Coincidence vs. Influence

When he was six, Joseph asked if we could visit the Alamo. I don’t remember exactly what prompted his request (Davy Crockett, perhaps?), but everyone was interested in a trip to Texas, so later that summer we headed south. We visited all five San Antonio missions, strolled the River Walk, toured the USS Lexington aircraft carrier in Corpus Christi, traveled briefly into Mexico, and took Hanna to a campus visit at Concordia University – Austin.

Also in Austin we indulged my hobby of touring state capitol buildings. On our way home we did the same in Oklahoma City. During our tour of the Oklahoma State Capitol, we encountered the lieutenant governor, who invited us into her office, encouraged the girls to become active in politics and offered a photo op. Hanna and Joseph passed, but Laura took her up on it.

Laura with Mary Fallin, August 2004.

I hadn’t thought about this in years, but was reminded of the incident last week when Laura received an invitation to attend Missouri Girls State this summer. Only a couple of junior girls are selected from Helias each year, and the selection process includes an application with an impromtu essay and an interview with an American Legion representative. Phil and I are so proud of Laura!

Out of curiosity I looked up Mary Fallin; she is now Governor of Oklahoma. Now I’m not saying that our encounter with Governor Fallin eight and a half years ago directly led to Laura’s selection to Girls State. But interestingly enough, just as soon as the 2013 Missouri Girls State session wraps up, Phil and I will be taking Laura to meet her youth group for the National Lutheran Youth Gathering.

It’s in San Antonio, and we will be following the same route through Oklahoma City that we took back in 2004.

Changing Times

As my family returned home from Grandma and Grandpa’s house one fine day several years ago, where my kids had been royally spoiled (a grandparent’s prerogative), I was trying to explain to them how things had changed since I had been their age. Soda pop, for example, was a rare treat, maybe once every month or two. At our house it was usually served with pizza, another treat.

Furthermore, in the “olden days,” we either watched a TV show when it was scheduled or we missed it. There was no videotape or TiVo. There were only three stations, and no cable. We went to see movies at the theater (although we watched The Wizard of Oz on TV once a year, as long as we were home that night) because there weren’t films on VHS or DVD. There were no personal computers; in fact, I can remember my mom buying my dad one of the first handheld calculators for his birthday. It cost over $50 and was several times the size of an as-yet nonexistent iPod Touch. We had no cell phones or even cordless phones.

There weren’t even music CDs yet, much less MP3 players. We listened to record albums and cassette tapes. Our Christmas or birthday wish list might have included a battery-operated transistor radio. My older brother had an 8-track tape player in his truck. That was pretty cool, I told the kids, because I only had an AM radio in my Ford Pinto. My son was incredulous at this bit of information. “Mom,” he exclaimed, “You mean it only worked in the morning?”

After the laughter died down and I explained what an AM radio is, I got to thinking about how much can change over a lifetime. Take, for example, Laura Ingalls Wilder. We know from her books that the Ingalls family crossed the frontier in a covered wagon. She describes the trials and tribulations of everyday pioneer life — how to build a log cabin, boil down maple syrup, braid straw hats and butcher a hog (complete with instructions for headcheese). Laura witnessed the building of the transcontinental railroad, and described a trip on the train in By the Shores of Silver Lake. Later she traveled again by covered wagon with husband Almanzo and daughter Rose to Mansfield, Missouri, where she would spend the rest of her life.

During Laura’s lifetime the telephone, phonograph, incandescent light bulb, Kodak camera, gasoline-powered automobile, airplane, television and atomic bomb were invented. She died in 1957 at the age of 90, just a few months before the launch of Sputnik I ushered in the space age.

In her books, Laura Ingalls Wilder left behind a rich written record of her frontier experiences. It’s likely that someone you know also has an interesting history. My eldest daughter’s great-grandmother was acquainted with (but did not much like) Charles Lindbergh. She also drew pen-and-ink images for 1920s Famous-Barr ads published in the St. Louis Post Dispatch. My husband’s father went to Europe as a young MP just after WWII ended, and among other experiences, delivered war criminals to Dachau just months after its liberation. My great-uncle was friends with Walt Disney and was honorary mayor of Disneyland when it opened.

