Saturday, September 27, 2008

Down to the Wire

60's bell bottoms and architectural designed shirt for Allister, the Interior Decorator

French Maid costume for Sylvie the housemaid

Dress for Miss Wilkerson--she needs a wrap dress, because it becomes unwrapped in a hurry, and right on stage! Guess why? Ha, that wasn't hard to guess!

Looking at these costumes, you get the feeling that "Move Over, Mrs. Markham" is definitely not for the kiddos! Yes, leave them at home, because this bedroom comedy is very much adult. Nighties and naughty undies abound and are a focal point on stage, easy to do in the lingerie department as costuming for this play!

I was down to the wire to finish these costumes, tomorrow is my deadline. I finished at 11:15 p.m. tonight, putting the last bit of lace on the apron of Sylvie the Maid's costume. I'm a mess when it comes to procrastination, my built in sense of timing lets me goof off just long enough to give me exactly the amount of time I need to finish my job. When it comes to big costuming jobs, I usually am finished about 1 hour before the opening night curtain. I still have some things to do for Move Over Mrs. Markham, but generally I am finished with the big stuff.

So tonight the adrenaline is flowing, and even though I sewed most of the day and into the night, I cannot fall asleep. It will make for a very tired day tomorrow (I mean later today, since it is 1 in the morning as I write this). But I'll sleep sooner or later, knowing my latest costuming gig is about to be wrapped up.

What do you think--like the products?

Note to seamstresses: Wrap dresses take 30 minutes from start to finish, I'll have to explore that option for myself soon! I started at the beginning of the 5:00 p.m. news, and was finished before it was over, how's that for a quick project?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Glorious Day

Sew What? is ready for a nice long bike ride.

Today was a glorious fall day. It felt more like summer, with a clear blue cloudless sky, and temperature in the high 70's/low 80's. The trees haven't exactly gotten the cue from Mother Nature that they should be getting ready for winter, so there isn't alot of fall color around. Because it is Thursday, I have the whole day to do what I want. I had scouted out a well-known county park that people had told me about, one that has a great trail around the lake that is its centerpiece. With all this beauty around me, there was absolutely NO EXCUSE for me not to take my long bike ride. I've been planning this for weeks, but for the first two Thursdays in this month, it was raining and last week I had other commitments have kept me from trying it out.

Now, the last night was a toss and turn, get up and do a load of wash, organize some stuff, write a few emails, worry about finances kind of night. That meant that from 1-4:30, my eyes were wide open and mind racing. Sleep finally came about 5:30, but it wasn't deep. I got up at 6 and faced the day. I tried to tell myself I was too tired to bike, but my body was willing, even if the mind wasn't.

It seemed like the bike ride was going to happen, I was all dressed to go, and looked outside at the main drag down the street, and it was GRIDLOCKED! Then the TV announced two accidents on my route to the park, so that was my excuse to try to catch a few more ZZZZ's until the traffic cleared. About 8:45, things were all clear, I was dressed and ready to go, so off I went.

When I got to the park, there were a few bikers loading up, slathering sunscreen on themselves for what seemed to be a long day on the TANDEM BIKE. I think that is the way to go, if you get tired, you can make your partner do all the work! But, no tandem for me.

This park trail connects to a long rail-to-trail route that goes all the way across our state. I'm not quite up for that kind of travel yet, but I saw how you got on the long trail, up a very steep hill to cross the lake over a bridge. Those in the know tell me you can then get to the long trail by following the bike path on the highway. Some day I may explore that.

I got lost once, there was a big intersection with trails going 4 different ways, and I picked the wrong one. It dead-ended for biking about a mile down the trail, so I backtracked and came back to the intersection to try another trail, that one took me back the same way I came. When I got back to my starting point, I went the other direction, and found my way completely around the lake. The whole thing is 3.7 miles, and VERY FLAT! That's my kind of trail! I biked for over an hour (61 minutes to be exact!), and felt wonderful when I was finished. So, now I'm going to try to get out there every week on Thursday, my day of no work expectations.

Sew What? had a great time, no costume making today, unless you count a quick trip to the thrift store to find some big men's coats, which I spent a whole $13.00 on and got 4 coats! Nice prices, thank you. Two of them cost $1.50 each. You can take a chance on stuff when you get them for that price!

