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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Just a Quick Note

Feeling MUCH better today! A little less self absorbed and a lot less whiney. Have much to do, going to be a good weekend! Can't wait!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Never Say Never

This is not going to be a fun post. It is not going to have photos. It is going to be a whiny post. So, if you aren't up for that I warn you to stop reading now. I'm not going to post this on facebook or twitter. I just need to vent and this is where I am going to do it.

When Willie decided he needed to make a change in his career, I supported him. I knew what he was going through at work and what it was doing to him. I knew he needed out. I got it. When we left Danville the first time I swore to myself I would never step foot in that town again. I guess the old "never say never" is wiser than we think.

When I agreed to come back here, I decided that if I was going to have to live here, I was done with my job. A job that I only liked because of the people I worked with. A job that I had actually found a replacement for, I was going to go back to school bus driving for a district that I had worked for before. My only real promise that I made to myself was that I was not going to work for the same place in Danville. I just wasn't going to do that.

I decided to look at this move as a chance to do something new. Maybe something I had never thought of before. Maybe just something simple, that I could go home from and not have to think about it and dread it. If I had to be torn away from my family, maybe there would be a good reason for it. If I couldn't see my beautiful granddaughter everyday, then something else would be there for me. I looked for the good in it. I trusted God that this was all going to work out for the best. I tried very hard to look on the bright side. It was very hard at times, I got very lonely for my family and very frustrated that I couldn't find a job.

Months went by and still no real job. I tried babysitting for the summer, but didn't make enough money. It was time to face reality. The only place that would hire me, was the one place I promised myself I wouldn't go to. Again, "never say never" punched me in the face and bit me in the ass.

Now, I can't stop feeling angry. I am so angry I just want to get in the car and go back to Des Moines screaming the whole way. I don't get it. I trusted that the one thing I wouldn't have to do is go back there. Now, don't get me wrong I AM NOT angry at Willie. I know this was the right move for him. I do. It was the right thing at the right time. It really was. I am angry at the universe, or God or Willie's old boss, (oh especially at Willie's old boss) or all of them for making this necessary to begin with. I love Willie, I want the best for him. But I want what is good for me too. Is that wrong? Is that just being selfish? I don't want to feel like this any more. If I have to be so far away from the people I cherish, all I want is a job I don't despise. Is that too much to ask?

I don't want to be angry any more. I want to trust that God really does have a plan for me and that he really is going to work this out. I want to trust, but right now, the anger makes it very hard.

Please, forgive my ranting, I just had to let it out somewhere.

Monday, August 22, 2011

August Easter Eggs

Funny thing about August, it's hard to find Easter egg dye, go figure. But Easter egg dying is exactly what I had in mind on this hot August day. Why? I am sure you are wondering. Have I lost my faculties? Is it time to question my sanity, even more than normal? No, not this time. There is a perfectly good explanation.

This weekend is my daughter's bridal shower. As the theme we are doing the seasons of the year. One of the seasons, of course being spring, and what says spring more than Easter.

Instead of boiling the eggs, I didn't want to take the chance of having rotten eggs by Saturday, I decided to blow the eggs. I seem to remember the process being much easier when I was much younger. I ended up with a head ache and a sore jaw. (Take your mind out of the gutter please.) It took most of the morning to get 13 eggs emptied out so they could be dyed. I was out of breath and exhausted by the end of the process.

 Now it was time to dye. My first try was to use watercolor paint. It worked, and I was happy with the result, mostly. It didn't really look like an Easter egg though. I got out the food coloring and experimented with it. My first try was an utter failure. I tried just dropping the coloring on the egg and letting it run down the egg. It looked ok, except that the egg was sitting in a pool of a mix of colors and it looked awful.

Next try was to make egg dye. I used cold water, vinegar, and the food coloring. The only reason I used the vinegar is that when you buy egg dye you have to use vinegar. I don't know that it really made any difference, but I added it anyway. It seemed to work. The colors were vibrant, and rich. I dropped the food coloring on the wet eggs and spun them on a paint brush. That was fun and made some cool effects. I was pretty happy with how that all worked out.

