Monday, July 30, 2012

The Move That Almost Wasn't

I should take a step back and blog about a subject that caused me at least a couple sleepless nights full of stress. Closing on our new house. Why? Because it almost didn't happen.

The day before our loan closing on Thursday, I hadn't heard from anyone on the actual specifics such as time and place of the closing so I casually called up my mortgage broker and asked. Less than 24 hours before closing, I was informed that she didn't know if we would be able to close or not and couldn't give me any definitive reason as to why. She would call me when she knew more information. Thus began sleepless night number one.

I had all these grand schemes of cleaning the carpets with a rentable steam cleaner and possible getting some shelving erected or painting done over the four days between closing and moving. I had movers paid a retaining fee, utilities scheduled to be connected and mail swapped over to the new address. I had basically several weeks of legwork completed for this day and now I was being told that it might not happen. My mind was spinning with the possibilities and none of them good.

Also, not to be entirely selfish, the person selling me this house was counting on this closing on Thursday so that he could turn around and close on his house, that he had already moved into, the following day with the owners who were flying in specifically on Friday and would be returning by airplane the following morning. So at least three families (not counting the people I am selling my house too) had significant time and money wrapped up into this loan happening on Thursday, two and a half months after I had been told that it was approved and we were just waiting for the closing day to arrive.

Thursday morning came and went with no word from the mortgage broker. I tried calling several times in the afternoon but only got her voice mail and nobody at the bank could tell me if she was definitely there or not. So after a call home, my wife dug up a cellphone number that she had handwritten on her business card and I called that. She answered. She told me she didn't know what was the problem, she couldn't get hold of the underwriters and that she essentially didn't know anymore than she had the day before. She would get back to me on Friday morning. Cue sleepless night number two.

Friday morning my wife called the corporate office and was told that the mortgage broker should know everything. So when I hadn't heard from her by late morning, I again called her cellphone. Again she claimed to know nothing and that she would get back to me when she did find out more. By two in the afternoon on a Friday, I still hadn't heard anything and I knew that it being Friday afternoon, things were slipping to the point where the closing wouldn't happen until next week. I was starting to get frantic. I tried to call one more time only this time, the broker didn't answer her cellphone.

So I did the only thing I could do. I went home, collected the wife and checkbook and drove to the bank. Halfway there, she finally made first contact to say she still didn't know much and started hinting that the closing might be Monday at the earliest. I told her that we were in route and we could talk about it in about fifteen minutes.  As soon as we walked into the mortgage department, the broker came out to say that she was still trying to contact the underwriters via email and they hadn't responded. She said that we could go about our business and she would call just as soon as she heard from them. I politely said that I was fine just where I was and that I had brought a book to read until she heard word. I wanted her to see me every time she looked out her office window. Indeed as she walked out of her office a couple times, she couldn't help but see us in the holding area and suddenly she seemed to be working the phones (instead of the email) pretty hard. To make a long story a bit shorter, it worked. 45 minutes later, we had a closing time of 4:30 pm.

Several times throughout this whole ordeal, we had heard many different answers as to what had happened. The first was that because my wife was starting her new job more than 30 days away from closing, (a fact all have known for several months) As we were signing the last of the documents, the truth finally came out. Despite having our documents for a full six weeks, she had only submitted them for our loan three weeks ago, just as the underwriter left for a two week vacation.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Getting Around Customer Service

In preparation for our upcoming move, I had a whole list of places I had to call to arrange for services, stop existing services or change billing addresses. It was a daunting list and since I only had about a half hour every evening after work before the end of normal business hours, I really had to work hard to get them all in. So when I got home a couple weeks ago and decided I would cancel the newspapers because they would be easy to do and then move on to something else, I was in for a surprise.

The first newspaper I called is our state newspaper The Des Moines Register and they have a complicated phone menu where you have to speak your responses and go through three or four sub menus to get to the place where they put you on hold for the next available representative. In my case, the correct representative worked in the Subscription Cancellation department and was evidently a very busy person.

I was put on hold and remained there for 20 minutes listening to the same upbeat and nauseating message over and over. There were now only ten minutes left in regular business hours and I suspected what has happened to me in the past with the same place was going to happen again. Whomever is supposed to answer the phone wouldn't and right at five, it would click over to the message informing me that the office was now closed and I needed to call the following day between their regular business hours. I mean, how many people can be cancelling their subscription at that very moment?

