Tuesday, August 31, 2010

August Reads II

The last time I visited the Half-Price Bookstore in Clive, I limited my buying to clearance books - two one dollar ones and two two dollar ones. Mary Alice Monroe's "Skyward" was one of the one dollar books. The story setting is a birds-of-prey sanctuary in the South Carolina Lowcountry.
Next, I tried another Ruth Rendell book from the library - "One Across Two Down". I liked this one better than "Adam and Eve and Pinch Me" read the first part of the month.
I had quoted E. B. White a couple times recently which made me decide it might be time to read "Charlotte's Web" again. I had forgotten so much of this classic - it was good to revisit it.
Sarah Addison Allen is a new author for me. I read her third book, "The Girl Who Chased the Moon" and enjoyed it enough that I plan to read her first two, "Garden Spells" and "The Sugar Queen" both of which our library has.
Several months ago I read one of Rita Mae Brown's 'Sister Jane' novels about Virginia foxhunting. It was the third of the series. This time I read "Outfoxed", the first in the series.
Eudora Welty's "Delta Wedding" was one of my two dollar purchases. I haven't read Welty for years and thought this first novel of hers looked interesting. Have you ever read a noisy book? That is the only way I can think to describe how I felt the entire time it took me to read this book. There were way too many characters to try to keep track of and how they were related. To say they were a clamorous Southern family is putting it mildly. Welty is a notable and prize winning author. This book does paint a vivid picture of a 1923 plantation wedding - just too rambunctiously for me.
The second two dollar book was "The Big Steal" by Emyl Jenkins. Sterling Glass is an appraiser of antiques hired to assess the value of broken and missing valuables from a Virginia manor house. Between this book, "Outfoxed" and watching a documentary about Jefferson and Monticello, I could not help but think of our trip there two years ago. Beautiful countryside.
My final August read - just finished a half hour ago - makes the first seven pale by comparison. Actually, there is no comparison. Minette Walters' "Fox Evil" is absolutely the best of hers I've read so far. I don't think anyone writes a mystery any better than she does. I have one more of her novels left to read. The only thing that keeps me from starting it immediately is the desire to prolong the pleasure.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Walking On Sunshine

"I feel the love, I feel the love that's really real.
I'm walking on sunshine and don't it feel good..."
(Katrina and the Waves)

Pictured left to right: Doug Botkin, Denise Johnson, Katrina Marie Johnson and Grandma Ramona Lynam - August 27, 1986.

I was very happy to have a granddaughter after two grandsons. I did not know how her name was chosen until Doug told me it was from a song. I hope I've remembered the right one. Even if I haven't, Katrina has brought a lot of sunshine into our lives in her twenty-four years.

I love this picture of her in her purple birthday hat. We were celebrating at Great-grandma Ruth's. I think it was her 8th birthday. Such a fashionista!

Katrina is a Virgo. One of the traits for Virgos is that they are caregivers. "When the meal is done, they are the first to jump up and start the dishes." Little Katrina was doing that from an early age. She would collect every one's dirty plates and take them to the kitchen. Now she does the organizing, cooking and cleaning for family get-togethers.

I think we were celebrating her 16th birthday when Katrina had her first airplane ride. We toured the air museum in Greenfield before she got to go up in this cute little single-engine Piper.

Another birthday celebration saw her Dad and I taking her for a canoe trip down the Middle Raccoon River. We put in west of Linden and took out just north of Doug's acreage west of Redfield. The river was low. There were many places we had to get out and wade because it was so shallow. The way Katrina remembers it, we had to wade because I had filled the canoe full of rocks I wanted to take home with me. O.K., that may have been part of the reason.
It was a fun afternoon - some interesting sights along the river including a new house, a 'hut' built from sticks and branches and a private picnic shelter. Amazing how long it can take to travel a short distance on a river - lots of switchbacks.

Katrina is the ultimate caregiver now - a mother. She is excelling in this role, too. Rodney is such a good and happy baby. I know it is in great part because she is such a good momma.

Such a short time ago, she was the baby....our family tree grows on.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Garden of Weedin'

There are many mer-chandise choices with the "Gar-den of Weedin'" design. I was thinking more of t-shirts until I saw this bag. I have such a thing for bags. One more couldn't hurt!
There is a family owned business near Sioux Falls, SD on the SD/Iowa border using the Garden of Weedin' as their company name. It sounds like a place I would enjoy visiting - especially during Pumpkin Picking Days in October. Hm-m-m a little fall get-a-way for a couple days, maybe?
I'm thinking about weeding because that is what I did for several hours yesterday. The weather is so much more conducive for being outside than it has been. Even so, "standing on my head" in the sun that long did make me light-headed, which made me think about fainting.
The first time I ever almost fainted was when I was about ten years old. Mom had to go to the dentist, so we went along. Dr. M.B. Latimer had his office in the Biggar Building. It was upstairs, on the west side of main street. Mom was in the chair. The dentist was drilling. And I was getting woozy. I must have said something about not feeling well. One look and Mom could see I was going to faint. She told me to sit down and put my head between my legs. Which is why I almost fainted instead of passing clear out.
There were a couple times when I was in high school when everything would go black except for a tiny pinpoint of light. After both of those times I had terrible headaches and had to go home. And there was the time already blogged about when Preston cut his wrist so badly and I insisted on being in the emergency room with him while he was stitched up. But I don't remember ever completely fainting - always knowing what was happening and getting my head down in time.
The absolute scariest experience I ever had with fainting was when my daughter passed out in the old Younkers store at Merle Hay Mall. She was only six years old. We had just gotten out of the car, walked into the store and were waiting for the elevator when she keeled over. I tried to revive her; picked her up and kept saying her name to no avail. I had no idea what had happened. I was begging people around me to "help me, help me!" when she finally began to come around. A store employee took us to the employee lounge where Kari was able to lie down for awhile. She said she felt fine, but we were advised to wait at least twenty minutes before she tried getting up. From experience, I can tell you one of the awfullest feelings in the world is the helplessness of not being able to do something for your child.
I still have some weeding to do under the deck, but the majority of it is done. What's left is going to have to wait a few days until I feel up to bending over again. Most of the weeds are what I call 'monkey face' and they are fairly easy to pull. I don't have a 'garden of weedin' t-shirt, but I do have my "So many weeds, so little time" one Shelly gave me a few years ago. I'll wear it next time I go out.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Full Sturgeon Moon