I wanted to personalize them a little too. I used a black sharpie to put Shane and Alyssa's initials on two of the eggs, and then an L on another. I was pretty proud of how those turned out. Then I put each of their names and Kahlen's name on three of the eggs.
 I decided to get even more creative and tried to draw a bride and groom on two of them. I'm pretty happy with how they turned out. I'll let you decide whether I am misguided in my happiness.

I got them all done. My ears were still ringing from blowing them. I decided to put them in the basket I had bought on clearance sale from Pottery Barn after real Easter, to take a picture to send Shane's mom and sister. We and my daughter Valerie are all planning this shower together. Since I am 400 miles away, sending pictures is my only way of letting them know what I am doing.

I get the pictures all set up and taken. I go to sit on the couch for a minute to get them all sent. As I relax for a minute, a gust of wind comes in the window. The curtain blows at full force. The sound of eggs crashing all over the table and on to the hardwood floor cut through my heart like a knife. I immediately jump up and run over. My heart breaking with each new cracking noise. Tears well up in my eyes. I wanted to scream! The one thing I can really do for this shower, was all of my hard work destroyed? Are you kidding me with this? I picked up each egg, carefully. I looked at them expecting the worst. They weren't destroyed, but some were cracked. I was mad! Very mad! At least they were still usable, but they weren't how I wanted them. It seems lately, everything ends in disaster.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Suitcase

The suitcase can arouse a very broad range of emotions. Some times the sight of a suitcase can be a happy exciting thing. You can imagine the face of an eight year old who was just surprised with a family trip to Disney World. Mouth smiling, eyes glowing and grinning as the packed suitcase is wheeled out to the front room.

Quite often the suitcase is a sickening thing to see. The stomach turning fiercely as it is carried away from you. The back of a soldier, going overseas to places not safe, holding the handle as it is taken on to a plane.

Then, the exact same suitcase, when being carried toward you, in what seems a moment that lasts forever, is a suitcase of miracles. The soldier returning home, finally, safely.

The suitcase has very strange powers over us. It can raise us up with wonderful emotions and crash us down in despair. It is our lifeline and our dread all at once. It can mean closeness and separation both at the same time.

I love packing my suitcase, but hate unpacking it. Packing my suitcase means, most likely, that I am getting to go somewhere fun. I am getting to go see people I love. Unpacking it means that I have left them behind and won't see them again for a long time. Packing is fun, unpacking is sad.

My suitcase has never been anywhere exciting. It has never been to Jamaica, or Europe, or even New York City. It has never been on an airplane, a cruise ship, or in a five star hotel. It has yet to be taken to the ocean, or the grand canyon. It is not a well seasoned traveling suitcase.

Where my suitcase does go, is home. Home, where we get to see the kids, where we get to see Kahlen, where we get to see friends and family. My suitcase, it may long to go on adventures, but it is never happier than when it is home.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Fun at the Iowa State Fair

Garden Bounty

I have spent the morning fire roasting vegetables from my garden. We have tomatoes, jalapenos  and carrots right now. I have not been happy with the tomato cages we have this year. The plants fell over and we have had many rot on the ground. So frustrating. The ones we have saved will become tomato sauce for pasta or chili (with the jalapenos). I don't know how to can, and the whole idea scares me. I'm afraid that I will end up killing someone. I choose to freeze  instead.

 The carrots are a different story. I really don't know exactly what to do with them. My plan was to cut them up and freeze them for soups and stews this winter. My friends, Dawn and Kelley, who's mothers actually did this type of thing remember there is more to it than that.

They remember their mothers cleaning and peeling and blanching them before freezing them. Suddenly my quick clean and chop idea got a little more complicated.

I thought long and hard about these beautiful and kind of strange looking carrots. I started thinking about the blanching process. What is blanching? It is a partial cooking process. So, do I actually have to blanch them, or can I just partially cook them? Hmmmm.

Well, I decided that a partial cooking of any sort seemed like it could work. Home grown carrots, for whatever reason are more bitter than the ones you get in the store. I don't know why, but they are. Blanching may help to remove some of this bitterness, but I wondered if you also ended up losing a little flavor in the process. I thought about roasting them in the oven. Roasting helps develop the sugars, I thought that should help to take the bitterness away, right?

