Thursday, January 31, 2008

Ten years on the Internet

Yes friends, in 1998 I was finally persuaded to take the plunge into the World Wide Web. My ignorance of computers knew no bounds, and I could tell some funny stories of stupid mistakes I made.

But today I'm thinking about my first chat room experience.

I had seen articles in the newspaper about the dangers of the Internet in general and chat rooms in particular. Nobody was going to catch me in one of those sleazy cyber-dives.

But I was surfing around some Christian website and noticed there were AOL chat rooms that could be accessed from the main page somehow. One of them was for Christian Seniors. Maybe at that time it was called Fifty-plus, I'm not sure; there were so many changes over the years, before AOL finally removed it.

Back then, that chat room was a wonderful thing: I'd sit at my keyboard laughing out loud at some of the humor that flew across my monitor. I won't bother to share any tales because you just had to be there. Things like that aren't really so funny in the retelling.

Some of the folks in Texas decided there should be a get-together in Dallas where we could meet face to face. My husband wasn't about to allow me to go meet a bunch of Internet strangers alone. I told him I could ride with a lady from Arkansas, but he decided he'd take me himself, to protect me from stalkers and Internet serial killers. After all, I'd never actually met these people. They could be anybody!

Imagine his surprise to find out all those folks were just fine; today he would trust that lady from Arkansas with our bank account if he had to... all $25 of it.

The chat room later deteriorated into chaos, arguing, and jealousy, and was finally closed. Many of the friendships that were formed there, however, still remain.

I've attended at least three of the Dallas reunions, as well as others in North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Arkansas.

I believe this picture from Dallas was taken in 2001. None of us had digital cameras then.

Frankye, an outgoing lady who lives in Dallas, has always been the host of that reunion. She makes countless trips to the airport to pick up guests, opens her home to folks who are too broke (ahem) to pay for a hotel room, and coordinates activities, mealtimes, and whatever else is needed to keep a group of twenty or more people happy.

Now keep in mind that this thing started back around 1998 or 1999, and it was a senior chat group; so even then most of us weren't spring chickens.

Sad to say, none of us has gotten any younger. Many of that old chat group have died.

Frankye has announced that the reunion this year will be the final one. Air fare from Kansas City to Dallas is very reasonable. Although I originally had no plans or desire to attend this get-together, now that I know it will be the last time I see most of these folks in person, I believe I'll go. It seems an appropriate way to celebrate ten years on the Internet.

That's Frankye in the above picture, and I'll quickly tell a story about Joe, the man beside her (he's attended every single reunion). When Cliff and I met him at the first Dallas event, he asked where we lived. "Missouri," I told him. "I'm sure you've never heard of the town."

But when I named my town, he knew it well. His late wife had a sister who had lived there most of her life, he said. Imagine our surprise when, upon comparing notes, we realized that his sister-in-law had been a close neighbor of mine for years. She had lived right on my dead-end road, and I'd attended church with her. I knew and loved her.

This Internet is sometimes a small world indeed.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The grandson

Perhaps the previous entry seemed as though I was complaining about the grandson; I was not. I don't mind having him here.

He had some issues in his life last spring (involving a female) and needed a place to stay. In June, I told him he could crash here until the end of July; that would give him time to save up some money for a place to live. I gave him few rules: 1. Don't expect me to cook for you. (Cliff works evenings, so our main meal is at noon... grandson worked days at that time). 2. Give me $25 a week, mainly as a token so I don't feel too taken advantage of. 3. Save some money. I don't intend to let you live here just so you can party away your paycheck.

Except for some incidents when he was seemingly trying to tear up the pickup we co-signed for (he's always made his payments regularly), things went fine. So when his deadline rolled around, I told him he could stick around longer.

Actually, I don't see him that much. Weekends he goes someplace (I don't ask; he's twenty-two years old, and I told him when he came here that he didn't have to report in).

I did add one more rule when he started looking on Craigslist for a motorcycle: No motorcycle while you're living here, unless it's a dirt bike. For one thing, such a purchase would eat up his savings, and I want him to have that on hand to secure a place of his own in the future. But mainly, I don't want to have to worry about him.

Since Cliff and I have a motorcycle, this may seem hypocritical. But I know how recklessly young men drive; add to this the fact that the grandson only has vision in one eye. I just don't need the worry. I told him he's welcome to move out and buy anything he wants. I won't worry so much then, because I won't know each time he's out on his bike. He commented that he doesn't have the money to move out and get a motorcycle. Well then, my boy, keep saving your money.

He's had some job problems, and had to work at two part-time jobs lately to stay afloat. But he's saved up a tidy nest egg, and is still adding to it (not that he has a choice).

Next week he'll start a new job, one that eventually should pay quite well.

He's learned a lot in the past few months: 1. Women can't always be trusted to be faithful. 2. Sometimes you have to work two jobs to make ends meet. 3. It's a good feeling to have money in savings, even if you've been forced by Grandma to put it there. 4. Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in (thanks to Robert Frost for that one).

That latter reminds me of a time when Grandson was about four years old and was visiting here. I was upstairs laying in bed planning on taking a nap; he climbed the stairs, snuggled down beside me and said, "Home sweet Grandma's home."

He has some credit issues I'd really like to see resolved, but I'm not forcing him to fix them. Sometimes young people are better off without being able to secure credit. They can't go out and get themselves in debt over their heads that way!

So that's the story on the grandson. Lately, he's done a fine job of staying out of trouble... so far as I know.

