Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

The Mouser Transition: He’s “Home”

March 26, 2011

Mouser and Miss Kitty are licking the just-steeped bag of oatmeal and Carapils. (Click on photo to enlarge.)

Mouser is getting along fine at our house. For those of you who don’t know, Mouser was my dad’s cat at Gunderland until my dad passed away on July 1st of last summer. Although I really wanted Mouser to live with Bill and me, I was kind of nervous about bringing Mouser to a non-farm environment. However, so far, so good. Now that he’s with us, every time I have some quiet time with him, oddly enough I feel like it is an extension of time with Daddy.

Mouser and Miss Kitty

Sammy and Mouser

When Mouser arrived at our house we had two other cats: Sammy and Miss Kitty. After the initial getting-to-know-yous for all three cats, Sammy was fairly friendly toward Mouser. Miss Kitty would give Mouser the Marge Simpson growl that she gives to most everyone. Mouser just wanted to play with both Sammy and Miss Kitty.

All three got a tad friendlier, but not sleep-in-the-same-box friendly. Things have changed, though.

This winter Sammy’s thinness and bony spine became evident. Early on our vet thought that maybe Sammy wasn’t eating due to stress induced by a newcomer — Mouser — living with us. Of course, I felt so terrible, because I was the one who so badly wanted Mouser to come and live with us, but not at Sammy’s expense. However, after spending a few days at the vet clinic for tests, in mid-February Sammy was diagnosed with a form of cancer.

Mouser and Sammy after Sammy returned home from the vet clinic.

When Sammy returned home, Mouser seemed to hover around him and kind of protect him from Miss Kitty’s more frequent hisses and spats. About three weeks later, Sammy went to cat heaven. (By the way, there is such a children’s book called Cat Heaven by Cynthia Rylant. She also wrote and illustrated Dog Heaven. For anyone who has lost a dog or cat friend and therefore could use a little TLC and also a twinkling smile, I recommend these books.)

Miss Kitty now seems a bit nicer to Mouser. It’s probably just that they’ve had more time to get used to each other. And, maybe they both miss Sammy. Tonight they both enjoyed licking the bag of oatmeal and Carapils after it had steeped. (Bill and I used those ingredients in making a home brew clone of Blue Moon.) Now Mouser and Miss Kitty are sleeping in the same box.

* * * * * * * *

…More about basketball in a day or two.

(Click here to go to Louise Gunderson Shimon’s blog’s home page.)


New Year’s Eve with the Curious: Jackson and George

January 29, 2011

On New Year's Eve Jackson and I went to the Perry (Iowa) Public Library. Curious George got our attention. If you click on the photo to enlarge it, you'll see that H.A. Rey's name is on the front cover of the book. Margret Rey's name is not.

Do the names Margret and H.A. Rey ring a bell? How about the Curious George books that for decades have endeared children of all ages? While I’ve “known” Curious George for what seems like forever, I didn’t realize that the creators (the Reys) were German Jews who fled Paris in June of 1940 just before German troops marched into that city. A manuscript and sketches of what later became known as the monkey Curious George literally saved the Reys as they escaped before arriving in the United States in 1940.

In December my brother-in-law Jeff sent this link that includes the harrowing story of how Margret and H.A. Rey escaped the Nazis. The article also includes a link for the Margret and H.A. Rey Center in Waterville Valley, New Hampshire. (Sounds like a great New England vacation stop!)

Houghton Mifflin site provides photos of and additional information about Margret and H.A. Rey.

As evidenced in the above photo, the front cover of Curious George includes “H.A. Rey” but not Margret’s name. This made me curious as to why Margret’s name isn’t on the cover. After all, wasn’t she an author, too? At the Houghton Mifflin site (linked to in the previous paragraph) is an FAQ section. One of the FAQ answers gives a brief explanation of how the Reys worked together on their books.

Curious George was first copyrighted in 1941, the year after Margret and H.A. Rey arrived in the United States. This scan is taken from a copy from the 74th printing. (Click on photo to enlarge.)

Reading about the Reys’ escape from the Nazis provided the impetus for Jackson, my almost-five-year-old grandson, and me to go to the Perry library to check out Curious George. Jackson was fascinated — curious — as was I. When I looked at the illustrations I remembered that if the Reys did not have those illustrations with them as they escaped, they may have never made it to the United States in 1940. And therefore, there may have never been Curious George books as we know them today.

(Click here to go to Louise Gunderson Shimon’s blog’s home page.)

