Monday, November 30, 2009

"Makin' A List; Checkin' It Twice"

There are some ads running promoting the Coaches' Toy Drive benefiting Children and Families of Iowa. They show some Iowa coaches remembering their favourite toys from each one's youth.
The ads started me wondering if I could remember some of my favourite toys from childhood. There was the big metal doll house my sister and I had wanted which I found hidden under a blanket in Mom's closet before Christmas. (Snoopy little brat.)
Before that were the dolls with 'real' hair. I had the ability to awaken before my siblings xmas morning. Around 4 a.m. I would quietly sneak down the stairs to see what was under the tree. There was just enough light from the glow of the oil burner through the isinglass front that I could read the names on the packages to see which were mine. Then I would shake them, feel them, try to guess what was inside.
The year Betty and I got the dolls, they were just sitting under the tree without "To" name tags. One was blond with a pink dress, the other auburn tressed in a yellow dress. I don't know what possessed me to want the blond (today I would fight for the auburn redhead) but I did so I hid her back behind the tree insuring that my little sis would see the one I didn't want and go for her while I had to 'settle' for the one I wanted all along.
I also remember the year brother Ron received a coveted bow and arrow set. It was just a small bow and the arrows had suction cups over the ends. Ron had me hold up the Sunday funnies so he could shoot the arrows at them. Unfortunately he took the suction cups off first. He fired from across the living room at the paper I was holding up in front of my face. The arrow went through the comics and hit near my eye. I cried, of course. Dad came into the room, took the bow and arrows and broke them across his knee and threw them into the fire of the old coal burner stove we had at the time. Ronald was crushed about losing his toys and being upbraided by our Dad. I quit crying because I really wasn't hurt but started feeling terrible because my brother had lost his prized bow and arrows.
Mostly I remember the things I wanted for Christmas that I never got: the Tom Thumb Typewriter pictured above; a baton and majorette boots; a double-holstered gun set with a cowboy hat and fringed vest and skirt to complete the outfit; when a bit older an artist's box and a camera. Bud has said he always wanted a mad scientist's chemistry set.
It must be human nature to remember the things we didn't get, just as it now is to want what we can't have. We don't appreciate what we have until it is gone.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Last Rose of Summer

"'Tis the last rose of summer left blooming alone.
All her lovely companions have faded and gone.
No flower of her kindred, no rosebud is nigh
To reflect back her blushes and give her sigh for sigh....Thomas Moore

No, it's not a rose, but some petunias still blooming outside in my flower bed. There are other pots of flowers protected under the roof of the patio still blooming, too, even though we've had below freezing temps. It has been a lovely month.

Mom used the phrases: "You look like the last rose of summer" and "you look like something the cat drug in". I think they both meant about the same thing: I didn't look my best.

Thomas Moore was an Irish poet and balladeer. If you don't recognize The Last Rose of Summer you might remember his Believe Me If All Those Endearing Young Charms which was used in Warners Brothers Bugs Bunny cartoons.

When I think of Thomas Moore, I think of The Meeting of the Waters which he wrote at The Vale of Avoca, part of Devils Glen in County Wicklow, Ireland. The Vale of Avoca is where the Avonmore and Beg Rivers meet to form the Avoca River.

Moore is said to have perched on the limb of a tree as he wrote "There is not in this wide world a valley so sweet, As the vale in whose bosom the bright waters meet..."
If you visit County Wicklow - The Garden County of Ireland - you can see a bust of Moore and the tree (now dead). I would like to go back to this spot again to see how my memories of it have stood up over the past fifteen years.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Black Friday Part Two

It seems as though Black Friday - the BIG shopping day after Thanksgiving - has been around for a long time. I know there were big sales that day when I lived in Des Moines from '84 until '95. I don't remember them from when I lived there the first time - '68 to '78. But that could be because I didn't have money to take advantage of them.
When the kids were little my xmas shopping usually didn't occur until the week before or even Christmas Eve day. By then retailers were marking down merchandise. I remember one Christmas Eve afternoon getting a great deal on a doll for Kari at Younkers.
Then there was the year of Secret Santas. I can't remember who sponsored them, but you were supposed to ask people, "Are you a secret Santa?" If they were, you received anywhere between $10 and $100. I was working at the recording studio then. A few days before Christmas one of the ad salesmen for WHO came in. I don't even know what made me ask, but I did. And he was. I received $50. That was a good Christmas year.
I don't remember getting up early to go shopping on Black Friday when Bud & I lived in Des Moines. That day was not a day off for me unless I used a vacation day. Generally we thought people were crazy to stand in line and fight the crowds. It wasn't until we moved back home that we started shopping on Black Friday. At first Bud thought I was kidding. But there was a semi truck set on sale for half price at Orschlen's in Red Oak that I wanted for Ki. I wanted to be there when they opened at 6:00 a.m. so I would be certain of getting one. From there we went on to the Mall in Council Bluffs and got some more good deals. After that first year it became something of a tradition for awhile.
Now we are back to the "People are crazy to go out on Black Friday" mentality. Each year the stores open earlier than the year before. 35,000 people waiting to get into Jordan Creek Mall at 12:01 a.m.? Really? Crazy.
I did however drive to Des Moines today for day two of Black Friday deals. Bud wouldn't go along. He said he would wait until some day during the week when it was less crowded. But I was pleasantly surprised - got some good deals and the crowds weren't too bad.
Now, let's see...Cyber Monday???