We should have some more Thursdays this fall before the wind starts to howl and snowflakes fall when Sew What? can get on the bike and try this trail. Until Thursday, I will be content with the park 1 mile from my house, and get my exercise riding 8 times around that parking lot driveway.

Monday, September 22, 2008

What the well dressed hunk will wear

Gaston and LeFou's costumes for Beauty and the Beast

Well, I'm finished! The hunks in Beauty and the Beast will look fabulous in their costumes! I beat myself for the past week into submission to stay at the sewing machine and scissors, trying to not make mistakes, then trying to correct the mistakes I did make. See those bars on LeFou's jacket? Well my first attempt at matching up both sides must have been done under the influence of something toxic, because they were 1" off from each other. I was so mad at myself for making that mistake, and it took until 11 p.m. one night to fix it. But now the job is finished! Hooray! I'm fairly pleased with the outcome, hopefully the costume designer and director will be pleased also. I'm anxious to see the play, which will start Oct. 3.

Break a leg, cast of Beauty and the Beast!
P.S. The Music Man in that last post will play the role of LeFou in Beauty and the Beast. He's a multi-talented guy!

Next costuming gig, making late 60's outfits for Move over Mrs. Markham. Now that's going to be a blast! I'll post the results of that gig once I finish.

Both plays are on the same weekends, but at different theatres, I'll have to bi-locate to see both.

Break a leg, cast of Move Over, Mrs. Markham.

Monday, September 15, 2008

With a Whip and a Chair

Harold Hill in "The Music Man" disclaiming to the Pick-A-Little ladies of River City, IA. what TROUBLE there is with "POOL". Costumes by SewWhat?, Hats by JI.

To get into the high costuming mode, it takes mental fortitude and a whip and a chair to beat me down the steps to the sewing room. I know I will begin a long tiring road of creating, and today is the day to start. It's 7:34 at night, and I've put it off long enough. The creative part is so fun, the tiring part is not.

I am working on costumes for 2 shows. They both start Oct. 1. I am helping make a few things for a large musical, then costuming a small cast comedy. We have many of the costumes for the comedy, but will need a few more things, some I will make. The things for the musical should be finished this week.

The bad thing about the musical commitment is that I was given the task to make two men's outfits exactly one week ago! That's not much time to finish a man's suit and a vest/wesket for the leading man. I'm sort of angry about the timeframe, especially since my time at work and with babysitting commitments have taken up more time this past week than they usually do. And I was asked to do this over a month ago, but the delay in getting the project started is difficult to work around. In my defense, I have completed one part of one costume, and cut out the second one. So tonight's costuming gig won't be a long one. Then I'll just have 3 more pieces to make for this show.

Tomorrow night I am going to see the local small professional theatre group's rendition of "The Music Man". Tickets are hard to come by and this is only the second week of 5 for this show. Since my first big costuming gig of a big musical was "The Music Man" last fall, I am anxious to see how the pros do it. We had the help of this local group's milliner to help us make our Pick-A-Little Ladies' hats. I'm curious to see if any of those he created for us ended up on a professional Pick-A-Little Lady's head. Every hat he created was truly a work of art, and he disclaimed them as "not his finest work"--could have fooled me! What do you think? Aren't those hats fabulous?

You meet the greatest people!

Blogging has given us many new friends, and new connections to old friends! One thing that came of this bead frenzy is that three bloggers who don't live near each other managed to meet at the bead show! How wierd is that?

I was unable to join the group, but would have loved to have met the one blogger I have only talked to through blogging. I was babysitting M & M that day, and the thought of a 4 year old and a 3 year old at the bead show sent shudders of fear up and down my spine. They were in a testy mood that day anyway (as in, "Let's test Grandma, and see what she will let us get away with.") What one didn't think of, the other one did.

But after the hurricane and flood passed, MonkeyGirl and I got to the bead show. God had to take a backseat to beading, because I skipped Mass to bail water, but it cleared up in time for the bead show! No, I didn't skip God, just put Him in a different time slot, I caught up with God AFTER the bead show. God gave us Hurricane IKE during Mass time, so He had to wait on other events, but I made it just the same. Will lightning strike me for saying what I just said? Stand clear of the lightning rod lady, if you know what's good for you, just in case wrath is exercised!

Mania Momma

MonkeyMomma, aka SewWhat? has gone nuts again at the bead show. With an entire huge convention floor full of beads and beading paraphernalia, a true beader could just go crazy. The biggest problem is the fact that beaders also need to eat the rest of the month. I've decided that hot dogs will suit me find, as long as I'm wearing bling while eating them!

