Friday, July 29, 2011

Louisa County Roots

Throughout my genealogical research, it seems as if most of my ancestors landed in groups in a few areas of the state. A big cluster of them is up and around Black Hawk county in Northeast Iowa, another group around my area is Southeast Iowa, and another group in the very East part of Iowa. Of that latter group, there was one group up in Clinton county and one in Louisa county. Also each group lived in these area for multiple generations meaning in most of those areas and some still do which means I have many distant cousins whom I've never heard of and who don't know me. Recently I have been preparing a trip to Louisa county to do some digging and have been trying to gather information of places that interest me in seeing and noting their GPS cordinates.

One place of interest is the Oakland Cemetery which is about a mile as the crow flies to the northwest of this arial shot where the noted families are buried. Those are:

Joseph Trimble Cowles and wife Elizabeth C. Chapman (3rd great grandparents)
John Chapman and possibly his wife Jane Cather (4th great grandparents)
John Grim and wife Grace Margaret Mathers (3rd great grandparents)
William James Grim and wife Jane Elizabeth Cowles (2nd great grandparents)
Numerous children and grandchildren of those people above whom though related, aren't my direct ancestors.

As you can see, not only did they live and die together but they married among themselves. I subconsciously knew this but until I started searching for them on plat maps and overlaying those maps into google maps did I see just how close. Even better, it looks like all three farmsteads still exist though only one of them looks active in the aerial photo. By comparison, you can compare the current aerial photo on top with the earliest one available that was taken sometime in the 1930's posted below.

John Chapman was one of my earliest forebears to enter into Iowa sometime in the early 1840's in the extreme southeast corner of the state. Within ten years, he had moved north to this farm where he lived until his death in 1869 at age 69. His wife Jane Cather Chapman would live past the 1885 Iowa Census and then disappears, last place known in Fort Madison, again in the very southeast corner of the state. She would have been 75 in 1885 so it would be a good assumption that she died but I have been unable to locate a cemetery record for her. One of my goals in visiting Oakland cemetery where John Chapman is buried is to see if his wife Jane might be beside him.

John and Jane Cather Chapman's first born child Elizabeth C. Chapman would marry Joseph Trimble Cowles in 1851 when both the Chapman and Cowles family were living in Lee county Iowa. Both families evidently had pretty good ties beyond their kids marrying because they also settled on farms right next to each other. If the name seems familiar, it is because I have done a previous post on the Cowles family before.

Joseph and Elizabeth Chapman Cowles's third daughter Jane Elizabeth Cowles would marry William James Grim, son of John Grim whose farm you see a little to the south and east of the Cowles and Chapman farms. John actually just rented the Daniel Owens farm which I included in the notation. William and Jane would live on the Grim farm for a few years after marriage before striking out a few counties to the southwest of Louisa county. To this day, there are both Cowles and Grims living in both places.

The Chapman, Cowles and Grims all came from the same part of western Pennsylvania along with several other families in my family tree. They were evidently part of several groups of convenanters who were part of the Reformed Presbyterian church who migrated from western Pennsylvania to west of the Mississippi. Why they migrated has been a question that continues to allude me.

So sometime soon, I hope to visit this area for a day, first stopping at the cemetery to pay my respect to four pairs of my ancestors and then swing by to visit their homesteads to see if I can conjure up some of their pasts. I then plan to head on into town to the local Historical Society to read through some books to helpfully further my pursuits into the origins of these families. It will certainly be a packed day and I will have to move along at a faster pace than I would like to accomplish everything but still one that I look forward too. Though I have passed through this area many times, this will be the first time I have stopped to poke around my Louisa county roots.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Same Old Story

If I weren't so lazy, I could go back in my archives and find several versions of this story in various forms. It seems to follow me around where ever I go. Let me explain.

My wife and I are looking for a checkout lane at the local grocery store and see a half dozen of the eighteen or so that are open for business. Why do they have so many lanes when they are never even close to having half of them open any time I've been in there? Anyway, five of them were packed three deep with people pushing full carts and one of them had just one lady just starting to put her purchased from one of those really small shopping carts. We chose that lane unfortunately.

