Thursday, December 29, 2016

I'm not the brightest candle on the cake

Several days ago my computer stopped working.  I would turn it on and hear the noise it makes when it comes on, but the monitor remained black.  The little blue power light was blinking, so I knew the monitor was plugged in.  I mentioned it to Cliff reluctantly because this computer and monitor are under a year old. I have an iPad, so it doesn't even get that much use.  Cliff, predictably, asked just how much money I think we've spent on computers over the years... thousands?  

"It's OK," I said.  "I can use your laptop when I need a computer."

The one he uses was originally mine, but when the old one he had before ceased to work, I told him to take my newer one and I'd buy a cheap desktop.  That laptop he inherited from me always had some problems, but it's a Dell, and I got it at Costco:  Dell gives a one-year warranty on all their computers and Costco adds another year.  The power cord wouldn't plug in tightly even when we first got it, and finally wouldn't work at all.  Costco's Concierge service had us send it to them and it came back better than new.

Believe me when I say I'm done buying anything but Dell, even though they aren't as dependable as they used to be, and I'm only buying them at Costco.

So, we were back to sharing one computer.  I'd log on and have my own favorites, etc., and log off when I was done.  Sharing wouldn't have been a big deal ten years ago, but since Cliff retired he spends a lot of time on the computer.  He enjoys Facebook and Craigslist, and has numerous tractor-related sites he keeps up with.  He spends more time on the actual computer than I do, although if you count all the playing I do on the iPad, I'm still way ahead of him in hours spent.

He could tell I didn't like sharing (my siblings were grown and gone by the time I was three, so I led the childhood of an only child:  I don't share well).

He told me it really would be OK if I ordered another laptop, so I did some shopping on the Costco website, found one that would serve my purposes just fine for around $500, and was about to order it when I saw that if I would avail myself of Costco's Anywhere Visa, the warranty would be for four years.  We only have two credit cards, one of which we seldom use.  We pay the total amount due every month.  We don't need another credit card, but this seemed like such a deal, I applied and, of course, was approved.  Now I sat at home waiting for my card to arrive before ordering my new laptop.  

Cliff asked me if perhaps the problem was the monitor, not the computer.  "Of course not," I said.  That monitor is practically new."  

"Cora tipped the computer chair over the other day," he went on.  "Maybe she unplugged something."

"No, I used the computer a few times after that.  And I know the monitor is plugged in because the blue power light is blinking."

Yesterday the grandson's wife, Heather, messaged me and asked if I had any use for a monitor.  I told her I'd take it, thinking that this would prove to Cliff the problem didn't lie with the monitor.

Early this morning I decided to do something I hadn't yet tried, since I was going to be messing around down there on the floor later on hooking up a different monitor anyway.  I laboriously got to my aching knees and shone a flashlight on the back of the computer:  The monitor, although it was plugged into the wall, wasn't connected to the computer!  

I will tell you that I still wouldn't mind having a laptop again, but we are trying to get a vacation trip together for the coming year.  The $500 plus I was going to spend on a computer would have come out of the money I'm saving up for that trip.  So I have somewhat mixed feelings.  But for the most part I'm glad at how this turned out.

I'm not proud of my stupidity (laziness?) at not checking my computer's connections sooner, but all's well that ends well.  I'm sure glad they took their sweet time sending my new credit card, which I will likely cut in pieces and toss in the trash when it arrives.


Sunday, December 25, 2016

Not everybody feels merry at Christmas

I loved Christmas when I was a kid because, after all, it seemed to be "all about me".  I ate candy and cake and cookies, never even thinking about calories because I didn't know about them.  I usually got the presents I wanted most, with the exception of a pony.  I had to grow up and get married before that wish came true.  My kids came along and Christmas was special again, mainly because I saw it through their eyes.  But even then, there was a shadow over the Christmas season.  I remember telling my hairdresser Vicki, years ago, that I was a scrooge.  She was aghast!  How could anyone not love Christmas?

Cliff and I got off the gift-giving merry-go-round years ago, except that we bought gifts for small children in the family.  When they got old enough that they were hard to buy for, they fell off our list.  Of course everybody likes money or gift cards (same as money), but what's the point?  If we're all going to exchange money and/or gift cards, let's just give it to ourselves and save all that trouble.  

I have finally come to realize it isn't Christmas that depresses me, but wintertime.  I'm one of the myriad folks who, for no rhyme or reason, find themselves a victim of Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.).  I get a brief feeling of the Christmas spirit watching "A Christmas Carol" or "It's a Wonderful Life", but it doesn't last long.  I don't wallow in self-pity and I don't talk a lot about it.  After all, why drag all the merry-makers down with me?   

I can tell you that during this time of year, I really feel for those who have text-book depression year around.  I've learned that, as much as I like the quote attributed to Lincoln that says "most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be", you can't just tell yourself to get over it (after all, it's pretty well-known that Lincoln suffered from depression).  

A numbness settles in like a spectre and makes its home with me, starting sometime in November and staying with me until after February.  

I sit dispassionately scrolling through the exuberant Facebook greetings of "Merry Christmas" like someone in a daze, feeling totally left out and even more depressed because, once again, I am "not normal".  Why can't I get in the spirit of things?  They say you can buy a light therapy lamp that really helps; I ought to try it, but it just seems like too much trouble, and then what if it doesn't work?  

This is not something I would ordinarily burden my readers with, but I'm pretty sure there's a big percentage of the population that has this same problem.  Many of them put on a happy face and disguise it better than I do, but beneath the surface they're numb.  Sometimes the problem is compounded by memories of loved ones gone before their time.  

Don't pity me.  I've dealt with this for years and I'm used to it.  But do remember there are many of us behind the scenes who would love to share your enthusiasm but can't.

Forgive us.  Spring will come and we'll be back with the general population. 

Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Great Depression (ramblings)

I'm reading a book about how the Great Depression changed America's eating habits: "A Square Meal:  a Culinary History of the Great Depression".  It has sparked memories of stories my mother told me about that time in her life.    

Mother and Daddy got married on Christmas Eve, 1932. (you can read the account in her own words HERE).  They survived by working for farmers as "hired hands" during those years.  Now, according to the book I'm reading, farmers' crops weren't worth much at that time, so it's no wonder my parents worked for such low wages.  Mother used to tell me how much Daddy got paid per week:  I don't remember the amount, but I'm sure it was less than $3 weekly.  She told stories of walking to town when snow had drifted over the fences, or how they would put the last of their coal oil in the gas tank of their car in order to drive to town to buy more coal oil to use in the lamps that supplied their lighting.  I asked Cliff, "Is that even possible?  Can a car run on kerosene?"  

Apparently so, at least in the cars of those days.  

Mother always said the Great Depression didn't affect them and their friends much, because they didn't have much to start with.  However, there was one winter when they lived mainly on cornfield beans, frozen potatoes, and water gravy.  Evidently the farmers' cows were dry, because there wasn't any milk to make gravy.  The "cornfield beans" were simply pole beans planted with the corn so the vines could use corn stalks for support.  They were picked when they were dry, to use as dry beans.  The potatoes were given them by the wife of the farmer they worked for:  As long as the potatoes stayed frozen, Mother said, they were usable... toss them in boiling water still frozen and they were OK.  If they thawed, they turned black and were useless.  Knowing what I know about Missouri weather, I imagine these frozen potatoes were used over a short period of time.  Nobody had a deep freeze, or even a refrigerator. so they wouldn't have stayed frozen for long.    