Well I suddenly thought I needed to change tactics so I hung up and dialed again. This time I went to the Accounts Questions representative. Back on hold. I was now down to five minutes before closing. Now wanting blood, I hung up and dialed a third time, this time to the New Subscription representative. My call was answered immediately. I'm guessing this is by design and a shameful business practice.

I half suspected that the lady who answered would say that she couldn't cancel my subscription and would need to transfer me to hold until someone who did those was available but she graciously and quickly cancelled it with no questions asked. It took all of a minute to do so. After the move I had been thinking of renewing my subscription to the Sunday only paper that I had just cancelled once things settled down but after this experience, I think they lost my business for good.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


I'm still without internet but then, I knew I would be until 1 until 5, whenever the Mediacon representative decided he wants to show up today. I can't believe in this day of age that they still can't narrow down the time anymore than that forcing me to take a half day off from work just to await their arrival. It is not the missed time I am worried about but the fact that if I have to stay home a half day, two days after we were moved, that means I will spend a half day of hard labor unpacking boxes. That is a sentence I would wish upon no man.

We moved from the only town in the world, I think, that was completely wired for fiber optics. That meant that we had options to the traditional Mediacon route of getting hooked up for television, phone and internet. Not only was our local fiberoptic provider cheaper, but the service worked almost flawlessly the entire time I had it and if I had a question, it was answered by a telephone operator located... *gasp* on the north side of town. It was awesome.

Unfortunately their service doesn't extend to our new house in the new town which means we are back to one choice and it isn't much of one. My biggest complaint was that with Mediacon, I can't get basic television anymore. If I do, it costs me more than their packaged deals. Their internet is published at 15 Mbps but from past experience will be more like 2 or 3 Mbps which is slow compared to... and I'm going to seem spoiled when I say this... 100 Mbps that I was used to with fiberoptic lines. The phone seems like the same as what we had before but based on past experiences, it will go out frequently with the cable, will be out for a week at a time until they can schedule a representative to come for a visit and only if I block out four hours of my life in the morning or afternoon to await their call.

A new ploy since I gave up on Mediacon many years ago due to their poor service is to automatically add in all these services you don't want into your 'bundle'. They gradually faze them out over the next two years and add them into your bill if you don't remember to call them and cancel them first. I tried but you can't cancel them out of the gate because then you lose the bundle status and it costs you way more. That company can best be described as a legal con which is why I always call them Mediacon.

But out here, I don't have any other monetarily appealing choices and so this afternoon between one and five, I will be at home slaving away at unpacking boxes until my Mediacon representative graces me with their presence.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Moving Day

Well if everything went as planned, (I'm writing this a week ahead of time before I started packing up my computer) we closed on our new house last Thursday Friday and are frantically finishing our packing before the movers show up here in a couple hours. Today, we are being moved lock, stock and barrel to our new home in a town about 20 miles from here. My plan is to have most of our technology backbone , i.e. television and computer, unpacked sometime tomorrow and set up so that hopefully when the cable, phone, internet installer shows up on Wednesday, I will be back in business but perhaps still living out of boxes. This is the reason I am writing this in advance to cover that black hole of three or four days I will be out of communication with the world. Though I have a wife, daughter and mother-in-law who will be home all week, I'm still guessing we will be living out of boxes for some time to come. When you go from huge built in bookcases to none, there are always going to be things with no homes for awhile. Thus will soon start the new chapter of my life where the honey-do projects begin.

Addendum: I scratched out Thursday and changed it to Friday though it was noon on Friday at the time and I still hadn't yet closed thanks to a loan officer with her head so far up some bodily orifice she can almost see sunshine out her teeth. Just when I thought things were on easy street. But more about that at a later date. Hopefully the loan still went through, we still closed and we are still moving today.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Black Madonna Shrine and Grottos

Trying to salvage a trip that had been marginal to date, we headed west of St. Louis to Eureka, Missouri and home of the Black Madonna Shrine and Grottos. It was good and bad news. The good news is that we had the place entirely to ourselves. The bad news was that is was too hot to really linger and get the full effect.

