Monday, July 27, 2015

Book Blog?

I'm about to get my Book Blogger card revoked.  There hasn't been any mention of books on here for ages.  My reading time has been severely curtailed by crafting, sewing, and painting.  And, if I were to be totally honest, staring at that ridiculous cell phone screen.  But that doesn't mean I've given up reading all together.  Here are five that have gotten a thumbs up from me recently.

First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen

It's next to impossible for Sarah to get anything but rave reviews from me.  I have loved every book she's written, and this sequel to her first book, Garden Spells, continues the streak.

The Waverly sisters learned two lessons it took me a lot longer to get:  1.  Do what calls you - or, better put, love what you love without explanation or apology.  2.  Sometimes you have to let go of your plans in order to receive something better.  And they learn them with so much more flair and magic!

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

This book was recommended by a total stranger in a bookstore in Florida.  We were vacationing and I stopped to look for a book on local history.  Of course I couldn't pass up the bestseller display while I was there.  A fellow reader saw me looking at this book and said that she had 1 chapter to go and couldn't wait to get back to her hotel to finish.  I figured any book that would tempt her to bypass sightseeing must be worth the read.

It took a bit for me to get into this one, but once I did, I was hooked.  It keeps your head spinning to the end.  With narration from several characters, you're never quite sure where the truth lies among their varying viewpoints. Highly recommended for fans of Gone Girl.

Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good by Jan Karon

Ah, bliss!  To return to a familiar place with favorite characters - especially after a long absence - is reading perfection.  I have read this entire series several times and they always hold something fresh.  I want to grow up to be Cynthia! 

Ms. Karon's return to Mitford is seamless - like I was there yesterday.  And she managed to leave the door open for at least one more visit.  As corny as it sounds, reading this made me feel that I was somewhere safe with somebody good.  

The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlaine

Riley MacPherson has spent her entire life believing that her older sister Lisa committed suicide as a teenager. Now, over twenty years later, she finds evidence to the contrary. Lisa is alive. Alive and living under a new identity. But why exactly was she on the run all those years ago, and what secrets are being kept now? As Riley works to uncover the truth, her discoveries will put into question everything she thought she knew about her family.

Another top recommendation that makes you wonder if you can believe anything you read.

Beach Town by Mary Kay Andrews

Romance mixed with history and enough plot turns to keep it from being predictable.  A fun, light read.  

That sounds like a lukewarm review, but I have the book 4 stars. Sometimes a book doesn't have to be heart-pounding or thought-provoking.  Sometimes it's enough to just be fun. 

Friday, July 17, 2015

Flight Plans

Kansas City to Dallas, Dallas to Albuquerque - that's a pretty simple itinerary, right?  Our oldest grandson, Trey, was here for a visit and I was returning him home.   The Kansas City Airport is so small that checking baggage, clearing security and navigating to your gate takes only a few minutes - so of course we were there ridiculously early.  We wandered the few shops to kill time, then stopped at a sandwich shop.  Trey insisted he wasn't hungry, and since we would arrive in Albuquerque late afternoon and planned to eat soon after, I wasn't concerned.  I put a banana in my bag along with a sandwich and chips and we headed for our gate.

Why are there never enough chairs to hold all the people waiting to board a plane?  Maybe there are, but so many people were using the chairs for hold their bags and laptops, that dozens of people were standing . . . and standing . . . and standing.  The plane coming in was delayed.  So we waited. Not one young person stood to offer an older person a seat.  Not one person offered to remove their items from a seat.  Eventually, Trey and I sat on the floor to eat our lunch.  The boy who wasn't hungry took one bite of my Cuban sandwich and declared it delicious - then proceeded to eat most of it.  We finally boarded the plane about 30 minutes late.

Next stop, Dallas.  I was a little concerned about navigating DFW.  I've flown in and out of there, but never had to change planes on a time schedule.  Especially while keeping track of a 10-year-old.  However, the signs made it easy; the tram made it quick.  We stepped off the tram and followed more signs toward our gate.  And followed . . . and followed . . . down into a windowless, institutional hallway that went on and on.  When we finally reached our gate, we were met with the same seating situation.  No surprise - "Your flight has been delayed because the crew has not arrived yet.  As soon as they get here and complete their safety check, we will begin boarding."  After an hour of standing, we began looking for a place to lean or sit on the floor.  But by then passengers for the NEXT flight were beginning to arrive.  Empty space was becoming hard to find.

In this sub-terrainian wing of DFW, there were no shops, no restaurants or snack bars, no restrooms, and very little air-conditioning.  There were four vending machines, two of which didn't work at all, and two that would dispense SOME of their bounty, but only when exact change was deposited.

