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,

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  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, 

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.” 


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, 

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.  


Saturday, November 17, 2018

A Christmas memory

I put the Christmas tree up yesterday, a fake tree this time.  We bought it after Christmas last year for about the same amount as one real tree costs these days.  The time has come when we need to get used to cutting costs.  When we bought it I said, “We may never use it, but if I don’t buy this, I’m liable to want a real tree next year.  If I spend money on this, I will make myself use it.  That is, if I want a tree next year.  

Well, I decided to use it.  I figured I may as well put it up early, since there will be no shedding needles.  One of my favorite things about Christmas is the smell of a real Christmas tree; maybe someone will sell me some cheap tree-branch scraps.  Now that I think of it, we have several evergreen trees of various kinds around here:  You don’t smell them in the wide-open spaces outside, but I think I’ll try snipping off a few branches and bringing them inside to see if the fragrance is there.  Even when I lack the Christmas spirit (which I do, these days), hanging ornaments on the tree always sparks memories of my childhood, when Christmas was magical, full of wonderful smells, sounds, and tastes.  

Yesterday I got about four packages of soup bones out of the freezer, figuring I’d cook them in the Instant Pot to make broth.  The Pot had just gotten to the “pressure” stage when I walked by and saw it wasn’t working.  Even if it’s off, the light comes on when you plug it in, but the light was off; it was totally dead.  Cliff and I fiddled with it awhile, then I googled here and there for an answer, found none, and called the number listed on the Instant Pot website.  A lady told me my best bet would be to take it back to Kohl’s and have it replaced.  I’ve only had this 8-quart one since September, so I’m sure it’ll be no problem to get it replaced.  Here’s a thing, though:  I found, in my Googling, that these things often quit working within a year or two.  So, if it quits again and I can’t get a replacement, I’ll be done with them.  I will rely on my old faithful pressure cookers that you set on a burner and monitor closely.  So many appliances these days don’t last very long, it’s disgusting.  Anyhow, I ended up just boiling my beef bones on the stove.  Cliff told me there would probably be a lot of meat on them, as soup bones generally do.  Once the meat was falling off the bones I put the pan in the refrigerator to chill overnight.  This morning I took all the meat off the bones, five cups worth, and froze the meat in one freezer bag and the broth in other bags.  As I was doing this, though, I realized I haven’t made noodles in a long time (I haven’t had breakfast yet, so I’m hungry); it might be good to make a practice batch before I make the noodles for Thanksgiving this week.  I usually cook them in chicken broth with plenty of chicken in it, but beef and noodles would be good.  So I kept some broth out and put some of the meat scraps in it.  That’s what’s for dinner today.  I still ended up with four two-cup bags of beef broth to put in the freezer.  

While digging through the Christmas ornaments this morning, I found an email from my daughter from 1999 that I had printed off.  As well as I can remember, this was when Rachel’s family was living in Carthage, the town my son-in-law considers his home town.  I think it was the year when Natalie, maybe three years old, called us on the phone asking us to come and see their Christmas tree.  On the spur of the moment we decided that if it was that important to our youngest grandchild that we see the tree she was so excited about, it wouldn’t hurt us to drive 100 miles.  Monica was probably five years old... I remember she was showing off her reading skills during that visit... and she was very unhappy when it was time for us to leave the next day.  I will let the email tell the rest of the story.

Neither my daughter or myself have these email addresses any more, so if you wanted to email either of us, you’d be out of luck using the ones here.

That’s it for my morning thoughts.

Yours truly, 

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

My exciting life

Ah yes, it’s so exciting to live in a body that insists on getting up at 3 AM most mornings.  It works so well because I really do love mornings, no matter what time they start, although I draw the line at 3 AM.  If I didn’t draw that line, I’d soon be getting up at midnight and calling it morning.  Every time I read an article that tells me I need at least eight hours of sleep each night, I holler at the article thusly:  “HOW DO YOU EXPECT ME TO MAKE THAT HAPPEN?’  If I sleep six hours I congratulate myself for “sleeping in”.  Thanks to my interactions online, I’ve learned this is such a common problem, especially amongst older women, that I have no right to complain.  Our numbers are legion.  I just wish I’d quit seeing articles predicting my early demise caused by my lack of sleep.

