Archive for January, 2009

Run Ponies, Run

On his blog, ten billion butterfly sneezes, friend Ken Nelson, former resident of Norton, Kansas, where we, too, lived for 8 years, remembered a trip to the horse races, he, his wife, Nancy, Dale and I took. I best remember the first time we went together. Ken designed a computer program that predicted winners based on several factors (which I long ago have forgotten.) The night before, he and Dale drove up to Nebraska and bought a racing program for the next day. He plugged in the figures and printed out computer sheets for each of us.

The next day dawned and off we went to Grand Island, Nebraska to the races. Still being a bit of a novice at the races, I bet mostly by the sheet — and I won and won and won. In fact, we each won and won. By the end of the day, we amassed about $1500 total. What a day! I even tipped the attendant in the restroom $5. Never had I ever done anything like that, nor have I since then!

For me, the most memorable part was the trip home. We’d drive awhile, until someone would say, “You know, I’ve always wanted to buy a ——” (fill in the blank.) And someone else would say, “Buy it!” And we’d all laugh. Then another person would chime in with another wish-list item. We stopped in Kearney at a steak house and the waitress got a $20 tip. We felt that glorious generousness, the one that comes from good luck.

Practicality won out in the end as both of us couples paid a few bills with our earnings. However, we promised ourselves that we’d each buy something we really wanted, that we normally wouldn’t spend the money on. I don’t remember what the fellas each bought. However, I do remember Nancy wanted contact lens, and she got them. I wanted a good, portable radio/boom box. It was expensive — really nice. The boys’ eyes got big and they yelled when they saw Mom’s new toy! We had that thing for years and the entire family enjoyed it immensely. I mourned its demise when it finally succumbed to old age. Yet, every once in awhile, I’d look at it and remember the day I won the money to buy it. Good fortune just smiles sometimes.

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Back in the Saddle Again

This past week I’ve been helping a friend by writing the end notes for her historical work on an area in the Grand Tetons National Park. I advised and edited and proofread for many years when I was teaching. I worked hard at it so that when my students went off to college they had an idea on how to put all their information into a paper. Since I personally had a 12 year gap between my first stint in college and my second stint, I, too, had to go back to everything my Junior and Senior English teachers had taught me about writing and documenting research. There is a certain logic to it; however, it is sometimes difficult to grasp. Once it sinks in, a light bulb comes on. It’s like a difficult math concept — once you “get it”, you wonder why others struggle. James once said that about calculus — one day the cord to the light bulb was pulled and it all came together. In the meantime, follow the examples given in the style manual/book.

I taught Modern Language Association style for research. That’s the form English majors use. The other different styles are variations. But, of course, the idea is to document where you found your information. Give credit where it is due. We all believe others more if they can verify how they arrived at their ideas. (One day at church during the homily, the priest was quoting facts and figures to support his stand — then he said, “Of course, 57% of all statistics are made up.” Bruce and I laughed, as did a few others who were really listening.)

My friend said that she wanted to add endnotes to her work to verify her research. I agree wholeheartedly. It adds validity to her years of work. Besides, you never know who, down the road, will want to check some of that information.

That reminds me of the story about the young man who was struggling for a subject for his dissertation in science. His professor finally told him to go back and check the seminal work about spinach and its iron content. The young man begrudgingly did so only to discover that the original work was incorrect. Spinach had only one tenth the amount of iron it was thought to have — the decimal point was off. Wow, what a fortunate accident that was for the rising young scholar. Debunk an old myth. That will make the scientific journals!

A favorite (girly) film of mine is Possession — I had read the book by the same name, written by A S Byatt. A young researcher discovers a mystery letter from a famous poet that leads to all other kinds of information, and a mystery woman. However, prior to his discovery he is searching out biggie topics like how many jars of jam the famous poet’s wife put up in the summer of 1886. (Yawn.) I kept thinking of that as I typed the entries. Someday someone might discover something really earth shaking about the Grand Tetons and Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

So, I dug out the references for Chicago style, which is what history texts use. It didn’t take me that long to get it all together for the first draft. We’re still clearing up some questions and typos. However, it’s rather nice to be back in the saddle again. Next comes proofreading the text. Wyoming, here we come.

