Wednesday, July 31, 2013

July 2013 Reading List

The only 5.0 this month - only partly for sentimental reasons - A Week in Winter is Maeve Binchy's last novel. She died a year ago yesterday, July 30, 2012, shortly after completing her 16th novel. I have read almost all of her novels beginning with the first, Light A Penny Candle in 1982. It didn't hurt that they were mostly set in Ireland, but I loved her upbeat style and the way she had of describing her characters and locations so that you felt you were a part of the story. I will miss not having a new Maeve Binchy book to look forward to.

I read another Karen White, The Beach Trees, set in New Orleans and Biloxi, MS following hurricane Katrina. Julie Holt's best friend, Monica, dies leaving guardianship of her young son and ownership of a beach house to Julie. In addition to reconstructing the house, there are some mysteries to be solved. I'm liking this author and will continue to read her works. I gave this one a 4.0.

When I read that 92-year-old (93 August 17) actress Maureen O'Hara was going to make one of her last public appearances in Winterset, Iowa to honor her friend and co-star, John Wayne, I decided I wanted to read more about this self-described 'feisty redhead'. I've always enjoyed autobiographies and her 2005 'Tis Herself was no exception. Interesting reading about this legendary woman. Rated 3.0.

Have I given any book a 1.0 rating yet? Well, I am now. I began reading Robert M. Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance in the late 70's when it was the de rigueur thing to do. From the bookmark I left in it, I know I got about three quarters of the way through before giving up. When I picked it up again last month, I vowed I would read it entirely. Now, I can only ask myself, why??
According to Wikipedia, "It was originally rejected by 121 publishers, more than any other bestselling book, according to the Guinness Book of Records." It was a slog fest with little, if any redeeming passages. I did it. I read it all. Why-y-y-y?

My other five July reads all rated 2.5 beginning with The Aviator's Wife by Melanie Benjamin. The story of how Anne Morrow met and married Charles Lindbergh and stayed with him through thick and thin may have rated higher with me if I hadn't already read all of Anne Morrow Lindbergh's books and found them hauntingly beautiful as well as very telling about her life with Lindbergh.

It has been many years since I did read her books, so I decided to re-read the only one our library had, Gift From the Sea, a short little book of prose about Anne's time alone on Sanibel Island. I know the book spoke more strongly to me when I first read it in the early 70's because of where I was at that time in my life - more than now when I read it from this end of my life period. Yet the same meditative qualities are there - her gift from the sea for all women.

The final three novels by Dorothy Garlock is a trilogy set in Oklahoma during the depression years. With Hope, With Song and With Heart are all about strong women and righteous men looking for love. Or maybe that's righteous women and strong men. Garlock tells good tales with just the right amount of love, longing and overcoming adversity. I liked these because they are set during the depression years. Each novel can stand alone or be read out of sequence, but all the main characters relate to one another. I admire this woman who is about a year and a half older than I am and didn't begin writing novels until she was in her 50's. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

In The Mist Of A Memory

"When the deep purple falls over sleepy garden walls
And the stars begin to twinkle in the sky --
In the mist of a memory you wander on back to me
Breathing my name with a sigh....."

Memory is such a funny, selective thing. I have a very specific memory when I hear the Peter DeRose song Deep Purple with lyrics by Mitchell Parish. It is from the spring of my freshman year of high school, 1958, also my brother Ron's senior year. We lived almost five miles from town and often there were activities that kept us in town after school. Usually Ron drove his car to school, so that was no problem. But even if he didn't there were several neighbor kids with cars who would bring us home.

My memory is of such an evening except instead of a neighbor bringing us home, a couple of Ron's classmates did - Carole Templeton and Darryl Rhodes. I was aware they had been dating a short time after she broke her engagement to another guy. We had just gotten to our place when the song came on the car radio. Ron & I were thanking them for the ride and getting ready to exit the back seat. As the song ended -

"In the still of the night once again I hold you tight
Though you're gone, your love lives on when moonlight beams
And as long as my heart will beat, sweet lover we'll always meet
Here in my deep purple dreams."

They were gazing into one another's eyes and I thought, "They're in love!" As a 14-year-old girl, I thought that was the most romantic thing I'd ever witnessed - which is probably why the memory has persisted fifty-five years.

