Thursday, September 30, 2010

September Reads II

Tally-ho! Two more Rita Mae Brown fox hunting books made it in my last half of September reading - "The Hunt Ball" and "The Hounds and the Fury". The more of these "Sister Jane" books I read, the more I like them.
They are mysteries, yes, but for me, I think the attraction is the interaction between the characters and their horses, hounds and foxes. Oh, yes, and birds. I've become so invested in the lives of these Virginians, I would finish the series just to know what happens to them all even if the books weren't so entertaining.
I previously mentioned learning more about fox hunting, I'm also learning more about foxes - the reds and the greys. Had I not been reading about grey foxes, I might have mistaken the one I saw near our house a week ago as a coyote instead of as a grey fox. And to think, the only reason I found these books is because I was looking for a book to read on the trip home from San Diego last February.
As I am becoming more fond of Rita Mae Brown, I am becoming less enchanted with Kathy Reichs (though I still enjoy watching "Bones" on TV). Ms. Reichs latest novel, "Spider Bones" strikes me much the same as the last one, "206 Bones" - it is as though the publisher has told her, "O.K., time for another book." - so she quickly churns one out.
I did learn about the mission of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command to locate and identify remains of those who died in past conflicts from reading this book. "On average JPAC identifies six sets of human remains each month."
The statistics I found most surprising were that there still remain 8,100 missing from the Korean War and 1,800 from the Vietnam War. I thought those numbers would be flipped. Approximately 78,000 Americans remain missing from World War II. That doesn't surprise me.
Alexander McCall Smith is a favourite of many for his "The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" series, which I have been unable to get into. It is his "44 Scotland Street" series I adore. I still have the fifth, "The Unbearable Lightness of Scones" to look forward to.
Smith's "La's Orchestra Saves the World" is a stand alone novel which I enjoyed reading. It is set in England during WWII. Lavender, La to her friends, decides to flee London not only to avoid the German bombs, but also to escape the memories of her shattered marriage.
She moves to her in-laws' summer cottage in a small village in Suffolk. When she decides to volunteer her services in the war effort, she is contacted by the Women's Land Army to help an ailing farmer in the area with his chicken flock. When a Polish refugee also begins helping on the farm, La is attracted to him. Later, when he inadvertently makes references to being German rather than Polish, La feels she must turn him in to authorities.
One day an air force officer from a nearby airfield turns up on her doorstep. He is a friend of a friend of hers who has told him he should call on La if he is in the area. It is when he sees La's flute that they begin talking about music which leads to the idea of starting a band for the villagers and the men from the air base in order to give them something to do and to keep their spirits up.
Does La's Orchestra save the world? Was her Polish friend a German spy? Though this novel is not nearly as good as "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society", it did remind me of that remarkable tome.
Ruth Rendell's books are growing on me. I'm beginning to understand why Minette Walters was compared to her. "The Crocodile Bird" is the story of a young girl hidden away from the modern world by her mother. To say her mother is home-schooling her isn't quite accurate. She's being taught from books printed before the 1900's. She has grown up with no concept of an outside world. She has also grown up with murder as a fact of life.
When the police come and take her mother away, she must learn how to survive in a world she is unprepared for. It does appear she is going to follow in her mother's footsteps and become a murderer herself.
This book is a psychological thriller in the sense that it does get into the minds of the characters. But it is not an "on the edge of your chair" thriller. If you've started reading Minette Walters due to my raving about her writing, you might want to give Ruth Rendell a try.
I really miss watching Tony Shalhoub as Adrian Monk. I loved him as the obsessive-compulsive San Francisco detective. (Although I missed connecting Shalhoub as the taxi driver on Wings.)
Luckily I have found another Detective Monk to take his place - William Monk is Anne Perry's Victorian London sleuth. Like Adrian, William also goes by just "Monk". "A Sudden, Fearful Death" is the fourth book in the series. Monk is once again being aided by Hester Latterly as they work to solve the murder of another of Miss Nightingale's nurses who served with her in Crimea - as did Hester.
As I read this Monk series, I have an image in my mind of him. He sort of resembles Jeremy Brett. My other image is of him walking into a crime scene and doing these strange motions with his hands.......

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

"Education Nation"

Jasper # 2 Last Day of School, 1956: Back Row L to R: Edward Mitchell, Betty Lynam, Ramona Lynam, Virginia Vogel, Marylin Yearington, Carolyn Yearington. Front Row L to R: Danny Jackson, Gary Jackson, Byron Kapple, Doug Brown, Susan Brown.

"School Days, School Days, Dear Old Golden Rule Days. Reading and 'Righting and 'Rithmetic Taught to the Tune of the Hick'ry Stick."

NBC News is focusing on America's education system this week bringing together parents, teachers and students with leaders in politics, business and technology to discuss what's right and wrong with this country's schools. From what I've seen so far, the general consensus is America's schools are failing to provide a quality education for students and this country is suffering for it as well as falling behind other countries of the world.

This is not news to me. I believe my generation is the last to have been moderately well-educated and I credit that to the bygone one-room country schools. Oh, I'm sure, even back then there were some teachers doing less than stellar jobs as teachers. But between the County Superintendent of Schools and the Directors in the Jasper # 2 district, we had a very good teacher. Not only could she teach, she could keep order. Between her and my parents, I knew I was in school to learn.

