Gypsy's Travels

Saturday, December 29, 2007

“PhotoHunt: Messy”

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Precious Moments

We left St. Louis this morning, much later than planned of course. Nevertheless, we reached our goal of arriving in Carthage, Missouri, to visit the Precious Moments Chapel. I have been there several times, so I volunteered to keep Junior and let the others enjoy the visit more leisurely.

I am not a collector and only a distant admirer of the Precious Moments collectibles, but the chapel is touching with its paintings and references to children gone from this life all too soon. I cannot imagine the deep grief of a parent who loses a child in its youth.

While Junior munched on an apple, we walked around the small statues in the park outside the main complex. We later walked around a portion of the park inside, and shared a rather incredible sunset. Check out inside photos on ABW's blog.

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Friday, December 28, 2007

The Carriage Ride

Thursday evening, 27 December 2007, was a fairytale trip. Ten members of our family climbed into a white, horse-drawn carriage for a ride through the "Winter Wonderland" light display in Tillis Park, St Louis, Missouri. The girls sang Christmas carols as we clip-clopped throughout the park, exclaiming at all the displays of lighting wizardry laid out before us. We had bundled up in all the warm clothes we had brought, snuggled together under the blankets provided in the carriage, and still shivered beneath it all. The cars gave the right of way to the persistent draft horse pulling our carriage. We were thankful we were not in the bumper to bumper traffic inching through the park.

Photos were difficult because the carriage ride was somewhat jostling for cameras using low lights, but I got this image of one of my favorite displays, a wreath over the bridge. There was another really cool display of a fisherman in a boat landing a big fish. The lake, and river flowing into it, were combinations of blue and white "moving" lights that gave the beautiful effect of a flowing river.

The only improvement we could have made on the evening would have been a nice snowfall. Nevertheless, we rallied in the cold and returned to our digs to share popcorn, hot chocolate, and tales of our carriage ride.

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The Magic House

The Magic House is an actual, renovated, 5500 square foot, 1901 Victorian mansion in St. Louis, Missouri. It was formerly owned by the Edwards family, of A.G. Edwards investment fame. A Children's Museum, it is a not-for-profit organization. It is one of the nicest children's museums I have seen, and very child-friendly. Not just child-friendly in "yes, you can touch." It is child-friendly in "yes, you can touch and not expect things to fall apart when you do."

The museum claims to have 400,000 visitors annually and I do think almost all of them were there today. We stood in line on the porch for about 20 minutes, waiting for entry. The museum opened at 12:30 and we arrived at 2:00. Only 50 people were admitted every 15 minutes. Even though crowded, the house reverberated with the joyous sounds of children and discovery.

There were 5 children and 4 adults in our group. Since one child was a carry-on, the 4 adults split up to be one-on-one with the other four children. Each child was allowed to run and explore his / her own interests at his/her own pace. It worked well, but the adults were exhausted when the children were still scurrying about.

The four floors of the Magic House are dedicated to the wonders of science, art, and music. An Electrostatic Generator stands your hair on end with millions of volts of harmless static electricity. "Recollections," an interactive video exhibit, allows movements to be transformed into works of art. The "Shadow Wall" freezes your shadow on a phosphorescent green wall so you can step back and see it. Balls in Motion, a Magnet Room, Air Power, Fitness exploration, the Sound Room, and the Observation Station, are a few of the opportunites we explored.

No doubt about it, St. Louis wins the children's museum competition....hands down!

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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Turtle Playground

Nestled in between the freeway and rows of vintage brick homes lies Turtle Playground, on the south side of Forest Park in St. Louis, Missouri.

Three giant turtles, four small ones, and a cache of hatching turtle eggs were designed by St. Louis artist, Robert Cassilly. They were cast in amazing detail from concrete and named after members of the founding benefactor's family.

Two serpents silently await their opportunities at one end of the small park. One surrounds the hatching eggs, while the other attempts to take a bite out of the Hwy 40 overpass.

Meanwhile, visitors can take a seat on the serpents' backs for a minute's rest or assist a small child to walk the length of their backs.

