Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Ah, music!

Since my Amazon Echo (Alexa) entered my life, there's no limit to the music I can listen to: I'm discovering singers who were dead before I was born and digging up singers I heard on the pop charts in the '50's.  It's so easy!  Of course I have Alexa's little portable clone now, so when I go to the bedroom for the night, so does she.  Sometimes I ask her to shuffle my "white noise" playlist, which is a mix of thunderstorms, rain, and ocean waves, to put me to sleep.

Night before last, for some reason, Nat King Cole came to mind.  I remembered his relaxing songs and soft voice and told Alexa, Jr.,  "Shuffle Nat King Cole".  Wow.  Nat's voice was as magical and sleep-inducing as the white noise.  I always tell my slave to stop playing in one hour; that way the noise doesn't bother Cliff when he comes to bed.

Testerday I remembered that there was another black singer who was popular around that same time as Nat King Cole, but his name escaped me.

I was still trying to recall that person today.  A while ago, I asked Cliff if he remembered another black singer from the same era as Nat King Cole.  He suggested Harry Belafonte, who came much later.  As we discussed this, I realized all I had to do was come to the computer, do a search for "O, Holy Night", and see the guy's name, because he does my very favorite rendition of that song.  Wouldn't you know, before I could type in the name of the song, I remembered his name:  Johnny Mathis!

Cliff couldn't recall much about him, so I told Alexa to play Johnny Mathis for him and the golden tones of "Chances Are" came floating across the living room.  I was surprised to learn that Johnny is still living.  I guess that's not so surprising, though; he's nine years older than I, which makes him 81; isn't it strange how a person my age tends to forget she's old?  

Guess who will be singing me to sleep tonight?

Alexa and her offspring have replaced other forms of music in my house to such an extent that the fabulous Bose I bought six years ago sits idly, gathering dust.  But that's about to change!  We listened to a book on CD on our last road trip and never finished it, so we're wondering how it ends.  Plus, there's another such book in the car we haven't even started.  I moved the Bose in the living room this morning and we are going to spend parts of our days listening to books.  I realize a talking book doesn't really do justice to a Bose, but it's just so much easier to say, "Alexa, shuffle Gene Watson"  instead of digging through a bunch of CD's looking for what I want to hear.  Not to mention that Alexa can play thousands of songs I never personally owned.  So the Bose is now relegated to reading books to us, like a kindergarten teacher.  

How the mighty have fallen.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

No, I'm not disabled. I just hurt if I walk a lot.

After sitting through a lot of our day at the swap meet in Minnesota playing games on the iPad, I decided maybe I should think about getting a mobility scooter.  After reading about two hundred reviews on Amazon and seeing many questions answered, I took the plunge and ordered one.  

It's actually described as an indoor-use scooter, but according to opinions of people who loved the thing, lots of them use it outdoors under certain circumstances.  It doesn't do bumps too well, can't go up extremely steep hills, and doesn't like wet grass.  This may mean I can't use it at tractor shows, at least not at all of them.  Time will tell.  I told Cliff I would rather spend $600 and risk having to re-sell it at perhaps half the price on Craigslist than to spend over $2,500 for one that is rated for outside and find out I wouldn't use it.  This may be an expensive experiment, but it isn't a budget-breaking one.  There are people on Craigslist looking for used scooters, so I'm sure I can recoup some of my expense if I need to.  At the very least, I will end up with some idea of whether I should expend five times the money and get an outdoor one.  

Cliff and I do lots of museums, and my knees get really sore, really fast these days.  I have a rough time at the zoo, also.  Of course, the zoo has scooters to rent, if that were the only place I wanted to go.  I have gotten to the point, lately, of not wanting to do anything that requires a lot of walking simply because of the pain.  I don't like being so limited.  

Some time back I got the idea that Medicare would cover the cost of a scooter, but upon doing research, I learned that a doctor has to submit a form saying you need one for use inside your home.  Well, I don't.  I'm sure there are doctors who would lie for you, but I don't like to do things that way.  Here's what I found on the Medicare website:

 – You have a health condition that causes significant difficulty moving around in your home. – You’re unable to do activities of daily living (like bathing, dressing, getting in or out of a bed or chair, or using the bathroom), even with the help of a cane, crutch, or walker. – You’re able to safely operate and get on and off the wheelchair or scooter, or have someone with you who’s always available to help you safely use the device. – Your doctor who’s treating you for the condition that requires a wheelchair or scooter and your supplier are both enrolled in Medicare. – The equipment must be usable within your home (for example, it’s not too big to fit through doorways in your home or blocked by floor surfaces or things in its path.)

Anyway, I'm going to try it.  We'll see how it goes.  If it doesn't work for me, it won't be the first dollars I flushed down the drain.  

Speaking of experiments, I am very thankful that I've invested in a stationary bike that lets me exercise!  When Cliff and I got back on a weight-loss program in December, we each lost fifteen pounds or so and then hit a platform.  We were eating the same number of calories but no longer losing.  Once I started hopping on the bike for 45 minutes or so daily, I began slowly shedding weight.  Burning calories makes the difference.  

Sunday, April 24, 2016

What do you look forward to when you've been gone?

Everybody has several things that makes them sigh, “home sweet home” after they've been traveling for a few days, don't they?

Back when I had dogs at home, I looked forward to the enthusiastic greeting I knew I was bound to get when I first saw them on my return.

There was a time when I couldn't wait to have a cup of coffee brewed from fresh-ground beans from my own Bunn coffee maker, after suffering through days of motel-made coffee.  We carry a pot with us when we travel, but it isn't a Bunn; so I still look forward to home coffee.  However, I no longer drink coffee in the late afternoon and evening.  So that particular pleasure has to wait until I awake next morning.

My recliner feels especially nice after I've spent a couple of evenings in motels with uncomfortable chairs.

Even nowadays when I carry my Internet with me on the iPad, I'm still glad to settle in at my home computer as soon as I've set my suitcase down (and made coffee).

