Saturday, February 20, 2010

"Standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona ---"

It has been two long days of driving for these old folks - 650 miles each day. Started off this morning driving in dense fog. By the time we got to New Mexico, that had lifted some. Finally burned off and we drove in some sunshine before hitting snow showers in AZ. Not the forecast 6-10 inches of snow. Thank goodness.
Saw several herds of antelope. Only other wildlife was huge ravens. Didn't mention the baby calves we saw in TX yesterday. They were so cute as only baby calves can be. One little white faced black one romping and kicking up his heels.
Now I'm whirlpooled, showered and relaxed. Went to sleep too early last night and woke up at 5:30. Going to try to stay awake later tonite but doubt that happens.
We'll be at Lorrie & Kevin's by tomorrow afternoon. Hope they'll understand when all I want to do is mellow out.

Friday, February 19, 2010

"Amarillo by Morning....."

We got out of town early enough this morning - 7:30. There was some very light moisture in the air. I wanted to drive first because it looked like we might be in freezing rain by Maryville. Ha! I was driving in snow by the time we got to Clearfield. On Hwy 2 east of Bedford it was almost a white out. From Maryville to St. Joe we were in and out of snow. After St. Joe it was mostly heavy rain all the way past Topeka. Once we made it to Oklahoma it was mostly dry but cloudy. We didn't see sunshine until western OK. Yay! Sunshine.
We have stopped for the night in Shamrock TX, so we should definitely see Amarillo in the morning. The plan is to stay on I-40 until Flagstaff then head south to Phoenix. Tonight's weather channel tells us Flagstaff is to get 6-10 inches of snow. I thought we were leaving that behind!
In the meantime, Kari is talking about gardening this weekend in Portland. No wonder. They just showed the temp there and it is 55. Maybe we should have headed NW instead of SW? Should we duck south at Albuquerque tomorrow or stay on 40 to Flagstaff? Stay tuned.
Good news is that Shamrock now has some nice new hotels to choose from instead of the very old one when we were here last time.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

"Your Happiness Lies Within"

I remember my Mom telling me, "Your happiness lies within you" when I was only twenty years old. I thought I understood what she was saying, but I didn't know how to get there. I was still relying on outside things to make me happy - more money, the right man, a new car, a different job. I had yet to learn what contentment was.
Perhaps age has something to do with being happy. We want so much when we are younger. When we are older, we want/need less. This was proven to me when I purged at least three-fourths of my 'stuff' before moving to Creston. I am so much happier without that baggage. I love having cupboards and closets that still have room. I did not/do not need five sets of dishes and every item of clothing I had bought in the last 25 years.
There is an expression about "finding your inner child" which has some truth to it. I have discovered that some of what makes me feel happy today are the same things that I enjoyed in childhood. I distinctly remember a time in my late 30's when I was at Mom's, possibly when we were doing the chores when her hand was hurt. I had started the pump to fill the tank and went out to check on it. It was early morning, there was a light rain falling. The tank wasn't quite full so I stood there watching and waiting for it to fill. I was absolutely overcome with a feeling of such immense joy just standing there in the rain. I could trace it back to playing in the rain as a child.
Our middle years are so crammed with work and responsibility it is hard to carve out time for oneself. Which is probably why it is easier to be happy as we age - we have time for ourselves. For me, being outside in nature brings the most contentment.
I hope all of you can find your own "happiness from within".

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Twins


This has always been my favourite picture of my brother Ron, his wife, Ruthie and their twins when they were babies. Andrew is on the left, Lorrie on the right. This was taken in the east pasture of our home farm almost 36 years ago. We were all so happy when these two little ones joined the family.
Lorrie grew up, got married and had twins of her own. This picture of Aiden and Erick with Great Grandma Ruth was taken in November of 2003 shortly before Mom died.
It has been quite awhile since I've seen Aiden & Erick and their little brother Carston. That is going to be remedied soon as we are going to spend a couple of days with them in AZ next week. I can hardly wait. Sunshine and 70's and family - a winning combination.
I don't know what the odds are of a twin having twins. I've heard that twins run in families. The only ones I know of in our family were on Dad's side. His maternal uncle and wife had twins as did the daughter of another of Dad's maternal uncles and wife.
I remember how OLD my great aunts seemed to me when I was a kid. I wonder if Aiden & Erick & Carston will see me that way.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

