Monday, June 30, 2008

Questions I Love to Ask

There are a few questions I love to ask people. These are questions that have no correct answers. They are the kinds of questions that make each person really think, and to some the questions have very automatic answers, while others have to really ponder before deciding what their best answers might be. Some can't decide how to answer the questions, simply saying that unless they're in a particular situation, or know more details, they can't really answer. Of course, you simply can't beat answers out of people, even when you want to...

So here are just a few of my favorite questions. If you feel led to answer one or more of the questions in the comments section, go ahead. Or take them home and ask your friends. Start a few arguments. It can really be enlightening.

  • Which is more correct: Look before you leap, or He who hesitates is lost?
  • Which is more often true: Out of sight out of mind, or Absence makes the heart grow fonder?
  • If you had to choose, could you more easily live without your sight or your hearing?
  • If you had to decree a permanent temperature range of twenty degrees, worldwide, what would it be?
  • Is it more important to be right or to have people know you're right?
  • If it's more blessed to give than to receive, shouldn't you let your friends get more blessings by receiving more easily?

Now, if you have any questions for me, I'd love to hear them. These are the strange sorts of thoughts that sometimes drift through my mind while I'm walking, cooking or watching television. The questions hang around for years, and then pop out in conversations occasionally when I get to know someone well enough to wonder what their opinion might be on one of my dippy musings. I get a lot of blank looks, a few interested nods. Sometimes people answer briefly and then quickly change the subject. At least this way I don't have to see your reactions. I love blogs.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Fort Churchill

Our nomadic years with Dad in the military gave us some very interesting experiences not shared by many. Among my most amazing memories are those we made while living in Churchill, Manitoba. Find it on the map. Go East and look for the Hudson Bay and follow it North. Further. Further. If you've seen the National Geographic special on Polar Bears, you're already familiar with Churchill. It was called Fort Churchill then.

Here's what we didn't have: cars, civilians, playgrounds, normal daylight and night hours. Here's what we did have: a husky, a toboggan, shovels, long johns, parkas, northern lights, three months where it never got lighter than twilight, and an equal number where it never got darker than twilight.

When we arrived, I was a preschooler. When we returned to the United States, I had started Kindergarten. I had learned to sing the Canadian National Anthem, not our own, since even though Daddy was in our military, he was attached to the Canadian forces while completing some kind of training for the nuclear program being set up in the U.S. He was part of the original training cadre the Army operated within the Atomic Energy Commission.

The dog sled was an important part of our life there, as Mom wouldn't have been able to walk all the way to the Commissary and return carrying groceries for a family of six. She'd load the four of us kids in the dog sled and hitch up the husky. He was not a pet. He was kept chained, and unless in harness could be quite scary. I don't think Pat was afraid of him, but I remember that he could be mean. Once when Ellen was asked to feed him, he jumped at her, teeth bared, and she hit him in the head with a ham bone. After that, none of us got too close. We kind of threw food in his direction, not getting within reach of the end of his chain. It's not the kind of life I'd choose for an animal today, but as a kid I didn't think of those things, and he was a bright-eyed creature who didn't seem unhappy. In fact, seeing his harness was all it took to make him go absolutely still, with a look of concentrated ecstasy. That animal loved to run.

We'd mush on down to the Commissary, load up on groceries, and pile back in the toboggan, each with a bag in our lap and Mom hanging onto the back to direct our progress. Sitting there with the wind whipping past my cheeks was wonderful. I always loved the cold, and this was definitely that! It got down to -40° (yes, you read that correctly. Minus forty degrees — I just checked the 1953 data for Churchill Manitoba). Snowfall for that winter was recorded as 44.9 inches "on the ground" in March. That's a lot of shoveling. It shows another 42 in April. Total annual "precipitation" was over 380 inches. That's a lot of wet stuff, and for half the year, what didn't come down as snow, froze when it hit the tundra.

You could skate with your boots on, and building snow caves was marvelous, since the outer shell would harden and become almost permanent, like an igloo. The inside would be much warmer than the outside, and we'd have wonderful times playing in them.

Now, as an adult, I can picture my poor mom trying to bundle up four little kids in long johns, several pair of socks, parkas, boots, mittens — and then, of course, someone would have to use the euphemism. Start all over with that one. And I just know we dripped all over her clean floors when we came back into the house. She's never liked the cold, either, but I don't remember her complaining. I'll have to ask her if she was a saint or a martyr. Maybe I'd better not. Some things I'm better off just remembering the way they sit in my mind now, with Mama smiling and me holding up a hand while she struggled to force on a mitten that I was outgrowing.

That's okay, Mama. You know Grandma's knitting us new ones to send for Christmas.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Pancakes and Point

I'm not sure if our family really loved camping, or if it was simply the one thing we could manage to afford to do on vacation. I know I loved camping, but I'm not sure about everyone else. Even camping out would stretch our budget by the time we'd add in the travel costs. By the time Dad retired, we had seen most of the United States and a great deal of Canada as well.

I remember one trip to Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada. That's where Lake Louise is, in the Canadian Rockies, and it's the first place I ever saw a glacier. It was a beautiful spot. With travel time, we had about three weeks available.

This was the location of our mirage fight. Dad had gotten up early to go fishing, and Mom had decided to treat the four of us kids to a breakfast at the campground's little diner. We cleaned up really good, and walked across the campground to join the line at the self-serve counter. We were excited, but we were being very good, and straining to see the big white board at the front of the line that listed the daily breakfast specials.

I'll never forget my shock when my mother suddenly gathered us kids together and started herding us out of there, loudly proclaiming, "If you four can't stop fighting, you can just forget eating in a restaurant." Our reaction was probably as loud and indignant as she needed it to be. When we got back to the campground, she apologized to all of us, and admitted that when she saw the prices, she knew she didn't have enough money for us to all eat there. Then she made us some pancakes with apples in them.

We still had dinner and lunch food, but breakfasts were down to pancakes. We had pancakes with apples until we ran out of apples. Then we had pancakes with corn. We ran out of that, too. We ran out of syrup and jam. Then Daddy called a family meeting one night and said we had enough time left for one more week, but no food left except for pancakes, and almost nothing left to put on them. Mom was silent as we took a vote on whether to stay and eat pancakes, or head home. Of course we kids wanted to stay.

My dad was so pleased with our vote that he personally cleaned out the empty jam jars and syrup bottle and placed them on the picnic table. He introduced us to "pancakes and point." You take a bite of pancake and point to the container of what you would imagine was on your pancake. Close your eyes now. Isn't that delicious? We later learned that potatoes and point works just as well when you burn the gravy. Just clip a photo from a magazine and glue it to a jar or bottle...

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Daddy's Response to Pressure

My dad didn't appreciate being told what he had to do. He was a Master Sergeant, very much accustomed to giving orders. In the chain of command, he was also used to taking orders, but there were some officers who felt like they could take advantage of their rank to have their troops do whatever they wanted.

I believe we were in Idaho when one of Dad's "superior" officers decided that all of the men under his command would submit a poster to the base's Fire Safety Campaign. This was going to be mandatory. Daddy wasn't amused. He simply didn't want to do it. No protests are accepted in the military. Get an order? Obey. And there was a deadline.

