Showing posts with label aging. Show all posts
Showing posts with label aging. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Dear Mad'm by Stella Patterson: A Book Review

Dear Mad'm Decides to Move to the Wilderness


Dear Mad'm is the name by which many readers know Stella Walthall Patterson who wrote a memoir with that title.  She did something I'd be afraid to do. Her Arcata friends and family were ready to retire her to a rocking chair and wait on her when she  turned eighty. But a doctor had told her she had "young legs." She wanted to see how far they could still take her. She preferred a life of adventure to a life of ease.

Dear Mad'm by Stella Patterson: A Book Review
Photo by get directly down, Flickr, modified. CC 2.0


By the time she was eighty, Stella Walthall Patterson had lived a full life. Born in Stockton California on October 14, 1866, and orphaned at seven, by the age of sixteen she had graduated from Mills Seminary (later Mills College). She had published her first story in the Oakland Tribune when she was only fourteen. Later she studied in Paris and became proficient in art and music.

Her first husband was Judge Augustus Belcher. She lived with him in San Francisco, socializing with other writers, including Jack London and Ambrose Bierce. The 1906 earthquake and the fire that followed prompted her to leave that area. She had lost everything.

Judge Belcher liked to hunt in the Trinity mountains, and he sometimes hired James Patterson, a rancher in Willow Creek, to act as his guide. Thus, he had occasion to meet Stella.  In 1907, Stella surprised all her friends by marrying Jim Patterson and moving to his Hawkins Bar Ranch in Willow Creek. During the years in Willow Creek, the couple adopted two children -- Ralph and Thelma.

By the time Stella was eighty, she was separated, but not divorced, from Jim Patterson. At the time this book begins, Stella was living in San Francisco again. Not long before her eightieth birthday, while visiting with friends based in Arcata, she injured her leg. After her X-rays in the hospital, the Sister in charge told her she had "young legs."

 She had lived an active and busy life. She had traveled to Europe and mingled with the cultured people of San Francisco. After marrying Patterson she was a rancher's wife, and the couple also had some contact with miners.

The day before her eightieth birthday, as she sat at her friend's house recuperating with her leg propped up, she still felt young. She didn't want to stick around, "waiting to be carried out feet first" when she could still be enjoying new adventures. She wanted freedom to do as she pleased.

 She decided to go live in an old mining cabin she had bought two years earlier as part of a placer mining claim. It had no modern conveniences. She imagined that in the wilderness of the Siskiyou Mountains overlooking the Klamath river she would have solitude and the space to live as she pleased with no human interference. She decided to go for it. She packed her bags, took leave of her friends, and took a bus to Willow Creek. From there she planned to take a mail stage to her cabin. It was 1946. She had promised herself to stay there a year.


Getting to the Wilderness Cabin


The mail stage driver Tom left Stella and all she'd brought with her at the foot of the fifty-foot trail that led UP to her cabin. Evening was rapidly falling. She was exhausted. She pondered the mound of luggage and boxes that somehow had to get up the steep trail to her cabin. She writes:

I had been feeling young and gay all day. Now I felt as old as Methuselah. There was work ahead and no one but me to do it. 

She lugged her belongings up to the edge of her property. Her mind was filled with doubt. She asked herself what she was doing "sitting on a box in the Klamath National Forest far from electric lights, plumbing, inner-spring mattresses" and everything else she had in San Francisco. She contemplated how she would get her things up the trail and into the cabin. She decided to take only what  she needed for the night in one load and come for the rest in the morning. Once inside she took a jar to fill outside at her water barrel. She could feel the scary darkness all around. She recalls:

The feeling of being alone on that vast mountainside, no neighbor within hailing distance, was working on my nerves. I might scream, yell, shout. None to hear. Just an echo from the bluffs cross the river to answer me. 

After taking every safety precaution she could think of, including putting a chair against the door and loading it with pots and pans that would clatter if moved, she crawled into her bed and fell asleep.

Dear Mad'm by Stella Patterson: A Book Review
Klamath River Photo courtesy of Tony Webster on Flickr, CC 2.0 License


Meeting the Neighbors


Life in the primitive cabin (actually a shack) did not quite offer the solitude Stella hoped for. First, she did have neighbors closer than she thought They were the "boys" she had hired to take care of her mine assessment work. She called them Dearsir and Up'nUp. You'll need to read the book to find out why. They just called her Dear Mad'm. The names stuck.

Very early that first morning she heard a knock on the door. She was still barefooted with her hair down. The door opened and Dearsir announced he and his partner had brought her luggage up to the cabin. She learned they had moved about half a mile up the mountain to Bent Pine Cabin. She offered them coffee and then realized that wasn't enough. She didn't have much, but she fed them bread, butter, and all her strawberry jam with it. She did manage to grab one slice herself. The men invited her to come along with them to shop at the grocery in Happy Camp in a couple of days.

