Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Letting Go Isn't Easy

Monday was the fourth day of school and I'm was nervous as a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. Monday was the first day my daughter begins the "simplified" daycare/school day.

Last week, there were two days before school got started and we started off by visiting our old daycare lady and reiterating that the change was for me and had nothing to do with her. We also changed plans and let our daughter go the first two days of the week to her house to give them both a chance to say goodbye. Both the meeting and the two days went well and I think all was accomplished.

My wife already home for the month of August to work a rotation at one of her potential employers next summer, took the following three days off to get some mother daughter time and to take my daughter to her first days of school. I took Friday off to walk with them to school.  The first three days of school went well with my daughter telling me all about her days only after I pry it from her but she seems to love school as I knew she would. The only minor cause for concern was that she almost got put on the bus to the new daycare center after her first day of school and only because she lagged behind because she was confused and my wife happened to walk up early did that little thing get avoided. The teacher made an honest mistake on the first day of school and of course I forgive her since I'm sure she had twenty plus other adults making special plans.

But then Monday arrived and now I was worried again. I took my daughter to daycare where the bus picks her up in 15 minutes. That didn't worry me. What worried me is that she has to change buses at the high school to get on the bus that goes to her elementary school, one of three. We talked about it numerous times over the weekend and there are supposed to be adults at the high school to help them, especially the first few days, but the first few days in my eyes were the three last week when she walked to school with us. I ended up asking all the little kids in the class which ones were going to the same elementary school and asking if they would make sure my daughter gets on the right bus with them. I was confident that my daughter would get to school. What worried me more is after school. I'm worried that my daughter won't get on the bus for the trip back to her daycare and that she will be left at the school building. I told her that if that happens to go back inside and tell the teachers what had happened but it still worried me.

I tried to reassure myself that hundreds of kindergarten children have successfully undergone the same rite of passage as my daughter because that is the way they have been doing it successfully since before I moved to this town and I've yet to hear about a lost child. I tried to reassure myself that my daughter is smart and because she has been away from home during the day since she was three months old that she has more street smarts than some of her peers who never spent a day away from their parents until last week. (You could pick those kids out easily from the crowd.) My daughter can even point out the way from our house to the school and the daycare though walking it alone is a whole other ball of wax. That first day, I anxiously waited any phone calls or online notices that she was tardy and I couldn't rest easy until they debited money from her account for lunch. Then I just had to worry about her getting back to daycare.

Dang it is hard to let go of your children.

On the plus side, today is Wednesday and her third day of successfully navigating between daycare and kindergarten. On Monday when I picked her up at daycare and nervously asked how riding the bus went she said, "Daddy, it was so cool!"

Dang it is hard to watch your children grow up.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Restaurant Incident

I swear the first stages of senility are upon me because when this happened my first thought was oh god, I hope nobody saw up, my second thought was I hope the waitress doesn't come back anytime soon and my third thought was that this would make a good blog post. I guess that gives you an idea of how ingrained blogging is in life these days.

As we are want to do from time to time, we decided to dine at a new restaurant when up in the urban jungle to perhaps broaden our eating horizons. We popped into the new restaurant for lunch only to be told it was just serving breakfast buffet which didn't interest me so we left and came back later for an early supper. The food was good but nondescript enough that I can't even remember what I had. What I do know was that our daughter ate her food like she had been starved for a week and food was going out of style. She gets like that during growth spurts so I have learned not to be surprised.

However, after she was done, she started complaining that her throat hurt. At first we were worried that she had something caught in her throat or perhaps an allergic reaction. As we were diagnosing the situation, our daughter gave a hoarse cough from deep in her throat that sounded very similiar to dry heaves. She did a second and then a third. Since she was sitting next to my wife, I made the suggestion that they perhaps should go towards the restrooms but my wife said she didn't think she would vomit. No sooner than she had said that than our daughters supper came hurtling out of her mouth.

Now I think all superheroes are merely parents because nothing seems to enhance a parent's abilities like becoming a parent. In this case, faster than Flash Gordon, my wife grasped a cloth napkin and caught the contents of my daughter's stomach in mid-air. She dropped the cloth napkins and contents on the table and hustled my daughter into the bathroom to finish what nature began and I deftly threw my cloth napkin over the other to hide the contents. Unfortunately when my wife got her super fast speed all I got was a super sensitive gag reflex. I gagged silently not once but twice before I focused hard on the taste of my glass of water and took a swig. I was very close to losing my supper but got it under control and since I was facing the wall with everyone at my back, I just may have pulled it off.