There's an old saying: Watch what you wish for. That officer got his posters, but they weren't what he he wanted, at least in my dad's case. What he wanted was to look good in the eyes of the base commander. My father might have had to turn in a poster, but they didn't tell him what it had to say. To make matters worse, the judging was done by the men in the fire house on base. They shared my dad's sense of humor. He was awarded a ribbon of some kind. It might have been honorable mention, or maybe third place. I can't remember exactly, but do remember that the poster hung on our wall at home for awhile.

Daddy's poster showed a nice tent in a clearing, with trees all around. It was dark. In front of the tent was a campfire, blazing merrily. Beneath the picture was this proud caption: Never Smoke In Bed. The Sleeping Bag You Burn May Be Your Wife.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

We Could Never Be Sure

Dad would tell us a story, and we wouldn't be able to tell if it was true or not. He had one of those faces that could hold an expression forever. It could be stern or solemn, earnest or forthright. He could make you believe him while telling a whopper, or make you question his sanity when telling the truth. I was thinking back to one of those times when we didn't believe him but should have.

Daddy was talking about some friends back in Michigan, the Berger brothers. He said their names were Ham and Lim. Ham Berger and Lim Berger? Yeah, Dad. That's pretty funny. Sure, we believe you. (Wink, wink.) He insisted it was true.

We simply didn't believe him. It got to be a running joke. Would we name our kids something like that? Whenever we'd meet someone with a name that could be punned around with, we would come home considering our options. Bum Rush comes to mind. Leaky Waters. Some of them were pretty bad. None were as good as Ham Berger and Lim Berger.

Imagine our surprise when we actually met one of the Berger twins on one of our trips to Michigan. With Dad, you could just never be sure.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Lost in a Book

The library at my school held a book fair in fifth grade. I had a couple of dollars, big money back in the fifties. I bought four books: Nineteen Eighty Four, The Velveteen Rabbit, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and The Wind in the Willows. Even back then I wasn't sure if I was a child or a grown up when it came to my reading selections. My tastes in literature are still as eclectic. I had all four books read within the month, and loved them all. In fact, I've read them all several times, although I eventually got tired of Nineteen Eighty Four.

I've spent a considerable amount of time lost in various books. It's the least expensive way to travel, the only sane way to commit treason (or murder), and the only route into uncharted worlds. I've met people who died before I was born, and those who have only lived in fiction. I have dined with kings, argued with philosophers and raced down alleyways with both criminals and those who would eventually apprehend them. I've been the villain on occasion, but more often the hero. It's made for an interesting life, for I've often been lost in the pages of a book when someone from this life calls me back to reality.

Now I'm wandering the pages of my own book. It's a wholly different experience, more terrifying perhaps than I was prepared to expect. It's also exciting and overwhelming, rather like the feelings I got in the last months before the birth of my first child. That's when I realized that it was too late to change my mind. This birth experience was taking over, and there was no longer anything I could do to stop it. My child was going to keep growing until it decided it was complete. It would obviously not be my decision. Then that "baby" would eventually be out there in the world on its own—but somehow still part of me. I recognized a huge responsibility: put everything into that gestation, as into this one.

There's such a feeling of inadequacy that strikes in the middle of the night. My lead character already revolted once. All I tried to do was change the spelling of her name, and she wouldn't stand for it. I can't explain that to anyone else. Maybe another writer would understand? Since I don't have one to talk to, I don't know, and writing for this blog didn't prepare me for this sort of thing. All I can say is that as soon as I changed the spelling of her name, all the lines dried up. Things stayed that way until I finally went back and changed the spelling back to what it was (everywhere), and then the words flowed once again.

Call me Dopey. I lost a considerable amount of time with that error in judgment. What if these characters gang up together and stage a real mutiny? I might never sleep. As it was they got me up at 4:30 this morning. Even for me, that's early. I wasn't expecting them to all get together to wake me up. When it didn't seem like it would work, the headache started. That got me up. As soon as I started writing, the headache subsided. Okay. Message received. For some reason, I had pictured just sitting at the keyboard for an hour or two a day, when I felt like it, adding a scene here or there, but not feeling compelled to write!

Maybe we'd all better pray for John. I think he'd better be spending some major time in his HAM "inner sanctum." Does anybody know mental CPR?

Monday, June 23, 2008

Great Expectations

The thunder is rolling outside, and my mind is rolling inside. This morning I got up at my usual time, around 5:30 a.m., and turned on the computer. Instead of writing my blog, I finally did what I've been planning in my mind for the last few months and thinking about doing for many years now. I started my novel.

It's interesting to note that the first person I allowed to read the first half chapter, what I accomplished this morning, was John. John doesn't read fiction. He immediately told me that "You can't do that." He wanted all his questions answered in the first few paragraphs. Who is she, where did she come from, what's she doing there, how'd she get there, why is she there? What's she going to do? I explained to him that if I told him all of that in the first few paragraphs, he'd have no need to read the book.

Of course, now that I think about it, that would be fine with John. He doesn't read fiction. After all, according to John, fiction is just a bunch of lies anyway. "That's why it's called fiction. Why don't I write something that's true?" 

When I asked him why, if fiction is all a bunch of lies, and I'm just wasting my time reading it, let alone writing it, why is it that I can always beat him at Jeopardy when we watch the show together? He must have had something important to do outside, because the next thing I knew, the door quietly closed behind him. I wonder if he realized that he never answered my question.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Mesa Verde

The weather this week has been in the low to mid 80's, with occasional brief thunderstorms that are beautiful and interesting. Back in Southern California they've been baking in triple digits for the past week, and my mother's neighborhood had nine hours with no power yesterday. At 87, that makes life rather difficult, not to even have a fan in that kind of heat.

I started thinking about how hard it's always been for me to deal with the heat. I've always loved
the cold weather, and never looked forward to summer's heat. I sometimes wonder if that had something to do with my love of school. Summer vacation was hot.

A couple of years ago my husband and I joined my brother Pat and his wife Betty for a trip through Mesa Verde's Anasasi Cliff Dwellings, here in Colorado. It was something I had wanted to do for too many years to count. They are spectacular, but the day we arrived the temperatures were blistering, I have no idea why we didn't think to carry water when we started down that trail, but perhaps the sun had fried our brains. Not one of the four of us took so much as a sip with us.

Now, if you've never been to the cliff dwellings, I'll give you a fair warning. You have to walk way down into the canyon to get to them. T
hen, of course, unless you plan to die down there, which at one point on that particular day, I thought might be a very good idea, you also have to turn around and walk back up to get out. It's long. It's steep. It was beyond hot, and there was no breeze blowing. To make maters worse, at that point I was still walking with a cane and had a big old brace on my left leg.

We really enjoyed walking along the Cliff Dw
ellings at the bottom, reading the signs and taking photos, but then, of course, we really did have to get back out of that canyon. Betty and I started up the trail with Pat and John walking behind us. We weren't making very good time. In fact, the pace Betty and I set was very very slow, but the best we could do. I'd like to say we weren't complaining, but we probably were, at least a little. Then suddenly from behind, I felt John place his two palms flat on my back and begin to push me up the hill. Soon Pat was doing the same for Betty.

I looked behind and said to John, "You'll get a big reward in heaven for this, John."

As I faced forward again, I heard my stoic husband say to my brother in a stage whisper, "I was hoping for something a little sooner than that!"