Throughout my years of blogging, I’ve gotten used to people telling me I have such an exciting life; they somehow get that impression from my blog!  Now I’ll admit I had some more interesting topics to address when I began blogging twenty years ago:  There was my horse-riding phase, with entire entries telling stories of various individual rides and the discoveries Blue and I made; our motorcycle phase, with journeys to Branson (complete with breakdowns) and Arkansas; oh, and before those, there was all that enthusiasm over our newly discovered antique-tractor-show phase.  Enthusiasm makes any topic interesting.  These days it’s difficult to write much because I don’t do a lot but read.  And yet, I met up with an acquaintance the other day who said something to the effect that I lead a more interesting life than she does.  This is someone who has traveled far-off places, and whose mother was born in England!  Oh, the stories I’ll bet she could tell.  

I really miss my enthusiasm these days, but it’s hard to find.  Oh, I enjoy lots of things about my life, but I don’t often feel the tingle of heart-felt anticipation.  The other morning I got the oddest feeling that what I needed was to visit an African-American church.  Now THERE’S some enthusiasm, and yes, it’s contagious.  The feeling passed, though, and I’ve spent most of my time since sitting in the recliner reading one book after another.  “Elinor Oliphant Is Completely Fine” was difficult to put down, so I read it pretty much straight through.  From that one I immediately started “The Woman In the Window”, which I read in even less time.  Now I’ve started “Somebody’s Daughter”, and can hardly make myself take a break from it, even to go to the bathroom.  Sometimes I take the iPad with me when I go because I am so caught up in the book.  Perhaps one reason I don’t sleep long at night is that I spend too many of my daylight hours sitting in a chair reading.  

 Cliff is dreading the next couple of days:  His first-ever colonoscopy is scheduled for Thursday, so tomorrow he won’t be eating anything more substantial than yellow Jello.  Because of that, I made biscuits this morning.  No gravy, just biscuits and butter and jelly.  I figured he may as well have something we both love on this day.  The instructions for yesterday and today were to eat light meals, and I’m pretty sure three biscuits don’t make up a “light” meal.  We’ll just hope everything comes out OK (that’s me, making a joke).

Thanksgiving is approaching in a little over a week.  We are going to be in the shop for the meal, since granddaughter Heather and I are combining our celebrations, which makes a larger group than either of our two houses can hold comfortably.  Thinking of the cooking that’s coming up has put me in (for me) a cleaning mode.  This gives me something useful to do with some of that morning time from 3 AM until Cliff gets up.  Yesterday I did some kitchen cleaning.  Today I took it a step further and cleaned the refrigerator.  I do wipe the shelves off sometimes, but I decided to actually take everything out and do the job right.  This often leads to unpleasant discoveries, but this time I only found two disasters:  some Cool-Whip with mold on it, and a single grape that had languished so long in the crisper drawer that it had turned into a raisin.  Hey, for me, that’s pretty good!  

As I cleaned the refrigerator I recalled a time from my childhood when my parents and I lived in Eagleville at the switchboard house.  I would have been 10 or 11 years old, I suppose, when Mother told me an older widow lady in town needed someone to help her clean her refrigerator.  Now I’d never cleaned a refrigerator in my life (or my own room, for that matter), but Mother said the lady would pay me, so I was willing.  I don’t recall the lady’s name, or even what she looked like except for the gray hair.  I know she didn’t go to church where we did or I would have known her.  I recall her sitting on a kitchen chair asking me to pass her all the contents of the fridge, then telling me what to do and where to clean after bringing me a pan of soapy water.  I thought it seemed like an awfully easy job and wondered why she didn’t do it herself; but this morning after having to sit flat on the floor to reach in the refrigerator, I began to understand.  Getting up and down is not easy these days!  I recall this lady called me back two or three times to do some small chores for her, but looking back, I think she was just lonely.  I’d do some trivial little chore, then she’d invite me into the living room where we’d play word games in a magazine for an hour or so.  She wanted somebody to talk to, I think.  I didn’t realize this at the time, though.