I've been to this gem show in the past. My own mother introduced me to the beading frenzy many years ago, perhaps about 20 years ago. I couldn't imagine what a person could do with those strings of beads, the likes of which must number in the hundreds of thousands if you counted each collective booth's wares. They all seem to have something similar, so searching for just the right thing is a labor of love. However, price certainly motivates a beader to consider an odd shade, a cute shape, or a certain wierd color combination. The "Buy 25 for $20" pile certainly entertained MonkeyGirl and myself for a few minutes. You can see her pile on, but that was only her one day's collection. She went back to the show the next day and found some more bargains.

I have a dear friend who I worked with many years ago. We worked together in a school, she was the secretary and I was the "Instructional Specialist" (aka, lunch room monitor!) We renewed our friendship about 5 years ago when my daughter (M & M's Mom) moved down the street from her. She is such a wonderful friend, and she KNOWS EVERYBODY in this community. I can never go anywhere with her that someone doesn't start up a conversation with her. She has touched so many lives in her years as a school secretary. Anyway, I've gifted her with several of my creations that I've made beading. (Also sold her a few things, too!) She has a lot of groups of friends that she gets together with every week. One week, she wore one of the creations that I made for her, and one of the friends asked if I could make the same thing for her. So, the crazy beader that I am, I made 5 pair. The rest of the ladies in the group scooped them up, and put in orders for more. So last night, I made 29 pairs of pretty gold and crystal earrings, hopefully to please the ladies in my friend's group.

I'm definitely going to have fun with my new purchases. Some are waiting for inspiration, others just are waiting for my time to be free to create. There shall never be an excuse for a bare ear, neckline or arm in this house! We all like bling, and our creative juices flow enough to make us say, "I can do that myself!"

Thursday, September 11, 2008

What's Next?

I've lived in this community since 1966, with a little time off for a few years living in the country. The community has been safe, and well maintained by local laws and law enforcement. But something happened to me last night that has put fear in my mind. that, and the incident with SkaterBoy who was robbed at gunpoint a couple of weeks ago in a local park says we're in for a change in this community.

I was eating dinner with a friend at a local family restaurant. A huge party of teens came in to celebrate someone's birthday. They weren't loud, weren't rowdy, they ate, celebrated and got ready to leave. As they were walking out, a huge fight started. Tables tipped over, lights were broken, dishes flying and all of the kids got into the act. Luckily, I wasn't in the middle of it, but was an onlooker from about 25 feet away. It was so scary! A family next to us picked up their kids and got ready to run out. The only thing that kept me from doing the same is that this fight happened by the door, so we could have gone out the kitchen, but what would have been happening outside? Finally, the police arrived, and got the crowd dispersed and calmed down. An ambulance came to carry away the injured parties.

I found out later that the local news people arrived (after I left, thank heaven). The manager of the restaurant went to each table to apologize to the patrons for the incident. But with all this going on in our community, how can you feel safe? Do we all have to live with "mean streets"? Or do we have to run away from communities which we all know and love to go to where the crime and bad behavior hasn't reached yet? I know many who have fled, and I don't want to be one of them. Yet, what will become of us if society turns into anarchy, where anyone with a slight affront against them starts a fight, or carries a gun, or decides that a human life is less important that settling a grudge?

New media reported that this happened as a carry over from an incident that happened in high school earlier in the day. What those kids who go to high school with going on around them must endure every day, I'm not envying them that situation. And how can anyone learn when the focus is on grudge matches instead of learning? And where are the parents of these kids who were involved in the fight?

Let peace begin on earth, and let it begin with me...... But it's going to be hard to forget these things that have gone on around me lately.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Beads, Beads, Beads

Ok, I admit it. When I get an idea, it quickly turns into an obsession. What was once an idea for one piece of jewelry has turned to a huge collection of beads, beads, beads! And my lust for more is never ending!

My sister and a good friend are beaders, and they have produced some really neat stuff. Many of their creations I quietly yearn for, trying to keep the slobber off the merchandise. My sister showed me her collection of beads and beading supplies, and was nice enought to offer to make me some things from special beads I found while on vacation with her. My friend offered her creations for sale for a modest price. I have quietly developed an interest in beading as a side hobby to my sewing craft.