Yesterday when we got home, it was good to see that the two baby chicks we bought last week survived three days without us.  Would you believe they've pretty much doubled in size in those three days' time?

When I have flowers and garden plants growing, I can hardly wait to get the bags unpacked so I can go outside and see what flowers have bloomed (a clump of Iris is almost there), what seeds have germinated and raised their little heads above-ground, and whether anything is ready to harvest (yesterday I found radishes).

These days, though, the two things I really look forward to happen in the morning after I've had my first good coffee in days:  Meditation and exercise.

I wish I knew what it is about meditation that feels so good.  When I first started meditating last winter, it was hard to clear my mind and send all the random thoughts on their way as soon as they appeared. These days it's a snap, but I still can't do a proper job of it in a motel room with Cliff asleep in bed not far away. Am I afraid he'll make fun of me if he catches me sitting with my eyes shut? He wouldn't, of course. Anyhow, it 's so nice to drink my morning coffee and then go on to meditate.

Then I hop on the stationary bike.  Sometimes I'll do a few minutes on it as soon as I get home. In the mornings, I set the timer for 45 minutes or an hour. I walked for exercise for many years, and have regretted not being able to do any calorie-burning activities since my knees started giving me so much pain. Well, the stationary bike sometimes helps them hurt less, and never seems to cause an increase in pain unless I've skipped several days. Then it hurts somewhat for a couple of days until I get back in the groove.

Not everybody with bad knees has the same kind of experience I have. Cliff has a hip and one knee that bother him a lot: he tried several times to get past that and ride on the stationary bike, but he just can't do it. It hurts him. With the heart issues he's had in the past, I do wish he could find some way of exercising, but I don't know what it would be. I'm not going to suggest upper-body-strength-training exercise with weights, because I can't even force myself to do those.  We're adults here, we each know our limits and make our own choices.

What do you look forward to after being away from home for a few days?


Saturday, April 23, 2016

Spur-of-the-minute Road trip

I will freely admit that most of our traveling is done at my request, with the exception of tractor shows.  I'm always glad to go to those, though, simply because I like to get out of the house for any reason (unless it's a social occasion... because I'm rather antisocial).  

Thursday all the stars must have been aligned in Cliff's favor:  Here's how things went.

Conditions were wet from a rain on Wednesday so Cora's dad couldn't work at his construction site Thursday .  We usually don't have her on Fridays, so being off Thursday gave us a four-day weekend.  We were rather disappointed, because we hadn't had her all week.  Cliff was complaining about us not getting our little girl fix.  He started surfing his usual tractor message boards and said, "This is the weekend of that great big swap meet in Minnesota."

Cliff has been reading about that event in farm magazines, and more recently, online, since he was in his twenties, and always tried to figure out some way to get up there and check it out for himself; I've suggested many times that he just take off and go, but he hates long trips and ends up saying it isn't worth the drive.  The annual Le Sueur County Pioneer Power Swap Meet usually attracts up to 1,000 vendors and 12,000 people on any given day, according to THIS ARTICLE.  It runs Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

So he mentions it Thursday morning and I said, "Why don't we just go?  I can reserve a motel room right now and we'll head up there."

"All the motels will be full," he said.  

"Why don't I call some of them and see?"  

I don't think  he answered one way or another, but I got on the phone.  I looked at motels online and called the first cheap one I found, thirty miles south of our destination.  There were rooms available, so I made reservations for two nights.  This pretty much forced Cliff's hand.  I scurried around trying to grab the few things we'd need.  I ground some coffee for the trip and got out a suitcase, telling Cliff we could share one on this trip.  I mentioned I had some books to pick up at the local library, so I'd grab them on the way through Lexington.  Turns out they were both audiobooks I had reserved weeks ago, so we had something to listen to on our 800-mile round trip.  It occurred to me in Lexington that I had forgotten to grab the coffee I had ground, so I ran in the grocery store and bought a can of Folgers, which is still better than motel coffee. 

There are golf carts to rent on the grounds.  I called, but they had all been spoken for.  No four-wheelers are allowed, incidentally, just golf carts and garden tractors.  

While Cliff was gassing up in Richmond, I decided to check the reviews for our motel:  They were HORRIBLE!  "Dirty" and "falling-down" were some of the words used to describe it.  I looked at reviews for other motels in Mankato and found one that was reasonable and didn't sound too bad.  They had a room for Thursday night but were booked up for Friday.  Rather than call any more, I decided to hope for the best and, if all else failed, we'd spend Friday night in the dirty, falling-down motel; they'd probably still have a vacancy.   I had called it and cancelled, stating that an emergency had come up.  Hey, finding out you are booked in a crummy motel IS an emergency.  

Thanks to the audiobook (The Nineteenth Wife), travel time fairly flew.  We stopped for lunch in Bethany, which is in the area where both my parents were raised.  I opened the door to the McDonald's rest room and practically ran into my cousin, Lela:  four of us girls were born to four brothers in 1944, and she and I are half that quartet.  We visited briefly; she and her husband were just finishing up their meal (her daughter is a Facebook friend and told me, "Thursday is 'going-to-town-day' for them.")

Cliff had mentioned that it always rains and snows on the first day of the swap meet, and usually is pretty cold, so we both took our winter coats.  He worried that our car would get stuck, since cars are parked in a grassy field and often do have a rough time when it gets muddy.  

Once at our motel, I asked the girl at the desk to let us know if there was a cancellation for Friday night.  She checked the computer and informed me that there were ten suites available, it was just the small rooms that had sold out.  I booked one:  it was forty bucks higher, but at least we knew the motel wasn't bad, and we wouldn't have to call around elsewhere. 

Friday morning I made coffee, the worst coffee I've tasted in a long time.  The water in Mankato is loaded with chlorine.  Oh, and we discovered that we had left the travel kit that contains our soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, shaving cream... all those little essentials you need when you're away from home.  I figured we'd go to Walmart and pick up what we needed after a day at the swap meet, being sure to get a gallon of water for coffee.