I decided I wanted to verify the way I remembered that evening so I went in search of proof in my diary. What I found was this: "We were going to come home with Jerry Sackett (our neighbor; also a senior), but it was so late that Carole Templeton borrowed Sherry Quinn's car and brought us home." No mention of Darryl being along. So did I remember it wrong? Or was Darryl in the car and I didn't mention him? Or did what I remember happen another time and I didn't write it in my diary?

I would also have sworn it was the Nino Tempo and April Stevens version of the song that was playing yet it could not have been - that version didn't come out until 1963. It doesn't matter. I am still always going to see Carole and Darryl looking at each other lovingly whenever I hear "When the deep purple falls........"

Monday, July 29, 2013

En Plein Air Rock Star

I think one of the best uses of an empty store front in my old home town was the development of a fine arts center. Oh, you should have heard the scoffers when that idea was presented! But wiser heads prevailed.
Corning has the only art center in Iowa with an Artist in Residency Program, complete with an apartment above the gallery.

The En Plein Air Festival has been part of the town's July summer celebration for eight years. It is my favorite part. I love to watch the artists painting in the open air then attend the judging at the Fine Arts Center. Hmm, I think I see the connection between my love of the impressionists and this local competition.

However, when we drove into the down town area Saturday, I was surprised to see a different open air artist, one who has become a true rock star, Ray, Bubba, Sorensen II. For several years he has been painting a large boulder north of Greenfield, Iowa to honor our military. It has come to be known as the Freedom Rock. 
Mr. Sorensen is now on a mission to paint a Freedom Rock in all of Iowa's ninety-nine counties. A feature on one side of the Adams County rock is the image of the first casualties from the county killed in WWII, Korea and Vietnam. The young man at the top right was a member of the Class of '63 which is the one both my husband and my sister were in. I remember what a shock it was to hear that Ronnie Bunting had been killed. If you go to The Freedom Rock's Facebook page and look at Timeline Photos, you can see a photo of Ron's mother, 97-year-old Wilma Bunting, standing next to the rock.

The utopian French Icarians built one of the earliest settlements in Adams County. The colony thrived from 1853 until 1898 when it was disbanded and the land sold. I remember Sunday drives when I was a child going past some remaining buildings and being told they were once a part of the Icarian Colony. The school house was one of those buildings.

Several years ago a committee was formed to buy part of the land once farmed by the Icarians and rebuild it as a living history site. The school house and the dining hall have now been relocated to this area. My husband is a direct descendant of the Icarians on his Mother's side. His great-grandparents, Michael and Veronica Bronner joined the settlement about 1878. His grandmother, Nellie, was born there. I felt it was only appropriate to take his picture in front of the building.

As you can see from the blue of the sky, the weather was gorgeous - perfect for en plein air and all the weekend activities.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

More From Our Lazy Days Weekend

There were many activities for the returning Red Raiders in Corning this weekend. Some of the ones we partook of included visiting the Johnny Carson Birthplace house. My brother, Ron, is on the committee working to restore the home as it was when Johnny was born there. I didn't think to take pictures of the outside of the house, so this one is from an article about the project from the Omaha World Herald in May.

Ron was one of the tour volunteers. As he led us into the kitchen, he said, "You might recognize the chairs." Of course. They are the ones I had of our Grandmother Bessie Lynam's. I used them with her table and buffet when we lived in West Des Moines, but had passed them on to my brother when we moved and didn't have room for them. As I recall, Grandma Bessie was a big Johnny Carson fan. What would she think of her chairs now being associated with Carson's memory?

Ron also donated the bed for the room in which Johnny was born. My nieces, Lorrie and Christine, grew up with this in their bedroom. I believe it was one of their Mom's auction or garage sale finds. Ruthie was a very talented furniture restorer. I'm sure she sanded and painted the old iron bed for her daughters' room. Ruthie was also a big Johnny Carson fan. I know she would be delighted that the bed is now part of the Johnny Carson Birthplace!

When I moved back to Corning in 1995, I worked at the Adams County Free Press which for decades had been located in the old Opera House. This photo of it shows our 50th Class reunion float coming down the street in front of it. The building was on the National Historic Register. In 2000 a Historic Restoration Committee was formed and last year the fully restored old Opera House had its grand opening.
I had seen what the opera house looked like before while working at the Free Press. Yesterday I got to see the after. 

The pictures I took did not turn out as I would have liked except for this one showing the beautiful, original woodwork of the balcony. You can see more pictures and the story about the Opera House and its restoration here.

