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Thursday, March 31, 2011

More Flowers

 As spring continues to warm the earth beneath our feet and the hearts in our chests, new flowers keep showing up in our yard.

This flower showed up  day or two ago. I don't know what it is, any ideas? I just know that it is very pretty and very welcome. If you look closely at the large leaf to the left you will see a happy spider bathing in the afternoon sun.
Every little sign of spring makes me long more and more for warmer weather and time outside. We have dog's tooth violet in our yard. It hasn't yet bloomed, I'm excited to see what color it will be. I have never seen dog's tooth in a yard. My mother tried very hard to transplant some in her yard when I was a child. She never had success. I think she would be tickled to see the large patch of it growing thickly in my yard. It reminds me of her every time I look at it. It reminds me of happy times with her.

My mother loved wild flowers. She quite often would go to ditches in Warren county and try to steal away wild flowers growing in them to replant in our yard. Every once in a while she would even, under threat of arrest, sneak into to a county park here and there to sneak out a yellow violet or some other treasured wild flower.
 I suspect some of these flowers in my yard may be ones that she would have been trying to smuggle out and relocate into hers.

I don't know what these little blue flowers are either. Maybe bluebells? Ok, just looked up bluebells on the Internet, this is not what they look like. Any help in naming these would be appreciated. I think my mother might have known what these are, but she is no longer here to ask.

I have many good memories of my mother, some that are not. Sometimes it is too easy to dwell on the bad memories. Today though, it is memories of a sneaky lady with a trowel and bucket, snitching wild flowers to take home to her garden.
We have a limited time with the people that are important to us. If you have someone in your life that you have left behind, that grudges have kept you separated, think about reaching out to them. It is spring, new life is emerging all around us. Breathe new life into old relationships and bury old grudges in the warm moist soil. Maybe a new beautiful wild flower will emerge to take its place.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The White and Blue Box

 This is the white and blue box. Inside this box is the reason I drove fifty miles out of my way to come home the other day. Inside this box is something worth driving fifty miles out of your way for! Inside this box you will find the definition of decadence. The true unashamed meaning of the word bliss! When you see this box coming at you, you know you are about to indulge in an almost spiritual experience! Inside this box, are dutch letters!
What is a dutch letter you might ask if you have never had the pleasure of meeting up with one.  To an untrained eye, it may look simple, unassuming, maybe even unattractive. Bite into one, and you will know why you have taste buds. First the crispy sweet puff pastry crackles between your teeth. Then the sensation of almond. As you chew it the crisp of the pastry mixes with the chewy of the almond paste, and you have found a little bit of Heaven on Earth. Ahhhh.  And do not make the mistake of throwing away the little end pieces. They are the best part. Crunchy and chewy all at the same time. YUM!

Now, where to get these wonderful gifts to all mankind. They are in a little town in Iowa called Pella. Pella is one of those few small towns that seem to have found a way to keep, their heritage and make it through the hard times of many recessions intact. They have found a niche. Pella has embraced their heritage, and shared it with all that wish to see. Pella has kept it's small town charm, but incorporated modern business practices. This has left the town successful while other towns are crumbling away.

No matter what time of year or what time of day I go to the bakery in Pella they are almost always busy. Of course, in small town fashion they roll up the sidewalks and close the town down no later than 6:00 pm everyday, and nothing is open on Sundays.


With the exception of Tulip Time. When they may stay open clear till seven. But the festival ends on Saturday. Don't go on Sunday and expect to find it still going on.

Every May Pella celebrates its Dutch heritage with a festival revolving around the blooming of the many tulips planted around the town. The townsfolk dress in period Dutch costume and have parades and lots of food to eat. There is Dutch clog dancing, that they do in true wooden shoes. The sound is amazing and makes you want to put on a pair and join in. Even the children are involved, down to the tiniest babies dressed in traditional Dutch, being pushed around in authentic old time prams.

If you want a true bit of fun, that is appropriate for all ages, take the time to go to Pella. It is worth the drive. But if you go at Tulip Time and want to buy a Dutch letter, be prepared. You will stand in a long line for what seems to be forever. Plan your strategy well. The best time to get into the bakery is during the parade. Is missing the parade worth it? You will have to decide that for yourself. But if you live 400 miles away from this lovely little town, it just might be.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Kahlen Post




 As you already know, I live for my time with Kahlen. She's like a tonic, she invigorates, she illuminates, and she gives purpose to an otherwise dreary period in my life. She's my best bud!

We got to have her for a few days this past weekend. It was, of course, wonderful! She is growing and changing so much! She listens and understands what you are saying. She will do things that you ask her to do, if she wants to that is. And the words, the words are coming so quickly now. I'm starting to be able to catch the words as the come flying at me. She is turning into such a little girl. No longer the crying blob of poo that we swaddled so carefully 18 months ago. Now, an ever more articulate little girl with many things to do.


She spends much of her day just learning. Not in a formal, school way, but in a hectic, frenzied, toddler way. She bebops from one "project" to another. She concentrates hard on each project, getting each just right before she moves on to the next. Her understanding deepening with each task she accomplishes. 

She planted seeds with Grandpa the other day. She was so excited, not that she was planting something, but that she got to play with dirt! Now, Grandpa gets a little girlie when it comes to getting dirty. Instead of picking up the dirt and putting it in the planter with his hands he used a little fork. Kahlen did the same. It turns out that she too is a little fussy about getting dirty. Must of got that from Grandpa. 