"I see the bad moon arising.
I see trouble on the way.
I see earth-quakes and lightnin'.
I see bad times today.
(John Fogerty, Creedence
Clearwater Revival)
The full moon in August has many names - "Dog Days Moon", "Fruit Moon", "Corn and/or Green Corn Moon", "Women's Moon" and "Full Sturgeon Moon".
Native Americans gave tonight's full moon the name of Sturgeon Moon because the large fish of the Great Lakes were easiest to catch in August. I don't know if Doug and Shelly will be fishing for sturgeon when they go sailing on Lake Superior next week, but maybe they will enjoy the remains of the full moon as they anchor in some bay for the night.
Dog Days Moon is easy to understand - we are in the 'dog days of summer' - the hottest, muggiest time of the year. When I was a kid, I thought they were called 'dog days' because it was so hot the dogs were panting all the time. That was before I knew about Sirius.
Fruit Moon and Corn Moon are also understandable - it is the time of the year when fruit ripens and is plentiful. It was also the month native Americans harvested their corn.
I don't know the reason for 'Women's Moon' - unless it was because it was the time of the year when women had even more work than usual with the gathering, preserving and storing of food. I know we did an awful lot of canning during August.
One of the Celtic names for the August full moon is "Dispute Moon". This one, I had not heard before. Are there more arguments in August? Is it because the heat causes short tempers? Or does it have more to do with ancient astrological myths?
My full moon picture is actually of the "Full Wolf Moon" taken last January. Tonight promises to be clear - perhaps I'll try to get a picture of "Full Red Moon" - yet another name for August's full moon.

Monday, August 23, 2010

"What I Did On My Summer Vacation"

Bud in the South Dakota Badlands

Do teachers still assign What I Did On My Summer Vacation essays the first back to school week? I dreaded that assignment each new school year because our family didn't take vacations. A vacation for us was a day or two at the Iowa State Fair. The only other topic I could write about was a week spent at one of my grandmother's or my Aunt Evelyn's.

I heard so many kids talk about a trip to the Badlands and the Black Hills that those destinations seemed magical. That may be where and when my wanderlust began - I wanted to go to South Dakota. I wanted to see the famous Black Hills and the mysterious Badlands.

It would be forty years before my first trip there. I wasn't disappointed. I could understand why Native Americans called the area Mako Sica - Bad Land. The rugged terrain would make travel difficult for anyone. The sparse vegetation did not look like it would support much wildlife. When we drove through the area it was late afternoon on a hot summer day. But the colorful canyons and jagged buttes were beautiful. Finally I was seeing what it was all about.

After spending the night in Wall, SD and touring the famous "Wall Drug", the next day we explored the Black Hills. We by-passed Mount Rushmore that first trip, opting instead for visits to Crazy Horse Monument, Deadwood and Lead. We were there over the July 4th holiday - so it was only three days - much too short to see everything. But at least I had finally seen the area.

We've been back a couple more times, since then. And I would willingly go again. It is an area you can't take all in in one trip. The last time there we made the scenic drive through Spearfish Canyon - one of my favourites so far.

Sioux Falls, SD is a place Bud & I both like to visit. The last time we stayed there we were on our way to North Dakota. A chance weather report the next morning took us on a side trip to Ramona, SD. How could I not visit a name sake town? There wasn't much to see, but I did get my picture taken with the water tower.

We seldom take summer vacations any more - it is preferable to travel after Labor Day when the crowds have thinned out or in February when we can head south to warm weather. Which means my "What I Did On My Summer Vacation" essay would be just as sparse now as it was fifty-five years ago. One word would just about cover it: read.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

"Qu'ils Mangent de la Brioche"*

*"Let them eat cake". (Most likely not said by Marie Antoinette as I learned in grade school.)
My susceptibility to what I am reading has created a craving for cake. Not a box mix, run-of-the-mill, cake which is the only kind I ever make - but a real, made-from-scratch cake like the Hummingbird Cake pictured on the right.
This is the second book I've read lately that talks about Hummingbird Cake. Until the first book, I'd never heard of Hummingbird Cake. It is a moist, southern cake containing chopped pecans, crushed pineapple and mashed bananas, usually topped with a cream cheese frosting. The bananas would probably keep me from actually making this cake. (I wouldn't like it because of the bananas, Bud wouldn't like it because of the pineapple.)

