Sunday, January 29, 2012

Steps Carved by Father Escalante at Crossing of the Fathers

In 1776-1777 Father Dominguez and Father Escalante were sent by the Catholic Church to find a direct route from the mission settlement in Santa Fe, NM to the one in Monterrey, CA. They intended to head due west to make the connection, but instead, they made a huge, 2000-mile circle, ending up back at Santa Fe. It took them 6 ½ months.

Father Escalante and his comrads didn’t reach their stated goal, but they chronicled their journey and that has survived. They almost perished from cold and hunger several times, and when they got to the Colorado River at what is now Lee’s Ferry, they found they could not cross at that point.

They then searched upriver, and two weeks later, they found Padre Creek. There the river was wider and shallow enough to ford, and the canyon walls sloped down. However, this slope was what is known as “slick rock,” and with good reason. The picture below is of me and my friend Nayna Judd Christensen sitting on the slick rock as it slopes down to the river. Getting horses down without incident was a problem, but this was the only way to cross they had found thus far, so they cut steps in the rock so the horses could get footing.

These steps survived for almost 200 years. In fact, they’re probably still there, except that now they’re covered by Lake Powell, the lake that backs up behind the Glen Canyon Dam. My dad worked on that project, and one Easter weekend in the early 1960s we made the dirt-road drive out to see them.

These images surfaced a couple weeks ago when I was having my son sort pictures for me. Wondering if they might be historically valuable, I made an internet search. Though I found several pictures of early expeditions to the Crossing of the Fathers in the early 20th century, I didn’t find any of the steps Father Escalante cut into the rock. So, if you’ll pardon the intrusion of a younger me in the picture, I’m posting this for posterity.

You can read a good description of the Escalante-Dominguez expedition at:

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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Family By Design by Heather Justesen - Blog Tour

Liz Sez is a stop on Heather Justesen's blog tour for her new book Family by Design. I'll start out by posting the blurb from the back of the book and then give my mini-review.

Keep reading because I'll tell you about some giveaways Heather is sponsoring on her blog in conjunction with this tour. I'll also list the other stops on the tour so you can check them out.

Cover Blurb
Before he could think better of it, he blurted out, “I understand your concerns. I’m going to speak to my commander about getting an early discharge. My girlfriend, Rena, and I have talked about getting married. There just hasn’t been any rush.”
As soon as the words were out of his mouth, he wondered what he was thinking. Yes, they had discussed marriage, but not to each other! He and Rena had never even dated.

Tucker’s on his way to the biggest challenge of his life. Rena already has it all—except a family of her own. But neither one expected their friendship would take such a dramatic turn.

When Tucker becomes the guardian of his newly orphaned niece and nephew, he knows he can’t handle them alone, not when he might be shipped out with the Marines at any moment.

Desperate, he turns to Rena for a major favor. His marriage proposal would give her everything she wants, but can she learn to live without the romance she’s always dreamed of?

As time, prayer, and a life-changing kiss work a little magic in her heart, Rena wonders if someone up there has a plan for her that’s better than anything she could’ve come up with on her own. And though it seems crazy at first, this could become her chance for a marriage that will last for eternity.

My thoughts:

Family by Design is a book with a sweet premise and a clever title. The premise: can it be a good thing when two best friends marry for expedience? The title is clever because the main character, Rena, is an interior designer by profession, and her family came by design rather than the usual way.

I would say this book is in the Romance spectrum, though not a true romance. It doesn’t end with a trip to the altar, as many romances do, as the trip to the altar comes in the middle of the book. But there is a lot of interior dialogue as Rena second guesses her feelings and decisions, and that is very Romance-ish. There’s the tiniest bit of a mystery or puzzle added in to spice things up. Though most of the story is told from Rena’s point of view, we do occasionally see things through Tucker’s eyes.

What worked for me:

*The premise. I think the subject of this book is very timely. It seems there are lots of single people Rena’s age out there who are listening to their biological clocks ticking as they associate with their circle of friends and look for Mr. or Ms. Right, thinking, “Should I settle for this one, or should I wait for True Love?”

