Archive for November, 2008

By Bob Chrisman

Mom, October 1927 (age 12), all rights reserved

Mom (1927), author Bob Chrisman’s mother in October 1927 at age 12, all images (unless otherwise noted) © 2008 by Bob Chrisman. All rights reserved.

On November 30, 2008 my mother would have observed the 93rd anniversary of her birth. In her life she witnessed many things. Sometimes we lose ourselves in the muddle and mire of our everyday lives. We rarely step back to see the sweep of history that has unfolded during our lifetimes. Here are some of the things my mother experienced.

Mom, circa 1919, all rights reservedMy mother came into the world in a little rented house in rural northwestern Missouri. Most women didn’t have babies in hospitals. Her family lived in a three-room house heated by a coal stove. They had no indoor plumbing. The outhouse sat out back. The water pump stood in the side yard. They heated water for baths and bathed in a washtub placed next to the stove. In the fall, they dug a hole in the backyard, lined it with hay, and stored vegetables and fruits. They lived off that storehouse during the winter.

Mom, 1944, all rights reservedShe and my father bought and paid for a house in the 1940s, only four rooms, but they owned it and it had indoor plumbing. She kept the refrigerator-freezer packed with food bought at grocers, then markets, then supermarkets, and finally at SUPER marts.

She rode a horse to the one-room school house. She quit school in the 8th grade to work at the local switchboard with her sister, Faye. Her parents needed help. She made sure that both of her children attended high school and college.

The wall-mounted box phones of the 1920s turned into heavy black things, like the one she had for 57 years. She never liked portable phones or cell phones. They belonged in science fiction movies or the Dick Tracy cartoon strip. Not everyone owned a phone. When more people did, they had party lines, not private ones. She had the last party line in St. Joseph.

Her first radio sat in a huge cabinet filled with tubes. Only one person could listen to it through a headset. Radios shrank to portables and then transformed into transistor radios until they virtually disappeared into matchbox-sized squares.

Mom, 1954, all rights reservedShe bought a black-and white TV in 1957 “for the kids.” The colors on the first color television hurt her eyes so she didn’t buy one until the late 1970s.

Music progressed from popular music, played by ear by her youngest sister, to records shared by friends. Records changed from brittle 78 rpm platters played on hand-cranked machines to thin, plastic 45s and LPs played on systems. She listened in high fidelity and then stereo. Records became 8-track tapes, then cassette tapes, and finally compact discs.

She used a wringer washer, which was a great improvement over the washboard and wash tub. She never owned an automatic washing machine. When a wringer broke in the early 1990s she tried to buy a new machine. “Bob, they told me they stopped making those about 20 years ago.” She never bought another washing machine. She discovered the laundry mat.

Mom, mid-1960s, all rights reservedShe line-dried clothes, outside in nice weather and inside in the kitchen during inclement weather. She bought a clothes dryer in 1969 when the amount of laundry generated by my invalid father required quickly dried clothes.

She went from Lou Levin’s “Happy Days Are Here Again” to Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab.” She endured “Scotch and Soda” by the Kingston Trio, a favorite of my sister, to Aretha Franklin screaming “Think,” my favorite. She never stopped loving Bing Crosby and Big Band music.

The first time she saw a car and an airplane, she thought how odd they looked. She never learned to drive. She flew for the first time in the early 1960s. She watched animals go into space, followed by humans, and then Americans who landed and walked on the Moon.

Mom, Christmas 1973, all rights reservedShe lived through the numerous conflicts in which America engaged: World Wars I & II, Korea, and Vietnam. Her life ended with the nation at war in Afghanistan and Iraq (the sequel). She saw enemy nations become friends and then enemies and sometimes friends again.

She didn’t worry about who became president. She survived the administrations of 16 presidents: Wilson, Harding, Coolidge, Hoover, FDR (three times), Truman, Eisenhower, JFK, LBJ, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, and Bush II. She never missed an election. Besides, she couldn’t complain if she hadn’t voted.

Women won the right to vote during her early years, but she never saw the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. Despite her lack of equality, she ran the household. She joined other women who ran their households, churches, and school and civic organizations. She knew that women ruled the world. She lived to see women lead nations and corporations and go to Congress.

Mom, early 1980s, all rights reservedShe saw Blacks fight for their rights as citizens and she supported them. She believed that ALL Americans were created equal and should be treated equally by the law. She supported the equal rights of homosexuals. During “Don’t ask, Don’t tell” she wrote letters to her Congressional representatives. “I told them that ho-ma-sex-yalls and lespians should be able to serve their country. If we had more of them in the service, we wouldn’t have all those illegitimate children running around overseas.” An argument I have never heard expressed by anyone else.

She survived the flu epidemic of 1918 that killed millions of Americans. She protected her children from polio during the 1950s. She watched advances in medicine that eliminated so many diseases, yet never cured cancer or AIDS.

momapril2002-200She made it through the Great Depression, the Red Scare, and the anti-war movement. She saw the assassinations of JFK, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and Bobby Kennedy.

Hemlines rose and fell, the same with empires, nations, religious leaders, and the stock market. She outlived her parents, her sisters, her cousins, and some of their children. She experienced a lot of life in those 92, going on 93, years.

Take some time and reflect on your life. What have you seen change in your lifetime? For 10 minutes, go.

Mom, 1999, taken by the author's friend, photographer Sandra McGuire, photo © 1999-2008 by Sandra McGuire, all rights reserved

Mom (1999), taken by the author’s friend, Sandra McGuire,
photo © 1999-2008 by Sandra McGuire. All rights reserved.

Bob Chrisman is a Kansas City, Missouri writer who frequently writes memoir about his mother and his childhood. The first piece he published on red Ravine, Hands, talked about his mother’s final days and her death.

His other red Ravine posts include Growing Older, Goat Ranch, Stephenie Bit Me, Too, and The Law Of Threes.

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MoonRise Near The Bridge, Minneapolis, Minnesota, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

MoonRise Near The I-35 Bridge, July Thunder Moon masquerading as November’s Frost Moon, Minneapolis, Minnesota, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Frost Moon haiku

hawk moon, beaver moon
freezing river maker moon
red fire in the heart

November Frost Moon
never saw the camera
appears in July

Note:  Though I closely watched the Frost moon rise and fall throughout the month of November, she eluded my Canon. I never got a good shot of the November moon. Looking back through my archives, I decided to post these shots from the July Thunder Moon.

It was a beautiful summer night. I was walking across the 10th Street Bridge in Minneapolis with a couple of friends. We stood across from the I-35 bridge (still under construction) at the exact point where the middle was about to meet. When we turned around to walk back, the sun was setting; the Thunder Moon was rising in the East.

Many of the names for the November moon reference flowing rivers about to freeze over from the approaching cold. The Mississippi was warm on this July night, another winter yet to come. I am nearing the end of a year of posting these Moonwriting practices. One more — the December Solstice Moon is just around the corner.

