May 25, 2009: Just A Local Pilgrim

On Friday I drove to the Winterset cemetery to place pots of petunias on the graves of my parents, my grandparents, and my aunt. Recent thunder showers had washed the granite and marble, so I didn't need the spray cleaner and paper towels I took along.

Rows of Memorial Day flags were already in place. The veterans install the bright banners, spacing the poles evenly along both sides of lovely, curving drives. White plaques at the bases of the flag poles display names of local men and women and the years each served in the armed forces.

Yesterday, I went back to the cemetery on foot. I cut irises and lilacs from the yard, put them in a coffee can of water, and walked the mile or so this time, making my annual visit to the place that marks the mortal remains of a young man.

Jeremy was my oldest daughter's boon companion, a friend of our family from his high school years until the accident that ended his life at 25. Our home was headquarters for the adult friends Hannah gathered from Iowa City and beyond for the funeral.

I always feel inadequate on my pilgrimage. I loved Jeremy, but I was only on the periphery of the fun times the kids had. I was not his mother, his brother, his girlfriend, or his housemate. Each May since 1999, I visit his gravesite to stand in for those who might go if they weren't far away.


At the cemetery, hundreds of flags were snapping in the breeze as I added my bouquet to others already there.

Today's Fortune Cookie Fortune:
You will remember loved ones who are gone.


Posted on Monday, May 25, 2009 by Registered CommenterMarianne Fons | CommentsPost a Comment | References1 Reference

May 23, 2009: Signs of Our Times

One evening a week or so ago, in need of an emergency ingredient,* I dashed to our little town's single grocery store. A friend's son was about to celebrate his 31st birthday, and I had promised to whip up some homemade ice cream for the party. Off I went while our electric freezer churned away.

My block-and-a-half walk took me through the town square, and I stepped into the vestibule of my bank on the northwest corner to get cash from the ATM. While my request was processing, I took a look at a receipt dropped on the floor by a previous customer. A withdrawal of $30 had left a balance of $128. Wow, I thought, remembering early marriage.

Money in hand, I continued to the store, noticing freshly-painted lettering on the door of the shop across the street:


Yep, I thought, the time is definitely right for creative entrepreneurship.

Earlier in the day, when I walked west down Jefferson on my usual loop, I passed the historic Henry Wallace home, still with the For Sale sign in the yard. Weeds are out-competing flowers in the once-beautiful perennial garden. The lawn of the handsome home, on the market now for over a year, is mowed but seedy.

Henry Wallace, who lived on that corner in the 1870s, was founder of the magazine Wallace's Farmer. His son, Henry Cantwell Wallace, was US Secretary of Agriculture (1921-1924). His grandson, Henry Agard Wallace, was also Secretary of Agriculture (1933-1940) and 33rd Vice President of the United States (1941–1945). The property has changed hands many times over the years, and has been on the National Historic Register as long as I can remember.

Today's Fortune Cookie Fortune:
You will think about the economy every single day.

*If you fold a container of Cool Whip into a batch of homemade ice cream after churning, the ice cream can be stored in the freezer section of your fridge and not get too hard to dip the next day. Use an electric mixer to incorporate the Cool Whip thoroughly. (The flavor of the ice cream will not be affected.)



Posted on Saturday, May 23, 2009 by Registered CommenterMarianne Fons | CommentsPost a Comment | References1 Reference

May 19, 2009: Subtract a Little Spice from Your Life!

In retirement, people often find time to do the things they never bothered with when busier. On Friday afternoon for example, my husband Mark was concocting a marinade for steaks we planned to grill later when he ran across TWO bottles of cayenne on the spice shelf, one that looked new, and another quaintly packaged.

"I think I moved this box of crab boil spices up from Texas when we got married," he observed. "And it might have old then," I called back from my sewing room, "nine years ago!" Soon Mark was operating at full throttle, unloading the cupboard onto the kitchen countertop, opening jars, sniffing, sneezing, and coughing.