One day a spring or two ago, I saw a beautiful bracelet in a magazine that caused the lust for luster to spring forth in my veins. Price tag--$135.00! Wow, what could make that so expensive? Well, it was turquoise and sterling silver, and quite unique, AND was in the Sundance catalog, founded by Robert Redford, who has plenty of clients who wouldn't bat an eye at spending $135 for a bracelet.

So I approached my sister and my beading friend about making one for me. I even had a special item that was on this bracelet that they might not have had, a special buffalo nickel button that was used for the clasp. No bites from either of them on creating this for me.

I took the bull by the horns, and said, "I can do this myself!" A trip to Michaels and way over $135.00 in materials later, I had my bracelet made!

Well, this was just the beginning of my obsession. I created and created, and don't have enough jewelry boxes for all my creations. I have a couple of friends who like what I make and have purchased a few of my things.

This weekend there will be a bead show in a town nearby. You bet, Monkey Girl and I will be there. You see, among Monkey Girls many hobbies is a small one involved in beading. She is trying not to let this hobby run wild, lest she need yet another craft room to accomodate her bead obsession. Right now, SewWhat is limited to a few shelves in a spare bedroom for this hobby. But believe me, you can fit a lot of beads on a few shelves in a spare bedroom! And after this weekend, perhaps there will be a need for another shelf to be cleaned off for the newest acquisitions in the bead collection!

What's Wrong with Your Face? Part 2

In MonkeyGirl's defense, she is a very busy person. But not noticing for 12 hours what was wrong with Mr. Monkey Girl's face? (Clean shaven, the cute little mustache and beard is gone!) His mother in law (me) noticed in 2 minutes! I thought he looked like he needed a good meal! Luckily for all of us, Mr and Mrs. MonkeyGirl rose to the occasion of my very SENIOR birthday and cooked their little brains out, and we all got a great meal! My face didn't need filling out, neither did my capris, but we ate and ate all those wonderful goodies. And she baked one of her famous "grandma" (not me, but my mother's) chocolate cakes, it was so good. The M & M's ate it all up too. Skaterboy cheesed out halfway through it saying it was tooooooooooooo sweet. But I enjoyed every minute of it!

Thanks MonkeyGirl, and Mr. MonkeyGirl for a great celebration, and thanks for the presents also, I love them all!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Fat Man's Misery

It may be politically incorrect to refer to someone as a "Fat Man". Minnesota Fats got away with it, and so did Fats Domino, but I don't recall many current celebrities going with that moniker!

But in Mammoth Cave, KY, political correctness gives way to hard reality. Here is where a person of ABOVE average girth will be literaly between a rock and a hard place as he/she goes through the cave on a tour. I couldn't believe that we were going through such a narrow passage! One foot in front of the other on this path! No handicapped accessible options here! You were an adventurer, or relegated to being just a bystander!

Mammoth Cave is truly worth the time it takes to visit. They have explored and mapped over 300 miles of passageways underlying about 10 square miles of Kentucky hills. It claims to be the biggest cave system in the US, if not the world. Quite a sight to see!

This place has been on TC's life list of things to see. Now since last year's movie "The Bucket List", I guess we should call it a bucket list (things to see and do before you kick the bucket.) I'm glad I got to go along to see something I didn't have on my bucket list, but am glad I got to experience it anyway.

On your way to Mammoth Cave, you may pay homage to the Corvette assembly plant in Bowling Green, KY. As a family member or two of ours owned Corvettes (well, actually it is one Corvette that was passed on from uncle to nephew), we payed our respects to the birthplace of the beast. Just go to the Corvette plant, turn east and in 15 minutes, you'll be at Mammoth Cave National Park!

Flying Free

Aside from some family and friends' consultations yesterday (one medical, one decorating and one sewing/alteration consultation), life has been ho-hum lately. I often wished for ho-hum when things were really hopping, but ho-hum makes blogging a challenge. So I'll bore you with vacation pictures!

One thing that TC and I experienced when we were on our trip east was the emergence of a whole huge crop of Spicebush Swallowtail butterflies. I think it was the late summer hatch that happened all in the same week, because everywhere we went in North Carolina/Virginia/West Virginia, we saw thousands and thousands of them. On this ridge on the Blue Ridge Parkway between the Smoky Mountain National Park and Asheville, NC., I'll bet there were a million butterflies. On each stalk of plant, there were at least 5-10 butterflies feeding, and you can imagine how many stalks would be growing on thousands of square miles of the Blue Ridge Mountains! It was an awesome sight.