And what I don't know, won't hurt me.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

My oldest grandchild

Ah, my first grandbaby. How I loved that boy. I babysat him while his dad was in the Army and his mom finished high school.

He looked like this a lot of the time, but I still loved him.

These days, I'm used to seeing him underneath his pickup. Sometimes his grandpa helps, like in this picture.

Other times he goes it alone. (Although you can see his grandpa's watchful eyes over his shoulder.)

Usually these pickup problems are caused by something he did himself.

Like HERE.

Grandchildren. You can't live with them and you can't live without them.

Especially if they are living in your house.

Two years ago

It's been two years now since Mandy, the very young mongrel dog I had raised from a puppy, was hit by a car and killed.

She had spent nights with me in my cabin; we had bonded. She had just gotten over her puppy ways and stopped chewing on shoes and woodwork. She was finally coming to me when I called her. When Cliff and I went on walks, or were working outside, Mandy stayed nearby, glad for our company.

Then, just like that, she was gone.

I don't know when I've cried that much.

Cliff wanted to stop the crying, and insisted we go to a shelter and find another dog. I told him that's the wrong thing to do, that you are never supposed to choose a new pet while you're grieving for the old one. He was insistent, and I couldn't help thinking about how cute a puppy can be. I remembered how much fun Mandy was, as a puppy. So I agreed to go dog-shopping.

We went to Wayside Waifs on a Saturday, and there was quite a crowd there waiting to adopt pets. I told the lady at the front desk I wanted to see puppies; she said, "Oh, I've been fostering some half-Chows that will be ready next weekend; you need to see them!"

When our turn came to look at available dogs, a lady directed us to a large room with caged dogs. We walked up and down the aisles looking for puppies. Before we'd found any babies, though, we passed a cage containing a medium-sized dog who, when we paused beside her, rubbed against the confining bars as though trying to get closer to us.

Continuing through the rest of the area, we did find some puppies... very cute ones. Cliff asked what I thought, and I said, "I want to go back and look at that one dog, the one that acted like she wanted to get out of her cage."

We went back. Then we checked out puppies again. Then returned to that one dog I couldn't get out of my mind; that's when I asked someone if we could get a little closer look at the dog.

A lady opened the cage, snapped a leash onto the little female, and led her to a little room, with us following. The door was shut and the dog was released. All she wanted to do was rub against our legs and whine; she seemed so happy to have somebody petting her.

The lady got tears in her eyes.

This was on that dog's cage that day:

She's no more Manchester than I am; I'd be willing to bet that she has at least four breeds in her background, but I wouldn't venture a guess on what those breeds are. I changed her name to Sadie. I've never turned her loose to run the neighborhood as I did Mandy, because I can't stand another untimely death.

I do, however, turn her loose in the pasture when Cliff and I walk. She happily carries a stick around, insisting we take it from her and throw it sometimes.

According to the experts, I went looking for another dog too soon.

But I think Sadie was meant to live here, all along.

Even Cliff loves her (but don't tell him I said so).

Monday, January 28, 2008

Dreaming of Texas

That's my sister, Maxine, and me at South Padre Island; my daughter and I flew down to visit her at her winter home in Mission, Texas, in 2003.

A couple of years after that, the daughter, her three children, and I made the trip in her van. What a trip that was! Texas is a big state, and Mission is about as far south as you can get.

That's me and the grandchildren showing off our grapefruits.

Maxine's husband passed away in 2002, I believe. They had wintered in Mission for several years, and all of us wondered if she'd go to Texas by herself in winter, with him gone. You bet she did!

She's eighty years old, and I've intended to go visit her by myself, just once; I'm sure there won't be many more opportunities to go. For a couple of years I've planned the trip, but I'd put off buying tickets and then find myself without funds. This time I was smart: I purchased my airplane tickets in October, before all the winter expenses set in!

So on these recent cold days, I've been reminding myself that I shall soon have four days in sunny Texas, with all the grapefruit I can eat.


(Cliff and I sneaked in a long motorcycle ride Sunday... check it out!)


Although we live in the country, we have a lot of neighbors. The only way to get where people can't see me on our 42 acres is to walk back to my cabin, which is far enough down an incline to be out of sight even of the monstrosity of a three-story house a next-door neighbor is erecting. The above picture was taken in 2005, when my much-heavier-then husband was putting the cabin in place. (For my newer readers, it's just an old poolside shed someone gave us that Cliff fixed up for me, a retreat where my dog and I sometimes spend a night, enjoying the seclusion and the campfire.)

Being a loner at heart, I have had a tendency to complain about having so many people living nearby, but this morning the realization hit me that if it weren't for one of our neighbors, Cliff wouldn't have the good job he's now held for fifteen years. There's another fellow across the highway with whom Cliff rides to work, saving us a fortune in gasoline and wear-and-tear on our car. And before I retired, there was a neighbor with whom I rode to work often.

Cliff and I often laugh about the entertainment value of neighbors as we peer out the window to see what they're up to: "Look, Cliff! I think there's something funny going on over there!"

Don't laugh, you'll be old someday, watching the neighbors out the window. It happens to the best of us.

In line with the judgmental attitude I mentioned yesterday, there's the fact that we can find all sorts of faults in the neighbors, resulting in a holier-than-thou feeling: "Good grief, that woman's getting fat; she needs to go on a diet." "I wonder just how much money they spend on drugs over there?" "When our kids were home, we never let them run the neighborhood like that." "Looks like they're fighting again."

There's so much more, but you surely get the idea.

