Archive | April 2020

COVID Diaries, Day 20

I’ve been sad the last couple of days.  Sad about all the people dying, sad that I can’t see my friends and my family, sad about all the people who have lost their jobs, sad about all the people who just don’t get it, and even sad about all the people who think it’s their job in life to publicly shame the people who just don’t get it.  As if that’s going to make them get it.

I’m sad about my horse too.  I’m mostly ok, but then I think about a memory, and lose it all over again.  30 years is a long, long time…

Yesterday after my very first remote, video-conference public Board meeting (surprise! no one from the public “attended”), I still had time to walk up to the now empty university campus to watch the sunset.  The perks of working from home.  Hearing the birds chirp, and the seagulls squawking and seeing the sun going down over the bay, as it does every night, made me feel better.

Book Review: Sharp Objects

Sharp Objects, by Gillian Flynn

Sharp Objects was a novel that I chose from the library’s website, simply based on the author.  You have probably heard of Gillian Flynn; she wrote Gone Girl, which became an international bestseller and was turned into a movie.  I read Gone Girl a couple of years ago and thought it was pretty interesting, so I decided to check this one out!

Sharp Objects

Sharp Objects is the story of Camille, a young woman who grew up in small town Missouri and moved to Chicago the first chance she had to escape a dysfunctional family.  She was one of the lucky ones it seems.  Camille is sent home by her newspaper editor to cover an unsolved serial murder with very few leads.  In order to dig up information for her story, she has to interact with the family and friends she has left behind, who have never really changed.

Camille stays with her mother and stepfather, and is subjected to the strange way her mother has of attempting to control her, even though she is now 30.  And she gets to know her strange, self-absorbed 13 year old stepsister, who was a toddler when Camille was last living at home.  Let’s just say there’s a lot of creepy in that family…

There are a series of twists and turns as Camille befriends the FBI agent on the case, and confronts her alcoholism and mental illness along the way.  You might think you know how the book will turn out, but don’t be so sure…

4 stars. 

Cuyahoga Valley NP History

Cuyahoga Valley National Park is one of our newer national parks, having been designated on October 11, 2000 by President Bill Clinton.  It is the only national park that began its public life as a National Recreation Area, having been designated as an NRA in 1974.  Cuyahoga Valley is unique in several other respects as well; it is the only national park in Ohio, located between Akron and Cleveland in a fairly populated area.  It was already filled with roads, farms, small towns and several existing parks before it became a national park, so the National Park Service coordinates with the towns and the metro park system to administer the park.

The land that Cuyahoga Valley National Park sits on has a long history of use by several tribes, including the Wyandot, Ottawa, Objibwe, Munsee, Potawatomi, and Shawnee, but the Lenapé Nation is considered the grandfather of many of the other tribes in the upper Ohio River Valley.  A series of treaties and white encroachment on their land pushed the tribes off the land in this area in the late 1700s and early 1800s.

White settlement began in the late 1700s, and increased when the Ohio and Erie Canal established a well defined trade path between Akron and Cleveland in 1827.  Towns and services sprung up along the path of the canal, feeding passengers and workers on the barges, and quenching their thirst at the taverns!  Farming and sawmills were also common in the area.  Even after the railroad came to the valley in the mid-1800s and greatly lessened the use of the canal, it still operated as a method to move coal to the Great Lakes for the ships there.  The canal was finally doomed when a flood in 1913 washed out large portions of its banks, and some of the locks had to be dynamited in order to release the floodwaters.

The park is located along a 20 mile section of the old Ohio and Erie Canal, and it’s towpath has been turned into the Towpath Trail, for walkers, runners and bicyclists.  The park also has dozens of waterfalls, including the 65 foot Brandywine Falls, which is the tallest in the park and the second tallest in Ohio; some of the waterfalls dry up in the dry season though.  There are historic buildings, and living history museums, and some old cemeteries scattered throughout the park.  A rebuilt covered bridge, a marsh and lots of wildlife round out the park!

The park has an annual visitation of 2,096,053 in 2018, and I was one of them!  I spent two days there in August 2018; I’m excited to share my experiences!

 

Book Review: Death in Yellowstone

My aunt and uncle got Death in Yellowstone: Accidents and Foolhardiness in the First National Park, by Lee H. Whittlesey, for me as a gift.  It’s like they know me!  They have spent a couple of summers working in the bookstore near Old Faithful, so I imagine this book was screaming out at them from the shelves until they couldn’t ignore it anymore!

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First, let’s get this out of the way.  Yes, I appreciate the morbid.  It helps me cope; I get it from my mom…  But who wouldn’t want to know about all the strange and grisly ways there are to die in the nation’s first National Park?  Yellowstone was designated as a National Park on March 1, 1872, so that’s almost 150 years of opportunity to die there.  And Whittlesey has done a great job of compiling a comprehensive list of all of the deaths in the park.

