Sunday, June 26, 2011

"Make new friends but keep the old . . .

. . . one is silver and the other gold." So goes an old Girl Scout song I sang as a child.

This weekend we went to visit one of our "golden" friends, Keith, who now lives near Lubbock, in west Texas. Dan and Keith have birthdays within a few days of each other, and, when Keith lived in Albuquerque, we always celebrated them together. Since those birthdays are coming right up, we couldn't resist popping down there and having a celebratory birthday dinner together, for old time's sake.

Keith, his son Reed, Dan and I went to a great little Mexican restaurant that Keith recommended. Afterward Keith and Reed came to our hotel room and we visited until after 10:00. It was so good to be with them for awhile again!

Here's a quick snapshot of Keith playing his first-ever game of Angry Birds, on Dan's brand new iPad (an anniversary-Father's Day-birthday gift).

I took my camera, but the truth is that eastern New Mexico and west Texas don't have a lot of varied or scenic landscape.

We saw a lot of farm homes:

Grain elevators:

Train tracks:

And billboards (some a tad bit political):

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Penny for my Thoughts

There is a penny lying on the mat in front of the door leading from the garage into our house. It’s been there a long time. I see it every time I go inside, but my hands are usually full, and stooping down to pick it up just hasn’t been a priority for me.

That’s not always been the case. Coins have been meaningful to me, for one reason or another, at various times in my life. Here are a few random coin memories:

Grandma (Rose) used to tape a dime, for me, onto letters she sent to my mom and dad. Although I was only two or three years old when Grandma did this, I’ve never forgotten it. Of course, that was in the day of hand-written letters. It’s not so easy to tape a dime to an email message. Oh, for the days of opening the mailbox and finding letters and cards from friends and family, instead of a pile of junk mail and bills!

Speaking of Grandma, she was also the one, when I was four years old, who told me she would give me a silver dollar if I ever blew a bubblegum-bubble as big as my head. I worked on that for what seemed like months (probably wasn’t that long, in reality). I finally did blow a pretty big bubble and, although it certainly wasn’t as big as my head, Grandma, being Grandma, awarded me the silver dollar.

I can’t remember the details or the reason, but for a brief time one summer, when I was about five years old, we lived with my Great Aunt Agnes in Hillsboro, Oregon (what a jewel she was!). My older second-cousin, Don, lived close by and spent a lot of time with me that summer. Every afternoon the ice-cream man would come by on his little motorized cart. He charged ten cents for any of his confections – Nutty Buddies, Creamsicles, Eskimo Pies and Fudgesicles. We could hear his tinkly music from several blocks away, which always gave us time to run inside and ask Aunt Agnes for ice cream money. She had one of those little coin pouches, with the little metal clasp that you twisted apart. She would dig in there and count out ten cents for Don and ten cents for me. Sometimes we were given a dime, sometimes two nickels, sometimes a nickel and five pennies. But she always found a way to put ten cents in each of our little fists. Though I’ve eaten a hundred or more ice cream bars since that summer – some of them “premium” brands – none ever tasted as good as those bought with Aunt Agnes’ coins.

When we lived in the apartment over our first bakery on South Franklin Street, Friday nights were a special time for my mom and me. Thinking about it now, I suppose Mom prepared a bank deposit every night, from the money in the bakery till. But on Friday I got to stay up late and help her with it. I remember, as if I had just seen them yesterday, the TV tables that sat, folded up, in their holder in our living room. On Friday nights I’d pull out and set-up two of them, one for me and one for Mom. She would put the paper money on her tray, and pour out the coins onto mine. It was my job to stack the coins into precisely-counted-out piles and roll them up in the paper rollers that we got from the bank. Fifty pennies (50 cents) went into the red rollers; forty nickels ($2) in the blue rollers; fifty dimes ($5.00) in the green rollers; forty quarters ($10.00) in the orange rollers; and twenty half-dollars ($10.00) in brown rollers. (Half dollars were still common, back then, and they had Benjamin Franklin’s head on them, not JFK’s. Silver dollars also showed up in our till, frequently, but they did not go to the bank. They went into Mom’s personal stash. Over the years, she bought special things with those silver dollars, including some nice pieces of furniture.) When we had finished preparing the bank deposit, Mom would send me across the street to buy two bottles of Coca Cola, while she dipped up some vanilla ice cream, from downstairs in the bakery, into two tall glasses. Mmmm - Friday night Coke floats!

