Saturday, May 30, 2009

Better to laugh than cry

5-30-09 chucking brain
I received this in an email yesterday. Thanks to my friend Karen in Arizona. There was no mention of an author or where it originated, but it sure sounds like something from David Letterman. I wouldn't know because I'm usually in bed by then.

The top twelve indicators that the economy is bad--

12. CEO's are now playing miniature golf.

11. I got a pre-declined credit card in the mail.

10. I went to buy a toaster oven and they gave me a bank.

9. Hotwheels and Matchbox car companies are now trading higher than GM in the stock market.

8. Obama met with small businesses - GE, Pfizer, Chrysler, Citigroup
and GM-to discuss the Stimulus Package.

7. McDonalds is selling the 1/4 ouncer.

6. People in Beverly Hills fired their nannies and are learning their
children's names.

5. The most highly-paid job is now jury duty.

4. People in Africa are donating money to Americans. Mothers in Ethiopia are telling their kids, "Finish your plate; do you know how many kids are starving in America?"

3. Motel Six won't leave the lights on.

2. The Mafia is laying off judges.

And my most favorite indicator of all:

1. If the bank returns your check marked as "insufficient funds," you
have to call them and ask if they meant you or them.

Friday, May 29, 2009

More Rhubarb

5-29-09 Happy taste-bud brain
Although it doesn’t seem like it since Memorial Day has passed, but it’s STILL May and I am STILL eating rhubarb.

When I was visiting my parent’s last weekend, Mom had some rhubarb from her garden to use and she asked me if I wanted a Rhubarb Crisp. I had to tell her that this didn’t sound appealing since I had been making and eating Rhubarb Crisp for the last 4 weeks. I think she was surprised and I myself couldn’t believe I was turning down one of my favorite desserts.

Instead, I asked her about another recipe of hers which I liked growing up, but had never have made myself- Rhubarb Cake. Mom being pretty organized, unlike me, was able to locate this recipe fairly quickly and I volunteered to bake this Friday evening.

I guarantee that this recipe is easy, since I was able to execute successfully.

Rhubarb Cake
9 x 13 pan (lightly sprayed with oil)
Bake 350 degree oven for 40 minutes

Mix together by hand:
½ Cup shortening (I used Veg Oil)
1 ½ Cup brown sugar
1 Egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 Cup buttermilk
Mix the above together, then add the flour, soda, and last the rhubarb.
2 Cups flour
1 tsp soda
3 Cups rhubarb (cut into cubes)

Topping to sprinkle on top of cake before put into oven.
½ Cup white sugar
2 to 4 tsp Cinnamon (to your taste)
1/3 Cup chopped nuts (pecan or walnuts)

This cake was so delicious, we devoured it all within 24 hours, and I ended up making another cake on Sunday, which was gone by the time I left town on Monday afternoon.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Cemetery visit

5-28-09 reverent brain
Memorial Day Weekend part III: Cemetery visit

Saturday morning I woke to the sounds of rolling thunder off in the distance and gentle rain. It was a lazy morning in which the plans to visit the Farmers Market and Cemetery were put on hold until the rain passed. This occurred late morning, so my sister and I both laid in bed giving our sore bodies, from yesterday’s work, a chance to recuperate.

Mother had prepared the list of flowers arrangements needed since we were to visit all three cemeteries in town: Riverside, Sunny Side, and the Catholic Cemetery, and we didn’t want to forget anyone. Our list actually only included two family plots and the rest were family friends. I also came prepared with a few of my polished Alaskan rocks which I like placing on the graves. I’m not sure where I first learned of this tradition (Jewish, I believe), but I thought it was a cool idea and I have done this now for a few years.

Since the grass was still wet, we mostly drove around in the car and didn’t do much walking around this year. But I was able to take in the sights and enjoy the lovely song birds, especially at Riverside Cemetery. This is my favorite Cemetery in town. My first experience going there was as a child when Dad took my sister and I there to fish, because as the name states, it is next to the river. This is the oldest cemetery in town and has beautiful old trees and some interesting old monuments.

Here is a sampling of the older monuments along with a few of the interesting new monuments which have odd items placed along side.

This grave below is of a 19 year old man. There is a can of Pepsi, some hot sauce bottles and what we decided looked like containers with paint balls. Notice the monument in the background has the etching of a farm.

The next picture is of a motorcycle engine. This is the grave of my distant cousin who was my age and died about 15 years ago.

My all these souls Rest in Peace!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

My missing husband

5-27-09 zoom zoom brain
Memorial Day Weekend part II: My missing husband

I’ve been asked where Greg was over the long weekend, since he was not with me up in northern Iowa at my parent’s home. For those of you who know Greg well, I’m sure you can guess (in general) what activity might occupy him on a long weekend. If it was in the fall, yes, it would have been a Brown’s Football game, but this time of year his weekend trip dealt with CARS!

My husband has a passion for cars, which I find ironic, since his father’s family side (Beachy) comes from an Amish/Mennonite background in Ohio and they didn’t drive cars. However when we first met, Greg was telling me about an Amish saying which describes any Amish family that takes on more modern living styles is called “going Beachy”, since the Beachy family at some point became the first family that would drive a car (basic black car). So supposedly the “Beachy” family tends to be a more progress family as far as Amish go… but not every Beachy family is the same, so I probably should not try to make generalities like this.

Greg’s father Bert, in his lifetime owned a gas station and was a mechanic, and later drove a truck. Thus Bert first had this love of cars and I believe passed it on to Greg. It was a standing joke in my family to expect Greg to buy a different car every year we were married early on. This went on for at least the first 10 years- Greg would be selling and buying some different car. I told Greg that I didn’t mind (too much) that he changes cars yearly, as long as he didn’t change wives. Currently he has settled on 4 cars that he loves, so we have been stable for a few years.

