The deafening roar of silence

That’s it. I’m officially an empty-nester. My husband and I were heading down to Memphis for Elvis Week a couple weeks ago, and on the way, we dropped off my son at his new apartment that he will share with his brother as he starts college. (He does drive, but his car is in the shop at the moment.) I knew it would be weird, but I didn’t realize how weird it would be to come home to absolute silence.

When I plan supper, my first instinct is to ask him what he’s in the mood for.

And he’s no longer there to answer.

When I go to the grocery store, my first instinct is to ask if there’s anything he needs.

But now he’s in his own apartment now and buying his own food.

I know this is a rite of passage – for both of us – but I never thought that it would be this difficult to adjust. I worry about him. I wonder if he’s eating right. I feel his anxiety for starting the first day of school and trying to find his classes. I wonder if he’ll meet friends whom he will keep in touch with for the rest of his life.

Above all, it is the strange feeling of bafflement that I raised two boys to adulthood. I remember when they were, say, 5 and 7 and graduation seemed light years away. In the blink of an eye, it’s all over. All the stress, all the running around, all the keeping 5,893 tabs open in my brain to keep track of all the kid stuff — it’s all over, for the most part. No more school conferences. No more Saturday wrestling tournaments. No more uncomfortable but necessary discussions about growing up and avoiding pitfalls of life. No more worrying why they’re not home at curfew. No more being the direct line of influence to their daily decisions. Now I am just a spectator.

I know all of this is just the familiar path of parenthood, but that does not mean it isn’t alien to me.

Here’s to new adventures – for all of us! <clink>


Randoms from a Tuesday

After a few years’ worth of use, my phone has finally started to tell me that it’s running out of space. I figured that it might — just might — be the dozens of videos that I had on my phone from all the various Elvis gigs I’ve gone to, so I started to sort through them this morning as I was sitting by the pond. Odd — after I started off my last post complaining about how JULY it was, we have been gifted with a week of mild weather. The temps at night have been getting down in the 60s, so the first thing I do in the morning is open the windows and throw the fans on. It’s almost like I complained and Mother Nature went, “Oh! Sorry . . . my bad.”

No, I do not think I have that much power.

Sitting by the pond this morning was quite pleasant. It was cool, there was no breeze, and it was just as perfect as it could be. I enjoyed not one but two cups of coffee out there this morning, trying to soak up the still and calm. Right now the flowers around the pond are almost all in bloom and the deer have largely left them alone this year – with a couple of exceptions – so I am enjoying the spray of colors. I have a few volunteer sunflowers this year that are growing and the tallest recently started blooming, so now I have a beautiful sunflower towering over the pond.

Never mind that yellow stuff all over the leaves. That is how I have been trying to combat the deer this year – with garlic powder and cayenne pepper. I sprinkle it pretty generously all over the yard and plants, and it seems to have worked, for the most part. The deer have managed to get some chomps in when I have gone too many days between applications, and I am sure the rabbits are responsible for their part of the damage as well. However, this sunflower adds a nice little element to the pond, and I hope it stays blooming for quite some time.

So . . . as I was saying before, I was cleaning off my phone and marveling at the vast array of stuff I have accumulated over the past year or so. I deleted a healthy bunch of it, but there were a few snippets in there that I thought were worth sharing.

Snippet #1: Reflections of history

This last school year as I was standing in the break room, making copies, I looked down and was amused by this ancient box of tacks that was sitting with the rest of the supplies. I am a geek for old fonts and just old office supplies in general, so I picked it up and thought vaguely about permanently “borrowing” it – until I remembered that I had about 82954 tacks in my desk drawer already that randomly spill out all over the place and annoy me. So, no. Here’s the box:

But the best part is when I turned the box over. If I had any doubts that these tacks had spent decades shoved in the back of a supply closet somewhere, those disappeared in no time:

WEST Germany. Also, packed in the USA. Now you KNOW they’re ancient.

Snippet #2: Tell me you’re not a native speaker of English without actually telling me you’re not a native speaker . . .