Just a short walk away, adjacent to Turtle Playground, is an area with playground equipment and open space for running and letting off steam. A variety of trees promises bright spring growth and cool summer shade, but this time of year we enjoy the winter leaves.

Having missed what must have been a spectacular show of autumn color, we elect to play in the brown leaves that cover the ground. It somehow frees the inner child in all of us to pick up as many leaves as we can hold, toss them into the air, and watch them twirl as they fall to the ground once again. We stomp and run and delight in the crunch of dried leaves, knowing they will return to the earth to replenish life.

Autumn is my favorite time of year, especially in an area that provides true seasonal changes.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas Eve 2007

Christmas Eve is one of my favorite times. The air of expectancy, everything done that can be done, and time for quiet reflection on the reason for it all in the first place. I love the midnight Christmas Eve service that ends with the hushed singing of Silent Night while leaving the sanctuary by candlelight. I am not Catholic, but this Christmas I was visiting DD#3 in Saint Louis, Missouri, and determined to attend the Midnight service at the Cathedral Basilica St. Louis.

I had visited the Cathedral previously. It is very impressive. Almost the entire surface of the interior is covered in small mosaic tile. There is so much gold, that the place glistens at all hours of the day and night. The grandeur is offset by small boxes in the entryway requesting alms for the poor. They were conspicuously absent Christmas Eve.

The church was packed when we arrived right at 11 p.m. for the carols preceding the service. It had not taken long to get there, except for the time spent waiting outside the wrong church. Not even Nellie the Navigator can get it right if I don't input the proper data. We found seats together about 1/3 of the way from the back of the church and settled in. Our seats, it turned out, were in just the right place. When an impressive procession started down the aisle, then stopped to speak to the church at large, we were in just the right position to see the group up-close. This is the same church that Pope John visited while our daughter was attending graduate school in the area. No Pope was present this night, but there were archbishops, rectors, altar boys, seminary students, and young priests. I only saw two nuns and they were scurrying on the sidelines, on passage ways off the main area. There were only men of the church on the main aisle. I missed our open and affirming church that welcomes the work of women and incorporated them into every area of the church.

After stopping to review the history for the congregation, the procession continued to the altar area. The fragrance of incense was heavy in the air, leaving a haze in the sanctuary that almost obscured the mosaic tiles. An unseen choir, housed in the loft above us, spread joy by their music. I make no pretense of understanding the Catholic religion, I just let the beauty of ceremony and music wash over me and leave healing in its wake. God is present everywhere.

We did slip out before communion since we are not invited to partake of communion in the Catholic Church. Indeed, people seemed to move in and out of the sanctuary freely. We stepped back into the cold, crisp air of the weary world, and headed home....ready for Christmas Day.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

...and the band played on.....

Photo of the GHS band playing in front of our house.
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Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Second Remarkable Event

I had planned to attend my other writing group session today, but life got in the way (see previous post). The facilitator, JW, and her DH encouraged me to stop by anyway. I did, and was treated to a most remarkable experience.

My friend KH has been my mentor for teaching memoir writing, an enjoyable task we have shared for the last five years. I subbed in one of her classes this past fall and shared a story I had written about my great grandmother as an example of a technique. JW's husband was in that class.

Although he says he doesn't know note "A" from "Z," her DH is a musician and writer. I was completely surprised when he began singing a song he had written based on the events in my story. "Mother Crocheting Memories" took some poetic license, but maintained the gist of the story. It was a rather surreal experience to hear my words included in a song. What he didn't know, was that my mother has spent most of her life creating with crochet. Sorry I can't share the song right now. It is possible he will publish it and I don't want to invade that territory. I'll let you know if / when it becomes available.

I just wonder what sort of influences we have on others that we never learn about.

The First Remarkable Event

The week before Christmas is always busy and this one is no exception. But there were two rather remarkable / memorable occurrences.

I have a new car that "talks" to me all the time. Normally, I would avoid anything this extravagant, but it is loaded with safety features and I have been very pleased with it. Even save money on gas and insurance over the old one.