10th Street Bridge Moonrise, Minneapolis, Minnesota, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Moon Curve, Minneapolis, Minnesota, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved

10th Street Bridge Moonrise, Moon Curve, Minneapolis, Minnesota, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

-posted on red Ravine, Saturday, November 29h, 2008

-related to posts: PRACTICE – September Harvest Moon – 15 min, Against The Grain (August Moon), The Many Moons Of July (Digging Deeper), winter haiku trilogy, PRACTICE – Wolf Moon – 10min haiku (one-a-day)

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Two cottonwoods, old majestic trees and geese in Albuquerque’s north valley, Thanksgiving Day afternoon, photo © 2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

it rained all the day
from morning to afternoon
then the sun came out

-related to post: haiku (one-a-day)

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turkey love, two heritage tom turkeys in perfect silhouette in the Rio Grande Valley, NM, November 2008, photo © 2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

♥♥♥♥                                         ♥♥♥♥

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥                               ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥                     ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥           ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

For the ones we love and the ones who love us.

For this moment, and hope for the future.

For inspiration, practice, our mentors.

For our health and our work.

For beautiful turkeys.

For one another.

For all of you.


QM and yb

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My mother-in-law made this…

Happy Thanksgiving, handmade card from Celia, Thanksgiving
2009, image © 2008 by Celia. All rights reserved.


                                                         …which made me think of this…

Hand Turkey, remembering how we used to draw turkeys when we were kids, image © 2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

…which kind of looks like this…(although not really)…

Gray Tom, one of tom turkeys counting his blessings before Thanksgiving, photo © 2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

                                            …and which looks nothing like this!

Black Tom, glad to be the clever turkey he is, photo © 2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

Will you be eating

             one of these handsome guys

                                   (well, not exactly one of them)

                                                                  this Thanksgiving??

*The Bald Eagle is the symbol of the United States, yet one person believed that the Turkey would have been a more respectable bird to represent our nation.

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I’ve been preoccupied the last few weeks. By the time my head hits the flannel sheets, I am out like a light. It’s near Thanksgiving, the time of year when I should be giving thanks. Yet it seems like there is so much wrong with the world. Bad things happening to good people. Why?

I’m thinking about the flannel blankets we had growing up, how Mom used to swaddle my two younger brothers in rectangles of blue flannel. It wasn’t plain blue though, there were little pictures of pacifiers or teddy bears or rainbows on those blankets. Think of the word swaddle, swaddling babes.

I recently ran into a letter I had written my family back in 1968. Or was it 1969? I was with 3 of my siblings in South Carolina visiting my step-dad and his wife. I must have been 13 or 14, a brooding teenager. Yet the letter was so tender.

I described a typical day in the sweltering Southern summer, then talked about how much I missed my two younger brothers, only babies at the time. I was entering junior high when they were born. I felt very nurturing toward them and the love I felt was obvious in the letter. I really missed my new family life in Pennsylvania.

Flannel — it reminds me of how quickly things can change. From summer cotton, to winter flannels. The jeans I used to love with the flannel lining. Warm, soft to the touch, against dry winter skin.

Last night, we were watching a documentary on Ernest Thompson Seton, a New Mexico naturalist who waged war on wolves in New Mexico in the late 1800’s. The head of the wolf pack and King of the Currumpaw, Lobo, was too smart for him and evaded his poison and steel traps. Finally, in desperation, Seton shot and killed Blanca, Lobo’s life mate, in order to catch Lobo. Liz and I cried.

Later, Seton would have a change of heart and let Lobo go. But it was too late. Lobo died of a broken heart. It broke Seton’s heart, too, and from that moment on, he never hunted another wolf. He went on to write Lobo’s story in the book, Wild Animals I Have Known, spearheaded the environmental movement, and helped found the Boy Scouts.

At the rolling credits, eyes red, peering over the top of the down comforter, Liz asked if I was a romantic. I smiled and nodded. It was a rhetorical question. I knew she knew the truth.

“What about you?” I asked. “Are you a romantic?” “Hmmm, sometimes,” she said, taking another bite of her sub. I smiled. “Yeah, you’re half and half.” She laughed. By the time my head hit the flannel sheets, I was already dreaming.

-related to Topic post: WRITING TOPIC – FLANNEL SHEETS

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Fresh flannel sheets on the bed last night, I closed the top to my computer and crawled in with ice cube feet and the sheets were like warm layers of cotton. Sometimes when my feet are cold I’ll take them and rub them on Jim’s legs, try to insert little feet between shins or thighs the way I used to with Mom whenever I had leg aches.

Leg aches plagued me more than other ailments as a child, maybe lack of great nutrition—I liked candy necklaces and sugar straws—although I think it was hereditary. Mom’s parents took her to the healing waters of Ojo Caliente and soaked her legs in the pools to drive away the demons.

We sleep with a set of flannel sheets, a blue herringbone blanket made for a double bed not queen (Jim always pulls it too far over, or I do), a quilt Jim’s mom made him in 1981, has a simple rising sun design and a sewn inscripton, Happy Birthday Jim, Love Mom. He loves that quilt. Then a bed cover I got at Linens-n-Things, which Patty C. calls “Sheets-n-Shit.” They’re going out of business.

I like down comforters, Jim dies of heatstroke in them. His mom gave us one for Christmas long ago with a white eyelet cover, pretty and delicate, and when it finally died and the feathers aggregated in thick clumps in the corners, we let it go with one of our annual spring cleaning purges.

I remember most the bedding at Grandma’s house, layers of homemade quilted blankets and bright afghans. There was never rhyme nor reason to her colors. I have an old blanket of hers now with angled edges that Mom sewed where it had ripped and gave to me. Pink checkerboard, lime green, bright orange and red. I see two patches of patterned cloth I recognize from the simple dresses Grandma wore in the mornings while frying bacon, potatoes, and eggs. Each section held with thread in the center, the ends popping up like errant hairs on a chin. I love that blanket, I lie on the couch and cover myself with it whenever we watch movies. Em always gravitates to me during those times and I spoon her the way Mom spooned me, tiny legs tucked into big.

But the thing I remember most about Grandma’s bedding is how it held me down, the weight of it all, pressing me into my dreams. How later on whenever I got X-rays at Dr. Thurman’s office and they placed that iron-like blanket over my small body it would remind me of reams of color, patches of Grandma’s dresses and crocheted yarn, weighing down on me, not like a burden but a release, allowing sleep, finally, to come.

-related to Topic post: WRITING TOPIC – FLANNEL SHEETS

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Wanda Wooly, Minneapolis, Minnesota, November 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.   Wanda Wooly, Minneapolis, Minnesota, November 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Wanda Wooly, Minneapolis, Minnesota, November 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.   Wanda Wooly, Minneapolis, Minnesota, November 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Wanda Wooly, Minneapolis, Minnesota, November 2008, photo
© 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

It’s cleaning day in our household and dust bunnies fill the air. Once in a while, Liz comes home from shopping excited about a new cleaning gadget. Last September it was Wanda Wooly — The Pure Wool Duster.

