Thursday, May 28, 2009

Dragons and more

After a nine-hour day at the railroad, I came home to several delights. Tom has made real progress in cleaning up the yard and so on and the place -- which already looked good -- is looking even better.

On top of that, he had prepared a great salad for dinner with lots of veggies and with tasty chicken he had grilled.

Also, Peggy had brought me a belated birthday present, a beautifully illustrated book about dragon myths and legends. She had already made me that rhubarb pie for my birthday, so this was above and beyond the call of neighborliness.

Tomorrow, to my surprise and delight, I do not have to go to work. I have an appointment with the optometrist, though, and I am sure new, stronger and more expensive glasses are in my future.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A quick howdy-do

There is a lull at the railroad -- drizzling outside -- and I am on my laptop trying to locate vendors for engineer caps. So I am taking a sanity break to say hello. Tom has decided to cut back on his time at the railroad so that he can do some other things, too, so he is at home mowing or something in the drizzle.

This place does have a way of absorbing every ounce of energy and every second of time. I have to give some thought to how to deal with that myself. The previous store manager told me when I came on board as a volunteer that the place would suck me dry if wasn't careful. My problem is I will be too generous with my time and pretend it is okay, but then one day someone will look at me cross-eyed and I will get less than polite. Better not to let it get to that point.

Today, for example, I am alone in the shop. That means I am the ticket agent, the sales clerk, the telephone receptionist, the receiving department, the pricing-and-displaying department, the radio dispatch person, the weather radar officer and general jack-of-all-whatever. All this amid screaming children and oblivious parents while model trains rattle around on tracks overhead and railroad songs play on the CD and a railraod video is playing in the back room. In my spare time I have been designing a new membership application brochure.

Did I mention that lunch was an apple cinnamon muffin gulped down behind the counter because there is no one to give me a lunch break? The restroom is in another building (nearby but across the tracks) and I have to lock the door to get over there. And at my tottering old age, I have to make that trek a lot!

All I can say is that it's a good thing I'm not one to complain, right?

Peace out.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Really really really really ...

Sorry I haven't been posting, but our busy season has begun and I (Tom and I both) have been really really really really busy -- pretty much ten-hour days on site at the railroad. I figure this will continue for a couple of weeks without a break (i.e., no days off) and then slack off to 10-hour days just five days a week. So if nothing shows up here for a while, that's the deal.

This being the end of a semester, I also have to devote some time to grading final papers for the distance learning class, and that will have to be my priority computer-time when I am not at the railroad.

Love you all! Back to you soon!

Thursday, May 21, 2009


The Elijah book is ready! It may not show up for a couple of days on, but you can order it online from CreateSpace right now if you are in a hurry. Click on that link and it will take you to the right page.

For those of you who do buy my books online, I get a much better royalty from CreateSpace than from Amazon. I realize, however, that it may be easier for you to go the Amazon route. For that matter, you can order them directly from me, but I don't have any myself yet. In fact, I think Kristin got her copies of the last book before I got my copies!

The book isn't perfect, and the green border of the cover on the proof copy is way dark. But I thought it probably would be something that we would go back and forth over for a month, and I did not want to be doing that. Starting tomorrow, the railroad shop will be open every day until after Labor Day, which means I will have little time to devote to writing projects.

Come next fall, though, I will try to get moving again!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Jackson Bailey Kirk

I realized that I had not posted a picture of Jackson as I had promised, so here is one. Everyone (at least on the Kirk side of the family tree) says he looks just like a Kirk. I will have to take their word for that. He does look a lot like a Dodd, though, because we always have our mouth open or our eyes shut!

First snake

The cats brought in the first garden snake of the season, I guess. As I was heading into my room around lunch, there it was almost in my door. I don't know if it had been in my room or if I just happened upon it as it was slithering by. At any rate, I used the trusty Gopher to pick it up and take it outside. Tom was amused, but then he never wants to pick them up by any means.