Reminds me of the old Kristofferson song, "Jesus Was A Capricorn":

Jesus was a Capricorn, he ate organic foods.
He believed in love and peace and never wore no shoes.
Long hair, beard and sandals and a funky bunch of friends.
Reckon they'd just nail him up if He come down again.

'Cause everybody's got to have somebody to look down on.
Who they can feel better than at anytime they please.
Someone doin' somethin' dirty, decent folks can frown on.
If you can't find nobody else, then help yourself to me.

Eggheads cussin' rednecks, cussin' hippies for their hair.
Others laugh at straights who laugh at freaks who laugh at squares.
Some folks hate the whites who hate the blacks who hate the Klan.
Most of us hate anything that we don't understand.

'Cause everybody's got to have somebody to look down on.
Who they can feel better than at anytime they please.
Someone doin' somethin' dirty that decent folks can frown on.
If you can't find nobody else, then help yourself to me.

I kid you not, I am working on this trait of mine. Not just watching what I say, but being careful what I think. I am mentally slapping myself at least a dozen times a day when I catch myself criticizing someone I see on the street or on television. Or someone whose words I might read in a blog.

It's changing the way I look at myself and at life.

I'm learning that I'm not such hot stuff after all.

"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." Words of Jesus, found in Matthew 7:3-5

Now playing: Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir - Only a Look
via FoxyTunes

Sunday, January 27, 2008

There's lots of blues in Blogville

After reading over this entry, I realize it may sound a little "preachy", which isn't my usual style. Consider yourself warned: some of my readers may want to skip this one.

We're having a genuine winter here in Missouri, with very few breaks between the cold spells. I count my blessings daily, and they are many; but I confess that it's sometimes hard to stay chipper on these bitterly frigid days, with all the extra bills that come flooding in at this time of year. Add to that the rising price of gasoline, propane and groceries.

I've noticed, while surfing through my favorite blogs, that I'm not the only one who's a little "down in the dumps".

When I open my Bloglines each morning, there aren't half as many new entries as there normally are. And I've added a lot of new blogs lately, so there should be more than in the past.

This doesn't help the situation: Cliff and I hear of the death of somebody we care about every week or so, of late. I realize that goes with the territory when you're past sixty years old, but it isn't a thing a person gets used to. We had a discussion yesterday about how it could be either of us next, at any moment. The older we get, the more likely it is that our number will be up.

As a Christian, I believe in life on the other side of the grave. But as a human, I'm in no hurry to leave this poor, battle-scarred body.

Cliff and I used to laugh at my mom who, in her eighties, after being widowed for the second time, would sometimes say with a sigh, "Why can't I just die?"

But at the first tornado watch of spring, she was running to the basement.

I can imagine myself in her shoes nowadays.

Spring will come again. Chances are, I'll have several more weeks, months, or even years to share my life with my friends through my blogs.

The best I can do is to take this day and live it to the fullest.

For this day, I can try not to be judgmental (which is probably my worst fault). I can do my best to see troubled people the way Jesus saw them when He walked the earth... the way He still sees us, I'm sure: "When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd."

In the words of the old song: "Life's evening sun is sinking low; a few more days and I must go."

Saturday, January 26, 2008

I rode today

It was a bit nippy, but I figured I'd at least ride Blue down to the river bottoms. When I got to the railroad tracks, though, a train was parked so that I couldn't cross. Most of the trains that pass along that route are filled with coal, and a very few are hauling new cars. But this one was full of gravel, best I could tell.

Blue says, "Hey, what's this in our way?"

There's the engine.

I had turned to head back toward home when the train started moving; so I turned Blue around and we headed once more across the river bottoms. Winter wheat has been planted there, so it'll be turning green real early this spring.

I rode over an hour. Even with temperatures above 40°, my toes got numb. Somebody needs to make some cowboy boots that keep a person's feet warm!

Sadie slides on the pond

The highlight of my dog's day is mine and Cliff's walk in the pasture. We toss a stick, she retrieves it and then dares us to take it away from her. This goes on for most of the time we're walking, every day. Now that our little pond is frozen, we've had fun throwing the stick on the ice and watching Sadie overshoot it. Here's a short video to show you what I'm talking about.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Another letter from 1938

I'm not sure about the date my mom wrote on this picture; this letter is dated 1938, and Aunt Ruby is calling Gerald her baby; but if the picture is dated correctly, Gerald would have been six years old when the letter was written.

I sometimes refer to my 38-year-old daughter as "my baby", though; so who knows?

Here's the content of a letter to my mom from her sister, my Aunt Ruby, written in December, 1938. It just tore my heart out the first time I read it. This was before antibiotics, and you can see that she thought her baby was dying. I mostly used her spelling. See if you feel what I felt, reading this. By the way, my cousin Gerald is still alive and kicking. Before he was born, Aunt Ruby had lost an infant daughter to pnuemonia, which probably is the reason for her concern.

