Friday, August 31, 2012
Back to the snow and cold of the Colorado gold fields for another Sandra Dallas read - this one, Whiter Than Snow, a tale of an avalanche. "On a spring afternoon in 1920, moments after four o'clock, a large split of snow separates from Jubilee Mountain high above the tiny hamlet and hurtles down the rocky slope, enveloping everything in its path."
In its path were nine children just let out from school. Of the nine, four survive. Before we learn who the four are, we learn the stories of all their families; who they were, where they came from and how they ended up in the mining town of Swandyke. "Fate, chance, and perhaps divine providence all collide in the everyday lives of these people. And ultimately, no one is without sin, no one's soul is whiter than snow, and no one is without the need for forgiveness."
I really enjoy reading Sandra Dallas' books. She has a certain touch with historical fiction.
When I wrote about reading a Kate Wilhelm mystery for the first time in my August 6 blog, I said I was going to try one of her legal thriller series featuring Barbara Holloway, instead I picked up one of her stand alone books, the 2002 Skeletons. I know I'm going to keep reading Wilhelm - this book had me on edge the entire time I was reading it.
Lee Donne has spent four years in college, changing her major several times and leaving without a degree. Without a job and no prospects in sight, she agrees to house-sit her grandfather's isolated Oregon home. Her stay soon turns into a nightmare when she is tormented by strange and menacing noises night after night. The local law enforcement believes she is imagining things, especially after they investigate the roof where Lee says the noise of gravel being thrown upon it is what has awakened her and they find no rocks or gravel of any kind on the roof.
Lee asks her friend to come stay with her. Between the two of them, they figure out how the intruder managed the 'gravel on the roof' noise - which I thought was genius. (I also thought it was genius for the author to come up with the idea. But maybe it is an old trick I just hadn't heard of before.) The two women do manage to capture the ghostly trickster, but in the process, they accidentally kill him. In a panic, they drive his car and body to a parking lot and leave it - hoping it will never be tied to them. When the body is discovered and identified, they learn the young man was the respected son of a local attorney.
Why was he trying to scare Lee away from her grandfather's house? What was inside that he wanted plenty of time to search for? Lee and her friend set out to find out and when they discover that the man's father and Lee's grandfather share a past. The trail thickens and leads to New Orleans and plenty of skeletons.
This was such a good book on so many levels. I haven't even mentioned the main plot line. I want you to discover it for yourself. Even the blurb inside the cover doesn't give a hint about the sinister and far-reaching secrets Lee is going to discover.
The Flight of Gemma Hardy is the only book of Margot Livesey's which our library has. Darn. I want to read all of her books based on how much I liked this one.
Almost all the reviews I've read want to compare this to Jane Eyre - "an inventive reimagining of Jane Eyre" - etc, etc. Okay, but it could also be related to Cinderella. Poor little Gemma is taken from her native Iceland to Scotland to live with her kind uncle and his family when her widowed father drowns at sea. Doting guardian falls through ice while skating and also drowns. Cruel aunt and cousins treat Gemma as an unwelcome guest, making her do the housework, walk to school while her cousins are driven, punished for fighting when she defends herself against the cousins. No wonder winning a scholarship to a boarding school sounds like a dream come true.
But at age ten, at Claypoole, she finds herself treated as an unpaid servant. When the school closes before Gemma can take her exams for university, she accepts an au pair position on the Orkney Islands. (Here is where the Jane Eyre comparison comes in.) Yes, Gemma and the much older Mr. Sinclair, owner of remote Blackbird Hall, fall for one another. But the book does not end with a 'happily ever after'. Just as they are to be married, "Gemma's biggest trial is about to begin: a journey of passion and betrayal, redemption and discovery, that will lead her to a life of which she has never dreamed."
The Flight of Gemma Hardy is set in Scotland and Iceland in the 1950s and '60s. Scotland has long been one of my favourite novel settings and I was reminded that once upon a time I was more than a little interested in visiting Iceland. At almost 450 pages, this was a long book, but a surprisingly quick and easy read. Once I began reading about Gemma's hard path, I had to discover how the determined little girl took charge of her life which led to a satisfying end. Oh yes, I want to read more of Margot Livesey's writings.