Wanda has a long, blue metal handle that extends to 75″, is environmentally friendly because you can wash her hair, and by pivoting the handle rapidly between the hands, is ready for her next swipe up spidery corners. Made by Starmax Resources in Ohio, Wanda is fully guaranteed and cute to boot. She sits in the corner of our laundry room, smiling back at us.

We only deep clean about once a month, with light cleaning between. But the three cats require constant maintenance from their various romps and tips around the house. We do have to vacuum up all the cat bunnies, and Liz is forever coming home with the next version of the perfect cat litter. We’ve been disappointed more than once. But this last bag she bought seems to really do what they said it would do on the packaging.

How often do you clean the house? Are you one of those people who has to have a fanatically clean environment, everything in it’s place and spotless? Or do you like a more lived-in feel. What about cleaning gadgets? Do you buy them? Are you always first in line to pick up on the latest trend?

Who does the cleaning in your household? Is it you, or your partner or spouse? Or maybe you’re a person who hires someone else to clean your house. If so, do you feel obligated to pick up and clean the house before the cleaning person comes?

I’m sold on Wanda Wooly. And after I drape her fluffy lamb’s hair across the dusty piano, we’re heading outside to shake her hair in the wind, put the hose away for winter, and rake a few more leaves.

Note: Wanda Wooly runs about $20 and can be picked up at ACE Hardware SuperStores. The price listed there is for a unit of 6. We try to shop local and visit our little ACE Hardware store whenever we can.

-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, November 23rd, 2008

-related to posts: WRITING TOPIC – CLEANLINESS

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Twilight Advance, advance ticket for opening day of Twilight, the long-awaited film adaptation of Stephenie Meyer’s young adult hit series, image © 2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

Twilight opened at midnight last night, and I imagine theaters everywhere were filled with teenage girls dressed in black. My teen didn’t make it; today was a school day.

But guess who has a ticket for a showing tonight? Yep. The way I see it is, these are the things that eventually become memories when today’s kids get to be our age. Standing in line for over an hour to get a good seat in the theater on opening day of Twilight, or sitting two rows from the front of the screen and being unable to straighten your neck when the movie ends. Sweet.

I don’t remember standing in line as a kid to be among the first to see a movie or to buy a book. Maybe life was simpler then and less sales-driven. Or maybe my parents just wouldn’t stand for such nonsense.

I’m pretty sure it’s the deprived child in me that now indulges my daughters and last year endured the torture of standing—or, rather, leaning—in line, half alseep at one in the morning, so I could fork over $24.99 to a testy cashier and get Dee’s copy of the long awaited Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.


What did we have that was even slightly similar? My older sisters swooned over The Beatles and Elvis, although I don’t think they ever made it to a concert. Jim remembers going to see 2001: A Space Odyssey on his 13th birthday, although it wasn’t opening night. “Nah, we never went to openings when I was a kid.” And in general, we still avoid the crowds that come with any opening night.

Although, Em reminded Jim that we all went to see Wall-E the first night it opened this past summer. We were in Taos for the Taos Solar Festival, and on a whim the Friday night we rolled into town, we decided to go see Wall-E. We sashayed on in, bought our tickets, and sat smack dab in the middle of a mostly empty theater. We couldn’t believe our luck. No way we would have ventured to an Albuquerque theater for opening night of any movie, not even a Disney Pixar one.

But some people love the excitement of being among the first. It’s kind of like making history. Or, like I said, making memories.

How about you? Do you move with the throngs or do you hang back until the crowds thin?

-Related to posts My Kid Got Bit By Stephenie Meyer and Stephenie Bit Me, Too!

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Assassin's Bullet Kills Kennedy, shot of vintage copy of The Augusta Chronicle, November 23rd, 1963, Augusta, Georgia, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Assassin’s Bullet Kills Kennedy, vintage newspaper found last summer in a box of old family photographs, November 23rd, 1963, The Augusta Chronicle — South’s Oldest Newspaper — Est. 1785, Augusta, Georgia, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

It’s the anniversary week of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Could it possibly be that 45 years have passed? Last summer, when rummaging through family photographs at my uncle’s, I happened upon a vintage newspaper that headlined Saturday Morning, November 23rd, 1963, the day after the Kennedy shooting. The handwriting of some member of my family was in the top left corner — “killed Friday morning.”

The Kennedy assassination rattled me as a child. I wrote about it a few years ago, and discovered Bryan Woolley’s Dallas Times Herald account of the facts from the morning of November 22nd, 1963. It was strange to be holding a yellowed newspaper from that day, one that had circulated through the town where I was born. There were front page interviews, reactions of everyday people walking down Broad Street.

Where were you the day Kennedy was shot?

Though I was young, I clearly remember the headline photograph of LBJ, Lady Bird and Jackie. It wasn’t until later I would learn it was taken aboard Air Force One by White House photographer, Cecil Stoughton, at the swearing in of Lyndon B. Johnson. Stoughton was close to the Kennedys and rode in the fifth car in the motorcade. He heard the shots that fatally wounded JFK; he was at Parkland Hospital when Kennedy died.

LBJ & Jackie Kennedy, close-up shot of vintage copy of The Augusta Chronicle, November 23rd, 1963, Augusta, Georgia, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved. 

The Augusta Chronicle Caption — Lyndon B. Johnson is sworn in as President in the cabin of the presidential plane as Mrs. John F. Kennedy stands at his side. Federal Judge Sarah T. Hughes administers the oath. Background, Jack Valenti, administrative assistant to Johnson, Albert Thomas, D-Tex; Mrs. Johnson and Rep. Jack Brooks, D-Tex. This photo was made by Capt. Cecil Stoughton, official White House photographer, who was the only camera-man allowed to record the ceremony.

Out of the 12,000 negatives Stoughton shot during the Kennedy years, none would be as important as these – he was the only photographer allowed aboard Air Force One that day. And his were the only shots that proved Johnson had actually been sworn in. According to Stoughton’s son, “He took about 20 pictures but the first one almost didn’t happen because his Hasselblad, the Rolls-Royce of cameras, malfunctioned.” A photographer’s nightmare.

