Saturday, December 29, 2018

Mornings

I’m generally awake around 3 AM.  Sometimes I make it until 4, but not often.  If I wake up earlier than 3 AM, I force myself to lie in bed, hoping I can go back to sleep.  Here’s the problem:  I love mornings, for a variety of reasons... first of all, at my age I’m just glad to see another day, I’m so grateful to get one more chance at life.  Then of course, there’s coffee.  The thought of coffee makes me want to get up and make the thought a reality.  Oh yes, and there’s the peace, solitude, and quiet of the mornings.  It’s the best time to catch up on Words with Friends and read whatever book I’m in the middle of.  As long as I can remember, morning has been the best part of my day.  Anything could happen in those hours that seem to stretch endlessly before me like a plush carpet.

Gabe joins me in my early morning solitude.  I usually start my coffee first thing out of bed, then put on my coat, let Gabe out of his kennel, hook his leash onto his collar, and take him outside to check his pee-mail and make a deposit.  It doesn’t take him long; then he and I sit side-by-side in my ratty old recliner, covered with a blanket, until 4:30, when he eats.  I say, “Are you hungry?” And he is instantly awake and struggling to escape the blanket and get to the floor.  It only takes him five minutes, tops, to eat.  Then he’s right back beside me, covered head to toe.  Of course, I get up several times during those three or four hours until Cliff gets up:  There are visits to the bathroom and trips to the kitchen for coffee; I always tell Gabe where I’m going and what I’m doing, although he rarely even raises his head to let me know he hears.

I wish you could see me getting out of the recliner:  You see, Gabe likes to extend his head and upper body to the footrest of the chair, so if I let down the footrest, he’d fall on the floor head-first.  It wouldn’t hurt him a bit, but because I get up so often, I hate to bother him.  (Yes, I’ve become that dog-person.).  So I sort of dangle my right leg off the side of the footrest to the floor, scoot my butt up as far as I can, and contort my arthritic body sideways, holding firmly to the armrests, until I’m standing.  Gabe sleeps through all this, which makes me happy I didn’t disturb him.  Here he is, waiting for me to somehow get back in the recliner without disturbing him:

It’’s a dog’s life, right?

And now you know how I start my day.  

Love,
Donna


Thursday, December 27, 2018

Christmas is over

There’s something sort of “blah” about the days between Christmas and the New Year’s that seems to set the tone for the rest of the winter.  We are always a few pounds heavier and somewhat sluggish from eating so many sweets and starches, so we don’t feel very good about ourselves.  

We enjoyed our little trip to Kansas.  I changed my mind about which audio book to play as we traveled, settling on “Rooster Bar” by John Grisham.  After listening to it awhile I realized I’d read it before.  I don’t remember much about it, though, so it was entertaining enough to make the time pass.  This is more for Cliff than me, anyhow.  He hates driving long distances, especially since he’s gotten older, so anything that helps make the driving time go faster for him is great.  

I had been watching the weather forecast for both McPherson and Kansas City for a couple of weeks, because one year we went there for Christmas and more or less made our way home on solid ice, watching cars slide into the ditches as we went.  However, the temperatures this time turned out to be considerably above freezing for the trip home, although we did drive through rain for most of the way home.  We had a problem this time, though, when we first headed home, about fifteen miles out of McPherson:  The check-engine light came on, and the engine started missing.  Cliff turned back toward McPherson and had me call my nephew and ask him for names of some auto repair places.  

I wrote down the phone number and address of one, and we found it.  Unfortunately, they were too busy to take us, but the guy told us to go to O’Reilly’s and they’d check it for us.  Cliff was pretty upset by this time, concerned that our old 2003 Mercury with over 200,000 miles on it might cause us a lot of expense.  You know the things that go through a person’s head when a car starts messing up... you wonder if you will be sidelined for hours or days.  Of course in the event we had to stay overnight, we could go back to Maxine’s, but they were leaving the next day to have Christmas with the grandkids.  Last-minute guests could have really messed up everybody’s plans.  

There were no other customers at O’Reilly’s, so a young fellow checked out the problem and told us the number seven misfired on startup and later, also.  The Number 7 coil pack was shot.  He then told us to go about three blocks down the street and we’d find an auto repair place that could help us.  He assured us they were nice folks and would do us right.  

When we walked in the door at Superior Automotive, they were pretty busy.  Cliff said he’s pretty sure they were going to turn us away, but the lady told us to wait a minute and she’d go talk to her husband.  He took the car in and had it fixed promptly.  I don’t think we were there over half-an-hour, total.  With tax, the total was $97.90 for labor and parts.  Not bad at all!  

We were only two hours later getting home than we’d originally planned.  We picked Gabe up in Independence at the granddaughter’s and came on home.  Amber assured us, once again, that Gabe can stay with her and her dog any time.

We had a great time Sunday with our finger foods, desserts, and noodles.  Eight-month-old Amara had her share, and the noodles, a double batch of them, where gone by days end.  The two-night stay with my sister was the frosting on the cake.  It’s been a good holiday season.

I’ve started reading a non-fiction book, “Killers of the Flower Moon:  The Osage murders and the birth of the FBI”.  Cliff is reading “The Memory Man”.  

Sincerely yours,
Donna

P.S.
As I was finishing the blog entry, a long-time friend came by.  My kids might recognize him, since he used to be their hero when they were preschool age.  He’s changed just a bit since he was 16.



About fifty years ago he made me a checkbook cover with my initials on it, and I’ve used it all these years.  He stopped by a while back and I showed him how it was falling apart, so he took it home to fix.  Today he brought it back:


Makes my day!






Sunday, December 23, 2018

Merry Christmas

I realize I’m a little early with this greeting, but we have a loaded schedule for these three days.  My sister in McPherson, Kansas called a couple of weeks ago and invited us to her house for Christmas.  It’ll just be her, her son and his wife, and us, because they will be celebrating their family Christmas with their grandkids next weekend.  We hadn’t made any specific plans here, so since Maxine is past ninety years old and lives so far away, we are glad to have an excuse to go see her.  However, I neglected to tell my daughter, Rachel, about our plans until two days ago.  She and her husband keep so busy with their jobs and their commutes to the city that we don’t talk that often.  The several weeks before Christmas make up Rachel’s busiest season on the job, too.  

Rachel said, “Well if you aren’t going to be around for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, we need to get together before you guys go.  We could just do finger foods Sunday, so there shouldn’t be a lot of cooking.”  

I should mention we don’t do gift-giving any more.  That takes a lot of stress out of things.

It’s nice to know somebody cares enough to want to see you on Christmas, isn’t it?  So I agreed, figuring I’d make some hamburger dip and buy some chips and call it plenty for my part of the festivities.  Yesterday I remembered the half-ham in the freezer, but it was too late to get it thawed in time.  I checked with Chef Google and learned you can put a fully-cooked, spiral-sliced, frozen ham in the oven; you just have to allow more time and cover it tightly with aluminum foil; here’s hoping!  Rachel came by last night and left enough chips to sink a battleship, a cheese tray, and other tasty treats.  

Then I decided to boil some chicken thighs and make noodles.  

Seriously?  What happened to the finger foods?  Well, this family loves noodles.  We have nothing against eating a bowl of noodles and calling it finger food.  Besides, if there’s a lot left, you can freeze cooked noodles just fine, although if they’re fit to eat, I’ll probably just send them home with somebody.  