Thursday, August 30, 2012
I now live in the city I was born in (Corning didn't have a hospital way back then). When I was young, Creston really did seem like a city. It was so big and had so many stores in which to shop - compared to Corning. Going to Creston was a big deal. One of the things I remember my Dad telling me about Creston when I was just a kid was that it was the home of Phillips 66 Gas Stations.
For some reason, it fascinated me that a company as big as Phillips 66 got its start in a town I considered part of my known world. He said Frank Phillips and his brother, Lee Eldas (L.E. Phillips), started the company. I thought they still lived in Creston and operated the little Phillips 66 Station on the Corner of South Cherry Street and Highway 34. Later I learned that the company was located in Bartlesville, Oklahoma where all the oil wells were.
Frank's story is one of those "rags to riches" tales. He was born in Nebraska but the family moved to a farm in Taylor County, Iowa after losing out to grasshoppers in Nebraska. He began hiring out to neighboring farmers at age 10. While in the town of Creston at age 14, he decided he wanted to be a barber and apprenticed himself to one of the town's barbers. Ten years later, he owned that barber shop and two others, one of which was in the basement of the Iowa State Savings Bank. John Gibson was president of the bank. He considered Frank an up and coming entrepreneur. Gibson's daughter, Jane, and Frank were married in 1897. In 1903, the two Phillips brothers and John Gibson made a trip to Indian Territory (Osage Co. Oklahoma) where the oil boom was just beginning. Not only did they own oil wells, they owned two banks in the town. Frank and Jane were to make Bartlesville their home for the remainder of their lives.
Back to when I was a youngster - the only family vacations we ever had were a day or two at the Iowa State Fair. We would leave early in the morning, spend the day at the Fair and then drive home in to do chores in the dark. Once in a great while, on the way home, Dad would stop at the Maid Rite in Creston which I remember as being next door to the Phillips 66 Station. In my mind, the cafe looked something like the one pictured above which was located in Macomb, Illinois. Either that, or like one of those silver 50's Diners. I haven't been able to locate a picture of the Creston one. Eating out was a big deal for us and those loose meat sandwiches tasted so good - especially with a Coca Cola and some french fries.
I often mention one of my new favourite Creston locations: The Matilda J. Gibson Memorial Library, pictured here on a 1950's postcard. I used to wonder who Ms. Gibson was. I assumed she might have been a maiden lady who left her money to be used to build a library. In reality, it was her daughter, Jane, and son-in-law, Frank Phillips who gave the money for the library to be named in her memory. It seems the good people of Creston had tried twice to get a Carnegie Library for their town and failed both times. That was when the Phillips' stepped in and gave $25,000 to purchase the lot and have the library and club room built. It formally opened in April of 1931.
Which is the same year the cottage style gas station was built. I thought the building might have been unique to Creston, but I find several more examples of them around the Midwest. In 1994, after serving as the office for a monument sales company, the building was donated to the city and moved about a mile west to the west edge of Creston at Parkway & Highway 34 to become the Union County Visitors Center - the Frank Phillips Visitors Center.
Monday, August 27, 2012
In the late 80's, Mom began wishing she had the money to have all her farm buildings painted but she worried about the cost. Even if we kids volunteered our labor, the paint would be quite expensive.
Then something truly amazing happened - back in the 60's Dad had been persuaded by some smooth talking salesman to purchase some shares in The Nodaway Valley Company at Clarinda. When he died in 1978 and Mom was settling his affairs, she learned those certificates of shares in the strong box were practically worthless.
She put them back in the safe, however, and pretty much forgot about them. Then early in 1989 she received a letter from The Clarinda Company offering to buy Dad's Nodaway Valley shares. If she sold them, she would receive around $2000. She asked me what I thought she should do. I suggested that amount of money would probably pay for the paint she needed, so she sold the shares and bought many, many five gallon buckets of paint.
And her kids organized to scrape and paint during a long 4th of July weekend. Here Andrew, on ladder, Linda and Carla work on scraping the south side of the wash house.
While trying to learn more about the Clarinda Company and or Nodaway Valley Company, I found an interesting book entitled Typo: The Last American Typesetter or How I Made and Lost Four Million Dollars by David Silverman. He was the new president of The Clarinda Company in 1989, so I assume Mom's $2000 from them might have been part of that four million.
The book really does sound interesting and tells the tale of the end of the printing industry as it had once been. I plan to read the book if/when I can get a copy of it.
