Tuesday, January 31, 2017

January Book Report

Trying to decide how I was going to report the books I read each month in 2017 and deciding the post titles would be the month + Book Report, made me think of grade school - our one-room country school, Jasper #2.

We did have to do actual written book reports, at least in the upper grades, but I also remember a poster sized chart where we kept track of all the books we read.
It looked something like this:
Each student's name would go down the left side from lowest to highest grades. We had different colored, gummed stickers on which to write the name of the book and paste in the little rectangles to the right of our name. I believe there was room for twenty books. I don't remember what the different colors signified except perhaps the level of reading difficulty. Pink for an easy book, blue for one more advanced, green even harder and gold for very hard? All I remember for certain was that I always had all the spaces filled (and could never understand why some students only had a few) and my colors represented more harder books than easy ones. Oh, yeah, and that those labels were so tiny it was hard to write the book titles on them!

So here is how I've decided to keep track of my book reads this year: Instead of rating them and writing a little something about each book, I'm just going to list the titles and authors - much like I did in grade school. I might mention which book(s) I liked the most - maybe even the ones least liked - perhaps if an author is new to me or an old favorite.
Here is my January, 2017 book report in the order read:
Saturday - Ian McEwan
The German Girl - Armando Lucas Correa - A new author and an interesting story about Jews trying to escape Germany at start of WWII, and being turned back even when they had papers of acceptance from the country they were going to. Too much like what happened here in the USA this past weekend!
Summer At Willow Lake - Susan Wiggs
The King of Lies - John Hart - A favorite author, the first of his five novels.
The Paris Wife - Paula McLain - About Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley, when they lived in Paris.
Marrying Daisy Bellamy - Susan Wiggs
Whisper of Evil - Kay Hooper - New author for me.
The Sleepwalker - Chris Bohjalian - Absolutely one of my favorite authors - his latest book.
The Guests On South Battery - Karen White - 5th book of her Tradd Street Series set in Charleston, SC - you know, where I walked on South Battery!
Water Like A Stone - Deborah Crombie - Also a new to me author and one I will continue to read. I like her mysteries set in England.
The Tenth Circle - Jodi Picoult

Eleven books read this month - January and I'm already more than halfway across that grade school reading chart!

Monday, January 30, 2017

Daydream Believer

"Cheer up, sleepy Jean. Oh, what can it mean to a daydream believer?"

This old Monkees' tune was swirling around in my head this morning which got me to thinking about daydreams. No. Wait. First it was the video of the cat on the dash of a car going down the freeway which someone shared on Facebook with a caption about daydreaming. Then it was the Monkees' tune in my head.

Then I started thinking about how much daydreaming used to be a part of my life - and how it isn't anymore. Why is that? Is it because I'm getting to the end of my days on this level of existence and no longer daydream about the things I want to do, see, experience, already acknowledging that the ability and even desire are past?

The idea of travel doesn't even entice my daydreams any more. As recently as two years ago mentioning a road trip got me excited. Last fall we said if the winter was bad, we'd go to Arizona to visit family and friends. Our friend Kristina even tried enticing me by sending me a box of rocks from the wash she and her dog, Bobby, walk every day. I've walked there with her in the past and know what it's like to pick rocks in that wondrous wadi.

Weeks after the box of rocks, Kristina included this quartz one in the shape of Iowa with a book she sent me. So, yes, I can imagine a trip to see her in Tucson, but I'm not daydreaming about it. (Which would likely make it more of a probability.)

If I could get back to daydreaming, would I, could I once more be a believer? Would my good times start and end without dollar one to spend? How much do I really need?

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Old Tunes


Do you know this plant? Heliotrope? It isn't one often found in the garden centers around here. When I do see it, I buy it for myself to enjoy in a pot on the table between the patio chairs. A place where I can enjoy its extraordinary fragrance.

Old Tunes

As the waves of perfume, heliotrope, rose ,
Float in the garden when no wind blows,
Come to us, go from us, whence no one knows;

So the old tunes float in my mind,
And go from me leaving no trace behind,
Like fragrance borne on the hush of the wind.

But in the instant the airs remain
I know the laughter and the pain
Of times that will not come again.

I try to catch at many a tune
Like petals of light fallen from the moon,
Broken and bright on a dark lagoon.


But they float away - for who can hold
Youth, or perfume or the moon's gold?
      (Sara Teasdale)

Saturday, January 28, 2017

You're Gonna Make It After All

I believe the sadness we feel when a celebrity dies lies in the impact that person made on our own lives.