We haven't had to have the air conditioner on for about a week now. I love that. I didn't want to run the oven and heat up the house. I didn't want to have to turn on the air. I was going to fire roast the tomatoes and jalapenos on the grill anyway, why not the carrots? Not only will it develop the sugars, but it will add a smokiness that will be good in soups and stews. Well, that's my theory anyway. I suppose if this fire roasting and then freezing thing was a good idea, Bobby Flay would have done it years ago. Still going to give it a go. I'll let you know this winter if it worked out.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Unexpected Finds

 Today I had to drive down to Mattoon to deposit my first Walgreens check in the bank. It felt kind of good to know the unpleasantness of returning to a job I hate put money in the bank. Having the day off, and wanting to think about other things I decided that since I had driven an hour and a half I might as well do something.

I drove down a road that I thought a sign had said would lead me to a lake. Turns out, I thought wrong, or at least I never found it. Then I saw a sign for "Lincoln Log Home," and decided what the heck.

As I was driving, I thought to myself, I'm going to feel real stupid if it turns out that it was a model house made out of Lincoln logs. In Illinois it seems everyone tries to cash in on Lincoln, so I wasn't sure what I would find.

 As it turned out it was a real site. It was the last farm that President Abraham Lincoln's father Thomas lived on. At one time the president actually owned part of the farm himself. Bad investments by both his father and his step-brother made it necessary for Lincoln to buy out part of the farm to keep his family on it.
 I have heard stories and accounts that Lincoln's father was less than loving to him and even cruel. The fact that he was able to put that aside and help his father in his times of need says something about the character of our sixteenth president.

He did love his step-mother and that fact is shown with quotes on plaques throughout the park. On his last trip to the farm before his inauguration he went with his stepmother to his father's grave.  Perhaps it was for her that he helped his father.
 The split rail fence brings to mind the many stories of Lincoln as a boy. Though, I don't think he lived at the farm, it is easy to imagine him working there. I can see him feeding the livestock and helping to mend the roof when coming to visit. Seeing his father age and become less independent may have softened his childhood memories, making it easier to do what was needed.
There was another house on the site called the Sergent Farm. I don't know anything about it, but it must have had some importance since it has been preserved on the Lincoln farm site as well.

When I walked into that little house I first noticed the flooring. I jokingly said to the lady working there that I didn't think the vinyl was period correct. She giggled and told me what it really was. It was painted canvas. Very period correct in point of fact. I was intrigued! It looks like vinyl. I think it is something I am going to have to investigate on the Internet to find out more. She said it was basically the same canvas used on covered wagons and probably painted with a milk based paint. Yes, I must learn more!

Whenever I go to a historic site, especially ones with homes, the size of things like doorways and stair steps always catch my attention. People were so much smaller back in the 1850's. We now bump our heads on the doorways and our feet feel clumsy on the stair steps. The size of a cradle, it looks like a doll's cradle. Yet, it was used for a baby. I think of Kahlen,  even as a newborn she would have looked huge in it.

Our lives are so different now. In many ways better, but in others, not really. The connection to neighbors, the connection to the land, there is so much we have lost with technology and advancements. Still, I do like my central heating system in the dead of winter.

I am happy I didn't find the lake I thought I was looking for. I will look for it again one day. I hope to bring Kahlen to see the Lincoln log home someday, and maybe a picnic at the lake would be nice afterwards. If I hadn't taken a detour off my planned route, I may have never found this little place in history. I think I am going to make it a habit to venture off of the interstate from time to time. I keep finding wonderful things there.

The Iowa State Fair

 After the big birthday party on  Saturday Willie and I took Kahlen to the Iowa State Fair. We went with our son Josh and soon to be daughter in law Caitlin.

If you have never been to the Iowa  State fair, here are a few things you need to know. First, this is a pre-caucus year. Iowa, being the first state in the nation to vote for who will run for president, gets flooded with candidates during the fair. There is good and bad in this situation. The good is that Iowa gets a lot of revenue from candidates, reporters and others following the candidates.
 The bad part of being the first in the nation caucus state, the political commercials. For every candidate there are political action groups both for and against them. For every PAC there is at least 15,000 irritating, and less than honest commercials.
 The fair is a favorite place for these candidates. They schmooze, they shake hands, they smile, and let's face it, they lie. Finally, they leave.