From Bryan Woolley’s account of the facts, here’s exactly what happened in those few moments that changed Cecil Stoughton’s life, and the world:

Judge Hughes boarded the plane at 2:35 and was handed a      
small white card with the oath scrawled on it. Capt. Cecil        
Stoughton, an Army Signal Corps photographer, tried to arrange    
the crowd in the cramped stateroom so that he could take a        
picture of the ceremony. “We’ll wait for Mrs. Kennedy,” Johnson   
said. “I want her here.”                                          
     Mrs. Kennedy came out of the bedroom still wearing the       
blood-soaked pink suit. Johnson pressed her hand and said, “This  
is the saddest moment of my life.” The photographer placed her on 
Johnson’s left, Lady Bird on his right. Judge Hughes, the first   
woman to administer the presidential oath, was shaking.           
     “What about a Bible?” asked one of the witnesses. Someone    
remembered that President Kennedy had kept a Bible in the bedroom 
and went to get it.                                               
     “I do solemnly swear…”                                     
     The oath lasted 28 seconds. At 2:38 p.m., Lyndon B. Johnson  
became the 36th President of the United States. The big jet’s     
engines already were screaming. “Now, let’s get airborne,” he     

JFK In Augusta Chronicle - Little People Numbed, shot of vintage copy of The Augusta Chronicle, November 23rd, 1963, Augusta, Georgia, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reservedLee Harvey Oswald, shot of vintage copy of The Augusta Chronicle, November 23rd, 1963, Augusta, Georgia, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

LBJ & Jackie Kennedy, JFK In Augusta Chronicle – “Little People Numbed,” Lee Harvey Oswald, shots of vintage copy of The Augusta Chronicle, November 23rd, 1963, Augusta, Georgia, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

The Augusta Chronicle Caption — Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested in Dallas and charged Friday night with the murder of President Kennedy. Oswald was captured in a downtown Dallas theater after an alert cashier notified police a suspicious looking man had entered the theater shortly after the shooting. Oswald attempted to shoot his captors inside the theater but his pistol misfired. Four years ago Oswald said he was applying for Russian citizenship. His wife is Russian.

Stoughton had an amazing collection of photographs and memorabilia. He appeared on Public Television’s Antiques Roadshow in June 2007 where they estimated his collection at $75,000. Cecil Stoughton died a few weeks ago, on Monday, November 3rd, 2008. By some odd twist of fate, a pre-scheduled, taped segment of his 2007 Antiques Roadshow episode was rebroadcast that Monday night, about an hour after he died.

World Feels Shots Impact, shot of vintage copy of The Augusta Chronicle, November 23rd, 1963, Augusta, Georgia, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

World Feels Shot’s Impact, vintage copy of The Augusta Chronicle — South’s Oldest Newspaper — Est. 1785, November 23rd, 1963, Augusta, Georgia, all photos © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

There is one last thing that struck me about The Augusta Chronicle account. Above the headline World Feels Shot’s Impact is a smaller headline — Little People Numbed. It reminded me of our recent presidential elections in this country, how the whole world was watching — and how it was the little people — everywoman, everyman — who really made the difference.

The Augusta Chronicle  – World Feels Shot’s Impact
Saturday, November 23rd, 2008

Word of President Kennedy’s assassination struck the world’s capitals with shattering impact, leaving heads of state and the man in the street stunned and grief-stricken. While messages of condolence poured into the White House from presidents, premiers and crowned heads, the little people of many lands reacted with numbed disbelief.

Pubs in London and cafes in Paris fell silent, as the news came over radio and television.

In Moscow, a Russian girl walked weeping along the street. At U.N. headquarters in New York, delegates of 111 nations bowed their heads in a moment of silence.

In Buenos Aires, newspapers sounded sirens reserved for news of the utmost gravity.

Britain’s Prime Minister Douglas-Home sent condolences and Sir Winston Churchill branded the slaying a monstrous act.

“The loss to the United States and to the world is incalculable,” Sir Winston declared. “Those who come after Mr. Kennedy must strive the more to achieve the ideals of world peace and happiness and dignity to which his presidency was dedicated.”

-posted on red Ravine, Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

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by Judith Ford


Actor “Jude” Suffering, dramatization of author Judith Ford in Discovery Health Channel series Mystery ER, photos © 2008 by Judith Ford. All rights reserved.

Last April, when Discovery Health Channel contacted me, I’d been working on my book, Fever of Unknown Origin, for over 15 years. I never intended it to be what it turned out to be—a 600-page manuscript with multiple plotlines and themes. It started out as a way to come to terms with a serious illness that put me in the hospital for most of the summer of 1990.

But while I wrote, my life kept happening. My parents got sick and died; their stories seeped into the book. What I thought and felt about my illness, about illness in general and about death, changed. I did countless rewrites. In 2003, I launched a website, www.judithford.com, expecting I’d be ready to market the manuscript within a year. That didn’t happen. I got discouraged and quit writing more than once, each time returning weeks later with renewed vision, scrapping whole chapters, restructuring and polishing what remained. Fever and I had been alone together too long; I’d lost momentum.

And then I received the Discovery Health Channel email. Bill, a “finder” for the network, found my website. He was looking for stories for a new TV series called Mystery ER. “Yours would be a great story for us,” he told me, “and free publicity for you.”

I didn’t jump at the offer. I’d watched Discovery Health Channel once or twice and knew that it aired stories of real people dealing with dramatic medical issues. I wasn’t sure participating would be good for me or for Fever. I told Bill I’d think it over. He sent me a CD with samples of Mystery ER.

The first opened with a woman having energetic convulsions on an ER gurney. The second involved an orthodox Jewish boy who’d contracted trichinosis, somehow, without ever having eaten pork. He collapsed in an ER doorway. While the stories were presented with respect for the patients and what looked like medical accuracy, I didn’t see how my book would fit. It contained no scenes of me passing out or seizing.

more-silly-yoga-poseMy illness had developed in slow motion, starting in 1979 with bone-numbing fatigue, low fevers, and an odd prickly rash. I went to doctors who theorized hypoglycemia, spider bites, allergies, chronic mono. None had treatment suggestions, so after two years of feeling like hell, I created my own plan. It included lots of sleep, no refined sugar or white flour, daily lap swimming, dance classes, yoga, and meditation.

Gradually, I got well and stayed well until 1990, when all the symptoms returned, this time with higher fevers. I also developed anemia, systemic inflammation, and eventually, ulcerative colitis. All dramatic enough to compel me to write but not, I thought, material for a TV show. How could Mystery ER dramatize a fever of 106, an itchy rash, abnormal liver function, and an enlarged spleen? And how in the world could they condense what had become a story about my life into thirty minutes?

“Not to worry,” Nora, the producer, told me. “We’ll just deal with your illness, not the rest of the book, and we’ll write it in a way that’s compelling and authentic.” She offered to come to Milwaukee to interview on camera me, my husband, Chris, and one of my doctors. The show would include clips of our interviews interspersed with dramatizations, played by actors. “And,” said Nora, “we’ll let you mention your book on camera.” It was the promise of book publicity that made me say “Yes.”

chris-ford-and-a-producerThe morning of the filming, the lighting and sound guys took over my friend Judy’s downtown Milwaukee condo. They banished her, her four-year-old granddaughter, and three dogs to the master bedroom. The TV crew moved furniture, set up shades to block the floor-to-ceiling windows, and demanded absolute silence. Each interview was two-and-a-half hours long, including breaks to deal with shifting light, the phone ringing, and the grandchild slinking out to lean adorably—but distractingly—against the wall to watch us.

At first, I enjoyed being asked detailed questions about my illness. What was my life like when it began? Busy, way, way busy. Had I believed my first recovery, in 1981, had happened as a result of meditation and dietary changes? Yes, I thought I’d been mentally and physically amazing. But as we got more deeply into the summer of 1990, my energy flagged. Frankly, having written in so many ways and in such detail about my suffering, I was bored by it.