Saturday, June 21, 2008


Yesterday Dan suggested, as we sat together after dinner, that what I really needed to do was have my own bed and breakfast place. "You'd be perfect at it!" he announced. No, I wouldn't. All I could think of was that it would take all the fun out of taking care of my guests, to be paid for it. Wouldn't it?

But somehow the thought persisted throughout the night, and I didn't get quite my usual six hours of sleep. I had visions of wonderful people coming, one group at a time, being really friendly, and enjoying good food and conversation, guitar music and the fire pit, lighting a celebratory sparkler — all things we did last night — and us getting paid for it.

Somehow the vision just didn't quite gel for me. What if the people who come weren't all wonderful people? What if they're fighting with each other, sniping and angry? What if someone got hurt? What happens if they don't like home cooking? I'm a good cook, but certainly no gourmet chef.

I think, like most ideas, Dan had the spark of something that could be good. What he missed, though, is my basic love of my friends. He saw the hospitality, but I think he missed the reason for it. It isn't because I'm a great hostess. It's because we have great friends. They fit into our lives easily. What's on the menu? That's easy. It's whatever John and I decide we're hungry for ourselves. If we eat outside, it's because it's beautiful there. And driving to Rocky Mountain National Park, or the Benson Statue Park in town, seeing the sights and all that? It's our neighborhood. We see it together and love to share it with friends.

So I don't guess I need a new career in the hospitality industry. WeI'll just enjoy our life in the foothills, and keep the welcome mat out for kin and kind. Every guest we've had has blessed us.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Old Friends

As children we learn much wisdom in the form of small rhymes and proverbs. These are passed along to children by their parents and grandparents, teachers and relatives. One came to mind last night as we sat in the evening after enjoying our dinner outside.

Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver, but the other's gold.

No matter how much time passes between visits, whether it's a day, a week, a month or a year, those who are truly friends can sit down together and share an immediate rapport. There's a comfort there that just fits, laughter and information racing each other around a conversational track.

Actually, a court reporter's transcript of our conversation would probably be unbelievable. The discussion ranged from food to World War II to current politics, swinging through Viet Nam and college, our working years, and the changes in hospital care and treatment. We discussed the economy and technology, retirement, Kodiak Island and — well, we were out there for hours, and there were four of us, sometimes all talking at once, it seemed.

So this is your call to arms. If you have a friend you haven't seen in a long time, do yourself a favor. Find yourselves a table somewhere, or a couch or a bench. Do it at your place, or their place, or even somewhere in between. Get together as quickly as you can make it happen. You'll thank yourself. Time doesn't stand still, and we don't all live forever.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Waiting For Guests

One of our great joys in living here in the foothills is the advent of visitors. It's just such a joy to us that we finally have the space to accommodate guests, and a locale worthy of being visited. I suppose they like to see us, as well. If I didn't believe that, I probably wouldn't enjoy cooking for them as much as I do. I love spoiling our guests.

One of John's most long-lasting friendships is with his friend Dan. John and Dan met when they were in College at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Then they eventually worked together at the Naval Base. Every year I know the Christmas season is at hand when Dan's wife Pat sends us our first Christmas card. I sometimes wonder if she starts addressing envelopes on the Fourth of July. She's never late. She's never second. Even when we moved, she didn't misplace our new address, and her card still arrived before anyone else's. Since she works as a nurse, you'd think she'd be too busy to be so organized. That's okay. I like her anyway.

The clock almost seems to have stopped ticking. They arrive this evening. I have a drunken ham in the crock pot, pre-cooked ribs marinating in the fridge for a cookout (complete with s'mores and sparklers around the fire pit, of course) and a lemon chiffon pie already cooling. I've made two loaves of bread, and I do all this in advance so I can sit and enjoy them once they arrive.

There are flowers in their room, some from my own garden. Preparations are done. And now I'm expected to just wait?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A Letter to Congress

Believe it or not, for the first time in my life I have written a letter to my Congressman. Actually, I sent it by email. I wanted to make it short, so it would be read, but it was important to me that it contain all the things that were important to me about the current energy crisis. I thought I'd write a copy here, along with the location of the online website where you can contact your elected representative. It's really time to let them know who hires them. This may not be the issue that finally moves you to contact them, but when you finally reach the point where you want to be heard, it might be nice to know how to reach the person who has the power to vote for your interests.

First, here's the web site:

Now, here's what I wrote:

"It is critical that we discontinue our dependence on oil procured from countries that hate us. Please support our energy independence by immediately helping to approve the retrieval of our fossil fuels and then get the government out of the way of the great minds in this country who are quite capable of finding solutions to our long-term energy crisis."

People think that offshore drilling, just one of the proposed short-term solutions, is risky. Remember Hurricane Katrina? With all the oil rigs that were damaged, there was not one drop of oil spilled. Nobody seems to remember that.

It's also important to note that drilling is already taking place off the coast of Florida. Really? Yes. Cuba is leasing oil drilling rights to Brazil. They're not drilling straight down, either. They're drilling diagonally, toward our coastline. Another lease is now being negotiated for drilling off Florida. By us? No, we're still forbidden to drill there. It's a lease with Viet Nam.

It's time to consider our own needs. Loosen the grip that the militant conservationist lobbyists have on our government, and allow our country to function. Conservation should be a good word. It used to be, and will be again, when it's handled by people with vision rather than an agenda.

Okay, the soap box is put away. I rarely get political anywhere unless asked, but I'm mad, and as the movie said, I'm not going to take it [quietly] anymore.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


I've had so many proofs of an afterlife. Some of them are simple. Some are not.

My first glimpse of the Rocky Mountains came at daybreak, peering over the back seat of the station wagon. My dad liked to drive at night. The suitcases would be piled on the rack on top of the car, and the back seat would be folded down so the four of us kids could be sandwiched onto sleeping bags together. When going from one military post to another, it made for faster travel time with less traffic. I remember waking up and sticking my head up above the seat just as the sun, coming up behind us, lit the Rockies in the distance ahead of us. They were blue and purple, crowned with snow, and glowing in the first light of morning. The car was quiet. Into the stillness I said to Mom and Dad, "Now I know for sure there's a God." Nobody felt they had to respond. It was an awesome sight.

Rainbows and hidden meadows, the giant Redwoods and shaky fawns, new babies in their surprised innocence, all have given me a glimpse of the many faces of God. Once instance from my chaotic high school years drove home to me the specific point of afterlife.

After Daddy died, my English and Journalism teacher, Mr. Holmes, kept me busier than ever. His new idea was to enter some of his students in the State Writing Championship that the Journalism Educator's Association (JEA) sponsored each year. Four of his students were accepted. We all spent considerable amounts of time at his home preparing for the competition. His wife was a wonderful woman, and his little son and daughter were sweethearts. We all became really close, and it eased the ache and emptiness in my life considerably. Keeping me busy was a tremendous gift.

His son Donny was about five or six years old, a solemn boy who adored his father. He would sit quietly in the room with us. With his big dark eyes and shaggy hair, he was something of a mascot to us all. These sessions went on for several months, culminating in a long drive together to the championship. Our sports editor came home with a trophy, and I came home with two, so we were really happy with all the help the Holmes' had given us.

The next week at school, Mr. Holmes came in to say goodbye. He informed us that he had cancer and would not be returning. Two weeks later, he was gone. He and his wife had known all during our sessions, but had kept it from us. He wanted to teach as long as possible, and the diagnosis had given him no hope.