At some point in junior high, I started collecting pennies. I bought one of those penny folders and, on occasion, would sort through the bakery till, at the end of the day, looking for pennies I needed. I still have that blue penny folder, and it’s pretty much complete, I think. I even have some of those (1943?) war-time zinc-coated-steel pennies, which we never see in circulation anymore.

Do you remember my blog about the dentist who used to give me mercury to play with? One of my favorite things to do (KIDS, DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME) was to rub a bead of mercury onto a coin. It would adhere to and dissolve onto the metal and turn it the most brilliant silver color.

I remember when 4-year-old Chris came in the house, one day, after playing with the neighbor boy, his eyes as big as saucers and a mixture of guilt and fear all over his dirty little face (they had been playing with Tonka trucks out in the empty lot between our houses). “Mama, I swallowed a penny!” he confessed. “What?!! Why?!! How?!!” I cried, dashing over to him. “Tim [the neighbor boy, not our Tim] dared me to swallow it, and I did,” he cried. I called the doctor – “Not to worry. As long as he’s breathing fine, this too shall pass! It happens all the time.” [Let’s just hope they don't swallow any of those coins I coated in mercury back in the day!]

Enough of the coin stories. I got a little carried away, I realize. I think I’m going to go pick up that penny on the mat in the garage. And I need to write a note to Clara, and one to Robert, and tape a couple dimes to them. (Robert, don’t SWALLOW the dime!)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Remembering June 15, 1969

It was Sunday. In fact, it was Father’s Day. But this Father's Day my Dad did the giving. He gave away his daughter.

It was unusual timing for a wedding. We all went to the morning worship service, then left to get ready for our afternoon wedding ceremony. While we were getting dressed and primped for the wedding, many of our dear friends stayed at the church building to decorate and set-up for the wedding and reception.

Our wedding was simple. We each had only one attendant. My bride’s maid was my very best childhood friend, Shelley. Dan’s best man was his Uncle Wiley. We had two pretty little flower girls and an adorable ring bearer.

Those were the days when a wedding didn’t require a lot of money. It was not the custom to have a meal catered; a wedding cake, mints, nuts and fruit punch was all that was ever expected! The church fellowship hall served nicely as the reception venue. There were no facilities-fees for using the church building. No one had even heard of a wedding coordinator. We did hire a photographer and we did purchase some corsages, a bride’s bouquet, and a couple of flower arrangements. All in all, our wedding probably cost about $600, but $300 of that was for my wedding dress, which I paid for, myself, through the sale of my fox-fur parka, which I wouldn't need, living in Texas.

After the wedding and reception, Dan and I left for the airport, to catch our plane to Seattle, where we would spend our first night together. Typical of travel in Alaska, our flight was canceled; as I recall the plane had mechanical problems. But we were able to get on the evening flight, which still put us into Seattle that night.

Our honeymoon involved driving from Seattle, Washington, to Abilene, Texas, in time for me to start summer school. We drove down the Oregon coast; through Death Valley, to Las Vegas; to the Grand Canyon of Arizona; and on to Texas. We were traveling in our 1968 Mustang, with NO air conditioning. That trip through the Mojave Desert was a killer!

The wedding ceremony was simple – even plain – by today’s standards; but the vows were made and taken seriously. Forty-two years later, we’re still committed to them and to each other.

Happy 42nd anniversary to my husband, my friend, my partner in life’s decisions, my comforter in difficult times, the father of my sons, the grandpa of my grandchildren, my spiritual encourager, my protector and care-giver, my provider, the one who shares my dreams, the man who multiplies my joys and divides my sorrows.