Rippey, Ia.
Tuesday nite

Dear sister Lola:
I was sure glad to get your letter today, Lola. You don't know how much good it done me. It's so dreadful lonesome so far from everyone I know and my dear baby so sick. He has pnuemonia. We have had the doctor twice. He is coming back.
Well now it's Wednesday morning. That's as far as I got when Gerald took suddenly worse. We worked with him till 10:30 then called the doctor back again. He has had convulsions and was out of his head, talked so crazy. He had pluercy and Lola he is still awful sick. The Dr. is coming back again today. Can you every realize how awful it's been. We never got stritened up even and in a neighborhood and don't know a soul. Even had to get a strange doctor. He's from Rippey & he sure seems nice. He has been so good every time he cam but what I want is my baby to get well. The Dr. says he is doing alrite but that it takes time. I wish I was close to some one I knew. Mrs. Hank has been up the last two nites & stayed with us but she has 2 little kids and can't stay away. Poor little Gerald is so sick I haven't wrote Mom yet. We are a mile from the mail box and I can't get away u no. But I thought maybe L (her husband, Lloyd) could go at noon and mail them.
Lola, Lloyd wanted me to tell you to be sure and not mention him not being well when you rite post cards because our mail is rite with theirs and they bring it when they get theirs so don't mention it ever on a card. I think he is improving but we can't think of anything now only our baby.
If little Gerald gets well that's all the Xmas L & I ask for. It is costing a heap but what's money. If you can't have your Lovin little babies so our Xmas won't be what it might. but just so Gerald gets well. I sure did wish for Dr Gunn. It just made me sick to call a strange Dr. but we couldn't wait to get one so far.
I'll be so glad to see you kids come up.
I will stop and send this to the box by Mrs Hunt. The Dr. came again while ago & Gerald is an awful sick boy yet. The Dr will be back again. I'll let u know when I can but u write and come.
Your blue sis

These days Gerald is retired, and restores old cars as a hobby.

Back to 2008...

In winter, I tend to blog about old times because there's so little to write about when you're holed up in the house. It's even been so cold we've skipped our daily walk in the pasture a couple of times. Yesterday the dog and I went after Cliff left for work at 2:30. It was 18°, which was the high for the day, I believe.

You can only write so much about the antics of the dog or your trips to Wal-Mart before it gets to be old hat; hence, my entries with old pictures and letters.

I have enjoyed finding a few new bloggers, thanks to my wintertime surfing. I've found a couple of you with whom I have real-life friends in common; and this morning I'm pretty sure I found the blog of a great-nephew's sister-in-law. It's an interesting blog, too!

I used to have problems with S.A.D. (wintertime depression); not so much now, with the Internet to keep me busy. I used to read a lot of books. Now I read blogs instead.

To all of my new readers, welcome. I'm glad some of you enjoy my strolls down memory lane. Once the weather's nice, you won't see those so much. Instead, you'll be regaled with tales of our adventures in motorcycle riding, or my horseback rides down to the Missouri River. I'll probably be sharing videos of my calves running, or even a video that takes you on a horseback ride with me.

I'll be reading your blogs and, through them, getting to know you better.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Winter is a time for memories, so I sit and remember:

I hated the way my mom fixed my hair. It was supposed to be “Shirley Temple” style, although somehow the effect isn't the same on a brunette. I was ten years too late for the style anyhow. And let's face it, I was nowhere near as cute and charming as Shirley. It appears as though I spent at least one recess rough-housing the day they took the above school picture, because I had a rather frizzy, unkept look about me.

Mother said she fixed it that way because my naturally curly hair would have been too unruly, just combed. Oh, and those hot summer Sunday afternoons when we went to First Sunday singings at some Church-of-Christ fifty miles away, I had to wear a hairnet over my curls. Air conditioning was nonexistent in the early fifties . So we drove with the car windows down, eating dust and wearing our hairnets to keep from getting tangles blown in. My mother always seemed to find a dirty spot on me someplace.... neck, elbows, knees, face.... and she’d pull out a hanky, spit on a corner of it, and scrub at the offending spot with the hanky before we got out of the car: The original Wet Ones!

I did love the singings, though. Any man in the group who could even halfway carry a tune would get up and lead a song, and everybody sang their parts. That’s how I learned to sing alto. Sometimes they’d take requests, and I always asked for “On Jordan’s Stormy Banks I Stand”.
The singing started at 2:30, but first there was a basket dinner.

We spent a lot of time in Church back then. Of course you have to remember, for the adults it was work, work, work all week long. Few people had television. Church was entertainment and recreation as well as worship. In nice weather, the adults were likely to linger an hour or so after Sunday night service, just visiting. We kids played tag, or spun around getting dizzy as possible, falling on the grass laughing. Boys loved to catch Junebugs and chase us girls so they could put a Junebug down the back of our dresses. I still remember how creepy that felt.

Oh yes, we wore dresses. Not only to Church, but for all occasions. My dresses were hand-made by Mama; they all had a bow that tied in back. When I was very young, many of my dresses were made from print chicken-feed sacks, and once I asked Mama to make me some panties to match from the same material. She did, but they were rather itchy, so I didn’t wear them much.

And now for a another real oldie, I give you a picture taken at a Gospel tent meeting my grandparents attended with their brood; Mother dated it as 1928. I hated that she marked on the front of the picture when I first saw it, but that bothers me less, as time goes on.

We interupt this blog-cast....

In regard to the "letter from 1938" post:

The remark about turpentine must have indeed hinted at abortion. I did a bit of googling and found this article, from which I quote: "Women often tried to induce abortion or cause a miscarriage by throwing themselves down stairs or inflicting violence on themselves. They ingested, douched with or inserted into themselves a chilling variety of chemicals and toxins--from bleach to potassium permanganate to turpentine to gunpowder and whiskey."

Don't ask me what they did with the turpentine. Probably douched with it, because I can't imagine anyone drinking it and surviving. Although I read this on the wikipedia entry for turpentine: "Drinking turpentine is extremely dangerous and can be life threatening. In addition, drinking turpentine is not an effective way to induce an abortion.

So perhaps they did indeed drink it.

