Saturday, April 30, 2016

April Book List

Another month of reading twelve books - this time helped by the fact two of those were 'junior' books and others were 'quick little reads'. This month of reading was almost evenly divided by 3.5's and 4.0's.

We'll begin with the last book read this month (finished this morning) and one of the five 3.5 ratings.

Devil May Care was published May 28, 2008 to celebrate the centenary of Ian Fleming's birth. The book came to my attention ten days ago on the 63rd birthday of its author, Sebastian Faulks, via my daily reading of The Writer's Almanac. Our library had the book, so I added it to my 'next trip to the library' list. The computer there said it was 'in' but I couldn't find it on the shelf under Fic/Fau. I finally located in under Fic/Fle. Really? The author is Faulks regardless if the writing under the title says "writing as Ian Fleming". Faulks was chosen by Fleming's estate to write the novel for the centenary birth date, but the novel was still written by Faulks, not Fleming.

I digress. I found the book to be wanting through the first half or two-thirds. I attained my age of majority reading and loving the REAL James Bond (Fleming's books) and to paraphrase Senator Lloyd Benson: "I knew Jack Kennedy. Senator, you're no Jack....." well, you get the idea.
However, I found myself really into the full James Bond experience during the last third or so of the novel. Yes, I ended up craving a martini; "Shaken, not stirred."

Christmas Bells by Jennifer Chiaverini was another 3.5 and another one of those 'Christmas' books released just before the holidays last fall. I've read this author before and like her writing. This book combined two story lines - the writing of the poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow during the Civil War (later turned into the song) which was interspersed with a modern day story about a church youth choir director as she readied her group for their Christmas program. Both story lines were interesting.

Elizabeth George Speare's Calico Captive, also a 3.5, was one of the junior books I read. I intended to check out her Newberry award winner, but it wasn't in. Calico Captive is set during the French and Indian Wars in 1754. An English family living near Charleston, NH, is attacked and taken captive during an Indian raid. They are sold to the French in Montreal and held for ransom. This was an interesting tale based on the 50 year old oral memories of the wife/mother taken during the raid, but told in the book from the standpoint of one of the young daughters.

Death of A Nurse is #33 in the Hamish Macbeth series by M. C. Beaton. It follows the usual pattern of village policeman solving a murder under the noses of his uppity superiors all the while lamenting his lack of a girlfriend. Again, a cute little mystery series and another 3.5.

Tess Gerritsen is well-known for her Rizzoli and Isles series. The Surgeon is one of her earlier books which features Rizzoli just coming up the ranks in the detective bureau before her partnership with Isles. For a fast-paced, murder mystery, these books are good reading. 3.5

Now, for the seven 4.0's beginning with another junior book. I mentioned Beverly Cleary's 100th birthday on Facebook April 12 and my friend, Kristina, knowing I appreciated the Ramona series, asked if I had read Cleary's Newbery Medal winner. I had not, so it went on my list. It only took a couple hours for me to read Dear Mr. Henshaw, the 1984 Newbery Medal winner, but it was a very thoughtful book about a young boy and his divorced parents. When he and his mother move to a new town, he has trouble fitting in at his new school. He misses his father and his dog. He has no friends. A class assignment to write a letter to his favorite author becomes a way (through journaling) for him to begin understanding himself. He finally makes friends as well as peace with his parents' divorce and his father's absence. (Both physical and psychological.)

The Sea Keeper's Daugters is another one of those books listed under 'Religion and Spirituality' that I resist reading. But once again, I find that Lisa Wingate is an author I can read and enjoy. First, this book is set on the Outer Banks, an area I love to read about. Second it relates back to the Depression Era Federal Writer's Project, part of the WPA, and the Melungeon people of North Carolina's Appalachians and their possible connection to the Lost Colony of Roanoke.
At times it seemed the author had too many threads going, but she did a good job of  pulling them all together. I love learning history in such an enjoyable fashion. 4.0

Sue Miller is an author who expertly examines deep feelings and thoughts and the differences between men and women and the way they think, feel and express their emotions. The Lake Shore Limited  is not only the title of the book, it is the name of the play within the book and the vehicle the playwright uses to deal with the 9-11 death of her boyfriend. It shows how even the happiest of relationships between a couple can hold feelings of discontent and hunger for a different life. 4.0

Lois Battle is an author I enjoy. Her novel War Brides is about women who meet their husbands when the men are stationed in Australia during WWII and the different lives these women lead when they come to America - their expectations and disappointments. The author is the daughter of an Australian war bride and is depicted as a young child in the book. 4.0

Dark Corners is Ruth Rendell's last book. She died last year at age 85. She has been one of my favorite psychological thriller writers. When an author inherits his father's house in an expensive area of London, he decides to rent out the upper floor to have an income while he writes his next book.
He rents to the first person to answer his ad without checking references. The roomer soon finds a way, through blackmail, to take over the author's life and house. The homeowner sees murder as his only way out of the quagmire. 4.0. I will miss having new reads by this author.