According to the book I'm reading, casseroles came into being during the Depression, devised by nutritionists as a way to use up leftovers and scraps.  This reminds me of a time several years back when Uncle Leo and Aunt Mary came to visit my mother, who lived on our property at the time, and I made spaghetti for all of us.  Uncle Leo was eating enthusiastically when he put down his fork, looked up smiling, and said, "Boy, this is a meal fit for a king!"

I was telling my cousin, his daughter Betty, about this and she said, "Well, Mom and Dad generally had the kind of meals with meat, potatoes, and a vegetable or two arranged on a plate.  They would never have had spaghetti at home, so it was probably a treat for him."  

Mother told me plenty about the Depression as I was growing up, and I soaked the stories up like a sponge because, as everybody knows, I like stories.  She talked about how neighbors would get together and play cards or make ice cream.  She told how her mom, my Grandma Stevens, always invited someone to their house for Sunday dinner when she was growing up, and recalled she and her sister "looking" the dry beans they'd be cooking for dinner before church.  Do I remember Mother and Aunt Ruby were going down memory lane and talking about using a rock to scour the dirty skillet?  Is that a figment of my imagination or a dream?  Did they really use a rock to get pans and skillets clean?  Who knows.

Mother and Aunt Ruby liked to talk about all the Church-of-Christ congregations they remembered, naming the preachers they'd heard (Brother Campbell was mentioned most often), verifying or correcting one another's stories.  

Of course, Mother carried on the tradition of Sunday dinner.  If strangers were passing through and showed up at church, she'd invite them home with us.  She liked to feed people, but most of the people of that generation were like that.  Cliff and I visited his grandparents at Versailles one time, making it a point to eat before we arrived so his grandma wouldn't be burdened with having to prepare a meal for us.  As soon as we arrived, she started taking food out of the refrigerator and setting it on the table; we assured her we had already eaten.  She got so upset there were tears in her eyes.  She wanted to feed us!  We actually had to eat a little snack to make her happy.

Home economics was sort of a new thing at the start of the Depression.  The government had people who tried to teach housewives different ways of preparing food in those hard times.  It turns out a couple of my childhood favorite foods was made popular back then:  creamed vegetables and creamed macaroni.  When I was probably 13, I asked Mother to fix some creamed carrots.   She told me how to make them myself, since she was tired from working at a factory all day, and for once in my life, I ate creamed carrots to my hearts content.  I used to beg Grandma to make creamed macaroni when I was staying with her.  I think she found it peculiar that someone would actually request that dish, but I loved it.  It really isn't so much different from pasta with Alfredo sauce, only without the parmesan. 

Gypsies didn't move any more often than my parents!  (Click on the picture to make it larger.)  I think it was some time in the 40's they stopped working as hired hands and became switchboard operators.  

And this only takes it up to 1952.  

I'm in my wintertime blogging slump, so what you see here is what you get.  I won't be babysitting much in the next several days (holidays, bad weather, etc.), so maybe I'll get my mojo back.  Or not.  


*I'm adding a link, thanks to a reminder from a Facebook friend.  I had forgotten about Clara's Depression Cooking, a series of Youtube videos.  Click HERE.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Oh Ebenezer Scrooge, how I love you!

Many years ago I was part of a book club group at the church I attended.  My friend Shirley, from nearby Napoleon, also took part in the group, so I had transportation.  I enjoyed the monthly discussions about our current book.  I hear the group eventually was asked to go elsewhere for their meetings because we weren't always reading "religious" books.  Somebody probably complained.  You know how people are.  But I digress.

One winter the leader of our group asked if we'd be interested in going to see "A Christmas Carol" in Kansas City on the UMKC campus.  I don't recall what the price per ticket was then, but I do know I had to scrape the bottom of the barrel to be able to afford it; those weren't prosperous times for us.  I wasn't expecting to enjoy the performance much because, after all, I've been familiar with the book, as well as several movie versions, since childhood.  But it sounded like a fun outing.

However, seeing it live, with the cast members actually running through the audience at times, was a whole new experience.  I've never forgotten it.

Believe it or not, Cliff and I are much better off financially living on Social Security than we were back then, mostly because the only bills we have now are utilities:  Phone (Internet), electricity, propane, and cell phones.  Plus gasoline, which we charge to a credit card and pay monthly.  So when there's some event I want to see, I can actually afford to go.  This year I had a strong desire to see "Christmas Carol" again.

Cliff didn't share my desire, but then he seldom does.  His hearing impairment makes it difficult for him, but honestly he wouldn't want to go even if he could hear well.  He doesn't like driving in the city, he doesn't like crowds.  He really likes staying home.  So I had to find a sucker relative willing to be my driver.  At this point, someone always likes to point out the fact that "if you could drive, you wouldn't have to find a driver".

Seriously?  Does anybody go to something like this alone?  I don't think I would; I'm a loner, but not to the point of going to events alone.

I talked to a granddaughter who was willing.  Later on, I mentioned the event to another granddaughter who I've never asked to take me anywhere except Van's Warped Tour one time, because our interests are so different.  She thought she might enjoy the Dickens' classic.  So I ordered three tickets, for myself and two granddaughters.  It was expensive, but we don't buy Christmas gifts, so I could afford it.  What a nice way to celebrate the season, with two people I love.

Enter the coldest temperatures we've had in three years plus an ice storm that turned sidewalks and roads into a skating rink.  Saturday, the day before we were to attend the play, I told myself to forget it.  However, Saturday evening the oldest granddaughter assured me she wasn't afraid to risk the roads on Sunday.  As a matter of fact, she was out running around in her car during the storm Saturday evening.  So it was back on.

Sunday I called the other granddaughter to give her an "out" if she didn't want to brave the cold.  She said she wasn't feeling the best and would rather not go.  Oldest granddaughter and I tried to think of somebody else that might want to join us because I sure did hate to waste a ticket (did I mention they weren't cheap?).  Unfortunately one person had plans, and the other had bronchitis.  There was one local lady I thought would enjoy it, but she had mentioned on Facebook that her husband gave her orders to stay home due to weather issues.  Oh well, at least a granddaughter and I would get to go.

Amber had no idea what she was in for.  She had never been to any kind of play in her life, and she had never watched "A Christmas Carol", nor had she read the story.

Looking back, I wish I had used the third ticket for three-year-old Cora, the child we babysit.  I didn't consider her because I thought she'd get bored: no three-year-old would understand the plot of that story.  Ghosts?  People talking with a British accent?  So much dialogue?  But there were young children throughout the audience as young as she is, and we never heard a peep out of them.  There was just so much going on... singing, dancing.  The cast members came out into the audience many, many times.  Yes, I should have taken Cora, even though it took place at her nap-time.  Maybe next year.

The play was BETTER than I remembered, partly because in 2010 they added a set that revolves on the stage.  I won't try to describe it, but wow!  It really added something.

Our only little problem getting to the play was that the tickets stated the play is held in Spencer Theater.  We couldn't see any sort of sign with Spencer theater listed, although the GPS told us we had reached our destination.  Amber drove around the block.  I should say "blocks" because some streets are one-way.  We were sitting at an empty intersection discussing what we needed to do when a police car pulled up at the opposite corner.  I guess he recognized damsels in destress, because he pulled up beside us and rolled his window down.  Amber told him we were looking for Spencer Theater.  He said, "Just get behind me.  I'll take you there."