My brother, who is mentioned in that letter from Aunt Gladys, is in the picture I included in that entry, wearing overalls.

By the way, Aunt Gladys is still alive, sense of humor intact, living in a nursing home a hundred miles north of here. She's blind, and has lately become hard of hearing.

That's her at a family reunion last August.

I have another old letter I intend to share before too long.

Grandma's house

My mom's family believed in getting together often. When Cliff and I first married, he couldn't believe how often.

My maternal grandma, the only grandmother I ever knew, had already passed on by then, so he never really got to know the charm of "Grandma's house". That's where the best gatherings were held.

It wasn't a big house, and the rooms were small. It used to amaze me to think that five children had been raised in the confines of that little cottage. By the time I came along, it was just "Grandma's house"; she lived there alone, a widow.

Here are two of my uncles in front of that house, before Grandma ever thought of being a grandmother.

That's Grandma with her firstborn child, Ruby, and her first grandson, Gerald.

That's my sister.

I won't name all these for you... it's Grandma, her kids, and her grandkids. And that's the barn at Grandma's house, behind them.

Ah, now we're getting little Donna in the picture: That's me in the middle, and the dog is one of many "Tippies" Grandma owned. She named every dog she ever had "Tippy"; it saved her from having to memorize a different name for each new dog.

I took this picture a couple of years before Grandma died. Notice a different Tippy by her side, eating the table scraps she'd just fed him.

I regret the fact that there are no pictures, as far as I know, of Grandma's kitchen, because that was the heart of her home. I don't think anyone in the family had flash attachments on their cameras until the late fifties or early sixties, which is why we have so many outdoor photographs. But I can shut my eyes even now and mentally walk through that house and recall exactly where every item was placed.

Still, I wish I had some inside shots: For instance, Grandma in her rocking chair, crocheting, while listening to "One's Man Family" on the radio; Grandma sitting on her tall stool at the cabinet making noodles (I've wondered lately if she had arthritic knees like mine, because she always sat on that stool instead of standing, as she worked in the kitchen); Grandma upstairs working on a quilt.

Thank God for the sharpness and clarity of the photographs in my mind.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A letter from 1938

That's Daddy, Mother, and my Uncle Leo in back; and my sister and brother (from Daddy's first marriage... their mom died in childbirth). I didn't make the scene until five years after this picture was taken.

My mother kept a lot of letters and post cards written in 1938-39; it was a bad time for her. Her daddy passed away then, and I believe it was also around that period that she lost a baby boy full term. Maybe that's why she felt compelled to keep so much of the correspondence she received.

When I read these old letters, I'm made aware of how easy we have it these days. This coming recession is child's play compared to the 1930's. I don't know all the people Aunt Gladys mentioned in her letter, but it's still interesting. Especially if you read between the lines a little.

Jobs were scarce, babies died of pneumonia, and evidently turpentine was used to abort unwanted pregnancies. Let's count our blessings, shall we?
I left the spelling pretty much as it was.

Oh, the "Jack" mentioned here is my brother; when my parents first married, Daddy's aunt had raised him from a baby and refused to give him up. They didn't get custody of him until he was a young teenager.

January 3, 1938

Dear sister Lola and family

I got your letter today and was glad to get it. Hope this finds you all OK. We all have a cold and I’ve got an awful sore arm. I opened a pimple on my arm with my fingernails and infection set in. There were one big sore formed as a boil. It broke and run, and now there are more places started. I keep my arm wrapped good with poultices. It isn’t swelled quite so bad but it hurts all the time. I guess I’d better cut my fingernails off and learn some sense. Ha ha. I got a little wee letter from Ruth today. Dad isn’t feeling very well and Sadie is trying to get the county to keep Jack as an orphan child and if she gets any money you kids can sure get him.

Raymond got him a job for 30 dollars a month. He will begin March the 1st. He is working for a neighbor now. The place where he got the job is 9 miles south of Clarinda. They are sure nice folks but I’m afraid Raymond won’t stay with it. He is awful dissatisfied. Wanda Lou and Roberta are sure growing. I’ll send you the dress length for Wanda Lou, and Roberta Mae’s is about 1 inch shorter.

Yes Lola the kids would be tickled to death to get the dolls. I don’t think they could have too many. The other day Wanda Lou was in her rocking chair and she had both of the dolls on her lap and she was singing to them. She stopped all at once and gave one a little slap and said If I had a dozen like you I don’t know what I would do. Ha ha. I thought that was a pretty good one. It is sure fun to see them play. I wish you could see them now. Wanda Lou is combing Roberta Mae’s hair and washing her face. Ozel and Marie was up last night and we made ice cream. Mr. Fisher gave us a 280 pound hog to butcher. It is sure good. Wish you were here to eat a leg. Tell Everett that Sad Cooke married Mary Williams. She married Carl Cooper and they got a divorce. She has 3 children.

Verda has been sick. She had a misscarry (more turpentine I suppose) If that’s what she done it’s no pity. I haven’t heard from Bill’s folks for a long time.

Paul and Opal has another child that is very low. They don’t think there is any chance for it at all. It has bronical pneumonia. It is sure bad.

Well Lola I’ll finish this and get it mailed in the morning. I’ve got to scrub yet this evening. I scrub every day and don’t seem like I can keep my floors very clean either. Ed Lacys are wanting a job up here. They might get one I don’t know for sure. I know dad thinks we are foolish because we don’t save our money but that’s all right. I don’t care what they think or say, do you?

