Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Visiting the Only Four Iowa Holdouts

When I made the comment in a blog post Genetically Iowa a few weeks ago that all but four of my 3rd great grandparents are buried in Iowa and the four that aren't were less than a mile from it's border, that turned out to be an exaggeration. During my first visit to their graves a couple weekends ago, I stepped it off and they are only 50 yards from the Iowa border.

They are buried in Scotland County Missouri which hampered my locating them for quite awhile. During President Franklin's term in which he set up the WPA, one of the projects that they did in Iowa to keep people busy was to set them to work recording gravestone transcriptions for future generations. This makes finding ancestors who died before the 1930's a fairly easy task for genealogists. However, Missouri and most other states, didn't do this and so one has to rely on county records. Scotland county doesn't have an online source that I'd been able to find but I was able to find a book written by my great uncle who evidently had led an effort to transcribe all the gravestones in the county sometime in the late 60's or early 70's.

I had always known that my great uncle had been a genealogist and was generally scorned by others in the family as being daft for wasting so much time tramping around in cemeteries. So far I have received this generalization from the family... yet. It was the family tree of my adopted side of my family that my great uncle did and that I rediscovered a half dozen years ago that got me interested in this hobby. So I tracked down a copy of my great uncle's three volume book in a library in Scotland county and set out one sunny Saturday afternoon to find it.

Finding it was easy and soon I had located the name of the cemetery in which two sets of my 3rd great grandparents were buried and one set of 2nd great grandparents. However, finding the cemetery turned out to be another story altogether. The two librarians on duty weren't into genealogy or helping patrons in general and ignored my questions of if they knew of the church or knew where maps of the county could be found with shrugs of their shoulders. So rummaging around in the genealogy room of the library, I came across a county map circa 1941 that while it didn't show Barker Cemetery did show Barker School. Thinking it might have been a church/school in 1941, I programmed my GPS and set sail.

Along the way, I spotted a sign for the Barker Church pointing in the way we were traveling so I was feeling optimistic. However, our route left the tiny paved road for gravel roads and I hadn't seen any more signs. I did find Barker School where it was abandoned perhaps 50 or 60 years ago from the looks of things but there was no cemetery so I circled back to the paved road and to the point where I had left it. I continued on it north looking for another sign to the church but was unable to locate one before I came to what is called the stateline road since it runs right on top of the line. I turned right but the road immediately curved north into Iowa so I turned around. That is when I saw another sign pointing towards Barker Church to the west along the stateline road.

The church was there and well tended for along with a small cemetery. I pulled into the cemetery and parked our car along the path to get out and walk. But as I stepped out of the car, I found that I was less than 20 feet from the grave of my 2nd great grandparents David W. Luther and Sarah E. Gordy. David had spent his entire life in the Miller township of Scotland County according to the federal census records. Sarah his wife was born just north across the border in Iowa but spent her life there too. As I was reading their gravestone, my focus shifted to the graves immediately behind theirs and there slightly to the left and right were both their parents and my 3rd great grandparents. Behind and to the left were the Reverend Elijah Gordy and his wife Eliza Jane Morton. Both immigrated from Ohio through Illinois and Iowa before ending up in the Miller township and up until visiting their graves, i didn't know that Elijah had been a member of the clergy.

Behind and to the right, right beside the Gordy graves were Jessie Luther and his wife Mary Jane Igo. I have written in a previous blog post about having to turn around due to a mountain blizzard on my way to visit the grave of Mary's parents in Pennsylvania. Instead, I had ended up at the courthouse where I had found a copy of Daniel Igo's will. Jessie Luther had suffered some injury during the Civil War and would spend the next sixty years of his life trying to obtain his disability pay only to succeed within days of his death.

I thought it was a serene scene to be laid to rest with both of your parents right over your shoulder. I guess that assumes that you had a good relationship with both of them. As always, when I am in the area of my ancestors, I can't help but take a mental step back and scope out the surroundings. Like so many of my ancestors, these had lived out their lives in an area of rolling hills, wooded dales and small meandering creeks. Terrain that I am familiar with and grew up in myself. Terrain that I still to this day call home, but a half mile on the other side of the border.

