Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Visual Treats and Trickery

There is no sun-shining in my windows today 
even though they are open to the weather and whatever blows our way.

Misty grey skies dull a simple snapshot,
but not my memory of a few days past
when trees bloomed on our city streets
showing more fire power than the mums

A few trees away from my window today
a golden orange burst of color glows
between trees of yellow and green, 
like a fireworks display exploding
then stilled and captured on film.

The formula for nature's fall gown
of intense and glowing colors--
simply, sunny days,
cool nights,
and frequent rains. 

Can you find the heart at the center of the tree?  

During the night the vibrant colors began falling
creating circles of colors on the green grass below like a cup with a matching saucer.
No wind to disturb or break the rare sight.

Sometimes the sun and shadows 
play tricks like children at

Our senses are keen, one with her nose to the ground
and the other with her eyes on the sky.
Sudden halts ring the alarm that a
squirrel past this way,
while frozen points
may find a deer not far away.  

Can you name this Halloween tricker?

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Golf Gypsy and Friends

There's just a little grass before the ball reaches the fairway.
One warm windy Friday in October a group of 38 women gathered to meet new friends,  play a fun round of golf at Prairie Dunes in Hutchinson, KS then toast to good friends, good golf, and good food.  The women drove from all corners of the state:  Kansas City, Coffeyville, Liberal, to Hays and points in between,  to play a challenging course, and for some, to relive the memories of watching Julie Inkster, Annika Sorenstam, and Nancy Lopez play Prairie Dunes in the 2002 USGA Women's Championship.

Since it was not a tournament, and because the golf course can be treacherous, we (Peggy, Kathy, and I) suggested that "the Sn8wman" become their friend, their choice.  In fact, we said have fun first, if the score is too high don't write it down or don't add it up.  Just enjoy the moments, the vistas, and the challenges that Perry Maxwell created when he designed the course over 75 years ago.  Players are now given five options for tee boxes.  A shorter distance does NOT equal=easy.  It simply gives the player (man or woman) a better opportunity to find the fairway with a drive rather than the gunch.  Our three favorite words at Prairie Dunes are, "It's in Play."  For an added touch of challenge,  the ladies were asked to keep putts and to turn the scorecards with putts into the pro shop when finished.
The Twins:  Marsha from Topeka n Debbie from Liberal

The pairings were designed to meet new friends; in every foursome there were ladies who had never met or had never played together.  Our handicaps ranged from 2 to 28.   On the first tee we discovered twins in the midst.  Two ladies who had never met were paired together, and then discovered they had identical bags. The laughter continued with these two new friends as they hit their shots, exchanged stories, and compared aches and pains.  By hole six they announced, "We might really be sisters!"     One explained, "I was adopted."  The other quipped, "And my dad played around."  Who knows?  They both share a love of golf,  adventures in life, and storytelling.

Karen and Marlene
As I played Prairie Dunes, my home course, my eyes scanned the horizon to see ladies walking down fairways, hitting in and out of the many bunkers, climbing up or down the sand hills where the prairie grass sometimes grew taller than the women, and slapping their legs or yelling at the sky as a putt slide off the green, not even near the hole.  How fun to hear laughter across the fairway, and more so when they finished 18 windy holes.  I knew that the course could be wicked with the winds blowing 20 mph and gusts up to 25-30 mph.  Learning to judge the wind and deciding if it is a one, two, or three club wind, and then how to hit the ball high enough or low enough to reach the elevated greens, yet not drop short with the wind in your face, is just one of the many experiences that created stories.  "Glad we didn't have to count the chip shots," exhorted one lady.  "I stood there and watched my ball come back to me three different times, and that was just on the fourth hole!"  

What stories must Deb and Babe be sharing?

"My ball rolled off the green on 17 after I marked it, replaced it, and prepared to putt.  I had a side hill, uphill chip coming back to the pen instead of a putt." quipped another woman not to be out done. "Can You Top That Stories" kept us entertained.  As foursomes finished on the 18th green, we gathered at the patio to watch, yell, taunt and tease the often bewildered golfer, our friends.
Mary Lee, Sheila, Alice, Judytease the often bewildered golfer.

