IIIb: Flash Flood in Louisiana
Last March Matt and I went to Barksdale AFB for a week-long course for new commanders and their spouses. It was less vacation-like then one might think as a.) we were in separate classes from 7:30-5:00 the entire week b.) except for the day I came down with a deathly case of... food poisoning? Stomach flu? I was the only one there who got it, so who knows. Aside from that one lost day where I slept about 13 hours in a row in the daytime, we had a good time—the course was interesting, we got to eat out a lot like grownups with grownups, and there was plenty of BBQ and peach cobbler available throughout the week.
One night, however, was a little scary.
When we set out for dinner after a day's worth of class, it looked like this from our hotel. We stood there kind of in awe for a few seconds because it was just so green. And rainy. These are things we don't see in March in Wyoming (or April, or May...) Of course we didn't have umbrellas, so we just made a run for the car. The little itty-bitty rental plasticar. A Nissan Versa. This is important as the story continues.
We were headed to a restaurant called Ralph & Kacoo's, which was on a list of "you should eat there while you're in Louisiana" places someone told us about. I had my camera with me, even though Matt suggested I leave it in the hotel room that night (foreshadowing) because that's what I like to do. We set out on some sort of highway (details are sketchy by now) and the rain which was a quaint little sprinkle when we left the base started turning into—and I am not even kidding—Niagara Falls. The lightning was pretty awful, too; so bad that every time it flashed we were momentarily blinded and my Willis Startle Reflex let out an "OH My Goodness!" This is exceedingly unhelpful to someone trying to drive through the center of Niagara Falls in a Nissan Versa, by the way.
Just when we thought it couldn't get worse, it did. I kept repeating to myself the old wives' tale that we were safe because of our rubber tires. The rain was falling so hard by this point that it was as if we were out to sea just left of a major hurricane; and oh, did I mention that neither of us had any idea where we were because we are not from Louisiana. At this point, we decide we are lost and try to exit the interstate/highway to turn around.
Until we see the car at the end of the exit ramp floating in what looks to us like 129 feet of water. The man whose car is floating sideways jumps out and runs away clutching a cell phone; he is dressed in what looks like a restaurant server's uniform. His car is floating, and we're just kind of on the exit ramp. All I can think is "I am going to DROWN and my CAMERA is going down WITH. ME. WHYYYYYYYY DIDN'T I LISTEN TO MATT!!!" [Ed. note: that is in there for his benefit. Mostly.]
So. At this point Matt is trying to brainstorm ways we can float over the 129 feet of water and make it safely to Ralph & Kacoo's, wherever that might be—and I am testily encouraging him to BACK THIS VERSA UP. As in, get back on the strange interstate/highway, the one we were lost on to begin with. Because at least it isn't a fast-growing lake.
I won that one.
So, we back the Versa up. Have you ever backed up a car on an exit ramp in the midst of a storm of biblical proportions in a state you've never been to before? When you were already lost? And, might I add, extremely hungry? It is safe to say that we were both pretty shot nerves-wise at this point.
We get ourselves turned around on a more level exit ramp and work our way back through Niagara Falls until we think we are where we need to be. Except now roads are getting blocked because there are other 129 feet of water spots forming. We get lost in a rough-looking neighborhood in Shreveport for a bit while avoiding the road block, and then finally see the neon sign for Ralph & Kacoo's across the way.
And here she is, our sea-faring vessel. We did not drown or capsize or perish in any other manner that night, so I suppose we must begrudgingly thank Nissan for the Versa's... something or other. Chutzpah?
The food was fine. Perhaps not worth what we went through to eat it, but all in all, a good meal. And you could buy alligator heads in the gift shop, which is something we do not see every day. Or any day, actually. Louisiana is something else.
IIIa: Writing to Clare Vanderpool
Each morning when I read the newspaper (here, the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle) I often skip the obituaries but occasionally pick one or two to read. In June, there was an extremely long obituary published for a woman named Florence Esmay Howar, 1905—2011. I'm so glad this was a day I must have had a few extra minutes, because it was one of the most interesting obituaries I've ever read:
"Florence Esmay Howar, 105, of Cheyenne died April 8. She was born July 24, 1905 in Hope, Kan. She was the youngest of six children born to immigrant parents from Budapest, Hungary."
Already interesting. 105!! Born the year before our house was built and two years before my Grandma Watson! Youngest of six with parents straight from Hungary!
