Saturday, July 31, 2010

First week on the envelope system of budgeting

Yesterday, Cliff's payday, I got enough cash to put some in the following envelopes:  groceries, dog, clothing, doctors-and-pills, and fun.  Hey, they're my envelopes, I'll name them as I please.  
I'll be fine-tuning this thing for awhile; I've designated $75 weekly for groceries, and I really don't think we'll be spending that much.  Yesterday I got by for under $50.  The only thing  that has made my grocery bill seem high in the past is that when we shop at Walmart, we're liable to be buying $20 worth of oil, a $30 pair of overalls, and so on.  For now, Cliff will buy oil out of his pocket money (he gets a pretty healthy allowance), and overalls will come out of the money in the clothing envelope.  I do count toilet paper and paper towels as grocery items.  Which reminds me, when did paper towels start costing $2 a roll?  I think I'll be using my micro-fiber cloths more, in the future.
The system sounds so simple.  And I will tell you that it made me quite conscious of what I was buying yesterday, which always means I spend less.  
I've allotted $20 a week for the dog, which sounds like a lot.  But there's her pricey dog food and those expensive heartworm pills and the monthly flea stuff.  Plus the fact that if we leave for more than one day, we get her boarded to the tune of $15 a day.  Now that I think about it, I may have to allow more for the dog!  Good grief, is it possible a dog can cost $80 a month?  
But that's what I like about this system; it makes you realize where your money is going. 
I had my first rude awakening yesterday when I stopped to pick up a couple of prescriptions I hadn't planned on.  My generic blood pressure tables are only $10 for a ninety-day supply, but Cliff's Niaspan is  $90.  Yes, friends, a dollar a day.  
Since I just started this envelope thing, I had set aside $35 for meds.  But my first $35 just covered Cliff's deductible at the cardiologist's office, leaving me with an empty envelope.   So, how would I pay for the prescriptions?  
Luckily, Cliff is still working, so we have the money.  And some extra money came in this morning, so I was able to put the allotted amounts in each envelope.  
It's a good thing I'm getting this going before he retires.  It's going to take a year just to get ahead of things.

Friday, July 30, 2010

A doctor's rant

Cliff was escorted into a room at the heart group's office right on time:  10:45.  A nurse had him weigh and took his blood pressure promptly.  Then she wrote down all his medications, both prescription and non-prescription, and left, saying the doctor should be with us shortly.  
We waited.  And waited.  For over an hour, we waited.  At one point Cliff said, "I'm not coming here again!"
FINALLY a courteous, smiling nurse-practitioner came in and introduced herself.  She quizzed Cliff about various things, asked him if he realized he had gained weight, and so forth.   She said we shouldn't wait another three years to come and see them, that we ought to come once a year.  
I told her, "Cliff just told me he won't be coming back here again; he gets tired of waiting so long."  
She assured us she understood and said the doctor would soon be with us.  
When he came in, he started out "About the wait..."  
Which I heard as "About the weight..." 
So the next five minutes or so were totally confusing to me until it finally clicked, but click it did.  
"When we saw Obama-care coming," he said, (I'm thinking, 'It's Obama's fault Cliff got fat?') "we saw that new rules were put in place so that doctors were only going to get 50% as much for their services; hospitals, however, still got 100%.  We went out of private practice and put ourselves in the employ of this hospital, because that way we still get what we've always been paid."
Please realize I'm paraphrasing, since I don't have a photographic memory.  You could tell the man was totally exasperated with the situation he's in.  He assured us that he wasn't bad-mouthing the hospital, that it's a fine hospital, a perfectly good one.  But the hospital is now his boss, and is obviously mismanaging some things.  He didn't use the word "mismanaging", but that's what he was getting at.  
"She and I came in at 8 o'clock this morning," he said, motioning toward the nurse-practitioner.  "We sat at our desks and waited for someone to bring a folder to me so we could go to work.  At 9 o'clock, seven folders were placed on my desk at once, so we were already an hour behind, and covered up with work."  
"I could rush the patients through here, but I don't like to do that.  And if I go to the top and complain, I could be fired, because I am working for them."  
I really, really wish I could tell you word for word what he said, and convey to you the passion with which he said it.   
"No wonder nobody wants to study to be a doctor any more," I said.  
"No, that isn't it," he said, "I'll tell you why nobody wants to be a doctor; it takes half-a-million dollars to go to school to become a doctor; I was thirty-eight years old before my schooling was paid for and I could finally say my money was my own."  
Then he motioned toward the T-shirt I was wearing:  "And yes, fire Congress."  
Because that's what my T-shirt said.  "Fire Congress".  
We accepted his apology and told him we appreciated his explaining things to us.  
I'd love to state his name, but... he could get fired.  
How humiliating.  

A trip to the cardiologist

We haven't visited the cardiologist for two or three years; Dr. Deblase, our primary care doctor, did all the same procedures as the specialists, and when I asked him if Cliff needed to go elsewhere, he said no.   
And then Dr. Deblase got cancer and eventually died.  
So Cliff has been pretty much in the hands of nurse-practitioners since then.  One of them has had him cut back on his Lipitor twice in the last year; that's great, as long as it's really the right thing to do, because Lipitor is very expensive.  But I decided it's time Cliff saw his heart doctor, just to make sure.   

