Thursday, December 12, 2013

"Are You Going To Eat That?"

I remember my grandma constantly obsessing over what people were eating.  They were either eating too much or not enough.  She based her own food consumption on what Grandpa was having to eat most of the time.  It was more of a competition rather than an enjoyment of the cuisine.  She would actually count the number of helpings people went back for.  One time, she even kept track of the exact number of strawberries my son had eaten!

That being said, it is no surprise that she obsessed over not only her weight but everyone else's as well.  I thought it was just something she did as she got older, but reading the letter I transcribed yesterday, all I could do was chuckle.  Grandma had been obsessing over weight issues from her teens, and even managed to make it a competition back then.  Following is from her letter to Grandpa dated April 25, 1928...

"I was 5 ft. 3 in. in my stocking feet and weighed 129-1/2 according to Drs. scales.  According to the schedule for my height, I am 9-1/2 lbs. overweight.  Fern was 5 ft. 1-3/4 and weighed 131-3/4 lbs.  So she weighs the most taking height in consideration."
She was also quite curious about every little detail.  Apparently Grandpa hadn't divulged enough information about the highway paving job when he wrote about an unfortunate series of events, so Grandma's inquiring mind wanted to know more...
"That certainly was too bad about your misfortune...You didn't say as much about it as I expected you to, so am going to ask some questions.  Did you stay at Allison only two days?  Were the boys getting along all right over there when you left?  How come those guys didn't show up over at the other end?  Didn't they have enough sense to come or didn't you tell them when to come?  Was that 500 ft. all that was paved that day or the remainder of what you didn't get covered?  Who is that Bryant thing, a company or what?  See you might as well have started in the beginning and told me to the finish.  You certainly know by this time how curious I am about everything." 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The LAST Letter from California

If I have found them all and have them in the right order, it appears I may have just transcribed the last letter Grandpa wrote to Grandma from California.  True to his word, the letter dated Oct. 15, 1927, indicated he would be leaving for Iowa taking the Southern route.  Looking ahead, the next letters are dated in April of 1928 when Grandpa had a job in Iowa working on a highway crew.

I must admit I'm a bit disappointed.  I have so many questions about what happened when Grandpa got back to Iowa.  Also, it is known within the family that Grandpa worked for a tomato canning factory when he lived out in California.  I was really hoping he would've written about that in his letters at some point.  I guess him just saying he "got work" was all the more he was going to say about that in his letters.

  • How long did it actually take him to get home?
  • Did he end up helping with the corn harvest in Iowa that fall?
  • Was his reunion with Grandma all he was hoping for?

Grandma's last letter to Grandpa in California was dated Oct. 9.  In it she revealed she had started a night class at the Central Iowa Business College.  She also answered a question Grandpa had apparently asked about what she wanted him to bring her back from California...
"Well, you can bring anything and everything from a toothpick to a fur coat, including a keen sheik, if that is satisfactory with you.  If not, bring one of Henry Ford's 'best.'  If you can't pick anything within those limits, I will be S.O.L."
I also noticed quite a bit more in this letter from Grandma that she was maybe trying to impress Grandpa with her advanced vocabulary using words like:  compulsory, arbitration, conciliation, and habitual.  Unfortunately, she wouldn't use them in quite the right context making her come off as not very smart after all.  One particularly disjointed sentence went like this...
"I will remark about the 'burning love.'  You might be burning but I don't think it is that kind of love, so you had better connect a detachment."
I don't remember Grandma talking very much as I was growing up.  Perhaps she was told at some point that what she was saying didn't make any sense, and so she just didn't speak her mind very often.

However, her frequent times of silence could have had something to do with another part of this last letter...
"I am still that same girl always saying something crazy if there is anyone around to say it to.  One of the girls (you know the one I mean) at work acts so inhuman sometimes toward her guy.  If I were him, I would show her a few things.  The way she acts reminds me of the way I do and I think to myself that I am going to try to get rid of those crazy habits and not be so silly.  I might be a little more cultured in that respect when you get back and still you probably won't see any difference.  It remains to be proved and seen."

Monday, December 9, 2013

Grandpa Predicts the Future

Grandpa was only 21 years old when he wrote to Grandma from California...21!  I was clueless at age 21.  I certainly didn't have a grasp of true love let alone life and how it could turn out.  Grandpa seemed so ahead of his time, even with some of the insecurities he wrote about.

Perhaps his self-description of being like a robot or cyborg had a much deeper meaning that would explain his advanced thought processes...

"I don't always show thru my actions what I am.  A good share of the time I am an Automaton."

 I had that chills-down-my-spine sensation when I transcribed the following line from his letter dated September 25, 1927...

"Do you really realize just what my coming back means?  I'm coming no matter what now, but I some times wonder if you know what the future holds for you.  I can see Helen, just as tho it were past.  I can see us at 60 yrs. of age, but there will be be much happiness and much sorrow behind us."
 ...and again with this line from his letter dated October 9, 1927...

"There is one thing that keeps us apart.  That's money.  Maybe you think I was foolish to come out here this way.  I don't regret it and maybe you can understand it.  Back there I got in the old rut and I wasn't saving anything.  I'm just this trip ahead for I'd still have been broke back there.  Now I believe I have learned a lesson.  I think I can not only make money but save it.  That's what counts.  Maybe in a couple of years we can be married then." 

"With a bucket of love
and a dipper of kisses
I am
Your Dizzy Izzy"

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Marvin the Meddler

Transcribed several letters from "Marvin" recently.  I know there are more in the shoebox as well, but wasn't sure I wanted to include them just yet.

Still don't know Marvin's last name, but think I have an idea why Grandma might have gone out with him in January of 1927.  Obviously, I don't have the letters Grandma wrote to Marvin, but she evidently corresponded with him occasionally, as he mentions receiving them.

Here's what I've pieced together from Marvin's long-handed, green-inked scrawls...

  • He was a friend of Loren's.
  • Loren wanted to go out with Nadyne (Grandma's friend).
  • Loren and possibly Marvin worked at an oil station in Boone.
In fact, on one of the letters to Grandma, he wrote on the oil station's letterhead...

