Monday, May 31, 2010

Daddy's Little Girl

"You're the end of the rainbow, my pot of gold,
You're daddy's little girl to have and hold.
A precious gem is what you are,
You're mommy's bright and shining star."
Al Martino was one of my favourite singers. This was one of his songs. The picture is of my bright and shining star on her first birthday. What a sweetie she was and still is 40 years later. I am so lucky that she is here celebrating her birthday with me and all her family this year.


Kari Leigh Fleming in her little blue and white checked dress with the white pinafore was three in this posed picture. I have a photo of her in the same outfit on her green inch-worm riding toy in front of a field of orange poppies at the acreage near Grimes.

When Kari was little one of the comments I heard was: "We know who her father is, but who's her mother?" That because she looked more like her dad than like me. As she got older, we could see some similarities with her mom.
Kari was two when she became a big sister. While mom was busy getting the baby ready to go to the sitter's during the work week, dad was helping get Kari ready. He would hold her on his lap in order to put her shoes on. Instead of saying, "Give me your left foot or right foot", he would say: "Give me your big foot, your little foot."
Kari was only five when her daddy and I divorced but I know they still had a close relationship through the years. She was always 'Daddy's Little Girl'. She was also and still is 'Mommy's Bright and Shining Star'. She has the same sweet smile as in these pictures.
Kari has gone from being my little girl to being my best friend. She is a daughter any mom would be lucky to have - and she's mine. Happy Birthday, Kari.


Sunday, May 30, 2010

Middle Graduate

Four of my grandchildren graduated before him. Four more will graduate after him. Today Ki A. Fleming, my fifth grandchild graduates from Winterset High School. I'm sure he is as excited about being done with high school as was I. He plans to go on to a two year community college just as I had planned. I hope he goes and doesn't change his mind like I did.

Every parent and grandparent says the same thing - "Where did the time go?"
It seems like Ki should still be a little boy. How did he grow up so fast?
I've already shared the "Bonding in the NICU" blog. There is another Ki story which has become part of our family's sayings. He was old enough to talk - probably between three and four years old. His family was living in DeSoto at the time. I was visiting when we decided we needed something from Casey's General Store. Ki wanted to go with me. So, even though I didn't have a child seat in the car, I let him go along, fastening him in with the seat belt. It was dark so I didn't see his face until we parked in front of Casey's. I looked over at him and he had the biggest smile on his little face.
I said, "What are you laughing about?" Ki said, "Not laughing Grandma, grinning." It was so cute. I've never forgotten it. So now whenever anyone says anything that isn't quite right, we say, "Not (whatever was said)", then the more correct word.
Later today we will be attending Ki's graduation party. I'm looking forward to congratulating him and adding some words of wisdom to the one's he has already heard. They'll probably be something along the lines of listening to his inner self and being true to his beliefs. Whatever I decide to say, the words will be said with love.
Congratulations, Ki!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Nap Time

Some cultures allow time after lunch for a siesta. It does seem the perfect time for a nap. There's something about eating lunch that can make one sleepy.
Traveling across country and acclimating to a new time zone and a different bed can also make a nap imperative. (Guess what's going on in my house right now - naps.)
I'm not much of a napper. I almost always feel worse after taking a nap than better. A 10-minute power nap will make me feel refreshed, but a half hour or more makes me feel groggy. I can nap sitting up (nod off while reading), but if I lie down, I can't go back to sleep.
My children couldn't wait until they were "too old to nap". I guess that meant they were grown up. When Betty and I were preschool age, Mom would take us in to lie down on her bed. She would read us a story to put us to sleep. More often than not, she was the one who went to sleep. Then Betty and I would quietly get up, go outside and play or sneak out to the stock tank to play in the water. That was the one big thing we were not supposed to do. Mom would wake up, come to find us and use a willow switch on the backs of our legs all the way back to the house. That wasn't enough of a deterrent, however, we'd be right back out at the tank at the next opportunity.
I've seen studies which purport napping as good for health. I think they are mostly suggesting short, refreshing, naps though some seem to o.k. longer naps. I guess I still have a hang-up about daytime napping for adults. Though today I am feeling a little sleepy........

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Company's Coming


Tomorrow Tomorrow I Love Ya Tomorrow......
Tomorrow the best kind of company is arriving for a week's visit - family which is also friends.
Kari was here last year but Ken hasn't visited for some time - looking forward to having him at our new place.
I 'borrowed' this picture from Kari's Bookishdark website. I just love the pic - it's so "Here's lookin' at you, kid." She posted it with a note in celebration of their 10 years together. They do make a good couple. (I told her she just needed to find a good Scorpio Man.)
There are a few things scheduled during their visit, but I'm leaving plenty of time for just relaxing. So if I don't blog for a few days, you'll know why.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Hair Today - Gone Tomorrow

A woman's hair may be her crowning glory, but mine has always been a pain in the b... at least from the time I began caring for it myself. When I was little my hair was long and Mom fixed it in finger curls. After I began school, I was "too old" for finger curls and started getting home perms in August before school started. We would go down to Grandma Ridnour's. Mom would wash our hair then Aunt Lois would put in a perm. The curling lotion was awful. She would give us a towel to hold over our faces, but all that did was trap the fumes in our eyes and noses. Once the curlers were taken out, we'd have a head full of springy curls. For some reason, Betty always looked pretty good with hers. Mine just looked yucky. After a few months, the perm would relax and grow out. I'd go to school with barrettes to hold the straight hair away from my face while tangled curls formed the bottom two-thirds of my "do". I think Betty preferred hair bands to barrettes.
We hardly ever went to a beautician for a haircut. Aunt Lois gave us those, too. There was one summer though when "duck tails" were the fashion and Mom took us to town to have our hair cut in that style. Another time I tried to cut Betty's hair for her. One side would be shorter than the other, so I would cut a little more off the other side but cut too much, then tried to even up the other side, etc. Mom had to have a professional give her a hair cut to correct my mistakes.
The picture on the right is from my freshman year in high school. My hair was also short my sophomore year. By junior year it was growing out and once again curly from a home perm. Senior pictures show it long with straight sides and curly ends - and I had bangs. So many of my diary pages included something about my hair - "looked awful", "wore my hair up", "slept in curlers," etc. And sleeping in those wire brush curlers wasn't any fun.
I wore my hair long all through my twenties. The day I turned 30 I had it all cut off. That's me with my short hair in front of Mount Vernon in May, 1974. It was long again seven years later as I waded in the waters of Lake Viking. I have alternated between short and long the past twenty or so years.
For the last two years I've been wearing my hair quite short. This winter I began letting it grow out with the idea of getting a perm. It was just about long enough to do so when last week I decided to have it cut short again. It is the best way for me to wear it for the way it looks and so I don't have to do anything except wash it and comb it.
"Gimme a head with hair, long beautiful hair,
Shining, gleaming, steaming, flaxen waxen......"