It wasn't until I went to high school in town that I saw kids disrespecting the teachers and parents backing up the kids instead of the teachers. The "hick'ry stick" in the song lyrics refers to caning or paddling or a swat with a ruler which is what I remember our teacher using. (Not that I ever received such a swat.)

I am not advocating the return to corporal punishment in our schools. I am too far removed from what goes on in our educational systems in this country. I do know that I would not want to be a teacher. I do not envy them their jobs at all. I don't have any answers nor suggestions of how to make the changes necessary for all today's students and future students to receive a good education. I just know I believe change is needed. I hope the emphasis on education going on this week will continue until answers are found.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Postcards from the Past

It is no secret that I am one of the nearly 370 million people who have read PostSecret on line. I read it every Sunday morning. I sometimes ponder what secret I would send in if I were going to do that and what postcard I would use.
Just thinking about postcards in general made me think of some of the old family pictures I took with me to share at the Ridnour Reunion yesterday. One of them was the postcard of my grandfather, Joseph R. Ridnour (lower right) taken October 25 1914 when he was 18.
Quite a few of the old family pictures I have are postcards. That must have been a popular or easy way of doing photos at that time. The top right postcard is of my grandmother, Delphia Means (Ridnour) in front and two of her cousins, Jessie Means (Miller) left and Blanche Means (?).
Then I began thinking about my Grandmother Bessie Duncan Lynam's postcard collection from which the bottom left postcard comes. It is a picture of a Presbyterian Church in El Centro, California.

And it comes from this Post Cards album. On the back of the card is written: "Aug 15 - 1911. Dear Bessie, This is the church that dissolved itself so suddenly last month in our rain and wind storm and it may be the church or house that "Jack built" for all I know. (Quotes and underlined - wish I knew the significance of those marks.) Your picture of yourself is very good. I think probably that you must be a larger girl than when I saw you last. (Bessie would have been 20 then.) I thank you very much. We tried to get some Kodac (sic) pictures but they were no good." It is signed Cora Shafer (?) I have no idea who Cora was nor how many years it had been since she had seen Bessie.
The Merry Xmas card of the pipe smoking cats is not a postcard, but I've included it because it is "To Bessie (from) Grandma Hull". Rosina Edwards Hull would have been Bessie's great-grandma; my great-great-great grandmother.

The inscription inside this album reads: "Christmas - 1908 From Mama" Postcards on the first page top to bottom are Chateau de Binard, France; Switzerland - The City of Lugano and Cliff House from Sutro Heights, San Francisco, CA. (This is a different building than the Cliff House there now, but in the same location.) Many of the cards in this album are from Bessie's Grandmother, Agnes Georgina Hull Richardson - Grandma Aggie - and her sister, Belle Hull.
The postcards picture places from the United States and around the world. Some were mailed to her and some given to her - many from Grandma Aggie. I am quite certain AGR, as she signed the cards, did not travel to all these places. What is almost certain is that Grandma Bessie collected post cards and her grandmother and others contributed to her collection.
This Post Card Album was given to my brother Ronald Lynam by Grandma Bessie's nephew, Ronald Figgins. Ron Figgins said he found it in the bottom of a trunk he bought at an auction. I wonder whose auction? A family member? How did Bessie's album end up in someone else's possession?

These postcards of Grandma Bessie's came to me from her daughter, my Aunt Leona Lynam Childers Shropshire. The two bottom "State Belles" cards are from "Series No. 2669, Raphael Tuck & Sons, Art Publishers to their Majesties the King and Queen By Appointment Photochromed in Saxony".
The State of New York card and the other four states below are all from S. Langsdorf & Co., New York but "Germany" is also printed on the backs which makes me believe they were manufactured in Germany and imported by S. Langsdorf & Co. The dresses on these five cards have a velvety finish.
The postcard in the upper right corner is of The Corning Academy. It is one of several black and white postcards of various buildings around Corning. This one says "From Bell" Sept. 15, 1910." Then in a slightly different pencil: "Geo went to school here." If that means, her husband, George Lynam, which I assume it does, that is something I did not know - that Grandpa George attended Corning Academy.

Not only are these old postcards interesting to look at, the ones that are written on offer what may be clues to Grandma's life before she married. One such card mailed from Grandma Aggie in Corning is addressed to Bessie Duncan, Prescott, Iowa, care of J. Kane, R. 1.
I know Grandma worked out as a hired girl before she married Grandpa in 1914. She met George Lynam when she was working for someone. There was a John Kane who farmed in Mercer Township. Grandpa George's grandmother Catherine and uncle John Lynam lived in Mercer Twp. Is that where/when they met?