"After high school, she won a scholarship to Bethany College Conservatory in Lindsborg, Kan., majoring in voice and piano. After graduation she taught school in Moorcroft. In 1926, she married a career U.S. Army officer, Rhodolph L. Esmay (Rhody). He served in the Mexcian Border War, World War I European Theater and World War II and was Adjustant General of Wyoming for 35 years."
Seriously, a woman who died in 2011 and her first husband served in the U.S.-Mexican War? And, she went to college on scholarship.
"Florence was very civic minded. She founded the Cheyenne Military Wives Club, was a member of Chapter C.P.E.O., Cheyenne Music Study Club, Wyoming Militia Historical Society, board of directors of Women's Foundation of Composers and president of the Cheyenne Choral Society, which presented "Die Fledermaus," the first opera given in Cheyenne in 30 years. [note: Cheyenne used to be a huge opera town. Strange, but true.] She was a Red Cross volunteer and volunteered at the Wyoming Arts Council for 20 years...she was elected to serve on the National Federation of Music Clubs Board, representing Wyoming for 30 years....she was appointed Wyoming's chairman for the bicentennial program at the Kennedy Center..."
I'm tired just thinking about her calendar. The obituary went on to describe how she traveled all over the world, staying involved in the local music scene throughout her life. Oh, and she also walked two miles a day. She had two sons, two grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. She outlived both her husbands (1965, 1993).
Around the same time I read this I also had recently finished reading Clare Vanderpool's Moon Over Manifest, which won the Newbery medal for excellence in 2011. That story revolves around the town of Manifest, Kansas—once a vibrant town full of immigrants that had fallen on hard times by the mid-1930s. Ms. Esmay Howar seemed so much like someone that could have been a character in Moon Over Manifest that I decided to make a copy of her obituary and send it to Clare Vanderpool. Why not?
A little while after I sent off my letter, I received a handwritten envelope in the mail from Wichita, KS—a reply! From a Newbery author! I know, I know, she's a regular person—but still. NEWBERY. AUTHOR. It was all very exciting, especially to my extremely nerdy bookworm self.
She wrote a very gracious note, thanking me for sending her the story of this remarkable woman, saying "we should all live so well." Absolutely. Because in the end, this story isn't so much about crazy people who send off obituaries to famous authors, and more about the amazing life of Florence Esmay Howar: we should all live so well.
(She did say she's working on another book, though, hooray!)
When I did this project back in 2010 it primarily began as a blog-only project, where I posted my monthly photo collage with some notes and called it good. I'm going to continue that format here, because I like being able to get my photo notes done quickly before I forget them; on the 19th of each month I'll have an actual scrapbook page created to share over at The Daily Trumpet if you're so inclined : )
I decided to go with a "whatever happens" theme for today : )
1. Maddie and Gracie often begin breakfast preparation on their own these days; they had some scary bedhead in this picture though you can't get the full effect from this particular shot. It is always a flurry of "where's the brush?!" and "go get your hair things!!!" and "spray some water on that rat's nest" and so on in the morning. I am happy to report that they usually show up to school with neat hair, though I'm not sure it lasts longer than 49 minutes into the school day.
2. Gracie and her antelope friends walking to the bus stop.
3. After #1 and #2 are off (they ride different buses so we really keep track down to the minute what time it is in the morning) Bridget and I generally take a deep breath and start our "get ready for preschool" routine. We have about 45 minutes from the first wave of school prep until we need to go. Today was show-and-tell (or HOTEL as she insists it's called) and she brought her Groovy Girl doll to share.
4. Bridget loves her preschool teachers, as do we all. I realize this photo looks like something went terribly wrong with her arm at school (did it come unattached? Are they stretching her?) but it's actually the arm of the little girl partially pictured—they had the same shirt on today. Aside: Juliette! Get ready for the 5T clothes, because their days are numbered with Bee!
5. 26º out this morning but —a bazillionº with the wind chill. Is it too much to ask for a day that includes 20º, no wind, and 8 inches of snow? Apparently.
6. Uhm. Sometimes it's just downright weird to live on an Air Force base. This sign occasionally appears on a corner just by our house.
7. More antelope. They wanted to get in the Take Twelve fun, apparently. Don't worry, we were in the van. Though clearly, proximity to antelope has fallen off the list of most pressing concerns around here. See #2.
