Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Dizzy-Sicks, or Suffering for Beauty

When I was a little girl, we had a nice patch of lawn on the north side of our house. It was a lovely place to hang out and to play on hot summer days (definitely no air conditioning to keep us inside in those days). One of the things we sometimes liked to do was to throw our arms out wide and whirl around until we became dizzy and fell to the grass. In a few moments the dizziness would pass and we would likely do it again.

One day I was doing this when the dizziness did not quickly pass. In fact, I felt very sick in my stomach. All I could do was go inside and lie down. It took a long time for the nausea and dizziness to pass. And I was never again able to play that game. I became hypersensitive to dizziness. It takes very little to make me dizzy and dizziness makes me feel very ill indeed. Even watching someone else going in circles makes me dizzy. I've learned to look away from movie or television scenes that involve a lot of rapid, dizzying movement. I don't watch when children start running around in circles.When we played games that involved a blindfold and turning around in circles to disorient the person who was It, all it took for me was two or three turns. I didn't stop playing games like Blind Man's Bluff (or is it Buff--I've never known--we called it Bluff.), Pin the Tail on the Donkey, or Statues, I just was more careful about how many times I was turned when I was It. I am no fun at all at a carnival. The Merry-Go-Round is OK, but that's about it! I'll definitely never get on a Tilt-A-Whirl again.

Unfortunately, the Dizzy-Sicks, as I call it, is not brought on only by whirling around. As my allergy-proneness increased as I grew older, I learned that sinus pressure also disturbed my equilibrium. Sometimes all it takes is a turn of my head and a wave of dizziness, with the resulting nausea overwhelms me. Sitting still and not moving my head much is the treatment, which is sometimes very inconvenient.

Now, lest you think I am just complaining, there is a connection between the two things in the title of this blog. (In church Sunday the sermon was from the second chapter of Philippians, where Paul teaches not to be a complainer. So...I'm just reporting, not complaining!)

Yesterday I decided to give myself a perm. I hate the process, but my hair was driving me nuts and I thought that giving it some curl would make it easier to manage when we go vacationing to Yellowstone Park next week. I lined up my granddaughter to help when it came to the application of the waving solution step.

However, I had forgotten to take my allergy medicine the night before. My sinuses were doing their thing. And the turning of my head this way and that way to get the various solutions applied, and the bending over the sink turning my head this way and that way for the rinsing steps, was just too much. The Dizzy-Sicks attacked. And I could not go sit down and hold still--the process was not finished and it would be disastrous to stop until all was finished! So I was feeling extremely sick, but we got it done.

And I made a decision. A bit hastily perhaps. I may regret it later. But I threw away all my perm rods. I decided that if I ever have another perm I'll pay someone to do it, even if it hurts my thrifty soul to do so. (And even though the pros tend to way over cook my hair--the last perm I paid for absolutely fried my hair and took most of a year to get all grown out and cut off.) Again--not complaining, just commenting!
2011 The Yellowstone River above the Upper Falls

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Hollyhock Dancers

Free-will hollyhocks growing outside our back fence.
The Rooney House, where I spent seven years of my childhood, had a row of hollyhocks on the south side of the house. Those hollyhocks were a favorite of mine for several reasons. First, they were really pretty! Each flower had a big pollen ball in its center, which fascinated the child that I was. Bees were attracted to the flowers; big bumblebees were always working away in them. We had been warned against bothering the bees, because they would sting and it would hurt.

One day, however, I had a Brilliant Idea. I knew just how to safely catch a bumblebee! No sooner had this great idea come to me than I put it into motion. I crept up to a hollyhock where a bee was busy harvesting the nectar and pollen. Quickly, I folded the flower petals around the bee. I'm not sure what I thought I was going to do with her after I had caged her, but that immediately became a moot point. The bee did not appreciate my Not-So-Brilliant Plan. Her stinger came right through the flower petal and into my thumb.

