"To grow old is to pass from passion to compassion."
Monday, August 2, 2010
Evelyn Dabitz's Remarkable Footprints
Evelyn Dabritz hasn’t made the cover of People Magazine, nor has TMZ shouted out Dabritz’s latest headlines. Yet her priceless footprints leave a significant trail of adventure and knowledge.
I like writing about people like Evelyn Dabritz as opposed to chasing pop media royalty who offer nothing but noise. Their insignificant steps don’t even leave footprints behind.
The first time I experienced Evelyn’s footprints is when they left me in the dust. I joined a “mature” women’s walking group. I struggled to keep pace. On my left a sun-kissed woman with muscular and shapely calves zoomed past me—uphill. “Can you believe that woman is 79-year-old,” my panting walking partner commented. Evelyn, almost 20 years my senior, was the walker who just dusted me.
When we piled into our carpool ride home, embarrassed at my inability to keep up on the walk, I commented that I’d obviously been at a desk for too many years. Evelyn, who knew from a previous conversation that I was taking anti-cancer medication explained, “It’s the drugs you are taking. They zap it all out of you. Don’t worry, it will come back soon enough.” Wow. I never considered the drug side effects, and how thoughtful of her to say something to soothe my embarrassment. But that’s Mrs. Dabritz, who celebrated her 80th year hiking about Thailand, volunteers as a docent for several nature-based organizations, leads nature hikes along the Pacific coast, and just published a third in a series of children’s nature books.
Officially, Evelyn retired from 24 years as an early education teacher in Whittier, Ca. As a veteran docent ambassador for a new coastal hiking trail, she recently told a local reporter that she’d rather interact with visitors because “It is a nice peaceful way to spend a Sunday afternoon, rather than in your rocking chair.” I'd bet that her rocking chair probably remains in like-new condition.
The coastal hike that I’m sorry I missed was in April when Evelyn and her husband of 60 years, David Dabritz, led a walk near Morro Bay, Ca, for the Nature Conservancy called “Let's See What's Hidden.” After studying her three children’s nature books, "Bonnie Barnacle Finds a Home," "How the Innkeeper Worm Got a Full House,"
and her newest release, the "Kelp Condo Crisis," my curiosity surfaced. The picture books (each illustrated by Isobel Hoffman) explore the tiny and near-hidden elements of marine environments.
Her books are usually found in coastal state park nature stores and natural history museums. Schools use her books, two of which were the result of grants from the Morro Bay National Estuary Program for marine science education, which is timelier than ever before, considering the need for more marine scientists to find ways to help our oceans survive their current ecological assaults.
But Evelyn doesn’t wait around for grants and such. She and illustrator Hoffman, actively promote their books and are part of an August panel featuring children’s authors and illustrators who will discuss how they researched, wrote, developed and refined their children’s books. When she’s concluded that project, one will find her chatting with visiting children in the nearby natural history museum, explaining marine mammals to coastal visitors, or walking along trails fortified with information about the birds, mammals, reptiles, flora and fauna found and eager to share her knowledge.
When chatting with Evelyn I asked, “When you retired from teaching did you just get bored, or have you always felt the urge to learn and share?”
"I was born in California but grew up in a one-room house in Tacoma, Washington--without electricity or water. I loved watching snails, spiders and flying squirrels,” Evelyn explained. She went on to say that because" I was in constant touch with nature,” that it was natural for her to bring nature into her classrooms. “But I had to scrounge for nature books written for young children.”
Upon retirement Evelyn continued teaching as a volunteer docent for the Morro Bay Museum of Natural History. “We needed to get more publicity for the museum…David volunteered me to write stories about the museum…So I wrote "Bonnie Barnacle Finds a Home" for a freebie parents guide…People said I should publish the story but I was too busy heading up school groups and activities for the museum,” Evelyn recalled. Laughing she said, “Finally I joined the Society For Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, studied the courses offered, then sent out my manuscript—which was rejected every time. I said to myself, ‘I’m too old for this.’ Well, I’ve not done anything really risky all of my life, so I took some money and published the book myself.”