After I had already committed to that lane, I belatedly became aware of the person in front of me. She was an immensely obese lady who had to lean heavily on the checkout stand at all times while she heavily unloaded her groceries with one hand. No surprise, her groceries consisted of six two-liter bottles of pop, two bags of chips, two packages of hot dogs and one box of creme pies. Also not surprising, after the cashier rang them up, she asked for two packs of cigarettes. In most stores in Iowa, the cigarettes are usually all in one of the express lanes, I guess because smokers are in a hurry, and so because we weren't in one of those lanes, the cashier has to walk all the way down to the other end of the store to get the smokes while all of those in line wait. He came back and the lady asked for a different brand of cigarettes. He disappeared yet again and this time I could see him searching the racks for whatever brand she told him but not finding them. Finally he came back and told the lady that she would have to go to the attached liquor store for that brand which needless to say, didn't please the lady because I'm fairly certain she couldn't walk that far. So he rang up her total and not surprisingly to me because I know I've blogged about how stereotypical these people are, she pulled out her welfare card. For those who don't understand, back in the day people on welfare used to get food stamps which they had to paste onto cards and redeem at stores. This was considered to humiliating so they gave them this bright green card with Iowa written on it in big letters across a background of a corn field. I guess this is less humiliating since even though it is highly recognizable for what it is, it looks like a credit card. So here I was, supporting this immensely obese ladies sugar and nicotine habit, or so I thought.

The lady swiped the card, once, twice, three times, each time with the cashier telling her it didn't have any money on it and each time she insisting that she must have swiped it wrong. (At least you always knew if you had the stamps available using the former method.) Finally she gave up and fished around in her purse pulling out one dollar bill at a time, while supporting her body on the checkout stand with the other, until there was a whole pile of crinkled up bills on the stand that the cashier had to smooth out and count. She leaned heavily on her cart and headed amazingly down the aisle towards the attached liquor store.  In the time it took for her to unload her few items onto the belt with one hand, I had paid for an entire cart full of groceries and was now heading out of the store. I gave one look back towards the immense lady to see that she had made it only twenty of the 80 or so feet she had to go and was evidently resting on her shopping cart in the middle of the aisle with shoppers trying to squeeze around her on both sides. I had a feeling then that she probably wouldn't be on welfare much longer as she probably wouldn't be above ground much longer in the shape she was in.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Reunion

Although it happened almost a month ago, I neglected to write about my 19th class reunion that we held. Looking back, it is not surprising that I didn't write about it since it wasn't terribly exciting, earth shattering, etc., but of course it wasn't well planned out either which is just par for the course.

You see, I graduated in a class with seven other students and one foreign exchange student who didn't get a diploma and was destined for two more years of school when she got back home. We were a small class and when you only get a really good planner once out of every fifty or so people, our chances were small that we would have a planner in our class. We didn't and that is no surprise. But fate is cruel and the foreign exchange student tracked me down of all our class and played the it-would-be-easier-than-me-since-I-live-over-seas card if you gathered up the class and we held an impromptu reunion while I am back in the States for two weeks.

Although I thought the first part would be hard, it was actually pretty easy to track down all the students. Within an hour spent over two or three nights, I had tracked down five of my classmates. Of the two whom I couldn't find, I had the home phone number of one but evidently caller ID and a dislike of reunions kept her from responding. I later found out that one of our other classmates had contacted her and she said she wasn't interested. The other one I couldn't find I absolutely couldn't find them. Her parents and brothers didn't know where she was other than a blue house possibly in the town I live in. Not much to go on. But I found out that she too had been contacted and declined to come. Neither were surprising as both graduated at the bottom of our class and literally dropped out of society at that point. They probably didn't have much to show for the past nineteen years, not that it mattered, and decided they would perhaps catch us on our 38th reunion.

Like I said, we didn't have a planner so after contacting those I could reach, I solicited ideas for what we wanted to do for our reunion. All I got were cyber space crickets chirping back at me. I tried again with the same result and just dropped in until a few weeks before the agreed upon date. I tried again this time posting three broad general options and still heard nothing. So in the end, I took matters into my own hands. Since it was being held on a holiday weekend, the Saturday before July 4th, I decided to try for a lunch time reunion guessing people might be busy in the evening. Not knowing how many would show and knowing reserving for the maximum number of classmates, spouses and children would be near impossible at most of the restaurants in the area, I finally decided on one back in the town where we went to elementary school which is the only restaurant in the town, has a large seating area and few people ever eat there for lunch on a Saturday. Not a lot of effort went into my planning but I did call just to give them a heads up. Like I said, none of us were planners.

But five former classmates all sounded pumped to show so when only two of them actually showed, nearly 38% or 44% if you count the foreign exchange student, it was a bit disappointing. The three that didn't show, were all ones that I have briefly bumped into over the last five years along with one of the ones that did show. The other that showed was one that I hadn't seen since graduation day. Most disappointing, two that didn't show were the ones whom I shared most of my high school classes with since they too were interested in college after high school. But they had good excuses, one had to work and the other had a birthday party for their daughter.