This morning I looked around the kitchen and noticed the loaf of bread on the table:  It’s the only loaf of bread in the house, and what if we all want a ham sandwich?  So I got out the bread machine for the first time since we discovered Sara Lee Butter Bread (which has already lost a lot of its attraction, but it’s the best we can find.  It isn’t as soft and fresh as when we first discovered it).  So as I type this, there’s a ham in the oven, noodles drying on the table, and bread baking.  And when I consider the number of people coming today, I realize there’s no way all this stuff will get eaten.  But it’ll freeze just fine, all but the hamburger dip I made this morning.  It wouldn’t hurt my feelings too much to toss it, if I had to.  Oh, did I mention I made Oreo Delight and a cherry cheesecake pie?  Good grief, what was I thinking?

Sometime tomorrow we’ll get on I-70 and head west toward Kansas, stopping at granddaughter Amber’s house to drop Gabe off.  Cliff dreads the drive, but I told him I’d download a book we can listen to on the way.  I chose a “Chet and Bernie” book, which I know he’s going to consider stupid (you know, it’s a dog that is narrating the story), but I think he’ll be entertained.  If not, I will be.  I’ve read the book before, but it’s been awhile.  

The grandson and Heather will be around to watch the place and feed the cats and calves.  Once we get to my sister’s house, it’ll be a relaxing time of visiting and eating.  


Friday, December 21, 2018

Of little interest to my readers

Did you ever have something from the past start bugging you?  Some idea, or something you’ve read?  And you can’t stop wondering why on earth you are haunted by it, as it comes to mind several times daily?

I’ve had Bible verses come to mind like this, but I usually find some message in the verse and take it as advice, or a reminder.  

I imagine the current political landscape is what started the final words of a poem running over and over again in my head, but that’s just a guess.  It isn’t on the list of my favorite poems; for one thing, I like poems that rhyme, and this one doesn’t.  I couldn’t remember what the entire poem actually said, or even the title of it.  But in this age of Internet, all you need to do is type one line into Google search.  I did this yesterday morning during my alone time and discovered it’s “The Hollow Men” by T.S. Elliot.  

This morning, again, I wondered why this poem wouldn’t let go of me, so I looked it up and read the whole thing, slowly and quietly, to myself.  I sort of glimpsed a few random ideas that almost made sense, but I still didn’t get the meaning of the whole content.  What was this man trying to say?  

Here’s the poem:

The Hollow Men
I
We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats' feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar

Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion;

Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to death's other Kingdom
Remember us—if at all—not as lost
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men
The stuffed men.

II
Eyes I dare not meet in dreams
In death's dream kingdom
These do not appear:
There, the eyes are
Sunlight on a broken column
There, is a tree swinging
And voices are
In the wind's singing
More distant and more solemn
Than a fading star.

Let me be no nearer
In death's dream kingdom
Let me also wear
Such deliberate disguises
Rat's coat, crowskin, crossed staves
In a field
Behaving as the wind behaves
No nearer—

Not that final meeting
In the twilight kingdom

III
This is the dead land
This is cactus land
Here the stone images
Are raised, here they receive
The supplication of a dead man's hand
Under the twinkle of a fading star.

Is it like this
In death's other kingdom
Waking alone
At the hour when we are
Trembling with tenderness
Lips that would kiss
Form prayers to broken stone.

IV
The eyes are not here
There are no eyes here
In this valley of dying stars
In this hollow valley
This broken jaw of our lost kingdoms

In this last of meeting places
We grope together
And avoid speech
Gathered on this beach of the tumid river

Sightless, unless
The eyes reappear
As the perpetual star
Multifoliate rose
Of death's twilight kingdom
The hope only
Of empty men.

V
Here we go round the prickly pear
Prickly pear prickly pear
Here we go round the prickly pear
At five o'clock in the morning.


Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom

Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow
Life is very long

Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom

For Thine is
Life is
For Thine is the

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

The last four lines are the ones that started this whole process, but now I want to talk to the author and ask, “What were you thinking when you wrote this?  I don’t understand most of it.”  Since the poem was written in 1925 when my mother was a teenager, I won’t be asking him anything.  But surely I can use google to find someone explaining it, right?  

Good grief, the explanations were as hard to understand as the actual poem!  If I haven’t lost all my readers of this entry, and in case even one of them cares about this, you’ll find one of many explanations by clicking HERE.

I really don’t know any more about this poem than when I started searching, but every time I read those last lines, they feel like a prophecy of some kind.  

And with that, I leave you, likely my one remaining reader of this garble, probably as confused as I am.

Still ponderling.

Yours truly, Donna

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Various topics

Yesterday was Cliff’s payday (the day Social Security arrives).  All we really needed to do was go to the bank and get our monthly allowances (we pay cash for groceries and such), pick up a prescription, and buy three or four grocery items; then we should have gone the fifteen miles home.  But there were a couple of things we only get at Costco.  Yes, we were there last week.  No, it wasn’t necessary to go.  Cliff wasn’t excited about driving to the city once again, but since he seldom takes me anywhere, he figured this was the easiest way to fulfill his obligations so I won’t make him take me to see some concert.

I grabbed what we went for and decided to get a five-dollar rotisserie chicken.  Those Costco chickens are noticibly larger than the ones at Walmart and other grocery stores, and never over-cooked.  I had some left-over food from the day before, and I told Cliff we needed some chicken with our leftovers.  When we got home, I warmed up the leftover pasta, baked a couple sweet potatoes in the microwave, and we each got our favorite part of chicken:  Leg and thigh for me, breast meat for Cliff.  This morning I de-boned the rest of the bird and ended up with enough diced chicken for a low-fat version of chicken jambalaya today and tomorrow, and chicken salad sandwiches the next day.  We always get three or four meals out of that five-dollar chicken.  I also boil the bones and skin for a couple of hours, for broth.  My jambalaya requires 1 1/2 cups of chicken broth, so I got some frozen broth out of the freezer.  I keep the canned stuff around for emergencies, just to have on hand; but it’s inferior to home-made broth in every way.  If you’re interested in the Better Homes and Gardens recipe, you’ll find it HERE.  It’s a great, healthy way to use leftover turkey, too.


We picked our little girl up at day care yesterday after lunch.  She was happy and lively, and we really enjoyed her visit.  She got sick in the middle of the night last night, though, vomiting and all that goes with it; she’s here again today.  She seems to feel OK now.  She and her dad ate at a Mexican place last night, so perhaps it’s a case of food poisoning.  There’s a lot of produce being recalled lately!  

We can see her learning so much, now that she’s getting some pre-school help.  Try as I might, I couldn’t teach her anything about numbers or letters or writing.  She’s a smart kid, but she’s also hard-headed.  She wasn’t about to let this amateur teach her anything school-related, and I figured if I tried to push it, I’d do more harm than good.  I taught her a lot about gardens and cows and cooking, though.  I’m very thankful to have such a great daycare/preschool in our little town with caring, loving staff.  I’m glad to be the backup babysitter when the local grandma has other obligations.  The kid and Cliff are playing with little Legos in this picture:  Actually, she’s playing with them while Cliff does the talking for some of the tiny people in the lego set.  He’s so patient, he’ll sit there yawning for hours, chatting away with a five-year-old.

And that’s the way it is at our house today.  

Love, Donna. 










Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Lovely weather

It's springlike outside, and hard to believe the first day of winter is almost here.  I'm still going for a walk with Gabe most days, although I usually have second thoughts when I'm cleaning him up afterward.  Almost every time we walk (OK, I walk, he runs circles around me), he disappears down below to get a drink at the spring and, in so doing, gets mud up to his elbows.  Do dogs have elbows and knees?  Anyway, I can't just hold his feet under a faucet when we're done; he kicks and struggles until I end up getting soaked; so I've started getting a plastic tub half-filled with water to stand him in when we get back to the house.  Then there's the several minutes it takes to get all the stick-tights out of his fur, with him biting and fighting me all the time because he thinks I'm hurting him.  Here's the pile of stick-tights from yesterday after I bathed him.  Those beggar-lice comb out a lot easier when he's wet, I've found.