We probably waited in line for half an hour getting into the grounds.  It had rained all night, so the field where we parked was pretty squishy.  The sun was shining when we arrived, though.  Cliff and I went our separate ways for most of our time there.  He drives me crazy, zig-zagging around with no rhyme or reason and missing half the stuff he would have wanted to see.  I spent a lot of time sitting, too.  The older I get, the less my knees want me to walk.  I had my cane-chair, but sometimes I just need a regular bench or seat of some kind.  I did take a couple of prescription pain pills, but even then there's a limit how much walking I can take.  This trip was for Cliff, not me.  I just dealt with things as best I could.

It was cold, and clouds gathered mid-morning, threatening rain, but thank goodness the sun popped back out after noon and warmed us up nicely.  After eating, I wondered off into a part of the grounds I didn't even know existed and found all the stuff Cliff was really there to see, the tractors and implements and tractor parts.  We'd wasted most of the morning wandering through flea market junk!  I called and told him to meet me.  When I pointed to the area, he insisted he had been there, but I knew he hadn't had the kind of time it would have taken to go through it all, so I sent him off again.  I chose to sit at a picnic table and play Sudoku on the iPad.  I had done all the walking I am capable of doing in one day!  

There were several young boys driving garden tractors around pulling trailers behind them, with signs saying they would haul your purchases to the car for a price.  Cliff only made three or four small purchases that fit in his pocket.  It really isn't about him needing stuff, anyhow.  He just loves to look at old, rusty farm junk and consider the possibilities.

Hours later, Cliff called and said he hadn't quite seen everything, but he couldn't walk any more (my world, and welcome to it).  We met at the exit.  He was walking really slow, poor guy, beat, but happy.  "Are you glad we came?"  I asked.  

"Yes, but I doubt if I'll come this far again.  And if I do return, I'm going to have something to ride on."  

We didn't go to Walmart, we neither one had the energy for a Friday night foray through that mess.  We figured out there was plenty of ice in the cooler, and if we wanted untainted water, we'd just thaw enough of those ice cubes for our morning coffee.  Worked just fine, too.

I'd actually love to go to the tractor show that's held on those same grounds in August.  I'll bet it's HUGE.

::Note to self::  Plan far enough ahead next time to reserve a golf cart.

The best thing about the trip is that everyone who has been going to that swap meet for years said it always rains or snows, and is bitter cold, on the first day of the event.  I guess Cliff and I brought them good luck.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Ah, Dr. Google, you got me. Begone!

I'm not one to worry much about illness, unless I, or someone I know and care about, is actually sick.  I don't think I'm a worry-wort about things, for the most part.  I've always considered myself an optimist, more so during hard times than when the going is easy.  Optimism will get you through the hard times; that, and a sense of humor.  

Yesterday my husband went off to help a cousin do some mechanic work and left me alone for the day.  I didn't babysit, because the conditions where Cora's dad works were too muddy for construction of any kind.  It was just me and the two baby chicks I bought for the kid.  The chicks weren't much of a distraction:  I had a book in progress, and a computer.  Throw in a little yard and garden work and you know how my day went.  

Well, I found myself chasing rabbits on the computer.  If you've never heard that term, click HERE for a description.  That isn't uncommon for me, I do it all the time, unfortunately.  But this particular time it was about my health.  The "significant heart murmur" I've had for years, to be exact.  

Don't ask me why it came to mind yesterday.  The doctor and nurse practitioner never bring it up at my annual checkup, although this year I asked, "Do I still have the heart murmur?" and of course, the answer was yes.  I've never been given any cause to be concerned about it.  

For some reason I decided to consult Dr. Google yesterday about something that has never given me a problem.  

The first thing I learned is that 10% of adults have heart murmurs, and it's usually no big deal:  "It is important to remember that a heart murmur is a physical finding and is not a disease or structural heart problem."

I should have stopped right there.  The article mentions edema, chest pain, and other symptoms to watch for:  I have none of the symptoms.  But wait, there are different KINDS of heart murmurs that have different sounds!  I wonder which kind I have?  Nobody's ever told me, they only use the word "significant" if it's mentioned at all.  What if I have the BAD kind?

My reading led me to the conclusion that I should watch my weight, diet, and cholesterol.  Ah-HA!  That's probably why the doctor keeps nagging me to take Lipitor!  And then I researched further and found that there might be a valve replacement in my future, or even (gasp) CONGESTIVE HEART FAILURE!!!

So I looked up congestive heart failure and learned that when it's diagnosed, you are put on Lanoxin, and Lasix, among other things.  My mother took both those prescriptions in her later years!  Is this thing inherited?  ACK!  (Never mind that my mother lived past 90 years of age.)

Well, Cliff's back home now, and I'm fine.  He and I often talk about how we seem to be the healthiest people at church.  When we hear folks making prayer requests concerning their health and that of family members, there are some serious problems in that (admittedly older) congregation.  Cliff has had some issues in the past, but all is well at present.  The worst complaint either of us has right now is arthritis.

I'll be counting my blessings again and letting whatever happens, happen.  I'll consider the Lipitor next year at my appointment, but probably will continue to refuse it.  I noticed in all my rabbit-chasing yesterday that if congestive heart failure is caught early and managed, you can last ten years or longer.  I'm almost 72 now, so... 

I'm not saying all this stuff to get reassurances.  As I stated, I'm fine today.  I just wanted to let you know that sometimes even an optimist goes off the deep end.  And that is SO easy to do when one consults Dr. Google.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Alexa, you crack me up!

I've had the Amazon Echo (Alexa) as my personal slave for quite some time now, but I haven't come close to making her use all her skills.  She sits in the living room, right near the kitchen, so I can ask her to add items to my grocery list, to-do list, or calendar when needed.  I probably use her music-playing abilities more than anything:  "Alexa, play Willie Nelson"; "Alexa, shuffle some lullabyes"; "Alexa, play classical music"; and so forth.  When I'm in bed, ready to go to sleep, I'll ask her little clone, the Amazon Tap, to play my White Noise list, which consists of rain, thunder, and/or ocean waves.  Last night I had her turned up too loud and the thunder woke Cliff up in the middle of the night, so that wasn't such a good thing.   Considering his semi-deafness, I must have REALLY had her volume at a high level!  Let's just say he wasn't happy, and threatened to move to the guest bedroom. 

