Friday, November 30, 2012

The Beautiful Mystery

Even if Louise Penny's Inspector Gamache series wasn't one of my favourites and even if I hadn't been waiting for my turn to read the latest (#8), I would have picked this book up just because of the beautiful cover.
Armand Gamache and his second-in-command, Jean-Guy Beauvoir, have been summoned to Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups, a monastery hidden deep in the wilderness of Quebec, because the renowned choir director has been murdered. Gamache finds a small community of two dozen monks, almost evenly divided against one another over whether or not to release another recording of their beautiful Gregorian chants after the first one was such a popular and financial success.
Solving the mystery was just the first story-line in The Beautiful Mystery. The second, and more interesting to me, is what is going to happen to Jean-Guy as he continues his fight against his addiction to the pain killers he got hooked on while recovering from the wounds he received in the previous book. Especially now that Gamache's boss, who wants to discredit the inspector in order to get rid of him, has his evil hooks in Jean-Guy. This is the biggest problem with reading a series - I have to WAIT for the next book to come out.

The first time I looked at this book it didn't come home with me. I took a second look and decided to give The House of Velvet and Glass a try. Sibyl Allston is a young woman living in her father's elegant townhouse in Boston's Back Bay. She is trying to come to grips with the loss of her mother and sister on the Titanic by attending seances with others who lost loved ones in the sinking and hope to contact their spirits or receive some 'message' from them.

When I began writing about the books I had read it was in an effort to keep track of them and their authors and to perhaps rate them in some way. I am not a reviewer even though it seems I have gotten into trying to review what I have read. It has become somewhat of a chore. I had planned to do something different beginning in the new year, but I have decided, "Why wait? Why not start now?" So, though I haven't worked out details yet, after today, I think I will just list the books I've read, their author, and some type of rating system - either 1 thru 5 or A to F.

I will give this second novel of Katherine Howe's a 3 and say that I hope to read her first novel, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, when I can find a copy of it.

The Light Between Oceans is M.L. Stedman's first novel. I'm giving it a 4. It is the first book in a long time that has kept me awake to finish reading. (Which means I got about five hours of sleep last night.) The book is about a lighthouse keeper and his family who live on Janus Rock about one hundred miles off the coast of Western Australia. The time period is after WWI. It is not a mystery. It is a beautiful book of human drama and the choices we make. Okay, maybe a 5......

Thursday, November 29, 2012


I don't remember what grade Roman Numerals were taught in, but I do know I learned how to read them before I got to that grade. That was one of the advantages of the one room schools - listening in as the upper grades 'recited'.
Roman numerals fascinated me. It was revealing to learn there was another way to write numbers. After I published yesterday's blog, I realized it was my 600th post. Had I realized it ahead of time, I would probably have tried to write something significant for the occasion. But as my main reason for beginning my blog was to share my memories and old family pictures with my children and grandchildren, I'm glad yesterday's 600th blog was about another memory of my childhood.
Do elementary students still learn to read Roman Numerals? Could they tell today's post is DCI? 601?  

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Which Twin Has The Toni?

I decided to let my hair grow at the end of summer so a couple of months ago I had a salon permanent. How different that was from the perms we had as youngsters! Home permanent kits were "in" during the 1950's - just in time for my sister and me to have the curls we weren't born with. (We weren't twins, of course. I was almost two years older than Betty (on the right), but Mom did often dress us alike.)

It was the boys in our family who were born with natural curl. That just never seemed fair to us. In this picture at the top, Betty (9), Ron (15), Les (1) and Ramona (11).

Before permanents Mom always fixed my hair in 'finger' curls. I don't know how she got the curls to stay in place for any length of time. Probably just long enough to snap a picture or two.

She also set our hair in rags which we had to sleep in. The curls would last longer that way. I never understood how rag curls worked. Even after watching a video on line I'm not sure how it is done.

It seemed like we would have our perms in late summer, just before school started in the fall. We always went down to Grandma Ridnour's where Aunt Lois would give us our (usually) Toni. I think Grandma's kitchen was turned into a beauty salon because she had a kitchen sink with the spray attachment which made the process easier. By the end of the school year, the overly curly perm had relaxed back into nearly straight hair. Betty almost always had bangs, while I rarely did.