This is the guy he's going to see; here he is in 2006, telling Cliff after his angiogram that he's going to need open heart surgery.  
What's that?  Well of COURSE I took pictures!  
Before this was taken, when we first met this guy, we were not impressed.  There had been a new program installed in the computers where he worked, and he spent most of his time mumbling at the computer and trying to figure it out, rather than dealing with Cliff.  
Cliff took a nuclear stress test, then returned to the room where I was; we waited together for the results of the test, planning where we'd go out to eat after this doctor was through with him.  
Our plans were interrupted when he came into the room with charts in his hand and said, "Well, there's a problem."  
Those were some life-changing words, let me tell you.  He wouldn't even let Cliff drive to the hospital... and we'd been riding around on a motorcycle for months!    
We neither one like going to the cardiologist's office.  You have to make an appointment about three months ahead of time, and the people at the front desk are often rude.  However, I remind myself that without that doctor, or one like him, Cliff would probably be dead.  I might be, too, if Cliff had had a heart attack while we were on the motorcycle. 

Because that doctor contacted this heart surgeon, Dr. Gallion, who, a mere two days after the angiogram, was doing four bypasses to Cliff's heart.  In this picture, he's telling us the surgery went just fine, thank you very much.  I hope Cliff never needs a heart surgeon again, but if he does, this is the man I would want in charge.  All the nurses, and former patients of his we talked to, seemed to think he walked on water.
I guess I should pause for a moment and give thanks for specialists, one and all.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

For certain select people

I did an entry with the lyrics to a song I wrote entitled "Willie".  Four people said they'd like to hear me sing it:  Vicki, Lori, Russ, and Fernan.  If you four will email me at so I'll know where to send it, I will send you the link to a Youtube video of me singing the song.  I have it set as private right now, but once I've heard from you four I'll open it up for a short time  Any relatives are welcome to see it too, you'll just have to let me know.  I'm not crazy enough to put it on my blog; I was in my nightgown when I made the video.  Oh, and the video will only be up for a day or two before I make it private again.  
Contact me, you four people, if you want to hear the tune of the song.  
I am only doing this because of my friend Shirlie, who died this week.  I told her a long time ago that I would do a Youtube video of me singing a song I wrote called "Million Dollar Car", and I never got around to it.  Now it's too late.

The most prolific crop in my garden

Here it is at the edge of my garden, waiting to send it's little creepers out amongst the plants.  

What appears to be simply a thriving crop of crabgrass is actually a row of potatoes; yes, there are potatoes under all those weeds.  The pile in the foreground is what I pulled this morning.  

Here's a young crabgrass plant, already infiltrating my late cabbage plants.

On the left is my strawberry bed.  And this is the reason I may forget about raising strawberries.  What does one do with weeds that have so infiltrated a crop?    

This is how my hands look after waging war on crabgrass plants for over an hour.  I have gardening gloves, and I know the trick about getting soap under the fingernails before you go outside.  The thing is, I usually don't go outside with the intention of pulling weeds... I may be heading to the mailbox or walking the dog.  Then I see the horrible weeds and start pulling.    
Because of the moisture in the soil, it's fairly easy to pull this weed, but it's impossible to get rid of it.  It sends out runners both above and below the surface of the ground and reproduces itself like mad.
This year has been especially bad for all sorts of weeds because of all the rain we've gotten.  A large portion of the grass growing in our yard has always been crabgrass, but we just mow it and pretend it's bluegrass.  

Hot dog!

When Cliff and I took our walk just before noon yesterday it was muggy and hot.  Iris doesn't take heat very well, but she wanted to go along.  Somewhere out there in the pasture she wandered away from us and disappeared; she's done this before, and always shows up at the house before too long.  I do worry a bit, but not too much.  
It was probably a half-hour before she came dragging home, panting harder than I thought was possible.  After getting a big drink, she went to the coolest place she could think of:

Right on top of the vent where the air conditioner sends out cold air.  This dog knows how to cool off fast.
We are really making progress with her:  I've left her with the run of the house three times, if we were just making a quick run to town; when we get home, she comes out of her favorite spot, my bathroom, where she likes to lie on the floor in front of the sink.  I've found nothing amiss in the house after our absence.
All the time (almost three months) we've had her, I have shut her in the pet taxi at night.  Keep in mind that when we first got her she got on furniture and counter-surfed in the kitchen.  And then of course, with a new dog you never know just how well house-trained they are.  
Iris would go cheerfully to her little kennel when I'd say "Go to bed", and I'd shut the door behind her.  
But the last two nights she has gone to bed on her own around 8 o'clock.  So I left the door open.  
The first night she stayed in there, as far as I know, until 3 A.M. when Cliff got home.  Then she chose to sleep on the kitchen floor, right below the crock pot where my roast was cooking.    
Last night, she spent the whole night in her kennel and, in fact, stayed there quite a while after I got up.  So I guess she feels at home there now.  
When you get a "second-hand" grown-up dog, you don't usually have to potty-train them, and they're past all the chewing that puppies do; but they do come with baggage from their past, and it takes awhile to figure them out.      
Pioneer Woman has a cute little doggie entry today; I know lots of people get sick of pictures of her basset hound, Charlie (I've read the complaints in various places).  But this series of pictures cracked me up... be sure and look at them all the way to the bottom of the entry.  Click HERE.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Let me tell you about the roast I cooked

Normally I'd save roasts for times when we have company, but I was anxious to see what the meat from our steer was going to be like.  At the butcher shop up the road, they weigh the meat they're going to put into hamburger, then grind everybody's hamburger together.  It's much easier for them that way.  Cliff butchered for many years, and he understands why they do this, although it isn't how they did it at the Country Butcher Shop where he worked.  Anyhow, when we use our ground beef, it isn't just our animal, but a combination of meat from many cows.  
We didn't save any roasts from the last steer we had butchered, because he was a dwarf-looking animal of indeterminate age.  I only bought him so my heifer, Secret, who turned out to be sterile, would not be the only cow on the place.  When I realized Secret was never going to breed, we had her friend butchered and sold her.  
This steer (I am being nice and not calling him by name, in case that would bother some of my readers) was only one year old, and really big and fat as Jerseys go.  Cliff decided to take the risk and have some steaks and roasts made.  
We have raised and butchered our own beef before; we've also had quality beef quarters from a butcher shop.  But we have never tasted any beef this flavorful and tender. 
I don't know if it's because he was still getting two gallons of his mother's milk daily, or because he was so young.  
I could eat roast this good every day, but I won't; I'll save the others for when we have company.