This fussiness does not extend to food, however. This does not go over well with Grandpa. I quite often have to remind him that it is just food, not a catastrophe. (I know this for a fact from when I tried to apply for disaster aid after the syrup emergency as told in a previous blog.)

She loves to dip her food, french toast in syrup, apples in caramel sauce, chicken nuggets in anything. She is actually quite an adept dipper. She dip, dip, dip, dip, dips, waits for most of the extra to fall off and then eats. That is until she realizes that caramel tastes just as good on fingers as it does on apples. Again, not something that Grandpa is thrilled with, but he lives through it. I actually kind of like it, he keeps her pretty clean while she eats, makes it easier on me.

I don't mind a good mess. I figure for the most part it will clean up. As long as it is not toxic, it isn't going to kill anyone. And the aftermath can make for some cute pictures.



Willie Gets to Go Home, Finally

Eating ketchup with her spoon.
Willie has not had many chances to go home since we got moved into the house. We have tried many times but the weather would not cooperate. Blizzards always seemed to barge their way into our plans and ruin everything. So, when I was going to go get Kahlen this time, and it worked out that he had two days off, he decided to come with me. It was the first time he had been back since January, and that time was abruptly cut short do to lousy weather. This time we got to stay.

The weather still uncooperative, we got into Altoona as the tornado sirens were blaring. We turned on the radio and there was a tornado on the ground west of Des Moines. We were on the east side, no worries. Willie wanted to stop by the old house and as we were driving by our next door neighbor was out listening to the sirens. (Here's the thing you need to know about Iowans, when the tornado sirens go off, instead of taking shelter, we tend to go outside to watch the sky. ) We took Bazinga to his back yard so he could do what dogs do, and talked for a little while.

Breakfast with Kahlen
We spent the rest of the evening with Josh and Caitlin eating pizza and watching the movie Due Date. That was a strange, but fun little movie.  Bazinga, who is starting to get man urges, chased after poor Talula all evening.

We got up to Ames around ten or so, talked to Valerie for a little while and then off to bed.

The next day we spent the day wandering around Hobby Lobby with Valerie. I dreamed of the things I wanted to get, but that would have to wait for another day. We went to the grocery store, Valerie got stuff for chili for supper that night. Then it was time.....

We dropped Valerie back off at her apartment. We left, to go get, KAHLEN! We had been anxiously awaiting three o'clock so we could go get her.
 We picked up Kahlen at her baby sitter's house. She was giggling at the door as we pulled up. Grandpa got out of the car and she started squealing with delight! I don't know who was happier to see who.

As we got her into her car seat another parent came to pick up their child. In an "It's a Small World" moment we realized it was one of Willie's best friends from his old store. They were excited to see each other, and surprised that the girls went to the same babysitter.  

We stopped by to see Shane for a little while before he went to work. He has a new job that he has mixed emotions about, great pay but lousy hours, very hard to balance family and work. He has gotten to spend a lot of time with Kahlen lately and hates having to give that up. 

We went and helped Josh move his tool box to his new garage, and then we all went up to Valerie's. Alyssa and Caitlin each came up after work. Willie got to meet Valerie's new boyfriend, Joel, and I think all had a good time.  I know Willie was in Heaven. 

The next morning we packed up to leave. Kahlen was coming with us. This would be the first time ever that I wasn't taking her on the 400 mile trip all by myself. I was excited! I don't think Willie was quite ready to leave, but work beckoned. On the way out of town we stopped by Willie's old store, where he got to play Proud Grandpa. He was welcomed as a returning hero, and talked to lots of people. I think we ended up staying there at least an hour. 

The visit home much too short, on the road we went. 


























Monday, March 28, 2011

Iowa as I See It

I was driving home from dropping off Kahlen today. As I normally do, I had a speaker plugged into my Ipod and was listening to the movie Star Trek. (yes, just listening.) I love that movie. I can listen to it or watch it over and over. I have it on blue ray, on my computer and on my Ipod. I know, I'm a freak. It is definitely one of my very favorite  movies of all time.

I do have one thing about the movie that drives me nuts though.  The way Iowa is portrayed in the movie. It is shown as completely flat, treeless and almost barren. The movie's producers or directors have certainly never been to Iowa.


Yes, it is true, Iowa has no mountains. This does not make the state flat.  It does not make the state barren. Iowa has beautiful rolling hills, some that can be quite steep even. Ask anyone who has ever ridden on RAGBRI, a bike ride that crosses the state from the Missouri River to the Mississippi, how "flat" Iowa is. There would be no challenge in the ride if Iowa were as flat as Hollywood would like to make it.

I went a different way home today. I stopped often and took pictures. This is a tough time of year to find beauty in Iowa. The white blanket of snow melted away and the green of spring still to come.
 It is there though. You have to look for it. Iowa's beauty is subtle, quiet, and understated. It is not a slap you in the face kind of beauty like that of a majestic mountain. It is not the "hey look at me" of a ocean sunset. It is hidden, waiting to be found. You must be observant, diligent if you want to find it. It isn't going to lure you in, it has no reason to pander after your attention. If you don't want to see it, it has no use for you.