My best guess is that Nadyne didn't want to go out with Loren by herself so coerced Grandma to go along on a double date.  Unfortunately, Marvin was a smitten kitten, and began competing with Grandpa for Grandma's hand.

Marvin even refers to Grandpa in a couple letters by using the initial "F."

"I sure do think of you.  I can't help it and I sure hope you can manage to think of me when you are not thinking F.  Bet he would like to get a hold of me."

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Happy Anniversary Grandpa & Grandpa!

On this day, 84 years ago, the two people who exchanged the letters I've been transcribing...tied the knot! Using their middle names on the official record and taking Grandpa's mother to be their witness, they traveled from Marshalltown, Iowa to Knoxville, Iowa to elope.  Upon their return to Marshalltown, they each went to their respective homes where they would continue to correspond with each other for several months before telling the family about their secret marriage.

Why they got married on this particular day and why they kept it secret for so long will hopefully be revealed as I continue reading their story and gathering information through their letters.  

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

National Novel Writing Month Recap...Epic Fail or Just Plain Epic?

November 2013.  Where did it go?

      I missed my 50,000 word goal by 10,980 words.

      I only blogged 17 of the 30 days in the month.

But like a quote from one of my favorite Christmas movies, I will:
"Judge not [my] past but [my] future, not [my] failures but [my] dreams, not [my] imperfections but [my] possibilities." Preacher's Wife

November 2013.  How did it really go?

I transcribed 46 letters, becoming totally immersed in the story, the characters, and the history.

I feel I am at least half way to finishing a project that deserves my time and energy for the preservation of my family history.

I have the mindset to continue what I have started and look forward to the finish line.

As Abraham Lincoln once said,
"Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other."

To recap:  In no way do I feel missing the mark on my November goal was a failure!  Setting the goal actually pushed me toward my goal.  I will continue down this path of finishing the transcription of all the love letters circa 1927 which were found in my Grandma's keepsakes, and publishing them for the family to read.

I will continue to publish updates to this blog on my progress for those that have been following along.  I do appreciate all your comments and look forward to them.  The comments actually help keep me motivated as thank you.  And I will try to post more often so there is more to comment on ;)

Monday, November 25, 2013

NaNoWriMo Day 25 - My Thots for Today...

"Something funny happened tonite so thot I would start another letter and keep writing a little at a time until I get one from you which should be tomorrow or next day.  Well, I went uptown this evening to get a magazine to read.  I saw a pair of scales, it was one of these fortune telling kind and I put it at 'What work am I most suited for,' and dropped in a penny.  The hand came up & said 'Raising a Family.'  I don't see how I'm to do it all alone tho do you?"

While Grandpa clearly had an excellent grasp of grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and spelling, there were some words in all his letters consistently spelled incorrectly.  That being said, I feel like they were actually abbreviations he used rather than misspellings...

  • thought = "thot"
  • tonight = "tonite"
  • though = "tho"
  • through = "thru"
Besides the climate change from Iowa to California being favorable, I think Grandpa really appreciated and enjoyed all the fresh produce.  His letters often mentioned fruit...

"I just got thru eating a pear.  They're just getting ripe, and my dressing table is covered with pears & peaches, prunes & plums."
Definitely explains why he and grandma had several fruit trees on their acreage throughout my growing up years.


Sunday, November 24, 2013

NaNoWriMo Day 24 - What's in Your Cigar Box

In Grandma's letter to Grandpa on July 31, 1927, she writes:

"Your letter was waiting for me when I came home from work yesterday noon.  Was rather surprised but I always look in the mail box (or rather cigar box) every day."

In Grandpa's letter back to Grandma on August 5, he responds:

"You always want to look in cigar boxes dear so that you won't be surprised--sometimes it's hard on the heart and I don't want my little girl to have heart failure you know.  Besides you can't always tell what you will find in cigar boxes, you might even find me there some night." 

I did some checking and could not find any reference to a mailbox being called a cigar box.  So I can only assume this was an inside joke between the two lovebirds.


Saturday, November 23, 2013

NaNoWriMo Day 23 - ...fame AND Fortune

Yesterday I mentioned finding fame in the family line, but I would be remiss in not mentioning fortune as well.

Grandpa's letters were not only steeped in an all-consuming love for Grandma from the very beginning, but they were RICH in poetic prowess.  The eloquence in every letter articulated not only his true adoration but his insecurities.  Reading his letters is akin to watching a Broadway musical.  He blends humor with honesty and quotes from great works of literature right alongside bits of scripture.  Sprinkled throughout for effect are lines from songs of the era.

At this point, I'm afraid if I tried to incorporate a story to go with the letters, I would not do the character justice.  The letters speak louder than words and perhaps just need to stand alone as a collection for the family genealogy records.

Here are just a few of the songs which Grandpa used lines from in his letters:

[**my apologies to those of you reading this blog on a tablet that doesn't support Flash, as the following YouTube videos are apparently done with Flash**]

"Gimme a Little Kiss, Will 'Ya'? Huh"

"Let Me Call You Sweetheart, I'm in Love With You"

"Yearning (Just For You)"

Friday, November 22, 2013

NaNoWriMo Day 22 - Romance, History, and Now...Fame

Yesterday got derailed... daughter and I declared the day as "unplug Thursday" no electronics!!

...our lawn service guy hadn't shown up to take care of the leaves, so I was frantically raking the leaves to the street for the LAST day of the city's leaf baler pick up.  I raked like a mad woman for three hours finally getting at least the front yard and sides of the house done before my legs felt like jelly and my hands would no longer grip the rake.  With snow predicted, I knew this was my last opportunity and pushed myself to the brink of a heart attack.

...the contractor we hired is finally getting around to our request for putting in an egress window.  Unfortunately, I have been using the room in the basement where we want the egress window as my "letter transcription room."  So....had to move my operation to the furnace room.  Yes.  You read that correctly...I'm relegated to the furnace room.


