. He’s already there and he’s waiting for us.”

“Oh, okay, I’ll hurry and pay for my things!”

Chris is there already?!? He’s late for EVERYTHING!!!

CW walked from the Patio Sale with me and my walker. He carried my treasures the short distance to the restaurant, but the rest of the family hurried ahead.

When we entered the Gallery room at the restaurant, my eyes bulged, my jaw dropped, and my palms hit my cheeks.

SURPRISE, GRANNY! HAPPY 80TH BIRTHDAY!”

Sitting around 4 tables formed into one, Melody’s family had decorated with balloons and curled shiny streamers. Emily and Hope each held a 4-foot, shiny, gold, inflated balloon: one was shaped as the number “8” and the other as the number “0”. Appetizers, entrees, desserts…all gourmet from our Panorama kitchen! What convenience it was! No calling to restaurants to reserve a room, no time limitation to sit and visit, waiters and waitresses with familiar TLC smiles. Familiar residents were in the room looking on, sharing in the fun, taking pictures and videos to send later, and chiming in the singing for me.

Other items at the bottom of that bundled box of birthday-package-stuffers included:

  • Seeing the film/photos of Granny Jo (me) winning the July 4th pie eating contest in our park.
  • Visiting in Panorama Hall and Quinault Coffee Room with complementary coffee, hot chocolate, and even some cookies at times. Where else but Panorama!

At one point, Sarah’s jesting eyes danced, “Granny, are you still happy about your move to Panorama and to the Quinault?”

Ha! What do you think?

A 3-inch Short, Polite Story

Written by Panorama resident, Mary Jo Shaw. August 2019

I ran into a neighborhood resident. The resident glances at my name tag. “Oh Mary Jo, I want you to meet my family.” The next week, the neighbor very graciously thanks me for wearing my name tag.

For several days that simple, polite gesture tagged my thoughts.

When my many Panorama friends politely don their little tags, I don’t have to ask them to “refresh” my memory. I’m glad I can comfortably greet them and, also, introduce them to my family or to other residents.

I’m sure our many faithful Security officers are grateful to “recognize” those familiar 3-inch name tags that identify us as residents.

When I lost my tag, I figured it would be returned—my name was on it! Besides, it was of no use to anyone else. After a few weeks of searching, I received another one.

Sure enough, a few months later, I found it in a coat pocket. I had removed it when off campus visiting with our family. Again, no use to turn it in. Now I have one for my heavy jacket.

Recently in the grocery store, a gray-haired couple spied my little name tag. “So…you’re from Panorama? Do you like it there?” he asked.

Transferring tuna fish cans into my basket, I smiled and looked up at the couple, “Oh, don’t get me started! Hubby Chris didn’t want to move from our home. But eventually, we flew up here from Nevada with our daughter and family who planned to move to Lacey. After comparing many retirement places, Chris himself whispered, ‘Maybe we’d better sign up!’”

“Wow, that’s impressive! How long have you been there?”

“Since July 3, 2011! We wish we could have come sooner…. so many activities, even the staff are like family. We are blessed.” From the side of my purse, I grabbed a Panorama Marketing retirement advisor’s business card with my own sticker on the back. “Here, give Panorama a call and take a free tour sometime.”

With raised eyebrows, they smiled and nodded to each other.

“Hey, I gotta get checked out. Our Panorama bus will be here shortly.”

I pointed to my tag. “You know my name…Mary Jo Shaw.”

That little 3-inch magnetized name tag has stretched a lo-o-ong way, has many more stories to share, and has earned a lot of attention!

Tooth of the Tale

Written by Panorama resident, Mary Jo Shaw. July 2019

Although Chris and I look forward to the Seventeen51 Restaurant soup and salad bar offered two Saturdays each month, one particular supper was a challenge! After serving ourselves and thanking God, I pierced a nice, cold red tomato and piece of crisp Romaine. Oh no! It crunched back at me with a do-not-eat warning!

“Chris, did you hear that?”

“Yes, it sounded like you bit on a piece of glass! Don’t swallow it. Here, put it in this soup spoon.”

We stared at each other, then over to the big portable table of about two dozen fresh compartments containing ice cold, bright colors of bite-sized veggies, meats, turkey, chicken, strawberries, grated cheeses, mushrooms, dried cranberries, croutons, juicy mandarin oranges, candied walnuts…

Our eyeballs bounced back and forth…salad bar, our full plates, salad bar, plates…

Was it just one piece of glass or were there more?