Iowa is more of the girl next door than a super model. Its beauty is friendly and inviting. It isn't going to tease you into thinking you can obtain it and then torture you with thin air.  There are flat areas, but even the mightiest mountain ranges have valleys at their bases.
Iowa's beauty is there, it is waiting to be found if you are willing to look for it. Soon it will be even more magnificent as the trees fill in with the leaves of summer. The fields will come to life with crops and prairie flowers. Still understated, still subtle, but always there.

Monday, March 21, 2011

1000 Page Views!

1000 page views! I did it. Thank you to everyone who reads my ramblings! I know 1000 page views doesn't mean that my blog has been actually read 1000 times, but still it feels like quite and accomplishment for me.

I started this blog as a fun way to chronicle Kahlen's early years. I never thought I had anything too interesting to talk about until she came along.

Much has changed since then. I now live hundreds of miles from my little granddaughter. I've struggled to find things to write about now and then, but for some reason felt compelled to continue anyway.

Knowing that people actually read my blog feels really good. Is it ego that drives me to continue? Is it a narcissistic idea that people may actually think what I have to say might be interesting? After all my blog is about me and my life. Is this all consuming desire to share my thoughts merely a conceited ego trip?

Well, I hope it is not coming off like that. I am home alone a lot and it is fun to share my thoughts with others. Talking to Bazinga and Mia is therapeutic to an extent, but knowing actual humans are reading my words is comforting, so I thank all of you that have read them. Without you I would have never reached this little goal of mine. I know it is silly, but it makes me very happy!

Camp Memories

I finally remembered to fix the date on my camera,
after I took these.
With the first blooms of spring a girls heart turns to dreams of picnics and camp outs.  I know, it is supposed to turn to thoughts of love..... but I already have the love of my life, I don't need another one. It would just make things way too complicated and very unpleasant.  So, camp outs and picnics it is!

I grew up a Girl Scout. I loved it. I had the best leaders who took us on many adventures and taught us how to take care of ourselves along the way. I went to Camp Sacajawea every summer. It was always like a home away from home. I would cry the last night and get "camp sick" when I got home.

One summer I was in Shoshone Village. It was a camp unit that was about 1/4th of a mile from the main camp. Instead of platform tents, like the other units had, it had fairly authentic tee pees. My mother, was a consultant at the camp and was at the main camp for the session I was there.

One evening a storm moved in. It wasn't some little storm either. I remember it very well. The evening had been absolutely beautiful. The sunset had brilliant colors of oranges, reds and deep blues. I remember looking out over the site and feeling completely happy. We had a campfire and sang Girl Scout songs until dark. We went to bed with no worries.

Later that night my tent mates and I woke up to a loud crack of rumbling thunder. One screamed, one ran and climbed into an others bunk. I hid my head under my sleeping bag. Our tee pee started rocking. One of the posts started lifting and dropping back into place. The canvas shaking and snapping in the wind making noises that horrified us. We screamed in terror. I hadn't remembered a storm like that at camp ever before. We decided to run to the councilors tee pee.

Our councilors had been on the walkie talkie to the main camp. My mother was on the other end. She had done much research into tee pees. She was reassuring the councilors that the tee pees were safe. They sent us back to our tee pee. Two of my tent mates huddled up in one bunk, me and the other each took refuge in our own bunks and hid our heads under our sleeping bags once again.

My mother, still on the walkie talkie with the councilors told them "Tee pees are the safest place you can be in a storm."

At that very minute, our tee pee, lost its battle against the storm. With a terrible howling noise the poles were pulled from the ground. The canvas ripped. The entire structure flew over us and hit me on the head as it went by. The heavy poles crashing onto the empty cot of my tent mate that had cowered in the bunk of the other. We screamed and screamed, not knowing what else to do. We were getting soaked in the rain that was slapping us with the screeching wind that was pushing it.

"Tee pee 8 just went over, " the councilors told my mother back in the safety of main camp. They came running to us, peeled us out of our soaked sleeping bags that we were frightened to leave and took us back to their tee pee.

The camp vans arrived to rescue the entire unit from the storm. They took us back to the main camp and we nervously rested in one of the camp buildings with girls from other units. The camp nurse checked us over, especially me, since I got conked with a pole. We were all fine.

Many things worked to protect us that night. Most important was the fact that my one tent mate had crawled into the others bunk. Had she stayed in her own she would certainly been injured by all of the poles landing on her bunk. These were not your normal tent poles. They were each ten foot long railroad type poles. They were very heavy. She was very lucky. I hid my head under my sleeping bag which helped to soften the blow of the pole that hit my head. Had I not, I'm sure I would have had a concussion, at best. As it was though, someone was looking out for us and kept us safe.

The next day we returned to our unit. We got our first daylight look at our tee pee, that was when we really realized just how lucky we had been the night before. Our gear was soaked, and a few things ruined, but we were safe and sound.

And my mom, she never lived down her "tee pees are the safest place to be in a storm," remark. How ironic that at the moment she uttered those words the tee pee of her own daughter went over. Luckily, all could look back and laugh at the comment. And the Camp Sacajawea staff took the opportunity to do just that, just as often as they could. She earned it!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Doors to Nowhere

I saw this on a walk with Bazinga. It baffled, confused and I must admit disturbed me a little. Was it bad planning? Was it a mistake? I assume that there used to be a fire escape involved. Where is it now? Who took it away and why? Is it an ominous sign?

