The Decatur Book Festival

Decatur Book FestivalWe all had a good time today at the Decatur Book Festival. I had to grab a nap when we got home so I could recover. I am a little sad—one of my main reasons for going, seeing Diana Gabaldon and possibly getting a book signed, didn’t turn out to be feasible when I saw the line. If I had been alone or with like-minded friends, I would have waited, but I was with family, none of whom shared my interest in seeing Ms. Gabaldon, so I filed that away for another time. I have seen her once before, after all.

We roamed all over the place, seeing all the different tents. We didn’t actually buy that much. The atmosphere was great, and as an English teacher, I was ecstatic that so many folks were gathered to celebrate books and reading. We mostly looked, walked around, and had fun. I think everyone except Steve found a book in the Little Shop of Stories. Sarah got Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment by James Patterson. Dylan got a copy of Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin, Jr. (it’s different from the one he already has because it has a CD). Maggie got some Junie B. Jones books and a replacement for the lost (and admittedly battered) copy of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. I got a copy of Finn by John Clinch. It’s a book I’ve been curious about for some time.

You can look at my pictures here, if you have a Facebook. I don’t think you have to be my friend to see them, but if you want to be my friend, just send a request. I’m not sure if you can see them if you don’t have a Facebook.

In Progress: The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane

I am about halfway through The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, and what a delightful read it has been so far. Not since I first picked up Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander have I read a book that contains a confluence of so many things that interest me or that I can relate to. First of all, I was taken aback when the protagonist, Connie, referred to her grandmother as “Granna.” That’s what I call my grandmother, and I have always believed I invented it. I had to do a Google search to assure myself that other women have indeed been called Granna. You can learn more about my own Granna at my genealogy blog.

Second, Connie studies Colonial American history, a time period I have always found fascinating. She finds a mysterious key with a piece of parchment tucked inside its pipe or barrel or whatever you want to call the hollow part of an old key. The parchment has the name Deliverance Dane written on it. Connie sets out on a quest to find out more about Deliverance, whom she discovers was part of the Salem Witch Trials furor in 1692. I have been fascinated with this aspect of American history since about fourth grade. I just couldn’t believe that people in my own country, which prides itself now on freedom, had acted in such a bizarre fashion. I still don’t understand it.

Finally, in the last chapter I read, Connie is reading the diary of Prudence Lamson Bartlett. I was struck by how similar the diary entries were to my own great-great-grandmother Stella Bowling Cunningham’s own diary—so devoid of comment on emotions (although Stella occasionally discusses being irritated at someone), so repetitive in their description of the seemingly menial tasks of life. But as Connie says, “In some respects, Prudence’s daily work was her inner life” (158). In the last entry that Connie recounts, this is the entire text:

Febr. 24, 1763. Too cauld to write. Mother dies. (163)

I felt tears well into my eyes, despite the seemingly lack of emotion on the part of Prudence. Connie ascribes it to Prudence’s “cold practicality, her obstinate refusal to reveal her feelings, no matter how culturally proscribed” (163). My own Grandma Stella’s diary was so similar in the respects of recounting the weather, the daily work, where she went, what she bought and how much it cost. I could feel her relief when she wrote the following entry for April 4, 1894:

I paid Mrs. Bragg $7.50 for board & am now even. Owe no man anything (i.e. in $ and cts.)

On the day when her own grandmother died, she wrote:


Homer & I went to town early.
Grandma died at 6 P.M.
Mr. Amos came & we came home.
Bought a buggy from John Houston $20.00.
Papa was at Aunt Panthea’s.

It couldn’t be more like Prudence Bartlett’s diary in the way it recounts so much pain alongside the mundane. It’s so spooky that if I didn’t know better, I’d swear Katherine Howe must have cribbed my genealogy blog! If you like, you can read my Grandma Stella’s journal (PDF). I transcribed it from a photocopy of the original.

Staying up at night reading this book under the low light of a book lamp over the last few nights has been a pleasure indeed, and I can hardly wait to see what happens next in Connie’s research.

All About My Mom, by Maggie

Maggie presented me with a biography she wrote about me for Mother’s Day. It was a form that she and her teacher filled out.

My mom’s name is Mama Dana.

She is 5 or 6 years old.

She is 8 feet tall.

She weighs 5 pounds.

Her hair is gray.