So over the Memorial Day Weekend, Greg drove his Miata down to Texas to participate in the National Miata Meet which included driving time on a race track. Greg was in heaven and I was happy that he was happy, even if it meant that we will be apart for 11 days until we see each other again this coming weekend. In these pictures he sent me, I see that Greg has shaved his winter beard. Yeah! I can't wait to smooch that face!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

My sister

5-26-08 sibling brain
Memorial Weekend Part I: My Sister

A few hours after my arrival at my parents on Thursday evening, my sister came walking through the front door about 9:00 PM to surprise Mom and Dad. I knew she was planning to drive in from her home in Chattanooga TN, but I had not said anything to Mom and Dad. I wanted to maintain my skill at keeping a secret. I did try to leave a hint by pulling out the bottom part of the trundle bed, but Mom just thought I preferred the bottom mattress.

As we went to bed that night, I couldn’t help but think about how special this weekend would be with just us four souls together under one roof. No husbands, no grandkids…. This hasn’t happened in at least two decades I’m guessing.

My sister Jan and I shared my old bedroom since Dad has taken over her old bedroom for his office. I must say it didn’t take long for Jan and I to fall into old habits. We both were notorious for messy rooms at teenagers. We easily destroyed the room in less than the first 24 hours. My Dad’s famous words were always…. “This room is a pigsty”… however, I think the pigs here in Iowa would be offended by that comparison- they are much cleaner.

Even at the kitchen table, our old habits took hold. We sat in our usual seating arrangements which meant that I, as the youngest and low man on the totem pole, had the chair with my back to the TV….. AND I didn’t even mind. In a world of change, the familiar routines of the weekend were comforting to me.

Friday morning Jan and I started in the “Honey Do List” that Mom and Dad had made for me. I was happy that my sister was now here to work with me. It doesn’t happen often when I do chores, but I was actually feeling very joyful while we all were outside in the garden working together.

The first project was weeding, laying down 14 bags of mulch, and pulling dandelions. My Dad had his camera out and he is notorious for his many unflattering pictures of my Mom’s rear end over the years. I became aware of one such photo-op, thus I jumped in the picture and encourage Dad to shoot us working! As my Dad would laugh…. “hee, hee, hee”….

I often call my sister a “helicopter mother” since she is constantly in contact with her two children via phone or texting. Sara and Christopher are in their early 20’s…. but Jan just can’t seem to cut the apron stings. If caring about her family TOO MUCH is a crime, well then she is guilty. However, during this weekend time together I have to admit I have come to appreciate more this “helicopter quality” in Jan, since this is the same love and dedication she brings to Mom, Dad and me.

Maybe she can be a controlling, bossy big sister at times, but I feel lucky to have someone like her who is fiercely dedicated and willing to help with our aging parents. She has great passion towards us all.

My big sister is more of a blessing than a curse, since I know when things get tough, she will be there to help..... and hold my hand when I'm nervous.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Blog limitations

5-25-09 Vacation brain

I arrived in my hometown for the long weekend on Thursday evening around 7:00PM to find my parents, age 84 & 81 watching Comedy Central. They were sitting there at the kitchen table laughing out loud. It seems that they have given up watching CNN news and now are in the habit of watching The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. Both my sister and I enjoy watching these shows, so sometime along the way Mom and Dad picked up the habit.

One of the funniest Quotes from Stephen Colbert was when he was addressing the importance of newspapers….. when moving, you can’t wrap your dishes in a blog.”

(or something close to that!)

Stephen Colbert can always but a smile on my face!
I AM in LOVE with him! The funny guys could always get under my sweater! (Unfortunately there wasn't much there to be had)

Friday, May 22, 2009

Happy Memorial Day

5-22-09 respectful brain

I was looking through the “family history book” my Mom has created for my sister and I. I came upon this picture of my relatives in the cemetery.

I too will be in this same cemetery this weekend. Maybe I will take my camera and have my Mom, sister and I pose for a picture so the future generations can compare us. My Mom still follows the traditions of placing flowers on graves on Memorial Day.

In my youth, I begrudgingly would accompany her most years. However, I never admitted it at the time, but I did find our hometown cemetery to be a very beautiful place in springtime. I loved the geraniums, peonies and lilacs that would be there. Now as an adult, I will admit I actually look forward going with my Mother. I’m slowly starting to learn where each grave is located. I enjoy looking at the old-old stones, but also am fascinated my some newer monuments. Sad to say, we mostly take artificial flowers with us now.

I’ll have to post more pictures next week from my trip home.

Thus, I will be taking the long weekend off, so no blogs to read from me… Instead, I urge you to spend your time walking through a cemetery and see what interesting things you might discover there when you take a closer look.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Garden advice please

5-21-09 olfactory nerve brain

I am so glad to be in Des Moines for a few weeks, just in time to enjoy the blooming of my dwarf lilac bushes. They smell so wonderful! Soon the peonies will also be blooming. So far we are having a wonderful spring and my garden seems to be growing tall and large.
I need some help from my readers who garden and have more knowledge than I. Can you tell me if this plant below is a flower worth keeping, or is it a weed?

This came under the fence from my neighbors garden. I had been pulling it out last year, but since I haven't spent too much time in the yard yet this spring, this plant is now growing. I'm wondering if I should just let it be? It's in an area that looks OK, since the daffodils will slowly die out.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

More "LIFE" to ponder

5-20-09 Andy Rooney brain?
"Do you ever wonder?".............
I’m probably stepping out into deep water, well over my head, but I’m still in a pondering mood this week. I ponder to examine questions bouncing around in my brain; I ponder to learn from others; I ponder to keep my mind open.

