On The Blackwater

Musing on retirement, writing, puppies, and whatever else strikes my fancy

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Spending my life in 20-year increments: DC, Calif, Maine, & now in the BlueRidge Mountains of VA, where my YoChon, Sadie Mae, has started to blog...

Monday, April 28, 2008

Hughes.net E-mail Upgrade

Huges notified us that they were upgrading our e-mail this past weekend. Oh goody...so, this so-called upgrade totally disrupted my e-mail. I cannot send. Receiving is hit-or-miss. I rec'd 33 e-mails Sunday evening, many of them dated 4/7/08 and I had already received them on that date.

Sometimes I think there is some kind of e-mail Roto-rooter that needs to be applied! Just scrape out whatever gunk (spam?) is clogging up the system so it can run smoothly.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Shirley Temple is 80 today!

Holy cow, how did that happen? That little curly-haired blonde 6-year old, singing and dancing on the movie screens...come on, this cannot be true.

When I was in 2nd or 3rd grade, my teacher, enamored with Miss Temple, decided we should put on a show. On the school stage. And she wanted me to sing "When I Grow Up." The other kids would be lined up behind me, in a half-circle formation, and I would come out, dressed as a little old lady, wearing round glasses and a battered lady's straw hat, and clumpy shoes, and sing Shirley's song right out.

I was so ready! Wow, a chance to sing like Shirley Temple! Of course, with my dark eyes and dark hair, there wasn't one chance anyone would mistake me for the little blonde beauty, but my costume would take care of that. I practiced at home in front of the huge mirror in our front hallway. I learned the words and the tune in no time. I wouldn't get to tap dance like Shirley; too bad, we had wooden floors in front of that mirror, and I could have bashed away at them, pretending I knew what I was doing.

Finally, the evening came. My Mom was a basket case, putting little-old-lady makeup on me, fussing with the glasses, fixing the hat. Waiting in the wings, I could see the other kids lining up, singing another Temple song, one I've forgotten over the years. Then I came out, smiling, and turned and faced: THE AUDIENCE!

Row after row after row of faces, upturned towards the stage. Towards me. Oh NO!! I hadn't thought for one minute about that auditorium being filled with people watching me, listening to me. My mouth opened. Nothing came out. I could feel my face turning red.

So, I turned and faced the kids behind me, and sang very tremulously to THEM. I could hear soft laughter from the audience, but I simply could not turn and face them. When I finished, and ran off stage, some kind souls applauded. My poor Mom was beside herself, although she certainly understood. She told me later that the show should have been rehearsed in the afternoon, with the auditorium filled with other students, to get all of us used to they're being there. Oh well.

Did Shirley ever have that problem? I doubt it! And I did go on in later life to parts in plays, in musicals, in little theater, so I wasn't scarred for life. I wanted most to be in a chorus line, and I WAS, in South Pacific as one of the nurses.

Happy 80th Birthday, Shirley!


Saturday, April 19, 2008

May 3rd is the 4th Annual Gardening in the Nude Day!

No, I didn't make that up. It was in the Roanoke Times this morning, so of course it must be true.

Who in the world thought this one up? May 3rd happens to be my birthday, and it is a fairly significant birthday at that. Not only that, I have more than a few pounds to lose before I'll even stand before my bedroom mirror starkers!

Meanwhile, you may already know that I married a country boy. If anyone would garden in the nude, my guy would. But I don't think I'll tell him about May 3rd. What kind of birthday present would that be?

Oh, imagine the sunburn on places no one would ever wish to have sunburn.

One time, when we living up in northern Maine, I was on the kitchen phone on a Saturday morning talking to a GF when Hubby came out of the shower. He needed clean underwear, which was outside on the clothesline, and he proceeded to walk right past me, no towel, no nothing, out the back door, across the deck, and down the stairs to the clothesline where he leisurely took down a tee-shirt and some knit boxer shorts. My chin was still on the floor when he came back into the kitchen, grinning as he heard me express my shock on the phone.

After all, we lived on the road to the state park, and he could have had quite an audience. With cameras.