Folks, there is no sign anywhere that says "Spencer Theater".
picture shamelessly stolen from the Internet

I loved the production, and Amber said she liked it too.  In fact, she said any time I need transportation, she would be my taxi.  I told her "Stomp" is coming up, and the granddaughter who agreed to go with me usually has to work on Sundays; now I have an alternate ride.  I also told her I'd give her a break and make Cliff take me to see Arlo Guthrie in May, because I really don't think Arlo would be her cup of tea at all.  Of course, he's not Cliff's cup of tea either, but he married me for better or worse, so sometimes I play my "for-better-or-worse" card.  

I am so thankful I got to go yesterday.  If I could manage it, I'd go every year, just for the big dose of Christmas spirit I get from it.  

God bless us, every one!

Sunday, December 18, 2016


There you have it.  Not only are we in the deep freeze, but we got enough snow to make the ground white, on top of the ice Mother Nature so kindly deposited Friday night and Saturday morning.  I'm very cautious of sidewalks and decks with this layer of ice, and for the most part walk only on grassy areas whenever possible.  I'm just hunkered down hoping to survive through it with no broken bones.  

Good things happen:  For instance, a friend was shopping at Orscheln in Higginsville and grabbed their annual tractor calendar, only to discover that Cliff and his Allis Chalmers are featured for the month of November.  One of our Tractor Tales friends in Indiana already picked his up after he heard about Cliff being on it.  

Another nice surprise:  In August I shared the contents of a letter I wrote a friend of ours on his birthday, a friend we hardly ever see these days even though he lives not far away.  Last weekend, out of the blue, we received an answer to my letter written last summer.  He wrote it on a notepad of some sort, which gave the whole message a quite unique appearance:
Our first reading of this letter took awhile, with both of us trying to decipher Tom's left-handed writing as well as his tiny, tiny lettering.  It was worth the effort and made our day.  So if you think of someone you haven't been in touch with, perhaps somebody to whom you need to say "thank you", don't put it off.  Good things might happen.  

This morning Cliff and I watched out the north window as a coyote hunted for moles, every once in awhile pouncing as if to catch one.  He was right among the four horses acting like he belonged with them.  Things like that are always fun to see.  As luck would have it I was reading "Call of the Wild" by Jack London this morning; a coyote hunting mice or moles fit right in with that theme.

A granddaughter and I are going to see "A Christmas Carol" this afternoon.  Wish us luck in these temperatures!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Poems won't make you famous

I don't write a lot of poems these days.  Back when my goal was to write a poem every day, I must have covered every subject I know, because I don't seem to come up with a desire to write anything original these days, at least not anything that rhymes.  And in my opinion, if it doesn't rhyme, it isn't poetry; I don't care WHAT my English teacher told me about "free verse".  

There was a time in my life when people knew I wrote poems regularly, and I'd get requests:  "Could you write a poem for my friend's birthday?"  "I wonder if you would write a poem for my son's graduation?"  "So-and-so is moving away from this area.  Please write something for her."

I'd instruct these folks to write a lot of things about the person they had in mind, anything and everything they could think of, incidents that happened, things that described the individual's personality, favorite activities, beliefs... whatever gave me ideas from which to fashion a poem or song; "I won't use everything you give me," I'd tell them, "but if I have lots of stories to choose from, I can probably come up with a poem."  

If the person wasn't stingy with their notes and ideas, I could usually make something of it.  Once in a while when I asked someone to do this, they'd be totally stumped, as though they expected me to make a poem out of nothing, or write wonderful things about a person I knew nothing about.  No way.

Over a year ago I woke up in the middle of the night with an idea for a poem.  Like all of my best creations, the poem practically wrote itself and is one of my favorites.  I read it for our tractor club friends at the Christmas party in 2015.  They loved it, and some of them have been trying to get the thing printed in any publication at all, urging me to send it in so I could become well-known (ha ha).  I appreciate their thoughts, but after all these years the idea of pushing for fame, no matter how small, bores me.  

People have been telling me for years, "You should get that song (or poem) published."  

If only they knew how many cassette tapes were returned to me from Nashville in the 80's, unopened and stamped with the words "unsolicited material".  I even had a local publisher for a while and had some of my songs recorded by local folks trying to make a name for themselves.  As for the poems, there's no demand for them, although I've had some people tell me that my kind of poems would make good greeting card verses.  Someone suggested I contact Hallmark.  I didn't do that, because then I'd be attempting to write something generic that would work for people I don't know anything about.  I'm not that creative or inventive.

Anyway, at this year's tractor club holiday dinner a lady handed me a form she had clipped from a farm magazine hoping I would submit my poem "Old Men and Their Tractors" to them.  They're calling it a contest, but as far as I can tell the prize is that they might print it in the magazine.  That's fine, there's no money in poems anyhow.  

I searched online and found out the magazine has a website and that I could copy and paste the poem into an email, so I decided to do it.  If nothing else, my tractor club friends would be happy to see it in print.  

Saturday, December 10, 2016

In search of perfection

I'm not usually considered a perfectionist.  I've never "done my very best" at anything I've attempted.  I just sort of flow like a stream, rolling around the rocks and bumps and sometimes rushing over the banks and out of the regular channel.  On many of the report cards I received throughout my school years after fifth grade, teachers penned these words:  "Donna is capable of much better work" or "Donna isn't putting forth her full effort".

I don't recall either of my parents being upset over my grades, either.  I have continued living my sub-par life right up to this very day, pretty happy about things in general and letting others put whatever "grade" on my life they think is accurate.  

Some of my longtime readers might recall how I decided my baking powder biscuits, which people had always loved, weren't as good as the buttermilk biscuits made by ladies from the south.  I was like one possessed, each time I made biscuits making some slight addition or change, until finally they were perfect.  Biscuit Nirvana!

Now, moving on:  We had a lovely Thanksgiving day with the grandson, our daughter's family, and some of the grandson's wife's relatives.  There was food aplenty, so much that some of the desserts were hardly touched.  We chatted and laughed throughout the huge meal.  Then I went over to examine the desserts and spied the loveliest pumpkin pie I have ever seen.  There was something special about how that crust looked, and out of all those desserts in front of me, I chose pumpkin pie made by Heather's grandma... even though there was one I had made earlier on my own kitchen table.  

The crust on Sandy's pumpkin pie was the lightest, airiest I have ever experienced.  Wow!  I can't make pies often because Cliff and I put on weight like prize hogs, given the chance.  But I wanted, just once, to make a pie crust like that one.  It's sort of like my biscuit story:  I thought I really made a great pie crust all these years, but now I realized I could do better.  

Sandy doesn't share recipes, though.  For several days after the big dinner, I joked with Cliff, Heather, and Arick:  "Thanksgiving," I told them, "was one of the worst days of my life.  That's the day I found out my piecrust sucks."

It doesn't, of course, except in comparison to Sandy's version.  I use the standard recipe found in Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, making sure not to handle it more than necessary and following all the rules.  But if I was able to discover biscuit Nirvana, is it possible I could find pie crust Nirvana before I shuffle off this mortal coil?  

I've been craving a Buck Buchanan sweet potato pie and decided to make one today, just for us.  As I was preparing to make the crust, I thought about Sandy's pie crust recipe.

I stopped what I was doing and came to the computer, where I typed in "light flaky pie crust".  The first recipe on the page used the same amount of flour I planned to use, but instead of 1/3 cup of Crisco it called for 1/2 cup of butter.  And after it was mixed up, it was to be wrapped in plastic wrap and placed in the refrigerator for four hours (or overnight).  

I remember my mom making pie crust and putting it in the refrigerator until later, but I hate any recipe that makes me wait four hours or longer to finish it.  This morning, though, I decided to try it and see if there was a difference.  We'll find out soon.  If you notice me and Cliff putting on weight in the near future, it may be because I'm doing a scientific study on pie crust.  