Lorrie and Ruthie working on scraping the west side of the wash house. The first day of work, I foolishly would not take breaks along with everyone else. They would stop, re-hydrate, eat, etc. I felt like we had to keep going in order to get as much done as possible.* I thought they were slackers for taking time to rest. That night I paid for it with horrible leg cramps - up and down ladders and lack of water. The next morning I had such a bad headache I was worthless.
(*Mom always told me: "You go at everything like you're killing snakes with a stick!")
Our goal had been to at least get the house painted. So while I recuperated the second day (and became the real slacker), the others got the house done and started on some of the other buildings.
Another memory about The Clarinda Company - I applied for a job there in 1979. I remember being tested for both typing and proof reading. I wasn't a fast enough typist for them, but I came very close to being good enough as a proof reader. I think they allowed three misses finding errors and I had four so I didn't get a job - which was probably a good thing. I would have hated driving that far to work each day.
Most of 'the motley crew' after a couple days painting: in back Ron (barely visible), Christine, Ian, Andrew and Lorrie. Front: Bud, Ruthie, Gene, Carla, Linda and Les.
"You know I'm a dreamer, but my heart's of gold; I had to run away high so I wouldn't come home low." (Home Sweet Home lyrics by the Motley Crue)
Over the next three months as often as any of us could, we spent a weekend painting. I think Gene was the one who did the most. Eventually, we got everything but the back side of the chicken house, the back side of the lawnmower shed and the very top of the back of the corn crib. We were out of paint and no one was going to see what we had missed.
We were also very tired of painting! The one building Mom did hire painted was the barn - thank goodness! None of us was too gung-ho about tackling that job. Mom's volunteer paint crew had painted: one house, two garages, one each wash house, toilet, lawnmower shed (actually another garage), chicken house, hog house, granary, milk shed and corn crib.
"Many would be cowards if they had courage enough." (Thomas Fuller 1608-1661)
The buildings had always been painted white in our memories although we could detect some hints of red paint underneath on the outbuildings. We questioned painting everything yellow - especially the barn. Some of us had a faint memory of a yellow barn being the sign that a coward lived there. We thought it came from the WWII era, but it actually dated back to WWI when the barns of some conscientious objectors and people who didn't buy War Bonds had their barns painted yellow by neighbors to mark them as cowards.
Mom had her own nostalgic reason for wanting everything painted yellow, however. She remembered moving to that farm as a bride more than fifty years earlier. "All the buildings were yellow", she told us. "I always liked them that color, but your Dad wanted them white."
I had to admit I thought the yellow paint looked good and really made that corner of the countryside look very cheerful. Mom got to live with her yellow buildings almost fifteen years.
Saturday, August 25, 2012
I have yet to come up with a good system for keeping track of books I have read, favourite authors, books I want to read, etc. Case in point - I like Sandra Dallas' books. I intend to read everything she writes - but I forgot that - which may not be a bad thing because when I did remember about her, I had three new books to read!
I like Dallas because she writes historical fiction and I appreciate the times she writes about. She does a very good job of researching and presenting facts. Her books could be depressing for some readers because she writes honestly about the trying times her characters go through - especially women. But those are offset by themes of friendship, forgiveness and love.
Oh, yeah, and her protagonists aren't always comely young women. In Prayers For Sale, the main character, Hennie Comfort, is eighty-six years old and looking at the end of her eventful life which covers the time period of Civil War through the Great Depression - two of my favourite eras about which to read.
The setting for this book is the fictional Middle Swan, Colorado during the gold rush days. Dallas admits the town is patterned after Breckenridge in Summit County, CO, where she lived for many years. I believe one of the reasons I liked the book so much was because it reminded me of the trip my Mom, children and I took to that area thirty-six years ago. I have a problem with the altitude, snow and cold in the winter, but in the summer, the Rockies and those old mining towns can provide an interesting vacation for flatlanders.
We had a good time exploring deserted miner's cabins, mountain streams and other artifacts from the gold mining days. This is a picture of my son, Doug, atop the 'tailings' from a mine - or perhaps one of the gravel ridges left behind by the gold dredges described in Prayers For Sale.