Developing Talents and Strengths — Part II

January 17, 2011

(Part II is continued from Part I. Both posts are about the book Now, Discover your Strengths.)

* * * * * * * *

The chapters are short and segmented into mini-chapters, making a good mix for an easy and light, yet thought-provoking read. Combined, they all point to the authors’ philosophy that our talents, knowledge and skills combine to create our strengths.

One Chapter 5 segment is titled “Why Should I Focus on My Signature Themes?”*  Other segments are titled: “Not all of the phrases in the theme description apply to me. Why?” “Why am I different from other people with whom I share some of the same themes?” “Will I become too narrow if I focus on my signature themes?” “How can I manage around my weaknesses?” “Can my themes reveal whether I am in the right career?”

Fall 1996. Marcy Sparks (Northwest Elementary building principal) and I (media specialist, with the scissors) are pictured celebrating the "ribbon cutting" for Northwest Elementary's (Ankeny, Iowa) first Macintosh computer lab. We are in the lab; the library is on the other side of the pictured door. (Click on photo to enlarge.)

Back to my formal teaching career (mentioned in Part I) … Paula Lee was my first building principal in Ankeny (for years 1 and 2 out of my twelve years there). Marcy Sparks (pictured above) was my principal there for the next eight years (for my years 3-10). Their formal evaluations, notes in my mailbox, and verbal communication including genuine caring about ME (one of the signature themes for both of them just has to be “empathy”), had a way of focusing on my strengths. They made me want to keep on keepin’ on.

Don’t get me wrong. If I or others needed redirection, they gave it. But their overriding focus was on strengths. Although I didn’t realize it then to the degree that I do now, they (especially Marcy because I was on her teaching staff longer than I was on Paula’s) were both empowering influences on my teaching career, and therefore my life.

Am I glad I’m reading the book? Yes. Is everything it reveals news to me? No, but it does blow some dust off my brain and I think will help me (and those around me) get more out of my strengths. Will the book do my thinking for me? No. (Duh! But some people expect a book to do just that.) Do I recommend the book? Yes. However, I’d get the newer publication: Strengths Finder 2.0: A New and Updated Edition of the Online Test from Gallup’s Now, Discover Your Strengths.

*I think of the authors’ meaning for the word “theme” to be similar to the meaning of “strength.”

(Click here to go to Louise Gunderson Shimon’s blog’s home page.)

Developing Talents and Strengths — Part I

January 16, 2011

The adults pictured here are (L to R) me, my dad (Deane Gunderson), and my sister Peggy with several students at Northwest Elementary in Ankeny, Iowa. I was the media specialist (now called teacher-librarian) there for twelve years. The photo was taken in the school's library* in 1998 during our "Rock 'n' Read" reading program, hence the 1960s and '70s attire. When NW Elementary was remodeled ~4 years later, including a new library, the room in this photo was enclosed and became a kindergarten classroom. (Click on photo to enlarge.)

Four  years ago my oldest sister, Clara, gave to me the book Now, Discover Your Strengths. I had just left work (retired?) after 12 years with the Ankeny (Iowa) Community School District. At the time, I wasn’t really in the mood for something I perceived as serious … like that book.

Then I got busy spending so much time with Daddy and other family and friends. I had more time to spend at the lake. And, I was able to embark on raising funds for the Rolfe Public Library. These are perks, for which I am grateful, of leaving full-time employment.

With Daddy passing away in July, the cottage being closed for the winter, the holidays passing, and being caught up on most of my appointments, yesterday was an unscheduled day. I had a choice of either organizing my back-burner-to-do list or … read the “strengths” book Clara gave to me. Organize a list or read? I opted for reading the book.

Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham & Donald O. Clifton, 2001. I recommend this book, but suggest getting the newer version which is Strengths Finder 2.0.

The theme of the book is helping people identify, focus on and capitalize on their strengths. Strengths, strengths, STRENGTHS. According to the book, each strength has at least one underlying talent. The authors of this book have the philosophy that it is a big no-no for us to focus on correcting our and others’ weaknesses. Positive results will not be obtained. When people focus on their strengths, positive results will be obtained.

On page 79 I was instructed to take the Internet-based “StrengthsFinder Profile” which I call the book’s “test” for identifying strengths.

It took about a half hour to complete the online test. (To access and take the test, I had to enter a unique code that accompanied my copy of the book.) Each of the “questions” was actually a pair of statements, of which I had to select the one that fit me most and indicate the degree to which it fit me; or I could just click on “neutral” which I bet I did for more than half of the pairs. One of the pairs of statements included something like, “You like to tell others about your life.” Um, how do you think I answered that!