Tomorrow some concluding pictures and comments about the weekend.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Retiring the Red Raider

Small towns in Southwest Iowa continue to shrink. Out of necessity schools are being forced to consolidate with communities which used to be mortal rivals. My alma mater, Corning High School, home of the mighty Red Raiders, is no more. They are now a part of the Southwest Valley Community School District. The new mascot for the combined schools of Corning and Villisca is the timber wolf. Instead of red and black, the school colors for the Timberwolves will be silver, black and teal.

I can't remember how long ago it was that my younger brother, Les, started a face book page titled You know you're from Corning, Iowa if.....  but it was more than a year ago. It now has almost 1,300 members. Sometime last spring someone on the website made the suggestion that the community should do something to mark the end of the Red Raider era. The idea mushroomed with more and more people enthused about the concept. Someone suggested having it the same weekend as Corning's summer celebration - a combination of Lazy Days, the BBQ Cookoff and En Plein Air which has been going on for several years.

A website, which you can see here, was developed just for the weekend activities. And what the weekend it has been. We spent the day in our old hometown. It was really something to see the sidewalks lined once again with parade watchers. All the parking spaces up and down main street were filled. Alumni from all over came back to bid adieu to the mighty Red Raider.

I am not overly sentimental about having been a Red Raider - or maybe I should say, I once was, but the 50+ years since high school graduation have tempered my enthusiasm. But I have to admit it was a perfect day. And as the band played the familiar old song, I sang along one more time.... "We're loyal to you, Corning High, we'll always be true Corning High......

Monday, July 22, 2013

Quietly The Summer Goes


          Fair flower, that dost so comely grow, 
          Hid in this silent, dull retreat,
          Untouched thy honied blossoms blow, 
          Unseen thy little branches greet:
          No roving foot shall crush thee here,
          No busy hand provoke a tear.

          By Nature's self in white arrayed,
          She bade thee shun the vulgar eye,
          And planted here the guardian shade,
          And sent soft waters murmuring by;
          Thus quietly thy summer goes,
          Thy days declining to repose,

    I don't know why honeysuckle has been on my mind the last few days - it isn't because I've smelled it recently or even know where any is growing nearby. I think it is because the Jimmie Rodgers song, Kisses Sweeter Than Wine lodged in my mind one day and I was so sure the words "honeysuckle vine" were in those lyrics. They're not. So I tried googling 'songs with honeysuckle in the lyrics' which returned only Honeysuckle Rose. Nope. Not what I was looking for.

    When Kari, Preston and Douglas were young we lived on an acreage northwest of Urbandale. The old farmhouse was up a lane and along the west side of the lane from the road to the house were flowers - flowering trees, flowering shrubs and perennials. Approximately halfway was a redbud tree and growing along the ditch beneath it were the most fragrant flowers I had ever smelled. That may even have been my first cognizant experience with honeysuckle. This picture of the kids was taken where the honeysuckle grew.
    I tried planting honeysuckle years later, but it wasn't the same - the flowers were pink instead of white and they weren't nearly as fragrant. I learned that the white ones (which turn yellow as they fade) were called Hall's Honeysuckle - also known as Japanese Honeysuckle. It surprises me to learn this plant is invasive and even banned in some states - but it is so pretty and smells so good! Perhaps it had choked out other flowers where we used to live and I just didn't know it. It was growing like a well-behaved ground cover.
    I also discovered that the few lines I remembered from a long-ago copied poem were from the poem The Wild Honeysuckle by Philip Freneau 1752-1832. The last two stanzas continue below:

    Smit with those charms, that must decay,
    I grieve to see your future doom;
    They died--nor were those flowers more gay,
    The flowers that did in Eden bloom;
    Unpitying frosts, and Autumn's power
    Shall leave no vestige of this flower.

    From morning suns and evening dews
    At first thy little being came:
    If nothing once, you nothing lose,
    For when you die you are the same;
    The space between, is but an hour,
    The frail duration of a flower.