The one student that I had run into a few years ago at his father's funeral (ironically I also saw two other classmates at the funeral), they were a neighbor to our farm too, was the same as always. He was never too ambitious in life and just wanted to farm his parent's farm. He never cared about learning which is perhaps one of the reasons he is on the states sex offender list for sleeping with an underage girl whose parents lawyered up upon finding out. Back in high school I could always make him laugh with any kind of low brow joke and that hadn't changed. But I did find it difficult to talk with him because after all these years, that is about all we had in common other than he is still a neighbor to my parents and farms. The other classmate was one of those whom I never really knew in high school. She was quiet and kept to herself and though not at the top of the class, was probably in the top half grade wise. She turned out to be the one whom I found myself mostly talking too because we had the most in common. We both had one daughter only one year apart in age and she was an RN and my wife is a doctor so we could talk a lot about the medical profession. She was also just easy to talk to on most subjects because unlike the male classmate, she was up to date on current events and knew a little about a lot, just like me. My wife and I and she and her husband got along great during our reunion. The foreign exchange student was also easier to talk too though at times I felt like I was grasping. We shared a year together in high school but I had shared almost a dozen with the other two. Plus, her husband and kids I don't think spoke much English which acted kind of like an anchor in conversing past them. Still, it was nice to see her again.

We ate lunch and chatted for a couple hours and then we all made our excused and left. Of course we all said we should do this every year when the foreign exchange student is in the States visiting her host parents but in reality, I think we all know that it probably won't happen before our 38th reunion, if again.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Big Box Store Sushi

Well I've sunk to a new low I guess. I ate sushi from a big box store and lived to write this post.

Some areas of our countries call them Krogers, other's Piggly Wiggly, Food Lion, or Albertsons, but here in the midwest, our version of the big box grocery store is Hy-Vee. Our Hy-Vee store here in town has moved around several times during my lifetime and several times before that. The latest move was to build a 'super Walmart-like' store on the rubble of the small grocery store they ran out of business in a classic war tactic in an effort to demoralize their future competition because their current competition have been completely vanquished.

But as I mentioned in a post last week, it hasn't been all for naught. Along with high prices and twice as much junk prepackaged foods, there has been a slight increase in the diversity of some of the aisles I do shop in, namely the fresh meat and produce aisles. Along with that, they increased their food court area to include Chinese, Italian and sushi menus as well as their traditional American fare.

Now in my office, there is a group that goes out twice a month on our payday to eat and though I haven't been going out much with them the last couple years, I do get out a few times a year. We rotate around town on where we dine but since the new Hy-Vee store was opened, they have been eating there often. They last two times I went out with them, I ate Chinese food which as expected was incredibly bland and barely luke warm. I would almost guess that blindfolded, you would be hard pressed to even tell that it was Chinese food. The Italian food looked terrible too and the American fare looked no better. So when we pulled into that place recently for our payday lunch, I was none too excited.

I live in the middle of this country about equal distance from any ocean so the terms fresh and seafood don't really appear in the same sentence here. I buy the large majority of my seafood that I do consume frozen or if 'fresh' which most of the time means frozen and then thawed again before showing you, I cook it well. Also, I live in an area where 99% of the people think putting a pickle on a hamburger is adventuresome eating so the turnover rate of 'fresh' fish at sushi bar is probably turtle-like at best. That is why I have passed on the sushi bar until this past payday.

A line thirty feet long for Chinese food and almost that long for Italian and American foods with not a person standing at the sushi bar convinced me to rethink my feelings. I convince myself that if I ordered sushi that wasn't raw, that even if it tasted bad like the Chinese, American and Italian food would surely be, I wouldn't die or get some intestinal critters growing inside of me. What made my decision is that the sushi bar was the only food area that actually had free samples out in front. I snarfed down a California roll slice served in a little plastic sample cup (sushi shot?) and it was actually not too shabby. So I ordered an eel roll and watched them make it.

The rice and seaweed wrapper come in pre-made sheets and all they had to add was some shredded carrot, a long slice of avocado and some slices of eel that came in a plastic container that I would bet had been frozen not to long ago, perhaps even as late as that morning. They seasoned everything with a labeled shaker of spices, formed the roll, sliced it and handed it to me about five minutes after all my coworkers had already started eating their Chinese food after waiting through the 30 feet long line. Needless to say, the sushi makers weren't very fast probably from lack of experience. I've eaten at more upscale sit down sushi places that made rolls much much faster and were factors of ten times busier.

