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Friday, November 21, 2014

Age-Activated Attention Deficit Disorder

This morning, I was reading Paris Letters, One woman's journey from the fast lane to a slow stroll in Paris, by JaniceMacLeod.

 In the first few chapters she writes about decluttering her apartment in one year to the point where everything she owned fits in one suitcase!  I was inspired enough to put the book down and clean out two junk drawers in the kitchen.

After that commendable task was accomplished,  I noticed that the two sinks, counters, and stove top needed to be cleaned. I got out the SoftScrub and looked for the yellow dish gloves. No luck, so, I decided to wait to clean until I purchased some gloves later in the day.

I then remembered that Ron asked me to change the sheets on the bed.I headed upstairs and got sheets from the linen closet. I paused to admire the collection of hand embroidered pillow cases I collect and rotate them in the drawer, putting the pink ones on top.

 I selected the sheets for the bed and noticed there was a pile of sweaters that needed to be put in the cedar chest. The chest has two down comforters in it, so, I put one one the guest bed and one on another bed to make room for the sweaters--which I did not put away.

It was then time to get ready for a lunch date with Janet. I noticed that the bathroom sink looked pretty sad-it is the original pedestal sink from 1907.

 Instead of getting ready, I looked for a tape measure to see if a new double sink with cabinets would fit. After measuring, I headed back downstairs to look on the Internet for standard sizes of double sink vanities at Lowes.

I noticed two letters on the kitchen table that I forgot to mail yesterday and remembered that I still had a thank you note to write.  With the note cards upstairs, off I went in search of a card.The cards are upstairs, and the address book in in the drawer I just cleaned. I remembered I hadn't gotten ready to meet Janet yet.  I put the card aside.

 I hadn't led enough time to run errands to get the yellow dish gloves, however, I thought I had enough time to stop at the post office to mail the cards. I sat down and penned a note and started to head out the door.  I couldn't find my car keys, or my gloves. Looking around the kitchen, I remembered that my knitting bag was in the den, and both my keys and gloves might be inside. Well, the gloves were, but, not the keys. I honestly don't remember where I found the keys, but, I did, and dashed out to the car and headed to lunch via the post office.

After lunch, I headed to WalMart  to see if they had the Christmas lights that I tried to get last year after stopping at some stranger's home and inquiring where his were from. He told me he had purchased them at WalMart, but, they were out of them.  I bought every wheel of the little lights they had! Hooray!

I remembered I needed the yellow gloves, but, I gave up trying to find the cleaning section. Back to my car, I realized I was pretty close to Lowes, so I stopped to check on the bath/double sink vanities. I was not impressed and decided to shelve that idea for next year.

I forgot to look for dish gloves there, and headed to Target where I was seeking some Christmas wrapping paper that I had read about in a knitting magazine.  While there, I found the yellow gloves, but not the wrapping paper--I couldn't remember what the magazine had described.

 I did stop to pick up a Smith & Hawken Bulb kit that I get each year, though.

When I got home, feeling rather disjointed, I recalled hearing about a Youtube spoof on age activated attention deficit disorder. I sat at the table and watched it twice and it inspired me to write a blogpost instead of donning the yellow gloves.

An hour  passed and I needed to get the dogs fed. Yet, I decided to take a few photos for the post instead and looked for my camera in the hall closet. The one I meant to clean right after the junk drawers this morning. The one with a smashed Swedish glass bowl that I dropped a heavy brass candle holder on it yesterday.

 I was too upset to look at the millions of shards of glass at the time. I might still have time to clean that up before Ron gets home, except I need to feed the dogs first. So, since the Amaryllis is on the kitchen counter, I think I'll plant it.  I need to empty the dishwasher to get clean bowls to feed the dogs. No wait, I can start soaking the plant material while I put away the dishes

If I get this right, you can watch the YouTube spoof here.