Gabe thinks he is master of the universe when he's out running in the pasture.
Can you tell I was lying on my belly on the ground to take this picture?
I had totally given up going for walks some time ago because of knee pain, but I've learned if I walk slowly, I can handle at least a half-hour daily.  I walked fast for so many years trying to get aerobic exercise that it's unnatural to me to slow down.  My knees take a real pounding when I walk fast!  I regret ever getting a knee replacement on the left knee, since it only gave me relief for the first few months:  now both knees hurt equally.  But I can still walk, and for that, I'm thankful!

The grandson and his wife got a new Great Dane puppy last weekend.  He seems to have the same disposition as Titan, the Great Dane they used to have.  Gabe is happy to have a playmate come and see him.
He's only three months old; his name is Apollo.  He was terribly shy the first day, and sort of scared.  When Heather brought first him over, his tail was tucked between his legs and he was whining.  I don't believe he'd been socialized much by the breeders.  Gabe brought him out of his shell at their first meeting, and he has settled into his new home just fine.  On a sadder note, the oldest granddaughter's dog, Sophie, had to be put down Saturday.  She'd been having seizures for a long time.  

Here's a picture of me holding Sophie when Amber first got her.  There's sort of a story behind this picture:  I'd been crying all day and had to force a smile for the camera because my dog, Mandy, had been run over earlier the same day.  There seems to be a pattern here:  One dog dies, another one comes along.  


I had a wonderful friend named Shirley, now deceased, who loved all animals with a passion I couldn't understand.  In fact, I laughed about how she worried about varmints like the opossums and raccoons, when I've hated them for being chicken-killers.  Shirley (I always called her by her nickname, 2E) wrote little poems, essays, and such.  After living most of her life across the river in Richmond, she and her husband moved to Napoleon, and that's where she lived when I first met her.  She worked at the rest home in Richmond, so she had quite a little drive through the country to work.  She got truly depressed at all the road kill she saw on her drive.  Back then I'd tell Cliff about it and we'd laugh together about her concern, because in our book, the only good possum is a dead possum.  The same goes for raccoons.  But she had a tender heart.

Putting words on paper was sort of a therapy for her, and she finally came to accept all that death by writing a little story she entitled "The Circle of Life", which she typed off and shared with me.  I think she might have even given me a copy at the time, but I don't seem to have it now.  Her daughters came by after her death and shared some things of hers they thought I'd like, and I asked them about that particular essay.  They don't recall it.  In a nutshell, she wrote that she was was finally able to deal with all those dead animals by realizing death is a part of the circle of life.  One dies, another is born, and life goes on.  Once she looked at the big picture, she could deal with it.  Her essay came to mind this weekend when Amber called, sobbing, to tell me she was ready to put Sophie down, and then on the same day, Arick and Heather got a new puppy.  

It sure left a big hole when Shirley Coen left this world.

I've read two books in the last four days.  The first, "All the Ugly and Wonderful Things", is probably the most riveting book I've ever read.  My emotions were all over the place.  Some folks might not want to finish it, once they get halfway through it.  It's a good book, it just shook me up, and I can't get it out of my head.  There's some pretty explicit sex in it (not romantic sex).  I don't want to recommend a book without giving that warning, because some people might want to pass on it.  Then today I finished "Little Fires Everywhere", another one that makes you think about your values.  Why is it so easy to find a great book to read, yet so difficult to find a movie I like?        

I believe that's it for today.  

Sincerely, 
Donna

Saturday, December 15, 2018

How I choose books to read

I read a lot of books in winter.  When I get my hands on a good one, I might read through it in two days’s time; this was the case with John Grisham’s “The Litigators”, which I recommended to Cliff.  I don’t always love Grisham’s books, but every once in awhile there is one that resonates with me.  I was happy to see that Netflix made a six-part series of Grisham’s “The Innocent Man”, which I believe is the only book the guy has written that is a true story.  

To get ideas for my next books, I pay attention to what some of my friends are reading, then see what Amazon has to say about them.  If nothing else strikes my fancy, I head for the New York Times best-seller lists.  Of course, the best sellers of the current year usually require my putting a hold on them:  That’s why they are best-sellers; everybody wants to read them!  But if I go back to the previous year’s list, many of those are available immediately.  I probably got carried away this morning, but every single book I put on hold intrigued me:  “Little Fires Everywhere”; “Killers of the Flower Moon”; “Educated.  A Memoir”; “The One”; “We Were the Lucky Ones; and “Heavy”.  A book I put on hold two months ago is almost ready for me to get checked out:  John Sandford’s “Holy Ghost”.  Sandford is my favorite.  He can do no wrong.  

I believe a couple of the books I put on hold are non-fiction.

Last week I noticed a Stephen King book that was highly rated and decided to give it a try:  “The Outsider”.  I would have had to put a long hold on the print copy, but the audio version was available.  Now here’s the thing:  I don’t like ghostly, imaginary, scary, books as a general rule.  But every once in awhile King comes up with something I love:  Christine, Green Mile, The Shining, the movie “Stand By Me”... so every five years or so I give him another chance.  I’ve listened to about two-thirds of “The Outsider”, and am about ready to give it up.  I just don’t like the premise.  It started out like a who-done-it and held my interest, but when things started getting ghostly, I began losing interest.  

Granddaughter Monica and Amara, her niece (who was our youngest great-grandchild until yesterday), spent most of the day with us.  Amara has won me over completely, since she seems to prefer my company no matter who else is in the room.  Oh, she keeps one eye on her mother if she’s with her, but she still crawls over to where I’m sitting.  It makes me feel special.  We did get a new great-granddaughter yesterday, but we won’t be seeing her much, if at all.  Georgia is a long way off.  I’m glad Amara is, for the present, close at hand.  

Cora, the little girl we used to babysit, needed a pinch-hitter babysitter Thursday, so we got to enjoy her for awhile too.  Now that she isn’t here all the time, I can really see how fast she’s growing up in size, actions,  and temperament.  Where did that tiny baby go?  

Gabe may have a new buddy we haven’t met.  The grandson and his wife got a Great Dane puppy!  We went out to eat with Cliff’s sister and her husband who are here from St. Louis, and when we got home, the kids had a lot of company.  Somehow that didn’t seem like a good time to introduce Gabe to Apollo.  We’ll see what happens today.  

And that’s about it, except to tell you that I somehow got a week ahead on the calendar and thought Christmas was this coming Tuesday.  Good grief, time goes fast enough without my trying to hurry it along.  We intend to visit my sister in Kansas for Christmas if the weather doesn’t turn bad.  

Cliff’s family could use prayers:  His beloved aunt has been moved from the hospital to a nursing home, and is still very weak and not particularly happy to be there.  She’s in her 90’s.  Also, his brother’s wife has been in and out of the hospital; we were terribly concerned about her, but she seems to be getting better now.  It seems as though there’s always someone ailing during the holidays, which takes a lot of the “merry” out of Christmas.  

I believe that’s it for now.  I’ll try to have something more exciting next time.

