Friday, September 30, 2016

September Book List

September turned out to be a busy reading month - 14 books in all.

Charlaine Harris' Night Shift is the 3rd in her Midnight Texas series and my favorite of these so far. The usual cast of quirky characters appear. Fun read. 3.5 rating.

Salley Vickers is a new to me author. I really enjoyed The Cleaner of Chartres and gave it a 4.0 rating. I would definitely read more books by this author. And, by the way, another French book!

Alexander McCall Smith is a very talented author. In Chance Developments. a book of short stories, he has taken actual vintage photos and imagined a story to go along with the pictures, Another 4.0

As previously mentioned, I am reading my way through the Tess Gerritsen books. Bloodstream is one of her stand alone novels. A 4.0. All of her stories are very well-crafted and really hold my attention. This one about a bacteria which may have entered teens' bodies while swimming in a lake and which has changed their personalities for the worse. Creepy.

Gravity is another stand alone of Gerritsen's. I only gave this a 3.0, probably because I didn't like the idea of astronauts and scientists being stranded in outer space. (I thought the movie by the same name might have been based on this book, but it wasn't - the book came much earlier.) Again, deadly viruses, bacteria and parasites were involved. Too scary to realize that no matter how much hand washing, cough covering, etc. one can still be exposed to something deadly that we can't see, taste or smell.

Another of her stand alones, Life Support, set in a small, suburban, Boston area hospital where an ER doctor is the first to realize there's something weird going on in the elderly population. Turns out there are some unethical professionals experimenting with hormones to prolong the lives of wealthy patients. Rated 4.0.

A Paris Affair by Tatiana De Rosnay was a disappointment compared to her other novels. This slender little volume is mostly stories about spouses being unfaithful. Rated it 2.0

Beatriz Williams is another new author. I loved A Certain Age set in 1920's NYC during the Jazz Age. Perfectly crafted story of those changing times including secrets, a murder or two and not knowing how things were going to turn out until the very end. Another 4.0.

Tana French is my new favorite mystery author. I love her Dublin Murder Squad stories. Each book features a different squad member. Faithful Place is all about Frank Mackey and how he got out of the Dublin slums by becoming a cop. He has had nothing to do with his crazy family for twenty years but the discovery of a suitcase in the walls of a building being revitalized spins him right back into the neighborhood of his youth and into the family dysfunction. Excellent writer. A 5.0.

As is Broken Harbor the next in French's series. This time the main character is Mick 'Scorcher' Kennedy - the top detective that Frank Mackey had trouble with in the previous book. I love the way French can make us sympathetic to the character we disliked in the previous book. What looks like an easy solve for Kennedy and his rookie partner gets complicated when too many small things can't be explained. This is one I didn't have figured out before the end. French's character development, pacing, and story unfolding are tops! 5.0. 

The final four are all from the Corning Library which seems to be ahead of the Creston Library in getting the kind of new books I like.

Another new to me author of mysteries, Karin Slaughter. I found her The Kept Woman finely crafted and very absorbing. This police procedure novel is about highly paid star athletes and their entourages. The rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and the dirty cops are on the take. Rated 4.0.

The Wonder is by the author of Room Emma Donoghue. This novel is not as intense, but still very good. Set in 1800's Ireland, one of the first nurses trained by Florence Nightingale is called upon to observe a young girl who supposedly has not eaten anything in four months yet remains healthy. People are beginning to proclaim it a miracle with the Catholic Church getting involved. But once round-the-clock observation begins, the girl does become deathly ill. The nurse tries to get her to eat, but she refuses. Nice ending. Another 4.0

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (another new author) is one of those books that is so hard to read, but impossible to put down. This is an excellent book about the underground railroad, the slaves who used it to escape to freedom and the conductors along the way who helped them. I say 'hard to read' because I cannot imagine how one part of society believes they have the right to own and use others. Of course today's headlines remind me that we have not come as far toward equality as we think. Brilliantly written; a 4.0.

