Monster Ships: Aircraft Carriers

When I went to Hawaii back in the 1980s, there was an aircraft carrier in the harbor. This was pre-military for me, and the first time I’d ever seen a Navy ship that wasn’t part of a museum (a World War II submarine in Wisconsin).

I think it was one of the smaller ones, but I looking up at this enormous ship standing so tall and high and going, “Holy cow!”

This is a video of the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt, otherwise known as the Big Stick. Watch the size of the sailboats that pass it by.

Ghosts of Wallpaper Past

I’ve actually never had wallpaper anywhere I lived. We always used paint in the house where I grew, which surprises me in a way. My father is colorblind (red/green, the most common form) and that influenced all the color choices of paint.

Translation: The interior was yellow. It was the one color he could see.

But wallpaper design certainly would have been something he could see. It was probably too much work to put up. If something got too complicated to do, he’d say, “This is turning into a project.”

Then there’s the wallpaper in the house my great-great father built. The house was built in the late 1800s, right when the Victorian era was a huge influence. The house itself is on the state historical register and the national register, and the family trust is trying to get it declared a national landmark.

This site has seven photos of the exterior.

Everyone describes walking into the house like stepping back into time. Every family member who lived in that house did not change anything (unlike other houses in the area where owners put a wet bar into the entrance way or remodeled to make it modern).

But all the walls are covered with handmade wallpaper.

And it’s textured!

My grandfather was a dry goods merchant turned future big business owner (Kimberly-Clark), so he had a good eye for textures. He hand picked all the wallpaper in the house.

So this video was fascinating to watch, even if it is about a process from 1968. The machine process probably came out of the hand making process, and there are some techniques done by hand were probably used in my great-great grandfather’s day.


My Family’s Historical House on PBS!

My family’s historical house in Wisconsin is going to be part of a PBS special this week!  The house was built by my great-great grandfather Havilah Babcock, who was one of the four founders of the Kimberly-Clark Corporation.  He started out as a dry goods merchant and had an eye for fabrics, which translates out into what’s in the house.  No one in the family changed a thing.

This is a commercial from the special, which has other houses as well.  Only one clip of the interior of the house appears: It’s at the :19 mark.

The link to where the videos will be posted is here:

The cover for the DVD they are selling features the house.

Edited to add this interview about the documentary.  The photo at the top is in the house.  My uncle is to the left.  They’re in the dining room, and the blue curtains in the background are the sitting room.

The World is Built for Tall People and I’m short

The world is built for tall people. 

I’m not really that short.  I’m more average.  My mother was short at 4’11.  But sometimes I think the rest of the world forgets that not everyone is 6 foot tall with long legs.

When I was in the army, the leadership always seemed to expect everyone to be able to match the pace of the tallest guy with the longest legs.  We’d have formations of hundreds of runners, and the leadership always put these really tall guys at the front.  One of their steps equaled three of mine.  Exactly who was getting the true workout?

But then the world is built for tall people.

When I went to Desert Storm in 1990, the women were created with China Beach style showers.  Essentially, the military built an outdoor stall and plopped a 500 gallon tank on it.  A lever on the bottom of the tank is pulled down to dispense the water.  Even if I hopped up and down (and possibly created an unintentional show for the guys), I couldn’t reach it.  I finally had to take off my shower shoe, and hooked the strap over the lever.

And if you think this is a problem for women, one of the male sergeants was my height.  He had to stand on his metal shaving bowl.

Ah, but the world is built for tall people.

I went to Wisconsin for my grandmother’s funeral and got a rental car from the airport.  It looked like it was car that would be designed for people with shorter legs, because it was a pretty small car.  Only one small problem: the cup holder.  For whatever reason, they had it so far back that the only way it could be used safely was if you were six feet tall.  To use it, I had reach my arm completely behind me and feel for where the cup holder was.  Very poor design.  Made me wonder if anyone actually tested the car with consumers.

I know it’s impossible to design for all types of people.  But there tends to be a default, and also, often a lack of understanding that someone else might have a different experience.  A lot of times, it’s just an extra step to make one more adjustment, to make sure everyone could benefit.  That shower handle could have had a chain on it.  That cup holder could have been put in a more standard place.  My father is color blind, and you’d be surprised at how many engineers don’t think about it when they design something.  When he went to Wisconsin, he had trouble with the street lights because they’re sideways.  He couldn’t tell what color they were!

When we live in our own skin, it’s easy to forgot that what’s easy and natural for us might be an impediment to another person.

From a prompt on The Daily Post

Today, write about any topic you feel like — but you must reuse your opening line (at least) two more times in the course of your post.

The Otherworldly Family is Watching

When we hear about ghosts, the first image we get is a story told in front of the orange flames of a campfire against the dark, a barrier against the unknown that surrounds us.   I remember one of those stories being about the ghostly hitchhiker who vanishes after being picked up.   That story is an urban legend, but the ghost story I’m about to tell you really did happen.  To me.  And it wasn’t scary.