Yummy things

I was in the mood for some "peachy" dessert this morning and ended up making this cobbler.  Now, I really prefer the kind of cobbler my mom and grandma used to make, which was more of a square or oblong pie; you know, with top and bottom pie crust.  Unfortunately, that would mean we'd be consuming several tablespoons of shortening with each piece, and we don't need that.  
I thought about making peach crisp, but in my experience the crispness doesn't last.  It's only "crisp" right after you make it.  
So I made this kind of cobbler with the shortcake topping; it'll be wonderful with just a little vanilla ice cream.  
Because Cliff gets up at 10 A.M. and leaves at 2:30, it's hard to squeeze in breakfast and dinner; often he'll have just a tiny bit of breakfast to tide him over.  But sometimes, when I am planning a more elaborate dinner, he gets dinner almost as soon as he's out of bed.  I cooked one of the roasts from our butchered steer overnight in the crock pot (it's unbelievably tender).  This always leaves lots of tasty juices with which to make gravy.  I peeled some potatoes from the garden, and I will cook some sort of vegetable to go with this.  
We'll be eating by 10:30.  The worst thing about having dinner for breakfast is that we take our walk after breakfast; we will have some full bellies, walking in the heat of the day.  It's really hard to keep up the daily walk when we don't get out there until 11:30 with temperatures already hitting 90 degrees.  
I have good news from the garden front:

Although my tomato plants are succumbing to blight, it looks like I'll be able to can a few before they're all gone.  There are enough in this picture, I think, for fourteen quarts.  Of course some of them have to ripen a bit first.
I also have bad news on the garden front:  I found a squash bug on the zucchini plant that is almost ready to produce.  I sprayed, but that hasn't helped much in the past.  Oh well, I get an "E" for effort, right?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Thinking about retirement

Cliff and I went and talked to our insurance man today.  We raised the deductible on both the old house and this trailer house to $1,000.  With a little apprehension, we took off some things that we had been insuring.  
I have told Cliff for some time that we would need to do this when he retires; we won't be able to afford the cost of that much insurance.  Today he said, "Let's just do it now."  
When we got home, for the first time ever, I wrote down a list of expenses we'll always have, even after retirement.  
I made another list of things we can reduce or cut out entirely:  Dish TV, for example; that's $40 a month.  I told my husband I'm not giving up Internet unless I'm starving; after all, it's my main form of entertainment.
We don't have a big retirement fund; we will have to try and live on our social security.  Scary, isn't it?  Cliff's 401K isn't a huge amount, and we'll put that in savings as our nest egg.  
It appears that we could manage to stay here on our place with proper budgeting, at least for a few years.  Unless Social Security goes the way of the dinosaur; in that case, we'll be on the streets with signs that say, "Will work for food."  
As I was doing all this figuring, something made me think of Dave Ramsey and his envelope system.   It's actually a plan to help you get out of debt, and except for our property, our debts are paid.  But it could help us stay on track.
I believe the idea is that you allot so much each pay period to groceries, clothing, medicine, and so forth; each of these has its own envelope.  When the envelope is empty, you do without.  Of course, this would not apply to medicines; you'l have to try and budget the proper amount for that, or a little extra.  Cliff pointed out the high cost of owning a pet, and I labeled an envelope for Iris' care and feeding.    
I decided to go ahead and use the envelope system right now for the things I can; this won't include utilities, house payments, insurance and so forth, because I pay those with checks.  But using the envelopes for what I can will help me fine-tune our budget so I'll have a realistic idea of how much we really need when we retire.  It might help me spend less, too.  
You can spend $19 plus shipping on some sort of fancy envelope holder and special envelopes from Dave Ramsey's website, but I'm using plain old business-sized envelopes.  What's the point of budgeting if you're going to pay $20 for envelopes?  
Wish me luck.  I'll keep you informed.

Around the place

I have some tomatoes, fairly large ones.  They aren't pretty, but at least I have some for now  The splits are caused by all the excess rain we've had.  I expect to have no tomatoes at all, a week from now, because the blight is spreading fast.  Several plants are already dead, having given me no tomatoes larger than walnuts.  There are two local places where, hopefully, I can buy decent tomatoes after mine are gone:  Frye Farms at Buckner (no website) and Fahrmeier Farms (a lousy website); they also have a winery.  
The late zucchini I planted is doing well so far, with no sign of a squash bug.  Look closely and you'll see two tiny zucchinis, the largest about an inch-and-a-half long.  I'm that close to the ratatouille I am longing to make.    
I used the last eggplant off my counter last night to make Meesha's eggplant salsa/caviar.  This time I added 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper; one of my better ideas.  

That pathetic little plant is an acorn squash I probably planted too late; we'll see.  

Not only are the cows spending all their free time at my cabin, pooping everywhere; they are now getting ON my porch and knocking the dwarfs over and shoving my camping chair off into the woods.  