What I wasn't sure is if anyone saw my daughter upchuck her supper into my wife's napkin covered hands since they were facing the interior of the restaurant. I didn't want to turn around to see thinking that would only draw attention so instead, I sat there staring at the wall above the cloth napkin filled with recycled food and thinking of anything but the situation at hand. I was also praying that the waitress wouldn't come to clear off the table while I was waiting and thus expose everything to the world. Not being a cruel person and since I had already paid and signed for the bill, I scribbled it out and doubled my tip for reasons our waitress would soon fine out, wrote sorry on it and then focused back on the wall until my daughter and wife made it back to the table.

Our conversation went almost exactly like:

Wife: Did you pay?
Me: Yes
Wife: Lets get out of here fast.
Me: Yes

We walked out of the restaurant as fast as we could without attracting attention and made it back to the safety of our car out of sight from the restaurant. As we would later learn, our daughter had just ate too much and her stomach had sought to correct the problem. With an empty stomach, she was ready to play in the park beside our car while I eyed the blue omen in the store window that I wrote about in the last post. So although I might have given that restaurant another chance before writing them off completely, circumstances beyond my control have forced me to write them off completely after only one try. I don't think I could step in there again without some irrational fear that I might be recognized as the father of the puking girl. I'm just glad that my daughter didn't puke at one of my favorite restaurants.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Omen of Approaching Mid-Life Crisis?

I have one of those free calendars that vendors love to throw at us so that we have their name posted somewhere in front of us. For the month of August, I have been looking at a picture of the car above, a 1970 Ford Mustang Boss 429, except for the calendar version has it set in front of what appears to be a school with a lawn full of weeds. Odd but not the point of this blog post. The point of this blog post was that after staring at this picture for a couple of weeks, I thought that if I ever have a mid-life crisis with lots of money, something I don't foresee anytime soon, that might be the type of car I might be interested in. It is not a flashy foreign roadster but a classic American muscle car. It would certainly be a bit more thrilling and flashy to drive than my 14 year old Honda Civic.

Taking it a step farther, I searched for one on Ebay and found several in all sorts of states of repair including a couple exactly like the one above. I closed down my session and thought nothing more of it until a few days later as we were pulling into the urban jungle by a different route than we normally take due to the traffic of the state fair blocking our normal way and we drove right by a hotel that was obviously having some sort of Ford Mustang rally. Their parking lot was jam packed full of classic Mustangs along with at least two that looked like the picture above. I would have taken a picture had I not been bumper deep in traffic and too lazy to turn back.

Even that omen I could ignore but then the very next day after the restaurant incident, which I tried to link to this post only to realize I haven't yet written about it yet, as I was waiting in the park for my daughter to get some fresh air, I happened to notice that across the street was a shop that sold restored "dream cars" and right there in the front window was a blue 1970 Ford Mustang Boss 429 exactly like the picture above. What are the chances? Is this how a mid-life crisis begins?

[More on the restaurant incident in the next post.]

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Day In Omaha But Not at the Beach

Textured Wall in Sunlight
Due to my wife's schedule and my busy schedule, we haven't been able to get time off in the same stretch to go on a lengthy vacation this yet this year nor does it look like we will. So we have contented ourselves with taking a few mini-vacations throughout the year, one of which happened a midst all the worrying about the daycare situation. Since we had to spend a Saturday up in the urban jungle for a birthday party Little Abbey had been invited too and my wife had to see her regular clinic patients on Monday, we went to Saturday mass and hit the road on Sunday.  We drove across the state to Omaha.

Back when we were going through our immigration odyssey, we had spent time at the Henry Doorly Zoo in that city on a cold and windy February day and had thought it was an excellent zoo. Since we are members with the zoo in the urban jungle, one of our perks is a reduced rate to the Henry Doorly Zoo and so we thought Little Abbey would enjoy seeing a larger zoo. We were right.

We spent all morning and part of the afternoon walking around the zoo taking in the sights. I didn't take many pictures while there because I could never see the point. You end up with a picture of a animal obviously in captivity. Now if I had a picture of a lion out in the open, there would be a story to tell when showing the picture to someone but a picture of a lion laying on an artificial rock, surrounded by a moat, fence and a ring of people doesn't interest me much. That is why the only picture not of one of my family is of the side of their train station building which spoke to me as I waited for the train to start moving. That picture is at the top of this post.

After the zoo and famished, we hit a local place called Louie M's Burger Lust Cafe which as you can probably guess, it a place to order burgers. It had been recommended by a friend of ours and it didn't disappoint. I had the Avacado Bacon Cheddar burger seen below and it was very messy and tasty, just the way a good burger should be.

Avacado Bacon Cheddar Burger and Onion Rings
Next we drove to what appeared to be an abandoned industrial zone of Omaha except for one lone building in its midst that contained the Hot Shops. If you click the link, the picture on the front page is not the building we went too. Our building was the three story brick building seen in the small picture shown on the page in the location link. It was an old factory that had been converted into three levels of art gallery and dozens of rooms that artists used as studios. You could walk through the galleries, where most things appeared for sale and even through the studios. Most of the art was very reasonably priced and if I had a load of cash and wall space to put it, I would have gotten something.

