Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Wanted: Lexus Quality Yugo Price!

With the Governor of Pennsylvania accusing the NFL of “wussiness” this week, I admit to a temptation to haul out the old “In my day . . . “ platitudes. There was a time my little ones when wind chill, bike helmets, and seat belts did not exist. Are we wusses for adopting scientifically proven safety supplements? Probably not.  But a side effect of our move toward added comfort and safety has been to magnify our expectations for a trouble free existence in spite of curves thrown by Mother Nature. It is our fickle, liability ridden, and irrational expectations that are the real issue.

I noted in my Christmas newsletter that I was an ornery, strong and independent cuss who didn’t like taxes, regulations, or big government of any kind. All I wanted from my government was “ good schools, smooth roads, national parks, efficient air traffic control, safe food and drugs, fast response from police, fire, and rescue services, a strong military, insulation from all terrorist threats without any inconvenience to me, and by the way, don’t you dare touch my Medicare.”

To that we must now add, “clean my streets of twenty-four inches of blowing snow by morning so I can walk my dog in comfort.” The obvious irony remains. We don’t want anyone to interfere with our lives or our pocketbooks until we have need of the services we somehow have been made to think we are entitled to without much cost or inconvenience.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Old Salem Will Never Get Old

My brother-in-law is an avid history buff and when we get together at their home, one of our favorite occupations, aside from debating politics, is to visit sites of historical significance in the Charlotte area. On our last visit we had an opportunity to visit Old Salem which is located just south of downtown Winston Salem, NC. 
You start your visit from the modern visitors center and then enter the preserved village over an mpressive covered bridge.  Almost immediately you are back in the America of the 18th and 19th centuries.

Lunch can be taken at the historic Old Salem Tavern where down home Moravian cooking is the speciality.

This is the reconstruction of the Single Brother's Workshop
 Many of the buildings feature costumed docents who tell you about the history of their location.

One of the most interesting areas is the Moravian cemetery where burials are by gender rather than by families.

Our Christmas Greetings to All!

Christmas 2010

Friends are the family we choose and we choose you to receive our 37th annual Christmas letter. Dorothy Parker once said about a piece of writing, “This is not a missive to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.” If you do that, however, you’ll miss my favorite pun of the year. I tried out ten puns on Jan to see which one made her laugh. Unfortunately No Pun In Ten Did.

Ouch! Chuck it away now, with great force, if you wish. I can take it. I’m strong and independent. I don’t like taxes, regulations, or big government. What do I like? Well I like good schools, smooth roads, national parks, efficient air traffic control, safe food and drugs, fast response from police, fire, and rescue services, a strong military, insulation from all terrorist threats without any inconvenience to me, and by the way, don’t you dare touch my Medicare. Nuff said! On to the year that was.

Family: Son David still toils in the IT department of Honeywell in Minneapolis and oversees his Minnesota Music Blog There were two major changes in his life this past year. The last of his cats passed away and there is a new female friend whom we hope to meet come Christmas. She is from Finland and he met her this past summer.

Politics again: Why does it seem that every time a politician opens his mouth it is only to change feet? Did you know when you send someone to congress you are depriving a village somewhere of an idiot?

Back to Family: Daughter Amy, her husband Todd, and our two grandsons, TJ and Mikel, reside in Iowa. Amy is still an elementary teacher, but Todd has a new job for a building supply company and is enjoying for the first time in several years the luxury of a position that is primarily indoors and has regular hours . Our oldest grandson is now 15 and a freshman in high school. He played a lot of baseball this summer, went to his first Homecoming dance this fall, and got his first deer just after Thanksgiving. The youngest is 8 and in 3rd grade. He likes science projects and loves to build things. Lego anything is tops on his Christmas list. Even though the economy is so bad that a picture is only worth 200 words now, I’ll include a few anyway.

The Thrower

No,  that big guy  is not standing on a box; he is that tall.

The Builder 

Information: Calories are bloody little bugs that get in your closet at night and sew your clothes tighter. We seem to have an infestation. How about you?

More Family: 2010 has been an up and down year for Jim and Jan. If you read last year’s note, you may recall that Jan had some health issues around Thanksgiving of 2009. This put our 50th anniversary celebrations on hold. We did make it to AZ in the early spring, but then Jan broke her wrist. By summer we had regained some momentum. Jan was doing better even though she could not golf while her wrist healed. Later in the summer we made trips to Cedar Rapids to watch our grandson play ball, did our traditional Minneapolis/Wisconsin swing to visit son David and friends around the twin cities and in La Crosse. Finally, in early August we headed east for two Road Scholar (formerly Elderhostel) sessions . We saw some old friends, and then settled down for two weeks of art, music, and theatre in the Berkshires. It’s a gorgeous area of the country. In October we headed to the southeast to visit my sister Nancy and some other friends in the Carolinas. A sail on Charleston harbor was a sightseeing high point. Details can be found at

Wisdom or what age teaches me: Don’t take yourself too seriously; no one else does.

Family again: We did keep up most of our continuing obligations during the year. Jan and her friend Lila Blum completed their 36th year as heads of the AAUW Art Presenter Program in Monmouth and Jan continues to serve on the Warren County Library Board. Jim remains on the Buchanan Center for Arts Board and runs a group called OFTA (Old Farts Talk Arts.) that enjoys programs once a month. He did retire this fall from his position as Director of Advocacy for the Illinois Theatre Association and was pleasantly surprised when he received the 2010 Member Award of Honor from the association.

 Final pearl-- “Life isn't always tied with a bow, but it's still a gift. Enjoy it."

