Monday, June 29, 2009


For some reason, the goldfinches at the bird feeder the last couple of days have seemed brighter yellow than ever. I don't know it the males are in some sort of display phase or what, but they are quite beautiful. We have lots of them around much of the time anyway, and the color comes and goes with the mating season. But now they must be getting ready of some sort of July 4 barn dance or something.

Sunday, June 28, 2009


I'm not sure why, but there has been an uptick in the mystery sales in the last twenty-four hours. Maybe because I mentioned it again on my marketing mailing, even though that was really about the Elijah book.

But I also saw that some lay Carmelite groups have started mentioning it in their newsletters, which is free advertising to exactly the group of people likely to be interested.

Also I got a note from a Carmelite in Chicago who may do a book review of the mystery and the Elijah book for their magazine, which would be another nice bit of free advertising to likely customers. Assuming Greg says nice things, of course.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Tom gave a presentation today about protecting the riverfront in tourist areas to a group of folks attending a conference at the Aldo Leopold Legacy Center. (It is pictured above. Click on the link for more about Leopold and the Center.) Apparently that went well. He's such a pro!

I ran into Baraboo on some errands, including getting some coffee at the Coffee Bean Connection. They were out of my favorite, Jungle Nut, so I am trying Macadamia Nut. Rich -- one of the owners -- asked me if we had lost power, and I explained we live in the Town of Delton. That's when I found out about the latest squirrel episode in the Boo. That also explained why my efforts to log onto my bank account this morning had failed. All is now well, however.

Later I picked up stuff for dinner tonight. (Pork chops and rice, basically.) Coming home from Wally World, I checked the mail. To my delight, I got a couple of book orders today from monasteries, one for five copies of Elijah and the other for ten copies. So I got those packed and shipped and the invoices sent out. I am now down to one copy myself, so I had to order more. This is a nice problem.

To my even greater delight, my friend Rick got great news today, which means he can proceed to move to Maryland and begin a new phase of his life. He has had a rather rough period over the last few years, and now things are turning right for him.

Power to the people

For some reason, Baraboo is plagued by power outages caused by squirrels. These little critters regularly manage to electrocute themselves in transformers, leaving large parts of the city in the dark. This has happened twice in just the last couple of weeks. I'm not sure what make transformers so attractive to our little furry friends, but it's clearly not a good thing.

Commenting on the recent discovery of snakes in the coal bin at the railroad, Tom said that there is something about coal and such that seems to attract snakes. Apparently the furnace on the old farm used to be filled with snakes who climbed in during the summer, only to be scorched out when winter brought the fire back.


Daylilies do very well in Wisconsin. You can drive for miles in the countryside and the roads will be lined with them. Tom prefers these tall, wild (or semi-wild) ones to the shorter ones that have been hybridized for gardens, but we have both kinds in the yard. Some of the shorter ones are ones that Mama gave me from her garden a couple of years ago. Others were a gift from Helen and Jay from their Minnesota garden, others Tom has gathered from places around his old family farm and other places in the area. Because they came from different places at different times, they are not on the same blooming schedule. There is a whole line of them between the front yard and the woods beyond. They are quite tall, but as of today, no buds have opened.

I like both the short and the tall, but I am inclined to like shorter flowers (daylilies or whatever) along the sidewalk. Tall plants tend to get lanky, lean (or fall) over the walk, and they begin to look like weeds to me. I admit that the taller versions are probably closer to the true native prairie flowers, however. (But doesn't that make them closer to being weeds, too?)

In fact, I read that the common daylily is on the verge of being named a noxious weed because it can spread out and take over so easily. I hope they never spray the roadsides to kill it, though. It is such a wonderful sight around here in the summer.

Another prairie flower that we have in the yard are these wild prairie roses, the state flower of Iowa and North Dakota. Tom made sure to save a bunch of them when he was clearing brush and mowing, and this year we are getting some blooms. This is the only native climbing rose, and it is not only pretty in pink -- it is thornless!