Monday, September 28, 2009

But that fish isn't cooked!

Having been raised in a very rural part of southeast Iowa, we didn't eat out often due to the distances involved. Our county to this day doesn't have a fast food restaurant (nor a stoplight) and most of the sit down places served only sandwiches and fish dinners on Fridays. If we were really celebrating, we drove 30 miles to the next county to eat at the Pizza Hut.

When I went to college, I sought to expand my horizons but due to my lack of money, this mostly meant eating at all you can eat Chinese buffets. I remember the one time I went out to something outside my culinary horizon and that was a Thai restaurant with a buffet, not much different than the Chinese one.

To quote George Thorogood once I "got a real job", along with some money, I gradually started breaking away those barriers. So when a coworker who didn't like to eat alone asked me to join her at a sushi restaurant in downtown Minneapolis, I accepted. I tried just about anything given to me that night but only remembered two things, that octopus is tough and chewy and that eel (unagi) is outstanding. That was over a decade ago.

My wife and her colleagues were planning an outing to a local sushi restaurant named Miyabi 9 here in the Urban Jungle and she finagled a way for me to join them. Everything looked worthy of trying but I knew that it would be physically impossible so in the end, we ended up ordering a sampler platter of a variety of different sushi and a side order of unagi (eel) because of my decade old memories. We weren't disappointed.

The platter included raw tuna, raw yellowfin, raw salmon, shrimp and one eel slice which is why I ordered more. Besides the eel, all the other fish was new to me and not what I would expect. I would expect something that it a little chewy and fishy tasting. It is fish after all. However, what they serve you is a cold slice of fish, wrapped around a small spoonful of warm rice and melts like butter in your mouth. It in fact had little taste to it which is why I think they added quite a bit of wasabi to it, so much so that I had to eat most of it since my wife couldn't deal with the heat. I did so with pleasure. The only thing I can't comment on was the shrimp which Little Abbey ate.

Also included in the sample platter was some caviar, also new to me. It too wasn't at all like I expected. I expected something salty and rich. Instead it was really light, slightly sweet and just exploded with little balls of flavor inside my mouth. I could have ate a lot more of it but I suppose due to the price, all we got were a couple tablespoons worth on our platter. The unagi is a very tender meat with a smoky flavored sauce that it has been marinated in. Finally, we had a probably a dozen and a half sushi rolls of various flavors all wrapped in sticky rice and seaweed. All were little pleasures easily popped into ones mouth with the chopsticks.

Included with our sampler platter was a bowl of miso soup which to me was a smoky, slightly earthy tasting broth that was quite good along with a house salad which to me was nothing special. Little Abbey tasted the Japanese version of lightly fried chicken from someone elses plate and loved it so we had to get her an order since besides the shrimp, she couldn't eat anything else due to the wasabi or just wouldn't try it.

The restaurant was small, enough that our group of eight took up almost a third of the seats and it was a really hopping place for a Monday night. But after eating there, I can see why. The food was outstanding and the service was excellent. Although it was pricey compared to what I am used to paying in rural Iowa, $50 was our bill, it certainly was a lot cheaper than most of the other sushi places around. My first sushi experience up in Minnesota set me back over $50 for just five or six pieces of sushi for one person! It will definitely be on our list of places to entertain people in the future. I'm already working on my parents.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Gone On Vacation

Gone for a week of rest and relaxation in the urban jungle... if that is possible. More to come next week.


Friday, September 18, 2009

Abraham Smith

Abraham Smith is my 3rd great grandfather. His son Isaac would go on to marry a woman by the name of Annetta Jane Rice, who unknowingly or not, was Isaac's 2nd cousin. They both shared their great grandparents, John Smith and Barbara Driver, a loop in my family tree that I wrote about HERE some time ago.