If not, just google the title of my post to see it. Tomorrow, I'm going to try to start and complete a task before launching into another one. I'll let you how it goes!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Alberta Interview

Portrait of a Lady

My Great Aunt Alberta celebrated her 104th birthday in October. Born in 1910, the youngest of five girls, Alberta remembers  clearly her days on her parent's farm, in Greene County, four miles west of Paton, Iowa. For the past five years, Alberta has been living in an assisted living complex near the home of my Mom, her niece. When Alberta  recently fell and broke her back, it was clear that she needed to move to place where more round the clock care was available. I flew out from Ohio, charged with the assignment of finding that place.

In the photo below, Alberta is the little one sitting on the wagon next to her dad, Frank Leslie Walker.

Alberta's dad, my great grandfather,  raised hogs and Black Angus cattle. Upon returning from Chicago, he always brought his girls special presents, such as gold watches to wear. She recounts the chores she and her sisters did, told me about the  hired hands that sat down to lunch in the kitchen, the pranks of hiding in the hayloft and on and on. I could have listened for days!

  In the process of packing up her belongings, I came across many photos and other memorabilia of hers.  "Hey, Alberta,"I would say,  "I just found your high school book, what can you tell me about it." and off she would go, telling me tales of her early childhood.  She was the first to go to a brand new one room school house, just across the street from her farm. She said it was extra special because it had a hallway where you could leave your muddy boots instead of tracking them into the school room! Her chalkboard slate is still among her possessions. She remembered that the school teacher would board at her farm when the weather made it too dangerous to travel. She drove a Model T into Paton, taking her sisters and other neighbors to high school.

I found photos and this inscription inside her senior year memory book. In 1926, Alberta was 16 and Doug Hawn was 14. I mention this because Alberta and Doug reconnected in 1986 at a high school reunion and got married in 1989, the last of her three marriages. I never ask her personal questions, but, I wonder what it would be like to have to adjust to three different men-it is exhausting to contemplate!

 Below is a page from one of her many travelogs. The earliest such diary I found was written when she was 11 years old and traveling to Yellowstone. Her father and his brother would leave the farm in the capable hands of hired help each summer for a few weeks and set off for a trip with their families-camping in their  Willis Knight car. They had three tents and also used a haystack canvas cover over the car. Alberta mentioned to me that she has been to all 50 states, and I found her notebook, entitled  "Capitals I have Been To" among her papers.

Below is the first page of her journal from her 1929 trip from Iowa to California and Canada.

Alberta and three  of her sisters, including my grandmother, Blanche,  graduated from a business college in Des Moines, Iowa, affectionately referred to as the 4 C's: Capital City Commercial College.   Her oldest sister, Evelyn, went to a teachers college nearby. Alberta became a secretary for an insurance company and eventually rose to the position of executive secretary to the president of the company. She can still read and write shorthand, and many of her recipes require that knowledge! Alberta and her sister, Iola, lived in an apartment in Des Moines and  traveled back to the farm on weekends. I asked Alberta how she met her first husband, Bill Work, whom she married in 1936 at the age of 26.  Iola, by this time married to an electrician, Ray McLaughlin, introduced her to a fellow worker.. When I asked Alberta about Bill, she told me with a smile, that he was quite a good dancer and they went dancing every weekend. His sister taught him how to dance, she added!

Bill was stationed in Hawaii during WWII, and they moved to San Gabriel, California in 1954  where Bill found work as a claims adjuster for an insurance company. Alberta retired and spent several years traveling with Bill throughout California on his assignments.

When her husband passed away, she moved to Los Angeles, to live near two of her sisters( my grandmother, Blanche, and her twin sister, Bernice). Bernice, and her husband, John, built a summer home in Leisure World, Laguna Woods, California and after Bernice passed away, Alberta married John Krafft, the widower of Bernice and moved with him to Leisure World.  It was with John, a former college basketball coach and investment broker, that she traveled the world. Several cruises took them to China, Singapore, the Netherlands, and more- all recorded in her journals, scrapbooks, and photo albums. My grandmother, Blanche, also was quite a traveler and she and her husband lived in Tehran, Iran, and Saigon, Viet Nam, in the early 1960's where my grandfather worked for the U.S. Government. They, too, traveled the world as well as many parts of the United States. I don't think I got those travel genes, although Alberta thinks I did when I mentioned the motorhome I recently purchased!

