Sunday, June 24, 2007

I've never thought about or especially liked yellow.
Sunshine is good,but I hate bananas.
Mostly I've just ignored the color yellow until this morning when I saw it in a new light. All of a sudden I love yellow.

Sylvia Randolph is 102 years old and her house is yellow.

She's slowed down a bit since I had dinner with her when she was a much younger 99 but she is still sharp as a tack and welcomed a friend and I into her kitchen for a quick visit this morning as we were leaving Saugatuck, Michigan for home. After working all weekend in a gallery owned by Syliva's daughter-in-law there on the shores of Lake Michigan, I was thrilled to see Syliva again and tell her how much fun I have using the cookbook that she wrote to celebrate her 100th birthday. Sylvia is an artist and the cookbook (as well as Good Goods Gallery is filled with her oil and watercolor paintings.

Being an painter in Saugatuck isn't remarkable in itself. The town is a haven for artists. Being a 102-year-old artist who still paints most days is, in my opinion, quite remarkable. Despite the fact that she trails a thin little plastic tube that supplies oxygen to her nose everywhere she goes, she manages to get around the place quite nicely and the evidence of her art is everywhere. There are her cans of paintbrushes on the kitchen sill, her boxes of paints scattered around the room and paintings representing her impressions of beautiful Saugatuck and the graceful sand dunes of Lake Michigan on her walls.

Last year her old family home needed painting. No, she didn't paint it herself but she did decide that the dark green shutters against the white wood siding had never reflected her personal taste and ordered the place spruced up a bit and more to her liking. As we drove up this morning, I smiled as I looked at the house in all it's bright, crayon-yellow glory. The shutters are white now and lining the porch rail... a parade of brilliantly painted purple flower pots.

Inside, at her table, Sylvia mentioned to her daughter-in-law Sandra that "this is going to be a busy week for me..." and recounted, day by day, a list of scheduled activities, where each would be held, who was in attendance and why she supposed she should go. Two nights ago she stayed home, but her donated painting was the talk of the charity auction to benefit the local art center and along with a nice cruise along the river and lake, fetched the highest bid of the night.........over seven thousand dollars. She smiled in amazement, told us some stories. And then we came home.

Sylvia cooks, she gardens, she paints. And all her sofas and chairs have handmade slipcovers that she changes to go with the season. (Do you even have to ask?? Yes, of course she made them---and the braided rug on the floor too, in case you wander in and wonder.)

All of a sudden yellow and purple.........and growing old......look different to me.
Thanks, Sylvia.

Thursday, June 21, 2007


Oh look! Up yonder in the old dead tree. Is that an immature bald eagle I spy???
You know what THAT's time for another CAMP DEBBIE!!!!!

Ok yeah, he's really a turkey vulture.
Just don't mention it to any of my camper girls, they can't see a dang thing without their glasses and he makes everyone feel sorta welcome. Like he's been sitting up there waiting for us since last time we gathered around the fire.

Thanks to the handsome young neighbor who graciously stopped by our camp and offered to take our picture. Say young man..........might you happen to have a single father lurking out there somewhere???? Does he like dusty girls that are fragrant, like a campfire?

The Camper girls surprised Director Debbie with a little graduation party.

I waited 50 years to twirl some tassels.

The best part of Camp Debbie, of course, is the Camper Girls.

And nature class. Here first-time Camper Paula learns more than she ever wanted to know about a woodland toad. Here also, a woodland toad learns more than he ever wanted to know about what happens when one wanders from the woodland into the campsite of a bunch of women on their third tumbler of vodka punch.

First time Campers Lisa and Molly. Molly has a beautiful voice and without benefit of accompaniment, burst into a heartfelt rendition of "Oh Danny Boy" somewhere around midnight. Her beautiful song was met with cheers from surrounding campers when she finished. Unfortunately, traditional Irish melody is apparently the distress call that summons state park rangers.

Frankly, we wondered what took him so long. Traditionally Camp Debbie gatherings are visited by men in uniform long before dark. This ambitious fellow didn't show up until well after midnight and, I must say, was fairly humorless.

Perhaps he was annoyed when one of the Camper Girls asked if he was a stripper cop as he walked up to the fire. In her defense, how was she to know he wasn't??? It was dark. It was late....

At any rate, once he identified himself and showed us the fine emblem on his hat, we listened attentively and sat in wide-eyed and rapt attention as he explained his Strike One, Strike Two, Strike Three policy which would eventually end with us crossing homeplate in handcuffs. (Not, he emphasized, nearly as fun as it sounds)
We thanked him for reviewing the park policies with us so carefully and eventually he went home.

This was about ten minutes before our neighboring campers brought out a CHAIN SAW.
Yes, a chain saw and you can bet,for a moment all of our minds wandered off in the direction of wondering which of our body parts they would wrap up and mail to our relatives in brown paper when they were done sawing their way through our campsite.

When it became evident we were just neighbors and not prey, we forgot about them and continued with our own little camping party.

And yes, of course.
There were awards for everyones official Camp Debbie necklaces.
Followed by sleep, and eventually.........