So I sat down with my coworkers already half done with their meals and started in on my eel (unagi) sushi roll and it actually was pretty decent. It didn't have the level of flavors that can be found in the urban jungle and the eel although not bad, obviously wasn't fresh from the taste. It just tasted as if it had been frozen for awhile.  It also didn't have all the ambiance or fancy plating since I was eating it in a large cafeteria next to grocery shoppers and eating it off a plastic plate with a plastic fork with a section of plastic sheet 'grass'(?) between some of the slices. But the price was certainly much much cheaper so you get what you pay for. Bottom line, I think I would pick up some sushi there again but I still don't think I buy anything truly fresh as in raw.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Done At Last! Thank God It Is Done At Last!

What you are looking at is the completed bathroom remodel project that I began sometime in May of last year. Fifteen months isn't bad unless it happens to be the bathroom your wife uses and then it is a thorn in your side and then 15 months seemed like an eternity.

I must say when you look at the starting picture below, it doesn't look like a lot has changed but a lot of work went into this behind the scenes or more appropriately above the ceiling. This bathroom didn't have an exhaust fan installed like our main bathroom does and so over thirty years of moisture trapped in it had caused tiles to pop off the shower surround and the drywall to rot away. The main bathroom had one but it was just exhausted into the attic with a piece of insulation over it to prevent any moisture from actually leaving the bathroom. So I gutted this bathroom and installed an inline exhaust fan large enough to do both bathrooms and exhaust it outside where it should be. You can see the end result in the picture up top. Now these bathrooms really suck and even the steamiest shower results in no condensation on the mirrors or any other surfaces.

The second part of this project was to replace the tile above the shower. I couldn't get replacement tile for the missing pieces nor did I really want too. The dark tile made this shower dark and foreboding to use and when coupled with it being a small shower, not one that we really wanted to use. So I wanted to lighten things us with lighter tile. Of course the installer warped shower to fit a space too large for it meaning the backer board for the tile was kind of cupped into place which you didn't notice with the dark tile but do a little with the lighter tile. The only alternative was to shim it all even and then somehow deal with a step in the walls but I decided I could live with a little cupping.

I had done just a small tiling project once before and really had no experience doing it but tiling went pretty straight forward and easy. I even bought some larger blocks that I cut up for accents to be all fancy smancy. I must say those turned out well too. The best part was that my dear wife had found a tile cutter at a yard sale several years ago for a buck and I put it to good use on this project. The only thing that remains uncertain for me is the grout. I bought some sealer for it but when reading the grout instructions, it said not to seal at all. So I may just return the can of sealer and not seal it. I'm not sure when I should seal grout and when I shouldn't.

The dark hole of a shower before I started this project. You can't really see any of the missing tiles but believe me they were there or more precisely not there. I wanted to put a sliding glass door on this shower to open up the tiny bathroom a bit since if you subtract the shower area, there is only a four by six foot area for the rest of it. However, I found out that sliding doors for small showers like that weren't an option because by the time you include the necessary door overlap, you would end up with only a 16 or 18 inch slot to enter the shower. For showers this size, the only option were swing open doors and as you can see, there isn't even enough room for that so we ended up going back to the shower curtain though trading it in for a more transparent model to avoid the claustrophobicness that the old one had.

So at last it is done and not a moment too soon.  It was my last room of this house that I hadn't remodeled and in a few months, we may be selling this and moving to another house where I can start all over again. My where have the last seven years gone!

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Circus! Adults Take Out Your Loan a Day In Advance!

This will be a mostly pictorial post after this first little splurb. A circus came to a nearby town for some reason, my wife and I decided that it would be a good idea to take her to one since she had never been to one. We coughed up $2 before we got to the ticket stand for our program which turned out to be a forty page book of adds with one inserted sheet of the schedule of events.  Also as fortune would have it, it was on a scorching hot day and was outside though we sat in the grandstand which blocked the sun and also any breeze. The three rings of the circus were on the opposite side of the hurricane fence that they put up on the race track to prevent car parts from entering into the onlookers so the view wasn't the greatest. I had a coupon for a free adult ticket with the purchase of another adult ticket but it still cost us $28 dollars to get in. We were there an hour early due to the ticket saying there would be rides for the kids on the elephants before the show. There weren't and so we sat in the oven/grandstand for an hour waiting for the circus and forking over another $9 so our daughter could experience her first cotton candy and snow cone.

The circus was small but fun to watch, especially for the primary target audience of my daughter. They had intermission half way through where they charged another $$$ to ride the elephants or donkeys and get my daughter's face painted and more $ if you went on the sole 'ride' which was an inflatable bouncy house. I saw masses of people flock forward to do so only to turn around when they found out how much it was going to cost them for their three kids. Crying children were everywhere. Fortunately, we convinced our daughter that it was too hot for the bouncy house and just restrained her to a one minute long donkey ride and a butterfly painted on her face to the tune of $10.