"I want it long, straight, curly, fuzzy,
Snaggy, shaggy, ratty, matty..."

Actually, I just want it easy to care for. And that's what I've got.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

May 23, 1981


Today is my oldest grandchild's 29th birthday. Brock Garret Botkin was born on a Saturday evening. I remember it so well. All afternoon I had been waiting for Doug's phone call to tell me their baby had been born. (He had called earlier to say Diane was in the hospital, in labor.)
I had to go to my second job as a waitress at the Airport Steakhouse west of Corning and had told Doug to call me there. Just as I had waited all afternoon, I waited all evening. Everytime the phone rang I was certain it was Doug. I was a nervous wreck - mixing up orders, forgetting to give patrons their guest checks, etc.
Finally, finally, the phone rang and it was for me. "We have a baby boy!" Most of the diners had already gone, but the ones that were still there soon learned that I was a grandmother. A young (37) grandma which was funny the next day when Mom and I went to Des Moines to see the baby. We were both in the room with Doug & Diane when a nurse came in and told me I'd have to leave - the rules were only parents and grandparents. "I AM the grandmother," I said, then pointed to Mom and said, "She is the great-grandmother."
We are lucky to have five-generation pictures with both our great-great grandmas - Ridnour on the left and Lynam on the right.
Happy 29th birthday, Brock.

The Brooks Greenhouse


My love of plants came at a very early age. Mom always had a large garden out of necessity - the food she raised fed us year-round. We had fresh vegetables during the growing season and canned ones the rest of the year.
One of my most favourite things about spring was going to Brooks to buy plants for the garden. I got so I could almost 'taste' the day when the trip was imminent. It was warm, but not hot; humid but not raining. Corning was our usual shopping destination but for plants we always went to Brooks - which was an adventure in itself. The greenhouse was on the north side of the street on the west side of town. It was operated by Jim and Elsie Stalder. The greenhouses were at the back of the lot next to their home. A series of "cold frames" were in front of the greenhouses.
Mom would park the car along the street in front then we had to climb a long set of cement steps. Their property set up on a high bank. There was a handrail made out of pipe that I remember playing on. If no one was outside or in the greenhouse, we went to the porch door and knocked. I can remember being invited into the house one time. There were so many flowers and plants growing - kind of like at Grandma Ridnour's only more so.
Mom always knew what she wanted - two dozen each of tomato and cabbage plants, a dozen pepper plants. What I wanted was flowers, but we never got them. Money was spent on what we needed, not what we wanted. But I loved going into the greenhouses and seeing all the flowers. I loved the moist smell of the earth and seeing all the different colors and types of flowers.
Even when new tomato varieties became popular, Mom always stuck to her tried and true Rutgers. Once she gave her order, the plants were lifted out of the flats and wrapped in newspaper. The prices were a little less in Brooks and there were always a few extra plants when we got them home. An article in the April 21, 1955 Free Press says that growing plants in flats was a method the Stalders learned from the Japanese when they lived in California for three years - that it was unheard of when they first started to do it back in Brooks. (Years later when we lived near Grimes, I started a packet of tomato seeds in two flats and ended up with 75 tomato plants in my garden that year.)
Once we got home a bucket of water was pumped and carried to the garden. Mom used the hoe to make the holes at appropriate distances. We set a plant in each hole, then went back to "water them in". That meant taking a dipper of water out of the bucket and pouring it into the hole as Mom pushed dirt in and set the plant upright. Once we were old enough we were allowed to set the plants while she poured the water. If we didn't do it just right, she would come back and straighten the plant. That was how we learned to garden. That was the fun part. Later would come the weeding and picking - the parts I never learned to like.
While I was still living outside Des Moines, I took the Greenhouse Management Course at DMACC. That was around the time I was planning on moving back to SW Iowa. I had no idea what I would do for income when I moved back home. Then I saw a 'For Sale' ad in the Free Press for a property in Brooks. I thought it was the Stalders property. I went home that weekend all excited about the possibility of buying and operating the greenhouse in Brooks. What surprised me the most about my pipe dream was that Dad was willing to back me. I forget the price being asked, but Dad said we would figure out someway to buy it if that was what I wanted. He and I drove to Brooks. That was when I realized it wasn't the Stalders property that was for sale. And for the first time, I realized the greenhouses were no longer even there.
I no longer dream of having my own, but I still love going into greenhouses - the smell, the color, the possibilities. I haven't had a vegetable garden for years. Now I buy those flowers I didn't get to buy sixty years ago.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Being a Good Sport

I have never been good at sports - as in playing games. And Bud would tell you I'm not a very good sport when it comes to losing - especially at Cribbage.
It all started in grade school when first graders were pitted against eighth graders. It wasn't so bad if we played "Drop the Hankie", "Hide and Seek", "London Bridge", "Mother May I?" or "Blind Man's Bluff". But if teams were chosen for "Red Rover, Red Rover", "Steal Sticks", "Prisoner's Base", "Ante-I-Over" (or as we called it, "Annie, Annie Over"), or Softball, I would be one of the last chosen. It got better when I was older but I never was a fast runner.
We didn't play "Ante-I-Over" too often. It might have had something to do with one of the school house windows being broken by the ball we used. When there weren't enough players to choose sides for softball, we played "Work-up". Each player chose a position (or drew for a spot), when there was an out, that person went to the last position (outfield or third base) and everyone moved up one spot until they got to bat. I always wanted to be the pitcher even though I wasn't very good at getting the ball over home plate. If not everyone got to bat before recess or noon hour was over, we'd "hold your position!" until the next recess and pick up where we left off.
Another game we played which I don't know the name of was like charades. We divided into two teams. The first team chose an occupation then advanced to the line saying "Ready or not, here I come." The other team would say, "Where are you from." Reply: "New Orleans." Question: "What's your trade?" Reply: "Ice Cream and Lemonade". Guessing team: "Then show us something if you're not afraid." The first team would begin acting out their occupation. When someone on the opposing side guessed the right trade, the members of the first team had to run back to the safety of their home line. If they were tagged, they joined the opposing team. What did we call that game??
There were times we joined two or three other country schools at the end of the year for a day of Games and Relays. I especially remember going over to Jasper #5 when I was in fourth grade. For a very long time I still had the ribbon I won that day. That was probably the biggest deal about the day besides competing against some new opponents - first, second and third place winners received ribbons. There were races, like 3-legged and sack. There was the broad jump, the high jump and the long jump. There were games involving throwing balls for distance and/or accuracy. You could compete in whatever you wanted to - you didn't have to try everything if you didn't want to, although the teachers did encourage us to try.
The reason I remember that day so well is because my teacher insisted I try the broad jump. I finally did and was in first place for my age group. That really made me feel good. Then just before the ribbons were given out, Pearl Thomas, the teacher from Jasper #4, made Steve Milliken take a turn. He bettered my jump by an inch or two and won. I was so disappointed about not winning, but as I said, I did keep that red second place ribbon for a long time.
I still remember the disadvantages country school kids had when they started to high school and had to play sports in phys ed. Not only had I never played volleyball or basketball, I didn't even know the rules. I think there was only one other girl chosen last more often than I was. Sometimes I was chosen among the first for basketball because I was tall. But the captains soon learned that being tall didn't make me a good basketball player.
Perhaps if I had been a better sport - and better at sports - I would have encouraged my own children to try out for the team sports when they were in school. Doug went out for Junior High Football at Johnston and played in a couple games before quitting. I remember being glad he quit. I didn't want to see him get hurt. I much preferred going to see my kids in plays and concerts.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

"This Little Piggie.....