After John passed away, Alberta married for the last time in 1989. Doug passed away at the age of 96. Their wedding photo is below.

I'm pleased to report that Alberta is settling into her new home and her visitors are treated to a gracious smile and bright eyes and invited to sit awhile and talk of current happenings or reminisce about days gone by.  My brother filmed a brief interview with her last year, seeking memories of Thanksgiving and Christmas.  You may watch it if you wish, in a separate blogpost, entitled, Alberta's interview.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Rolling stones

Janet and I started our friendship in 1984 on the way to a library conference in Columbus, Ohio. We each had about ten years of library directorship at nearby libraries under our belts.  For some reason that I can't now remember, we decided to travel/room together at the annual state meeting. On the way, we discovered some common interests (Swedish ancestry, left-handedness, love of bland food (especially mashed potatoes) and shopping). We also uncovered some differences. Janet can sit still for hours without moving, and I .....fidget. She loves to be alone, and I ....don't. She loves the heat and is never warm enough, and I prefer shade, snow, and freezing temperatures-in the car, and in any room.
We agreed that the differences could be accommodated well enough and our common interests have cemented two decades of travel companionship. We also discovered that misadventure is our travel hallmark.
Visiting Sweden on our first of two trips

Our travels have contained amusing mishaps of adventure that travelers everywhere experience-getting lost, (we started traveling together years before the gps) bad weather (it rained for 21 straight days on our first trip to Sweden), language barriers, money troubles (Janet left her wallet in a phone booth ( remember, our travels started before cell phones) in Minneapolis), and so on.  We have been to Sweden twice, Key West, 10 times, Chicago 9 times, San Francisco 3 times.

An early Key West photo

 In recent years, we've gone our separate ways, Janet on another trip to Sweden and to  St. Croix, and I to Seattle and Spain. (I'm just kidding about Spain, but, it started with an 's')  It is with all of this history that I jumped at Janet's suggestion that we take a road trip together to assuage my apprehension about retiring. She proposed that I  could name the location, the date, and the itinerary. Wow!

Janet came up with the idea of  half of a road trip-we would fly to Charleston, S.C. and drive back to Ohio on whatever route I selected.

So, two Yankees headed south and encountered a lovely city that highlights history.

Um, so, ok, we're the damn Yankees. But, we were assured that the south thinks our tourist dollars are helping to pay back for our ancestors transgressions. Since we both have major Swedish heritage, we didn't feel too responsible anyway.

We enjoyed a day of walking around the historic district of Charleston on a warm ad sunny day.  I walked on the shady side of the street and Janet kept to the sunny side. Sounds like a song lyric in there somewhere.....

Having been to New Orleans several times together, we agreed that Charleston is a gentle version of the Big Easy.

There are many wonderful restaurants in Charleston. On our first night, we ate at 82 Queen Street, recommended by Lynda Murray. It was wonderful! We did think it was too bad that Charleston cuisine is wasted on two girls who love plain mashed potatoes, no seafood, and nothing spicy. We actually felt guilty that we were avoiding the best entrees that Charleston has to offer.

We visited two house museum and eavesdropped on the carriage tours as they passed us. The only time I took a carriage ride, it was in Chicago and I got motion sickness from the mild bouncing of the carriage, so, I was not tempted by this popular method of learning the history of Charleston.

Flowers in bloom in October was a recurring theme that we enjoyed-in the case above, we loved the pale blue wash on the masonry and the blue shutters with black ironwork as much as the flower boxes.

Janet suggested an excursion out to Fort Sumter, but, I reminded her of our trip to the Dry Tortugas to see  Fort Jefferson in which we roamed the compound after being left by a seaplane for the day and I remarked that when you've seen one fort, you've seen them all.