    It is the last four lines that I remembered - especially the last two. The space between is but an hour, the frail duration of a flower.
    On a less somber note, here is a picture I took at the Wallace Country Life Center Saturday. I think I will label it Quietly the Summer Goes.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Catalpa Farm and Jack Rabbits

This is a passage from the book I started reading this morning: "In the spring they set about to make the place a bit less forlorn. In an effort to break up the farm's treeless monotony, Harry planted a grove of catalpa trees along the property's edge. The big spreading trees, distinctive for their long seed pods, took hold, and the farm was known informally ever after as the catalpa farm."
Now that could have been a name for the farm I grew up on. There were two catalpa groves I remember from my childhood. The first, and closest to the house was a double row, north of the barn, close to the east fence in the lane down to the little pasture. If you were walking down between the rows, the last tree on the left was my 'wishing tree'. And the reason for that was one time when my older brother and his buddy Norman, our neighbor boy, were picking on my sister and I, I wished for Normie to fall out of the tree as he was climbing it. The limb he was on broke and he did fall to the ground. In my fable and fairy tale fed mind, that made it a wishing tree. I thought anything I wished on it would come true. The last wish I remember making there was that our old pony, Queenie, wouldn't die.

The catalpas were a part of another childhood memory. Betty and I had a play house in the corner of the barn. We had watched Mom can green beans and decided to play like we were also canning beans. But our beans were those long seed pods from the catalpa trees. We filled a few jars with water out of the stock tank, added the 'beans' and put the lids on. Mom didn't find our jars of beans until they were quite 'ripe'. Boy the stink when she dumped them out  I don't know if she was ever able to use those canning jars again.

The other grove of catalpas was along the fence between the field and west pasture south of the barn up at the other place. We didn't go up there very often. But when I think of those trees I think of one thing -

Jack rabbits! Seeing a jack rabbit was a rare sight. They were already becoming scarce in our part of the state. At one time they were more plentiful, but settlement and the farming of row crops destroyed their habitat of wide-open prairies. The only place I remember seeing them was in the field across the road when it was planted to clover or alfalfa. They were easily distinguished from the cottontails by their long ears. I can remember Mom calling us to "Come quick. Look, there's a jack rabbit!" I think they were all gone before I was a teenager. I should ask my little brother (younger than I by 10 years) if he ever saw them.

I think those catalpa groves were planted because they grew quickly - desirable for a windbreak. But they only live for fifty or sixty years. When I moved back to the farm in 1995, both catalpa groves were gone, but there were still a few younger volunteer trees growing. One of those was in the orchard where we had our mobile home. I loved the smell when the trees flowered. The blossoms didn't last long, but their perfume was heavenly. I would have been okay with calling the old homestead the catalpa farm.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Let's Go To Luckenbach, Texas

Ah, my first trip to the Texas Hill Country, it was even more perfect than I had imagined......

Susan Wittig Albert began writing her China Bayles Herbal Mysteries in 1992. I was an instant fan and have read most of the books except the very latest ones. And even though she always wrote a disclaimer about her small town setting being fictitious, it didn't stop me from wanting to go there. It was described as being half-way between Austin and San Antonio in the Texas Hill Country. Our trip was going to first include time in San Antonio and then a few days in Fredericksburg where my number one must see was Wildseed Farms.

Wildseed Farms first began as a purveyor of wild flowers in the mid-80's. I had read about it in a gardening magazine and was wild to visit there. I am in the picture above - white top standing under the bush by the barn in the middle of the shot - I just wanted to be sure the barn and sign were in the picture to prove I had been there. Seeing all those beautiful plants and fields of flowers was amazing.

An extra bonus was spotting a flea market on the way to the farms - not just any flea market as we learned, but the Fredericksburg Trade Days at Sunday Farms flea market. Their slogan is "If you can't find it at Trade Days......You don't need it!" It was a lot of fun combing through all the antiques and junque. If you've watched Junk Gypsies on HGTV, you can imagine Amie and Jolie at Trade Days.

The famous Texas Bluebonnets grow everywhere. It was so pretty to drive along the hill country by-ways and see them blooming. The funny thing is I've seen lupines (which is what the bluebonnets are) growing wild in such diverse states as Texas and along the North Shore Drive in Minnesota, yet I can't get them to grow. I've tried planting them numerous times, but they just won't grow for me.

Second on my must-see list was a trip to Luckenbach. I was such a big Willie and Waylon fan in the 80's, I could not be that close to the famed site of the Waylon Jennings' hit and not go there. The song is about leaving the successful life and getting Back to the Basics of Love. There really wasn't much to see in Luckenbach and if I'm honest, I have to admit I was a bit disappointed. Did I imagine Waylon or Willie would just happen by while I was there? (As once happened to me when Jackie Kennedy visited JFK's grave in Arlington when I was there.)