Mary Lee, who has played the course before, exclaimed as she walked off 18, "Letty, I four putted."  "There's no shame to that," I calmly replied. At a near screeching pitch she continued,  "But I four putted four times.  I even putted off the green and had to chip back."  As a friend, I could only chuckle.  In my head I knew the frustrations they were dealing with.   That is why I might shot an 80 one day and a 90 the next.

Perry Maxwell, who designed and built Prairie Dunes, envisioned and created smaller greens with hidden nuances, as one of the USGA officials declared.  Many of the greens are contoured with a hogback that runs front to back or splits in a deceiving Y.  The knowing and unknowing golfer is fooled by these breaks.  These greens require exact speed and a good read.  Besides battling the undulating ridges, the golfer must face the false fronts, whipping winds, the dead elephant buried at the front edge of #11 green, and the slippery swells and swales that can suck a ball off the green, like the intimidating hole #8 or #10. Take your pick.
Ann, Debbie, Nancy, Donna smiling on the 18th.
That warm windy fall day came to an end all too soon, but not before we toasted to a winning formula, "Golf +Friends+Food=Fun."  In the next few days, friends posted comments on facebook and sent emails with notes of thanks and funny stories.  One of my favorite stories simply bragged, "I had two birdies, and four pars...Oh, yeah and I lost five balls."  Welcome to Prairie Dunes, and a toast to many more journeys down the links.
Peggy, Jayne, Gail, Patty..smiles tell it all.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Readings and Greetings: Book Club Celebrates Ten Years of Reading Great Books

Ten years ago four women sat on a shady patio to talk about one of our greatest loves--reading.  Before the evening was over and the wine bottles emptied we set upon a path of sharing our passion of books and reading.  Perhaps C.S. Lewis best summed up our feelings when he wrote,  "We read to know we are not alone." 
Doris, Diane, Sonya

 Since that evening a group of ten to fourteen women has met on the 2nd Monday of each month to discuss a selected book and to share our thoughts and lives through our readings, our musings, and our reflections.  It is like Edmund Burke says, "Reading without reflecting is like eating without digesting." 
Sonya, Jan, and Jeannette
And we do eat delicious treats while we share our thoughts. Occasionally,
 a single book receives  applause and accolades from all of us, but that is rare, because we are women who first speak our minds, and we share in the selection of books which often pushes us out of our comfort zone.  Although fiction books remain the most common genre, we've also read a wide range of non-fiction from biographies (Kate Remembered) to history (1776), and to current mainstream thinking (A Whole New Mind).  

This fall a list was compiled of 120 books that we have read and discussed over the last ten years.  From that list we voted on our favorite top 12 books, not an easy tasks for anyone.  My only regret is that we didn't allow an evening to read over the list, reflect and share orally why one book received a vote when another one didn't.  Sixty-two books received votes, and ONE book was the runaway favorite.  Perhaps it was the way Atticus listened and taught Scout and Jem about life that touched us deeply: "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view...until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it."  Harper Lee's novel To Kill a Mockingbird climbed to the top of our list by receiving a vote from nearly everyone.  

Our Top 12 picks:

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

The Help by Stockett
Light Between Oceans by Stedman

Unbroken by Hillenbrand
The Kite Runner by Hosseini

Seabiscuit by Hillenbrand (our only author to make the top 12 twice)
Killing Lincoln by O'Reilly

Seven books came in tied for 8,9,10, 11, and 12 place with each receiving four votes:

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Skloot
The Book Thief by Zusak
My Sister's Keeper by Picoult
Glass Castle by Walls
Can't Wait to Get to Heaven by Flagg
Three Cups of Tea by Mortenson
Secret Life of Bees by Kidd