The second thing to know about the fair, and this is so much more important, there is FOOD. Lots of it. If you can put it on a stick, coat it and deep fat fry it, it is at the state fair. This year the new fried adventure was deep fat fried butter. I never found it, can't tell you how it works or if it tastes better than it sounds. It sounds awful to me, but I guess those who tried it liked it. My favorite fried food on a stick is fried pineapple. Ok, yeah, I go for a good corn dog as well. There are also pork chops on a stick, chicken on a stick, bananas on a stick. Oh and deep fat fried pickles! They aren't on a stick, but there are YUMMY!

The next thing to know is there is always a butter cow. There has been a butter cow at the fair for the past 100 years. How they kept it from melting before reliable refrigeration, I don't know. Iowa gets very hot in the summer and fair time is usually the hottest week of the year.  Some years the butter cow lady will also make other butter sculptures. One year she did Elvis, one year she did a tribute to the first moon landing. It is always a must see at the fair.
The fair is 100% family oriented. There is something for everyone. There are animals to see, including the big boar and big bull. Everyone likes to stand next to the big boar pen just waiting to see him get up and move. He usually doesn't. The big bull, no one messes with him.

There are chickens and bunnies and ducks and sheep. There is just about everything a little kid could want to see.

Of course there is the midway, with its rides and carny folk. I don't take Kahlen through there yet. She is a little young for that. I do look forward to taking her on the ferris wheel one day.
There is so much to do and see. There is art, music, and of course toddlers dancing in the streets. We were very lucky to have a beautiful day.  We walked and ate and watched Kahlen happily dance for 45 minutes. She had a lemonade that seemed to have sugared her up just enough to keep her going for hours. I thought for sure she would fall asleep on the shuttle bus back to the car. She didn't.
It was the perfect end to the perfect day. Once in the car Kahlen finally passed out, happy and content.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Happy Birthday, Kahlen!!!

 Kahlen is TWO! TWO!!! Can you believe it? Our little "Punky Brewster" has changed from the baby born two years ago. The little helpless, screaming, pooping blob all swaddled so carefully in a receiving blanket is gone. She changed swiftly into a crawling baby getting into what ever she could find and chasing kitty whenever kitty made the mistake of getting in her way.
Soon she was cruising the furniture and then wobbly walking around the living room. The baby, changed into a toddler and is now becoming a little girl! Time has flown by and not likely to slow down anytime soon.
 Her birthday party was a lot of fun! It was at her Grammy's house. (Thank you, Anita) Lots of people were there. Kahlen spent a lot of time running from person to person greeting and hugging. There were a lot of kids there for her to play with, which kept her very busy. She had presents and cupcakes and all of the rest of the birthday essentials.

Puppies were invited to the party as well. We brought Bazinga along. He got to play with Anita's dog, Bubba for a while.  Bubba was about 10,000 times bigger than Bazinga, yet Bazinga seemed to think he could take him down. Bubba seemed fine with it and quickly taught Bazinga a few manners and they got along fine after.

The day went much too quickly. How come the fun days always do? Kahlen was getting tired and needed a nap, people started leaving, the day was a success. Kahlen was a happy two year old. She had been the center of attention as it always should be in Kahlen world, life was good.  

One year ago
 Can you believe how she's changed?!?
Two years ago

Thursday, August 11, 2011

High School Reunion

 I went to Des Moines Technical High School. I graduated, (wait for it......... it has been a very long time so this will be a very long wait.........) THIRTY YEARS AGO! It astounds me every time I think of it. I grew up at the tail end of the generation that said "never trust anyone over thirty." Now, I have been out of high school for that long. Something is just very wrong about that!