Hot Shop Sculpture
Continuing on the cultural theme, we headed next to the Old Market area of Omaha and walked around a bit. We walked through a pottery shop, a couple antique stores, ate some really good ice cream and just enjoyed the beautiful day around us. We ended up going to a nearby park, found a patch of shaded grass with an excellent view of a large fountain in a small lake and watched the sun, ducks, and day pass us by. It was only with much effort that we finally walked back to our vehicle and made our way back to the urban jungle so that my wife could get up early for clinic patients the next day. It wasn't long but it sure was a relaxing mini-vacation.

Heartland of America Park

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Tidal Wave

I always felt like I was flirting with disaster with the way my life was setup. My wife is doing her residency and for the large part of the week, it gone leaving me to hold a full time job and raise our daughter. I don't complain and would do it again if necessary because it is my turn to sacrifice some in our relationship so that she too can live her dream. It has been tough at times though I have always seemed to get by.

The hardest part is providing a warm and nurturing environment for our daughter during the day while I am at work without providing too much change for her and hassle for me. For the first few years, this meant going to a private daycare which seemed to provide more of a nurturing environment than a large scale public daycare. It had it's downsides which mostly consisted of the lady running the daycare out of her house getting sick. But those days were few and far between and we had two layers of backup, my parents and my daughter's godmother who was unemployed.

Then preschool started and things got more complicated. The first year of preschool meant my daughter needed a ride too and from preschool twice a week. I scraped by asking a lady whose daughter was in the same preschool grade if she would pick up my daughter and take her to preschool. She was a good friend of the daycare lady and said she would. I still had to pick up my daughter and take her back to the daycare twice a week. That meant me doing my best to avoid 11 o'clock meetings and taking an early lunch break. It also cost me a sizable gift card as a gift to the lady picking up my daughter in the morning since she wouldn't let me reimburse her with money.

As the second year of preschool rolled around, things got even more complicated. My daughter was now in preschool three two-hour sessions a week and the lady who hauled my daughter the previous year had left town due to her husband losing his job and getting another one elsewhere. Looking at having to sneak out of work six times a week left me feeling ill. Fortunately I heard about a bus taxi of sorts that gets some grant money from the state to ferry people around and for $4 a day, they would pick my daughter up and take her to preschool and back. This worked out well except for a few times when the regular driver was sick and a new driver would either not let the daycare lady know he was there and leave or show up twenty minutes after my daughter was already supposed to be in school necessitating me leaving work, driving clear across town to pick her up, driving clear across town to preschool and driving clear across town to work again only to repeat it an hour and  a half later.

But I got through that. Then this year the tidal wave hit. The daycare lady's husband had health issues requiring her to take a week off from work and forcing me to improvise a solution for my daughter. Then this month hits and the daycare lady ends up in the hospital for a week and spent another week recovering. My parents happened to be on vacation most of that time and the godmother had gotten a full time job again so we had to scramble burning vacation, setting up play dates and doing impromptu journeys down to the farm when my parents were there. If that weren't enough, kindergarten starts in a couple days and brings with it a whole new set of headaches. Because the daycare is within two miles of the school, the parents are responsible for getting their child to school. That meant that four days a week, I have to get my daughter to school no earlier than 8:15 and pick her up promptly at 3:30, the one exception being every Wednesday when school doesn't start until 10:00. Also excepted were the first three days of school when they start a half hour early and get off at 1:30, the dozen extra days for teacher services that meant either late starts, early dismissals or no school at all, all the federally observed holidays and of course the days when school either doesn't start or is dismissed early due to bad weather. My head was spinning at trying to hold down a demanding job and getting my daughter to school when she needed to be there. At times I wanted to quit my job, the best and most fulfilling I have ever had, just to simplify my daughter's life.

Another lady whose children also goes to the daycare volunteered to take my daughter to school every morning when there wasn't a late start and that we could share the picking up duties but that still meant that I would have to leave work during business hours at least three or four times a week. But then that was when the daycare lady got sick, my parents went on vacation, the godmother got a job, the play dates dried up, and my days of available vacation days were used up. In desperation, I called one of the public day care places in town to see if they could look after my daughter for a week while the daycare lady was recovering. They said yes.

