Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

A warm summer day, a picnic and much swimming. A couple days ago Wyatt, Jaiden and I headed to Lake Ahquabi State Park, about six miles south of Indianola. Kim and Elena also joined us for lunch and a little time in the water.

I used to tell our sons that I would consider them to be good spellers when they could spell “Ahquabi.” None of them ever took me up on the challenge, but Jaiden took me up on the challenge after I told her the story on our drive out. If she can’t spell it now (and she might be able to), I’ll bet she can the next time.

We found a picnic table under a tree near the beach and deposited our gear. Soon Kim and Elena arrived. They had been at the beach on the Gulf of Mexico only a week earlier. There Elena was afraid of the waves, so didn’t go into the water much; she mostly played in the sand on the beach. With no waves at the lake, she had no fear of the water. Kim or I stayed with her the entire time when she was in the water and we tried to emphasize the importance of not going into water over her knees. She loved the water.

Wyatt and Jaiden loved the water, also. When we go to the city pool, there are so many kids it is impossible to SWIM. Kids play, but can’t really do much swimming. I counted the people in the lake a couple times and reached numbers of 30 to 35 each time. At the lake, they were able to practice their swimming strokes. Both have had lessons; Wyatt just finished his second year a week ago. I was pleased with what I saw.

They also had sophisticated squirt guns (one is now residing somewhere in the lake) and they had brought some buckets and trowels. At one point they found a toad, named it Hoppy, and created a home for it in the sand with water and sea weed. (Thankfully, they released Hoppy back to the lake before we left instead of trying to bring it home.)

After lunch and after Kim and Elena left, I watched Jaiden and Wyatt from the shade of the tree. Farther out on the lake were several boaters, one person trolling his motor boat, some people with canoes, some stand-up paddle boaters, some 2-person paddle boats, and even some people with a pontoon boat criss-crossed the lake (from Wesley Woods, a Methodist Church camp on the other side of the lake).

I remember when the beach was covered with people. In the 1950s local and Des Moines newspaper headlines would extol the number of people who had been at the lake on a given summer Sunday, often many hundreds, even thousands. This is where my brother, sister and I took Red Cross swimming lessons with our friends. A school bus transported us to and from our lessons, each day for two weeks every summer.

Over the years I’ve enjoyed many picnics at the lake, and even stayed in some cabins for 4-H camp. Cabins have now been gone for many years.

In those days, the lake had ropes with buoys delineating the shallow water from the deeper water. We didn’t venture beyond the ropes unless we were confident of our swimming ability. There were two rafts in the shallower water and most of the time we would jump or dive off these rafts. There was one raft in the deeper water and further out a big tower with two diving boards, on opposite sides of the tower, one higher than the other. I never went off the highest board and probably only went off the lower one a couple times. I only remember two life guard stations, one at the ropes and one on the beach. I also remember the showers and changing rooms, and the locker baskets that held our valuables while we were swimming. In those days we had to pay to swim.

Everything changed as cities built municipal swimming pools.

Today swimming at the lake is free, but “at your own risk.” Today there are only a few buoys indicating to boaters that they should not enter the swimming area.

We arrived a little before 11 a.m. and left at 4 p.m. Afterwards I heard that Jaiden and Wyatt both slept well that night!

Jaiden & Wyatt - just to the right of center

Jaiden & Wyatt – just to the right of center

Jaiden & Wyatt, and Hoppy perched on the little seaweed island on the left side of the pond

Jaiden & Wyatt, and Hoppy perched on the little seaweed island on the left side of the pond


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Subtitle: “An Orphan Train Story”

Ethel obviously did her research as she prepared to write this historically accurate account. Because of the author’s skilled character development, the reader easily identifies with Iris, Rosie and Pete as they experience the streets of New York City, an orphanage, the train ride westward, and some ominous family situations in which they find themselves in Iowa.