B & R Painting Plus

When Kari, Preston and I moved back to West Des Moines in August, 1984, it was a very scary deal. I rented an apartment at Normandy Terrace on the phone. I had very little money saved and no job. We borrowed a pickup and horse trailer to move all our earthly goods. Well, almost all. We stored some things in Mom's corn crib and she agreed to keep our dog for us.
The kids started school and I started job hunting. I finally got a position as secretary/bookkeeper for a small printing company. The pay was only $200 a week - hardly enough to pay our apartment rent. It was obvious I was going to have to find a higher paying job or another part-time job.
After awhile I got acquainted with the other employees. One of the guys worked on weekends painting for a man who owned several office buildings. I finally asked Chuck if he could get me a job painting, too. I told him I had done a lot of painting, papering, cleaning, etc. where I came from. Luckily, Alan Z. said he would give me a trial so the next weekend I met Chuck at the building Mr. Z was currently updating. He had just purchased twin office buildings on Linden St. near downtown.
I had always considered myself a very neat painter - not a perfectionist - but nearly so. I had no idea what perfection was until I painted for Alan Z. He would come in in the morning, tell us what he wanted done and leave us to do it. Later he would come back and check our work. There could not be so much as a drop of paint on the woodwork or a run in the paint on the wall. But the pay was good.
When Bud moved to WDM to live with us, (25 years ago tomorrow) he found some temporary work through Manpower, but nothing full time. So he started painting with Chuck & me on weekends. By then Mr. Z had bought a large building in Highland Park. We met him there on Saturday morning. He came in and said, "Now boys and girls, here's what we're going to do." "WE??"
Eventually I found a better accounting job at Wright Tree Service. And with Bud working and helping pay the rent, things weren't so tight. At some point we gave up working for Alan and started our own company: "B & R Painting Plus".
There's a house at 22nd & Ashworth in which we painted every room. I still remember taking wallpaper off the walls so we could paint. What a job!
I think the last official job B & R did was wall papering a kitchen in one of the Normandy Terrace apartments. What should have been an easy three or four hour job took all day. The paper the woman chose had a pattern of squares which I was determined to make match up perfectly (even though she told me I didn't have to).
Since then I've only painted and papered for myself or family or friends. Whenever I do, I am reminded the next day that it's a young person's game. I'm going to tackle the guest bedroom this spring. But I'm taking my own sweet time doing it.

Monday, February 15, 2010

My Fair Haired Boy

"Oh my fair-haired boy, no more I'll see you walk the meadows green;

Or hear your song run through the fields like yon mountain stream.

Your ship waits on the western shore to bear you o'er from me;

But wait I will till Heaven's door-my fair-haired boy to see." (From a song set in the 19th century during the Irish famine telling the sorrow of parting.)

Preston was my fair-haired boy though he was born with coal-black hair. Among the black was a spot of silver the size of a half-dollar. When his hair grew back after he lost his baby hair, it was the most amazing golden blonde. (I can't find the picture I want showing this. On the right above he is learning to walk at age one with the help of Kari & Doug. On the left he is standing behind me on the porch at Tuck Corner when he was seven.)

I was reminded of Preston's hair while watching the Ellen Degeneres show last week. She has a segment where she shows embarrassing pictures from childhood alongside what the people look like now. One of the pictures was of a man when he was two or three years old. He had three older brothers and his mom wanted a girl when he was born. She let his hair grow long, put him in a dress and had his picture taken.

I am guilty of doing something similar - although not for that reason. I did it for $$$ and because of being a 'stage mom'.

I was working at Thomas Wolffe & Assoc. Advertising Agency when Preston was a baby. Tom was filming a tv spot for the Iowa Bankers Assoc. They wanted to represent a young family with a baby just learning to walk. They wanted a little girl but hadn't found the right toddler.

In addition to being golden, Preston's hair was also curly. It was so pretty. I just couldn't bear having it cut. He was a little over a year old and just beginning to take his first steps. Perfect for the tv ad, but, alas, a boy. Hold on. I still had his older sister's clothes.

Yes, in my little boy's first tv commercial he is wearing a red velvet dress which perfectly highlights his lustrous blonde curls. If we had a clip of that commercial, we could see him toddling toward his 'parents' - taking his, oops, her first steps.

Fortunately Preston was too young to remember any of this. The only pictures I had were slides and since we didn't have a projector, he never saw them. i.e. I didn't damage him for life. (I hope!)