Yours till the ocean wears rubber pants to keep its bottom dry,
                                   
Donna


Tuesday, December 11, 2018

A little bonus for walking the dog

I've been trying to take Gabe to the pasture for his run before the daily thaw starts, because I hate having to clean him up when he's been in the mud.  The stickers he gets in his fur are bad enough, and that's something that can't be avoided.  I'm willing to take one for the team if I must, though, because Gabe is so happy when he can go for a run.  This morning I looked at the hourly forecast around 8 AM and saw it was already 29 degrees, which meant I didn't have much time before it got muddy.  We were just starting out when I happened to look down as I was passing by the cottonwood tree and saw an arrowhead.  It was right there on top of the frozen ground; I had to work at getting it unstuck, but here it is. 
It's always a fun to find something like this when you aren't expecting it.  The previous owner of this part of our property plowed a lot of the ground up behind where our house sits and planted corn.  When he first plowed it, he let a co-worker come and hunt for artifacts, and that guy found a treasure trove of them.  Most of the arrowheads I find are chipped or broken.  

Oh yes, and even though I was walking on solidly frozen ground for the duration of my walk, Gabe managed to find some mud somewhere when he was out of sight.  Probably down in the biggest canyon on the place, since he insists on running down there every time we're back there.  
It's a long way down there

It worries me to death when Gabe gets so far out of my sight, but because it makes him happy, I continue to take the risk.  I wish he'd come when I call, though, the spoiled little scoundrel.  Most of the snow is gone on high ground, but it's colder down in the wooded valley.  So you wouldn't think Gabe would come out of there muddy, would you?  I imagine he's discovered the spring at the back of the place, and gets muddy when he's getting a drink.  It's always muddy around the spring.  You won't see me going down there these days.  It's a long, hard climb back to the top.
I've been looking back at the various versions I've done of "where I'm from".  You'll find my favorite version HERE.  

Sincerely,
Donna    



Sunday, December 09, 2018

The journey from overalls to jeans

Cliff has worn overalls exclusively for several years, even to church when he was attending; I'm OK with that, because overalls, he says, are the only thing he finds comfortable.  At our ages, I believe one should seek all the comfort he can find.  I'm not a dress-up person either.  

He only liked the Big Smith brand, though:  He doesn't like the galluses on Carhartts.  He doesn't like the pocket flaps on Keys.  The bib is too wide on other kinds.  Try as he might, he couldn't find anything that was just right for him.  The workmanship slipped considerably on Big Smith overalls, but he refused to consider anything else.  "Jeans," he said, "aren't made for men with big bellies."

And then the Big Smith brand disappeared.  Walmart no longer had them.  For a period of several months, they were nowhere to be found.  Cliff's overalls faded with passing time.  Every time we'd go into Orscheln's or other farm-related stores, we'd check for the overalls.  I made him try on various brands we'd never heard of, but we were wasting our time.  I couldn't help wondering if he'd end up staying home in his underwear all the time, once his remaining overalls were past wearing.  He was standing his ground, and would rather fight than switch.

Recently we stopped by Feldman's for something and, as usual, checked the overall aisle.  Lo and behold, there were Big Smiths on the shelves!  We got the only pair in his size and went home rejoicing, even though they were the pre-faded kind Cliff hates.  However, they didn't seem to be sized right.  When we went back to Feldman's I had an informative conversation with the checkout lady, who told me Walls bought the Big Smith brand.  I mentioned the sizing on the pair we bought, and she wasn't surprised.  Another Big Smith addict had come in and bought ten pairs, all the same size, and only two pairs fit him; he returned the others.  

The other day Cliff initiated a conversation that started with funerals:  He didn't have anything fit to wear to a funeral (or anywhere else, in my opinion) and thought he'd better buy some pants.  At our age, one needs to be prepared for funerals, because people in our age range and older are dying like flies.  On our next visit to Walmart, he tried on some slacks that he figured he could stand to wear for a couple of hours.  As we headed home, he decried the lack of comfortable clothing.  I reminded him of our motorcycle days:  From what I understood back then, a man has to be careful what sort of jeans he wears when he's driving a motorcycle.  It's a guy thing that I won't get into here.  Use your imagination.  Anyway, nothing was comfortable for him on the Honda.  When we went to Kleinschmidts at Higginsville to get Cliff some work boots, I suggested he try on some jeans while we were there.  That's an expensive place to shop, but if something fits properly, it might be worth the cost.  I'm not sure how we managed, but he found some that worked for him, and he wore them a lot.  

He doesn't even remember any of this: not the jeans, not buying them at Kleinschmidts... nothing.  I told him how comfortable they seemed to be when he was wearing them.  He took the bait, and yesterday we went to Higginsville.  I had a problem, though:  I didn't remember the brand, and that huge store carries dozens of brands.  I told him I remembered it being a common brand, possibly Lee, but the jeans weren't a style you'd find at Walmart.  "I remember some country singer was sponsoring them, and his picture was on the label," I said.  "It was some singer like Garth Brooks that everybody likes, but it wasn't him, some laid-back guy that isn't flashy or anything."

"George Strait?" he suggested.  "Yes!!!  That's the one!"

But what are the chances he's still sponsoring them, I thought to myself.  

Thanks to George Strait, we found those jeans, cowboy cut Wranglers.  George is still sponsoring them.  This all made me remember why I had him try them in the first place.  It was back when Pioneer Woman had a regular blog where she displayed pictures of her husband and kids and told funny stories and answered my emails and sent me free copies of her first three books.  



The blog is still there, but they scrubbed it clean once she became a famous brand; many of the wonderful stories are gone.  (Sorry I digress, but this is how my mind works.)  



Anyway, PW was always showing pictures of her husband Ladd from the back (it wasn't a bad view), so I knew he wore Wranglers.    When I saw the words "cowboy cut", I figured hey... if they're good enough for riding horses, they ought to work for a motorcycle ride.  

Can you remember your thought processes from twelve years ago?  Ha!  I can.

Cliff tried them on yesterday and instantly knew they were perfect.  I'm so happy I have enough memory left to have a few helpful recollections.

Happily yours,
Donna

P.S.  If you were wondering why Ree mentioned a tattoo when she autographed my book, I once sent her a photoshopped picture a friend did for laughs.



Saturday, December 08, 2018

The current baby in my life


The little girl we babysat moved on to day care/preschool.  She needed to have moved on at least a year earlier, although she wasn't anxious to leave us.  But I couldn't teach her anything, and she was bored.  She loved us dearly, but two old, tired people don't present much of a challenge.  We still fill in if her grandma can't watch her in the evenings after day care, and I'm fairly certain that if we asked either of her parents, they would bring her over for a visit.  We had her at the very best time of our lives:  We were missing babies, and we poured the love to her as she grew.  She was a tiny thing, so it was easy to carry her when she was a baby.  She was our entertainment!  It was so much fun to watch her first steps, hear her first words, see her whistle when she was only a year old.  We were constantly amazed at things she said and did.  Thank goodness we have many pictures and videos of our time with her.  Cliff had more trouble giving her up that I did.  Toward the end, he was actually keeping her occupied more than I, but I just knew she needed something we couldn't give her, and I loved her enough that it eased the pain of saying "it's over".  Cliff agrees now, but he didn't like it at the time.   

Now we have an eight-month-old great-granddaughter.  We don't see her often, especially lately.  But her mom called needing a babysitter for the afternoon yesterday, and I said, "Bring her on".  We've only seen the child once in the last couple of months, on Thanksgiving Day,  I wondered if she'd even feel comfortable with us.  She has spent lots of time with her mama, and is so attached to her, what if she cried and wouldn't stop when mom left?  Oh, I had misgivings:  I can't carry a baby around much any more and walk the floor with them.  This little girl is much larger than Cora was... our families have always produced large babies!