However, this post is about Abraham whose picture I recently discovered. The nice thing about being able to do some electronic research before the actual legwork begins is that it is easy to do and you don't have to spend a lot of time in certain parts of your tree and thus freeing up time in other parts clouded in mystery. One of the drawbacks is that I find myself missing information in plain site simply because turning digital pages to see what else is there isn't as genetically programmed into me as flipping through an actual book. Abraham Smith is a classic example. I have read several times the digital copy of a short biography written about him in a book on the history of Clinton County, Iowa where he lived. However, it was only a week ago that I hit the previous page button on the digital Google book reader and what appeared was a picture of Abraham's second wife. I clicked it again and found the above picture of my third great grandfather.

Abraham Smith's lineage comes from the Rockingham area of Virginia. Some researchers have it going back to a John S. Smith born sometime in the mid 1700's but I haven't verified that connection yet. I do know that Abraham's grandfather was a John L. Smith who was born in Fairfax, Virginia in 1790 and died on the 26th of October 1853 in Rockingham. His sons, William Donald Smith and John Victor Smith and wife Barbara (Driver) Smith would all immigrate to Iowa shortly after John's death and set up shop farming have traded in tobacco for other crops. Barbara my 5th great grandmother is buried in the family cemetery in Orange Township, Clinton county Iowa, along with a couple generations of my Smith ancestors. I hope to visit their graves sometime in the real near future.

Before leaving Virginia, both William and John III (or possibly IV), had started their families. William's oldest son Abraham was about 16 or 17 at the time of their trip to Iowa where they immediately settled on some land in the Orange Township only seven or eight years after Iowa had become a state. Abraham stayed with his parents until marrying Clementine Carr on the 4th of July in 1861. Shortly thereafter, he purchased what was known as the Purcell farm that he improved and added to it until he had three hundred and twenty acres of what was described as rich and arable land. Among the building he added were a large barn and an assortment of outbuildings, a wind pump, a large orchard and lots of shade trees. Besides his farm, he still owned interest in his parent's farm and some other lands in the family. He also engaged in raising stock and was described in several sources as one of the most prosperous farmers in the area.

Abraham's wife Clementine, my 3rd great grandmother, died on June 3, 1874 leaving behind two sons, George Benjamin Smith and my 2nd great grandfather Isaac Franklin Smith. With the middle names, he must have been a Benjamin Franklin fan. As they typically did in those days, when houses of large farms needed to be run, he remarried 15 months later on September 23, 1875 to a transplanted Canadian and local school teacher, Amanda (Jordan) Smith. She immigrated to Iowa with her parents in 1866. Their farm was not to far from the Smith farm so Abraham didn't have to go far to find his new bride.

Soon by 1883, he had added Lillian Catherine, Altha F. and William Donald Smith to his brood. He lived another six years before dying on March 29, 1899 and was buried in the family cemetery. Evidently there is what has been described as a substantial monument over his grave, something I shall soon see for myself. In his obituary, he was described as a life long democrat and one of the most public-spirited and enterprising men of his area. Indeed he had been involved in local politics holding offices of road supervisor and township trustee.

His son Isaac, my 2nd great grandfather who went by Frank half the time in census records, would live on the family farm raising his small family of a wife and two children, the youngest being my great grandmother and whose name is now part of my daughters name. She lived a long life dying when I was 16 years old so I knew her well, better than all my other great grandparents, and loved her very much.

When I look at the newly discovered picture of Abraham Smith, he looks spirited and kind of ornery, two traits Little Abbey has in spades. I'm glad to have made the discovery.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Getting Stoned With Savages

A Trip Through the Islands of Figi and Vanuatu

After reading my first J. Maarten Troost book, Lost On Planet China I knew I couldn't quit with just one. So I set about persuading others to buy me such books as "The Sex Lives of Cannibals" which I haven't received from anyone yet and "Getting Stoned with Savages" which I did receive. Evidently drugs as a book subject is more acceptable than sex when given as a gift.