Went to Market. This little piggie stayed home." And this little piggie told me in a dream last night that it was time for me to write about my little piggies. Here I am in a picture from 1979 pointing out Faith, Hope, Charity and Grace. Grace is on the right with the full white band on her lovely Hampshire shoulders. I always had to look closer to determine the other three.
If asked if I would ever want to be a certain age again, I always say "no", I'm happy at the age I am now. But if I ever did go back to a place in time, this would have to be it. With the exception of losing my Dad, this was one of the happiest times in my life. I was already planning on moving back home to SW Iowa before Dad died. I wanted to be back closer to family and raising my children in the country.
I rented the house and buildings on the NE side of Tuck Corner. It was a big house, two car garage, chicken house and barn. I got four gilts from Mom and a box of baby chicks from Gurneys Seed Catalog as well as seeds for a big garden. I had a wood burning stove, a chain saw and a pickup. I was a happy, independent woman.
I was also the third generation of Hampshire Hog loving women. Grandma Delphia had her sows after Grandpa died. I remember one was named Minnie. Mom raised Hamps for many years. I remember sitting with one of Mom's sows all day. She was either trying to have her pigs or had had them and was suffering from mastitis. I just remember giving her shots and hoping she got better - which she did.
When it was time for Faith, Hope, Charity and Grace to have their first litters, I made pens for them in the old barn, put down fresh straw for bedding and waited. None of them needed any help. It was such a joy to watch the baby pigs being born. And seeing the different colors was exciting. The gilts had been bred to a Hamp boar, but he was a crossbred with Duroc and Spotted Poland bloodlines. Those little piggies were the cutest ever. I sold them as feeder pigs after they were weaned and hated seeing them go.
During the six years of living around Fairview before moving back to West Des Moines in '84, we raised more pigs and chickens as well as sheep and geese. I wanted goats, but everyone said you couldn't keep goats in - I had enough trouble with the other species getting through fences. I helped Mom with her cows and calves, but never wanted any of my own even though I still love seeing baby calves in the spring of the year.
I will always be grateful for those years and the experiences I had raising livestock.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Graduation Day - May 18, 1980


Twenty years after Kenny graduated from Prescott High School, his son, Douglas Sumner Botkin, graduated from Corning High School.
This mother, son, father picture of the three of us was taken at our house on Tuck Corner at Doug's reception after graduation. I think we'd all had more than a couple glasses of champagne. Kenny had on Doug's mortar board. I don't know why Doug & I had on cowboy hats except to be silly.
We had moved back to Corning at the beginning of Doug's junior year. It wasn't an easy time for him to be changing schools. He couldn't wait to get out of Corning and graduated mid-term in January. He moved to Perry with his Dad & family and started the Building Trades course at DMACC, but came back for the commencement excercises.
Doug's graduation was the first time Corning had combined Baccalaureate and Commencement exercises into the same day. Eighty seniors graduated on Sunday, May 18. Dolph Pulliam, Des Moines Channel 8 sports reporter and former Drake basketball star was the speaker. Rain forced the ceremony from the high school football field into the Armory.
When I look at this picture, I'm reminded that a month after it was taken, Kenny died. A year later, Doug became a father and I had met and started dating Bud. None of those things were even imagined that day.
I don't remember if we were aware of Mt. St. Helens erupting that morning. If so, it didn't make much of an impression on us. Maybe because the extent of the destruction wasn't known until later. More likely I was too focused on what was going on in my life - my first-born was leaving the nest and going out on his own.

Monday, May 17, 2010

May 17, 1960 - Graduation Day

Fifty years ago tonight, Doug's dad graduated from Prescott High School. The commencement speaker was Jack Shelley, news director of WHO radio and TV in Des Moines. I would like to say I remember what he spoke about, but the fact is I may not have even heard him.
From that year's diary: "Rode bus home. I got cows. Milked four of them. Took a bath and got ready. Kenny was supposed to be here at 6:30. Jim got here at 8:00! We got to Kenny's commencement at 8:20. Only twenty minutes late."
I should have been used to such tardiness by then. Kenny and I had been dating a little more than two months. I don't think he was ever on time. It was a point of contention as I was always on time or several minutes early.
Twenty seniors graduated from Prescott. Alphabetically, Kenneth Douglas Botkin was #1. Scholastically he was somewhere on down the line. I think he lettered in band and basketball. His graduating classmates were: Richard Bross, Sharon Chilcott, Janet Coleman, Barbara Crill, Carolyn Davis, Colleen Gerber, Mervin Knapp, Gary Krauth, Russell Perry, Ramona Preston, Janette Spring, John Stoaks, Laurie Tucker, Katherine Weaver, Dean West, Dora Willits, Merle Woodside, Sandra Wynn and Phyllis Vogel.
In the way paths cross in later years, Kenny's son Doug and Barbara Crill's son, Rod Coleman were friends when we moved back to Corning in '78. Phyllis Vogel's son, Jason White and my step-son, Mark Schaffer, were good friends in high school and were one another's best man at their weddings.
Sometimes when I read my granddaughter's facebook posts when they are in the throes of teenage romance, I understand the turmoil they are going through. It may be fifty years ago, but when I read my diary from that time it's the same angst: "Had a lot of fun over at their place (Botkin's) but I ruined it by being too truthful. I hate myself. I'm in a rotten mood. Everything was just perfect except for those few dark moments of wrong remarks."
Whatever I said probably wasn't as bad as I thought it was at the time. I sent him a letter the next day - apologizing, I'm sure. We only saw one another once or twice a week. I wonder if there would have been more or less drama in my life then if we'd had cell phones and texting?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Day After the First Workday of Spring


Today has been cool, cloudy, windy and now rainy. Which may be a good thing the way I feel. Yesterday was gorgeous. Which is why I finally accomplished some much needed outside work. Work that my winter softened muscles weren't used to.
I don't yet have pictures of yesterday's plantings and improvements so I'll show some I took of the new perennials I planted last year.
This has to be one of my very favorites - one because of its name - "Linum" - and two because of its delicate little flowers and foliage. 'Blue Flax' is its common name. It begins each morning covered with flowers. They drop off by evening. The next day a whole new batch blooms. It seems to have a very good start in my flower bed which makes me happy. (One of the things I accomplished yesterday was trimming the grass along the pavers.)