I find reminiscing with older family members and friends more interesting than contemplating the changes that have occurred in my lifetime, probably because I take my own experiences for granted. But that conversation with my kids reminded me how important it is to take the time to talk to family, friends and elderly neighbors about their lives. Like the Little House books, their memories can bring history to life.

My New Best (Home Renovation) Friend

Since my last post on home renovation, I am still hard at work painting the old steel frames to match our new windows. I started in the downstairs bathroom, where, as such projects are wont to do, my workplan took a detour.

It’s partly Menard’s fault. They ran a rebate special a couple of weeks ago, so Phil and I decided to change out some light fixtures in the kitchen and study. I suggested that we also replace this old and yellowing bathroom fan


with a new one to match the other fixtures in the bathroom. Isn’t it pretty?


It didn’t take long to discover that the ceiling opening required for the new fan did not match the existing one and would require significant patching following an already complicated process to replace the unit. Reluctantly, we returned the new fan and looked for a replacement fan grille instead. Menard’s carried only the entire fan kit, but a clerk thought we might be able to special order the grille.

Sure enough, I found replacement parts online, but decided to check to see whether Lowe’s might have a grille in stock. Unfortunately, they also carried only the entire fan kit. On my way to the exit, I happened to walk through the paint aisle and spied this:

My New Best (Home Renovation) Friend

According to the label, Rust-Oleum Universal Metallic Spray Paint (Oil Rubbed Bronze) works on most surfaces, including plastic, and does not require a separate primer. I snagged a can and headed home.

I had never used spray paint before, but I figured the worst thing that could happen would be that it wouldn’t work and I would have to buy a new grille online. Here are before and after shots of the bathroom fan:

Still not as pretty as the round fan, but a huge improvement nonetheless. The photo really does not do it justice.

This paint is seriously great stuff. There were a few hiccups along the way. I forgot to hit the inside angle of the louvres, and although I followed the label directions exactly (recoat within one hour or after 48 hours), the finish blistered a bit. I had to wait for that coat to dry, then sand the bubbles off, then wait another 48 hours to repaint. The finish still is not perfectly smooth, but it’s not very noticeable and besides – it’s on the ceiling. We also disrupted the paint around the grille while removing it, but that repair will just have to wait its turn.

Cost of the spray paint: just under $8. It would have cost $98 for the new bathroom fan (plus the aggravation of changing it out and patching the ceiling) or about $35 to have a new grille shipped to us.

But wait – there’s more! The bathroom floor vent had corroded, and since it had to be cut to fit an irregular opening, we never seemed to get around to replacing it. Emboldened by my success with the fan grille, I painted the vent as well. I’m not sure of the cost savings as I have not priced replacement vents, but I estimate $10-$15.

The floor vent turned out even better than the bathroom fan. So well that Rust-Oleum featured it on their Facebook page!

I can envision all kinds of other uses for this paint. I may try painting the shower fixtures this summer. The front door hardware and fireplace screen are also on the list of possibilities.

But for now, it’s back to painting window frames.


Ode to Connubial Bliss

So yes, it is Monday already, and I have to confess that I did not make the time last week to write a post for today. This morning I dug through my old documents file and came up with this gem, written November 9. 1994,  ten days before Phil and I married. I had completely forgotten about this and a few other poems and articles.

I hope you enjoy the poem. I know I was happy to rediscover it, although now I have yet another item on my to-do list: convert these old documents to Microsoft Office before I am no longer able to open AppleWorks.


by Sara (10-days-and-counting) Hartman

Phil and Sara met one day,
And soon after fell in love.
They agree on nearly everything,
Truly a match from above.

But . . . a controversy arises!
Across a crowded room
A Windows machine and an Apple face off.
Which will be meeting its doom?

Phil, the System Administrator,
Never strays from the PC track.
But Sara, while computer bilingual,
Prefers the more elegant Mac.

Can anything resolve this impasse?
Will the romance go up in flames?
No, for Hanna knows the secret to happiness
Is that both have some really neat games.

So, the fusing of different elements —
And operating systems as well —
Yields a two-computer nuclear family:
Hanna and Sara and Phil.

P.S. Eighteen years plus later, we are still a two-OS family. We have increased our number of children by two, and our number of computers by some ridiculous multiple of that.