Ted Baxter and Mary Richards on WJM set
I felt very sad Wednesday when I learned of the death of actress Mary Tyler Moore. Yes, I remembered her as Laura Petrie on the Dick Van Dyke show - who could forget "Oh, Rob...".

And I remember being totally fascinated that it was her voice, her legs, and only those, at the beginning of every episode of Richard Diamond, Private Detective (one of my very favorite TV shows).

But it was her role as Mary Richards on The Mary Tyler Moore Show which affected me the most. The hair, the clothes, the attitude, the suggestion (assurance) that I could make it; I could have it after all.

In my 'Mary Richards' dress, SE Beltway office, December, 1973

This came at a time in my life (the show aired from 1970 to 1977) when I had remarried, had two more children, and divorced again. The line from the show's theme song, "How will you make it on your own?",  repeated over and over in my head during sleepless nights. It wasn't just me I had to worry about, it was also my three children. I drew strength from Mary's positiveness. "It's time you started living. It's time you let someone else do some giving. Love is all around."

Mary represented a new role model for me. The personification of women in the workplace (so aptly portrayed in 'Mad Men' years later) was on the way out. Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem, NOW (National Organization of Women) and the fight for the ERA (Equal Rights Amendment) were at the forefront of showing me there was another way of living my life - a way more in line with my way of thinking - a way to be a woman true to being myself.

With every episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, I felt more empowered. She wasn't afraid to stand up to her boss and ask for equal pay. She may not have had family near by, but she cultivated her own family of friends with whom she found strength and empathy. She helped me see that there could be forward motion even after the set backs.

So, yes, I felt sadness when I heard that Mary Tyler Moore had died. I also felt great gladness for the life she lived and gratitude for the world she opened for me through one of her acting roles.

And I remember my first trip to the Twin Cities, staying downtown, walking through the skyway above Nicollet Mall, looking, hoping to see, even though I knew it was impossible, Mary Richards on the street below.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Grandparents Are.....


My sweet granddaughter Katrina shared the above to Facebook a few days with the notation: "This made me think of you this morning Grandma, I love you!" Aww, what a way to start my day.

As I read through each letter of the alphabet, I could only agree - especially:
'L'ove to take pictures. It was said that my grandchildren only recognized me as the person behind the camera.

'A're family historians. With almost every one of the grandchildren I received a call: "Grandma, I have to do a family tree for school, can you help me?" "How far back through the generations do you want me to go?"

'B'elieve in having fun. So many, many times I've said how glad I am I had my own children while young therefore still being young enough to play with the grandchildren (the first grandchild was born when I was 37.) That holds true now as my great-grandchildren come along. I may not still be able to actually play, but I'm happy to see them and hold them.

'I'nspire wonder and mystery. By sharing my love of nature, including all the times hunting for rocks, I hope they have also learned to enjoy the best things in life which are free.

Because I always worked outside the home and wasn't the traditional 'wearing apron, baking cookies' kind of grandma, I felt I had short-changed my grandkids. It is nice to know they don't feel that way about me because I have always, always
'J'ust want what's best for you. And...
'U'nconditionally love you!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Snow Flakes


"Out of the bosom of the air,
Over the cloudfolds of her garment shaken,
Over the woodlands brown and bare


Over the harvest fields forsaken,


Silent and soft and slow
Descends the snow."
  (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)


Sunday, January 22, 2017

Why I Read The Obits Each Day

I used to joke that I read the obituaries every day just to see if I'm in them. Or, said another way, to make sure my name isn't there, i.e., I'm alive for another day.

It's a habit I've formed. On the days I don't recognize any names of the recently departed, I'm grateful. On the days I do, well, that's when the memories come.

Yesterday it was the name of a well-known business man in my home town, 'Frannie' Mack.
Everyone knew Frannie, as evidenced by all the comments on Facebook. He was one of those people who made you feel like you were someone when he spoke to you. He always remembered your name, which, because he was an important member of the community, made you feel as though you had worth, too.

I knew Frannie my whole life. My earliest memories of him where from going into the Curry and Mack Hardware when it was still on the west side of main street. I was still very young, i.e. with one of my parents and not yet roaming the streets on my own or with my sis.