One of the first books Kari reviewed in her Bookish Dark blog was "Eat Cake" by Jeanne Ray. It is a charming little book that reminded us both of Grandma Ruth and made me want to bake a cake - or at least have a slice of a very good cake -like the coconut cake shown here. If I ever do get so inspired as to baking a cake from scratch - it will be a coconut cake. Yum.
Possibly the best cake I ever ate was a strawberry cream cake at Ridnour (no relation) Antiques and Tea Shoppe in Mineral Point, WI. It is usually easy for me to pass when it comes to cake because most are too dry. The moist kinds and the filled ones are the ones I can't resist eating.

I wish I knew what kind of cake Mom made me for my fifth birthday. It almost looks like it was two different layers, or maybe that is just the way it was frosted.
What I remember about trying to make round layer cakes was that they were always uneven. If Mom knew (I didn't for a long time) you were supposed to cut off the raised part before putting the cake together, she never did it. She probably didn't consider wasting cake in lieu of attractive presentation an option.
I also wish I could remember the color of my dress. It must have been a mild November in '48 - either that or I was willing to pose in the cold for a couple pictures.
When we lived in West Des Moines, a Pink Champagne cake from Barbara's Bake Shoppe was my favourite birthday treat.
Writing about cake has taken away the craving for cake for awhile. I can go back to reading my book. I do think one of these days, I am going to be so inspired, I will actually make a cake from scratch. Maybe I should just make a point of doing that for my next birthday. M-m-m, coconut cake....

Saturday, August 21, 2010

"Terrific", "Radiant", "Humble"

"Some Pig" After quoting E. B. White a couple times the last few weeks, I decided I should re-read "Char-lotte's Web". I have long admired both the book and the movie, but I knew I had forgotten much of it.
This morning as I read, "On foggy mornings, Charlotte's web was truly a thing of beauty. This morning each thin strand was decorated with dozens of tiny beads of water. The web glistened in the light and made a pattern of loveliness and mystery, like a delicate veil," I noted this lovely spider's web outside my own window.

Most spider webs aren't easy to photograph. The exception is this web made by the Funnel Web Grass Spider. With the dew still upon it, it is easy to understand the name given its builder.

Thinking about spiders took me back to my earliest recollections of them - how deathly afraid Mom was of them and how her fear transferred to me as a child. There were huge, hairy spiders in the basement that Mom called "Wolf Spiders". When she saw one she would scream and find something to kill it.
I never tried to kill them. I ran up the basement stairs screaming and bawling. I did that every time I saw one for a number of years. Then, one day, I just decided not to be so afraid of them any longer. I still didn't like them, I just no longer reacted so dramatically to seeing one.

There was another large spider we saw quite often - "The Yellow and Black Garden Spider". True to its name, we generally found them in the garden. They spun lovely webs and usually were sitting right in the middle of them.
For some reason, Mom didn't mind these spiders. Probably because she knew they were good for the garden - eating aphids and grasshoppers which kept them from eating our vegetable crops. We learned to leave them and their webs alone, only ever destroying a web accidentally when picking tomatoes.

You would think if Mom was going to be afraid of anything, it would be snakes. But just as she knew the garden spiders were beneficial, so she knew garter snakes were valuable. She would pick them up to show them to us, telling us not to be afraid. So, I wasn't. They still startled me when I saw them unexpectedly and they moved suddenly, but I didn't fear them.

"Charlotte's Web" is a Newbery Honor Book published in 1952. Its lessons of loyalty and friendship are as essential today as they were sixty years ago - maybe more so.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Dents, Wrecks and Fender Benders