My fair haired boy has grown up to be a son any mother would be proud of. He has always had a tender heart. When he was little any news stories of people suffering affected him deeply. (There is a German word for this: Weltschmerz-- sadness over the evils of the world.) He may try to hide it, but a mother knows the true heart of her children.
Preston always loved being outdoors. I suspect that even though he is not a hunter - an outdoorsman - he still feels most connected when he is in a field or the woods or walking along the shore.
My baby is helping raise five of his own. His first born is graduating high school this year. As Ki goes out into the world, I know Preston will be remembering his own first year of college - the excitement and the fears. He wasn't able to go right through college in four years, but he set a good example by going back years later to get his associate degree and then his bachelor's. That couldn't have been easy. I don't think I ever told him how proud I am of him for doing that.

Oh, my fair-haired boy, how glad I am to see you walk the meadows green.....

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Still The One

"You're still the one that makes me laugh --
Still the one -- that's my better half; We're still having fun -- And you're still the one. You're still the one that makes me strong -- Still that one that I want to take along -- We're still having fun, And you're still the one..."

Happy St. Valentine's Day Everyone.

Bud gave me the lovely roses a week ago and they are still gorgeous. This morning he gave me the card - even after we said, "No Cards!" Lovely sentiments outside and inside the card, but the most meaningful are in his handwriting: "You're still the one."

So now I'm waiting until he gets home to see the snow heart. The message that goes with it: "Be Mine. Nothing more. Nothing Less." It was the best I could do on such short notice - that and the bag of chocolate hearts candy I gave him last night.

Wednesday will mark the 25th anniversary of our being together. In November we will celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. He's already promised my choice of a cruise or a trip to Cancun. (How lucky can one woman be?) In the meantime, we are finally going to get out of this snow and cold for awhile with a trip to the SW.

"I looked at your face everyday
But I never saw it 'til I went away
When winter came, I just wanted to go
Deep in the desert, I longed for the snow..."

Changing, our love is going gold,

Even though we grow old, it is new --

You're still the one" (Orleans)

I don't think we will be longing for the snow when we get to the desert next week. I think we will be enjoying the sun and warm weather and being together on yet another of our road trips.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Reasons Why


These were two of the reasons why I didn't blog yesterday. We spent the day in West Des Moines. Anytime we venture into the city we try to make the trip count. Now that we have a new baby in the family, seeing him always goes to the top of the list.
Rodney will be three months old Monday. Now that he has all his surgeries behind him (no pun intended), he is thriving. And such a sweet little guy he is. Even though you will note that in this picture he is giving grandma the bird!
Which segues into one of the other highlights of the trip - buying "The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie" by Alan Bradley. (That's a picture of a dead bird on the cover.) Kari highly recommended this book to me and after reading her review of it on www.bookishdark.com I could hardly wait to get my own copy.
Whenever we go to Des Moines, Bud invariably comments: "Well that was a successful trip." Which usually translates to: "We spent a lot of money." He did get a new toy at Best Buy and I did come home with some things in a Kohl's bag.
Finally the third reason for going yesterday was our appointment with the CPA to have our taxes done. It looks like we are not going to have another big tax bill and that next year things will be so normal that I can go back to doing our own returns as I have for years. Good. Not that I don't like seeing Brian again, just that I don't like paying for someone to do what I've always done for myself.
It was a longer than usual day for us old folks. We arrived home a little after five. I didn't even have to worry about dinner thanks to Brad and a large lunch at Perkins. But I did agonize about blogging. I haven't missed a day since January 1 and a New Year's Resolution. I did not realize how freeing a day missed would be.
There have been days when I came up empty with blog ideas. (You could probably tell.) There have been days when I didn't feel like blogging. (You could probably tell.) And there have been days when I just didn't want to blog but felt like I had to. (I could tell.) Missing a day finally gave myself permission to: miss a day.
If I really did need a reason why, having grandma time with little Rodney was the best reason imaginable.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Playing Alone