I got the Gopher to take with me on walks with Peggy to pick up trash. (When she reads this, she will say, "Yeah! And when are you ever going to do that?") It is a Billy Mays-pitched product, and it seems quite useful. Billy Mays, on the other hand -- is that man's volume control broken?

Birthday review

I had a nice birthday, and thanks again to all those who sent greetings via e-mail, Facebook, Twitter and snail mail. Serendipitously, Tom found a great dragon-related card while we were at Kohl's:
What do you give a fire-breathing dragon for its birthday? Whatever it wants!
Also, the mail brought payment for some books from nuns out in Oregon, and they used a Happy Birthday stamp on the envelope. I doubt they knew it was my birthday, but it was a nice coincidence.

We ran two trains yesterday for a bank group -- apparently all retired women. I am not sure if they are all retired bank employees or all customers of the bank. Lots of banks are throwing little parties and events for favorite customers these days, and our train ride is a fun and relatively inexpensive way to entertain people for half a morning or afternoon.

The weather is so summery -- mid-80's (28 C) -- that Dave decided to open for business a day early, which means Tom and I will be at work Friday morning. For the rest of the season -- through Labor Day -- we will both be working five days a week, with Thursday and Friday off. (I, of course, am getting paid, but Tom will be putting in 40 hours or more as a volunteer. Yay, Tom!) We hope to make a lot of day-trips around the state on our days off, partly to visit other railroad museum shops so I can get ideas to improve ours.

Peggy joined us for a nice meal at R Place last night. She baked me a rhubarb pie as a birthday gift. I say she baked it for me because Tom is not a rhubarb pie fan. I admit that rhubarb may be an acquired taste, and many people seem to cut the taste a bit by making the pies with rhubarb and strawberry. I don't know where I acquired the taste, but I do like the tartness. Peggy noticed that I ate my lime slice from my club soda last night. I got that from Mama who ate the lemon from her iced tea.

Tom is mkaing fun of me because Sunday night, while I was ironing all those railroad patches onto the engineer caps, Sundance spotted a ginormous raccoon climbing the wild cherry in the back yard. Well, I guess technically he is making fun of the way I described it on Facebook:
"I have been ironing railroad patches on pink engineer caps while giant raccoons cavorted in the back yard. No, seriously."
After all, in my defense, Texans never lie. We do, however, sometimes tell more truth than there is.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Birthday eve

For my birthday, Tom bought me some striped shirts and ordered two pairs of striped (engineer) overalls. These railroad-look overalls are a challenge to find. You almost always have to special order them. I got an e-mail that the overalls are out-of-stock, but they expect to be able to ship by the end of the month.

The ones I am getting are made by Dickies, and they are the same size as the denim ones I found last week at Savers. Those are very comfortable, and I hope the striped ones are, too. The overalls and the shirts are part of the "railroad look" for the museum shop. When (and if) they ever arrive, I will post a photo of me dressed for work, complete with an engineer's cap and a red bandanna.

BTW, Helen commented on how comfortable the denim ones looked and said she might get some herself. I pointed out that although they are comfortable, for people like me who are short and stout, overalls emphasize the short and stout. Oddly enough, for people like Tom who are tall and lanky, overalls seem to emphasize the tall and lanky. Wish there were someway to transfer that effect!

Tom grilled a pork roast for dinner and got the makings of strawberry shortcake because he is not making a cake for my birthday. Tomorrow night Peggy will join us for Italian food at R Place for a low-key celebration.

Thanks to all those who have sent greetings already. I was wished a happy birthday from Italy and Kenya as well as here in the States. How internationale!

Just another manic Monday

Manic Monday

1) The proof copy of the Elijah book shipped today and should arrive Wednesday. That is about a week sooner than I expected, and so I am happy about that. I stopped by the library to pick up another book for my on-going research for the next mystery. This one is The Spanish Inquisition, 1478-1614: An Anthology of Sources. Now don't y'all run out and get your own!

2) Lots of museum shop stuff today: pricing all those engineer caps I ironed patches onto last night; putting in another purchase order and trying (unsuccessfully) to get in touch with someone to do the t-shirts; working on signs and ideas for a Memorial Day Weekend Sale ...