Despite task resistance, I soon came aboard. I filled the sink with sudsy water and retrieved empty plastic, glass, and metal containers from the trash barrel as Mark tossed them in, emptying the dry, compacted contents, coughing along with him, and washing everything up.

McCormick's new jars have black, snap-up lids. The green-lidded ones are the oldies. Anything Schilling in a little oblong, metal tin is toast, but the Watkins 100% organic ground cinnamon, with text in French as well, that's new, nostalgia packaging. If there's no Web site address, toss it for sure.


Today's Fortune Cookie Fortune:
Wine bottles in your recycling bin will be outnumbered this week.


Posted on Sunday, May 17, 2009 by Registered CommenterMarianne Fons | Comments2 Comments | References12 References

May 12, 2009: Yesterday's Paper

As anyone paying attention is aware, newspapers are having a hard time staying in business these days. Online media sources keep edging out traditional print journalism, a situation the current movie State of Play addresses as part of its entertaining plot.

My husband Mark and I have noticed the Des Moines Register, Iowa's largest newspaper, getting thinner—recently by scratching the New York Times Daily Crossword! Sure, the Register ran the puzzles a week behind their actual premiers in the Times, but out here in Winterset, Iowa, we didn't mind.

If you're a crossword fan, you know that the Monday Times puzzle is super simple. Grids get progressively harder each day. Friday and Saturday are true brain challenges that Mark and I love to tackle.

With images of the fictitious Washington DC newspaper's economic struggles in State of Play still fresh in mind, I could understand the Des Moines paper cutting costs by dropping the Times' puzzle. Feeling guilty, I considered how rarely we actually buy the daily Register. Instead, we pick up abandoned copies at the coffee shop, or earn one free by buying gas at a local convenience store. As for the New York Times, I receive its headlines every morning free (!) on my laptop. Hey, they offered!

On Mother's Day, after completing the Times' Sunday Crossword (also a week behind but still carried) in the Sunday Des Moines Register (to which we subscribe), I spent $40 to receive the the Times Daily Crossword online. The price works out to about .10 per puzzle if one downloads each day. I now pay for the right to print the puzzles on my own paper, using my own toner cartridge and electricity.

Today's Fortune Cookie Fortune:
You will respond to the dictates of your conscience.


Posted on Monday, May 11, 2009 by Registered CommenterMarianne Fons | CommentsPost a Comment | References3 References

May 5, 2009: Flowerfall Removal

Trees have been in bloom all around Winterset and Madison County the past few weeks. Flowering crab apples, plum trees, and red buds wear mantles of snowy white and robust pink. Gentle breezes from day to day send delicate petals to the ground as the trees work through their seasonal cycle.

This morning when I opened our front door to let the day in, blossoms from our crab apple in the yard were drifting across the sidewalk, falling onto and dotting the concrete exactly like giant snowflakes.

During my recent visit to New York, that city's trees were also blooming. In every park and in open squares of pavement on every sidewalk, New York was ablossom. On my last afternoon, I stopped by the little public triangle across the street from Macy's department store to call my daughter Hannah. The park was full of people chatting in pairs at square metal tables, reading newspapers on benches, and walking through with their dogs.

As I took a chair and dialed Hannah to make our evening plans, I was entertained by a peppy city employee making rounds with a short broom and pop-out dustpan. The park pavement was covered in white petals, and a breeze was constantly sending down more. Still, the compact Hispanic man clad in a navy blue uniform worked vigorously, creating little mounds of blossoms with his broom and sweeping them into his pan.

Had he been at it since first thing in the morning? Or was he simply energetic at the start of his shift? Was his assignment cigarette butts, or was he after the petals?

Hannah answered her phone, and the busy gentleman moved on down the park, sweeping as he went.

Today's Fortune Cookie Fortune:
You will nominate someone for Employee of the Month.


Posted on Monday, May 4, 2009 by Registered CommenterMarianne Fons | Comments1 Comment | References1 Reference