The advantage of being a grandparent instead of the parent: the phone call you get is "your grandchild has been in a car accident, but she's o.k.", instead of "your child has been in a car accident and is in the emergency room." You don't have to experience the absolute terror the whole time it takes you to get to the hospital and learn she is o.k.
Kathryn is so lucky her tangle with a semi on the interstate wasn't any worse. Here Preston looks as though he is looking at the front-end damage to her car - actually this photo was taken a couple weeks ago when she got her car.
Kathryn's accident so soon after she started driving her car reminded me of my older brother's first accident. Six days after Ron turned 16 and got his license, my diary read: "Ron ditched the car over east of Brooks." It was the first time he had been allowed to take the car alone. He was on the old Blue Grass Road between Brooks and Corning when he took the corner east of Daleton Boswell's too fast and slid into the ditch. He wasn't hurt and the car only had a little dent that he and Dad hammered back out. It was a good lesson for him. "Experience is the best teacher."
Ron's daughter, Lorrie, had a similar experience when she began driving - although her accident was more serious. If I remember correctly, she was driving and Andrew and a friend were riding in the back of their 70's (?) Chevy Nova when she lost control on the gravel and totaled the car. They were all wearing their seat belts and weren't seriously hurt. Again, lesson learned.
Kari's first car was damaged in a fender bender, but she wasn't driving it. Her closest call might have been when a tire on the old Mustang blew out when she and Anne were on the interstate coming home from college. They were able to maintain control and weren't hurt.
Preston and I had a scary slide on our way to see Kari when she lived in St. Paul. We took his little blue pickup so we could help her move. It started snowing on us on the way. By the time we got to the twin cities, there was a lot of slush on the roads. We were coming down the I-35E hill toward the Mississippi River when the truck started sliding toward the guardrail. I remember thinking, "I hope the seat belt holds". Preston was saying something like, "Oh, s__t!" Luckily we slid along the guard rail and came to a stop. The worst of the damage was a ruined tire - but even it didn't go down until after we had gotten safely to Kari's.
I don't remember Doug having any accidents other than striking a parked car when he was in high school. (There were probably some I never knew about.) The accidents of his I remember most were the ones he had when he was a child riding with me in our '57 Plymouth 2-door hardtop.
I put the car into the ditch on the same corner east of Brooks as my brother only I went off on the other side headed the opposite direction. I was able to drive a few feet in the ditch until I got to a farm driveway and drove back onto the road. No one would even have known about that if Daleton Boswell hadn't seen me.
A few weeks later we were headed home toward Brooks from Corning on the gravel road past the hospital. The road was being drug and the road grader had left the gravel piled in the middle of the road on the first pass through which made me drive closer to the edge of the road than I normally would have been. The road side was soft from recent rains. As I came around the corner east of Paul Flowers, it was as though the ditch sucked the car right in. It was a deep ditch. The car ended up tipped on the driver's side. Doug was thrown to the front floor boards. In order to get out, I had to crawl across the seat and open the passenger side door, then reach back in to get him out. That wasn't easy - the door was large and heavy; Doug was crying. I didn't know how badly he was hurt.
I made it back up to the road and carrying him, walked the 3/4's of a mile to Flowers'. They called a wrecker which Ron Wetzel was driving. He pulled the car out - amazingly it wasn't damaged - and we were on our way. Ironically, Ron wrecked the wrecker on the way back to town and he ended up in the hospital. He went off the road for the same reason I did - because of the way the gravel was piled in the middle of the roadway - but went off in a much deeper ditch.
What I remember most about this incident was when I went in to the Hy-Vee to tell Kenny about it. He didn't even ask if his little boy was hurt or if I was alright - all he wanted to know was, "What did you do to my car?" - meaning how badly was it damaged. That hurt me much more than my bumps and bruises.
Two morals from this blog: "Learn from your experience" and always first ask about the welfare of the people before worrying about a car which can be replaced.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Back To School

It's that time of year again. Kids every-where are either feeling elated or dejected as they ready to go back to school.
I'm not going back to school, but I did succumb to the fever a week ago when Kathryn and I went shopping in West Des Moines. After our fun lunch at HuHot we went a few doors down to Office Depot.
It is extremely difficult for me to resist buying notebooks, pens, journals, sketch books, even crayons - even when I know I may never use them. I had been looking for the Cafe Couleurs Sharpies since reading about them in a Tea With Friends blog. I have no sense that I will ever use all of them - I just coveted owning them. Same thing with the composition notebook - it was only fifty cents. Surprisingly I held myself to purchasing just one!

I'm not sure what the draw to these items is for me. Maybe it does go back to my child hood and the pleasure and excitement of getting new supplies in readiness for the start of school. It was one time other than Christmas that it was o.k. to spend money on us. Funny I don't feel the need to buy a new outfit, shoes or pair of jeans, too - just the pencils, pens and notebooks.

Kari & Preston's father always took them shopping for their school supplies. They would come home with boxes of pencils, packets of pens and enough spiral notebooks to last the entire school year and then some. I know they both still have the same trouble I do resisting buying new pens and notebooks.

When I was in grade school, we had to purchase our school books. Usually at the end of the school year we would try to buy books from Virginia Vogel. She was one grade ahead of me and her books were always in good condition.
If for some reason we couldn't get hers, we could go to the back of Lauvstad's Drug Store where Mrs. Lauvstad had a selection of used school books. Families all over the county could sell their used books to her and she would resell them. Some of those books were very misused. I hated having to buy a book that was beat up, written in, pages torn. I always wanted to get my books as soon as possible when the chance of getting almost new ones was greater.
If Lauvstad's prices were comparable to the dime store's, we might buy our pencils, paste, crayons and Big Chief tablets while there. Remember watching "Walton's Mountain" when John Boy got the package of Big Chief tablets and some pencils for Christmas? That's the way I feel about pens and notebooks.

The picture above shows our Jasper #2 students in 1955. Left to right, first row is Carolyn Yearington, Doug Brown, Doug Olive, Gary Jackson, Byron Kapple and Susan Brown. In the middle row is Betty Lynam, Edward Mitchell and Marylin Yearington. Back row: Fred Mitchell, Ed Talty, Virginia Vogel, Mrs. Vera Kimball (teacher) and Ramona Lynam. Ed Talty, Betty and Marylin are now deceased.

My little brother, Les, was among the last students to attend Jasper #2 before it closed. He went to a half year of Kindergarten there.
Here he is pictured in the doorway before the school house was sold and torn down. The building looks in pretty sad shape. I don't think any of us remember it that way. We just remember the fun we had there, the friendships, the pleasure of moving up to the big desks in the back and the excellent educational start we received.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


"Oh mama say a prayer for me
Jesse's back in town, it won't be easy..."
(Carly Simon/Mike Mainieri 1981)

The first of my great nieces and nephews, Jesse Daylon Vicker, was born nine years ago today.

There are a number of songs about a Jesse or Jessie, none of which really fit this sweet young lady at this stage of her life, so I'm quoting a line from my favourite.

This picture of Jesse with her Great Grandma Ruth was taken when she was two days old. She had just come home from the hospital.

Jesse is about as shy as her mama, Kristi, was. At her second Christmas at Grandma Ruth's, she wouldn't get very far away from her Mom.