A couple of weeks ago, my new car told me the tire pressure was too low. The tires looked fine to my naked eye. I chalked it up to extreme changes in temperature, but I had DS look at it anyway when he came. One tire was slightly low, he filled it, and it ran well. Yesterday, I made a round trip to Houston & back, about 360 miles. On the way home the red tire pressure signal came on. Again, everything looked fine and I made it home without any problem.

Since I am planning a long trip over the holidays and I was in the vicinity, I took the car into the dealer. They said they would take a quick look at it. The service department girl came back a few minutes later and showed me what the problem was. A screw, about 1/4 inch in diameter and 1 1/2 inches long, had been embedded in my tire causing a slow leak! I could have been stuck out in the middle of nowhere or, even worse, had a blowout.

The methods of patching tires has evolved considerably. They pulled the screw out, injected a rubbery substance that filled the hole, trimmed it off, and were finished. The tire heats in use and the injected substance is incorporated into the tire, so there is no patch weakness.

The whole effort was less than 15 minutes, then they washed the car for me, and sent me on my way. For this they charged me......$00.00! I know I will pay big bucks for check-ups, but I can't complain when I get this kind of service. Oh, and while I waited I had a soft drink and bag of fresh popcorn. Nice touch when I had not had any lunch. No doubt about it, I am a happy camper.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Take Two

DD#1 was busy making hamburgers for her boys. They only like ketchup and pickles on their hamburgers, so she buys Stackers pickles - large pickles sliced lengthwise. Two Stackers are just enough to cover the hamburger. When the boys asked how many pickles they could have, she automatically answered "two" without looking.
Whoops! They weren't stackers, but the boys did only take the two they were allowed.
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Sunday, December 16, 2007

Memory Box - "Hee Haw Overalls"

Some of the papers in the Memory Box have very few words, but they are well-chosen and conjure up a myriad of memories. This morning I drew out a paper with just these three words - "Hee Haw Overalls" - and laughed until I cried. Hopefully, I can find a photo somewhere.

We were on a very tight budget when the children were growing up. I was very diligent about using coupons and shopping the sales. Fortunately, or maybe unfortunately, the children were too young to protest a lot of my choices. The Hee Haw overalls were a real bargain! I didn't really like them at first, they were too far out for my taste, but the price was very right. The style was right off the farm - bib overalls gussied up for city folk. They were made of a serviceable denim with a cream-colored background for the country style designs printed on them. II could have chosen blue-denim, but it wasn't available in the right size. The designs were in brighter, more noticeable colors - chickens, flowers, and Hee Haw printed all over. In fact, the whole effect was "Here I am!" For years now, we have only had to mention "Hee Haw Overalls" and everyone dissolves in laughter. The name doesn't help.

In spite of later jokes and protestations, the children loved to wear those overalls. I say children because, of course, everything was passed down from one to another. Actually, I think these were new for DD#2 and only passed to DD#3. They wore them everywhere. When the knees finally wore out and / or the girls grew so tall the overalls became "highwaters," I did what any normal mom on a budget does - I cut them off and made shorts out of them. Since the girls seemed to grow long legs before the rest of their bodies caught up, the Hee Haw shorts got a few extra months wear. Now, I wonder where I put those photos.......

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Sharing a Memory

Finally, I processed the last memory from the Memory Box enough to be able to draw another one. I did that today while DD#2 was here.

I remember when you taught my Brownie troop. There was a little girl named E-- that went to my school and was the daughter of a single mother. You arranged for her to come home with me on the day of the meeting on the bus. You also got her a uniform and covered her snack when it was her turn. You made sure she was included in everything. I wonder what happened to her, but I know you had an effect on her.

Yes, I remember E--- very well. I loved Girl Scouting and what it did for the girls and the adults who were involved in it. I also realize our Council was very special in the way it did things and what it accomplished. Girl Scouting will always hold a very special place in my heart. One year the theme was "Find the Gift in Every Child." I took that to heart and really tried to find that gift. It was hard sometimes.