Just as soon as we get you paid and Dr. Propst we are going to get us a radio like yours, and in the spring I’m going to get me two new rugs. I’d like to get a linoleum for the dining room and a second handed wool rug for the parlor. I’ve got the cutest bedroom if I just had something to put in it. But maybe we can get some more furniture some day. I’ll sure be glad when we get moved in the rest of the house.

Say, you ought to live down here this fall if Everett could get a job and you could run the switch board. They sure have a time getting someone that’s any good at it. They tried to get Marie to take it. They pay $25 a month. I’d sure take it if it wasn’t for the kids. Well Lola, I’ll close. Answer soon. We sure enjoy your letters. We’ll come up when we can and say if you make them little dolls I’ll send you the postage to send them when you get ready to send them. Good bye Lola and try not to be lonesome. I know it is terrible.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

poor calves

When Cliff and I went for our walk in the pasture this morning, Secret, my Jersey heifer, ran alongside us on the other side of the electric fence. This isn't normal behavior, but we shrugged and decided it was cute.

"Look, she wants to take a walk with us." Of course her little buddy, Meatloaf, was right behind her; only he wasn't running as fast.

We went on with our walk, and when we came back beside their fenced-off pasture, here came Secret again, running, and proceeded following us again.

"That's really strange," Cliff said.

The wheels started turning in my mind, and I asked, "They have water, don't they?"

The calves drink from an in-ground waterer that doesn't freeze, but we check it once in awhile, just in case.

"You know," Cliff said, "When I had to go through their pen with a big bale of hay, I shut them behind the barn so they wouldn't get out; I hope I opened that gate when I was done."

It turns out he had not opened the gate, and the calves had been shut away from water for over forty-eight hours. You should have seen them run to the waterer when they were turned loose; they were still drinking as we headed to the house!

We both feel horrible about it, of course. I'm just glad Secret told us, in the only way she knew how, what she needed. She finally communicated her need to us long enough that we understood. If she hadn't, both calves could have died from thirst, right in the middle of winter. Cliff had been tossing their alfalfa hay across the fence to them, having no idea they were without access to water.

Cliff said, "Well, obviously she knows who to ask for help, when she's in distress."

That's better than some humans I know.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Only if you believe (and squint just right)

Click to make the picture bigger (and perhaps to see a question mark).

There are some things you can't capture in a picture; you have to see them with your heart.

When we've been away from home all day, as we were today for a funeral, and drive into our town from the south, the street lights line up along the curve of the road in such a way that it forms a question mark.

When my children were small, I told them, "Our town is asking this question: "Why did you leave?"

I never found an adequate answer to the question, so we've stayed around here for the better part of the past 30-plus years.

So this evening I was going to take a picture to show my readers. A picture of the question mark.

And turns out, it only looks like a squiggle. But I swear, when you really, really see it... it's a question mark. And it really, really does say, "How could you leave this town?"

Perhaps someday my daughter can capture a picture with the lights actually looking like a question mark.

Cabin fever, and pictures from old Kansas City

When my parents and I first moved to Kansas City in 1956, we lived in Harlem for three years. It wasn't a slum, but it was a very poor section of town. I was unhappy about our having to leave the farm where we lived previously, but being so close to the Missouri River almost made up for it. Back then, you could walk right to the river's edge. That's my daddy in front, and some cousins following him. The A.S.B. bridge in the background made for a wonderful playground!

You could walk right up the steps and walk across on a sidewalk into downtown Kansas City.

My mom had tons of friends, and she'd come home from work at night exhausted and seem happy as could be to receive calls from all the neighbors. I'm afraid I'm the opposite: When the phone rings, I think, "Oh no."

That's a postcard picture of the old Municipal airport, which was also a short walk from our home in Harlem. This was another fun place for me to hang out. I'd watch airplanes landing and taking off for awhile, then wander through the terminal picking up travel brochures with pictures of exotic places and dream of flying away someday. There were pay toilets there, but that didn't foil me and my cousins. One of us would crawl under the door, use the facility, and then let the others in one at a time.

I've been snippy and grumpy this month, and it's due to the weather, I'm sure. Two of my favorite outdoor pastimes, horseback riding and jaunts on the motorcycle, are put on hold. I've tried riding my horse when it's frigid, but I've found that at any temperature under 45°, my toes go numb with the cold. Unless I confine my ride to fifteen minutes. Which hardly warrants all the trouble of retrieving the horse, grooming him, and saddling him up.

Cliff and I do take our walk in the pasture each day no matter the temperature; once you get moving, you stay comfortable. I have Carharts, you know. And wear a stocking cap. Our walk used to take a half-hour, but with my knees the way they are these days, I have to walk softly so as not to jar them, which has extended the time to about forty-five minutes. I've told Cliff he has his choice: Walk at his own speed to get his cardio benefit, or saunter slowly with me.

I've been watching the ten-day forecasts throughout this month, and all I've seen in my future was bitter cold. Now, finally, has given me some small hope that we'll warm up. Highs in the forties next weekend? I'll take 'em!

We'll go to Cliff's aunt's funeral today; that's a two-hour drive to Versailles. Last weekend we went to a cousin's husband's funeral in the same town. My mom and dad always said funerals come in threes, so I'm wondering who's next! I hope it isn't me, I want a few more motorcycle rides before I check out.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Patrick's Saturday Six

Here are this week’s “Saturday Six” questions. Either answer the questions in a comment at Patrick's Place, or put the answers in an entry on your journal…but either way, leave a link to your journal at Patrick's Place so that everyone else can visit! To be counted as “first to play,” you must be the first player to either answer the questions in a comment or to provide a complete link to the specific entry in your journal in which you answer the questions. A link to your journal in general cannot count. Enjoy!