My memory is of being there with my Dad and being impressed by the way Frannie greeted him: "Hi Lou! How are you doing? What can I do to help you?" As a country kid, I had the feeling the town businessmen were somehow better than us. Yet here was one of them treating my farmer father as though he was the one who was important. Only years later did I come to understand the symbiotic relationship.
The times I was in his store with my mother, his greeting was just as friendly but maybe with a slightly different warmth. Frannie was one of those men who liked women and made them feel special without any overtly intimate overtones.

When I was a little older and had the freedom to wander the streets on Saturday night, I felt like it was safe to go into the hardware store because Frannie knew who I was because he knew my parents. And why did I want to go in there on my own?

Because they had a water cooler similar to this one. I always had to have a cup of water if I was in there with my parents. I was fascinated by the way the water 'burbled' and the fact that it was cold. Even if I wasn't actually thirsty, I loved getting a paper cup of water. The other gentlemen in the store might frown at my sis and I as we helped ourselves to free ice water, but Frannie only smiled and asked how we were, or, if he was busy with a customer, he would look over and give us a wink. I have other memories of him, like how he always played taps at the funerals of Veterans, but the hardware store and the water cooler are always at the forefront. RIP, Frannie. You will be missed.

Today, reading the obits in the Des Moines Register, I learned of the passing of another old friend.

Ron Shoop was well known in the city as a sportscaster on radio and TV. By the time I met him, he was a sales rep for a paper supply and printing company. But I knew him best as an actor at Charlie's Showplace, one of the first dinner theaters around.

Then, when I started working for the owner's of Charlie's Showplace in the recording studio they owned, I saw even more of Ron when he came in to do voice overs on the commercials recorded there. Like Frannie, he had a way of making women feel appreciated. He was friendly and funny and a good actor. Someone I am glad I had the opportunity of knowing. RIP, Ron.

Friday, January 20, 2017

The Little Home




The Little Home
            (Edgar A. Guest)

The little house is not too small
To shelter friends who come to call.
Though low the roof and small its space
It holds the Lord's abounding grace,
And every simple room may be,
Endowed with happy memory.

The little house, severely plain,
A wealth of beauty may contain.
Within it those who dwell may find
High faith which makes for peace of mind,
And that sweet understanding which
Can make the poorest cottage rich.

The little house can hold all things
From which the soul's contentment springs.
'Tis not too small for love to grow,
For all the joys that mortals know,
For mirth and song and that delight
Which make the humblest dwelling bright.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Imagining Nature


 Gettysburg National Military Park
6 October 2015


"The tree which moves some to tears of joy, 
Is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way.
Some see Nature all ridicule and deformity, 
And some scarce see Nature at all.
But to the eyes of the (wo)man of imagination,
Nature is Imagination itself." 
              (William Blake)

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

January Thaw


After the ice storm
January thaw releases hold
Shards breaking crash down

(ril 18 January 2017)

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

A Subdued Triptych

"I love the autumn, for its sense of melancholy seems to strike my need for sadness. There is poetry in the dying of the year and mystery as well." (Sir John Kyffin Williams)



"But my words like silent raindrops fell and echoed in the wells of silence." (Paul Simon)


"Nature reserves some of her choice rewards for days when her mood may appear to be somber." (Rachel Carson)

Friday, January 13, 2017

On This Day in 1960

There were many 'important' days the year I was a Junior in high school. One of them was January 13, 1960 - a Wednesday. "Went down to the auditorium at 11:30 to vote on the class ring style."
A representative from Josten's was there with a display of ring styles that were available. Jostens was a Minneapolis company and pretty much the 'only game in town' for class rings - at least in the Midwest at that time. I didn't record in my diary how many choices we had nor how many votes we had to take to agree on the design. I only noted: "Stayed after school to practice my speech. Went down (town) to Reeve's (Jewelry Store) afterwards to order my class ring. I'm getting gold (plain).
This illustrates the style our rings were and I remember really wanting to get a ring with the mother-of-pearl under the "C" for Corning. But the plain gold was only $25.00. The rings with "stones" cost  a lot more! Probably only $5.00 or $10.00 more, but in 1960, five or ten dollars was tank of gas or a week's worth of groceries.

Even though my parents paid for my ring and would have gotten me the more expensive one (they did two year's later when my sister got her's with her birthstone), I was very cost-conscious and responsible. 

Our class rings came in on April 28, a Thursday. Dad was in town so he picked up mine and brought it home to me. Just a few days before, on Sunday, my boyfriend had asked me to go steady and gave me his class ring to wear. Suddenly I had two class rings! I only wore my class ring five days before giving it to my boyfriend to wear, which I remember upsetting my folks some, but hey, that's why you wanted a class ring - to exchange with some boy so the world knew you were going steady.