Finally towards the end, the had a hole pile of cheap inflatable and stuffed toys that they dumped unceremoniously in front of the grandstand and said that if you bought a $2 coloring book, you got a free toy. Of course after we coughed up another $2 and made our way down there, we found out that we didn't get the choice so instead of the cheap inflatable pink heart my daughter wanted, she got a tiny stuffed tiger the size of my fist and with as much detail as a fist sized rock seen at forty yards. You really had to use your imagination to even see that it was a tiger. Finally it ended and there were more enticements for the kids assuming they had the greenbacks to show but we headed for the door before they could fleece us any more. All told, I think it cost me nearly $60 for two hours entertainment, half of it spent waiting for the animal rides before the show that happened in the middle, but it certainly made an impression on my daughter so I guess it was worth it. I just don't think we will be going to that circus again anytime soon.

Now for the numerous pictures I took:

 Jumping Dogs

 She was literally was right above me as I took this picture. One slip and I would have been a goner.

 Proof of the previous statement. Others with performers above them.

 Finally we both could relax.

It was too hot for the tigers, the only other animal besides dogs, elephants and donkeys present so lots of time was spent involving feats of balance and strength of bipedal animals. 

 BMX tricks... so eighties

 I found the girl in the background quite humorous. Her only function was to dress up sexy and dance while this guy performed.

 Supposedly from Romania. There were no safety nets below them.

 I think this was the same girl on the rope above me in the grandstands.

 Extremely painful to look at.

 BMX boy and his dancing partner were back in the roller skate platform of death.

 This seemed very impressive until the next picture...

 ...that motorcycle isn't going anywhere.

 My daughter's favorite attraction though she didn't want to ride them because they were too tall.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Seafood Boil

Back when I moved to this town, there were two grocery stores. One that almost nobody went too and the larger one that everyone went too because the prices were cheaper. For me, I'll gladly pay the extra $0.10 per pound of produce if it means I can shop in peace. But I was in the minority and eventually the small grocery store closed up. The big store continued but announced plans that they were going to build a bigger store on the site of the smaller store and it was going to carry twice as much food and have twice as many employees. What they didn't mention and what I predicted that prices would go through the roof and now everyone is wishing that old store were still around. Now they are all pinning their hopes on a Super Walmart slated to start being built any day for the last year, to bring the prices down at the large, now much larger grocery store. I'm not holding my breath.

One positive thing that I can say is that the large grocery store increased their selection of fresh and frozen seafoods and after awhile of dreaming about a 'crab boil', we decided to sample them out. First we bought some crab legs, something we rarely do because of their price and added them to our normal 'crab boil' foods of corn, smoked sausages, and shrimp. I put crab boil in quotes because the spices we use say they are for a crab boil though we don't have access to whole crabs up here. Crab legs are close but still not the same. But the crab boil spices work great on whatever seafood added and even the smoked sausage.

They also have fresh clams which I have never dealt with outside of a restaurant setting. We bought a dozen of them and the guy behind the meat counter showed us how to shuck one and even offered it to me to eat raw. Now had I been close to the sea and they were hours old, I would have but I politely declined and he slurped it down. I regretted not having taken him up on it despite my cautiousness. We got them home and I soon found out that I didn't have a knife with a thin enough blade to shuck the oysters so I rummaged around in my shop and found a small, stiff, putty knife that might do the trick. I cleaned it up real well and set to work, this time with success. Soon, I had all twelve oysters shucked and consolidated into one of their two shells which my wife spiced and added some fixings too. She baked them a few minutes and man those suckers were good.

This all happened a couple months ago and I had forgotten all about it until I downloaded pictures from my camera recently. I'm hoping I don't have to wait another two months to do this again because I'm starting to drool.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

He-Man: The Gay Master of the Universe

Admittedly, I am not the sharpest tool in the shed when it comes to certain aspects of pop culture. For example, for the longest time I thought:

A. Hotel California was a neat song with catchy lyrics that didn't mean much
B. The middle part of Paradise By the Dashboard Lights with the play cast of the baseball game was just that
C. The Village People were just a bunch of heterosexual guys singing goofy songs.

Those are just some of a long list.

Now I'm wondering if I should add another to the list. I grew up without a television but was aware that there was such a show called He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. I knew this because all my male ten-year-old classmates had metal lunchboxes with the picture above left on it. I also saw more than one person in a He-man costume on Halloween night.  He looked pretty manly to me and my friends raved about how cool He-man was.