I received a box of Instant Pot accessories for Christmas because I love, love, LOVE my Instant Pot. The accessories came with a book of recipes that I have a vague suspicion were not written by a native speaker. Don’t worry – I have proof:

I know the directions are cut off, but you can see that for the most part, they use pretty good English. How, then, did no one proofreading this booklet know that “bailecue” is not a word? Also – a 1/2 pound of ribs? Is this for a party of one?

The non-mysteries continue:

Oh, the important of spacing. How many poor, inexperienced souls have spent way too long in the baking aisle, looking for “chuck roast flour”?

But, wait! There’s more! For the low, low price of $19.95, you get THIS:

First, the phonetic spelling of Por Kloin. But that’s not even the worst of it:

THIRTY-FOUR POUNDS of chuck roast!!!!

At least they got the spacing right this time.

Want more? OK, get ready for this scrumptious dessert:

One of these things is not like the other. Heck – NONE OF THESE THINGS should go with the word “shellfish.”

Just in case you needed a side dish for any of these wonderful meals, may I suggest the following?

This is how one might pronounce “steamed vegetables” if a person held his head over a boiling pot of water for a few seconds and then had to speak immediately afterward.

Snippet #3: They Don’t Make Things the Way They Used To . . .

I moved into my house in 2000. The entire time I’ve lived here, the closet that is at the end of my hallway has had the same light bulb, and that is not because I’ve been trying to save it by responsibly turning the lights off after I was done digging in there for something. Year after year, I would marvel at how the light bulb lasted and wondered if I should start placing bets as to when it would finally go dark.

This last winter, the light bulb finally died. I took it down and looked at what kind it was.

Beauty Tone, eh? Well, I was intrigued at what sort of marvel of modern engineering created this wonderfully long-lasting bulb, so I did a little Googling. It turns out that Beauty Tone bulbs were designed to put everyone in the best light – no pun intended. Here’s an ad for that brand:

I mean, I guess I kind of get what they’re going for, but does one have to plan ahead for the mood that one wants for a room, or was it done on the fly? “Excuse me, Percy, but must change the bulb now before I slip into something more comfortable . . .”

All I know is that those light bulbs were the absolute bomb when it came to lasting forEVer, and they need to be made again.

I also love how the blue light gets a hoity-toity name – Beauty Tone Aqua – and the yellow gets to be “Candlelight,” but the last one is just “Pink.” Someone in the marketing department dropped the ball there. BIG TIME. Sunset Rose. Blushing Bride. Dainty Dusty Rose. Bubble Gum. Flirty Lip Gloss. Modesty Mauve. First Kiss. I mean, I could go on and on.

Hey, Westinghouse? If you ever do bring these lovely bulbs back to life, I’m your name gal.


Slogging through July

July finally showed up in all of its, well, Julyishness. This week has been full of high humidity and temps (along with random thunderstorms that pop up) and it’s been more fun to stay inside than out. I have done my best to try to stick with my exercise routine – getting up and walking about 6 a.m. before the heat really sets in and getting 2-3 miles in. It’s usually these walks when I get to spot the best wildlife. Fawns abound this time of year, and I enjoy seeing them – that is, when their mothers are not fixated on licking every last bit of seed out of my bird feeders.

I have never been one to be really consistent with keeping a bird feeder full, but this year I went all out and purchased one of those multi-tier feeders with hooks, spikes, and dishes for all sorts of food. In the spring, I put orange slices out for the oriole, and they seemed to love that until they moved on to greener (juicier?) pastures. Now I fill the majority of the feeders with a standard ol’ variety of bird seed, then I fill the dish and one feeder designed like a schoolhouse with what I call the “good” food. I suppose it’s like the people who love nugget ice, calling it “the good ice.” This food is spendy (at least to me, it is), but the birds love it. Each morning, I take a red Solo cup and fill each feeder with one cup of food. After that, I sit back and watch the influx of birds as they flock in for their all-day grazing party. I desperately need a bird book, for my bird-identifying skills are limited, but I know I have the standard variety of Iowa birds, such as blue jays, cardinals, cowbirds, mourning doves, woodpeckers, and a bunch of little tiny brown birds that I have not identified but are probably some type of wren or sparrow. Oh, and the squirrels. Don’t forget the freaking squirrels. So far, the squirrels are pretty content to sit on the ground and eat the leftovers, but there’s one that I call “fatty” that likes to try to scale the pole and get up to the cup where I keep the “good” food. Fatty also likes to chase away any other squirrels that dare to venture close while he is enjoying his meal. Fatty is a brown squirrel, but there’s one little gray squirrel who seems to walk everywhere rather than hop (which makes him distinctive), and every time he comes creeping up on the buffet, Fatty chases him away. At least, I think it’s a him. I might want to read up on the gender identification of squirrels while I’m looking up various bird species.