Charlie Taylor's Water Wheel at Idaho Springs, CO was moved and refurbished as a tourist attraction where Bridal Veil Falls plunge into Clear Creek. It is visible from I-70. The wheel was built by Taylor in the 1890's and used to power a gold-mining stamp mill. Our high country vacation home base was a friend's condo at Keystone. It was perfect for exploring the towns of Dillon, Silverthorne, Silver Plume, Georgetown and Breckenridge.
Another reason I really liked this book was the use of 'old-timey' sayings. For instance: "I baked a chess pie this morning. We'll take it along." When Hennie looked confused, the girl explained, "Brown sugar and eggs mostly."
"Kentucky pie! That's what we called it. But what will your man think when he comes home to supper, and there's no hereafter?" Hereafter meaning dessert.
There is another example which I have only heard, well, read, one other time - and that was in my Mom's diary from 1938. From the book: "Nit shook her head. "When we got married, Dick and I wanted us to go out to ourself. So we moved away from our homefolks."
Mom and Dad lived with his parents for the first six months after their marriage. When they finally moved to their own farm, there was one line in Mom's diary for that date: "We moved to ourselves today." I think that is such a unique saying. I can't find if it is peculiar to a certain region or nationality.
The above picture of Mom was taken in 1941 in front of the living room windows of the place they moved to ourselves.
Dead In The Water is Dana Stabenow's third in the series featuring Kate Shugak. These mysteries were recommended by a friend and while I am enjoying them and will continue to read the ones our library has, they make me cold. Make me cold - not leave me cold. They are set in Alaska. I get so into a book when I'm reading that I am in the book. In this novel, Kate has gone undercover to discover what happened to two missing crew members from a crab fishing vessel. She's working on deck pulling up the crab pots describing how cold it is and I'm freezing right along with her. Between this book and the previous one set in Colorado which described a lot of snow and cold in the mountains, I've been cold all week!
I do like Stabenow's writing and enjoy learning more about the native Alaskan culture as well as the importance Alaska and its islands played during World War II.
I am such a huge fan of Adriana Trigiani. She is one author I don't forget about. I am always waiting impatiently for her next book. I expected The Shoemaker's Wife to be sort of a continuation of her previous books, Lucia, Lucia and Very Valentine. From the standpoint of writing about her Italian roots, it is somewhat, though this book is more of an epic tale about young people leaving the old country and striving to make a go of it in America.
Central to the story line are the lives of Ciro and Enza who meet briefly as teenagers in the Italian Alps.There is an immediate attraction, but they go their separate ways - both ending up in New York. Eventually their paths cross, but Ciro has a girlfriend and Enza is concentrating on her career. Then WWI intervenes. They are star-crossed lovers who finally find their way back together after the war ends. They marry and move to Minnesota. (More cold weather.)
I was a bit disappointed with this latest Trigiani offering. It seemed like once the lovers were finally united her writing became almost stilted. The book went on and on through another generation, another world war, but it seemed to me it would have been a better read had it ended with their marriage. It was almost like the author's heart wasn't into writing any further but she felt some obligation to tie up the ends of everyone's lives.
Of these three books, I liked Sandra Dallas's the best. I'm glad I have two more of her books to look forward to reading.
Thursday, August 23, 2012
Say the words destination shopping. I doubt a grocery store pops into your mind. Yet yesterday on a trip to the Capitol City, the one store I wanted to go to was the new Hy-Vee at 86th & Douglas in Urbandale. Why? Because it is the newest and largest of all the Hy-Vee's and because they have been touting it for several weeks. They tore down the previous Hy-Vee on this site in order to build the new one. I used to shop at the old one. I don't think there was anything wrong with it - just not large enough for the ever-growing population on that side of the metro.
We had to have lunch somewhere, so why not in the new dining area? We got to the store around 11 a.m., took a quick tour around the perimeter and decided to eat. Good thing we did because by noon there was hardly a place to sit. Bud had the daily special for $5.00 (Salisbury steak, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes and roll) while I had the 'all you can eat' salad bar. Next time I will save some room for their authentic Italian gelato for dessert.
One of the areas I was most drawn to was the bakery where there was a wide array of artisan crafted breads. Bread is one of my most favourite foods. I finally decided on a small loaf of Tuscan Flat Bread. The young man who sacked it for me was suggesting foods that it would go well with. I said, "You're assuming there will still be some left by the time I get home." He laughed.
