20 January 2011

"New" TV program to watch - The Tudors

BBC-America began a new series last night. It is a re-run of a Showtime series that ran in 2007/2008. Called "The Tudors", it is about Henry, the 8th. Extremely well done. Loved the costuming and the settings. Lots of good actors. Sam Neill plays Cardinal Woolsey.

It's going to air every week on Wednesdays at 10:00 p.m. Last night was the first episode so you could easily catch up beginning next week. Last nigth they just laid the groundwork for several stories - Henry's first wife, Katherine of Aragon, and their daughter Mary; a war with France, etc.

Really good show. The actor playing Henry the 8th is very good.

Over the Christmas holidays, I watched an episode of "History's Mysteries" on the History International channel. They took a team of physicians, archaeologists, and social scientists and reviewed tons of writings about Henry the 8th. They all agreed that the stories that we were taught (him having syphilus, etc.) were likely wrong. They believed he was diabetic. This would have explained much - his weight, his problems with leg ulcers and the lack of healing to injuries, etc. They also felt that the syphilus story was a myth because there was never any evidence that he passed it on to any of his wives or lovers - and he was one randy old goat!

17 December 2010

My Christmas Newsletter

If you click on the title of this blog post, you should connect to my 2010 Christmas Newsletter!

16 December 2010

Christmas Carols

Last night our local PBS station presented a Christmas concert by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. The program was wonderful. Guests included entertainer (and daughter of Nat King Cole) Natalie Cole and author/historian David McCullough.

Natalie performed superbly. Along with the choir and orchestra, she performed "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year"; "Hark the Herald Angels Sing"; "The Holly and The Ivy"; "The Christmas Song"; "Caroling, Caroling"; and "The Grown Up Christmas List". She also recited the Christmas story from Luke.

David McCullough talked about Christmas carols particular to America. Taken from his book "In the Dark Streets Shineth", McCullough related how just weeks after Pearl Harbor, Prime Minister Winston Churchill secretly traveled to meet with President Roosevelt. Together they turned on the lights of the White House Christmas Tree and addressed a crowd of 20,000 people who had gathered.

Churchill said, “This is a strange Christmas Eve. Almost the whole world is locked in deadly struggle…. Let the children have their night of fun and laughter. Let the gifts of Father Christmas delight their play. Let us grown-ups share to the full in their unstinted pleasures before we turn again to the stern task and the formidable years that lie before us.”

The next day the two leaders attended church together and it was there that Churchill heard "Oh Little Town of Bethlehem" for the first time. It was written in the 1880s by an American. McCullough said that it became one of Churchill's favorites, particularly the lines:

Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight.

"I'll Be Home for Christmas" was written in 1943 by the same man who wrote "The White Cliffs of Dover". McCullough stated that "The White Cliffs of Dover" had become like an anthem to Britain. "I'll be Home for Christmas" was recorded by Bing Crosby and grossed more than even "White Christmas".

As my sister-in-law says there are so many wonderful Christmas songs, it's impossible to pick one favorite. But these are among my most cherished.

"Oh Little Town of Bethlehem" is special to me for a rather bizarre reason. It was one of my Mother's favorite Christmas songs and she would sing it a lot at Christmas. HOWEVER, she never sang the melody as written. She always sang it to the tune of "Blest Be the Tie"! Try it - it works. But even today I really have to concentrate to sing it correctly - I always hear her voice in my head singing it her way.

The Winter Emergency Box

While I was in college I traveled in my 1968 baby blue Volkswagen bug most every weekend from home (in the mountains) to school (more in the mountains). About the first of October every year, Daddy would make up a Winter Emergency Box for my car.

Below is a list of the things he would put in it:
• One of Mother’s homemade quilts
• An ice scraper
• A flashlight
• Extra batteries
• A gallon jug of water
• Several packs of Nabs (those cheese crackers with peanut butter in them)
• A bag of kitty litter
• A can of Comet cleanser (this and the litter were for use on icy roads)
• A pair of gloves
• A pair of socks

The first year he did this, I started to put it in the trunk and he quickly stopped me. He told me to at least keep it in the back seat and that when I was traveling by myself to have it within arm’s reach. He said that way if I was ever trapped in the car, I could get to it. So most times, when I was on the road, it was in the other front seat.