Anyway, the bird feeding station is a hit, and sometimes I just sit and marvel and how busy it is. Birds, squirrels, and bunnies move in at various times of the day, and sometimes they’re all there at the same time. All it takes is one blue jay to make the birds scatter, however. Then it’s “big gulp” time for that dude. I am amused at how they will go to the dish of “good” food and just wolf it down like they’ve been starving for days.

I have thought at times that it would make for a relaxing live video to shoot the bird feeding station with the pond gurgling in the background. And then I remember that my A/C unit is right next to there, and during this time of year that is all that would be heard on the video.

Despite the heat this week, it has been fairly pleasant at night, especially once the sun ducks behind the trees surrounding the property. The other night, as the clear sky reflected lightning from a tower of storm clouds 40 miles away, I sat outside for a few moments around 11 p.m. and listened to the pond while my hyperactive dog took one last gander around. It was quiet, and it was humid enough to make sitting there pleasant, and I reminded myself that sometimes it is important to take these little moments of zen. My crappy cell phone does not do the best with nighttime pics, but this gives you an idea of what my view was.

A month from now, I’ll be back in the classroom, and these moments of zen will be more important than ever.

Cheers to the rest of July!


1200 miles later . . .

Since I started my last entry with the mileage I had just traveled, I figured I would do the same. This last weekend involved a trek to Michigan – Belleville, Michigan, to be exact. This was an outdoor Elvis fest that got rained out for part of Friday, but was able to recover and keep going that night and into Saturday. The last time I attended this fest, it was nearly 100 degrees and high humidity that was just plain miserable. This year, the rain provided a much-needed gift in the form of mild temps and moderate humidity.

All in all, it was a fun weekend, but a long freaking drive. Construction was everywhere – especially when we were on I-94 in Michigan. It seemed to be pretty much constant. And while we are on the subject of road construction, can someone please help the crews in Joliet, IL, fix I-80 so it’s not just a constant landmine of potholes and bumps? Unreal. A few months ago, I had to have a cracked wheel replaced, and I am fully placing the blame for that on that stretch of road. I hate driving on it at night because you can’t see the potholes until it’s too late; then you go over them and pray that nothing is broken on your vehicle.

It’s an expensive summer to travel. Usually I do not bat an eye when it comes to filling up on gas, but this summer I feel like I’m in a horror movie every time I see the prices outside of Iowa. I’m not saying Iowa prices are stellar, but they are better than the ones in Illinois by far. Here E-85 is at least a dollar+ below what regular unleaded prices are. In Illinois, it might be a few cents cheaper, but it’s no bargain. Call it simple denial, but I cannot bring myself to fill up my tank completely when I am in Illinois. I will put a few dollars’ worth in and then repeat the routine until I am back in Iowa.