Sorry the photo looks so washed out. They are such a delicate pink, and my camera is so basic, even though I took this in the shade and tinkered with it, it looks weak. The flowers are actually quite pretty.

Thursday, June 25, 2009


No, this time not mine. My lovely niece Kristin, who has been my Number One Fan when it comes to my books, has been writing since she was a wee thing back in the Panhandle. I remember her writing stories on an old word processor of my mother's.

Now she is writing and publishing her own stuff. You can find out more by clicking on The Broccolos link over on the side and then visiting her store.

We're just doing our part to keep America reading!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


We've been hearing a strange noise about 10:00 every night, and various things have led us to believe it may be a skunk camping under some wood a bit away from the house. Not good, and not something you want to go check on without taking some precautions. Updates, as they say, as events warrant.

On the other hand, in nearby Baraboo it is a critter of a different nature:
A rare sighting in Baraboo on Monday put meaning behind the city's name. A black bear was sighted roaming around off of Highway 12 and South Boulevard, authorities said. The animal, estimated at about 200 to 250 pounds by those who saw it, was seen crossing the highway between Wal-Mart and Menards hardware store. It then entered the Blackhawk Manor Mobile Home park, where Baraboo police caught up with it.
“He just walked nonchalantly between trailers, eating cat food and walked up to somebody's water fountain and got a drink," said Tim Deppe, who owns a trucking company near the mobile home park.>Deppe said he followed the bear with police officers. He got within 10 feet of the animal and described its mood as calm for most of the trip. "Just like it was a pet bear, somebody's pet bear," Deppe said. "He was laying down in the grass when we found him, eating out of a bird feeder."
Eventually, as more people gathered, Deppe said the bear got nervous and scurried up a tree. Officers eventually ushered it back into the woods at the suggestion of the state Department of Natural Resources.Residents of the mobile home park received notices to keep the lids on their trash cans closed tightly and watch out for the bear, WISC-TV reported.Police closed part of Walnut Street in Baraboo for about 10 minutes at about 9 p.m. on Monday after the bear was sighted again, allowing them to once again lead it back into the woods.A spokesperson for Baraboo police said they'll keep a watch out, and if the bear becomes a nuisance, they will work with the DNR to take it farther away from the city.
This is funnier to some of us because there are some dudes known as the Baraboo Bears over there. There are probably some folks that are considered skunks, too, but I don't think they call themselves that.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


It got up into the mid-nineties (35 C) today with high humidity. Our steam engineer basically spends his time shoveling coal into a furnace and then driving behind it for a half hour or so every trip. By early afternoon, I was getting concerned about the young man engineering today. I prompted the upper echelons -- who were preoccupied with some other projects -- to consult with him and the conductor, and a decision was made to shut down operations about two o'clock. This was a wise move, but if we had been on top of things, we probably should have made the decision an hour or two sooner. Fortunately, the engineer is a healthy twenty-one-year-old and should survive.

Anyway, it was hot enough without having to ride behind a blazing furnace all day shoveling coal into the fire.

Management! We should all be taken out and -- well, severely reprimanded or something.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy dads

At the railroad, mothers ride free on Mother's Day and dads ride free on Father's Day. For Mother's Day I picked up a balloon at Walgreen's to add a little flair to the shop. Today when I went by there to get something for Father's Day, they had -- wait for it -- nothing, nada, zilch, zero. No balloons, no signs, no posters, no no no.

I don't know, maybe dads don't do balloons. But hey, people, SOMETHING! Even a plain round balloon that said Happy Father's Day. I also got cherry-filled Hershey kisses for our candy bowl for Mother's Day, but I didn't know what to get dads. Gummy worms?

You never saw such a bunch of shocked faces on guys as those who found out we let them ride free today. Even their families seemed surprised.

People, get with the program!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Ringing in the new

I keep losing rings, and having lost three of the sterling silver ones with the Hebrew quote from Song of Songs and the sterling Kokopelli one, the originals of which I began wearing in my Carmelite days, I haven't worn one for some time.