In addition to the older postcards of buildings and scenes in Corning, there are a few newer ones - circa late 1950's - among the ones sent to me by Aunt Leona. One of these is a picture of Main Street looking South on Davis Avenue. My Dad sent it to Grandma when she was visiting her daughter in Phoenix. It is postmarked April 4, 1965: "Dear Mom I visited this town to-day, having a grand time wish u were here this town realy booms on Sat when the Farmers trade their eggs for corn meal and gingham
When are u coming home write & someone will meet u I would say Easter wk sometime as its cold here yet froze yesterday Mom, ask Al if this makes him home sick LLLynam"
The address was written in my Mom's hand as is a note at the top: "Aunt Florence passed away last night." (Spelling and lack of punctuation left as Dad wrote it.)
Perhaps not the secrets found on PostSecret, yet these postcards from the past yield up mysteries of their own. And they are so much more interesting because they are from family and that makes them personal as well as historical.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Harvest Moon and Autumnal Equinox

The Harvest Moon was shining prettily on our little lake when I got up this morning. My 'night' shots don't always work well, but I think this one isn't too bad. I did see the moon and Jupiter last night, but not Uranus.
Somehow it seems appropriate that the full moon and the autumnal equinox coincided. According to, this hasn't happened since September 23, 1991 and won't happen again until 2029. Traditionally the Harvest Moon is the full moon nearest the autumnal equinox, so the Harvest Moon can come in either September or October. If it comes in October, the September full moon is the Full Corn Moon. Either way, the Harvest Moon is so named because it allowed farmers to work late into the night under its light.
Harvest Moon also makes me think of Harvest Ball - a time of celebration when the crops were all in. Could a Harvest Ball fall under a Harvest Moon?

Harvesting was a much different job when my Dad began farming. Picking corn was done by hand. It took weeks. Sometimes the snow would be deep in the field before the corn picking was done. The horses were trained to walk slowly down the row while the corn was pulled off and thrown into the wagon. Special "bang boards" were added to increase the amount of corn the wagon could hold. The bang board on the side away from the picker was higher so the ears would hit it and bounce back into the wagon instead of going over and falling onto the ground.
I don't remember Dad having help picking every year, but I remember one fall when he did. I remember it because the man who came to help stayed with us. That was very unusual. Bill Stueckradt was in his sixties. He was a widower who lived in town and apparently didn't drive. I remember being fascinated by his pocket watch, his slow way of talking and his plug of tobacco. He was something of a character, but a very nice man.

Dad was too young to help pick corn when this picture was taken of him and his mother. Though from the way he is dressed, I would guess it was around harvest time.
I love this picture of Grandma Bessie in her long skirt and the full apron protecting her clothes.
This would have been in the early 20's. It may have been when Grandpa worked for his Uncle Jim north of Highland Church.

I do remember when Dad and Wayne Moore went together and bought a used two-row John Deere corn picker - no more corn picking by hand.
That meant the trusty team - Rex and Dolly - were put out to pasture. That's our pony, Queenie, in the picture with them. This picture was taken in the spring of 1956 just before Dad sold the team.
I don't know if these are the same horses as pictured harnessed to the wagon above. i.e. I'm not sure he had more than one team from 1938 until 1956. (Something for me to ask my older brother.)

I also remember Dad paying us to pick up corn missed by the corn picker before he turned the cattle in to the fields. We would come home from school, change our clothes, take a gunny sack and trudge off to the corn field. I know it was not something we looked forward to doing, but we did like the 25 cents per full sack that we were paid. Twenty-five cents would be about $2.28 now. I don't think kids today would even do it for $5.00 a sack.
I have always liked this painting, "The Gleaners", by Jean-Francois Millet. Perhaps because it reminds me of the gleaning my sister, Betty, and I did together all those years ago.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

My Last Day In Ireland

Sixteen years ago today, I spent my last day in Ireland sightseeing in the city of Dublin.
For two weeks I had been driving around Ireland seeing as many of the places I had long been dreaming of as I could.
I didn't care to be in cities then and I still don't, but there were some 'must sees' in Dublin on my list.
The Anna Livia Millennium Fountain wasn't on my list. I just happened upon it and found it fascinating.
The fountain took the place of "The Spire of Dublin" which had been commissioned for the Millennium but wasn't completed in time.
In 2001, the "Floozy in the Jacuzzi" as it was known to locals was packed away. In 2003, the Spire was erected in its place. (I prefer Anna.)

I spent most of the morning walking along O'Connell Street as well as Moore Street which is where Dublin's open air market is located.
I crossed the Liffey on the Liffey River Bridge - a car and pedestrian bridge - then crossed back over on this famous 'Ha'penny Bridge' for pedestrians only.
Built in 1816, this first iron bridge in Ireland was so named because until 1919, it cost a half-penny to cross. It's a lovely, free bridge now.

The focus of my Dublin excursion was to see places associated with the Easter Week uprising of 1916. I had to see the G.P.O., the steps from which Padraig Pearse read the Proclamation of the Irish Republic. He and his followers then barricaded themselves inside the General Post Office fighting from there several days until the building was set on fire. Shortly after their escape, they surrendered to the much larger force of British troops.
Though the building was mostly destroyed, it was rebuilt several years later. Bullet pockmarks are still visible on these columns.