Kristin Gore is a new author for me. Her book, Sweet Jiminy. was one of those 'hard to put down' mystery novels while at the same time being hard to read because of the subject matter.
Jiminy is a young Chicago attorney who decides life in the fast lane isn't for her after all. She flees to her Grandmother's home in rural Mississippi to regroup and try to decide what to do next.
She learns there was another Jiminy before her - the daughter of her grandmother's housekeeper. That Jiminy and her father were murdered some forty years previously during a civil rights hate crime.
Jiminy decides to solve the cold case and runs into the same attitudes from forty years ago. Even though I remember the early days of the Civil Rights movement and the atrocities of that time, it was hard to believe that the kinds of things Gore writes about actually happened. (And still do.) 4.0.

It has been awhile since a book "kept me on the edge of my seat". Jacquelyn Mitchard is a new author for me. Still Summer is the first book of hers I've read - but it won't be the last!
Four best friends from high school plan to get together again after twenty years with just occasional visits. They decide to take a Caribbean sailing trip, relax and catch up with one another's lives. When one of the women can't go, the 19-year-old daughter of one of the others takes her place. It's just the four women and the two male co-owners of the trimaran sailboat.
When bad weather separates the men from their boat and leaves the women adrift without power or sails, things go from bad to worse. They drift far off their expected course and have no luck hailing any passing ships. Food supplies dwindle and then they are boarded by pirates!
Honestly, this book had me on edge. It is superbly written and I will be reading more by this author. 4.0.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Legacy of Love

I wanted to post one last poem for Poetry Month, but I didn't know until this morning it would be one of love and loss. My co-grandmother, Helen, died early this a.m. I wrote about her and her decision to forego any further cancer treatments just a month ago. (Grandmothers-In-Law, March 30)

I know she will be greatly missed by her/our grandchildren, Deise, Kathryn, Devin, Ki and Dominique.

Legacy of Love

A wife, a mother, a grandmother too,
This is the legacy we have from you.
You taught us love and how to fight,
You gave us strength, you gave us might.
A stronger person would be hard to find,
And in your heart you were always kind.
You fought for us all in one way or another,
Not just as a wife, not just as a mother,
For all of us you gave your best,
Now the time has come for you to rest.
So go in peace, you've earned your sleep,
Your love in our hearts, we'll eternally keep.
            (Author unknown)

May she rest in peace.

Monday, April 25, 2016

One Photo and A Few Words

You know that saying about teaching and old dog new tricks? It applies to old women, too.

Yesterday we installed my new computer. My old one was still working, it was just no longer being 'supported' or receiving 'updates'. In other words, I was practically forced to buy a new one.

I know all the studies show that the best way to keep one's mind working as one grows old(er) is to continue learning new things.

Let's just say my poor old brain is getting a work out and probably will be for some time. With hubby dearest's help we managed to download the picture I took early this a.m. of my first Iris bloom. I was able to put it on Facebook and now I've been able to get it here on this blog post.

With any luck, some help and a lot of frustration, I'll be able to blog with some degree of ability in a few days! 

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Taking A Sunday Drive #25

Why, oh why, Wyoming? Because if you had seen Close Encounters of the Third Kind you would want to visit Devils Tower, too!

We were almost there when a sign at a scenic overlook pointed out that you could still see wagon ruts in this prairie from Lt. Custer's 1874 Black Hills Expedition of 110 wagons and 1200 men. Well, I *thought* I could see them and if you knew where to look in this photo you *could* see the top of Devils Tower.

Ah, there it is. A little closer, yet still miles away and one or two crossings of the meandering Belle Fourche River.

Devils Tower was the first U.S. National Monument, declared by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906. Known as Bear Lodge by Native Americans, the deep vertical markings, according to legend, were made by the claws of a bear trying to climb the monolith.
The picture is of me at the beginning of the 1.3 mile trail around the base. It was definitely worth seeing.