The absolute, most magical happening of our entire trip was the serendipitous finding of Hamilton Pool in Travis County near Dripping Springs. I had picked up a small brochure in our hotel lobby about side trips nearby which is where I learned about the historic blue grotto swimming hole.  It was a good thing precise directions were included, because even with them we thought we had missed the pool.
Maybe it is because I appreciate Mother Nature's handiwork more than anything man made, but Hamilton Pool really was the highlight of that trip. If you ever decide to go to Luckenbach, Texas with or without Waylon and Willie and the boys, I hope you'll experience Hamilton Pool, which you can read more about here.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

"I May Not Know Art, But I Know What I Like"

A couple recent conversations has me thinking about art and artists. This post title is a paraphrase of a quote attributed to Orson Welles: "I don't know anything about art, but I know what I like." Actually, I began trying to educate myself about great artists and their works when I was a teenager. I never learned as much as I would like to know which is why I still enjoy poring through paintings online.
 I spent the morning trying to find my favorite picture from my teen years, to no avail. As I recall it was something I had cut out of a magazine and framed. The picture was of a young woman seated at a desk, writing. She had on a white dress and her auburn hair was pinned atop her head in a Gibson girl style. To me it was a very romantic scene. I don't remember if she was writing in her journal or writing a letter nor do I have a clue whatever happened to the print.

I did, however find this picture which is just like one of a pair I also had on my walls as a teen. About three weeks ago I was talking to my grandson Ki about his budding relationship with a new girlfriend. He mentioned that she was going to help him pick out some pictures for the walls in his apartment because they were pretty bare. I'm looking forward to seeing what the newly decorated apartment looks like. I believe what one puts on their walls tells you a lot about them.

I never had the money to buy original artwork. Most of what adorned my walls came from a grocery store promotion. Each week you could purchase a 'painting' at a discounted price based on, I believe, how much you had spent on groceries. My favorite from that time was Little Irene by Renoir. I liked the title, since it was my middle name, and I loved the subject matter. I always wished I'd had red hair.

I have learned the artists I like the best are the impressionists - Auguste Renoir, Claude Monet, Edouard Manet, Camille Pissarro, Mary Cassatt. I think it was Kari who had a Miss Cassatt as her third grade teacher at Johnston. Whether true or not, the teacher told us she was related to the artist.
Picking Peas is the title of Camille Pissarro's painting above. I remember what it was like to pick just three or four rows of peas - picking a field like this one would have been daunting. You can see more of his artwork here. I love looking at all his different paintings.

The other art conversation I had was with my daughter-in-law, Shalea. She said she has to go to the Des Moines Art Center and the Pappajohn Sculpture Park and then write a paper for one of her classes. I told her I thought that sounded like fun. When I lived in Des Moines I used to go to the Art Center every so often to see what was new and to 'soak up some culture'.
One of the first art museums I visited was the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha. I went there on a school tour and then again when my sister lived in Omaha and I visited her in 1965. We took our two little boys and while we were interested in looking at the artwork, they were more interested in playing in the beautiful fountain. (Pictured above, Betty, her son Michael and my son Douglas.)
I see the Joslyn is currently showing a special exhibition Renoir to Chagall: Paris and the Allure of Color. It is on view until September 1 - maybe it is time for me to see some of those impressionist paintings for real.

Monday, July 15, 2013

"You're Going To Put Your Eye Out"

How many times did I hear my mom say that when I was a child? Any time one of us kids had a pencil, tinker toy stick, the proverbial scissors, any potentially poky object really, and started running with it in our hands, Mom was bound to say: "Don't run with that in your hand. You could fall and put your eye out!"

I grew up with a plethora of momisms: Making faces at my siblings: "Your face is going to freeze like that." Fighting in the back seat while she was driving: "Don't make me stop this car!" Spending too much time primping in front of the mirror: "Quit looking in the mirror all the time or you'll be conceited." Or, one along those same lines: "Pretty is as pretty does". Being unkind to someone: "How would you like it if someone treated you like that?"

I know I used most of those same sayings when my children were growing up - those and many more I learned from my mom and grandmothers - not that they always listened:

When Douglas was almost five, he and I moved to a furnished apartment in Mt. Vernon. One Sunday evening I was doing our laundry at the laundromat and Doug was playing with his toy bow and arrows. He had taken the suction cup off one of the arrows and was running around with it in his hand. True to form, I told him to quit running with it. He would stop running around the washers until I got busy folding clothes and then off he'd go again. I heard him trip and fall, followed immediately by crying. When I got to him and picked him up he was holding his hand over his right eye.