Years later, my daughter recently discovered He-man on our Roku player that is hooked up to Netflix and after a few days of half listening while doing other things, I actually watched an episode in its entirety. That is when I learned that He-man is Prince Adam's secret identity and that only a few people are in the know. I also noticed is that Prince Adam dresses... um... a little differently than the rest of the guys. He wears white fur trimmed purple boots over lavender tights with purple underwear on top of that and a pink jacket that clings to his upper torso tied off with a gold belt. Other characters on the show are names Ram Man & Fisto. In fact, the more I listened, the whole show was filled with homosexual slang terms. He-Man was a homosexual.

Before writing this, I Googled the words He-man and gay to make sure that it wasn't a nationally known thing that should be added to the list up above and while lots of people agree with my conclusion, I haven't found any evidence that He-man was intentionally made gay through script writing. In fact, even Wikipedia doesn't mention anything about it nor who the creator of He-man was. The only thing I have found is that some people suspect that the 'Ambiguously Gay Duo' might possibly be created off of He-man's character and there are several articles and you-tube videos on the subject. One things for certain, I will never look at He-man in the same way again.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Pool Party

A few years ago I started down a slippery slope without knowing it and now that I'm sliding, I can only see the top of the slope receding and at a faster pace. Let me explain.

It started out innocently enough when our daughter turned two, we bought one of those hard plastic kiddie pools with a little slide at the neighborhood box store. She loved wading around in it on those hot summer days and still does three years later. However, she is starting to outgrow the slide and even the available space not occupied by the slide. I was already over the crest on the slippery slope but wasn't really sliding and still felt safe. That all changed.

One particular hard day at work when I got home and got the lawn mowed, my feet were killing me. They were two burning embers and felt as if they were never going to cool down. Then I started noticing how comfortable my daughter looked in her kiddie pool splashing in all the clear, cool water. So I drug my home built reclining wooden love seat over to the pool and plopped in my two tired dogs into the water. Yawza! That really felt good. By the time my daughter was tired of swimming, my feet felt much refreshed and cooled down. I wonder what it would feel like if the pool was big enough to allow me to recline in it comfortably...

The speed down the slope started picking up rapidly here.

Then one day while browsing for something else online that I needed, I saw a picture of one of those big backyard above ground pools and the people having so much fun. I don't have any space in my yard flat enough for one of those things nor enough space but perhaps there was a compromise size... one that might fit on the lower deck of my house but not big enough to turn in into a pile of kindling in the dirt and the subject of some viral video. I typed a few key words into my favorite online shopping search engine and saw it.

For the tune of $80, I could set myself up with an eight foot diameter pool that could hold up to 30" of water and came with a pool pump and filter. For another $6, it had a cover. I did the math and decided that was way to much weight even for my well built deck but I did something that accelerated me down that slippery slope. On a whim, I got a flashlight and looked under the deck. Even though the deck is bolted securely to my  concrete foundation on two sides and the span is not all that big, it had plenty of joists under it AND a whole lot of extra posts in the center of it that sat on the old concrete pad below. It was almost as if someone had specifically planned for that deck to hold a whole lot of weight. So I bought it.

Going even faster now.

It came and I set it up and on the 4th of July, after suffering in my master bathroom trying to put the finishing touches on a nearly done project, I was hot and needed cooling down. I had filled it up a couple days earlier and despite the extra reinforcing my deck had, I was still cautious and filled it up slowly listening and looking for any signs that might turn my deck into kindling. It is only twelve inches above the concrete pad below so even if it collapsed, the ride would be short but still, I didn't want to create more remodeling work for myself. After about 24" of water, I called it good so that hopefully I had a safety factor. So on the fourth after it had warmed up a bit over two days, I got on my swimming duds and with my daughter, went for a swim. Well actually I didn't swim but I did float in it with my head resting on the air filled support for the collapsible outer walls. I was in heaven lying there submerged in water on my deck staring up into my clear blue and green leaf colored sky. Within minutes, I felt refreshed and by the time I drug myself out of the pool, I was already dreaming of a full sized pool.

Going fast enough down the slope that I'm starting to worry about hurting myself should I fall down.

Covering bases with a career change coming for my wife, we've been keeping our eyes on possible real estate to familiarize ourselves with various markets and what things are worth. One house that caught our eye has a really nice in ground pool behind it. Another house has a nice flat lawn that would be perfect for either a in ground or above ground model. Suddenly, having a pool seems more and more like a necessity in my life than it should be because I careening down an insanely steep slippery slope at a fast speed with no hopes of halting my downward progress. Already my mind is trying to convince my fiscally conservative side that it would save money by not paying for expensive swimming lessons for my wife and daughter who don't know how to swim yet conveniently leaving out the cost of said pool.

