|Peggy and husband in Guatemala |
ready for zip-lining
Mary here...interviewing one of my good friends and fellow Toad, Peggy Goetz, who blogs at On a Day Like Today.. Peggy lives in Irvine, California, which is south of Los Angeles. She worked for the community paper there until she retired in 2006. Her husband Steve was on the staff of a community college for many years. They have two adult children who live in central and northern California. I have known Peggy for more than fifteen years, in fact from the time she wrote her very first poem. For many years we were members of the same online writing group. We met weekly online and got together in real life a number of times.
Peggy is not only a talented poet, but is also a talented photographer AND painter. I have a painting of hers in my home. I am setting this interview in Big Bear, California; as our writing group really did meet there one time. I have fond memories of that time and of Big Bear. Before the interview begins, I also want to mention that Peggy spent some time in South Africa, Kerry's home. I think she is the only Toad to have visited that country. If you visit Peggy’s blog, you can see a link to the poetry book she wrote about her experiences there. With no further adieu, let me share my interview of Peggy..................
Mary: Hi Peggy, thank you so much for accepting my invitation to interview you here in your beautiful Big Bear retreat. I think the beautiful setting is really conducive to some deep thought sharing. Oh, and thank you for putting the coffee on! I'd like to start my interview at your life's beginning, if that's all right with you. I l always like to find out a little bit about people's roots. Could you tell me a little about the family you were born into?
Peggy: I was a much-wanted child when I was born, arriving after my parents had been married seven years. My dad was a professor at University of California, Berkeley, and established his small scientific field of study there, insect pathology. My mother worked at research and medical labs and also helped Dad with a lot of his work. But was mostly a stay-at-home mom after I was born.
|Peggy (in red) and her sister's husband and sister|
about to take off on a hike.
Mary: When I was growing up, Berkeley seemed so far away, so liberal, so filled with hippies and people experimenting with things I had barely heard of and had never seen. Do you have any other memories of those very early years?
Peggy: I was a very shy child, more comfortable with adults than with kids my own age.
Mary: Interesting, Peggy. I have known people like that. I think some children are just born very mature.
Peggy: We had moved from Berkeley to a semi-rural area (Walnut Creek) outside the city when I was 3. My parents were very excited to own an acre of land and a fixer-up house that they worked on endlessly. I learned a lot about plants, trees, building things while I was growing up helping my parents on their projects. Knowing how to do these things was important to my parents, though both were at the same time very academic and valued intelligence above all else. We did all our own work with the many fruit and nut trees, pruning and harvesting etc.
|Son Bryan with his wife Pari|
Mary: What wonderful growing up years you had, Peggy, and it sounds as if you learned a lot from them, the academic as well as practical life skills.
Peggy: My dad was seriously devoted to his work, but he had a great sense of humor and told the best nightly stories full of characters he made up to entertain us. My mother became the person who could do anything at home because dad was so busy at work. She was one who liked to connect to other people and had a hard time understanding my not being one who needed to connect. She was avidly interested in ancient history and pursued this and other interests at the local library.
Mary: How neat that your dad told nightly stories. I wonder if you inherited your wonderful imagination from him. It sounds like your mother was a very good role model too.
Peggy: My parents were not very social people as a couple though they had a number of friends from their university life. I never had any idea of my parents as social people until we moved to Southern California when I was 16 and we were suddenly part of a close-knit core faculty of the new university campus.
Mary: Peggy, that must have been a special time for you, to see your parents in a different light and with different social opportunities Now, if you don't mind, let's go back in time again to our elementary school years. What kind of child were you in those days? Any memories to share?
Peggy: As an elementary school youngster I was shy and somewhat afraid of the other kids. This may have been due to being one of the youngest kids in my grade. Everyone else seemed bigger and wiser than me. I seemed to have a chronic feeling of being an outsider and of having to make my own way socially with the other kids--I thought I would be so nice to have an older sibling or parents who where social to give me an entry into the community.
But I was not an outcast and related OK to other kids. I usually had just one or two close friends at a time. We were not in the "in" group nor were we in a rejected group either. Because the kids were very spread out in the area where we lived I had to make some effort to get together with other kids to play after school. I spent a fair amount of time entertaining myself, playing games filled with imaginary characters.
|Grandson Peter (nearly 8)|
taken when they were camping last summer
Mary: Ah, me too, Peggy. I could generally amuse myself quite well. What were your favorite subjects in school?
Peggy: I liked school in general and had no favorite subjects except art. I was good at art. I was also good at reading and liked to read when new kids' novels came along--which was not all that often. School subjects were not difficult for me, nor were they so easy as to bore me.
Mary: Anything else you'd like to share about your early school years?