...I had signed up for an evening art class that I was looking forward to that I wasn't even sure I would be able to stay awake for after my day.  It ended up being a good night, though, and I came away with a new Christmas decoration for the season.

As you can imagine, every muscle I didn't know I had hurts today.  It even hurts to breathe!

So, it was a perfect day to just sit and immerse myself in long ago...

Of the cousins Grandma went to visit in North Carolina in 1926, there was a family by the name of Seats.   Today I transcribed a letter from cousin Sallie Lee Seats to Grandma after Grandma had returned to Iowa from her visit.  I'm having a hard time keeping all the names and relationships straight.  My mother tells me each one of those Carolina relatives had a nickname...

Alberta was "Tootsie"

_________ was "Dude"

Charlotte was "Baby"

Tom was "Bun"

Kate was "Sis"

Sallie was "Fat"

Fourteen years after Grandma visited her Carolina relatives, her cousin, "Bun," played for the Big Leagues!  So not only am I getting a sense of the romance that was budding between my grandparents with the letters, but there are so many historical references that I'm finding incredibly interesting, and now to discover we have a baseball player in our lineage as well.  I have never been overly interested in genealogy, but that may change after this revelation!

Thomas Edward Seats
Dodgers/Tigers 1940-1945
Final Game:  September 28, 1945


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

NaNoWriMo Day 20 - This is Spiraling out of Control!

Imagine my surprise today when I opened up the letter from Grandpa dated August 6, 1926, and found this...

Grandpa was clever in both the WAY he wrote and the way he WROTE.  :)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

NaNoWriMo Day 19 - Tickets, Kisses, & Stamps

The summer of 1926 after my grandma graduated from high school, she traveled with her mother and brother from Iowa to North Carolina to stay with cousins for a month.  She left her new beau, Florian, in Marshalltown to pine away for her and...

...write letters.

I didn't find the letters she wrote back to Grandpa from Advance, North Carolina--only the letters he wrote to her.

One of the letters contained a cardboard ticket which he explains in his letter...

"I weighed tonite 162 lbs.  The ticket sure read funny.  I am sending it to you.  I wonder if I wasn't supposed to get that or is it all B.S."

Grandpa signed one of the letters with a series of "kisses"...

"Can you pick out the different kinds of kisses? Your Rudolph Valentino, Florian"

And just so Grandma would know that any mail coming to her cousin's in North Carolina was intended for her, Grandpa strategically placed the stamp on the envelope...


Sunday, November 17, 2013

NaNoWriMo Day 17 - A Girlfriend and a Cousin

Only transcribed two letters from Velma and one from a mystery woman.  The mystery woman signed her name "Wop."  I'm wondering if it is her friend Nadyne.  (I think I'm going to have to go back into the dreaded shoebox and pull out some "Nadyne" letters to compare the handwriting).  There was no name or address on the outside of the envelope, but there were a couple of interesting lines...

"listen - when you come thurs. come to my house after me if I'm not there you go to Billiard hall and 'Gib' will tell you where his house is...What I've got to tell you concerns "Handsome,"  I'd write his name But haven't any Idea How to Spell it."
My grandpa's name is Florian--a very unique name, for sure, and one people probably had trouble spelling.  So, I'm guessing that "Handsome" was referring to Grandpa!

Velma was grandma's cousin from North Carolina.  The letter from Velma was dated June 15, 1926, and talked about Grandma coming out to visit.  Velma couldn't spell grandpa's name, either.  She kept referring to him as "Floren".

As they say in the letters...

"Will ring off now for this time."

Saturday, November 16, 2013

NaNoWriMo - More than a Labor of Love

I really don't think I'm imagining the sensitivity I seem to have to the black mold from the letters.  After shuffling through the stack yesterday morning, my throat was raw from the effects...but oh, the finds!!  Letters from Harold, Marvin, and Walt...oh, my!  The question is, do I use them?  Are they relevant enough to the story to further risking my health to sort and transcribe?  The letters from Grandma's girlfriends (Velma, Nadyne, and Inez) are also in the stack and could shed more light on the subject depending on how much Grandma wrote to them about her love interests.

The letters from Harold were from the fall of 1924...grandma would've been starting her junior year in high school.  While I only found five letters from Harold (and he didn't have the best grasp of grammar, spelling, and punctuation), there were a couple of sentences that seriously cracked me up:

"This town sure is the snails antennae for excitement.  All a guy can do is drink and fight or else stick up the bank, and I don't believe they'd wake up then enough to make it interesting."

There were a number of letters from Marvin who seemed to be just as enamored of Grandma as Grandpa was, and the time frame of those letters overlapped with the correspondence between Grandma and Grandpa.  Was Grandma working on securing a "second" in the event Grandpa didn't return from California?  What if Grandpa hadn't returned from California?  I wouldn't be here blogging about it, that's for certain!

Then there was the summer of 1926 after Grandma graduated from high school that she spent with family in North Carolina.  I found several letters written back and forth between Grandpa in Iowa to Grandma in North Carolina.

The letter from Walt in the fall of 1928 is the puzzler, though.  By then, Grandma and Grandpa had come through some of their insecurities and trust issues and seemed to have formed a more solid bond.  So who was Walt? And why did I only find one letter from him?  I haven't read the letter, but I absolutely fell in love with his's just oozing scholarly romanticism.


Grandpa with Nadyne

Thursday, November 14, 2013

A Tribute to Our Amazing Dog

I took a break from working on the grandma and grandpa letters to put together a tribute to our beloved pet.  Our Golden Retriever, Buddy, was a special part of our family for 15 years...

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

NaNoWriMo Day 11 & 12 - Time to Get Organized

Got curious today after transcribing yet another one of Grandpa's letters that referenced something from one of Grandma's letters that I hadn't recalled seeing.

Two years ago when I attempted to do something with the letters, I had been taking them out of the shoe box and placing each unfolded letter in a sheet protector along with its corresponding envelope so that I could fit them into a 3-ring binder in the order they were written.  They ended up being so bulky, that I started a second binder.