As I compiled the votes, I reflected on and observed several things.  We learned that in the first two years we read two books by Jeanne Ray and a book by her daughter, Ann Patchett.  We went on to read four titles by Ann Patchett that created great discussions but didn't make our top 12. Other authors that we read more than one of their books include: Khaled Hosseini, Geraldine Brooks, Jeannette Walls, Jodi Picoult,  Dan Brown, Mitch Album, Sue Monk Kidd, and Fannie Flagg who made us laugh.  Thanks to the Dillon Lecture Series, and the independent book stories like Watermark Books and Bluebird
T.C. Boyle and Trudy at Watermark
Books, several of us have enjoyed meeting or listening to these authors--Geraldine Brooks, Daniel Pink, Lisa See, T.C. Boyle, Jeanne Ray, Jeannette Walls, Stacey Cordery, Jill Browne, M.L. Stedman, Laura Moriarty, Lisa Tucker, Greg Mortenson,  Doris Kearns Goodwin, and Senator Bob Dole.   Of the twelve classics we've read besides To Kill a Mockingbird the only other ones to receive votes were Catcher in the Rye, The Great Gatsby, My Antonia, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and Gift from the Sea. One month during the winter we meet with four to six other book clubs to discuss a classic or other notable book.  To hear another woman's point of view or experience always expands our learning.   Occasionally,  in gatherings like this we even gossip about books, "No, don't waste your time on that one."  "Oh, you've just got to read this one."  "Don't know what Oprah was thinking when she called this one great!"  Some books were never finished by a few of us, other books that we might not have read of our own choosing enlightened us to another genre, style of writing, point of view, or time in history.  Our minds, our outlooks, our experiences were changed because of the books we read.  

Dr. Seuss, in his book I Can Read with my Eyes Shut, seems to exemplify our growth as readers and as women, when he writes, "The more that you read, the more things you will know.  The more you learn, the more places you will go."  

These books received one, two, or three votes and are in no particular numerical order:

Kate Remembered by Berg
Ahab's Wife by Naslund
No Ordinary Times by Goodwin
1776 by McCullough
Water for Elephants by Jankowski
The Great Gatsby by Fitzgerald
Little Bee by Cleave
Shanghai Girls by See
Eleanor and Franklin by Lash
Eat Cake by Ray
Julie and Romeo by Ray
Truth and Beauty by Patchett
Bel Canto by Patchett
Where the Heart is by Letts
DaVinci Code by Brown
Dancing at the Rascal Fair by Doig
Pilot's Wife by Shreve
What Remains by Radzwill
Take Big Bites by Ellerby
The Memory Keepers Daughter by Edwards
American Gospel by Meacham
Gift from the Sea by Morrow
Tortilla Curtain by Boyle
My Antonia by Cather
On the Road by Kerouac
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Hosseini
Escape by Jessop
The Zookeeper's Wife by Harp
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Smith
A Whole New Mind by Pink
#1 Ladies Detective Agency by McCall
Loving Frank by Horan
Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Shaffer
People of the Book by Brooks
Half Broke Horses by Walls
Man's Search for Meaning by Frankl
Last Lecture by Pausch
Their Eyes Are Watching God by Hurston
Life in France by Child
Devil in the White City by Larson
Beekeeper's Apprentice by King
The Things They Carried by O'Brien
Dove Keepers by Hoffman
Paris Wife by McLain
Heaven is for Real by Burpo
Life of Pi by Martel
Catcher in the Rye by Salinger
The Girl Who Fell from the Sky by Durrow
Caleb's Crossing by Brooks

Out of 120 books read in ten years 63 received votes leaving behind another 57 books on the list or on our shelves, some that affected of us, some we never finished, and some we wondered "why did we pick this?".  In the end, we've all made connections to each other, with characters, and with places in time who will live on within our hearts and minds.  "Bon Appetite, and Cheers to another ten years of great reads."  

P.S.  We read 119 books not 120.  One title, Eleanor and Franklin, we decided to read over a two month period.