Doors to nowhere.... What does it mean? If I go up in that building and open the door will it take me to a new dimension? An alternate reality? Perhaps on the other side of the door there is a looking glass. Is there a white rabbit waiting on the other side? Where would he take me? He'd probably just throw me back because my name is not Alice.

Do you suppose Mr. Spock could be on the other side to beckon me to come help the Enterprise save the world? Ah, flights of fancy, they are glorious things.

I wouldn't mind going to an alternate reality. Go somewhere and be brave and fight pirates, or battle Klingons to save the world. I would take the Enterprise and and pound on the Klingons until they cried uncle. I would show those Klingons who was boss and then make them do the dishes.

Perhaps I would be a damsel in "distress" that would kick the crap out of my captor and save my Prince Charming from the dragon myself. I would take that dragon by the tail, swing him in the air until he was dizzy. I would throw him through the door to nowhere, into the Spock reality where I would teach him to use his dragon breath to melt the Klingons ice cream which would make them cry! I would then whisk my Prince Charming away to my castle. We would live happily ever after because he would do the dishes.

Or Bazinga, Mia and I would go on grand adventures. We would chase down the mighty butterflies and ladybugs. Mia would be frightened of the scary flying things. Bazinga would save her by woofing at the mighty beasts as they fluttered away. Bazing would then show the mighty beasts what he would do to them if they come back by killing his mean and awful toy. Mia would follow me and Bazinga would follow her.... Wait that's not an alternate reality. The alternate reality would be when they would do the dishes.

I would love to be brave. Not to go and fight pirates and Klingons, but to try new things. To explore new options. Be able to find a way to make money in a way that I would enjoy. A way that would leave me open to even more possibilities. Where people don't yell at me. Where I'd control my own life and own destiny. I want to be brave and enjoy my new life. Be brave and start something new. I don't need to make lots of money. But it would be fun to to have enough money to hire someone to do the dishes.

Glimmers

Small town America has seen its better days. The current recession and recessions of the past have been very hard on small towns all over the country. The ones that have been able to survive are the ones close to a larger city. Most of those have, however been usurped by said cities and become almost suburbs. They don't have the same identity that they used to have. They seem to be minor extensions of the city. One boundary blurring into the next.


Those far away from the cities have not fared well. People have left. Those left behind often have to travel far to find jobs, gas prices making it harder and harder to stay.  They consider leaving, wondering what keeps them where they are.

Buildings crumbling around them many find it very hard not to move on. Yet they find a way to stay. They wonder if it is resilience or fool hardiness.

 

People in small towns have a connection to their town that city dwellers can't fathom. There is a sense of community that is unmatched. People look out for each other. People wave to each other when they drive by, even if they don't know each other. Willie loves that. He loves the friendliness. A small town is much more like an extended neighborhood. That I think is why people stay.

There is a pride that can not be denied. That leads to a hope for a better future for their home. They can still see the town as it once was. They remember the days when buses brought customers to the many antique stores. They remember the faces of the people anxious to find a bargain or a treasure. They hope the day will come again and revive their sleepy town.
There are glimmers of hope, at least here. Some of the empty buildings have been reoccupied, and some have been restored to their former beauty. There is a long way to go, but the journey has begun. Whether it can be sustained is a question only the future can answer.

There are many beautiful old homes here. Many at bargain prices. Which is probably part of the reason so many stay. They can't get enough out of their homes to make a move possible. Many of the homes that Willie and I looked at last fall are still for sale. Our home was on the market for over a year before we bought it. We have twice as much home at half the price here. I can walk to much of what  I need.  Bazinga and I can take our walks without fear, even after dark.

I can see people thinking there is nothing to keep them here. There is no shopping mall, no grocery store, not even a Wal Mart. But all of that is within a twenty minute drive. Honestly, even in a city you probably have to be on the road for twenty minutes to get to most of that stuff anyway. In the city that twenty minutes is spent fighting traffic. Here it is a more quiet drive.

It is a more quiet life in general. It takes some getting used to. It takes time to adjust. The little world that is a small town is not for everyone. But for those that grow up in it and choose to stay, their little town is worth staying in, worth fighting for. Worth hoping for a better future for the town they call home.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Lasting Beauty

Bazinga and I went for a long walk today. It is so beautiful outside I couldn't resist. I took my camera along because there are some very beautiful old churches and buildings here in our little town. Some are still in good shape some are not. Some are being rebuilt, some were destroyed in a fire a few years back.


The history of a town is found in its buildings and especially churches. Small towns in particular were and many still are very centered around their churches. The church was the meeting place, community activities were planned and carried out there. The church as a community center even more important in towns where the school was in another town. 
The Presbyterian church built in 1902

 
The Sunday School room

Rossville has four churches that were built in the early twentieth century. Two of which are still churches, two are not. It always makes me a little sad to see an old church that is no longer a place of worship, no matter what religion it housed.  It is so easy to imagine the people that once filled the building with laughter and tears. You can see their faces as they watched their babies being baptized , their children being married, and their parents being eulogized. You can still hear the songs of praise being sung by the choir. You wonder how they would feel about their beloved church now being an antique store. 