3) Tomorrow we will run a train or two in the afternoon for a special group. Mary will also be trying to teach me some more about the bookkeeping system for the shop: handling vouchers, receiving items for inventory, etc. We are STILL in transition from the new system that went in last July, which means that every single thing I do in one system, I have to do again in the other system. Someday this will end and we will, as John Lennon sang, "live as one."

Or if not live, at least account.

UPDATE: Here I am, trying to watch Kristin's BFF Videos -- I had seen the bowling (or part of it?) on her site, already, right? -- and the guy called to set up an appointment to talk about the t-shirts. So that is a good thing. (More than I can say about Somebody's bowling ...)

Saturday, May 16, 2009


Well, here it is, May 16 and we are under a frost advisory ...

I put in a long day at the railroad, then had Mexican food, surfed through the channels enough to see that there is nothing worth watching, read a little more about heresy in sixteenth century Spain and am soon heading to bed. Tom, who put in an even longer and more strenuous day at the railroad, is in his office scanning some things for the Stewards of the Dells. Maybe the cats will keep him company.

Goodnight moon! Goodnight frost!

Good grief!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

History of the Hill

Last fall sometime, Fr. Jude asked me if I would revise and update the little book on the history of Holy Hill that they sell in the shop there. I agreed to do it, but someone else is doing the final editing of the text and selecting photographs and so on. I had told Jude that he could consider my time and effort a donation, but he insisted on paying me something. The book is coming out soon, I guess, and today I received a very generous check. Actually, given how many tourists go through the Hill every year, this will undoubtedly become my best selling publication anyway.

Thanks, Jude!


Angie sent me this photo of Riley at three months. I assume all the rest of the family got it, too, but since there are a handful of readers who are not part of the Dodd clan, I thought I would post it. Isn't she adorable?

I assume that Kirstin or her mother (hint, hint!) will eventually get a picture of Jackson to me, and I promise to post that as well.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Wet Wednesday

The weather was not as bad as had been predicted, but the whole day was overcast and damp, with rain and fog this evening. Our trip to Madison went well. The Odd Wisconsin exhibit was okay, perhaps not as odd as it might have been. This is the time of year for school trips, and the museum is across the street from the state capitol, so there were lots of shool-age kids in the museum and on the grounds of the capitol. As we were walking through the capitol building, we ran into some young people in Eastern European folk dress who were preparing for some sort of performance during the noon hour on the capitol steps.

Besides the museum, we went to Barnes & Noble and to two Savers Thrift Shops. Tom insists that I need more striped shirts -- that being what I normally wear at the railroad -- so I picked up four or five as well as some denim overalls.

On the way home, we stopped in Baraboo so Tom and Helen could pick out the beads for her birthday necklace. I won't tell you how long that took, but one of us almost reached Medicare age while they were at it.

Then we went to get pizza at Papa Murphy's. If you are not familiar with them, it is a chain where they make your pizza fresh when you order it, but you take it home and cook it yourself. Some friends had recommended it to me, and since we received a coupon book in the mail, I wanted to give it a try. We got a Delight Veggie and Delight Meat, and both were quite good despite being significantly lower in calories than regular pizza.

After dinner, I went to the library to pick up a couple of books that I had requested. One is on heresy and mysticism in sixteenth century Spain, research for my second mystery. One of the librarians commented that I read some strange books "I could never get through some of those," she told me. The other book is a collection of comic strips by Stephan Pastis, so that is more typical, I guess. I waited two months to get the the Pastis book, but only two days for the heresy book. Not much of a waiting list on that one!

Thunderstorm starting outside, so I will post this and unplug the computer!

Ciao, bellos!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Fortune cookie fun

My most recent fortune cookie said, "You would do well to act as a team this week."

Wait a minute. I would do well to act as a team. Me? Just me? Can I be a team? After all, the cliche is that "There is no I in team!"

I ran across another one on my bookcase where I store fun fortunes: "You will enjoy true in whatever you do."