The cheese shop was another interesting area. Talk about a helpful smile - after a couple samples, the gentleman behind the counter offered to fix up a way to put some cheese on ice for us after he learned we were from out-of-town if there was something we wanted to buy. Different kinds of cheeses fascinate me almost equally as does wine.
And that is the one area of the store which disappointed me - the wine shop. I really thought it would be larger and have more selection than their other metro stores do. The one at Mills Civic Parkway and I-35 is much better.
I could easily have spent more time and money here. Perhaps next time I will take an ice chest and come home with some things from their fresh seafood shop, the meat department, the deli, the .......
What a difference between yesterday's experience at Hy-Vee and the ones I remember from my childhood. This picture, taken during the Centennial Parade in 1957, shows the front of Corning's first Hy-Vee store. I remember it as the Supply Store which is what the Hyde & Vredenburg grocery stores were called before a contest in 1952 changed their names to Hy-Vee. This store was one of the first to feature a new invention called a grocery shopping cart. Instead of carrying a grocery basket around the store, there were two grocery baskets (one above, one below) mounted on a wheeled frame. The aisles in this store were so narrow, if you were behind someone you just followed them until you got to the back by the meat counter where there was room to maneuver around them.
A Supply Store grocery ad from 1947 lists a 100 pound sack of sugar for $8.98; whole or half hams for 59 cents a pound; a head of lettuce for 15 cents and Colby cheese for 49 cents a pound. You could phone number 39, place your grocery order and they would deliver it free to your door if you lived in town.
Lyle Silsby was the store manager until 1946 when he opened his own grocery at Sixth and Davis. It was a much larger store - time for Hy-Vee to move in order to compete.
The aisles were much wider and the grocery carts were much larger.
It was only a few years before a new store was built at 10th Street and Hwy 148. It seemed so big and modern at the time even though there is hardly room for more than two carts next to each other in an aisle. This Hy-Vee is the last remaining grocery store in Corning. You could probably fit five or six stores this size inside the new one in Urbandale.
Much as I enjoyed our destination shopping yesterday, I'm content with the size and selection at our Creston Hy-Vee. I can find everything I really need - not just want - and I don't have to do as much walking and temptation resisting as I would have to in the new Urbandale store.
Saturday, August 18, 2012
When my kids were younger - as in this picture of them taken the first day of school in 1978* when we lived on Tuck Corner (Kari 9, Doug, 16, Preston, 7) - they had a 'game' they played whenever they saw a ...
....Volkswagen Beetle automobile. I'm pretty certain it was a game Kari & Preston's father, Denny, taught them. The gist of it was that the first one to spot a VW Beetle yelled slug-a-bug and punched the other(s) in the shoulder. I know I didn't teach them the game because I had to ask why they were hitting one another - other than the usual reasons: "He's looking at me. She's on my side of the car. They're making faces at me." Etc. Etc. Routine sibling stuff.
There are various names and rules for this "game" - Punch Buggy, Slug Bug, Slug Beetle, Punch Bug, Beetle, Slug-A-Bug, Piggy Punch, Punch Dub and, in Great Britain, Yellow Car.
There's a reason 'slug-a-bug' is on my mind. A few weeks ago I started noticing iridescent trails on the cement of the patio when I went out early in the morning. (Can you see it in the very middle of this picture?) My natural curiosity had me guessing what on earth was making those pretty paths? Did Bud have any idea? "No."
Then I found a shed snake skin in the flower bed. I could see the iridescence of it in the sun. "I'll bet the snake crawled across the patio and left those trails", I told Bud. It seemed a reasonable explanation and I quit wondering about it.
Until this morning when Bud came back from an early walk and called me out to see something on the deck. "Look at the size of this slug", he exclaimed. "I've never seen one so big!" I agreed. "It's four times the size of the one I swept off the patio last week and I thought that one was big", I said.
Bud was going to put it back down in the flower bed. He thought slugs were good for the plants. I told him not to do that, I thought that they were bad for plants. So he carried it away, but I began to question whether I was remembering that correctly. I said I was sure I remembered Mom trying to keep them out of the garden when I was a kid, so I had to google slugs to make sure I was remembering it correctly.
And, guess what I found out - besides the fact that they are a pest you don't want on your plants or in your garden - the slimy trail they leave behind them is iridescent!