The hollyhock growing by my daughter's
vegetable garden.
I turned the flower loose, and, I'm sure, ran crying to Mama. My throbbing thumb was red and swollen. Lesson learned!

But the best thing about the hollyhocks was hollyhock dolls. Mother taught us how to make them. All it takes are two toothpicks, a blossom, and a bud that is just about ready to open.

1. Pinch out the pollen laden stamen.
2. Peel back a section of the leaves covering the bud--just a wide enough section to expose two "eyes."
3. Push a toothpick up through the blossom into the bud.
4. Push another toothpick through horizontally.

To me, the dolls were beautiful ballerinas, to be danced around to imaginary music. They don't last long, but hollyhock flowers were abundant and I could always make more.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

There Are Magical Things Living on My Deck

Mr. Frog, swinging by a sign of
Welcome, is the newest resident of
the deck.
My deck is home to many creatures besides my pots of flowers! There are fairies, a gnome, cats, a robin, and even frogs and turtles.

For the past several years I have collected garden ornaments. Some I bought just because they pleased my eye or my sense of whimsy. Others were gifts. They live together in a contented hodgepodge amongst the posies. Here are some of them.

The Guardian Angel watches over the child and her small animals.

This Garden Fairy, perched on a mushroom, watches
a ladybug on her hand.
This friendly gnome leans upon a lamppost that gives a glow of light to the deck at night.
Another fairy, who seems a little shy, hiding among flowers with flower for her hat.

The little girl with the watering can also has a light at night. To her left are Mama and Baby Turtle.

I love the expressions on the cats--and they never need a litter box!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Baby, Big Sister, and Bode

Grace with new great-granddaughter Elise
Today I traveled with my sister Grace to visit her daughter Sue and her family. (Sue blogs at Only the Manager.) This was the first time we would meet the newest family addition. Sue and her husband, Mike, are grandparents for the second time. Their daughter, Maria, and her husband, Eric, have a new daughter, Elise, who is one week old today. (Oh, there is nothing so sweet, so heart-meltingly tender, as a newborn baby. I felt privileged to get to hold her.) Elise has a darling dimple in one cheek, and spiky black hair. So precious.

Elise has a big sister, Cordelia, who will be three years old in September. Cordelia is a lively, smart, little girl, who is proud to have a little sister. Many of her adventures have been related in her mother's blog little things are big.

Sue and Cordelia playing a game.
Sue and Mike have a beautiful dog named Bode. He's young, just a year and a half old, and the whole family seems to be in agreement that Bode is all beauty and no brains. He gets wildly excited when company comes, so Mike had to control him with his leash until he calmed down. Later, Bode needed to rest up from all the excitement. He climbed up beside me on the couch, rested his head on my lap, and snoozed away.

Happy Family
It was a lovely day spent with dear family members. Cordelia finally got accustomed enough to me to sit with me for reading of a storybook. Elise accepted all the adoration and being held by all of us with admirable patience for such a new little person. And I made a new friend in beautiful Bode.

Bode having his snooze.

Monday, July 16, 2012

What Does It Mean?

A few days ago my sister Grace and I traveled to visit our nearly-94-year-old aunt. Our aunt is the sibling nearest in age to our mother. Mother passed away a year and a half ago, just two months shy of 95 years old. She and her sister always kept in contact; by telephone when in-person visits were no longer possible. Our aunts were always dear to us, and this aunt reminds us in so many ways of our mother.

While we were visiting, our aunt told us again of a recurring dream that she has. In the dream she is in bed in her apartment. Down the short hall is her guest bedroom. In the dream she knows that her sister is in the guest bedroom. She feels her presence, although she doesn't see her and they do not speak to each other. It seems like this sense of her sister's presence is comforting to her.

Our aunt is in fragile health. She is not afraid of dying. In fact, although she is not unhappy and is loved and cared for by her family, she seems a bit impatient waiting for death!

Having had many dreams about my parents and my husband, I know that such dreams can be the brain's way of "visiting" with lost loved ones, or of processing the loss of their presence in my life.

