Saturday, April 28, 2012

Road trip - where we left the books

We'd decided to give a copy of our book - Return to Viet Nam: One Veteran's Journey of Healing - to each Vet Center along our route, and to other places where it seemed right. Here's where 11 books found a home:

1. Vet Center, St. Louis, MO. Art went in alone and I sat in the car for 15 minutes. When he came out I asked how it had gone. He said, "The team leader was very cordial. He sat me down and wanted to know why I was there and if I had any problems. He really seemed concerned about how I was doing. I was very nervous! I told him about the book and he was very appreciative in getting it, because in a few minutes he was going to go to a Viet Nam vets' session. He gave me his card and wished me luck on my journey. He also said he'd read the book. I told him there was a website where he could make comments if he needed to."

2. Our hosts Tom and Joan in Waverly, TN. Joan had asked to read it the night we got there. Her brother was a Viet Nam vet who died a couple of years ago of "unusual Asian cancer" - possibly brought on by Agent Orange.

3. Vet Center, Nashville, TN. This time I sat in the car for 25 minutes while Art went in. "He was on the phone on hold taking care of some business, and asked if I'd wait. When he was done he invited me in. He did the same thing - asked me how I was doing, was concerned whether I had any problems that were pressing. I told him about the book. He took it and said he'd read it. He also gave me his card."

4. Our hosts David and Sharon in Gordonsville, TN. Sharon has a brother, a vet with PTSD.

5. Vet Center, Knoxville, TN - Art received the same warm welcome. The team leader asked if we were going to the Johnson City Vet Center. When Art said yes, he said to say hello to his buddy, a team leader there.

6. Vet Center, Roanoke, VA. The team leader said he'd post one of the bookmarks we'd included on the bulletin board in the Center. He thanked Art for bringing the books around. Art said he thought the Viet Nam vets had either gotten help or were ignoring their PTSD entirely. The team leader said that since 9/11, three times as many Viet Nam vets have come in because of the stirred-up memories.

7 and 8. Polyface Farms, Swoope, VA. We talked to two employees about our book. One of them is married to a Viet Nam vet who served in the Marine Corps and talks about it all the time. The other has a dad who is a Viet Nam vet who served in the Army and never says a word about it. We wanted to buy a couple of books by Joel Salatin, the owner of the farm; his wife Teresa was there and she said, "Go ahead and take them." A wonderful trade!

9. Vet Center, Johnson City, TN - We arrived there during the lunch hour, and the team leader was just saying goodbye to someone he was talking to. He asked me what I wanted, took the book and thanked me. He had another commitment so he left.

10. Proprietor of the hotel in Harlan, KY. He said there are a lot of vets in Harlan, including his brother-in-law. He wanted to read the book and then pass it along.

11. Vet Center, Lexington, KY. The team leader was at a vet group meeting in other town. The secretary greeted Art warmly as she took the book. She said she'd make sure that he got it. If he hadn't gotten back before she left, she'd put it on his desk so he'd see it on Monday. Then she said that her dad was a Viet Nam vet. Art told her she ought to read it also, and she said she would.

Art says, "I hadn't realized how affected the country was by the Viet Nam war. All the way from the relatives being affected, and the proprietor in Harlan who was really shook up over his 1970 draft number. He told us how nervous he was the night the numbers were drawn - by birthday - to determine who would be drafted that year. It affected a lot more people than just those who went."

We have one book left. I wonder whether someone we meet in the next two days will need it.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Road trip - Appalachia days

I've never been to Appalachia. But my father's mother's family lived in eastern Kentucky for several generations, and I'd discovered a number of them through my online genealogical research. I wanted to visit Harlan County, where they lived. I'd read about the music and the crafts the people created, and their hardiness. I also knew many parts of Appalachia are quite poor, and that drugs are a special problem.

I was curious. So we've spent some days of this trip in Appalachia.

Our first stop was last Saturday in Clinton, Tennessee, at the Museum of Appalachia. This fine restoration was the life work of John Rice Irwin. A number of structures were moved from their original locations, restored or reconstructed, to create this living history museum. Also on display are items of everyday use. It's a fascinating place even for me, a woman not wild about museums.