So, two questions answered - slugs are bad and the marks left on the patio cement were made by slugs. I also looked up how to rid the pests from your garden because salt was all that came to my mind - it seemed Mom sprinkled salt around the plants - and I did find that you can kill the slugs in salt water - after you pick them off the plants.
E-w-w-w, picking slugs off plants - that memory must be why my face is all scrunched up in this grimace and why I felt sick reading about slugs. The ones I remember as a child were much smaller than the monster pictured above. What I read says they like moist areas. So why, in this extremely dry and droughty year are we having slugs? I just hope there are not any more. Yeck!
Maybe I can get the kids to come back home and 'slug-a-bug'?
(* Grand kids notice: Your dads and aunt did not have fancy back packs. Preston has an old book satchel and Kari has a plastic draw-string bag from a store. High schooler Doug, of course, is too cool to carry anything other than a notebook.)
Monday, August 13, 2012
As I remarked in my July 26 post after reading Anne Perry's latest Thomas & Charlotte Pitt novel, I planned to read the one immediately preceding it (#26 in the series) before going back to the beginning of the series to read them in order.
Treason At Lisson Grove has Thomas going off in mad pursuit of a killer, following him to France in the company of another Special Branch officer. Too late, he realizes it was all a plot to get him out of London and away from his supervisor, the head of Special Branch, Victor Narraway.
In the meantime, Narraway is accused of embezzling government funds and removed from his office. He goes to Ireland to try and find out who set him up and why, but without Pitt to go along with him, Narraway asks Pitt's clever wife, Charlotte, to accompany him to Dublin and help in the investigation.
I have warmed to the characters of Thomas and Charlotte but more especially to Charlotte's Great Aunt, Lady Vespasia Cumming-Gould. If our library has them all, I have twenty-five more Anne Perry's to read my way through.
Last week a friend of mine told me she is reading her way through Dana Stabenow's Kate Shugak series. As a rule, anything she likes to read, I like, and as I am always on the look-out for a new author, I told her I would give Stabenow a try and we could discuss her when she (my friend) comes to visit us this week.
A Fatal Flaw is the second in this series, set in Alaska. From the back cover of the book: "Once Kate Shugak was the star investigator of the Anchorage District Attorney's office. Now she's gone back to her Aleut roots in the far Alaska north - where her talent for detection makes her the toughest crime-tracker in that stark and mysterious land.
On the first day of spring a man went berserk, killing eight of his neighbors. Only there were nine bodies lying in the snow. The last victim was a golden blonde with a tarnished past - and her killer was still at large. It's up to Kate and her husky, Mutt, to track down the suspects - before the murderer melts back into the snowscape. But the guilty party could be anyone, because in the Alaskan spring, old hatreds warm up quickly."
As soon as I began reading this book, I thought, "This really sounds familiar, but I know I haven't read the book before - more like something I saw on television". With Bud's help, we finally figured out that the book (written in 1993) was based on the real life of Michael Alan Silka the sniper who killed nine people near the small town of Manley Hot Springs, AK in 1984. The opening of the book was almost exactly like what we had watched on The History Channel, but from there on, it was the author's account of how Kate Shugak figured out who killed the ninth victim and then tracked the killer down.
I did like this protagonist and like reading about Alaska - at one time in my life, I thought I would like to live there. I have the next book in the series ready to read. It looks like there are nineteen so far. I will read all our library has.
My son, Preston, thought Kate White's book, Hush, looked like something I would enjoy reading so he got it for me. At first, I didn't think I was going to like it - more to do with the writing style than the story line - but that was just the first few pages. By the time I got that far in, I was hooked on Lake Warren's life. She is in a legal battle with her husband, Jack, for custody of their two kids, so when one of the doctors at the fertility clinic she is preparing a marketing program for is killed after she has spent the night with him in his apartment, the last thing she wants is to give her husband ammunition to win custody by becoming the prime suspect in a murder. So, she lies to the police. When Lake begins receiving threatening phone calls and worse, she can't go to the police - they might discover she had lied about being in the Dr's apartment.
This really was a well written mystery. Several times I was sure I had it figured out, but it wasn't until the very end I was pretty certain I knew who the murderer was - though not why.
Kate White is the editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan as well as the author of the Bailey Weggins mystery novels. Our library has most of that series. I think I'll give them a try. They also have Hush but without my son giving it to me, I might never have read this author.