Wish us luck.    

This is just an image from the Internet, but it looks right.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Free books

When I got my first reader, a Nook, getting ebooks from the library was much more difficult than it is now.  I had to download the book onto my computer, then hook the Nook (ha!) to my computer, and transfer the book to my device.  Thank goodness times have changed.

I think I finally gave the Nook to someone, because eventually Amazon owned me.  So I switched to a Kindle for reading and added a Kindle app to the iPad.  Because I have the app, I don't have to own a Kindle, but sometimes when I get deep into my winter reading I spend a lot of time at it; on the basic Kindle you can go for days without charging the device.  Cliff has a basic Kindle too, since he usually gets involved in reading through the winter, although this year he hasn't had the inclination to do so.

We traveled to Versailles the other day listening to a Harlan Coben audiobook I purchased from Audible, another Amazon money-maker.  The iPad doesn't have enough volume for Cliff to hear, so I have a small, inexpensive speaker that I plug into it.  The time passed like magic, which is wonderful for Cliff because he hates long drives.  A bluetooth speaker would be nice, so I wouldn't have to sit with wired-up devices in my lap as we travel.  However, I can deal with it.  

I have several Audible books, thanks to the fact that I signed up one time for a free month's trial and forgot to cancel for quite a while.  Yes, I DO need to pay more attention to my credit card bill.  Anyway, I own quite a few Audible books as a result of that mistake.  We only got halfway through the Coben book on the trip to and from Versailles, so we either need to take another road trip or listen to the rest of the book at home, together or separately.  I'll have a discussion about this with my loving husband later.  It is a good book.  We were enjoying it.    

Meanwhile, I have been listening to Mr. Mercedes as I spend my daily hour on the exercise bike and just finished it yesterday.  Stephen King is so glum and dreary, even when there's sort of a happy ending.  Listening to the last half of our Harlan Coben book would get me smiling again.  He kills off people, but there's a lot of funny stuff in between the deaths.  Stephen King never shows a sense of humor.  

Here's something I wonder about:  Why would anyone pay money for ebooks?  I still find myself buying them if I find a bargain ($1.99, $2.99) when there's absolutely no need for it.  Look at all these Harlan Coben books in the audiobook section of my library!  These are just the ones that can be checked out immediately; there are others you can place a hold on.  They're free, and I can check them out from the comfort of home.  I can return a book when I'm finished with it.  Otherwise, it will return itself at the end of a specified time.  

Read my lips:  If you are spending money for books, you are doing so unnecessarily.  Click HERE for instructions to download library books to a Kindle.  If you are using the overdrive app on either the Kindle or an iPad, click HERE for instructions.  It isn't difficult or confusing these days.  The same app works for ebooks and audiobooks.  

You can send me a portion of all that money you save.


Monday, December 05, 2016

The time I was a secret poet (under the heading of "how crazy am I?")

We're going to travel back in time to when I was single, working at my first job.

I was as much a loner then as now, with no husband to buffer the gap between me and the whole wide world, as Cliff does these days.  My first apartment was at 2638 East 11 in Kansas City (not the best neighborhood, but much safer than it is now).  I caught the city bus a couple blocks down in front of Genova's Chestnut Inn, got off in front of Emery, Bird, Thayer downtown, and waited for the bus that would take me on to North Kansas City.  I worked for National Bellas Hess, a mail order catalogue for rednecks and very poor people who were glad to get low-grade products if they cost a lot less than Montgomery Ward's stuff.

I never had a single guest in my first apartment, although I lived there for at least a couple years.  People tend not to believe me when I say I don't have friends, but it's always been true.  By this time, it had become a deliberate thing.  If you don't try to make friends, you won't get pushed away and rejected, and nobody gets hurt.  I was on good terms with people at work; we joked around like co-workers do.  Two older ladies, Josephine and Edna, sort of took me under their wing and sometimes gave me advice.  I didn't date, although a couple of really nice fellows worked up the nerve to ask me; but I turned them down.  I worked eight hours, caught the bus, and went home.  I read a lot.  The magnificent Kansas City Library was a gold mine of books that I visited often.

I have often thought that if I were a man, I sound like the type who would buy a gun and shoot a bunch of strangers for no reason ("he was a loner, nobody really knew him).  But women usually only kill their children, their husbands, or themselves.  I had no husband or children, and I had no urge to off myself.  I was happy in the quiet apartment with my books, my stereo, and my little 17-inch TV.  I later moved to an apartment near my job, but my routine was the same except that I didn't have to ride the bus.  I should add that I spent most weekends at my parents' home in Blue Springs, and was in contact with lots of people there.

The annual Christmas rush was busy, with plenty of overtime for those of us working for mail order companies.  But about a week before Christmas and for a while afterward, business was as slow as molasses in January.  New-hires were laid off never to be seen again, since they could find a job anywhere that paid more than the minimum wage at National Bellas Hess.  Even so, there was little work for those of us that remained until the spring catalogue was released.  We slowed our pace.  Those who smoked made more trips to the rest room.  Hard to believe now, but once upon a time people could smoke in a public rest room.  I didn't smoke, but no law said I couldn't just go the the rest room, into a stall, and rest my feet.  Isn't that why they call it a rest room?

One day as I sat there pondering the vagaries of life, I noticed words someone had scrawled on the wall of the stall with a number 2 pencil.  It was just a word or two, perhaps dirty words, I don't know.  I studied them, noticing how clearly that number 2 pencil had made the words.  I got an idea.

From that time on until business picked up again and even after, I took a pencil with me when I went to the rest room.  It isn't hard to make up a four-line, simple rhyme, so every once in awhile I'd write a silly poem on the wall as I sat there.  I have no idea what they said, although I do remember the first two lines of one of the longer poems I penned there:  "What our boss needs is a robot... who would never smile or frown..."

By the time I had written three or four poems on various walls of stalls, I heard people asking one another, in whispers, "Who is writing that stuff in the rest room?" 

Of course, this inspired me to keep up the good work.  There was nothing off-color about what I wrote, I was just passing time, making rhymes (see?  It still happens!)

I don't know how long I did it or when I stopped.  Maybe not until I moved on with my life and got another job.  I can see now it was just another way for a lonely introvert to get some attention.  Nobody ever guessed it was me doing the poems.  

As the song "Frankie and Johnny" says at the end, "This story ain't got no moral, this story ain't got no end."

It's just a picture into the life of a budding, brooding introvert. 

Sunday, December 04, 2016

I cried because I had no shoes, until...

You know the quote, I'm sure, although you will seldom find me crying at the lack of shoes because I avoid them like the plague.  However, those words came to mind Friday after visiting Cliff's aunt at Versailles.  

Gertrude is one of Cliff's two last remaining aunts.  Her sister, Lois, has Alzheimer's, but Aunt Gertrude is sharp as a tack.  Her grandchildren have even introduced her to Facebook.  I can't keep from smiling when I see a comment or a "like" from her on something I've posted.  Not bad for a ninety-year-old woman.

Friday morning I looked across the living room at Cliff and saw by the worry lines on his face that he was pondering something, I assumed maybe his latest tractor project.  So I asked him what he was so seriously mulling over.

"I'm thinking about going to see Aunt Gertrude today," he said.  "The trouble is, she and I are both so deaf it seems like we say nothing but "huh?" to one another, and I end up visiting with Darrell instead of her.  It sort of seems like a wasted trip if I'm going for her sake."

"But she will know you cared enough to go see her," I responded.  