This was taken shortly after her mom left, so she looks a little apprehensive
Well, she didn't cry when her mom left, although I noticed a moment of panic in her eyes; but she was easily distracted.  It was fun to make her smile and laugh.  She's eight months old.  She isn't walking yet, of course, except to hold onto something for support and walk around furniture in that way.  She crawls very well. 

I had misgivings about how my dog, Gabe, would react to her.  Cora was four years old when we got him, and ran everywhere she went.  He considered this a challenge and chased at her feet all the time, sometimes nipping at her and even tearing her clothes!  I've always thought he just considered her another puppy and acted accordingly.  I finally taught him to get a toy in his mouth if he wanted to run along with her so his mouth would be occupied, and that approach worked.  The kid would take off running, Gabe would look around for his chew-toy, grab it, and then run with her.  But this is a baby.  I had no idea what he'd do, and figured as a last resort, I'd put him in the kennel. 

Well, I need not have worried.  He seemed to sense that this was someone he shouldn't play roughly with.  The first time she was on the floor crawling, he got his toy and tried to get her to grab it.  Then she'd reach and he'd back up quickly, as if to say, "Oh no, you can't."  I really wish I'd been able to make a video of that first time, because it was hilarious.  Later on I did one, but by this time the child was getting tired and a little fussy and had figured out she had no chance of getting hold of that toy anyhow.  


She cried after me each time I left the room, and didn't trust Cliff at all until she'd been here a few hours.  So when I went to the kitchen to finish up dinner she crawled after me fussing.  When she got to me, she pulled up, holding onto my leg, and tried to climb up my leg as if I were a tree, still fussing (a very obvious fake-crying whine).  And that's how she behaved every time I got more than six feet away from her.

Our daughter, her grandma, came by when she got off work to help us entertain the kid until her mom got off work, although Natalie was already on her way.  Baby was glad to see her grandma, but kept gravitating back to me.  I guess she likes me!  

I would never take on another child to watch full-time, but I enjoy having one around occasionally.  Babies light up the world, don't they?  

Sincerely,
Donna

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Tis the season... to GAIN WEIGHT!

I don't get too excited about Christmas these days, or anything else, for that matter.  When I force myself to go for a half-hour walk in the pasture, though, as I watch Gabe running at top speed, stopping to sniff anything and everything, enjoying his moment of pooping without a leash restraining him, I remember what enthusiasm and excitement used to feel like; through his joy at running free, I am able to vicariously enjoy it along with him.




The main thing I truly enjoy this time of year is the holiday food, made from recipes dating back as far as my childhood.  In recent years I haven't always tried to make every single one of my favorites because the weight gained in a one-month duration seems to take me four months to lose.  It takes even longer for Cliff.  I don't want the weight, and yet at my age there can't be too many Christmases left, and I want to taste Christmas while I can.  I've been dipping a lot of pretzels and peanut-butter-and-crackers in chocolate or almond bark ever since Thanksgiving.  It's easy, and we both love that stuff.  And we seem to be able to limit how many of them we eat. 

I can't say the same for cranberry bread, though.  It's very hard to limit.  I bought some cranberries before Thanksgiving thinking I might make my mom's dessert-like cranberry salad.  For whatever reason, I decided there was plenty of food without it and left the bag of cranberries languishing in the rotter crisper drawer.  Today I remembered them.  I can't make cranberry salad right now; I'm the one who loves it so much, and usually end up eating two-thirds of it all by myself.  There's too much good food ahead of us for me to go around the bend this early in the season.  I got the bag out and checked them and found out at least three quarters of them were still usable.  That's plenty for a loaf of cranberry bread.  As I was breaking the nuts and mixing the dry ingredients, I got to thinking about my sister's daughter-in-law, Debra, who introduced me to this treat.  


Debra's Cranberry Bread

2 cups flour                              1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder         1/2 tsp. soda
1 cup sugar                              1 tsp.  grated orange rind
1 egg, slightly beaten              3 tablespoons melted shortening
3/4 cup orange juice                1/2 cup nuts
1-2 cups fresh cranberries, cut in half   

Mix dry ingredients.  Combine egg and liquids.  Combine dry and liquid ingredients.  Fold in nuts and cranberries.  Don't mix too long.  Put in greased loaf pan and bake 1 hour at 350.

Creamy glaze:
melt 1/3 cup real butter in saucepan.  Blend in 2 cups powdered sugar and 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla.  Add two to four tablespoons of hot water till the glaze is of proper consistency.  Drizzle over bread.  

You can often find that same recipe on the bag of cranberries, and also many websites, the only difference being it doesn't have the glaze, and the cranberries are chopped instead of halved.  Once I got hold of the recipe, I decided it was quicker and easier to chop the berries rather than painstakingly cutting each little fruit in half.  At one of our Christmas gatherings I told Debra about chopping the berries.  She said, "Oh, it really doesn't take that much time, and the bigger pieces of cranberry look so pretty in the bread.  And Larry (her husband) usually cuts them in two while I'm doing something else."  

Oh well, different strokes for different folks.

But today I remembered Debra saying that, and just because she's such a nice person, I decided to celebrate her by doing things her way.  After all, I had to check each berry for softness anyhow.  May as well cut them while I'm at it.  

When the bread was cool, Cliff and I each had a tiny piece.  Oh, it was so good!  And guess what?  You get more tartness with the larger pieces of cranberry, the sort of tartness that goes perfectly with the sweet bread and the icing.  By the way, I personally wouldn't call that topping "glaze" because it's thick, like frosting.  But it sure is good!  I think we'll each have a piece for breakfast tomorrow.  


  
Love,
Donna

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

What have I done?

Actually, fixing my blog here on Blogger wasn’t so hard.  However, in the process of tweaking things this morning, I did a Google search and ran across a fairly recent article predicting Blogger will soon shut down; the writing is on the wall, the guy said.  Well darn.  The only other option, and it IS a popular one, is Wordpress.  I’ve always sort of wanted to use Wordpress, but it seemed more difficult to me.  I’d start a blog there, immediately mess something up, and just throw in the towel.  Back to Blogger I’d go.  

When AOL Journala shut down, they gave us some warning and we were shown how to save our complete AOL blogs by importing them to Google Blogger.  It was easy, albeit time-consuming, out here in the boonies with our slow Internet speeds.  All my pictures (except ones hosted by AOL) made the trip, and all comments were intact.  Google has been easy for me.  But in getting my blog up-to-date this morning, I noticed they don’t offer the widgets they used to have.  Somehow, that’s the bit of information that led me to some tech guy’s article saying Google Blogging is likely going to close down, so they got rid of some options.  That’s what started me down this rabbit-hole.  

Switching from one platform to another isn’t so easy, in this case.  Oh, the directions talk like there’s nothing to it, but I’m just not in the league with all those nerdy folks who do that sort of thing easily.  My first step (I know this is boring to most of you, but I have to vent) was to go to my current blog and import it to my computer so I could later export it to Wordpress.  Ha!  I tried that, but at some point it just stopped downloading in the middle of things.  I couldn’t look at the content that had been saved to my computer because I don’t have any way to open the file that I know of.  For some reason I can’t get the Mac Mini to download Open Office, so I have no way to read documents.   I’ve been blogging here on Blogger for twelve years, and for at least a couple of years before that on AOL.  There’s a lot of my history on here.  If Cliff says, “I wonder when we went to the Rollag tractor show”, I can do a search of my blog using “rollag” as the search word, and there it is.  If I had to, I’d pay to get a tech person to do this for me, because my main blog is like a child to me.  First, though, I’ll talk to my daughter and see if she has any options for me.