E--- was one of my challenges. She seemed to live on a different plane and moved through life in a fog. At the same time, she was cheery, enthusiastic, and willing to try everything. She came by this honestly, as her mother seemed to have the same traits. When the mom told me E--- couldn't come to our meetings because she had no transportation, I arranged for her to ride the bus to my home on those days. The first time E--- was supposed to bring snacks for the troop, she "forgot." She insisted on calling her mom who brought the snack over after work. Somewhere along the way there was a communication gap. Instead of snack for 20 girls, her mom brought a small package of chips and a soda for E--- alone. Fortunately, I had snacks in my kitchen that I could pull out. Afterward, it was just less stressful for me to provide something than ask E---. When we were planning to go on a field trip and needed a permission slip, I sent the papers home with the girls to bring back the next meeting with a parental signature. Since E--- never returned hers, I would just meet her mom at the car when she picked her daughter up, have her sign the slip right then, and give her a copy of the details. I am still not convinced the mother knew what her daughter was doing or when.

Yes, I too wonder what happened to E---. All those who work with kids say they feel the time was worth it, if they can just touch one life. I will probably never know whether or not E---was touched. I like to believe she was. Now, even more important to me, I know my child was touched when she saw what was happening.

Thank you for the insight....and the memory.....

Friday, December 14, 2007

Prison Time

I just got back from jail. I have been several times before and in several different facilities, but this was my first time in this one. There were major differences between previous visits and my presence today.

Previously, my visits were monitored by armed guards and detectives, who chatted amicably among themselves but were constantly aware of every movement made by anyone. They stood watch carefully while I collected blood and / or hair samples, or documented body markings / bruises / trauma. Every one of the people I saw protested that they were innocent of any wrong doing.

Today, I visited the jail, with a small group, as part of a ministry from my Bible study class. "Christmas packets" had been assembled form approved items donated by several groups. Each inmate received exactly the same things in her packet - a pair of tube socks, a package of peanut butter crackers, a small candy cane, a set of hotel-type toiletries, and a blank card in a stamped envelope. One of the women dressed as Santa Claus and did a lot of "Ho-ho- hoing."

We visited two different "pods," which were nearly identical in construction. One very large room Divided by a small brick wall into a sleeping side and a sitting side. A guard sat in a raised area, with a divider in front, doing paperwork. The sitting side of the room had tables and benches. The sleeping side had steel bunks built into the walls. Some of the beds were neatly made and their articles stashed carefully at the end. Others looked as if they might never have been made. In one of the pods, almost everyone was in bed when we arrived, about an hour after lunch. There was a T.V. in each pod, but none was turned on. Another low wall separated the toilets from other areas. Our presence did not stop anyone from using the facilities. There was NO privacy.

Our group handed out a donated religious magazine, an apple, and a prepared packet to each of the inmates. We could only distribute "approved" items and everything had to be equal.There were a lot of tears. Just the sight of Santa brought tears. We passed out hugs and good wishes with the goodies, and prayed with those who requested it. I asked the deputy who was shepherding us, about the recidivism rate. She told me that most of the women have been in 5-6 times. She believes they mean well and try to stay on the right path, but when they return to the same dysfunctional situation, they fall back into their old ways.

The things that surprised me:

  • Several mentioned how good we smelled and I don't think any of us was wearing perfume.
  • They were so happy and excited to receive the small gifts we gave them.
  • "Look, real soap and shampoo, not jail stuff!"
  • "I heard about the socks and I have been waiting!"
  • Almost everyone put on the socks and ate their treats right away.
  • How young most of them were.
  • How many tears were quietly shed, as they brushed them away and tried to hide them.

I am fully aware these women are reaping the fruit of their bad decisions and we reached them at a very vulnerable time in their lives, but I hope things will improve for them and they have a chance at happiness.

Matthew 25:42-45

I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'
"They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'
"He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'


The serviceman came to check my heater today. I made the appointment weeks ago. It took a long time because I really wanted this particular guy. He has been coming for several years and always answers my questions and does a lot of teaching about my heating / ac unit. He tells it like it is, so I trust his judgement.