Another neighbor was the eccentric Frenchy. He roamed the trails with a book in one hand an a bulb of garlic in the other. He always offered a helping hand when needed.

One day sixteen-year-old Milly came to call from across the river. She wanted to be very proper, but she was very lonely. Once Stella discovered her stilted Victorian speech came from Emily Post, she encouraged her to just be herself. They became great friends.

Occasionally Up'nUp's wife Nora, who lived in Yreka, came to visit and stayed with her.

Later Stella would meet the men's chickens, goats, and English shepherd dog Vicki. She would also meet their mule Pete "the friendliest mule" DearSir ever met. That had not been Stella's first impression.

But Stella's most dangerous neighbors were  her wild ones -- a cougar and a rattlesnake. By the time she met them "the boys" had given her their dog Vicki to be her companion and protector. She turned out to be both.


Peace and Adventure

Photo by Miguel Vieira, Flickr, modified. CC 2.0

One of Stella's first projects was to plant a flower garden. She didn't think she'd be successful with vegetables, but she had always wanted a flower garden. In fact, when she had shopped for her trip she had bought more seeds and bulbs than food. Although the gardening work was difficult, it motivated her, as it does every gardener, to envision the blooming color her labor would bring forth in a few weeks or months.

At the end of the first full day in the cabin she had her first adventure. She came face to face with an escaped billy goat at her door. But the "boys," to whom the goats belonged, quickly caught up with them, took them away, and promised to bring her goat milk in the morning. She didn't like goat milk. Of course, she'd never tried it.

She then puzzled over a way to deal with the rats who lived just between her ceiling and her roof. Her method met with less than success until Frenchy came up with an answer a bit later.

It wasn't long before Stella finally met Pete. Their relationship got off to a rather bad start. It's quite a humorous scene, but you'll have to read it to fully appreciate it. For now we'll just say that first encounter almost made enemies of them forever. That animosity didn't help much when she later had to help trim his hooves.

Dear Mad'm by Stella Patterson: A Book Review
Mule, courtesy of  Pixabay


One day the "boys" came by in the morning to tell Dear Mad'm they were leaving on a trip to Arcada and leaving Vicki with her for protection and company. Vicki was a permanent gift even though the men would return in a few days. She turned out to be a very valuable gift.

That night there was a terrible thunderstorm. Both Stella and Vicki were frightened to death of the storm that might fell the tree above the cabin. Vicki hid under the bed. Somehow, though, they got through the storm without damage and no trees crashed down on them.

Dear Mad'm had another adventure when the men took her to see her claim. It was up a very steep trail -- too steep for her to climb -- so they dangled her on a rope between them. They let her walk back down with an occasional lift where needed.

She did have a few quiet days of birdwatching and relaxing, but one day while she was in her garden with her nose to the ground she heard heard the whirring sound of a rattlesnake. Vicki sounded an alarm, and I'll let you read the book to see how it ended. Their encounter with the cougar that had been raiding the men's goats was also very tense. The men couldn't believe how she'd solved that problem.

But something even topped that. A storm came up when the group of friends were on the way back from Happy Camp one night. It sent rocks crashing down on the narrow mountain road as Dearsir drove the jalopy around the curves. You'll be on the edge of your seat reading that chapter.

Not long after that night Up'nUp's very pregnant wife Nora came to visit two weeks before her due date and stayed a bit too long. Never a dull moment!

You can purchase Dear Mad'm here. 

Never Too Old to Be Needed


As you can see, Stella's expected year of solitude didn't go quite as planned. But she certainly did have adventures on those "young legs" of hers. Near the end of the year in her cabin she had committed herself to, there were many changes in their mountain "neighborhood." Stella had just about decided those changes would make her continued presence unnecessary because no one would need her there anymore. But another big event persuaded her to stay several more years. The book explains what happened to change her mind.

Dear Mad'm moved to a travel trailer in Redding, California, in autumn, 1955, near Thelma, and died on December 23, at the age of 89. She is buried in Redding. She died just before her book was published, so she never got to see it. Stella Patterson's writing sparkles. Her book is also sprinkled with delightful and comical line drawings by Alice Harvey, who was an illustrator and cartoonist for the New Yorker. 

In the years since her death Dear Mad'm has had so many fans wanting to know what happened to her after her book ended that one of her relatives wrote a sequel to try to answer the questions. That book is Dear Mad'm: Who Was She? I'm hoping to read it soon. I just discovered it.

If you are interested in active aging, nature, animals, wilderness living, placer mining, or neighbors bonding and helping each other like family, don't miss this book. It will make you laugh and it will give you moments of heart-stopping suspense. It will show you you're never too old to have adventures when you're young at heart. 