So this is a cautionary tale my friends of how easy it is to start yourself down that proverbial slippery slope...

Friday, July 8, 2011

One More Year

Long time readers, which is most of you who read this blog, know that a little over two years ago, my family did something unconventional to allow one of us to live their dream. In short, my wife started three years of residency in the urban jungle while I became stayed home to work full time and raise our daughter as best I can. Of course we still see each other on weekends and talk every night, but it just isn't the same. Still, we decided to make the best of it while our daughter was still young and would not remember much of this when she was older.

The back story is that my wife was just starting residency when I met her while vacationing in London and after two years of dating, I convinced her to marry me. She wanted to wait until she finished her residency which would mean she could just take the license test over here and practice medicine but love is foolish and so was I when I talked her out of delaying our marriage. So when she came over here a year short of finishing residency, she was unable to practice medicine and went into medical research. She wasn't sure she wanted to go through residency again and after nearly three years, she decided she wanted too. We wasted a couple years trying to get into residency at a teaching hospital about a seventy minute drive from where we lived but were unsuccessful since they gave priority to those whom they graduated from their medical school. So five years after we were married, we decided to branch out and on her first try, she was accepted into a residency program in the urban jungle, a two hour drive from home.

Now for three years, I suppose it is possible to commute four hours a day but knowing that there would be long hours and that she would need to spend lots of time reading, preparing for lectures, and being mentally ready when seeing patients, we opted for the difficult choice of renting an apartment up there just a few blocks from the hospital where she could stay during the week.

It was initially tough for both of us but I think we are able to make this work. It is tough on my wife being away from our daughter four and a half days a week and it is tough on me trying to juggle a full time job and being a mostly single parent for our daughter. But it works and now two years later, with every day that passed by now, we will not be in the same situation this same day next year. For next June 30th in 2012, this ordeal will have ended and we will be a family once again. My wife will have fulfilled her career dream of becoming a doctor.

I expect this year will even go faster than the rest. My wife is doing a month long rotation at a local (to me) hospital that has also offered her a job and is her top candidate now among all those near here that have offered her a job. So she will be able to make the 20 minute commute back and forth everyday for a month which shortens this ordeal yet another month. Not to mention we are contemplating selling our house and moving closer to whatever hospital she decides to work for so that we are within 15 minutes of it and thus giving her the option of being on call even when she is at home. Even if we don't have to move, we still probably will just because we have outgrown this home in a few ways and would like to live in one better suited to our needs. Of course in the future, we would like to build one that is perfectly suited to our needs but one step at a time.

So as you read this post, my little countdown clock at the end of my sidebar should read 358 days left or thereabouts and that is sure a lot easier to swallow than when it initially read 1095.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Five Terrible Ways To Go

I have been looking for the parents of my 4th great grandfather John McKee whom I've been starting to focus my genealogical interest on. Unfortunately, there are a lot of John McKees in a close proximity to each other which makes the details sometimes hard to sort out. In hopes of learning more about John, I have been looking into his kids, namely trying to track down obituaries so see if any information could be gleaned from them. I was able to locate my 3rd great grandfather's obituary in the paper and once again I was reminded of how fragile life can be sometimes.
Bertram Edwin McKee, who was injured Saturday, July 20th, while running a saw in Harris & Cole Bros. factory, died at eleven o'clock Thursday evening, July 25th. As he was alone at the time of the accident it will never be known exactly how he came to meet with the misfortune. A piece of board flew against him, striking him in the abdomen with such force as to paralyze the upper portion of his body. From the first, the wounded man was discouraged about his recovery, but those about him felt hopeful until the last twenty-four hours. He was conscious to the last and everything possible was done for his relief....
Bertram was only 44 years old and left behind a wife and eight children, the youngest being only six years old according to the newspaper account. What the newspaper doesn't mention, because it probably wasn't known at the time was that an eighth child was about two months along in his widow's belly and would be born the following March and appropriately named Bertram Jr.