When Tom went to Milwaukee last week to take his friend Bob to PrideFest, I told him to bring me something back. (I had to work that day, naturally.) So he brought me a stainless steel ring that looks like this, more or less, but mine is not a spinner.

I've manged to go a week without losing it, but we'll see.

Playing catch up

No, silly, not that kind of catch up!

We had a nice two-hour lunch visit with Rick in Iowa yesterday. On the way back, I realized we could come by way of Mount Carroll, IL and see the Dauphins. John was at work, but we got a chance to visit with Judi and Matt and to see their house. Mount Carroll is a pretty little town with some beautiful old homes. We made it back here safely, despite Tom suggesting I take the excruciatingly winding County Trunk K in Lafayette County. But I won’t complain about that because it would be petty, and I am certainly not going to be petty about being forced to drive on that terrible road just to satisfy Someone’s curiosity about it. I’m much too mature for that!

This morning I went into Baraboo to check the District 19 mail so that I can prepare for the meeting next Wednesday. To my delight there was a donation in the mail, which always makes a treasurer happy. I also bought stamps for the Elijah book mailing. (See below.)

On the way back I stopped at Wally World and got my oil changed and the air filter replaced. They were fast and left the interior of the car quite clean. Of course, the cost of an oil change has almost doubled in the last year or two …

I printed the postcards and address labels for the Elijah book marketing mailing, labeled and stamped everything and got it into the mail before the noon pickup. I also mailed Fr. Anthony Morello his personal copy of the book, which I dedicated to him in gratitude for all he has done and been for me over the last three decades.

I am happy to announce that sales continue to trickle in for the books, and a mailing always increases sales. So that is moving along.

Barry came by for a chat this afternoon, but it was too warm and muggy to sit on the deck. His visit did motivate me to clean up the kitchen and vacuum the carpets. I even sorted through all the stuff in my own room and filed it away and cleaned my bathroom, even though Barry wasn't going to see any of that. We are expecting thunderstorms to move back into the area this afternoon. We had storms last night, lots of rain and lightning, but no local damage and a predicted hailstorm passed us completely.

Tonight we are going to dinner with Peggy. I think the plan is to go to Sandstone Pub for the fish fry.

Fresh bulletins as developments warrant.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Following up

I have heard from Cris that Giorgio is gone. Please continue to pray for the consolation of his wife, family and friends.

Thank you.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Prayer request

My Italian friend Cris, who sometimes comments here, has asked for prayers for her husband's best friend Giorgio and for his wife Sandra. Giorgio, 49, had a cerebral aneurysm and is not expected to survive. Please remember them in your prayers, and Cris and her husband Idris as well.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Sunday snooze

I wish I could have snoozed today, but it was not in the cards. We were not too busy at the railroad, although it was busy off and on. I went in early to vacuum and stuff, spent part of the day putting together purchase orders to send tomorrow. Came home to grilled pork chops and salad and the remnants of the French silk pie. Tom went off to a meeting in the Dells and I did some emails and Facebook and so on.

Apparently someone bought a couple of my books today, but I do need to do the mailing for the Elijah book this week, I guess.

And with that thought, I will sign off for the night. Tomorrow I am supposed to have a backup person working at the shop so that I can do the administrative piece in the office. We will see how well that works.

Here's hoping!

Unexpected quote

Always remember others may hate you, but those who hate you
don't win unless you hate them. And then you destroy yourself.
-- Richard M. Nixon (1913 - 1994), in his White House farewell

Friday, June 12, 2009

Angels and devils

My brother and his lovely wife are celebrating their 38th wedding anniversary today. Congratulations, Ted and Cynthia! This is the year the became grandparents -- twice. So it is a notable year all around. As Cynthia said, 38 years is an accomplishment these days, so there's one for the angels.

On the devil's side, Tom posted a picture of these flowers that have cropped up in a part of our yard that is hot and boring most of the time. They are Orange Hawkweed but locally are called the Devil's Paintbrush. In Texas we have Indian Paintbrushes, similar in color but not in shape.