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We’ve seen three good films lately. I recommend all of them.

Will Smith gets better and better as he matures. Seven Pounds is interesting. It’s one of these films that starts at the ending. Bring a tissue, even Bruce teared up.

Speaking of better with age, Clint Eastwood has it down pat. Grand Torino is both funny and sad.

Today we saw Last Chance Harvey. The crowd was definitely the over 50s bunch. Again, I like Dustin Hoffman as a more mature fellow.

Happy Viewing!!

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New Year

Today is the Feast of the Epiphany which marks the end of the Christmas season for the Church. I leave the nativity scene up on the mantel until then. So down it comes tomorrow. Bruce even asked if I wanted to leave it up permanently. I thought about it for five seconds. It then wouldn’t be special, would it?

So – yesterday we got busy and took down the Christmas tree. Although I missed having a real tree, it sure is a lot easier to clean up and put away an artificial tree. We got very organized last year and bought big clear tubs with wheels for storing the decorations and my collection of Father Christmases. It makes putting up and taking down a breeze. We can see what the boxes contain and Bruce can easily roll them into place in the loft of the Yard Barn. At our house, and probably at yours too, we have to rearrange the living room to accommodate the tree.

Although I love the decorations for the Christmas season, I also relish the clean spare look we have after the the room is back to “normal” again. I guess that speaks to the mark of time by seasons. I think we all do it. Different items denote different parts of the year, don’t they? Now I have the Valentine’s Day wreath hanging on the front door. In a couple of months I’ll switch it for the spring wreath, then the summer one and the autumn one, before we’re back around to Christmas.

I even do it with table linens and dishes. I have old fashioned checked tablecloths and place mats that say “summer” to me. James was a baby when I made the place mats. I even recall ordering the material from Sears. Remember those days?? I’m always surprised that they’ve lasted this long. Bruce brought some things from his mom and dad’s house when he arrived with his “trousseau”. One was a set of oval crocheted place mats that resemble watermelons. Nothing says summer quite like those do. And I always lovingly think of Odelia when I put them out on the table. I wish I could crochet like that. Although my friend, Connie, taught me to crochet many years ago, I never got beyond a rectangular afghan — probably considered second grade in the school of crochet.

Another item is my tan stoneware that I drag out in the fall. I bought my set way back when I worked at Safeway and purchased the pieces week by week as the featured item of the week. I even got extra plates thinking that would be a piece I might drop and break. Amazingly, I’ve never broken a single piece in all these years. I even have the coffee server, which I’ve never used. Every time I want to use it, I think, wouldn’t the coffee stay hotter in the regular pot? I then put it back. I must stop doing that.

I’ve long stopped “saving things for good”. I look for times to use the “good” china and crystal and silver. They stay nicer when they are used and washed and rotated. I think they know. Wouldn’t you feel grand if you were a dish and placed on a pretty table and then lovingly washed and stored? Well — maybe that’s silly and far fetched; however, I do know we honor the women in our lives when we use their nice dinnerware. They were proud of their pretty things and we should, as custodians, feel the same. Besides that, all the dishes and crystal and silver stay nicer simply because they are used, and thus cleaned. Because I rotate the silver, I spend maybe one half hour once a year cleaning silver. We use the silverplate inherited from my step-grandmother, Hannah Washburn, almost daily. As I was putting some forks away yesterday, I had a flashback to a time at her table when I admired her King James pattern. It was a pattern I might have chosen for myself and obviously, I said so. Twenty years later I was surprised to learn she left me her silverplate, which I’ve added to in the intervening years. I still look for coordinating pieces in antique stores.  I think that would make Grandma Hannah happy. It was in Mother’s will that I was to inherit her own silver, as Emily will someday inherit it from me.

Now that I’ve discovered Replacements.com I no longer worry about finding replacement pieces if something gets broken or lost. There is an industry that takes care of that problem. I’ve even found a gentleman who knows how to polish out the little nicks on Bruce’s Aunt Dicey’s crystal stemware.

So — the year rolls on and I can be found looking through the drawer of tablecloths or in the china cupboard or the silver chest. I hope that some day one of my descendants will do the same. In fact, I’d be honored.

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