It gave me a chance to evaluate things a bit. Yes there were a lot more kids there but they were kept in their age groups which meant that there wasn't a huge factor more (around 15 kids instead of 8) than what my daughter was used to with the private daycare. They had a huge building full of rooms dedicated to different things that they kept the kids rotating through so that they would stay busy plus access to a nearby park and swimming pool. My daughter went from being the oldest at daycare to being among more than a dozen peers. It turns out to be a bit cheaper and best of all, due to their size, they have a bus that takes kids too and from school. After a week there, my daughter really loved the place and didn't want to go back to the old place. So after hashing it out, my wife and I made the decision to switch our daughter to the large public daycare and give the private daycare our notice today when she returns to work. It sucks because we like her and she was really good with our daughter and the timing is probably really bad with a weeks stay in the hospital and all the bills that probably ensued but at the end of the day, it means I don't have to leave work at all. My daughter certainly won't get as much personalized attention there as she did at the private place but in two days, she starts kindergarten and will spend only about a half hour there each day except for Wednesday and all the special days when they start late. Instead of having another mom or me take her to and from school each day, she will ride the same bus everyday. Hopefully it will be a routine she can adapt too.

So my baby is going to school on Wednesday and after the last three weeks of uncertainty, anxiety and stress on my part, I think I am actually going to be fairly calm about the day despite my baby is officially no longer my baby anymore. It will give me time to heal, get used to the new routine and prepare for the day she comes home and tells me she has a boyfriend. That is the day the tsunami hits.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Now On National Radio

So there I was, minding my own business walking down a sidewalk in the urban jungle when a young blonde girl walked up and asked if she could interview my wife and I on matters of the Iowa economy for a national syndicated radio show. Who was I to refuse especially when my wife chirps up and tells the lady that I have an opinion on everything.

Right out of the gate, she asked a broad question of what I thought of the state of the economy? How do you answer something like that without a lot of caveats which of course they aren't interested. I love the investment opportunity of a down stock market of which I took full advantage. I dislike the government's abuse of our tax dollars and the trillions they borrow on top of them. I think that we are currently growing and getting stronger, albeit a bit slowly, but that we are still headed for a massive train wreck sometime in the future. In the end, I responded that I think the economy is weak but getting stronger slowly and that I am not too worried at the moment.

The interview went on for almost ten minutes with the reporter asking various similar questions phrased in different ways between my wife and I. I do have a lot to say, which I suppose is why my blog is ready to turn eight years old soon and has thousands of posts, but I'm not very good off the cuff. The whole time I was talking to the reporter, I kept internally wincing at how my comment could be misconstrued or taken out of context. My answers were short and were more of an overview of my thoughts when I could have sat there for the rest of the day talking economy with that young lady.

She ended by having us introduce ourselves separately so that if they used only one of our answers in the soundbyte, the could do so. I'm not sure if any of it will air or has already aired but if it does and you hear some fellow from Iowa that they introduced as some hayseed from the street, that is probably me.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

How many people does it take to change a light bulb?

I guess the answer would be zero in my house because I honestly can't remember the last time I changed a light bulb.

I was reading an article in the latest issue of Popular Mechanics about some tests they ran on light bulbs to determine if the new spiral low wattage kind are as bad as every says they are. They even have some anecdotal story of some old man who bought two cases (240 bulbs) of the old incandescent kind to hoard away. As expected, the Popular Mechanics tests pretty much showed that you are crazy not to be using fluorescents.

To the best of my recollection and sifting through past posts, I'm guessing that I made the switch all in one evening more than five years ago, probably closer to six. I had some three dozen light bulbs in my house, thanks to the previous owners like of ceiling fans that have four bulbs a piece, and I changed all that I could. I had a couple nightstand lights and a small chandelier that had oddball sized lights that I couldn't change but they were all low wattage anyway. I went from changing at least a couple light bulbs a month to replacing only one bulb in almost six years. The rest just keep on ticking. Assuming at best case that my old incandescent light bulbs lasts two years and cost me a fourth of the cost of the fluorescent ones, they have almost paid themselves back just on longevity alone and more so if you count the fact that the fluorescent ones also use a small fraction of the energy. Nor does it count the energy saved by not having to cool your house more in the summer to counteract all the heat that the old ones put out. Remember those easy bake ovens?

I don't think I could go back to those days of ancient technology. In fact, when I finally live out my dream of building my own house, I will not put a fixture in place that can't use fluorescent bulbs and most likely will mostly use fixtures that use LED bulbs which cuts the energy cost of fluorescent bulbs by another 50%, last six to seven times longer and put out even less heat. Instead of hoarding light bulbs as the man in the PM article did, I will hoard something more dear to my heart like books printed on actual paper.

Monday, August 15, 2011

John Chapman

The last little tidbit of my genealogical research trip to Louisa county was going to be about John Chapman's ancestry. I had found a biography written about a James Chapman that mentioned his ancestry going back to the Revolutionary War and mentioned that his brother John lived and farmed in the county. I had been all excited because I had assumed James's brother John was my 4th great grandfather John.