Friday, November 27, 2009

Iowa - Beautiful Land

I love being an Iowan. I'm proud of being from Iowa. I've never lived anyplace else. I'm not sure I would want to. I expect most people are partial to their home state for one reason or another.
What makes me so proud of Iowa? People from Iowa are considered to be: Honest. Intelligent. Friendly. Caring. Educated. Helpful. Hard working. Reliable. I always felt we were special when Iowa students still rated at the top compared to the other states.
My love of Iowa goes back to the study of her history when I was in sixth grade. There were two definitions of the Indian word from whence came our state name. One was that Iowa meant "Beautiful Land" the other that it meant "Land Between the Rivers". I like that two of our borders are made up by rivers - the "Mighty Mississippi" on the east and the Big Sioux and "Muddy Missouri" on the west.
It used to irritate me when I heard people say there was nothing to see in Iowa but cornfields - or that our state was flat. Why couldn't they see the beauty of the gently rolling hills or of the patchwork quilt effect of our fields? Didn't they ever notice the ethereal mists along the river valleys or wonder about the cat steps of the Loess Hills?
When I learned more men from Iowa fought in the Civil War than from any other state (on a per capita basis) it gave new meaning to our State Motto: "Our Liberties We Prize And Our Rights We Will Maintain." And I didn't have to know Latin to understand it.
Planning for retirement brought discussions of "Where do we want to retire?" We talked of moving a little further south - Arkansas or Missouri; possibly New Mexico. Without having actually experienced living in any of those states, it is impossible to know whether I would have been content.
I just know I'm happy where I am. I love looking out at the changing surface of the pond, the now leafless silhouettes of the trees and the gentle hill to the west. I love seeing the deer, fox and turkeys out that same window and wondering where their dens and nests are.
I look forward to more visits to other locales. My heart is Iowa bound.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

First Thanksgiving

There was a first Thanksgiving in Creston today. It was at my niece's house. The turkey looked much like this one and was very good.
Today was the first time Kristi had hosted Thanksgiving. She did a fine job. There were 18 people there for dinner but we could probably have fed 48.
Most of us were related or quasi-related with the exception of one family included because they didn't have anywhere else to go.
It was an eclectic group. Perhaps that is what made it so much fun because in addition to eating a lot, we laughed a lot. We looked at my brother-in-law's pictures from his recent trip to the Grand Canyon and Kristi's photos from their October vacation to Cancun.
Kristi is at the top of my list of reasons why I'm glad we moved to Creston. Seeing her more often, getting to know this amazing young woman better, has been a bonus I hadn't expected.
I hope everyone had as nice a Thanksgiving as did I.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving Preparations

I started making salads today in preparation for tomorrow's Thanksgiving dinner. One of those salads is a raspberry cranberry jello concoction. That is what made me think of my favourite sister-in-law, Ruth A. Nicolaisen Lynam.
There were two Ruth Lynams in our family after 1968, my mother, Ruth Voneta and Ron's wife, Ruth Anne; known in our family as Ruthie to differentiate. (Ironically they both died within six weeks of each other - Mom Dec 16, 2003 and Ruthie Jan 29, 2004.)
Ronald met Ruth in Denver where she had returned to work after nurses training in Chicago. If I remember correctly they met at a church youth group softball game when Ron slid into base, knocking Ruth over and breaking or spraining her ankle.
When Ron brought Ruth home to meet his family I was a nervous wreck. She was a professional woman; I was only a high school graduate working in an office. I wanted so much for her to like me. Years later when we talked about this, she admitted how nervous she was and how much she wanted me to like her.
Our friendship grew after they moved back to SW Iowa from Colorado and we were together more often. When I was pregnant with Preston, she was also pregnant. We were really looking forward to sharing our pregnancies and having babies almost the same age. Then she miscarried. Not only did I feel sorry for her, I felt guilty.
When Preston was 16 months old, Ron and Ruthie had their first baby, a little girl they named Jennifer. She died three days later. We mourned their loss and then celebrated a little over a year later when their twins, Lorrie and Andrew were born in January 1974. Their daughter, Christine, was born in September of '76.
Ruth was so easy to get along with; she had many friends. After my only sister died, Ruthie became more a sister than a sister-in-law. We both liked antiques. We loved going to garage sales and delighted in our "treasures". Family dinners weren't complete without her homemade rolls and Swedish cardamom bread. Not only did she introduce our family to some new foods, her sense of humour enlivened all our times together.
Which brings me back to the jello salad. Once Ruthie discovered another of the in-laws did not like cranberries - wouldn't eat anything with cranberries - it became her mission to get the other person to eat cranberries. She was successful with her raspberry cranberry jello salad. The one who disliked cranberries ate the jello and liked it until being told it contained cranberries. From then on that person was extremely skeptical and would not eat anything red at our family dinners.
My daughter Kari now uses her Aunt Ruthie's Swedish Cardamom Bread recipe to take to family dinners in Portland, OR and I continue taking Raspberry Cranberry Jello salads to Thanksgiving dinners here in Iowa. It is one way we remember the woman who was my favourite sister-in-law.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Smoke Signal

Before it became politically incorrect, the Corning High School teams were the "Red Raiders". The school mascot was an Indian Chief. The school newspaper was The Smoke Signal.
I'm uncertain which came first, wanting to be a writer or writing for the school paper. Journalism was a senior elective. The journalism class edited the school paper each month during the school year.
Lawrence LaChappelle was my junior English (literature and composition) teacher. He was also the journalism teacher. We had an assignment to write about "Home". He liked my paper so much he wanted to have it published in The Smoke Signal. I was afraid some of the things I had written might peeve some fellow students. I agreed to having it printed as long as I could use a nom de plume. "My Home Is Devoured" by Paula Shane appeared in the next issue. Naturally everyone knew whose story it was and I took some teasing about being "Paula", but I was a published writer; heady stuff for a 16 year old.
There was no question about signing up for Journalism my senior year. My older brother had been editor of the school paper his senior year. I wanted to follow in his footsteps. The first semester I was a co-editor. The second semester I was editor-in-chief. Editorials and feature articles were my bailiwicks. I wrote news stories and solicited the downtown businesses for ads if I had to. I (think) I also wrote a sometime column; "Drum Beats", though I don't remember that for certain.
"Getting out the paper" was my number one priority. I know I felt as though I was doing it single-handedly because in December I was hospitalized for a week with pneumonia followed by a week of recuperation at home. How on earth would the paper get published without me? Much to my chagrin, it did.
Mr. LaChappelle encouraged me to go on to college and major in journalism. I might have done had my roll model been Lois Lane instead of Della Street. That plus his words of encouragement included this line: "I can just see you as editor of the women's page someday." I cared not a whit about the women's pages. I wanted to right (write) the world with my editorials.