I'm off from work again today, but I am not sure what I will do all day. Looks like it will be sunny and warm, though. The one thing on my agenda is a visit with my friend Barry. He invited me to drop in for a cup of coffee after lunch. I am looking forward to that.

Barry is a retired school counselor from the Chicago area. When he retired, he and his wife Carol moved to Christmas Mountain, up the road a bit and on land that once was part Tom's extended-family farm. In those days, it was called Coon Bluff. Today it is a golf resort (with skiing in the winter), and Barry and Carol are both avid golfers. They spend the winter months golfing in Florida. What a life, I guess, if you like golf.

Anyway, he and I get together about once a eek when he is in town just to talk about how things are going. They just got back from Florida a few weeks ago, but family and golfing stuff has meant we haven't talked for a couple of weeks. I'm not sure what Carol will be up to -- probably shopping or at the casino or substitute-grandmothering for neighbors' kids. Barry and I will sit out on his deck overlooking the golf course and discuss eternal verities and temporal vanities.

Why does this remind me of Pappaw sitting on the bench down at Shahan's and watching the cars go through Whitehouse?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Gratian book review

I found this unsolicited review of Jerome Gratian: Treatise on Melancholy online:
Gives insight into this interesting person5

It is probably true that only people that have already heard a little about Jerome Gratian will find this little book interesting. He was one of the early founders of the male branch of the discalced Carmelites, trusted and deeply appreciated by Saint Teresa of Avila and her nuns, yet mistrusted and ultimately cast out by his fellow Carmelite men.

This has always been a bit of an historical mystery. Only recently was he "rehabilitated," so to speak, and it looks like he may be on the way to canonization, due to his suffering and perseverance.

But I never thought that he might have a sense of humor! Of all the items to translate, at first I wondered why this little piece of amusing silliness -- a proposed "rule" or "constitutions" that parody religious life. It is like "opposite day" in children's books. Everything you would want in a religious person, the exact opposite is called for here.

After I thought about it for awhile, it occurred to me that maybe a bit of humor is actually the perfect item to translate. It sets the stage for a more serious look at Gratian, but first gives us a very human perspective, and a window into why his friends may have found him pleasant company.

I think any person interested in Carmelite studies would find this book worth their time.
The reviewer is a woman in Pearland, TX, but not someone I know. She did not review my mystery, but she did rate it five stars on her review page.

And yes, I did add the Genius image, but just to grab your attention.

You believe me, right?

Thursday's child has far to go.

I am a Friday's child ["Loving and giving"], but today is Thursday, hence the title.

Got up this morning and completed a couple of things for the procedures manual at work, printed them out and headed to a meeting in Reedsburg. After the meeting, I dropped the texts off at the R&GN (today is one of my free days) and headed home. Tom had gone canoeing with Debbie, so I did laundry and shampooed the dining room rug and vacuumed it and the rugs in the living room and library.

I went out front to take a few pictures of the sidewalk garden so you can see how it looks now. The first one is of the corner where the sidewalk comes around from the garage to the front door.

This next one is the same area but viewed from the front and facing the house.

This last one is of the corner near the house, under Tom's office window. That is the wall to the garage in the background. The color is washed out in the picture, but it is actually quite pretty.

Nice huh? Tom has put a lot of work into it, and Peggy has given us plants. Others Tom brought from his Chicago home, I brought some daylilies (not yet in bloom) from Mama's yard and Helen has helped out. Tom has done major work on the back yard, too, but it is not ready to photograph. He has replaced some of the wildflower garden space (which had begun to simply be wild) with shrubbery. It will take a couple of years or so for that to begin to look like anything, he says.

After lunch, I went to the bank to deposit a couple of checks that came in the mail and then off to the library for my volunteer work in the afternoon.