8. Maddie has to present her "All About Me" project tomorrow (she somehow drew the week in the midst of science fair prep, Antarctica/Australia final project week, and spelling bee practice month). I was tasked with the printing of the All About Maddie pictures. I may have ended up getting a little carried away on the number of pictures I printed for her. Ha. She also has a nice collection of objects to take in—kind of like a jackdaw for the life of Maddie. One of the special items is her newly acquired and prized Candy Shop Wars bookmark, signed by Brandon Mull. (We made a dummy duplicate for the school presentation so nothing would happen to her original).
9. At 2 pm Bridget and I packed up with the Anzac Biscuits I baked last night per Maddie's teacher's request for the Australia/Antarctica Open House and Tasting Party. We got to visit each student and hear his/her explanation of their personal Aboriginal art piece (that was pretty cool) and their original game. Then there was a great spread of Australian food for everyone to share. I avoided the vegemite (been down the road more than once, I'm fine thankyouverymuch) but tried everything else. [Jody! Do Aussies really eat a dessert thing called Frog Jelly?] I'll share the recipe I used for the Anzac Biscuits soon, because they were really good. And easy.
10. Gymnastics drop off, 5:30 pm. We drive to and from this building so much there are Dillow Van grooves in the road, just like the Oregon Trail.
11. Bridget and I sometimes run errands after gymnastics drop-off. Tonight: Target for Boring Things. 2012 is supposed to be the year where we do less Target for Fun Things You Didn't Even Know You Needed and more Target for Boring Things.
12. Gymnastics pick up, 8:30 pm. Maddie is now doing cartwheels on the competition beams and Gracie went over the table successfully for the first time tonight. Bridget recently announced she intends to be a Level 10 gymnast one day. As always, a big thank you kiss to Nicole. : )
Check out the 2012 Take Twelve Project at Ella Publishing Co.!
I love analyzing stats from the previous year—and since I started keeping a book journal in 1998 I can provide 100% accurate stats of what I've read. [Aside: I was reluctant to start a book journal back then because I was mad at myself for not having started sooner. I am SO GLAD I got over myself, because now I look back and have 13 years worth of personal, priceless record of something that's very important to me. Moral of the story: get over yourself (about whatever you're mad about not starting sooner) and start.] I've since moved my book-keeping to Goodreads, but am just as fanatical about keeping track.
After studying my reading stats from this past year I was surprised about a few things: first of all, I only read 35 books. Of those 35 books, 18 were jFiction and 6 were YA fiction. I reread three books, and awarded ten "five stars" (all three of the books I reread made the five star list). 8/10 five star books fit into that jFiction category. 35 books is on the very low-end of what I normally finish in a year, and while I am thoroughly enjoying all the jFiction I've been reading, it seems like I should be able to get through more when the books move a little faster. [Note: we read hundreds of picture books throughout the year, but I don't count those toward my yearly stats total.]
My only reading goal for 2012: read more than 35 books. : )
+ Annie Barrows appears twice; she wrote The Magic Half which Maddie and I read for her book club at school, and she completed the manuscript that her aunt, Mary Ann Shaffer, wrote but died before it was published (The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society). I might read it every other year until I'm 100.
+ I did not register that the cover of Sweetly had a witch's face on it until after I finished the book. Ahem. I also stink at Magic Eye pictures, or whatever they're called.
+ A camera plays a central role in The Luck of the Buttons. The end.
+ Rereads: Water for Elephants, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, and The Letter, the Witch, and the Ring. I am one of the biggest John Bellairs fans alive. It's interesting, because I really don't care for creepy things—horror movies, Stephen King books, the HBO show Carnivale (even the theme song of that show creeped me out) but John Bellairs, creepy as he may have been, struck the perfect balance for me. I am regularly surprised how few people seem to know his books.
+ 2011 might be the year of Frank Cottrell Boyce. It's funny, because I decided to read Millions this fall a few years after seeing and loving the movie; the book fell a little short for me—good, fine, but not amazing. The other two books of his I read, however, were fantastic. I actually photocopied the author's note from Framed so I could go back and read it/look some things up. And The Forgotten Coat is wonderful. A little sad, but in the end, just as it probably should have been. Wow. Lucky juveniles and their fiction.
+ The Penderwicks at Point Mouette was charming. Just as the first and second in the series were. Hurry up, Jeanne Birdsall!! We're impatient for #4!
+ Penny Dreadful was light, fun, and well-written. I think there is a small section of my brain responsible for judging books as I might have when I was 9 or 10, and this one rated well there.