Here's the part that makes me so sure of an afterlife. I don't remember how long it was after he died, but Mrs. Holmes called me at home. She didn't want me to hear it from someone else.

Donny had been playing outside with friends while she got lunch ready. He came running in the house, really excited, and told her that he couldn't have lunch with her, and wanted to say goodbye. The conversation, as she related it to me, went something like this...

"Where are you going, Donny?"
"I'm going to have lunch with Daddy."
"Honey, Daddy's gone. You know that."
"I know, Mommy. But he told me to say go goodbye to you, 'cause I'm having lunch with him today!"

Then Donny gave her a big hug and ran back out into the yard to continue playing with his friends. Donny was such a solemn little boy, not prone to flights of imagination. She said she was still standing at the window, crying, when it happened. Two yards away a man was mowing his lawn with a power lawnmower. The blade hit a big rock and broke off, sailing across the empty yard between, over a hedge, and hit Donny in the chest. He was killed instantly, just before noon.

So yes, I believe in an afterlife. What's more, I believe in those rare and wonderful teachers whose gifts continue to give through a lifetime.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Yellowstone National Park

As kids, every single time we went camping at Yellowstone National Park, it rained. Actually, it didn't just rain. The skies opened up and drowned the Earth and all occupants in our immediate vicinity. Dad's reaction to that was to keep returning to Yellowstone, hoping to finally have a dry vacation there. I loved the rain, so I loved Yellowstone. Mom wasn't so impressed.

One of the things Daddy did to keep Mom from revolting was to custom order a huge tent so that she wouldn't get claustrophobic waiting inside for the rain to subside. Not that it ever did. She and Ellen would stay inside while the rest of us would be out ruining our camping clothes in the wet and having a great time. But it's the tent I really want to talk about.

We arrived with the new tent just at twilight, in a light drizzle. I was probably a third grader that trip. Tents back then weren't much like they are today. They were heavy canvas affairs that took the whole family hours to erect. It wasn't a simple process to put up a big tent, especially if it was as big as this new one. It was supposed to sleep twelve. We were a family of six. Dad was sure this would make Mom really happy. A hotel would have made Mom happy. Even a small cabin would have made Mom happy.

The first job, as any camper knows, is to make sure there are no rocks or sticks in the area where the tent is to go. This job belonged to us kids. While Dad got the guitar out and put it under a tarp, some of the neighboring campers noticed, and activity around us came to a standstill. We were like a little army, well drilled in what needed to be done, even though this would be on the largest scale yet. Also, we were all excited to see the new tent. Then Dad, Pat, and Mom strong-armed the new tent out of the station wagon and stretched it out — and out, and out. Wow. It was really going to be huge.

Pretty soon about four men from neighboring camp sites came over and started helping to erect our tent. This was unheard of. Nobody had ever helped us before. We were amazed, but grateful. They talked to my dad about having seen the guitar. Was he going to play tonight? Yep. Did he play hymns or Gospel music? He admitted he knew some of each. We looked at him, and wondered why they would ask him that. He did sing those songs, but so many other kinds as well. It just seemed like a strange question, but we soon forgot about it as the work progressed.

With so many people working, the tent was finally set up, with stakes driven into the ground and tent poles firmly attached inside. Dad shook hands all around, thanking the men for their help, especially in the rain. They all said it was no problem. Then one man inadvertently explained why they had all been so generous with their assistance when he said, "By the way, when does the Revival Meeting start?"

I didn't think my mother would ever show her face out of that tent again, she was so embarrassed. Ellen still turns purple just hearing the word camping. I love it as long as it doesn't get too hot, or some camper doesn't bring along a noisy radio. But I never see a big tent without thinking of that group of men expecting a Revival Meeting. They actually joined us around the campfire for some great music while we were there, and they all laughed about it, and probably enjoyed the music they got more than the Revival they had expected. Daddy was a funny guy. And luckily Mama was good sport.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Fathers Days

It's a glorious start to a Fathers Day, getting up to a see video of our granddaughter singing a song to her daddy with help from her mom. As any grandmother will understand, that child gets cuter every blessed day.

Next, of course, there were the little gifts "Gramps" got to open. When the package came from the kids yesterday, I managed to stuff it away just before he walked into the room. Then this morning I had to really stop and think before I remembered where I stuck it. Good going, Granny.

The kids are so good at pinpointing those things that are special — the beef sticks and red vines, and those wonderful flattened pennies. Those are best of all, since they say, "Hey, we were on vacation to somewhere special, and we still thought of you!" I managed to replace a broken tire pump without him knowing about it, so he was pretty happy with his haul.

For me, though, Father's Day is more in the memories, and it starts about a month early. It usually begins when I start working on the music to sing in church that weekend. My mind goes back to the music we shared, the fun and the laughter, the insults and the love.

One way we four kids liked to celebrate both Mothers Day and Fathers Day was to put on a show. We'd make up written programs and work up costumes, usually frightfully comical, I suppose. The little plays were filled with lines like "Queeny, Queeny, it's for free!" and "Oh, Glory, I'm so a-scared!"

We'd sing and dance, have our little skit, and it would all be noted on the program. Then, at the bottom of the program, as often as not, would be our little litany of how many prayers we had offered up for their souls. Don't you dare laugh at that. We were pious little devils.

I suppose the whole notion of our program, if I'm really honest about it, was in being the opening act for Daddy. When we were all done, Mama would go to the kitchen to bring out food, and Daddy would bring out his guitar, and the real entertainment would begin. He could play, by ear, as he didn't read music, songs from his Chet Atkins or Les Paul records. He did a mean Elvis impersonation, sang Hank Williams like the original, and had a vast repertoire of Irish comedic music, not all of which was appropriate for young ears. I could sit at his feet for as long as he could play.

What would you grab if there was a fire? Mama gave me his guitar. It's a 1948 Silvertone, made the year I was born, the first year the Silvertones were produced in fact. I treasure it as I do as the memories. I'd say that's the one thing in this house that no amount of money could replace.

Happy Fathers Day, Daddy. I miss you still.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

I'll Take Now

High School should be a time of joy, but I've rarely heard that it truly is. Rather, it's a time of uncomfortable growth, adjustment and change. All of those tend to be uncomfortable. For me, it seemed, it was worse than all that. It was a time of tragedy, guilt, and unbearable sadness.

We left our friends behind and traveled across the country, again to be the new kids in class. This time, though, the community wasn't filled with military, where there were many new families. We were the oddities. We also left behind our oldest brother Patrick, in his second year at West Point, who would find it much more difficult to visit on his rare weekends, and it would be years before the great kinship would blossom between us again. I thank God for that now.

The first year was a struggle, but a good year all in all. I had my great teacher, Mr. Holmes, and my life was filled with learning to write and heading toward the top of my class. I joined clubs and cautiously made friends, trying to trust in the knowledge that we would be really staying in one place. Everything looked pretty good that November night, just a year after moving into our home in Simi Valley. I was to have been doing the dishes, but had gotten a phone call. My Junior year had just started, and I was fifteen years old. It was my first phone call from a boy asking for a date. I was beyond excited. He had called to ask me to go to the basketball game with him. Our team was in the State Finals, and this was to be the first game.