Before my dream come true trip to Ireland, I had spent years reading Irish history. I had Irish great-great grandparents who came to the USA during the time of the potato famine. I hated the British for the way they had treated my people. I felt very emotionally connected to Ireland's fight for independence even though the rebellions and suffering happened far away and long before my time.
I had seen the Wolfe Tones perform at the Val Air Ballroom in West Des Moines. I bought their cassette tapes. I listened to their rebel songs over and over and became even more incensed.
For me, the G.P.O. was where it began and Kilmainham Gaol was where it ended. Kilmainham would be my last stop in Dublin.
This picture is of the cell where Countess Markiewicz (Constance Gore-Booth) was held prisoner for her role in the Easter Rising. She was second-in-command at St. Stephan's Green. She was charged with treason and sentenced to die along with the other rebels - a sentence later commuted.
I don't want to say I identified with Connie Markiewicz, more like I empathized with her, being female. Though no way could I imagine what she went through confined to this small, dark, cold cell.

I almost didn't get to see the inside of Kilmain-ham. It took me awhile to figure out how to drive there. On the way I had a flat tire. I was very fortunate finding someone to repair it for me.
It was so near to closing time I was able to wander the prison on my own without having to be part of a tour.
For me, this courtyard was the most significant area of the prison. The similar wall opposite is where Padraig Pearse and the other rebels were executed.
James Connolly had been severely wounded during the siege at the G.P.O. He was too weak to walk into the execution area; too weak to stand. He was brought through the doorway on the right and tied to a chair. The small cross marks where he died before a firing squad.
"A great crowd had gathered outside of Kilmainham
With their heads all uncovered, they knelt on the ground
For inside that grim prison lay a brave Irish soldier
His life for his country about to lay down.
He went to his death like a true son of Ireland,
The firing party he bravely did face.
Then the order rang out: "Present arms, fire!"
James Connolly fell into a ready made grave.
(From James Connolly by the Wolfe Tones)

My amazing trip to Ireland was over. I flew home the next day with pictures and memories for the rest of my life. As emotional as my journey had been, I did not realize its true affects until I walked down the steps at the airport in Des Moines and saw Bud waiting for me. Not only was I glad my great-great grandparents had emigrated to Iowa, I was more than ever grateful for the love of my husband.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

"It Was A Dark And Stormy Night..."

Saturday night through Sunday morning we experienced heavy thunderstorms. They just seemed to stall right over Creston. In addition to nearly five inches of rain, we had beau coup lightning followed by loud thunder claps. The house of a friend across town was struck by lightning. Our only damage seemed to be a chunk taken out of the plastic molding on the corner of the house. (Now repaired by white duct tape.) We think the neighbor's bird house became a projectile and hit it.
I should say that appeared to be the only damage until I tried getting online. The computer booted up o.k. but every web page I tried to access displayed the above message. And, guess what? No phone service. A call (thank goodness for those cell phones we have in case of emergency) to the phone/Internet service provider confirmed what we suspected - a plethora of outages in our area due to the storm. "Should have you back on in about an hour", they said.
When three hours later we were still without service, another call was placed. We were told the area outage had been fixed so we would have to wait until Wednesday morning when a repair person would come to our house between 8:00 a.m. and noon. WHAT!!!???
Let's just say I understand the term withdrawal. How many times did I go to the computer to check e-mail and facebook? Even Kathy Reichs and Alexander McCall Smith (authors of the two books I was reading) couldn't comfort me enough. Ice cream didn't help and I didn't have any wine in the house. Woe is me.
Bud likes to remind me that I was once the one who didn't think we needed a computer. "What would we use a computer for?" I asked. That was in 1999. I finally agreed we could get one but I thought we should wait until after January 1, 2000 - Y2K scares, remember?
Even after we got the first computer I didn't use it much except to play Freecell. Internet access was through dial-up. Just getting on-line took forever. Once on, I would double click on a page I wanted and then go do something else for five minutes until it loaded. Times and computers changed. My habits changed right along with them.
I made it through Sunday, finally; but imagining all day that someone was trying to call us or contact us through the Internet. Monday morning was just as bad. I was more than a little dejected; grouchy is a word which might have applied.
Monday afternoon while trying to distract myself by reading AND watching a rerun of one of the HGTV programs, there was a knock on the door. The cavalry had arrived! Two, not one, but two Mediacom techs were outside. It took them awhile, but we were finally back in touch with the world! They went on down the street to rescue someone else.
I went to facebook to check out homecoming pics of two granddaughters. Right in the middle of viewing, the "cannot display the webpage" message came up again. "Bud, quick! Go see if those guys are still out there!" They apologized for not telling us they might have to shut our service off again for a few minutes. Whew!
I'm so glad we didn't have to wait until Wednesday. And this morning we replaced the phone and answering machine that got zapped. We're back in business and I couldn't be happier.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Which Came First

The Chicken or the Egg?

Finally, British Scientists cracked the puzzle of the age old question - the chicken - as reported on Fox News in July this year.

Eggs I had on hand were not a part of the massive recall due to salmonella last month. However, the stories about the filth and conditions at the egg producers involved about made me ill, anyway.
I am becoming more and more wary about the food I eat, where it comes from and who prepares it. Which is why I am so happy to now have a local source for eggs. And good, brown eggs at that.

My grand-niece, Jesse, has her own small, back yard flock here in town - raised from chicks last spring. All but five found a home in the country. Red, Goldie, Speckle and the Soul Sisters currently reside in a lovely coop in her back yard.
I have told her she isn't charging enough for a dozen eggs ($1.00). She plans to charge more as the eggs get larger. I think she could get $3.00 or $4.00 a dozen, easily. She says she is saving her egg money to buy a farm. I think that is a worthy goal. She could have quite a flock of chickens even on a small acreage.
(Jesse, the day's production, Red and the two Soul Sisters pictured.)