As he was preparing the final papers for my signature today, I asked him if he drank beer. He hem-hawed around, shuffled his feet, and looked at the floor. Oh, I thought, perhaps that was not nice. He might be Baptist or something and not want to admit he drinks. Then he kinda' grinned and said "maybe." I still didn't catch on, I admit to a certain naivete in some areas of life. He shuffled some more and I suddenly realized what he must be thinking. I have never watched "Desperate Housewives," but he was probably thinking I could be one.

I quickly grabbed the bottle of specialty beer I had as a Christmas offering for him and wished him a very Merry Christmas. I don't know who was more relieved.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Monday, December 10, 2007

"Oh What a Beautiful Morning....."

It is hard to believe Christmas is right around the corner. We will soon be 8 years into the new Millennium. Remember when we were worried the world might come to a screeching halt at midnight on the last day of 1999? Would computers stop? Would all the things dependent on computers just quit? People were stocking food and preparing for an unspecified period of isolation as the world waited to see what the morning of the year 2000 would bring. When I was young, I thought about the advent of the year 2000, but I did not think I would be able to live long enough to see it. I simply could not imagine being THAT old. Of course, it doesn't seem so old now.

The old adage - "If you don't like the weather, just wait a minute and it will change" - is especially true in Central Texas this time of year. Yesterday it was 80*F outside, today, at this writing, it is 37*F . When we walked this morning, there was a heavy fog which almost felt like sleet falling and the wind chill was 31*. Yesterday, the gold, pink, purple, and orange colors of the morning horizon heralded the new day as we finished our walk and headed home. The trees were dark silhouettes, and our resident herd of wild deer grazed in the landscaped gardens. We tolerate the deer, having invaded their home, and they retaliate by munching on our shrubs and having babies in our gardens.

I can look out my front door and see the tree across the street clothed in its Fall finery. We don't always have a autumnal show of color and mine is the only house on the street that does not have a tree in the front yard, so I particularly enjoy this one. It is a glorious yellow right now. With the cooperation of the weather, it might reveal some other colors. Soon, the deciduous trees in the greenbelt behind my house, will lose their leaves. They won't change slowly and with dignity like the one across the street. They will just change from green to brown and drop their leaves in a huff of wind. The bare trees have their own beauty against the morning and night skies and they leave behind a treasure only seen when the leaves are gone. Amongst the dark bark and green cedars of the greenbelt area, the possum haw will reveal its red berries which glisten like jewels with dew or ice in the mornings and provide food for the resident and wintering birds until spring.

“This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Writers Beware

DD#2, aka ABW, had a strange request in her blog comments yesterday. Don't bother to look for it, it has been deleted. There is a web site which I choose not to advertise, but include here the gist of the request.

The info printed below is directly off the website and has not been altered / corrected in any way.

The goal of [info deleted] is to collect stories, doodles and journal entries of military families & spouses.This will give military families a voice, while helping them to stay anonymous. Why would a military spouse or family member want to stay anonymous? You ask...Although, living in America - many military families feel as if they have no one to talk to in fear that they may face repercussion from their service member or the military on different subjects.Share feelings on how you really feel about living the life of a military spouse, the job your spouse has in the military, your FRG or whatever else it is you would like to talk about.You may send photos, snippets, doodles, short stories or anything you feel help you express your feelings as a military spouse.Your information will be kept confidential. In sending your information, this does not mean that your information will be used in our book.

In sending information to us, you are giving us permission to publish your story, doodles etc... with-out compensation of any kind. You are giving us permission to use your original work to publish in our book.We are not here to slam our military or our government. We are here to give you a voice on issues where in other circumstances you would feel unable to do so.

The whole idea is strange and, possibly, subversive. I have contributed to similarly constructed books, but never under such secrecy. I was always given a small compensation, such as a book, or a book, or a book, or the proceeds were to be donated to a worthy cause. The cause was delineated in advance which gave me the opportunity to write & submit or not. This person stipulates "no compensation will be given" but does not say where the money goes. No problem unless s/he ends up on a talk show and / or the book becomes a best-seller.

