Monday, March 30, 2009

Odebolt story

Researching some of my papers today, I ran across a description of the home I lived in from 1950 until I left for college. I have forwarded the information to my friend, Bonnie Ekse, who, along with her sister, Barbara (The Girvan girls) maintain my hometown website, referenced here. Before sending this off to Bonnie, however, I did a little review of the site as I expected the information was probably already there, and it may be that it is. I was distracted, however, to find information on the Ground Observer Corps. Most of my friends have never heard of the Ground Observer Corps, but I participated as one of the observers back in the mid 1950's. The job consisted of standing in the tower (which is shown at the link at the end of this post) and watching for airplanes. When we saw a plane, we were to call Omaha and tell them what kind of plane it was and where it seemed to be headed - important in case an enemy plane had slipped through our radar at the borders because we did not at that time have the radar capacity to spot low flying planes.

One Sunday I was working the tower with a lady named Gertrude (Gerts for short). Gerts was an amusing lady to know. She tended to be scatter brained, or, as we would say today, flaky. As we were performing our patriotic duty, that is, watching the skies, a plane came into view. Gerts took the phone to call Omaha, and I listened as she answered their questions; however, I don't recall that we ever got beyond the first question, which must have been "What kind of plane is it?". as I heard Gerts exclaim, "it's a great, big shiny one!" Heaven only knows what the poor guy in Omaha thought when he heard that one. I have no recollection of having served a rotation as ground observer after that, and I suspect, neither did Gerts.

For more background and a picture of our "perch" check out (part of the Odebolt Website constructed and maintained by the Girvan girls)

Election 1932

In a letter to my mother dated October 5, 1932, my father (age 21 at the time) wrote: "I had the grandest experience last night! You know Hoover was speaking here, to several select groups, and a mere 'Howdy' to the general public? Mr. Rumsey subscribed heavily to the fund and got seats in the second row of the main floor -- and gave me one. I passed up everything for that . . .

"I felt quite among the elite there, you may be sure -- but Hoover failed to impress me very much. I can't see anything more in him than before. He'll never win the election, you may be sure. Even if you do vote for him!" At the time of this letter, my father was in law school and working as chief driver and all around handyman for one of the founders of Meredith Publishing. I'm assuming Mr. Rumsey was a friend of his employer. Mother was living and working in Janesville, Wisconsin. She had finally accepted his repeated proposals, and they were planning to be married.

In a letter dated February 3, 1933, he wrote to my mother: "What do you think of my Mr. Roosevelt by this time? Oh, I'm much impressed with him -- and more and more. Have you heard of his special message to Congress in regard to beer? Signing his name to that plank of the Democratic platform. Such humor in the President! Why he is human! After Hoover that seems good. Oh! Oh!"

As a reminder, Prohibition was in effect in Iowa from 1920 to 1933. Earlier in the letter my father wrote in apparent reference to the Iowa legislature, "Oh yes, we're getting caught up -- without the aid of beer, too -- thank 'ye!. How does it seem in Wisconsin to be flowing in it? Our pussyfooting legislators have not the nerve to risk a vote at the next election in order to stand by the platform upon which they were elected." The prohibition movement had received much support in Iowa back in the early 20th Century. They also were replete with country bootleggers and gangsters who thrived during those thirteen years. The availability of corn was a great boon to that industry.

In spite of their apparently differing political views, George and Thelma were married February 23, 1935. When George died on May 4, 2004, they had been married for 69 years. Their differing political views did not cause many arguments, however, as George became a Republican, albeit a more open minded one than we often see these days. They seem, however, to have raised a liberal daughter.

One of my last meaningful exchanges with my father took place in the fall of 2003, when he turned to me and said, "I thought you'd want to talk about your recent convention in Minnesota." - a reference to the Episcopal Convention at which openly gay Bishop Eugene Robinson was confirmed. I said, "I'll just say that I'm pretty proud to be an Episcopalian." to which my father with his approving smile responded, "I thought so."