Considered “Young Adult/Historical Fiction” this book is an easy-to-read, page turner. Readers are surprised with unexpected twists and turns in the plot, which should hold the attention of the intended audience, as well as those of us in older generations.

Other strengths of this novel include the appropriateness of the language of the characters and the author’s attention to all kinds of detail.

I rarely read fiction, so it was a stretch for me to finally open the pages of this book. The author’s husband, Ed, is a distant relative of mine. I don’t know either Ethel or Ed, but I know Ed’s two brothers quite well. So, when one of those brothers was selling her book, I felt I needed to buy it. Then, it took me a couple months for this book to reach the top of my “to read” stack. Once I started reading, I couldn’t put it down. Then, my husband had the same experience. We both read it in less than a week… in between our many other activities.

This story has “staying” power. I keep thinking about the orphan train children and the myriad of good and not-so-good, sometimes downright ugly, situations following that westward train ride… over which the children had virtually no control.

Thanks, Ethel!


Barker, Ethel. For the Love of Pete. North Liberty, Iowa: Ice Cube Press, LLC, 2012.

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Just in time for Independence Day celebrations!

What a privilege! This sculpture is almost literally in our backyard… only five blocks from our house.

Bill Friedricks with the Iowa History Center located on the Simpson College campus is responsible for raising the funds and making the arrangements for us to enjoy this piece of travelling art through at least December 31, 2013… the rest of this year!

This 2005 depiction of Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” is 25 feet tall and weighs 30,000 pounds. Along with two granddaughters, I watched part of the day-long process of assembling the structure. We were amazed at how big it is and how it took cranes to move the pieces into place. For pictures of the installation process you can go to http://tinyurl.com/kj2f5ns. (It is a great set of photos. However, be forewarned, my computer locked up two times as I tried to view them.)

A traveling sculpture it has already been on Michigan Avenue in Chicago; in Mesa, Arizona; Indianapolis; and most recently in Dubuque, Iowa.

Some people think the suitcase is indicative of the travelling status of the sculpture; however, others think it points to American jobs being lost overseas. The stickers on the suitcase are from Taiwan, Shanghai, China, Bangladesh, India and Thailand. Whichever theory, we are pleased and proud to have it in Indianola!

Two of our granddaughters with the lady

Two of our granddaughters with the lady

Granddaughters with the man

Granddaughters with the man

Lowering the man's lower body into position

Lowering the man’s lower body into position

Showing the iron innards and the fiberglass exterior

Showing the iron innards and the fiberglass exterior

"God Bless America"

“God Bless America”

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I’m a Jane Fonda fan. Jane is approximately ten years older than me. I think it’s sort of a generation, admiration thing.

A few years ago I read her autobiography My Life So Far. When I retired, I started doing one of her exercise DVDs five mornings a week (“Fit and Strong”). Then a couple months ago, I added a second DVD each morning (“Walk Out”). When I discovered her 2011 book Prime Time, I ordered it. I finished reading it last week.

Subtitle is “Love, health, sex, fitness, friendship, spirit. Making the most of all of your life.” Wow, that’s really inclusive! And, yes, she covers a lot of ground in this book.

Every woman nearing retirement, or in retirement, should read this book. To write this book, Jane did her homework. In her easy-to-read style, Jane presents new, very healthy, perspectives on old age, “Act III” as she calls it. She quotes many experts and she breaks down technical terms for lay understanding. In essence, she says, in Act III we are done rehearsing, this is it, the final act, and we have to get it right or we will be left with regrets.

As I look back at my underlining and notes in the book, some of my highlights are: stay positive, keep learning, reinvent yourself, eat right, exercise, develop friendships, enjoy your partner, reduce stress, be prepared, care and nurture, become an advocate, meditate, leave a footprint, get it right.

This is what the book is all about. The subtitle says it all!


Fonda, Jane. My Life So Far. New York: Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2006.
Fonda, Jane. Prime Time. New York: Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2011.