But how can I be angry at someone who provides me with meat and milk, and is due to have a baby in three weeks?  Just look at that face.

Adventures with Iris

Iris was supposed to be in this picture.  I think perhaps that tiny smudge just beneath the tree limbs, up there on our walking path, is her, but who knows?  I was standing near where she got caught on the barbed wire fence when I took the shot; I wanted to show how scared she is to go near the place where she got hurt.  She stops way up there and waits for us to come back to her.  The wound on her leg is slowly getting smaller, but I don't think she will ever forget how and where she got hurt.
Saturday Iris had another little accident:  She somehow broke her top left canine tooth!  I wouldn't have noticed, but when she went after her ball she couldn't take it in her mouth.  She would try and fail, then attempt to bat it around with her front feet!  

Here's the best picture I could get; only about the bottom third of the tooth is gone.  After the first day, she started picking up her ball normally again, and shows no sign that she's in pain.  From the searching I did on the Internet, she should be OK without any medical attention, since it's such a small part of the tooth.  I will mention it to the vet, though, next time she has to visit him for any reason.  

Iris had a visitor over the weekend:  Mindy, Cliff's youngest sister's dog.  This is about the best she would do at getting along with her guest; you can tell she is thinking, "Just you try and take my frisbee, the fight will be on!"  
When Mindy tried to get her to play, Iris growled at her.  There were no fights, though.  In fact, Iris has lost a lot of her "attitude" now that she's lived here awhile and knows her boundaries.   She isn't so anxious to stalk the mini-doxie next door, but has adopted sort of a "live-and-let-live" policy.  
Iris is doing very well at staying near me when I'm outside, and coming when I call.  She actually does better at obeying and listening than Sadie did after four years with us.  
She loves all people, especially kids; she just doesn't like other dogs.  At all. 
One more Iris note:  Yesterday we went a few miles down the road to pick up the new battery for our motorcycle and I decided to be brave and leave Iris free, with the run of the house.  Except for the bedroom, just in case she forgot the rules and got on the bed.  I did make sure nothing edible was on the counters or table, but I left the half-full kitchen trash sitting in its usual spot.  I returned to find everything just as I had left it.  As long as there are no incidents, I will keep giving her more freedom in the house when we leave for short trips to town.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The magic of a spiral notebook

I mentioned in a recent post that I wanted to buy a spiral notebook.  Well, Friday Cliff and I had occasion to visit the Walmarts (ha) and I went to the school supplies section.  
Boy, did I have a surprise coming.  Do you have any idea the price they put on a simple, one-subject spiral notebook these days?

One like this?  
Sit down, and I'll tell you.
Are you sitting down?  

OK, brace yourself.  The cost of this notebook, which I'm sure used to be well over a dollar, is now fifteen cents.  I couldn't believe it!
So I bought two.  Yeah, I'm the last of the big-time spenders.

And now I think I'm about ready to write some songs and take my show on the road.
I forgot what sloppy handwriting I had, and I'm pretty sure it's gotten worse since I discovered computers and starting typing everything.  
This evening was my first time alone with the notebook; I laid it beside my chair and watched TV and waited for inspiration.  Indeed, the inspiration came, but it wasn't on any of the subjects I had already written down.  Dang it, I guess I have a lot of things to get off my chest.  
You know, all those things I just can't talk about to anybody but Cliff.  But I can sing them to anybody who will listen.


After our weekend visitors left yesterday, I brought six nice-sized eggplants in from the garden, so I called my daughter and invited her family over for eggplant paramesana.  I can't really say I was fixing a proper meal, but they hadn't had a taste of my version of this dish, and they're always willing participants in any sort of food-sampling venture.  
Once they left, Cliff and I decided to go for a motorcycle ride.  Not a long one, since it was four o'clock, and we don't ride in the dark.  Just a nice little getaway spin.  
Not two miles from home, we felt our Gold Wing miss just a little bit... maybe just a one-time fluke?  Cliff thought there might be some water in the gas.  We forged on; when it happened again, he said it seemed like a carburetor problem.  We had planned to just ride 24 highway for awhile, then turn and come back; but Cliff instead went on to Truman Road (yes, Truman Road does extend all the way from Kansas City into the boonies, so far out you can almost hear the banjo music).  
When we turned onto Truman Road (also known as FF), the bike started really acting up, and finally died; as luck would have it, we were almost to the turnoff to New Oak Winery, and Cliff managed to coast that far, make a turn, and get off on the side road leading up to the place.  

His first thought was that he had perhaps failed to tighten up some wire or other when he replaced the starter relay the other day, but he could find no problem in that area.  

He called the son-in-law, who was relieved, I'm sure, to find out we broke down only seven miles from home this time.  He picked us up; he and Cliff took the trailer after the bike, and all was well.  
Once the motorcycle was in the shop, my loving husband found out all we need is a new battery and we'll be on the road again.  
I'll tell you, there's nothing like the excitement of riding a motorcycle; adventure is always right around the corner.  

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Dateline NBC

I watched a most touching story this evening on Dateline NBC showing how the poorest people in America are the ones who suffer most during this recession.  While I have a problem with people who keep having kids they can't afford in this age of birth control, and people who cry "My kids are starving" while they smoke brand-name cigarettes, I was very impressed with Lisa Roberts, the lady operating a food pantry for these needy folks in Ohio.  
Lisa makes me ashamed of myself.  

To see a slideshow from the program, click HERE and click on the arrows to go from one picture to another.  