I just finished reading an article "Teaching Your Children To Play Alone." It was full of ways for a parent to induce children to do something by themselves so the parent could have some "alone time".
I wonder if that is the same thing Mom was doing when she used to say, "Go outside and run around the house and let the stink blow off."
I don't think her problem was getting us to play by ourselves; I think it was getting us to help her with the work.
The article listed ideas for different ages. Of course we didn't have a lot of toys when I was a kid. One of the things I remember doing at a young age was stringing empty thread spools on a shoe string. That was when thread came on wooden spools. Another variation when we were a little older was stringing buttons. Mom or one of the grandmas would give us her button jar and a threaded needle. We would string buttons until the jar was empty - sometimes unstringing them and starting over.
Playing dress up was another fun activity. I have Mom's picture of Betty and me and our four Roberts cousins all dressed up. Aunt Evelyn must have taken a picture of us too because Glenna asked me not long ago where my Mom got all the hats, as Mom wasn't much of a hat wearer.
I remember using our allowance at the dime store to buy paper umbrellas, paper fans and birthstone rings. I think the fans were five cents and the umbrellas and rings were ten cents each. Of course the paper accessories soon got torn and the rings got lost, but they added to the dressing up.
Do kids still make mud pies? Betty and I could spend hours baking our mud pies and decorating them with leaves or flowers. Coffee can lids made good pans because they were shallow and the pies baked fast. We also used jar lids for smaller, but deeper pies. Hay making time was a good time to make mud pies. The dirt in the barnyard was as fine as sifted flour where the hay sledges were pulled up under the hay mow for unloading.
Even though I had a little sister and sometimes an older brother to play with, there were still times when I strayed off into my own little world. It might be out to the barn to play with the kittens or just putzing around the farm making up stories in my mind. And maybe that was the key to learning to play alone - we were allowed to.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

"The Old Gray Mare....

She ain't what she used to be." Substitute 'little silver car' for 'old gray mare'. It was an interesting morning.
It has been at least two weeks since I drove my car. It sets outside in the neighbor's carport so we always take the garaged car. (Bud's Honda) I had an appointment this morning so before Bud left to go to Corning to see his Mom, I went over to make sure my car started. It did. I set the emergency brake to leave it running for a while to warm up.
When Bud left, I moved my car into the garage until time for me to leave. I had a heckuva time getting it out of the carport. I thought it was just spinning on the snow and ice even though I never have had a problem with it going in the snow. But there have been other times when it hasn't been driven for awhile that it takes a try or two to get it to reverse.
By the time I was halfway uptown I knew I had a brake dragging. But I made it to my appointment and I made it back home. The problem occurred when I pulled crossways on the street to back into the carport. I couldn't go forward or reverse. A neighbor tried to help push the car. Even that didn't work.
Luckily Bud got home before I had given up and called a tow truck. I told him the rear brakes were locked. He thought the emergency brake probably froze on when I set it, so tried to disconnect the cable. Then he realized only one rear tire wasn't moving. He got a hammer, took off the hubcap and banged on the brake drum a few times. That was all it took. I backed into the car port and he put the hubcap back on.
It's nice to be married to someone who can fix anything. He says, "All you need is a hammer and duct tape". I really need to get a different car though, even if duct tape does match the color of mine.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Kate and Rufe's Kids


My great grandparents, Lydia Katherine (Kate) Mauderly and Rufus (none) Ridnour were the parents of four children. The sober looking one in the middle above was my grandfather, Joseph Rufus Ridnour. He was born June 11, 1896.
Grandpa had a younger brother, Freddie who died as a child. I know he is buried in the Nodaway Cemetery, but his little headstone only has his name - no birth and death dates. But judging by the ages of my great aunts, I believe Freddie was the second son born, after Grandpa Joe.
Florence Mae, on the left, was born July 3, 1899. Lottie, right, was the baby, born in 1901.
There is no date on this picture, but I would guess the ages around 16, 13 and 11. I am enthralled by the girls' hairdos and bows. I'm also noticing their lockets and wondering if any of their descendants still have them? And all three look well-dressed. They are very attractive young people. What were they thinking as their likenesses were captured?
I knew my aunt Florence better than Aunt Lottie. She was married to Thomas Haley. They had nine children. Aunt Florence and Uncle Tom and Grandpa Joe and Grandma Delphia were closer than Grandpa & Grandma were with Aunt Lottie and Uncle Guy. Which meant my Mom and her sisters were closer to their Haley cousins. It might have been because the two families lived nearer to one another, but I think it was more than that.
Aunt Lottie married Guy Inman. I don't know how or why he came to Iowa. His family lived in Oklahoma. He was one-quarter Cherokee. That always fascinated me when I was young. I remember Aunt Lottie got rather reclusive in later years. We would see her in town occasionally. But Uncle Guy was very outgoing. We would meet him on the street in town and he would always stop and talk. I wish I had a picture of him. He had those dark eyes and high cheekbones. I always liked him. There was something about him which escapes me now - whistling? a pipe? a cigar? riddles? His hat?- some little thing that marked him as Uncle Guy to a young child.
Aunt Lottie and Uncle Guy had five children. Macy died when she was six years old in August, 1939. Their son, Ray, died at age 18 in April, 1940. I think Macy had appendicitis and Ray was kicked by a mule. To lose two children in less than nine months is unimaginable. I grew up knowing only their three other children: Leona, Lola and Cleo. Cleo is several years older than I am. I remember when she finished 8th grade she did not want to go to highschool. For some reason (probably fear), I did not want to go to highschool when I graduated 8th grade. I told Mom I wanted to be like Cleo. Thankfully she didn't listen.
There are only four children still living of the 17 born to these three: Aunt Florence's daughters, Darlene Haley Palmer and Doris Haley Pashek and Aunt Lottie's two girls, Leona Inman Kirkman Veatch and Cleo Inman McCuen. I can't even guess how many hundreds of descendants there are now.
Grandpa Joe and Grandma Delphia only had three girls, Evelyn Roberts, Ruth Lynam and Lois Mitchell. Aunt Evelyn and Aunt Lois each had six children; Mom had four; sixteen granchildren. How many of us carry on these Mauderly/Ridnour traits? The brown eyes? The shape of a nose or mouth? Mom used to say her youngest, my brother, Les, looked like her Dad. I don't see it so much in this picture as I do in some when Grandpa Joe was older.
I got the brown eyes. I was lucky.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Virgin Islands