Gory images of what might be under his hand flashed through my mind. As I tried to comfort him and stop his crying I pried his hand away. Thank goodness his eye was still there, but there was some blood in the outside corner of it. What to do? It was Sunday night, I was new in town, didn't have a doctor yet.
Trust in the kindness of others - a man doing his laundry offered to help. He called a local doctor who agreed to meet us at his office. Doug's eye was examined and I was assured he was going to be fine. He would have to wear an eye patch for a week. I would have to put ointment in his eye and change the bandage every day, but he really was going to be fine.

There's a lot of truth in those old momisms. I know for a fact.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Taps - Another Funeral

I went to another funeral yesterday. The deceased was one of the last of the friends my parents grew up with. I feel compelled to attend funerals such as his as a way of honoring not only the deceased but my parents' memories - they cannot be there, so I will represent them in a final farewell.

When the funeral director asked if I was family, i.e., should I be seated with the family members, I almost had to think for a moment; was I related? "No. I'm family to some of the family, but not related to Paul." (Mom's sister was married to Paul's brother.)
It was a large funeral. As I watched people come in there were many I looked at and thought I should know, but I couldn't place them - they looked old. Then I thought, well, they are old. I have to remember that I am almost 70 and they were older than I.

This photo of Paul was one in my Mom's album from her teenage years. He was a little more than a year younger than Mom - probably about 15 or 16 in this photo. As I said, Mom's younger sister married Paul's older brother. Paul married another neighbor girl, Osil Steadman. Paul and Osil were two of the nicest people you could ever meet.

I've used this picture in a previous blog - saying this is the way I want to remember my Mom - laughing, having fun with an old friend and neighbor. Paul was 93 when he died. The last time I saw him, a few months ago, he still looked much the same as in this photo.

Military honors at the cemetery were performed by Legion members - all but a couple of them in their later years of life. There's something about hearing Taps which almost always brings tears to my eyes. I looked over to where the lone bugler was playing. It was 90-year-old Frannie Mack, honoring a fellow WWII veteran, and playing Taps perfectly as he has done for so many others. Day is done. A final farewell.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Babies On My Mind

As I said on Facebook on the first day of this month - "Ah July, the month of expectations. Waiting to hear news of great-grandson (due today) and later in the month a little girl for a friend/cousin". By one of those odd coincidences, both mothers are to be induced today. Still waiting to hear. Oh, yes, there's also that royal birth-to-be across the pond - maybe all three will share the same July birthday.

Way back when, 42 years ago, I was also expecting a July baby - my surprise child. Not only was my third pregnancy a surprise, the little one surprised me again by not appearing in July when he was due. Here is a picture of him on his first birthday, along with his 10-year old half-brother and 3-year old sister.

Preston was due the last week of July, 1971 but didn't arrive until August 2. I look at the above picture now and wonder how I ever thought those curtains and that table cloth looked good together, but hey, it was the 70's.

My Mom used to say everyone should have a little two-year-old boy - that there was nothing cuter or sweeter. Here he is so proud of finding his Easter eggs.

"Oops! Now what do I do?" Preston had a full head of black hair when he was born and on top a little to one side was a patch of silver hair the size of a half-dollar. After he lost his baby hair it grew back the shiniest gold and curly. I hated having it cut. He was so darn cute.

And here he is in the arms of Grandpa Louis for whom he was named - Preston Louis. I don't think Dad looks very excited about holding him.

A four-generation picture with Preston at age 21 holding his first-born son. I wonder if he even imagined at that time that he would become a father of five?

That youngest one in his Mom's arms will be 16 this year. None of Preston's children was a July baby. His oldest daughter was born in August, just like her Daddy. (She will be 20 next month.)

So as I await news of these pending July births, I am remembering a July forty-two years ago and thinking about how fast those little ones grow up.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Rorschach Cloud Test

If you played the game of trying to see faces, animals or other objects in the clouds when you were a kid, what you saw may have said more about your thoughts and feelings than you realized. I was never any good at that game. I could seldom see what my sister said she saw no matter how much I looked at it before that certain cloud formation changed. I took these cloud pictures this morning. I can sort of see a couple eyes - maybe a Lone Ranger mask? What do you see, if anything?