My muse today is: can a person be anti-abortion and pro-choice at the same time? … Because that’s what I think I am. No one aspires to have an abortion.

But I still don’t understand if a clump of cells (i.e. future life) is so precious, why isn’t human life of all kinds as precious? Why aren’t the strong pro-life people also the same people who are anit-war, and anti-death penalty? ALL life should be precious, even the life of the mother.

I believe in life, but I also don’t think government should make personal choices of what I can or can’t do with my body.

With that said: I read an interesting commentary piece in the KC Star Newspaper on Sunday. I also saw this same article in the DM Register Newspaper when I returned to Iowa on Sunday evening. Maybe you read this article as well, by Ellen Goodman, “Should abortion be a GOP issue?”

Goodman writes about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg who has spoken about “the case that got away”. A female nurse, who was an Air Force captain in 1970, got pregnant and her commanding officer told her to have an abortion or resign. Instead, this female choose a lawsuit to keep her baby which argued the right to bear or not bear a child was her personal choice. “Government intervention was a violation of her liberty”.

In her article, Goodman ponders about how the whole abortion debate might have been different if this case was the one taken to the Supreme Court instead of Roe vs. Wade.

I’m pondering that too?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Iowa Addendum

5-19-09 evening surprised brain
WOW! Iowa again in the spotlight..... Shawn Johnson the Olympian Gymnast from Des Moines Iowa won Dancing with the Stars! My friend Ann and I were watching together this evening. Actually we thought Gilles would win, and the vote was so close by 1/2 percent difference.... but Shawn did it!

A quick google search led me to Shawn Johnson's very own web site! Who knew? I wonder what Shawn will do next in her life! ?

Back to the future (again)

5-19-09 Iowa brain

“Back to the future” is what I call my 3 hour drive home from Kansas City to Des Moines. KC appears to be almost 2 weeks ahead of Des Moines as far as spring goes and I get to relive a little more spring. I started noticing the difference in southern Iowa. The trees were less full and there was still the light yellow green hues of spring in the leaves and grass. Southern Iowa is really beautiful. I’m really noticing it more with my new 20/20 vision. The rolling hills and woods are nothing like the flat northern Iowa farm land where I grew up.

All in all, I had a pleasant late afternoon drive on Sunday. The most interesting thing I saw in northern Missouri was a wild turkey running in the grassy median of the interstate. I saw no sign of a chase, so I only hoped that this silly bird would find its way to one side or the other without being hit by a car.

I did get a bit of shock arriving back in Des Moines about 7:30PM with the temperature change; KC was 72 degrees and DM was only 55 degrees. The radio weather report was predicting a low in the 40’s, so I came inside the cold house and turned the furnaces on first thing. Another shock was seeing all the whirly-bird seeds that had fallen off the Maple trees. They covered the ground and are thick in the grass and unfortunately the trees still contain tons more yet to come down. I believe I will be cleaning out the front rain gutters this week.

This trip my brain was fairly quiet, unlike my last trip back in April. I mostly listened to music on the radio and enjoyed the country scenery. Thank goodness there was no talk radio on Sunday afternoon to be heard. However, I did have one political conversation with myself…. Pondering why “socialism” is the new thing to fear?

I’m no expert of course, but if the human race started with an existence of living in caves or grass huts or whatever and having to defend, forage, and feed oneself….. I guess you could call it a life full of freedom, since you alone would be calling all the shots, but that sounds like a hard life too- a “dog eat dog” world, survival of the fittest.

Slowly, I suppose a different way of life evolved when a few people decided to work together and form groups to help each other survive by sharing, cooperating, taking care of each other. Isn’t that basically a family? When you expand your family out to a larger community, then rules are set in place and you have a civilized society. The purpose seems simple- to help ensure survival of the many. Maybe some freedom has to be given up to live this coexistent type of life….. but I think this is where I’d rather live.

Didn’t the Pilgrims live like this and the groups of people who came to American together to live in the first colonies? Isn’t a civilized society the way America started? Others I suppose would argue that the “wild west” mentality is the true America. Carry your gun, take whatever you want and keep your eyes out for the Indians (or whoever is declared the “bad guys” of the day)…. Today, some people think the bad guys are the gays and the socialists.

I could throw my hands up and say “when will we ever learn?”…. but you know what?…. I think we are starting to learn…. I see progress and I still see hope. The world is becoming smaller as our “family” becomes larger. So I ended that conversation with myself on a positive note as I ended my 3 hour drive to Iowa….. IOWA is an Indian word that means “the beautiful land”. We aren’t just all pigs and corn (and whirly-birds) here!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Reward for aging

5-18-09 celebrating brain

Some of my girlfriends and I have been faithfully watching the TV show “Dancing with the Stars” (DWTS) for several years. This season many of us in Iowa are cheering for Shawn Johnson the Olympian gymnast, since she is from Iowa. Shawn is doing well for being only 17 years old. Last season on DWTS I had to cheer on Cloris Leachman. Cloris too is originally from Iowa, but I was rooting for her not because of that fact, but because she was a feisty old women. I was intrigued by her, entertained by her humor, and I was inspired.

Last weekend Cloris Leachman was in Des Moines making a few appearances for charity. She even brought along her dancing partner to entertain. I would have enjoyed seeing her, but I was in KC at that time. However, my friend Ann did get to attend and Ann included this in her travel blog on May 10th, (scroll to the end to see pictures and read about Cloris).