Armed with this information, I won’t modernize the current blog any more.  I have to somehow get my blog moved to Wordpress, THEN I’ll change what needs changing.  

Unhappily yours,
Donna




Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Changing the look of my blog

I've been terribly remiss in updating the design of my blog.  A few years back I was trying to rearrange things on here and messed up something, losing some of the "widgets" I like to have.  I was sort of scared to mess with it any further at the time, fearing I might use everything I've done!  

I seem to have figured things out today, because I've managed to add back some of the things I lost in that disaster.  I don't like the fact my header picture isn't centered, but I'll be working on this mess for awhile, trying to find something I can live with.  In the meantime, you can now see a list of some of the blogs I read on the lower left.  The list isn't complete yet; I'll be adding more.  

I don't consider this much of an entry, but I didn't want anybody to wonder why everything looks so different on here.  Wish me luck!  I'm no computer guru.  

Yours truly,
Donna


Friday, November 30, 2018

The disappearing steers

Day before yesterday, Wednesday, when I called the two steers to come up for a bite or two of alfalfa hay, they didn’t show.  The fence on this place leaves much to be desired.  The newest stretch of it is almost thirty years old, and much of the fence runs under trees, so every winter there is damage done by falling limbs, and repairs are required.  The boys got out once a while back, but thanks to the grandson, they were persuaded to come home.  I went toward the back of the place where they’d gotten out before, calling all the time:  “Sook calf, sook calf”, but they didn’t show up.  

I usually feed them sweet feed in the mornings, so I hoped maybe they’d find their way home when they realized it was time to eat.  It gets dark so early, I knew the grandson wouldn’t be able to look for them after work.  You can’t look for cows in the dark.  The valleys at the back of the place are so deep, Cliff and I can’t physically climb up and down them any more.  It seemed hopeless.  Neither of us slept much Wednesday night.  

Thursday morning I went back to the point again, calling the calves.  They still didn’t show up.  I imagined they got out and were running around the Missouri River bottom farmland.  Even if we found them, how would we get them home?  We were both depressed about the situation, and neither of us felt at the top of our game.  Cliff had vertigo, which gives him a problem every once in awhile.  It was worse this time than usual, and he was even nasueous for awhile.  We agreed we neither one cared if we ever saw those steers again.  We’d already decided we won’t be raising any more calves, and were hoping to get these last ones to butchering time with no problems.  Bah humbug.  

Thursday night after work, the grandson went looking while it was daylight, then came over and discussed the situation with us.  We talked about where they might be, which direction to go looking, and so forth (grandson is off work most Fridays and was going to look for them today).  Cliff mentioned one of our pens that is closed off most of the year, a pen we used to rent to a former neighbor for his horse.  “I wonder if they could be down there,” he said.  “I closed the gate to it a couple days ago, but maybe they jumped the fence.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” I said.  “If they were down there, they’d be bawling, wanting their feed and some water.  They’d be bellowing their fool heads off.”  

“OK,” Cliff said.

Today we went to Costco to get Cliff’s hearing aid worked on, and got a text message from the grandson while we were there.  He’d sent a picture of the two steers.  

Where were they, you ask?  

Right in that pen Cliff had been wondering about.  He had shut the gate to keep the cows out of there without realizing he was actually shutting them in the pen.  Why didn’t I hear them bawling?  Surely they did bawl, because that’s the nature of domestic cattle used to being fed regularly.  The only form of water in that pen was the snow on the ground, and the grass was all covered with snow.  The truth is, I don’t spend all that much time outside, especially in winter.  They probably just weren’t bellowing during the approximately 45 minutes total I spend outside daily.

So all’s well that ends well.  If we can just keep these boys home for another month or two, it’ll be the last worries we’ll ever have with cows, other than concern about the price of beef when our freezer is empty.  

I’m so thankful the grandson is here to help us out in situations like this.  

Yours truly,
Donna


Tuesday, November 27, 2018

A cold but sunny day

This time of year I am so thankful for the availability of books, and I’ve been reading one after another.  I went right from “Where the Crawdads Sing” to “The House We Grew Up In”.  That last one is set in England.  I try to avoid books by British authors, but usually I will read enough to get interested before I realize it’s “over there”.  I’m sure they think our way of speaking is strange, because I sure don’t understand some of theirs!  For instance, a “skip” seems to be what we here call a pod, a big trash container.  An SUV is a people-carrier.  Their word for truck is “Lorry”.  I suppose if I keep getting lured into reading stuff by British authors, I’ll learn all the terms eventually.  This book I just finished is about a woman who is a hoarder, and it shows how this affects her family and friends while explaining a little about what kept her hoarding things.  The more I read, the better it got..  I still have “Holy Ghost” and “Girl, Wash Your Face” on hold, so I’ll have to find something to fill in the days until one of those works its way down to me.  

Speaking of books, I’m getting quite a collection of real books (as opposed to e-books) written by various of my country music has-been stars, although two of them are loaned out; I hope I get them back.  When we’re watching Country’s Family reunion, one of the people on the show will mention he’s written an autobiography, and I’m like, “He’s written a book?!?”  And I start searching the Internet in search of said book.  Some of those shows were taped many years ago, so I often find one of the books for three or four bucks on Abebooks.com.  This past weekend I ordered a book written by Ricky Skaggs.  

Cliff and I were talking about something the other day and I said, “I don’t want to be an Indian giver.”  Then I said, “How did that expression come about, anyhow?  We were the ones who gave them certain places to live, then took those places back if we decided it was of some worth to us`.”

So I went looking for an explanation.  The term came about from a misunderstanding early in the history of America:  “The phrase originated, according to researcher David Wilton, in a cultural misunderstanding that arose when Europeans first encountered Native Americans on arriving in North America in the 15th century. Europeans thought they were receiving gifts from Native Americans, while the Native Americans believed they were engaged in what was known to Europeans as bartering; this resulted in the Native Americans finding European behaviour ungenerous and insulting.”  

It is a derogatory term, something I had never thought of... but of course it is!

It’s wintertime.  We are holed up reading, and it drives Gabe crazy.  He must wonder how he got hooked up with two lazy old people who do nothing but sit around and read or watch TV.  At least in summer he got to nose around in the yard while I sat in the hammock-swing.  These days he’ll find his ball or some other toy, bringing it to one of us in hopes we’ll play with him.  We do, for a while, but then we go back to whatever has our attention and he’s left at our feet, bored silly.  “You need to get him a dog to play with,” Cliff said.  “I can barely afford one dog,” I answered, “what with the high-class food, the vet bills, the heart-worm pills, the flea-and-tick preventative, and the groomer... he’s expensive.”  If the snow weren’t so deep, I’d take him for a walk and let him work off some energy.  

He sure is picking up some phrases lately:  All I have to do is say the words “Here comes....” and he’s off to the window, barking like crazy.  Apparently when someone comes up the driveway I must say “Here comes ______”, and he doesn’t need to hear who is is, just so he knows somebody is coming to break the monotony.  

Well, speaking of monotony, that’s your daily dose of drivel from me.

Yours very truly, 
Donna

Monday, November 26, 2018

Moving right along...