The most unsatisfactory book I read all year was Modoc by Ralph Helfer. I enjoyed it immensely until I did some research when I finished and discovered IT WAS ALL MADE UP. Hmph. There's a category for that, and it's called fiction.
How about you? What were the best books you read in 2011?
We had a really successful year of music acquistion in this house; keeping in mind that I am the daughter of a man who tells stories about deciding to spend his extremely limited finances on music OR food in college (he was 140 lbs when he got married in 1965, so you might guess which one won out in that dilemma most often) it's important to note that we also had a relatively restrained year at iTunes. 25 EPs or full-length albums might not seem like restraint, but...
I say successful, but Matt really hates G. Love (rolling eyes) and I don't think that Strokes album is by any means as good as their older stuff (Matt rolling eyes at me). He doesn't fully get why I fell in love with The Asteroids Galaxy Tour within the first 15 seconds of hearing them on Wyoming Morning Music (but Bridget does—we regularly have dance parties to this EP while her sisters are at school) and we both kind of have resigned ourselves to Laurie Berkner. [insert big, long siiiiiiiiigh. You're fine, Laurie, it's just that we had to listen to Victor Vito approximately 981 times between Gracie's 2nd and 4th year, so, you know... siiiiiiiiiiigh]
But that's minor stuff. Truly, it was a good year. Here's a list of what's in the collage from left to right:
Edgar Meyer, Yo-Yo Ma, Stuart Duncan and Chris Thile The Goat Rodeo Sessions
Black Keys El Camino
Maps & Atlases Perch Patchwork
The Asteroids Galaxy Tour The Golden Age EP
The Wood Brothers Up Above My Head
Dan Zanes and Friends Little Nut Tree
Carolina Chocolate Drops & Luminescent Orchestrii EP
The Wood Brothers Smoke Ring Halo
Laurie Berkner Rocketship Run
Trampled By Turtles Palomino
The Avett Brothers Carolina Jubilee
Grace Potter and the Nocturnals eponymous
CAKE Showroom of Compassion
Ben Sollee Inclusions
Beastie Boys Hot Sauce Committee Part Two
Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three Riverboat Soul
G. Love and The Avett Brothers Fixin' To Die
Ron Sexsmith Long Player Late Bloomer
Foo Fighters Wasting Light
Prince Sign 'O' the Times
The Strokes Angles
R.E.M. Collapse Into Now
The Avett Brothers Mignonette
Eliza Doolittle eponymous
Black Crowes Croweology
We also collected a huge amount of stray singles—Matt is extremely good about making sure to check in on the free iTunes downloads of the week, and my dad frequently picks up Starbucks downloads of the week for us. The best single by far: The Black Keys' Ohio!
A few other music observations:
+ We only purchased ONE of Paste's Top 50 Albums of the Year this year. (Huh.)(#22, El Camino from The Black Keys)
+ Charles Bradley was mentioned (#21) on that list, though, and one of his songs is in the stray singles list... I do believe that Matt is documented somewhere on this blog pointing out how good he is.
+ Oh, how I love a good Appalachian murder/you done me wrong song. I don't know why I come by this affinity, but there you have it. I Killed Sally's Lover on Carolina Jubilee by The Avett Brothers is one of my favorite new (to me) songs of the year. Seeing them perform it live at Red Rocks = AWESOME.
+ I am still in mourning about R.E.M.
+ The Wood Brothers are slowly but surely creeping into my top ten bands of all time. I know. That's something.
+ Ron Sexsmith songs mostly sound alike to us, but we love them anyway.
+ Eliza Doolittle is a little out in left field in this collection, we know.
+ Have you watched the Pokey LaFarge Tiny Desk concert yet? I am STILL in awe thinking of the moment he opens his mouth to sing. Wait for it... wait for it... OH. MY. GOSH.
*Chinese New Year is January 23, so as far as I am concerned, it's still The Year of the Rabbit. Plenty of time to wrap up 2011 over the next few days : )
Commenter #16, who happens to be....
And to everyone else, the Take Twelve Project Guided Inspiration Kit is a great value—and on sale through January 12 (12% off). It is going to be fun, and I'm hoping you'll decide to play along!