When I began the project this time around, I failed to remember that one of the binders of letters was not organized in date order.  So, today when I opened the second binder, I found letters that will fit into the sequence of the 15 I've already transcribed.  I have decided before I go on, I will be checking for all dates that are earlier than those I have already done.

I do remember that some of the letters were so riddled with mold that I was kind of avoiding handling them.  Pretty sure they are still in the shoe box and not in sheet protectors yet.  I should probably get them all out and in order before I forge ahead again.

Yet another setback, but at this point, I really want to read/transcribe them in order.


Grandpa was so creative with the way he closed his letters.  I will leave you with one of the closing sentiments I found today.

"With a world of love & every star a kiss..."

Sunday, November 10, 2013

NaNoWriMo Day 8, 9, & 10 - One, Two--Skip a Few; Three, Four--Missed Some More

I may have missed updating the blog a few days, but I did get some transcribing done in and around taking care of some family things.  Had a couple of tense letters from Grandpa, but things seem to be on the mend (for now).

Their words and phrases seemed to obfuscate their intentions.  So many things left unsaid in their letters makes me wish I could ask them now to fill in the blanks.  Grandpa indicates he wishes he could leave Calif sooner, and Grandma alludes to the circumstances surrounding Grandpa's need to leave Iowa in the first place.  I asked Mom if she was aware of any reason other than the fact that Grandpa just wanted to travel and see some of the west coast, but she was not.

Apparently there were a lot of outside influences.  Grandpa had people telling him about things Grandma was doing while he was away and Grandma also seemed to have some information likewise with regards to Grandpa's extra-curricular activities.  Their letters seemed to be a series of unfortunate miscommunications and fishing for the truth.

In and around accusations, Grandpa would quote from Tennyson and Shakespeare and Grandma would close her letter "Tu es amor."  The mixed signals make my head spin.


Thursday, November 7, 2013

NaNoWriMo Day 7 - Grandpa Calls Himself a Coward

My heart just breaks for Grandpa.  He was trying so hard to push Grandma to give him a straight answer and make her trust him even though the miles between them made it seem like they were worlds apart instead of just half a nation apart.  The waiting for the next letter must've been agonizing to say the least.  They didn't just pick up the phone to make a long distance call unless it was an emergency. 

Either Grandpa truly had a low self esteem as his letters seem to indicate or he was looking for sympathy.  I keep picturing the older, wiser gentle-man I knew as my grandpa writing these letters when in reality he was only 21 and was just really beginning to experience all that life would throw at him.

Grandpa's letter I transcribed today was a long one...hence...


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

NaNoWriMo Day 6 - She Was Only 18

I did the math today...Grandma would've been 18 years old and Grandpa was 21 at the time these letters were exchanged. would be two years before they would elope and subsequently hide their elopement from Grandma's parents for a month.

After reading and transcribing Grandma's letter from Aug. 19, 1927, it's a wonder Grandpa ever returned from Calif.


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

NaNoWriMo Day 5 - Beans and Gloves

Two more letters transcribed today...a typewritten letter from Grandma to Grandpa, and another handwritten letter from Grandpa.

I adore the handwritten letters!  Even though they are faded and sometimes hard to read, the familiar stroke of the penmanship is reminiscent of the many, many greeting cards I received from Grandma over the years where she would sign her and Grandpa's names with love.  I can almost hear their voices in their handwritten words.

One of the lines from Grandma's letter challenged Grandpa to tell her the truth by using a little humor..."You may string beans, but you can't kid gloves."  She also ended her letter with, "Yours till the Kitchen Sinks and The Marble Walls."

Grandma definitely had a quirky sense of humor mixed in with her mean and spiteful spirit...quite the combination.  Pretty sure I have that same mix.

From Grandpa's letter today, I learned the exact date when he left Iowa to go explore California - June 20, 1927.  It's just a trip he felt he had to make while he was still young and unmarried.  Too bad his time there was tainted by letters from back home.


Monday, November 4, 2013

NaNoWriMo Day 4 - It's Just Another Xanax Monday

I need supervision...I need medication...maybe both!  Perhaps I need an an intervention.

There are 168 hours in a week, and it is taking nearly an hour just to transcribe one this rate I will be 86 years old by the time I get them all done!!

I WILL stay strong and keep pushing through...Grandma and Grandpa kept pushing through the hardships and it was so worth it.

In today's letter that I transcribed from Grandma to Grandpa, she rambled on and on for another 8 pages not really saying much...except for ONE paragraph somewhere in the middle which was the fodder for Grandpa's tirade in the letter I did yesterday.

At this point, it's hard to tell whether Grandma was just trying to coerce him into coming home early or if she really was uncertain of his feelings for her.

As I share each letter with my mom, she will interject related information or recall for me how various people that are mentioned fit into the time frame.  I really need to be taking notes when she recalls certain names and places or I won't remember later.  I also need to keep a list of the dates of the letters as I get them done in case I run across one later that would fit somewhere in the sequence.

Now I'm beginning to ramble...must be genetic!


Sunday, November 3, 2013

NaNoWriMo Day 3 - All Saints Day

The church honored all saints today--known and unknown.  I feel like this journey I'm on piecing together my grandparent's courtship is a type of honoring to both of them.  They were both true saints in my eyes.

There were some tough words in today's letters.  Finally hearing from Grandpa on the trust and truth issues he had all those decades ago was so heart wrenching.  The long distance relationship definitely took it's toll on both of them; however, maybe it also made them stronger for it in the end.

A quote from Grandpa in one of today's letters was:  " often burns those that use it as a plaything."


Saturday, November 2, 2013

NaNoWriMo Day 2 - Only One Letter Transcribed Today

Grandma sure could write a lot without saying very much!  Today's letter was 7 and 1/2 pages long!  Thank goodness Grandma had beautiful penmanship.

I started wearing Grandma's engagement/wedding ring today.  It has been in my jewelry box, and I decided it was time to start wearing it again now that I'm working on the letters again.  Reading and typing the words Grandma wrote 86 years ago makes it seem like Grandma is still here.