My tongue wiggled curiously.

CHRIS! I BROKE MY TOOTH. The upper back tooth has a vacancy!”

My thoughts raced. When would I have time to take off for the dentist? I have all these projects with deadlines since I was ill. Lord, it’s up to You. This is a long holiday weekend, too.

But Sunday, the impossible happened!

I prepared my huge made-from-scratch enchiladas and at the first bite…same sounding crunch, only this time, a shiny pea-sized souvenir appeared on my favorite enchilada-eating round spoon.

“Chris, what are the odds? Another tooth!! I can’t call the dentist till Tuesday, and they’ll be soo busy.”

Early Monday, I called the dentist to leave a message and get first whack at an appointment for Tuesday. But—I tell you the tooth—the office was open for business and yes, “We are swamped today, but let me see what we can do.” 

Oh, Lord, thanks for your help. You always come through for me.

“Mary Jo, can you come in at 11:40 today?”

“Are you kidding? Yes, that will be perfect!!”

It was drizzling and windy outside (otherwise I would have walked), but I dialed 7725 to reserve a Resident Transit ride for the two blocks.

“You’re our first caller, Mary Jo! The driver can pick you up at 11:30.”

I arrived five minutes early.

The assistant took a picture of  my upper right and the lower left teeth. “Doctor will be with you shortly.”

I asked the assistant, “Can you tell me how serious it is? And how long you think it might take?”

“Well, the caps are both cracked…maybe two…or two-and-a-half hours.”

I tried to catch up with my racing thoughts…another appointment? Maybe two? I’ve lost time already today.

In the reclining chair, I stared at the ceiling trying to review the next several week’s activities and possible lengthy “free” times to return for another appointment. I want to be sure I play piano in Assisted Living, in the Convalescent & Rehabilitation Center for Happy Hour, Gentle Care, and Monday chapel service. Oh, and that lecture, and the two great movies in Panorama Auditorium. I’m thinking about signing up for the Panorama bus to that performance in Seattle. I’d like to walk that campus tree tour. And Chris and I never miss the live resident plays! There’s one coming up soon, and…

At that last thought, Doctor E greeted me. “Mary Jo, let’s check you out.”

She took a few minutes look and immediately flipped off the light!

Thoughts overlapped thoughts. Oh dear! Must be bad news. No hope. Extractions? No dental insurance. How much will this cost?

“Mary Jo, you have parts of two aged porcelain caps that have been broken off. The fillings are still great. If we just file off the rough edges, you will be fine. If you’re happy with that?”

She took a total of about 6 minutes to do the job. Thrilled with the fee, and another Resident Transit ride, I was home within the hour, thanks to our on-campus dentist office! More Panorama blessings! This is not a tale…I tell you the TOOTH! 

Bird’s Eye Talks

Written by Panorama resident, Mary Jo Shaw. June 2019

True story with fictitious names

Before I make a right turn into the wing of our 5th floor apartment, I always walk a few feet farther toward the huge window to admire God’s beauty on our campus. I had just played “America the Beautiful” on piano during the Monday Catholic service on the 4th floor. A little later, residents in Assisted Living tapped their feet while I played “Battle Hymn of the Republic”, “The Marines’ Hymn”, “Caissons Go Rolling Along”, “Anchors Aweigh”, and “The U.S. Air Force”.

Today was special. It was Memorial Day. I sat on the couch by the window to let my thoughts think. What a beautiful blue sky, in contrast to the years that made today so very necessary. I actually heard real-life events of those who miraculously survived. And I realize that most reveal their stories only when I inquire.

Earlier, Joe’s eyes bulged, “Oh, I’ll tell you!” He subjected himself totally into the action from years past: “deepest pits of hell” when he and his buddies arrived at different beaches, firearms blasting from behind concrete bunkers killing most of them before they reached the sand. The foxholes… He elaborated on and on, but ended to go to lunch.

Back to my window, my thoughts get a needed pick up as I noted several women moving down below my window A woman was moving her chair-walker forward in the half-circle driveway to our Quinault building. Her head scanned the lovely greens, flowered bushes, and tall pines. I automatically waved when her eyes spanned past my window, but I knew she hadn’t noticed. Looking down over at two other womenfolk leaving our building entrance, I grinned as they paused to talk with a couple sitting on the bench on the left.