The crew arrived and swept past us all without so much as a smile - past the magic doors to the skyway.  We watched jealously.  Barely 5 minutes later, one of the stewardesses - excuse me, "flight attendants" - came sweeping back through the doors, stomping her high-heels, dragging her carry-on like a disobedient puppy. and crying into her cell phone.  Well,this can't be good.  Sure enough:  "Ladies and gentlemen, we are short one member of our crew.  As soon as a replacement can be found, we will begin boarding."  I made the argument that I, for one, could figure out my own seat belt and live without that two-ounce glass of Sprite. The lady at the gate desk wasn't swayed. 

After another hour, the replacement stewardess arrived.  I thought we should applaud her, but only one 80-year-old man joined me.  This group was no fun at all.  We got on the plane about two-and-a-half hours late, but at least we were on our way.  The plane was small - only two seats on each side of the aisle.  "Trey, would you like the window seat?"  "Sure, Grandma!"  
Notice anything missing?
I kid you not!  Obviously the seats were placed closer together than the intended layout for this plane, so the windows did not line up with the seats.  Deep breaths.  Maybe we ARE flying on the Claustrophobia Express, but at least we will soon be flying.  Oh, you optimistic fool!  We sat on that stifling hot, windowless, tube of death in 91 degree heat, with no air-conditioning (they promised it would work when we were air-borne) for FORTY-FIVE MINUTES!  One woman tried to get up to use the restroom and was sternly directed back to her seat because we were about to take off.  Define "about to"!

We arrived at ABQ a full three hours late and without so much as a word of acknowledgement, let alone apology, from the crew or employees.  But - we did arrive safe and relatively sound, so I put it behind me and enjoyed my short visit.  Besides, my return flight was booked on a different airline,and returned through Denver.

My flight from Albuquerque to Denver was on-time and pleasant.  I am familiar enough with DIA that finding my next gate was easy, and seating, food and restrooms were abundant.  There was a slight delay because, once again, the arriving airplane was held up somewhere along the line, but I was comfy and in good spirits, so no problem.  When it came time to board, we filed through the line, scanned our boarding passes and went through the magic door . . . not to a skyway, but to a stairway, leading down to a hallway - a long, institutional, windowless hallway. Deja vu!  This can not be good!

At the end of the hallway, we again formed a single-file line to have our boarding passes checked - like we had mysteriously gained would-be stow-aways in this tunnel.  Beyond the lady checking passes was a door.  Beyond the door was . . . sunlight.  The outdoors.  Where was the skyway?  This was beginning to remind me of a Twilight Zone episode.  I dutifully followed the line into the glaring sunlight and shaded my eyes to look for the plane.  A short walk across the tarmac was a small white plane with faded blue lettering and . . . wait for it . . . propellers!  Oh, HELL no!
Perhaps not the actual plane.

I seriously stepped out of line and debated returning to the terminal to book another flight.  I mean, how expensive could it be?  Surely some airline flew real planes between Denver and KC!  I had a book, I could wait!

Reality, and exhaustion, won out and I climbed the half-dozen steps to the flying casket.  My seat was directly in line with one of the propellers.  Oh good, I would be the first to know when it stopped rotating!  That was the loudest, shakiest flight I've ever been on.  Add to that some turbulence that kept even the stewardesses in their seats, and it was a thoroughly terrifying, stomach-rolling hour.   But, I did make it home - tired and nauseous - but wiser.  Never again will I automatically book the cheapest flight without checking what type of plane they fly.   Never again will I fly American/U.S. Airways.  Never again!  At least until one of the kids needs me.

Monday, July 13, 2015


During our recent trip to see Dave's grandfather, he gave us a demonstration on the telegraph, and told stories about his days on the railroad.  That led to a discussion of the many advances in technology that his generation has seen.  That discussion, in turn, led to an examination of the advancements during our lifetime.  What have been the biggest and best inventions of the last five-and-a-half decades? I canvassed a few friends and here's what we came up with:

Telephones:  We have seen the progression from party lines to single lines to cordless phones.  How modern we thought we were when we were no longer tethered to a phone on the wall!  From there we went on to car phones - bag phones that only worked while plugged in to the car's power - and on to flip phones, which progressed into today's hand held phone/computer/camera/TV remote/calendar/address book/alarm clock combinations.

Television:  Black and white to color; antenna to cable to satellite; four networks to 500+ channels; VHS to DVD to DVR and On Demand. Not to mention HD and big screens!

Debit cards and on-line banking:  So much simpler than writing checks but, I have to admit, not nearly as challenging as playing "beat the check to the bank" like we used to.

Bar codes:  Anyone else remember the checker at the grocery store calling out the price as she rang up each item?  However, price tags on the product rather than on the shelf were a great loss.

Computers, microwaves, birth control pills, commercial jets, and a moon landing

The world has changed dramatically in the last fifty years.  But are these really the greatest inventions of our time?  I propose a second list of inventions that get less attention, but still change daily life.