However, our aunt's dream is rather unusual to me. Is her brain getting her ready for her transition out of this life--or is Mother giving her a sense of her presence to let her know she is there for her when the time comes?

What do you think?

Saturday, July 14, 2012

What Do You Call the House Where You Live?

1940  Mother, Terry, and Grace at the
house with the cistern and no running water.
I imagine that most people would answer the title question, "Home." So would I. However, through the years I've lived in so many different houses that it is necessary to have ways of distinguishing them.

I've read many, many books with settings in England, in which houses are identified not by an address, but by a name. The practice of naming houses did, in some cases, travel to the new world. It seems that the houses I see identified by names these days are usually in the "mansion" category. The practice of giving each house a specific name is not common here.

My parents had their own way of identifying the houses they lived in. Some houses they named after some particular aspect of the house or their experience while living there. Others were called by the name of the owner/prior owner. I don't know the names of all the houses my parents lived in before I was born, but do remember some of the names from references they would make to them, or from my mother identifying them for me in photos.

Mother and daughters at the Cold House in 1941
One house my parents and two older sisters lived in before I was born was just identified on a photo  by its street address, but it was later renovated and was occupied by good neighbors of ours when my parents bought a house in that neighborhood. I think of that house as the Joslyn's house.  Mother told me that when they lived there it had no running water, just a cistern to catch rain water for washing. She had to carry drinking/clean water from a faucet up the hill. The rent in 1940 was $10 per month.

My sister remembers that they lived for a time in a house they always referred to as "The Mouse House." I think the reason for that is self-explanatory!

When I was born the family was living in "The Cold House." That doesn't need explaining either.

Grace, Terry, Michelle on the steps
of the Richardson House
From The Cold House, we moved to "The Richardson House." The landlord must have been named Richardson. After a few months there, the family next lived in "The Lindsey House." This house is the scene of my earliest memory (I was not quite two years old). Although it felt like a memory, I thought this little snapshot in my mind could not be a real memory. In it, my mother was trying to coax me into a shower. I was very frightened of it. My sisters were already in. We were all wearing paper sacks, with the tops rolled down to make them fit, on our heads as shower caps. I thought this could not be a true memory, because we had never lived in a house with a shower. But then I learned that the Lindsey house had a shower, and that Mother had, indeed, made us shower caps from paper sacks!

When I was two we moved to "The Rooney House," where we lived until I was 9 1/2. I have many, many of my childhood memories from this house. It was while we lived there that my father was called to military service in WWII and my mother took a country school teaching job. While she did that we lived in "The Rabbit Hutch," which I wrote about in Little Schoolhouse on the Prairie. When Daddy got home from the army we went back to the Rooney House (my aunt and uncle had stayed there while we were gone).
1943 Our Rogers cousins with us on the south side of the Rooney
House. The front porch, seen behind the boys, was shaded by heavy
vines and a wonderful place to play.

My parents bought their first house when I was 9 1/2. We called it "The Morgan House," after the previous owners. We only lived there for a year before my parents sold it to the business next door, and we moved to the next house they bought, "The Perkins House." This was our home for the next ten or eleven years.

The last house my parents bought was a new house that nobody else had ever lived in. Although it was the family home for nearly 50 years, I always thought of it as the "New House."

Every house became home; every house had its own flavor of life; every house evokes its own set of memories; every house left its mark upon my life.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Walking Pip

Pip and I pausing for a photo op.
This morning my granddaughter Megan and I went for a short walk with Pip. Pip is one of my daughter's family's chihuahuas. She is of a very sturdy build, and, I'm sorry to say, has gotten a little overly chunky. Since she is not really inclined to do a lot of running around for exercise when she is out in the yard, Anne Marie thought it would be good to take her for walks.

However, Pip had other ideas.

She freaked out when leashed.

So, Anne Marie got her a harness-style leash, which is built into a little jacket.