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Playing Tour Guide Again

Last week I hosted guests from Florida. In addition to Michael's opportunity to experience his very first plane ride, it was both he and Charlie's first visit to the Midwest!! Clean slates, they were! Minds for the molding, mine mine mine...allllll mine for two days. As their Iowa Ambassador I took my responsibility to indelibly etch this place into their hearts very seriously! It wasn't from inside a grand old tour bus like I drove one summer in Montana, but I popped open the sun roof on my little car and headed down the road to the place they wanted to visit most --- Madison County, home of the famous covered bridges and the pastoral setting for Robert Wallers romantic best-seller, The Bridges of Madison County.

"It's very GREEN here...." they kept saying.

I hear that alot when I am hosting out-of-town guests. The leaves and grasses are gorgeous right now, hard to convince my visitors that we have been in desperate need of rain.

In the town of Winterset, fans of "The Bridges.." film will recognize plenty of scenes from the story of Clint Eastwoods' Robert Kincaid and how he fell in love with Francesca, the beautiful farm wife played by Meryl Streep. Michael, Charlie and I ate lunch at the counter in the North Side Cafe.

Winterset is your typical county seat in Iowa, with the town square and grand old courthouse surrounded by old business buildings with lots of character, most of which are in noticeably great repair. My guess is that this is thanks to the influx of tourist dollars provided by interest in the movie and the fact that the town can also brag on itself as the birthplace of John Wayne.

Five minutes in any direction, it's wide open space and that beautiful green, green, green. Even roadside ditches can be fun if you know what to look for. I showed the guys how all Iowa kids know how to pull the little tops off clover and suck the nectar out of the flower for a sweet little burst on their tongue.

The stars of the show of course, are the bridges.

Tour guides pray for moments like the one we experienced when driving down a tree-shaded side road just outside of town.

This gorgeous little doe, in all her nonchalant glory, looked up from munching weeds, completely disinterested and for-darn-sure not going to interrupt her lunch as we stopped the car and snapped pictures. All the while a couple of guys from Florida are snapping their shutters and yelling, "No WAY this is a real deer. She's five feet from us. She's mechanical, right? You PLANT these deer in the ditches along the side of the road and when you pass a certain spot, she looks up?? Right on queue??"

Indeed, as if on queue, she looked up, twitched her ear, and went back to munching grass.

Despite Bambi and I's efforts to amaze my visitors, nothing we saw or experienced could eclipse Michael's favorite moment of the day - experiencing his first drive down a gravel road. At this point I might add that I delivered mail on gravel roads for 12 years and have great respect for them. But I also know how to drive them and I told Michael he didn't have to worry.

At 50 miles per hour, he just wasn't so sure.

With deepest apologies to Robert Waller and all due respect to Winterset and the bridges in all of their Midwestern splendor, it seems the gravel dust cloud was the favorite moment of the day.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

THE ANSWER IS YES........................

The Camp Debbie staff makes every effort to provide a wholesome educational experience for each Camper Girl in attendance, as well as indulge in fun, frivolity and general merriment. So YES, Camper Virginia. The answer to the question on everyone's mind is....yes, indeed bears DO...............

Ok, well.................most bears.................

No matter WHAT you like to do in the woods, there is a place for you around the camp fire at Camp Debbie. Can't wait to see you Friday night!!!!!!
XO, Director Debbie loves you!!!!

Saturday, June 02, 2007


Listen up, ladies!!
Friday, June 15. Rain or Shine and of course, everyone earns a new ring for their Camp Debbie necklace. Patch your tent, shake the dust off your sleeping bag and start saving crisp, new dollar bills for the stripper cop.....we need to get back to the woods!!!!

In addition to consumption of food and beverage we shall engage in the traditional merriment standards established by Camp Debbie's gone by by....

Moonlit Night, Down by the lake....
Late-night girls were trapped in the park, I melted the bottoms off my tennis shoes and a big, hairy man emerged from the dark looking for love in what he discovered were all the wrong places. Awakened by shotgun blasts at dawn, coincidentally, the opening day of duck hunting season.

Moonlight Night, In the park....
Scolded for noise violations by the friendly neighborhood sheriff who entered our circle and had a hard time convincing you camper girls that he wasn't a stripper hired by The Director. Why he didn't arrest one of us when Camper Ellen asked to see his gun is still a mystery. Who says cops don't have a sense of humor??

Moonlight Autumn Night, under the trees....
The usual consumption and merriment, pastoral by previous Camp Debbie standards until a mole burrowed up from below ground directly beneath Camper Deb's sleeping bag.

Darn Cold Moonlit Night, hmmm...where the heck were we....??
Last night of the camping season, deep into the month of October and cold as hell, good camper girls all believed her when The Director explained it's warmer to crawl into your sleeping bag naked but it made for a chilly sprint to the bathrooms in the middle of the night after all that beer and gave new meaning to the phrase "frost on the pumpkins".

Yet another ccccold and Moonlit night..........gathered round the fire circle at my Dad's empty farm house just before it sold. Sleeping bags covered the floors in every room and we were honored at the presence of a Prom Queen in full regalia. The next morning we all received our Camp Debbie honor and attendance necklaces.

I could go on and on.......there will be plenty of time for that around the next campfire. More info to come, let's start packing.......

Friday, June 01, 2007

Graduation Day ~ May 5, 2007

Having my son surprise me by flying in with my little granddaughter for my graduation meant alot to me. I hope someday, knowing that she was at her Grandma's college graduation, will be important to her. And I plan to be in the cheering section when she graduates, too.