Today was the last day at Kilbourn Public Library for Stephanie, a high school girl who has been working there on a work-study program. She has always been there on Thursdays at the same time I am, so I will miss her smile. The librarians had a little ice cream and cake party for her, which was very nice. Steph, I think, has cerebral palsy and is in a powered wheel chair, but she is quite adept at lots of things in the library, and she has a great spirit.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


You've probably seen this, but a friend sent it to me today:

God, grant me the senility to forget the people I never liked anyway,
The good fortune to run into the ones I do, and
The eyesight to tell the difference.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

This is Tao.

If you know you have enough, you are rich.

When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.

That was no chicken.

[Okay, that last one isn't Tao.]

Or is it?

That was Zen.

When I was novice director, my novices one year gave me a t-shirt with the Zen quote on it: Only don't know.

They said it was because whenever they asked me a question, it seemed I often said I didn't know, but I didn't seem perturbed by it.

I don't know about that.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Critters du noir

This evening I went to put something on the table in the dining room and looked out to see a deer just a few yards away from the window. My movement startled it and it trotted away a few minutes later.

Then I looked down at the bottom of the bird feeder, and there was the big fat raccoon cavorting again. We knocked on the window and he looked up, and then went back to cavorting in the birdseed hulls on the ground. I finally opened the deck door and it scampered away.

At least this time Tom saw it and can no longer accuse me of imagining the whole thing.

Rainy days and Michael

We had an off-and-on rainy weekend, and we are having a rainy Monday. We still had 130 riders over the weekend, and one family rode the 10:00 train this morning despite the rain and 53 degree (11.6 C) temperature. At least it wasn't windy and there is no lightning. The weather forecast is for more spotty rain showers, some heavy, for the rest of the day. So I am doing other things, all alone here in the shop.

So far I have re-priced some children's bib overalls, put t-shirts in plastic protectors -- railroads create lots of dust! -- , did a historical notice to push our Burma Shave signs, swept the carpet, searched unsuccesfully for the calculator that has disappeared from the register counter, answered some e-mail, replied to a sales person trying to interest me in train-themed notecards (Thanks, but no thanks!) and generally am waiting for the day to pass.
Speaking of Burma Shave, those of you old enough to recall, there was the famous one: Free! Free! Trip to Mars, for just 900 empty jars. Burma Shave.
Turns out some store owner collected 900 empty jars and turned them in.
Burma Shave replied, "If a trip to Mars you earn, remember friend, there's no return."
So the dude gave them another 900 jars for a return trip.
They wound up giving him a trip to a place named Moers in Germany, which is pronounced like Mars.
I guess I'll go look at catalogs and see what we need to re-order.

LATER: We got busier in the afternoon and I had a crazy time trying to take an order over the phone to ship something to Oregon for a lady in Chicago while lots of people started pouring into the store.

I finally found the calculator.

Saturday, June 6, 2009


Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon, said, "I believe that every human has a finite number of heart-beats. I don't intend to waste any of mine running around doing exercises."

Don't you love quotes that reinforce your already established opinions?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live.
-- Oscar Wilde (1854 - 1900)

Book news

I thought I would do a computer search for my book on, and I discovered that it is now being listed by a couple of online bookstores. I am sure they picked it up from the Amazon listing, but it is good to see it getting exposure on other sites. One is Our Lady of Mount Carmel Bookstore, the other Michael Cross Books. You can get it online through Target, but that is because their book link basically takes you to Amazon.

I haven't started marketing the Elijah book yet. I had thought of doing my mailing to the Carmelite monasteries today while I am off work, but I am considering waiting until later. They celebrate his feast on July 20, so a mailing in mid-June might catch them better. And next week, I will have two days off!
Actually I wound up with two days off this week, but tomorrow I am driving to Holy Hill and back -- two hours each way -- to have a short visit with Fr. Steven Payne while he is back from Kenya. Today I am heading over to St. John's in Reedsburg for a meeting -- should be leaving NOW -- and then have to get my new glasses fitted and then do my library volunteering this afternoon. So there go those two days.
At any rate, sales of the first two books keep trickling in. Past experience indicates that a mailing for the third book will probably produce some orders for the first two as well.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Jules Renard

The French writer Jules Renard (died 1910) wrote, “Writing is the only profession where no one considers you ridiculous if you earn no money.”