Louise Penny's 12th Inspector Gamache mystery, A Great Reckoning, is another 5.0 for me. These just keep getting better. The good inspector has come out of retirement to take over the command of the Surete Academy responsible for the training of new police cadets. It is the one area where corruption still reigns and it's his job to rid the Academy of the unethical instructors. Penny's writing is so smart and deep. I hardly ever figure out the 'who(s)'. I love the complexity of these mysteries and especially the poetic references.

Friday, September 23, 2016

When I Was A Kid

When I was a kid....
....I made mud pies with my little sister
and decorated them with the Hollyhock dolls
our mother showed us how to make.

When I was a kid....
....I had a huge crush on my brother's best friend
and thought he was my boyfriend because he told me
I was beautiful. I told him it was just because I had a new perm.

When I was a kid....
....I learned how to harness old Queenie to the buggy
so Betty and I could urge the horse up Sunset Hill
to watch, what else? The sunset.

When I was a kid....
....I coveted a double holster set of fake pearl handled
six shooters - so I could be the Woman Sheriff when
we played Cowboys and Indians - even when there
wasn't such a thing as a woman sheriff!

When I was a kid....
....We were required to help Mom in the garden
And when I told her I was dizzy and seeing black
spots before my eyes, she believed me and let me
sit in the shade of the big evergreen tree.

When I was a kid....
....One of my chores was feeding the chickens
and gathering the eggs. I was afraid of the setting
hens - the ones which pecked when I tried for their
warm treasures. I learned to use a stick to hold their
necks aside as I reached beneath to steal their futures.

When I was a kid....
....Our pets were the barn cats so when one neighbor had
a pet fox he kept caged it seemed exotic even though
I didn't know that word then.  Another neighbor's
German Shepherds scared me to death - and they knew it.

When I was a kid....
....Summer vacation meant a week at each of my Grandma's -
Snooping through one's jewelry box in a spare bedroom.
Helping the other pick berries and milk the cows.

When I was a kid....
....Corn cob fights, boys against girls, wasn't fair.
They could throw harder and more accurately and
when they climbed atop the hog house, corn cobs
could be rained down upon us mercilessly.

When I was a kid....
....I couldn't wait to grow up, to have a boyfriend
to get married and have kids of my own. But now,
most of my memories are of ....
....when I was a kid.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

You Can't Go Home Again ....

.... but you can go back. It has been eight years since the farm sale and our move to Creston. And almost eight years since the final papers were signed and the dismantling of our childhood home began.
I *knew* what happened - our old trailer house, home for 13 years, was moved, all the other buildings, including the house we grew up in, were bulldozed, burned and buried - along with all the trees.

For the longest time I couldn't even think about home let alone talk about it. Friends would tell me they had driven by and want to tell me what it looked like but I would just shake my head and utter, "don't".

But "time heals all wounds" and I began to think "maybe, one of these days, I'll drive back by there." I knew about the huge grain bin where the house once stood. I could see it from the highway a mile away and I had looked at our little section of Jasper 22 on google earth, so I *knew* what it looked like - or, more specifically, what it no longer looked like.

Then this summer my older brother, Ron, used his column in Time Out, a local (Adams County) newsletter for 'those aged 55 and older', to write about his memories of the way he went to school (walking) seventy years ago. I walked that same mile going to and from school from 1949 to 1957 (and again for exercise after we moved back to the farm in 1995). Ron is older than I, how would our memories compare?

His walk began on the road in front of where our house had stood. Mine began with this photo:

Down at "the tube" at the end of the lane to the east pasture - scene of many happy childhood memories of playing in the water there. Now you can hardly tell there is a ditch, a small stream running north. The weeds are so tall and corn replaces the grass. There are still a few trees, however.

Still on the east-west road looking up to where the farmstead was - where the windmill still stands as well as one of the garages (roof just visible). Corn, corn, everywhere, corn.