To say I am a bit jealous of my son Doug and my brother Les is more than an understatement. Both of them will be in the Virgin Islands a week from now.
Doug & Shelly are flying into St. Thomas where they have reserved a sailboat to spend four days sailing. Les & bride, Susan, will be on a honeymoon cruise. One of their stops is on St. Thomas.
It was 42 years ago this month that I spent 10 days sailing in those same blue waters. The Annaberg sugar mill ruins on St. John (pictured above) was one spot I remember liking. Caneel Bay was where we anchored to explore the 2/3's national park island of St. John.
Tortola, the largest of the British Virgin Islands was another stop. There I remember lunch on the patio of little bar and drinking my first Heineken beer (and approipriating a Heineken ashtray to bring home as a souvenir).
My favourite British Virgin Isle was Virgin Gorda where I explored The Baths. It was so cool to wade into the pools surrounded by giant boulders, to swim across areas too deep to wade, to wend my way further along the watery paths. Yellow is not my best color, but I still remember the yellow swimsuit I wore that day. (As with some of my other trips, I would like to go back to see how well the memories hold up to present reality.)
Christiansted, St. Croix was an evening stop. After a marvelous dinner of fresh seafood and conversing with a Danish tourist, I remember visiting a very old church where the only lighting was candles; impressive.
What I remember most about Charlotte Amelie, St. Thomas was the shopping (duty free), the steel drums, and a picnic at Mountain Top. It was where I first had Mateus Rose' wine which was to become a favourite of mine. On the beaches of St. Thomas was also where I had the absolute best Pina Coladas ever.
Oh, yeah. After today's continued snow, wind and cold, I am very jealous of my son and brother and their spouses. But I am also extremely happy for them - to get away to those incredible blue waters for a few days will be heavenly.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

"I Think That I Shall Never See.....


A poem as lovely as a tree" Joyce Kilmer
I think I love trees and poetry equally. The love of trees came first. Our Jasper #2 school yard was graced with many trees. Many of us had our own special tree we ran to at recess. More than one of us claimed the big old maple tree in the NW corner which meant if I wanted one to call my own I had to choose another.
When Dad planted two small maples in our front yard, the south one was mine, the north one was Betty's.
Over the years I've had many special trees including my Three Pines at the south end of the grove on the acreage NW of DM where we lived nine years.
At "The Little House" I was especially attracted to a grove of oaks on the hill across the creek on the farm south of us. I could feel magic there.
Ancient Celts believed different trees held special powers or served as homes for the faeries. The English word Druid derives in part from Celtic 'Dru' or oak. Maybe my Irish heritage accounts for some of my love of trees.
A passage from Muriel Barbery's "The Elegance of the Hedgehog" says it beautifully: "After I'd had a chance to think about it for a while I began to understand why I felt this sudden joy when Kakuro was talking about the birch trees. I get the same feeling when anyone talks about trees, any trees: the linden tree in the farmyard, the oak behind the old barn, the stately elms that have all disappeared now, the pine trees along wind-swept coasts, etc. There's so much humanity in a love of trees, so much nostalgia for our first sense of wonder, so much power in just feeling our own insignificance when we are surrounded by nature...yes, that's it: just thinking about trees and their indifferent majesty and our love for them teaches us how ridiculous we are--vile parasites squirming on the surface of the earth--and at the same time how deserving of life we can be, when we can honor this beauty that owes us nothing. I suddenly felt my spirit expand, for I was capable of grasping the utter beauty of the trees."
And from the Song of Wandering Aengus by W.B. Yeats: "I went out to the hazel wood, Because a fire was in my head, And cut and peeled a hazel wand, And hooked a berry to a thread; And when white moths were on the wing, And moth-like stars were flickering out, I dropped the berry in a stream, And caught a little silver trout......"
I love trees.
(The picture is one I took in NE Iowa last fall.)