This book evidently picks up where Troost left off with his life in his previous book stuck in suburban Washington DC and dreaming of the life in the islands that he traded it for. His remedy was to persuade his wife to get a job in the South Pacific while he wrote about their first two year trip documented in "The Sex Lives of Cannibals". He was successful but only found out only on the day he was fired from his job in DC.

Troost and his wife, Sylvia, end up moving to the Island of Vanuatu, island of a couple seasons of the reality show Survivor and last known recorded incident of cannibalism just over forty years ago. While his wife Sylvia begins work for a regional nonprofit, Troost immerses himself into the islands culture, beginning with the drinking of kava on his first day there.

Kava, a drink that is traditionally created by young island boys masticating foots from the kava plant to grind it up and mix is with saliva. The resulting mixture is squeezed through a sock, mixed with some water and drank from a shell. The result is that it sedates and calms the consumer while still leaving behind mental clarity. The kava that Troost drank was ground with rocks but otherwise still the same stuff and he accidentally drinks himself into a temporary paralysis that lasts for the next two days. Upon awakening he comes up with lesson number one, Vanatu kava is much stronger than any kava he had known before. Other lessons he learns and writes about are about dodging magma from the world's most accessible volcano, experiencing his first cyclone and discovering what calcified leftovers from cannibalism looks like. He also answers the big question of cannibalism that has stumped him for a long time. Why?

About halfway through the book, Sylvia becomes pregnant and not wanting to give birth to their first born on Vanatu, they instead opted for Fiji which had just recently overthrown a political coup attempt. There while looking for a place to live before his wife arrives, he runs into a group of transexual prostitutes as only he has a way of doing. During his stay, he also experiences a mudslide when he wakes up to enjoy his coffee on his balcony teen feet above the ground only to see that it is now fifty feet and his backyard is now up against his downhill neighbors house, and of course his first son being born. From there, he slowly realizes that perhaps island life is not what is best for his son and he and his wife Sylvia pack up and move back to DC.

Although not really a travelogue and according to those who have read his first book, not up to par, I certainly found this book entertaining and enjoyed it tremendously. At 235 pages, it is a quick read and with his descriptive chapter titles, one never has to wonder what the next one will be about. But from the sounds of other reviews, this books is just an appetizer to his first book which some say was his masterpiece. Now if I can just persuade someone to gift me a book about sex and cannibalism....

Monday, September 14, 2009

A Conversation with Little Abbey

We were traveling down the highway with the sun passing in and out of some low clouds. The following is a conversation that I had with Little Abbey:

Little Abbey: Look Daddy, the sun is moving.

Daddy: No... the clouds are moving.

Little Abbey: No Daddy, the sun is moving.

Daddy: It just looks like the sun is moving but actually the clouds are moving and the sun is standing still.

Little Abbey: But Daddy, the sun goes down.

Daddy: ...

Daddy: ...

Daddy: Yes, the sun is moving. (Your first physics lesson must wait for another day.)

Friday, September 11, 2009

Genetically Iowan

Growing up, I didn't think much about living in Iowa. I was just someone who was born in the state and whose ancestors came from the east like everyone else. Then I got bitten hard by the genealogy bug and started realizing something different. It didn't hit me at first but gradually I started noticing how many times I kept visiting Iowa State Census records archive looking for records of ancestors. After I started specifically looking at that Iowa connection, I realized that I am genetically Iowan.

I am the first generation and I was born, raised and have lived all but five year of my life in Iowa. When I graduated college I looked for jobs in all kinds of far off 'exotic' locations except in the state of Iowa and succeeded in finding a job in the frozen tundra state they call Minnesota. But with every succeeding job, I have only ended up in Iowa and closer to where I started out. Funny how that works.