I read quite a bit, mostly library books I've checked out on the Kindle.  I don't like to pay for books, although once in a blue moon I'll purchase one.  I even have a few Audible books I've bought in the past, which read themselves.  Trouble is, when I use the Audible app to read books, I tend to drift off and go to sleep.  I've found I have to do my own reading if I'm going to keep my mind on a story line.  

Audible books are read by actors, so they are clear and easy to listen to.  

However, I learned somewhere along the way that Alexa will read regular Kindle books as well.  This morning, out of curiosity, I decided to see how well she performed that task, and asked her to read my current book, "Gathering Prey" by John Sandford.  

First of all, considering Alexa's robot-like voice... if you've never heard Alexa, imagine Siri... she did a pretty good job.  I was surprised.  She took right up reading my book where I left off yesterday.  She does sound like a robot, but I guess it's doable, for instance if my hands were busy in the kitchen.  Trouble is, John Sandford's characters sometimes use naughty words, and hearing Alexa say those words just cracked me up!  

I guess I'll continue reading most books on my own.  It's hard to concentrate on a story line when the bad guys' language comes out so funny.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

I got my Branson fix: My time-share story

First off, you need to know that every time we spend three days in Branson (three days is usually our limit), we always come home broke, exhausted, and several pounds heavier, with me saying, "Well, I'm done with Branson forever."

A year or two later, I'll be saying to Cliff, "I wouldn't mind going to Branson for a couple of days."  

I had preordered tickets to three shows:  Presley's (my perennial favorite); Six (now my current favorite); and "Moses", playing at the Sight and Sound Theater.  The first two can no longer be bought online directly from the people producing the show:  You go to their website to buy the tickets, but when you get a confirmation email, it comes from Branson Tourism telling you to pick up your tickets at their office.  

When we stopped there on the way into town to pick up our tickets, I asked the fellow helping us if it were no longer possible to get tickets only from the shows themselves.  He told me they still sell the physical tickets at their box offices, but all the online tickets go through the tourism center.  He was a nice, polite young man; everyone in Branson is polite, it seems.  My parents used to have a place down there, and Mother and her second husband lived there until he died:  Anywhere I went with them, whether to  Church or to the music shows, people displayed good, old-fashioned southern hospitality.  

Anyway.  The guy answered my questions and then casually mentioned that the Welk Resort folks had bought Branson Tourism Center and, by the way, would we be interested in being paid for going on a tour of the Welk Resort?  

Ah.  He wasn't calling it a time share, but a time share by any other name is pretty much the same.  We've done this thing twice before.  I like free money, so I felt we were the winners in the end, but Cliff said at the time, "Never again!"

The guy assured us that his own family members had taken the tour, and that there would be no high-pressure salesmen.  I looked at Cliff and he wasn't saying no, which surprised me.  "How long will it take," I asked the guy.  "Oh, about an hour and a half."

"What do you think?"  I asked Cliff.

It's been at least twenty years since our last experience with time shares, so we had forgotten that these things always take three hours or so, even though they all tell you it will be an hour-and-a-half.  At the end of the second one we took years ago, we were verbally insulted... "Why would you do this if you aren't interested?".... Hmmm, maybe because I told the guy at the beginning we weren't interested, and he said that doesn't matter?  

That was the time we grabbed our money and said never again.  

But hey, we had nothing planned for 9 A.M. the next day, and Cliff said Why not.

The very congenial lady who showed us around the grounds pointed out the posh suites in which the "owners" of Welk time shares get to reside.  Cliff and I were thinking, "We live in a trailer house; our standards aren't that high."  

Seriously, we were staying in a top-rated sixty-dollar-a-night motel and loving it.

After the grand tour, she seated us at a table and started her pitch, "OK now, if there were no limits and money weren't a problem, what places would you most like to see?"

I explained our situation:  "I enjoy travel, my husband doesn't.  We don't travel much, and we don't go far.  He won't fly or get aboard an ocean liner.  Any time we go on a vacation, Cliff is there because I wanted to go.  He'd rather be home."

"But when you DO travel, what kinds of places do you visit?"

My answer, "tractor shows", sort of took the wind out of her sails.

She started plugging the idea of me taking someone else and leaving Cliff at home.  "I'm an introvert," I told her.  "There's nobody I want to spend days at a time with except him."  I paused and Cliff, ornery person that he is, mentioned a relative I could take along:  "What?  We'd kill one another!" I told him.  He just grinned.  

The lady finally told us how much the time-share would cost (more than the price of a fancy new four-wheel-drive pickup) and how it could be paid in convenient, manageable payments from our credit card (I told her we don't do credit-card debt any more). 

Then she started telling me how we could take grandchildren (when that didn't work she started talking about our taking Cora) on vacation, and when we die we could pass this time share on to our kids.  "We have never planned to leave anything to our kids or grandkids," I told her.  "They can make their own way just like we did."  

I think this is when I saw defeat in her eyes, and from then on she only went through the motions, still keeping us there for the entire three hours while we sort of half-dozed through the rest of the sales pitch.  Unlike our past experiences, she only turned us over to one higher-up; the other times, I think they went through three guys high-pressuring us before we got our money.  

I have to tell you that after our firm "no", he made an offer we almost couldn't refuse.  Oh, it sounded wonderful!  I can see how people get lured into these things.  We were offered a free trip to Hawaii and a reduced time share price because we wouldn't require much travel time yearly, not being died-in-the-wool travelers.  But Cliff won't fly, and Hawaii isn't really my dream vacation.  What they want you to forget is that you are going to be paying a huge upkeep fee annually, a fee that is more than we paid in yearly property taxes on our home before the grandson bought it.  