We wandered around taking pictures of the various grottos and admiring the handiwork. At the very end, while looking at the shrine of the Black Madonna under and open air building, I saw a sign on the gift shop that said it was open but if locked, ring the buzzer. It was locked, so I did. Out of a nearby shack popped a monk who cheerfully welcomed us and ushered us into the gift shop. There in the cool air conditioning, we chatted for a long while and I learned more about the grottos.

In 1927, Brother Bronislaus from Poland immigrated to the area and for 23 years, worked on building these grottos and the shrine to the Black Madonna all by his lonesome until the day he died. The monk who told me this joined in 1962 when there were over 100 other monks and he was still there though today, there were less than five monks running the place. The monk I talked too, who coincidentally wasn't under some vow of silence, sounded pretty discouraged about the direction of the Catholic faith and didn't seem hopeful that there would be anymore monks to take care of this place after his generation died off. It will be a great shame if that happens and the place falls into ruins.

The grottos were all made from local tiff rock and were extremely intricate. I have dozens of pictures of various closeups of gems, sea shells and various other items nestled within the various cavities in each grotto but I haven't posted them all. You will just have to go see them yourself. I skipped quite a few open areas that I could see from a distance but didn't have the heart to hike too in the heat and I missed the Nativity Grotto in the process which seemed like one of the more spectacular ones from the online picture of it. But that is okay because I really would like to go back and spend more time there when the temperature is more seasonable.

Assumption Grotto

Our Lady of Sorrows Grotto

Gethsemane Grotto

St Peter, James & John Grotto

St. Joseph's Grotto

St. Francis Grotto

Overview of the area that contained most of the grottos
Close up detail. The monk told me that lots of the shells and gems found on the grottos were brought back from fellow brothers on missionary work.

More detail

Stone pot and flowers

Shrine to the Black Madonna

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Finding My Religion

St. Ambrose Catholic Church, The Hill District
 The last time we spent a weekend in St. Louis, we went to a historic Basilica down by the river near the St. Louis Gateway Arch. We really liked the place so on Sunday morning, we set off to go to it again. It was only after we were close that it hit me that it might not be open since it was in the middle of the festival that we ran into the other day. But by the time I had this thought, the exit off the freeway to it was upon me and it was blocked off, along with the next one. So by the time I was able to exit, I was a ways upriver of the Basilica and it took quite a bit of time to navigate my way through the city streets back to the right area.

When I did, I realized that the parking lot was blocked off and full of vendor trucks though there appeared to be several people standing near the entrance to the church. So I went around the block a couple of times widening my search and eventually parked in an underground motel parking lot several blocks away. We booked it to church reaching the doors all hot and sweaty only to see a sign saying that the eight o'clock mass had been cancelled. Dang.

So we headed back up towards our hotel where we would later need to check out and pulling a church out of the GPS at random, pulled up to St. Ambrose Catholic Church in the Hill District of St. Louis. Long time readers might recall it is in this same area three years ago, during a much cooler time of the year, I was pointed towards Cunetto's House of Pasta. I didn't have the address of Cunettos with me but I do know I was close. Since we were early to the nine o'clock mass, I found myself taking more pictures of the architecture. You just don't find that kind of work very often in my neck of the woods.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Beer Architecture

When hosting people at our house, my wife and I have a standardized array of sights that we take our guests to give them the flavor or SE Iowa, the entire state of Iowa and the Midwest region. The latter one usually involves a trip to one of the major metropolitan areas in states surrounding ours. So with two Londoners and a native from the Philippines in tow, we set off for the big city of St. Louis Missouri a little over a week ago.

The first obvious thing was that we picked the wrong time temperature wise to go. It was hot and in fact set a record of 107° F on the Saturday we arrived. This also must have been our first trip there during the summer because everyplace we went, with the exception of the last thing was packed. Our first stop at the Gateway Arch was thwarted by some sort of musical festival going on. A band was playing songs to hundreds if not a thousand or more empty seats. Most of the people not in the shade well away from the band were standing in a massive line to go into the underground museum... that was air conditioned. We declined and moved onto our second stop which was Pappy's Smokehouse. I have been there twice before and it is basically this tiny place with a half dozen picnic tables inside for sitting and it has been largely deserted despite the outstanding barbecue they serve. On this day when we stopped, there were perhaps a hundred people waiting in line outside just to get inside. So after a quick stop at a small, thankfully well air conditioned and largely empty pub up the hill a ways, we headed to our third stop of the day, the brewery.