I don't think there is any way she will ever be forgotten.  Her spirit and memory lives on in each one of her relatives.  I see her in my mom, my aunt, my sister, and myself.  And no matter what deep, dark secret I may learn from these letters, it won't change her in my eyes.  She is and always will be the most wonderful and beautiful woman I grew up getting to know as my Grandma!

Today, I will leave you with the Post Script quote from the letter:  "If words brought "A's" I would sure get a double triple one for this theme."


Friday, November 1, 2013

NaNoWriMo Day 1 - And So It Begins

I'm off and running!  Armed with goggles, mask, and gloves and with the window open for ventilation (brrrr), I removed the old moldy letters from the freezer and began to transcribe.   My daughter called me Darth Vader when she saw me in my getup -- guess I missed dressing up for Halloween by one day!

At this point, my focus is just to get all the letters transcribed.  Once I get them all typed, then I can cut and paste to get a definite chronological order and try to fit the letters in that have no dates whatsoever.   I know I will have to do some editing of the letters to only leave in pertinent information relevant to the story, but for now, I am totally enjoying the language and historical references and can't imagine cutting anything out.

Of the two letters I worked on today, Grandma mentions a "tent show" with a clown...did she mean a circus?  She also talked about a trip she took on a train and getting "pinched" 15 cents for a sandwich.  The dates on today's letters were January 1926 and July 1927, and given the context of both, I have a lot more questions than I do answers.  I shared the letters with my mother and she could fill in a little information about certain names, but not much else.  The suspense is definitely going to push me to work on this project as often as time allows.

That being said, when I post my daily/cumulative word count, just know that those are words transcribed and not necessarily words I have written.  So while I may not be holding true to the National Novel Writing Month's intention, I am accomplishing MY goal of getting Grandma and Grandpa's story retold.

WORD COUNT = 2,285

Thursday, October 31, 2013

NaBloWriMo Day 31 - Random Status Post Thursday

So on this Halloween/last day of October to wrap up National Blog Writing Month, the post on my news feed this morning was as follows:

"If you were a booger, I'd pick you first :)"

Is that supposed to be a heartwarming sentiment?

No, it's snot!!!!  Hahahahaha!!!!!

I will miss writing random crap everyday, but it has been a great primer for National Novel Writing Month. Time to get down to some serious composing.  Today, I plan to set up my writing space and organize my notes from the writer's retreat I attended a couple years.  Grandma and Grandpa's letters are in the freezer (a technique I read about to stop mold from growing on paper), and then I will head over to NaNoWriMo to create my novel specs.

Check back in the days and weeks to come and follow my progress as I post about my novel writing experience.

In the meantime, I will leave you with some parting shots for the day...

I may have over estimated how much candy I would need for beggar's night!

Just one of seven jack-o-lanterns we will light for tonight's festivities.

Look up and be prepared!  You never know what might be lurking above.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

NaBloWriMo Day 30 - A Foggy Day to go to Town

The dense fog advisory was supposed to expire at 9 a.m. today.  At noon, the advisory was extended into "sometime" this afternoon.

The fog did not keep us from our planned field trip, however.  We were going to learn the art of rug hooking today at Ewe and Eye Woolens and Such.  Marge and Beth were wonderful instructors and very knowledgeable on the craft.  After learning the technique, I was hooked!!

Cabin Coffee for caffeine and Flat Pie and Red Eye for Margherita pizza concluded our morning field trip.  Even though the drive home was still foggy and drizzly, we spotted a most unique yard display on the way...

...and we thought, "Hay!  Isn't that cute?!"

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

NaBloWriMo Day 29 - Are We There Yet Part 2


"I did a serious, hard look at why I wanted to take on the NaNoWriMo challenge and what I wanted to accomplish and came up with the following:"

NaNoWriMo is the motivation I need to write a novel (in just one month).  I can track my progress and get inspiration and support from fellow writers.

But why do I want to write a novel?  I had to break this down.  I definitely want to improve my writing skills. But do I need to write a novel to accomplish that?  Do I want others to read my work?  What do I have to offer that hasn't already been done that someone else would WANT to read?  My life story?  Parts of it maybe, but certainly not in its entirety!  As I asked myself these questions and pondered possible answers, I got down to the heart of the matter, and I realized it WAS the heart of the matter that mattered!!  I wouldn't be here today had my parents not gotten together and they wouldn't be here if their parents hadn't gotten together and so on down the ancestry line...which brought me to my reason for participating.

I have in my possession the letters my grandparents exchanged from the late 1920's during their courtship.  Five years ago when my grandmother passed away, I acquired the shoe box of correspondence that contained two surprising family stories. Upon reading a few pieces of the contents when the box was found, the stories began to unfold.  One of the stories was actually known by all of the family, but the other had been kept a secret--grandma had taken it to the grave (or so she thought).

Because of the age of the letters and the manner in which they had been stored, their fragile nature and mold spore content made it hard for us to continue to read them further...not to mention, they were not in chronological order making the story hard to piece together.  As the oldest grandchild, I was given the task of scanning/preserving the letters somehow.  I attempted this process by first trying to get the letters in order.  This was difficult due to the fact that grandma and grandpa rarely dated their letters to one another and the postmarks are mostly faded and stained making them unreadable.  Another attempt I made was just trying to read through the content to put them in order.  I had to work in a well-ventilated area with a mask on because the mold was getting to me pretty bad.  Scanning them didn't seem like an option since they are virtually falling apart.  I soon became frustrated and quit the project storing the box away.

Well...'s time to get the box back out!  Grandma and Grandpa's story needs to be told--if for no other reason than just for their grandchildren and great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren to read.  It needs to be pieced together now while there are still family members around to fill in the gaps.

I will persevere as I preserve and finish what I started five years ago.  The challenge of National Novel Writing Month and the goal of writing 1,667 words a day through the month of November is totally doable and will provide the drive I need to power through the transcribing, sorting, and writing of their story.