True? True success? True joy? True failure?

Is this opposed to enjoying false in whatever I do?

I am enjoying (?) true confusion, that's what I'm enjoying (?)!

Monday, May 11, 2009


As I go back over my notes for a second mystery, I discover that I have two completely different plots. Of course, I could turn one of them into a subplot of the other. I already have some sketchy ideas for pretty minor subplots, but a subplot that is almost another full story line would make things much more complicated and interesting to read.

I'll have to keep hashing this out.

No one, so they say, expects the Spanish Inquisition!

Well, maybe in a novel set in sixteenth-century Spain, they pretty much do.

Comings and goings

Helen arrived today for her visit. Jay will drive down Friday and take her back to St. Paul. Friday is her birthday, and so we gave her a copy of my mystery. I hope she considers it a gift and not an imposition! Helen has taught classes on Agatha Christie, and she's no slouch in the mystery-reading game.

That's a picture of Tom and Helen at Stonehenge with their oldest, Rebecca, back in 1979. Rebecca had posted it along with some other pictures on Facebook for Mother's Day. Aren't they cute?

We found out that Rich (neighbor) is leaving for Canada tomorrow for several months. So we invited him and Peggy over for dinner. Tom is planning to grill pork chops.

I went in to the railroad early and did a few things, including getting my first purchase order out. Now to see if I did it right! When I got home, there was an order from a monastery in Oregon for five copies of the Gratian book, which was a nice surprise.

I shipped the books out and went by the library to request some books on the Inquisition from interlibrary loan as background for the next mystery. Guess I need to at least be doing something about that!

Random National Train Day factoid

Tom dredged this up about the little railroad where we work. (The Riverside & Great Northern Preservation Society is the old Sandley works mentioned here.)
Here's an odd, almost random, fact about National Train Day and the "golden spike": The Sandley company, which the railroad preserves as a living museum, was the premier builder of small-scale steam engines in its day. Sandley was asked if it could make two full-size American 4-4-0 engines for the centennial of the "golden spike" in 1969. The company didn't have the capacity to build two full-size Americans in the 12-month period allotted, so the work went overseas. But wouldn't it have been something if the company had been able to do the work?
I'm struck by the fact that way back in 1969 the work for such an "American history" event was offshored! But then, much of work on the original Transcontinental Railroad on the western end was done by Chinese laborers, so maybe it is fitting.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mama's Day

At the railroad today I wished a woman Happy Mother's Day, and she said, "You, too." Then she got all flustered and apologetic, but I said I have a mother, so I can have a happy Mother's Day, too. Right?


Don't know what to say about these two. Eric ran across them while doing some work down at the Iron Horse Cafe, and Tom brought the heads home to clean up. (For what reason, I have no clue.) Last night when John, Judi and Matt came over for pizza, while Matt and I watched ICarly, the grownups played with the mannequin heads, and this is what I found on the table this morning.

They didn't put lipstick on them. They already had those overly pink lipes.

Updates as circumstances warrant, I guess.

Saturday, May 9, 2009


Pretty quiet day at the railroad. The weather was quite cool and damp in the morning, and when the sun finally came out this afternoon, it wasn't enough to drag folks out to the train and it didn't last long. The clouds were soon back and the wind picked up. Judi said it looked more like November than May.

Tomorrow is Mother's Day, though, and that may bring some people out because mothers ride free. The weather is supposed to be better, too. On the other hand, Sundays are always a bit tricky with church in the morning and the tourists heading home in the afternoon.

It is supposed to get down to 38 (3.3 C) tonight and tomorrow night. After that, I think we will be safely out of the 30s and able to put the fountain back out on the deck. Except for a prediction for a rainy Wednesday, we should have nice weather while Helen is here, mostly sunny with highs of 66 to 74 (19-23 C). Tom is talking about going to Madison on Wednesday since it will be raining. There is an exhibit we want to see at the Wisconsin Historical Museum: Odd Wisconsin. Part of the promotion says,

The exhibit explores a side of history you probably never learned in the classroom.