So we decided to go to Versailles.

Aunt Gertrude has been plagued by asthma in her later years.  Her old house had mold in it and was sending her to the hospital several times a year.  So she moved in with her oldest son, Darrell, whose house is brand new and mold-free.  I always enjoy listening to conversations between him and Cliff  because he is a story-teller; everybody knows how I love stories, and Darrell has hundreds of them.  He's led an interesting life.

As it happens, we had a nice visit with the two of them in spite of the hearing problems.  We were getting ready to leave when Aunt Gertrude asked Cliff if we could take her to the Dollar Store.  You see, Darrell has a form of arthritis called ankylosing spondylitis and is in constant pain, so he can't do a lot of shopping or be on his feet too much.  Aunt Gert uses a walker around the house and isn't all that steady on her feet, and the walker takes up too much room in the crowded aisles of the Dollar General, so Darrell told Cliff one of us would have to stay with her every step to make sure she didn't fall.  "I can hold onto the shopping cart," said Aunt Gert, "and that's just like having my walker."

Aunt Gert is, like Darrell, in a lot of constant pain.  She has taken a couple of falls and has a shoulder that hurts all the time.  She can't even pat my hair any more!  Every time we ever visited her she would mention how pretty my curly hair is.  Then she would pat it and remark on its softness.  But now she can't raise her arm that high.   

After Darrell's careful instructions to us, Aunt Gert put on a dust mask, as she does any time she goes outside.  Cliff offered her his arm, helped her into the car, and away we went.

It was very rewarding to see how much fun a housebound person can have when she finally gets the chance to shop.  She was like a kid in a candy shop; now that I think of it, there was a lot of candy in her shopping cart.  Christmas is coming, you know.  I kept telling her to take her time, that we were in no hurry.  Cliff stood by, handing her the items she couldn't reach on the shelves.  The whole experience was a genuine pleasure.  I don't know when I've enjoyed being in Dollar General so much.  

After being reminded of their physical problems, Darrell's and Aunt Gertrude's, I have re-assessed my own petty aches and pains and am counting my blessings.  I can still go outside any time I wish.  I can breathe with no problem, taking huge volumes of air into my lungs.  Sitting or lying down, I am pain-free.  Oh yes, if I walk on a hard surface for over an hour, I pay for it the rest of the day.  Menard's left me limping on their opening day when we stayed too long.  But after spending time with those two, I realize I don't have it bad at all.

It was a good day.  I am reminded of a quote I saw and then shared on Facebook Friday morning before we left, because it came to life for me:  

"Not everyone will make it through this day.  Live with urgency.  Do something beautiful.  Be the answer to a prayer."  John Pavlovitz.

Friday, December 02, 2016

Just tell me your story and I'll remember you forever

When we moved to Wellington in 1975, several acquaintances informed us that we wouldn't like the area because "those old Germans are clannish" or "these old Germans don't like outsiders."

In the first place, I'm an introvert.  So I have never been the kind of neighbor who greets new folks in the area with cookies or pies.  Cliff is more outgoing, but I'm afraid I've rubbed off on him over the years until he just doesn't think about ways to get better acquainted with people.  

I have attended all the local churches over the years at least once, so I've met a lot of these wonderful people.  There is a strong German presence in this community.  St. Luke's Evangelical Free Church is often referred to as "the old German Church".  Their services were in German, I believe, until World War I convinced them to switch to English so they wouldn't be conducting services in the language of the enemy (I may have this detail wrong, so don't quote me.  If any readers know the exact details, I'd be glad to know).  If they were "hard to get to know", the fault lay with me, because I found most of the population of this community to be kind-hearted and willing to help others.  

One of the most memorable of these is Dorothy Kolkmeyer, who passed away last week.  Here's how I got to know her:  Years ago St. Luke's had a series of small home group meetings to prepare the people for Lent, and a neighbor invited me to attend these with her.  The meetings were held in various homes.  One evening we met at Dorothy and Omer's house.  There was a prepared lesson we talked about, followed by discussions from the group of eight or ten people about what we had learned.  

Except for Diane, the neighbor who invited me, I really knew very little about any of these people.  But in the course of that evening, Dorothy shared some of her life stories with us that made her unforgettable.  

I ran most of these past her son to make sure I had the facts correct.

Story number one:  When Dorothy was a little girl living on Bone Hill Road,  she acquired some chicks with her dad's help.  When the hens began laying eggs, she sold them and saved the money that was left after buying feed.  When she had enough money, she bought herself a red bicycle, which she rode to her weekly (I think) confirmation classes down the hill at Levasy.  It's a simple little story, but she was a such a good story-teller, it made me sit up and pay attention.  That work ethic followed her throughout her life, illustrated by a humorous exchange between her and her husband about the Sunday afternoon naps he enjoyed.  She simply could not understand why a healthy adult would take a nap in broad daylight.  Omer just smiled, and I knew right then I was looking at an example of true love between two people.  

Story number two:  Something in the week's lesson asked people to relate their salvation experiences.  I recall one lady saying, "I took my confirmation very seriously."

Then Dorothy told her story.  When her son was a teenager he and other local young people went to Youth For Christ regularly.  During that time, he approached his parents and asked them, "Have you ever asked Jesus into your heart?"

Of course they had both been through confirmation.  Dorothy's eyes welled up with tears as she related this.  She and Omer then accepted Jesus, although I have a feeling they were in good standing with Jesus already.  But watching her relate this with such feeling touched me deeply.

Story number three:  This one is not as clear in my mind but I believe I have it right.  She and Omer owned the local propane company.  They purchased it 1955 (I wouldn't recall the year, it was in the obituary), but they did so with the help of an uncle who loaned them enough to make the initial purchase.  She said without that help, they would never have been able to make such a big investment.  I mention this because many people would not have shared that detail.  We tend to forget the people who helped us make it through life, don't we?  I could almost hear her saying "thank you" to that relative as she related this. 

Other than what you read here, I had few dealings with Dorothy.  And yet, she made a big impression on me, and she managed to do all of that in about half-an-hour of story-telling.

Some time later, Dorothy called me on the phone.  A granddaughter had died from a congenital condition.  She had searched diligently for some poem that might be fitting for the girl's funeral, but none of the ones she found were really appropriate.  Knowing I wrote poems sometimes, she asked if I could write one for her grandchild.  I have no copy of the poem these days, so I can't share it with my readers; but when I called Dorothy and read the first draft to her, she tearfully thanked me and said it was what she had in mind.  I had Cliff take me by the funeral home, because now I felt connected to this child.  The poem was right there beside the casket, framed.

You see, there are people you can connect with even though you don't socialize or hang out with them.  I loved this lady simply because she chose to share a few stories that gave me a peek into her heart.  And what a heart it was!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

We moved the calves

The only bit of decent pasture we have left is a plot behind the house.  Horses are really hard on pasture, and this is the only place they've not been grazing on.  A lot of the grass there is still green, even as we are getting ready to move on into December.

The calves are about five weeks old, maybe six.  It's really funny that these are the first calves I've ever purchased whose arrival date I didn't write down somewhere.  But the first pictures I put on Facebook were taken October 21.  They're growing well, still taking milk replacer and eating probably four or five pounds of calf starter (grain) between them every day.

Yesterday I suggested to Cliff that we move the calves behind our house instead of in the little barn lot in front.  "They are trying to pick at the dry, brown weeds in the little lot," I told him, "and there can't be any food value there.  There is still good grass behind the house."

"How are we going to get two calves through the yard, around the house, to the back?" Cliff asked.  