You can find out more about the Museum of Appalachia here:

We drove parts of The Crooked Road, which celebrates the music of Appalachia. Last Saturday night we attended an event in Hiltons, Virginia, where the White Top Mountain band played, to the delight of both locals and visitors. Find out more about it at

Yesterday (Wednesday), we crossed the Virginia border into Harlan County, Kentucky. The road was old, winding, and narrow, crumbling away in places. We descended into a valley where a new "four-lane" took us the rest of the way into Harlan. The town's heyday is in the past. In the 50s it was a rough place, nicknamed "Bloody Harlan". Now it's a town in slow decline, augmented by a few strip malls. We stayed at the Little Inn of Harlan, a charming place. Check it out at

At the suggestion of the Inn's proprietor, we went to the Harlan library and found a paper-bound, indexed book listing all the gravestones in all the cemeteries in the county. Many of the names looked familiar from my research; I descend on my grandmother's side from families named Brock, Howard, and Saylor. I met two Saylors in the first half hour. I found Jesse Brock, my ggggg grandfather. Following the book's directions, we drove to Wallins Creek, about ten miles south of Harlan, ascended the hill behind the Baptist Church, and found his grave in the lower Masonic cemetery.

Wallins Creek is in much steeper decline; here's a photo of the old main street.

We went to a 12-step meeting in Harlan last night. To our surprise, there were over 60 people in attendance; 50 of them were young women from a nearby treatment center. Nearly all of them identified themselves as addicts. I'm thinking meth or oxycontin. In a depressed area, employment options and chances for improvement are very limited. I wondered how these young women would find the motivation to get clean and start out on a new life.

We left Harlan this morning and stopped at the Kentucky Coal Museum in Benton, Kentucky. Benton is so small it has no restaurant, not even a fast food place. The coal mining industry came to Kentucky in the early 20th century and provided employment in return for hard, dangerous work. Read about the museum at

Our drive today was about a hundred miles, through coal mining country. Our server at lunch told us coal mining is still the primary industry. Wages start at $17.50 an hour, "but if you're a plumber or an electrician you make more - about $23." It's still rough, dangerous work.

Tonight we're at Jenny Wiley State Park in Prestonsburg, Kentucky. Here's the view from our back deck:

We'll be leaving Appalachia tomorrow. I am so grateful for my life - and for the people who came before me.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Road trip - Polyface Farms!

I read about Polyface Farms in "The Omnivore's Dilemma". Located in southwest Virginia not far from Staunton, the Salatin family farm is renown for its sustainability methods. We traveled 125 miles beyond the furthest lodging of our road trip to visit this place today. It was so worth it! You can read all about the place at

The farm is open. We parked in a small lot and wandered around the farm. In the fields, in the henhouses, in the pig barns. No signs said, "Do not enter." No one supervised our walk. It's a completely transparent operation.

First, the rabbits. They are friendly. Their enclosure has wooden slats on the bottom. It sits in the grass. The rabbits eat the grass through the slats and poop out the slats. Each day the enclosure is moved to fresh grass. The rabbit enclosure is between two greenhouse buildings, sheltered from the wind. No need to mow; by the time the rabbit enclosure gets back around to a site already used, the grass has grown back.

The pigs are friendly. They have enough room to move around and enough sun for a warm snooze. There is no odor in the pig barn because downed wood is put through a chipper and the chips are laid down in the barn. There's enough carbon in the wood chips for effective absorption. 

The cows are friendly. They graze on grass within moveable fencing. Every few days they're moved to fresh pasture.

Then an "Eggmobile" is moved into the used field. The hens range over the field, cleaning up after the cows and enriching the soil with their poop. They lay their eggs in the Eggmobile. Art went inside to look around. The hens were friendly!

Closer to the farmhouse, greenhouse-like structures house laying hens, young chickens, and babies. They have plenty of room. We wandered around inside each building.

In the laying boxes.

A bragging hen.

One down, one to go.


Snuggling chicks.

Under the warmer.

The Salatins slaughter the chickens they sell. The area was immaculate.

Other farm stuff. All organic, of course, and sustainably grown

Indoors, after the chickens.

Broccoli under the straw.