Pip still freaked. When Anne Marie tried to walk her, Pip would lie down. The walk turned into a drag. Pip won that round.

However, Anne Marie is not the type to give up easily. She worked with Pip, having her wear the jacket around the house, getting her used to it. The next step was the jacket with the leash. Eventually, Pip became desensitized to the contraption and no longer goes into panic mode.

Today was my first try at walking with Pip. She did great! She didn't like it if Megan got behind her, but, as long as Megan was on my other side or ahead, Pip was fine. We walked for a little more than 15 minutes. By that time the morning sun was growing stronger and Pip was starting to pant pretty hard, so we went back to the house.

But for an overweight girl with very short legs, she did very, very well!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Movie Review--"Brave"

Yesterday my granddaughter Megan and I went to see Pixar's latest film, Brave. We thoroughly enjoyed it! It would probably be classified as in the fairy tale genre, for there are will o'the wisps, a wood-carving witch, and a magic spell that wreaks all sorts of havoc.

It's fun, funny, serious, and touching. It is set in 10th century Scotland. I enjoyed the Scottish accents, which, while definitely Scottish, were not so heavy as to make it hard for us non-Scots to understand. The artwork was simply awesome! I would pay to see it just for that. Gorgeous landscapes, effects, and backgrounds.

The heroine is a teenage princess, who would rather ride her horse and shoot at targets (she is an archery expert) than consider the responsibilities that go along with being a princess--especially when it comes to marriage. Her mother is the perfect queen--smart, lovely, capable, and determined to carry out her own responsibilities and teach her daughter to do the same. This leads to conflict, a spell that is not what the purchaser of the spell intended, and the suspenseful portion of the story. There are also the triplet little brothers of the princess, who are terrible scamps but come through for their sister when needed. And they are really cute.

My only criticism of the film would be that it falls into the trap so often the case in today's films and TV shows. The men are shown as dunderheads--brave but needing a smart woman to guide them.

At least the princess has two living parents and there is real family love.

There are also a couple of very good morals to the story!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Family Portrait--A Memory

Grace, Rose, Michelle, Red, Terry. I am wearing a white dress with two
 vertical rows of pink flowers that was crocheted by Mother.
When I was about three years old, my parents took us to a professional photographer's studio and had family portraits made. Like everything else, photography was quite different then. This experience was something different and unique for me, and so it really stuck in my memory.

The photographer's studio was on Main Street. The room where we were photographed was draped in maroon velvet. The photographer was a middle-aged woman (at least that is how I remember her--to a three-year-old anyone older than her parents looks pretty old!). The camera was large and boxy, set up on a tripod. The photographer stood behind it, peering through it, and directing us as we posed and held very still.

Some time later, my parents received the proofs from which they would select the poses to be printed. The proofs were printed in some way that created a non-permanent print. They were in a red/purplish ink that would fade if exposed to light for too long. Whatever that process was, it meant you couldn't just pay for the sitting and proofs. You had to buy prints to have something that would last. However, my mother still kept the proofs that weren't selected for permanent prints. In the photo book they lasted quite a while.

Another thing that stuck in my memory about the photographer was her car. I wish I remembered what kind it was. That, as a three-year-old, I remember it at all tells a lot about how unusual it was to us in 1944. I don't know anything about where she got it, but it was a tiny European vehicle that looked to me like a toy car, something just the right size for a child. It had tiny little wheels and sat very close to the ground. I was fascinated by it!

Today, even professionals use digital cameras and easy editing programs. You can immediately see what the camera has captured and select what you want printed. Even "amateurs" with an affordable camera, a computer, and a printer can produce high quality photos. Camera phones have developed to such a point that almost any newsworthy event is captured by passersby with phones. In moments they can upload these pictures to news organizations, and shortly thereafter they are being used on television.