As you can see in this picture - not much curl left. Which was preferable to me. I didn't like the overly curly, just-permed look. Getting a perm was torture; first having the curlers rolled as tightly as possible, then having that burning, gagging, lotion applied. I remember Mom and/or Aunt Lois giving me a towel to hold over my face to catch any drips, but that also trapped the ammonia fumes.

Toni was the most popular home permanent. Their magazine ads showed identical twins - one with the expensive $15.00 salon perm and the other with the $2.00 home perm. You were supposed to guess which twin had the Toni, which was hard to do since they both looked the same. And after you had purchased the first Toni which included the curlers, you could then buy a 'refill' kit (lotion, neutralizer and end papers) for $1.00.
There were other home perm brands. Richard Hudnut advertised a special perm just for children, as did Lilt with their "Party Curl". But I believe those brands were a little more expensive, so we got the Toni. When I was a little older, Bobbi came out with the "Roller Perm" which was advertised as the home perm for a softer, more casual curl. That was the perm I wanted, of course. No more Curlylocks for me! It took some talking, but I finally convinced Mom to let me have a Bobbi instead of a Toni.
The earliest salon permanents used machines something like this 1934 model. I remember when we moved to the Odell place west of Brooks there was a room upstairs with a lot of stuff left in it. One item was a machine which looked a lot like this. My first thought was that it was something used for torture. That probably wasn't too far off as guesses went. I don't even remember my first 'salon' permanent. I know it was after I graduated and got a job and had my own money to spend. And it was long after machines like this one were used!

I even got to the point where I could give myself a home perm - with just a little help. Bud's Mom was so surprised after we were married and I told her Bud had given me a perm. "He did?!" she exclaimed. "Well, he applied the lotion for me after I put the curlers in." I guess she just couldn't see her son as a beautician.

Most of the home permanent brands have gone by the wayside. They are a thing of the past. About the only brand still available is Ogilvie if you can find a store which carries it. The price ranges from $5.89 to $11.99; curlers extra.

I doubt I'll ever have a home permanent again. But I'll never forget being a kid and holding that towel over my face and just wanting the whole ordeal to be over.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Turkey Day in Review

Thanksgiving Eve we caught  part of My Life As A Turkey, which received an Emmy for Outstanding Nature Programming. It looks as though I can watch the entire program here, which I think I will do. The bit I saw looked very interesting.

The program is based on the book Illumination In The Flatwoods written by Joe Hutto. It details his experience raising a flock of wild turkeys from incubation to adulthood - not raising them as feeding and watering them in a coop or pen - but raising them as a dedicated mother.

It hasn't been that long since seeing wild turkeys in SW Iowa was a novelty and cause for some excitement. I remember when I was driving the school bus in 1984 and saw a flock of turkeys along the road. I stopped the bus just so the school kids and I could watch the turkeys for a few minutes.

Now I can see turkeys on the edge of the town where we live just by looking out my window. These two pictures were taken March 12, 2010 through the window on the back of the house. The turkeys were much closer to the deck until they saw me and started moving away.

Not only was yesterday Thanksgiving, it was also the one year anniversary of the death of Bud's Mother, Lottie. She used to talk about how much she enjoyed the turkeys she raised when she was a girl. I know she would have loved that PBS program. One or more of her turkeys were 'pets'. I imagine it was hard for her when it came time to sell them. (Or eat them!)
Lottie talked about the live turkeys that were given away each year during Corning's combination Turkey Day and Bargain Day. The chance for a free turkey two days before Thanksgiving always drew a large crowd. And the advertised bargains tempted those hopeful turkey winners into starting their holiday shopping while they were in town - sort of a precursor to the current mania for Black Friday bargains. She remembered when she was nine years old and sixty live turkeys were tossed off the downtown roof tops. If  you caught one, it was yours. Fights broke out when two people caught the same bird - kind of like those NFL players I watched yesterday fighting over a football pass.