Ann is my friend who I met in 2005, traveling with the Drake University study trip to Europe, thanks to my husband's MPA class. Ann is like Cloris Leachman in many ways. Ann has a BOLD spirit. She was born in Trinidad and her father is Chinese and her mother is Indian, which gives Ann some amazing genes to work with. Ann is feisty, funny and I real go-getter….. and I enjoy her loud laughter.

As I have aged over the last few years, I have observed that my girlfriends and I are becoming more bold, silly and not afraid to speak our minds. Gone are the shy, timid girls worried about looking and acting perfect. This is truly the reward for tuning 50! (Watch out guys!)

Here’s to Cloris and Ann…. two strong women who inspire!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Tornado Day part II

5-16-09 interrupted brain
Now, where was I?
Out of the basement, safe, and standing in the middle of the street.... wondering where the neighbors garage had blown away to while leaving the car untouched... AND where is my Dad?

Long story short, at least I will attempt to shorten.... My mom and I, maybe Jan too, I don't fully remember, started walking east down our street to assess the damage. It became clear within a block that we couldn't proceed safely due to down power lines. I WAS scared at that point and wanted to get back home since it was starting to rain again with more rumbling thunder.

At some point, with in a hour, Grandpa walked up to our house in a daze after making his way on foot across town. He was our first report of how bad the damage was between his house and ours. Luckily his house had also been spared. However, most of everything else between had been flatten. Grandpa then took off to walk the six blocks SE of our house to see if the nursing home had been damaged. Luckily it was OK, as well as the hospital which was just south of our house.

My Dad had been driving the school bus full of the boy's and girl's High School Golf team back from an out of town meet. They drove into Elm first which had also been hit by the storm and there he learned that Charles City had been hit by a tornado.

Dad did show up at some point that evening to check up on us, how I don't know. He then headed down town to help set up the Red Cross Shelter in the Lutheran Church, the ONE church that was left undamaged. Dad was on the City Council at that time and member of the disaster team.

I don't remember if we ever ate any dinner that evening. My strongest memories of that night was hearing all the sirens from the ambulances coming and going. We lived just off of Main Street on the side of town just down the road from the Hospital. The sirens scared me more then ever, so I was allowed to sleep with my sister in her room, probably for several nights.

Thirteen people were killed in Charles City, and the tornado cut a path of destruction straight through town from the south end all the way to the north and beyond. Most of the churches were destroyed, along with part of downtown. Luckily the Junior and Senior High Schools were unharmed.

I believe Mom and Dad kept us away from the damaged areas for several weeks, but even then it was clear to me the extent of damage was unbelievable. At that time there was no tornado rating system, but in retrospect they categorized this storm as a "F5" tornado.

I think I missed my Methodist Church the most. It was too far gone to save. It was a beautiful old limestone building.

After all was said and done, the tornado changed our town in many ways. Sure most of the buildings were eventually rebuilt, and we even got a downtown shopping mall out of the "urban renewal", but in many ways things were never the same.

I can't image being an adult at that time and dealing with this all. That year of 1968 had already brought the tragic killings of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King. I have to hand it to my parents, they kept us feeling safe, and protected us from the all the worries of the time. We were allowed to just be kids and we did enjoy our summer which came 2.5 weeks early.

That summer of 1968 was memorable too. I got to go to a horse camp by Guthrie Center with 6 other neighborhood girls and I took my first plane trip with my family to visit my other Grandpa and Grandma in Oregon in August.

So now if any of you see me getting paranoid about an approaching storm, you'll understand the reason. Tornado Day lives on in my brain and I'm sure in many other brains was well.

Friday, May 15, 2009

May 15th 1968 Tornado Day

5-15-09 frozen in time brain

Tornado Day: May 15th, 1968 is one of those dates which divides history, in my hometown of Charles City, Iowa. Those of us who experienced the tornado of May 15th, for years to come, have described events in our lives as either happening “before” the tornado or “after” the tornado.

Here is the famous photo take by our Sheriff, Mr. L.L. Lane that afternoon. He was standing west of town out by the County Fair Grounds, looking east.

In 1968 I was in 6th grade and we had only about 2.5 weeks left in the school year. May 15th was a Wednesday, unseasonably hot, humid and windy. This was a special day at school. We were having a city wide track meet between the five elementary schools. Jefferson, Central, Washington, Lincoln and McKinley . We were the Jefferson Jets, the newest school in town built in 1961, and I was one of the fastest girl runners in my class.

That afternoon of May 15th was extra special, since we were having a picnic lunch. I remember it was a treat for me that my mother had packed my lunch with a small bag a Frito chips along with my baloney white bread sandwich, and also included a Hostess Chocolate Cupcake for dessert. I loved those cupcakes with my cold carton of milk.

We ate outside under the big old Elm tree which was located on the north side of the school, which happened to be just over the fence of my home’s backyard. After lunch we then went across town to attend the track meet. I do remember it being very windy that afternoon, since I had to run into the wind during the relay race. I think I won a ribbon, but I must admit that most of my memories of the track meet itself have been lost, probably overpowered by what was to come at 4:50 PM that afternoon. We were back at home at that time, which was often repeated as a blessing…. “ Thank goodness the children were home from school when the tornado hit”, since only Jefferson and Lincoln elementary schools survived intact.

After the track meet, I remember playing across the street at the neighbor’s house that afternoon with Bobby, Jim and Cathy, and not even really noticing that the skies were turning black, until Mom came over to retrieve me back home. Mom had the radio on to the local station KCHA and I was watching TV with my sister, Jan. We were watching Bart's Club House, a local show from the Mason City TV station which played cartoons. In those days, there were no radar reports on TV and none of the warnings like we have today. Jan and I were fairly oblivious at the time.