Kari was the one of my children that I remember could always see something in the clouds - she still does. Does that mean she has a greater imagination? She probably even knows the words pareidolia and apophenia. 
In an old photo album I had this picture of her taken when she was twelve labeled, "Aw shucks Mom, really!" She will probably think the same thing (or something like it) when she reads today's blog. I was forcing her to pose for me so I could live out my delusion of possessing artistic photography talent.

It isn't what I see when I look at clouds, it's what I hear - like Rod McKuen's #8 from his book Listen to the Warm: "Clouds are not the cheeks of angels, you know. They're only clouds. Friendly sometimes but you can never be sure. If I had longer arms I'd push the clouds away or make them hang above the water somewhere else, but I'm just a man who needs and wants mostly things he'll never have. Looking for that thing that's hardest to find - himself.
I've been going a long time now. Along the way I've learned some things. You have to make the good times yourself. Take the little times and make them into big times and save the times that are all right for the ones that aren't so good. I've never been able to push the clouds away by myself. Help me. Please."

Rod McKuen was a very popular singer, songwriter, poet, composer during the late 60's and early 70's the time I think of as my second 'coming of age'. I owned several of his books of poetry and LP's. Are there cheeks of angels in any of these cloud pictures?

"Bows and flows of angel hair and ice cream castles in the air and feather canyons everywhere - I've looked at clouds that way. But now they only block the sun. They rain and snow on everyone. So many things I would have done but clouds got in my way. I've looked at clouds from both sides now. From up and down and still somehow it's cloud's illusions I recall - I really don't know clouds at all."

Joni Mitchell's Both Sides, Now is the other song/poem I hear when I look at clouds. It is also from the late 60's. It is probably Judy Collins' recording of it that hear in my mind, it reached #8 on the pop singles chart in 1968.
Hmm, #8 for Collins Both Sides, Now and McKuen's #8 from Listen to the Warm - now I'm beginning to see a pattern.....

"But something's lost, but something's gained in living every day. I've looked at life from both sides now, from win and lose and still somehow it's life's illusions I recall. I really don't know life at all."

Sunday, July 7, 2013

"The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread"

We were watching CBS Sunday Morning this a.m. when the 'Almanac' story informed us it was 85 years ago today that the Chillicothe Baking Company (Missouri) produced their first sliced bread using a machine invented by Otto Frederick Rohwedder of Davenport, Iowa.

Sliced bread wasn't something our family saw much of when I was growing up. My mom baked almost all the bread consumed in our home. It was rare to have store-bought bread. The reason she made our bread was probably as much because she enjoyed baking as it was for economical concerns. I do remember that she bought flour in fifty pound sacks.

Mom usually baked twice a week making two or three loaves at a time. She was the only one who could slice a loaf of bread uniformly. If I tried the top of the slice would be a half-inch wide and the bottom would be an eighth of an inch or less.
I remember how much I wished we could have store-bought, pre-sliced bread for the sandwiches we took to school. I envied the other kids their perfectly sliced, soft white bread. I know I saw our homemade bread as a sign that we were poor and couldn't afford the store bread.

Once in a very great while Mom wouldn't have time to bake bread and would resort to buying it. I know I really wanted Wonder Bread ("Builds strong bodies"), but never got it. Usually it would be whatever the store brand was which was the cheapest, occasionally it would be Colonial Bread which had a bakery in Des Moines, Iowa.

Even after we were grown and gone and Mom was widowed, she still baked bread on a regular basis. She just plain liked trying out different bread recipes. For fun I pulled the Bread section out of her recipe box. The ones she has marked Good or Very Good are: 'Honey Whole Wheat Bran Bread'; a Kitchen Klatter recipe from March, 1976; 'Ruthie's Rye Bread'; 'Raisin Bread' and 'Custard Corn Bread'. A couple recipes that sound interesting: 'Sauerkraut Rye Bread' - wouldn't that be good for Reuben sandwiches - and 'Savory Bubble Cheese Bread'.
I was surprised to find a recipe card in my handwriting - it says simply 'Muffins - Yummy'. I do vaguely remember making these when I was in high school.

I didn't appreciate Mom's home-baked bread when I was a kid. I'm glad I learned how much better it was than the fluffy white stuff from the store as I got older. What I wouldn't give for some of Mom's homemade bread today! To me, her's was the greatest thing since sliced bread!