The Nelson-Atkins gallery of art

Cliff's St. Louis sister and I had talked about visiting the art gallery for a long time, and we finally got it done.  I'm fairly sure I had not been there since the sixties.  The two of us like the same kinds of art, so it worked out well.
I found myself admiring feet throughout the day.

Seems to me a foot would be hard to paint.  This is from an artist's depiction of St. Luke in one of my favorite paintings:

St. Luke is shown as an artist showing us a picture he painted of Mary and Jesus.  I should have taken notes, because I don't remember who the angel is.

Just look at this big marble foot.  It belongs to some Greek God or other.

Yes, they are making out sitting on the head of a boar; some other god or goddess had killed it, I think.  I've never been a student of the ancient civilizations and their beliefs.  While I was taking a picture of the guy's foot, a couple of young ladies were using their cell phones to take pictures of other portions of his anatomy, giggling all the while.

  We found a seventeenth-century Elvis.

We found our knights in shining armor; behind them on the left you see the Madonna holding a very chubby baby Jesus, with chubby little baby John the Baptist at her side.

This Italian bears some resemblance to the Gasperinos, our friends who own the winery.  I've decided he must have been a distant relative of theirs.

Here I am with my chair-cane posing with Buddha.  The lady behind the little boy was doing her best to explain the story of Buddhism to her children; I'm not sure they cared to hear it, but I found it interesting.

We got home to find my daughter and her family had moved their barbecue from their place to Cliff's shop, since storms were threatening.  At one point we lost electricity; after that 12-hour stretch of no electricity the other night, I was a little nervous.  So I not only reported our own outage, I also called and reported Cliff's sister's outage as well as two neighbors who, for all I know, might have still had power.  Hey, I like my electricity!  

Friday, July 23, 2010

Shine on, Sprkl111

Back in the late nineties when I started hanging out in the "Christian 50 plus" chat room, one of the first people I warmed up to was Sprkl.  When a person entered an AOL chat room, the name that showed up on the chat screen was her AOL screen name, and many of us ended up being called by some shortened form of that "screen name" when we met in person.  It's how I became "Mo", and later, "Mosie".  
 Sparkle was an upbeat, positive lady who loved to talk about her past life, her children, and time spent as a Navy wife.  Her husband, whose name was Cliff just like my husband, made a career in the military; he died after retiring, at a relatively young age.  Sparkle had been a widow for a long time already when we met at the very first chat reunion I attended in Texas; was it 1999?  

 She was the same in person as online:  cheerful and full of stories.  She didn't get around the best due some sort of botched surgery that had caused one of her legs to be shorter than the other.  So she definitely couldn't run a race, but that didn't keep her from traveling to every chat room reunion she could afford.  

 One of her sons accompanied her to the later gatherings.  The chat room wasn't his thing, but he knew how much his mom wanted to see her friends, and she could hardly travel so far alone, by that time.  Keep in mind that this lady lived in Washington state, and flew all the way to Dallas to be with the rest of us.  
 Through so much silliness and childishness and backbiting that went on later in the chat room, Shirlie remained the peacemaker, always a calming influence.  I remember one mentally troubled man turning against almost everyone in the group, lashing out verbally, viciously.  The one person who kept in touch with him through email after that was Sparkle; she met with him in person later on, when she was in his part of the country... the only member of our group who ever met the man in person.  
 It was her Internet friends who first realized she was having a stroke and contacted a family member: She had always been an excellent speller, and one day the words she was typing onto the screen became garbled and nonsensical.  I'm telling you, folks, we were a family!
 Our group would not have been the same without Sparkle; we are all better for having known her.
Rest in peace, sweet Shirlie Thorsen.  You loved the state of Washington, but I think you'll love your new state even more.
Then the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father's Kingdom. Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand!  Matthew 13:43

Another story song I wrote

This will be it, at least for awhile.  Grammer police aren't going to like my hillbilly-speak, but when I'm writing a certain type of song, it's required.  It's also how I talk in real life.  I say "ain't" a lot.  It's my choice.  When I graduated high school, I cringed at people who talked like I do now.    
I notice, both in this song and the Uncle George song, that I chose miscreants as heroes.  Especially in this one, because if you met Willie (if he's even still alive), you'd consider him a total loser.  I will never forget how, when I took my guitar and sang this to him, he cried.  Like a baby.  It was very touching.  
I think the envy I expressed in this song came about because I had two teenage kids, and our family was going through a hard time financially.  It was a stressful time in my life, and Willie had no obligations at all.  From the outside looking in, his seemed like a stress-free life.  The verses are sung to a tune very similar to the tune of "Okie from Muskogee".  The chorus, however, goes to a different beat and tune.

copyrighted Donna Wood

I first met him working in the orchard; it was time for grading apples in the fall.
Willie didn't do a lot of talking, so at first I hardly noticed him at all.
But as we worked, I came to know him better; and I learned to admire him, in the end.
Now one of life's quite unexpected pleasures is having good ole' Willie as a friend.

Oh Willie, take it easy till it's over.
Don't let life destroy your sanity.
Rolling with the flow,
Smiling as you go,
Won't you tell me how it feels to be so free?
Drinking Bud, and fishing for the big one;
Taking in most any kind of stray.
I know, in the end,
You're the one who wins,
So keep right on and show us all the way.

Willie tries to keep away from police 'cause he don't like to tangle with the law.
In his house he keeps a loaded shotgun (just a little trick that he learned from his pa).
No, he doesn't make a lot of money. But if he did, he'd give it all away.
As long as he can do a little fishing (and drinking), Willie makes it fine from day to day.