OK . . . can we talk about the Elvis movie? Spoiler alerts abound here, so if you haven’t seen it yet, stop reading. I’m going to see it for the 3rd time tonight, and so far I’ve been blown away by Baz Luhrmann’s creativity. I know the critics have complained that it’s not a true biopic and that Baz stretches the truth on some parts, but that does not bother me in the least. What he captured on screen was a beautiful life being squandered by drugs, abused by narcissists, and unappreciated by the throngs of people around him. Did Elvis really fire the Colonel from stage at the Hilton? No, but he did go on plenty of other rants on stage, and he did try to fire the Colonel at various times of his life – just not on stage. Baz just combined the rants + the firing, showing how volatile Elvis’ moods were at times, especially toward the end. Was Priscilla the only woman in his life? Obviously, no, but since Priscilla was one of the people who met with Baz and shared her knowledge of Elvis, it was not likely that she would have given the green light for other women to share her spotlight in his life. After all, if you start including all the girlfriends, where do you stop? Elvis was notorious for needing someone by his side 24/7 and a woman in his bed every night. Even the so-called “girlfriends” who like to keep their mediocre fame going by attending Elvis fests and billing themselves as “Elvis’ girlfriend” were not the only ones sharing Elvis’ bed. The movie, already 2.5 hours, would be even longer if Baz decided to start including Linda Thompson and Ginger Alden in it, so he chose not to. I think it was a smart move because the movie isn’t about them anyway. It’s about Elvis’ relationship with the Colonel. I love attending the Elvis fests, but sometimes it makes me sad to see all the people who still try to use Elvis to keep their own relevancy alive. He had plenty of that when he was alive, and 40 years later, it is still happening. Everyone wants to take credit for the part they played in Elvis’ life. I laugh when I hear someone say, “I told Elvis . . . ” as they recount their part in some monumental moment. Everyone wants to have a piece of him to wave around like a trophy.

Really, that idea is what makes the poignancy of the movie even more powerful. The Colonel used Elvis to finance his gambling habits. His doctor used his notoriety for failed business dealings. Everyone wants to take credit for things they told Elvis or did for Elvis, and that is why the end of the movie is just plain sad. When he gets into the song and says, “I’m with it!” to someone to his side, we are struck by the dramatic irony of it all. No, Elvis, you’re not with it. Your life is falling apart. Baz’s choice to use Elvis’ actual performance at the end seals the deal. I never cry at movies, but that got to me.

If you haven’t seen it yet, it should probably be in theaters for this week as well. I know some people do not care for Baz’s style of moviemaking, but I love it. It’s a fast-paced saga that is also a party for the eyes and ears. Seriously – go see it!


900 Miles Later . . .

As I wrote about in my last post, my hubs and I had to go to St. Louis this past weekend so that his band could play a gig behind the famous Bill Cherry. The drive took 7.5 hours to get down there, which is quickly becoming ho-hum to us the more that we drive around the country together. Each drive nets us more laughter and more memories, so I try to keep that in my head as the ultimate payoff for the seemingly endless miles of highway driving. It’s not so bad once we get past the flatness of Iowa, but the flatness of Iowa is immense, and it can be relentless. I kind of dread the last 2 hours getting home because the drive is so. freaking. boring.

The gig was held at the Casa Loma Ballroom in St. Louis – a charming little place built in 1927. We were told several times that famous icons such as Frank Sinatra had sung there, and it did indeed have that “look” that suggested that many decades of dancing and music had taken place there. I am very much a total nerd when it comes to old buildings; I spend a lot of time skulking around, geeking out at architectural elements and imagining the history that had taken place there. However, there is one not-so-good element about playing in old buildings: THE STAIRS. My husband is a drummer, and the pieces to his drum kit are immense (they fill up the entire back of my Dodge Durango – with all of the seats folded down!), and the box with all the chrome stands in it (we call it “the coffin”) is ungodly heavy. So when we arrived at the Casa Loma and realized that the historic building had no elevator and we had to go up two flights of stairs to get the equipment in, it was a little disheartening. It was hot down there in St. Louis, and hauling all those pieces of equipment up stairs just to set up was not our idea of fun. However, with several other people helping to carry things, it went fairly quickly. The building also wasn’t air conditioned, so it was a warm night. I stood most of the night and took pictures and was dripping sweat just doing that; I can’t imagine how hot it was on stage with the lights.

The show, however, was fantastic. If you are an Elvis fan, then seeing Bill Cherry is a must. You will forget it’s not Elvis up there on the stage, and I do not say that lightly. He looks like him, he sings like him, he talks like him, and his jumpsuits are spot-on. He is one of my favorite people to photograph simply because the illusion is so striking. Here are a few of the pics I snapped from the show:

The pics probably do not do the performance justice, but let me tell you – a Bill Cherry show is great entertainment.

On our way out of St. Louis, we stopped by a record store called The Record Exchange that my husband had been wanting to go to for years. The store is owned by Bill’s manager and her husband, and my husband is always loving all the posts she makes on Facebook about her business. Since we were FINALLY in St. Louis, we decided to go there on our way home.