I will attempt to keep this blog updated with daily word counts and snippets of storyline to hold me accountable to my goal.

I am now getting excited to begin and need to get busy on my character sketches and has a wonderful ending! :)

Monday, October 28, 2013

NaBloWriMo Day 28 - Are We There Yet? Part 1

Only three days left of National Blog Writing Month 2013.  I am pleased that I was able to achieve my goal of writing everyday for a month through this online blogging experience...even if some of the days didn't amount to much.

What did I learn from this experience?

I learned that setting goals is essential in order to stay on track--(not just in writing).

I observed whatever you want to write about has probably already been written about and is readily available on the internet so you better have a unique spin to your story.

I found purpose and intent filled my days as I developed story ideas and topics in preparation for writing my blog.

In reading other bloggers' posts...

...I discovered places I want to visit like...Long Beach, Washington and Missoula, Montana.

    ...I fell in love with Gregory's smile.

        ...I was in awe of Vanessa's strength and grace.

            ...I became inspired by Rebecca's courage and tenacity.

                ...I got acquainted with Gabe and Gigi's story in the book "My Message is C.L.E.A.R" and feel I have a greater awareness for those living through adversity.

                    ...I laughed at Aaron's vlog and appreciated his quirkiness.

As October closes and I reflect on the writing and the momentum I have gained this month, I look forward to continuing the routine through the National Novel Writing Month exercise beginning November 1 and ending 50,000 words later on November 30.

I find myself more closely examining my goals for this writing exercise as I think about some wise words I heard from actor/writer/producer Judd Nelson.  This past weekend, I attended a film making initiative meeting held in conjunction with the Iowa Independent Film Festival where Judd Nelson was an honored guest.  When asked a question about writing a screenplay, Nelson gave two solid points:

  1. Start small. 
  2. Be honest with why you are writing.  

" is for actors, film is for directors, and books are for writers."

Whether you are writing to tell your own story, to better your craft, or to seek doesn't matter the reason, as long as you are honest with yourself about your reason.  If you are honest, that will be the driving force that gets you through the project with a successful end result.

Don't start out with an infinite number of characters.  Start with one character in a room with one idea and build from there.

His points really resonated with me, and I did a serious, hard look at why I wanted to take on the NaNoWriMo challenge and what I wanted to accomplish and came up with the following:

(to be continued)...

Sunday, October 27, 2013

NaBloWriMo Day 27 - Jack or Lantern

we was up to our elbows in pumpkin guts.

the neighbors must've thought we was nuts.

ain't a light on now in the whole dern place.
'cept what's comin' from the holes in they face.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

NaBloWriMo Day 26 - Amazing Things

I promised I would write about amazing things and that's what I intend to do...

There is something amazing about being on the set of a movie for the first time.  We all watch movies, but how many of us get the amazing opportunity to experience being on a set for the actual filming, let alone getting to be in a movie as an extra?  My daughter and I had just such an opportunity in the Spring of 2012; and last night, we enjoyed our 4 seconds of fame as we previewed the rough-cut of Garner, Iowa at the Iowa Independent Film Festival.  We portrayed coffee shop patrons (which is a huge stretch for me--NOT).  My daughter, the drama queen instructed me:  "Whatever you do, Mom, don't look at the camera!"  It was an absolute thrill to see ourselves on the screen--if only for a few seconds.  The bigger thrill, however, was getting a behind-the-scenes look at film making and getting to interact with some of the actors and crew members.

The painstaking and tedious process of getting the lights and cameras just right before shooting a segment; and then the many, many takes to get all the camera angles needed for one scene lasted for hours and boiled down to a few short minutes after editing.  I am in awe at the skill involved in editing and adding in sound. What seemed disjointed and awkward at some points during the filming as we watched through the director's monitor, came together flawlessly and cohesively for each scene in the movie.

The talent and genuine concern and care for getting the story right and the characters believable was heartwarming and it definitely came through in the end product.

It truly was an amazing experience and one we will not soon forget!

Friday, October 25, 2013

NaBloWriMo Day 25 - It Got Away From Me

It's too late to blog. I've had a busy day. Just wanted to say Good Night. I will blog amazing things tomorrow, so tune in then.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

NaBloWriMo Day 24 - Random Status Post Thursday...Bumps in the Road of Life

A friend of mine from high school is the winner of today's random status post blog topic: 

"We all have bumps in the road. Sometimes they amount to nothing more than the anthill whereas other times they seem like they are more like Mount Kilimanjaro. Hold your head high, lean on friends and or family and you will be able to get up and over every one of them. Life is not a test run it is a one time dealeo. We are only here for a flicker make the most of each day! God Bless this Republic!!"

Very well stated!  Not much more I can think to add, so I will just pull one thought from today's post...

"Life is not a test run..."

How many times have I sat through a board or committee meeting and come out saying, "There's an hour out of my life I'll never get back!"?

"Life is not a test run..."

How many times have I picked the short line at the grocery store only to watch as all the longer lines around me move twice as fast?

"Life is not a test run..."

How many times have I been running a little late, and the person in the car in front of me chooses to drive 5-10 miles below the speed limit with no opportunities to pass?

"Life is not a test run..."

Then there are those moments that you wouldn't trade for a thousand board meeting hours or even picking the right line at the market every the moment your kids are born, or the moment your newborn wraps his tiny hand around your finger, or a first smile, or first giggle; or your son walking across the stage to receive his diploma, or your daughter reaffirming her faith on her confirmation day.

"Life is not a test run..."

Make every moment count...even the moments that are less than pleasant.  As it says in Romans 5:3-5:  "Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us."

"Life is not a test run..."

If you're stuck in the "short line," take a deep breath and grab your mobile device to check email or prioritize your to-do list.  If you are stuck behind a slow driver, calm down and take it as a warning that there could be a speed trap up ahead or simply that arriving too early could put you in harm's way.  As for the board meeting...learn to pick your battles and make that necessary evil as short as possible.  (I struggle with this one, but I'm working on it.)

"Life is not a test run...We are only here for a flicker make the most of each day!"