We have sunny skies with snow on the ground making it a bright, although cold, day.  I don’t have to go outside for much:  I take Gabe out on the leash as soon as he and I are up, and four or five more times throughout the day.  After Cliff gets up I feed the cats and calves their breakfast.  I wouldn’t have to leash Gabe, but he gets so excited to see a cat he runs to chase them.  Then I have to deal with cajoling him back to the house.  Things are frozen now, but when the ground is exposed, he has a way of finding nasty things to eat that make him sick... and he gets so dirty running around.  

I believe that covers it for today.  I hope all my readers have a peaceful day.  Or an exciting day:  Your choice!

Until next time, 

Friday, November 09, 2018


This calf was standing by the place where I feed them.  His buddy was still lying down in their shelter, which proves even cows sometimes like to stay in bed a little longer when it’s cold outside.

I realize winter doesn’t officially arrive until the 21st of next month, but it feels as though it’s upon us.  It’s cold, and there’s about an inch of wet snow on the ground.  The high today will be 35, so the snow won’t be here long.  I’ve also settled in to my wintertime reading pattern, which means I’m going through books pretty fast.  I had put the digital book “Holy Ghost”, a Virgil Flowers book by John Sandford, on hold a couple months ago.  When I got an email telling me the book had been checked out to me, I was ecstatic... until I realized I unwittingly had checked out the audiobook version.  For some strange reason, I fall asleep listening to audiobooks.  Besides, since I have no headphones, I’d have to listen to it when I’m in the house alone.  That doesn’t happen often in winter.  Cliff is settled in reading books too.  Anyway, it would be no use trying, because I WOULD fall asleep, then wake to find I’ve slept through two chapters.  I hate when that happens.  

A local friend called Wednesday evening to invite me to the “Ladies’ Day” at St. Luke’s.  I have attended this many times in the past, thanks to Diane’s reminding me.  She offered to pick me up as usual, but I really didn’t want to get there too early:  The ladies quilt on Thursdays, and I’m no good at anything like that.  Plus, I’m not used to having conversations with people these days, other than family.  At one point Cliff asked when I wanted him to take me and I said, “I haven’t decided if I’m going yet.”  He asked me why I wouldn’t go; he just doesn’t understand how difficult it is for me to get in a group and try to converse with people I don’t know that well.  But I did it!  As far as I know, I didn’t even accidentally insult anyone, although of course there were no family members there to let me know if I had.  All joking aside, I enjoyed myself.  And I appreciate my friend Diane, who is one of the few people not afraid to invite me to a public gathering with her.  There was a good meal to enjoy, and a storyteller, who mentioned that we are all story-tellers.  That, of course, made me think about my blog.  When you have nobody around you who cares about your stories, just start a blog and blather away!  The people who enjoy it will read it.  Those who aren’t interested won’t.  Having a blog is a great way to thin the crowd so nobody has to be bored.  I have relatives who seldom read my drivel, and total strangers who don’t miss a single entry.  Isn’t life grand?   

Cliff dropped me off at the church, which is only a little over a mile from here; and he picked me up afterward.  He said Gabe was upset that I wasn’t here for those two or three hours, and kept searching for me, looking out the window.  It’s unusual for me to be gone without Cliff, since I don’t drive, so naturally Gabe was worried.  

I have an Internet friend in Washington (the state).  She is a retired schoolteacher, and has a blog I enjoy.  One thing that keeps me going back to her blog is the list of books she’s read, on the right-had side of her blog page.  I pick most of my reading material from her list!  I just finished “Eleanor Oliphant is  Completely Fine” in two days.  Funny thing is, I avoid books written by British authors because the locations are unfamiliar to me and they sometimes use different words for things.  But this was one I couldn’t put down.  I even felt a lot of the author’s pain.  Not because I had an abusive childhood as she did, but because during the more than three years I lived alone, I shut myself in my apartment and read books.  It was just me, my books, and the music I listened to then, which was Bob Dylan, Peter, Paul, and Mary, and the Kingston Trio.  Trust me, “Eleanor Oliphant” is a good book.  I’m now starting another book my teacher friend recommended:  “The Woman in the Window”.  