Monday, November 23, 2009

"Shaken, Not Stirred"

"Dislocated, not broken." Or, to be more precise, "nearly dislocated".
(This blog has nothing to do with martinis other than I like them and James Bond.)
I was born in the old Creston Hospital 66 years ago. Olin Barrett Hawley, M.D. delivered me. But Bernard J. Fry, D.O. of Corning was the Dr. I remember going to for shots, sore throats and other childhood traumas.
One of those traumas occurred when I was almost eleven. I had seen my older brother, Ron, go after the cows for milking. I had seen him walk down after them and ride one of the cows back up to the barn. Hm-m-m-m. If he could do that, why couldn't I? (Yes, we had a horse to ride, but that was beside the point.)
My only problem was figuring out how to get on the cow's back. One afternoon the cows were in the lot. Some of them were lying down. Perfect. All I had to do was climb on the back of one and then it would stand up and move and I could ride it.
The cow stood up with me on its back but it just stood there. I told my little sister, Betty, to "make her go". Sis did as instructed. She twisted the cow's tail around a couple times. The cow took off running across the lot with me on her back. That is I was on her back until she took a sharp right turn and I kept going straight, landing hard on my left shoulder.
I started screaming and bawling. Betty ran to the house to get help. Mom said I was lying in the dirt screaming, "I'm killed. I'm killed". Somehow she got me up, out of the cow lot and to the house. She realized I really was hurt, so into town to Dr. Fry we went. He made my shoulder hurt even more while moving it around and examining it. I don't remember him taking x-rays; he may have used a fluoroscope. He told us my shoulder wasn't dislocated but it was nearly dislocated. He said to keep it in a sling for ten days to two weeks and I should be fine. I don't think I even got pain pills!
Dr. Fry said to me, "Look on the bright side. This will get you out of doing dishes for two weeks". We went home and Mom made me a sling out of a dish towel. I didn't have to wash the dishes which was my usual job, but I still had to dry them after I had a couple days off to recuperate. Mom figured a way for me to hold the dishes against my dish-toweled left arm and dry them with my right.
I also got a lot of attention when we went to town. Everyone thought I had a broken arm. I would explain how it was only a "nearly" dislocated shoulder. Then they would laugh when told how it had happened.
I never again tried to ride a cow. But I am once again suffering from that childhood attempt; arthritis has settled in that shoulder, limiting my range of motion and lifting capacity with my left arm.
Mm-mmm, one of those shaken, not stirred martinis would numb the pain for awhile.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sunday Night Popcorn

We may not have watched Sunday night football growing up, but we did eat a lot of Sunday night popcorn. Maybe it was because we had large Sunday dinners at noon or maybe it was to give Mom a break from cooking, but often popcorn was our supper on Sundays.
Our "Earl May Popcorn Popper" looked just like this one. We didn't use a thermometer to tell us when the oil was hot though. We just tried a kernal or two when we thought it was hot enough. If it popped right away, in went the cup of popcorn kernals. Then we twisted the little red knobbed stirrer around and around until the popping stopped.
There were years when we raised our own popcorn or when Grandpa & Grandma Ridnour would raise popcorn and give us some. It was fun to shell the kernals from the cob, then take it outside in the wind to winnow it back and forth between two containers, letting the wind blow away the chaff.
There were times we ate the popcorn in bowls of milk and sugar just like cereal. Other times we ate popcorn and apples. When Mom made fudge to go along with the popcorn and apples we really feasted.
I can still hear Earl May on KMA radio saying, "It's a good night for Earl May popcorn." He was the Orville Redenbacher of our childhood - his popcorn was "the best". It supposedly popped better than other brands; fewer 'old maids' (the kernals that didn't pop and were left behind). Sometimes we had yellow popcorn, other times Mom thought white popcorn was better. It was all good, especially with melted butter poured over it.
Popcorn is thought to have originated in Mexico and is over 5,000 years old. Native Americans greeted Columbus with popcorn. It was brought by Indians to the first Thanksgiving. It was a staple food during the depression. Once you smell it popping, it is nearly impossible to resist.
Microwave popcorn and an apple was my supper tonight as I watched Sunday night football. Gee I wish I could have had a piece or two of Mom's fudge to go with it.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Keystone, Colorado

One of the Y regulars mentioned skiing this morning which reminded me of Keystone, CO.
It was in '72 or '73 when my boss at the advertising agency and a friend of his decided to partner in the purchase of a condo in one of the new developments at Keystone. For my boss it was an investment, but for the other partner it was that plus a chance for his four teenagers to enjoy skiing vacations.
The purchase price of their condo was $25,000. I remember that so well because I was afraid they would lose their money on such a chancey investment and $25,000 was a heckuva lot of money!
The first time I visited their condo was in the winter. I am not a skier. Even if I had wanted to try, I was so ill with altitude sickness I couldn't wait to get out of there. The cold air made breathing even harder and the headaches were terrible.
The second time we went there Mom & the kids & I went out during the summer. We had visited a friend of my Mother's in Longmont four days then drove up to Keystone for a couple days. The summer weather made dealing with the altitude much easier. We enjoyed wading in the icy cold Snake River; driving up an old mining trail and exploring a delapidated mining cabin; and driving over Loveland Pass. At nearly 12,000 ft., there was still some snow at Loveland Pass. I made Kari & Preston get out in their shorts and t-shirts and play in the snow just so I could take some pictures. (I think they still hold that against me.)
The last time I went there was to celebrate either my 35th or 36th birthday. A stop was made to visit friends in Denver and attend a Broncos football game before going on up to the condo. It wasn't bitterly cold that trip. I remember coming home across Kansas and running into freezing rain. I didn't realize how icy it was when I got out of the car. I fell and severely sprained my wrist.
Sometime after that the owners decided to sell their condo. By then units were selling for more than $100,000. I needn't have worried about them losing their investment after all.