She doesn't just want to hear the bad, you can send some good stories as well, but it will be edited and who knows what stories will be included. Of course, all this is all anonymous - the story writers, the "author" of the book, and, presumably, the people in the stories. Why not just write a fiction book based on your experiences / gripes / hearsay?

I hope that you will look over any offers such as these that come to you. Chances are that this proposed book is a whim and the author is just a naive, star-struck writer with $$ signs in her eyes or an axe to grind. Still, you can't overlook the other possibilities - maybe Cindy Sheehan is phishing in new territory, maybe a terrorist cell is infiltrating the military through the spouses, maybe there is an attempt to stir up unrest before the elections. Far fetched? So were the events of 911. If Ms. Anonymous wants people to write a book for her, she should show herself!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

The Memory Box

I don't really need to celebrate any more birthdays. If I had my way, they would just pass by and be another day. I have to admit, this was a good day.

DD#2 can not keep a secret and she has been chomping at the bit to let me know what she was bringing over today. After I saw it, I understood why. DDs #2&3 put together a Memory Box. It is a pretty little, teal-blue box with a lid, and it is just chock full of memories. Each memory is written on a slip of paper, folded, and placed in the box. I have been instructed to open just 1-2 each week. This sounded difficult at first, but when I opened the first one, a dozen memories came flooding in. I want to savor those memories and the feelings they evoke, so I won't open the slips of paper all at once, I will wait until each one settles a bit.

The first one, extracted randomly, said:
"I remember when you and Dad went out for some business dinner and you wore the maroon dress with the pearl buttons and left in the yellow car."

While I don't recall the specific occasion, I do remember that dress. It was one of my favorites. I also remember the yellow Datsun, but for the life of me, I can't remember why we bought a yellow one. We must have gotten a good deal on it. We didn't leave the children and go out very often, so t shouldn't surprise me that they would remember this rare occasion. We would pay the older children to baby-sit the younger ones, and pay the younger ones a paltry sum to "baby-sit themselves." All were subject to losing their "pay" if there were any unsavory circumstances. If there were, we never knew it.

The few times we had a babysitter when they were very young, I was worried they might cry when we left. Before we went out the door, I would give each of them a marshmallow, something they did not ordinarily get to eat. I told them they could eat it as soon as the car was out of sight. I have memories of them clutching their marshmallows tightly in their little hands , noses pressed to the window, and bright eyes watching gleefully as we got into the car and drove away. They never cried.

Friday, December 7, 2007

A Lesson in Dignity

In his post on "Keeping warm by hibachi," Abraham Lincoln describes the way some Japanese people recycled cigarettes shortly after the war's end. It reminded me of an occurrence while we were living in Okinawa.

My mother and I were shopping for fabric (see I come by it honestly!) in one of the small shops "in town." When we were there, "town" consisted of some tin-roofed shanties set up just outside the gates of Kadena AFB. They seemed to specialize in various things and I loved to wander through them. As my mother bargained with the shop keeper, I watched. Another customer entered the store while extracting a cigarette from her purse. The cigarette fell to the ground. She carefully picked it up, placed it on a stack of nearby stones, and announced to no one in general, "I am sure the shop owner will throw this away for me."

The shop keeper was silent, but the look in his eyes still haunts me. I believe he was hurt and offended by the woman's condescension. His cultural training would never have allowed him to say anything to her......a foreign woman....victorious from a war only 10 years ago.....publicly offering him a dirty cigarette.....but I wonder what he would like to have said. I wonder what he would say if he knew how much the episode has affected me over all these years. I wonder and I wonder.....

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Snail Steals Show

DD#2, Em, a neighbor child, and I, went to the dress rehearsal of "A Year with Frog and Toad" tonight. The little theater in Killeen, Vive Les Arts Community Theatre, offers the final dress rehearsal free to military families, so we take advantage of it as often as possible. Tonight's performance was quite good and certainly fast moving. I loved the birds' costumes. The cast was well prepared and enthusiastic, so we had a nice evening.