Yesterday I got the snow-shovel out and cleared the porches and sidewalks around the house.  I would guess we received about four inches of snow, but it's hard to tell with the drifts all around.  The snow was very heavy and wet when it first started falling; due to the weight of it, the wind didn't fill up the sidewalks overnight again, in spite of high winds.  I hate to admit it, but I have been wanting a good snow.  We don't have anywhere to go, so we're as snug as a bug in a rug; I do worry about family and friends who have no choice but to get out in it and drive to work.  Granddaughter Heather had to work at her nursing job yesterday, and we were worried sick about her making it home.  She said she never went over thirty miles per hour coming home, and still slid around at times, but she made it.  This morning she had to be at a hospital bright and early for some minor surgery, and she and Arick made it there, also.  Of course, the doctor was late.    

I've been out a few times already:  I've taken Gabe out on the leash three times, fed the calves and cats, and gone to the shop to retrieve a pie I made for Thanksgiving.  It was sort of an experiment, a lemon-cream cheese pie made from a recipe I had seen someone share on Facebook.  I decided it wasn't good enough to put out with all the really good desserts we had for the big day, although I can't put my finger on anything that was wrong with it.  I think perhaps I'm so used to my sister's lemon pie, made with real lemons (and no cream cheese) that it wasn't as good in comparison.  Cliff and I both had a taste of it awhile ago, one bite dipped in Cool Whip, and decided maybe it wasn't so bad after all; we'll be having a piece for dessert.  Dinner will be some leftover split pea soup I made the day before Thanksgiving.  

Cliff complained that he hardly had any turkey on Thanksgiving day, so I bought a turkey breast to make him feel better.  We'll be having that soon, and I'd like to make a turkey pot pie with some of that turkey, too.  

Here are some pictures I took on my walkabout this morning:
This is at the back of the house.  I've been taking Gabe over there by the propane tank to do his business, although he sometimes insists on going around the corner of the garage.  You can see how the snow drifted near the sidewalk here.  


After the two calves had their grain, they moved on to the hay.  They've not been eating much hay lately, since there's still lots of grass for them to graze.  Today, they have no choice but to eat hay.


These trees are on our property line to the west.  Across the fence are many horses.  


You can see several more horses in the distance.  


Yeah, I know I should have cut down the poor dried-up plants of summer.  I don't do a lot of things I should.
See where I walked to the shop to get the pie?  Looks like a drunk was out there, because that's about as indirect a path as one could imagine!


Isn't it pretty?

Have a great day.



Sunday, November 25, 2018

Blizzard warnings, Instant Pot warnings, and other stuff

 We’re under a “blizzard watch” at present.  I will be surprised if we get more than an inch of snow, but I sort of hope I’m wrong.  I like snow, except for the danger involved when people like the grandson’s wife, who have to drive to work on Sunday.  Looks like Iowa will get the brunt of it.  

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this on my blog, so I’ll tell the sad story now:  I wanted the larger 8-quart Instant Pot instead of the 6-quart model I’ve been using for several months, so when I saw a great deal for one,  I ordered it from Kohl’s, online.  It was under $70 with all the coupons and discounts involved, so I got a great deal... I thought.  Unfortunately, the third time I used it, it died completely.  No light came on when I plugged it in.  Cliff and I tried everything.  I googled the problem.  In one place, fuses were mentioned, so we looked for a place a fuse would be.  No luck.  I called the number for the manufacturer.  The lady on the other end said there wasn’t a fuse, but if I jumped through a lot of hoops, they would give me the bottom portion of my 8-quart Instant Pot at half-price.  Really?  I bought this thing in September and it died in mid-November!  That’s the best they can do?  

Kohl’s has always been great to deal with if you want a return or replacement, so I took it to the nearest location and traded it for another one.  I just took it out of the box yesterday, but didn’t use it yet (Thanksgiving leftovers aren’t gone).  I follow several Instant Pot Facebook groups; this morning I just happened to see a comment that bothered me.  A lady said she had intended to get the 8-quart, but after reading the Amazon reviews, decided that model must be defective.  I went to check it out:  At first things looked great, with an average of at least 4 1/2 stars out of 5.  But as I scrolled through, I saw far too many people saying theirs stopped working after very few uses.  The reason the average rating is so high, I imagine, is that most people do their reviews after they use the product only a few times.  I’m guilty of this myself.  

So I did a Facebook post telling people about this, and I’m repeating it here:  If you bought the 8-quart Instant pot on Black Friday, you’d be wise to return it for a refund, or else exchange it for the six-quart model.  Go to Amazon and scroll through the reviews:  At first you’ll see nothing but praise for the 8-quart Instant Pot, but keep going and you will see one-star reviews saying theirs stopped working after one or two uses.  If the manufacturer won’t replace a defective product... and this company will not... you really don’t want to do business with them.  Please spread the word!  

On to another subject, retirement and Social Security.  Cliff and I neither one had a pension coming when we retired.  We both had very small amounts of money in 401K accounts (by very small, I mean not really enough to buy a decent used car less than five years old).  I didn’t work outside the home more than half my married life, and Cliff spent a lot of time working for small businesses that didn’t have any perks.  My knees gave out after less than five years at Kohl’s Distribution Center, so I put in for Social Security at age 62.  It wasn’t much, believe me.  Now, Cliff spent 13 years at his last job, which was a great one with many benefits.  We made a point of putting enough in 401K so the company would match it.  Cliff retired at age 66.  Between the two of us, with our house paid off, we live quite well on what we receive.  Or we did, until the medical bills began coming in.  

Medicare makes sure the bulk of the bills are paid, but the amounts they don’t cover add up to more than we can continue to handle.  We have managed up to now, but alas, it won’t always be so.  I’m in the process of trying to figure out what steps to take for future hospitalizations and major illnesses.  I guess I should say here that we did NOT sign up for supplemental insurance.  Why?  Because even with the house paid off, at $200 each per month, we wouldn’t have had enough to live on.  

The grandson’s suggestions was this:  Just don’t pay the bill.  His point was that we don’t need good credit anyhow, because we don’t use credit any more.  He has a point, but that really goes against the grain.  We have always, even in our poorest times, had a perfect credit rating.  I’d only choose this option if there were no others.

The next time one of us has to go through expensive medical procedures or hospitalization, we could wait for the bill, then go talk to someone about making affordable payments.  I’d love to be able to talk to someone about this  right now, so I’d know what’s going to happen in such a case, but I don’t think that’s a possibility.  It’s one of those bridges you can’t cross until the time comes.  

Recently I realized there is another option:  Truman Medical Center (East) isn’t so far away; it’s where people go who can’t afford anything else.  That place deals with you according to your ability to pay.  I have a local Facebook friend who is in poor financial straits and has many health issues who was deliriously happy when he found out he doesn’t have to pay anything at all there... and he isn’t old enough for Medicare yet.  One of my dearest friends who died a few years ago always went to Truman East and loved the doctors and the care she and her husband received.  So that’s an option.  

You younger folks, these are decisions you might make when you are considering retirement.  If you can afford it, get the supplement.  In our case, it was hardly a choice, because we’d have been living from hand to mouth with that extra $400 coming out of our Social Security.    

Am I worried?  Nope.  If you have pensions or a 401K, you certainly will have no problem getting the Medigap coverage.  By all means, do it.  We had no choice, and we will take one step at a time.  Everybody has to die sometime.  Even in the ‘60’s when my grandma died, most people just died when it was their time, rather than having drastic measures taken to keep them living.  Once you realize that yes, you ARE going to die, it isn’t so scary; you aren’t that concerned about when it will happen, once you are past 70.  

I still believe in the words of the old hymn:  “Be not dismayed whate’er betide.  God will take care of you.” 