O . . . M . . . G.

This store is IMMENSE! The building used to be a city library, so there’s lots of floor space to work with.

The place is almost overwhelming once you step into it because every inch of the store is crammed with goodies – records, CDs, DVDs, tapes, stereo equipment, and lots of posters and historic material. The records are organized meticulously – which is not the norm in vinyl stores, we have found – and it is easy to find what you want. We had a long drive ahead of us, so we were only able to spend 1.5 hours there, but it was so much fun to peruse the store, and we would definitely love to come back and spend more time browsing.

I have been on an Otis Redding kick lately, and I was able to score one of his records here. That isn’t an easy feat, I have discovered, for Otis Redding vinyl is hard to find. But the owner of the store knew he had some Otis in stock and found it for me.

If you’re in the St. Louis area, be sure to visit The Record Exchange. It is a great store with something for everyone.

That’s all the news from my little corner of Iowa. This weekend we head to the Diamond Jo Casino in Dubuque!


Stormy Monday

As per my usual routine these days, I awakened about 3 a.m. and my mind started reeling. It’s funny – I thought that once summer hit that I’d be sleeping in or at least not awakening before 8. My routine, however, has been that I often awake in the middle of the night. If I can’t get back to sleep, I read for a while, or I get up and start poking around on the ‘net. It is obvious which one I chose to do this morning, although the book I’m currently reading, a biography about Laura Ingalls Wilder, is beckoning me as well.

During my daily walks, I often go by a little farm that has been nestled against a hillside since, well, forever. In fact, the farm has been there so long that the road that goes by the farm is named after the people who live there. It’s a picturesque little place, with a huge garden and a wide variety of farm animals, including pigs, birds, goats, horses, and – at least in the past – a couple of peacocks. The farm has a wonderful variety of flowers growing around the house and along the ditch, and I love to walk by and see all the colors every day. This was my view yesterday. It just screams summer.


Hindsight is 20/20 on Future Plans

A picture of my coffee this morning . . . because why not?

Eight weeks from today, my youngest son turns 18. The very next day, he graduates from high school. The day after that, I will officially be an empty nester; I already have plans to pack up all his stuff in extra large Hefty bags and leave them outside the door, along with a McDonald’s coupon for a small Shamrock Shake as an extra special treat.

Of course, it will be May and Mickie D’s will no longer offer the Shamrock Shake, but it is the thought that counts, and he’ll understand that.

I’m kidding, of course. My plans with Youngest Son are still evolving, as his ideas of what to do for college and a long-term outlook have been rather murky. If he had to take a quiz over his future plans, I have a feeling that a lot of answers would be the famous “IDK” (I don’t know). My only hope is that none of those answers would be the irritating “IDC” (I don’t care). As a teacher, I see plenty of both those answers.

Honestly, I know very few people who knew exactly what they wanted to do out of high school. I mean, we thought we knew, but we really didn’t. When I had to take an interest survey at 15, I was obsessed with Elvis. I loved playing music on my keyboard and dreamed of being a singer someday. Y’know – just like Elvis.

There was one problem: I was an introvert, and the thought of standing on a stage, singing and being vulnerable, made me want to vomit. (I did it once as a senior, as all seniors who got a superior rating on their vocal solo had to. I sang the shortest solo out of anyone and got the heck off the stage before I passed out. Here is the proof.)

However, having that idea in the back of my head, I answered all the questions correctly so that my #1 field ended up being in “entertainment and the performing arts.” It soon dawned on me that my reluctance to perform in front of other people might be problematic for a career such as this.

Back to the drawing board.

I wrote for the student newspaper throughout my high school years. I don’t think I wrote well — for most of my pieces were dashed off in the last few moments before a deadline — but I wrote something to fill the space anyway. I received good feedback from my advisor and relished in the compliments. This, of course, made me start leaning toward my next chosen career. I was going to be a journalist!

There was a problem with this career, too – part of which involved my reluctance as an introvert for talking to people I didn’t know. Apparently, journalists sometimes have to do that every now and then.

