Grandma’s Basement

My grandfather and his dad built a house into the side of a hill. The main floor had three small bedrooms, a bathroom, a living room and stairs to the kitchen below. The kitchen looked out over the hill down to the creek and had windows and a back door with a screen door. The… Continue reading Grandma’s Basement

Bomb Shelter Blues

Our house on 69th Street in Urbandale, Iowa, had a big bump in the backyard. It’s where my grandfather built a fall-out shelter that connected to our basement. It was during the Cold War, and thoughts of atomic bombs being dropped on us was enough to motivate him to save his daughter and five of… Continue reading Bomb Shelter Blues

The Danger of Family Secrets

To this day my mother says, “It was a different time. That’s what families did in those days.” She is talking about family secrets. Mine had a whole bunch of them. My dead Uncle David, with his farm painting on the living room wall of my grandparents’ house, was a mystery to me.  He’d died… Continue reading The Danger of Family Secrets

More Machu Picchu

(part two) Christy and I finished our breakfast at the hotel up at the top and looked into the fog. The buses wouldn’t start arriving until noon. “Let’s hike up the big mountain,” she said. “Okay,” I said. My lost and found tennis shoes were too small, but I had cut out the toes so… Continue reading More Machu Picchu

The Navajo in the Room

My mother’s brother was a college professor at Shiprock College (now renamed Diné College) in New Mexico.  He met and married my aunt Grace, a Navajo woman.  This was exciting news in my all-white Iowa family. Uncle Jim was coming to town with his new bride. Uncle Jim was tall and slim, and had a… Continue reading The Navajo in the Room

The Moon Landing and a Funeral

The day we landed on the moon, my parents took the family to a picnic/fishing spot at the Des Moines reservoir. I was going into high school in the fall, so it was a dorky thing to do on a Sunday, but hey? I couldn’t drive yet, and the food was always good on a… Continue reading The Moon Landing and a Funeral

More Machu Picchu

(part two) Christy and I finished our breakfast at the hotel up at the top and looked into the fog. The buses wouldn’t start arriving until noon. “Let’s hike up the big mountain,” she said. “Okay,” I said. My lost and found tennis shoes were too small, but I had cut out the toes so… Continue reading More Machu Picchu

Best Music Lessons Ever

When I was seven, I began my musical career by writing a song about going to the drugstore for candy. My first composition was entitled, “If I had a Penny.” Now you know how old I am. There were five kids in my house, and only one parent working for wages. Money was tight. I… Continue reading Best Music Lessons Ever