Friday, November 20, 2009

My Cousin, Randy Duncan

Grandma Bessie Duncan Lynam had an interesting sense of humour. Sometimes I think I'm a bit like her. (I think that because my siblings, kids and grandkids [sometimes even my spouse] don't know when I'm kidding. It has to do with saying something with a straight face when in reality, you're putting someone on or "pulling their leg".
The other humour Grandma enjoyed was akin to slapstick. Not exactly the Three Stooges, more in the realm of an ice cube down another's neck resulting in retaliation, resulting in.....? which is kinda what happened around here yesterday which is what reminded me of Grandma. (Luckily my arm isn't broken, it's just bruised.)
The year was 1958. We were celebrating Thanksgiving at my Aunt Leona's. She was Dad's younger sister (and a lifetime roll model for me). Her husband, Al, loved a good time. He was always up to something. That particular day involved mashed potatoes thrown, a chase through the house and mashed potatoes down someone's pants.
So, train of down my back; retaliation; flashback to mashed potato episode at Aunt Leona's one November; thusly to Grandma's sense of humour.
The 1958 Iowa Hawkeyes had lost tackle Alex Karras and end Jim Gibbons, but they still had Randy Duncan as quarterback. The team was headed to another Rose Bowl. Once the mashed potatoes were cleaned up and the dishes done, we settled in to watch the football game which Iowa was winning. We were all cheering.
Somewhat as an aside; perhaps not even heard by everyone, Grandma Bessie Duncan Lynam made a remark about Randy Duncan being our cousin. No big deal.
The following Monday I went to school and told one of my girlfriends, (a huge Iowa fan) that Randy Duncan was a cousin of mine. She went bananas; couldn't believe he was my cousin; how great is that? etc. etc. For a few days I was someone. Exactly just how were we related?
Grandma's house was close to the school, so as soon as I could I went up to see her and ask the big question: "Grandma, how are we related to Randy Duncan?" It didn't take her long to burst my balloon: "I was just kidding. We aren't really related to him." Going back to school and admitting to my friend that I wasn't related to Randy Duncan was one of the hardest things I had to do. I could have made up a story and let her go on thinking he was a cousin. But Grandma was honest with me and I had to be honest, too.
So kids, next time Grandma R makes some remark with a straight face, you might want to question if it's really true or if she is just having some fun.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

"Time In A Bottle"

"If I could save time in a bottle, the first thing that I'd like to do
Is to save every day till eternity passes away just to spend them with you.
If I could make days last forever, if words could make wishes come true, I'd save every day like a treasure and then, again I would spend them with you.
But there never seems to be enough time to do the things you want to do once you find them. I've looked around enough to know you're the one I want to go through time with.
If I had a box just for wishes, and dreams that had never come true, the box would be empty except for the memory of how they were answered by you." Jim Croce
Jim Croce wrote and recorded so many memorable songs in his short lifetime. I have always wondered how much more he would have achieved if he hadn't been killed in a plane crash when he was only 30.
"Time In A Bottle" was the song Bud & I decided was "our song" way back when. Today, as we celebrate our 24th anniversary, it seems more meaningful than ever.....
"But there never seems to be enough time to do the things you want to do once you find them. I've looked around enough to know you're the one I want to go through time with."
Happy anniversary Budbo. I love you.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

"Get Your Kicks....."

"If you ever plan to motor west, travel my way, take the highway that is best. Get your kicks on route 66." Bobby Troup
Gee, if I'd done any planning ahead, I might have opted to celebrate my 66th going west on Route 66. It is a route Bud & I have taken several times, getting off I-40 and driving some of the original highway where it is still possible. We both appreciate the history associated with the mother road.
But I'm celebrating my 66th at home and instead of a birthday cake, I'm taking a page from my daughter-in-law's book and having a piece of coconut cream pie.
I don't remember any particular birthday cake, though Mom always made one for our birthdays; often an angel food. My 13th birthday cake was "white cake, yellow frosting with colored candies on top." My 14th was "green cake, frosting and decorations". Mom had one of those cake decorating utensils where you could change the tip to make different designs, flowers, etc. When I could, I would talk her into buying the fancy decorations you had to dampen and peel off the paper. Those seemed prettier and more professional to me.
There are a few birthdays that stand out: my 18th because Kenny & I were married that night. It was a Saturday. My 21st: Kenny & Doug & I went to Kansas City to visit Kenny's sister & family. Marjo had a babysitter for our kids so we could go out to celebrate. I was really looking forward to legally ordering a drink. The server asked for my i.d. I showed my driver's license and he said, "Sorry we can't serve you unless you have a birth certificate." What? Whoever heard of such a thing?
My 30th was celebrated with dinner and dancing in the rotating restaurant atop the Holiday Inn in Des Moines. I also celebrated it by having all my long hair cut off. I think it was called a pixie cut.
I remember my 34th as being one of my best birthdays. I don't remember why, specifically, just that it was fun.
Birthdays have often been a time of reflection for me. On both my 50th and 60th I took weekend retreats by myself to meditate and journal. My 50th retreat was at Camp Wesley Woods near Indianola. It was a great place to hike and be alone. My 60th was at Lake Icaria in one of their new cabins. Again, it was a good place for communing with nature. Being around water has always been important to me. Maybe because of Scorpio being a water sign.
This year my best birthday gift will be having my great grandson out of NICU and holding him for the first time. I hope I don't have to wait too long.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

"Great" Grandma or Merely Adequate?

Granddaughter Katrina gave birth to a beautiful baby boy Sunday afternoon. That makes me a great grandmother. Wow! I've been trying to decide how I feel about that.
First of all, I'm very proud to be a great grandma. Second, I'm lucky that I am relatively young and will be able to thoroughly enjoy this new little one. (My youngest grandchild will be 12 next month. I haven't had a little one to cuddle for many years.) Third, I'm happy that my granddaughter will experience the joys of motherhood.
Two of my great grandmothers were still living when I was born. I don't really remember Great grandma Matilda Means. I was less than two when she died. Great grandma Kate Ridnour had seven new great grandchildren the year she died. (My little brother was one of the seven.) Her funeral was the first funeral I remember attending. I was ten and a half.
My great, great Grandma Aggie Richardson died just a few months before I was born. She was Grandma Bessie Lynam's grandmother - her English grandmother. They were very close.

I know my kids remember their great grandmas Lynam and Ridnour. And my grandkids remember their great grandmas, Ruth, Clara and Lena. I don't know what part their great grandmas played in their lives. I'm unsure of the part I will play in this new little one's life. I hope I'm more than just the oldest in a four generation picture.
Continuum has long been a favourite word of mine. My little great grandson, Rodney, is the newest member of my family's continuum.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Soup and Sandwich

Some of those raindrops out there just changed to snowflakes. Yeah, it is that kind of day - a day for soup and sandwiches, a good book and a blankie.