Not sure when this was built, now an antique store
Built 1903, now the Rossville Historic Society
   


As years have come and go, and times changed what looks like it used to be a fairly prosperous town at one time has become less so. Many have moved away. Businesses have closed. The churches still stand. The architecture is unmatched now. Churches, mostly because of financial restraints are found in many different forms now. Some are in prefabricated buildings, some are even in strip malls. The beauty going by the wayside. Churches have more important things to spend the every dwindling sums of money that come in through the collection plate. Most congregations, I'm sure, would prefer to have a glorious church, but understand that the services provided are more pressing.

The Methodist Church, built 1903

Even the churches with the resources to build the church that they want can not compare to the simple beauty of the old churches. No matter how grand and ornate the new building is, it is never as welcoming as the old brick country church. 

And once again my camera has freaked out on the date in these photos, they were all taken today, March 19th, 2011, not thirty years from now.

A BLOOM!!!!

Crocuses, I love them! They are the first flower that blooms every spring. Sometimes even pushing their way up through winter's last snow. They have always seemed to me to be the bravest of flowers.  They find their way through the snow and debris left over from fall. They ignore the elements as they search for the warmth of the sunshine. Once broken through, they open themselves up to the nourishing rays of the sun. They soak up every drop, until they can hold no more.


The life of a crocus bloom is a short one. Their heroic journey ends quickly and quietly. The delicate nature of the tiny bloom withers away in an instant. You have to be vigilant if you want to enjoy their beauty. You need to watch for them everyday. If you skip a day you will miss them, which would be a shame. I was so happy when we found these in our garden. We were lucky to find them still blooming.

Spring is here!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Day in the Life of Bazinga

"Wake up, wake up, wake up," Bazinga whimpers as he scratches at his kennel. Bazinga, being  a very polite little fellow wakes us every morning with quiet little noises. He has never once found it necessary to bark or howl us awake. Good for him, if he woke me that way we would probably both die. First me of a heart attack and then my ghost would probably kill him. He lets us know he is ready to start the day and thinks it is time for us to be ready, too. Unfortunately, he doesn't always understand that he doesn't need to be up and moving as soon as the sun comes up. They really need to make clocks in dog language.

Up and moving we start the day with a trip outside. Some mornings he finishes quicker then others. He likes to roam and investigate his little world and be sure that everything is as it should be. I like to go out and come back in, I'm still sleepy, he is not. It is not the best combination, I'd like to think I win these struggles, but around the whole yard we go. Bazinga, is quite a thorough investigator. He sniffs and checks, what seems like, every blade of grass and every piece of dirt. "Look at this! Can I eat it? Oh, no look at this! Can I eat it? Wait, wait, wait, you HAVE to look at this! Can I eat it?"  Yeah,  that will surely come back to haunt us later.

Back inside he eats his breakfast and starts searching the house. His goal, Mia! Bazinga loves his kitty. Kitty is his most favorite toy EVER! He looks in the kitchen, he looks in the bedroom, finally there she is! She is sitting on a dining room chair. He runs up to her, "you want to play? You want to play? You want to play?" He asks excitedly. He pops his head up and peaks at her on the chair. He tries to nibble on her foot. She growls and bops him on the nose. She pretends to hate him. He jumps up and nips at her again. She clobbers him, and bites him on the nose.

"Get lost, brat!"Mia yells at him. She jumps down from the chair and runs to the stairway and waits for him. He runs after her and bites her on the tail. She runs up two steps, he runs up three. "I'm not touching you, I'm not touching you!" He nips at her, she clobbers him. She runs up two steps he runs up three. "I'm not touching you!" King of the hill seems to be a favorite game of theirs. They get to the top of the stairs and both seem baffled at what to do next. Neither of these animals are all that clever. Bazinga decides that a nip on the nose is in order, and Mia replies with a hiss and a slap. She runs into the bathroom and jumps up on the toilet seat. She lays down, he jumps at her. She is a very lazy fighter. She always finds the high ground, lays down and bats at Bazinga below. Bazinga has not yet figured out that he can jump up on things. This works well in Mia's favor.

Bored with Mia and her lazy ways, Bazinga moves on. He has several toys that must be killed on a regular basis. These toys forget their place in the world quite often and must be reminded. The only way to remind them is to attack them and shake them until they are dead. He quite often kills his toys in front of Mia. "This is what I will do to you! And this, and this" he says as he shakes his toys into submission. Mia looks at him, clobbers him and moves on.

"You will have to get me first," she grumbles. That dog forgets his place in the world quite often and she must remind him.

Unscathed, Bazinga, now exhausted from his very productive morning must pass out. He comes up to the couch and asks to be picked up. Once up, he conks out.

Ten minutes later he is up and ready to go out again. Around the yard, grass, dirt, leaves. Back in, eat, search, bite Mia, kill toys. It is a very busy world that Bazinga lives in. He has much to do and no support to get them all done. We humans even have the gall to take his toys and throw them when he is busy trying to kill them. It ruins his rhythm. It throws his whole day off balance. What's a dog to do?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Unwelcome Guests

I had a visit from my two least favorite friends today. Loreal and her best friend forever Vanity. They are crafty folk. They come, they taunt, and they over stay their welcome.