This purple Creeping Phlox was already here when we moved in. It is right underneath our mailbox. It must like the cool, wet spring because it is much fuller this year. The big rock is one of the few which made the move with us.



Three of the five new Iris I bought on the trip Kristi, Jesse & I took to the Rainbow Iris Farm last year bloomed. The top one is 'Magic Bubbles'. The almost black one is 'Devil Baby'. 'Trifle' had already bloomed. I don't think the other two are going to bloom this year, but at least they survived the winter. Bloomfest! 2010 will still be going on while Kari & Ken are here. They both love Iris. I'm going to make sure we get there one of the days they are here. They'll love the "Irish Farm" as Jesse calls it.
Our weather is supposed to be sunny and warm by Tuesday. By then I should have the kinks worked out and be ready for another round of home improvements.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

May Reads I



Short list for the first half of May reads: "Gunpowder Green" is the second book of Laura Childs' "Tea Shop Mysteries" series. I think I have written about this series before - this is the 4th or 5th one I've read. Theodosia Browning is the owner of the Indigo Tea Shop in Charleston, SC. She seems to always be in the area when a murder is committed. Of course, she has to do what she can to help capture the culprit. I like these little quick-read mysteries as much for what I learn about tea as for the crime solving. Childs always includes recipes in the back of the books. This one's "Cucumber and Lobster Salad Sandwiches" sounds yummy.
"Jim the Boy" by Tony Earley is one of the books Kristina recommended last winter. I found and read the sequel, " The Blue Star" the first part of April and was immediately entranced. I was quite happy to find "Jim the Boy" at the Half-Price Bookstore when I checked out its new location earlier this month.
I think one of the reasons I liked these two books so much is because I relate to the ways the adults teach Jim about right and wrong. His experiences are so similar to the way I was raised. Earley has the talent of giving his readers entire scenes with only a few words. As I wrote after finishing "The Blue Star" - I hope there will be a third novel about Jim Glass.
Ian Rankin's "Strip Jack" was my third May read. It is Rankin's 4th Inspector Rebus novel. The book I bought is a 2008 Orion Paperback reissue of the 1992 original. It contains an introduction by the author with information about when and where he wrote the novel and what was going on in his life at the time which I found interesting.
I wish I could have read this series in order. I had to read 'em where I found 'em. I think there may still be a few I haven't read to look forward to.
Finally, I'm in the middle of the third Inspector William Monk Victorian Mystery by Anne Perry. This series I am reading in chronological order. I was wrong about Monk & Nurse Hester Latterly becoming investigative partners as I surmised at the end of book two. In fact, she seems to be forming an attachment to the barrister, Oliver Rathbone.
Their current case has the three of them trying to prove innocent a woman who has already plead guilty of killing her husband. I love my English mysteries.

Friday, May 14, 2010

"Sunshine on My Shoulders....


Makes me happy
Sunshine in my eyes can make me cry
Sunshine on the water looks so lovely
Sunshine almost always makes me high" John Denver
Today's sunshine after days and days of rain does make me happy. It also reminded me of John Denver's song and of him.
John Denver was one of my favourite singers in the 70's. I still love to listen to his albums. I think "Annie's Song" and "Take Me Home Country Roads" are my most favored although I like them all.
As he became more popular and I learned more about his career, I remember thinking very briefly that we might be related. It was when I heard his real name was Henry John Deutschendorf. I didn't catch the name at first and hadn't seen it in writing. All I could remember was De.........dorf. "What was that? Deardorf? Wow. Maybe we are distant cousins."
I'm not even sure how my great-great-great grandmother Isobel Deardorff spelled her name. Her daughter Catherine married David Lippincott. Their daughter Matilda married George Means. Their daughter Delphia married Joe Ridnour and they were the parents of my Mother, Ruth. At one time I had a copy of some Deardorff family history clear back to the 1600's in Germany. I hope it is still in a box somewhere and not lost in my moves.
John Denver's song "Rocky Mountain High", which is now one of two official state songs of Colorado, was a hit around the time of my first trip to Colorado. I remember wanting to fall in love with the mountains because my brother and sister-in-law loved them so much. Instead, I experienced altitude sickness and felt like: "You've seen one mountain; you've seen them all." I am a self-proclaimed 'flat-lander'.
"If I had a tale that I could tell you
I'd tell a tale sure to make you smile
If I had a wish that I could wish for you
I'd make a wish for sunshine for all the while.."
(The accompanying picture is one I took on Cinco de Mayo. The morning sun and the fountain combined for a surprising rainbow over the pond.)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Facebook Friends

I've had some nice surprises since joining Facebook - reconnecting with classmates and people I once worked with. But the Friend Request from my grandson, Brock, this morning has to be my best so far.
There are discussions about whether or not parents should friend their children and vice-versa. I think those are aimed more toward parents with children still living at home. For me, being friends on Facebook with my children and grandchildren has been a wonderful way to stay in touch - to know what's going on in their lives.
When Brock and his half sister's and brother reconnected last month, they suggested I friend him on Facebook. I told them I would wait awhile - that I didn't want to scare him away. The thread was still too tenuous. That he was the one to send the friend request to me gives me great hope that I may be a part of his life again - and that of my great-grandson, Ridge.
In the picture above, Brock is on the left and Ridge on the right. Ridge looks so much like his Daddy. I can't wait to meet him in person.
I grew up believing in the importance of family - not just immediate family, but grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, great-grandparents. The older I get, the more important my family is to me. I hope Brock understands this someday - that no matter what, he has always been and always will be my first grandchild.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Bicentennial Blog