I love these kinds of advances in technology!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Birthday to the USA (and Me)

On the evening of July 3, 1941, 32-year-old Red McLaughlin was earning a little extra money for his family, having been temporarily deputized to help police the carnival that was in town for the holiday. At home was his very pregnant 25-year-old wife, Rose, her sister Elsie, and their two little girls, Terry, who had just turned four a few days before, and Grace, who would turn three in just a few days.

Red, Rose, Grace, Terry, and the new
baby Michelle (the glare from the white
wall almost rendered me invisible).
Rose was feeling the beginnings of labor pains. As the evening went on, she knew it was time to go to the hospital. Not having a car, Elsie walked to the carnival grounds, found Red, and they returned home. While Red took Rose to the McHenry Hospital, a large frame building that had probably once been a home, Elsie stayed with the children.

The third child of the family was born at about 8 a.m. on July 4, 1941. Having two daughters, Rose and Red had hoped for a son to be named Michael. Since I was a girl, I was, instead, named Michelle. (And, I must note, I never felt that my parents were disappointed in me for being a girl.)

Rose and Red had tried to prepare their little girls for the coming addition to the family. They talked about the "wee little baby" that would be coming to live with them. In this preparation, however, Terry had not understood that getting the wee little baby would involve her Mama being gone. She was asleep when Mama left for the hospital. When she woke the next morning and went to crawl in bed with her Mama, Mama was not there. The fact that Aunt Elsie was in the house was no help. The center of her universe was missing. She never forgot the shock and dismay she felt at finding Mama missing--and then she learned it was because of that wee little baby! She was, therefore, somewhat less than thrilled about acquiring a new sister! (I learned about this view of my birth when we were visiting one 4th of July when we were middle-aged women--she never threw it up to me as children.)
July 4, 1947.  This collection of children includes some of our family, some
cousins, and some neighbor kids! Back: Grace holding Billy Tyrrell,
Timmy McHenry (my good buddy), Michelle, Darryl Lynde, Kenneth
McHenry.  Front: Brownie, Pinkie, Bobbi Mackey.
My sixth birthday.

It was always fun having my birthday on Independence Day. When I was a child there was always a parade on July 3, as a kick off to a two-day rodeo held at the Fair Grounds by the Rock Pile. There would be a carnival in town, and we would have firecrackers and sparklers (which were a lot bigger and longer lasting than the ones sold now). Often we would have aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins in town for the festivities. What a great birthday!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Just Odds and Ends

This morning I went out about 9 o'clock to water my deck plants so they would be ready for another scorching summer day. This is the time of day I look forward to and love to spend on the deck with a book and coffee or iced tea. In fact, I look forward to this all winter.

I tried to get a photo showing the smoky sky--well, I got a view of the
neighborhood roofs! Smoke just doesn't show up very well unless it
is the dark gray or black variety. So, just trust me. It's there!
Bummer. By the time I had watered a half dozen of my plant pots I knew there would be no deck time today. The air was filled with smoke, which immediately started the itching in my throat and the tightness in my chest. I finished my watering and retreated to the house! This is becoming too much like the summer Yellowstone burned and, even hundreds of miles away, our air was smoke filled for weeks. Or a few summers ago when we still lived in the Black Hills and there were fires everywhere.

Last year we had a very wet spring, everything stayed green through most of the summer, and the grass on the prairie grew lush and deep. This year we are in drought conditions. The dried grasses from last year's great growth is now fuel for prairie fires. This just adds to the smoke blowing in from the more distant forest fires.

So, since I am stuck inside, I must try to get motivated to take care of some inside projects (not to mention chores). I'm tempted just to sink into a good book. . . .

No, I have neglected things for too long already! I need to get back to my old family photo project. I need to pay a few bills. The house needs tidied and vacuumed. I need to do a couple of loads of laundry. My windows need washed. I need to clear files and shred papers that are no longer needed. I need to sort out and throw away stuff that falls into that "I don't use it or wear it anymore, but there's still some good in it" category. I need to. . . .

Oh, my, I'm tired already. Maybe I should take a nap!