We lived on the west side of town in a new housing addition, so we had a good view out our west windows. As it began to rain, then hail, the sky turned a green color in the west and the temperature dropped abruptly. The radio had reported that a funnel cloud had been spotted near Greene Iowa, just SW of Charles City. I became more alert of the situation and gathered up our cat, Tippy and made her go to the basement.

One of my clearest memories was when Mother, sounding very casual at the time, as she was looking out the west window, said- “girls come look, there’s the funnel”…. And we looked, and for some strange reason I wasn’t afraid at that time. We did move quickly into the kitchen and we were looking south out the window towards the school and we began to see debris swirling on the other side of the school. The radio went dead and this is when the three of us, ran down the steps to the basement.

Our ears were popping with the strong change in air pressure and the sound was like that of a train, along with the noises our house was making rattling in the wind. My sister was crying some and mother was comforting her. (That is my recollection, my sister’s might be different)…. I was quiet, probably just in shock, but not too worried since I knew my beloved cat was in the basement with me. Dad on the other hand, was out of town with the High School Golf team. Time passed in slow motion and what felt like an eternity in the basement was in reality only a minute or two.

I remember preparing myself to walk up the stairs, still in slow motion. I was visualizing the house flatten. I was a "worst case scenario" person even as a child!…. So much to my surprise, when we opened the basement door, all was intact expect for one broken window, and one tree in the back yard had some damage. As neighbors emerged and gathered together in the street we felt the adrenaline excitement of our experience, and felt great relief, but this was soon short lived when we were overcome by worry of others. Where was my Dad? Was Grandpa who lived across town OK? Was the nursing home where Grandma lived hit?

Sorry.......Too long of post… will continue tomorrow!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

What not to wear

5-14-09 changing seasons brain
I enjoy watching the show "What Not to Wear" which airs on TLC Friday nights. I think most people love to see "make over" shows. Even Greg will sit down at the end just to see the transformation part. I especially enjoy the part where they get a hair cut, since currently my hair gives me more grief than my clothes.

However, lately I've wondered if I am dressing too young for my age. I'm finding that I'm really out of practice at dressing if I need to go out to someplace nice. For several years now, I spend 90% of my time working from home.... basically I'm a what they call a "virtual worker". Some days this last winter, when I was working in Des Moines (without Greg) and if I didn't have plans for the evening, I just stayed in my PJ's all day.

Pretty pathetic! On my "good" days when I do shower and get dressed, I have come to discover that I usually put on a "hoodie". I was looking in my closet and realized I have a lot of these.

These are my good zip-hoodies. I also have some older ones I wear to bed in the winter, and yes, I do use the hood to keep my head warm.

I don't think my lazy dressing would warrant a spot on the "What Not to Wear" show, but if I'm not careful, I think Greg might nominate me. I believe he's ready to burn my hoodies! Lucky for me the weather is now getting warm and I will have to give up my hoodies for the summer season. I can't remember what I wear during the summer.... I'll have to take a look soon in the storage closet and do the big closet switch any day now. The winter cloths go away for 6 months and the summer cloths are reborn.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Divine Intervention and hunting rabbits

5-13-09 observing brain

Each time I think I’m going to cut back on my blogging, something happens to keep spurring me on. I’ve been worn out for several weeks now and feeling uninspired to write much lately. Tuesday, I received an email from Alice, whom I had written about in yesterday’s blog. She told me how my blog had brightened her day and helped improve her mood for the day ahead, which would be full of challenges.

Wow, that was wonderful to hear…. So here I go again…. Blabbing on….
However, I do have an idea brewing in my brain which might change the direction of my blog this summer. We’ll see.

Last evening I’m sitting out on the back deck at the KC house. It’s about 6:40pm. There is a rabbit in the yard up to no good it would seem. I’m sitting quietly and observing. Darn my camera is inside and I don’t want to interrupt this rabbit’s routine. This rabbit must be a female because it appears she might be making a nest under the deck. She is jumping around in the tall grass (will be mowed tomorrow) and gathering up mouthfuls of grass and returning under the deck with this. Then she stops and eats some herself. This rabbit is making me laugh by the way it leaps high in the air bouncing back and forth. She is very quick.... but we’ve made eye contact, and for now she doesn’t seem bothered by me. I hear some rustling of leaves under the deck.

Oh Greg is outside now and I’ve motioned him to be quiet and asked for the camera.

Now I wait patiently with camera in hand. Here she is… but she is too fast for me! I’ll try again… now my camera memory card is full… quickly I delete a few pictures… waiting again… now I try a few shots…. But dang… the camera battery is now low! Well, that will teach me to come more prepared when sitting on the deck! This is all I have to show from my rabbit hunt.

She's cute... what shall I name her?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Tree memories

5-12-08 memory brain

I’m really starting to like this area of KC where our house is located in old Leawood. There are so many big trees and of course, this means a wide variety of birds to enjoy. Greg and I were walking Monday evening after work and I saw this tree with a familiar looking leaf which reminded me of the Elms trees in the Iowa neighborhood I grew up in. Maybe this was an Elm tree.

It’s strange how the brain remembers insignificant events so distinctly. I have a memory and I’m pretty sure it was Alice, who lived across the street from us back in my hometown, who is the mother of the kids I first played with as a child (Bobby, Jim and Cathy). I know I have mentioned Alice before and her creativity. Alice was an artist, although I didn’t really know it at the time. All I knew was that she would come up with most interesting activities to do that involved either paper, homemade play dough made out of flour and water, or other objects found out in nature or recycled objects such as tin cans, yarn, jar lids. You get the picture.