We visited the store after our wander and met Joel Salatin's wife.  I asked her if he likes touring around the country giving talks.  She said, "Yes, so far." Very nice lady, friendly, she answered all my other questions, too!

So glad we got to see this place!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Road trip - Six nights of hospitality

Tonight we're at a B&B, after six nights of being hosted by members of Evergreen Club or Couchsurfing.

Monday, night 1 - Tom and Julie live in a two-story brick home in a stately St. Louis neighborhood. They've lived in the house for 42 years and raised their children there. They're St. Louis natives. We share many of their views, so the conversation was easy.  We ate dinner at their favorite neighborhood Italian place.

Tuesday, night 2 - Walter and Sue live in a ten-year-old house built by them on their 90 acres in Clinton, Kentucky. They lived in St. Louis for many years until they retired and moved to the country. Sue grew up in Clinton. They are active in their community and their church. Our conversation with them was somewhat careful as they are conservative and we are, well, not. They took us to dinner at their town's diner. They knew everyone in the restaurant.

Wednesday, night 3 - Tom and Joan moved to Waverly, TN about ten years ago from Chicago. They designed their unique four-story house to take advantage of a 180-degree view of Kentucky Lake.  They're still working on finishing the house - had spent the day painting a stairwell and hanging their artwork. They're both spontaneous and creative and travel widely, often couchsurfing. We also met a young French couple who are finishing up a three-week stay with Tom and Joan. Tom made pizza for dinner - including his own pizza dough. We had lively conversation on a wide variety of topics and stayed up late in the process!

Thursday, night 4 - We were scheduled to stay in Shelbyville, TN with Gene and his wife, and I was going to speak at Gene's Lions Club. But Gene got sick, so we accepted another offer and couchsurfed instead with David and Sharon at Butterfly Hollow, their B&B in Gordonsville, TN.  They were both born outside the South but moved there with their families when they were children. We had a great meal at a nearby restaurant and had thoughtful, interesting conversations with them both. They found their place about 15 years ago when they got lost in the country, and completely restored the house and cleared the land. They have a lovely, peaceful place. We would have liked to spend an extra night there. We hope they'll come to Seattle for a visit with us.

Friday, night 5 - Dave and Ruthie hosted us in their new, upscale condo in Knoxville, TN. They both worked for IBM for many years and retired to Knoxville because of its easy access to travel in every direction. We had an excellent meal in a local steakhouse - with lots of vegetables! - and they're considering staying at our place when we go to Maine for ten days in late August.

Saturday, night 6 - we stayed with Joseph and Merrilie in Bristol, TN (halfway through town it becomes Bristol, VA). They live in a house they built 20 years ago on six acres after moving to Tennessee from Connecticut. We drove together to Hiltons, VA where we attended a concert by the White Top Mountain band at the Carter Family Fold. Well, not really a concert. Lots of seating, but many of the locals danced - either "flatfoot" or clog - from a boy of about 9 to folks older than us. We got hot dogs and popcorn from the concession stand for dinner.

For the next five nights, we'll be at this B&B or at motels in Kentucky. We're resting! On most days we  have driven less than 200 miles. As much as we have enjoyed our stays with other folks, it's not as relaxing as having our own place. We knew that would be the case, and we have no regrets as to how we set up this trip. It would have had a completely different flavor without the 12 people we met.

Our hosts were quite different. They ranged in age from mid-40s to late 70s, in politics from budding revolutionary to far right, in religion from fundamentalist Christian to absolutely nothing, in temperament from creative artist to wheeler dealer to introspective. They shared a love of travel and a welcoming spirit. Such a blessing they all have been!

When I plan our next trip, I think we'll look for two nights of being hosted for a night, followed by two nights at a B&B or a motel. A variation in pace, so to speak.

Tomorrow there's a big storm coming in - maybe even some snow. We've adjusted our schedule a bit and will stay here tomorrow to sit out the weather. We're looking forward to the down time.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Road trip reflections - day 4

We're couchsurfing tonight at a B&B in Gordonsville, Tennessee. We were to have been in Shelbyville - and I was to have spoken at a Lions Club meeting there tonight - but I got a call last night from the hostess who told me her husband had been admitted to a Nashville hospital with chest pains. I heard from him this morning - he was being released this afternoon - and told him we were going to change our plans because it was important for him to rest up. He said, "I hate to miss you." What a nice comment - pure Southern.