I’m late feeding my three felines, so I’ll be putting on my Muck boots and heading for the barn.

Yours truly, Donna

PS: I used an app on the iPad to compose this entry, and it didn't allow me to make the picture smaller.  Then I came to the computer, but it still won't allow it.  It will soon float down the page as I make other blog entries and won't be so intrusive.  And just as I typed this, I found out there WAS a way to make pictures smaller using the app.  So I’ve learned something today.

Sunday, November 04, 2018

Mice in the house

First of all, let me say this is not an unusual situation for us.  We’ve always lived in old houses or trailer houses, so mice are going to come in when the weather starts getting colder.  People are told to seal up the holes, but very often you can’t find where they’re coming in.  In the case of this trailer house, we know where at least a couple of their entry-ways are, but there is honestly no way to seal them.  Just trust me on this.  A squirrel could get in if he tried.  When I see evidence of mice, I put out poison and wait for the stench of death.  Sometimes I can find the bodies, sometimes not, but the smell eventually goes away.  

I don’t scream, faint, or jump on chairs if I see a mouse, although if they surprise me, I’ll jump, as one does at anything moving when she isn’t expecting it.  It does rather turn my stomach to know they’re here, though, because they will crawl on everything they can and help themselves, defecating as they go.  Just thinking about that, or finding the evidence, turns my stomach.  

The rodents can’t get into most of my cabinets or onto the kitchen counters or table.  Thank God for that!  And even in the mouse-proof cabinets, I keep food such as flour, sugar, cereal, and so forth tightly sealed... more to prevent meal-worms and weevils than mice.  Oh yes, in the distant past I’ve had problems with meal-worms and weevils, too.  You can bring them home from the store, not knowing they are in the cake mix you just bought.  They they multiply and move from one product to another until you have to throw away everything in the cabinets; thus, the tightly sealed containers.  I grew up poor, in old, drafty houses.  My mother fought these kinds of problems with a passion.  If she saw one cockroach in the closet, she had everything pulled out of there in a minutes’ time, looking for them with her Stanley Sure-Kill in hand.  One Wednesday night she sprayed that stuff all over the house just before we left for church.  When we returned, my parakeet was dead.  

It’s harder for me to fight mouse problems these days.  For one thing, mouse poisons aren’t as effective as they used to be.  The old-fashioned mouse traps that used to be strong enough to break a finger aren’t much good either.  Killing the mice is also a problem because I have a dog, so we can’t put poisons out where he might find it.  As I’ve said before, Gabe eats everything!  But Cliff and I saw two different mice this morning, which means Lord-only-knows how many are in here.  So I spent quite a bit of time checking all areas for evidence of mice, cleaning here and there in corners that don’t get much traffic, and putting out poison that I hope and pray works.  It always has before.

This is the sort of thing most people would be too ashamed to blog about.  Don’t worry, the food I cook is clean, thanks to the many mouse-proof cabinets and counters.  I recall Charles Gusewelle writing in his column about the mice invading his hunting cabin near Appleton City every year.  He didn’t like to kill them, as I remember, although he was an avid hunter of various kinds of wildlife.  

I hope this entry doesn’t shock or sicken anybody.  It’s what I have on my mind at present.  You see, I grew up poor.  Although I truly don’t consider myself poor now, we live pretty much as if we are.  We’ve never cared about fancy new houses.  Our priorities were always tractors, gardens, livestock, and the outdoors in general, and it’s expensive enough to live in the country without trying to keep up with the Joneses.  Cliff says I insult people when they want to show me around inside their nice homes, because my lack of interest is evident.  So just for his sake, I try to act as if I’m impressed these days.  It’s a house, for Pete’s sake!  I’m more interested in whether they have decent internet.  

Yours sincerely, 
      Donna the mouse-hater

Friday, November 02, 2018

Why I don’t show Cliff his doctor bills

We got a bill in the mail yesterday from urology doctor.  I usually deal with doctor bills myself, because Cliff is offended by them; I just pay them and get it over with.  However, since Cliff has been getting some mail about how to prepare for a colonoscopy, I tossed this bill down by his usual sitting spot without thinking.  When he finally got around to opening it, he exploded:  “What’s this about!?!  I didn’t get anything done that would cost over $7,000.  All I’ve done in this guy’s office is get my hormone shot.  If I have to pay that much, I’m not getting any more.”