When I was growing up, we mostly raised white leghorn chickens. They laid white eggs.
The last chickens my mom raised were a mixed flock, but most of them were brown egg layers.
Here two of them are pictured in the hen house pen surrounded by those pretty Hollyhocks Mom grew.

When we moved back home, I tried to raise chickens - I bought a couple dozen black chicks (Australorps, perhaps?), keeping them in an oval water tank under heat lamps in Mom's basement until they were large enough to move to the hen house.
Unfortunately, as hard as we tried, we couldn't make the old hen house varmint proof. Before we had a single egg, foxes, weasels, or some other raiders made off with all our chickens.

I actually have two sources for brown eggs - my son, Doug, raises layers in Casey. It's just further to drive to get them. He also raises broilers to sell and for their own consumption.
This picture of him and 'Rosie' was taken when he still had the acreage west of Redfield.
I think he usually raises Orpingtons and Rhode Island Reds. The huge variety of breeds of chickens fascinates me.

Early last spring, or maybe it was late last winter, my daughter, Kari, and her partner, Ken, were surprised by this little chicken which just showed up on their door step. It was obviously some one's pet - had no reservations about flying up on Ken's shoulder. It hung around for awhile - sleeping inside the house in the cat carrier at night and going back outside during the day. It finally found its way home or at least on to someone else's back yard. Portland allows raising chickens. I think the limit is three per household. I'm not sure what breed this chicken was - Araucana, perhaps?

Finally, a last chicken story - twenty-some years ago I bought this turquoise blue ceramic planter at a garage sale when we lived in WDM. I had it on the front porch alongside a similarly colored pinch pot Kari had made in 4th grade. She thought this planter was ugly, kitschy, had no redeeming social value what-so-ever.
I kidded her at the time saying that I bet by the time she was 30 she would love this little blue rooster and that I planned to give it to her for her 30th birthday.
In the meantime, we moved back home, the rooster got packed away in a box lost in the garage and Kari began collecting Roosters because they are her Chinese Zodiac Symbol. I tried and failed to find the ceramic piece in time for her 30th birthday.
Then came our big move two years ago. It involved going through every box, every out-building, every hidey-hole. I found the rooster and the little pinch pot. Taking no chances of them being lost again, I wrapped both securely and shipped them off to Oregon with a "Do Not Open until May 31, 2009" label. Ten years late, but even more appreciated on her 40th birthday. Right, Kari?

Friday, September 17, 2010


Homecoming: 1) A return home. 2) The return of a group of people, usually on a special occasion to a place formerly frequented or regarded as home; especially: an annual celebration for alumni.

Tonight is Winterset's Homecoming. It will be Kathryn's last of her high school years. If I remember correctly, this picture is of her from last year's homecoming dance.

Deise's picture from last year. I think the girls both had dates for the dance - much different than their grandma. I never had a date any of my four year's homecoming dances. But I still managed to have a good time.

I don't have a picture of me in my first homecoming dress, but I remember it well.
The Saturday before homecoming on October 18, 1957, we drove to Creston and bought some purple taffeta material to make it. Mom cut it out that night. The pattern had a fitted bodice, cap sleeves and a generous gathered skirt. I know I felt 'pretty' in the finished garment.
It was the first time I wore "heels". I think they were the same ones I have on in this picture - black suede with a rhinestone trim and very low, wide, "French heels." I was afraid I'd trip in real high heels.
The funny part of the whole experience was practicing putting on nylon hose for the first time. I gathered the first stocking down to the ankle, gingerly guided it over my foot and slowly pulled it up my leg - being careful not to snag it. Success. Now for the second stocking. Right. No pantyhose in those days. Not only that, but the stockings had seams down the back and those had to be straight! It was very grown up to be wearing hose held up by a garter belt.

We lost the football games my freshmen and sophomore years and tied my senior year. But boy the junior year game! I still remember how exciting it was. The score was 13-12 their favor. Then in the last 3 seconds of the game, Gary Richards kicked a field goal! We won! I was "so happy I bawled" according to my 1959 diary.

The red sweater and red plaid full circle skirt pictured above is what I wore to the homecoming dance my sophomore year. I had decided to be more practical and get an outfit I could wear to school, too, after its debut at the dance. I don't remember what I wore my junior year and I didn't even go to the dance my senior year - just to the game.

When I think of homecoming, Earl Hamner's novel, The Homecoming: A Novel About Spencer's Mountain, comes to my mind. It is the basis of one of my all time favourite TV shows: The Waltons. I don't think I missed a single episode during the time the show aired in the '70's.

Maybe the two meanings of homecoming are combined in my mind: a coming together in a simpler time.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

September Reads I

Another successful two weeks of good reads beginning with a new Rhys Bowen, "Molly Murphy" mystery, The Last Illusion.
Molly has been hired by Harry Houdini's wife as part investigator/part bodyguard. When Houdini disappears, it is up to Molly to find him or his body.
Bowen is an award winning mystery writer. I have enjoyed her "Constable Evans" mysteries and really like the Molly Murphy character and the historical details of early twentieth century New York.