Here are a few things I've learned so far on this road trip.

1. I spent time in the graveyard in Dyer, Tennessee where many of my predecessors are buried, and I took pictures, but they didn't have the same impact as when I did the same thing last spring in western Nebraska. The Tennessee side of my family is well documented by other people, so I'm just reporting in, so to speak. The Nebraska side had missing pieces that I found myself over a period of several years - my genealogical victory - and that cemetery event helped me lay to rest some issues I'd had with my mother.

2. You don't know how your hosts are going to be when you're Evergreening or couchsurfing. On night 1, in St. Louis, our hosts were much like us. On night 2, in Clinton, KY, they were quite different from us. On night 3, in Waverly, Tennessee, they were quite interesting. And tonight, night 4, they're just plain nice. Conversation is an unstated assumption with these lodging arrangements, so our private time is somewhat limited. We'll be keeping it in balance in future trip planning.

3. We're not really tourists at heart. Today we took back roads into Nashville and dropped off the second book at the Vet Center. Due to our change in lodging plans, we had about another four hours before we could arrive at our B&B. We decided not to go to the Country Music Hall of Fame, Opryland, or the full-size replica of the Parthenon. Instead, we had lunch, went to a 12-step meeting, and took back roads out of Nashville during the afternoon commute. We're satisfied with our experience in Nashville.

4. If I do the laundry every two days, it stays manageable. If I do the washing at night and the drying in the morning, no one is inconvenienced. I feel a bit guilty asking my hosts for laundry privileges, but not guilty enough not to ask!

5. My back injury bothers me when I drive, but not enough so far to keep me from road trips.

6. The native Southerners I have met are deeply gracious, but not inclined to wide-ranging conversations - they have a reserve I've been unable to get past so far. I'm thinking about whether to continue making the effort to have "meaningful" conversations, or whether to accept them as they are, with their graciousness and reserve. Probably the latter.

7. Armadillos on the side of the road mean you're really in the South.

8. My nearsightedness is gone since the cataract surgery, but I'll still need to get a prescription for the astigmatism so i can see road signs more clearly.

9. I would rather drive and have Art critique me on occasion, than have him drive - at least on road trips. So far we use the GPS for our primary guide, but Art has veto power over the voice on the dashboard.

10. There are unbelievably large numbers of stars at night in rural skies.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Road trip - Got my Southern on

Yesterday was our entry into the south. This morning we had a hearty breakfast with our conservative hosts and left their house with hugs and thanks. I've slowed down and now the culture is more familiar, so we're good for this trip.

We were met in Rutherford, Tennessee by Joe and Sue, caretakers of the Davy Crockett cabin. As it turns out, one of Crockett's daughters married a distant relative of mine, so Joe says I'm "kin". We trekked over to the cemetery at Mt. Olive Church where I found the tombstones of my great grandparents and my great great grandparents - this would be my father's father's family. Then, after a two-hour drive through beautiful country, we arrived at tonight's destination - Couchsurfers Tom and Joan, who live eight miles out of Waverly in a beautiful though unfinished house with a 180-degree view of Kentucky Lake. They fixed us pizza and we talked for a couple of hours with them and a young French couple also staying at their place. Good company tonight!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Road trip -days 1 and 2

Monday, April 16 - flew to St. Louis. Rabbits in the median - apparently they are everywhere here. Excellent service at the Enterprise car rental agency with a free upgrade to a back-friendly car. Wonderful Evergreen Club hosts Tom and Julie in St. Louis - dinner at their favorite neighborhood Italian place, hours of conversation on a wide range of topics. Art realized he hadn't packed his pajamas. I lost my cellphone and found it again.

Tuesday, April 17 - Art dropped off the first copy of our book at the Vet Center in St. Louis. He was warmly received by the team leader. Lovely drive south. Lunch at Lambert's, known for its "throwed rolls" - our first occurrence on this trip of difficulty finding something healthy like vegetables on the menu. I settled for chicken and dumplings and picked out the chicken. The server, when giving us our check, said, "God bless you, and have a good trip." Haven't ever heard that in a restaurant.