I still feel inadequate when I make soup and sandwiches for a meal. It's only been 48 years, so you would think I would get over it. Kenny and I were married on my 18th birthday in 1961. I've mentioned before what a good cook my Mom was and how I never did much cooking growing up. Our first home was an apartment over a body repair shop and the Pepsi warehouse on Bottle Row in Corning. It was a three-room, shared bathroom down the hall kind of place. (Imagine a young couple of today living in something like that.)
We both worked nearby; Kenny at the Chevy garage and I at an insurance agency. Naturally, we came home for lunch. Naturally, being the little woman, I was expected to prepare lunch for both of us. What else do you make on a cold day and in a short time? Soup and sandwiches, of course. Apparently I made that too many times. I can still hear Kenny say, "Is that all you know how to cook!?" Those words were seared into my young romantic soul.

I still like soup and sandwiches. Luckily, Bud does too. There are so many different kinds of canned soups now. We could eat them all winter and seldom have the same kind unless we wanted to.

Here's to Soup and Sandwiches and Snowy Days!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Vital Statistics

Births. Deaths. Marriages. The components of vital statistics. In one week we've had all three. Last weekend my brother got married. Thursday, Bud's last surviving uncle died. Today my great-grandson was born.
Adoption is another vital statistic for a lot of people. It may be one my eldest has a problem with as he applies for a passport so he can go sailing in the Carribean this winter. He was legally adopted by his step-father, but wanted to go back to his birth name after his natural father died. I had a lawyer file the necessary papers. At least I think I did. I never received a bill from the lawyer and when I tried to get a copy of the updated birth certificate at the county courthouse, I was told I would have to get it from the state. Something I never followed up on.
My son may have an interesting time trying to get a certified copy of his birth certificate, especially with the changes since 911. Hopefully it was all handled as it was supposed to be and there won't be any problems.
I have long been a reader of obituaries. They are about the first things I read online every morning. I think I read them as much to learn family connections as I do to know who has died. I wrote the obituaries for both my parents and one of my grandmothers. I'm going to write my own one of these days. Control person that I am, I want to make sure it's right. I can have it all written down except for that last vital statistic.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Happy 25th Birthday Bud

Each year of a recovering alcoholic's sobriety is celebrated as a birthday (for their spiritual rebirth). Today I gave Bud this AA chip for his 25th birthday. This is another reason I am so proud of him.
According to Shakespeare, "The course of true love never did run smooth." That was certainly true with Bud and me. There were so many ups and downs, break ups and getting back together, I lost count. Even after I moved back to West Des Moines we still saw each other once in awhile. He spent Halloween weekend with us then told me the following week he was moving to Arizona. I accepted I would never see him again.
I went to Corning the weekend before my birthday. When I saw a friend of Bud's I asked him if Bud had left for Arizona. He said, "No, he's still around." So I called him to talk but he didn't want to talk and hung up on me. Later in the day he called back and apologized. He told me he was checking into the Veterans Hospital in Knoxville the next day for substance abuse treatment.
Suddenly all those fights, misunderstandings and breakups began to make sense.
The following Tuesday I drove to Knoxville to see him for his 39th birthday. I was elated; couldn't wait to see him; thought everything would work out for us now. I remember he was doing his laundry. We talked there until he was done, then went outside and sat on some bleachers. He was painfully honest with me, telling me that while he still cared for me, he couldn't promise anything. "All I can be is your friend. If you can be my friend, that is what I need."
I drove home with a heavy heart. I wanted him to love me and not in a platonic way. I gave a lot of thought that week to whether or not I could see him only as "a friend". On Saturday I drove back to Knoxville and told him I wanted to be his friend. I believed my love for him was strong enough to help me see him that way than not at all.
The path of our true love began to run more smoothly after that. A year later we married. Only once in our 24 years was I afraid he was going to begin using again. We had a fight and he walked out of the house. I just knew he was going to come home drunk. I wondered what I would do if he did. I needn't have worried.

Today I wish my best friend happy 25th birthday!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Henny Penny Or Chicken Little?

Oh, those cute little fluffy yellow baby chicks! I loved the month of April. Not only did it mean winter was over, it meant baby animals on the farm - calves and pigs and kittens and chickens.
Once in awhile a broody hen would hide her nest and hatch her brood of little ones, though Mom would try to find the nests before that happened. She would let the banty chickens nest though and raise their young. It was fascinating to watch the chicks peck their way out of the egg shells. And the banties were so much more colorful.

As soon as we were old enough to help the first job was to ready the brooder house. That meant shoveling out the crap from the year before, spraying some kind of disinfectant (I can still smell it, but don't know what it was), putting down a deep layer of peat or ground corncobs, hanging the heat lamps and checking their bulbs, putting chick starter in the little feeders and washing the waterers before filling them. There was some type of medicine we put in the water. It was a yellow tablet; again, I don't know what it was.
Once that was all done, we could drive to Clarinda and get our chicks. The magical date for this was the 21st of April. At least that is the way I remember it. There was a hatchery in Corning but for whatever reason, we always got our chicks from the Berry Hatchery in Clarinda. Perhaps it had to do with cost. Berry's gave 25 free rooster chicks for every 100 pullets. Our order was 200 pullets. I think there were years we bought extra roosters besides the 50 free ones.
Once we got them home, the chicks were taken out of the boxes one by one. Mom had us dip their beaks into the water before we gently placed them on the floor. By the time we had 250 to 300 chicks running around, we had to be careful where we stepped. There was nothing worse than accidently killing a baby chick. I remember when Leslie wanted to help when he was two. He picked a chick out of the box by the neck and held it up. I don't think he hurt it, but he was quickly shown how to hold one and told not to help anymore.
The chicks lived in the brooder house until the fall of the year. The previous year's hens were culled; those not laying were sold or became stewing hens. (Nothing better than chicken and noodles or chicken and dumplings.) As long as the old hens were laying well, we kept them.
Feeding the chickens and gathering eggs was one of the chores Betty and I had. I hated gathering and cleaning eggs. The worst was when a hen wanted to set and wouldn't get off the nest. When I tried to reach under her to get the eggs, she would peck me. I HATED gathering eggs. Each night we would count the eggs as we gathered them so we would know how well the hens were laying. We also knew as soon as the pullets started laying because their eggs were smaller. (Many of my diary entries noted how many eggs we got that day.)
I tried raising chickens a few times over the years. I know we had some when we lived on Tuck Corner. I ordered them through the mail. When they arrived at the post office, the postmaster called and said, "Come in and pick up your chickens!" I could hear them cheeping noisily in the background.
When we moved back to the home place in '95, we made one unsuccessful attempt at having chickens. Everything went o.k. until the chickens were about half grown and a predator started taking two every night. It was probably a fox. No matter how much we tried to keep it out of the old chicken house, it still got in.