This leaf reminded me of something Alice showed me as a small child. She folded the leaf in half and with her finger nail made three cuts and produced a leaf face!

Greg was telling me about a common tree you will currently see in KC in great numbers, the Sweet Gum tree. They were planted after disease (Dutch Elm Disease) killed many of the elm trees back in the 1960’s. They are a nice, strong and fast growing tree, however these trees produce these round spiny balls, the seed pod I’m sure.

I have come to realize these are a real pain to have in your yard. In April, I raked up two large yard waste bags of these just from one tree in our front yard. However, when I first saw them in our yard, I did fine myself getting excited at the possibility of what interesting art projects I could do with these beautiful balls.

I know if Alice lived in KC instead of Minneapolis, she and I would have great fun together coming up with a multitude of ideas!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Spray Art

again 5-11-09 brain storm!
Speaking of "ART".... I found this on Youtube!
I'm totally facinated by this artist!

Chalk walk

5-11-09 dusty brain
Greg and I spend time in my hometown in northern Iowa every 4th of July. This is a popular time for class reunions and family reunions. We have specific traditions which are followed each year. Picnic, parade, band concert, fireworks, food in the city park, special displays at the art center.

Over the last few years, the art center has placed sidewalk chalk out front encouraging anyone to have some fun. Greg and I have taken the time to draw something over the last two years. (Above was from last year) This has peaked my interest in REAL sidewalk chalk art, thus when I heard there was a "Chalk Walk" in KC two weekends ago, Greg and I made a point to check it out.
It was a windy day, but we enjoyed seeing just want a "chalk walk" event entails. They did have some "pros"... but they also allowed anyone to join in. We probably would of participated, but we were in a hurry that afternoon.

No one was doing the 3-D chalk art which I've been facinated with when friends have sent me email pictures by artist Julian Beever. Have you seen those?

But here are a few pictures of the art we saw that Saturday afternoon in KC.

I believe Greg and I should invest in some profession chalk and take what we have learned by observing the KC Chalk Walk and plan a picture to dazzle everyone come this 4th of July !

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day

5-10-09 Loving, respectful brain

This is a simple rose drawing with pastels that I made for my Mom, at least 5 years ago or so. That was a fun Mother's Day for both of us. I went back to my hometown for the weekend and not only attended a Mother-Daughter Luncheon with my Mom at her church..... BUT Mom and I also had a small part in the program. Mom read a poem about daughters and I took a few of my paintings which had stories or poems connected to them related to mothers. Neither of us are great public speakers, but we did just fine.

I don't remember all what I spoke about this specific painting called "A Mother's Beauty", but I do remember I related to the small bud, hoping to flower someday into the wonderful person I view my mother to be. (the full blooming rose)

My Dad, being the "joke-ster" that he is, asked why the rose didn't have any thorns. Later he also wondered if I was doing to create a painting for him sometime. So on Father's Day that year I did a small painting for him and put it in a 4x6 inch frame. It was a picture of just a stem and a rose thorn. Dad got a kick out of that and displayed this by his bedside along with his other family pictures.

Happy Mother's Day to all the women who have touched my life.... and there are many!
Wishing a wonderful day to both of you, Mom and Dad..... see you in a few weeks!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Six unimportant things

5-8-09 unimportant brain
I’m replying to a blog challenge (a “tag” game) and I encourage others who want to play to join this thought-provoking endeavor (tongue in cheek). This “tag” game is: Name SIX unimportant things which make you happy.

The first thoughts that spring into my brain are these things, pictured below, which I consider unimportant.... but they do make me happy, (in no particular order):

1. A Soap Opera: I’ve been watching The Bold and the Beautiful since it started in 1987. I like it because it is about fashion and silly family feuds with glamorous people. The best aspect is that this is only a half hour show, thus the plot moves fairly fast. I tape it everyday, although if I time lunch at 12:30 PM, I can watch while I eat.

2. Tree Confetti: It’s so fun to see the pink confetti floating in the breeze. This is my neighbor's across the street.

3. Playing cat: Cats in general just make me happy! A playing cat is even better! This is Max the neighbor cat. (This might not qualify, since I probably view CATS as VERY IMPORTANT)

4. White bench in front yard: Since we don’t have a large front porch to “sit a spell”, I enjoy sitting here when visiting with passing neighbors.

5. Epsom Salts: Soaking away the soreness of old age makes be feel happy. Use at least 2-3 cups in a bath tub of warm to hot water.

6. Chai tea in my chipped “Judy” cup: Hot Chai with soy is my morning drink. This is my source for caffeine and is easier on my stomach than coffee. Using this chipped cup, which I've had for 30 years, reminds me that even if I am old, worn and chipped, I’m still functional!

PS: If you accept the challenge of this "tag game"... it is not necessary to include pictures. I did just so I wouldn't have to write as much.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Fun last Thursday evening!

5-7-09 Silly brain

Amy and her husband moved onto the street in 1997, four years after Greg and I. Amy was a young mother in her early twenty’s back then, with a toddler son. Shortly after they moved to Iowa from Georgia, Amy found out she was expecting twin boys. Two years later came boy number 4!

I am one of Amy’s biggest fans. Amy is fun, beautiful, and creative, with a wonderful spirit. She also makes being a mother look easy, although I do know she struggles at times.