Her eyes are blue.

Her favorite food is enchilada.

I like it when my mom cooks pot roast for dinner.

She likes to hug.

She always tells me to get her a Coke.

I like to dance with my mom.

I love you Mom, Maggie.

As you can imagine, I was properly amused by her perceptions of my age and size and properly chastened by her recollections that I frequently ask her to retrieve Cokes for me; however, in my defense, her father asks her about ten times more than I do. My favorite food, by the way, is not enchiladas, but she doesn’t like my enchilada casserole, so I think she said that because she thinks I must insist on making it for some reason; therefore, that reason must be that it’s my favorite.

[tags]Mother’s Day, children[/tags]


I recently announced on my cooking blog that I will be discontinuing that blog, mainly because I lost interest in it. I thought from the beginning what would really work is a recipe blog. Folks aren’t interested in how much I spend on groceries; they want to know how to make something. I convinced my sister to participate with me, and you can read the Swier sisters’ recipes at Two Steamin’ Sisters. Yeah, about the title: if you have suggestions, we’re all ears. The blog’s title can easily be changed. Check it out!

[tags]recipes, blog[/tags]

Christmas and Swing

I went to my parents’ house for Christmas and had a chance to visit with my sister, brother-in-law and niece. It was a nice time. Maggie and Dylan had fun. Sarah had a good time, too. She spent most of the holiday with her dad and is still there. Sure does seem like a houseful when all the kids are together. My sister gave me the director’s cut of Amadeus, which I had been coveting. Sarah gave me her 100% Spanish test, all wrapped and everything. I also received some nice clothes and teacher things. The kids cleaned up. I gave my sister and parents copies of their family trees/family history books, and my brother-in-law and niece also received books from me. I hope all of you had happy holidays and will enjoy a good new year.

I finally managed to get into Odeo. I am frustrated by the fact that the bluegrass podcast I wanted to listen to sounds like Alvin and the Chipmunks go Appalachian, but from what I understand, this is a bug that Odeo knows about, doesn’t plan to fix, and instead places squarely into the hands of podcasters. From what I understand, not all podcasters upload their podcasts to Odeo, but gathers RSS feeds from podcasts and puts them in one location. If you browse the site, you’ll notice that many of the podcasts are not “claimed.”

Just as many of you may not have known that I like Delta Blues, you probably also didn’t know I’m a huge fan of Big Band Swing — Glenn Miller in particular, but I listen to others. It started when I was in 7th grade. My band teacher let us join jazz band even if we didn’t play a “jazz” instrument. In the years since, I have learned that my flute is indeed sometimes used in jazz, though not as often as brass and sax. Anyway, we played a swing tune called “Tuxedo Junction.” I thought it was so much fun, and I began to listen to other big band tunes. I remember my college friends really scratched their heads over it. I wondered after swing music came into vogue again in the mid to late 1990’s if they remembered I had listened to it. I am so rarely ahead of the curve on anything. Of course, one could and probably should argue that I was not ahead of the curve; rather, I was behind the curve by about 50 years. Whatever. Who would have thought I would like the same popular music as my grandfather? Well, it’s true. I find myself tapping my toes and really wishing I could actually dance when I hear swing music. I found some great swing music from Radio Nostalgia Network via Odeo. You can listen to anything from swing music to old radio programs (including soap operas and radio plays). You can enjoy a big band swing podcast in the music player in the lefthand sidebar.  Remember the recording is old and was broadcast over the radio in 1939, so the sound quality is not what we’re used to in 2006.  Still sounds good, however.


I took Dylan to his pediatrician today to begin the process of evaluating him for autism. He has for some time been exhibiting symptoms that worry me. For instance, at the age of three, he speaks almost no words. He will learn words, then forget them; however, we know he knows some words based on his nonverbal responses. He seems to be unable to determine when someone is angry or upset. He lines up his toys and become extremely upset when anyone disturbs his arrangments.

In some ways, Dylan perfectly exhibits symptoms of autism, but in others — such as the fact that he is very affectionate and loves to be hugged — he doesn’t. Of course, autism is a spectrum disorder, and I have no fears that he is mentally disabled. However, his language delay is really my biggest concern. He will be starting school soon, and I want him to be successful. Especially because I see the light inside him, but I realize that it would be difficult for a teacher to relate to him.