The second generation, my parents, were born, grew up and lived their entire lives in SE Iowa where I did. The third generation, my grandparents, though were raised and lived their lives in Iowa, were not all born here. my paternal grandmother was actually born in Missouri but has lived here in Iowa all her life. My maternal grandfather was born just across the river in Illinois but since the age of two, has lived in Iowa, at least until recent years where at age 80, he now resides in Florida where he can golf all winter long. Their spouses however, were both born in Iowa.

The fourth generation, my great grandparents had four that were more nomadic but all eventually lived a significant amount of time and died in Iowa. Seven of my eight great grandparents were even born here. In set one, my great grandfather was born in the river town of Wapello in eastern Iowa before migrating to the Davis county area in SE Iowa, the next county over from where I grew up. There he met and married my great grandmother who was born there and they continued to live and die in Davis county. For set two, my great grandfather was born in central Iowa, eventually migrated west to Wyoming where he met and married my grandmother, then back east to Missouri where my paternal grandmother was born and back to Iowa where they lived out the rest of their lives. Sets three and four all were born, lived and for the most part died in NE Iowa in the Butler, Black Hawk and Floyd county areas, a place where many of my ancestors spent time.

Generation five, my great great granparents, who most lived between the mid 1800's to mid 1900's, again all had solid Iowa connections. Set one had one who was born in Pennsylvania but immigrated to Iowa as a young child with his parents and spent the rest of his life with his wife in Morning Sun, Iowa. Set two and half of set three grew up in SE Iowa in Davis county. Set two lived and died there. The wife of set three married her husband just across the line a couple miles from where she grew up in Iowa and spent the rest of her life with the only ancestor of this generation to never reside in Iowa. Set four both grew up in Iowa but were the ones that headed west to Wyoming where my great grandmother was born and lived before coming back to Iowa. Sets five through eight were all born, raised, lived and died in Iowa mostly in the before mentioned counties in NE Iowa or in eastern Iowa along the river.

Generation six, my great great great grandparents, all 32 of them, is large enough that I will refer to them in terms of general statistics than sets. Of the 32, only two were born in Iowa but to understand this, you need a bit of history. Generation six mostly lived between the years of 1820 to 1900. Until June 1, 1833, Iowa was mostly inhabited by Indians. However, on that date, it was thrown open to settlement and my ancestors came flocking in. After many failed votes of statehood, Iowa joined the Union on December 28, 1846 along with one fourth of my ancestors of this generation. The latest of them would be here by the 1860's, barely 20 years after statehood.

Of my 32 ancestors, all but two of them immigrated to Iowa shortly after getting married or in the case of the 2 born here, shortly before. The 2 of this group that never did live in Iowa were from the Missouri group that came from Wyoming. These individuals came from only six states and three countries. The six states were Pennsylvania, Indiana, Ohio, Wisconsin, New York and Virginia. Those that immigrated to Iowa directly from other countries were one from England, two from Germany and one from Switzerland. These four all immigrated in the 1840's & 50's either directly to Iowa or via Illinois. Finally of the 32, all but four of them are still in Iowa to this day, i.e. buried here. The other four are less than a mile away from Iowa just on the other side of the border that denotes them as residing in Missouri. To date, I've only been able to visit seven of their graves but it is my desire to visit all 32 of them before I join them.

So counting back six generations, I am 15/16 or almost 94% Iowan if you count the ancestors that spent most of their lives in Iowa. By most organizations interested in heredity, you are considered purebred if you are above 87.5%. So perhaps after so many years of not knowing, I now know why though I have tried to leave, I always end up back in Iowa. I have 180 years of background in this state that I now call home and due to Darwin's theory, I have been adapted to this spot on earth so that I live here in perfect harmony. I'm okay with that.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Dead Pool

Dead Pool: Lake Powell, Global Warming, and the Future of Water in the West
by James Lawrence Powell

I previously read and reviewed a book entitled, "A Story That Stands Like a Dam" that covered the battle to save Glen Canyon. The book covered the battle over Glen Canyon well and touched on some of the fallacies used by the Bureau of Reclamation to justify its existence but I wanted something a little more in depth. Thus enters the apocalyptic page-turner of a book "Dead Pool".