I also noted a quick, light gait from a woman heading alone toward the back entrance to Panorama Hall. Her small plate was covered with a paper napkin with its corner flapping in the wind. Mary’s probably taking home some of Susan’s fancy dessert. They’re both Gold Star widows. We can’t let the narratives tucked in the hearts of these military survivors fade away forgotten. Stories go to the grave across the nation every day. 

I had just visited with a woman who had given birth to a little girl the day after her husband was deployed. Two years later, when they met him at the airport, the little one reached out, “Daddy?” My 90-year-old friend smiled. “I showed her his photo every day, so she would recognize him.”

My bird’s eye view talks to me each day. Breathing deeply, I smiled and gazed over toward McGandy Park again, dotting a tear as I thanked God and those who died for my freedom.

The spirit of Memorial Day should be in our hearts every day as we honor the heroic men and women who gave their lives and fought to protect our nation, particularly those here at Panorama. Sincere THANKS to each of you.   

Panorama Mothers

Written by Panorama resident, Mary Jo Shaw. May 2019

If you are a mother in need of attention, Panorama treats you right.

 Even those who don’t have family members here can’t help but feel part of our big family spirit around Mother’s Day.

Chris honored me with our favorite dinner in Panorama’s Seventeen51 Restaurant the night before Mother’s Day. As we relaxed into our chairs, a waitress welcomed us with the included small plate of virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar and a basket of French bread.

I knew Chris’ preference before he ordered it: Reuben of grilled pastrami, swiss cheese, and sauerkraut on marble rye, a big bowl of house-made cabbage soup, and a large salad with vegetables & French dressing

Me? I selected my choice eight-ounce New York steak, rubbed with ground coffee bean, chipotle, garlic, brown sugar and olive oil, along with a real baked (not microwaved like at home!) baked potato and a double portion of steamed asparagus. After an overindulgence of elegant sufficiency, I accepted only a bite of Chris’ large slice of caramel pecan pie.

While enjoying our meal, we were introduced to several little grandchildren and we were welcomed to chat a while at the tables of other families. We remarked how we mothers always get to celebrate more than one day!

Had we not spent a lovely day with our daughter and family here in Lacey, we would have been able to enjoy a delicious brunch buffet at the Seventeen51 Restaurant & Bistro with our friends. Or we could have had our family attend with us, enjoying live piano music playing throughout the day there.

Personally, my day started off on the Panorama-provided bus trip to church, as I exchanged “Happy Mothers’ Day” with each woman on our bus. We chatted about our grands and greats children on the short 10-minute ride. 

During our church sermon, we had a special, inspiring prayer and blessing in thanksgiving for all the patience, guidance, hard work through illnesses, schooling, disciplining, loving, caring, cooking, driving, attending…you know, all those things that a mother lovingly endures to properly raise children from birth through teen years.

Our Panorama bus conversation continued during our ride home as we shared how we were going to celebrate the remainder of the day. One rider explained, “Mary, Ruth, and Carol aren’t on the bus today. They’re spending the weekend with their kinfolk out of town.” Other bus seats were empty because their adult children picked them up to attend Sunday services as a family.

As we passed others in hallways, outside, or events all week, we bragged about how many children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren or great-great-grandchildren each other had! We mothers felt honored all week. Thank you once again, Panorama!

Blasting Burst-outs!

Written by Panorama resident, Mary Jo Shaw. March 2019

How many times have we heard a real burst out? We heard some of them as children.

HEAR (pardon the on-purpose pun!) are a few echoes from the past:

GOOD for you…BIG GIRL…YOUR FIRST STEP. GIVE Mommy a BIG HUG!

You’re PREGNANT!? We’re going to be GRANDPARENTS!

Get out of bed and CLEAN UP this room!   

Ru-n-n, Tommy. Run!!

Do your homework, and I mean N-OW-W!

Go-o-o!….GO-O-O-O!  YEAH! …TOUCHDOWN!!

DAD!…I made all A’s!

Readers, do I see eyeball rolls and head nods?