Willie isn't paying on a mortgage, and you won't see him drive a fancy car.
Sometimes you might see his rusty pickup sitting just outside the local bar.
He don't give a damn for your opinion: Just take him as he is, or let him be.
Willie doesn't claim to have the answers (or questions), but Willie's lifestyle sure looks good to me.

Words of a song I wrote

That Michigan farmer wrote, "Put a story to a tune, melody, or song, and I'm a listener."  
So, Fern, here's a song I wrote may years ago about Cliff's uncle.  He wasn't necessarily the saint this song might make him out to be, but he loved Cliff and me, so we just loved him back.  One day perhaps I'll make a video of me singing the song, so you'll know what the tune sounds like.

copyrighted:  Donna Wood

A young man built a cabin when he was twenty-one:
An independent fellow, took no lip from anyone.
He knew how to stretch a dollar and how to save a dime,
And some folks didn't like him cause he always spoke his mind.

He had an old Coleman lantern to light up his only room;
His lullaby was two old hound dogs, baying at the moon.
Two hundred acres of timber, and that man knew every tree,
And Uncle George's cabin seemed like paradise to me.

He chose a place to build his house sheltered from the cold.
A spring was there for water; there was room to stretch his soul.
There was wood to keep his body warm and squirrels there for meat,
And Uncle George's cabin never lacked for things to eat.


They tell me his wife cheated when he still was in his prime
And he sent her from the cabin: “But the kids,” he said, “are mine.”
Alone he raised three children, and he must have done it good,
Cause they all still remember that cabin in the woods.


Some folks called him “ornery”, but I'd just call him free;
He lived the way he wanted, and I can't say that for me.
You loved him or you hated him; there was no in between,
And Uncle George's cabin still calls me, in my dreams.


Thursday, July 22, 2010

I'm SO frustrated

A couple of years ago, my sister-in-law next door more or less permenantly loaned me a Fuminator to use on Sadie, who was a pretty bad shedder.  I used it on her regularly for awhile, then got lazy about it and thought, "I may as well put this up for now."  
I now have a dog whose shedding makes Sadie look, in retrospect, like an amateur.  I need that Furminator.
But I've forgotten where I stored it.  
Here's what's strange:  I distinctly recall thinking to myself when I moved it from its spot in the kitchen, "Are you sure you'll remember where you're putting this?"  
So why can't I remember where I put it?  
It's doubly exasperating because it isn't mine to lose, for pete's sake.  
I know I didn't throw it away, but I spent over an hour today looking in closets and boxes and in drawers and on shelves.  I extended my search to the garage.  No luck whatsoever.  

In other news, the peaches will soon be ripe.  They're already developing a nice blush.  I'm afraid that limb that's so loaded with peaches will break; we've already lost two limbs, and those peaches get heavier every day.  I've done my spraying this year, so hopefully I won't lose so much of my crops to worms.  Last year I was eating peaches on August 1.

You can watch him grow up on Youtube

Hunter Hayes.

Age 4

Age 13

Age unknown?




If the Claycomo Ford plant closes...

A person can't help noticing, driving through most any of the greater Kansas City area, all the empty buildings that used to be occupied by businesses.  It's such a common sight that I probably wouldn't think much about it, except that sometimes Cliff keeps up a running commentary about the empty buildings ("Look, another one.").  My son-in-law used to work in one such structure.  
The closed businesses are just one more sign of our economic woes.  I'd rather not think about this, because I don't see things getting any better.  In fact, things may be getting a lot worse shortly.  
The Claycomo Ford plant employs almost four thousand people who are paid better than your average blue-collar worker.  There's a lot of talk about it closing down, and of course the state of Missouri has decided to offer some tax incentives in an effort to keep this big employer around.  Where does all this money come from, anyhow?  
I have a feeling that even if Ford is enticed to keep the Claycomo facility open a bit longer, it will eventually close.  So far the automobile maker is remaining silent about what it will do next.
When it does close, there will be less money spent in this area on recreation and dining out.  There will be fewer homes built, less home furnishings bought, and more foreclosures.  
There will be more empty buildings where businesses used to be; one of them will be next door to where Cliff works, because it houses a business that manufactures seats for the Fords being assembled in Claycomo.   
The dominoes keep falling; the house of cards is blowing away on the winds of recession, while elected officials scratch one anothers' backs and live off the fat of the land, all the while making speeches that are supposed to convince us change is ahead.  
You bet it is, but it won't be a pretty one.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

An item on my grocery list

I'm going to buy a spiral notebook on my next shopping trip; I've already added it to my list.  
I used to write the occasional song, and even had a few of them recorded on an unknown label by some unknown artists.  
I've written hundreds of poems, too; most of them mediocre, but I'm proud of a few of them.  
Lately I've been getting an itch to write some songs again.  I have lots of them in me, I've just been too lazy to do anything about it.  Seriously, I have things to say.  Things that, if I said them directly to people, would either make them laugh at me, or make them mad.  
The only way to get people to listen is to put these thoughts into a song.  And if they don't listen, at least I feel better for getting it off my chest.   In fact, maybe I won't even sing them for anybody but Cliff.  Either way, I'll feel better.
So I got to thinking back to the time when I wrote a few songs, and realized I never, EVER, sat at a word processor or computer to make up a song.  That's works for rhymes, but not for songs.  
I wrote my songs by laying a pen and a spiral notebook on the kitchen table, strumming my guitar and putting words to a tune as I chorded along.  
I have things to say that nobody wants to hear; but if I word them right, it'll be OK.  
I already have titles and ideas for my "old people's songs".
"Oh Mother, now I understand what you were going through When you saw us doing stupid things you knew we shouldn't do"; "When Kids Knew How to Play"; "What's to Become of the Old"; "Bigoted Christians and Arrogant Atheists Get The Same Ratings From Me"; and "Politics Makes Me Sick".  
I might take the old folk song, "Greenback Dollar", and put my own words to it, words more appropriate for today than the old version.    
I've had this urge, and these ideas, for a couple of weeks.  Maybe it's just a flash in the pan of an old lady's mind, but I'm buying that spiral notebook, just to find out.  
Hehe, the more I look back on what I've posted here, the more I wonder just how much I've stirred up.  Bring it on.