(I just deleted from this post a long description of my test results. They are interesting to me; probably boring to you. Suffice it to say that I think three of my test-identified themes/strengths are 100% right-on for me. I think two of them are 50-to-75% right-on. Of course, that’s my subjective point of view!)

In Part II I’ll include a little bit about two people in my life who I believe share the philosophy of Now, Discover Your Strengths.

* * * * * * * *

*I believe it was 2002 when we moved into the new library/media center at Northwest Elementary. It was a palace compared to the library pictured, but each had its positive aspects.

(Click here to go to Louise Gunderson Shimon’s blog’s home page.)

Newt Gingrich Brings Valley Forge to Life

November 17, 2010

November 16, 2010: Newt Gingrich speaking in Iowa State University's Memorial Union about his most recent book.

Newt Gingrich was in Ames last night. In the Great Hall of the Memorial Union on Iowa State’s campus, Newt promoted his (written with William Forstchen) most recent book, Valley Forge.

Bill and I attended the approximately thirty-minute lecture in which Newt spoke illustratively about his and Forstchen’s research.

Valley Forge is a work of fiction, but so grounded in fact. If it is even half as interesting as listening to Newt speak, reading it will provide an understanding of the elements George Washington and his army endured, and the sacrifices they made to forge America.


Although I realize Newt’s book tour may double as a litmus test for a potential continuation of his political career, Newt did not focus on present-day politics. I wish I could say that about the Q and A session following Newt’s speech. Before Newt needed to be elsewhere on campus by 8:00 PM for Fox’s Hannity show, approximately six people had the open-microphone opportunity to ask Newt questions. Hmmm…mostly bee-in-a-bonnet/attitude questions. At least the last question was about the novel.

Newt and me after his speech at the Memorial Union last night. There was so little time for signing before Newt had to get ready for the Hannity show. I literally had about five seconds to scurry behind the table and have some guy (accompanying Newt?) quickly snap this photo.

Three or four years ago, at a Barnes & Noble I attended Newt’s similar lecture and book signing for Pearl Harbor. (In at least one of his books, Newt intentionally puts a “what if” twist in the plot. I know that he did this with one of his Pearl Harbor books. Others of his books align closely, throughout their entirety, with his research. If you read any of his books, Google the titles to see which books have the “twist” and which ones don’t.)

So, where am I going with this?

When I was in high school I had the same history teacher for three year-long classes: American History, World History, and Government. For three years that teacher taught by reading aloud from the text books. Literally. Ask anyone who went to Rolfe high school during the early- and mid-’70s. Also, all three years, before every test and quiz, that teacher revealed to every class every quiz/test question AND (get this) all of the answers.

Three years of non-thinking high school history? Two alive 30-minute sessions with Newt? You get the picture. So…get his books.

(Click here to go to Louise Gunderson Shimon’s blog’s home page.)

Full Moon Intrigue

June 26, 2010

Jackson and me last night reading Kitten's First Full Moon. If you click on the photo to enlarge it, you'll understand the moon's intrigue.

Last night Jackson, Grandpa Bill (my husband) and I went outside to experience the full moon. That prompted Jackson and me to read Caldecott Medal-winner Kitten’s First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes*. After reading, it was late, late, late for Jackson to go to bed.

Even from his bed, nothing gets past Jackson. He came out of the bedroom to realize I was getting my camera ready to photograph the moon. He asked if he could get the “tall thing” (tripod).

So, at about 11:00 PM, all three of us in our jammies went outside into the humid summer night for our photo session. Just the three of us and the moon, stars and lightning bugs. We set the tripod/camera height at about 24″. I sat cross-legged right up to it with Jackson sitting in the bowl of my lap so he, too, could see the camera’s moon-images. I know these photos aren’t the most memorable ever, but those moments from last night are.

One of last night's first photos.


Right before the wind picked up, suggesting we go indoors.

*Click here to hear Kevin Henkes pronounce his name.

(Click here to go to Louise Shimon’s blog’s home page. Soon to be posted is a series of interview segments regarding Rolfe, Iowa, in the ’40s and ’50s.)

Book Review: The Oral History Workshop by Cynthia Hart with Lisa Samson — Part I

January 27, 2010

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The Oral History Workshop* by Cynthia Hart with Lisa Samson. (Click photo to enlarge.)