1. Take the quiz: Are you a tortured genius?

You Are 38% Tortured Genius

You definitely have a few tortured genius qualities, but you hide them pretty well.

You're smart enough to be a genius - but also smart enough not to let it torture you.

2. Which of the following are (or would) you more likely to remember: your significant other’s birthday, your anniversary, or where you first met? Where we first met; Cliff's birthday and our anniversary are only two days apart, and I always have to stop and figure out which is which.

3. If a single day could be established to celebrate all wedding anniversaries and it gained the acceptance of Mother’s Day, would you celebrate your anniversary on “Anniversary Day,” on your real anniversary, or both? I'm supposed to celebrate my anniversary? All we ever do is eat out someplace... Hey, I'll celebrate both times!

4. What experience do you think you’ll honestly never forget? There are so many! I guess it would be Cliff's open heart surgery. I'll never forget the pain he went through, and the fear we both felt. That single event changed the way the two of us look at life.

5. When you have to remember to do something at a specific time, what method are you most likely to use to remind yourself? I write it on the calendar.

6. What was the last important date that you forgot? I can't think of one.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Just a brief "Bible" entry, skip it if you like

Every year I attempt to read the Bible through, by way of my One-Year Bible. I don't always make it through, but I never drop out before March, at the earliest. So I'm very familiar with the story of Joseph; he's one of my all-time favorites.

After all, who wouldn't love a dreamer of dreams and positive thinker like Joseph?

I'm reading the New Living Translation now, so it's in modern English. Maybe that's why I noticed a small detail that has escaped me all my life.

Joseph was in charge of Potiphar's household until the boss's wife falsely accused him of attempted rape. Then Potiphar had him put in prison.

What I saw today was that the jail, the dungeon, was in Potiphar's very palace!

This revelation doesn't have any religious significance that I've thought of; it just surprised me that I'd find an un-noticed detail in such a familiar story, a story that I literally grew up reading.

For those of us who love the Bible as God's word, there's always something new to discover.

Funny how we change

I've had several horses in the years I've been married and living in the country. The first one was a green-broke mare (she was only two, so I guess she was really just a filly) named Ginger who wasn't much to brag about: she'd shy at the rustle of a leaf, and if you asked her to step across a tiny ditch, she'd brace herself and finally jump across it as though it were the Grand Canyon. I had small children back then, so I could only ride when Cliff was home to watch the babies.

Sometime in the '70's we owned a young Foxtrotter gelding I was really fond of. But I had a job at the time, and decided I wasn't riding him enough to merit keeping him around.

I've always said that I wouldn't keep a horse around if he wasn't being ridden. I see so many "pasture ornament" horses that nobody ever messes with, and I've laughed at people who'd waste money on a horse they never ride. Upkeep on a horse is expensive, you know?

But I guess I've gotten soft in my old age. Because I've told Cliff many times that as long as we're able to keep up with this place in the country, Blue isn't going anywhere. Whether I'm able to ride or not, he has a retirement home.

Cliff has accepted that; he even knows that I want Blue to go to a blogger friend in Oklahoma, if anything happens to me and he can't keep him.

One fear I have is that we'll have to part with this place before Blue dies, because he's only thirteen years old, and many horses live into their thirties. I'm sixty-three; can we keep up with this place for twenty more years? Dear Lord, we'll be in our eighties! And why on earth do I worry about the future of a horse in this manner?

Now Libby has worked her way into my heart in the same way.

I don't know what possessed me to buy a young filly in the first place; I certainly didn't need her. I saw the ad in the Kansas City Star, saw the words "bay" and "Foxtrotter" (like Blue) and just had to go look at her and make an offer. Stupid me.

Libby's only fault is that she's young. I could have saved myself the recent money I spent trying to get her trained by simply waiting for a couple of years and doing what I've been doing, because she has always had wonderful manners and a desire to please. She's just a "kid", and her attention span is short. And I was impatient and wanted to be able to safely ride her NOW. Don't ask me why I was in such a hurry, since I have Blue to ride.

Somebody on the local Craigslist has a Jersey cow with an adopted calf for sale. I could probably work out a reasonable trade, since the lady told me in email that they wanted to sell the calf next summer so they'll have money to buy their kids a horse.

But when it came down to it, I knew I couldn't offer Libby to anyone; yesterday I stood between my two horses with a big, warm equine jaw against each cheek, hugging both their necks, and I realized I'm stuck with two animals I cannot bear to part with, even if I were never to ride Libby. How does a mother sell her children?

Yes, I guess I've gotten soft in my old age.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Lyrics to a wonderful song

How many times must I prove how much I love you?
How many ways must my love for you I show?
How many times must I rescue you from trouble
For you to know just how much I love you?

Didn't I wake you up this morning?
Were you clothed in your right mind.
When you walked on this problem
Didn't I step right in on time?
When you got weak along life's journey,
My angel carried you
So you would know just how much I love you.

How many days must I be a fence all around you?
How many nights must I wipe your tears away?
How many storms must I bring you safely through
For you to know just how much I love you.


Didn't I put food on your table?
Show UP! when your bills were due?
When the pains were racking your body
Didn't I send a healing down to you?
When you were lost in sin and sorrow
I died to set you free
So you would know just how much I love you.


So you would know, so you would know how much
So you would know, so you would know how much
So you would know just how much I love you

Now playing: The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir - So You Would Know
via FoxyTunes

I'm floating away!