I perked up when we got to the part about my friend and former teacher, Dick, coming to the hospital to do a healing hypnosis two days before I was scheduled to have my colon removed. The night after the hypnosis I slept well for the first time in months. The colon symptoms abated and the colonectomy was cancelled. I went home five days later.

Nora perked up, too. “So when the medical people had given up on you, this other form of healing cured you?” Um. No. The medical people had far from given up; they were pumping me full of IV Prednisone and Demerol. They drew my blood many times a day. They’d hooked me up to a chest tube through which I was getting all my nutrition. My turn-for-the-better was sudden and wonderful, but it wasn’t magic, nor was it complete. It took two more months before I could go back to work. I had a serious relapse in 1997.

I explained this to Nora but her fascination made me worry that she was going to spin my story in a direction I didn’t want it to go.

“Did you feel that this was divine intervention?”

“Not really,” I said.


The questions about what causes and cures disease are big and wide and controversial. My exploration of those questions is central to Fever and impossible to capture in sound-bites. Before I got sick in 1990, I would have told Nora that health was a decision, that most people could make themselves well with a combination of focus, relaxation, right thinking, and right eating. My 1990 relapse, eventually diagnosed as Adult Onset Stills Disease, blew all that certainty and bravado to bits. The only thing I knew for sure afterwards was that life is unpredictable, uncontrollable, precious, and brief.

At the end of my interview, Nora asked me what message I’d like to send to other people struggling with mysterious illnesses. I laughed out loud. “I spent 15 years and 600 pages on that,” I told her. “Give it a try,” she said.

I responded with something generic, like, “Every person who gets sick has to come up with their own sense of meaning.” Later, I wished I’d talked instead about how the illness changed me. How it humbled me. How it taught me to let go.

My doctor, Dr. M, was interviewed last. Just before her session, she whispered to me, “I don’t think I should be here. I don’t think what you had was Stills Disease.” She thought my diagnosis was ulcerative colitis, despite the fact that three other doctors had suggested the Stills label, conjecturing that the colitis had been caused by a drug reaction. I hadn’t had a colon symptom in 18 years. I reminded Dr. M. that even the gastroenterologist had rejected the colitis theory. “No,” she said, “I’m certain.”

Great, I thought. The whole show revolved around the Stills diagnosis. Would there be any show without it? Did I even want there to be a show?

While Dr. M was being interviewed in another room, I sat and worried over everything I had and hadn’t said. I wondered if I was doing my book a disservice, allowing it to be reduced to the one thin, unexamined plotline of my disease.

Nora took a break from Dr. M’s session to tell me, “Your doctor is driving me nuts. She’s giving me paragraphs of medical facts; none of our viewers will know what she’s talking about.”

“And,” Nora added, “she doesn’t think you ever had Stills disease.”

“Can we still do the show?” I asked, suddenly sure I did, in fact, want the show to go on.

“Oh yeah, we can edit out whatever doesn’t fit. It’s just annoying.”

And edit they did. The interview segments that took all day to film amounted to ten minutes of on-screen time.


“Inflamed,” my Mystery ER story, debuted on September 1. I expected the worst. What if they’d included my inane closing statement about “Everyone has their own meaning blah blah blah”? What if I looked old and dumpy? What if the editors made it sound like I’d cured myself with my mind? What if my story was no longer mine? I felt comfortable enough surrendering to the TV people at the time I signed release forms, yet as the Mystery ER logo lit up the TV screen I wanted to snatch my story back and protect it like the vulnerable newborn it suddenly seemed to be.

But really, the show was okay. More than okay. There were the requisite overly-dramatic bits – like a shot of my hypochondriac mother in a black shawl murmuring “I’m going to die,” and me in the kitchen frantically throwing out all the junk food when I was diagnosed as hypoglycemic. And the silly shot of me sitting in a yoga pose.

The interview sections, though, were fine. I looked okay and sounded smart enough to not embarrass myself. And, thank you very much, “everyone has to find their own meaning” ended up on the cutting room floor. As did all mention of my book. So much for the “free publicity.”

Now, two months later, I don’t mind losing the publicity. Much unexpected good has come of “Inflamed.” The friends who watched the show with me have gotten a lot of mileage out of doing imitations of my moaning mother. My sister-in-law has threatened to give me a black shawl for Christmas. Chris enjoyed seeing himself played by a handsome young actor with great pecs. My life-long running practice, an important theme in the book, made it into the script, and I loved seeing my actor-self running with better form than my own.

In the weeks since the show aired, all kinds of people—neighbors, former clients, the UPS man—have told me how much they liked the show, how impressed they were by the interview segments, and to ask if I’m well now. I am.

But here’s the really great part: Mystery ER lit a fire under me. It gave Fever more definition, more weight. It made me want to finish the book. It matters a great deal to me that a TV channel was interested in my story and that people who saw the show were touched by it.

This past summer, I went to a “How to sell your book” workshop at The Loft in Minneapolis and learned that a memoir doesn’t have to be completed before you market it. I hired a consultant to help me write the book proposal. She told me that mentioning Mystery ER in my cover letter would make busy editors and agents pay more attention. The proposal packets took most of August to write and assemble. Last week I sent out the first batch to eleven literary agents.

I’m doing the rest of the revisions with new enthusiasm, working every day. Fever and I aren’t alone together any more; I can feel my audience now, out there, waiting.


The “Silly” Yoga Pose, author Judith Ford in Mystery ER show
“Inflamed,” photo © 2008 by Judith Ford. All rights reserved.

Judith Ford is a psychotherapist and writer who lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She was red Ravine’s very first guest writer, with her 25 Reasons I Write post. Reason #14: “I write to finish this damn book and it isn’t done yet.” (Remember that one, Jude? J)

You can eventually see the show, “Inflamed,” about Judith’s illness, as Discovery Health Channel re-runs all the episodes of Mystery ER. Check your local listings.

Oh, and all Mystery ER names have been changed.

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Winter is nearly upon us, which means flannel sheets are upon us, too.

Or not.

Depends on whether you’re the type who likes flannel sheets. Some people don’t.

Some people feel smothered by the extra weight and warmth. Sure, flannel sheets are snuggly when you first hop into bed, but once the body tempature rises, well, I’ll take a 100% cotton sheet any day. Or night.

People can get picky about their beddings. Or, as some say, their “linens.” Polyester sheets pill, synthetic quilts scratch. Some people insist on having their pillows down. 

It’s become a normal thing to buy cotton by the hundreds, as in 800. Count. And with foreign accents. Egyptian, for example.

I once heard of a technique where you put an old soft flannel sheet between two cotton ones and, wa-la, zee pinnacle of vinter comfort.

And are flannel sheets really made of flannel? Not exactly. Real flannel is a woolen fabric made from loosely spun yarn, which comes in varying degrees of weight and fineness. What we’ve come today to think of as “flannel” is actually “flannelette,” flannel’s skinny little cousin.