Sounds nice, but I’m not so sure it’s true. Maybe in 1910. I suspect people find it easier to think I am really working when I tell them I manage a museum shop. When I say I write, they probably think I am just unemployed but don't want to admit it. In my own head, though, I am a writer. I happen to manage a museum shop at the moment.

Anyway, here are some quotes from Renard's writings.
It is not how old you are but how you are old.
Look for the ridiculous in everything, and you will find it.
If money does not make you happy; give it back.
We don't understand life any better at forty than at twenty, but we know it and admit it.
Laziness is nothing more than the habit of resting before you get tired.
The only man who is really free is the one who can turn down an invitation to dinner without giving an excuse.
As I grow to understand life less and less, I learn to love it more and more.
If I were to begin life again, I should want it as it was. I would only open my eyes a little more.

Stolen thunder

I was looking at the yard yesterday and thought I should take some pictures of some of the flowers. But Tom beat me to it, so I stole his photos and his text from his family blog:

Summer Garden

The early summer garden is coming in, and a combination of a cool, relatively wet spring and warm but moderate weather in the last two weeks has brought the gardens around the front of the house into full bloom.

The early summer daisies are doing well, with long-lasting blooms. I put the daisies in two summers ago, and they are finally taking hold. I'm of the "put them in and see what works" school of gardening, and I try to use native species.

A week or so ago, the bleeding hearts made a spectacular display. I brought one of the plants from Chicago, an older variety that my mother, and perhaps her mother before her, cultivated at the farm, and bought two more modern varieties from a local nursery in Bear Valley. The differences between the two strains are typical of developments in flowers over the last thirty-odd years. The newer variety is larger, but somehow coarser and less beautiful.

The iris have also come into their own, both along the walk to the front door and alongside the driveway. The differences between older varieties and modern varieties show up clearly in the iris beds. The small, delicate iris on the left are an old variety, given to my great-grandfather by Al Ringling, and the larger, and to me less interesting, iris on the right are more modern varieties from Betty Staron's garden.

I favor early summer gardens, before the green foliage has become dark and dusty looking, and the plants looking stressed from the heat. Early summer gardens epitomize the hope of youth, and every year I am caught up, once again, in the promise of things to come.

I suppose I should know better at my age, but I don't.
Al Ringling, BTW, is one of the circus Ringling Brothers, who lived in Baraboo. Tom's great-grandfather sold them horses or something, I think.

Anyway, with less time at the railroad, Tom is putting in lots of work on the grounds at the house, and it is looking very good.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


I just heard from Steve Payne that Fr. Joseph-Mary Flanery, one of the older friars at Holy Hill, died Sunday. This is the third death in the province in just a few months.

Fr. Joe had been an airman during World War II, then entered the Carmelites and spent many years as a missionary in the Philippines. After returning to the United States, he served many years as secretary to the Provincial before age (and computers) led him to retire. He was a voracious reader and kept up an exhaustive correspondence with people all over the world.

May his soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God rest in peace!

I couldn't find a picture of Fr. Joseph to post, but those of you who visited the Hill may remember him as the very tall, thin man with a crew cut of reddish/gray hair.


Somehow this morning a conversation about songs led me to remember lines from the first Jonas Brothers song I ever heard -- "Year 3000":
I've been to the year 3000
Not much has changed but they lived under water
I love self-referential or weird things with words like that. Another example is the old Carly Simon hit, "You're So Vain":
You're so vain, you probably think this song is about you
You're so vain, Ill bet you think this song is about you
Don't you? Don't you?
Or things like, "This statement is false."

There's even one in the Bible, where it says in Titus 1:12 "Even one of their own prophets has said, "Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons." Okay, if a Cretan says that Cretans are always liars, was he lying or telling the truth?

Or what about, "If you try to fail and succeed, did you fail or succeed?"