Peggy: I had a basic don't rock the boat way of dealing with most of the kids at school. I did not like being the center of attention and most of all just wanted to blend in and be "normal." I wanted to be one of the group. This became especially intense for me after I was diagnosed with Type I diabetes in fifth grade. I really hated having any attention drawn to this and did my best to keep its presence invisible to others. It took me a long time to get over this need to have others not know about my diabetes--I just wanted to be on a level playing field with everyone else and I thought diabetes would make me somehow less than others. I became good at living my life without letting it show.
Mary: I can imagine that being diagnosed with diabetes was hard for you, as no one child wants to be different. Still today, Peggy, you are good at living life without letting it show much. When I am with you, it would be pretty easy to forget you have it. Is there anything else about your childhood that you would like to share?
Peggy: One of the things that was perhaps unusual in my childhood was the traveling I did with my parents. When I was about 7 we spent three or four months driving around Europe and I came back to second grade a little late. We also traveled half a year when I was about 13 and spent some time in Japan briefly attending a US military school there. We continued through Southeast Asia, India, the Middle East and Europe, ending up staying a month or so in the Washington DC area. I returned about the middle of my 8th grade year. These experiences enriched me a lot and I remember a surprising amount from both the trips. However, the break from the other kids at school made it difficult for me to feel like I fit in when I got back.
Mary: Yes, it would be hard to get back into school, I think, after having had all those experiences; especially since few others of your age probably could identify or understand. You had such vast experiences compared to most of the children your age. What about high school for you, Peggy?
Peggy: High school was socially an agonized period of my life because I felt so totally awkward about dealing with boys. I had girl friends, usually one or two close friends at a time. But I was endlessly awkward even with girl friends. it is not a period I like to think back on even. We moved from Northern to Southern California between my sophomore and junior years in high school and I was happy to have a chance to start over and perhaps not be so awkward.
Their wonderful dog, Belle,
who they adopted last March
My happiest year was probably my senior year when I had two close friends, who I still see about once a year. I was finally developing some degree of social confidence. I was able to branch out and try new things like body surfing at the beach. My friends and I did have lots of fun times together but we all remained serious students.
Mary: Did you have some favorite subjects in high school, or subjects you excelled in?
Peggy: I was not especially good at any particular thing in high school though I generally did well in all the academic things and was in the advanced program of English and social studies when we moved to Southern California. I liked this because it seemed to me that these kids all valued doing well in school. High school was when I discovered I liked math--geometry and conceptual math seemed magical. Math played a big part in my university and early work life I must have been able to write well as the school entered me in a writing contest. Funny no one ever told me I was good at writing though. I did win second place in the area wide competition.
Mary: That is wonderful, Peggy. It was a sign!!! Did you have any career goals when you were in high school, Peggy?
Peggy: I had no idea what I wanted to do as a career. Going to college was something that was expected in our family and I really did not look much beyond that.
Mary: What about your university years?
Peggy: I was a freshman to opening year of the new University of California campus at Irvine, where my father was a dean. My years at the university were key years for me and probably most influential in determining the person I am. It was a time to start over again socially (a kind of theme in my life I guess), to practice not being shy, to step up and be a part of organizing this new school, to reach out and meet new people. I actually set out to do this and in many ways accomplished it. Everyone was excited to be part of something new. I still had no idea what I wanted to do as a career. I loved being a student and could have seen myself going on as a student for years and years.
Mary: I hear you on this, Peggy. Truly I do. Were you one of those 'wild' California girls we Wisconsinites always heard about?
Peggy: Hey, we thought Wisconsin (Madison) a pretty wild place too. Although I tried a few wild things here and there in those university years I never went far astray. I was involved with my future husband Steve from my sophomore year on. He was a resident assistant at the dorms and one who preferred to follow the rules, even though the rules in those years had gotten pretty loose. We had many friends and I felt more connected to other people and the community of students than I ever had before or since. It was a time of my life I like to look back on.
Mary: What were your majors? What did you get your degrees in?
Peggy: In my typical effort to avoid decision-making I kept my major as undecided as long as I could--two years I think. But I had decided on social science as a general area since you had to take those required core courses (and start your three years of soc sci math) the first year. I finally settled on psychology. My master's degree is in social ecology, a kind of applied social science. My thesis was on genetic counseling that involved a long interview with about 40 mothers of preschoolers on how they would respond to a variety of results of genetic testing as well as measurements of some of their other attitudes. Then there was a lot of statistical work on how the results related to various attitudes about other things.
Mary: Lets move on to your work life. Tell me about it.
Peggy: I worked at a few research jobs at the university when my kids were young and taught classes for a counseling group for a while. But I eventually found the career I loved writing for a newspaper. I did that for about 16 years and retired in 2006. I wrote nearly every kind of story for our community newspaper but mostly feature stories.