This post is part of the Absolute Write October Blog Chain, with “Otherworldly” as the theme.  At the end of the post is a list of the other contributors, so check in on their posts.

My own ghost starts with a house.  This one:

Front view of the Havilah Babcock House, a Queen Anne style house with a tower and carriage porch on the left side and a wrap around porch on the right.

It’s the house that was built by my great-great grandfather Havilah Babcock, one of the co-founders of the Kimberly-Clark company (the Kleenix guys).  He decorated the entire house to his personal taste.  It was so much his personal taste that after the house was inherited by two of his daughters, they were afraid to touch anything!

So it was left as it was, and eventually my grandparents inherited it.  Essentially, the family is living in a museum.   For pictures of the interior, check out the book Wisconsin’s Own.  But you if want a quick view, the cover of this catalog shows the library.

The house is the only one in the United States that is still occupied by the descendents of the original builder.

My grandfather died 18 years ago, and my grandmother Arva earlier this year.  After Arva died, my uncle reported ghostly activity.  Nothing scary — but clearly something “otherworldly.”  He thought it was Havilah’s wife, Frances Kimberly.  So, as part of the memorial service for Arva, we had a psychic come out to the house.  Not contact Arva, but just to see what was going on in the house.

The psychic was not told anything in advance.  In fact, she was completely shocked when she saw the outside of the house.  While we waited in the kitchen, she and my uncle wandered through the first floor.  In minutes, my uncle was back, telling us to hurry.  The psychic had contacted Havilah!

We rushed to the library.  The psychic described Havilah as being brilliant, almost brilliant to the point of autistic.  My father, who followed along the same route, was amazed at where it had come from.  The psychic reported that Havilah was pleased by the caretakers of the house — he dropped in periodically to make sure it was well cared for.   Then he was abruptly gone, which was, according to the psychic, the nature of spirits.

So we retreated back to the kitchen to wait, and then a few minutes later, they’re back.  This time, Arva had stopped in to visit.  If there were any doubts about the psychic, they were gone with this.  She knew one thing about Arva that no one would have said, would not have been posted anywhere, and yet was common knowledge:  Arva liked to talk.  The psychic was having some problems because it was “talk, talk, talk, talk.”  The psychic mentioned that Arva was not always well-treated because she was a little progressive for her time.   Arva also knew about two babies that had been born after she had died.

After that, I had to dash off to catch my plane at the airport.  They were four hours wandering around the house, and other spirits dropped in for a spell.  But Arva stayed present during that time and kept saying that we were not to sell the house.

Have you had any ghostly encounters?


Linda Adams – Soldier, Storyteller


Wisconsin Historical Markers, a blog featuring a photo of the house a month before the memorial service showing the roof being repaired.

Conrad Schmitt Studios shows off their restoration work of the stained glass windows inside the house.


Starting November 5, I will doing a month-long session on Forward Motion on “Basic Training of Military Culture.”  The lesson plan for the course is posted here.

Check out my article Balancing Writing and Blogging on Vision: A Resource for Writers.  It deals with the pesky issue of time management so that blogging doesn’t interfere with writing.

And for a little Halloween fun, a very short story about the House of Green Cats on IO9.


Absolute Write October Blog Chain:

Participants and posts:
Ralph Pines: (post link here)
randi.lee: (post link here)
Aranenvo: (post link here)
pyrosama: (post link here)
hilaryjacques: (post link here)
meowzbark: (post link here)
slcboston: (post link here)
areteus: (post link here)
dolores haze: (post link here)
SuzanneSeese: (post link here)
bmadsen: (post link here)
Linda Adams: Me
Alynza: (post link here)
Orion mk3: (post link here)
BBBurke: (post link here)
SRHowen: (post link here)
Damina Rucci: (post link here)
CJMichaels: (post link here)
wonderactivist: (post link here)
Lady Cat: (post link here)
xcomplex: (post link here)
debranneelliot: (post link here)

The Army Gets a New Uniform for Women — About Time!

When I buy clothes, I grab a handful to try them on.  Maybe one will fit.  The others will be too big, too small, or have a general problem such as gaping arm holes.  When I was in the army, it was pick a uniform off a shelf, knowing I was going to have to live with it being too big.  This week Stars and Stripes reports the army uniforms being developed for women now be adapted for everyone.

I get why — they don’t want to make two versions of everything, but it may eventually come to that.  When I was in, we had the battle dress uniforms (BDU).  They were made for men and therefore had more of a linear fit, so women had to experiment with sizes to find a fit.  Most of us wore some part too big because it would fit in some places and not in others.  One of our cooks thought she looked like a bush.