So before I did too much, I started plugging James Chapman's family information into my family tree but ran into a snag. James was listed as the second oldest son in the family with John being the youngest. James was born around 1827 and his brother John in 1837. My John was born around 1800, a difference of 37 years and two large to ignore. The second item that is hard to ignore was that James Chapman's family had moved out of Pennsylvania in the early 1830's for Ohio and then came to Louisa county via Lee county in the early 1840's. My John Chapman is in Pennsylvania in the 1840 federal census and came to Louisa county via Lee county in the early 1840's. His migration path just doesn't match to be part of the same family. My John never showed up on an Iowa census because he died in 1849 about six years after he reached the state and I have cemetery records to prove it. Tracking the other Chapman family in the census records and knowing for sure that the other John lived at least past 87 years of age as he was in the 1925 census seems to put the nail in the coffin that our John's aren't the same. However, because they came from the same part of Pennsylvania and ended up in the same county of Iowa after initially entering via a third county and lived on farms near each other, I'm sure they are related but I still need to make that connection somehow. Once I do, them I will have a blog post about the Chapman family going back to pre-Revolutionary war. Until then, I'm unfortunately back where I started and that is not knowing too much about my John Chapman. Par for my genealogical course.

Friday, August 12, 2011

John and Margaret Mathers Grim

You are looking at one of my most treasured finds during my recent genealogical trip to Louisa county in search of my ancestors. In digging through online records, I had found a genealogy quarterly magazine published by the local historical society of that county that according to their index, had two articles on the Grim family. One was titled "The History of the Grim Family" and the other "The Grim Family Reunion". I was expecting only some articles that would perhaps present a few clues for me to track down and they did have that but what I wasn't expecting and what they had were these two pictures.

The top picture is of my 3rd great grandparents John and Margaret Mathers Grim. My research has traced the family to western Pennsylvania post Revolutionary War but I have yet to find the original immigrant from Germany. According to this article, the Louisa county Grim family were part of the "Pennsylvania Dutch" who had lived in Germany near Holland in the Rhinelander Crefield. The left in 1683 with 13 families and settled in Germantown, Pennsylvania and have been called the "Mayflower of the German immigration". The article goes on to say that the Louisa county Grim's are descendants from Adam Grim (my fifth great grandfather), a Pennsylvania miller by trade, who had dropped the second "m" in their name. He and his wife Mary settled in Lawrence county, Pennsylvania in Washington and Slipper Rock townships in 1814. Then things start getting confusing. The article says that this Adam (the miller) had nine children including one named Adam whom I will refer to as Adam2 and another named John whom I will refer to as John1. It says that John1 had a son named John2 who is my John pictured above. The problem is that I have lots of information from census records to death and obituary records who say that John2's father was Adam2. Mistake on the part of the author of the article, author of a book mentioned below that was used as a source for this article or on my part? I don't know but I do know I would like to obtain the source book and contact the author of the article whose Aunt Jennie is quoted often in it as another source of information on this family.

The article went on to say that my John, John2, got his first farming job for David Woodruff near Louisa Center running a grist mill on Long Greek and later moved to the Darius (Dunk) Key farm south of Cairo. (He later named a son Darius afer Mr. Key. John2 wasn't an ordained minister but did do some preaching and was an elder in the church. His son John3 would go on to get ordained and preach in Lousia county. The rest of the article covered the where abouts of John2's four surviving sons.

The article mentions a source of information for some of this as a genealogy book called "The Grim Family" by Carol Herrick which I have so far found no proof that it existed much less can be bought. If any of my readers out there can figure that mystery out, let me know as I surely would like to read this book.

The article on the "Grim Family Reunion" also yielded a photograph that I have spent hours looking at. It is of a family reunion in 1925, the first year it was held some six years after the death of John2 and at the home of John3. Six of the seven children of John2 who survived to adulthood are pictured in this photo along with spouses, children and grandchildren. Best yet, there is a legend identifying each one by name. John3 is the fellow in the dark suit standing on he bottom step of the porch just above the little boys sitting at the bottom center of the photograph. His brother and my 2nd great grandfather 'Billie' Grim is also wearing a dark suit and is standing over the right shoulder of the lady holding a baby boy next to all the seated children in the bottom center of the photograph. This is the only picture I have of any of John2's children. According to the article, this family reunion still goes on every year to this day and I hope that perhaps someday soon, I can attend one of them.

[Post addendum: Since writing this, I have since made contact with the author of the articles and through him am in the process of contacting Carol Herrick who is still around and may have a copy of that book although it sounds as if her genealogy only goes back as far as mine. I am also on the mailing list for the family reunion which coincidentally is occurring tomorrow which I am unable to make. Perhaps next year. The cherry on top of all of this is that I have also made contact with the resident genealogist of the group and sometime in the future will have to set up a meet and greet to swap information.]