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Slowing Down

The other day as I was sitting down to my daily yogurt, fruit and granola breakfast, I made a conscious decision to eat slowly. Surprisingly, I had not thought until that moment that I needed to slow down my breakfast eating, but it was clear when I did so that I have been rushing through breakfast for a long time, probably all my life. So often, as a child growing up, I was nearly late to school or church.

Remember, I retired from real work about four years ago. It is a bit odd that it took this long to figure out that I don't need to rush off to work, and that eating my breakfast slowly is a perfectly reasonable thing to do. Thinking more about this discovery, I realized I have continued to rush through my days just as if there were something I needed to accomplish during these long days of retirement. There really isn't, although I do have my projects.

I recently saw a T-shirt that read, "I'm lazy and I used to think that was a bad thing. Now, I no longer think." I'm mulling that one. I'm also lazy, I think, but I do things that convince myself that my laziness is beneficial, as I'm supposedly using my mind. I'm writing and reading, and planning my future writing and reading. I'm training my dogs and planning my future training and showing my dogs. I'm doing jig saw puzzles and fancy that I'm keeping my brain cells functioning - in some way or other. I do word puzzles and again convince myself that I'm doing my brain some good. I walk the dogs to keep me physically healthy. All of these are just excuses for doing very little worthwhile with my time.

I'm now thinking I should regularly volunteer in some way to help others less fortunate than I. Here, all my selfish impulses fight me. I'm thinking of helping with a Habitat for Humanity event at my church, but it involves painting, and I am very sloppy at that. I'm stymied, therefore, because I don't have any old clothes that I wouldn't mind splashing paint all over. There's also an event where the church hosts some homeless families for a week, and there are opportunities there to help out. Many good reasons to do this, but so many choices as to how to get involved. Which job will work well for them and for me?

If I'm serious about this, I'll have to look into volunteering when I get home to Minneapolis. The habit of laziness is a hard one to break. I don't want to feel like I've gone back to work and, of course, I'll have to be careful not to start rushing through breakfast again.

Smash Shack

Someone I knew years ago had an old set of dishes to use when she was frustrated. She would on these occasions take a dish out to her yard and throw it on the sidewalk. Today, Morning Edition on NPR reported on the Smash Shack in San Diego, which offers a place and dishes to accomplish the same thing. Sadly, however, psychologists now say that breaking dishes doesn't reduce anger. I say there are limits to psychological studies, and psychologists I've known over the years don't always know what they're talking about.

Frankly, when the experts are so sure of themselves that they say "it's clear that", I think it's anything but "clear". While I'm not angry at the self assured smart asses who have studied this matter . . . (Oops, that didn't sound angry, did it?) I would be calmer and more collected if I could throw a few dishes before we discuss the issue. I have occasionally thrown something breakable when frustrated and have found great relief in the sound and sight of it scattering into bits. I do this very deliberately and, before I make the throw, I consider the clean up and the danger, if any, of the act. I also apologize to my dogs for disturbing them. Of course, that means I'm not out of control angry. I used to sometimes be out of control angry, and I broke things and felt bad about it afterward. My occasional controlled crashing, however, is for me quite therapeutic.

For example, a few weeks ago I had had enough of a little kitchen butter dish I had purchased whose lid was supposed to snap in place over the butter. I had naively assumed that meant the lid would stay in place! After the dozenth time when it had not done so, and the butter had fallen out and onto the counter, I threw the butter dish onto my tile floor and then stomped on it. It felt very, very good. And it was also easy and therapeutic to clean it up and dump it into the waste basket.

Not only had I released and dissipated my anger, I had gotten rid of the damned thing. Thinking of the event, even now, makes me feel peaceful and satisfied. Take that you hot shot professional naysayers. What you don't know about my anger management options would fill volumes. And best of luck to the Smash Shack in San Diego.

Friday, March 20, 2009


The way it's meant to be played - outdoors in the sunshine on a hot day in Arizona. Of course, Minnesota fans will soon have the opportunity to enjoy baseball, the way it was meant to be played, on cold, rainy, hot and humid, then cold and snowy days in Minnesota. And it won't be long before everyone is asking the question that's been on my mind for several years. "What were we thinking?"