You can easily see the reason why this area is named Blue Ridge, because ridge after blue-hued ridge shows itself like waves as you look out across the hundreds of miles of land which you can see from the high vantage points. This stretch of highway is about 90 miles long, and we couldn't guess which vantage point was the best to stop at, they were all so beautiful. The highest elevation in this area is about 6600' above sea level. Quite impressive when you realize the sea is about 400 miles away.

I was so curious about the butterflies that I bought a butterfly guide book at one of our visitor center stops. The guidebook called these blue, black, and orange beauties spicebush swallowtails. However, another breed of swallowtail which is better known, the tiger swallowtail, was another species we saw. It was odd, there was a yellow and black butterfly making quite sweet overtures to a black and blue and orange one. We thought we were witnessing some inter-species hanky panky, but the guide book told me the tiger swallowtail male is yellow and black and the black/blue/orange is the female. So they were just doing what the birds and bees and butterflies do, making little butterflies, and we were the nosy neighbors peeking through the blinds.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Washed Out

Water--it can be beautiful, serene, relaxing. Or it can be raging, torrential, ruthless in its unrelenting path toward the open sea. This scene is in the Smoky Mountain National Park, of bubbling brook as it meanders its way to the river, and eventually to the sea.

Water has played a big part in local history in the past months. We've had several bouts with flooding rains that have inundated parts of our city, and entire cities in nearby areas. The stories raged on about communities in the midwest filling sandbag after sandbag to build walls to keep the water out, most of the time only to have the walls fail to hold back the relentless waters. New Orleans again girded its loins against another hurricane, luckily only to be smacked with minor wind damage and a small amount of flooding.

Well, that hurricane, Gustav, had to go somewhere, and it ended up in our midwest state, raining itself out into a whimper of a storm. We got many inches of rain in a day. It caused no major damage here, only spoiled some plans. A major golf tournament was postponed, and my plans for what to do on my day off were cancelled! The bike ride was washed out yesterday, and again this morning. I have to wait till next Thursday, my next day off, to try an adventursome bike ride. Hopefully, the weather will hold out and treat me nicely, giving a nice fall day for my adventurous bike ride in the park far away.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Switchbacks on the Road of Life

What do you want to be when you grow up? People ask that of little kids all the time. When a little kid answers, "I want to be a fireman" or "I want to be an astronaut", how many of them actually get to live out their dreams in real life?

I can't remember being asked that question when I was young. Maybe people that long ago didn't put that much stock in what a young woman wanted to be. She would be a wife and mother, or a spinster. She wouldn't aspire to be a fire FIGHTER, or an astronaut. Times sure have changed for women of the past few decades.

Life really can throw you a bunch of switchbacks. You head one way and all of a sudden, you are going a different direction, directed by the circumstances of life as it plays out for you.

My life has been a bunch of switchbacks, and my focus has changed in cycles over the years. But the one thing that has remained the same is this, I was born to teach. Every different type of job I've tried has been a job of teaching. Camp counselor as a teen, swim instructor, religion teacher,Girl Scout leader and trainer, preschool director, camp director, elementary school teacher, swim team coach, elementary school administrator, college professor (assistant professor, to be exact!) Each of these roles as I've taken them on have switched me from one age group to another, one area of expertise to another, but I've been in the role of teacher throughout life's switchbacks.

I hope my kids think of me as a teacher also. I'm not sure how they liked their mom to be their teacher also, as it happened that I was in certain circumstances. Now I fall into that role with my grandkids. Teaching is my life, and even though I've done lots of different types of teaching, I still love doing it, and hope I can continue to do it for many years to come.

Monday, September 1, 2008

The Company Town

Remember the old song "16 Tons", sung by Tennesee Ernie Ford? "You load 16 tons and what do you get, another day older and deeper in debt." The story of the company town has always fascinated me, ever since I first heard that song many decades ago.

I've had two experiences in the past few months that have given me pause to think about this old song. The reference in the song is to the company store, which was owned by the company that owned the mine where the songster was working. The company built the housing, the mercantile establishments, and deducted the expenses for rent and purchases from the coal miner's paycheck. This type of economic model was a reality in many businesses that flourished as our country developed. As the song suggests, you get another day older, and deeper in debt, because the company basically owned you and you were never free from their influences. As miners became family men, their offspring were often caught in this net of reality of living in an isolated, controlled community. Their girls married coal miners and their boys became miners themselves. To leave the community and go elsewhere was rare, indeed. We all know the perils of mining, and many of these miners died at a young age, or as they got older, became sickened by the dust and fumes from the mine that made them die horrible deaths.