Woman soldier in kevlar, web belt with canteens, ammo pouches, and rifle.
U.S. Army photo

But it was the equipment I had the most trouble with because I’m not tall like a guy:

  • Web belt: This is the belt that holds the canteens and ammunition pouches and has a pair of suspenders that holds it up.  Problem one was the canteens.  They were worn on the hip, and because I was short and short-waisted, the canteen was always getting in the way of my arms.
  • Kevlar: That’s the fancy name for the helmet.  Even with the smallest size, mine was too big.  The worst was at the rifle range when I had to fire from the prone position, which is lying on the ground and holding up the rifle.  The web belt suspenders pushed the Kevlar down into my eyes.  While I was firing the rifle.  Riiiggghttt.  This works real well.
  • Flack Vest:  Imagine the lead apron when you go to the dentist.  The flack vest isn’t that heavy, but it is very stiff like that.  So when I sat down in a vehicle, the vest pushed my Kevlar down into my eyes.  It was also so large that it had to be completely removed for me to use the latrine.  The army’s just starting to deal with this one by taking a nod from the TV series Xena, where the character wore fitted armor.

It isn’t just the army that has this problem.  I rented a compact car when I went to Wisconsin.  It become apparent when I adjusted the seat that this tiny car was made for a tall man.  The cup holder was positioned so once I moved the seat forward, I had to reach behind me and feel around to put the soda bottle in it.  Safety issue, car maker!

Sometimes I feel like the people in charge forget that women are important, too! 


Step into my time machine

This week, I’ve got a trip into the adventure zone, because any travel is an adventure.  I went to Wisconsin for the weekend for my grandmother’s memorial, and anything that involves Wisconsin involves The House:

A three story Queen Anne style house.  A stone base wraps around the front of the house, and to the left is a tower.

I stayed in the room where those center windows on the second floor are.  The house was built by my great-great grandfather Havilah Babcock, and he picked everything — right down to the wallpaper.  His influence over everything in the house was so strong that his daughters who inherited it were afraid to touch anything!  Of course, that left it preserved so much that it’s like stepping back in time.  Ivy was trying to take over the back of the house, and spiders were working on the front porch.  And there’s nothing like having your uncle say, “If you don’t want a bat in your room, make sure you close the door.”

Of course, I had to snoop around the internet and see what else on the house was out there.  I found this blog about a woman’s journey to visit all the historical markets in Wisconsin.  She took almost exactly the same picture about a month before.   The roof is in the process of being replaced, so if you click on the photo in her blog post, you can see the repair work on the right side that’s not evident in mine.  Do drop by her blog — she’s undergoing chemo therapy and would like some comments!

Linda Adams – Soldier, Storyteller

Since I visited the family home, I thought I’d share with you a scene I wrote about a soldier’s Homecoming, posted on Forward Motion’s September Challenge.  We imagine they always come back to cheering crowds and tearful family members, but sometimes that’s not the case.

Slashing the Myths About Omniscient Viewpoint

I’m a little behind this week — I hopped over to Wisconsin for my grandmother’s memorial this weekend and am playing catch up, though I figure that’ll be at least another week.  Next weekend is a con!

Meanwhile back in the land of politicians, it’s about time for another look at omniscient viewpoint.  When I first began experimenting with it, I was absolutely amazed at the myths circulating on the internet, and even in the craft books.  It was like everyone was ganging up against the viewpoint.  What’d it do to them?

No doubt some it is people passing along information without really understanding what they were talking about — the internet is really bad at that.

Must be suffering from jet lag since I just typed viewpint.  Oh, dear.

So let’s get the three biggest myths out of the way before the pints catch up with me:

No one uses it any more.

This one astounds me.  If omniscient viewpoint is no longer being used at all, then why is everyone writing about it to say that it’s no longer being used?!  The fact is that you can find books in omniscient viewpoint that have been published in the last year on the bookshelf.  Like this one I saw The Tombs at Target today.

Omniscient Viewpoint is multiple viewpoints.

Yup.  Saw this one in a craft book.  It kind of ruined the credibility of the author, but I’ve seen writers come onto message boards and proclaim the same thing.  * Sigh * Omniscient is an all-seeing narrator who tells the story — one narrator.  Where writers get confused is that they don’t understand about the single narrator because they keep thinking character viewpoint.  So they see the narrator dip into the heads of the characters, and suddenly, omniscient viewpoint is interpreted as “multiple viewpoints.”  Check out Writing Excuses’s podcast for a discussion on this.

Omniscient is the head hopping viewpoint.

One of the first things I asked myself when I started writing in omniscient viewpoint was what was the difference between it and head hopping.  Because I had read the viewpoint and it definitely wasn’t anything like critiquing a story where it headhopped enough to make me feel like I was going to get whiplash.  Since omniscient viewpoint is only one viewpoint, it doesn’t head hop.  However, writers who think of it as multiple viewpoints end up head hopping when trying to write it.  Rebecca LuElla Miller has a post with some really great examples of headhopping versus omniscient viewpoint.

Okay, I still don’t have any explanation as to why people keep ganging up on the viewpoint.  But back to the pints.  If you were to bottle a viewpoint in a pint, what would you call it?

Linda Adams, Soldier, Storyteller.

I have an article on Vision: A Resource for Writers on Critiquing for Omniscient Viewpoint.  No pints were involved in the making of the article.