They were still giving away live birds on Turkey Day when I was a child. Forty live turkeys purchased from a farmer near Afton were given away in 1948. The method of winning one had changed to 'the luck of the draw', however. Each time you purchased something from a participating merchant, you were eligible to put your name into the drawing which was usually held on main street near the bank.

I don't know just when the turkeys for Turkey Day went from being live to being frozen. I do know that two days after my 13th birthday, November 20, 1956, "Today was the turkey drawing. We got a turkey! Dad put it in the locker." That is the only time I remember our family winning a turkey on Turkey Day.

(These last two pictures of turkeys in our back yard were taken on Mother's Day this year.)

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving 2012

My contributions to the Thanksgiving dinner table - my famous pea salad and a layered  raspberry/cranberry jello salad.

There's much to be thankful for today, like being with family. Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Pigs Stolen While Family Sleeps

"415 pigs stolen while family sleeps" was one of the cut-lines for an online article at KCCI-TV this morning; followed by: "Investigators are asking for the public's help to find the thieves who took 415 pigs from an Iowa farm." I was immediately swept back to the summer of 1980.

The kids and I were living on Tuck Corner in Taylor County. August 3 was a typical lazy Sunday morning. We had celebrated Preston's 9th birthday the day before. Most visitors came to the side door on the south porch of the house, so I was really surprised when someone knocked at the front door on the west. The person knocking asked if he could use our phone. I was very hesitant to let him in. His clothes were dirty and he was very scruffy looking. He could tell I was hesitating so he told me a story about his friends leaving him at the Lenox Rodeo the night before. He claimed they had all been partying, got separated and they left him. Supposedly he had walked all night to get to our house which was about nine miles from Lenox. I felt sorry for him and let him use the phone. He made his phone call, said his friends would be there to pick him up in about two hours, and asked for a drink of water. Then he went out to sit on the bank and wait. I glanced out the window several times and he was still there. Around noon, finally,  he was gone.

I thought no more about the stranger until one afternoon a few days later a Taylor County Sheriff's car drove in and a deputy sheriff came to the door. Now what? He said someone had reported a stranger in our yard the past weekend and wondered if I knew anything about him. I told him that the guy had used our phone as well as the story he had told about being left at the rodeo Saturday night.
That was when we heard about a hog theft in the neighborhood the previous weekend. Someone had stolen  thirty-eight, 35 to 40 pound pigs from a farm northwest of Gravity. The Lenox Fire Department had responded to a call of an overturned pickup in a ditch and on fire around 4 a.m. Sunday. The missing pigs were in the back of the pickup, the location of which was about three miles from our house. The deputy took our statements, including a description of the man, thanked us and left.

Our next visit was from a young man driving a black Trans Am Firebird. He showed us an Iowa DCI badge and introduced himself as a member of the Field Operations Bureau assisting the sheriff's department in the investigation of a hog theft. Would we tell him what we knew about it? So, once again we gave our story about the guy using our phone and then waiting for his friends to pick him up. "Would I give my permission to have my phone records examined by the DCI?" the agent asked.
My affirmative answer led the kids and I on an interesting first hand experience with the law. The phone number the suspect had called was in Council Bluffs. The pickup used in the theft had been stolen in Council Bluffs. We were shown a photo and asked if we could identify it as the man we saw. We were all pretty sure, but not positive. Would we go with the deputy to Council Bluffs to view a line up? Heck yes. Not only did the kids get out of school, it was going to make a great story for them to tell their friends. AND we got to ride in a police car. (Did this contribute to Preston wanting to go into law enforcement as a career?)
The line up didn't happen - something about not having enough people for it. But we were treated to a tour of The Squirrel Cage - the old Pottawattamie county jail used from 1885 to 1969 - (You can read about it here.) as well as lunch with the agent and deputy. Weeks and then months passed before we heard any more. Finally I was asked to testify in court. It was not to be a jury trial, rather it would just be the accused, his attorney, the judge, the prosecutor, the deputy sheriff, DCI agent and myself.
The defendant looked very different than he had months before. His long hair was gone, he was clean-shaven and wore a dress shirt and slacks in place of the dirty tee shirt and jeans I had previously seen him in. "Was I sure this was the man who had used my phone?" I was fairly sure. "May I stand near him so I can compare heights?" I asked. He was the right height. But could I really testify for certain this was the same man? Or was I trusting what the agent had told me about him being the guy?