Daddy walked into the room, saw that the dishes weren't done, and I was on the phone. He walked over and took the phone from me. He addressed my caller and said, "Kathleen Louise hasn't finished her chores, and she's not allowed on the phone. She's not going anywhere." Then he hung up the phone. I, of course, burst into tears and promptly told him that he didn't understand, didn't love me, and didn't know how to be a proper father. He just looked at me, went into the kitchen and mixed himself a cup of soda water, drank it down and went into the bedroom to lie down.

I finished the dishes and went into my own bedroom, where I cried myself to sleep. A few hours later my sister came in to wake me up, tearfully telling me that Daddy had died. He'd had a massive heart attack and died shortly after our fight, while I cried myself to sleep. It was many years before I believed that my cruel words hadn't killed him.

I've rarely admitted to anyone what I said to him that night. I remember standing against the kitchen wall as neighbors came and talked to us, and medical people came and went. Each time someone gave me sympathy, I wondered if they could tell that I had killed him. I went a little nuts after that. In some ways, we all did. Some of us could only remember the good memories of Daddy. There were so many. Some of us could only remember the bad. Being human, there was enough of that as well. Having been my own judge and jury, I had to work through all of that to the point where I remember both, accept both, see both in myself as well.

Would I go back to youth? No. I'll take the lines and wrinkles, the extra pounds, and the inconveniences of aging. I'll take the ability to sit on the pity pot and remember to flush when I'm done. I'll take now.

Friday, June 13, 2008

The First Mister

We ended up living in Simi Valley, just one canyon away from the big San Fernando Valley of Valley Girl fame. My dad barely lived a year after his retirement. A couple of months before his sudden death, he came home with a small bundle of fur. It was our first dog, a small Wire Haired Fox Terrier he named Mister Patches. Mister, he said, was the runt of the litter from his friend's breeding pair. We all loved that dog. When Daddy died, we all thought that Mister would follow his Master, but he ended up living a long full life.

One afternoon my mom had new living room furniture delivered. This was the first brand new furniture I can ever remember her getting. She was really excited, but wasn't quite sure exactly how she wanted it arranged. She had the delivery men put the pieces down, then almost immediately had them move them around. She looked at it and once again had them shuffle the pieces.

Finally the two men headed for their truck, making tracks fairly quickly. I think they were afraid they were going to be trapped in an all-day redecorating cycle. As they left, Mom glanced out the front window and saw Mister merrily trotting along behind the men toward their truck. She raced out of the front door and yelled, "Mister, you get your butt back in this house!"

Both men turned around and started walking slowly back toward her, looking resigned and dejected, but obedient. The dog kept pace. She then had to explain in embarrassment that the dog's name was Mister, and that they could go on to their truck. As she grabbed the dog, they wasted no time making their exit. Mom never lived that one down.

She figured Daddy had named the dog Mister knowing that eventually the name would get her in trouble. At least she wasn't in as bad a fix as Grandma. Daddy's mother finally refused to call their dog in at all. Grandpa named their dog 'Dammit' and the blessed dog would never answer to any other name as long as it lived.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Seeing Sunset Strip

In October of my Sophomore year of high school, my dad retired from the military. On Halloween night we left Virginia, piling into the station wagon for a cross country trip to California. Dad had accepted a job with Atomics International, and after about a week on the road we pulled into Hollywood. Dad wanted us to travel up Sunset Strip, which we had seen on television.

Rumor has it that it never rains in California, but when it rains, it pours. As we wound our way up Sunset Strip, we were all rubber necking to see the famous buildings and hoping to see stars. Most of what we saw was the rain. We did see the Brown Derby restaurant, though, shaped like a brown derby, and 77 Sunset Strip, home of the TV show we'd all watched. Traffic moved slowly as most people were either looking for parking spots or playing tourist like we were. And the rain was slowing everything down.

Then I happened to see something that really left an impression. There in the pouring rain, walking down the sidewalk, was a man in a fancy suit. He had no umbrella, which would have been expected on the East Coast. Rather, in one hand he carried a briefcase, while in his other hand he carried his shoes and socks. If ever there was a time in my life when I felt like saying, "Hey, Toto, we're not in Kansas anymore," that was it.

So California was a different world for us. I escaped, often for years at a time, but most of the family stayed, so I kept going back. Now we're gone for good, retired in the Rockies, and mighty glad of it, even though I have a heart full of precious memories. Perhaps I'll spend a few blog days back in high school. I haven't been there in about... let's say forty years and leave it at that.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


I got up at 4:30 this morning, and the first thing I did was check my email. Whenever anyone makes a comment on my blog, I get an email telling me so. Wow. RI made two comments last night. Another wow.

I always think almost nobody reads my blog. My friend Sherrie always said other people were reading it, but I never believed her. I know my kids don't. At least I'm 99% certain of that. I've asked on occasion and they've said they were "too busy," and I don't think that's changed. They know all the stories anyway, and it keeps them from complaining that I'm telling these stories. Besides, if nobody reads them, at least regularly, the kids wouldn't care that sometimes embarrassing stories are out there, right?

Then lately, I've been getting a few comments from vastly different people — a niece in Virginia, friends in California and Utah, an author I recently met — it makes me wonder. Some people have counters on their web sites that tell how many people actually come on their site. I don't. I know how to type, not add stuff to web sites.

Anyway, do I really want to know how many people read this stuff?


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Escape Artist

Mr. Baggins was a great dog. He was a Wire Haired Fox Terrier, and shared our home and life when the boys were young. He was very smart. After several years with us, he suddenly turned into an escape artist.

Our back yard had chain link fences that were about five feet tall. Mr. Baggins was a sturdy dog, about twenty pounds. When he started getting out of the yard, we naturally started looking for holes under the fences. Digging is not uncommon with terriers. We never found a hole, but just to make sure, John put logs around the edges of the fence line. The next time Baggins went out in the yard, he again disappeared. Within about five minutes the front doorbell rang, and a neighbor came over with the dog in his arms. "Here he is again."

We tried staying in the yard with him, but he'd just sit there and watch us watching him. Finally, we let him out alone and went to a window and crouched down, hidden from view. Mr. Baggins sauntered through the yard, actually looking in the windows. When he decided he was really alone, and not being watched, he walked to the corner of the house.

Once there, the little rascal turned and faced the far corner of the yard. You could almost hear the music from the Lone Ranger as he galloped across the yard, picking up speed. Three feet from the corner was the boys' little round exercise trampoline. A couple of feet short of that, Mr. Baggins took a mighty leap. He hit that trampoline with all four legs stiff and straight, and bounded up from there to the very top of the chain link fence, where he balanced for about two seconds. Then he just popped off onto the sidewalk on the other side.

Didn't I say he was smart? He did have his limitations, though. Once we moved that trampoline, he never could figure out how to move it back into position. And that was his final escape.

Monday, June 9, 2008

The Great Hairstyle Change

There finally came a day when I decided to cut my long straight hair. It was very long, very straight, very thin, and very fine. If I didn't wash it every day, it looked oily and just hung there. All three boys were finally in school (K, 3rd, and 7th) and I was going to start working part time, so decided I wanted a more professional look.