Mary: Thinking of your work at the newspaper and also your well known father's work, you must have met some famous people. Have you?
Peggy: Depends what you mean by "met." I have shaken many a famous hand over the years. A couple of my parents' friends won Nobel Prizes (like the man who discovered the ozone hole over Antarctica and started that whole thing). Many of their friends were well-known in their fields. All these people seemed very much like just friends of my parents or people I knew and it was not until much later in my life that I realized they were probably some "famous people" among them.
I know many locally well-known people and have met people from all over the world who had been famous in their own ways. But what I have learned from it is that we are all just basically people with our strengths and weaknesses, hopes and fears.
I interviewed a number of well-known authors--Elizabeth George, James Patterson, Leon Uris, Herman Wok and some others. Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary-- I interviewed in the early 2000s as he had started a program on respect and visited a local school.
I had kind of hand-shaking experiences with Colin Powell, both presidents Bush, Ronald Reagan, Arnold Swartzenager, Jerry Brown, Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Benjamin Netenyahu, Shimon Peres, basketball player Shaquille O'Neal. But I am sure not a one would remember me!
Mary: Here's a question of a different kind . I'm wondering what chronological age do you identify with.
Peggy: Probably my 50s. I liked my 50s decade and my life during that time. I was working at the paper, was busy and felt connected to my community. I guess I liked the person I grew to be after I started working for the paper. Also I really liked being paid to do writing .
Mary: What makes you most happy in life, Peggy?
Peggy: Many things make me happy. I am basically a content person and my usual approach to life has long been to look for the best in things and ignore what I cannot change. I am often perfectly happy sitting on my own with my computer . I am happy gardening and even just looking at my flowers and koi pond or going for a hike on a beautiful day. Being with family makes me happy--and that includes my extended family, Steve and my kids, our son's wife and our daughter's son.I also have a brother who is 2 years younger and a sister who is 8 years younger. I am also very happy when I am with friends. Oh and my pets have always made me happy--cats before Steve became ultra allergic to them and dogs. Writing makes me happy and being creative in other ways like oil painting and knitting and taking photos. I enjoy travel once we are on the trip. I am particularly happy when I feel I have made someone else happy.
|Daughter Anna, Peggy, Bryan, husband Steve|
at Bryan's wedding last year
Mary: You have traveled so much, both with your parents and with Steve. I know your last major trip was Antarctica. I am wondering where would YOU like to travel to next?
Peggy: I would like to go to almost any place I have not been. Some other places in South America and Central America appeal to me most right now—Peru, Costa Rica, the Galapagos Islands.
Mary: I have no doubt you will eventually get to see these places, Peggy. Only a few more questions, Peggy. What do YOU see as your greatest gift?
Peggy: The gift of being able to understand how people and things work. Being able to analyze things and express what I see clearly.
Mary: You definitely are good at that, Peggy. Your mind is amazing. Do you have any heroes (individuals or groups) in today's world?
Peggy: I am somewhat of a cynic and I cannot think of anyone or any group I see as heroes. We are all human and each of us has strengths and weaknesses. There is a lot of chance in life and how we respond to life's challenges.
Mary: Yes, for sure there is so much chance to life. You have gotten somewhat involved in the blogosphere. I am wondering what you think about the blogosphere and also what your goals are in regard to your own writing.
Peggy: I love the blogosphere. Discovering the world of blog poetry has given me a whole new dimension and right now developing my blog and even perhaps putting together some sub-blogs are my main writing goals. To me, this is the future of publishing. It is where all my writing efforts are focused at the moment.
Mary: Yes, Peggy, it definitely has a way of expanding one's writing horizons How about causes? Do you have any that are dear to your heart?
Peggy: Peace and justice in the world. Currently I am on the board of Women For:Orange County that works for peace, justice, education and healthcare for all, the environment.
Mary: Peggy, what are your beliefs about life after death?
Peggy: My only belief is that it is undoubtedly something so out of our experience that we cannot possibly imagine it, that creation is so much wider than we can experience and imagine that we cannot even guess. My best hope is that each person could create his or her own life after death experience by what they want to happen.
Mary: Sounds like you have put some thought into this, Peggy. It would be nice if each person could create the life after death experience they wanted for sure. I guess we'll see; and I hope you are right.
Mary: At the end of your life, how would you like to be remembered?
Peggy: I hope people will remember me as being caring. I would also like them to think of me as being a talented writer always willing to try something new, excited about possibilities
Mary: I am sure they will, Peggy! Thank you so much for this wonderful interview. For me it has been a pleasure. Now perhaps we should just spend some time looking out the window here at Big Bear as we drink another cup of coffee!
This was the setting of the interview!