  • Why did the University of Wisconsin have
    a band play for cows?
  • Why was a Wisconsin Congressman given a 7-foot bowie knife at the 1860 Republican
    National Convention?
  • How did aluminum strips, a plastic pink flamingo, and a bunch of bras make history?

You may find yourself surprised, perplexed, and astonished by the answers.

Needless to say, I already know the pink flamingo story.

My only fear is that Wednesday will be the day I have to get together with the general manager at the R&GN to interview a potential employee. Such is the way of the world!

Friday, May 8, 2009

In case you missed all the advance publicity

Saturday, May 9, is National Train Day. Here is the official explanation:

On May 10, 1869, in Promontory Summit, Utah, the "golden spike" was driven into the final tie that joined 1,776 miles of the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railways, ceremonially creating the nation′s first transcontinental railroad. And America was transformed.

Suddenly, the country was united in a way it never had been, and train travel sparked imaginations in small towns and big cities, among folk who desired adventure and businessmen who saw fortunes to be made. The sound of a train whistle was the soundtrack of happy reunions and tearful farewells. It heralded the arrival of mail, supplies and change.

The train became more than the go-to mode of transport for people and goods. It was a proud achievement of engineering vision, technical ingenuity and sweat. It was a cultural force that sparked the creative imaginations of storytellers in songs, movies and novels. Railways provided jobs for thousands of Americans. The train station became a focal point of every community, from New York City′s Pennsylvania Station to the tiny stations that dotted rural America.

Now, 140 years after the “golden spike” connected east and west, there’s never been a better time to take the train. Huge crowds and the frustrations that go with them burden our highways and airports. And at a time when we all share the same pressing concerns about environment and energy conservation, trains are a more energy-efficient mode of travel than either autos or airplanes. Riding the rails is not only a great way to reduce your carbon footprint, but also a great way to meet interesting people and see breathtaking scenery.

That′s why, in commemoration of the anniversary of the day the "golden spike" was driven, we celebrated the first-ever National Train Day on May 10, 2008. Thousands enjoyed live entertainment, train displays, raffles, prizes and surprises for big and small across the nation.

This year the event will be even better. So mark Saturday, May 9th on your calendar for a coast-to-coast celebration of the way trains connect people and places. There will be major events in Washington, DC, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Los Angeles, while other events will occur in smaller markets nationwide. Join us and Discover the Rail Way during any of the National Train Day festivities that are sure to be a treat for all ages.

Life cycles

Since hearing that Kirstin went into labor last night, I have been constantly checking my email for news. As of the moment (2:41 p.m. here) I have heard nothing.

On the other hand, I did get an email from Michelangelo letting Tom and me know that someone we know in Hyde Park, Eugenia, a true elder of a lady, had passed away at 3:00 a.m.

Tomorrow evening, my friends in Iowa will formally become engaged to be married.

To everything there is a season,
and a time for every purpose under heaven.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Mouse hunt

Twice recently the cats have awakened me in the night by chasing a mouse around my bedroom and bathroom. I think they bring them in and let them loose to play with. The mice, being wiser than the cats apparently, manage to get into my room and lead the cats on a merry and noisy chase.

On both occasions, I have been forced to get up to investigate and found the mouse, in one case huddled in the corner of the bathroom behind the toilet and in the other huddled between the bedroom door and the slipper I use as a doorstop so the cats can get in and out. (First mistake on my part!)

Each time I showed the cats the mouse and they just stared at it. Finally I scooped the trembling rodent up in a handy container and tossed it back outside. The cats then spend the rest of the night trying to figure out what happened. They keep coming back to sniff around the door or the corner, pat the place where the mouse used to be and sometimes sit and watch, thinking it will fall back out of whatever wormhole into space that it disappeared into.


The blues

I got me those blue jay squawking,
High circling hawking,
Too much talking
Indigo bunting bluuuuesss!

More color these days at the feeder, including blue jays (booo!) and very yellow finches, but my favorite is the male indigo bunting who showed up yesterday. He is almost iridescent.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

And so to bed

A long exhausting day, so ...
Goodnight moon!