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Perfumes I Have Known


I can still remember how excited I was the first time I received 'perfume' for xmas at Grandma Ridnour's. I was eight or nine and the eau de toilette was 'Apple Blossom'. The little bottles of toilet water (as we called it) came in two fragrances. I think the other one was lilac, but Apple Blossom was my favourite. I felt so grown up when we got ready to go anywhere and I had my own perfume to put on.
By the time I started high school I had graduated to 'Blue Waltz' and 'Ben Hur'. I wanted to wear 'Evening In Paris' just because of the name, but it was more expensive. Then I was able to smell it and didn't like the odor even if I could have afforded it.
Avon fragrances were what I wore in my 20's - 'Somewhere' and 'Topaze' were two I liked. When I received a bottle of Coty's 'Imprevu' as a xmas gift, I thought I'd hit the big time as far as perfumes went. Houbigant's 'Chantilly' was my favourite throughout my 30's. I also liked 'Coty Musk Oil'.
When I was 37 I made a mis-step into the more expensive perfumes - I bought a set of Worth's 'Je Reviens' strictly because of its name, translated to "I Will Return". I could not wear it. Many perfumes affect me that way. I try them on my wrist at the perfume counter then have to locate a restroom so I can wash them off.
By the time I was in my 40's and the kids were mostly raised and I had a little more money to spend on myself, I was finally able to purchase what I thought of as "good" perfumes. 'Liz' by Liz Claiborne was what I wore for a long time - and Calvin Klein's 'Obsession'. I would wear 'Liz' during the day and 'Obsession' at night.
In my 50's & 60's I moved on to Clinique's 'Happy' and 'Aromatics Elixir'. I wore Estee Lauder's 'Pleasures' for awhile, but am now on my second bottle of her Eau de Parfum Spray 'Pleasures Delight'.
I know how a person spends money says something about them. I feel so much "richer" wearing an expensive perfume than I ever would wearing a designer dress. i.e., I will spend money on scents but not on clothes. What does that say about me? And what of my choices in scents? What stories do they tell through the years?

Friday, February 5, 2010

Black History Month

Celebrating Black History Month has made me think about my own experiences with Negroes - which was the polite term when I was growing up. More often I heard the other N word used. In grade school of course we learned about the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation; Harriet Beecher Stowe's, "Uncle Tom's Cabin", the Dred Scott Decision and George Washington Carver . By the time I was in high school we were living with desegregation of schools and civil rights stories in the news on a daily basis.
I vaguely remember when Corning had one or two black families in residence. The first time I remember meeting and talking with an African-American was when we went to visit Grandpa Ridnour when he was in the hospital in Omaha in 1956. One of the cleaning women was a cheerful, loquacious extrovert who brightened his days. She called everyone "honey", including Grandpa - even when Grandma was in the room.
When I was in highschool, I went to a MYF (Methodist Youth Fellowship) picnic with my friend Donna. It had been arranged to meet with a group of Black MYFers from Des Moines in the Winterset City Park.
Growing up I remember hearing stories about Ku Klux Klan activities around Corning in the 1920's which I always dismissed. But looking back in online Free Press archives, I find that those stories were true.
I also heard Bedford and Villisca referred to as "Sundown Towns". When I understood the meaning - that no Black person should be in their towns after sundown - I felt kind of proud that Corning wasn't a Sundown Town. Villisca especially was inhospitable to Blacks because for a time it was rumored that a Black man was responsible for the ax murders of eight people in 1912.
What I wasn't aware of was that Black History Month began in 1926 as Negro History Week. It was changed to BHM in 1976. Carter G. Woodson, an educator and historian chose the second week in February because of Abraham Lincoln's and Frederick Douglass' birthdays occurred then.
I've seen many changes during my lifetime in the way African-Americans have been treated. I'm proud to have voted for this country's first African-American president.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Mentalist