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Pawlenty vs. The Lawn Nazi

I was cleaning out the photos in my camera and found two that I had every intention of posting sooner but never got around to it. The first is presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty who swung through town and whom a buddy of mine and I went to listen too. Of course most of what he said made me feel warm and fuzzy but I don't think many things would ever come true should he actually make it to the oval office. I live in a very liberal hot spot on the map of Iowa so it wasn't a surprise that there wasn't very many people there to hear him. I refrained from shaking his hand by sneaking out the back when the speech was done (mostly to get back to work since I was on an early lunch break) so my record of shaking hands with candidates who later become president is still at 100%.

This photo shows two things. First the Lawn Nazi who lives across the street is out for his morning cleaning routine where he picks up all the dog poop left behind by inconsiderate dog walkers using the sidewalk and cleaning the edge of the road next to the curb. All my uphill neighbors love to mow their lawn and spew the clippings out into the street where they wash down to the area of the curb along the Lawn Nazi's lawn. If he would just wait for another rain (something we haven't seen in a month and a half here at the time of the photo) it would just wash on down to the storm drain but he prefers to scoop it up at least once a week. The second thing this photo shows is my lawn which was also last mowed sometime in June and by the looks of it, probably won't need mowed again until next spring. Although I would like some rain, I am not going to complain about the condition of my lawn. It's too hot to go out on it and do anything anyway.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Louisa County Roots: Part Three

The rain had briefly stopped when I made it here in front of the Cowles family farm and I was a bit disappointed. The satellite imagery taken June 19, 2009 according to Google Earth showed a building standing there and there was obviously nothing there now. I pulled out the printout that I had made and compared it to my surroundings and then it hit me. The house was gone but there was a barn possibly back behind the trees somewhere.

Using my zoom and walking further down the road, I found the barn hiding behind trees and corn but it was to new to have been around during the time of Joseph Cowles. So instead I concentrated on the views that they probably had back in the mid 1800's when they were living here. I must say, there were quite nice as the next two pictures show though they don't convey the depth of the valley down there where Long Creek flowed.

I knew going to the Chapman farm that it was an active farm full of outbuildings. I had toyed with the idea of pulling up the driveway, knocking on the house, introducing myself as a descendant of the family who used to live here but I could never figure out how that conversation would go beyond that. Also, it was only a little past eight in the morning and it was raining out, probably not the best of times to stop by. So I paused, took the above picture and continued on.

Although the Chapman farm was only a quarter mile from the Cowles farm on the same road and the Grim farm was only a quarter mile from both of those farms, it required a circuitous route to drive between them first driving down to the Long Creek flood plain, crossing the creek, jogging down a quarter mile to the next gravel road, crossing the creek again and heading back across the flood plain. In the picture above, I am crossing the flood plain heading back towards the farms. The farms of the Cowles and Chapmans are on the hill on the far right of the picture and the farm of the Grims is on the hill just to the right of the road in the center of the picture. The backside of those hills is also the valley of Long Creek further upstream. The hills actually form kind of a peninsula into the Long Creek valley.

The maps on Google Earth had shown several outbuildings on the Grim farm and though they had a deserted look to them (as much as can be seen from low earth orbit) I wasn't sure until I arrived and saw the driveway. I knew then that it was abandoned or if not, the hermit that lived there hadn't driven anywhere recently, lived with a broken window and didn't bother mowing the lawn. So I drove up to find out.

I didn't spend much energy looking at the house or any of the outbuildings which were all too new to have been around back then. But one look at the barn and I knew it had been. There was a lot of junk inside that door in the picture above but it was still raining, I didn't have a flashlight and I figured it was critter and snake heaven in there. If I got into some sort of trouble, there wouldn't be anyone to find me anytime soon. So I just squinted into the gloom and walked around to the ramp on the side of it leading into the middle part of the barn and where the horses could pull the wagons full of hay or grain up into the barn.

This view shows that ramp and that it wasn't much more inviting than the door leading into the basement of the barn. Despite knowing that pushing through the trees would completely soak me more than I already was, I went ahead and did so.

As I stood there in the entrance letting my eyes adjust, I saw three very large vultures sitting on the rail not ten feet from me. They all were looking at me with a look that said, "What the f%$# is he doing here?" All four of us paused for a bit eyeing each other up and wondering what the do until I finally broke ranks first and slowly started to reach for my camera. One vulture heaved himself out the door on the right side, a second one hopped to the floor and hopped over into the corner where I couldn't see him and the third did so as well but not before I got one shot of his back before he hopped.