Tragedy wasn't over for my 3rd great grandmother Ella J. Smith McKee. Less than a year later after the death of her husband, she lost one of her children in another accident.
Fatal Accident - A sad and most unaccountable accident occurred last Saturday afternoon about four o'clock, by which Willie, the ten year old son of Mrs. Edwin McKee lost his life. He had been playing circus with a trapeze and when trying to take the rope down in some mysterious manner it was caught about his neck, strangling him to death, although his feet were scarcely free from the ground. There was no know in the rope so it must have been accidental. He was a bright and good boy, and great sympathy is felt for his widowed mother....
They say the apple doesn't fall far from the tree and so it wasn't really surprising that there were similar tragedies in Betram father's life as well. The first item is about Betram's half brother Melvin McKee who had a different mother but shared John McKee as their father.
Melvin McKee, a three-year old boy living near Parkersburg, fell from a grain roller and was crushed to death, on Thursday morning. It seems that the driver had temporarily left the team, during which time the little fellow climbed on the roller, and by some means the horses started, and the boy fell between the roller and the frame, breaking nearly every bone in his body.
A few years later, this time to Bertram's full brother John Jr.
Dies While Sobering Up - John M. McKee, a traveling salesman for the Hamm Brewing Company at St. Paul, died at Sioux City from an overdose of morphine, take to quiet his nerves after a protracted spree.
John McKee himself also was involved in his share of accidents with several wagon wrecks mentioned in the newspapers that mostly resulted in broken bones to those with him. The one posted below resulted in yet another tragedy that seemed to haunt this family. The scanned copy of the archived newspaper is a bit fuzzy so I can't read what exactly happened but what I can read gives me enough.
John McKee and his ..... mother, throwing both out. Mrs. McKee who is past 90 years of age is probably fatally injured. The accident was caused by the carelessness of Mr. McKee, who turned onto the track a few feet ahead of the car. 
Finally after having lost three sons and one grandson to a freak accident, being involved in his mother's death John and his second wife (Melvin's mother/Bertram's stepmother), perhaps looking to start over somewhere else would pack up and leave the area for Brule county, South Dakota where he lived out his remaining years (outliving his second wife by at least seven years) before dying in a sanitarium of "hypostatic pneumonia" with "exhaustion of senile" listed as a contributory cause.

Monday, July 4, 2011

My First Political Rant of the Presidential Election Season

Living in Iowa, the first in the nation to vote on the future President of the United States in a caucus, is no treat. Already the first television ads for Tim Pawlenty have hit the digital cables and I'm sure more to follow. Now it has stepped up a notch since Iowa native Michele Bachmann has joined the fray. Granted this is still better than last the last cycle when our former governor had already launched and bowed out of the presidential race by this time but it is still annoying.

But what got me thinking about all this were several interviews of candidates on the morning and evening news shows. The reporter would ask a question followed by the candidate telling the reporters their qualities that make them a good candidate and giving no regard to the question at hand. The reporter then reiterates the question at hand only to have it totally ignored yet again by another rant on their qualifications. This brought me to the following conclusion:

It is easier to cut a grape in half with a spoon in a wet bowl than it is to pin down a politician on a question.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Tragedy Narrowly Averted

I was standing right about here (though this is a picture borrowed from the internet and not mine) and was facing off to the right when I heard the guy behind me gasp and say, "Holy shit!" and then louder, "Sweetie, you need to climb down from there." I turned around to see a little girl of probably five or six years old at the neck of the sculpture and headed on up. She wasn't my daughter and my daughter later said that the girl was being bad by climbing on the sculptures which I had told my daughter not to do while visiting this sculpture park in the Urban Jungle recently.

The girl in the pink shirt paused when she heard the guy next to me utter those words and looked over at us. Then she started climbing down at a pace that I almost couldn't bear to watch and one that evidently froze me into at least running over there and standing beneath her to break her fall should she fall. Fortunately for her, mine inaction and the inaction of the other half a dozen adults standing nearby didn't come back to haunt us and about thirty seconds later, she was back down on the ground running around as if nothing happened. The guy who shouted and I could only look at each other and shake our heads in disbelief.

There was an art fair on the streets surrounding the park and there were thousands of people milling around on them but here in the park, there were only a handful of adults and of course about thirty kids running around. The parent of the girl in the pink shirt showed up thirty minutes later and walked off with her daughter in tow oblivious to the fact that her daughter might have died a tragic death due to her not being a PARENT! Parenting is not letting your five or six year old daughter roam alone in the middle of an urban city with thousands of strange adults roaming about while you go looking at art in the streets. It wasn't like she could keep an eye on her daughter from the streets either because both sides were lined with tents that blocked the view into the center of the park and stretched around the block with buildings in the way.

I used to skip articles in the paper about the tragic death of youngsters all the time until I had one of my own. Now I read all these articles and wonder how parents could let these things happen. I certainly don't hang over my daughter every second and do allow her to make mistakes and figure out how to deal with bullies, etc, but when she is in the middle of thousands of people far from home, I certainly keep her directly in my field of view at all times even if from a distance. If she were ten, twelve, fifteen, perhaps a little more leeway would be in order but this was at most a six year old girl. Fortunately this girl survived... for now, but had she not, I could just imagine the splurb about it buried on page nine with the mother tearfully saying, "I was just in the street looking at a painting for only a few minutes..."