During the time we lived there, I had many recurring dreams about forgetting to take care of the chickens in the brooder house. I would forget to feed and water them until they were all almost dead. I never understood those dreams. Did it have something to do with our trailer house being in the same location as where the brooder house once was?
Maybe I'm being nostalgic, but I would still like to raise chickens again. I don't know what Creston's ordinance is, but several towns/cities are now dealing with passing laws regarding Urban Chickens.
Oh, Henny Penny or Chicken Little? Definitely Henny Penny.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Hathaway Hill

A Sunday Driver is defined as a slow and leisurely driver who appears to be sightseeing and enjoying the view, holding up traffic in the process. Dad was definitely NOT a Sunday Driver six days a week. He definitely WAS one on Sunday.
We took a lot of Sunday drives when I was a kid. If there had been any kind of happening in the area, we drove to see it. I swear I remember seeing the crashed plane NW of Corning during WWII. But when I look up the old Adams County Free Press online and see that it happened in June of 1944, I doubt that I remember it as I was only seven months old.
I do have a memory of coming over a hill and seeing a flooded river going over the road and a bridge. Mom told me in later years that I was just old enough to talk because I said, "Somabitch. Let's get outta' here!" (My fear of crossing bridges might come from then.)
I absolutely remember driving near Clarinda to view tornado damage. Also a Sunday drive in northern Missouri when Dad decided to follow an old dirt road for miles even after Mom told him not to. The road ended at someone's farm home and we had to backtrack all those miles. (I just realized why I love taking off on dirt roads.)
Many of our Sunday drives took us to the same areas - places where my Dad lived as a child. We would drive slowly along as he pointed out Uncle Jim's place and where Ikey Arbuckle's lived and the Day Place where he had lived, even though those two homesteads were long gone. We would follow the road north to where it crossed the Middle Nodaway River and curved west. Dad always commented about the good farm ground along the bottom and then we came to Hathaway Hill.
It was many years before I learned the correct name was Hathaway Hill. I always heard it as Halfway Hill. That may even be what Dad called it. Curious child that I was, I wanted to know why it was called Halfway Hill. One of the explanations was that it was so steep, Model A's could only get halfway up it before the gas ran back in the tank and the cars stalled. Supposedly the only way they could get to the top was to back up the hill.
There were a lot of coal mines in the area. Mom would point to a barely discernible track back through the trees and tell us her cousin, Delmar Haley, had worked in a mine back there when he was only 14 years old. He was the eldest of nine children and had to work to help out the family. I tried to imagine what it would be like to be a kid underground in the dark digging out coal. It was awful.
I did learn in later years that there was a coal mine known as the Hathaway Mine for the owner, Robert Hathaway. The hill was west of the mine which could explain its name or perhaps the family's home was near there, too.
It has been awhile since I was last on Hathaway Hill. The road was still dirt. It was a great place to hunt rocks, which is what I was doing. The hill isn't as steep now or maybe my perception has changed from that of a child.
Hathaway Hill doesn't appear on any maps, but if you want to find it, drive north on Chestnut in Douglas Twp; cross the Middle Nodaway River and hang a left; west about three-fourths a mile you'll find yourself on Hathaway Hill.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Thanking a Veteran

Thank you, Bud, for your service to your country during the war in Vietnam. I am proud of you for many reasons. That you are a Vietnam Vet is just one of them.
A year ago, I realized one of the dreams I had held for many years - getting Bud to the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C. It is a moving experience for anyone, but most especially for the veterans of that conflict.
America has been celebrating Veterans Day on November 11 since 1954. Before that, November 11 was known as Armistice Day in recognition of the end of WWI in 1918. It wasn't until after WWII and the Korean Conflict that the name was changed to honor all veterans.
It has only been since the Persian Gulf War and the War in Iraq that thanking veterans for their service has become widespread. Vietnam Vets never experienced welcome home celebrations. They were spat upon and called 'baby killers'. They received aid for physical battle wounds, but not psychological ones. Civilians wanted to forget those years and so did the vets.
When Bud's cobra health insurance ran out earlier this year his pre-existing conditions meant he was going to have to obtain very expensive coverage through HIP-IOWA. His only other option was to try getting health coverage through the Veterans Hospital. What we thought might be a bad experience has turned out to be a very good experience.
He chose to go to the Veterans' Hospital in Des Moines rather than Omaha. I remembered the horror stories about the DM facility from the 70's & 80's so I wasn't expecting much. He was immediately impressed by the way the clinics are run: appointments kept on time, the professionalism of the staff and the "thanks for your service" from everyone.
Bud has never talked very much about his army experiences. But I could see it at the Wall in DC and at the Vets Hospital in DM, when he is around those other vets of a certain age, he is a member of a band of brothers.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Ian Rankin, Scottish Mystery Writer

Back in the '60's my favourite writer was Ian Fleming. Yes, I was a big James Bond fan.
A different writer named Ian became one of my favourites in the 90's - Ian Rankin.
I first heard of Rankin on a television program - Sunday Morning, I think. One of the correspondents was doing a piece on "this great new Scottish mystery writer, Ian Rankin". I wrote the name down thinking I would try one of his books.
The library had nothing of his, so next time I was in Des Moines I looked at the Half Price Bookstore. Nadda. It was a couple years before I finally got my hands on an Ian Rankin book. It was one of his Inspector John Rebus mysteries. I fell in love - with Rankin's writing and his damaged inspector.
Rebus was in his 40's when first introduced. After 17 books, he is set to retire. I will miss him. In the meantime, Rankin has written a number of what I call stand alone books; meaning they are not about Rebus. Witch Hunt is one of those.
Witch Hunt was my plane book when I flew out to Portland to see Kari & Ken a couple years ago. It was a coincidence that Rankin was holding a book signing at Powell's Books while I was there. I didn't attend. I'm still wishing I had.
I left the book for Kari to read with this question: "Did he or didn't he?" If you read or have read "Witch Hunt", I'd like to know what you think. "Did he or didn't he?"