I went to the local discount hair salon and went from very long to shoulder length, with a layered look. The boys all seemed to like it. Before John got home from work, I asked that they please not ask for his opinion. As I explained it to them, if we ask if he likes it, he'll just say, "It's fine," and we'll never really know how he feels. I wanted to get his honest reaction, and with John that can take some time.

We sat down to dinner without him commenting on my radical hair change. By the time the meal was over, the boys were all laughing, and I was concerned. Either he didn't like it, and was being polite, or he hadn't even bothered to look at me during the entire meal. Neither option made me feel great.

The next day I went back to the same beauty shop and had it cut even shorter and had a really curly perm added to the mix. I again forbid the boys to mention the hair. This time he's sure to say something. The meal was pretty much a repeat of the night before, with two exceptions. I was quieter, and the boys' laughter was louder. John ate in undisturbed silence.

The following day found me again seated at the beauty parlor. I had my hair dyed red. If you're not believing this, or think it's a joke, ask any of the boys. It happened. It wasn't the kind of red I always wish God had given me. It was a mistake I've never repeated. The best thing I can say is that it did grow out. It kind of had a maroon tinge to it, and at least my friends were kind. I hated it.

That night as we sat down to the dinner table, Tighe grabbed his Dad's arm. "I'm going to get in trouble for this, but you'd better look at Mom's hair, 'cause I don't know what she's going to do tomorrow if you don't."

John looked at me for about a minute, then said, "Oh. You got your hair cut."

Can you believe we're still married? My expectations of what he's going to notice have really changed. However, if I changed my spaghetti sauce, I guarantee you he'd know it on the first bite.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Aesop's Fables

In the early 1980's, a video rental shop near us offered a special deal. You could rent a Video Player with a small color television and two videos for about ten dollars and keep it for a weekend. There are two times this could have been. It was right after I got out of the hospital, so it was either 1981 after Ben was born, and I was recovering from a C-Section, or two years later when I had another surgery.

John went down and picked up this bundle for the family's entertainment. He got an adult movie and a kid's movie. I remember what the adult movie was. We watched about a minute of it, and realized it wasn't what John thought it was. It went back in the bag quickly. Every once in awhile I tease John about the Dallas Pizza Girls Mystery.

The kid's movie was more our speed. It was Aesop's fables, and it was great. Tighe was about eight or ten, and we had never had a color television, so he was really enjoying the whole video rental idea. There would be a musical interlude, quite a good classical piece with the title of the fable coming up, then a quality cartoon of the fable. That would be followed by another musical interlude.

During one of the songs I said to Tighe, "Do you realize that these stories are all about 2500 years old?"

He looked at me with the sort of disgust that only a growing child can show to a parent, and in his infinite wisdom replied, "Get real, Mom. If they were that old, they'd be in black and white!"

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Thirty Something

That doesn't refer to our ages, but rather to years of marriage. Of course now I guess we could start counting over, since John and I were remarried tonight at a very nice church service, along with three other couples.

It was actually kind of fun beforehand, thinking that with my sense of humor, what would he do if I kind of hesitated before saying my vows. Then, when it was time to actually do it, there was no comedy in my mind at all. Just like thirty something years ago, I knew I was making a very big commitment, a huge promise for a daily decision, and getting one in return.

Way back when John and I first took that walk together, we were told that there were actually six people taking that wedding march together. There's the bride she thinks she is, the bride he thinks she is, and the bride she really is; there's the groom he thinks he is, the groom she thinks he is, and the groom he really is. The important part of a marriage comes when you can get all six of those distinct personalities walking in the same direction and actually talking to each other. Some days that's easier than others, but waking up with commitment is essential.

Each time one of my sons was born I started praying for their future wives, that they would be worthy women, loving and faithful, loved and well treated in return. One of those sons has married, and every prayer I said for that union has been fulfilled. They just celebrated their fifth anniversary. The other two are still gathering my prayers for their unions. I hope when their marriages are thirty something, they can stand in front of an altar somewhere like we did tonight and hold hands, like we did, and repeat vows, meaning them more than they did all those many years ago, with the joys and trials they've shared holding them together like a foundation for the years ahead.

John is the ballast for my boat. I guess I'm the laughter in his stillness.

Friday, June 6, 2008


Having four kids and being a woman who felt it was easier to do all the housework herself rather than teach the kids to help, Mom often got behind on her household chores. Of course we children didn't much care. It never got outrageously bad, but Daddy was a perfectionist, and noticed anything that wasn't the way he wanted it to be. I think he was patient most of the time, or if he got on her about it, he did it in private. I do remember that as an adult I often thought that the way to get the house clean was to go outside and play, and when you came back in, it would be all nice and clean. It never worked for me as an adult. Now I've learned that daily doses are a lot easier than periodic panic cleaning.

We were talking about my Mom, though. I was remembering one night when Dad came home from work and decided to give her a little encouragement to get things picked up and cleaned really quickly. He was a Master Sergeant. We were pretty young at that time, but old enough to help if we had ever been taught what to do. Still, if handed something and told where to put it, we could do that. When Dad walked in, we all got ready to sit down for dinner as usual. While we were eating, Dad casually stated, "Earl and Dee are coming by for a visit."

You would have thought the rest of the meal was served in fast forward. Dishes were cleared and cleaned, the only job we youngsters actually were adept at doing, besides hauling out the trash. Then Mom started running through the house, starting at the front door. She picked up, put away, straightened, dusted, vacuumed... By eight o'clock the house looked pretty good, and Mom was about to head to her room to freshen up when she turned to my dad.

"What time did Earl say he and Dee would be here?"

"Oh, he didn't say. He just thought they should come by for a visit soon. I didn't say tonight. When should we have them over?"

At least the house looked really nice. And whatever Mom was thinking, she didn't say it out loud.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Growing Pains

Seventh Grade. Daddy gave permission for my sister, my younger brother and me to each invite a friend and pitch tents in the back yard in Virginia, which is where we were living at the time. There was the girl's tent and the boy's tent. There was just one rule. We were not allowed to leave the tents after dark.

I was in seventh grade, Ken was in sixth grade, and Ellen was a ninth grader. My friend was Vivien, and her brother Marvin was Kenny's friend. I don't remember who Ellen's friend was. Although there were the same number of months between her and me as there was between Ken and me, she always seemed way beyond my sphere. (She danced with boys; I played the accordion.)

Our house backed up to the woods on the Army base, Ft. Belvoir, and we enjoyed the normal early 60's routine of running behind the DDT truck in the early summer twilight. (OK, maybe it's not surprising that I ended up a little strange.) We ended up back in the tents by the time the night had gotten completely dark, and laughed and talked until all was quiet and the lights went off in the houses around us. Then, of course, we quietly slipped out of the tents and snuck off into the woods.

Walking along through the woods, we were able to avoid the street, but still make our way to the biggest playground any kid could ask for in this or any other lifetime. There was a parade ground right next to a golf course, and they were both within walking distance, bordered by beautiful climbing trees. There was lots of space for running, trees for climbing, and spots for hide and seek. We were a lot more innocent than today's pre-teens were, and we had a lot of good clean fun out there that night. Once in awhile the MP (Military Police) jeeps would come by, and we'd have to hide, but since we weren't caught, it wasn't a problem. I think they knew that kids routinely played out there at night anyway. Their patrols just kept a lid on things.

