California Dolphin: statewide California news

Valley Life: Thanks and farewell, readers, see you around

I’ve been writing this column off and on for the Times for over 40 years — and it’s the first time I’m at a loss for words.
It seems there’s always something to share. Whether it’s a funny story about a grandchild, a glimpse into my husband’s odd way of thinking, a reflection about a friend or an embarrassing moment of my own, I can always come up with five hundred words — even when I don’t think I can.
But I’ve just learned the newspaper is downsizing again, and I have to say goodbye to my faithful readers, my wonderful editors and all that white space I’ve had to fill every other week. Too bad, because I’ve loved every minute of it, even when it sometimes felt like homework.
I’ve been stopped while shopping, eating at a restaurant, walking my dog, all by friendly people who think they know me because they read my column. I appreciate their kind comments. I just wish I’d combed my hair on those days.
Reflecting on my columns, one of my favorites was a story I wrote about Eugene Stadelhofer, who found a long lost friend from Vietnam right here in the valley. I’ve enjoyed featuring local writers, like Ann Parker, Janet Finsilver, Carole Price and Staci McLaughlin. It was heartwarming when I let my college students share their favorite teacher memories.
And it was always fun writing about my grandkids — selling watery lemonade, recycling Girl Scout cookies, making messy slime. Our crazy RV road trips provided a lot of unintentional humor, as did our yearly pilgrimages to Disneyland. Even the valley itself gave me lots of material with it’s wind festivals, wine festivals and book festivals.
I now have a 40-year collection of my life, everything from “decluttering” the house to becoming a “cat lady,” from removing my gall bladder to breaking my collarbone, from admitting I scrapbook to failing Martha Stewart.
One other favorite column I wrote five years ago was when I still taught at DVC. I asked some preschool kids what they want to be when they grow up. The answers were standard — the younger girls wanted to be princesses and the younger boys wanted to be super heroes. The older girls chose veterinarians and the older boys opted to be pro athletes.
Little did they know that by the time they get to high school, they’d have more choices than they could imagine. When I was in high school, the choices were more limited — if you were a female. I could be an airline stewardess (I get airsick), a secretary (I don’t like taking orders), nurse (I could never give someone a shot) or a writer (work in pajamas, drink coffee all day, take naps during writer’s block — that was for me!).
Now that I’ve turned 70 and am no longer teaching college or writing my column, I’m going to have to figure out my next career. Rocket scientist? Tattoo artist? Pro skateboarder? Dog lady? Of course, I’m still writing books. And being a writer means I can be anything I want — at least in my imagination. Even a columnist.
So thanks, readers, for sharing my life with me. Hope to see you around the valley. If I comb my hair that day.
Penny Warner is a freelance writer and author of children’s books. Reach her at pennywarnerink@yahoo.com.

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