So, the next day, toured Middleton Place, a former plantation with gardens and enough history for Janet to enjoy as well! First granted in 1675, only five years after the first English colonists arrived in the Carolinas, the first four generations of the Middletons produced a President of the First Continental congress, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, a Governor of South Carolina, and  a signer of the Ordinance of Secession.

The garden statue above was the only item not sacked by the Union troops that went on to burn Charleston. It was buried by the plantation family in a bog for later retrieval. Wealthy rice growers, with  19 plantations, the family designed this location to be their premier exhibit of success.

One of hundreds of live oak trees, so named because as one leaf dies, the next is already becoming unfurled.

Sea grass, still used to weave decorative baskets. It was interesting to learn about Carolina Gold, so named because the rice shipped to England was a huge money maker for the plantation farmers, as was Indigo, a plant reduced to small intense blue wafers used as dye. But, enough about that, we drove a bit further south to Beaufort, South Carolina before heading back north toward Ohio.

Arriving in time for a dinner at sunset, we enjoyed this small town on the coast-a movie location for Forest Gump, The Big Chill, The Great Santini, and many other Hollywood blockbusters.

As we headed toward Asheville, N.C. the next morning, we stopped to pick some cotton. It even came with a beetle of some sort! As a fiber artist, I know that cotton is overly processed and I always try to purchase organic cotton to knit with and I'd like to this this field contained the organic kind.

The last leg of our trip was a drive of 170 miles along the Blue Ridge Parkway, driving north from Asheville (Mile 380) to Rt 77 (Mile 200) and taking 9 hours to do so.

The Park to Park Highway, as it was originally called, was to connect the Great Smokies and the Shenandoah National Park. Started in 1934, the parkway is 450 miles long and is a scenic road not to be missed.

The enforced speed limit is 35mph and honestly, that is perfect. We stopped at most of the scenic overlooks, took a hike to see Linwood Falls, and, stopped at two folk art visitor centers. Along the way, we also had a bit of an unplanned adventure.

According to his collar, his owner's name was Butch. We called him BJ. He was wandering alone in the middle of the parkway and seemed happy to be given a ride. We took him to the nearest park ranger (a 45 minute drive north) and thought we'd leave it to the ranger to get BJ back to Butch. In the meantime, I left a message for Butch from the number on BJ's collar to call me.

Arriving at the station, the park ranger peered in our car and said, "Oh, you shouldn't have picked up this dog. This is a black bear hunting dog and it is a felony to interfere with hunters by taking their dogs." We thought the ranger was teasing us, but, he was very serious, raising his hands up in the air when I tried to give BJ to him. "No way," he said, "it would be best if you just opened the car door right here and let him out. He has a gps unit on his collar and he'll be found by his owner and you had better not be found with him." When we explained we'd picked up BJ about 45 minutes south, he shook his head and recommended that we drive back and drop him off as near to where we found him as possible.  So we did.  Along the way, we spotted a hunter, walkie talkie in hand, and thought maybe this was Butch. No sir, it was Pervis, Jr., but he claimed to know "Butchie" and promised to get BJ back to him. So, with many apologies, we handed BJ over, who was then stuffed into the back of the truck with several other hunting dogs. Whew, back on the Parkway again we drove, when, not 5 minutes later, my phone rang. It was Butch. "You have my dog?, " he asked. "Where are you on the Parkway and I'll come pick him up."  "Not any more," I answered, regretfully, "I gave him to another hunter who said he'd return him to you." Once again, we turned around and tried to head off Pervis, Jr. before he sped away. Connecting Pervis, Jr. with Butchie, via my cell phone, the hunters made plans to meet and actually thanked us for rescuing BJ from getting run over.  As this seemed like the kind of silly adventure we used to have on our travels, we giggled all of the way back to the ranger's station where we again continued our trip.

We spent our last night in Charleston, West Virginia, and thought that added some symmetry to our road trip. Arriving in Ohio six days from the start of our getaway, we agreed to make an annual trip somewhere hence forth, hoping to add a few more memories for future reference!