However, I had inspiration. I read a lot of Bob Greene back then, the since-disgraced Chicago journalist who liked to wax nostalgic about his adolescence. I had stumbled across his book in my father’s library called Be True to Your School, where he published his journals from his high school days, and I was intrigued. I loved how by the time I was done with the book, I felt I knew the people he had written about. By the time I had discovered the book, Greene was writing daily for the Chicago Tribune, and once the Internet became a “thang,” I made a habit of looking up his columns and keeping up with them.

In 2002, his life came crashing down around him, but those details can be easily found in a Google search and don’t need to be hashed out here. The fact remains that I was intrigued at the prospect of being a journalist with my own column and possibly a book deal or two.

One month into my freshman year of college with a media professor who was dour, gruff, and wholly unpleasant, I started rethinking my journalism plan. It really wasn’t the professor per se who turned me off from journalism; it was the stark reality that the chances of my being a columnist were almost null and void, unless I wanted to write for the local rinky dink newspaper with an audience of 12. I would most likely be writing obituaries and police reports for who knows how many years.

During a college break, I remember riding in my car with my mom as I shared my confusion about my career options. She suggested that I look into teaching English. I loved language, I loved to read, I loved to write, and who wouldn’t want those summers off?

Ah, yes. Those lovely summers off – where we teachers do not think of school at all. I laugh to think about that now, for I have spent many a summer re-designing curriculum, taking classes for recertification, or whatever other demands my job made of me. I also didn’t realize at the time that teaching in general was a 24/7 job; I find it impossible to go home and NOT think about school or things I need to do or units I need to plan or students who are struggling. It is ALWAYS on my mind.

Anyway, that was the turning point. It only took me until midway through my freshman year in college to figure it out, but I did eventually figure it out.

So when my son tells me that he really doesn’t know what he wants to do, I certainly am not panicking on his account. He’ll figure it out.

I’ll only start to worry if he tells me he wants to be the next Elvis.

Because that role has been taken.

By me. In secret.

Have a great Saturday!


Hating March — and a tale of three books

I’ve been writing on this blog since 2008. I think there are probably a handful of posts where I talk about how much I loathe this month, so I debated whether I wanted to rehash that terribly ancient subject yet again. However, today’s weather just underscores one of the many reason why I dislike this month. Today was 70. Tomorrow will be 44 and rainy. Today we got a brief, beautiful taste of spring, and then my mood goes sour when I see what lay ahead. There isn’t another 70-degree day in the extended forecast. This was it.

Adding to my pessimism is the fact that it seems to be Murphy’s Law that the most beautiful weather we’ve had yet will coincide with the end of the quarter. It never fails! This means I can be found sitting inside, staring at a computer, while the forest animals dance underneath the brilliant sun, teasing me. I did manage to get out a bit this weekend, but I dislike having that “dark cloud” always on my mind, poking my brain, whispering, “Ya gotta get your grades done!” My grades are due by midnight tonight and I just finished them. Of course, there isn’t an actual “being done” with grades anymore. Current education trends demand that students get until infinity to turn stuff in, so I will have to redo these grades again and again until all who want to pass do so.

I wish I were joking. That’s another loooooooong post for another time.

I’ve been trying to get back into a reading routine. I’ve always been a reader, but sometimes I do not prioritize it during school because, well, I get tired of reading stuff all day long. My husband and I love to visit Half Price Books when we are in the Chicago area, and I usually add 10 more books to be TBR pile each time we go. My tastes have evolved in the last twenty years from romance novels (yes, I knooooooow) to biographies and history-based books. For Christmas, my husband bought me two books about two of my favorite movies: The Godfather and The Shawshank Redemption. I finished those not too long ago, and both were quite fascinating. I never realized how absolutely fraught with chaos and conflict the making of The Godfather entailed. I see there’s a new show coming out about this called The Offer, and I am stoked to see it. Poor Coppola – he had such a great vision, yet he had to claw his way through all the corporate bullcrap and naysayers in order to bring his vision to light. I mean, Jack Nicholson was considered for the role at one time, and Robert Redford was a favorite among the corporate bigwigs to play Michael.

No. Just no.

Luckily, Coppola got his way in the end and the cast was mostly of his choosing.

Sometimes it’s scary to think about what might have happened had the people with a vision not been able to carry out that vision.