He hasn't really changed all that much. If the dogs start barking, he'll run outdoors to shut them up. He might or might not be clothed. One of these days, the UPS gal will have another sight to write about on her notepad.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Online Chat with Tatiana de Rosnay

Despite some technical difficulties, I managed to join an international online book club chat with Tatiana this afternoon. I'd resigned myself to merely being able to read others' comments and her responses, when the opportunity presented itself to join in.

Tatiana even referenced information from my blog, regarding our book club reading of her book, Sarah's Key, and how my reading her book brought me into Dr. Marcia Horn's Ferrum College Holocaust class. Dr. Horn was planning to attend the online chat, but either she was unable to find the doorway into something called BabblingBooks, or she had a problem with the time changes.

I believe the chat will remain online; the Administrator had to start up a second set of postings that went on for 10 pages. Tatiana at one juncture was bounced off-line and had to quickly devise another Password to get back into the Forum.

This was set up for 7 pm UK time (even though I believe Tatiana was in Paris) and first the US and then the UK switched...on different dates, of course...to DST or SummerTime as the UK calls the change of time. With the 5-hour time difference, that meant today's chat was at 2 pm EST. And that's as much math as I find myself capable of.

Attendees were from everywhere, and they expressed astonishment about not ever having heard of the Vel d'Hiv roundup in Paris. Several recommended SK be made part of their school reading requirement, saying young people absolutely need to know about this.

Such an interesting discussion, although I do feel I probably contributed too much. When I start into talking about the Holocaust, I tend to keep right on going. I'll look for the URL to post here, for BabblingBooks...


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Saturday, April 12, 2008

Jack Rupert

Jack taught us how to live, and he taught us how to leave.

A longtime member of Lake Writers, Jack left his last meeting with us saying he was facing heart surgery but for us not to worry at all, as he was fully prepared to go Home to his Lord if it was his time to go.

Always when Jack was at our meetings, we could depend on laughing a lot. He wrote about his memories of long-ago DC, and since I had also grown up there, we often shared those same memories from the 40's and 50's. We'd talk about the street cars, about Glen Echo, about freely traveling alone as young children to the museums and art galleries.

Once Jack and his wife Shirl retired to Smith Mountain Lake, he began writing about squirrels that he'd humanely trap and escort many miles away before letting them loose. His dry wit was evident in all his writing, and eventually he began to Blog, to the immense enjoyment of his family.

There were complications after Jack's heart surgery, and he spent seven months in the hospital, in rehab, and ultimately under Hospice care. His strong faith increased, and he asked wife Shirl to plan a big "Going Away" party for him so he could personally bid farewell to all his many friends. Despite the fact the weather did not cooperate that Sunday afternoon, his friends lined up all the way down the hallway to greet Jack, who was sitting in a wheelchair. The "reception" was replete with homemade cookies...Jack always said everyone deserved more than two cookies in life.

After his party, he told Shirl he was ready to go now, so he had the tubes removed and the machines shut down. He was 79 and had enjoyed a long and happy life. His final wish, according to his son Adam, was for his four daughters and their husbands, as well as his son, to become closer to one another. Adam said his father's wish had been granted during his lengthy hospital stay; that they had always been a close family but living miles away from each other had made it difficult to maintain that loving closeness. Adam said he was praying all the way as he drove up from Mississippi, that his father would have no pain, no discomfort. His last words, according to Adam, were: "I'm not in pain."


Thursday, April 10, 2008

Irena Sendlerowa's Amazing Story

Dr. Horn suggested we go to http://www.irenasendler.0rg/ and read the account there about Irena Sendlerowa, and the 4 young students from Kansas who researched her story, then turned it into a world-wide series of events and awards.

Irena is now 97 years old, living in Warsaw, Poland. She is Polish Catholic and when she learned about children being killed in the holocaust, she began smuggling them out and placing them with families, in orphanages, in hiding places. She is credited with saving 2,500 children! (Schindler of Schindler's List saved the lives of 1000 people, to give some perspective to that number.

Irena put lists of the children's real names into jars and buried the jars, in order to be able to find out their actual given names when the time came for them to come out of hiding.