My high school was very different and unique. It was a technical high school. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, it was a school that not only taught you everything you needed to graduate from a regular high school, but taught you a trade at the same time.
 In many ways it was a typical high school, with basketball, football and track teams. In other ways it was very different. We took all of the normal classes, English, math, history. Along with the traditional curriculum we also had a core area. We spent three hours a day in our core areas. Core areas could be anything from nursing, to accounting, to commercial art to auto mechanics. These core areas are what set our school apart from the other high schools in Des Moines, or really, just about anywhere. It was really something very special. An experience I will never forget, and certainly have never ever regretted.

Having spent three hours a day with the same people over a high school career, doing something that you were very interested in together, it brings a different social dynamic than your normal high school. I was in the commercial art core area. We had the range of people from the homecoming queen to the outcast druggy in our core area. But we were all brought together with the common interest of art.

I went to a traditional high school for my first year. I never quite fit in anywhere. I wasn't a "freak" as we called the crowd that enjoyed smoking pot in the back of the school bus. I certainly did not fit in with the "jock" crowd. My idea of an athletic activity was a game called slaughter that my friends and I enjoyed playing. It was not an organized sport in anyway, which is probably why we all enjoyed it. Not one of us were the organized sports type. We fit in with each other, but kind of stuck out in our school. In junior high some of us were mercilessly teased and picked on by both the freaks and the jocks.

When I transferred to Tech, I fit in. Students came from all parts of Des Moines. I was from the south side, my husband, who also graduated from Tech, was from the west side. One of my good friends was from the east side. Most of the students at Tech were there for a reason. The reason was our chosen core area. That is what brought us together. It was there that the homecoming queen and the freak from the back of the bus found common ground.  Not that it was a utopia in any way. There were still issues and still those bound and determined to cause drama, but it was not quite as pronounced there.

Sadly, the Des Moines school district decided to close Tech in 1986. The building remained a school, but no longer a Technical high school. It became more of a magnet school, where students from all of the schools from Des Moines and even surrounding school districts come to take classes that are not offered at their home school, not necessarily  a vocational class.

We got to tour the building for our reunion. It has changed to the point of being unrecognizable in many parts. There is now an elementary school and middle school in the building. (Perhaps this is the time I should point out that the building is a five story former WWII bomb factory with two basements.) The part of the building that I spent most of my time is completely different. The basement where Willie took auto mechanics looks mostly the same.

The reunion was a multi year reunion, not just our class. It was planned quickly and many who wanted to come couldn't due to short notice, but it was still well attended and a lot of fun. It was good to see a few old friends.

The best part was spending the weekend with my two best friends ever, Dawn and Kelley. The weekend was full of laughter till we had to run to the rest room or wet our pants. Memories of old times and jokes about menopause, part of the whole running to the bathroom problem. Each time we get together it is like no time has passed since we walked down the isle of the auditorium wearing our blue robes with blue and gold tassels.

We have been friends since we were McCombs Jr. High Trojans, and became Des Moines Tech Engineers. I can't see anything changing that now. We have shared tears, laughter, jobs and adventures. We fought over boys and built snowmen and finger painted on Dawn's mom's kitchen floor, yeah, we were in high school when we did those things, (maybe that explains a little about not fitting in at times.) We grew up together and are still growing and learning together. We live in three different states, yet have a bond that won't break. I don't know how I got so lucky, or what I did right to get to experience junior high, high school and life with these extraordinary women, but I thank God every day for them.

Lives of the Past

 It was a beautiful day outside today. Much too beautiful to spend inside watching TV or, heaven forbid, cleaning! Bazinga had been left alone for much of the day most days the last week, due to my new job, so leaving him behind was not an option.

We climbed into the car, with no specific goal in mind. I started the car, pulled out of the drive, and just drove. I turned the car east on federal highway 136. When it curved to go into Danville I kept going straight onto Illinois 119, which changed into another highway once we crossed into Indiana. We ended up on  George Rogers Clark memorial highway. Finally, we ended up in Attica, Indiana. There were interesting old buildings in the downtown area, which I may post on a future blog. Today though I have other thoughts on my mind.