I have gone to several games at the Metrodome which I would not have attended had they been played outdoors. A couple were on nights when it was snowing and slippery. A few more were on nights when without air conditioning, I'd never have left home.

I have tired of hearing my favorite Minnesota broadcasters whining about the balls that got lost in the Teflon ceiling. Yesterday, at a spring training day in Phoenix, I could rarely follow the path of the ball as it soared high up into and blended with the soft white clouds layering over the sun. Of course, I'm an old lady, so maybe my eyesight is failing. I am reduced to betting quietly where this lost ball will land, then watching which way the players are running and which spectators are reflexively reaching up to catch the ball to learn whether I should be ducking and cringing.

There is nostalgia too for the experience of the ball park hot dog. I confess that I'm always disappointed by the ball park hot dog experience. Gummy bun, teeny wieny, messy mustard and tiny, nearly invisible pieces of sweet pickle from the itty bitty packets - ultimately I have to work a little to convince myself that this is a great experience. Actually, I love going out to the ball park. It's so essentially American. I'll be back for more outdoor baseball and ball park hot dogs just as soon as I cool off and recover from my last perfect afternoon.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Odebolt, Iowa

We called ourselves the popcorn capitol of the world. Perhaps that was a slight exaggeration, but Cracker Jacks, I'm told, were born in and around Odebolt. For a time, and maybe still, our welcome to Odebolt sign called us "the star in the crown of Iowa." Nice try, but hard to justify. This is my home town, the place where I grew up, received my early education and was instilled with the values I carry with me today.

As a child, I was convinced that small town living was the best of all possible worlds. I benefited from the innocence, relative safety and opportunities available in my little Iowa home town. We had an excellent school system with sports opportunities. I played basketball before other states offered it for girls. We had a fine music program with a band that consistently placed first in state contests. There were music teachers to encourage me to sing and play an instrument. My singing continues to this day, but the musical instrument feel by the wayside when I left for college. I also had a pony.

I could ride all over the countryside. We didn't worry about protective helmets, riding boots or safety measures, so when I met with some obstacle, like a tree, I did get hurt. I had no fear riding or being around horses and am told that I scared the dickens out of my parents when I did foolish things like hanging on the tail of our buckskin mare, Babe.

Sometime into my high school years, I began to yearn to be "unknown", so I could try out behaviors that would be frowned upon in our small town. Mother warned me, though, that "you'll never be able to get by with anything because people remember you." Damned if she wasn't mostly right. Knowing that didn't prevent my trying some bad things, some of them with consequences. As I reflect on those times in my now more conventional years, I am sometimes a little embarrassed. I'm not sorry I had the adventures, but you can be sure I'll not be sharing them with you on this blog.

I remember my home town with pride. Take a look at it with the link on my site. It's a great website, among the best in the country, I'm betting. You could even check out the History section, search for Thelma Dresselhuis (my mother) and see what she had to say about her life in Odebolt.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Warming up

Minnesota is emerging from winter, yet again. I'm told I should come home, as it is warming up. I'm delighted and already planning my trip. My heart belongs to Minnesota, but I'm very skeptical of the promises of the month of April. The worst storm I ever drove through was on April 8th some years ago. I ended the trip at Albert Lea where I stayed a couple days before finding my way back home. "Never again," said I, "never again!" But isn't it wonderful and "warming" to be wanted? I'll be back on May 1st.

Daily life in Phoenix

No one in my neighborhood here in Phoenix, except me, opens their shades, not even in the day time. This is so different from my Minnesota home, where some of my neighbors never pull their shades or curtains. Other neighbors there at least open the curtains during the day. How else can you keep track of the neighborhood happenings? Here, everyone is so closed in that a gang of thieves could make off with the furnishings right next door, and no one would notice. So how smart was I to accept the free installation of a security system?