My first recent encounter to bring this to my awareness came as I read the book "Rocket Boys" by Homer H.Hickam, Jr. this past May. This delightful story is of a man (who is very close to my age) who lived in the mining town of Coalwood, WV. His father was a miner, and his family lived in the company housing. Homer had great ideas for his life that did not include becoming a miner. He wanted to be a rocket scientist, and his buddies and he developed a rocket experiement from begged, borrowed or "somewhat stolen" materials to build their rockets. I won't spoil the ending of the story to tell you the conclusion, but you will enjoy this story immensely, especially if you are now near retirement age, as Homer Hickam is.

The Hickam family was truly owned by the mining company. They were in fear for their own existence as the mine became more and more dangerous, and the rich seams of coal were mined out. Henry's father had risen to the level of supervisor, which meant he didn't mine anymore, but had the responsibility of men's lives on his shoulders, as well as making sure that the mine continued to be profitable. When the mining company sold out, the company housing was converted to rental property, leaving many of the citizens in big trouble to pay the rent. This happens as the natural resources of these towns dwindle, and the people are left to their own devices to survive.

The picture I had in my mind from Homer's description fit another town I actually saw while I was in WV last month. TC loves railroads, and one of his destinations that he really wanted to experience on our trip east was to go to Cass, WV to ride the Cass Scenic Railroad. Well, the town of Cass was centered around another of WV's natural resources, logging. But the town was set up just as Coalwood was, with the company housing surrounding the company store, which was just down the road from the pulp mill. The scenic railroad line led up to the hills where the logging was happening. The rail cars brought down the logs to be made into lumber and pulp for paper. Of course, as the natural resource that led to this town becoming a thriving enterprise played out, the town lost citizens, and gradually moved toward extinction.

The state of West Virginia realized that they still had a resource that could be capitalized upon in this town of Cass. So they bought out the housing, the railroad and the remains of the busines to be preserved for folks who wanted to take part in a piece of railroad history, a coal-fired railroad, with some very unique equipment. They turned this into a state park, turned the housing into cottages for families to live in while they spent time in the area. They turned the company store into a nice huge souvenier stand, and restored the railroad for tourists' enjoyment.

I must admit, after driving through the mountain passes for hours to get to Cass, I couldn't imagine that there would be more than 2 people waiting for the train ride that day. Who would drive all that way to ride a train in West Virginia? Was I ever wrong! When we got there just prior to the noon train's departure, there was a huge parking lot full of cars, some who were already riding the train on the 4 hour trip, and others who just got off, and our group that was waiting for our turn to ride.

The technology of the steam engines on this line really shows that "necessity is the mother of invention". The rails have to negotiate big curves, high hills and carry heavy loads. So the engine is designed with articulating and directly powered drive wheels (called "trucks"--skateboarders, take note of that term, it wasn't invented by Tony Hawk). The engines are called "Shay", and Cass Scenic Railroad has quite a few beautifully restored and well taken-care-of engines. (See their website, Cass Scenic Railroad for more information.)

I've ridden quite a few scenic railroads with TC. Our father was a railroad man, and TC has loved trains since he was just a little guy. We've ridden the Durango, Silverton in Colorado, the Skagway in Alaska, and just last summer, the Hood River line in Oregon. Riding on a coal-fired line is so exciting because you get that soot in your eyes and hair as the train labors along the tracks! And these scenic railroads take you to see some very spectacular sights! And I just love to hear the trail whistles as the train gets ready to cross the back roads! On this route, the rail line has 2 switchbacks, the brakeman was 10 feet away from us as he did his work to switch the track. That really brings the technology of railroading right into your awareness. It's high tech now on modern railroads, but the old fashioned way works just fine on scenic lines such as the Cass.

These experiences, reading literature which is brought to reality by an actual visit to the site, have been so interesting to me, and very enjoyable also. My trip to the east coast, seeing Jamestown, experiencing Cass, and driving through other towns I have read about keeps my interest in history, geography and the love of literature alive. I'll share more when I get another chance to bore you!