 Not ready to just turn around and go home I turned down a road and followed signs that would lead to a church. I was hoping to find an old church with a cemetery with very old grave stones. I was disappointed to find a church probably built in the 70's. I turned around and headed back toward Attica.
 Still not ready to go home, I turned down another road or two of the "less traveled" type. There I found what I had been looking for. An old country cemetery. It was in the middle of no where. It had stories to tell.

One story was about Hazel B. York. She was buried next to her beloved husband.  Hazel must have loved her husband dearly and faithfully. She was widowed at the age of 28, but passed away at the age of 94. Sixty-six years passed between the loss of her husband Arthur, and her own death.
 Yet there she was, faithfully buried next to her husband, still with his name. Presumably, she never remarried. Perhaps she had found the love of her life and could never find anyone that could compare. I thought to myself that, perhaps, they had had a child or two before Mr. York passed. Maybe the business of raising children kept Mrs. York happy and fulfilled to the point that she never felt the need to replace Mr. York.  I hoped that she had lived a full life despite being widowed so young. Sixty-six years would be a long time to mourn a husband lost, and a very lonely life.

There were sad stories of children that had passed much too young. It reminded me of how lucky I have been. I have been very blessed with healthy children that I happily watched grow into adults. I never had to go through the pain and I have to guess pure agony of losing a baby. Losing children was such a common thing at one time in our history.

 There was more than one large headstone flanked by two, three or even more small headstones of children that would never grow up. Still lovingly tended, even after nearly a century. It was touching to know that someone still remembers such tiny lives, and not let them be left behind.

This particular little cemetery was not next to a church, it was not close to a community that I could see. It was however, well tended and each grave carefully preserved.

Cemeteries hold the history of our country. Not the big history found in books and websites. The little history of the lives of the people that built our nation. The people who fought in the wars, the people who raised the children that grew into the history makers in the books. The people that sacrificed and lived and laughed and cried. Their stories are there.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Looking Forward

After a week at the new job, I am exhausted and disheartened. Nothing seems to be going right and everything I try to do fights me. From trying to put my application in, to every step since then. It is like the universe is telling me that I am not supposed to be working there, but at the same time not giving me any viable options. It is frustrating. I feel like my life is at a crossroads, with no signs to tell me which way to turn. I feel like I'm supposed to reach for something loftier, but I have no ladder to climb to get there.

So, for now, I will try very hard to concentrate on good things. I will put my time in at work, work hard and do my best but look beyond the eight hours, and look forward to better things.

This weekend I get to go home for Kahlen's birthday party. I am so excited. She is changing so quickly now. My little grand baby, grew into a toddler and is turning quickly into a little girl. A little girl with definite likes and dislikes. A personality, with a sense of humor. I can't wait to see her. She will be two years old on Friday. TWO! Time passes so swiftly. Her smile will brighten my universe!

And there are weddings! And bridal showers to look forward to. The first of which is Alyssa's bridal shower. It is in about 2 and 1/2 weeks, another wonderful reason to get to go home. The next few months will be a whirlwind of activity and things to get done. I am looking forward to good times with family and friends. It helps to get me through the here and now.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Shades of Summer

 I started back to work this week. Unfortunately, it is at a Walgreens in Danville. When I found out I had to move back to this area, the one thing I very much did not want to do was go back to work at a Danville Walgreens. The job market around here was not cooperative, money got very tight, and getting a job where ever I could became a necessary evil.

That said, I have been very stressed by it, so a day of fun was in order. Willie and I both had today off work. I decided the best thing for stress was to go hiking in one of my favorite state parks.
 I have posted about this park before, Shades State Park in Indiana. I had winter pictures, spring pictures and decided some summer pictures were in order. Come this fall you may see fall pictures as well. I didn't think to bring my regular camera with me, so these were all taken on my iPhone, (which I have dropped on more than one occasion, I think it has affected my camera) the quality is not the best.

Of course Bazinga came along, too. The weather was very cooperative, finally the long heat wave seems to have broken. We got wet, and dirty and sweaty and stinky. I think we all had a very good time.

I don't have a lot to say, so I will just leave you with the images of a very stress free, very needed day. (Willie wouldn't let me take any pictures of him, big surprise, but he really was there!)

this little guy stopped long enough for me to get this shot, ignore my shadow please