Wow! My 200th posting in nine months of blogging. I thought I was going to start it out with some pictures of some unknown white birds on and around our pond until I got the binoculars out to identify the water fowl and discovered they were just a bunch of white plastic grocery bags. Bummer. (There was a white heron here last spring, though.)
When I began blogging last August it was mostly to share some family history, family stories and some of my memories with my kids. I discovered it also to be a way to fulfill some of my pent up writing desires as well as a means of keeping my mind active. And even though I am mostly doing this for myself, I sometimes wonder if anyone else is reading my musings. Then I get a comment or two posted or I talk to a family member that tells me how much they liked a posting or if I haven't posted for awhile wonders when I'm going to start posting again. Encouragement is just that - encouraging.
There are days when I wonder what to blog about. There are days I have an idea but it doesn't go in the direction I planned. There are days when I think I'll quit blogging. Am I sharing too much? Am I sharing too little?
Sometimes when I don't have an idea, I read what I wrote in my diaries on the date. For instance, 54 years ago today, May 12, 1956: "Went to town this morning to practice." I didn't write what the practice was for, but it was for 8th grade commencement. So I could blog about how the 8th graders from all the country schools went to the High School auditorium in Corning for 8th grade graduation exercises. That was a really big deal.
I went on to write: "Went to Brooks for plants. Dad planted corn at Ivy Rimmer's" Did Dad plant Ivy's corn to help out a neighbor? For hire to make a little money? Or did he rent Ivy's crop land that year? I could write an entire blog about the Rimmer's - who they were, where they lived, who their kids were and how, years later, after they and their house were gone, Mom & I dug up some peonies from what once was their front yard and moved them up to Mom's yard.
"Went to Brooks for plants." That I will save for a future blog - remembering the Stalder's/Stillinger's greenhouse in Brooks; how much I loved going there - how there was a time when we thought it was for sale and Dad was going to help me buy it so I could move back home.
I can't write a bicentennial blog without writing about what the word bicentennial makes me think of - our country's bicentennial, of course - but specifically of the "76" Bicentennial Flag I had flying on our pole at the acreage NW of Des Moines. Preston was almost five years old. He loved being outside. I had been raking the yard. He picked up the rake and was raking the gravel in the driveway. It was a perfect picture - blue sky with white fluffy clouds, the spirea lining the lane in bloom, the flag blowing in the breeze and my little boy working on a gorgeous spring day.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

May 11, 1968


If Kari Leigh had been born on her due date 41 years ago, she not only would have been born on Mother's Day, she would have been born on her parent's 1st anniversary.
Dennis Edward Fleming and I were married 42 years ago today. His brother Chuck was the minister at the Fairview Christian Church south of Pleasantville, Iowa. (I thought it was ironic that I was married in two different 'Fairview' churches.)
Denny and I met when his parents moved to Corning the summer before his senior year in high school. We were both in Journalism and both on the school paper. We were friends, but never dated. After graduation he went to Iowa State University and I married Kenny and had Doug. This picture of the three of us was taken in December, 1968.
When Doug & I moved to Cedar Rapids every time I drove past the "Vinton - 13 miles" directional sign I thought of Denny - someone had told me he was a teacher at Vinton High School. I finally wrote him a letter in care of the school. It took awhile for him to answer because he had left Vinton for a teaching position at Hillside Junior High in West Des Moines. My letter was forwarded to him there.
We had a somewhat whirlwind courtship - from our first date until our wedding was little longer than two months. We had gotten engaged, but didn't plan on getting married right away. The change in his draft status, from 2-A to 1-A made the difference. The Vietnam war was escalating after the Tet Offensive. By marrying me and taking on the responsibility of my son, his draft status was no longer 1-A. He wouldn't have to worry about being sent to a war we were both against.
Our marriage didn't last long. Our divorce became final on May 10, 1974 - the day before what would have been our sixth anniversary. I have wondered if we would even have married had we waited longer and gotten to know each other better. But then I wouldn't have my daughter and youngest son. I can't imagine my life without them in it.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Little Delphia Means


Yesterday's blog about Mother's Day had a couple pictures of my Grandma Ridnour taken on her 80th & 90th birthdays.
This is a picture of Delphia Verda Means as a young woman. She was born 114 years ago today. Her parents were George Robert Means and Matilda Neoma Lippincott. There's no date on this picture, but I think she looks nine or ten. Her expression could be one of sadness or she may be day dreaming. I believe photographic subjects were required to sit very still for a minute or more in order not to blur the picture. I wonder how she got her little dog to pose? Perhaps that is what she was thinking about.
Delphia (pronounced Del-fee not Del-fe-ah nor Del-fa) was the youngest of four children. Her brother, Orphas Alvin was born in 1883; sisters, Delila May in 1890 and Drothel Velma in 1893. Delila died of cholera in 1891 when she was seventeen months old. Orphas named his daughter Delilah Grace when she was born June 9, 1912. (The same day as the Villisca ax murders.)
Grandma Delphia was little - only 4' 10" by the time I was old enough to remember her. She was almost five feet tall in her younger years. It was always a big deal for the grandchildren to be as tall as and then taller than their grandmother.
Other than hearing her tell about moving to Kansas in a covered wagon when she was nine, I don't know much about her childhood. I don't know where she went to school or if she even graduated from the 8th grade. I think she always lived in the Mt. Etna area until she married.
At some point in their lives she and her sister Drothel had a 'falling out' and didn't have anything to do with one another. Grandma never had anything nice to say about her sister. Drothel and her family lived in South Dakota and then moved to California. I do think they patched things up before Drothel died in 1973.
Grandma was an excellent seamstress. She could look at a picture then cut her own pattern out of newspaper and whip up a new dress for herself, her daughters or her granddaughters. When grandpa was ill she made herself a denim skirt out of some old jeans to wear when she did the chores. (Women didn't wear jeans then.) She was just as talented at embroidery, crocheting and tatting as she was at sewing. Every grandchild received a pair of embroidered pillowcases trimmed with crochet when they got married.
Her talent I most identify with and remember best was the one she had for flowers. Grandpa and Grandma had a huge garden and fruit trees over the hill north of the house. The areas around her house were reserved for flowers. Her special love was for iris. Each year she added new colors to her iris beds. When it was time to decorate the graves for Memorial Day, there were no plastic flowers for her - we took buckets of water and went through her flower beds cutting iris and peonies and ferns until the buckets were full. Then armed with quart jars, a digger and paring knife we made the rounds of all the cemeteries, placing a jar of flowers on the graves of all the loved ones.
Grandma once said to me, "I know who'll put flowers on my grave when I'm gone. But who'll put flowers on yours?" It was her way of letting me know she appreciated that I always took her around to the cemeteries in her later years. The flowers I'll place on her grave in three weeks will be plastic - her iris beds are long gone - and they will probably be pansies which was another of her favourite flowers.
Delphia had a neighbor friend as small as she was. That woman's grandchildren called her "Tiny Grandma". We would never have gotten away with something like that. Grandma was more "small, but mighty". She was strict. She was vocally opinionated. I will admit to being afraid of her when I was young. But I never doubted her love for us. I will never forget May 10 is her birthday.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother's Day 2010