Even though I didn't wear my class ring much after getting married, I still hated that it was stolen in the mid-70's. Every once in a while I check the lost/found class ring sites - Jostens maintains one of those - hoping my ring will show up some day. But I imagine it was pawned shortly after it was stolen and then melted down for the gold.

Hubby dearest still has his class ring ('63), maybe if I hinted enough he would ask me to go steady and I could wear it. Or I can just keep checking the lost and found class rings sites and hoping.

Friday, January 6, 2017

She Wasn't A Complainer

Today's poem (The Writer's Almanac) made me think so much of my Grandma Delphia. This photo was taken in 1962 - two years after she became a widow. Grandma never wore slack or jeans, always a dress. But during Grandpa's final years, when she had taken over more and more of the chores, she fashioned a denim skirt made from a pair or two of jeans to wear while she cared for her beloved hogs.


Complaint by James Wright

She's gone. She was my love, my moon or more.
She chased the chickens out and swept the floor,
Emptied the bones and nut-shells after feasts,
And smacked the kids for leaping up like beasts.
Now morbid boys have grown past awkwardness;
The girls let stitches out, dress after dress,
To free some swinging body's riding space
And form the new child's unimagined face.
Yet, while vague nephews, spitting on their curls,
Amble to pester winds and blowsy girls,
What arm will sweep the room, what hand will hold
New snow against the milk to keep it cold?
And who will dump the garbage, feed the hogs,
And pitch the chickens' heads to hungry dogs?
Not my lost hag who dumbly bore such pain:
Childbirth at midnight sassafrass and rain.
New snow against her face and hands she bore,
And now lies down, who was my moon or more.

Grandma was one tough woman. "They don't make them like her anymore."
Said with love, respect and very fond memories.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Anywhere I Wander - Domani

I read The Writer's Almanac every morning. Besides a daily poem, it also has information about what happened on this date. Usually it will be the birth date of an author or two and some event that happened on this date in history. Today, among others was the birthday of Isaac Asimov (1920). Sometimes just reading that information will send me looking for what else happened on this date.

Julius LaRosa was born on this day in 1930. Now that is a name I remember from my pre-teen and teen years. He was an Italian-American pop singer featured on Arthur Godfrey's shows. I remember Grandma Bessie being a big fan of Godfrey's and LaRosa's and upset about their falling out when Godfrey publicly fired him on his show. (Ed Sullivan quickly picked him up.)
 His good looks may be what made me like him, too. I remember Anywhere I Wander and Domani. "Maybe you'll fall in love with me domani. Maybe tomorrow night the sun will shine. I'll change my name from Johnny to Giovanni, if you will say domani, you'll be mine. 
I had no idea what domani meant. When I used it as "tonight's song" in my diary, I said as much, but also "cute song". Knowing domani means tomorrow does make a little more sense out of the lyrics.

It is also the birthday of Roger Miller. I never had any Julius LaRosa albums, but I had several of Roger Miller's including The 3rd Time Around. Who could forget Dang Me, King of the Road, You Can't Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd. Chug-A-Lug, Do-Wacka-Do, Engine, Engine #9, Little Green Apples - so many hits - most of them songs that he wrote.

Interesting the memories old tunes will bring to mind.


Sunday, January 1, 2017

The New Year - The New Song

I read this poem by W. S. Merwin a few days ago and thought it perfect for the New Year.

The New Song

For some time I thought there was time
and that there would always be time
for what I had a mind to do
and what I could imagine
going back to and finding it
as I had found it the first time
but by this time I do not know
what I thought when I thought back then

there is no time yet it grows less
there is the sound of rain at night
arriving unknown in the leaves
once without before or after
then I hear the thrush waking
at daybreak singing the new song

The first day of the new year began with a soft glow. I remembered to say, "Rabbit, rabbit" before I said, "Happy New Year!" and "Good morning, honey."

The last sunset of 2016 wasn't anything special, but the one the night before (Friday, the 30th) was!

I'm not even going to speculate about what the new year may bring. No resolutions. No big plans. I'll just continue enjoying what Mother Nature brings me - the clouds, the birds, sunsets and sunrises, the moon (so briefly lovely in its evening New Moon phase).

Que, sera, sera, 2017. Que sera.