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

NaBloWriMo Day 23 - Owl Be Back

I had a personal revelation quite out of the blue yesterday.

This revelation resulted from a walk down memory lane where I was recalling various craft projects I had attempted over the years.

I remember either wanting to try whatever my dad's current hobby entailed or just experiment with the latest art trend.  Unlike my father, however, I couldn't sell one hobby to pay for the next, so I was somewhat limited as to the depth of study for each art form.

A partial list includes seed bead chokers, crocheting, Styrofoam egg decoupage, latch-hook rugs, string art, watercolor, leatherworking, paint-by-number, candle making, macrame, shrinky dinks, tissue paper flowers, embroidery, loops and loom potholders, washcloth and yarn-fringed pillows, and calligraphy.

As I envisioned each project, the steps involved, and who I learned from, I discovered a reoccurring theme...owls had played a significant role in my vintage craft projects--my string art was an owl, one of my candle molds was an owl, and a finished macrame wall hanging was also an owl.

This revelation sent me on a search of owl symbolism where I found references to intuition, intelligence, protection, and the ability to see what others do not see.  One reference I kept coming back to talked about the heightened sense of awareness and how being drawn to owls may indicate shared abilities.  This really made sense to me.  As I tend to be more of a silent observer, I can sometimes see through pretense to the truth of actions and motives.  And I have to say this has been a curse as well as a blessing.  Anticipating others' needs tends to be a burden, as I end up putting myself last.

Most enlightening in my search thus far was a reference on the macrameowl page that said, "The owl also teaches us to acknowledge the dark side of our personality, and in that darkness we may find food for growth."  This is quite intriguing given my self diagnosis of avoidant personality disorder due to growing up with a narcissistic parent.  I would love to delve more deeply into living with joy instead of darkness.

Additionally, this new-found knowledge has me thirsting for more information.  I remember touching on Greek Mythology in a high school CP English class, but my memory has filed away those days too deep to be helpful.  I now want to explore and embrace all there is to know about the Greek goddess, Athena as her bird was the owl.  Perhaps it will lead me to growth and a further understanding of me.

Owl never know until I try.  :)

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

NaBloWriMo Day 22 - Still Fall Here

In the wee hours today, about an hour south of where I live, the first snowfall of the region blanketed the still green grass and the various pieces of semiretired patio furniture.

The fall decorations and autumn tree colors in my immediate neck of the woods are still unscathed by the tangible icy white coating which is sure to usher winter in sooner rather than later.  So I thought I should capture some images during the peak of the color...

Farewell Autumn...til we meet again.

Monday, October 21, 2013

NaBloWriMo Day 21 - Words Flying High

Do you know anyone who has been proposed to with the skywriting method?

My daughter and I discussed this unique way to ask for someone's hand in marriage...

DAUGHTER:  "What if the skywriter wrote, 'MARRY ME, PATTY', and there were like ten 'Patty's' that saw the message; and maybe three of the 'Patty's' were in a serious relationship, and each thought they were the one being awkward would that be?"

ME:  "That's an interesting question.  But wouldn't the one doing the asking be right there on bended knee with ring outstretched when it happened?"

DAUGHTER:  "But what if one of the other Patty's was with her boyfriend waiting for him to pull out a ring and he's standing there looking stupid and pulls lint out of his pocket all apologetic and pitiful?"

ME:  "Okay, you have a point...that would be quite awkward.  Hopefully the skywriter will spell out the last name, too."

DAUGHTER:  "Not if they charge by the letter!  He better spend that money on the diamond."

ME:  "That's my girl!"

Sunday, October 20, 2013

NaBloWriMo Day 20 - Are You Ready for Some Winter

There may have been a few snow flurries in the air today.  I say "may have been" as I'm still in denial that winter is upon us.  You would think after the 40-something winters I have been through (that I can recall) that I would recognize a flurry and know that the white stuff is imminent once the leaves turn and the temperatures drop.  I guess I'm just never ready to let go of summer and warm temps.

Do you have YOUR winter survival kit ready?  Did you leave the scraper in your car, or do you take it out for the summer and forget to replace it until the day you have to scrape ice from your windshield with a credit card?  Do you know the whereabouts of your mittens and snow boots, and are they laundered from the year before and in good condition?  Do you have the electric blanket on the bed?  My purse-onal necessities for surviving this frigid season include lip balm, extra tissues, hand lotion, and hand warmers.

My hubby gave me the best gift of all last year--heated gloves.  I feel like I'm in possession of some kind of 007 gadget when I wear them as they light up with red indicator lights...but, man, do they do the trick!

Life is short...don't get caught out in the cold unprepared!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

NaBloWriMo Day 19 - Weather or Not

Today was partly cloudy...
 followed by cloudy...
 followed by dreary...
 followed by rainy...
 followed by sunny...
 followed by cloudy...
 followed by heavy rain...
 followed by pea-size hail
(although some said it was sleet)...
followed by rainy...
followed by sunny...
followed by cloudy...

Well, you get the picture.  Mother Nature could not make up her mind.

It closely mirrored my own mood swings:

followed by not quite awake...
followed by indecision...
followed by teary-eyed...
followed by joy...
followed by anxiety...
followed by frustration...
followed by a meltdown
(although some said it was an episode)...
followed by more crying...
followed by laughter...
followed by sadness...

I wish I could let go of the preconceived notions I have of the way I feel others should act and behave.

If only I didn't have expectations and standards...for myself as well as for those around me...or if I could just lower my expectations of others...then I would not constantly be disappointed and annoyed.

Life is too short to be consumed with bitterness.

Friday, October 18, 2013

NaBloWriMo Day 18 - School Daze

Son is home on a short break from college working on some homework while daughter does her homeschool lessons...

One second is studious...

...the next second is silly.
Love, love having my kiddos home and all of us together!

Life is good :)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

NaBloWriMo Day 17 - Random Status Post Thursday - The Consequences of our Actions

The random status post on my facebook news feed this morning ended up being a lengthy rant regarding a local issue, so I looked to the next post for today's blog prompt--which was (of course) someone sharing someone else's photo-quote-recipe-grumpy-cat meme, etc..  Seems like 80 percent of the news feed anymore is "shared" content and not "friends" interacting...but I digress.