Now on the road in front of where the farm house was and look, the 2588 sign where our trailer house had been just to the right of those trees. I suppose they left the sign because we had hooked up to rural water and that marks the location.

A quarter mile north and there is the lane to what Ron called the "north place" but which I always refer to as the "other place". Why the difference? Did Dad call it the north place and that was what Ron heard more and Mom called it the other place and she was the one I heard more often? To the left of that gate was the pond Ron remembered along with the raft he and Norm built and floated there. I have those same memories, along with playing in the water and Dad tossing Betty and I into the deeper water thinking he could teach us to swim that way. Ron recalled tying 4th of July M-80's or cherry bombs to a rock and throwing them into the water to watch the geysers when they exploded. Yes, with his prompt, I remember that, too.

All the buildings are gone at the other place, too. But the locust grove remains. Ron remarked about the little 'cabin' there we used to play in, but didn't mention the trees. That was one of the locations where my sister Betty and I had one of our many 'camps' when we played cowboys and Indians.

Down the hill now to the bridge - what used to seem like half way when we were walking to and from school. On the way home from school this was the place to stop and dawdle - throw rocks into the water, look for frogs, scare the pigeons out from under the bridge - and I remember fishing for bullheads there with Mom a time or two when we were very young. As Ron remarked, that old, narrow, dilapidated wooden bridge was replaced with this one long ago.

Now, on to the top of that hill seen in the previous photo, - boyhood home of Ron's best friend, Normie - and "Paradise Hill" to Norman's mom, Crystal. This farmstead is also gone - but Ron's memories of playing there with his friend remain.

Down the hill, we're almost there -
- the sign marks the Humbert Center School - but I always called it Jasper #2. The Humbert name came from one of the neighborhood's more prominent families - a former state representative and well-known importer of French Percheron draft horses.

Ron's memories ended here, with the school, but I aimed my camera east and took one more photo.

Because I noted all the new, much larger electrical lines going in. I can only speculate it has something to do with the wind energy farm east and south of here - another, huge, change in the old neighborhood. But I also took the picture because up there where the two trees stand was once the farmstead of another of our grade school classmates. After that family moved away and a neighbor took over the farm ground, the house became a rental property. I earned my first money babysitting there for the five children of my high school guidance teacher. A few years after that, Ron and his first wife lived there until the old furnace malfunctioned and started a fire. There wasn't a lot of damage, but they had to move - funny, I can't remember where they lived after the fire - unless that is when they moved to Maryville?

I find that my brother's memories are much the same as mine, he shared more of his in his Round the Clubhouse Turn* column than I have here, but my whole blog was begun for my memories.

And, I was going to apologize for the accidental blue tone of all my photos, but maybe I was *meant* to have that filter turned on to match my mood about going back 'home' for the first time in eight years.

Funnily enough, it didn't make me feel blue after all. Time has healed the pain of all that was but is no more - but time has not taken away my memories (yet) and I still have the photos of the way it was......

*Someday I must ask Ron the why and wherefore of this name for his column - that might turn into a blog post, too.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Called For Duty

Three months ago I received a letter saying I had been selected to appear as a juror in district court, i.e., a jury summons. I had to fill out and mail back a questionnaire. Which I did and then forgot all about until last week when I received another letter telling me to report to the clerk of court at 8:30 Monday morning.

Only once before was I ever called for jury duty. We sat around in the court room for about half the morning and then were dismissed. I expected the same thing to happen again. At least this time I knew enough to take a book with me so I would have something to do while waiting.

There were about thirty of us. Finally a young woman (later identified as the court attendant formerly known as the bailiff) wheeled in a DVR and TV and started a video for us to watch. It featured two judges taking turns explaining what we should expect and reminding us that it is the constitutional right in all criminal prosecutions for the accused to be tried by an impartial jury of peers - as well as that it is an honor and a privilege to serve on a jury.