Here are some lyrics I heard recently, from a bluesy-jazz number, first released in 1941, recorded dozens of times since, and still being recorded today. I think the words tell our story well:

In this world of ordinary people
Extraordinary people
I'm glad there is you

In this world of over-rated pleasures
Of under-rated treasures
I'm so glad there is you

I live to love, I love to live with you beside me
This role so new, I'll muddle through with you to guide me

In this world where many, many play at love
And hardly any stay in love
I'm glad there is you

More than ever, I'm glad there is you

("I'm Glad There Is You," Paul Madeira & Jimmy Dorsey)

Here's a YouTube recording of Johnny Mathis singling I'm Glad There Is You. It has a prelude to it, so you have to listen awhile to get to the main lyrics. Johnny Mathis has always been one of Dan's and my favorite artists. We loved listening to him in that '68 Mustang, on our 8-Track player!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Happy Birthday Dear Mom!

Today is Mom's 85th birthday, and she's a YOUNG 85, for sure! I just talked with her on the phone, and she had a nice day. She went out to dinner with friends, Pat and Gloria, and then went to their home for cake and ice cream. Her friend, Ursula, was there as well. Ursula brought the cake, and Pat and Gloria supplied the ice cream. After that little celebration, Mom went home, cut the remaining cake up in pieces and delivered cake to all of her neighbors.

The blog I posted just before this is a little history of Clark's Bakery that Mom wrote. I think she did a nice job on it, and, so, want to share it here. Be sure to look for it below!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM! May God bless you in the coming year.

Clark's Bakery History, by Margaret Clark

My mom wrote this narrative about our family's bakery, in response to a request from someone in Juneau.


In June 1957 Bob Clark, his wife Margaret, and Daughter Linda flew to Juneau to venture into a new life of running a bakery, and living in Alaska. Margaret’s Father and Mother had started Ivan’s Bakery in a little Quonset hut down under the Douglas bridge. By the time our family got there, they had moved into an old building located in the heart of the city on Franklin Street.

Because Margaret’s father, Ivan had serious eye problems, he wanted to go to Seattle for surgery, and to not return to the bakery. He wanted Bob to buy and run the bakery. That was a nice offer, but Bob had no money with which to buy the shop. They made a verbal contract for Bob to work for a year, drawing no pay, and that would go for his down payment on the bakery. Margaret had started a job with Northern Commercial Company, and was getting a whopping $350 a month. They had left Salem, Oregon, leaving their house with a renter, and leaving their first new car parked, so there were debts to meet each month in Oregon. When Bob agreed to go to Juneau, the plan was for him to work a year for Ivan and then Bob and his family would go back to Oregon. Now, things changed quickly when the offer to buy the shop was on the table.

The Clark family moved into a tiny apartment which was located up over the Madsen’s Fishing Supply Company. The rent was $100 a month. It had only one bedroom, so Linda would go to bed in the bedroom, and soon her Dad would also go to bed because he was up at 4 a.m. to go to work. He had no car, so had to walk to work. When it was time for Margaret to go to bed, the davenport was made into a bed, and she would carry Linda out to that bed for the rest of the night. It was hard living, and we did not even have a hamburger out for an entire year, because money was scarce.

After a year of frugal living, it was time for Bob to take over the shop, and for Ivan to leave town for adventures of his own. The money was still not enough to buy the shop, and one day one of the local salesmen came into the shop and heard the story. He told Bob to take off his apron and come with him. Down the street they went to the 1st National Bank. The salesman co-signed for Bob to get the money he needed to buy the shop. What a blessing this was.

It was very humorous because at the end of the first day there was still no money in the bank, and Bob would take whatever money was in the cash register to go over to the Dock and get a sack of flour, and a sack of sugar to be open for business the next day. That went on for quite awhile before Bob had his feet on the ground and could afford to charge things that were needed.