Red eye

OK, I put this on Facebook and never got so many comments on a photo in my life.  It really is my own right eye, no photoshopping (as if I ever photoshopped anything).  I have to admit I was a little bit weirded out when I looked at myself in the mirror this morning.  It was bloodshot before, but it's gotten worse overnight.  
Nothing happened to cause it.  I've had this happen before without any cause.  My dad used to get broken blood vessels in his eye, too; genetic maybe?  
I will stop taking my daily 82 mg aspirin until it gets better, just in case that has something to do with it.  
It doesn't hurt, although there's a little feeling of pressure in the eye today.  
To see that it's really no big deal, click HERE and read about it.  I think most people just think that anything that looks so horrible would have to be painful, and be caused by something.  
With no further ado, here's my red right eye.  

You should have seen me taking a picture of my own eye:  turn off the flash, turn the camera backwards, try to keep the white (red) of my eye showing.  I should have had Cliff do it.

Jokes from Cliff's email: How fights start

Yes, I've seen some of these before.  But they're pretty good ones anyhow.

How Fights Start 

My wife sat down on the settee next to me as I was flipping channels. She asked, 'What's on TV?'

I said, 'Dust.'

And then the fight started...


My wife and I were watching "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" while we were in bed. I turned to her and said, "Do you want to have sex?"

"No," she answered.

I then said, "Is that your final answer?"

She didn't even look at me this time, simply saying, "Yes."

So I said, "Then I'd like to phone a friend."

And then the fight started.... 


Saturday morning I got up early, quietly dressed, made my lunch, and slipped quietly into the garage. I hooked up the boat  to the van, and proceeded to back out into a torrential downpour. The wind was blowing 50 mph, so I pulled back into the garage, turned on the radio, and discovered that the weather would be bad all day.

I went back into the house, quietly undressed, and slipped back into bed. I cuddled up to my wife's back, now with a different anticipation, and whispered, "The weather out there is terrible."

My loving wife of 5 years replied, "Can you believe my stupid husband is out fishing in that?"

And that's how the fight started... 


I rear-ended a car this morning. So, there we were alongside the road and slowly the other driver got out of his car. You know how sometimes you just get so stressed and little things just seem funny? Yeah, well I couldn't believe it.... He was a DWARF!!! He stormed over to my car, looked up at me, and shouted, "I AM NOT HAPPY!!!"

So, I looked down at him and said, "Well, then which one are you?"

And then the fight started..... 


My wife was hinting about what she wanted for our upcoming anniversary. She said, 'I want something shiny that goes from 0 to 150 in about 3 seconds.'

I bought her a bathroom scale.

And then the fight started... 


When I got home last night, my wife demanded that I take her some place expensive... so, I took her to a petrol station.

And then the fight started...


After retiring, I went to the Social Security office to apply for Social Security. The woman behind the counter asked me for my driver's License to verify my age. I looked in my pockets and realized I had left my wallet at home. I told the woman that I was very sorry, but I would have to go home and come back later.

The woman said, 'Unbutton your shirt'. So I opened my shirt revealing my curly silver hair. She said, 'That silver hair on your chest is proof enough for me' and she processed my Social Security application.

When I got home, I excitedly told my wife about my experience at the Social Security office.

She said, 'You should have dropped your pants. You might have gotten disability, too.'

And then the fight started... 


My wife and I were sitting at a table at my school reunion, and I kept staring at a drunken lady swigging her drink as she sat alone at a nearby table.

My wife asked, 'Do you know her?'

'Yes,' I sighed, 'She's my old girlfriend. I understand she took to drinking right after we split up those many years ago, and I hear she hasn't been sober since.'

'My God!' says my wife, 'who would think a person could go on celebrating that long?'

And then the fight started... 


I took my wife to a restaurant. The waiter, for some reason took my order first. "I'll have the steak, medium rare, please."

He said, "Aren't you worried about the mad cow?""

Nah , she can order for herself."

And then the fight started... 


A woman was standing nude, looking in the bedroom mirror. She was not happy with what she saw and said to her husband, "I feel horrible; I look old, fat and ugly. I really need you to pay me a compliment.'

The husband replied, 'Your eyesight's damn near perfect.'

And then the fight started......

Tennessee Ernie Ford

I have several Ernie Ford songs on the Ipod, and last night his "Who At The Door Is Standing" came up in the shuffle.  
In the fifties, everybody I knew loved Ernie.  He was funny and lovable, and such a good singer.  
Each week, he closed his TV show with a hymn.  I understand the network tried to get him to stop with the hymns, but he told them, "People like those songs."  
His album, "Hymns", was the first religious record ever to go gold.  
I suppose all of America thought Ernie grew up singing those songs, and that he was a stalwart Christian soldier.  
Not so.  
A while back I read the book Jeffrey Buckner Ford wrote about his dad's life.  You could have knocked me over with a feather when I read that Ernie and his family were not religious, not even a little bit.  
It just goes to show how we can get ideas in our minds about entertainers and others in the public eye.  Ernie never claimed to be a Christian; he never proselytized or testified.  All he did was sing a hymn once a week.  
Because people liked it.  It was a marketing technique that worked for him.  
That doesn't make him a bad person; his job was to get people to watch the Ford show, and that's what he did.   
But I still love to hear him singing those songs that I grew up with, even now that I know the whole story.  