Flannelette is usually made from either wool or cotton, the latter of which is commonly used for sheets and those handsome, oftentimes plaid shirts that were popular in the 60s and 70s. (I wore mine over a tight red thermal undershirt, which, along with my wafflestompers, painter pants, and feathered hair transformed me into a Farrah-Fawcetted flannelette superette.)

Speaking of flannel, urban legend has it that Red Flannel Hash, that New England breakfast hash that involves beets, was not always a root dish.

The story goes that a mining camp wife, who also ran a boarding house, suspected her husband of having an affair. One day she woke up on the wrong side of the bed (having slept in real flannel sheets). While cooking breakfast for the miners, she noticed her husband’s red flannel long johns hanging with the laundry. She ground them up and tossed them into the hash. Breakfast was served, and the miners loved that “bright red hash.”

When they asked for more the following morning, the wife, out of red flannel long johns, substituted beets in the next batch of hash. It proved to be just as popular.

Red Flannel Hash
1 cup diced potato
1 cup shredded beets (note: original recipe missed the beet—ha!—sorry ’bout that)
1 medium onion
Chopped 8 oz. corned beef
2 eggs
Salt and pepper to taste

Slowly fry the beets, potato, onion, and corned beef until done. Fry or poach eggs and place on top. Serve immediately.

So here’s a Topic for you: write about flannel sheets. Or polyester. Or down pillows and comforters. Or sleeping naked.

You get the picture. Think about your bedding preferences, set the timer for 15 minutes, then do a Writing Practice.

You’ll sleep like a lamb afterwards.

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Hunters Moon (Over The Weisman), Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Hunter’s Moon (Over The Weisman), Minneapolis, Minnesota,
October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights

I watched October’s moon all month long. The Full Hunter’s Moon rose over the Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art after a soft rain. The museum winds upward along the University of Minnesota campus in Minneapolis. That night we were there to see a one of a kind video performance by R. Luke DuBois, along with his exhibit Hindsight is Always 20/20 .

The Weisman, designed by acclaimed architect Frank O. Gehry, spirals high above the Mississippi River. Moonlight reflects off her curves, and the city beams in ripples that echo off sweeping balconies. Every time I see the building, I think of Sydney Pollack’s Sketches of Frank Gehry and the way the two men were playful, yet articulate, when they bantered back and forth about their craft; they each shot for the moon.

Last night, while Liz was finishing up last minute details on Rendering & Return, an Red Synonym Finder, Minneapolis, Minnesota, November 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Intermedia video performance she created and will be showing this weekend, I grabbed The Synonym Finder she had just put down on the couch, and looked up the word moonstruck. That led to another word, and another, until I was knee-deep in moons.

I learned about The Synonym Finder from Natalie at one of her workshops. We are the proud owners of two. It was compiled by Jerome Irving (J.I.) Rodale in 1978 and contains more than 1,500,000 words on 1,376 pages.

It might weigh in at over 5 pounds, but writers — don’t leave home without it.

I’m tired tonight and only have enough steam for a short post. Circling back to moonwriting, these are a few expressions I have run into in my research, words and phrases to describe the October moon:

Falling Leaves Moon
White Frost On The Grass & Ground Moon
Moon When The Water Begins To Freeze On The Edge Of The Streams
Moon When The Birds Fly South
Leaves Change Color Moon
Bears Hibernate Moon
Month of Long Hair
Moon When The Wind Shakes Off The Leaves
Month of the First Frost
Wilted Moon
Rutting Moon
Hunter’s Moon
Travels In Canoe Moon
Big Wind Moon

Ripples, Weisman Art Museum, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Ripples, Weisman Art Museum, Minneapolis,
Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by
QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

And from The Synonym Finder, letters moonlighting as words help to explain Autumn’s 10th Moon; October’s waning splendor; the November Full Moon I discovered a moment ago, rising behind me over the oaks.

moon  n.  1. satellite, secondary planet, celestial body, Archaic. lamp.
2. new moon, increscent moon, waxing moon, decrescent moon, waning moon, old moon; crescent, lune, meniscus, half-moon, demilune; full moon, hunter’s moon, harvest moon; disk, orb, sphere, globe, ball.
3. month, lunation, lunar month
4. once upon a blue moon rarely, seldom, not very often, hardly ever.
__v. 5. Informal. daydream, dream, fantasize, imagine, indulge in reverie, gaze or look out the window, stargaze, go off into one’s own world; mope, pine, languish, brook; fret, sulk, pout.
6. Informal. (all of time) waste, squander, fritter, spend idly, pass, Sl. blow.

moonlight, n. 1. moonshine, Fr. clair de lune, moonbeams, Fr. rayons de lune.
___v.  2. Informal. work two jobs, work nights.

moon-shaped, adj. crescent, crescentic, crescent-shaped, demilune, half-moon, meniscoid; lunate, lunar, lunular, lunulate, luniform; sickle-shaped, falcate, faliform, bicorn; semiglobular, hemispheric; curved, bow-shaped, convexo-concave, semicircular.

moonshine, n. 1. U.S. Informal. U.S. bootleg, Sl. hootch, smuggled or contraband whiskey, Fr. alcool de contraband; homemade whiskey, corn whiskey.
2. moonlight, Fr. clair de lune, moonbeams, Fr. rayons de lune.
3. nonsense, Sl. hot air, humbug, claptrap, rodomontade, fustian, bombast, rant; idle or foolish talk, Inf. gab, Sl. gas, palaver, chatter, chit-chat, jabber, prate; jargon, gobbledegook, Jabberwocky, gibberish, babble, Fr. bavardage, twaddle, Brit. twattle, blather, drivel; foam, froth, bunkum, Sl. bunk, U.S. Sl. blah; flummery, Inf. hokum, Sl. applesauce, Sl. eyewash; rubbish, Sl. tripe, refuse, Dial. culch, chaff, trash, Inf. garbage, Sl. crap, Sl. crock, Sl. bull; balder-dash, Sl. horsefeathers, hogwash, stuff, stuff and nonsense, Inf. bosh, Brit. Inf. gammon, Brit. Sl. tosh, fudge, foolishness, folly, rigmarole, amphigory; footle, Inf. malarkey, Sl. bushwa, Sl. baloney, Sl. bilge or bilge water, Sl. meshugaas, Scot. and North Eng. haver; poppycock, Inf. fiddle-faddle, Inf. piffle, Inf. hooey, Inf. kibosh, Inf. flapdoodle.

moon-struck adj. 1. crazed, crazy, mad, maddened, lunatic, lunatical, insane, demented, deranged, dazed, moon-stricken, possessed, infatuated; of unsound mind, Latin non compos mentis, mentally ill, daft, Inf. daffy, unbalanced, touched. Inf. unglued. Inf. half-baked, Brit. Sl. bonkers. Brit Sl. barmy, unhinged, distracted; brainsick, Sl. kooky, Sl. meshuga; U.S. Sl. balmy, dippy, batty, bats, cuckoo, buggy, bughouse, bugs, screwy, wacky, wacko, goofy, loony, squirrely, bananas, nuts, nutty, nutty as a fruitcake.
2. out of one’s head or mind or senses or wits. Scot. redwood, Sl. loco, mad as a hatter, mad as a March hare, far-gone, stark raving mad; not all there, not quite right, not right upstairs; Inf. out in left field, Sl. in outer space, Sl. in orbit, Inf. off the wall; Inf. Cracked, Inf. mental, Sl. off one’s rocker, Sl. out of one’s tree, Sl. off one’s trolley, Brit. Sl. off one’s chump.
3. hysterical, delirious, maniacal, madding, Archaic. wood; frantic, frenzied, frenetic; ranting, raving, storming, foaming at the mouth; beside oneself, at wit’s end; out of control, uncontrollable, corybantic, Inf. haywire, berserk, rabid, wild.