“Oh yes you are,” I said.  

Right then and there I knew I’d messed up.  “Cliff, it’s probably legit.  If it makes you feel better, call them tomorrow and ask about it.  But you may as well just let me pay it, because you have no idea how expensive medical costs can be.”  

He called this morning.  Sure enough, that’s how much it costs for his shot.  Well, not really.  That $7,000 is adjusted to $150 for our part, which I’ve never understood.  Oh well.  They may be getting paid a little at a time, because winters are difficult, what with the propane we’re going to be buying before long.  But I’m sure if we make it through December, we’ll be fine, to quote Merle Haggard.

Here’s a free association thing that played with my mind today, probably because I’m re-reading a Lucas Davenport book:  It’s the word Davenport that stuck with me today and planted me back smack-dab in the middle of my Iowa childhood.  When I was small, my mom called our couch a davenport.  That’s the only way I ever heard the word used until I was perhaps four or five, maybe longer.  Because we lived in Iowa, though, I began hearing people mention a town called Davenport.  Every time someone said the name of the city, I thought what a strange thing, to name a town after a piece of furniture.  

I think by the time we moved to Missouri when I was in the third or fourth grade, I had started calling them a couch... you see, my mom also sometimes called the same piece of furniture a “studio couch”, which she later told me I mispronounced “Skudeeay couch” as a toddler.  I later learned such a piece of furniture was also called a sofa, but I’ve never used that term.

Yes, this is what my mind does.  Just say one wrong word, it’ll spark a memory and I’ll puzzle over it the rest of the day.  And then my readers are subjected to such nonsense.  Keep following my blog, folks.  When dementia sets in, it’ll REALLY get interesting.

My Iowa memories are some of the happiest.  We knew all the neighbors.  My parents took their turn at having card parties back when Canasta was popular, and there were always plenty of refreshments that made it a good time for me.  Throughout my whole childhood I never had a babysitter, so I went everyplace my parents went.  Sometimes the neighbors would get together and perform a play down at the Methodist church.  The plays were always humorous, right up my alley.  I loved seeing my mother as a comedy actress.  Sometimes as an added attraction, my sister’s mother-in-law, who lived down the road from us, would do a jig dance for everybody, too.  Christmas programs were held at the Methodist church, too.  Since Church of Christ didn’t celebrate Christmas as a holiday (because it wasn’t mentioned in the Bible), I enjoyed the programs immensely, as well as the fruits, nuts, and candy that were handed out.  Not that I lacked for fruits, nuts, and candy at home.  We had plenty of Christmas at home!

If a telephone line was crossed or down, I’d ride with Daddy to watch him fix it with a special pole made for that purpose.  See, if two lines got crossed, it really mixed people up, and I’m not sure whether you could even call anyone or not.  If my sister were closer, she’d probably remember the workings of the telephone business; she used to help out at the switchboard.  Being 16 years older than I, she recalls many names and places I don’t remember.  

Oh, and we had the best Fourth of July displays down in front of Hampell’s store.  Everybody bought a few fireworks, we pooled them, and had a blast.  I loved Hampell’s store.  As you walked inside, there were stacks of various kinds of feed piled up high.  I loved to climb up on top of that mountain of feed sacks and just watch the goings-on in the store.  This was when feed sacks were pretty cotton prints.  Most of my clothes were made out of those sacks.  One time I asked Mother if she could make me some matching panties, which she did.  They weren’t comfortable, though.  Bad idea.  

We’ve getting a little rain, very little, this morning.  Cliff and the grandson have gone to Lowes for something they need for a project they’ve been working on.  I’ll be fixing dinner when they return.  I’m going to make hash using some leftover beef roast and potatoes.

We took Gabe to the groomer yesterday.  He was very excited to arrive, even trying to push the door open himself.  He didn’t care at all that we were leaving him.  I love the fact that he likes it there.  He’s over his upset stomach, apparently, for which I’m thankful.

Yours truly, Donna