Jesse was three in this picture. I tried to find one of her Grandma Betty at about that age to compare for any family similarities. It's kinda' hard to tell here - they do both have curls. (Betty is the little one in the picture.)

Kristi has told me of one trait Jesse and Betty share - they both write (wrote) notes to their mothers when they are mad at them.

I still remember being so upset with my sister when she got mad at our Mom, wrote, "I hate you!" on a piece of paper and put it in Mom's hanky box where she knew Mom would find it. I couldn't imagine being so mean.

Jesse's notes to Kristi are longer and more eloquent, but the idea is still the same - something like: "Mom I'm mad at you and you can't come into my room until you apologize." It just fascinates me that Jesse and the grandmother she never knew share this quirk.

I don't know if Jesse can do the same trick Kristi could do when she was her age.
Here Kristi 'walks' up the doorway between Grandma Ruth's kitchen and living room. I don't know how she learned to do this, but it was a neat trick. The other grand kids tried, but I think Kristi was the only one to accomplish it.

One of the best parts of moving to Creston for me has been seeing my niece and great-niece on a regular basis. I am so grateful they are in my life.

This picture of Jesse was taken a year ago when we went to Rainbow Iris Farm. (Or Irish Farm as she calls it.) It was a chilly day, but we had a good time walking around, viewing all the irises and making our selections.

Jesse and I share a love of flowers and gardening and ROCKS. She has quite a collection already.

So, Jesse, I hope you have a happy ninth birthday and many more.

One more line from the song: "I'll always cut fresh flowers for you......"

Monday, August 16, 2010

August Reads I

A week of extreme heat and humidity and two quick reading books brought my first part of August reads total to six books.
The month began with yet another spell binding murder mystery by Minette Walters. "The Breaker" is her sixth book.
On the coast of Dorset County in Southwestern England the body of a young woman lays on a pebble beach below the shale escarpment of a high cliff. At first it is assumed she is an accident victim, falling to her death or a suicide - jumping from the top of the cliff. But why is she naked?
When it is established that she drowned and washed up on the narrow beach, the question is whether she fell from a passing yacht or was deliberately cast into the waters of the English Channel. But first she has to be identified.
Once again Walters peoples her novel with likely suspects and gives each one a plausible motive. Until the very end, the reader does not know the identity of the murderer. She also portrays her cast of supporting characters so clearly we feel we know them.
Several years ago I gave my son, Doug, Leif Enger's amazing debut novel, "Peace Like A River". He returned the favor by suggesting I read Enger's "So Brave, Young and Handsome". In 1915 Minnesota, novelist Monte Becket struggles to repeat the success of his first book. After many false starts and discards of plots and characters, he is about to admit he was a 'one book wonder' and go back to his former job.
His wife and son still have faith in him, however, and keep encouraging him. As he contemplates yet another character while standing on his dock on the Cannon River, a silent, white-haired man rows up river. He is rowing standing up. He won't stop to talk. As he disappears into the mist, Becket can hear him chuckling.
This book has everything - outlaws, river adventures, train rides, car chases cross country on dirt roads, even an elephant. Enger is a joy to read. His prose is beautiful. His characters, human. I loved imagining what it would have been like to make a trip across country at a time when the roads were merely trails, automobiles were a new invention and you had to be your own mechanic.
Emilie Richards is an author I have enjoyed for her Shenandoah Valley quilt book series. I picked up her "Happiness Key" last month - the first new book I had purchased in quite awhile. "Happiness Key" appears to be the first book of a new series set in Florida. It tells the stories of four women who have nothing in common except for living in some ramshackle beach cottages. This book examines their lives and their strengthening bonds as friends. "Fortunate Harbor", the next book in the series will continue their story plus introduce a fifth woman. Richards is a former family counselor. She does a good job of exploring social issues and giving depth to her characterizations. A good summer read.
Ivan Doig has long been a favourite author of mine. I believe I have read most of his novels: "This House of Sky", "The Sea Runners" , "English Creek" and "Dancing at the Rascal Fair". When I spotted his slim (156 pages) "Heart Earth - A Memoir" I knew it was coming home with me.
Doig's mother died on his sixth birthday. He was raised by his father and his maternal grandmother. His knowledge of his mother were his own vague memories and the stories he heard from relatives. When his mother's younger brother dies and leaves Doig all the letters she wrote to Doig's Uncle Wally during WWII, Doig is given a new look at his own early life.
If you haven't read Doig, I highly recommend him. A sample - the last line of this memoir: "As I put words to pages, I voyage on her ink."
Jacqueline Winspear - a new author for me. Originally from the United Kingdom, she now lives in California. She has one several awards including the Agatha. "The Mapping of Love and Death" is her fifth 'Maisie Dobbs' novel.
In 1932 London, investigator Maisie Dobbs is hired by the parents of a WWI cartographer, killed during the war, to find the nurse whose love letters were among his belongings found when his body was recently unearthed in France.
When the elderly parents are attacked and left for dead, when Maisie is knocked down, her documents case stolen and her attacker later found murdered, we know someone doesn't want that nurse found. But who? and why?
The library does have two more books in the Maisie Dobbs series and one book on tape. I enjoy period pieces and this was a good mystery. I'll probably follow Ms. Dobbs a bit further.
Some of the blurbs on the Minette Walters books say things like: "In the grand tradition of Ruth Rendell" or "Another Ruth Rendell". I decided I'd best see just who this Ruth Rendell is and how she writes. The library has thirty-five of her books. I chose one of her stand alone ones: "Adam and Eve and Pinch Me".
Rendell is an award winning author: three Edgars and many Crime Writers' Association 'Daggers'. This novel was interesting, but I prefer Walters' writing. Rendell has a series with Chief Inspector Reginald Wexford as her ongoing protagonist. I may try one of those to see how I like them as well as something she wrote under the name Barbara Vine--but it will be after I've read all my Minette Walters' books.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