The biographical information that was not in the book came from these sources:

Related Book Reviews You May Enjoy

  • Could You Survive Emigrating to An Untamed Land? A Book Review : This historical Christian novel follows two Norwegian brothers who emigrated from Norway to America with their wives and children in 1880. They wanted to homestead in the Dakota territory
  • Driving Miss Norma Book Review: When faced with months of draining medical procedures for treatment of what is expected to be terminal uterine cancer, Miss Norma chooses not to undergo surgery, radiation, and chemo. She decides to live out her life outside the confines of a hospital and accepts an invitation from her son Tim and his wife to take to the road with them in their RV. It is this coming together that will completely transform all of their lives.
  • Can't Wait to Get to Heaven Book Review: The whole Can't Wait to Get to Heaven adventure started when the elderly widow Elner had just wanted pick a few figs to make some preserves "for that nice woman who had brought her a basket of tomatoes." She didn't know about the wasp nest in the fig tree and the adventures that would follow in her brief trip to Heaven. 









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Monday, March 20, 2017

Is Elvis Alive? Losing Graceland Book Review


Losing Graceland: What Would Elvis Be Like If He Were Alive?


For the life of me, I cannot explain exactly why I read Losing Graceland: A Novel. I know why I picked it up - in part because it is a fictional story about what Elvis might be like if he had faked his death and was still alive and in part because I have always been interested in Elvis Presley.

Of course, you cannot and probably should not judge a book by the cover and in this case sandwiched between the two covers was some content that I was not comfortable with. That's your warning. This book has sexual content that might make you uncomfortable. It did me. And did I mention violence? There is some of that, too.

But still, I read it right through to the end. Something compelled me to keep reading. I wanted to know what would happen to the aging Elvis impersonator (who might really be Elvis) and the young man he hired to help him find his granddaughter. The adventures were entertaining. Along the road there was a fight with biker gangs (and befriend them), a visit with an oracle and a battle to save a hooker from her pimp.

At first glance, this book is a light read but it also deals with two interesting lives: that of an old man whose body is unwell, who has an addiction to pain killers and who lives with an incredible legacy and that of a young man who is heart broken and unemployed.

Reviews of this book are a mixed bag with most people saying they enjoyed reading it. Take one old man with a lifetime of regrets, add a young man with his future before him and what do you have? An emotional story, perhaps a bit too short. If you're a fan of Elvis, the consensus of the reviews is that this is an enjoyable lightweight fictional story. It will make you think about what Elvis Presley might be like today if he were still alive.

Click here to order your copy of Losing Graceland: A Novel from Amazon.

What would Elvis Presley be like if he were alive?


I want to close by telling you about a scene in this book when Elvis takes the stage at an impersonator contest and the crowd really goes wild just as though they were seeing the real Elvis.  A lady faints. A young mother hardly knows her child needs her. Another woman screams that she cannot breathe. Two men have a fist fight. A young girl vomits. Hands grope on stage for Elvis. The crowd screams. The announcer begs people to be calm. Elvis leaves the stage and says to his travelling companions, "Heartbreaker still breaking hearts. You like my show?" I did like your show, Elvis, and I will admit, you gave me goosebumps.

If Elvis was still alive, he would be 82 today. I think that it would be interesting if he were still alive, although not so much if he was in the condition of the impersonator in Losing Graceland. I cannot help but wonder what it must have been like to have seen Elvis Presley in person. What was it like to be Elvis Presley? And finally, what would he be like today if he were still alive?

What do you think Elvis Presley would have done with the rest of his life if he had lived past the age of 42?

Brenda
Treasures By Brenda

More Elvis Presley Reading


The Best Elvis Presley Movies
Elvis Presley starred in 31 movies and 2 concert documentary films all of which were released in movie theatres. On this page, we celebrate the three of the films that are considered his best...

Elvis Presley Christmas Duets
In 2008, long after his death, Elvis Presley released this album, Elvis Presley Christmas Duets on which he could be heard singing Christmas songs with some of today's top female vocalists. Learn more...

The Elvis Presley Peanut Butter and Banana Sandwich ...
Understandably, residents of Tennessee feel a sense of pride when they think of their home state. There are many iconic things that have come out of Tennessee: the Vols, Kenny Chesney, the 1982 World's Fair, and the Elvis Sandwich...

Copyright 2011 Treasures By Brenda


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Saturday, August 29, 2015

What Makes Olga Run Book Review

What Makes Olga Run
As a blogger and an eBay seller, I spend a fair bit of time sitting at my computer in my chair. Maybe you do, too. My mind and my body know that this is wrong and I do try to work fitness into my life by getting to the gym at least a couple of times a week and walking daily. That last element becomes difficult but not impossible in the deep cold, snow and ice of our Canadian winters.