I’m blessed to have many interesting, kind, and fun neighbors on my street in Des Moines like Amy. We range in age from mid 20’s up to 70. The women of the street enjoy spending time together and started the tradition of “Allison Avenue Ladies Night Out” at some point around 1995 or 1996. We first just would go out to a local restaurant a few times a year, just to have dinner together. Over the years our “nights out” have been varied and included things like Silpada Jewelry parties, Pampered Chef Parties or Tastefully Simple cooking parties. Not to mention our other annual family events we do throughout the year.

Last Thursday, my adorable neighbor AMY, set the bar high. She threw one of the most memorable events for the Allison Avenue ladies. This was an “Oscar Party” she and her husband had won in a charity silent auction.

I wasn’t sure by the invitation what the dress code would be, so I emailed Amy to ask her what we were suppose wear. She said she was wearing an old prom dress, and hoped others would dress up for fun, but anything was appropriate. I told neighbor Carolyn, who like me, also likes to dress up for Halloween, that we should find something fun to wear. So we did, to everyone’s surprise! Carolyn was Audrey Hepburn like character and I went as a Marilyn Monroe- or an aging star/cougar type character.

I’m not going to be able to live this down…. Every time I walk down the street this week, I’m being called “Marilyn”…. Thanks Amy for a fun night with wonderful food and drink! It was too much silly fun for a Thursday night!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Energy Crisis part II

5-6-09 non-functioning brain

TIPS for Energy and Balance
Source: Harvard Business Review, Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time, October 2007

Physical Energy (Body)
 Enhance your sleep by setting an earlier bedtime and reducing alcohol use.
 Reduce stress by engaging in cardiovascular activity at least 3X a week and strength training at least once.
 Eat small meals and light snacks every three hours.
 Learn to notice signs of imminent energy flagging, including restlessness, yawning, hunger, and difficulty concentrating.
 Take brief but regular breaks, away from your desk, at 90- to 120-minute intervals throughout the day.

Mental Energy (Mind)
 Reduce interruptions by performing high-concentration tasks away from phones and e-mail.
 Respond to voice mails and e-mails at designated times during the day.
 Every night, identify the most important challenge for the next day. Then make it your first priority when you arrive at work in the morning.

Emotional Energy (Emotions)
 Defuse negative emotions—irritability, impatience, anxiety, insecurity—through deep abdominal breathing.
 Fuel positive emotions in yourself and others by regularly expressing appreciation to others in detailed, specific terms through notes, e-mails, calls, or conversations.
 Look at upsetting situations through new lenses. Adopt a “reverse lens” to ask, “What would the other person in this conflict say, and how might he be right?” Use a “long lens” to ask, “How will I likely view this situation in six months?” Employ a “wide lens” to ask, “How can I grow and learn from this situation?”

Spiritual Energy (Spirit)
 Identify your “sweet spot” activities—those that give you feelings of effectiveness, effortless absorption, and fulfillment. Find ways to do more of these. One executive who hated doing sales reports delegated them to someone who loved that activity.
 Allocate time and energy to what you consider most important. For example, spend the last 20 minutes of your evening commute relaxing, so you can connect with your family once you’re home.
 Live your core values. For instance, if consideration is important to you but you’re perpetually late for meetings, practice intentionally showing up five minutes early for meetings.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Energy Crisis?

5-5-09 Fatigue brain
I'm worn out.... how about you?

Are You Headed for an Energy Crisis?
Source: Harvard Business Review, Manage Your Energy, Not your Time, October 2007

Please check the statements below that are true for you.
__ I don’t regularly get at least seven to eight hours of sleep, and I often wake up feeling tired.
__ I frequently skip breakfast, or I settle for something that isn’t nutritious.
__ I don’t work out enough (meaning cardiovascular training at least three times a week and strength training at least once a week).
__ I don’t take regular breaks during the day to truly renew and recharge, or I often eat lunch at my desk, if I eat it at all.

__ I frequently find myself feeling irritable, impatient, or anxious at work, especially when work is demanding.
__ I don’t have enough time with my family and loved ones, and when I’m with them, I’m not always really with them.
__ I have too little time for the activities that I most deeply enjoy.
__ I don’t stop frequently enough to express my appreciation to others or to savor my accomplishments and blessings.

__ I have difficulty focusing on one thing at a time, and I am easily distracted during the day, especially by e-mail.
__ I spend much of my day reacting to immediate crises and demands rather than focusing on activities with longer-term value and high leverage.
__ I don’t take enough time for reflection, strategizing, and creative thinking.
__ I work in the evenings or on weekends, and I almost never take an e-mail–free vacation.

__ I don’t spend enough time at work doing what I do best and enjoy most.
__ There are significant gaps between what I say is most important to me in my life and how I actually allocate my time and energy.
__ My decisions at work are more often influenced by external demands than by a strong, clear sense of my own purpose.
__ I don’t invest enough time and energy in making a positive difference to others or to the world.

How is your overall energy?

Total number of statements checked: ____

Guide to scores
0–3: Excellent energy management skills
4–6: Reasonable energy management skills
7–10: Significant energy management deficits
11–16: A full-fledged energy management crisis

What do you need to work on?

Number of checks in each category:

____ Body
____ Mind
____ Emotions
____ Spirit

Guide to category scores
0: Excellent energy management skills
1: Strong energy management skills
2: Significant deficits
3: Poor energy management skills
4: A full-fledged energy crisis

Monday, May 4, 2009

Season's firsts

5-4-09 worn out brain

It’s Sunday evening and this will be my post for Monday. I didn’t do any major blogging all weekend…. I guess that was a good thing but now I’m in a funk and not in the best mood to write. I think I am just tired after a busy weekend. It was one gorgeous weekend here in Des Moines. Today was about as perfect as it gets, sunny and warm. The flowering trees are at their peak.