Probably the most memorable acting was by the snail. He didn't have the largest part, but did such a good job of the part he had, that he stole the show. The main attraction was his "walk," emphasized by his costume. He had knee pants, long socks, and a shirt. A small bedroll attached to his back by suspenders, and a cap with protruding antennae completed the costume. His walk was intriguing - a repetitive clockwork movement of his legs as if in slow motion, while his arms moved in rapid circles. All the kids were attempting to emulate his walk as they left the theater. I heard one child remark that it was the "Snail Walk Symptom."

I wonder if the "Snail Walk" could overtake the "Freddy."

A hit on Broadway, A Year With Frog and Toad was nominated for 3 Tony
Awards® - including Best Musical. Now, for the first time, an all-new production
will tour across North America. Arnold Lobel's beloved characters hop from the
page to the stage in Robert and Willie Reale's musical A Year With Frog and
Toad. Developed by Mr. Lobel's daughter, Adrianne Lobel, the stage musical
remains true to the spirit of the original stories as it follows two great
friends, the cheerful and popular Frog and the rather grumpy Toad through four
fun-filled seasons. Waking from hibernation in the spring, they proceed to plant
gardens, swim, rake leaves and go sledding, learning life lessons along the way,
including a most important one about friendship and rejoicing in the attributes
that make each of us different and special.

When the moon hits your eye....."

The world's first moonbeam collector stands in the desert some 15 miles west of Tucson, Arizona. It consists of a large frame sunk into a 45-foot-deep crater, on private land a few miles from the Kitt Peak National Observatory. This sparse desert area is known for its dark skies. The device is five stories tall, weighs 25 tons, and is covered with 84 mirrored panels set on a hydraulic mount that, supposedly, can focus the light of the moon with "the precision of a Swiss watch." There is no charge to use the facility, although the owners defray some of the operating costs by, suggested, $10.00 donations. This "Interstellar Light Collector," has, so far, cost the private owners, Richard and Monica Chapin, $2 million.

Since people who are "allergic to sunlight" can go out in the moonlight, I have to assume moonbeams do not have UV rays. Thus, the "moonbeams" are just reflected sunlight without harmful ultra-violet rays. Does this give "moonbeams" any special qualities? Well, there is the magic of the moon on romance. Did the astronauts feel any difference from concentrated "moonbeams," or did their spacesuits filter everything? I would be curious to know what effect enhanced "moonbeams" would have on me. Would I spend $10.00 to find out? I am not that curious. I can stand and contemplate under a beautiful full moon for less. Hmmmm, I wonder when the next full moon occurs.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Raising Women

When things start adding up, they are begging for blogging!

Many moons ago I loaned a new, unread book to a friend. The Women's West by Susan H. Armitage and Elizabeth Jameson was purchased on one of our Triumph trips. I always wonder how the pioneers made it to their destinations without the conveniences we enjoy now. Driving and riding in a vintage Triumph makes me wonder even more. Wondering, I seek answers by reading and exploring.

My friend recently returned my book and sent along with it a 1935 non-fiction book called "Old Jules" by Mari Sandoz. It is the story of her pioneer father and the settlement of the upper Niobrara country in western Nebraska. It does NOT read like Laura Ingalls Wilder's "Little House on the Prairie" books. Sandoz is an excellent writer, but she is also brutally honest. The result is a realistic picture of what life was really like for many of our pioneers, maybe not all of them, but far more than it is pleasant to consider. Fortunately, I read "Old Jules" first. Surprisingly, it was referenced in "The Women's West."