After a brief break we filed back into the courtroom to see three men seated at the tables - two were in suits, so obviously the third was the accused. We were told that if our name was called we were to be seated in the jury box in the order we were called. Fifteen names were called. I wasn't one of them. Whew! Then seven more names were called and told to sit in the front row. I was one of them.

At that point the county attorney introduced himself and began asking general questions of us. (One unfortunate woman wearing a shirt featuring cats got way more attention than was comfortable.) Most of the questions were whether or not you felt you could be impartial and if you understood "circumstantial evidence" and "guilt beyond a reasonable doubt". My question, because I had indicated on my questionnaire that I have a grandson in law enforcement, was if I believe that 'cops' are always right. Answer: "No."  

Once he finished, the attorney for the accused asked a few questions and then the two began their allotted strikes for cause from the jury pool. Ten people were excused, many of them ones who had been sitting in the jury box, a couple from the front row. New names were called to sit in the jury box. Mine was one of them.

So, for the second time in ten days, I was going to experience something for the first time in my life - the first being the earthquake I felt on the 3rd.

I was relieved to hear that the trial was for one of theft from a supercenter and not one for murder, as well as that it was expected to take only a day or two.

For most of Monday and half of Tuesday, I was here on the third floor. Much of Monday afternoon was spent watching video evidence from security cameras - and most of that was difficult to tell exactly what we were watching.

Tuesday we heard from the second officer called to the scene and his testimony received some sharp rebukes from the accused's attorney - some of which resulted in objections from the county attorney - some of which were 'sustained' others, 'over-ruled'. I have to say, I *liked* the defending attorney better - but maybe that was because he reminded me of my son-in-law. 

By mid-morning we had received our instructions and retired to the jury room to deliberate. I was pleased to hear that I wasn't the only one who had problems with some of the evidence, chain of custody, etc. A lot of what we had to go on did involve circumstantial evidence and I could see why the county attorney had spent so much time talking about it.

On the first vote only one person did not raise his/her hand for 'guilty' and that person quickly changed their mind and raised a hand. We all agreed that we believed the defendant was guilty of theft of merchandise in the amount of more than $200.00 but less than $500.00. We went back into the courtroom and gave our verdict, were thanked and dismissed.

Here is my take-away from this experience: I believe our system works - at least in this case. I learned there is more to being on a jury than you think without first hand experience. I am very glad it only lasted two (partial) days. And, just like experiencing the earthquake - ONCE IS ENOUGH.

P.S. As I was getting in my car to leave, the defendant came out of the courthouse alone and jauntily walked away down the sidewalk, wearing the same hoodie we saw on him in the surveillance tapes.  

Monday, September 5, 2016

Traditional Labor Day

Friday I said to Bud, "Yay, a 3-day weekend!" To which he replied, "We're retired. It doesn't mean as much as it did when we were working."
How true. My memories of Labor Day almost all involve laboring. I could never understand how so many co-workers could take mini-vacations or do something fun when they had an extra day added to their weekend - to me it meant I had one more day to get some work done around home.
Maybe old habits die hard or maybe I finally got in the mood to do it, but this morning I decided once again I would labor on Labor Day. Time to clean up the flower beds.

The worst offender is this monkey face - I've been fighting it here for eight years. I guess it is more commonly known as dayflower weed or Asiatic dayflower, but Mom called it monkey face so that is what I've always called it, too. The only good thing about it is it is easy to pull. I had two 39 gallon lawn/leaf bags full and still have a bunch under the deck to pull.

I had my head down, working around the south side of the deck when I looked up just in time to avoid running into Rosie. She has moved since I took her picture a few weeks ago. She wouldn't have been happy and neither would I!

The honey bees were really working the autumn joy sedum, so I didn't weed too closely here.

I found this volunteer pink moss rose.

The purple petunia between the lambs ears and yellow day lily is also a volunteer.