Dead pool is defined as when the level of water behind the dam is too low to generate hydroelectric power or to spill water downstream. It is essentially a stagnate body of water and we will have a 50% chance of seeing Lake Powell reach that level by as early as 2017. Why we have gotten to that point is what Powell covers in this book.

One reason is that the recorded water levels measured to decide how to divide up the Colorado River between the upper basin, lower basin and Mexico were taken smack dab in the middle of a 40 year wet cycle and thus too high. The Colorado River was gauged to have 16 MAF (million acre feet) of annual flow. The upper basin received 7.5 MAF, the lower basin 7.5 MAF and Mexico 1 MAF. What we now know is that the average is only 14.6 MAF, which is 1.4 MAF short. This means that in order for the upper basin controlled by the Glen Canyon Dam to deliver its 7.5 MAF to Lake Mead and 1 MAF to Mexico, it will short change itself 1.4 MAF of it's promised 7.5 MAF.

If this weren't bad enough, the Bureau of Reclamation didn't include evaporation losses of over a 1 MAF a year into this equation. Also not included are the effects of global warming which also increased the evaporation losses even more. Although these dams largely are used for irrigation purposes with 80% of the water going towards such, 20% is being pumped to cities in the desert for their primary water source. To give some sense of perspective, an acre-foot of water defined as one foot high of water spread over an acre of land is necessary to support only two urban families per year. As cities have gotten larger due to an abundant water supply, they have required more and more water leaving less for irrigation and power generation needs, the primary reasons the dams were built.

Powell does a good job of laying out the fallacies of trying to irrigate in a desert. Most of the irrigated land is used to grow high water usage crops like forage feeds for livestock that are in surplus already in states where irrigation isn't needed. Irrigation eventually poisons a fertile valley by leaving behind salts that eventually cut production to levels even subsidizing has a hard time keeping at a level where a profit could be made. Never mind that the loans given to farmers to buy the water were never repaid and interest rates were eventually set at 0% for the first 60 years or in other words, longer than the farmer will ever live.

Gradually the scope has changed for the Glen Canyon Dam and preserving the Grand Canyon National Park as described in the act that created national parks and up until recently ignored by the Bureau of Reclamation, has also made a large impact on water levels. Instead of fluctuating water levels based off the power needs of Las Vegas, sandbar levels, endangered species of fish and flora are now of higher importance on the list. The three flushes of the Grand Canyon to rebuild sandbars have largely been a failure (past the first 30 miles) and have done little to save the humpback chub, one of the ten endangered species of fish that called the warm silty waters of the Grand Canyon home. Fortunately, the low waters of Lake Powell have meant that the water is warmer nearer to the generator intakes and thus the river between the dams is warmer has caused the chub to make a temporary comeback. However the continual degradation of the beaches can only be solved by a multi-billion dollar plan to pump silt from above the dam to the river below the dam.

Of course siltation is another big topic of Powell’s book as he discusses how the silt is being trapped by Lake Powell and will eventually fill it up. Although it won't occur in my lifetime, my grandchildren will be dealing with the issue. Already a large silt pile rests against the base of the Glen Canyon Dam where is exerts a magnitude of more force than just water. What happens when this pile gets bigger, definitely within my lifetime, resting against a dam not designed to take a magnitude more force?

Powell makes a very convincing case that there isn't enough water to support Lake Powell, that if global warming gets only as bad as the minimalists say and cities that rely on the water grow as the slowest of forecasted paces, that that much of the time even Lake Mead will only be half full. He goes on to predict that we will have another 'Grapes of Wrath' like exodus on our hands where people will migrate in mass north or east instead of west. The scary part is that this isn't some theory of the future. It actually began five years ago.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Dancing Queen

Little Abbey is not a very sociable girl. Sometimes when I take her to a playground, she will refuse to play when other kids show up. Whenever introduced to someone her age or a group of someones her age, it takes a little while for her to warm up to them. I'm assuming this is fairly common among three year olds so I haven't been worried. However, when I see her immediately come out of her shell on occasion, it takes me by surprise and I was certainly surprised a couple weeks ago.

