About Me

Hi!  I’m Cat

Now retired from Qwest (a baby-bell telephone company, now part of Century Link) where I worked for 25 years in Portland, Oregon as an Outside Plant Engineer and later as a Subject Matter Expert and Technical Writer, I have returned to my birth home in Bigfork Montana  (Cat’s Retreat) to take it easy.  And to write my memoir of growing up in the small Montana tourist town of Bigfork, in the 50s, where my parents owned and operated Al’s Bar.

Actually, I was born in Kalispell, the county seat.  But then my parents brought me home to their small one-room apartment in the back of the old Bigfork Bank Building (they operated a liquor store in the front) on the main street of Bigfork (Electric Avenue).  When I was 2, they moved into the new home on the south side of Bigfork Bay, the house in which I am now living.  After graduating from high school (45 classmates), I went to college at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington.  This was during the Viet Nam years, a time of great social unrest in American society in general and on college campuses in particular.  And I was swept up into the anti-war movement.

By the time I moved to Eugene, Oregon in 1970, where I attended graduate school in biochemistry, I was a Hippie in full colors.  At the end of that year, I dropped out and dropped in, as so many in my generation were doing.  I moved to Portland, where I stumbled from one minimum wage job to another, until I landed a position as Research Assistant at the University of Oregon School of Medicine (now the Oregon Health Sciences Center).  From there, I returned to graduate school, this time in Physical Chemistry, at Portland State University.  I left there just short of obtaining my Masters, when I was hired by Pacific Northwest Bell (eventually became part of Qwest and then Century Link) for what I thought would be a summertime job.  It turned into a career, and I never completed my advanced degree.  Nevertheless, a life long interest in science, nutrition, and medicine persists.

My other interests include my pets (cats), cooking, sewing and clothing design, knitting and other handwork, painting, gardening, reading, writing, and music.  During my hippie years, I became involved in the Portland music scene, first in the coffeehouses (predominately folk and other acoustic genres), and later in bars (rock, country-rock, and blues).  I have always loved to dance, and this scene gave me ample opportunity to indulge in this excellent exercise.  It also brought me several lasting friendships.

When I first retired, I was a bit lost.  It took me a year to decide to sell my beloved Victorian home in NW Portland.  But once that decision was made, I have not looked back.  I do not miss the unseen weight of the mortgage.  Still, I was unwilling to give up my beloved neighborhood of over 35 years, so I rented a flat in another Victorian house, right next door to the house I’d just sold!  This flat has special meaning for me, as it was the home of my good friend Ginny for many years.   Unfortunately, I had to move out of that apartment after only 2 years, because the landlord wanted to renovate for his own use.  My things are now in storage, and I'm 'homeless' in Portland.

Ginny was my Mom’s age, but very hip. Throughout my 20s, 30s and 40s, I emulated her, hoping that I too could age gracefully as she had done.  Unfortunately, when her life-long lover died in the late 1980s, Ginny sunk deep into dementia, and died three years later. Losing Ginny was a preamble to losing my Mother to cancer only two years later.

Mom had come to stay with me for the Christmas Holiday, as she did every year.  That fall she’d been diagnosed with cancer; when she arrived on the train, she was a mere shadow of her former self, and very jaundiced.  We had a great Christmas, but two days later she complained of unbearable abdominal pain.  I took her to the hospital (2 blocks away), where they diagnosed intestinal blockage, and advised immediate surgery.  She recovered from that blockage, but the surgery left its mark.  The doctors decided to biopsy her gall bladder, liver and pancreas, and left her with acute pancreatitis from which she almost died.  She was not able to return to Bigfork, much to her dismay, and so remained with me.  By the end of August, she could no longer tolerate food and wanted to die.  The end came, with me at her bedside, on September 6, 1991.  Those 8 months with her were the most precious months of my life; we worked through many issues from my childhood that had troubled my adult life.

After Dad died in 1971 at the age of 81, and Mom died at the age of 74, I inherited my childhood home.  At first I intended to rent it out, but after inspecting it, I realized it needed a lot of work before it could be rented.  So I had it replumbed and rewired; bathroom completely redone (with new jetted tub and tile walls and floor), and removed the wall between the kitchen and living rooms, creating one large great room.  I added a wood burning stove for extra heat and aesthetics.  And of course, after doing all that, I found I didn’t have the heart to rent it out.  Instead, I started spending my vacations in Bigfork.  And then, when my work required many trips between Portland and Denver, I often routed my trips through Bigfork for long weekends.  And those trips became season-long stays as I found I could just as easily telecommute from Bigfork as from Portland, when I gave up my office space in the city. When I retired and sold my city house, it was a perfect opportunity to make Bigfork my permanent home.  Life is certainly slower and quieter here!