Finally, probably around midnight, we came straggling back through the woods to the tents, tired and dirty. I'll never forget crawling through the flap of our tent to see Daddy sitting cross-legged in the middle of our sleeping bags, waiting for us, with his belt in his lap. We were in deep, deep trouble. It probably would have hurt less if the MPs had gotten us first. Daddy had a temper. I remember he walked our friends home before the spankings started, but that just gave us time to think about it.

The funny thing is, I wouldn't have traded that night for anything. Even if I had known we'd get caught and punished like we did, I think I'd still have gone and had that last innocent night of fun, being a carefree child one more time. I think this was the last time I ever really ran free like that. After that night I pretty much started concentrating on my classwork and my music, and I know I thought about consequences more.

I know I still ran behind the DDT truck on occasion, and I sure didn't immediately throw out the stash of mercury we kids kept in a bottle. I think we often broke thermometers on purpose just to add to our collection. Gosh, that stuff was fun to play with! Still, it was the beginning of the end of an era. The era of childhood.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Victory Gardens - Just Like Grandma

I'm posting an article I found in Glenn Beck's newsletter, which is my only online subscription. Five hours of Beck a week is not enough for me. He's crazy, but smart crazy, and between watching him and Bill O'Reilly I figure I fill in the gaps in my ability to follow politics, the economy, and trends in this country I love so much.

When I read this article on Victory Gardens, I wanted to post it on my blog. Living in Colorado on an acre and a quarter, I do have space to make a garden, if the deer don't eat everything. I'll have to do more checking on that. I didn't want to just put it up without permission, though. I wouldn't want anyone to just take my work like that. (As if they would.) So I emailed Michael Glassman, the writer of the article. He's pretty well-known. I've seen him on Discovery Home and HGTV, so I wasn't too sure he'd have time to answer an email. It only took a few hours for a reply to come, giving me permission to post his article. What a gentleman!

So here's the article on Victory Gardens, posted with permission from Michael Glassman, and a link to his web site should work near the bottom.

Get Prepared: Victory Garden

Planting a Victory Garden
by: Michael Glassman

Back in World War II the United States Government urged people to plant food in order to help ease the burden on the nation's food supply during a very difficult time in the history of our nation. The resulting gardens were nicknamed "Victory Gardens".

Today's economy is not exactly the same as it was back then, but we are facing challenges of our own. Our food supply is not necessarily in danger of going away, but in case you haven't noticed prices on the most basic of things are going through the roof---and that starts to add up. I realize not everyone has a giant corner of their yard to dig up and turn into a farm, but there are things you can grow in just about any landscape that will not only yield food, but blend in with the surroundings.

Vines that Fruit: Do you have a blank wall that needs something growing on it? Try building a lattice trellis on the wall and planting grapes to grow on the trellis. "Red Flame Seedless" or "Thompson Seedless" grapes are great vines to plant on a trellis or on an iron gazebo, the beautiful fruit bunches hanging down make a great addition to your landscape. Do you have an empty iron arch? A great vine is Kiwis. You need to plant a male and a female vine in order for them to cross pollinate and produce fruit. Plant one of each on either side of the arch. Sweet Peas or Snap beans also make a great vine for a trellis or an arch. If you have a blank spot in your garden that only gets morning sun, try planting Blueberries.

Pot Veggies: A bare patio could use a large pot planted with vegetables and herbs. In the center of a large pot place a wire topiary frame and plant a tomato. Tomatoes are the fastest and easiest to grow they take about 2 to 3 months before producing fruit. Place them in full sun and water daily. Around the tomato, plant basil, oregano, thyme and garlic-this pot has the making of a good pasta sauce. Or plant a pot with Butter lettuce, Romaine lettuce, radishes, a cherry tomato plant and you have a salad in a pot. Herbs make good ground covers: such as creeping thyme, lemon thyme, chamomile, strawberries, all make great ground covers and all grow in full sun.

Privacy Food: If you are looking to create some privacy between you and your neighbors, don't just get any old plant. Plant "Laurus Nobilus", common name Bay Laurels, for a good privacy screen. This is better known as Bay leaves, the same spice that we dry and use in our spaghetti sauce. They are an evergreen bush or tree growing up to 35 feet in height. They give you plenty of privacy. Or plant "Feijoa Sellowiana" common name Pineapple Guava. They make a great evergreen screen growing up to 20 feet in height and have delicious fruit that can be eaten and will also make great mixed drinks.

Made in the shade: Fruit trees make a great shade tree or patio tree. Try planting a self pollinating Cherry Tree. Cherries are so expensive in the supermarket and yet one "Bing Cherry" can produce over 10 to 15 lbs of fruit. My family just harvested our Cherry tree. The fruit was delicious and we picked over 10 lbs of fruit. Other fruit tree options would be planting a Santa Rosa plum or Apricot. These trees produce beautiful white and pink flowers that turn into delicious fruit. If you have a very small yard plant a dwarf or semi-dwarf variety. Full size fruit trees can grow up to 20 feet in height, yet a semi dwarf fruit tree grows about 12 feet and a genetic dwarf fruit tree grows only to about 4 to 5 feet. Genetic fruit trees are great to grow in a pot or large tub. Peaches, nectarines and apples are also great trees to plant in your garden. If you have very limited space and only have room for one fruit tree but you like so many of the summer fruits, you can buy a fruit tree that is called a "fruit cocktail tree". These are fruit trees that have been grafted with several different kinds of fruit on one tree, such as a cherry, plum and peach.

In warmer climates citrus trees and bushes are wonderful. A full size citrus tree can grow 20 feet, it is an evergreen tree with fragrant flowers and wonderful fruit. If you like navel oranges plant "Washington Navels" or "Robertson navels". If juice is desired plant a "Valencia Orange". If you are interested in making Lemonade, plant a" Eureka" or a "Lisbon" Lemon, if you want a decorative Lemon with an orange skin plant a Improved Mayer Lemon. Genetic dwarf citrus grow to a height of 4 to 6 feet are great to grow in a large pot. If you do get a cold spell you can cover them with a plastic tarp making a tent (try not to touch the leaves) or bring the pot inside or on a sheltered patio. Plant strawberries to drape over the container around the dwarf citrus.

Melons are very expensive to buy at the store. Take an area that gets full sun and build 12" high by 24" wide mounds of dirt. Place two melon plants "Ambrosia" cantaloupes or "Sugar Baby" watermelons on the top of the mounds and water daily for two weeks. Melons should be planted after the last frost. After the first two weeks water every other day. It takes 65 to 85 days for your melons to ripen and be ready to eat. When preparing the soil mix in coffee grounds or compost to add organic material to your soil. Aged horse manure is one of the best composts since it is not as high in Urinemic acid as cow manure is.

These are just a few starter ideas help you create an edible garden. Will it solve all of your problems with high food prices? No. But you'll be surprised at how much you'll gain from the work you put into growing your own food. You'll gain a little in the pocketbook; you'll make a few less trips to the grocery store. But most importantly you'll experience the satisfaction of growing your own fruits, herbs and vegetables---and you'll possess the knowledge that you are prepared to provide for your family (at least basic nourishment) no matter what is going on in the world---which is a bit of a 'victory' in its own right.