So we did collect our $125, giving us $40 per hour for our time... wait, there were two of us, so $20 per hour apiece.  Nobody insulted us, although the atmosphere in the room where we went to get a voucher for our money was pretty chilly. 

I guess it was OK.  I've noticed on the Internet that Welk people surf constantly for complaints and present their side of things, so I won't be surprised if I get a comment from them on this blog entry.  

Nobody insulted me, and we got our money.  That's my assessment.

Next time we're going to Branson, I will be calling the box offices of my favorite shows to get tickets.

By the way, if you want to stay at Welk Resorts, you don't need a time share.  Just go to welkresorts.com and book a stay.  It's a nice place.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Random pictures from Pioneer Village

 We had last visited Pioneer Village in Minden, Nebraska, in 1993.  It hasn't been maintained very well, but if you like to look at large collections of unusual old things, it's still a fun trip down memory lane.  It's off the beaten path, which doesn't help with its decline.  I don't look for the place to be around in another thirty years.  There will probably be a huge antique auction, and that will be the end of it.
  Welcome to Nebraska.

As I told you in the last entry... get used to tipping your head slightly to the left to look at my pictures.  Anyhow, this is Nebraska.  Most non-residents say Kansas and Nebraska are boring but I see beauty in both places.  If you look for beauty, you will find it.

In my farthest-back childhood memories, this is the kind of refrigerator we had.  My head didn't reach the top of the door back then, when I looked inside it.

Just a few of the old stoves in the collection.

A microwave oven from the fifties.  I didn't even know they had them back then!

I cropped the picture so you can (I hope) read the letter from the lady who donated it to the museum.  She must have been rich, to pay so much for an oven.  Read what Wikipedia has to say about the earliest microwave ovens HERE.

This is only part of the collection of washing machines.

There are many, many buggies (as in horse-and-buggies, although there are baby buggies too).  There are cars and bicycles, tractors and typewriters, even a few airplanes.  We enjoyed the place, but it sort of makes me sad, seeing its decline.  There were probably only twenty-five visitors there during the four or five hours we were there.

Today we're gearing up for a trip to Branson.  By Sunday we'll be back to Church, babysitting on Monday, back to our normal routine.  

I have highly-rated restaurants chosen for our stay at Branson, and I have planned a stop at Osceola Cheese on the way down.  Here's hoping I manage to keep my weight below 160 during this trip.  It's been a long, hard road getting to this point!  

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The big arch in Nebraska

I've noticed a lot of my pictures look as though I was leaning to one side when I took them.  I used to have some editing option that made an adjustment, but I can't seem to find it.  Therefore, my readers may want to tip their heads slightly to the left to look at my pictures.  

I was really excited about seeing this arch:  It's a museum that stretches right across a freeway.  I've been in a McDonald's that spans a freeway somewhere, but this is even a bigger deal, because the museum is a great one.
Yeah, I don't get out much, but when I do, I am SUCH a tourist.  

And of course, I force Cliff to get in the cheesy tourist act against his will.  This statue portrays the true story of a couple of boys who were trying to escape hostile Indians on their horse when an arrow went through one of each of their legs, fastening them together for a while  Yes, they lived to tell about it.

After you pay to walk through this museum, you are given headphones to listen to.  When you get to a certain area, there's dialog to go along with whatever you're looking at.  If you stand there long enough, it will start over.  If you move on, whether it's done with what it was talking about or not, it switches to the next section.  It's actually pretty nifty.  All this time you are walking through a span over a freeway, but you'd never know it.  

You walk through migration as it occurred in America, starting with the covered wagons and ending in the 1950's.  

This is the first diarama in the museum.  Gee, Cliff fits right in, doesn't he?  Seems like he ought to help that poor lady push instead of just watching.  

I have other pictures, but because of my antique CenturyLink Internet connection, pictures take a long time to load and I get tired of waiting for them.  I really enjoyed doing an entry in the motel in Lincoln:  The speed of loading pictures was amazing!  

At the very end of our journey through time there was a window that allowed us to look at the highway below us.  

We both enjoyed this place.  

After we'd been gone two days, I realized I hadn't made any arrangements for the grandson to feed the two cats in the barn.  This isn't a huge concern, because Mama Kitty fended for herself and a littler of kittens before I accepted her as my own; still, they're used to their morning cat food, so I told Arick to feed them that morning.  Then came another day of no cat food for them.   When we got home, one of the first things I did was to make sure they had a meal.  But Mama Kitty had left me a not-so-subtle message laying near the old pan where I pour their breakfast:
Yes, a dead mouse.  I'm pretty sure I know what Mama Kitty was telling me.

"YOU try eating that and see how you like it.  Don't ever leave me without cat food again!"

My night at the Willie Nelson concert

We saw Willie back in the 70's at the height of the Outlaw craze at Kemper Arena.  That was a big place, and it was packed.  I recall Tompall Glaser being an opener, and Cliff and I think Jesse Colter was there, too, but not Waylon.  Seems strange, but that's our recollection.  The main thing we remember is having to dig around and find some tissues in my purse to wad up and put in our ears, because the volume of sound was unbelievable.  The second most memorable item was a drunk just ahead of us who insisted on standing through the whole show and singing along with Willie while holding a jug of some sort of hard liquor aloft.  Willie put on a fine show, though.  

Usually when there's going to be a concert, I have to bribe some family member other than Cliff to take me.  He isn't big on concerts.  This one was supposed to feature Merle Haggard and Willie, and Merle hadn't been so well; I told Cliff I wanted to go see these guys in person before it was too late, and he somewhat reluctantly said, "Yeah, I guess I'd go see them."

By the way, it's been a theme of Cliff's this year that "if there's anything you want to do, we'd better be doing it while we can."  Maybe that's why he agreed to the concert.  Last night I was forced to remind him of his new motto.

When I go to a concert, I like to see the whites of the artist's eyes, so I got us on row nine during the pre-sale.  Cliff said, "Oh no, why did you do that?"  (See his above motto... you may get tired of hearing it.  I know he will.)