I haven’t posted for a few days but want you to know that I haven’t been slacking! I’ve been enjoying every minute of calling and writing to people about sponsoring the digitizing of the oral history recordings of their loved ones. The response to making those contacts has been so heart warming.

If you have no idea what I’m referring to, the first paragraph of this blog’s oral history article provides a link to an explanation. The second paragraph of that same article includes a link for a spreadsheet.  The spreadsheet indicates the names of all of the people who were interviewed through the Rolfe Public Library’s 1980-1981 oral history project.

* * * * *

I’m excited about the book The Oral History Workshop: Collect and Celebrate the Life Stories of Your family and Friends* by Cynthia Hart and Lisa Samson. With a cover price of $12.95, this book is well worth the expense. I picked it up at Barnes and Noble.  It is also available at and

Although this book mainly addresses interviews involving more than one person, this book includes helpful tips and questions applicable to self-interviews, as well.

The site says, “The Oral History Workshop breaks down what often feels like an overwhelming project into a series of easily manageable steps.” Those are my exact sentiments. The table of contents indicates five main areas covered over the course of the book. The first four of these areas include: preparing for the interview, recording and troubleshooting the interview, mapping out the interview, and preparing and preserving the interview. The fifth main area is writing, scrapbooking and archiving the interview. The first four parts, and the archiving section in the fifth part, are most relevant to me.

Of two books I’ve read about conducting interviews to capture oral histories, this one “wins” hands down. It offers a wealth of advice that I wouldn’t have otherwise thought of, and that isn’t necessarily common sense. Also, the advice is not with linear thinking. The authors realize there are many types of situations with a variety of dynamics.

I’ll post Part II on Friday, January 29th.

* Published by Workman Publishing, New York, 2009.

(Click here to go to Louise Shimon’s blog’s home page.)

It Isn’t Halloween Without The Hallo-Wiener!

October 30, 2009

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IMG_8777 1200

Bill, Jackson, and The Hallo-Wiener (Click photo to enlarge.)

Not to forget a Halloween essential at our house, we just had to pull out The Hallo-Wiener.  Although some of the adult (um…make that adolescent) humor goes right over a 3-year-old’s head, there’s still plenty of emotion and story in the illustrations and text to envelop a little tyke’s heart.

But, for the adolescent humor…here are examples of lines that crack me up every time.

*** When Oscar (the Hallo-Wiener) went off to obedience school, his mother stood in the front doorway waving and calling out to him, “Farewell, my little Vienna sausage!”  With the other dogs watching.  (Poor, poor Oscar.)

*** When Oscar was feeling bad he was “looking quite frank.”

*** And, my favorite…when Oscar got in trouble at school, he had to write on the blackboard 100-or-so times, “I will not sniff my neighbor.  I will not sniff my neighbor.  I will not sniff…..”  (You probably need to “be there” reading this book to fully appreciate this last excerpt!)

When The Hallo-Wiener was first published, School Library Journal reviewed it proclaiming, “This may be the funniest Halloween story ever written, and it’s definitely got the most lovable hero.”  My sentiments, exactly.

Enjoy.  And, Happy Halloween (er).

The Story of Ferdinand the Bull (and Cattails)

August 30, 2009

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(Click photo to enlarge.)

(Click photo to enlarge.)

I’m on a mission to get through the posts about Oregon, but I couldn’t resist sidetracking again.

Jackson (our 3 1/3 year-old grandson) spent Friday night with us.  He went to “man breakfast” with Bill yesterday, where Jackson had his usual Hy-Vee fare:  blueberry pancakes and chocolate milk. more…

The Little Engine that Could — (No Watty Piper?)

June 22, 2009
Joe reading to Jackson before dinner.  In 1980 this copy was given to Jackson's mother (my older daughter) by my parents.  My parents gave a different copy to me in 1960.

Joe reading to Jackson before dinner. In 1980 this copy was given to Jackson's mother (my older daughter) by my parents. My parents gave a different copy to me in 1960.

(Click here to go to this blog’s home page.)

Today I was with my dad near Rolfe, Iowa, for several hours.  Later, both of our daughters, son-in-law, and three-year-old grandson came to Bill’s and my home.  We relaxed (or combined “corn flower” if you talk with farmer Jackson!) and had dinner.  Jackson was so excited to be at “Nanna’s and Grandpa Bill’s” and to see Aunt Katie and Uncle Joe.  When I was working on dinner I noticed it had gotten quieter. more…