The shared image was a list of "House Rules"...which probably should have been displayed prominently in every room of my home:

  • If you sleep on it, make it up.
  • If you wear it, hang it up.
  • If you drop it, pick it up.
  • If you cook or eat from it, wash it up.
  • If you make a mess, clean it up.
  • If you open it, close it.
  • If you use it all, replace it.
  • If you borrow it, bring it back.
If I had just implemented this simple statement of preventative maintenance a long time ago when my kids were old enough to understand, I could have avoided so many conflicts and confrontations over the years. 

Not only should the rules be posted, but the consequences should be made clear as well if the rules are not followed.  

So often, parents make up consequences on the fly and not only are they unrealistic and not fitting to the circumstance, but they are not carried out--making them empty threats.  A child learns at a very early age about empty threats and knows that when the parent wields the "if-then" statement, it is nothing to be worried about...

I have watched and listened countless times as young parents state the following while their little ones pick at a meal:

"If you don't eat your food, then you won't get dessert."  

A half hour later when the youngster is screaming for a cookie and has only taken one tiny birdie bite from their plate, the child is handed a cookie.  That precise instant is when the parental unit loses all credibility and the threats become empty and the child KNOWS it.

My favorite threat to watch play out is the young family on an outing with other families. When the young one has a melt down or is picking on another child, the frustrated, exhausted parent says,

"If you don't stop that, I'm taking you home."  

About the fourth time this statement is uttered, not only is it laughable, but the child knows the parent is never going to leave the group to take them home making it useless as a tool of discipline.  I nearly chuckle out loud when the parent then whines, 

"How many times do I have to tell you?"  

And I think to myself...the exact number of times you have conditioned the child to hear that--indefinitely with no consequences.

It's called tough love for a reason.  Be the parent...not the pal.  

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

NaBloWriMo Day 16 - SMILE!

Take care of your chompers...they are the only ones you get!

“You don’t have to floss all your teeth…only the ones you want to keep.” This was a quote on the wall in my dentist office that has always stuck with me and reminded me there’s more to good dental hygiene than just brushing.

The every six-month dental check up is essential. I’m so glad a visit to the dentist has improved over the years. Not that I didn’t like leaning over and spitting in the miniature toilet bowl next to the chair, but the new spit sucker is much more effective in grabbing the Technicolor rainbow that used to connect the patient to the spit bowl according to Bill Cosby’s comedy routine about going to the dentist.

The dentist chair isn’t the only area to see improvements in this necessary care-taking of the teeth and gums. I currently own a toothbrush with a sonic button and floss is strung taut across the end of a stick instead of cutting off the circulation in my fingers. The high priced rinse and whitening strips are ego trips but less expensive than cosmetic dentistry if you have that caffeine habit. But now that I have four things in my mouth, wanna ask me about my summer vacation?

My grandma had one good tooth left in her entire mouth at the age of 99. I wonder if that was the one she flossed consistently.

Life's short. Brush, floss, and see your dentist on a regular basis.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

NaBloWriMo Day 15 - Chilled to the Bone

We attended my nephew's junior high football game this afternoon.  The temperature was 50-ish with mist that blew sideways.  My daughter laughed at me as a half hour before we left for the game, I began getting dressed--first the Cuddl Duds, followed by two pairs of socks, jeans, a turtleneck, and a long sleeve shirt.  A sweatshirt jacket, tennis shoes, hat, windbreaker, and two pairs of gloves completed my ensemble...not my first rodeo.  I know me and cold, and me is borderline cold urticaria (so I know there are not enough layers in my closet to do the trick).  I felt like Ralphie's little brother in A Christmas Story when he has his snowsuit on to go to school and can't put his arms down.  I did, however, manage to have my daughter grab a blanket as we headed out the door...she was still snickering at all my layers and feeling like the blanket was totally unnecessary.

Once we got to the field, we climbed up a few steps into the bleachers to sit down on what can only be described as slabs of ice.  Just that much higher up and the wind and sideways mist suddenly seemed gale force compared to the weather down in the parking lot.  Cups of hot cocoa became our life blood, and we huddled together like our lives depended on it.

An hour and a half later when the buzzer sounded signaling the end of the game, I was beyond numb and in desperate need of a fact, since I couldn't feel anything from the waist down, I wasn't sure if I actually had to go or if I had already gone!

Back at home, I began peeling off the layers and trying to prepare a hot supper to aid in my recovery.

It is now four and a half hours post-game time, and I just got the feeling back in my toes.

You're probably wondering how I'm going to survive the winter when I live in a state where the temperatures will most likely dip below zero for weeks on end.  I'm wondering the same thing, and the answer is probably stay indoors until next spring.

Monday, October 14, 2013

NaBloWriMo Day 14 - Blog du jour

For our homeschool language this year, we are using Rosetta Stone French Homeschool edition.  If you're wondering if this hyped up course is all that it touts--rest assured, it is!...when it works.

Here's my tip of the day:  DO NOT think you will cut costs and buy used like I did!  Unfortunately, I ended up with an outdated version that would not install on my computer without a call to tech support.  And tech support (once I could understand what he was saying), was not all that helpful.  :(

It was not merely downloading a newer version from their support page as Mr. Tech Support led me to believe.  Thankfully, my hubby, who is a computer wizard, intervened and went through the 15 step process which basically amounted to fixing my outdated version with duct tape...a series of renaming files, deleting files, re-downloading files, and re-renaming files before re-installing from the start-up disk made my head spin as I watched the tedious process.  Unfortunately, all the rigmarole was not a perfect fix.  The program still crashes and my frustrated daughter has to restart the computer to get it to work.

All that being said, I have been very impressed by the Dynamic Immersion method of teaching that this language software provides, and I do look forward to continuing with all the levels...which I will purchase in the form of the latest version from a reliable source from now on!!