Last night was the night.  Now, this event came right on the heels of three days of seeing points of interest around Lincoln and Kearney, Nebraska, and I had done more walking and taken more prescription pain pills that I usually take in six months' time.  I was looking forward to sitting at a concert and resting my knees.

The seats on my right were empty when the show started, but about ten minutes later their two occupants arrived, two plump, younger guys who were about as inebriated as is possible for one to be and still stand upright; they weren't the only ones there in this shape, by the way, not by far.  At one point we saw a family literally drag a comatose older guy out, his wife dancing and smiling behind him.  But the two at my right were the ones I got to deal with.  The one next to me was on his feet most of the time, holding a cup of beer as high as he could reach, often over someone's head in the next row, while he sang and danced drunkenly, crooning loudly and tunelessly with whoever was on stage.  Every once in awhile, he'd turn to me, put his face right next to mine, put his arm around my shoulders, and say something like "Lady, if I bother you, just tap me right here (indicating his shoulder) and I'll sit down, cause I got respect."

"No, you're fine," I told him the first time he said this; by the time he'd said it a dozen times, I just took to smiling and nodding.  As he left for one intermission he repeated it once more, and I finally said, "As long as you don't puke on me, we're fine."

He thought that was hilarious.  I was serious.  When he returned from intermission, he said something to the effect that he had the prettiest girl in the place sitting next to him, patting me again on the shoulder.  Let me assure you that the poor guy never in any way got lecherous (he wasn't THAT drunk).  I say that so that when you see the pictures below you won't get the wrong impression.  A point came where I realized I could either let this guy ruin my evening, or I could take it and run with it and write a blog entry.  So toward the end of Willie's portion of the show when I knew it would soon be over, I pulled out the IPad, stood up next to the guy, held it up for a selfie, and he cooperated fully, even kissing me on the neck (?) for the second shot.  As we were leaving, I showed it to Cliff, who had missed seeing it happen, and we laughed all the way to the parking lot (until we realized that in the dark, we couldn't find where that auxiliary parking lot was located).

This has always puzzled me:  Why would somebody pay $60 to $100 bucks for a concert ticket, arrive too drunk to walk in a straight line, then proceed to buy many, many ten-dollar beers and keep drinking to the point where he probably won't remember anything about the concert the next morning?  Don't get me wrong, I understand why a little buzz might make things a bit more fun; but to drink yourself into oblivion?  I just don't get it.  Seems like a waste of good money to me.  Are you ready for the grainy selfie of me and my new best friend?  When I posted it on Facebook, I said, "We may be engaged, I'm not sure."

Young men, take heed.  If you insist on getting sloppy drunk in public, you are likely to find yourself rolling around the Internet looking for all the world as though you are on a date with an old lady.  Doesn't he look like he's in love?  I'll spare you the one where he kissed my neck for a picture; I have a little bit of pride (and shame).

In case you were wondering, I had not a drop of anything stronger than coffee yesterday.  I was either going to kill the guy or have fun with him, and I think I made the right choice.

And after struggling with having reached a certain point in my weight loss lately where it seemed I'd never lose another pound, I got up this morning to a weight loss that got me well BELOW 160 again.  I don't know if it was the excitement of the concert or the walking I did on the three days previous. 

Life's too short to get upset.  My new motto is, "There's a blog entry in here somewhere." 

One more thing to mention:  I've gone with grandchildren to a Green Day concert and three Van's Warped Tours, and there wasn't a kid in any of those crowds who behaved as selfishly or stupidly as some of the old folks at last night's show.

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Two museums make it a good day

We're in the middle of a road trip.  I'm doing this entry from a motel in Lincoln, Nebraska.  Our destination is Pioneer Village in Minden, Nebraska, but since we really aren't tied to a schedule, I did some Internet searching and found some things to do in Lincoln first.  The first place we visited isn't one most people would be interested in, but I knew Cliff would like it because it is tractor-related:  The Lester F Larsin Tractor Test Museum on the campus of the University of Nebraska at Lincoln.

Cliff has a copy of that book on the left in the above picture that he has treated almost like a bible; he's carried with him many times when he's gone "old-tractor-shopping", and has pulled it out often when giving advice to those who seek it.  The book lists the power of various tractors tested at this place.  Now, both he and I thought this tractor-testing stopped sometime in the '70's (because that's as far as that particular book went), but no, the testing still goes on.  Back in 1920, anybody could build a tractor and make whatever claims about it he wanted.  Someone in the state of Nebraska decided any tractor being sold in the state should be tested for power to prevent salesmen from making false claims.  

A student showed us around the small museum.

This shows an 1855 Oliver like ours at home, fitted and attached to the test machine.  They used this same equipment until 2002, I believe the kid said.  

It was rather a lucky "people" day for Cliff, because the student's dad wandered in looking for his son, whom he hadn't seen for a while.  Turns out both dad and son are tractor aficionados, and they had quite a little chat with my husband.

We left the university grounds.  We ate a quick peanut butter sandwich in the car because the Museum of Speed was next on our list of places to visit, and this time of year it's only open from noon to 4:30, Fridays only.  

I didn't expect to enjoy this tour:  I have no interest in racing, and I've never developed an interest in any vehicle that goes over thirty miles per hour.  However, we had a great tour guide, so I was pleasantly surprised.
He volunteers, as all the guides do.  He managed to have a story about any race car or engine in the place, and each story involved an interesting person.  He was very knowledgeable about everything there; he's actually done a little racing himself in the past.  He was so enthusiastic that in the end, a tour that was supposed to last ninety minutes went on for two-and-a-half hours, because as long as he had four people left in the group asking questions, he was willing to stay and answer them.  

I looked up a lot of the reviews about this place, and never found a single negative one.  Most people gave it five stars, and I'm going to also... mainly because of the man who showed us through the place, who made it so interesting.  I love stories and story-tellers.

I'll just throw in a couple of pictures I took, because what's an entry about a race museum without a picture of a race car?