This bakery building housed Ivan’s Bakery for about 5 years, before Sim McKinnon, who owned the building, decided to sell it. Bob’s and his family lived upstairs over that little building, so this was a major upset. The old building had been a House of Ill Repute in days past, and was not the best place to live, but it was good to be right on the site of the bakery. Margaret continued to work for North Commercial, for Elwyn Pym, hurrying home at the end of each day to help close up the shop, clean the cases etc. She also got up early enough to fry and glaze the donuts before she went to work at her other job.

Soon Nick Bavard, whose grocery store was across the street from the Bakery, decided that he wanted to rent the old store building. Bob took that project on, making many alterations in the old grocery so that the bakery could be housed there . Friends would come every evening and help us paint, lay floors, and do whatever was needed that day. Margaret’s brother, Ivan Womack was always there to help too.

This was a lovely big shop with a counter with about 12 stools where hamburgers or other sandwiches were served. Of course many came in just to eat some of the delicious Danish Pastry or donuts that Bob always provided. That building was located on the edge of the alley next to George’s Gift Shop. When Bob moved the business across the street, South Franklin Street was closed for most of the day while the moving company rolled his huge oven across the street. They took out the big windows to bring it into the building. Now the bakery became Clark’s Bakery and Coffee Bar.

Soon a second oven was added to that business as it grew too big for one oven to handle. It was a hard job because Bob cold find no one qualified to work for him. Bakers were not plentiful in Juneau.

After another 5 years, Nick Bavard decided to sell the building in which the bakery was housed. At that time there was a Spudnut Shop located just about 4 doors from us, and he was going to close his business, so Bob purchased that business, and moved his bakery/lunch counter to that location. This meant another huge move, and another remodeling job.

After moving in there, the business continued to be successful until about 1967 when the opportunity to sell it to a young man who had been in Juneau to work for Bob in previous years. He ran the business for awhile before moving it to the Foodland shopping area.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Reading Log, December 2010 through May 2011

My reading has been chaotic the last few months. I've read everything from sci-fi, non-fiction, mystery, to detective and literary fiction. I've read old and new. I've read long and short.

The Multiplex Man, James P. Hogan
This sci-fi novel has an Orwellian 1984 feel to it. Government, in the name of environmental control, has gone off the deep end. Personal freedoms have vanished, and scientific technology has made possible the impossible. The main character, Richard Jarrow, wakes one day to find he has lost all memory of the past six months and is living in someone else’s body. Through an amazing number of twists and turns, culminating in a surprise ending, the mystery is solved.

Admittedly, I’m not a sci-fi fan, and this is the only Hogan book I’ve read. I can say is that the story did keep me turning pages and curious to the very end. I would probably give Hogan another try in one of those rare moments when I decide to read another sci-fi book.

These Things Hidden, Heather Gudenkauf
I chose this book because I so enjoyed The Weight of Silence, by the same author. I was disappointed in this one, however. The book was dark and lacked the redeeming themes of hope and love found in The Weight of Silence.

The book revolves around the lives of four women, all connected in unique ways to a small child named Joshua. Although I usually enjoy a story revealed from various voices and perspectives, I found this particular novel to be disjointed and lacking flow. The surprising revelation found near the end of the novel, which depended upon the coming-together of the four women felt, to me, contrived rather than simply coincidental.

Little Princes: One Man's Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal, Conor Grennan
It’s nice to read a biographical book where both the author and those he touched had such life-changing experiences. Conor Grennan set off on a round-the-world journey of fun and adventure. Along the way, he planned a brief volunteer stop at The Little Princes Children’s Home, in Nepal. Admittedly, this mission was more to impress others than it was altruistic. But his time at Little Princes changed his heart and the course of his life. This book and the author, himself, deserve a “thumbs up.”