Michael Glassman is co-host of the Discovery Channel's "Garden Police". He has over 20 years experience, and a degree in Landscape Design and Horticulture from the University of California at Davis. He currently lives in Northern California with his wife and daughter and his work can be viewed on his website

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

My Mom's Silly Songs

I wish I could remember all of the verses to all the silly songs my mom used to sing to us kids. There's one in particular that I've been trying to remember the words to, though, and I cannot even find a mention of it on the internet. So I ask you all, if you've ever heard of this song, to please send me any other verses that you know. I only remember one, and Mom doesn't remember any others either. She says this is all she remembers from her mom singing it to her.

If you see any ladies who want any babies
Just send them right over to me.
Today is the day we give babies away
With a pound and a half of tea.

That's it. That's all we remember. You see why it's an incredibly important song, which deserves to have all its parts remembered for posterity. There should be a book for foolishness passed on by each Mama and Daddy. It's never the sensible things we remember. After all, I'm the child who said that when I grew up I was going to raise dragons. I think that was a year or two after I told someone I was going to be a mother, a nun, and a ballet dancer. 

Monday, June 2, 2008

The 1992 American Legion World Series

We won. Jeremy and I watched it happen.

It wasn't as simple as that makes it sound. The first thing that happened was that the team left without us, and we knew that they'd keep in touch by phone after each game, and that was the best that we could expect. Then we got a phone call from one of the team mothers who had a travel agent friend. They had arranged a two-for-one special deal for team family members to fly to Fargo. Half price for one, I wanted to know? Nope. Two for one, and everyone else was paired up.

We had a family meeting, and I couldn't figure out how this would work. Ben immediately stepped up and said that Jeremy should be the one to go, since he was older. Ben was willing to stay home without a fuss. I shouldn't have been amazed, but that kid constantly showed me how a good person should act toward others. John had to work, so it was quickly decided that Jeremy and I would go together, and we left quickly. Even Tighe didn't know that we would be at his game.

We arrived in Fargo after Midnight, technically the day of the opening ceremony. Our team marched in with all the other teams from around our country and from as far away as Puerto Rico. Most of the teams had matching jackets and uniforms. We looked like the Bad News Bears. Our jerseys didn't all match. We had just come from a hot climate, and some of us didn't have long sleeves. It was bitter cold in Fargo that week.

Now remember that Tighe didn't know that Jeremy and I were among the ten thousand or so filling the stands that day. All the teams marched out to the field together to the sounds of music and the cheering of the crowds. Everyone was screaming, including Jeremy and me. I'm not that loud. I'm not. But suddenly, down on the field, we could see Tighe stiffen and start to scan the crowd. It took him awhile, but he finally found us. His look of shock was replaced with joy, and then he again put on his solemn game face. He knew he had family in the stands.

There were so many highlights of that week. Winning was the big one. The trophy the team flew home with was almost as big as another kid. Almost. Tighe was awarded the Bob Feller pitching award. The Bob Feller pitching award is presented annually to the pitcher in Regional and World Series competition who strikes out the most batters. You can still find his name on the internet and in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Someday I'll get to see that...

Another highlight that I'll just mention very briefly is being handed what I thought was a really delicious milk shake of some kind. After the second one, I got up to go to the restroom and almost couldn't walk. They were giving me Brandy Alexanders. I'll always have a fondness for that drink now, but a lot more caution. That was some team party — the team was elsewhere. This was the parents and coaches celebrating.

I guess when I think back on the entire experience, the three things that stand out in my mind most are my husband's willingness to fork over money we really didn't have so that Tighe could have family at this important competition; Ben's immediate willingness to stand aside to allow his brother Jeremy to go; and that moment when Tighe's face registered his joy in finding us in the stands. These are the moments that live in our hearts.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

My Beloved Books

I'm parting with some of my books. It was a tough decision, but rather than have every wall in our home covered floor to ceiling with book shelves, I've decided to take an inventory, and decide what I absolutely can't get ride of, and put the rest in a garage sale. It'll hurt, but others will enjoy my choices, I'm sure. Some are simply too good to just sell, and I'll bring a good selection to Mom for her friends at the Senior Center. Others will go to the local library.

Among my books are some that I reread every five years or so, and thus will be keeping on my shelves. I wanted to recommend them. Some are old. A couple are new, but I know they will fall into this category, and so I'll shelf them together. It's an eclectic mix, so everything might not be to everyone's taste, but if you just love really great writing, I'd say this is a great list to try if you're out of your own favorite author's titles.

In no particular order...

  • The Source by James Michener
  • Islandia by Austin Tappan Wright
  • The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
  • The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov
  • The Hobbit & Lord of the Rings trilogy by J. R. R. Tolkein
  • Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein
  • Shogun, Tai-Pan, and Noble House by James Clavell
  • Out of the Silent Planet Trilogy & The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
  • Three Weeks With My Brother (& almost everything else) by Nicholas Sparks
  • The Dune Trilogy by Frank Herbert
  • The Chase by Clive Cussler
  • The Drake series & The Leopard series by Christine Feehan
  • Magic Kingdom for Sale/Sold by Terry Brooks
  • The Marble Faun by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • Ender's Game (series) & The Seventh Son (series) by Orson Scott Card
  • The Dragonriders of Pern (series) by Anne McCaffrey
  • The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
  • The Christmas Box, Finding Noel, & The Christmas Gift by Richard Paul Evans
  • The Twilight Series by Stephenie Meyer

I'll add to this a list of my favorite "women's fiction" authors. For many years I was too big a snob to ever read "that stuff." I can honestly say that once I started I went through many years where I read nothing else. I can also attest to the fact that I learned many very much needed lessons about relationships from reading these books. I very rarely read strictly romance anymore. Most of these authors' new books are fairly intense, and most could be categorized as romantic suspense. If you want the door to close during romantic moments, be prepared to skim or skip a few pages now and then. It won't make any difference to your reading enjoyment. I'll give just one or two examples by each author.

  • Barbara Delinsky (Family Tree)
  • Catherine Coulter (The Sherbrooke series)
  • Danielle Steele (Sisters)
  • Debbie Maconber (Mrs. Miracle)
  • Diana Palmer (Soldier of Fortune series)
  • Elizabeth Lowell (Only You; Only Mine; Only His; Only Love - it's a series)
  • Iris Johansen (The Wind Dancer; The Tiger Prince
  • Jayne Ann Krentz (Falling Awake; writing as Amanda Quick, Second Sight)
  • Jude Deveraux (The Velvet Series)
  • Judith McNaught (Every Breath You Take)
  • Linda Howard (MacKenzie Family Saga - five books)
  • Nora Roberts (The Irish Trilogy; The Garden Trilogy; and writing as J. D. Robb, Remember When)
  • Sandra Brown (anything, but to name one - Envy)
  • Tami Hoag (Kill the Messenger)

I'd appreciate it if you'd comment with a book or two that you can't forget, loan out and have to replace when it never comes back, or find yourself rereading once in awhile. By the way, my most often replaced book is Islandia. It's the only book Austin Tappan Wright ever wrote. I'd love to write a sequel. I've read the book about eight times in the last 40 years, and each time I read it, my sequel would be different. I guess I keep morphing. I now have two copies of Islandia - a paperback that I'm willing to loan out, and a hard cover that never leaves the house. Let me know what your library's treasures include, please. We'll just assume there might be scriptures there, so you won't need to list those.

I'll end with a quote attributed to Seneca. "If I have money, I buy books. If I have more money, I buy food."