Vanity is the worst of these two evil witches. She shows up first. She looks you up and down and points out every flaw you have. She finds your weaknesses and preys upon them. If you have been worried about a little weight gain, she makes you feel even worse. She can make five pounds feel like fifty. Make ten pounds feel like one hundred, and anything more than that, you need to be lifted out of your house with a helicopter.   Noticed a few new gray hairs, she will make them glow in the dark. One or two multiple to one thousand and exponentially reproduce before your very eyes. That little wrinkle by your mouth, the grand canyon, getting deeper and deeper with every uncomfortable smile. She is very sly with her criticisms. She hones in on your deepest, darkest fears, sweeps in and devours what little confidence you may have. She leaves you feeling empty, deflated, a popped balloon after a fourth of July parade.

Today she started with my hair. "Your roots," she started, "your roots are showing. And that frizz, really, what are you thinking." I tried not to listen. I hate dying my hair. It is stinky and messy. "Really, isn't it time to hide those age spots?" I try to not be a vain person. I hate wearing make up. I hate the way it feels on my skin. My eyes tend to be itchy and watery, putting make up on them just seems to be asking for trouble. Besides, if God wanted my eyelids to be smokey, he'd set fire to my cheeks. Yet, Miss Vanity finds a way to make us think that if we don't look exactly as she says we should, we fail as human beings. Fail miserably, beyond any hope for recovery.

That's when BFF Loreal sweeps in. Loreal is pure beauty. She is flawless and perfect. Not a blemish or gray hair, never an ounce overweight. She looks at you with a "poor baby" smile, and strokes your cheek. "Oh, Honey" she coos as she shakes her head. She lures you closer. She draws you in. On the outside she is perfect. She leads you to believe that with her help you could be too. On the inside, she is the definition of faux. Her soul empty, false, chemically reproduced. Her goal, get you to cover everything that makes you, you and get you to try to be just like her. She sets this goal very high. High enough that you can never reach it. Her beauty is airbrushed, not real, lofty. It is manufactured, not natural, phony. We are still to reach for it. If we don't we are unkempt, frumpy, a loser. If we do, we are disappointed, making us try harder, just to be disappointed again. We get sucked in. We buy into the impossible dream, again and again. It is a viscous cycle of humility and shame.

I gave in to Vanity and Loreal today, fixed my roots and spent a ridiculous amount of money on makeup. I have an interview on Thursday and Vanity convinced me that if I don't look youthful, I won't even get considered. She convinced me that pushing fifty is a sin against nature, and it must be covered up.

I like to say that if growing old gracefully was good enough for Katherine Hepburn, then it is good enough for me. Most of the time I truly believe that. Most of the time I am comfortable in my own skin. Most of the time. Grace is normally my shield against Vanity and Loreal. Today, grace fell by the wayside and the sinister sisters found their way in. They succeeded.

YUM!

I love to bake. I am not the best at it but I like to give it a good try anyway. When I do bake I usually use a mix. I am, it seems, prone to forget an ingredient every once in a while. That's why I like a good mix, less chance of leaving something important out.  For instance, one Christmas I decided to make bread pudding for breakfast. I had bought a beautiful loaf of panatone  bread at Panera just for the occasion. I followed the directions in the recipe, or so I thought. I soaked the bread in the custard mixture for an hour. Poured it all into the pan and into the oven. It came out perfect. I scooped up its deliciousness and dolloped it with a spoonful of homemade whipped cream. With anticipation I took the first bite. Something was very wrong. It wasn't horrible, but it wasn't right. I tried to figure out what I had done wrong. I went through all of the steps in my head. What did I do. Instead of bread pudding it tasted more like french toast. I forgot the sugar! Of all things to forget in a bread pudding I forgot the sugar! We decided since it tasted like french toast we would just put pancake syrup on it. Not what I had imagined for Christmas morning but it ended up just fine.

Sunday I decided to try my hand at making cinnamon rolls from almost scratch. In other words, I bought a hot roll mix and made it from there. This is a step up, I usually make them from a tube. Valerie had made cinnamon rolls this last Christmas and they were wonderful, so I had the confidence to give it a go myself. I followed the directions on the mix. I heated up the water and poured it into the mix.

I forgot the yeast. I looked at the mix with the water sitting in it. I looked at the yeast. I was supposed to mix the yeast in before I put the water in. What to do now? I knew for sure with out the yeast they would be ruined. I went ahead and threw the yeast in, and mixed it into the flour that was still dry and hoped. I followed the rest of the directions, reading them three times for each step.

I kneaded the dough for exactly five minutes, I used the timer on the microwave just to be precise. I know that baking is a science as much as an art. When I cook, I throw things in willie nillie, I don't tend to measure. When I bake, I follow the directions. I figure people smarter and more experienced then me figured this all out. I rolled the dough.

I made the filling. Now here, I did my own thing. I knew this was not a part of the chemical process. I had fun. I softened the butter and stirred in some vanilla extract. I spread it all over the dough. I mixed brown sugar, pumpkin pie spice, and some nutmeg together and spread that all over the butter. I used the pumpkin pie spice instead of just cinnamon for the extra flavor. I wanted something crunchy. I didn't think to buy nuts at the store. What to use? I remembered I had sunflower kernels in the freezer. I didn't know how that would turn out, but I didn't know if they were even going to rise right so I figured what the heck and tossed them on.

I rolled them and cut them and got them into the pan. Now, the hardest part of all, time to let them rise. I covered them with cellophane and a towel and set the timer for thirty minutes. Would they rise? Would all of this effort be rewarded or be in vain. I went and found other things to do for the eternal thirty minutes.

Beep, beep, beep. I went to the kitchen. I lifted the towel. They hadn't risen. There was a little puffiness but they were not double the size. My heart fell.