Rex: A Mother, Her Autistic Child, and the Music that Transformed Their Lives, Cathleen Lewis
This is the story of Rex, an autistic musical savant, as told by his mother. Rex is truly a remarkable individual, and the story is interesting. I would, however, have preferred more details about Rex and his journey and less about his mother’s personal emotions and thoughts. None the less, the reader has to give credit to the amazing perseverance demonstrated by his mother, the author, Cathleen Lewis. I do think that this would be an especially encouraging read for any parent dealing with a child with special needs.

Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen
Jacob Jankoski, the main character of this novel, leaves school before sitting for the exam to become a certified veterinarian, when his parents are tragically killed in an accident. He is left homeless and penniless, and is grateful to be hired on by a traveling circus as their vet (even without his papers). I loved how the author took the reader back and forth between Jacob’s circus days and his senior years, living in an assisted care facility.

This book is a life story, a love story, a story of overcoming, and a story of insight into the frustrations of aging. I won’t spoil the ending, but I can tell you that it left me with a big smile on my face.

I understand Water for Elephants has been made into a movie, but I’m not sure I want to see it. I can’t imagine how the movie could do a better job than the book of telling the story. Why risk being disappointed?

The Lincoln Lawyer: A Novel, Michael Connelly
If you like lawyer novels, this one is worth your time. Don’t let the title fool you, though; it has nothing to do with Abraham Lincoln. The Lincoln in the title refers to the Lincoln town car the main character, Mick Haller, uses as his transportation and traveling office.

In this story, Haller, a defense attorney, finds himself in an almost impossibly complex set of circumstances that test his ethics and put his life, and the lives of friends and family, on the line.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, F. Scott Fitzgerald
I know. This short story is a classic. They even made a movie out of it. But I found it disappointing. Firtgerald’s character, Benjamin Button, is born a doddering old man and begins growing younger from that day forward, until, decades later, he becomes a helpless infant. Although the plot has potential, I felt that the characters, most notably Benjamin, himself, were flat. They didn’t inspire any emotional connection with me, as the reader, and I have to admit to being a bit bored as I read through the story.

Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro
The story opens in 1952, when Kathy, Ruth and Tommy are students, and have been since their earliest years, at Hailsham, a seemingly idyllic country boarding school. Their relationship as young adults, after leaving Hailsham, remains entwined, but fraught with emotional drama. Throughout the book, the Hailsham students make references to their destiny and speak using obscure terms, leaving the reader unsure and searching for clues to their fate.

As the story progresses, the reader gradually comes to a chilling realization. This novel is both depressing and thought-provoking. I still don't know how I feel about this book. It's still very fresh in my mind. Maybe after some time, I'll be able to make a determination. For now -- it gets neither a thumbs-up nor a thumbs-down from me.

This Evening's Sun

This will be the last one. I promise. But the sun was even more RED than last evening. (The blurry dark area at the bottom is the top of our backyard fence.)


Monday, June 6, 2011

Cough Cough Cough

For the past four days, Albuquerque has been smothered in a thick blanket of smoke, coming from the massive Arizona fires near the AZ/NM border. Around noon today I was hopeful, as it began to clear, and we saw blue sky. But this evening, when the wind picked up again, it became worse than ever.

Dan and I are fortunate to have air conditioning, which filters most of the smoke from the air we are breathing indoors. The majority of houses in Albuquerque are cooled with evaporative coolers (known colloquially as "swamp coolers). There have been continuous radio announcements telling folks NOT to use swamp coolers, as they will just fill their homes with the smoky air. The high temperatures have been in the nineties lately, so that's a major concern for those people. I really don't know how people with chronic respiratory problems are making it, since even those of us with healthy lungs are coughing.

Here's a picture of the sun, filtered by the smoke this evening, taken from our back yard. It looks like a red rubber ball.


That red sunlight causes everything to have an orange cast. This is what it looked like looking north from our back door (no Photoshop color enhancement on any of these photos).


And here is a photo of Sandia Peak, from our deck. Believe me, there is a big mountain behind that smoke!


Here's a picture sans-smoke, taken on an earlier date from about the same perspective as the one above.