*Heather Justesen’s writing style. It’s clean and flows nicely, making an easy read.

*The conflict. The problems Rena faced both at work and as a newly-married, suddenly-single mom aren’t improbable. Well, possibly the newly-married, suddenly-single-mom thing is improbable, but just as soon as I would say it is, I’d read about someone just deployed to Afghanistan who left a new wife with her new step children, so I’m going to leave it be. Also, since I have a friend who is facing a problem a work similar to Rena’s, where a formerly friendly supervisor has become suddenly hostile, that rings true, too.

Things that didn’t work for me:

*There was a bit too much interior dithering by Rena. However, I think that’s a matter of taste, and people who are avid Romance readers tend to expect this.

Even with that, it was a pleasant read.

Wait a minute. I just noticed there’s a subtitle in very small caps. The complete title is Family by Design, But Subject to Change without Notice. There you go. How could you not pick up a book with a title like that?

As part of the Blog Tour, as a special promotion for anyone who buys Family By Design before January 31, you can get a free ebook for Heather Justesen’s companion novella, “Shear Luck.” Once you buy a copy of Family by Design, go here to get your free copy of “Shear Luck.”

Here are the stops on the blog tour. Be sure to read through to the end to get the information for the host of giveaways Heather is doing on her blog throughout the week.

Monday, Jan. 16 Danyelle Ferguson
Tuesday, Jan. 17 Kim Job
Wednesday, Jan. 18 Nichole Giles
Thursday, Jan. 19 Liz Adair
Friday, Jan. 20 Susan Dayley
Saturday, Jan. 21 Keith Fisher
Monday, Jan. 23 Robbin Peterson
Tuesday, Jan. 24 Julie Bellon
Wednesday, Jan. 25 Cindy Hogan
Thursday, Jan. 26 Rebecca Talley
Friday, Jan. 27 Kathleen Brebes
Saturday, Jan. 28 Debbie Davis
Monday, Jan. 30 Maria Hoaglund
Tuesday, Jan. 31 Tristi Pinkston
Wednesday, Feb. 1 Joann Arnold
Thursday, Feb. 2 Christine Bryant
Friday, Feb. 3 Rebecca Blevins
Saturday, Feb. 4 Mindy Holt

Click on the link below for Heather Justesen's giveaway in celebration of her new book:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, January 14, 2012

FDR's Fireside Chat after Pearl Harbor

My son is home on winter break, and because he's a poor graduate student, I've hired him to organize the trunks and boxes full of photos and momentos from three generations that are stacked in my office. I've found several things that I'd like to share.

The first is this map from The Daily Oklahoman, printed on Sunday, February 22, 1942. I was about three and a half months old, and it had been two and a half months since the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.

If you'll look at the picture, across the top it says: When the President Speaks Monday Night, 9 o'clock, Oklahoma Time, All stations, Use This Map.

This was before television, but the President spoke to the nation via radio. In this instance, he wanted to be able to have the populace realize the distances he was talking about, so these maps were provided in newspapers.

You can read the content of President Roosevelt's address by clicking here.

I'm impressed with how he laid it on the line to a country that must still have been reeling from Pearl Harbor. One of the things he said was:

This war is a new kind of war. It is different from all other wars of the past, not only in its methods and weapons but also in its geography. It is warfare in terms of every continent, every island, every sea, every air-lane in the world.

He also was blunt about the losses on December 7, 1941:

To pass from the realm of rumor and poison to the field of facts: the number of our officers and men killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor on December seventh was 2,340, and the number wounded was 940. Of all of the combatant ships based on Pearl Harbor -- battleships, heavy cruisers, light cruisers, aircraft carriers, destroyers and submarines -- only three (were) are permanently put out of commission.

Very many of the ships of the Pacific Fleet were not even in Pearl Harbor. Some of those that were there were hit very slightly, and others that were damaged have either rejoined the Fleet by now or are still undergoing repairs. And when those repairs are completed, the ships will be more efficient fighting machines than they were before.