"Easy.  I'll mix up some milk replacer, and put it in the bottles; they'll follow us anywhere."

He seemed skeptical, but decided to go put electric fence across the plot of grass to keep the calves close to the house at the start and see what happened.  Cliff had put up a small stretch of electric fence in the barn lot when we first got them so they'd be trained and know what it was whenever we turned them out to pasture.   This always works well, although if calves realize they are free from their original pen they sometimes take off running.  In that case, they are liable run right through the electric fence before they even see it the first time; after that, they usually pay attention and stay away from it.  

I half-filled two calf bottles with milk replacer.  Both Cliff and I had a bottle, and everything went as planned.  They each followed us through the gate of the lot, around the house, and through the gate into their new home.  Cliff had already moved the calf hutches back there, side by side.  That area is unprotected from the north wind, so they had to have some place of refuge.

They finished their bottles, saw the feed boxes with grain in it and immediately dived in for a brief bite, and then discovered the green grass at their feet and started grazing.  One of them wandered near the electric fence out of curiosity and got shocked, then went back to grazing.  

I can still look out the north windows and see them nearby, which is almost a necessity these days.  I am just not as vigilant as I once was, and I need every trick in the book to keep me attentive to their needs.  

As I create this entry, Cliff is out doing the rest of the preparation for the calves' winter home.
He's bedding them down with plenty of straw, securing the hutches so they won't blow away, and doing all the other mundane things that are necessary.  From there on, it's my project again.

I made the mistake of telling Cora we were going to eat the calves when they are big.  "You're going to eat my calves?"  (I never told her they were hers, but she figures everything around this place is hers.)

"Yes, when they're big," I answered.  

"I don't want you to do that."

"Oh.  Well, what if we just sell them?"

That, she decided, would be fine with her.  Keep in mind that I did not say we WOULD sell them.  But I will choose my words wisely when the time comes to take them to the butcher shop.  

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Too much food

I realize there's always too much food on Thanksgiving, but this year for some reason it was extreme.  We had a few last-minute no-shows, but that really doesn't account for such a surplus.  

When the day was over, I brought the turkey-bones back here to make turkey frame soup.  Every year I tell anybody around who will listen to me:  "Don't throw away your turkey bones!"  

There was still a generous amount of meat on the bones of our bird.  With so much meat, I decided to make two one-gallon bags of turkey broth with meat to put in the freezer from the one turkey, instead of one.

Getting all these good fixin's is a messy proposition:  You take all the remains of the cooked bird and boil them for ninety minutes, which means you will have the largest pan in the house to clean up later.  When it's done, you set a colander atop another "biggest pan in the house" and start pouring the contents of the first pan through the colander into the second.  Now you have two more things to wash, and if you're a slob like me, you've splashed quite a bit of broth around the kitchen.

Take the colander filled with drained chicken off that (second) pan and set the pan aside.  Get a container to hold the meat you're going to coax off the bones, and start hunting for meat.  Usually I'll end up with at least two cups for the soup, even on the sparest turkey frame.  Now you will spend at least thirty minutes picking the skin off what you've collected  and picking tiny pieces of meat out of the backbone and neck bone.  If turkey frame soup wasn't so good, I wouldn't put myself through all this.

So, I had already processed two turkey frames this week when son-in-law Kevin came home from his family Thanksgiving dinner at Carthage carrying a couple of Walmart bags with two turkey frames.  My cup runneth over!  As he handed the bagged-up remains to me, he said, "I'm pretty sure there's still a lot of meat on these."

I would rather have put these bones into the freezer and worked on them some other day, having already been through the mess the day before.  But neither of the carcasses would have fit into a gallon freezer bag.  I shoved it all in the refrigerator and went to bed.  Awake at four Sunday morning, I drank a cup or two of coffee and realized my best bet was to go ahead and boil these babies, pick the meat off the bones, put the broth and meat in the freezer, and be done with it.  Once more I was up to my elbows in a turkey mess, and I got turkey frame number 3 for the year cooked before church.  By the time we got home, it was cool enough to prepare for the freezer and I got number four cooking.  That last carcass is chilling on the cold back porch waiting for me to separate the meat from bones today.

I found out Kevin's remark about "a lot of meat" was an understatement.  There was so much of it, I actually saved two pints of chopped meat for casseroles.
What you see in the green bowl is the turkey I'll put back in the broth to freeze for soup (Another bowl to wash.)  I suppose we'll be eating a lot of turkey this winter, but I'm armed with a lot of casserole and soup recipes.

Friends on Facebook posted pictures of their lovely table settings and seasonal decorations; I was impressed, believe me.  We spend our holidays in the shop with the big Oliver 1855.  It's green, so I guess that would count as a Christmas decoration.  There's a furnace out there, and sometimes a wood stove, so it's cozy.  We have lots of folding picnic tables and plenty of throwaway plates and plastic utensils.  If there are children, as there were at the Fourth of July gathering, they can run and play and shout.  The worst part of holding a feast in the shop is getting all the food out there after it's prepared.  And the coffeepot, creamer, sugar... stuff like that.  But a lot of the food is brought by guests, and it doesn't matter where they have to carry their offerings.  

I went out to the shop refrigerator this morning to make sure nothing was rotting in there.  All I found was a veggies-and-dip tray.  I ate some today with my turkey frame soup, but I knew we could never eat all those munchies before they ruined.

But wait!  I can cook all those, and there's plenty there to cook.  Those peas would be nice in a stir-fry.  

Thanksgiving is still my favorite holiday, and yet it's always sort of a relief to have it behind me.  


Sunday, November 20, 2016

When God can't get through to us Himself, he often sends a friend to do His work

One of my closest friends is someone I met on the Internet in a Christian chat room.  In 2004, about the same time I started blogging, Joanna opened her home to me for a week and gave me the grand tour of Washington, DC.  It was one of the best vacations I've ever had.  My only regret has been that Cliff didn't get to see all the monuments and famous places with me, because he would have loved it.  I'm seriously thinking about saving my pennies and getting enough cash in reserve for me and Cliff to take one of those chartered bus trips to Washington, DC, next spring.  But I digress.  

In April, I believe, of 2006, Joanna came here for a visit.  Here we are back at the cabin (which has been moved and made into a chicken house now).

It was during that visit I mentioned to her Cliff was having indigestion every time we went for our walk.  Joanna told me her brother-in-law once had such symptoms, and when he finally went to the doctor they had him go straight to the hospital because he was having heart pains, not indigestion.  She urged me to get Cliff to the doctor, so I made an appointment the day after she left for home.

Our family doctor checked him out and made him an appointment with a cardiologist, just to be safe.  A nuclear stress test showed that there was a problem; Dr. Nager insisted Cliff go straight to the hospital from his office (in an ambulance because he said, "I don't think you should be driving").

Keep in mind we had been running here, there, and everywhere on our pretty blue Honda Gold Wing.  What if he'd had a heart attack while we were on the motorcycle?  Just one of many close calls we never know about until after the fact.  

  This is a picture of Cliff at one of the lowest points of his life.  We were waiting for somebody to give us a diagnosis.  

This is the cardiologist explaining the results of the angioplasty:  Stents wouldn't work, he told us.  Cliff needed a quadruple heart bypass.  He is still Cliff's cardiologist, but like us, he has aged a little in ten years.  And gotten nicer.  

Cliff had never been in a hospital in his life, and here he was about to have major surgery.

This is Dr. Gallion, the surgeon, explaining that the surgery was over and Cliff was OK.  