It was a day of “firsts” for the season. The first time Greg got the grill out and he grilled hamburgers for us, which tasted ever so good! …. “De-lish!”…. We also got the back patio furniture out and I washed off the layer of dust. This also was the first day I got the hammock out. I really wanted to just lay back in it this afternoon; however, I was finding it hard to get in relaxation mode after being so productive on Saturday.

Instead I decided to get my pastels out and doodle a little while as I sat outside enjoying the great day. This was my first art project since November, and first since I had my eye surgery in January. I started with just a small piece of paper which I could hold in my lap…. I enjoyed painting clouds, but not yet happy with the landscape portion. It’s still a work in progress.

Next I got my bike out for the first time this spring and rode up to the video store to return a movie we rented last night. It was an older movie from around 1990 called “Mr. and Mrs. Bridges”. This movie had Paul Newman and his wife Joan Woodward playing a married couple in the late 1930’s and 40’s. The reason we wanted to watch this movie was that it was filmed in Kansas City and there were many KC references. All in all, I found the movie a little slow… and I even started to fall asleep during the last ½ hour of the movie. But it was an interesting study of communications in a family which appeared to be rather dysfunctional.

I have several fun things to blog about this week. I just hope I can get back in the mood to write. For now I’m headed to the soaking tub and to bed early! Tomorrow is a new day.

ADDENDUM: after 9.5 in bed, I do feel better this morning!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Here's Kimby

5-3-09 sabbatical brain

Last week I mentioned that Greg and I visiting a former pastor's church on Sunday while I was spending time in KC. I know several of you know Kimby, so I will post our picture taken while we waited for a table for lunch.

Kimby always said her sermons usually dealt with LOVE as the center topic. I sure could tell that her new church, of the last 6 years, loves and respects Kimby as much as we all did at Westminster! I will look forward to visiting her again on my future trips to KC.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

May Day Mystery!

5-2-09 perplexed brain
For some reason I thought May 1st was on Saturday this year. Sad to say, that means my May Baskets will be late. I did put one together late Friday afternoon and delivered to a neighbor, but worked on the rest Friday evening.

I was pleased with this one I created and happy that I still had daffodils blooming in the yard to include fresh flowers.

However, to my surprise and delight, when Greg and I arrived home from dinner Friday night, I found this fabulous gift on the front porch. Seeing no obvious gift card enclosed, my brain instantly ran through a list of neighbors whom I thought might have created such a wonderful May Basket. (Plant, gardening gloves, seed packet and cute butterfly stake)

Then I realized the true BLESSING was that not only could this come from several neighbor friends who wanted to surprise us, but I could think of at least two other possible friends, either living in Ankeny or Urbandale, that would be inclined to deliver such a gift…. Then I was even suspicious of my husband (not creating this gift himself, but buying it for me)….. I LOVE a good mystery and some mysteries don’t have to be solved to be truly enjoyed.

Thank you sweet mystery!

UPDATE 7:00 AM: I was able to deliver my May Baskets undetected this morning.... everyone was still asleep. Newspapers still remained on door steps and blinds were closed.

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Jock

5-1-09 "on my gosh it's May today" brain

I can see by rereading my post yesterday, I am self absorbed…. So this post won’t be “all about me”… I hope… And more about my parents.

I was looking through my notebook my Mom created for me; she also created one for my sister. These notebooks have old- old pictures of family and our family tree information. Towards the back of the book were “more current” pictures and I found this one of my Dad in his college days at Cornell College in Mt Vernon, Iowa; A nice private Methodist college in a small town just north of Iowa City and east of Cedar Rapids. (Dad is on the far right in the photo)

This was after WWII in the late 1940’s. Dad entered the war at age 17, and when he returned home he was only around 20-21 years of age. Since he grew up in Cedar Rapids and was a high school jock according to many reports….. he attended Cornell to play football, track and maybe a little basketball too. This is where he met my mother, who probably attended college there since she came from a German Methodist family. Mom was an only child and her father, a farmer, felt education was important even for girls. Her father, my Grandpa Huxsol, also helped finance my sister's and my college fund starting when we were born.

Yes, Dad was quite the jock! I’ve heard stories of how they met in a science class, and after one of the tests, when they walked out at the same time, Dad asked Mom out for coffee…. (I hope I have that correct)…. Or was it Mother asking him out? Mom always told me she thought Dad looked like Paul Newman. Mom always has had a thing for Paul!

College was a transition period for Dad returning back from the war. Mom has told us stories about him having nightmares for some time due to the war, and thus he moved from sleeping in the men’s dorm for awhile, to sleep on a cot in a backroom of a barber shop where he had a job sweeping and cleaning.

Of course we never learned about any of Dad’s war experiences until around the 50th Anniversary in 1995, when Dad and Mom went to a Marine Reunion and reconnected with some of his old friends. Then he slowly stared to tell us more and more over the years since.

I love this picture of Dad running track. As you can tell by his foot being closer to the ground, I believe he won the race. I too ran track for a year as a Freshman in high school. I was a sprinter like Dad and I did try my hand at the hurdles, but I never was too great at that. Then Dad talked me into playing on the girl’s golf team which he coached.

Over the years, I somehow took possession of Dad’s college track top….

I think I borrowed it when I was in college and thought it would be cool to wear. He probably doesn’t even know that I have it. My sister will be jealous…. But Jan, I will hand it down to your family, since you have the kids to pass onto!
Footnote: Mom and Dad will be celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary this December!