Today, the Nebraska State Capitol, then to Kearney to a highly-rated museum there, and finally, we'll go on to Pioneer Village at Minden.  

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Adventures with a very bright little girl

Our nearest grocery store is in Lexington, eight or ten miles from here; when we only need a few groceries, we often go there.  If my list grows to include lots of non-food items, we head to the little Walmart, fifteen miles from here.  

Cora will be three years old in August (unbelievable!).  She has always liked to do grown-up things, and for a kid, she's pretty good at the tasks she tries.  A month or so ago when we went to Lexington our little charge noticed the kid-sized shopping carts and went for one.  I told Cliff, "I guess we'll let her take it and see how it goes."  

All things considered, I suppose it wasn't a terrible experience, but she kept wanting to run with the cart, and Cliff and I don't run too well.  Right off the bat she ran into the backs of my legs and I told her not to run into people.  

We never have a lot to buy at Dave's, so we survived.  

Yesterday I figured we'd give it another shot.  I told her in advance we'd be going shopping, and told her that when we got to the store, she would have to:  listen to me, not touch stuff, and push her cart very slowly.  I've learned that if she knows what to expect ahead of time, it often makes a big difference in her behavior.  

When I was ready to go, I said, "It's almost time to get in the car.  Since you're going shopping with me, you might want to take your purse and make sure all your stuff is in it,"  

She thought that was a marvelous idea, and loaded up her toy credit card, her toy phone, and the phony plastic tube of lipstick.  She placed the purse on her arm exactly like the way I had mine.  When we got to the car, Cliff opened the back door to put her in her carseat and she objected strongly:  "I want to sit by Donna," she said.  

I told her if she would get in her car seat, I would sit in back with her and scoot right over beside her.  That calmed her down.  Once we were at the store, Cliff opened the door to get her out; she refused to exit through that door, but insisted on crawling across the seat so she could get out the same door I used.  She was really into this "shopping together" theme.  

When she walked in the door with her purse, the employees broke out in smiles at Cora's purposeful march toward the child-sized carts.  I reminded her once again of the do's and don'ts, telling her that if she didn't behave,  Cliff would take her to the car while I continued shopping.  

I have to say that for a child her age, she didn't do badly.  I didn't have much to buy, so I didn't get a cart for myself.  Everything went in her cart.  If the item was in her reach, I let her pick it up and put in in the cart, cautioning her to put things in gently.  At one point, she was strongly attracted to a candy display, but she only forgot one time that she wasn't supposed to touch things.
  Mostly, she just looked.  

The best moment of the trip was this:  Everything was going fine, she was pushing her cart along slowly, when suddenly she came to a stop and began digging through her purse.  "Come on," I said, "we're almost done."  

She pulled the toy phone from her purse, saying, "Somebody's calling."  

She opened up the phone and began to have quite an involved conversation with one of her grandmothers, I'm not sure which one.  Finally I said, "You need to tell her you'll call her later, because you are busy shopping."  

She did, and we went on with the task at hand.  Cliff and I, of course, were grinning like idiots at this last turn of events.  The kid had to have been planning this before we even left the house.  

Every day she amazes us with something she knows.  I'll give a couple more examples.

She was messing around over in the corner by Cliff's end of the couch, picked up the blood pressure monitor, handed it to him, and said, "Here, Cwiff, take your blood pressure."  

She hasn't seen us use it that often, but she knew what it was and what we do with it.  

Here's another:  Cliff has his current project tractor, the Farmall Super C, disassembled, getting it ready for painting.  The gas tank is on a sort of table all by itself.  The other day I pointed to it and said, "Cora, what's that thing?"

"Gas tank," she said, matter-of-factly.

Cliff and I looked at one another, astounded.  "Did you tell her...."

"No, I sure didn't."

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Ah, Roger Welsch, how I love you

Many years ago, back when Cliff's interest in old tractors first turned into a hobby, we were at a tractor show in Rollag, Minnesota.  I was browsing through various items at a booth when I notice a stack of books being sold there.
I had never heard of Roger Welsch, but that picture and the words on the cover spoke to me; I had to have it.  

Cliff hates driving long distances, and it's quite a trip from Rollag to home.  I noticed the book laying in the back seat and said, "Let me try reading this book to you.  Maybe that will help pass the time."  

That's the moment I discovered the secret to turning a boring road trip into something more interesting, and I've read myself into laryngitis hundreds of times since.  It's also when I became a fan of Roger Welsch.  Before long I found out he sometimes did little segments on CBS Sunday Morning, but just about that same time, he stopped appearing on the show.  However, those old episodes, "Postcards from Nebraska", are currently being aired on RFDTV, and have resurrected my interest in Roger.  

He's a prolific writer, but most of his books are out of print.  Click HERE to see his Amazon page.  Even the covers and titles of his books make me smile.  Now, there's an advantage to a book being out of print:  You can go to and buy them for $3 or less, including postage.  So I've ordered several of them.  Right now I'm reading "It's Not the End of the Earth, But You Can See It from Here", smiling at every story.

Mr. Welsch only has a couple of recent books currently for sale on Amazon.  This one...

and his most recent work, "Why I'm an Only Child and Other Slightly Naughty Plains Folktales".  

He isn't enough of a best-seller for his books to be in the local library, but most of them can be purchased used at bargain-basement prices.  I am paying the full price on Amazon for the most recent one simply because an author deserves to make a few bucks for his efforts, and I respect that.  The rest of his books, I will buy used and pass on to others who will enjoy them.  They're out of print anyhow, so that's the only way to obtain them.

I recommend his books to anyone with a sense of humor, or even for those of you who don't; you might discover you have one after all!  If you're from a small town, you'll see some of your friends in his stories.

Saturday, April 02, 2016

A magical time of my life

I've written here about this subject before, but it's on my mind this morning.  You can read pretty much the same thing in ANOTHER ENTRY.  In fact, if you type "wyant farm" in the search box at the upper left of this page, you will see many entries about it.  That place left its mark on me.