Oh, electricity, of thee I sing!

Yesterday evening my TV-DVR watching was interrupted by a power failure caused by sixty-miles-per-hour winds and rain that came sideways.  After forty-five minutes, the rain slowed to a sprinkle and I ran to check the rain gauge:  3 3/4 inches in such a short time!

This looks toward the back of our place; looks like a lake, doesn't it?  There's a drainage pipe there, and it rained so hard and fast that it couldn't keep up.  
The evening was rather enjoyable; my sister-in-law and I found all sorts of interesting things to keep us entertained during the power outage, like three cop cars going to the neighbors.  Evidently their horses had escaped again, and for once they must have headed down the highway instead of coming here!  Anyhow, I saw the kids leading them up the driveway after the cops left.
There was quite a light show when a transformer blew, down by the highway.  
Confident the electricity would be restored in a couple of hours, I got my Ipod, put it in the battery-powered I-home, and enjoyed the wide range of music I have there.  That's my handy-dandy flashlight beside it.
Now remember, we have a well.  So when our power is out we have no water:  No flushing, no bathing, no way to make coffee.  Not a big deal as long as power is restored before too long.
When Cliff came in from work at 3 A.M., there was still no power.  OK, we have a freezer chock-full of meat; I began to worry.  Unable to sleep when I'm worried, I got up.  
If only I had a battery-powered radio so I could listen to the news and weather, I thought; then I remembered there was one back at the cabin.  I put on my Muck boots and with flashlight in hand, waded mud to get back there and retrieve it, only running into a couple of cobwebs on the way.  
At six o'clock A.M., I saw the sister-in-law taking her dog out, getting ready to go to work; I went out to let her know that there were only three or four homes without power.  I knew this because I had taken a stroll around the yard in the dark, checking to see who had lights and who didn't; I wondered if Kansas City Power and Light would take their sweet time, since so few people were involved.  
Thank goodness, while we were talking the dusk-to-dawn light came on and we knew we were back in the modern age of light switches and indoor plumbing.  
I came to the house, flushed the stool, and made coffee.  
Life is good.  Except that I need a nap.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Don't you wish you had neighbors like this?

Cliff and I were watching "The Closer" on DVR after dinner a while ago, when Cliff said, "Uh-oh, the horses are out and running through your garden."
My first thought was that he meant the horses that are boarded here, but I might have known better.
Last year we actually had to put up electric fence around OUR garden to keep the neighbor's horses out of it, because they get out so often.  It's been better this year, so we didn't put up electric fence; we just hoped for the best.
Today wasn't the first time they've been out this year, but it's the first time since spring; back then, there wasn't a lot of damage that could be done to the garden.
It occurred to me that this was material for a blog post, so I went out with my camera.  I was going out anyway, because I wanted to keep the horses away from my corn; every time they ran through, they grabbed a cornstalk.  (Click on the pictures to make them larger, as usual.)
Here they come, right toward my garden.  When I waved my hands and yelled, that diverted them to the end of the garden away from the corn.

See 'em, dodging around to the right?

Now they're heading for my front yard.  In case anybody wonders, these are Tennessee Walkers that nobody rides; one can't even BE ridden; the other is a ride-at-your-own-risk sort of steed.  They managed several trips around the yard during this little escapade. The following ten-second video will give you some idea.

After a half-hour of chasing and several trips through the garden, the two oldest neighbor kids managed to catch the horses and lead them home.  But I would almost bet that now that these horses have had this much fun, they'll probably be here on a daily basis.  That's how it was last year.  

Garden stuff

I have had some outstanding successes in the garden this year.  I shouldn't let my life be ruined by the fact that my favorite vegetable, the tomato, has broken my heart by running off with Mr. Blight.  

The Bodacious sweet corn, for instance; this is my second planting; I'd say we'll be eating corn-on-the-cob again in a week or so.  Corn planted later in the season tends to be awfully wormy, so I went out this morning to use a trick my daddy told me about.  

As soon as the silks appear, I put a pinch of Sevin dust on each ear.  If it were to rain in the next day or two, I'd probably go out and re-apply the Sevin.  

Remember the zucchini plant that was ruined by squash bugs?  It tried to resurrect itself, but the new incarnation isn't doing much.   

My recently planted zucchini, on the other hand, looks great and is forming blooms.  I'm not getting my hopes up, though.  I may even put up a sign saying, "Welcome, squash bugs; enjoy your new digs."  

Because I laugh at pain.  

I have eggplants galore.  

As long as I occasionally apply a little Sevin dust, green beans have never let me down.  

This one hill of cucumbers is producing far more cukes than we'll ever eat.  

And now, we'll talk about those tomatoes.  

These tomatoes are ripening prematurely because blight has almost killed the mother plant.  I may can a few of them, although I really don't have the heart.  They are pathetic little things, misshapen and splitting. 

Some plants aren't as "blighty" as others, and I have hopes of getting a few larger, prettier tomatoes for the table from these before blight overtakes them completely.  

So there you have it.  And how does your garden grow?