It too was packed and we had to get a ticket and wait an hour and a half to get on a tour that left every ten minutes. On all my previous visits, there were few enough people you simply got on the next tour that left every half hour. However since we had struck out twice already, we stayed the course and bided our time until our tour. This was probably my 4th or 5th time I had taken the tour over the years and it still is the same one I remember taking way back in my early days of college when I couldn't even legally drink yet. Perhaps it is because I have taken the tour so many times that the process no longer impresses me but I find myself focusing on the architecture of the 100 acre sight. Everywhere I look there seemed to be something noteworthy to photograph but due to the bright sun, not everything could be photographed right then. But I did end up with quite a few architectural type photos that I thought I would share.

Chandelier in Clydesdale stables

An unknown to me building. I liked the way the date stood out on top.

Large stone building with narrow windows

Just loved the brickwork that was everywhere.

Chandelier in the building where they boil the wort
Adolphus Busch was big on bricks and eagles because they are everywhere.

Foxes are common too. If I remember right this one is named Bevo and was the mascot of prohibition beer... now thankfully defunct.

Wall sconces

More Bevo

Friday, July 13, 2012

On the Trail of Joseph Baker: Part Four

Robert James Chicken formerly known as Robert James Baker son of Joseph Baker

My last stop of the day was to spend some time with a Chicken. Readers may recall how I finally discovered the Chicken connection to the Baker family a couple years back and last year in an effort to discover a clue I tracked down some descendants of the Chicken family. Eventually I was put in touch with Shirley Chicken whose grandfather had been Robert Chicken, formerly known as Robert James Baker, son of my 3rd great grandfather Joseph Baker and younger brother to my 2nd great grandfather John Henry Baker.

The Chickens had always known they were connected to the Bakers somehow but never exactly had all the connections. I had been able to fill in those connections and made the promise to stop by and visit them when I was in the area. I knew they wouldn't be able to help me in my quest to find Joseph Baker but I had hoped that through them I might glean a clue or more context on the family. After visiting with Shirley for a couple hours, I think I was able to do both.

Shirley's grandfather Robert Chicken married his adoptive father's granddaughter Viola Proctor whom Shirley remembered well and who also swore that Robert was never a Baker. However she mentioned that her Aunt 'Nell' who was Robert's older sister Frances Ellen Baker swore that this wasn't the case and that she had proof in the family bible. This is a great clue but unfortunately Frances never had any children and so I really don't know what happened to it. I have tried tracking down descendants of other siblings of hers but have failed in finding it thus far. Who knows, perhaps it will turn up someday and by typing all these blogs, someone will find it and offer to return it.

Shirley and I were also able to piece together that more than likely, Robert Chicken/Baker may have harbored some resentment about his adoption. Because he was only seven years old at the time of his father's death, I'm sure being given away to a family two counties over may have been traumatic and one memory he carried with him throughout his life. His son may have absorbed some of this for he disappeared from his family early in their lives and Shirley never really knew her father until she discovered one day through genealogy research that he was dead but had possibly been nearby as she and her siblings moved throughout the country during their lives. That certainly didn't help in her determining the exact connection with the Bakers and the Chickens.

We had a good talk and since her car was in the shop, I drove her out to the local cemetery where I met with my 2nd great uncle Robert James Baker/Chicken. I also met his adoptive father also named Robert Chicken and found the site where Shirley and her husband plan to be buried in the future. All in all it was a good trip and I've developed a connection that perhaps one day will bear even more fruit than it has so far. I had plenty of things to think about as I made the long drive back home to southeast Iowa.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

On the Trail of Joseph Baker: Part Three

Street in Parkersburg, Iowa named after my 4th great grandfather
Henry Benjamin Wemple and found quite by accident.
I started off my morning with a quick stop to the courthouse to track down a record on Joseph's son changing his name back to Baker from Chicken, a story that I wrote about HERE a couple years ago. I had an article in the paper with the exact date the ruling was made in district court so I figured finding the information would be easy assuming it still existed. My hope was that there would be more information on the background on why the two Baker boys were given to the Chicken family after their father Joseph Baker died in 1882.