The Road West

Here is where it all began. The year was 1607. A boatload of brave Englishmen landed on this exact spot to colonize a small part of Virginia. They had traveled for months on the stormy Atlantic to come for riches of gold and other treasures to send back to King James of England. They fittingly named their little settlement Jamestown, and the wide water that flowed next to it was named the James River.

They were gentlemen who wore fine clothing. There were few among them who were experienced enough with survival skills to thrive in the wilds of southern Virginia. They envisioned being welcomed by the natives with open arms and as conquering heros. They found out quickly that they were to be the conquered. They were conquered by disease, hunger, weakness in the face of a native people who wanted them to leave. Finding food was a big issue, defending themselves against those who wanted them gone was an issue, and staying alive was the biggest issue of all.

They came in late spring 1607 and by August many had died. Their beautiful site that seemed so perfect when they chose it became a mosquito ridden swamp in the hot doldrums of summer, and death came almost half of them that summer. The water of the river turned brackish from the sea a mere 30 miles downstream, so lack of fresh water added to the problems. Many were so sick, they welcomed death as an end to their suffereing.

I wanted to see this place for myself. In the Spring of 2008, my students in my advanced writing class studied the book, "Love and Hate In Jamestown" by David A. Price. Whenever I study about a place like this, I have a deep yearning to see the actual site for myself. Historic Jamestown is the place where archeologists are digging to find evidence of the exact location where the first settlement in the US began. They have found many artifacts, and found the location of the original walls of the fort, which had thought to be lost under the river because of erosion. They reconstructed one of the original pallisade walls to show what it looked like 400 years ago.

Seeing Jamestown for myself was a great thrill. The history that I read about and studied with my students came alive for me that day. It was a long journey for us to get our one hour of living history (we arrived in the late afternoon with only about an hour left before the place closed). For someone not famiiar with the story of Jamestown, this place was less than exciting. But for me, it brought a deeper understanding a very important time in the history of our country.

Then, as we traveled back to the midwest, we drove through the land which was the historic road west that the American settlers took---through the marshy lands of Virginia, to the piedmont, the high land that bridged the area between the sea and the eastern mountains. Then we tackled the highlands of the Appalachain chain of mountains, stretching their rolling hills as far as the eye could see to the north and to the south. How could settlers cross those hills in flimsy wagons, when our powerful truck labored to mount each hill? Their determination and quest for their own patch of land must have been so very strong. The impact of it all came flooding into my awareness as we travelled the miles westward.

We saw the big rivers of the eastern US, the Ohio, the Mississippi, the Missouri. Each of these rivers hold their own stories of the settlement of our country. The road west, whether it be on land or on water, contributed to our Irish and German ancestors seeking their place in the world, here in the midwest where we have set our roots. This trip was a living history experience for me, and very enjoyable.

Medicare, here I come!

Today is the day! I've been waiting for this day for a long time! Did I say I've been waiting HAPPILY for this day? No, not necessarily.

You see, today is my first day on Medicare. This is the month that I turn that golden wonderful age where there is no longer any denying that you are a SENIOR CITIZEN! They may argue it when you are 55, or 60, or even 62, but Medicare age (see I can't even bring myself to type it!) is definitely the defining moment of SENIOR CITIZENSHIP.

This summer when TC and I were traveling, one stop we made was at Historic Jamestown, VA. This area is manned by the National Parks Service. You have to pay $15 or something per head to get in. We only had an hour to spend there, so a high fee to get in would definitely not be used to the fullest. But this was a destination that I was so looking forward to seeing that I was willing to pay anything. One of the ladies who was manning the information desk said, "If either of you are 62, you can get a Golden Eagle Pass which is good forever, and you can bring in a guest. The Pass costs $10." Well that sounded good, and she rightly assessed that one of the two of us would qualify for that. But we had to go to another desk to purchase this.

As I walked up to the desk, I asked to purchase a Golden Eagle pass. The young man at the desk said very seriously, "Well, m'am, I've got bad news for you, you have to be 62 to purchase one of those." Well, I just about jumped over the counter to give him a big kiss! I resisted, but I know I professed my love for him right on the spot! Was he kidding around, or was he serious? Oh well, it doesn't matter, it was a big boost to my ego to have to SHOW MY ID to prove that I was old enough for a Golden Eagle Pass.

It sort of rings back to the time we had to show our ID's to prove we were old enough to buy alcohol, now we have to prove we are old enough to qualify for senior citizen cup of coffee. I guess that's one perk to attaining this Golden Age!