And here we are. Christmas 2010 is nearly upon us. I am composing this and looking out the window at the first snowflakes of the year. It is, as Truman Capote said in A Christmas Memory¬ , “a leafless, birdless, coming of Winter morning”-- just the kind of day when you wish this tortured world could find more peace in more places. It is also just the kind of day to wish each one of you good health, joy, and the warm blessings of family during this Christmas season.

Jim and Jan De Young  with Flat Stanley at a Chicago Cubs pre-season game in 2010.  We look almost as bad as the Cubs played, but not quite.   Wait till next year!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Women's Rights Movement and Seneca Falls, NY

This past week "Don't Ask Don't Tell" joined the dustbin of history as our country continued to move haltingly but positively toward the development of a more perfect union.  Perfection is still a ways off, but for another group of folks the right to "pursue happiness" has been enhanced. I salute all those legislators who voted to give men and women of all sexual orientations an opportunity to serve their country openly and without hypocrisy.

My wife had similar thoughts of vindication this fall when she planned our visit to Seneca Falls, NY. to pay her tribute to America's Women's Rights pioneers.

Seneca Falls is an old Eastern river town and the shoreline is dotted with old mills--some reclaimed for new use and some long abandoned.  

Our destination was right on the main street where the building housing the Women's Rights National Historical Park is situated. 

 Inside are two full floors of exhibits that chart the history of women's rights. The lobby is dominated by a moving group of statues by Lloyd Lillie depicting some of the women and men who attended the first Women's Rights Convention in 1848.  Some are famous seminal figures like Sojourner Truth below or Elizabeth Cady Stanton herself  and some are representative of anonymous people who attended the convention, but did not sign the first Declaration of Sentiments.

Jan was particularly moved by the exhibits that dealt with inequities of education for girls over the years.

A small memorial park occupies the space between the museum and the re-constructed Wesleyan Methodist Chapel where the convention took place.

In addition to the Wesleyan Chapel just next to the museum, guided tours are available of Elizabeth Cady Stanton's house.  The National Women's Hall of Fame is also just down the street and can be visited. 

Friday, December 17, 2010

Charleston Planatations

Any visitor to the Charleston, SC area finds that visiting some of the old plantations that surround the city is de rigeur.  Our choices were Boone Hall and Middleton Place.  Both are steeped in history and have great natural beauty.

Boone Hall's original 18th century plantation house is long gone so the current mansion (built on the old site in 1936)  has to make do for the upper crust ambiance. But the signature sight at Boone Hall is the row of original slave cabins set off to the side of the main house.  These were the residences of the people who made the plantation function and they are outfitted with exhibits that provide a full history of the life of a slave as well as the development of the Civil Rights struggle in our country.

While the house, the fields, and the oak lined drive exude beauty, the emotional power lies in that little street of  humble cabins.   Enjoy these shots and see some more on my FlickR page for Boone Hall.

Oak lined drive leading to the main house

Boone Hall

Slave Cabins

Slave Cabin interior

Our second plantation visit was to Middleton Place about 15 miles northwest of Charleston.  It features hundreds of acres of immaculately landscaped gardens plus a part of the old house that dates from 1755.  Also featured here are working exhibits of the 18th and 19th century skills that were performed by the slaves. Our early morning visit produced some lovely photos.

Entrance to gardens

vie down to the river

One of the many ponds
Cypress Garden

Wild life abounds

Our guide for Middleton House was full of life and color
  See some more by clicking here.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Historic Charleston SC Has Architecture and a Glorious Harbor.

Our first visit to Charleston was a plus all the way. We had a good three day deal on a motel and the weather in the late fall was ideal according to several locals we talked to--not hot and not muggy. Armed with a finely detailed walking tour of the historic districts, we let our feet hit the street for almost five hours. The time period included a delicious and leisurely lunch midway at a sandwich shop that we happened onto. I can't do much other than offer you a little taste here and suggest that you check out the Charleston set on my Flickr Account for lots more shots of this remarkable city.

Basket Maker at the market

Old graveyards

The famous Dock Street Theatre

Fountains aplenty

Hidden garden recesses around almost every corner

George Washington actually did sleep here.

It is a city of many lovely churches.
If walking in the city is not your cup of tea, what would you say to a sailing tour of the glorious harbor that includes historic Fort Sumter, the WW II aircraft carrier Yorktown, and a bottom up view of the bridge?  A full series of annotated pictures of each of these sites can be accessed on my Flickr site.

Fort Sumter

Take your best shot
More Fort Sumter

Interior Ruins

The Yorktown is docked at Patriot's Point and can be toured.
More Yorktown

We hadn't been on a small sailboat in some forty-five years so our cruise down the river and under the bridge was an exciting treat courtesy of our good friend Captain Tom Kent.

Get aboard you lubbers!

Watch out for the big guys!

Hope this one isn't falling down cause we are going under it.

Going under the Ravenel Bridge

Right under the bridge

Captain Tom even let me drive for a while.   See the whole sail by clicking here.

Driving into the fall colors

When you get behind you get behind and when it's the blog that gets behind, you have to make some drastic decisions. So gone is the Minnesota trip, gone is the Peoria Zoo even though it was impressive, gone is Homecoming at MC, and onward to the Carolinas. It was fall and it was a feast or fest of color as we cruised down through Indiana and Kentucky and Tennessee.

We stopped in Greer, SC to visit friends

Carl Sandburg's farm is in Flat Rock near Greer and we stopped on a gorgeous morning.

More pics of the Sandburg farm and the road to Greer on my Flickr site.