The interior of the barn was fascinating. The flooring was 4 x 12 inch oak planking that would cost an astronomical price to purchase today but back then was probably considered as plentiful as weeds. Never-the-less, it was sagging in the middle, was well over 100 years old and spanned the basement full of rusty metal junk that I didn't have a flashlight to see. I opted to just stand their in the opening on the rock sill of the barn and not venture inside. Besides, two of the vultures were in there somewhere and they were ugly looking bastards.

The mow floor, my immediate ceiling, had what appeared to be 8 to 12 inch trees split in half and used as joists which they topped again with thick slabs of oak. It is no wonder these things still exist after all this time. They were the modern day equivalent of a tank.

Looking out the opposite mow door, I could easily believe that I was my third great grandfather gazing out of the barn on a rainy day. I would have liked to have gotten some sort of souvenir but I wasn't prepared for digging further and technically I was trespassing on somebody's farm, even if it was still owned by a descendant of the Cowles as I later found out. So I stood where the old house probably had been judging from the 1930's aerial photo I had found earlier, took a photo for posterity now seen below, and made my way into the nearby town of Morning Sun.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

At Least One of the Streaks Has Ended

We had just walked uptown for dinner and were enjoying the town festival that appears on the square once a month when suddenly this wet substance fell from the sky and landed on my head and clothes. Bird shit? At least that was my first thought since I haven't seen a drop of anything fall from the sky other than bird shit since June 27th. But after closer inspection, it turned out to be rain.

Dang it was nice to turn my face up towards the sky and let the rain splash down. So we walked home in the rain, slow and thin as it was, and I enjoyed every hot, steamy drop of it. When it had stopped and I checked my rain gauge, we had a full 0.1" of that clear liquid joy. Even better, the next evening we got another .3" of it meaning we have now received 0.57" of the stuff since the first of July, the hottest July we have see in 56 years. It didn't fill in the 8" deep cracks in my lawn but its a start. Too bad the next week is forecasted to be hot and sunny, just like the last seven.

Friday, August 5, 2011


Well the results are in and they are impressive. We have not had a hotter July in our state since 1955. If you count all the months in a year, we haven't had a month this hot since August of 1983! It has been a hot one for the records books. This in itself would be amazing but I would guess that we also set another record in my area locally. The moisture level in our state varied greatly. One place just a few hours north of here received 16" of rain for the month of July, much of that coming in one shot there towards the end of the month. Places less than 20 miles away in any direction received over a inch during the month. Here in my town we officially (at the airport a couple miles north of town) received .17" of rain for the month of July but at my house, the driveway was only pockmarked with a few drops of rain twice and not enough to even stir up the dust at the bottom of my rain gauge. My grass, weeds and all are deader than a hammer. Even the trees in the neighborhood appear to be struggling to survive. In a twist of irony, I have been going through more windshield wiper fluid than I normally do because all the dust that is getting kicked up creates a thick layer on the windshield rather quickly. My body becomes so parched at times that when I jump into my daughters swimming pool, the water level goes down rather than up. I can drink a couple gallons of water a day and only deposit a cup or two of fluids back into the system. It is so dry, I am thinking about paying the dog walkers to walk on my side of the street. The local store now only sells evaporated milk. I can only eat watermelon between 8 pm and 8 am because otherwise it dries out before I get a slice cut. Finally and this is the honest truth, it has been so hot that the other day the temperature outside was 92 degrees with a heat index of 106 and it felt actually pleasant.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

How was that?

This morning while listening to the news, they were covering the FAA 'crisis' that is evidently going on because Congress went on vacation. They interviewed a fellow who seemed to be sitting in an unemployment office bemoaning the fact that his two year old daughter is having a birthday and his wife asked him if they should cancel it because he has been laid off for LESS THAN A WEEK and may not receive another paycheck for FIVE MORE WEEKS. (Emphasis mine.) He ended the conversation by saying, "I hate that the government put me in this position."

EXCUSE ME!? He is blaming the government because he hasn't had enough foresight in the last twenty years (he looked to be near forty years old) to put away enough money that should something happen he can go more than FIVE DAYS before hitting dire financial straights? People like that make me physically ill, more so than Congress and that is saying a lot. He evidently has the intelligence somewhere between a rock and a McDonald's french fry and now SHOULD suffer the consequences. Perhaps he will learn something from them.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Myth That the Rich Pay Less in Taxes: Part Two

Earlier this spring, I wrote a post about the myth that the rich pay less in taxes and had some really interesting discussions in the comments section. I just don't think that many people 'get' how skewed our tax system is against the rich. Unprovoked, someone sent me this tax table after the recent votes on the debt ceiling and the expiration of the Bush tax cuts. This goes to show you how unequal taxes really are (before the expiration of the Bush tax cuts goes into effect):

As you can see, the top 5% of wage earners, those earning $160,000 in Adgusted Gross Income, pay nearly 59% of all taxes.  The top 25%, those earning $67,280 AGI or more, pay over 86% of all taxes. And this is just for the amended 2008 returns. Look at the chart below to see how 'even' taxes have become over the last nearly 30 years. In 1980 the top 5% were paying 37% of all taxes while the the bottom 50% were paying 7%. Twenty-eight years later the top 5% are paying 59% while the bottom 50% are paying 2.7%.