I had just finished "Old Jules" and had started "The Women's West" when I read "Word Quilts'" blog about "Are You a Zero?" These three sources were united as if by an industrial magnet. These stories of women from three different centuries, point out how little progress has been made in this patriarchal society's acceptance and treatment of women. I don't agree with all the Women's Lib hoopla. I won't vote or not vote for Hilary Clinton just because she is a woman. When I married, the men in my husband's office informed him that they "didn't allow their wives to work." When I did work outside the home, there were times when I was faced with being a "Zero." I believe our children's generation is finally getting the message. I know my daughters certainly speak up for themselves and my son is sensitive to women's issues, behind his macho front. A young man on the Dr. Phil Show was upset because his wife did not get a job nor keep the house clean enough for him.
"She has been living off me for five years!" he announced to the world.
Never mind that this 24 year-old woman had borne 3-4 children in those five years, and was bringing them up in their home.

There is still much to be done for women and, hopefully, it will not take another century.We don't have to burn our bras and we don't have to march in the streets. There are ways to increase our effectiveness with dignity and integrity. I have thought of some. I wonder how many you can contribute.

  • Stand your ground until you are heard.
  • When you see a colleague being taken advantage of, quietly gather behind her as a show of silent support. This works in many situations. Sarge and DD#2 quietly started a gathering behind a man who was debating an anti-war protester on the street in D.C. No one else needed to say anything; their presence was enough.
  • Teach our young women to speak up for themselves. Start at home by listening to what they have to say and validating their right to say it.
  • Teach our young men to respect women's voices as readily as they do men's.
  • Vote! Vote! Vote!
  • Educate yourself and impress the importance of education on your children. Not just formal education, but life's lessons as well.
  • Teach children early in life to accept the responsibility / consequences of their actions.
  • Love your spouse and children and treat them with dignity.
  • Women, perhaps of necessity, are amazingly able to multi-task. Use it to your advantage, but don't let it keep you from delegating.

I did not start out to preach. Guess I got carried away. There are many more ideas, I am sure. You probably have a few to add. I have always felt as if I missed out on a part of life because I was not a pioneer, but I am truly glad I was not married to Old Jules. The old West doesn't sound too enticing for women either. I wonder what I might have been like back then.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Monday, December 3, 2007

A Flurry of Activity

November is Birthday Month. In my extended family there are 16 birthdays, two of them are my children's, and one is a grandchild's. December is only slightly better. Add Thanksgiving, Christmas, and anniversaries into the mix and we have a very active two months.

We celebrated DD#3's birthday at my home since she was in town for a visit. All seven grandchildren and 5 adults made for a chaotic celebration around the table. DD#3 was a good sport about it, even when her birthday cake was decorated in "fall colors," aka the orange left from Halloween, on a chocolate cake. I made small cakes for each of the grandchildren to decorate themselves.

We make it a point to get all the cousins together as much as possible when they are in town at the same time. Family bonding is difficult in this day and age when families no longer live down the street from each other, or even in the same town. My four children were born on 3 different continents. The grandchildren were born in 4 different states and one foreign country. Times have changed from the days our ancestors lived and died in the same town, sometimes even the same house. There are distinct advantages to both ways of life.

Most of us will be together for Christmas again this year. We plan to make memories to hold on to in the future.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

"The Girl With the Watering Can"

The Girl With the Watering Can is a book I bought at the thrift store several months ago. It was an impulse buy. I did not think the children would find it interesting, then I decided they might look at the pictures in it - several nice ones by the old masters. Since the book only cost 25 cents, I thought it might be worth a try. Never did I believe it would have the long-lasting impact that it has.

The title of the book is also the title of a painting by Renoir. Abs, age 6, took a real shine to the book, poring over the story and pictures. She was the one who suggested we visit the National Museum of Art while we were planning atrip to D.C. Check out ABW's post.

This past Saturday, we were returning from DS's big BD bash in Houston and visiting thrift shops on the way home. Sarge's "find" made Abs' eyes widen surprise and pleasure - a framed gallery poster of "The Girl With the Watering Can"! The purchased picture made the trip home in the back of the car.

Abs called this morning and relayed the morning's news with so much excitement that it took several tries before I could decipher her message.

"The girl with the watering can was still in her picture and had not ruined any of the other pictures in the house!"

Now, if this statement means nothing to you, you must read the book. It is a rather charming story and points out a surprise object in one of the later paintings..