From Typing to Keyboarding

I can still hear my Dad telling me when I entered high school, "You are going to take a typing course. Even if you are planning to get married, you never know what might happen and you would need to support yourself!"
Dad needn't have instructed me to take typing. I had been playing "office" since I was six. I had wanted a typewriter forever. I could hardly wait to learn to type!
This is the model typewriter I remember learning on. It was a manual. First you learned to keep your fingers poised above asdf and jkl; (home row). From there you reached for all other letters and symbols. You practiced on a blind keyboard (covered keys) until knowing every letter location became automatic.

Then you began working on your typing speed. Another model typewriter in our classroom was like this Remington Rand. We all had our favourites and tried to get to class early in order to get the one we wanted. A Smith Corona was my preference.
Timed typing exercises were essential in building our WPM speeds. It felt like an unbelievable achievement to be able to type 45 words per minute with no errors!

We had to know everything about the inner workings of our machines - how to change the ribbons - carefully placing them through the guides correctly, how to keep the keys clean and how to unjam them when we got them stuck from trying to type too fast without rhythm.

After learning to type on a manual, using an electric typewriter was fantastic. No more reaching up to return the carriage at the end of a line. Now hitting just one key rolled the paper up and advanced the line of type. Typing speeds increased easily. However, I never broke 70 wpm. My best consistent typing speed by the time the year was over was 68-69 words per minute, net. (Meaning no errors or subtracting points from gross wpm for each error.) It was still about that the last time I took a typing test 23 years later.
I have no idea what my wpm speed is on the computer. Keyboarding (keying?) is so much faster than a typewriter could ever be. My work experience on a computer was more bookkeeping than word processing.

Dad's "never know what might happen" meant being widowed, not divorced, but he was right about me being able to support myself. I worked in many offices and did a lot of typing through the years. Eventually I moved more toward bookkeeping and away from secretarial jobs.
Adding machines, or more correctly, calculators, were already electric by the time I became a proficient "10 key by touch" operator. That means I can total column after column of figures without looking at the keys - and do it without errors.

This blog was inspired by the adding machine Bud bought for me at a garage sale yesterday. It is an old hand-cranked Victor still in its original case. He didn't buy it because I needed an adding machine. He bought it as an interesting display artifact for my office.
I have been trying so hard not to start "collecting" again. But now I'd kind of like having a manual typewriter to go with my adding machine.......

Saturday, August 14, 2010

"Well She Was Just Seventeen.....

You know what I mean
And the way she looked
Was way beyond compare"
I Saw Her Standing There
(The Beatles - Lennon/McCartney)

Our little Kathryn Irene Fleming is seventeen today. I wonder what Daddy Preston was thinking in this picture?
It is easy to remember Kathryn's birth year - it was the summer of '93 - the summer of the big flood.

Kathryn was named for both her grandmothers - Helen's middle name, Kathryn, and mine, Irene. Both names are Greek in origin and together mean "Pure Peace".
I wonder how much pure peace there has been in the Fleming household since she was born?
In this picture taken at our house in WDM when she was about a year old, she was bouncing on her Daddy's back.

I always liked this professional photograph of her. There was something so angelic about it. And she looks so cute and happy.

Left to right: Shalea, Deise, Alyssa, Ellisa, Kathryn, Great-Grandma Ruth and Shelly.
For her 8th birthday, we had a tea party at "Country Blooms" a farm north of Fontanelle. At that time the owner had a gift shoppe and tea room in her re-purposed barn. She also had a greenhouse and sold plants. She had extensive flower beds to enjoy near the beautifully landscaped, four-square, farm house. (Country Blooms is now a landscaping business and the barn is now used as a guest and hunting lodge.)
The huge rock everyone is standing in front of is a few miles on north of Country Blooms. I had first heard about it a couple years earlier and gone to see it before it was completely dug out of the ground and moved. What a farmer thought was a nice sized rock for his front yard was actually one of the largest rocks in southern Iowa left by glaciers thousands of years ago. The rock was in his cornfield and he was tired of farming around it. By the time it was dug out, it looked as though he was building a pond.
This will be Kathryn's last year of high school. Before we know it, we'll be celebrating her graduation. I hope she savors her seventeenth year. Happy birthday, sweetie!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

A Love Affair With Maps

I'm not sure where my love of maps came from. Perhaps it was from the puzzle map of my youth. Before we had one of these puzzles at home, we had the one at Grandma Ridnour's to piece together. It was how I learned the shape of the states, where they belonged in the wider scope of our country and many of the state capitals. I actually remember how proud I felt when I could correctly put the states in their proper spot all by myself.

We studied geography beginning in the fourth grade. Our country school had the roll of maps at the front of the room. I'm sure they contributed to my fascination with maps. As the upper grades were learning not only geography, but also history, the appropriate map would be pulled down. I watched and listened along with the older students.
I also got into the habit of looking up where on the map an area I was reading about was located - not just school subjects but also in my free time reading. I could imagine "the Scottish Moors" and England's "Cornwall" from the novels' descriptions, but I also wanted to know where they really were on a map.