The first thing that struck me was that the courthouse in Black Hawk county is nothing like the one I am used to where I grew up. In the latter one, going to the courthouse meant walking in the open door to the correct room and asking the ladies (always female for some reason) what ever question I had. Black Hawk county made you go through a metal detector with armed officers stationed all around the area. Everyone including those appearing for court that morning, were required to funnel in to one desk to be 'processed'. Everyone else was appearing for their day in court and me in shorts, sandals and a T-shirt was way over dressed. I'm guessing appearing before a judge must be very dress casual.

I got processed and was told to head up to the third floor where I told one of the ladies working in the Clerk of Court office what I was after. She was young and immediately had to ask one of the more 'seasoned' looking ladies working in the back reaches of the office. The more seasoned ladies looked like they had better things to do than to answer questions for the young lady. I knew right then that my trip would be for naught. The young lady looked for awhile back in the records department but came back empty handed and said that I needed a case number to get any information because the name wasn't in the records. I gently tried prying to see if she had checked both names and where I might find a case number at but she essentially shut down and her body language showed she wasn't interested in helping me anymore. So I thanked her and headed out. As a genealogist, so many times your fate rests in the hands of others and they control the outcome of the meeting, so it wasn't a situation I was unfamiliar with but it was still disappointing.

I spent the rest of the morning stopping at various county genealogy collections across Black Hawk county and Fayette county where the Baker family first stayed when they migrated to Iowa. Although I didn't find any new information, I did learn some context of the time and area and left my mark. By leaving my mark, I mean I left my name and information in the family name file so that future seekers may find it and give me a call. In the Fayette county genealogy society, I found that the person who was my last stop of my trip had been there and left her mark. Had I not known her prior, I would have immediately called her to swap family lore information. As it was, I was scheduled to do that in less than a half hour.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Cultural Bathroom Differences

Sharing your home with three people from a radically different culture requires lots of patience. As with any guest you have to play your part in being a good host, but sometimes you need to be prepared for anything, especially if you share a common bathroom.

For example, if your guests are used to not having toilet paper and are used to using a hand and water method of cleansing themselves, one might walk into a bathroom and find liquid all over the seat of the toilet. For a part germaphobe like me, it makes me want to scream EWWWWW and run screaming out of the bathroom. I have to keep reminding myself that it is just water as I clean it up and always try to remember that in the middle of the night, sitting it not something I want to do.

However, the hardest aspect of sharing a bathroom with someone from a radically different culture is the understanding of plumbing systems. In American culture, normal shower practice dictates that you shut off flow to the shower head before you turn the water off. Otherwise, the next person to take a shower gets in there, turns on the water and is greeting with an ice cold spray of water. In winter this can send you into the early stages of hypothermia before it has a chance to warm up. In summer, especially when your core body temperature is just shy of the melting point for steel because it is so darn hot, it can just about cause your heart to skip a beat or two or perhaps stop all together. I've missed more than a few beats of my heart over the last couple weeks.

Perhaps the easiest thing to get used to are the assortment of additional hygiene products with funny names that start competing with your hygiene products for limited horizontal space. Who names a soap Placenta?

Friday, July 6, 2012

On the Trail of Joseph Baker: Part Two

Joseph Baker's Grave
Greenwood Cemetery, Cedar Falls, Iowa
 I had visited Joseph Baker's grave about four years ago and remembered where it was but still I had a hard time finding it. At the time of my last visit, it had just been a gravestone with the same family surname as my 2nd great grandfather whom I had been researching at the time. My 2nd great grandfather was buried halfway across the cemetery but this grave had been close to my 2nd great grandmother. (Long story short, my 2nd great grandmother died very young and was buried next to her parent's eventual plot. My 2nd great grandfather remarried to a woman whom had been married many times and who would remarry after his death. As the story goes, the parents of his first wife didn't want his body anywhere near their daughter and thus his location halfway across the cemetery all by his lonesome... sort of anyway. He is buried next to the husband of his older sister who remarried and presumably didn't want to be buried there any longer.)