Everything I read in newspapers and magazines and on the Internet tells me to drink water. LOTS of water.

Since I'm a flylady fan, I have her nagging at me to drink water; it's supposed to help with weight loss. Don't ask me how my number one housekeeping motivator got caught up in fitness; all I know is that she calls any extra pounds I'm carrying "body clutter" and pushes water; she even convinced me to buy one of her special water bottles.

I go to Sparkpeople to log my calories and nutrition, and I get nagged at again. Eight glasses of water is the daily goal. It's supposed to keep my skin youthful and supple (it ain't workin') and keep my appetite at bay (whatever).

I usually drink my quota.

Now you might think all liquids count as "water". Oh no; coffee and tea and other caffeinated beverages are actually diuretics, so they add to your need for water.

So I drink at least three cups of coffee in the morning, a couple of cups of green tea each day, sometimes a Diet Cherry Coke with my evening popcorn, and eight glasses of water.

And Cliff wonders why I'm always hunting up a bathroom everywhere we go?

Well, at least I'm hydrated.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Sam's Club sucker (that'd be me)

As I mentioned in this post, we went to Sam's Club yesterday. We go there once every six or eight weeks, and I always stock up on certain items: three-pound bags of almonds, our favorite healthful snack; huge containers of Era laundry soap; four-bottle units of Lysol toilet bowl cleaner. We only have one bathroom, but when I'm flying with Flylady, she insists I swish-and-swipe my toilet bowl each morning. Not to mention that no product gets rid of hard-water deposits on my bathtub, kitchen sink, or anything else as good as that Lysol toilet bowl cleaner. I also got a four-pack unit of disinfecting wipes, which are handy for the "swiping" part of my morning toilet bowl cleanup.

All those things are incredible buys, and I'm glad I came home with them.

Now let me tell you about my love of popcorn. Being frugal-minded when it comes to groceries, I find popcorn to be the most economical snack ever. Not microwave popcorn in bags, mind you. Plain old popcorn, which I prepare in my microwave popcorn popper, for pennies a serving. It's air-popped, so it's low-calorie. I do add a little melted butter and Molly McButter when it's done. I have an excellent caramel corn recipe, so I can even make a sweet popcorn treat as good as, and cheaper than, anything you can buy... when I'm not trying to lose weight, that is.

That's my faithful popcorn popper on the left, and my backup (in case the old one ever has a melt-down) on the right.

So I mentioned to Cliff that we should find a big bag of popcorn at Sam's; it's already very cheap, so imagine how much money I'd save buying it in bulk. I was envisioning perhaps a ten-pound bag.

"I'll store it in the freezer so it won't get old," I told him.

What we found was a fifty-pound bag. How could a bargain-minded popcorn fiend pass up such a buy?

Once I got home, the enormity of my purchase hit me, and I realized I probably now owned a lifetime supply of popcorn.

Today I resolutely put most of the contents of that bag into a big "Topsy's Popcorn" can from the year 2000 and put it in a corner of my freezer. I poured what remained into a gallon glass jar to be kept handy here in the kitchen.

I can't believe I bought that much popcorn.

Now playing: Worship - Trading My Sorrows (Yes Lord)
via FoxyTunes

A devotional I received in email

I subscribe to a daily devotional from the Purpose-driven Life website. Being an especially weak jar of clay, I can really relate to this one.


Your Weakness, God’s Glory
by Jon Walker

For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. (2 Corinthians 4:6-7 NIV)

--- --- ---

In the same way God spoke light into the darkness at creation, today he speaks light into the darkness of our hearts. He fills us with the light of the Holy Spirit, allowing us to see the face of Christ with greater clarity as he transforms us into the likeness of Christ. We carry God’s glory, and it shines from us so all the world can see that our God is an awesome God.

The glory that shines from within us is not our own; it is God’s glory and his alone. Our brother, Paul, explains that we are jars of clay – fragile, chipped, imperfect – exactly as God designed us to be. In this way, others see the “all-surpassing power” of God through our weakened frames and shattered lives. We are monuments of God’s grace with an inscription written in God’s own hand: “Within this earthen container, the One True God is at work.”

Yet we try to put our own “shine” on our simple jars of clay. We maneuver and posture to make our jars look better. We decorate the outside with ecclesiastical “vain glories” that we call image, power, position, wealth. Quite simply, we try to make ourselves appear more than what we are, failing to grasp that God loves us just for who we are – his own creations.

When we try to make it look like we are the ones who shine, we inevitably reveal our “easily surpassable power.” Yet this gives us greater understanding that in our weakness, God is strong. His light shines through even greater; his strength is revealed when we acknowledge we are God’s jars of clay.

What does this mean?

· See your weaknesses as a gift – You are God’s jar of clay, designed exactly the way he intended. Your weaknesses are an opportunity for God’s light to shine even brighter from within you.

· Stop trying to make yourself look good – Just be who you are, a frail human designed by God to reveal his glory. Frankly, we could use a whole lot more authenticity in the church. If you’re hurt, say it; if you’re angry, resolve it; if you’re in love; show it; if you’ve made a mistake, confess it; if you’re in need, reveal it.

· Don’t make others think they have to appear good – Accept each other in love, just as Christ accepted you – a jar of clay with chips and cracks.

· Magnify the glory of God – Magnify the glory of God by simply being you and letting him shine through. Magnify the glory of God in others, instead of magnifying their weaknesses.

© 2007 Jon Walker. All rights reserved.