I don't remember an Atlas in our home until the early 60's but we had a few road maps of surrounding states. I would lay them out on the table and just study them. I loved reading all the funny names of the little towns and judging distances between the larger cities. I imagined someday traveling to some of those places.

Possibly one of the strangest things I ever did was to look at place names of different areas to try to decide where I might move when I was contemplating moving away from Corning in the mid-60's. I 'picked' possibilities based on how well I liked the sound of the town or city. Monett, Neosho and Carthage on this Missouri map sounded interesting, but I finally decided on Cape Girardeau as the most likely sounding destination. (I had never been to any of those places.)

Bellingham, Washington was the second possibility. I've forgotten the third. I ended up in Mt. Vernon, Iowa when I did actually move in 1967.

This Missouri Map also reminds me of the time I went with my future in-laws to visit Kenny when he was at Fort Leonard Wood for basic training. I think Chuck was driving and Betty was reading the map. We were at one of those places where the road jogged onto another numbered highway before jogging back and continuing south. She told him to turn right. I asked to see the map, looked at it and saw that we should have turned left. I was hesitant to say anything - I didn't want to tell my future mother-in-law she was wrong - but I also didn't want them going miles in the wrong direction. I was tactful. I said something like, "I may be looking at this wrong because it's upside down, but I think we should have turned left back there." Chuck looked at the map, agreed that I was correct and headed back the right way.

Before the states started issuing road maps available at rest stops or welcome centers, you had to buy a map at a service station, which probably is why we never had many road maps. Now when Bud and I are traveling we stop as soon as we enter a different state and get a new map - even if we were in that state before and have a map three or four years old.

I imagine as much as Bud likes electronic gadgets, he will eventually have a GPS system in his car. I will still be navigating by map. There is something about being able to see the big picture of where we're going as well as all the possible interesting side trips along the way that could never be replaced by a voice telling me where and when to turn.

I have tried to share my love of maps with some of the grandchildren - giving them a map, showing them where on the map we were and where we were going. I pointed out the signs showing numbers of highways, names of towns, etc. and then had them show me on their map where we were. I don't know how well any of them can read a map, let alone do it for fun. I don't even know if they carry a map in their cars or simply rely on a GPS.

I rely on modern maps to tell me what roads to take when I'm in a new location. But if I were to start collecting anything again, I would possibly collect maps. It is so interesting to look at ancient maps to see how the world was depicted then.

I've been trying to find a map of the United States showing the roads pre-interstates. I think about my Grandparent's big tour of the west in the 1950's and the roads they must have driven. How different that must have been compared to my trips!

Early maps can also show the names of towns long gone - geography and history combined. I've noticed on some old maps that the roads often followed alongside rivers. That makes sense - the earliest trails would have stayed close to a water supply.

"A good map is both a useful tool and a magic carpet to far away places." Once in a very great while I am caught in the car without a book to read while I wait. I pull out a map or open the road atlas. I find new places I want to see. I am content.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

"Saturday in the Park....."

Rodney and Grandpa Doug

Today is my firstborn's 48th birthday. We celebrated the occasion at a park in WDM last Saturday. It really doesn't seem possible that he is now a grandfather. Rodney's mother, Katrina, is Doug's oldest daughter. She was trying to explain what it was like, being a mom. I told her I understood, I felt the same way after Doug was born.

I used to carry around a quote I read in a book after I became a mother for the first time. It was something along the lines of "After you have a child, you don't belong to yourself anymore. You live for your son's life. Everything you do is for him."

Doug, Kristi, Kari and Mike (Xmas '71?)

Doug was almost ten when Chicago released their single "Saturday in the Park" written by Robert Lamm. He was a big Chicago fan as well as The Eagles, Rod Stewart, Queen and many others I've forgotten. He wore bell bottoms, platform shoes and his hair long - a 70's teen. And I was forever telling him to turn down his loud music. I couldn't stand it then - funny how some of that same music became favourites with me after he left home.

This is the first professional picture taken when Douglas Sumner Botkin was two months old. His outfit was red and white. The background rug was orange and my hands are beneath it holding him up. In those days you had to wait until a traveling photographer came to town. This one was from "Wellman Photos - Eddyville, Iowa". I stood in line at the old Barker Hotel in Corning, hoping my baby wasn't tired and fussy by the time it was our turn.

Doug was named for his father (Kenny's middle name was Douglas) and his great-grandfather, Charles Sumner Botkin. I had to explain many times that his name was Sumner, not Summer. I had two boy's names and two girl's names picked out. He was supposed to be Anthony Gerard, but after I saw him, I knew he was a Doug, not a Tony.

Here Doug is a year old in a four-generation picture with me, Great Grandma Bessie Lynam and Grandpa Louis Lynam. Doug's a couple years older in his above grandpa picture with Rodney than my dad was here.

Another four generations with Doug at two months old, me, Grandma Ruth Lynam and Great grandma Delphia Ridnour.
Doug was a good baby. He was even a good boy growing up. Oh, there were a few occasions - sneaking out the upstairs hallway window out onto the breezeway roof and out with friends when I didn't know about it until I caught him coming back in early in the morning - and getting a phone call from the West Des Moines police when he was a teenager. But the majority of the time, he was my 'right hand man'. I don't know what I would have done without him.
"Saturday in the park,
People reaching, people touching,
A real celebration...."