The last of my reads, Sweetgrass, finished before 'lights out' last night, was another Mary Alice Monroe novel set in the South Carolina Lowcountry. Monroe obviously knows and loves her locale.
Sweetgrass has been home to the Blakely family for eight generations. As the current owners struggle to hang on to their historical tract, the patriarch, Preston, is felled by a stroke. This brings home prodigal son, Morgan to try to help keep their land from being sold to the developers.
The loss of habitat has depleted the supply of native sweetgrasses needed by the traditional Gullah basket makers of the area. Can the discovery of an old slave cemetery amid a large area of sweetgrass on the family land help Morgan save his family's heritage?

I love the smell of sweetgrass; wish I had a sweetgrass basket instead of just a braid. I'm investigating whether or not sweetgrass will grow in Iowa. I would love to have a small patch of it in my flower beds.

I enjoyed Sarah Addison Allen's "The Girl Who Chased the Moon" so much last month that I got The Sugar Queen from the library. Twenty-seven year old Josey Cirrini hides a stockpile of sugary treats and paperback romances in her closet - her only consolations for the uneventful life she lives as her mother's personal chauffeur and attendant.
She awakens one frosty morning to find a ladder leaning against the house next to her window. When she goes to her closet she finds rough and flashy Della Lee Baker hiding there. Josey tells her to get out, but Della Lee threatens to expose the stash of sweets - blackmailing Josey into letting her hide from an abusive boyfriend.
How Della changes Josey's life is a tale of friendship, love and a sprinkling of magic. A sweet read.

I'm beginning to appreciate Ruth Rendell, the author my current favourite author, Minette Walters, has been compared to. The Rottweiler is the name given to a serial garroter in the ethnically diverse London neighborhood near Lisson Grove.
Inez Ferry, widow of charismatic actor, Martin Ferry, has turned their home into an antiques shoppe on the ground flour, kept two rooms for herself on the first floor and rents out the other two floors after making them into flats - the only way she can earn a living and hold on to the home she shared with her beloved Martin.
Her shoppe assistant and renters figure into the mysterious deaths of young women in the area. The 'signature' of the murderer is the taking of some small item from each victim. When some of those items show up in the antiques shoppe, the police come calling, focusing their suspicions on Inez and the odd assortment of characters who work in and pass through the shop.

I'm having trouble deciding if I've read Isabel Wolff before. It seems I may have, but cannot remember which of her books, so she may be a new author for me. I absolutely adored her A Vintage Affair. It took me into a world I have never thought of - vintage clothing.
Phoebe Swift stuns her friends when she decides to leave a plum job at prestigious Sotheby's auction house to open her own vintage clothing shop.
Phoebe enjoys the history of each vintage garment. When she is invited to purchase some pieces from Therese Bell, an elderly Frenchwoman, she is intrigued by a child's sky-blue coat - an item Mrs. Bell refuses to part with, talk about, or even let Phoebe touch.
As the two women become friends, Phoebe learns the tale of the little blue coat. She discovers an astonishing connection between herself and Therese Bell - one that will help her heal the pain of her own past.
I completely enjoyed learning about vintage clothes and some history behind them. A Vintage Affair is a touching book about friendship, love and family.

Mary McGarry Morris is another author I'm trying to remember if I've read. She has been a National Book Award and PEN/Faulkner finalist. Her novel, "Songs in Ordinary Time" was an Oprah Book Club selection in 1997.
The Last Secret is "a tautly told tale of psychological tension and chilling moral complexity". It was almost a little too psycho for me. I must be getting squeamish in my old age. Fortunately, the blood and mayhem was confined to the first and last pages of the book. In between there is the story of the perfect life of Nora Hammond: charming husband, two bright teenage children, successful newspaper career and esteemed role in charity work for a woman's shelter.
It is when she learns of her husband's longtime affair and the specter of a sordid incident from her youth returns with terrifying force that she feels dangerously alone - confronted by shame and betrayal and easy prey to a ghost from her past. Hint: is has to do with the opening pages of blood and mayhem.
I will most likely read more of Mary McGarry Morris' books. At least one more in order to decide how I feel about her psychological writings.

I have come to love Rita Mae Brown's, "Sister Jane Arnold" fox hunting series. I read #2, Hotspur, this time - reading them slightly out of order, but still enjoying the characters and learning the traditions of the Virginia hunts. The books are well written enough that I don't always figure out "whodunit", though I'm usually close.
I may try some of her "Sneaky Pie Brown" books after I've finished the fox hunting ones. I enjoy the way her animal characters "talk".

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Mom's Dish Pan Cookies

I did something Sunday I haven't done in years - baked cookies. (I don't know what came over me!)

You might remember how Mom always had some kind of cookies or cake or bars on hand to share when neighbors or family stopped in.

One of her all time favourites was "Dish Pan Cookies". I have her recipe written in her hand on a little piece of paper. She notes that these measurements are for 1/2 recipe and that it is from Sampling Iowa's Treasures cook book, page 29.