Well, the book submission was accepted and the proof is on the way. Looks like there is no way to get this on the market before June, though. I'm not sure why, but CreateSpace is much slower these days than it was when I first began with them. It seems to take them twice as long to produce a book that is only half the size.

At any rate, I should get the proof by the end of the month. I have yet to have a book ready for the market on the first proof, so that will probably mean another couple of weeks minimum before it gets out there.

I spent three and a half hours on inventory this morning -- Tom came and helped for a while, taking much more time away from his own overdue project than he had anticipated, I think -- and I am home for lunch and a short quies. Then once more unto the breach, dear friends!
Sext, by the way, is the midday hour of prayer in the monastery, not what you were probably thinking. Shame on you!

It comes from the Latin word meaning the sixth hour of the day, the day beginning more or less at sunrise at 6:00 a.m.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Book boys

Well, this evening I completed the text for the Elijah book and Tom finished the cover. So that all got submitted. Usually within 24 hours they get back to me to let me know if it meets their submission requirements and that a proof copy can be ordered. I had hoped to be done a bit sooner, but this is within the ballpark of my timeline.

Stay tuned!

While all this was going on, I noticed that someone bought a few more books today. How cool is that?

Monday, May 4, 2009


Today turned out to be be productive in a number of ways.

First, I shipped a book to the nuns in Cleveland and a package to Mama for Mother's Day. (Hope it gets there on time. For some reason, even first class mail from here seems to take a week or more to get to Whitehouse.)

Second, I finished the Elijah book! Of course, now I have to let it sit for a day and then re-read and do a final edit before shipping it off to CreateSpace for them to have a look-see. After they make sure that it is properly formatted, they will send me a proof and I will check it out and so on. Still, it looks like it may actually be on the market by the end of May. Before the first day of summer, at any rate.

Third, I finally swept the leaves (and much of the dirt) out of the garage. It looks much better, and with luck the leaves will be decaying out there now and not being blown by the wind into the garage, since the weather finally lets us leave the door open most of the time when we are home.

Fourth, we opened the windows to air out the house. Again, thanks to the the weather!!! Of course, it is supposed to rain for the next few days, but at least we had a beautiful warm day to get the winter mustiness out.

Fifth, I actually had the time and energy to get in some exercycling!

Sixth, since Tom had been working hard at the railroad and getting the gardens at our house in shape, I made a wonderful salad for dinner, with roast chicken breast, lettuce, tomatoes, red bell peppers, carrots, green grapes, walnuts, dried cranberries, feta cheese, kalamata olives and seasoned croutons. Because it was such a warm day, we ate out on the deck.

Seventh, I got to watch The Big Bang Theory.

As London Tipton says, "Yay Me!"
Pop culture reference for those who need it: London Tipton is a self-absorbed teenage heiress character played by Brenda Song on Disney's The Suite Life of Zack and Cody and The Suite Life on Deck.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Iron Man

A week or so back when I went to the library for my volunteer work, Kris (one of the librarians) told me that I have nice clothes and always look dapper. She and Tara then discussed whether dapper was the right word,and decided that I was Dapper Dodd.

When I mentioned this to Tom, he said I do look dapper, but it's because he irons my shirts. This is true. Even when I worked at the law office, I usually looked more dapper than the legal eagles because Tom does such a good job on the shirts and I always wore a tie.

Anyway, here is public acknowledgment that I owe my dapperness to Tom's hard work.

Friday, May 1, 2009


I haven't had much to say the last few days because I have been up to my ears in taking inventory. Mostly alone, but Tom has generously pitched in when he wasn't being dragged off to help get trains back up on the tracks. (Don't ask!)

Anyway, progress, not perfection. And now the weekend is upon us and there won't be much time to devote to inventory. One good thing is that our software allows me to save and come back later, and it tracks any sales that might affect the inventory.

Back to you later, assuming I survive the weekend. I am soooooooo tired!