I have a double oven that I love. I had been preheating the lower oven for the rolls. The upper oven was warm but not hot, I decided to put the rolls int there to see if I could get them to rise. I put the towel back on. I put them in the oven and shut the door. I set the timer and waited, less then patiently, once again.

Beep, beep, beep. I go to the kitchen, I open the oven door. Slowly, I peal away the towel peaking under it like I was expecting something to pop out at me. TAH DAH! They raised! I clapped in glee! I happily put them into the lower oven and went to do something else. And forgot to set the timer.


 Luckily, I remembered soon enough and kept a good eye on them. I pulled them from the oven and they looked scrumptious. I happily made the glaze and poured it all over them. The brown sugar had caramelized on the bottom making them crunchy, and gooey and delicious! The sunflower seed kernels worked very well giving that nutty goodness I had wanted. Despite almost forgetting the yeast, the project was quite a success!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Daylight Savings Time

Spring is, as you may have guessed, my favorite season of the year. The flowers, the warmth, the longer days all make me feel as though I have been brought back from the edge of darkness. I love the sun staying out longer. Being able to pull out the grill after work, (when I had a job), throw on some burgers and not have to use a flash light to finish cooking them. The sunlight is infectious. It gives me a sense of well being, a weight lifted from my shoulders.

Then, daylight savings time sets in. Daylight savings time is a good concept, thought up by Ben Franklin. His reasoning was to keep people from wasting the daily sunshine by sleeping through it. He also considered the idea of setting off a cannon at a certain time every morning to wake people, again to keep them from sleeping through the sunshine. Of the two, I believe daylight savings time was the better choice. If someone shot off a cannon every morning, I'd have to hurt them.

We are a very fickle people when it comes to daylight savings time. The first week of it is when we have our most mixed emotions about it. First we lose an hour of sleep the first night of it. It occurs on a weekend, so many Americans at least have the next day off, but most do not. Those that have to work that first Sunday have a hard time of it. They may even forget to change their clocks and end up late for work that day. That lost hour of sleep making them groggy and a little cranky. It doesn't end there. Even those that don't have to work until Monday have trouble resetting their inner clock to the new time. Suddenly, it is dark in the morning again when getting ready for work. That, itself, is disconcerting. Coffee is just not enough to jump start the morning. We feel all jumbled up inside, trying to get through a normal day.

Somehow, we get through the day that seemed longer than normal. We get ourselves together and leave for home. We walk outside, and there it is, the daylight we are saving. It lifts our spirits. We consider what we can do outside when we get home. We enjoy our drive home and look forward to the evening. We stop at the drive thru for supper so we can have a little extra time to bask in the sunlight. We play with the kids or take the dog for an extra long walk before we eat. We spend a little extra time looking at the sunset. We enjoy daylight savings time. Until tomorrow morning, when it will be dark again when we have to get out of bed. We are a fickle people.

Willie and I took advantage of the first day of daylight savings time yesterday. We raked  leaves, stinky ginkgo fruit and other debris from our back yard gardens. We found many plants slowly scraping their way to the sunlight. I imagined what I would plant as the weather warmed. Impatiens, snapdragons, daisies and alyssum flowed through my mind the way a spring flows through a forest.



Willie found new homes for some of our favorite statuary, including the windmill that Joshua made in high school and the butt frog that he hated. Willie started his yearly Where's Waldo with his beloved Iowa Hawkeye rock that the kids had gotten him one year for his birthday. He moves that rock from place to place every year trying to find the perfect place for it. I don't think I have ever seen it in the same place for more than a week at a time. We got a lot done yesterday, and rewarded ourselves with a trip into Danville to Penn Station. Willie ordered his favorite chicken teriyaki sandwich. I decided to be a little healthier than normal and ordered a grilled vegetarian sandwich. I felt I needed to, I had made big old cinnamon rolls for breakfast and ate two.

We got home, and what Willie likes to call "a good tired" overcame us both. Willie started a fire and we settled down to watch movies we rented on the way home. Our first day of daylight savings time was a success.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

I Have a New Mission in Life!

It has been months, it feels like, since I have had a good nights sleep. It is making me a little punchy, and just a tad bit violent. Poor Willie is walking on pins and needles, on top of egg shells, on top of thin ice not knowing when I am going to lose it completely. Every morning I get up and feel ready to kick the crap out of anyone who gets in my way.

Why? Why, you ask? HOT FRICKEN FLASHES!


I know, I know, you have heard this from me before. But I spend all evening freezing to death on the couch under a blanket. Then, after wasting an unbelievable amount of time online, I find myself ready to go to bed. I go upstairs. I brush my teeth, wash my face. I put on my pajamas, I wear summer pajamas all year long now a days. I get into bed still feeling a little chilly. I climb under the blanket. I snuggle up next to Willie, and close my eyes. 5... 4... 3.... 2... 1....... AAAUUURRRGGGG!!!!!! The blankets come flying off! The cat flees in terror! The dog whines in horror! The sweat starts forming all over my body, the nausea overwhelms me! I lay there in bed holding my stomach waiting for the dreaded hot flash to subside. I feel helpless and anxious.  I consider the idea of sleeping in the bathtub, or the refrigerator or better yet the freezer in the basement. Yeah, yeah, thats it, the freezer..... I consider getting up to head down to the basement, and finally it stops. I drift off to sleep.