Back to my story though, I finally found my 3rd great grandfather Joseph Baker's grave though it wasn't quite in the area I had remembered and it was turned in a different orientation. Never-the-less, it was there sans GAR marker that had been there the previous time, and still in fairly good condition. As I normally do, I had a short conversation with Joseph with me doing most of the conversing and told him that if he had the power, to steer me in the right direction so I can find his ancestors and honor them too. I'm still waiting for that signal.

My main goal of visiting the cemetery was to spend more time at the office at the base of the hill to see if I can finagle more information from them about Joseph. As you can see from the picture below, he is buried off by himself though some remnants of past grave stones poke up here and there near him and I wanted to learn who was buried in his immediate vicinity. I also wanted to see if there was anyway to narrow down his death date other than an entire year. Unfortunately, the office had moved a few miles away from the cemetery and so I sped over there before it closed down for the day.

The people there were really helpful and I was able to look through their index book of graves and found a few more locations of relatives that I had yet to visit. Unfortunately, it wasn't put together in a way to allow me to find out who was buried next to Joseph without painstakingly going through several thousands of records and cross referencing them to a map. They also had no other records of dates other than what was on the index cards and the index books. All other records were long gone or never existed. So I thanked them anyway and let them have the last fifteen minutes before closing to themselves and I headed back to the cemetery to visit the graves.

I found the grave of my 3rd great grandmother and wife to Joseph Baker, Frances Bolton Baker Heppenstall where she is buried next to her second husband Thomas Heppenstall and their daughter Lena Heppenstall. Records said she had no marker but she did. It read simply Mother. I also tracked down the graves of my 2nd great grandparents on their respective sides of the cemetery and my great grandparents up on top of the hill. The only grave that I was unable to locate was Joseph Baker's youngest son Charles Baker who wasn't where the information said he was or that I had misinterpreted the map. That I will have to figure out on a future trip.

I made one last stop at the bottom of the hill on my way out of the cemetery to spend a few more moments with Joseph Baker, his grave now in the shade of a nearby tree. With the exception of one completely unreadable stone, the next closest grave is that of his daughter-in-law whom he probably never met since the son who would marry her was only 11 at the time of Joseph's death. It is a peaceful spot and I guess if one must take secrets with you to the grave, as good a spot as any.

The View of Joseph Baker's Grave from the Grave of
His Daughter-In-Law Whom He Never Met

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

On the Trail of Joseph Baker: Part One

Civil War Verteran: John Henry Wemple's Grave
Oak Hill Cemetery, Parkersburg , Iowa
Despite my busy schedule, I was able to go up north last week for a couple days to do a genealogy trip that I have wanted to do for a long time. The last time I had it planned an F5 tornado ripped through the area I was headed a week before I was scheduled to leave. I decided to postpone things until they settled down a bit and before I knew it, four years had passed me by. This trip came during a dangerously hot heat streak going on which made things interesting. If I left my car for anything less than thirty seconds, I came back to a bake oven that cooked my hide for the next ten minutes until the car cooled back down. If I left the car running while I took a quick picture, it would howl in protest and quickly start overheating. It was hot and that is the understatement of the year.

This trip was to follow the migration in reverse of my 3rd great grandfather Joseph Baker who died at age 35 and left me with a genealogical brick wall that I have yet to solve. I know less about him than most of my more distant ancestors. The last and also only census record I have of him had him living in Parkersburg, Iowa, site of that F5 tornado four years ago. As I pulled into town, the signs of the tornado that took a large chunk of the town away were gone but left behind was a massive swath of new buildings and houses. There were also no mature trees. I could only imagine the horrors of that day.

Since it was still early, I pulled into the local graveyard and after a little searching, found the grave of my 3rd great grandfather and Civil War veteran John Henry Wemple whom I wrote about recently. I also found the grave of Willard Bond Card and wife Ester Hall who were my 4th great grandparents along with other assorted Cards, Halls and Wemples. I also found a couple Bakers which I noted and photographed as possible leads to check out in the future when I have a chance.