Cliff would have gone home on the third day, but after having a collapsed lung his stay was extended one more day.  

He was so excited to be going home.

Neighbors came to visit in the shop on his first day home, but all visits were pretty short in the beginning.  He tired easily.  

I've blogged about all this before, but it's on my mind today and I am reminded how fortunate it was that Joanna came to visit that April.

Cliff has had some wheezing and chest congestion off and on for over a year.  We went to the family doctor about this last winter; the wheezing got better, but never went away entirely.  He's due for a visit to the cardiologist anyhow, and when I mentioned the congestion to the nurse there, she said he definitely needs to be seen.  So he has an appointment for December 5.  I recall when Dr. Nager released him after surgery, he made the statement, "You'll probably need some repair work eight or ten years from now." 

Well, it's been ten years.  The doctor will no doubt mention his weight gain, but honestly, the man has tried every way to find some form of exercise he can do without pain, and there's nothing.  He tried the exercise bike, which makes his knees hurt.  He recently started going for a daily walk in the pasture again, taking it pretty easy and staying off the hills, but after a few days his knee was popping and hurting so badly he was lucky to be able to walk to the shop for awhile; my husband is not a baby when it comes to pain, so if he says it hurts, believe me it does.  The truth is, he could use a knee replacement AND a hip replacement, but so far he doesn't feel it's worth the risk.  

We'll see how this all turns out.  I'm not worried.  Cliff doesn't seem too worried.  Who knows, the congestion may not have anything to do with his heart:  He may have COPD.  

This all started as a tribute to my friend Joanna but all I've done is go down memory lane about my husband's surgery ten years ago.  Joanna, I love you and am so glad to have you for a friend.  God brought us together in that chat room, then used our friendship to diagnose Cliff's problem and has kept us friends ever since.  I know you don't take a lot of credit for his recovery.  He was taking his life in his hands every day, because when we'd walk up the steepest hill in the pasture, he was having chest pain.  He could have dropped dead from a heart attack at any moment.  God uses friends for things like this all the time, if we just listen to them with our hearts as well as our ears.    

I want to close this entry with a link that explains the various symptoms of congestive heart failure.  This isn't the same list I showed Cliff yesterday: After looking at that list, he said, "I have all but two of those symptoms."  I couldn't find that link again, but this one will do.  

Click HERE.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

The REST of the story

Between the years of 1952 and 1955, my parents were the telephone operators in Eagleville, Missouri.  Someone had to be present in the house at all times to answer the switchboard and connect people with whomever they needed to call.  Funny thing, we went to church every Sunday and I don't remember who came to babysit the switchboard... but I'm pretty sure someone did because you just couldn't leave it alone.  It was a whole other member of our family.  I do know that when there was something going on in the evening, or if we wanted to get away for a day or two, a teenaged girl named Velda sometimes took over.  

Across the road from us lived the local school principal, a widower, and his daughter, Sarah Kay, who was a year or two older than I.  Velda helped out over there, too, with meals and cleaning.  She worked for them after school and maybe on weekends, I'm not sure.  Stay with me here.  

My dad's Uncle Bill Cook found a baby pigeon in a barn someplace and gave it to me.  In order to feed a baby pigeon, you have to poke the food clear down his throat to his gullet because he can't swallow, but I was glad to do that.  I loved my pigeon and named him Pidjie.  I would spell it Piggie, but obviously that's a pig.  So.  

I raised the bird until he was pretty much full-grown, but he still didn't fly.  I think he just didn't feel the need to fly.  Back then I assumed he hung out with our chickens so much he didn't think he could fly.  I would walk around with him on my shoulder or perched on my head.  He was that tame.  

All I have ever remembered about the end of the story is that a dog killed him.  No details.

Today at my aunt's funeral, Velda told me the rest of the story.  

Sarah, across the road, had taken charge of a stray dog that wandered into her yard.  It just showed up and she began to feed it.  One day that dog killed my pigeon.  Even after hearing the story today, I have no recollection of the killer dog belonging to anyone.  Velda said Sarah was heartbroken and crying after the incident.  At some point that day I knocked on their door.  Velda said my eyes were all red from crying about my pigeon, but I had two movie tickets in my hand.  I wanted to know if Sarah would like to go to the movies with me that night.  

Velda said it was just such a Christian thing to do, to try and make Sarah feel better.  

Well, I can guarantee you that my mother was behind this; one can hope I learned something from it, even though I have no memory of this.  Maybe my mother sending me over there with movie tickets wiped out any memory of someone to blame.  

Sarah is also the person who taught me to tie my shoes (finally) when I was in the fourth grade.  Hey, I never claimed to be a genius.  

Friday, November 18, 2016

Keeper of the litterbox

Little by little, the cats are getting me trained the way they want me.  Mama Kitty has her special feeding spot.  Her son Jake has also discovered it.  Oh yes, he starts out by eating his breakfast with the kittens, but then follows me out to the wing of the barn where his mother eats, waits for me to fill her dish, jumps up and head-butts her out of the way, and eats all he can of her food.  Why?  And why does she allow it?  

This is only the second time in my life I've dealt with a cat litter-box, the previous time being when I was single and lived in an apartment.  Scraping around in the litter every day for those stinky nuggets of poop is not my idea of fun; and how do two kittens make so much poop?  I notice the two of them seem to have some sort of tacit agreement that as soon as I'm done sifting the litter, one of them must immediately use the litter-box, as though they can't stand it to be lump-free for over five minutes.

How often is one supposed to throw the whole mess out and start over with clean litter?  When it starts stinking, I guess?  (Since posting this entry, a couple of my Facebook friends suggested I get the clumping kind of litter.)

We've been experiencing a very warm, dry autumn, the kind motorcycle riders dream about:  Every weekend the bikes roar past our place by the dozens.  Cliff mentioned it would be a good year to have a motorcycle, and I said, "I don't even miss it, these days."

"I really don't either," he responded.  We agreed that at some point it got to be too much effort to suit up and hit the road, dealing with idiots and taking our lives in our hands every time we left the house.  The whole world is on the phone or texting as they drive, paying no attention to what's happening around them.  We always avoided the freeways, but at times that was impossible.  Cliff would try to leave some room between us and the vehicle ahead of us, but when he tried, a car would squeeze into the space and there we would be, like a couple of sardines squeezed into a can with no margin for safety.

No wonder Cliff gets so angry when he has to drive in city traffic.  

Tomorrow we'll be going to a funeral.  My Aunt Mary died, the last of my aunts and uncles.  She lived to be 93, a life well lived.  A hard-working farmer's wife.  I spent lots of summertime hours at Uncle Leo's place as a kid.

BETHANY, MO: Mary E. Stevens, 93 (formerly of Eagleville) passed away Wednesday, November 16, 2016 at her home in Bethany, MO.
She was born November 17, 1922 in Brooklyn, MO the daughter of Thomas Milard and Jessie Lee (Larkin) Wilson.
On June 1, 1942 she married Austin Leo Stevens in Albany, MO and they resided on a farm in Eagleville, MO for many years.
Mary was a homemaker and a member of the Church of Christ in Eagleville, MO. She was a graduate of the Class of 1941 from Ridgeway High School, a Pawnee Peppers 4-H Club Leader, and a member of the Good Neighbors Club.
She was preceded in death by her parents; husband, Leo; and siblings, Sarah Isabell, Charles Wilbur, Max Everett, Doris, William Clayton, Susie Ann, Lewis, Gerald Lee, Fred, Leo, and Earl.
Survivors include children, Carolyn (Neil) Oxley, Omaha, NE, Betty Earnshaw, Oak Grove, MO, Ronnie Royce Stevens, Satanta, KS, Linda Elkins, Omaha, NE; 10 grandchildren, 17 great grandchildren, and 1 great-great grandchild.
Rest in peace, Aunt Mary.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

In which Cliff and Donna go shopping

Because we aren't babysitting this week, and because the new Menard's store in Independence had just opened, I pronounced Tuesday a shopping day.  Cliff was less than overjoyed, but he had some interest in looking around Menard's.  I'm the early bird who hopes to get the worm, so I like to leave pretty early in the day.  Cliff, not so much, and this is one area in which I've lately tried to conform to his style.  "Go ahead and check Craigslist again," I tell him.  "We're retired, so we don't have to run on a schedule."