Nightlight Downtown, Weisman Art Museum, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Nightlight Downtown, Weisman Art Museum,
Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo
© 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

-posted on red Ravine, Thursday, November 13th, 2008,
rabid and wild on the inside, in need of sleep on the outside,
basking in the light of November’s Full Moon

-related to posts: PRACTICE – September Harvest Moon – 15 min, Against The Grain (August Moon), The Many Moons Of July (Digging Deeper), winter haiku trilogy, PRACTICE – Wolf Moon – 10min

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Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal
, watched only once (thank you), photos
© 2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

Once in a blue moon, I do it. I watch a movie twice.

Not the kind of re-watching that comes naturally, over time, when you remember how much you liked a movie the first time you saw it and decide to watch it again. I do that, too.

The kind of movie re-watching I’m writing about is different. It happens when a movie gets a grip on my psyche. When as I’m watching it I find myself falling in a slow headlong for the actors. Where, when the snow blows, a chill runs through my body, and when the music creeps in, I pull knees to my chest and hunker down.

It’s the kind of movie where I don’t take leave of my chair nor the screen until the credits run, and as soon as the credits run, I know I want to see it again. Now.

Sometimes I’ll wait a day. This time I waited two.

I first saw Transsiberian on DVD with Jim on Saturday night. Jessie (played by Emily Mortimer) is a recovering alcoholic photographer whose train-loving missionary husband, Roy (played by Woody Harrelson) has booked an eight-day train trip from China to Moscow as a way to infuse their troubled marriage with adventure and, hopefully, make Jessie happy. Their cabin mates are a guapo Spaniard backpacker named Carlos (played by Eduardo Noriega) and his much younger and very quiet girlfriend, Abby (Kate Mara). You know Carlos and Abby are trouble the moment they tumble into the shared cabin.

When I watched the movie again, last night, I pleaded all through it with Jessie to not fall for Carlos’ traps. Yet, the fact that she wouldn’t listen to me—it endeared her to me all the more. I love Jessie—so street smart and mature, yet so not in control.

The first movie to get a hold of me this way was an indy production that came out in 1984: Choose Me. I was 23, went to see it at The Guild Cinema on Central Avenue in Albuquerque’s Nob Hill. That time it was Keith Carradine (Mickey), Lesley Ann Warren (Eve), and Genevieve Bujold (as radio talk show host, Dr. Love) that pulled me in. And the music—Feelin’ right, you’re my choice tonight—by Teddy Pendergrass.

I watched the matinee, walked out into the too-bright sun to Bow Wow Records a few doors down, bought a cassette by Teddy Pendergrass, and went back to see the movie again. I even saw it a third time, the next day.

Looking back, my first clue that movies could affect me this way came in 1973. That’s the year Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford starred in The Way We Were. I was 12 years old, and my best friend and I took the city bus to Winrock Theater to see the movie. Afterwards we rode back in silence and walked slowly from the bus stop to our houses. Once inside, I disappeared into the bathroom, drew a bath, and sat in the tepid water for half an hour, crying. I couldn’t get over how Streisand’s activist Katie and Redford’s military man Hubbell could love one another so deeply yet be incapable of creating a life together.

Now with movies out on DVD, it’s easy to indulge in my once-in-a-blue-moon obsession. Last movie before Transsiberian that I watched twice in a row was Sex & Lucía. That time it was actor Tristán Ulloa who captured my imagination. Short and with hair like a rooster, he played a writer, Lorenzo, who, once he finds a woman to love—or, rather, she finds him, enamored as she is with his books—he can’t suppress his debilities and become the man he wants to be.

As goes Lorenzo, so went Jessie. I suppose Mickey, Eve, and Hubbell all did, too. Complex humans, good and bad fighting for dominance. Maybe that’s what pulls me in—a desire to know that epic struggle. Like a song that gets etched into my brain, the characters cut grooves somewhere inside me, and once there, I can let them go.

I will tell you this. My obsession with certain movies doesn’t last. I went back recently and re-watched The Way We Were and Choose Me, and whatever it was that got inside of me those many years ago, it’s no longer there.

Which is a good thing, I think. Much as I enjoy the infatuation when it hits, I wouldn’t want to spend all my days watching then immediately re-watching movies.

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Happy Birthday, Mom, Georgia Memoir Series, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Happy Birthday, Mom, Amelia & Jack in 1941, Georgia Memoir
Series, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey.
All rights reserved.

It’s my mother’s birthday. She was born November 10th, 1937 in the eighth sign of the Zodiac, Scorpio. I miss her and have fond memories of jumping out of a giant cardboard box and surprising her last year (due to the generous and loving nature of my siblings, their spouses, and extended family).

I love this photograph of Mom and her brother, Jack. She is 4 years old. I have found that in many of the family photographs, she is often by Jack’s side. The handwriting on the back is probably my Grandmother Elise’s. I can’t be completely sure, but I think I recognize it from past letters.

To Grand Dad From Jack and Amelia
Jack is 5 and Amelia is 4

Cryptic words and numbers on the back of old photographs are as meaningful to me as the image. And I imagine a relative taking a few minutes to scribble down names, ages, places, dates, that in the future become invaluable to me in piecing together the past.

The year Amelia was born, the Golden Gate Bridge opened in San Francisco and 200,000 pedestrians were the first to walk across it. In 1937, the first social security payments were issued by the U.S. Treasury, Wimbledon was first televised, and inventor Sylvan Goldman introduced the shopping cart. It was also the year the Zeppelin Hindenburg exploded at Lakehurst, New Jersey, and the first animated feature film, Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, premiered at the Carthay Circle Theater in Hollywood.

Happy Birthday, Mom, photograph of my mother, Georgia Memoir Series, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.To Grand Dad - Amelia Is 4, back of a photograph of my mother, Georgia Memoir Series, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Happy Birthday, Mom, photograph of my mother, Georgia Memoir Series, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.To Grand Dad - Amelia Is 4, back of a photograph of my mother, Georgia Memoir Series, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

I have always loved the name Amelia. It reminds me of Amelia Earhart. I never thought to ask Mom if she was named after the famous aviator. Amelia Earhart’s plane disappeared on July 2nd, 1937 near Howland Island in the South Pacific. Mom was born 4 months later.