Here's the recipe: A: 1 Cup Sugar; 1 Cup Brown Sugar; 1 Cup Oil; 2 Eggs; 1 tsp Vanilla.
B: 2 Cups Flour; 1 tsp Baking Soda; 1/2 tsp salt.
C: 3/4 Cups Quick Oatmeal; 2 Cups Cereal.
Optional: 3/4's Cup Coconut; 1/2 Cup Raisins; 1/2 Cup Chocolate Chips; 1/2 Cup Pecans or other Nuts.
I used Cinnamon Flavored Corn Flakes as my cereal and the Coconut as my optional.

Directions: Cream together A. Sift together B and add to A and then to C. Add any or all of the Optional ingredients.
The dough gets stiff and hard to stir. Drop by teaspoonful on greased cookie sheet. Bake for 8 minutes at 325 degrees.
Makes four dozen chewy cookies.

I don't remember which birthday Mom was celebrating in this picture. Somewhere in her 70's, I'd guess.
Remember how proud she was of her 1949 Maytag gas stove? She always kept it shining. I'm so glad one of her grandsons wanted to keep her stove and uses it everyday. It would be 61 years old and still working.

It may be that I have an electric stove, but I had to turn my temperature up to 350 degrees and bake the cookies a few minutes longer.

I don't know if these cookies are called "Dish Pan" because you need a container the size of a dish pan if you make a full batch or because you can put so many different optionals in them - but I guess that would be "everything but the kitchen sink" not "dish pan".

The Quick Quaker Oats ingredient reminded me of how Mom would make a pan of oatmeal for breakfast, eat a small bowl and then feed the rest a spoon at a time to her cats at the back door.

The Sampling Iowa's Treasures cookbook by Ann Haugland is one of trivia and recipes featuring Iowa Bed and Breakfasts and Tea Rooms. I remember buying it for her at a Home and Garden show in Des Moines. However I did not keep it after she died, so I don't know which Bed & Breakfast or Tea Room the recipe came from.

My cookies turned out really yummy, though not quite as good as Mom's were. Maybe it was the love she baked into hers.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

"Uh, Breaker One-Nine"

"This here's the Rubber Duck. You got a copy on me Pig-Pen? C'mon." (Bill Fries & Chip Davis)

Even though the song 'Convoy' was famous sixteen years before Ki Alaxandor Fleming was born, he knows every word of the C. W. McCall lyrics.

He has talked of being a truck driver for years. Today, on his 18th birthday, he is going for his CDL license.

This picture is the first one of me holding him in NICU. (See Sept. 14, 2009 blog.) His little hand may be grasping my thumb, in reality, he's always had me wrapped around his little finger.

Ki and Mom, Shalea, on his first birthday. She had to hold his hands to keep them out of the cake. A few minutes later, he looked like a Smurf with blue frosting all over his face.

Grandpa and grandma were always willing babysitters when we lived in WDM. Ki loved being outside. The rain barrel was a favourite drawing card. You can see how much he was enjoying splashing.

After we moved back home to the farm, tractors became his passion. He wanted to be a farmer when he grew up.

He loved being on Great-grandma Ruth's farm. Every time the lessee's came to check on their cows, Ki was right out there with them. He named all the baby calves and hated it when they were old enough for market.

Finding the right xmas presents for Ki was so easy. All I had to do was buy him a farm set or a semi-truck. Happy, happy boy.

When Ki was old enough to have his own e-mail address, it was "boots_____". I couldn't understand why until I remembered the pair of old, too large, cowboy boots he had and wore everywhere.
I'm sure "boots" started out as teasing from the other kids. I think it is a mark of Ki's character that he embraced the teasing.

So, "Boots", "Ki-Ki" or "Rubber Duck", I wish you a very happy 18th birthday. Looking forward to celebrating another eighteen with you.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Shoulder Replacement Surgery

I have long believed in the importance of truly knowing oneself. I used to imagine confronting the elements as a way of testing my own mettle. You know, something like hiking the Appalachian Trail.
Some of you have wondered why I haven't blogged much this month. It is mostly because I have been confronted with another way of having my mettle tested - by a possible first for me - surgery. Oh, I knew it was coming someday - with my arthritic knees and family history, it was almost a given.
I've had shoulder pain for several years. I trace it back to nearly dislocating my left shoulder when I fell off a cow I was trying to ride when I was ten years old. I assumed arthritis had finally settled into that old injury. Three or four years ago when it got bad, I did a few weeks of physical therapy which helped a lot. So when the pain got worse and the range of motion became very poor again, I assumed I could do another round of physical therapy and be good for another couple years.
It kinda' threw me for a loop when the therapist told me she did not think she could do me any good - and this is the top physical therapist in the area. So for the past two weeks I've been doing Dr's. appointments, x-rays, another appointment with the physical therapist to look at the x-rays culminating in today's appointment with an orthopaedic surgeon in West Des Moines.
I have two options: live with the pain and decreased mobility or have shoulder replacement surgery. I am almost sure I will be having surgery after the first of the year. (Unless I watch that shoulder replacement video. That could make me change my mind!)
I have already begun learning things about myself I didn't know. I'm sure I'll be learning more. I've always known I would be a poor patient. You may begin now feeling sorry for my spouse. I really hope I won't be as bad as I fear. Maybe I'll discover I could have made it as a pioneer woman on the Oregon Trail after all.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

How To Be A Good Republican

"1) You have to believe that the nation's current 8-year prosperity was due to the work of Ronald Reagan and George Bush, but yesterday's gasoline prices are all Clinton's fault. 2) You have to believe that those privileged from birth achieve success all on their own. 3) You have to be against all government programs, but expect Social Security checks on time." Ann Richards (Governor of Texas 1991-95)

I was going to blog about social security four weeks ago on the 75th anniversary of FDR's signing of the social security act, but today is just as significant for me because:

it was fifty-one years ago today that I applied for my social security card. This card is not my original, though I do have it, too. This is the one I received after I changed my name back to Lynam.