Surely we’ve experienced the church organ with all STOPS bursting out Lohengrin’s Bridal March as our fancy hankies dotted smiling cheeks. Or maybe we recall when the orchestra played tutti (all, or almost all, the instruments playing at the same time) “How Great Thou Art” or John Phillip Sousa’s “Washington Post”. Then there are the unusual Washington State days: It’s going UP to 90 degrees today! Or what Chris and I seriously teased while living in the Las Vegas desert 25 years: At last, it’s going DOWN to a 100 tomorrow…A COLD FRONT!

We watch as a TV camera zeros in on an announcer holding a microphone as he rings a doorbell. The door opens and the entire family is already assembled and peering from behind the jackpot winner. You hear the squeals of excitement and the announcement, “This could be you, if you just… I have to admit I’d be a little loud too. However, I’m tired of those years. Waiting until the last minute to make the decision to return the entry or not, then caving in and nervously spending an hour sorting what to enclose in the thick, large envelope and being sure all the correct stickers were pasted in their proper places. My heart’s exhausted from pounding as I parted with those precious “15” cent stamps. At 80 years old, I’m blessed I don’t have to make those kinds of important decisions anymore.

My big decisions at Panorama hover over which of the many great activities to select. Will it be a lecture, stage play, concert, luncheon, a visit in our Pan Hall, party, class, or movie? Perhaps I’ll play the piano somewhere to cheer people up, or write, or do my crafts. I hope God has good ears to capture my bursts out of thanks in my heart (and even aloud) every day.

I remember when my friend burst out: I’M FREE OF CANCER! NOW PRAY FOR ME TO REMEMBER TO KEEP GIVING THANKS TO GOD.

And when I waved both hands impatiently…HAND ME MY CAMERA…GOTTA CATCH THIS SUNSET.

Walking around our campus on the first day the temperature went up to 50 degrees after our snowstorm, I dropped my jaw at the rhododendrons waiting to burst with their huge blooms, along with the daffodils. Spring is ready to burst out all over our gorgeous campus. So many plants have their buds’ color peeking out of their little casings. How can our hearts not burst out – HOW GREAT THOU ART?             

So…what’s my last bud almost ready to burst out? My next book, CROSSROADS TO CONVENT memoir is ready for the printer….ALLELUIA! ALLELUIA!

The Eyes Have It

Written by Panorama resident, Mary Jo Shaw. February 2019

The eyes have it…what my eyes didn’t and did see when it snowed.

While our eyes relaxed in deep sleep, those eyes did not see the deep snow falling on our quiet Panorama campus. It must have been mesmerizing to see the fluffing of such breathtaking scenes in a short span of time.

From our Quinault 5th floor balcony, my eyes spanned thick, white beautiful blankets lying dormant, the size and shape of every rooftop, yet hiding the shingles of those roofs from my eyes. The portrait was in black and white.

Trees taller than our balcony strained to hold tight to the whipped-cream snow mounds on their branches. I saw no green.

Lawns lay in layers of white, except for occasional foot or paw prints.

Autos, small vans, large SUVs, sedans, coupes, sports cars, station wagons…no color or variety…my eyes unable to distinguish my friends’ personal vehicles.

I had intended to use my eyes to finish my new book Crossroads to Convent that week, but the scene from the screen on our door got more attention than the screen on my laptop. I savored sitting, smiling, and meditating.

My eyes did not see–-in the many photos and videos I intended to send home—the real justice due to the Master Craftsman’s unusual sculpting for us that day.

What I did see:

Our loving, faithful maintenance in heavy coats, boots, gloves, hats and ear muffs, during their long day of clearing sidewalks and streets for us residents. Workers played games with Mother Nature…scoop…snow…scoop…snow.

Dedicated staff and employees bundled up, leaving deep footprints from the large parking lot across Sleater Kenny Road to the entrances to Panorama.

We are blessed.

I did eye many other dancing eyes from smiling residents, perked up from the expectedweather-report:  “Weather Man got it right for a change!”

What I did see…the work of the Master Artist painting a self-portrait of His own Beauty for us to behold with our human eyes. What must His Heaven be!

In the Bible, St. Paul says, “Eye has not seen, ear has not heard what God has ready for those who love Him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9, NKJV.

If you’d like, search for “Eye Has Not Seen – Marty Haugen” and listen and let your eyes see to the very end. To me, it’s a magnum opus.

I could go on and on, but eyes got to stop for now!

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.