If I were to write an essay, "What Does Mother's Day Mean to You?", it would be more about having a mother than being a mother even though this is my 47th Mother's Day on the receiving side.
The picture above on the left has always been my favourite of me, my mother and her mother. It was taken May 9, 1976. It wasn't Mother's Day we were celebrating, it was Grandma Ridnour's 80th birthday. And the one on the right, which included the fourth generation was in celebration of Grandma's 90th birthday and was taken May 10, 1986.
The second Sunday in May wasn't officially Mother's Day until 1914 even thought it had begun in 1858. Whether or not it was being celebrated, Delphia Means was born on Mother's Day in 1896. She celebrated her first Mother's Day in 1917 then had combined birthday/Mother's Day celebrations thereafter.
I almost had a similar double celebration when pregnant with my second child - my due date was May 11 which in 1969 was Mother's Day. Unfortunately Kari wasn't ready to be born and didn't make her appearance for another twenty days.
My grandson, Zach, wrote about this second Mother's Day without his Mom and how it should be easier, but isn't. I feel the same way on this, the sixth Mother's Day without my Mom. Their not being here to celebrate sort of takes the whole meaning of Mother's Day away.
That is not to say I don't appreciate the love, the cards, calls, visits and flowers from my four wonderful kids. I do. There's just a whole world of difference between being a mom and having a mom.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Mother-Daughter Teas


It is the time of year we used to go to the Mother-Daughter Tea at Fairview Church. That may be what Kari & I were dressed up for in this May '87 picture of us at our Normandy Terrace apartment in West Des Moines. More likely it was for something in conjunction with her high school graduation that year. But we have put on our hats for teas over the years.
One of the Fairview Teas I remember was the one twenty-one years ago. Alyssa was only six weeks old. It was very special because we had five generations in attendance that day - Great-great Grandma Delphia Ridnour, Great-Grandma Ruth Lynam, Grandma Ramona Lynam, Mother, Shelly Botkin and little Aly. If we didn't win a prize, we should have.
The programs for the afternoon teas always included some songs, some special readings or poems about mothers and the gifting of some posies. If you were the oldest mother, youngest mom, came the farthest, had the most children, had the most grandchildren, been married the longest, etc., you might win a pot of geraniums or petunias. When Grandma Ridnour won several years in a row for having the most grandchildren, they had to come up with some new ways to pick winners. After the program everyone adjourned to the basement for mints, nuts, punch or coffee and cookies. No tea, though. Imagine that.
Another Fairview tea that stands out in my memory was the one in 1996. The weather was very much like today - cold, wet, windy. We had just gotten our '83 Dodge Ram pickup. There was an auction in Brooks that I went to even though I knew I could only stay for an hour or so because I had to get home in time to go to the tea.
On the way home I had a flat tire on the pickup. Changing a tire was no biggie for me; I had done that many times. But I'd never changed one on a pickup before! Nor had I ever used an axle jack. I couldn't get the pickup high enough to get the tire off. Nothing I tried would work. No cell phones in those days and of all the times I needed another car to come along, none did. I had stayed at the auction as long as possible, so a flat tire I couldn't change was the last thing I needed.
There was nothing to do but keep trying and somehow I finally got the tire changed. (Naturally, someone came along just as I was tightening the lug nuts and stopped to see if I needed help.) I hurried home, told Mom & the neighbor to go ahead without me so they would be on time, then rushed around to clean up and change clothes.
That may be why I left Aileen (my dove) in the outside cage that afternoon. That is the day one of Mom's cats killed her. (Aug 20, 2009 blog - "The Light of the Sun")
Thymes Remembered in Perry has become our favourite place for mother-daughter teas. I don't know if we are going to have time to go there this year. One thing for sure we are going to do is use the Royal Tara teapot I received from Ron & Ruthie for my 50th birthday. It will be the first time I've used it. We may not put hats on, but we will have our very own mother-daughter tea.

Friday, May 7, 2010

"He-e-e-e-r-e'-s R-o-n-n-i-e"

It really doesn't seem possible that my big brother is 70 years old today. Ron was only called Ronnie a brief time while he was little. It was usually 'Ronald' because Mom was a bit of a stickler about kids being called by their given names and not nick-named. Once he was in school, his name got shortened to Ron.
I don't think my brother was named for Dad's cousin, but they are both Ronald Earl (Figgins). And we have a cousin on Mom's side, Ronald Travis who did go by Ronnie. I think Ronald was just one of those popular names in the 30's and 40's like Gary and Larry and Jackie and Donald and Jimmy - all because of the movie stars. In the case of Ronald - Coleman and Reagan.
Ron was the only one of the four of us born at home. When I heard the details of his birth (three days in labor and forceps), I was amazed Mom had the rest of us. I know Grandma Ridnour was there at the birth. I feature her making the trip from Mom's side to Aunt Evelyn's for the birth of Lila Roberts on the 6th and then back to Mom's for Ron's birth. If he hadn't been so obstinate, Ronald could have shared his birthday with his father and his cousin.
I would say Ron's best friend during those early years was our neighbor, Norman (Normie, Norm) Firkins. It seemed like he was always at our house. When they were young, they played. When they were older, they helped with the haying and threshing. One time they teased Jodie Fudge (an old guy on the threshing crew) too much. He chased them down, held Normie by the heels over top the stinking barrel of hog slop and threatened to drop him in. They left him alone after that.
Ron's pets were Fritz the dog and Daisy the pony. I think Fritzie died after eating rat poison. I don't remember Daisy. They said she had a nasty habit of running under low tree limbs in order to knock her rider off. She went back to our landlord and we got Queenie. Queenie once drug Ron through a barbed wire gate on his way back from Firkins. When she was headed for home, she couldn't be stopped. Neither the horse nor rider saw the closed gate. They were both cut up pretty badly.

My big brother was three and a half years old when I was born. This picture of us was taken in January, 1944. One thing I notice in these pictures of Ronald is the resemblance his son and his four grandsons have to him.
As big brothers go, mine was one of the best. That doesn't mean he was always nice to me, however. Besides the corn cob fights, there was the time he was taking Spanish his sophomore year in high school. I had a big crush on a boy and wanted to tell him how I felt without actually saying it. So I asked Ron to teach me how to say "I love you" in Spanish. We were doing the milking at the time. He reached up into the narrow storage above where the harness was hung and pulled out a bottle of 'Old Grandad' whiskey. "Here, take a drink of this and I'll tell you how to say it." He took the cap off and handed it to me. I smelled it. "E-w-w-w, it smells awful." "Well, you have to take a swallow or I won't tell you." Dumb me. I took a sip big enough to take my breath away. I don't remember ever using the phrase on my crush, but I do remember "Yo Te Amo" and the way the whiskey burned all the way down my throat.
Ronald Earl had another nickname besides Ron that stuck all through high school. It also had something to do with his Spanish class. The name was "Ha". I've asked him the meaning and how he got the nickname and I can't remember what it was. Next time I'll write it down. Or you can ask him about it when you wish him a happy birthday.
May you have many more, big brother. I love you.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