I quickly found that I missed the technical writing and so started my own web page where I could express myself in a different way.  At first, it was just a means to share photos without clogging up your emails.  NOTE: This site no longer includes access to my memoir chapters. It does include a blog, podcast (‘Cat's Song of the Week’ to which you can subscribe but can no longer listen to my favorite tunes because of copyright issues), and a collection of essays on health topics of interest to me (this later is mostly a chance to rant about the ills of the modern medical establishment).  I have added a collection of healthful recipes (old site) that I’m now moving to a wordpress blog (Cat’s Kitchen). I also have a copy of my resume on my web site, as I would still entertain a short-term contracting or consulting position in the telephone industry.

The fall of 2005 brought a big change to my immediate neighborhood in Bigfork.  The log cabin resort known as Bayside began the long process of being dismantled and removed.  The main house and each of the cabins was sold and moved to new sites in the valley.  That work was completed in the spring of 2006.  The fall of 2006 began the new construction of 9 condo units on the site.  I am very, very sad to lose my old neighbor--it was like living next door to a large park.  The new condos will make me feel hemmed in, especially after they construct a 15-foot high retaining wall right next to my property line (to support elevated driveway to 2nd-floor garages!), so I don’t know how long I will last here.  I decided to chronicle the demolition and rebirth of this property, now known as Beardance Village, in photos..

All my life I’ve longed to travel, especially to Europe to research my Nordic ancestry, and also to see all those wonderful places I’ve read about in novels:  London, Paris, Vienna, Prague, St. Petersburg.  Retirement now offers both the time and the funds to explore.  My first big trip was October 2006, when I went to Sweden to get my new Volvo, then toured Norway for 10 days.  My blog includes daily entries of this adventure, and I’ve included a separate photo gallery from this trip.

With the economic crash in 2008, I decided to learn how to keep a garden. I had a small raised bed constructed for a veggie garden. In 2010 I added a ground-level bed for veggies that require more space (squash, etc.), and another raised bed for raspberries; these will see their first plantings in 2011.

Also in 2008, I joined with three others to form a Bigfork-local sustainability group, called Essential Stuff Project. We are learning how to live sustainably, and helping others to learn as well, as a way of building a stronger, interdependent community in Bigfork. I am the secretary/treasurer, and also the editor of our website The EssentiaList (essentialstuff.org), which has obtained a modestly large following in the greater Flathead Valley. I write most (99.9%) of the articles posted on our site. If you wish to be added to our email list, contact me at cat(at)essentialstuff(dot)org [NOTE: email address disguised for security].

A writer, I am also working on a memoir of my childhood years in Bigfork. I read from my memoir at Clementine’s Open Stage, which happens once a month just down the road from my house. You can no longer sample some chapters on my website, but I hope to have them published one of these years. If you are interested in reading the chapters I’ve written so far, send me an email (see Email Me link below) You will need login information to access the memoir and related photo gallery; if you are interested, send me an email, and I’ll share the login information.

And now (2018), as I approach my 70th birthday, I’m thinking about what I would like included in my obituary. This was sparked by the death of one of my favorite Bigfork classmates, John North, who died on March 1, 2018. His obituary really impressed me because we had lost track of each other after our college years, and I was amazed by what a wonderful person he continued to be as an adult, and all his amazing interests.

So here are some things about the adult person I have become that I would like to have included in my obituary:

  1. learning to love who I am;

  2. learning about my ancestors as far back as 1100 AD;

  3. natural living and healing (for myself and others); 

  4. caring about our environment and our public lands;

  5. eating a clean, well-balanced diet (as much local and Organic as possible); 

  6. keeping up-to-date on medical issues and how to heal them naturally; 

  7. loving music - many forms, but especially folk music of many different cultures;

  8. my creative writing - mostly memoir and poetry; 

  9. reading others’ writings - fiction and non-fiction; 

  10. learning about spiritual practices of many different peoples around the world, especially Buddhism (and the Japanese form, Zen), Taoism, Judaism, Muslim, Christianity, Native Americans

  11. keeping up with science, especially quantum physics/chemistry, and how it relates to our spiritual selves; 

  12. helping my beloved pets to live long, happy and healthy lives; 

  13. supporting my friends in any ways possible; 

  14. forgiving those who have harmed or hurt me - including myself;

  15. forgiving myself for harming or hurting others.

That’s all for now.