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Four hours! Lots and lots of friends! How do these things happen?

We waited in line for the pool to open at 1:00 so we could get a lounge chair by the edge of the pool. Right away I noticed that Jaiden found a friend, in fact, several friends. They were inseparable for two hours! Then I heard the story.

It happened that the day camp group from West Des Moines that she had been with last summer spends one day during the summer at the Indianola pool. This was the day! She saw lots of kids and adults she knew and was so excited. They played and played.

Then when the day camp group left at 3:00, her new best friend from Indianola arrived. We normally would have left at 4:00, but, of course, Grandma gave in when Jaiden wanted to stay another hour to play with her best friend.

Four hours at the pool! A perfect way to spend a warm summer day, Jaiden had friends and I finished my latest book.

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Weather has not been good this year for swimming, so it was our first day at the local city pool. I took two grandchildren, Jaiden and Wyatt.

At first the pool was wall-to-wall people, but mid-afternoon, two school buses picked up many of the swimmers. Then, the crowds thinned.

We had been there a couple hours when Jaiden and Wyatt were playing under a water feature that fills buckets with water, then dumps the water on anyone standing underneath. Wyatt stood under a bucket with his head up and mouth open. Immediately after the water dumped, both Jaiden and I noticed blood streaming down from Wyatt’s mouth. Jaiden told him to come to me as I was also indicating that he should come to me. I grabbed a beach towel and we headed toward the First Aid station.

We already knew that Wyatt had lost one tooth the previous day, and another one was very loose. The young First Aid attendant was already helping someone with a bloody nose, and indicated that he didn’t know anything about pulling teeth. I asked if he could just give us a piece of gauze, which he did. We stuck the gauze in Wyatt’s mouth and prepared to leave the pool. When we got to the car, I had Wyatt take the gauze out of his mouth, and there was his tooth, in the gauze!

Whew! The tooth was not lost in gallons of water… the tooth fairy would find evidence of the lost tooth that night!

Wyatt - toothless

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Dismayed isn’t the right word; neither is disappointed. Disgusted is more like it.

With summer heat approaching, Dave and I went to our storeroom over the garage to retrieve our fans. I couldn’t believe it when I saw them… they had not been stored in garbage bags, and upon looking at them, I knew why. I had NOT cleaned them before I put them away last fall.

Years ago we did not have air conditioning… on purpose. We built a new house in 1977 and did not install air conditioning; I was afraid our boys would not play outside if we had air conditioning. Finally, in 1994 we installed central air. Then, the next year (1995) we sold that house. The air conditioning in our next house died our first summer, thus we purchased two AC units in two years.

We were accustomed to using several fans. We still use fans to help circulate the air in our house. Many people use ceiling fans. We only have one. In several rooms, we still use oscillating fans. Currently, we use six fans. Every fall when we finish using them, I ALWAYS clean them and store them in garbage bags.

In 1985, after our house fire in December 1984, we purchased all new fans. They were easy to take apart and clean. As each fan died, we replaced it with whatever kind we could find. Most have been easy to clean. Over the years cheaper construction has become obvious in the noise produced and in the ability to dismantle and clean the fans.

My task now was to clean the fans. One purchased last year would not come apart at all, and another could only partially be dismantled. This is when I realized I have never used our air compressor. Our son, Randall happened to be home (he and his family live 2 houses from us); he gave me an air compressor lesson so I could blow the dust from those fans. Then, I realized Dave has been helping me with one of the other fans, using zip-ties to hold part of it together. I’ve never used zip-ties, either. Randall helped me find them and showed me how to use them. And, I thought with all my years of experience, I could clean the fans myself.

With Randall’s help, mission accomplished. The 1995 air conditioner was replaced in 2011 and with 6 auxiliary fans, we are good to go for 2013 summer heat. I’ll bet I will clean the fans before storing them this fall, and this time I’ll know how to do every step of the process.

I like to learn something new every day!

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