From Devils Tower we went on to Montana, which I wrote about in December, and then back into Wyoming after crossing Bear Tooth Pass. After the scary trip to the top, I wasn't looking forward to the same steep, twisting roads down. But the Wyoming side was a lovely surprise of mountain lakes and meadows along a gentler declining road.

We entered Yellowstone National Park at the North Gate. One of the stops for pictures was of  the Upper Falls on the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

Another picture of the Yellowstone River, below, but I was really going for the weathered roots of this tree.

Then it was on to Old Faithful and a wait to see it in action.

Our biggest surprise in this park came after seeing Old Faithful...

...and making a trip to the restrooms like everyone else. I came out after waiting in line to find Bud talking to his cousin Carolyn and her husband Dennis.
You just don't expect to see people from your hometown amidst all the hundreds of others in the park! Especially when you didn't even know they were in the area.

We did have some nice views of the Grand Tetons on the drive from Yellowstone to Jackson.

Where we had lunch and took the obligatory elk antler arch photos. We probably tried to see too much, too fast on this trip, but I wanted to get as much good out of my National Park Pass as possible - seeing as many of them as we could even if we didn't spend enough time at each one.

Why Wyoming? Because it is a beautiful state with many natural wonders to enjoy.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Only The Lonely

♪♪ Only the lonely know the way I feel tonight
Only the lonely know this feeling ain't right.  ♪♪

Roy Orbison's music was a big part of the soundtrack of my youth. Only The Lonely was his first big hit in 1960. (Released in May; charted at 2nd in July) It was 'tonight's song' in my diary July 3. My steady boyfriend had left the night before (that night's song: One Last Kiss) for six month's Army National Guard training.
The night of the 3rd I went to his parent's home for a wiener roast and celebration of his Mom's birthday. All his brothers and their girlfriend's were there. No wonder I came home, wrote in my diary by the light of a flashlight, and was miserably lonely.

The following year, Orbison (whose 80th birthday would have been today) hit #1 in October with Crying. 
♪♪ I thought that I was over you, but it's true oh so true
I love you even more than I did before, but darling what can I do?
For you don't love me and I'll always be, crying over you. ♪♪
I didn't go through my '61 diary to see when I used Crying for 'tonight's song' but I'm sure it was after one of our many fights. Everything would be fine one day and horrible the next. Yet we went ahead and got married that fall.

Got married and had a son. By the fall of '64, Orbison's biggest hit Oh, Pretty Woman inscribed a memory in my mind that not even the 1990 hit movie, with Richard Gere and Julia Roberts, replaced - even though I loved the movie.

The fall of 1964 I was miserable, trapped in a marriage my parents said I had to stay in "for the sake of your son". I was desperate to find a job and make the money I needed to leave. I had registered with Job Service in Creston even though they had no leads for me. Then one day they called and asked if I would be interested in a short-term office job in Clearfield. It was in the field office of a road paving crew. It would only last until the road was done, probably a couple of months.

I didn't have to think twice even though it meant driving sixty-five miles a day round-trip and my big old '57 Plymouth took a lot of gas. (You can see the front end of my Black Beauty in the upper right hand.) The guy in the middle of this trio was the supervisor. I remember his name and the man to his right, but not the one turned away. They were all outside working most of the time. The fellow I worked with in the trailer office was really nice and I do remember his name, too.

As mentioned, Pretty Woman was number one that fall, being played often on the radio stations. I had been working only a few weeks when once or twice a day one of the guys would key their 2-way radio and instead of someone talking to the office we would hear, ♪ Pretty woman won't you pardon me? Pretty woman I couldn't help but see, pretty woman that you're as lovely as can be. Are you lonely just like me? ♪ At first we didn't know who was doing it, but I had a good idea. Yep, it was this guy - the one with the devilish grin. Oh, flirting with those guys and feeling attractive again was just what my bruised ego needed.

The road was completed just before Thanksgiving. The crew moved on to another job in warmer climes (Fort Smith, Arkansas). I was invited to go along and work there, too. But I declined. I had the money I needed to make changes in my life closer to home.

But instead of moving out, we decided to stay together and I used the money I had saved to buy this coffee table stereo for myself for Christmas. It was about the only piece of furniture I did take with me when we finally parted three years later.