At my gym class there is an older woman who puts me to shame. She gets to the gym at least four times a week and sometimes more often than that. When she told me that she was reading a book called What Makes Olga Run? The Mystery of the 90-Something Track Star, and What She Can Teach Us About Living Longer, Happier Lives by Bruce Grierson, I was intrigued.

By chance, the next time I was out shopping I stumbled across it. Because my friend had mentioned it, I opted to take it home. I carried it to my book club, which for whatever reason is populated by women of my age. I guess we could be called middle-aged though I am not sure of the definition of that age group. Most of us have raised families and are empty nesters. A couple still have teenagers at home. Some still work and others are retired. Physically I would say they are an active group of ladies. Whatever our similarities, we are definitely all interested in the process of aging and we took up Olga's story as our next book club assignment.

What Makes Olga Run? is the story of Olga Kotelko, a retired Canadian school teacher who went looking for something active to do. She started with baseball but did not like it when she was almost run down on the baseball diamond. She then found track and field and went on to became a 90-something year old super star.

As the book says on page 2, "Just how good is Olga?" Well, she holds 26 world records. She enters more events than others her age and than others much younger. She often does as many as six throwing events, three sprints and three jumps at one track and field meet. She beats records in her age group by leaps and bounds, pun intended. In 2009, she threw a javelin 20 feet farther than her nearest rival and her 100-meter dash time would have beat competitors two age brackets younger than she was.

Writer Bruce Grierson took up with admitted difficulty the job of following Olga around as she went through her days and as she allowed science to look at and into her body. The question that the book looks into is whether Olga is a superstar because of genetics, because of lifestyle choices or because of a combination of those factors? A subject that intrigues most of us.

The book looks at all of the pieces that we know and think go into healthy living from sleep and diet patterns to personality, exercise and genetics. It is 228 pages of easy-to-read information about Olga and what makes her tick. It closes with a summary called Nine Rules For Living. I will not list them here because I believe you need the explanation that comes with them that is included in the pages of this book. I will admit that I have work to do in numerous areas and I do intend to try to embrace some of the ideas in this book in order to live a bit better. They are not all, by the way, about fitness.

This book comes HIGHLY RECOMMENDED by me, a 50-something year old empty nester though I believe that anyone who cares about their body and how and why we age will enjoy this book. I particularly appreciated the fact that the book was very readable. I think you will, too.

How about it? Are you curious about What Makes Olga Run?

Brenda
Treasures By Brenda

Quick Link:

Click here to buy your copy of What Makes Olga Run from Amazon.





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Sunday, November 2, 2014

Your Best Days Are Ahead of You

My Best Days, Album
In a world of constant change, sometimes it takes a dose of musical medicine to help us move forward with the times

Well, take 2 teaspoons of My Best Days are Ahead of Me by Danny Gokey every four hours as needed! The lyrics remind us that 'age ain't nothing but a number'...'I can be whatever I wanna be'. So you think that's cliche do ya!...well you'll enjoy this list of people who didn't 'make it' in life until after 50!
  1. Ray Kroc founded the McDonald's Corporation when he was 52 
  2. Laura Ingalls Wilder published her Little House on the Prairie Books in her 60s 
  3. Raymond Chandler didn't publish his first novel 'The Big Sleep' until he was 51 years old
  4. Charles Darwin published his Theory of Evolution at 50
  5. The Inventor of the Thesaurus, Peter Roget, was 73!
  6. KFC's Secret Recipe didn't happen until Colonel Sanders was 50
  7. Grandma Moses (Anna Mary Robinson born in 1860), gave up embroidery at 76 years old because of painful arthritis and thus began her painting career - She lived and painted for 25 years (you do the math) and in 2006 her 1943 painting called 'Sugaring Off' sold for a record $1.2 Million.
So if you're thinking, you're on your way out in terms of dreams, think again! These seven examples clearly
Sugaring Off by Grandma Moses
show us that the only cliche in life is this one true quote 'it ain't over til it's over'.

When we're tempted to close the door and call it quits, we should put away those debbie-downer thoughts, and open a window instead. Or we could just listen to what Morgan Freeman said in the movie Shawshank Redemption, 'Get busy living or get busy dying'. Grandma Moses sure the heck decided to get busy living...at 76! 'You went girl!'.

The Lyrics say it well:

"Age ain't nothing but a number
Sometimes I have to wonder what does it really mean
Hey, I'm still putting it together
I keep getting better, if I keep getting better
I can be whatever I wanna be
My best days are ahead of me"

Here's Danny Gokey's song, enjoy!


By Barbara Tremblay Cipak, Country Music Reviewer
Drageda.com - The Heart of Country


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