A Bit of a Birthday Tribute

" Oh, my pa-pa, so funny, so adorable
Always the clown so funny in his way
Oh, my pa-pa, to me he was so wonderful
Deep in my heart, I miss him so today"
"Oh mein Papa" is a German song about a beloved clown father, written by Swiss composer Paul Burkhard in 1939. It was a #1 Billboard hit for Eddie Fisher in 1954. Connie Francis recorded a popular version of the tune in the early 60's.
Dad (Louis Lavern Lynam) was born ninety-three years ago today. There's no date on the above picture of him with his parents, Bessie and George Lynam, but I would guess him around seven years of age. (And wasn't Grandpa George a good-looking young man?) Louis was born south of Corning only a couple miles from where he and Mom would later live their entire married lives. The family moved to the Highland Church & School area west and north of Corning while Louis was still little. He always talked so fondly of "Uncle Jim's place". (Uncle Jim was George's uncle James - a brother of George's father, Barney.) Life-long friendships between Louis and some of the neighbor boys - Edward Hoyt & the Willet's - were formed at Highland School before Dad's family moved to Taylor County and he graduated 8th grade from Spaulding School.
Because of his physical pain and depression in later years, we sometimes forget what a clown he could be. He did joke around a lot and liked to play pranks on and with some of his buddies. I remember the time he and Earl Goldsmith "appropriated" a seed corn sign of a full-sized, good looking blond woman dressed a-la Daisy from the Dukes of Hazzard just so they could have their pictures taken with it. (Whatever happened to that sign?)
Wayne Moore was another of his good friends with a wry sense of humor. I'm sure what one couldn't think of, the other one could. The brothers Kapple, Art & Roy, were life-long friends from the Spaulding era and later, area neighbors in Jasper Twp.
More of my memories of Dad are negative than positive - I don't remember him being very demonstratively loving - but I do have one vivid memory of a time I knew he cared about me. The tractor and manure spreader was parked between the chicken house and corn crib so the hen house could be cleaned out. When it was done and Dad was ready to spread the manure on the field, I wanted to go with him so I clambered on behind and was holding onto the seat of the tractor. When he started up, I slipped and fell to the ground. By the time he realized I was there and had fallen, he thought the wheels had run over me. Of course I was screaming bloody murder and crying - more because I was scared than hurt. He picked me up and carried me to the house. When Mom told this story in later years, she related how devastated Dad was because he thought I was seriously injured. Ah-h, see, he did care.


When Louis died, May 24, 1978, he had just celebrated his 61st birthday. His oldest grandchild, Douglas, would be sixteen in August; the youngest living, Christine, wouldn't be two until September. And his very youngest, Ian, wouldn't even be born for another five years. The above picture of Louis was taken when he was two years, one month old. The picture of Ian was taken on his second birthday.
From the time he was little, Mom and I could always see the resemblance of Ian to his grandfather. Ron and I have noted it as Ian has gotten older although others in the family don't see it. Not that it matters greatly, but it does seem nice to me that someone in the family looks like the patriarch even if he never knew him.
I understand why, when families get together, they talk about the 'good old days' and tell stories about their moms and dads - because when they are gone, and the oldest grandchildren are gone, the moms and dads will be truly dead. They will be faded photographs and a name and date on the family tree.
"Oh, my pa-pa, to me he was so wonderful
Oh, my pa-pa, to me he was so good...."
(Happy Birthday, Dad)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

"Jose Cuervo, you are a friend of mine ---


I like to drink you with a little salt and lime.
Did I kiss all the cowboys? Did I shoot out the lights?
Did I dance on the bar? Did I start any fights?" (Cindy Jordan)
Cinco de Mayo made me think of margaritas. Margaritas made me think of Jose Cuervo which made me think of Shelly West's hit song from 1983 by the same name. It was such a fun, catchy little tune. Its success brought increased sales for Jose Cuervo Tequila, which brought more success for Shelly's recording.
Another of her songs I really liked was "You're the Reason God Made Oklahoma" - a duo with her brother-in-law, David Frizzell. The song was #1 on the country charts in early '81. It was used in Clint Eastwood's movie "Any Which Way You Can" in 1980.
As much as I liked these two songs of Shelly's, it was her mother, Dottie West, I was a real fan of. Dottie was one of the early successful female country western artists along with her friend, Patsy Cline. (Another favourite of mine.)
In 1970, Dottie's song, "Country Girl" was used as the basis for a Coca-Cola commercial. In 1973, she wrote another commercial for them: "Country Sunshine". I was living near and working in the big city at that time, but since I considered myself a 'country girl' I would always crank up the volume and sing along.
West had so many hits alone and with duo partners. "Every Time Two Fools Collide" with Kenny Rogers was one of my favourites. I still remember hearing about her car accident on August 30, 1991. At first it was reported she wasn't seriously hurt. When I heard on Sept 4 that she had died, I couldn't believe it. I still love listening to her songs.
But back to Cinco de Mayo, which began this chain of thoughts: the fifth of May is not Mexico's Independence Day. It celebrates the victory of Mexican forces over the French at Puebla. Although France went on to capture Mexico City and install Maximilian as Emperor a year later, the delay kept the French from lending support to the Confederates during our country's Civil War.
Cinco de Mayo has become more popular as a day of celebration in the U.S. over the years. It is generally a day of cultural celebration with emphasis on beverages, food and dancing. Later today I plan to drink a margarita, eat some chips and guacamole and listen to Dotty West - all in the spirit of......

Monday, May 3, 2010

One in a (Half) Million

I'm a fortunate grandmother of four grandsons and five grand-daughters. (And two great-grandsons.) One of my granddaughters was born on my 51st birthday and one of my granddaughters was named for me.
Kathryn Irene Fleming is third from the left in the back row of this picture. (She is also the third born of my granddaughters.)
The picture is of the cast of the school play she was in last month - just one of her extra-curricular activities. She's also an excellent student academically, and works several hours a week as an aide in a care center.


The activity which perhaps takes up most of her time, though, is being a member of the Central Iowa Division of the US Naval Sea Cadet Corps which she joined several years ago. I don't know what motivated her to join, but she took to it like a duck to water. She has participated in and passed so many of their training programs, I can't remember them all. She is also applying for their International Exchange Program.

Kathryn's current rank is PO2 - Petty Officer Second Class. Her most recent achievement is the highest to date and perhaps the most scary. Kathryn is one of 2,250 high school seniors (coming school year) selected to attend one of three Summer Seminars at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD. If I understand correctly, there were 511,639 applicants which makes her acceptance phenomenal. (And makes me very proud and happy for her.)
http://usna.edu/admissions/nass.htm will give you an idea of what awaits her during her six days next month. Note that the summer seminar application is automatically her application for the US Naval Academy's Class of 2015. I don't know for certain if being accepted to Summer Seminar means she is also accepted as a member of the Class of 2015, but that is my understanding.

I can't even imagine being able to do what she is going to do next month. Just getting on an airplane alone at (almost) age 17 would be scary enough. (My first plane trip at age 24 frightened me and I didn't have to change planes at O'Hare.)