I have been know to agree with the statement: "Television has been the ruination of this country." Certainly it has been a major factor in changing almost everyone's life since the 1950's.
As Mom aged she watched more Iowa Public Television than anything else. As she said, "There's nothing worth watching on the other channels." (ABC, CBS & NBC - she didn't have cable.)
I'm finding as I age, I agree even though we have Direct TV and get umpteen channels, I'd rather watch IPT or read.
There are a few exceptions and tonight is one of them - I have watched "Bones" from the beginning and finally got Bud to watch it. And we have both watched "The Mentalist" from the time of its debut in September, 2008. We love Patrick Jane's (Simon Baker) power of observation which enables him to solve the 'who dunnits'.
Smart, insightful, observant protagonists are also the reasons I watch "House", "Monk" (sadly, no more), "Law & Order" and, used to watch, the original "CSI" (until Wm Petersen left).
One of the reasons I have given up on network tv is that too many times I have begun watching a series, gotten invested in the characters and story line, only to have it canceled. I'd rather not watch at all than to be left in the lurch. "Vengeance Unlimited" with Michael Madsen was such a program. (1998-99 season) I loved the way Mr. Chapel used people he had helped in the past to carry out intricate scams to help his current deserving client and ultimately best the bad guys.
Solving crimes using the powers of observation are nothing new. Arthur Conan Doyle's "Sherlock Holmes" is the most famous for doing so. When I think of Sherlock, I see Jeremy Brett who played the master detective on tv for ten years. (Bud's first thought is Basil Rathbone.) We recently saw the Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law movie version of Sherlock Holmes and both enjoyed it.
I doubt Simon Baker's 'Mentalist' will last ten years as Jeremy Brett's 'Sherlock' did. I'm hopeful it will be on for another year or two at least. If not, Laurie R. King is still writing her "Mary Russell" books, so I have those to look forward to.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

"Grandma's Chocolate Cake"


There was always dessert in our house. Dad had a sweet tooth and Mom loved to bake. Her cakes were made from scratch. She might start with a basic recipe then add her own touches. She listened to KMA every morning and wrote down Florence Falk's Recipe of the Day. Even when she lived alone she always baked cookies to have on hand if someone stopped in.
When it was our birthday, we got to choose what kind of cake we wanted. Ronald always wanted chocolate. Betty liked chocolate, too, but would also choose other flavors. I NEVER chose chocolate. I did not care for chocolate. I would choose white or yellow or butterscotch or spice; anything but chocolate. I don't know what Leslie's favourite was - probably chocolate.
When the kids and I moved back to SW Iowa after Dad died in '78, we spent a lot of time at Mom's and at Grandma Ridnour's. Grandma was in her 80's then and still living alone on the farm. Anytime she needed help doing something we went to help if we could.
Where my Mom kept cookies on hand, Grandma kept chocolate cake on hand. Not just any chocolate cake - a very moist, flat chocolate cake. It was the only chocolate cake I ever ate that I truly liked. She made it because it was so fast and easy. She said she could make it, bake it and frost it in a half hour. Even though I did and still do call it "Grandma's Chocolate Cake", I never got her recipe for it.
By searching through some cookbooks and online I have found a recipe that I think is near to what she made. It is called "Texas Sheet Cake". Directions are: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease rectangular 13x9x2" baking pan. In large bowl mix together 2 C Sugar and 2 C Flour. In a saucepan, combine 1 Stick Margarine, 1 C Water, 1 C Oil and 4 T Cocoa. Bring to a boil and mix well. Pour over the flour/sugar mixture and mix well. To this batter, add 1/2 C Buttermilk, 1 tsp Baking Soda, 1 tsp Vanilla, 1 tsp Cinnamon and 2 Eggs. Mix well; pour into the pan and bake for 25 minutes. Remove cake from the oven and pour frosting on the cake immediately while the cake is still hot.
Frosting: In saucepan, combine 1 Stick Margarine and 6 T Milk. Heat gently until margarine is melted. Add 4 T Cocoa, 1 Box Confectioners Sugar, 1 tsp Vanilla and 1 C Chopped Nuts if desired.
I think Grandma sometimes substituted a cup of strong, cold coffee for the cup of water or perhaps half coffee and half water, which may be one of the reasons I liked her chocolate cake.
The first time Grandma offered this cake after we had done some little chore for her, I declined, politely stating that I didn't care for chocolate cake. If you remember Grandma, you can hear her commanding: "Oh, just try some!" After that, I always ate a piece of cake with her.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Groundhog Day Remembered