A schoolteacher in Kansas had seen a small newspaper clipping about Irena and he gave the information to the 4 young girls to make a year-long research project from the information. Little did he know the girls would find Irena herself, and also develop a presentation about the glass jars that took off around the world. The girls, sponsored by local business people, traveled to Poland and met with Irena; a meeting was also arranged with Irena and the surviving hidden children.

What a story this is! Please check out the site for pictures and much, much more about Irena. Think about the generations she saved; Hitler's Nazis wanted to destroy women and children in order to completely wipe out the Jews (and Gypsies and mentally ill Germans and Jehovah's Witnesses, and others not 100% Aryan). Yet someone as compassionate and courageous as Irena, who suffered beatings and brutalities, kept on rescuing the children.

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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Circle of Friends Book Club, Woolwine

Driving up the winding, twisting mountain road to Woolwine, I was most thankful for good weather and beautiful scenery as our Franklin County Library's Eclectic Readers accepted an invitation to meet with Woolwine's Circle of Friends Book Club at the United Methodist Church there. (Ordinarily, they meet at each other's homes, but two book clubs jointly meeting required larger quarters.)

They meet from 10-12 on Tuesday mornings, and promised us a lunch after we all discussed The Pilot's Wife by Anita Shreve. Always up for a meeting with others who read, read, and read some more...as well as the promise of a lunch...we car-pooled together to Woolwine.

What a great group of women we met with! They welcomed us with a fresh pot of hot coffee, and name tags designed with their book club's name. A Circle of Friends indeed, they were gracious and delightful as we gathered at tables in their Fellowship Hall. I didn't count, but estimate there were 20 of us in total.

Their leader was very well-prepared; she had researched the author, Anita Shreve, and brought along several of her books. She also had a prepared list of questions from the author's Web site, relating specifically to The Pilot's Wife. The discussion was spirited and intense, although sparked with a great deal of humor throughout.

Lunch was wonderful. Beth Honse made a lovely chicken tetrazini. She has promised to share the recipe with us. There was a delightful salad made with a mix of spring lettuces, a fresh fruit salad, and two desserts. One selection was a miniature cheesecake with fresh strawberries on top, the other was a fudgy-type frosted brownie cake. Did we try both? Of course! Wouldn't want to offend anyone, right?

All in all, it was a perfect morning. I learned there are two covered bridges nearby, so I plan to drive up that winding road again, taking my camera along. I'll also take some copies of my book, When Men Move to the Basement, as they expressed interest in seeing it, as well as the new one I'm just now working on, My Church is Making Me Fat...(with recipes).

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Thursday, April 03, 2008

Briar Rose

Not having had a traditional childhood, my familiarity with fairy tales is somewhat limited. I remember buying large fancy illustrated books for my daughter, and then for my grandaughters, and being surprised that so many fairy tales were rather grim (no pun intended).

Briar Rose, by Jane Yolen, is one of our required readings in the Holocaust class I'm taking at Ferrum College. It is fiction; it was written as Young Adult literature but fits into Adult catagories by the nature of it's story. Based on Sleeping Beauty, Briar Rose is a fascinating mystery the central character, Becca, eventually resolves. All Becca's life, her grandmother has told her the story of Briar Rose over and over again, but has never revealed her own story, her own background, her own Holocaust horror, not even to Becca's mother who is her grown daughter.

I had to Google Sleeping Beauty because all I could bring to mind was a story of a beautiful princess sleeping in a glass coffin (Disney?) after eating a poisoned apple, and not waking until she was kissed by a prince. Apparently, there were vines full of sharp briars that grew up and hid the castle from view.

In Grandmother Gemma's story, the briars symbolized barbed wire.

Apparently, Jane Yolen had great emotional difficulty doing the research to write Briar Rose, particularly when she interviewed survivors of the death camps. Prior to writing BR, she wrote The Devil's Arithmetic in 1988, about a young girl who rushes out of her family's Passover Seder to find herself in a small village in Nazi-occupied Poland, and then in a concentration camp where she learns about her family's history. Kirsten Dunst starred in a cable TV adaptation of The Devil's Arithmetic and the story was changed a bit.

Both books are in local libraries, or available via inter-library loan.