I honestly remember that Friday walking up the steps of the Corning Post Office and asking Postmaster Forrest McGregor for a social security card application. It was a really big deal to me. Back then you didn't get your Social Security number until you began working which for most teens was around age 16. I didn't have a job lined up, but I had hopes, therefore I wanted my card before my birthday in six weeks - just in case. It was another eighteen months before I needed it.

When I began my work career my wages were $1.00 an hour. The social security rate was 3% which meant $1.20 was taken out of my check - less than federal and state withholding. It didn't seem like much at the time. How that changed over the years before I retired!

There was only one year between 1961 and 2008 that I did not have reported social security income and that was 1963 - the one year I got to be a stay-at-home mom.

Two days before applying for my SS card, we had our school pictures taken. That's me my junior year of high school, age 15 yrs, 9 mos, 22 days the day the picture was taken. The hair style hasn't changed much, but the glasses have. The blouse was beige. I have never strayed too far from my color palette!

Saturday we went to Omaha so Grandpa Ridnour could get a new suit to wear to Glen & Mary Lou's wedding in two weeks. I got a new tweed skirt and a, what else?, olive green ban-lon sweater.

My grandchildren wouldn't experience the significance* of applying for their own social security numbers - their parents did that for them when they were babies. I wonder if SS benefits will still be a part of their lives when they are ready to retire? I hope so.

(* My parents did not think I needed my social security number until I actually got a job, so going in and applying for it on my own was a bit of rebelliousness on my part.)

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Best Day

"I'm five years old, it's getting cold, I've got my big coat on
I hear your laugh and look up smiling at you, I run and run
Past the pumpkin patch and the tractor rides, look now, the sky is gold
I hug your legs and fall asleep on the way home

I don't know why all the trees change in the fall
But I know you're not scared of anything at all
Don't know if Snow White's house is near or far away
But I know I had the best day with you today....." Taylor Swift

My second grandchild, Zachary Michael Johnson is a quarter century old today. I used some lyrics by Taylor Swift because I know she is one of Zach's favorites. When she was just starting her career and was an opening act for another performer, Zachary got to meet her, get her autograph, have a picture taken with her and was able to chat with her for about fifteen minutes before other fans arrived on the scene. (Lucky him!)

The lyrics also remind me of some of my times with Zach through his growing up years. Specifically a trip to the pumpkin patch near Adel and a weekend he and Katrina were at our house in West Des Moines. It was a nice day, but cold. He did have his big coat on, but didn't have mittens with him. I told him to put his hands in his coat pockets which he did. A short time later, as we walked around the house, he tripped on the uneven cement walk and fell. With his hands stuck in his pockets, he couldn't catch himself and landed right on his face and pushed his front teeth back. I felt so badly for him and so responsible for his pain. At least his teeth weren't knocked out.

Even as a baby, Zach enjoyed the pool with his daddy (above). It would be a few more years before he discovered swimming as a passion, however.

Zach's 10th birthday party. He pulled the candles out of the cake before I got a picture. Is that one of the Power Rangers?

Between his 10th and 11th birthdays, we moved back to the farm. We didn't see the kids as often as when we lived in WDM, but being at Great-Grandma Ruth's made for some of his happiest memories. In this picture, left-to-right, Zachary, his brother, Brock, cousin, Ian Lynam, and sisters, Katrina and Alyssa. It was 4th of July weekend and the kids were lighting bottle rockets. Ian was always so good about bringing fireworks with him from Missouri. Later that evening, after dark, it was show time - time for the color displays.

The first few years after we moved back, we had our own miniature golf course in our back yard. I think we had as much fun as the kids. Zach is getting ready to tee off in this photo.
During his teen years, his birthday celebration with his dad, Doug, and his Grandpa, Bud, was a day of golf somewhere - usually between Corning and Stuart - no women allowed!

Bud, Doug and Zach at Zach & Katrina's high school graduation party in Newton. Zach's football jersey's hanging on the garage door - which it looks like he is holding up. Too bad Newton's colors weren't black and gold like his favorite Iowa Hawkeyes.
In addition to playing sports, Zachary covered sports for the school paper - writing and photographing boys and girls sports. He hoped to get a swimming scholarship to attend Loras College. He and I had a fun weekend when I took him to Dubuque for his interview.

"And now I know why all the trees change in the fall
I know you were on my side even when I was wrong
And I love you for giving me your eyes
For staying back and watching me shine
And I didn't know if you knew, so I'm takin' this chance to say
That I had the best day with you today...." (TS)

Happy silver birthday, Zach!

(P.S. Go Cyclones!)