The Shawshank Redemption has always fascinated me because A) Stephen King is a genius and B) Frank Darabont was the perfect person to channel King’s novella into a superb film and C) This film had the unfortunate timing to be pretty much overlooked at the Academy Awards, due to the existence of a few other blockbusters coming out at the same time: Forrest Gump, Pulp Fiction, Legends of the Fall, and Interview with the Vampire. I teach a cinema class, and Shawshank is one of the last movies that we get to by the end of the semester. It never fails that a good portion of the class not only has never seen the movie before but they unfailingly point to Shawshank as one of their favorite movies in their final reflections.

This book provided some interesting insight into the making of the movie, including how the interior prison block shown in the movie is actually a set built inside an old warehouse. As much of a fan of that movie as I am, I did not realize that they did not actually film inside the massive, gothic reformatory that the movie made famous and saved from demolition. It is also interesting to see the impact that one movie can have on a small town. I learned that there’s a “Shawshank Trail” where tourists can visit some of the filming locations, and I’m putting that trip on my bucket list.

Everything in that movie is perfect to me: the cinematography is beautiful, the music is perfect, and who can ever complain about Morgan Freeman’s silky voice narrating? The underlying message is endearing, and the actors are top-notch. What’s not to love?

The last book I finished recently was, well, kind of a let-down. I am a huge Elvis fan, and anyone who has followed the blog lately knows that my life has started to revolve around the “Elvis world” in a big way since meeting my husband. I devour Elvis books. In particular, I am intrigued by Elvis’ comeback with his ’68 special, then taking over the Vegas scene like a boss. For a few years, he was at the top of his game. Those were great years and fun to read about and watch. If you have ever seen the documentary That’s the Way It Is, you see that tanned, golden specimen of a man who laughs and jokes with the guys one minute but is serious as a monk the next moment when it comes to perfecting his music. It’s mesmerizing to watch.

When I saw this book, I had to have it.

If you read it, be prepared to read very little about Elvis at all until about page 171. I wish I were kidding. I got in depth information about Sinatra, Dean Martin, and every other Vegas staple – a portion of the book meant to provide background about why Elvis succeeded in Vegas, except that it doesn’t provide any of that background. Sinatra has little to do with Elvis. Elvis came along at the right time bringing entertainment that people wanted and needed at the time. Sure, one could argue that there’s an old guard/new guard component to all of it, but the connection between the two seemed weak. I couldn’t believe that it took 2/3 of the book to even get to Elvis’ stint at the International. I mean, if you’re going to name the book “Elvis in Vegas,” one expects the book to be mostly about Elvis in Vegas. The book was well-researched; it was just misnamed.

Well, that’s all the news from Iowa, land of corn and critters. If you made it this far reading this drivel, then you are the real MVP. Thanks for stopping by.


An extended absence – with an excuse

This past year was cray-cray. I cannot express that enough. In particular, the last six months have had me running around like a crazy person as I try to keep the lid on the pot.

I won’t go into detail, but let’s just say that a multitude of health issues have made 2021 a nightmare – the health issues belonging to my husband. It has been a domino effect from July on, and we’re still not out of the woods. Once your health is in jeopardy, it seems like everything stops. In a way, it does, but also in a way, it doesn’t. I still had to go to work, pay the bills, take care of life’s little responsibilities, and keep on top of my teaching and schoolwork. I can honestly say that this year I feel like a truly horrible teacher. I am barely keeping up with my responsibilities and am certainly not being very creative or fun. I feel like I am shortchanging my students because my attention is always being pulled by this “other stuff.”

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Back to it

I haven’t written on here in a while because, well, I think I joined lots of other people who were like bulls behind the gate at a rodeo. Last summer was Covid summer. This summer was our chance to get out there and travel.

And travel, we did! We made several trips to Chicago, one to Memphis for Elvis Week, and a couple little ones in between to attend concerts – Foreigner and Styx. (Those concerts were fantastic, by the way!) We saw friends we haven’t seen in a couple of years, and that was more than good for the soul. Yes, I know Covid is still out there. I had a personal experience with it this summer. However, I would not trade the time I spent with friends and family for anything.

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