As is this magenta petunia amongst the zinnias and the new hyssop I planted this year.

 All of the zinnias are volunteers - coming up from the seeds dropped by the zinnias I planted last year. What I find interesting is that only pink ones grew even though the ones I planted last year also included oranges, whites and yellows.

Mama deer and her fawn were by early this morning. It looks like the youngster is almost as big as his/her mama and has almost completely lost its spots.

There was time over the weekend for some non-labor activities - Saturday I made a trip to the Corning Library and came back with eight books.

Yesterday we went to Sun Valley Lake for an advertised, huge, 3-day garage sale. It was a big one, but I limited my buying to just two items - both for the deck.

This lovely, large, green planter for $4.00 and the deck-rail hanger the little water can is hanging from, for a dollar.

The hanging water can was for photo purposes only. Do you like the bell better? Next season I will decide where the hanger goes as well as what to plant in the pot.

On the way to the garage sale I noticed a long drive up to a building at the top of a hill. There was a closed gate at the road - and then I read the sign above the gate. Wouldn't want to look here for help if I had car trouble - might get shot.

We stopped at the car show in Diagonal where this '49 Dodge Meadowbrook caught my eye. It was in the 'modified' class - so even though it looks very original, I'm assuming the modification is the paint job; pretty sure it wasn't originally this color of pink.

The other one that I liked was this '55 Ford. Here is another shot of the two together:

It was a very small car show which was okay. I was ready to go home and start reading some of those books!

In that first photo of the Dodge, you can see the back side of the Ringgold County Freedom Rock. This is the front side:

Hope your Labor Day weekend was enjoyable!

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Not On My Bucket List

Not that I really have a bucket list, because I don't, but if I did have one experiencing an earthquake would not be on it - especially after the devastation in Italy ten days ago.
Shortly after 7 a.m. this morning our house began rattling and shaking. My first thought was "train" because once in awhile when a train goes through it does shake our house more than usual. But I looked out the window and there was no train going by.
My second thought was "could we be having an earthquake?" For years I have heard that someday the Midwest is going to have a really huge earthquake again on what is known as the New Madrid Fault Line. Was this it? And what should we do?
Third thought was "another earthquake in Oklahoma", which was confirmed by my niece via Facebook a few minutes later. They have experienced many quakes since moving to the Tulsa area a few years ago.
So once it was confirmed, I wondered "where in OK" and "how strong"? It wasn't long before Tina posted: "5.6 magnitude near Pawnee in the north central part of the state". Apparently this ties as the strongest recorded earthquake in Oklahoma. I know many people there attribute the rise in number of earthquakes to the fracking in the region.
So, though I have been in a flood once and close to tornadoes many times and while a hurricane rages along the eastern coast, I now have actually felt my first earthquake. I didn't like it. At least there is some warning for floods, tornadoes and hurricanes - there is no warning whatsoever for an earthquake.
I remember the days of not knowing the status of friends during the 6.9 Loma Prieta quake in San Francisco in 1989, how hard it was wait for news. And the horrible toll of life and property from tsunamis after earthquakes.
It is hard to describe how I felt this morning. I used the word unnerving on Facebook. There really wasn't enough time to get too scared - but it is true what they say about how it seems like longer than a minute or two. I think the only experience I can relate it to was when we were in the Flood of '93 and I saw the water begin pouring up our street - there is no fighting Mother Nature when she lets loose.

There are no photos to share because there was no damage here, so because today is her birthday and because she did live in SF during the '89 earthquake, here is a picture of my friend Kristina and me on a fall day many years ago.

Apparently there was an aftershock just before 8 a.m. this morning, but that was not felt here. You know, now that I think about it, now that it's little more than a story to tell, I'm kind of glad I did get to experience an earthquake - one strong enough to know for certain that's what it was, but still not cause damage - because now I have some idea what it feels like. And once is enough!