I feel fortunate to have spent time with my mother in Georgia the last few summers: visiting with relatives we hadn’t seen in 10, 20, 50 years, excavating family history, honoring the past. It made me even more aware that many of the details of our history will leave this Earth with her. I want to mine as many of her memories as I can; it has brought us closer.

So, Mom, thanks for putting up with my endless questions about the past. (Ask any of my friends, the questions never end! I guess I’m the curious type.) I’m sorry if my card is late (it takes 4 days to go by snail mail from Minnesota to Pennsylvania and I forgot the pick-up wasn’t until 1p.m.!) And thank you for all the support you have given me over the years, especially around my writing, always encouraging me to follow my dreams.

Happy 71st Birthday. I miss you today, and wish I lived closer to home and could take you out to dinner. I’m grateful for every moment together. And in the times when I can’t be near — I have my memories, enriched all the more by ones you have shared with me.

     To Grand Dad - Amelia Is 4, back of a photograph of my mother, Georgia Memoir Series, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.  To Grand Dad - Amelia Is 4, back of a photograph of my mother, Georgia Memoir Series, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

To Grand Dad (Amelia Is 4), handwriting on the back of a photograph of my mother, Georgia Memoir Series, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

-posted on red Ravine, Monday, November 10th, 2008, day of my mother’s birth (and also the birthday of Mr. StripeyPants who is 11 years old today!)

-related to post: November 5th, 2008 – ybonesy’s father is a Scorpio, too. And we were recently sharing with each other how much we enjoy being able to share old family photographs and history with each other on red Ravine.

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Stellas Fish Cafe, Minneapolis, Minnesota, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved

Stella’s Fish Cafe, NightShots Series, Minneapolis, Minnesota, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

July summer night
if only I could eat fish
I’d dine at Stella’s

Note: I’ve been going back through archived photos from the last year. This was a drive-by shooting out near Calhoun Square last July. I’d just had dinner with two writer friends and we were giving a Wisconsin native the tour of Minneapolis, including writers’ homes, Birchbark Books, the Mississippi River, the Minnesota Zen Center on Lake Calhoun, and a few great places to eat. The I-35 bridge construction was just meeting in the middle, so we also walked out to see the construction progress at sunset.

When we reached Uptown, it was approaching dark; I looked up to see this great shot of Stella’s. If only I could eat fish! Well, I can eat shellfish but am allergic to all other kinds. Maybe I can stop by after all. As for the photography, I like to write in the morning when I’m fresh, but I’m a total Night Owl and some of my best shots are taken at night.

Last night I was in the studio until 2 a.m. Below are some other Night Owl posts from over the years. Are you a Night Owl or a Morning Person? Has it changed over time?

-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, November 9th, 2008

-related to post: haiku (one-a-day)

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The Poets Letter, After Poetry & Meditation Group, Minneapolis, Minnesota, November 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

The Poet’s Letter, after Poetry & Meditation Group, Minneapolis, Minnesota, November 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

One of the highlights of a busy week was our Poetry & Meditation Group on Wednesday night. There was homemade banana bread and a lively discussion about the Presidential election framed by Harlem Renaissance poet, Langston Hughes.

There were antique Christmas lights and maps and readings of two poems each. There were gifts of pocket journals and stories from a woman who had just returned from a trip to India and Nepal.

Then it happened, that little surprise. Once again there was a return letter in the mail from one of the poets to whom we had sent a thank you card.

This time it was Minnesota poet, Robert Bly. Now in his eighties, Robert Bly was named Minnesota’s first poet laureate in February of 2008. The fact that he is a hometown favorite who has authored more than 30 books of poetry made it all the more sweet. Teri asked in the thank you card about a poem the group had listened to, but was unable to locate in any of his books.

Here’s what he wrote, tapped out on the keys of a classic typewriter:

October 21st, 2008

Dear Teri Blair,

Thank you for the sweet note you wrote signed by so many other people. It’s very touching that these poems were sweet to you. The poem you mentioned called “The Two Rivers” goes this way:

Inside us there is a river born in the
        good cold
That longs to give itself to the Gulf
       of light.
And there is another river–more like
       the Missouri–
That carries earth, and earth joys, and
       the earthly.

I’m sending you a new CD you might like.

With warm wishes
and thanks,

Robert Bly

The CD was a translation of the mystic poet and philosopherKabir (1398 – 1518), arranged by Robert Bly, in his own voice, and accompanied by music. I felt so much gratitude that the poet took the time to write back.

At the end of the night, in low-light conditions, I shot these few photographs. They are dark and tinted from the reddish-yellow glow of a string of giant Christmas bulbs. Teri shared a story about how she inherited the lights found hidden on top of a rainwater cistern in the basement of a Minnesota farmhouse that has been in her family for generations. I like the graininess and hue; it captures the warmth of the evening.

We become more grateful as each month goes on. Once again, thank you to the poets, and for the poems and groups that keep them alive. I feel thankful to have this place in which to share the poets’ letters.

It’s getting late. I’ll end the post with a Robert Bly poem from the American Life In Poetry series with Ted Kooser (another poet who was gracious enough to write back). May we all be blessed with such humility and grace.

American Life in Poetry: Column 165


In “The Moose,” a poem much too long to print here, the late Elizabeth Bishop was able to show a community being created from a group of strangers on a bus who come in contact with a moose on the highway. They watch it together and become one. Here Robert Bly of Minnesota assembles a similar community, around an eclipse. Notice how the experience happens to “we,” the group, not just to “me,” the poet.

Seeing the Eclipse in Maine

It started about noon. On top of Mount Batte,
We were all exclaiming. Someone had a cardboard
And a pin, and we all cried out when the sun
Appeared in tiny form on the notebook cover.

It was hard to believe. The high school teacher
We’d met called it a pinhole camera,
People in the Renaissance loved to do that.
And when the moon had passed partly through

We saw on a rock underneath a fir tree,
Dozens of crescents–made the same way–
Thousands! Even our straw hats produced
 A few as we moved them over the bare granite.

We shared chocolate, and one man from Maine
Told a joke. Suns were everywhere–at our feet.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem (c) 1997 by Robert Bly, whose most recent book of poetry is “My Sentence Was a Thousand Years of Joy,” Harper Perennial, 2006.

Poem reprinted from “Music, Pictures, and Stories,” Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 2002, by permission of the writer. Introduction copyright (c) 2008 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.

The Essence Of Poetry Group, After Poetry & Meditation Group, Minneapolis, Minnesota, November 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Letter From Robert Bly, After Poetry & Meditation Group, Minneapolis, Minnesota, November 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Hand To Hand, After Poetry & Meditation Group, Minneapolis, Minnesota, November 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

The Essence Of Poetry Group, Letter From Robert Bly, Hand To Hand, after Poetry & Meditation Group, Minneapolis, Minnesota, November 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

-posted on red Ravine, Friday, November 7th, 2008, with gratitude to Teri, the members of our poetry group, and all other writers and artists groups out there keeping our dreams alive

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