With fifteen minutes until the library opened up, I stopped in at an antique shop down the street to kill the time and ended up spending 45 minutes there talking with the owner. I had a hard time getting out of the store because the man was starved for attention. In the end, I bought an old canning book for a dollar with recipes in it that you just don't see anymore and made my exit. The library ended up being a quick stop because as my research had hinted at, they didn't have much in the was of genealogical records so I headed off to a town across the county which my research showed had them. It did but unfortunately when I arrived there, the library was under total reconstruction including the basement where the records were located. The kind lady there made several trips down there since it was off limits to me and brought back some stuff but it just doesn't beat being able to snoop down there yourself and turning up some random things that you didn't know about.

So I confined myself to a microfilm reader upstairs and skimmed through a years worth of the local paper trying to find something on Joseph Baker's death. Perhaps due to the time constraints I had to limit my search to the part of the paper on local news or perhaps due to the extreme heat in the room since the library air conditioner was under construction as well, I didn't find anything other than a microfilm reader can heat up an already hot room by another ten or fifteen degrees in the space of a couple hours. So disappointed, I set off east to Black Hawk County and Greenwood Cemetery.

John Henry Wemple's Final Resting Spot
Oak Hill Cemetery, Parkersburg, Iowa

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Icing On the Cake

Well the graduation went off without a hitch. It was a suit and tie affair according to my wife though I would say there were a full third of us men in shirts and ties with no suit coats. In married life, you choose your battles and I fought tooth and nail to not go buy a suit just for this darn party but I ceded part of the battle so I did wear a button up shirt and a neck choker. My reward for losing those battles was not buying a suit jacket. There was at least one fellow at the party that didn't even have a tie on. I would like to know what he gave up to pull that one off.

I'm out of my element at these kinds of events. This took place at a country club and it was full of people who obviously spent much time and money at such places. You can tell the look. I'm sure they could also tell that I was just a country rube that got in because of my wife and they would be right. Never the less, I wanted to enjoy the night and we did. We had a four course meal though I had to flag down a waiter because they forgot one of our courses, and the food was good. Then the festivities started.

Five different programs were graduating that evening and I think my wife's program was in the middle. They were also the largest program. The format seemed to be that each program and participants went on stage and their program director would introduce each graduate and tell the audience a bit about them before handing them their diploma. When all had been introduced, each program gave out a few awards to the graduates and the graduates to their teachers.  My wife didn't win the senior resident of the year award but I don't think either of us were surprised. It is mostly a popularity contest.

At the end of the night after the last program had gone back to their seats, the head hospital honcho came up for what I thought were the closing words. He did but before those, he had one more award. He started going into the qualifications of the award which was given to the top senior out of all programs who exhibited the best knowledge, best work ethics, the best patient interaction, etc. Call me cocky, but as he started reading through the list, I thought my wife had this one in the bag and I even rummaged around so that I had our camera in hand before the winner was announced. Unbeknownst to me though, this award always goes to one of the residents who has one the senior of the year award. So when the name announced, my wife was shocked and I just stood up so I could take some pictures of her accepting the award and the money, only this award came with a check, that came with it. I was one proud husband. I still am which is why I'm blogging about it.

There were lots of tears and hugging in our group after the ceremony wrapped up but eventually we had to stop because a steady stream of whose who amongst doctors and staff came by our table to congratulate my wife and let her know how deserving she was of the award. A few of them even congratulated me for allowing my wife to take three years of residency why I stayed home and held down the fort and took care of our daughter. I was and still am at a loss of words on how to respond to that since for me, there was no choice. Who wouldn't allow their spouse the opportunity to live their dream? Unfortunately most of them promised that they would stay in touch with my wife which means that I will most likely have to go to more of these parties and that means eventually I am going to have to break down and buy a suit that goes along with my neck chokers.

We finally worked our way out of the crowd and back home. Perhaps the best part of the evening was reading the copy of the nomination letter that won my wife her award. It only brought on more tears that someone actually sees my wife the way I have always seen her. Phone calls were placed and the celebration continued well into the night. If her graduating after three years was the cake, that award was the icing and man did it taste sweet. Now I have an additional project on my already lengthy summer list. I have a diploma and a top residency award to get framed for some walls of a hospital office later this fall.