The report that we lost more than a thousand (air)planes at Pearl Harbor is as baseless as the other weird rumors. The Japanese do not know just how many planes they destroyed that day, and I am not going to tell them. But I can say that to date -- and including Pearl Harbor -- we have destroyed considerably more Japanese planes than they have destroyed of ours.

Then he called on Americans to join the war effort:

We are calling for new plants and additions -- additions to old plants. (and) We are calling for plant conversion to war needs. We are seeking more men and more women to run them.

At the time FDR gave this speech, my dad was running a dragline for the Bureau of Reclamation in Altus, Oklahoma. They must have listened to what he said, because before the year was out, my parents had moved to Vancouver, Washington. My dad was doing something on submarines and my mother worked building aircraft carriers. He worked days and she worked swing. By 1944, Dad was in Puerto Rico repairing subs that put in for repairs.

I'm grateful my mom saved that newspaper. It must have meant something to her. Surely, the next five years were turned upside down by the war, but I know she felt like she and dad had been in harness with the rest of America, pulling their weight.

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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Grey Gardens, the Documentary and the HBO Movie

Grey Gardens sticks with you. I don’t know when I first saw the 1976 documentary, probably within the last couple years. I only got to see half of it, as something intervened, but the images I saw haunted me. Here were a gray-haired mother and her middle-aged daughter, both who had once led wealthy, privileged lives, living in a squalid, decaying 28-room house in the Hamptons with a myriad of cats and raccoons.

Albert and David Maysles are the unobtrusive documentary film makers who captured the images as the two women lived their daily lives and told their stories. In the documentary, the mother, Big Edie, constantly reminds us that she had been a singer, and when the daughter, Little Edie, lets us know she was going to be on the stage and gives us an example of her talent, Big Edie belittles her.

Did it make a difference that Big Edie was the aunt of Jackie Kennedy Onassis? I don’t know.

Little Edie reminds me of a dysfunctional Unsinkable Molly Brown. She’s lost all her hair and so uses an array of inventive head coverings—sometimes she uses a sweater, sometimes a shirt that she wraps around and ties with the arms. The rest of her wardrobe is equally inventive. She might wrap a tablecloth around her or wear a skirt upside down. She’s buoyant in the face of her mother’s caustic criticisms and upbeat in spite of the garbage and decay all around her. The mystery is that she doesn’t just leave, except that her mother won’t leave, and she won’t leave her mother.

I was marginally aware that HBO had done a movie based on this documentary starring Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange. We don’t have HBO, but when I saw it on sale in Costco, I picked it up, wondering how they were going to do anything that could be better than the original documentary. It’s not better; it’s different in a wow! kind of a way.

Michael Sucsy and Patricia Rozema have written a great script, weaving pre- and post-documentary story lines in with scenes from the documentary. Michael Sucsy directs. Drew Barrymore plays Little Edie and nails it, and Jessica Lange embodies Big Edie. They both age thirty-five years in the picture. The story lines showing them as young, vibrant socialites sent me to the internet to see if I could find actual pictures of the women when they were young. I did, and the movie got them right.

I’m of two minds about which a person should see first, the documentary or the HBO movie. I think the documentary. There are snippets of the documentary on the special features portion of the movie, but a person needs to see the whole thing to really get to know and care about these ladies. After seeing the documentary, the movie reveals the pathos in the way Big Edie talks about Mr. Beale and lets you know who her accompanist and ‘that married man’ were. The movie also shows Big Edie’s redemption and Little Edie’s triumph.

Yeah, watch the movie second.

Below are pictures of Big Edie Beale (in what looks like a wedding veil) and Little Edie. I found them on the internet.

~~~~~~~~~ sure you don't miss out on the next recipe, review, scrap of wisdom or pithy thought. Become a follower on this blog by clicking on the Join this Site button on the sidebar. Check out my books behind the Liz's Books tab at the top, or read reviews of my latest book under the Reviews tab.