So we started when the day was well under way.  We use cash for most of our shopping, so our first stop was at Odessa at what used to be B&L Bank to get some cash.  I hate it when banks change hands.  Our bank has a branch at Lexington and one at Odessa, and we use whichever one seems to fit into our route for the day.  First stop, I told Cliff, would be the bank at Odessa.  
We were almost there when I said, "Hey, can we turn right at the next light?  I think I want to subscribe to the Odessan again."

See, some time back I was irritated by the rising price of the local paper, plus the fact that they had divided into two separate papers (one for Odessa, one for Oak Grove) while keeping the same subscription price for each one of them ($40 per year).  So I was getting half as much news, but paying the same price as before.  So I cancelled.  Now I'm done pouting.  I've missed the local items you only get in a small-town newspaper.  I forked over my forty bucks and we went on to the bank, where I was asked for my ID.

"This is why I prefer the Lexington location," I grumbled.  "They know me over there."

Truth is, most familiar faces at either location are gone, replaced by aliens.  The lady entering my ID in their system said, "Well, some of us... I worked here before the change."  A brief pause, and then, "Well, I had quit before the change, but I'm back now."    

I see.  Traitor!  As I was getting in the car with Cliff, I gave him my thoughts on banks that change all the time, because ever since Larry Wims left (back in the late 70's) things have gone downhill from where I sit.  Yes folks, this is how our shopping day began.  Still in Odessa, I happened to see the new Dollar Tree store and asked Cliff to stop just for a minute so I could check it out.  I debated whether to take my purse in ("I don't plan on buying anything"), but grabbed my billfold at the last minute.  It's a good thing, because I somehow spent $7 plus tax in there.  Cliff spent the idle time scanning last week's Odessan that I picked up while subscribing.  

On to Menard's!  This is where the chaff was separated from the wheat, because we were in there so long, each of us doing our own thing, that my knees decided they'd had enough and began jolting me with intense pain.  I hobbled around until I found Cliff, thinking he'd be ready to go; but he appeared to be having a great time; he was carrying several genuine bargains and was on the lookout for more.  I didn't say anything about my knees, but forced myself to walk around the store for awhile longer.  I eventually found a seat on one of those rolling step thingies that are everywhere in big box stores, and sat there until Cliff called my cell phone to say he was ready to go.
From there we went to Costco, and then, because we were hungry, I made a huge mistake:  After considering other spots to eat, we landed at Smokehouse Barbecue.  I've never liked the place... if I were rating barbecue spots, it would be way down on my list... but there we were and there it was and I said let's eat here.  Never again.

Why am I wasting my readers' time talking about a day spent shopping, you ask?  Because I'm uneasy about the turmoil going on since the election, and I need to focus on trivial things.  I've never claimed to know much about politics; I pretty much just vote my feelings about the people and issues involved.  I don't care who anybody else votes for.  So it amazes me to see so much hatred on the part of adults.

I keep telling myself how interesting the next months and years will be as we watch how these events play out.  I tell myself, "Just wait until the dust settles.  It'll be all right."

But will it?

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

My chores

In the past I've had "chores" that took up large portions of my day:  Milking cows, bottle-feeding calves, feeding pigs, tending chickens.  There were times I'd have three or four cows to milk and a dozen bottle calves to feed.

At present I have two bottle calves:  Every twelve hours I mix up their milk replacer, then go out and give them their bottles.  While I'm out I feed the cats.  In the evening I shut the chickens in to keep them safe from predators, and in the mornings I open the door that lets them out into the chicken pen.  I don't spend a lot of time doing these things, but there is a huge bonus to doing outside chores in winter because it gets me out into the beauty of the night.  

Without chores, I'd get out of bed, head for the computer, and stay there until Cliff wakes up, because you know how a computer can suck you in.  But now I have no choice but to go out IN THE DARK twice a day to chore.  Last night while I was out I admired the beauty of the full moon peeking through a layer of clouds.  I heard a train whistling its way past and smiled when the coyotes started howling at the noise.  I wonder why coyotes howl at trains.  Seems like they howl more during a full moon, too.  

The cats are getting along pretty well.  Jake will actually eat out of the pan with the youngsters now.  As for Mama Kitty, after her disappearance recently I found a spot, sort of a shelf, in one wing of the barn, where I put her dish.  It lets her eat about four feet above the ground where no pesky kittens can bother her, and she loves it.  If she's around when I go outside in the morning, she leads me to the spot, just in case I've forgotten where to feed her.  I think she will never accept the kittens as friends, but now that she knows she is "special" enough to be fed apart from them, she seems satisfied.  

The kittens:  They feel their real home is in Cliff's shop, and Cliff is putting up with them pretty well, although if it weren't for Cora, who isn't here this week, I'd probably find a new home for them just because of the infringement on Cliff's space (he doesn't complain, he'd do anything to make Cora happy).  They are using the litter box when they're in the shop, and I clean up after them.  I remove them from the shop when it's being shut up for the night... Cliff doesn't like to touch cats, so it's my cats and my job.  In the morning when the kittens see anybody going to open the shop, they are right at the door trying to squeeze in, and no force on earth can keep them from running in as soon as the door opens a crack.  Just try pushing them back with a foot; the little brats won't be denied!

The calves are growing nicely, eating some grain now.  Milk replacer is expensive:  $34 for a bag that lasts about 10 days for one calf, and there are two of them here.  The grandson is paying for his calf's milk, though.  Still, to feed one calf to the age of eight weeks is over $200.  If they seem to be ready to wean at that age, they'll be eating calf starter and hay, and that's a cheaper diet.  Next spring they can live on a diet of pasture grass, at little expense to us.  I'm enjoying them, looking forward to having plenty of beef next fall.  AND appreciating the fact that they get me out and about and off the computer.  

I found out yesterday that Arlo Guthrie is coming to Kansas City.  You may recall I recently did a blog entry about him.  I'm going to see him if I have to crawl!  Maybe I'll tell Cliff to consider it my Christmas present, even though we don't do Christmas gifts much.  Let's face it, if I want something, I get it for myself.  However, he will have to escort me.   

You know, I've loved folk music since the folk renaissance of the sixties.  It's almost the only kind of music I listen to these days.  It makes me wonder if I'm really a liberal left-winger at heart, because I don't know of a single folk singer who isn't left-wing and very vocal about it.  In the old days, some of them were even communist, or accused of such.  Pete Seeger, for one.  Shouldn't I be uncomfortable listening to Utah Phillps' anti-war song "Enola Gay", when I truly believe Harry Truman had no choice but to drop that bomb?  But I love the song!  Even Burl Ives was blacklisted for his communist leanings in the 50's... you know, the guy that sings "Holly Jolly Christmas" in Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer.  

Well, I'm done probing my psyche for now.  I have hungry calves to feed.