Crossed over the Mississippi and the Ohio Rivers into Kentucky, down country roads to our second Evergreen Club stay in Clinton, Kentucky, population 1700. Walter and Sue. Very Kentucky, conservative, southern. Very little conversation other than pleasant chat. Dinner at their local diner where they knew everyone in the place. I, a progressive, am listening to Fox News in the next room. It's good for me to experience differences!

Got a note from a bed and breakfast owner offering us a free place to stay two nights from now - they got back to me later than the people from Shelbyville, and I am committed to speak at the Lions Club there, so we'll miss out on the B&B. Still, keeping my commitment is the right thing to do.

Drove 200 miles today, three quarters of it on interstates. Light traffic everywhere.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

All clear for our road trip

The opthalmologist says I'm coming along nicely. I can get back to my regular life except no eye makeup for another week, and no swimming or hot tubbing for another month. But I can go back to my exercise class, back to my gym, and I can bend over again. In six months I get to check back and see if my other eye's cataract is ready to be removed.

So we're leaving on Monday for two weeks. Our Ecuador home exchange partners will be living in our house for ten days, so we decided to take a springtime road trip to Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia.

We'll be visiting cemeteries for my genealogy exploration, dropping off seven copies of our book at Vet Centers, staying with seven couples we've never met, listening to Appalachian music along the Crooked Road of southwest Virginia, and visiting Polyface Farms.

We fly to St. Louis to start our road trip. Here's the plan for where we'll be each night:

Monday, April 16 - St. Louis, with Evergreen Clubbers Tom and Julie.

Tuesday, April 17 - Clinton, KY, with Evergreeners Walter and Sue.

Wednesday, April 18 - Waverly, TN, with Couchsurfer hosts Tom and Joan.

Thursday, April 19 - Shelbyville, TN with Evergreeners Gene and Wife, after dropping off a book at the Vet Center in Nashville. I'll be the speaker at Gene's Lions Club meeting that night. "You can talk about anything you want," he said.

Friday, April 20th - Books to Vet Centers in Chattanooga and Knoxville, TN with hosts Dave and Ruthie.

Saturday, April 21st - Book to Vet Center in Johnson City, TN, then on to Bristol, VA with hosts Joseph and Marilie. Maybe a concert at the Carter Family Fold in Hiltons.

Sunday, April 22nd - Floyd, VA at Ambrosia B&B - our first night without hosts! An afternoon music jam at the Floyd General Store.

Monday, April 23rd - still in Floyd, with a day trip to Polyface Farms and a stop at the Vet Center in Roanoke, VA.

Tuesday, April 24th we head into eastern Kentucky. That night we'll be staying at the Benham Schoolhouse Hotel - used to be a school, now a lodging place. I'm hearing faint strains of the theme to "Deliverance", but that's my own ignorance, I'm sure. This is where my grandmother's family came from; they were farmers and coal miners, mostly.

Wednesday and Thursday, April 25th and 26th. The lodge at Jenny Wiley State Park in Prestonsburg, KY. We got the last room. I expect to meet some Kentucky families.

Friday, April 27th - Somerset, KY, with Evergreeners Christine and Keith, after a stop at the Vet Center in Lexington and the Appalachian craft centers in Berea.

Saturday the 28th we'll visit Mammoth Cave and several family cemeteries in Bowling Green, KY, spending the night at a Fairfield Suites.

Sunday the 29th we'll drive across the rest of Kentucky and spend our last night at a green B&B in Makanda, IL.

Monday the 30th we'll drop off our last book at the Vet Center in St. Louis and do a little sightseeing before catching a 6:00 p.m. plane home.

This is the plan, anyway. Even to me it looks busy, but I don't see anything I want to skip! It's about 1900 miles in 14 days - not a heavy driving schedule - but a lot of nights of being hosted. We're experimenting with finding the perfect kind of trip. Last year we did a three-week trip where we were hosted five nights and in motels or B&Bs the rest of the time. The hardest part of that trip was the long driving days - four of them were 400-plus miles. On this trip, most of the days are fewer than 200 miles. On the other hand, last year we only stayed in eight different lodgings, so we had multiple days of no driving. This year's trip we only stay more than one night in two places. We'll see how it goes.