Back from a birthday party for a four-year-old friend of hers where she was her typically wall flower around the other kids, we stopped downtown to listen to a band play music near the square. When we arrived, they were just getting ready to start and since the sun was still up, the crowd was non-existent. The dance floor that they set up in the middle of the street was barren, at least until the band started playing music.

Little Abbey decided she wanted to dance and proceeded to dance by jumping up and down, twirling in circles, doing the twist, 'raising the roof', doing leg kicks and occasionally bending over to look at us in-between her legs. Although this was terribly cute and made me so proud of her, I still wasn't really shocked as I had seen all her ‘moves’, which she frequently does at the conclusion of any episode of Dora the Explorer. What really shocked me was that she kept it up for the entire song, and the next, and the next and so on. In fact, several songs into the set, the band mentioned what wonderful pair of dancers they had (at the time, a two year old had joined Little Abbey) and that they hoped others would join in.

As dark fell and the crowd grew, others did join in and still Little Abbey kept on dancing only breaking now and then in-between songs to drink some water or eat some popcorn. Finally about an hour and a half into the dance, there were enough adults dancing that she was occasionally bumped into. The last one right before intermission bumped her a little harder than the rest and she tearfully told us that she got bumped into by 'that much' holding up her hands to indicate a distance. She sat on my lap nursing her bruised ego while the band finished up the song and announced an intermission. Little Abbey looked really tired so it wasn't a surprise when she announced that she was ready to go home.

I'm not sure where she learned how to dance since neither her mother nor myself are much in the way of dancing. We've always said we would take dancing lessons someday but someday has yet to arrive. I did teach her how to 'raise the roof' and her mother showed her how to 'shake her booty' which looks like the twist, but other than that, the moves were pretty much her own. The two year old that mostly followed Little Abbey around and ate our popcorn, did bend over and look between her legs once. Little Abbey, ever the sponge, saw her and adopted it as her own from then on out. I have a video of Little Abbey dancing and love to watch it but I don't want it to go viral for the sake of Little Abbey's future and so I won't post it. You will just have to take my word for it.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Letting Go of Little Abbey

Although not quite as hard as leaving her at three months old at a lady's house who did daycare and whom I had only met once before, dropping her off at her first day of preschool was hard enough.

We started weeks before pointing out various schoolhouses and talking about what kids did there. When school started for them, we pointed out all the kids walking to class with freshly minted packs adhered to their backs. Little Abbey was fascinated with all that and kept telling us she was excited to go to school but inside, I wasn't so sure she was ready. In social situations where she is with kids her own age, she hasn't been very socializing. In the past, she has refused to play on a park playground because other kids were playing on it. Once she makes friends, she is fine but not very welcoming to the new kid joining them. This hadn't occurred all the time but often enough to make me suspect she might have a hard time getting adjusted during her first day of school.

Because I'm a single parent during most weeks, I knew I wasn't going to be able to take her full time or would have to find someone to carpool with. As it turned out, the latter of the two was the option that found me and the lady helping out in the driving duties was to pick Little Abbey up in the mornings and take her to school. I was to take them home over my lunch break. But fears on the first day drove me to sneak out and drive towards the daycare where I had planned to park just out of sight so that when things went horribly wrong and the tears and tantrum had started, I could intervene. However, two blocks away, I saw the other mom's van already backing out of the drive. Had Little Abbey gone that easily in a strangers van? Granted our two families had gone out to eat and a playground several nights earlier but still? I made a u-turn and followed behind them to the preschool.

When Little Abbey got out of the van, she was happy to see me. She dutifully donned her backpack and stood next to the other little girl for picture taking. I hadn't thought to bring a camera but had my cellphone in my car so grabbed it and took a couple pictures. As I walked with Little Abbey across the parking lot towards the door, she looked up at me and said, "Daddy, I'm scared." Those three little words just melted my heart and it was all I could do to gather her up and take her away from there. I refrained and told her that it was okay to be scared on the first day of school but that she would soon see that there was nothing of which to be scared.