There are a lot of ways to die!  He covers drownings, falling into thermals, deaths caused by horses and wagons, falls, deaths caused by wildlife, exposure, poison gases, suicides, murders and more!  Some, like deaths by wildlife, are less common than I would have guessed, with most of those being caused by grizzly bears (which is to be expected).  It also impressed upon me that you should never, ever, go roaming around Yellowstone at night, in the dark.  There are too many opportunities to fall in thermals, to fall off cliffs, to freeze to death (even if it isn’t winter), or to get eaten by a bear!  I mean I knew this already, but apparently there are people who don’t.

The writing style, leaves a bit to be desired; Whittlesey compiles information and presents it in a matter of fact manner, rather than spinning a excellent story.  At points it almost seems that bullets would be his preferred method.  That said, it is still interesting, and I enjoyed where he was able to get additional information about a victim (or a perpetrator) from the folks that knew them.

If you love our National Parks, and have a fascination with the macabre, you are sure to like this book!

3 stars.

Stay at Home Forever…

Hearts all over Washington State were broken this evening.  “Stay at Home” is extended until May 4.  32 more days of staying home, at a minimum.  UGH…

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t disagree that it is necessary, but ugh all the same.  I was feeling kind of mopey today anyway.  So let’s explore some things I’ve learned about staying home in the time of COVID…

  1. I use more toilet paper. I’m currently mapping this, but I think I am going through a roll a week.  I didn’t hoard, but I did buy 1 package last time I could find some, so I have about 19 rolls.  That will last me a while!
  2. I run the dishwasher way more often.  It’s all that eating at home.  I’m tired of eating at home by the way.
  3. COVID is stressful.  I’m safe at home, but I’m on the front line of decision-making for how to keep my essential government organization safe.  I am back to my stress-induced 3 am insomnia wake up call.  Ugh.
  4. You can’t make everybody happy (see #3).
  5. I never knew it was possible to obsess so much about having to clear my throat.  Was that cough “dry”?!?!?!?!?!?
  6. Working 40 hours a week from home does give me more time at home to get things done in my non-work hours, but that doesn’t mean I will!
  7. I’m really grateful that I had my surgery in December, before all elective surgery got canceled.
  8. Even introverts crave time with people.
  9. Putting on nice clothes doesn’t really have an impact on my mood.  But taking a shower does!  The last time I did laundry, I washed and folded exactly one pair of work slacks from the Board meeting I attended almost two weeks ago; since then the Governor has ruled that all public meetings must be conducted remotely.  I can’t say I’m disappointed!
  10. Coraline enjoys busting in on video meetings!

I like to get out for a walk each day or do some yard work; thankfully I’m only a short walk away from a college campus that is eerily empty…  I’m praying that our efforts are working to flatten the curve and save lives.  I’m heartbroken for the people who have lost their lives, and lost loved ones.  I hope that sooner rather than later, we are able to move on from this.  Meanwhile, I’ll keep doing my part.

 

Book Review: Mary Todd Lincoln, A Biography

I picked up Mary Todd Lincoln, A Biography, by Jean H. Baker, at the Mary Todd Lincoln House in Lexington, Kentucky, when I visited there in August 2018.  I have read a lot about Abraham Lincoln, and have learned much about Mary in the process, but I have never read anything that explores her life as her own person, separate from her relationship with our nation’s 16th President.

Mary Todd Lincoln: A Biography

The book covers the entirety of Mary Todd Lincoln’s life, from her birth and upbringing in Lexington, Kentucky.  Her mother died when Mary was six, and her father remarried shortly after to Mary’s step-mother, a woman that Mary had a tumultuous relationship with.  She went to boarding school across town, and received far more education than a girl typically received at the time.  She was versed in politics and could speak eloquently on a variety of topics, in both English and French.

She was, by all accounts, a formidable force, who had strong opinions and a pushy nature.  However, it is likely that Lincoln’s rise to the Presidency was heavily influenced by his wife, her encouragement and her assistance behind the scenes.  She believed she would be the First Lady, and Mary Todd Lincoln often got what she wanted.

Her life was also overshadowed by tragedy.  She lost her mother as a child, and three of her four sons died before they reached adulthood.  And of course, you know what happened to her husband…  She grieved.  Yet she grieved in a way that the nation thought inappropriate, not becoming of a lady of her time.  She was too much to take.

Mary’s polarizing personality bought her many enemies, and those enemies have tainted the historical record.  She certainly was far from perfect, but this biography will help the reader to understand what is true and what is myth surrounding Mary Todd Lincoln.

4 stars.