My camera has mostly been on vacation this week (except for on Monday, when I somehow managed to pull off two photo shoots on the same day—a baby and an Eagle Scout) because Project 365 is complete! I wasn't entirely sure I was going to do it last January, but then January turned into February and I finally jumped off the fence and committed. I think I only used one pass (Sorry, I'm not counting my Hubble Telescope day as a pass) and unlike in 2008, I actually have the right amount of photos. Perhaps my math has improved?
Here are a few random observations after scanning through the album:
1. Everyone had really short hair for a lot of 2011. Well, Matt always does, but you know what I mean.
2. Goodness GRACIOUS we spend a lot of time gymnastic-ing in this house.
3. I am very sorry I took a picture of that moth on June 17. Please forgive me.
4. I love Instagram photos and I don't feel one bit guilty for using them.
5. Too bad we weren't really playing for prizes in Wyoming Weather Bingo. Because, BINGO.
6. This remains one of my most favorite projects to tackle, ever. Which is why I'm not doing it in 2012. A month-long photo-a-day is highly likely at some point, though. It's hard for me to believe I've been doing these photo-a-days for seven years come this November!
You know I have to have a project though, right? Well, here it is:
If this looks vaguely familiar, you're right—in 2010 I played along with the 12 on the 12th challenge where you take 12 photos on the 12th (or, er, the 15th or 18th) of the month. I posted all those photos here on this blog with notes, which made for a nice little project after a year of Project 365 + 1 and another year that involved a cross-country move.
While the concept is exactly the same this year, the supporting materials are completely new, because Angie (you know, Scary Angie/Not-Scary-Angie, Angie who occasionally visits from UT, Angie who owns Ella Publishing Co.) and I wrote them and turned them into this super-cool 83 page downloadable kit full of photo ideas, themed projects, lists, sketches, printables, and more! You'll also see some work from Donna Jannuzzi, Aly Dosdall and Lee Currie, who created sketches (Donna) and sample layouts (Donna, Aly, and Lee). Some of you will spot yourself in the photos, because with the exception of the sample layouts, all the photography is mine. I can't tell you how much fun it was to select photos to use, and it really reminded me of how valuable photographs are, for so many reasons.
I would like to convince everyone with a camera that a photography project is a valuable, worthy, and meaningful expenditure of your time. Here are some things to consider:
1. You don't have to be a scrapbooker to participate in a photography project—even this one. The only thing you need is a camera, and ideally, a place to store your photos (a blog, a journal, a photo album, or yes, a scrapbook) with a few thoughts about them handwritten, typed, or recorded.
2. If you are a scrapbooker, this kit has a ton of cool resources in it. And, if you're a digital scrapbooker, there are companion templates available for purchase that match the sketches in the main kit.
3. You do NOT have to be an intermediate or professional photographer to complete a photography project. All skill levels are welcome.
4. But here's the thing: the more photos you take, the better you get. I worked really hard to think of unique, sometimes challenging, and creative ideas for photo-taking for the monthly photo checklists that appear in the kit, and the more you practice taking unique, sometimes challenging, and creative photos the more unique, provoking, and creative photos you'll get.
5. It is absolutely possible to simultaneously participate in the Take Twelve Project and Project Life, a Project 365, or any other wonderful photography projects available to tackle out there.
6. It is also A-OK to focus just on this one and take a breather from bigger, more complex projects.
7. You don't have to start on January 12; you might decide to play along with this project beginning in your birthday month, or randomly in March, or in 2013. The ideas are flexible.
8. You don't have to own a DSLR to participate. All cameras are welcome, including pink Fisher-Price kid cameras. All you need is a lens.
9. No one is grading you on your performance or checking to see how well you follow the "rules." If you decide to commit to this project, make it your own—use the materials for ideas, use your phone camera one month and your "fancy" camera another, let your children or nieces or nephews or grandchildren help you, whatever—so long as you end up with 144 photos of some sort (and pledge to do something with them, whether it's layouts or a photo album or a big wall size poster) you'll have succeeded.
10. Each month I'll be blogging about Take Twelve over at The Daily Trumpet, where there will be lots of ideas, encouragement, and even giveways each month. Projects are more fun (and hold you more accountable) in numbers, so consider encouraging a friend or group of friends to purchase a kit, too! If you act quickly you can purchase the kit for a 12% discount (get it?) until January 12, when it goes back to full-price ($20.12).
Or, you can win a kit right now! Just leave a comment about something photography-project-related... what you're up to in 2012, what you love about photography projects, or questions about how it all works. I'll choose a lucky recipient this weekend. I'd love to have you join in : )