For the first time I thought, "What if he serves time because of what I say? He knows where we live. Will he seek retribution? And it's not just me; my 9-year old-son and 11-year-old daughter could also be in danger."
Very sobering thoughts. Again several months went by before I heard that the suspect had been released on a technicality. We moved to a different house. Eventually the whole matter faded into a memory....until it was reawakened by this morning's news line: "Pigs stolen while family sleeps...."

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Celebrating Birthdays

As previously reported, November is one long month of celebrations for our family. Yesterday we celebrated the third birthday of my great-grandson, Rodney.

In addition to his cake, there were decorated cookies. I had a giraffe.

It was such a nice day for the middle of November; the kids were able to play outside. Watching a three-year-old ride a motor bike seems unreal to this ole great-grandma.

If I live long enough, will I someday see Rodney racing at Indianapolis or on the NASCAR circuit?

It was a good day for Grandma - seeing great-granddaughter Lily - how she has grown in the two and a half months since I last saw her .... well as seeing some of my adult grandchildren; Brock and Paullina; Alyssa and Evan.

Today is my 69th birthday. No cake for me today, not even my favorite cheesecake. Just some thoughts about how quickly a lifetime can pass.

Almost half a life ago, I celebrated my 35th birthday in Denver where I met these friends of a friend of mine. What I remember most about Bonnie and Jack, other than how nice they were, were their two huge Irish Wolfhounds. Bonnie gave me the book, Some Men Are More Perfect Than Others as a birthday gift.
The weather was beautiful that weekend. I remember going to the Denver Broncos-Green Bay Packers football game at Mile High Stadium. Denver won. It was the start of my being a Broncos fan.

This is the most recent picture of myself - taken two months ago. With me is Granddaughter, Dominique. She was sixteen three days ago. Today is her sister Deise's eighteenth birthday. We'll all celebrate together on Thanksgiving - the end of the celebrating and back to losing another ten pounds!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Miss You, Miss You, Miss You

Woke up this morning with Mom on my mind - dreamed of her last night. What was she trying to tell me? Looked in the mirror; wondered if I'm beginning to look more like her now that I'm only a year away from being 70. Looked at this picture of her to compare. Tears came to my eyes and these words came to my mind:

Miss you, miss you, miss you; everything I do,
Echoes with the laughter and the voice of you.

You're on every corner, every turn and twist,
Every old familiar spot whispers how you're missed!

Miss you, miss you, miss you, everywhere I go,
There are poignant memories dancing in a row.

Silhouette and shadow of your form and face,
Substance and reality everywhere displace.

Oh, I miss you, miss you! How I miss you girl!
There's a strange, sad silence 'mid the busy whirl,

Just as tho' the ordinary, daily things I do,
Wait with me expectant for a word from you.

Miss you, miss you, miss you! Nothing now seems true,
Only that 'twas Heaven just to be with you.

(David M. Cory [1872-1966], American poet and author of children's stories, penned Miss You)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Age of Desire

Jennie Fields' novel about the friendship between Edith Wharton and her governess turned literary secretary and confidante, Anna Bahlmann, is told through the points of view of both women. Even though I enjoyed learning more about Wharton's life, including her affair with a younger journalist, I much preferred the story line that dealt with Anna Bahlmann's life, including learning that her brother, William F. Bahlmann, was once a professor at Central Missouri State University - the same university my younger brother retired from about 100 years after Professor Bahlmann.
"The Age of Desire takes us on a sparkling journey through Wharton's turn of the century world: Paris with its glamorous literary salons and dark cafes; the Whartons' elegant house, The Mount, in Lenox, Massachusetts; and Henry James's manse in Rye, England. Edith's real letters and diary entries are woven throughout."