Other favorite songs by the Big O were In Dreams, Running Scared, Dream Baby and (appropriately) It's Over. I played them all, many times, on this stereo. And still, if I hear Pretty Woman, I think of the time I worked with a road paving crew in Clearfield.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Remembering Ruth On Earth Day

April 22, 1970 - the first Earth Day. Forty-six earth days. I couldn't tell you what I've done each and every one of those days, but it has most often involved planting something.
The other 364 days of the year I do what I can, recycle, reuse, conserve resources, clean up litter. But the activity I most associate with earth day is planting a tree. It is what I did many times until we retired and no longer had the space for planting a tree.

While still on the farm, we planted a weeping willow and a pussy willow. I successfully moved a start of a white poplar from the location of our country school to our yard. (Ye olde school tree.) And I moved some of the peach trees out of the chicken pen to the east side of the chicken house. (Although they continued to sprout up inside the pen from the pits mom had thrown in there years before.)

Now, because of limited space, I usually plant a new herb or flower. This year, because today would have been my sister-in-law's 74th birthday, I am planting something in her honor.

I don't even remember ever hearing of penstemon (beardtongue) until at Ron and Ruth's when she showed me her plants and said it was one of her favorites.
I bought some plants like hers, the husker red which were prevalent and popular at the time. I learned to like penstemons, too.

I had no idea there were so many different plants in the Plantaginaceae family! I really wanted a husker red, but the only penstemon I could find locally was this pink penstemon barbatus. I haven't decided exactly where to put it yet, most likely in the space where the rose of sharon used to be and where the zinnias grew so well last year.

When I do set it in the ground, I will be celebrating earth day and remembering Ruthie and all the good times we had - like the one in this picture - the year we went on the Lenox-Clearfield garden tour. She and I, along with her youngest, my niece, Christine, had so much fun gathering ideas to use in our own flower beds and purchasing plants.

It isn't blooming yet, but the Columbine I got from Ruthie is one of the plants I did bring to our new home. I can still see it in her flower beds.
Happy Birthday, Ruth; Happy Earth Day.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

What Do You Do On A Rainy Day?

We woke up to rain this morning - the kind that seems to be set in for the day - which is fine by me because we need it. It's true, April showers do bring May flowers.

I don't have to worry about filling the birdbath today.

Which should delight this fella'. This picture was one of a series I took yesterday. He had splashed most of the water out by the time he finished his bath.

The doves making do with a soggy breakfast.

The grackle almost looks angry about something.

Or is he just contemplating his next move?

From a couple days ago - "Can't we just get along?"

The first time I've gotten a good picture of a black-capped chickadee.
Luckily he got a few bites before the *#@% starlings ate it all.

"Life is not a highway strewn with flowers,
Still it holds a goodly share of bliss,
When the sun gives way to April showers,
Here is the point you should never miss.

Though April showers may come your way,
They bring the flowers that bloom in May.
So if it's raining, have no regrets,
Because it isn't raining rain, you know,
It's raining violets.

And where you see clouds upon the hills,
You soon will see crowds of daffodils,
So keep on looking for a bluebird,
And list'ning for his song,
Whenever April showers come along."

(Louis Silvers and B. G. de Sylva)

There is a pot roast in the oven and (always) a book by my chair.
What do you do on a rainy day?

Monday, April 18, 2016

Baby Chicks and Violets

When my daughter-in-law, Shelly, posted pictures on Facebook Saturday morning with the caption, "They are here! Oh, so cute!", I knew I was going to have to go see them for myself.

Twenty-four lovely little rust-colored layers-to-be and one pale little cockerel. (Barely visible in the middle at the bottom.) Getting baby chicks in April was always a big part of my youth. Sweet memories.

 Of course I had to hold one. A friend of Shelly's on Facebook asked if she was going to name them all, so I said, "What's this one's name?" trying to be funny. Shelly said, "What do you want to name it?" Obviously Goldie or Rusty would work, but I couldn't come up with anything else. Now, as I think of when my Grandson, Ki, was little and naming the calves at Grandma Ruth's, he would name them 'Seven' and 'Five', words that he was just learning. So, I'm naming the little girl I held, 'Eight'.

After visiting the chicks, Shelly and I took a stroll around the yard. The flowering almond is just opening, naturalized near this tree and rock.

Oh wind, where have you been,
That you blow so sweet?
Among the violets
Which blossom at your feet?