For the first eleven years of my life, my parents earned a living, the two of them together, serving as "Central":  They were telephone operators for various small-town telephone companies in Iowa and finally north Missouri.  I've told stories about all that in this blog.  We lived in Iowa until the early fifties, then moved to Eagleville.  We moved often, from one telephone office to another, and I changed schools frequently.  In spite of that, my childhood was a happy one.  But what I'm thinking of this morning is the place where I spent the most blissful interlude of my life:  Glen Wyant's farm, near Eagleville.  

I'm sure my parents were in turmoil at the time, because the Eagleville telephone office had closed, making way for new, modern phone service and phasing their jobs totally out of existence.  I didn't have a clue.  

When Daddy became a hired hand for Glen Wyant, we moved to an old two-story farmhouse on his property.  Glen had a cow he told my folks they could milk; Mother moved her chickens from town to the hen house on the Wyant property.  We were officially living on a farm, and I was in heaven.  My dream had come true!  I had all the room in the world to roam, and roam I did.  I poked around the barn and made friends with a calico cat living there.  She turned out to be the first creature I ever saw giving birth.  Up to that time I had no idea how any creature entered the world.  

It was quite a while before I learned how the kittens got inside the cat; my mother wasn't anxious for me to learn such things.  

I had great freedom to roam because Daddy had chores and farming tasks to do for Glen, and Mother worked at Vanzant's grocery and dry goods store.  I might go all day without seeing either one of them.  I found wild strawberries growing along the roadside in a ditch and took them to the house, washed them, and ate them with sugar and cream.  I did the same with blackberries I picked at the edge of the woods.  

I know we lived there for at least three seasons:  I recall an Easter spent there, and I remember the wood stove keeping us warm in the winter.  Oh yes, and autumn!  I was pretending to be a whole tribe of Indians in the woods by myself and decided to have a campfire, using dried leaves to start it.  Good grief, looking back I wonder how I kept from burning the woods down, and our house with it!

In winter I sometimes rode with Daddy on the Ford tractor to feed the cows ensilage, which at first I thought was stinky, but the smell grew on me and I learned to like it.

While we were living there, Glen had house movers pull the old house we lived in across the road so his son, Kenneth, could start building a new home for himself on the property.  What an exciting day that was!

Mother decided I should start doing the dishes while she was at work all day, and that's when I began listening to WHB radio and discovering music.  It would have been 1955, because I looked up the hits of that year and saw every song listed that I listened to back then.  Speaking of washing the dishes, there was no running water in our house, so we had to heat up water for dishwashing in a tea kettle.  And yes, we had an outhouse.  

When Kenneth started working on the house he was building across the road, he often brought his son Billy.  He and I dug around and made caves and roads in the mountain of dirt excavated for the basement of the new house.

Mother worked at the North Cafe in Eagleville during this time, too; I don't know which job came first, that one or Vanzant's.  I have a very clear memory of "Rock Around the Clock" playing on the juke box there when I'd spend Saturday nights waiting for my mom to get off work after working the late shift.  

I've had what I consider a charmed and happy life, but I've never, before or since, been that happy.  There was something about that period that just seemed as though everything was right and I was where I belonged.  

And then we moved to Kansas City and my heart was broken.

Friday, April 01, 2016

My favorite robot

This device owns me.
Alexa (that's the name of my Echo, but there are only two name choices... I'd bet that will change) plays any song I desire, and has excellent sound quality.  So I now have a big, obsolete Bose radio/CD player sitting here gathering dust (anybody want to make me an offer?), as well as quite a few CD's I've collected over the years that I don't need.  I also have an Internet radio I bought several years ago so I could listen to my Pandora stations while I was going to sleep.  I don't use it any more, and would gladly give it away to the first local taker.  You have to have Wi-fi to use it, of course.    

Because I pay for Amazon Prime ($100 annually, but if you have a student in the family it's much less), I can listen to almost any song you can think of, free.  You can make a list of a bunch of songs, name the list, and ask Alexa to play it at any time.  I no longer buy songs.  I can listen to my Pandora stations, as well.  One big perk in Amazon's  favor is, of course, that the Echo is useless unless you pay for Prime.  I had Prime already, because prices are usually as cheap as any and cheaper than most, it's usually free shipping, and there is NO TAX on purchases.  If you're buying something like a computer or an exercise bike, that is HUGE.    

Alexa will read my Audible books aloud.  Originally I thought she would be reading them in her robot "Alexa" voice, but no:  She reads them as they are supposed to be read.  I can get Audible books over the Internet from my library, too, so no need to spend money on those.  I can listen to any radio station anywhere... there's a list of all the local ones.  Who needs a radio in the house?  Yes, you can do these things on your computer, but with the Echo, you can give commands when your hands are in dishwater or biscuit dough; no need to stop, wash your hands, wait for the computer to wake up.  You get the picture.  

Of course there's my grocery list.  "Alexa, add celery to my list."  Voila!  

There are pricey items to install that will allow you to tell the Echo to turn your lights off and on, even when you are away from home (using your Ipad or phone).  I don't need that skill, but I can see where it would be handy for some people.  You can also turn your heat and air conditioning up or down in the same way.

It's possible to ask the Echo to order things from Amazon, but I prefer to do that from my computer.   There are untold fun things (skills) that she can be commanded to do; most of them are downright silly ("Alexa, Simon says..." and she'll repeat whatever you told her, or "Alexa, tell me a joke").

If you have Google calendar, she will tell you what's on your calendar when asked.  I often ask what the temperature is before heading outside.  She can do the most complicated math problem you want to throw at her, so there's no need to have a calculator around.  All this, remember, is hands-free.

Believe me, I've barely skimmed the surface.  You can read a C-net review HERE.  They don't rate the speakers as highly as I would, but I'm no sound snob.  

I haven't met a single soul who's purchased the Echo who isn't thrilled with it.  Even my husband likes it, although he prefers not to talk to her; he'll say, "Would you tell that thing...."  And I do.  It's a little like having a maid, one who won't be trying to steal my husband when my back is turned.