Thankfully I never had to use it but even now when the leaves start turning color I think about stocking my emergency box. I don’t always actually stock a box for myself but I most always have a small bag of litter stored under the back seat of my van and a flashlight in the glove compartment.

I probably need to renew that fall tradition of stocking the box. With all the new storage contraptions (Rubbermaid, etc.), it would be fairly easy to do.

27 September 2010

Tom, Dick and Harry

When I was five years old, my brother was teaching school in Bristol. He came home one weekend with a shoebox that had a couple of holes cut into the side. Inside it was a small gray kitten and thus began my lifelong affinity with cats.

I named the kitten Tom but a year or so later, we found out it should really have been Thomasina! By that time, however, my Mother had brought 2 more kittens from a distant relative who lived in a nearby town. They were black and white. I named them Dick and Harry. Harry also should have been named Harriet but Dick was Dick!

Through the years, I acquired others. At one point, I was raising white Persians. They were all mostly outside cats. We lived on a farm for heaven's sake. My Dad needed the cats in the barn and the outbuildings to keep the rodents down. One summer there was a total of 13 - the most I had at any one time.

They all had names - most of them just as creative as Tom, Dick and Harry. There was Moe, Curly and Larry; Snowflake and Snowball, etc.

The last two years I was in college, I lived in an apartment off campus and had a Siamese cat named Chessie. Although she did not sleep on my bed, she jumped up in bed every night to rub her nose to mine as if to say "Good night".

My husband said I was a "cat whisperer". It didn't seem to matter where we were, somehow cats found me. Even while touring the House of Seven Gables in Salem, Mass., their resident black cat came up to me and rubbed on my legs.

I have two now - Angel and Cleo. Their stories are for a different post! Cleo is the gray tabby at the top of this post. Angel is the black and white with the black nose. Shadow was Angel's companion and partner in crime for many years. We had to put him to sleep in May 2009.

25 September 2010

Hell Dorado Days

As mentioned in a previous post, when David and Judy married, he adopted her twin sons: Brian and Larry. They were about three years old at the time of the marriage and they were living in Las Vegas. David and Judy had had their daughter, Alice, so at the time of this story the twins would have been between 4 and 5 years old. Judy breast-fed the new baby so the twins were aware of body parts - this is important later in the story!

Every year there is a week-long celebration there called "Hell Dorado Days". Part of the celebration is a parade to which David took the boys to see. There were bands and floats as in any typical parade. Each casino in the city had an entry in the parade. There are several casinos with western themes, but I believe the one that this story is about was the Palimino. It is now a strip club but in those days (the mid-60's) I believe it was more casino than strip club.

Anyway, their entry in the parade was a single palimino stallion being ridden by one of the showgirls. David said that she was in western theme clothes - cowboy boots, neckerchief, and hat, denim hot pants, a shirt jacked up and tied in front (Daisy Duke style) with a small rhinestoned bolero vest. BUT the most important element of her appearance was that her well-endowed breasts were also "jacked up" to the point that they were just barely covered. The other important element in this story is that it was obvious she had never ridden a horse before. She was totally out of sync with the horse' walk. When he was coming up; she was coming down, etc.

So the band passes by and the crowd sees her coming down the street on this horse and the crowd gets deathly quiet. David said he had a twin on each side of him each holding a hand. When they saw the girl on the horse, they too fell quiet and then one of them tugged on his hand and quietly whispered, "Daddy, look at the tits on that girl!" Now David (for what ever reason) decided that he would just squeeze the little boy's hand but not reply directly to his comment. WRROONNGGGG! The little boy jerked on David's hand and in a very loud voice said, "DADDY, I SAID LOOK AT THE TITS ON THAT GIRL!"

David said the entire crowd went hysterical laughing. The little boy had merely voiced what everyone there was thinking. To give David credit, he said he just knelt down and said, "Yes, son, I saw them!"

David was always very good with children and I have no idea why he chose to ignore the first whisper. He should have known better!

24 September 2010


While sorting through files, I came across the divorce file for my husband and his 2nd wife, Judith. In 31 years of marriage, I had never seen it before. I told my sister once that the only thing that would be more difficult than being married to David would be divorcing him. After reading that file, I would repeat that statement.