Today I finished "Tooth & Nail". I'm sending it on to my brother. Les hasn't read any Rankin books and I think he would enjoy them.

And speaking of Les, a cute story about his son; also an Ian. I don't remember where Les was working when Ian was born, but they had one of those signs out front on which you could change the message. They posted: "It's a boy. IAN MICHAEL, etc." Some woman came in and congratulated Les and then told him the BR had fallen off the sign. Apparently she was not familiar with the name Ian and thought it was supposed to be Brian.

I still have Rankin's "Doors Open" and "The Complaints" novels to read and two or three Rebus mysteries I somehow missed. I hope you'll give him a try and don't forget, "Did he or didn't he?"

Monday, November 9, 2009

New Beginnings

Last Monday we stopped in West Des Moines to visit Brad and (granddaughter) Katrina at their newly opened Little Caesar's Pizza. It was their 7th day being open and they were doing great.

We were there a little before the 11:00 opening and people were waiting outside. As soon as the doors were unlocked, a steady stream of people began picking up pizzas. We left before the lunch rush started - taking a tasty box of Italian Cheese Bread with us. YUM!

The previous Monday night, they hosted a VIP party for all the contractors, family, friends, etc. As things began to wind down, they still had 25 pizzas made. Katrina said, "What will we do with all this pizza?" Entrepreneur Brad had the answer: He called the fire station and offered free pizza. They arrived in one of the fire trucks. The kids loved it! He called the police station and offered free pizza. Patrol cars arrived. Great public and community relations!

I admire this young couple for having the courage to take this big step into their business future. I know they worked hard to obtain the franchise, find the right location and get everything done in time for their grand opening. Brad had a good job and benefits with his previous employer, but he wanted to be his own boss. He did his research and achieved his goal. I'm proud of both of them. I know they will be successful.

Any day now they will welcome another new beginning - their baby boy. They can't wait and neither can this great-grandma!

If you're in the area, Little Caesar's Pizza is at 1220 Grand Ave, West Des Moines. (Just west of the Dahl's grocery.) Phone # is 515-224-2929. Tell them Grandma sent you.

Interestingly enough, Brad & Katrina's store is just across the street from where a Little Caesar's was when I moved to WDM in 1984. Loved their pizza then and have even more reason to love it now.

Congratulations Brad and Katrina!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Longitude and Latitude

Planning an outdoor wedding in November is a very chancy thing to do.
When my little brother told me he and his fiance had decided to marry in November rather than December because his brother and sister both had had November weddings, I thought they had a chance of having good weather. Who would have dreamed the weather would be so perfect? It was sunny and 70's in Overland Park Saturday afternoon.
In the meantime, they had decided not to chance it and held the actual ceremony inside, but guests were able to sit on the deck during the reception afterwards.
Once again it was nice to gather with family for a happy occasion. Niece Lorrie was the official photographer while her pastor husband, Kevin officiated the wedding. They are from the Phoenix, AZ area. Niece Christine came from Colorado. She had visited us in April, but I hadn't seen Lorrie for more than three years.
I also got to meet and hold my great-niece, Maya (Les's granddaughter) for the first time.
When Bud and I planned our outdoor November wedding nearly 24 years ago, we were almost 200 miles further north from Overland Park. Still, the weather two days before we married was very nice for November in Des Moines - 60 degrees. The day of our wedding in the old cabins area of Waterworks Park began cloudy and rainy. By mid-morning the temperature had dropped and the rain turned to ice. The best man called from Fort Dodge to say he couldn't make it. Bud found another friend willing to stand in. He even offered his house for the ceremony as did my boss.
By early afternoon the ice turned to snow. The wind picked up. The temperature dropped further. We called the officiant, was he still willing to perform the ceremony outside? He was. My attendant was my daughter. I didn't give her a choice. Which is why in our wedding pictures Kari has a blanket wrapped around her head and shoulders. At 3:45 p.m., the five of us trudged through the snow to a remaining fireplace where once a cabin had stood and said our vows.
Although their wedding day weather was much different than ours, my hope is that Les and Susan are as happy in their life together as Bud and I have been.

Friday, November 6, 2009

"What's Your Sign?"

It is that time of year - the time for all we Scorpios (Oct. 23-Nov. 21) and there are a bunch of us in our familial circles. Bud and I are both Scorpios. It isn't supposed to work for two Scorpios to mate, but we have figured out how to live together - happily and harmoniously.

My new great grandson will be a Scorpio - he is due on the 8th. Here are the rest of our November birthdates: Bud's Mom, Lottie and sister Diane, both on the 8th. My daughter-in-law, Shalea, the 10th. My son-out-law, Ken, the 12th. Bud's son, Mark, the 14th. My granddaughter, Dominique, the 15th. My granddaughter, Deise, the 18th, which is also my birthday. Bud, the 20th. With our birthdays the 18th and 20th, naturally, our anniversary is the 19th. Oh, yeah, both our cats, Cassandra and Cerridwen were Scorpios. I've always felt I couldn't even think about xmas shopping until I got through the November birthdays.

The 70's saw heightened interest in the signs of the Zodiac. "What's your sign?" was one of the best ways to strike up a conversation - a "pick-up" line at any bar or party. Linda Goodman's two volume "Love Signs" was THE guide for all relationships. We learned not only about Sun Signs and mutual moon signs but also about planetary influences, trines, conjunctions, houses, ascendents, really understand yourself, you had to have your 'chart' done. That included not only the day you were born, but where, exact time and whether or not it was standard time or daylight savings time.

I can't imagine being anything other than a Scorpio. No other sun sign fits me as well - both for the positive aspects and the negative. Scorpios are intense, dedicated and idealistic. We are also secretive, curious and passionate. One website states: "The Scorpio motto might be "What is hidden is more interesting than what is obvious. You are the detectives of the zodiac." That's me.

This website also says Scorpio is the only sign that has three animal totems; the Scorpion, the Eagle and the Dove. I had never heard that before. Interestingly when I asked to know my totem several years ago, I was given "Dove" as the answer. Water is our element and Pluto was our planet until it was demoted as a planet. I don't know which planet is mine now. I'm sticking with Pluto. Pluto is "intense and powerful, representing those things that we don't or can't understand."

I don't read my daily horoscope nor check with an astrologer before making major decisions. But I truly believe there is much to be learned from understanding the sign we were born under. It is fascinating 'stuff'. Our Scorpio son, Mark, even wrote a song entitled "Scorpio" and sings it on his newest CD.