This morning I went out for a paper and was amused at returning to the sight of my "kids" all lined up on the sofa watching out the window for my car. They are so pretty - my symphony in black and white. And so much more interesting than the sight of closed shades and curtains up and down the streets. I'd get claustrophobic not being able to see out.

Spotted an odd news item in the Arizona Republic. It seems a garbage worker fell into the truck and was killed - that's sad and unusual; however, I wondered a little that they are now investigating the incident to determine if any health standards were violated. I suppose it is self evident that some safety standards were ignored. Perhaps, however, the worker was also exposed to e coli or salmonella? That could be really serious.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Journal notes

Retirement is a time when one is supposed to take life easy. I have the notion that one should not feel guilty when retired just because we're not being productive. Our days are not supposed to be structured, and we're supposedly free of responsibilities.

Sometimes, I have to say, this notion is just not real. One cannot spend 40 years or so working at being productive in the world, to then simply chuck it all for lounging, spacing out, reading books and doing puzzles to keep one's mind active. I think I can live with not making the world a better place, although just saying that triggers a kaleidoscope of images of places and people in need, and a tug at my nearly buried sense of duty.

Today I'm energized, but not by the prospect of doing good works. No, in my truly self centered and irresponsible self, I'm excited that I'm going to have a house guest this week, and that we're going to go to a baseball game and the Botanical Gardens. Is there charity in that? I hope so, 'cause it's as close to charity as I've gotten for months.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Old Dogs

She really believed she was my assistant. Yes, she told that to the pet listener some years ago, and her behavior over the years confirmed how she felt about her role in the household. She was called Princess, because as the only girl in a litter of five, she was definitely "born to rule".

Now, at age 12, she has lost an eye to infection, has a floppy ear, minces her gait and makes noble efforts to assert her authority in a home with much younger dogs, who have not learned, as have the older ones, that Princess is "she who must be obeyed." It is a lesson the younger ones will never learn. Dogs remain, essentially, pack animals, and the old and infirm are fair game for the pack.

Princess cries at times when she is crated for her own protection, and it is a sad sound indeed. She has many special privileges, including the right to sleep with me at night, but it is not the same as before. She can still leap to high places in a single bound, but she walks more slowly now, and her remaining eye does not allow for very good vision. I leave a light on at night so she doesn't bump into things.

It is so very hard to watch the old lose their command and dignity. Princess occasionally trembles in anxiety over her new place in the household. She is now getting more time to be among the "safe" older dogs, but she is cautious. She was betrayed and preyed upon. Who wouldn't be wary after that. She deserves better.

One day, we will all face those changes that come with age and infirmity. Let us show caring now.

Friday, March 13, 2009

TV advertising

I'm alone here with the TV, and I talk back to it. The greatest invention sinceTV is the mute button! So few advertisements sell anything, except the supposed cleverness of the advertising creators. Some investment firm - I choose not to remember the name - stages a supposed visit from one of its investors during which the soothing voice of calm experience explains that he knows how concerned his client is and has asked him to come by to reassure him. The line that gets to me begins "In our experience in times like this . . . ". What a crock!! Mr. Soothing voice of reason has no experience in times like this. We have never had times like this before. Who's he trying to fool? Well, I guess we know the answer to that.

Dog fight again

Adrenaline rush and not fun. I type for a time with a large gauze wrapping on my left little finger. A free-for-all after a crabby exchange between the young one and one of the old ones. The pack senses a brawl, and what dog doesn't love a brawl? It's so much fun to attack the old dog in the pack, a girl who has been bossy all her life, but is now vulnerable and easy to gang up on. Another reminder that dogs are pack animals and are really descended from wolves. Even Boston Terriers, it seems. Only one with much injury is me, caught trying to seperate the growling little beasts. By the time I'd settled the issue, I was so winded it took me several minutes to stop gasping for breath.

Now, I'm adapting my typing as typing with my left little finger wrAPPEd in much tape and gauze results in unexpected cAPS LOCKS PRETTY MUCH EVERY TIME YOU HIT THE A key. Slows one down to keep fixing this. So frustrating! The fight particularly - I need to keep the old ones safe.