I plan to blog when I can.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Three dimensions!

That's how I'm seeing after my cataract surgery last Tuesday. In three dimensions!

I'd heard the colors would be brighter, which they are. But I hadn't realized the surgery would go a long way toward correcting the nearsightedness in my right eye. I'm looking out the window a lot these days. And when I walk in my neighborhood, I'm surprised by how much more light there is. I had no idea. I really thought that was just how it is in the Pacific Northwest!

I go for my one-week checkup in a couple of days. Then I'll be able to sleep without my patch on. And go from three kinds of eyedrops four times a day, to two kinds of eyedrops three times a day. A little less remembering.

Today we plant the peas. We have four raised beds in our garden, and this year one of them is just mine. I told my husband Art I'll plant what I want, and how I want, and if I stop paying attention to the garden and stuff doesn't do well, he can take over and do what he wants. Yesterday he planted peas harvested last year in his raised bed. I think they're GMO seeds, and if that's the case the pea plants will do fine but won't produce any pods or peas. Yesterday I went to the local nursery and bought a packet of heirloom peas for my bed. I'm thinking we'll be eating peas from my plants this year. I'm generous, though, so I'll share.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


First, re my 15 minutes of fame, Jonathan (the producer)
added this to my previous post:

Jonathan said...

It was such a pleasure to meet you and Art and to film you at your home. The footage looks fantastic and I can't wait until we can show you the final product.

Thanks again for being a good sport, and walking, talking, standing around as much as we asked you to.

To all the commenters and readers of Linda's blog: we're doing all this in support of the "Marigold Ideas For Good" contest at Anyone over 50 with an innovative idea for improving their community or the world can submit for a chance to win $5,000 and a Road Scholar educational adventure!

April 4, 2012 12:39 PM


I had cataract surgery yesterday. I checked into the clinic at 12:30 p.m. and drove away in our car at 2:30 p.m. The surgery took 10 minutes, a microscope, and a very young opthalmalogist, Dr. Brush. Yesterday my vision was blurry and my eye felt like it had a couple of lashes in it. Today the optometrist who checked me out says all is well. My current challenge is in my brain, which is trying mightily to reconcile the different sets of images coming into it from my two eyes. None of my three pairs of glasses work now. I have a tiny headache and I am cranky. But my world is brighter, my vision is improved, and I'm looking forward to driving at night again sometime soon without being a menace on the roads.

Monday, April 2, 2012

My 15 minutes of fame? - Part 2

I have a seven-person film crew at my house today. They arrived at 7:30 and, at 12:20 p.m., they're still here, filming me as I create this blog post. I'll be listing them individually, and their roles on this project, once the camera turns off.

It's odd to think that, after three or four hours of filming, they'll take all they've gathered and reduce it down to a couple of minutes of combined interview and visual shots. Seven people plus me and Art. Mostly they're here from L.A. Nice people, focused on a common goal. They're quiet and collaborative, courteous and friendly.

The company making the video is Participant Media. Jonathan Harris' title is "Digital Strategy Manager, Social Action and Advocacy"; he was the interviewer and producer. Jonathan already knew my story, so his questions led into what he wanted me to talk about. From the same company, Justin Simien will be doing the editing of the film. Topher Osborn was the director and the man with the camera; Jacki Moonves was the camera assistant. Local crew members Kevin Ely (gaffer) and Elijah Lawson (sound mixer) joined the others this morning.

I spent about an hour being interviewed, about two hours standing or moving around as instructed in the yard, in the woods across the street, in the house, and in our garden. And about six hours sitting or standing around and waiting. Art and I had set aside the day, so we were fine to participate and then watch the experience. Both days we were tired at the end. Good thing we're retired!

The end result of this effort will be about a two-minute video. It's scheduled for release by the end of April. Justin told me it will be available on UTube and other sites, so I'll be able to post it to a future blog.