 The secret to understanding some of the (I thought) gratuitous story lines in Juliet Nicolson's novel Abdication, is knowing the author is the granddaughter of Vita Sackville-West. Otherwise, the book is a somewhat interesting re-imagining of the story of Wallis Simpson and King Edward VIII's affair and his subsequent abdication in order to marry the twice-divorced American. Personally, after viewing the award winning, The King's Speech, I believe the Brits lucked out.

Rhys Bowen's 'Molly Murphy Mysteries' never fail to provide a period piece really worth reading. In this eleventh in the series, Molly and her new husband, Daniel Sullivan, a captain in the New York Police Department, have been invited to spend their honeymoon on the Newport, Rhode Island estate of Alderman Brian Hanna.
The Alderman's generous offer may not be entirely without strings as he had mentioned to Daniel that something was troubling him and he wanted Captain Sullivan's advice as a police detective. When Hanna is found dead at the base of the cliffs that overlook the ocean before he even has a chance to welcome the couple, Molly and Daniel both suspect foul play.
The local constabulary is quick to label the death a suicide. Daniel believes the Alderman could have been murdered, but before he can lend his expertise, he develops a life-threatening case of pneumonia. So even though Molly promised to give up her detective work once she was married, it is up to her to find the motive and the murderer in Hush Now, Don't You Cry. 

Obvious, isn't it, that of the three books I liked Rhys Bowen's the best?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Veterans' Day - "Thanks For Your Service"

 This old postcard shows a picture of Veterans' Hospital in Des Moines as it was in 1949. I wrote two years ago about why Bud ended up going there and how worried I was about the care he would receive (Thanking A Veteran) and how we were both pleasantly surprised and impressed.

Bud has healthcare insurance now and could choose to go to any doctor or hospital - he chooses to continue going to Vets because of their quality of service and outstanding treatment of Veterans. The hospital has been undergoing major construction and updating. This is the entrance we currently use to access the clinics. The doorman cheerfully greets everyone. The veterans get a "How are'ya doin'? Thanks for your service."

Look up as you enter that doorway and you will see this display of flags which leads to the information desk. We don't have to stop there - we know our way around pretty well by now.

Sometimes I go with Bud but if he's there for a routine visit, I often wait in the lobby waiting area and read my book or people watch. This is a picture of the new cafeteria across the lobby from where I sit. Such a light and airy place compared to what it used to be. I began noticing all the wood carvings and decided to take some pictures of them. There's a 'Support Our Troops' ribbon and an eagle in this photo.

And this eagle holding a flag in the waiting area. Often I look at the Veterans coming and going and wonder about them. There are still a few whom I imagine must be World War II or Korean War Veterans - they are beginning to look old - even to me. There are also a few younger ones from the Gulf War and the Iraq/Afghanistan Wars, but the majority of them seem to be Vietnam War Vets. Many of them you can tell because they wear their Vietnam Veteran hats; others you can tell by their age - sometimes even by their pony tails and the way they dress.

In the cafeteria is this display - the table set for the soldier who has yet to return. Each piece on the table has symbolic meaning which was explained in the framed piece. You can google POW-MIA Table to read about the symbolism and ceremony attached to it.

Once I began noticing the wood carvings, I saw them everywhere, even outside. Lots of eagles.....

......a Marine Corps bulldog. As well as one I would have missed if a woman had not seen me taking pictures and told me about.....

......this magnificent double eagle bench - the carving of which had just been completed a week or so before Bud's appointment.

Side view of the eagles. I probably should have brushed the leaves off the bench before taking the pictures!

This much of the tree the bench was carved from still stands behind the bench. I'm guessing there is going to be something carved from it. Another eagle? I'll check on it next spring when we are back.

"Within the soul of each Vietnam veteran there is probably something that says: 'Bad war, good soldier'. Only now are Americans beginning to separate the war from the warrior." (Max Cleland - Disabled Veteran of the Vietnam War, Former U.S. Senator from Georgia)

I love my Vietnam Veteran more than I ever thought possible. Thank you  for your service, Bud.