Wednesday, August 8, 2012
I name the plants without a thought
The trees and flowers wild or bought
Rare herbs and common weeds I know
To the gardener a friend or foe
A walk through woods quiet and cool
Recalls the names as though in school
Pity the one in meadow bright
Who knows not plants of such delight
Not herb to steep for fevered brow
Nor weed to pick for salad now
How do I know the names from naught
A gift to me my Mother taught
Ruby flashing in the sun
Woman's work is never done
Worn on hand used to toil
Tending babies, turning soil
Years go by, duties do shrink
Fewer dishes in the old sink
Ruby ring still shiny bright
Grandpa a memory in the night
Visits to the nursing home
Grandma wizened like a gnome
Shriveled hand, ring is lost
Value sentimental, not in cost
Grandma's gone, sorting her things
Ruby's gone, but here's her ring
Treasured topaz now I wear
Think of Grandma, how I care.
I have loved poetry my entire life but it wasn't until 1988 that I took an adult education class through the West Des Moines Schools to actually learn how to write metered, rhymed verses.
These were my first two assignment attempts. How did I do? Do the pictures help convey the stories I tried to tell in verse?
Tuesday, August 7, 2012
......... can give hugs like a mother........
Of all my aunts, Dad's sister Leona was my favourite.
.........Keep secrets like a sister........
Leona was six and a half years younger than Mom. She didn't have an older sister. She would have, but her sister, Evelyn Lois, died three days after birth - two years before Leona was born. So, Mom became her big sister when she and Dad married. Here Mom is 18 and Leona is almost 12. Her birthday was the same day, June 19, as Mom's sister, Lois. Mom also had a sister named Evelyn. I always thought the names and birthday coincidences confirmed that Mom and Leona were meant to be sisters, too.
.........And share love like a friend."
Aunt Leona was one of those people who got along with everyone. Here she and Bud are having a good chat on the deck of her 'second home' in Punkin Center (Tonto Basin) in '93. My Aunt and Uncle and kids moved to Arizona in 1959, so there were many, many years we didn't them. They didn't come back often and we never went down there. Letters now and then and rare phone calls were the only connections.
But when they still lived in Corning, Aunt Leona was the one I turned to for a second opinion or advice on something I was too afraid to ask my Mom about. I knew she would give me a straight answer and not tell Mom if it was something I didn't want known.
I can remember one time asking her if she thought I was fat. Her reply: "Well, do your thighs rub together when you walk?" I said I didn't think so. "Then you're not fat," she replied. I've never forgotten that.
The spring of 1978 was a tough time for all of us. Aunt Leona's husband of thirty-five years, Al, died in April. The middle of May she brought his ashes back for a funeral service and burial. She only stayed a few days before going back to Arizona. She had just gotten home when Mom called her with the news that Dad had died. She turned around and made a quick trip back to Iowa for her brother's funeral. Her daughter Georgia and granddaughters, Heather and Jennifer made the trip with her.
This picture is of Leona and Georgia standing in the barn doorway. Georgia wanted to go through the barn she remembered playing in as a young girl. After Aunt Leona retired and remarried, they began coming back to Iowa for part of each summer. It was good becoming reacquainted with her. It was like all those years apart had never happened. The talking and close feelings were still there.
For Mom's 80th birthday, we all chipped in and bought her a plane ticket to fly to Phoenix. It was Mom's first trip in a jet airliner. She loved it - wasn't a bit apprehensive. This picture with the lemon tree was taken in Aunt Leona's back yard in Glendale. Except for the height difference, these two look just like the sisters they became in 1937.
We spent one day wandering around the old downtown area of Glendale. A walking tour highlights the town's origins as the trading area for the rural farming community it once was. This bronze sculpture, Old Friends, created by George Lundeen, greets visitors to Murphy Park and Velma Teague Library. Many of the original buildings are now antique shoppes. It is an area I would enjoy visiting again someday - perhaps with my niece, Lorrie, who now lives in nearby Peoria.
My beloved Aunt Leona died ten years ago today. She had just gotten a computer and was learning to e-mail. I was so looking forward to having that instant communication with her at a time in my life when I needed her most.
"Only an Aunt can give hugs like a mother, keep secrets like a sister and share Love like a friend."