I got to talk about my experience with Habitat for Humanity and Road Scholar and my determination to make a difference in this, my second half of life. Why I like to walk in the woods, and garden, and travel, and write. There was a short interview with me and Art together where we talked about our book. I know Topher shot way, way more on his camera that we will ever see. The crew seemed happy with what they'd gotten by the time they left at 5:30 p.m. They hope the video will encourage other "second halfers" to get out there.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

My 15 minutes of fame? - Part 1

It's a long story.

When I quit my job back in June 2010, one of my goals for the first year was to help out with a Habitat for Humanity build in my community and then to help on a build in the part of the country that had been affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

I signed up for my first build day in October 2010, and spent a rainy day hammering Tyvek onto the side of a house and holding a ladder for a 20-something woman while she used a palm nailer on the higher areas. I got home wet and tired, but satisfied. And feeling old, since I was at least 30 years older than the other 25 participants, members of the young adults group at a local church.

Then, in March 2011, my husband Art and I traveled with Road Scholar (used to be Elderhostel) to participate in a five-day Habitat build in Lafayette, Louisiana. In our 60s, we were youngest by at least eight years, but we were not the fittest. We had a great week; build activities planned for our age group were doable, we got to make new friends, spend time in the sunshine, and learn about Cajun culture in the evenings. You can read about that trip starting here:

After we we got home, we received a letter from Road Scholar thanking us for our volunteer service and explaining that most of the trip was a tax deduction!

For the next two months Art and I did four more Habitat builds in the Seattle area. I learned, to my disappointment, that my fear of heights prevented me from being useful on roofs and scaffolding, and that I needed a nap in the car in the afternoon worse than I needed to be useful. Then I hurt my back. So my Habitat build participation was pretty much over, and I moved on to other volunteer activities.

Two months ago - this would be January of 2012 - I got an email from Road Scholar. They were writing to all participants in 2011 service projects through their program (I think there are a couple dozen each year). Seems they'd been approached by a media company looking for stories about people in "the second half of life" who were volunteering. The company's mission is "to entertain and to inspire you to participate". They were developing a social outreach video as part of the release of an upcoming new movie, "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" - it's about British seniors who move to India - and they contacted Road Scholar because of its service learning offerings and its list of people who had been on those trips. Road Scholar said if email recipients were interested in telling the story of how they got involved, they should let Road Scholar know. So I did.

Then I got a call from Road Scholar. I told the woman about the bucket list I'd made, how Habitat had been on that list for the first year - including the part about doing a build in the hurricane-afflicted areas - and how the Road Scholar program last March had filled the bill. She thanked me. A month later she called back and said the media company wanted to talk to me. Apparently I had made the cut.

I talked to the media company. Twice. They decided they wanted to come to Seattle and do a video shoot with me as the subject. They were doing one other interview, in Boston, on a person they'd found through Encore, another "second half of life" organization. We agreed that April 2, 2012, would be the day of the shoot. They would do an interview of me in my home, and then shoot some footage of me volunteering.

Here's the hiccup. They assumed, I think, that it would be a shoot of a Habitat for Humanity build. Only I don't do that any more. They didn't ask, and I didn't say. By the time last week rolled around, the subject finally came up. What to shoot instead? Linda gardening, at her exercise class, working out at the gym? Somehow, all those options sounded like a boring visual. Plus, the exercise class people and the gym people said no - it was too last minute, they would need liability releases, other patrons might not like it. Another flurry of emails between me and the media company.

So here we are, two days before the shoot, without a visual. So I went to the gym for my 17 minutes on the elliptical trainer. Staring out the window at the rain, it occurred to me. They could shoot at the town forest.

It's called City Light Woods, and it's a park in Brier, Washington, where I live. There are two trails, probably totalling a quarter of a mile, where you feel like you're in the middle of nowhere - beautiful Pacific Northwest trees and native plants, fallen logs and underbrush. I took a walk there yesterday afternoon and it will be perfect for the shoot. I even get to take my 3-year-old next door neighbor to fill in for my grandchildren on the walk.

The last of the emails with the media company went out last night, and we're set. They'll arrive today, we'll meet up this evening before sunset and do the interview tomorrow. They told me I'd been "remarkably helpful".

That would be me. Just trying to be useful in my second half of life.