When I was a kid I couldn't remember which way the groundhog seeing his shadow went: six more weeks of winter if he did see his shadow or if he didn't? It took a long time for me to figure out that either way, we were going to have six more weeks of winter!
February 2nd brings two other memories for me, both from my days at Lariam Associates on 28th Street in Des Moines. I worked there as office manager of the recording studio plus I was still a member of PRSA from my days working in advertising and public relations. One thing you learn about Des Moines after living there awhile, you may think it is a city, but it's really just a larger version of a small town - especially in the field of media -- everyone knows everyone else. At least they did back then.
Someone, or a group of someones, in that field came up with the idea of celebrating Groundhog Day with a big party at Adventureland Inn. It was a fun evening. What I remember most about it was meeting Dic Youngs from KIOA. Of course I had listened to him for years - not sure if he was hosting his "Saturday Night Oldies" yet at that time and he probably wasn't referring to himself as "The Ole Youngster" as he did in later years. But he was still a 'Personality' and I was still impressed by meeting and talking to him.
Yes, Pooh Bear does have something to do with my other Groundhog Day memory - February 2, 1978. One of the writers at Love, Scott & Associates Advertising was a young guy by the name of Tim McGraw. (No, not THAT Tim McGraw!) Tim never went anywhere without his very own stuffed Winnie the Pooh Bear. The first time he came into the recording studio with that bear tucked inside his coat, I wondered about his level of maturity. But he acted like an adult. I decided that Pooh Bear was just a gimmick.
One day he came in without Winnie. While he was there he received a phone call from someone claiming he had Pooh and was demanding ransom. Such drama! That was the kind of stuff which made working there fun. (One of his co-workers had the bear which Tim eventually got back.)
Late in the afternoon of Groundhog Day, our sound man got the radio commercials for Love, Scott all ran off the duplicator ready to deliver. Their agency was on my way home from work, so I offered to drop them off. I called to let them know so someone would wait for me. Tim & Pooh were there. We talked for awhile then I said: "Want to go somewhere for a drink?" There was a little neighborhood bar in the same strip mall as their office. We went there.
One drink became several. We talked more than we ever had. There was a serious side to McGraw after all. By the time we left the bar and parted company, I was ready to know him even better. He, on the other hand, retreated to the safety of friendship, only.
A few months later I moved "back home" to SW Iowa. Tim & Pooh made the move to the Big Apple to try their luck. We wrote to one another a couple times a year for a while, then lost touch. Sometimes when Groundhog Day rolls around I am reminded of an old friend. I wonder if he still has his Winnie the Pooh. Or if Tim, like "The Ole Youngster" has departed this earth. (October 1, 2009)
"Sometimes, if you stand on the bottom rail of a bridge and lean over to watch the river slipping slowly away beneath you, you will suddenly know everything there is to be known." Winnie the Pooh
(Another significance of this day: It is exactly two months until sweet Alyssa's 21st birthday.)

Monday, February 1, 2010

My Son, The Builder


A few years ago I attended my first Inner Gardener workshop at The Wildwood Ranch near St. Charles, Iowa. (www.innergardener.com) I did not know any of the other attendees although I knew of one of the presenters, Debra Landwehr Engle. My daughter had worked for her as a research assistant one summer before starting college.
At the table where I sat for lunch the women continued getting acquainted with one another. I heard one woman talking about the house she and her husband were building on the edge of the Anita Country Club. Her last name was Miller. As she talked about their future retirement home, it suddenly clicked in my mind. "Do you know who your builder is?" I asked. She looked at me like well, duh? "Yes, our builder is Doug," she replied. And I said, "Yes, my son, Doug." Small world.
But perhaps not so small. I have lost track of the number of homes Doug has built. Pictured is an authentic New England Salt Box near Waukee. He has built starter homes in sub-divisions, log cabins, spec homes, mcmansions, custom homes (including an off the grid building in the woods near Macksburg) and his own family home on an acreage near Redfield. (The top picture is of him and my Mom standing in the Crow's Nest of the master bedroom overlooking the great room.)
In addition to the houses he has built, he has also remodeled many. Whenever possible, he has added his own artistic touches - like the Crow's Nest above and a copper roofed gazebo in Menlo. I marvel at his abilities and talent.
Doug seemed to know what he wanted to be from an early age. He graduated mid-term from highschool and enrolled in the Building Trades course at DMACC. He did not complete the course, but he did become a builder, learning by doing for nearly thirty years. My son, the builder.