We walked up the steps, down the hall and into the classroom where a half dozen confused kids were standing near their parents. I helped Little Abbey hang her princess backpack on the wall along with her coat, gave her a hug and watched her as she raced off across the room to find her new friend. She never looked back. The teachers gave me a parting gift of a poem about going to school and a package of Kleenex. Although I didn't need them, I'm sure from experience that they come in handy for some of the kids or parents. I walked out of the school alone leaving my little girl behind.

Two and a half hours later, I arrived in the parking lot and walked over to the outside play area where the kids were running around. Little Abbey looked up, saw me and waved and just continued running around with her new friends. Besides the occasional, "Look at me Daddy," she didn't pay much mind to me or the other kids leaving with their parents. Eventually when it was just down to a handful of kids, I called her over and after donning her backpack, we walked to my car. She was happily telling me all the things that she did at school, the highlights being painting, playing in the beans and eating gummy bears and juice. On the way over to the daycare lady's house, I asked her if she wanted to go back to school and was greeted with an enthusiastic, "Yeah!" I've never been more proud of her.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

2012 Already?

For the last couple months when I obtain my mail in the evening, I got a handful of flyers every single night. My brief nightly television viewing was interrupted many times by political ads announcing so and so will raise my taxes, kill grandma, give themselves a raise unless I vote for a different so-and-so. My phone, long ago put on the do-not-call registry rang off the hook, sometimes four and five times a night asking who I plan on voting for, if I would like a personal visit, possibly a yard sign, etc. My front deck normally left to the spiders has been clear due to numerous people stopping by willing to assist me in anyway if I would just vote. This was well worse than the election that drug on from 2007 and 2008 and has me wondering if I missed a couple years and 2012 was upon us.

Actually, what happened was a perfect storm. Our county is historically a switch hitter and we have voted both Democrat and Republican though our State Representative for the last few election cycles since the 1990's has been a Democrat. We are considered a demographic that can be won by the Republicans, something they are dying to do in the next election cycle to obtain a majority not just on the state level but on the national level. Our current State Representative was selected to head some state agency and thus we have a vacancy that filled last night in a special election. With both state and national political parties wanting to affirm status quo or show that the people are revolting, our lowly special election which would typically receive a really light turnout has gotten lots of funding from state and national parties. In an off year election like this one in the past, there would have been only hundreds of dollars spent between both parties on their campaigns. This one has already spent nearly $1 million!

The funny thing is that I know both of the two main party candidates really well and neither of them would have said the things that were said and especially forked over large wads of money to do so. It just goes to show how much power and influence these political engines have. I'm guessing that they have so much power, that numbers at the polling stations last night rivaled those during the last presidential election. Even more odd, I know both of the off-party candidates really well too though their partys are virtually non-existent on the national scene.

The worst part about all of this assuming it goes the way I voted, we will have lost an excellent County Supervisor who will need to replace inciting another ugly mess of 'us versus them', us being the townies and them being the local cult who are followers of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. It was really ugly in the local press and coffee shops during the last presidential election when two were up for election and thus possibly swing control of the county from 'us' to 'them'. It sometimes superseded the ugliness in the national election at times and the ugliness in the last presidential election was one for the record books.

This will automatically post before the results are published but once they are, I will update those who want to know which way the political winds will be blowing in 2012, according to the political party election engines, by adding it to the bottom of this post.


Updated 6:47 am:

Curt Hanson: 3932
Steve Burgmeier (County Supervisor): 3825
Dan Cesar: 40
Douglas Philips (a.k.a. Veggie Pete): 242

Total Votes: 8046

Our district has 21,639 registered voters so that means a 37% turnout. Not bad for an off year election. I guess there won't be another 'us versus them' battle after all.