Happy Birthday, my first born, Douglas Sumner!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Telling Time

It has been a long time since I have slept the night through. At least I have finally found a way to go back to sleep relatively quickly. It used to be once my mind started thinking I couldn't go back to sleep.

When I do awaken, I always look at the clock to see what time it is. I have the clock Mom kept next to her bed for years. It is very similar to this one. This morning when I looked at it, it was almost 3:15. Then I rolled over to try to go back to sleep and saw the digital clock on Bud's side of the bed. It said 2:15. So I looked back at my clock and realized, yes, it was 2:15 - "little hand on the hour, big hand on the minute."

That old reminder started me thinking about how I learned to tell time and the differences in clocks over the years. Friday I heard a list of ways you could tell how a person was over 30 - one of them was: "If they are wearing a wrist watch, they are over 30. People younger pull out their cell phones to check the time." I'm sure there are also young people who cannot read a clock with hands because they are so used to digital timepieces.

This example looks very much like what I made in grade school to learn how to tell time. We drew a circle on construction paper or oak tag, wrote the numbers around the circle (usually after many tries to get them close to the right spacing), cut out a long dial and a short one and used a short round head paper fastener to fasten the dials in the middle so they could be turned. (I don't think we used paper plates for the clock faces. I think my kids did that.) Then we began practicing telling time until we got it right every time we were tested. I distinctly remember that the big hand on 3 and the little hand on 4 (or any number) could be told as "four fifteen or a quarter after four". If the big hand was on nine, it was either four forty-five or a quarter to five.

It was all a bit confusing for a little kid. Scads of work sheets and lots of practicing with our hand-made clocks taught us how to tell time - and we were slaves to the clock thereafter.

Now, in retirement, time does not matter as much, except that it seems to go faster than ever. It is easier to see the hour glass trickling down.

"Time keeps on slippin', slippin', slippin'
into the future....." (Fly Like an Eagle - Steve Miller)

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Sally's Fifth Birthday

Bud and Sally - Western Nebraska 2005

Bud bought his third Honda Accord, 4-door sedan, (first brand new one) in August five years ago. He went shopping for a certified, used Honda but the Bellevue, NE dealership did not have any with manual transmission which is how he ended up with a new car.

He made the deal one week and we returned the following week to pick her up. I guess to be more accurate, this would be a fifth anniversary rather than fifth birthday.

We decided to take a 3-day trip to western Nebraska for Sally's maiden voyage after picking her up in Bellevue. On the way west we began kicking around possible names for his new baby. I suggest Maeve, Morgana and Mariah as well as "The Black Mistress". Black Beauty, Black Pearl and Black Witch were also discarded. When Bud finally said, "I've got it! I'll call her Sally after Sally Hemings", I thought the name was perfect.

We arrived in Scottsbluff, NE late that afternoon. The next morning we began exploring, first finding the remaining Oregon Trail wagon track through Mitchell Pass at Scotts Bluff National Monument. From there we went to Chimney Rock National Monument - one of the most well known landmarks on the Oregon Trail and pictured on Nebraska's state quarter.
Then to Courthouse Rock, another landmark, in front of which I took the above photograph of Bud and Sally.

One of the side trips I most enjoyed was to Agate Fossil Beds National Monument north of Scottsbluff on Hwy 29. We did not make the hike out to the fossil beds, but we did hike the path as far as the small footbridge over the headwaters of the Niobrara River - at this point almost narrow enough to jump over.

The name Agate comes from James Cook's nearby "Agate Springs Ranch" settled in the late 1800's. The agates found in the area are of the moss agate variety. Cook was a friend of Lakota Chief Red Cloud and his band. The visitor's center at the park has more than 500 native artifacts from Cook's collection.

Bud at Chief Crazy Horse's Death Marker

From the fossil beds we drove on north and east to Fort Robinson. The fort played a major role in the Sioux Wars from 1876 to 1890. Chief Crazy Horse surrendered there in May, 1877 and died there during an escape attempt in September that year. In World War II, the fort was a German POW camp. On the way back to Scottsbluff we drove through the scenic Lake Minatare state recreation area - the site of Nebraska's only lighthouse built by the Veteran's Conservation Corps in 1939.

Sally and Bud on the beach at South Padre
Island National Seashore. (Note the trash
washed up after Hurricane Katrina.)

Sally made a longer trip in October. After attending an RV Association Meeting in San Antonio for employer Midwest Products, we drove on down to South Padre Island - an area I had read about and wanted to visit ever since it was voted #1 in "America's Best Beaches" one year. The beach wasn't exactly pristine six weeks after Hurricane Katrina - there was a lot of trash washing up including sofas and refrigerators. Still, it was fun driving on the sand, miles and miles up the shoreline.

I was so excited to find this large shell - a lightning whelk, I believe. I was going to bring it home then I realized its animal was still alive in it - not just a shell after all. So I had Bud take the picture then put the shell back into the gulf. I just read this week that the animal probably dies once it has been beached anyway even if it is put back in the water. I don't know if that is true or not. I might have kept the shell if I'd known for sure it would die anyway.

Sally has been to the Pacific Ocean twice, the Gulf of Mexico once and the Atlantic Ocean once. She has 68,000 miles on her now. She seems to like road trips just as much as Bud and I. Hm-m-m, is a Canadian trip in her near future?