So celebrate your month all you Scorpios. Don't you agree that it is fitting that our holiday is Halloween?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Be Prepared

Doug was the only one of my boys in Scouting; first Cub Scouts, then Boy Scouts. Preston wanted to be, but when the invite was passed out at Corning Elementary about attending 'Scout Night', it read: "Bring your Dad and join Cub Scouts". Preston's Dad was 100 miles away, so Preston didn't tell his Mom he wanted to go to the Scout meeting.
I didn't learn of this until a few years later. It still made me mad that the Corning School system could be so insensitive to the children of divorced parents.
Doug & Preston both have August birthdays. They were almost 11 and 2 when Denny and I divorced. Kari had just turned 4. I was working 'mother's hours' that summer - 9 to 3. The summer before I had paid a 13 year old girl to babysit. I decided Doug was just as mature as she had been, so I hired him to watch Kari and Preston while I was at work those 6 hours.
One sunny June afternoon Kari came running out of the house as I pulled up in front of the garage. She was screaming something about Preston cutting his arm and lots of blood. I hurried into the bathroom where Doug was holding Preston's arm over the sink. "It's bad, Mom. He saw you pull in the driveway and went running to the front door. He hit the handle to open it, but the door was locked and his arm went through the glass."
My Boy Scout son had acted quickly. He had tied a tourniquet above Preston's elbow. He had clamped the wound together, wrapped a washcloth around it and was applying pressure. I didn't want to, but I had to see if the blood was spurting - if he had cut an artery. The gash was long and it was deep, but the blood wasn't spurting. I wrapped the washrag back around his arm. "We've got to get him to the hospital!"
Doug had slumped to the floor once I took over. "I can't go. I think I'm going to be sick." I said, "Doug, you've got to. You're going to have to keep pressure on while I drive." At that time, Northwest Hospital was still open in Urbandale. It was probably a ten mile drive from our acreage. I drove as fast as I could on the gravel and then through traffic, all the time thinking my little one would die before I got him there.
When we got to the emergency room I was happy to have the doctors and nurses take over, but I insisted upon going into the room with Preston. Just as Doug had done when I took over, I did when they took over. A nurse saw me beginning to faint. "Lie down on the floor! We don't have time to take care of you, too!"
I don't remember how many stitches they took. There were internal stitches and external stitches. They told me his 'baby fat' was what saved him.
Yeah, that and my Boy Scout trained elder son.
Be Prepared.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


"Never believe anything you hear and only half what you see." That was one of my Mom's sayings. I suppose I was a teenager before I understood what she meant by it. She was talking about gossip. Dad was more of a gossiper than Mom. If she did hear any juicy tidbits, she did not pass them on.
Maybe that is why I don't care for gossiping. Oh, it is fun sometimes to hear disparaging remarks about another; especially if you don't particularly like the person. But to pass on scurrilous stories can cause heartache and do real damage. Some people will say: "Where there's smoke, there's fire." Meaning people wouldn't be talking in the first place if there wasn't some truth to the gossip. Then they will add something to what they heard and pass it on.

The subject of gossip came up at a book club meeting in Corning a couple years ago. One of Dad's cousins remarked: "I don't even want to hear it. Once you hear something, you can't unhear it. I don't want that (gossip) in my head."
And the part about only believing half what you see? I thought that was silly. You can trust your own eyes can't you? Have you ever been an eye witness on the stand before a jury swearing to tell the truth? That can give pause to what you think you saw.

One morning many years ago I had just turned south onto Hwy 141 heading toward I-35-80 where it curves around the northwest side of Metro Des Moines. (Known as Ryder Corner.) I thought I saw a black Volkswagen Beetle go flying off the interstate highway down the steep embankment. I blinked; looked again. Nothing. How could I possibly have thought that? When I got to the entrance ramp a minute later, sure enough, there was a black Volkswagen Beetle down at the bottom of the high embankment.

"There is so much good in the worst of us,
And so much bad in the best of us,
That it hardly behooves any of us
To talk about the rest of us. Edward Wallis Hoch

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Terra Madre

"Food imaginatively and lovingly prepared, and eaten in good company, warms the being with something more than the mere intake of calories." Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
One of the sessions I attended at last weekend's "Women & Spirituality Conference" was: "Eating Is An Agricultural Act" - Wendell Berry, Slow Food/Terra Madre - What does food mean to us?" (That was the entire title.) The session was put on by two MN women farmers who had attended the Slow Food/Terra Madre world meeting in Turin, Italy along with 7000 other people from around the world. Just one of the topics they touched upon was the slow preparation and eating of food; something my parents and grandparents did on a daily basis. "It's odd how large a part food plays in memories of childhood." Caroline Lejeune
For our noon meal today, I made beef and noodles, mashed potatos and gravy and green beans - what I call comfort food. So, the noodles were the frozen kind, as were the green beans and the gravy was the jarred kind, but I did peel and mash real potatos instead of using boxed instant ones. And the beef was leftover from a roast I had purchased and cooked.
Compare that to the way my Mom would have made the same meal: The roast beef would have been from a steer they raised themselves. The potatos and green beans would have come from their own garden. Mom would have made gravy from the drippings left from cooking the roast. Ahhh, the noodles. Mom's noodles were hand made: flour and eggs and salt mixed and rolled out, cut into strips and allowed to dry before being cooked in beef broth. Often when she made noodles it was because earlier she had made an angel food cake which required only the whites of 13 eggs. That meant she had 13 egg yolks to use up - perfect to use making noodles.
What a difference between the way I was raised and my relationship with food and that of my children. Too many of their meals were from fast food drive-thrus or frozen pizzas. (Doug says all we ever ate were frozen pizzas!) I tried to do better, but too often was just too tired or didn't care after a day at the office. Every once in a while I would do the entire meal planning, cooking and freezing thing over the weekend so we would have nutritious meals, but regardless of how often I vowed to keep that up, I quickly slipped back into whatever was easiest.
It does seem more people are beginning to care about where their food comes from; how fresh it is and how many chemicals were used to grow it. And more families are eating together at a table, discussing their day instead of eating in front of the t.v. The pendulum swings back. It is a good thing. Good for us; good for the earth.