Cordless power tools:  Makes bin building soooo much easier.

Bottled water:  

I loved this commercial from 1999.   Although I no longer care about the price per minute for my land-line long distance service, I have become a bottled water fan.  It's convenient and healthy - keeps me from drinking as much pop, and contains fewer impurities than our rural well water.

Serius XM radio:  When you live in an area where radio stations are few and far between, or where the topography makes for sketchy reception, sattelite radio is the bomb!  Besides, where else can you find a radio station devoted entirely to Broadway musicals?

Keyless entry:  Utopia for those prone to locking their keys in their car.  I now lock them in on purpose and avoid digging for them in my purse.

Pre-cooked bacon:  First off - BACON! and secondly - bacon in 15 seconds with no greasy mess to clean up.  Perfection.

Magic Eraser:  If Magic Eraser won't clean it, it's time for a new whatever-it-is-you're-cleaning.

What would you add to the list?  What products and services do you love that didn't exist before 1960?

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Family Treasures

Granddad Albert, Dad Dave,
 Dave, Amanda, Treyvin
(Amy's son)
Last weekend, we drove to Wichita Falls, Texas to celebrate the 95th birthday of Dave's granddad, Albert.  Albert still lives alone (though he does have help with meals and cleaning), bowls frequently, attends church regularly and loves to be surrounded by his children and grandchildren.  How often do you get five generations in one picture?
Albert worked his entire career for the MKT Railroad, as a telegrapher and Train Master.  MKT stands for Missouri-Kansas-Texas, but the railroad was familiarly known as the K-T, or "The Katy".  Just a few years ago, one of the local schools asked Albert to visit a classroom and demonstrate the telegraph for the students using the telegraph key he still owns.  He repeated his demonstration for us this weekend.  He can recall the dots and dashes of Morse code and send a message faster than I can text it.

He also has a Train Order Hoop stashed in his garage and gave us it's history.   During the pre-radio communication days, the Train Master would write out orders for the passing trains - routes, times, sidings, etc. - tie them securely to a circle of string, attach the string to a Y-shaped stick and hold it up toward the train.  The engineer stuck his arm through the hoop and pulled the string loose.  Albert saw this as a huge technological improvement over the previous method, in which the orders were attached to a solid metal or wood hoop.  The engineer took the entire stick, removed his orders and tossed the stick back out the window.  By the time he did that, the train had moved at least a quarter mile down the track, and Albert had to walk to retrieve it.

Albert is also a World War II veteran of the Marine Corp.  Even though the Katy railroad is now defunct, and WWII is ancient history to today's school children, Granddad's memories are still vivid, so we encourage him to tell the stories of his life.  These stories are family treasures so I thought I would record a few of my favorites:

In 1938, Albert was working for the MKT Railroad as an apprentice telegrapher.  While he was learning, he wasn't being paid, so he picked up various odd jobs.  One job was helping to move a young lady's possessions to a new room two floors up.  As he carried a load of clothes from the closet, he noticed a pretty red dress sized for a petite woman.  He remembers thinking, "Boy, I would like to meet whatever fits in that dress."  A few months later, in April of 1939, he attended a BYPU (Baptist Young People's Union) meeting and a girl wearing that pretty red dress stood to speak.  They were married 3 months later and it lasted 70 years.

During their brief courtship, Albert and Anita took a train trip from Frederick, OK, to Wichita Falls, Texas, so that Albert's parents could get to know her.  Albert's father worked on the train, and stopped by their seats to chat with them occasionally.  During one stop he noticed his son casually place his hand on the young lady's knee as they spoke.  The shocked father called Albert aside and said "I hope you intend to marry that girl!"  Oh, if only the world were still shocked by such  a simple gesture . . . 

Have you ever wondered what to do in case of a tornado?  Forget all the rules about basements, away from windows, etc.  Albert was once caught unaware, with no time to make it to the house, so he laid face-down in the black-eyed-pea patch where he was working, and survived unscathed.  The challenge is to find black-eyed-pea patch when you need one.  

In August of 1945, Albert and his fellow Marines were aboard a ship in a bay off Okinawa. Over a hundred ships were crowded into the harbor, packed so tight they blocked each other from moving.  And they sat . . . and sat . . . and waited for word on their purpose there, but none came.  On August 6, the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan.  And still they sat.  Albert received word that his second son had been born on that same day.  And they sat.  On August 9, a second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. And they sat.  On August 15, 1946, Japan surrendered and the waiting Marines finally got their orders - to return home.  They were then allowed to know the reason for their long, boring (according to Albert) stay at Okinawa:  If the bombs had failed to bring about Japan's surrender, the men aboard those ships were to march on, and capture Tokyo.  I haven't been able to find mention of this "back-up plan" in the history books, but I trust Granddad's memory.