Ten minutes later....... I am now fricken freezing to death! I wake up shivering. The sweat that covered my body has turned against me. It feels as though it has turned into a layer of ice covering every inch of my skin. I yank the covers back on. Again, causing the cat to flee and the dog to whine. I burrow in next to Willie in a desperate attempt to get warm. Finally, I drift back to sleep.

Twenty minutes later........ Are you KIDDING ME!!!!!!!!! Blankets fly off, cat flees, dog whines...... This pattern repeats at least five more times. Somehow, Willie sleeps through it all. Which I'm glad of, he works hard and needs his sleep. I finally doze off again, this time maybe for a WHOLE HOUR....

5:00 am...... BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP! Willie's alarm is going off, and going off, and going off...... Yes, he sleeps through that as well. I consider, for a moment, letting him know his alarm is going off by grabbing him by the hair, ripping his head off and throwing it at the alarm clock!!!! Then I remember his hair is only 1/4 of an inch long, this plan will not succeed. So, I opt for the gentle nudge, he still snores. Perhaps a subtle push off the bed would work better..... I try the gentle nudge again, this time it works, he gets up and turns off the alarm. I drift back to sleep.

Twenty minutes later..... yeah, yeah, you know the drill.

Finally, I get to sleep again. The dog starts scratching at his kennel and whimpering. It's now 7:00 am, he needs to go out. I get up, we go down stairs. It is 29 degrees outside. Do you think I'd get a hot flash NOW? You know, when it would be USEFUL!!! Of course not! We go out, I freeze, he poops. We come back in, yeah, I'm not going back to sleep now.

So, what is my new mission in life? What is the one thing I plan on dedicating my entire life to? I plan on finding out that one element of nature that thought hot flashes were a good idea, hunting it down and destroying it! There must be some (male) fairy, troll, or magical being somewhere that inflicted this upon us women of a certain age that I can dismember. First, I will pull off its stupid little wings, then, then, its little whiskers, one by one by one......  ha ha... hahaha ha ha...... HA HA.... mmmmwhaaa HAHA HA HA!!!!!!

Ok, forgive me, but I must now go to my happy place....

Friday, March 11, 2011

Changed the Look

What do you think? Leave a comment if you like. I think it is a little easier on the eyes. I like the way it puts a white boarder around the photos. Reminds me of the old polaroids my dad used to take when I was a kid. These are just some old photos I took years ago with my blackberry.

Hometown

Valerie by our old house in Booneville, Iowa
A friend of mine, Amy, posted a question on Facebook yesterday, "Your "hometown".... would that be where you were born or where you spent most of your childhood or where you graduated high school or where you have lived the past 14 years?"

That got me to thinking. It is easy for me to name my hometown, Des Moines, Iowa. I was born there, I went to school there, I got married there, you get the picture. I have only really had four years of my life when I didn't live in or around Des Moines. All of my good memories are in central Iowa. I lived in Waterloo, Iowa for two years while I was in college. That was a very hard time, no money, no car, but luckily, I had Willie and good friends to help me through.

Alyssa tooling around our old neighborhood
As I said, I automatically think of Des Moines as my hometown, not a blink about it. So, I was surprised to look at my kids' Facebooks and see that they have Van Meter, Iowa listed as their hometown. No reason for it to seem weird, that is where they grew up. We lived in Van Meter for years. Valerie graduated from Van Meter High School. For some reason however it still took me aback to think that my children do not consider my home town as their hometown. Why? I'm not sure. Is it just a self centered view that made me think that my children would think of my hometown as their hometown. Is it just that my idea of home is so ingrained in my very soul that I just assumed that my children would feel the same? Is that what home means?

My husband was an army brat. He moved from place to place, country to country. He was born in Hawaii, but still feels his hometown is Des Moines as well. Why? He didn't spend all of his childhood there. He didn't even spend most of it there. That is where his parents families were though. It is where his grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins were. That is where his parents called home. Even though he moved from place to place his idea of home was derived from his parents idea of home.

Joshua taking a break from the races
It's funny to me that while Willie got his idea of home from his parents, my children did not. I'm sure it is because of the very different up bringing. Willie moved from place to place, my children, for the most part lived mainly in central Iowa, and they spent their elementary years mostly in Van Meter. Is that the age where the idea of "hometown" begins? Since I lived in the same house from the day I was born until the day I left for college, I guess I will never know.

Being far away from home has definitely enhanced my feelings about hometown. While the place its self is important, I think home has more to do with people. Our friends, our families. Where we spent the most time with them, where we have the best memories of them. Maybe our true hometown is really in our soul, our very being.

This is how I answered Amy's question, "Your hometown is the place that makes you happiest to think about, and that gives you warm, happy feelings inside. The place where your heart first woke up and wants to go back to when you aren't there." So, instead of Des Moines in particular, I would have to say that central Iowa in general is my true hometown. Des Moines, Van Meter, Altoona, all are my hometown. I grew up in those places, I raised my family in those places. I made great and lasting friendships in those places. One day I hope to return to one of those places to spend many more happy years with my family and their growing families.

Willie, Alyssa and Joshua in "the circle"
On a different note, with the disaster that is occurring in Japan right now, please stop to say a prayer for all of those in harms way. Let us hope that most will return to their hometowns safely, wherever they are.