All these tables can be found here.

So even after seeing these tables and realizing beyond a shadow of a doubt that the richest 25% American's pay way more in taxes than the bottom 75% of us, there will be those that feel that this isn't enough. Those people need to study up on Hauser's law. That law in effect states that no matter how much you tax the rich, the government is only going to bring in about 19% of the Gross Domestic Product in revenues. In essence, taxing the rich more will do nothing to pull us out of this pickle with our national debt that we are in. See the chart below:

Monday, August 1, 2011

Louisa County Roots: Part Two

It was pouring rain when I pulled up to the entrance seen above to Oakland Cemetery in Marshall Township of Louisa County and just a little over a mile from where the people I were seeking lived out their lives. As normal, I was jittery about meeting my ancestors or at least getting with a half dozen feet of them which is as close as I will ever come in this lifetime. Unfortunately the rain poured down in sheets and forced me to wait another twenty minutes until it tapered to a slow steady rain. With lots of places to go in a short amount of time, I was out there taking GPS cordinates, writing down information and snapping pictures while getting soaked. But as luck would have it, I had a few extra minutes on my way back home in the afternoon and my route took me write back by here where it began and so I retook all my pictures.

Oakland Presbyterian Church is no longer around but the next picture shows what it once looked like back when my ancestors were attending it. Although construction began in 1858, it wasn't until 1867 when it was finished and completely paid for and it wouldn't be until 1878 until the vestibule was added and it was 'officially' finished. On October 1951 the Presbytery order released the congregation so they could form a Community Church. Sometime in 1981, the old church building was torn down and all that remains is the branched sidewalk leading to the twin doors and a memorial. All this information I now know thanks to my 3rd great grandfather Joseph Trimble Cowles who wrote it down in a sermon now held by the Louisa County Historical Center.

Many times when visiting inactive cemeteries, I have no idea where in the cemetery my ancestors are buried and such was the case here. I knew they were there, I just didn't know where. So I started with what appeared to be the older graves on the east side and began walking down the rows. As I had spent quite a few days looks at plat maps of the area, most of the family names were familiar but at the end of the first row, I hadn't found the ones I was looking for. I turned to the next row and immediately saw the one below.

Elizabeth C. Chapman Cowles (above) and Joseph Trimble Cowles (below) were my third great grandparents.

The grave right next to Elizabeth C. Chapman Cowles was that of her brother Samuel Chapman who was a Civil War vet and the next to graves next to him were broken and laying on the ground. With some effort, I flipped the headstones over to the side with the writing but in both cases, I couldn't read any of the words. They were marble and just too far gone. Because all my ancestors were together in a line, I suspect one of them was the headstone of my 4th great grandfather John Chapman who according to the WPA, had a readable stone back in the 1930's when they transcribed most of the cemeteries in Iowa. If you recall, one of my goals was to see if John's wife Jane Cather Chapman was buried next to him and though it may possible, I can't know for sure. If she is, then her stone wasn't readable even back in the 1930s, some forty years after she died or possibly the other stone is that of one of his other three children whom I haven't been able to track down burials for. So that question is a question that will remained unanswered for the time being.

The next grave is probably the one that elated me most to find. It is that of John and Margaret Mather Grim, who like the Cowles, were my 3rd great grandparents. There are several reasons for this but the biggest is that John is an ancestor in my direct paternal line. (On a side note, my direct maternal line is ever changing as research progresses but right now it is the Kilpatrick from Revolutionary War era Pennsylvania.) The other big reason is that I have spent a lot of research time on John and his parents Adam and Mary Grim in hopes of furthering that line back even further.

On down the line, I came to my 2nd great grandparents William James and Jane Elizabeth Cowles Grim. Beyond that were numerous aunts and uncles all the way back to where the church had stood leaving me to believe that my ancestors had their own entire row at their disposal. After paying my respects at all the graves,  I continued walking the rest of the graves noting the names and all the other rows were mostly of the same names making me think that they all had their own row.

As always, the visit fills me with awe. I am literally within six feet of these people who were directly responsible for my being around today. For me, finding the grave has been kind of the final page in the chapter. I notify any living descendants of the location in case they may want to visit and I move on. Sometimes I stop by if I'm in the area and have the time but mostly I move on. This trip however, I wanted to try something new. I wanted to see more of their life and had spent hours pouring over plat maps and modern aerial views so that I could spend some time on the very same land they walked the earth and spent most of their time. That trip down memory lane was next.