He didn't talk alot about his ex-wives. He was married to Doris Emily Pfister for 12 years. They had four children. He was married to Judith (called Judy) Allgier (not sure I'm spelling this correctly) for 9 years. They had one daughter plus he adopted Judith's twin sons by a previous marriage.

Occasionally things would happen and he would tell me quick stories about the children or the ex-wives. I thought I might jot down a few of them before I forget them.

David used to read at every meal. Sometimes it was a book or a magazine or a newspaper. When we first married, it drove me crazy. I was not raised that way. Mealtime was for talking and eating.

Anyway, finally one weekend morning we were having breakfast and I wanted to talk but he was reading the newspaper. I can't remember what I said but he put the paper down, looked at me and said, "Well just know that you're not the first wife to have this problem!" That did not help the situation at all. Then he told me the following story.

Second wife Judy apparently really got fed up with his reading the paper at the table. He said that one morning he was sitting at the table reading; she had been trying to talk to him and he was not paying attention. He said the next thing he knew she was holding a lit match at the bottom of his newspaper and actually did light it up. He said he jerked it down and stomped out the fire. But she had made her point. He did confess that he started trying to listen to her when he heard her talking!

I laughed so hard I cried. At that point, I truly admired her! I also wished I had thought of it!

"Far Tar"

On top of Big A Mountain (on Route 80 along the county line of Buchanan and Russell Counties, Va.) there stands a fire tower (or in the vernacular of the local accents a "far tar"). Today it is abandoned and around it are other tall towers for cell phones, radar, satellites, etc. But when I was growing up, a ranger actually stayed in the fire tower at least three or four months of the year to keep watch for forest fires.

I remember as child being told how far you could see when you were at the top. Now however, I can't remember for sure but seems like it was five different states that you could see!

Usually at least once a summer, we would decide that we were going to trek to the tower. You could take a car at least part of the way. The turnoff for the road was tucked on the back side of Big A (the Buchanan County side). If you didn't know exactly which one it was, you could pass it all day long and not know about it. There were no signs in those days for the turn. Once you made the turn to go up the mountain, you could go a few miles but at some point the road would become so bad and rutted that you would have to abandon the car (or truck or jeep) and venture by foot. It was still several miles to the tower and it was all uphill.

I only remember actually making it to the tower twice. Once there the challenge was to climb the tower - more uphill (well, actually up stairs but it was still UP). Of all the summers and all the start-outs and the two times actually arriving at the tower, I remember only one time climbing to the top - only to find that the door to the top of the tower was locked - the ranger wasn't there. We couldn't get in to see his view or play with his toys or talk to him about what fires he had spotted. All the other times, I chickened out somewhere on the stairs because it was SO high up. I would get wobbly-kneed and couldn't make myself climb any farther.

As a colleague told me in later life, "Oh I don't mind heights - it's the edges that get me!"

I do remember that getting my feet back on solid ground always felt really great and the walk back to the car (downhill) wasn't quite as bad or as long as the walk up.

I sometimes long for those care-free summer days. It didn't seem as hot as it does now. The world did not seem as dangerous as now. Mother didn't worry about us even though we were miles from home with no cell phones, no twitter, not even any "true" adults over 20 along (sometimes not over 16). She knew (and we knew) that if we weren't back home by milking time, we would be in trouble. If we arrived late but hadn't had trouble along the way, we would be facing her wrath for being inconsiderate ingrates (never quite knew what an "ingrate" was in those days). Thankfully, we always made it back.

The last few years before my Mother died, her bed stood in front of the picture window in our den. The winter picture above shows the mountain as it was seen from that window. She loved that mountain. She told me one day that it never stayed the same. She said, "You can look at it one time but five minutes later if you look again, it is totally different!" I was quite taken with her observation. And she was right. It would look totally different from minute to minute shrouded in the fog of an August morning or as summer storm clouds came across the top advancing rain along with the winds, or as the autumn leaves began to fall. In spring, when the trees began that soft yellow/green tint as leaves began to bud, there would soon be splotches of white and pink when the dogwood and redbud reawakened. And winter was always phenomenal as snow fell, drifted, melted and fell again to change each pixel of the picture.

I remember thinking that we were just as good as the TV Walton family - we had our mountain too! It did (and does) seem like a living, breathing entity. Ever changing but always guarding.