The honeysuckle waits
For summer and for heat
But violets in the chilly Spring
Make the turn so sweet.
     (Christina Rossetti)

Shelly offered to help me dig some starts of these wild violets. It has been awhile since I've seen the little white ones with the blue faces. I used to have some at the farm, dug up at Grandma Ridnour's.
And the mauve colored ones - are they the ones Grandma used to call 'red' violets?

There were even white ones. Now I want to go back and dig some to transplant!

Clyde was ecstatic - someone new to make over and to be petted by. I wouldn't mind having some of these swinging chairs.

The chicks were just a good reason to go and visit Doug and Shelly. Doug has a new work vehicle I didn't know about. A Ford Taurus X, I believe. I wasn't even aware of these, a Crossover? SUV? Wagon? Whatever it is, I like it. And of course, I had to make him stand by it for a picture. Moms are like that.
Baby chicks and violets and family all part of a good spring afternoon visit.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Taking A Sunday Drive #24

"But the Colorado rocky mountain high
I've seen it rainin' fire in the sky
The shadow from the starlight is softer than a lullabye
Rocky mountain high, Colorado"

Two weeks in a row using John Denver songs to introduce the blog state and both songs have been made official state songs of their respective states, West Virginia and Colorado.

I first visited Colorado at Keystone during the winter. The cold air and elevation gave me horrible altitude headaches. But when I went back with Mom and my children to the same condominium complex in the summer I did not experience that problem.

The first time Bud and I spent any time in Colorado was 1999 in late March. My sister-in-law and brother offered us a week's use of her late father's cabin on Bear Creek Road west of Evergreen. The weather when we left Iowa was very spring-like. When we got to the cabin, it was still winter.

Besides relaxing at the cabin and hiking nearby, we used it as our base to explore local spots like the Hiwan Homestead Museum and Heritage Grove Park. And shopping in downtown Evergreen.

From the time I first saw a Lorelei vase like this one (for sale for $1500.00 - obviously an older one) in an antique mall in Southwest Iowa, I was hooked on Van Briggle pottery. Eventually I would buy my own little 4-1/2" turquoise 'Onion Bulb" vase at an auction in my hometown.

Colorado Springs was the home of Van Briggle Pottery. A day trip was planned.

Not only did I want to visit the Van Briggle Pottery, still in the old Midland Terminal Railroad Roundhouse then, Bud wanted me to see Garden of the Gods.

And I had to visit Seven Falls. Those stairs in the edge of the photo are only a small portion of what we had to climb to the top. I doubted I could do it.

But I so wanted to see this:

Because when I was young and impressionable someone, upon hearing my name, asked if I had ever been there and described it as one of the most beautiful sights and one of his favorite places.

We did make it to the top and spread out below was all of Colorado Springs from the spot where Helen Hunt Jackson went for inspiration.

Hans' cabin has since passed out of the hands of relatives. I am so glad and grateful we had the time there that we did.

Coming home on our 'big trip west' in 2006, we spent time in Southwest Colorado and a place I had long wanted to visit - Mesa Verde National Park. I thought I remembered that it was twenty some miles from where we overnighted in Cortez so when we got to the park entrance just a few miles from there the next morning, I was surprised. I must have remembered wrong. Wrong. The entrance was close but getting to the area where Cliff Palace is located was a very long, twisty, climbing, scary trip. (Remember, I was the one who had a nightmare about driving over a cliff before this big vacation started.) I have to admit though, it was worth it.

North of Cortez, in Dolores, we went to the Anasazi Heritage Center where we got a map of the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument.

The archaeological ruins of Lowry Pueblo is just one of the sites within this national monument. This photo is of the Great Kiva at Lowry.

From here we talked about going to Telluride, but remembering the terrifying trip through Wolf Creek Pass some years before, Bud wanted to cross the San Juan Mountains there again. It wasn't near as much fun for him this time. No snow for one thing, but for another, the road had changed. Instead of the high pass there was a tunnel. Disappointing.

From a trip daughter, Kari, had taken a few years before, we learned of Colorado's Great Sand Dunes. It was so hot when we stopped at this national monument. Some hardy souls were climbing to the top of the dunes. Not us. We went as far as Medano Creek which can be refreshing to play in, but was dry in July, before heading back to our air-conditioned car and continuing on the road home.

Colorado is such a diverse and beautiful state. One could take many vacations there and still have new places to go.

"Now he walks in quiet solitude the forests and the streams
Seeking grace in every step he takes
His sight has turned inside himself to try and understand
The serenity of a clear blue mountain lake"