Love,
Donna    

Saturday, November 24, 2018

One thing and another

We had a perfect Thanksgiving Day:  The next-door grandson’s wife Heather and I shared our get-together, so it was her family and ours combined.  It made for a great collection of twenty-some people and lots of delicious food.  Neither of our houses has room for so many people, so as is often the case, we held the celebration in the shop.  There’s an overhead heater there, so we were quite comfortable.  The only thing lacking is a rest room, which Cliff and I wish we had added when it was built.  So folks have to use either Arick’s bathroom or ours.  Slight inconvenience for guests, but not a problem for me, at least not when it’s a gathering of people I know.  

I left Gabe in his kennel while people were arriving, then let him join the fun.  He loves people, and there were a lot of dog-lovers present, so he was in hog heaven.  I only feed him dog food, with an occasional bite of chicken or beef we’re eating.  He doesn’t beg, but I have a feeling someone fed him something they shouldn’t have, because yesterday, the day after, our living room was filled with the noxious gasses he was emitting.  I put some matches next to my chair, of which many were lit during the day.  

There’s something bothering me I’ve been meaning to address.  I hesitate to post something directly to Facebook about it because it would likely start a war of words, so I’ll get it off my chest here:  It’s the Facebook fundraisers.  On my birthday, I was given the option of having a birthday fundraiser for the charity of my choosing, and I thought it was a wonderful opportunity.  The response was great, so I surpassed my goal of $200.  I have generous, big-hearted friends.  I chose the local charity in our county that pays cancer patients for the fuel they have to use to get to their radiation treatments.  This group is near and dear to my heart because they wrote Cliff a check for over $700 when he was being treated.  I also donate a little to them every Christmas season.  My goal is to eventually pay them back what they gave us, so others can benefit as we did.  

Shortly after my fund-raiser, the naysayers came along, spreading their discontent like wildfire:  They object to the Facebook fundraisers because Facebook gets 3.5 to 5% of the money collected.  “I will give directly,” they say.  “I’m not giving Facebook anything!”  

No, you would NOT have given to my birthday cause on your own, because you never heard of it.  It was my birthday, I chose the charity that helped us.  Those who chose to contribute made my birthday great!  Facebook processes the credit card donations, which of course costs them something.  Even Catfish Charlies’, our only town restaurant, charges for their cost of processing credit cards.  That doesn’t stop us from eating there when we can afford it (which isn’t often).  If Facebook is making a couple of bucks on the deal, it’s great with me, because most folks haven’t heard of the Lafayette County Cancer Coalition.  Here’s what upsets me:  When people see your objections, they are often swayed by your opinion. I wonder how many fine charities, especially smaller local ones, suffer from this.  People who gave to my fundraiser probably won’t give to another one, now that they think they are handing Facebook a pittance.  Folks are so paranoid!  It’s sort of the same deal with Gofundme.  A local family I don’t know lost everything when their home burned, and I gladly gave.  Right after that, one person started a hate campaign:  “I’m not giving to Gofundme because they get part of the money; I’ll give to the people directly.”

That’s great for you, but I don’t know them personally and I won’t be giving directly.  Also, I have Facebook friends who I consider real friends that I’d gladly help with a need, but I don’t even have an address for them.  How would I give directly?  Please stop and think of the people you are influencing with your negative words.  

Whew.  I feel much better getting that off my chest.  Don’t be a Scrooge.

Sincerely yours, 
Donna


Monday, November 19, 2018

Holidays at Grandma’s house

When I was growing up, every holiday involved a trip to Grandma’s house.  “Over the River and Through the Woods” was a song that resonated with me, even though we didn’t have to drive through a lot of woods to get there.  Grandma lived alone on a 40-acre farm in Harrison County, Missouri, in the house where her children were born; Grandpa died in 1938, I believe, so I never knew him.  

My parents and I moved so often, Grandma’s house (and Uncle Leo’s place, right down the road from her) were like a magnet, places that didn’t change much over the years no matter how many times Mother, Daddy, and I moved.  Grandma’s house was like the center of the universe, the place where I felt I was really touching home.  We’d gather there at Christmas, Easter, Independence Day, and Thanksgiving.  Eagleville happened to be at sort of a central location:  My parents and I, and my sister and her family, lived in the Kansas City area after I was twelve.  We’d usually all ride together, the six of us, traveling up old 69 highway through Cameron.  Uncle Lloyd and Aunt Ruby also moved to Kansas City eventually.  Uncle Paul was in Iowa, and my brother’s family was, too.  The other Stevens aunts and uncles never moved out of Harrison County.

Grandma’s house wasn’t all that big, with four rooms downstairs and one big room upstairs.  She only had an outhouse for many years, and no running water in the house.  Later my uncles put a toilet in one of the downstairs bedrooms because Grandma had some stomach issues that plagued her occasionally, and was getting pretty old to have to put on a coat and go outside to the toilet all the time.  However, when we were all there, everybody still used the toilet outside, which was back behind the house.
This was taken during one of our family gatherings.  You can see the smokehouse and Grandma’s little house in the background.  Looking back, it amazes me how many people managed to fit in there.  Good grief, there must have been thirty or more of us at times!  In spring and summer, of course, the men and children would hang out in the yard.  This was back when men wore hats and most of them smoked, so they’d be visiting and smoking, just staying out of the way; the farmers among them would share opinions on what tractors they liked and how the crops were doing, which I found rather boring.  Of course, once I was married to city-boy Cliff, turns out he loved to sit in on that sort of conversation... and years later went totally crazy buying some of the very tractors my uncles were comparing.  However, by the time I met Cliff, Grandma was gone.  She passed on at the age of 77, victim of the intestinal issues she had lived with off and on for many years.  She had never had to check into a hospital until that last illness.

That’s me in the middle flanked by my cousins, Betty and Royce.  The dog was the first in the line of several dogs named Tippy
In inclement weather we kids would sometimes go upstairs with our plates, sitting on the steps or on the floor to eat.  I recall sitting on the steps of the entry porch with a full plate in my lap, too.  

Oh, the smells!  We knew there’d be noodles made by Grandma, and macaroni and cheese brought by Aunt Bernice.  Christmas and Thanksgiving we had turkey, of course, and dressing.  Sometimes Grandma would butcher a hen she thought had quit laying eggs, but then she’d find unfinished soft-shelled eggs inside the bird when she dressed it.  Oops!  Poor chicken wasn’t a freeloader after all.  

There were pies and cobblers aplenty.  

It was always nice to hear the uncles tell me how much I had grown, and hang out with my cousins.  Laughter and much talking filled the house and yard.  There was a proper order to follow when it was time to eat:  First, women with small children were told to go ahead and fill their children’s plates and get them settled.  Then the men; forget all about “ladies first”!  The men led the pack.  I always used to wonder why, thinking maybe it was because they were “the heads of the house”.  I imagine it actually stemmed from the fact that these were farm-raised folks:  The men worked out in the fields in summer and needed as much time in the field as possible when they were planting or harvesting; so they ate first in order to get back to business.  That’s also why I grew up with “dinner” being the noon meal, the big meal of the day.  We weren’t farmers, but that farm background still had its influence.  

Yes, those were good times.  When I hear “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”, I’m transported to Grandma’s house as if by magic.  That’s the home of my heart.  I never thought about the fact it wouldn’t always be there for me, but my memories are so very real I can hear the sounds, see the people, and smell the food, even today.  
Grandma never bought dog food.  She just fed her Tippy dog table scraps supplemented by a slice of bread.  This is the last Tippy she had.  It's easier to remember the new dog's name if you use the same one the last dog had.  



Sincerely, 
Donna