What an opportunity Kathryn has achieved for herself! Her academic standing alone will guarantee her acceptance at many colleges and universities. My hope is that she will love Annapolis and want to go there - that it will be her start to an amazing career.

From my end of the continuum, it is so easy to give advice - so easy to say, "You have this wonderful opportunity. Don't give it up because you are afraid, or because you fall in love with some boy. There's plenty of time for that later."

Whatever she decides, the important thing is that it is right for her. And that she knows how proud I am of her and how much I will always love her. (As well as how much I would love to go see her in Annapolis.)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

April Reads II



Two more of Kristina's recommendations made it on the second half of April's reads - at least the authors if not the specific books.

She had recommended Ron Rash's 2004 "Saints at the River" which I hope to find at Half Price Books new location next time I'm in WDM. Instead, I read Rash's 2008 Pen/Faulkner Finalist "Serena".

Rash's books are set in Appalachia - an area that draws me as much or more than Ireland does. "Serena" is a story about the logging industry during the depression -a time when men were as desperate for work as Serena and her husband were to make as much money as possible from the timber before the area was made into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Rash's writing is spare, poetical, mystical. When I began reading "Serena" I didn't think I was going to like the book, but the quality of his writing kept me reading until I was hooked on the storyline. I should know by now that I like almost everything Kristina likes. (Yes, Kari, I will read "Moon Tiger" before you get here and we will talk about it!)

Emilie Richards is the author of the "Shenandoah Album" novels I've been reading. And because I've enjoyed those books, I picked up her earlier "Prospect Street". It is a typical "woman betrayed, divorced, on her own with two kids, down-sizing from wealth and perfect house into a Georgetown fixer-upper row house" kind of book. As she works on repairing the house, she is also rebuilding relationships. Of course there is an attractive, enigmatic man and a mystery to be solved - a good read for the rainy days of April.

Tony Hillerman has long been one of my favourite authors with his southwest Native American stories. Which is why the Denver Post quote: "Doss does for the Utes what Tony Hillerman has done for the Navajo" on the back cover of "White Shell Woman" by James D. Doss got me to part with $2.00 in order to bring it home and read.

There are now fifteen novels in the Charlie Moon mysteries Doss writes. "White Shell Woman" is number seven. Doss is now retired from the Los Alamos National Laboratory technical staff, so there will probably be more books about the Utes. And since Hillerman won't be writing any longer, I'll be reading Doss for awhile.

P. J. Alderman may have been nominated for a RITA for her first book, "A Killing Tide", but I'll probably not hunt it out based on reading her second novel, "Haunting Jordan". Some books with resident ghosts are extremely captivating. "Haunting Jordan" is just lame.

The other April Reads II, Kristina-recommended author, is Margaret Frazer and specifically, her Dame Frevisse Medieval Mystery series. I happened to buy #10, "The Squire's Tale". (As nearly as I can tell there are now 17 Dame Frevisse mysteries.)

Frazer is an Edgar Award nominee for two of the books in this series. Dame Frevisse is a 15th Century nun in the Oxfordshire convent of St. Frideswide. She is some distant relation of Geoffrey Chaucer's, thus the titles of books in the series.

"The Squire's Tale" seemed well-researched. It was well-written, though I was correct in figuring out "whodunit". I'm just not currently into medieval literature - though I have been in the past. Perhaps my interest in that era will once again be piqued and I will pick up another Dame Frevisse mystery.

Of my ten April reads, Tony Earley's "Blue Star" edges out Berg's "Last Time" as my favourite of the month.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

May Day

"Rise and put on your foliage and be seen
To come forth, like the springtime, fresh and green
Wash, dress, be brief in praying;
Few beads are best when once we go a-Maying!"
(Robert Herrick 1591-1674)

The first thing I think of in relation to May Day is May Basketing. As a child, it was something I looked forward to every year. During free time at school the last week in April, we were allowed to use construction paper to make May Baskets. Most of them were made by rolling a piece of paper into a cone like the ones above and taping or pasting them together. Then a strip of paper was pasted on for a handle.
Once we had constructed our little 'baskets', we took them home to fill with popcorn, candy and flowers. Ours had mostly popcorn and only a piece or two of candy. The flowers were usually violets pulled out of the yard or ditch. There were times if I didn't like the person the May Basket was for, I would use dandelions. (Mom wouldn't let us take May Baskets only to people we wanted to, she made us take them to everyone in school.)

With a little help, I learned to make heart shaped May Baskets like these, although adding a handle was more difficult. Handles were important because the idea of May Basketing was to hang the basket on the doorknob, holler "May Basket" and run away without being caught. Of course there were some houses where you wanted to be caught because the catcher was supposed to kiss the catchee.
Our May Basketing was usually done in the early evening. Because we had to be driven around the neighborhood, Mom would stop down the road aways and we would creep up to the houses quietly; drop or hang the baskets, holler "May Basket" and then run. (Run as fast as possible when the ones with the dandelions were left!)
Our front yard would look quite junky on May 1st. We moved in anything we could hide behind in an effort to catch the May Basketers who came to our house. There was still a fence around our yard then which helped our efforts.
I remember the time we stopped along the road north and west of Vogel's so Ron could sneak up to the house through the windbreak. He had to cross a couple fences. When he ran back to the car with Carol and Virginia chasing him, he made it through the fences, but they ran into them and got caught on barbed wire. He was quite unpopular with them for sometime afterwards.

By the time my children were in school, the practice of May Basketing had pretty well died out. I wanted them to experience some of the fun I'd had as a child, so we made May Baskets from paper cups with pipe stem cleaners for handles, filled them with popcorn, candy and flowers and took them to their classmates. The one difference was I let them take baskets only to their friends - their classes at Johnston were too large to take them to everyone.

By the time we moved back to SW Iowa in '78, I had become interested in my Irish heritage and learned about Beltane. When possible, I began having bonfires in conjunction with May Day. A distant cousin suggested adding the traditional "Maiwein" (May wine) to sitting around the fire. I tried it once and went back to my preferred Rose' or to the Moselle or Rhine wine without the addition of the woodruff.

Other May Day traditions include dancing around the Maypole. I especially remember the one at Jordan House in West Des Moines.

The one May 1st tradition I did not like was the USSR's. Known there as International Workers' Day, my most vivid memory is watching soldiers and tanks parade around Red Square on television during the Cold War era. I went to sleep too many nights imagining (fearing) I would wake up in the morning to find uniformed "commies" in our front yard.

No May Baskets or bonfires for me this year. I might pop some corn and eat some candy. I might bring in a small bouquet of violets and drink a glass of wine. The one thing I am for certain going to do this May Day is cheer on Paddy O'Prada during the Kentucky Derby telecast.

Happy May Day. Happy Beltane!