“I’m thinking of writing another children’s nature book about pelicans,” Evelyn added.
Now understanding the unconventional route to getting her books out, my next question was, “You are one fit lady. What’s the secret and what would you advise your “sisters in maturity” about getting or staying fit?”
“Fitness is something you commit yourself for life,” Evelyn answered. “Growing up in the Washington State woods gave me a strong constitution for starters. I had planned to study math in college, but a friend asked me why I didn’t take up physical education instead because I worked at summer camps and was always active. When I looked into what it entailed, I knew that was for me. So my first degree was physical education. Meanwhile, I had four children, and found a part-time job teaching physical conditioning for adult education. I always played tennis too.”
Today she works out at a fitness center four to five times a week, and plays tennis twice a week with a group. “Most of us are 80 or over and it is not pitty-patty tennis!” Evelyn exclaimed.
Popular culture media will likely overlook Evelyn’s imprints, but her marks remain indelible.
Northern Californian, Marty Molidor, says "Yes" to cutting costs. This Six-oh-dear-dude even admits to being a skinflint. Skinflinting is a good idea. Here's what Marty has to say:
"I have some lifestyle things that help to save pennies...I maintain a spreadsheet of the things that (I) regularly buy at Costco (I try to get as much food and household stuff there as possible--not convenience stuff but bulky regular stuff). So, my spreadsheet has a row for each item. Example: chicken broth--which I now use with regular bulk rice instead of flavored rice...
The next column is the price, then the quantity (12 cans in the chicken broth example), then a calculated column which amounts to price per can. I keep a copy of my shopping list... so that if I find myself in a Safeway or FoodMaxx and I see their sale price for chicken broth for 80-cents a can, I compare it to my list which shows the Costco price at 66 cents. If the Safeway sale price is lower (rare) I stock up.
My wife will note when Safeway has this or that on sale for so much. I consult the list and let her know that the Costco price is still much better.
I print the (two sided) list every Saturday for my Costco trip and I check off the stuff we need. This just keeps me from having to write out what is needed. I also wear the list , attached to a lanyard around my neck like a convention badge, when I go shopping. Did I mention nerdy?
But the main idea is to keep aware of the Costco prices so we can avoid getting sale stuff elsewhere when we see sales...
Another thing we do is use a landline phone ($20 per month?) and keep a prepaid cell phone for when we need it. This only works if one's cell use is very occasional and not the main phone you own.
My kids laugh at this approach but sixty-somethings may understand. Also, no long distance carrier. I got sick of all the AT&T fees and charges. We use an MCI card for those occasional long distance calls. As in the case of the prepaid cell, the per minute charge is high but both have the beauty of no monthly charges/fees/taxes, etc. If you don't have a long distance carrier, you don't want to accept a collect long distance call, trust me. I paid $17 for a single collect call before I realized this."
Note: How does the Santa Fe Mother Blogger's spouse react when he opens the freezer? "Owy Cwap! What's with the bags of bones?"
No bone in the Santa Fe Mother Blogger's kitchen goes to trash. If I can't process them right away, the carcass and/or bones go into the freezer. (I have good bone density. Some I credit to this habit of recycling bones from chickens, turkeys and cattle).
When the need for broth arises, I place the carcass on a cookie sheet, blast some salt and pepper on it, then roast the bones at 450-degrees until good and crispy. That gets tossed into a big pot of boiling water spiced with refrigerator leftover celery, onion, whatever.
I cook it down to the point of where the smell is so good that I just gotta have some now. I strain it, then use that broth for just about anything. Oh yeah, I always make enough to freeze for the times I don't have the time to go through this process.
The roasting of the bones is what gives it that extra zing.
Nutrition on the Cheap-Lentil Sprouts
Try sprouting a handful of lentils.
Santa Fe Mother Blogger Reflects
After an 8-day freewheeling adventure in Baja, Clif caught me with a cup of coffee at the fabulous La Fonda in old Cabo San Lucas.