Tuesday, January 29, 2019

A nice winter walk, with a couple of bonus sightings

On the morning news I heard the high temperature today would be 20°.  I'd been out with Gabe earlier, so I knew there wasn't much wind (it's picked up since then).  Tomorrow the high is forecast to be 5°, so I figured I'd better take Gabe to the pasture today.  I knew, with my heavy, long coat, that I wouldn't get too cold.  I used to wonder about Gabe; but he is on the run all the time we're out there, and is actually panting once we've been out for five minutes, as you will see in the following video.  We scared up a nice, big deer back by the pond, and later on, a turkey flew out of a tree and surprised me.  Gabe never saw it; he was focused on sniffing everything on the ground.  I love those little bonuses from Mother Nature. 


It's already five degrees warmer than they forecast.  I hope that happens tomorrow, because we can use it!

There is something about winter that makes me crave oranges and grapefruits.  I absolutely can't get enough of them.  They are so very high-priced these days, and yet if I figure out the cost per fruit, it's no more than a candy bar.  So I buy them and eat one a day.  Cliff isn't supposed to eat grapefruits (lipitor), and he says it's too much trouble to peel oranges.  To be honest, I don't think either of the fruits are near the top of a list of fruits he likes.  So I get all of them.  The problem with buying grapefruits is that for many years, my sister went to Texas for the winter, and she had a grapefruit tree in her back yard there.  When she came back to Kansas City in the spring, she'd bring bushels of them home with her and give lots of them to me.  They were so much sweeter and better than anything in the store, and I was likely to eat three or four in a day.  

Here's a thing that amazes me about citrus fruits:  You can leave them on the tree for weeks or months, and they don't rot!  Once apples, pears, and peaches are ripe, they need to be picked soon or they'll fall to the ground where they ruin.  My sister would bag up her excess grapefruits in March, after she'd been eating them off the tree since January, and they were sweeter than the sweetest orange you've ever tasted.  Oranges these days aren't as sweet as they once were, either.  The same is true with apples.  I think it's because when scientists began developing fruit that would keep longer and travel better, the taste of some things suffered.  Thank goodness, so far peaches are as good as they ever were.  That is, if you can get them from an orchard rather than a super market.

We have beef stew left over from yesterday, so I don't have to do anything but heat it up.  Because we had bacon and eggs for breakfast, I told Cliff we're delaying dinner until 1 o'clock.  I won't be hungry until then, I'm sure, and since I'm the cook, we'll go by my appetite.

We hauled the steers to the butcher yesterday.  I must say it's a rather hollow feeling to have no cows, and no plans to ever have any more.  This is pretty silly, but I keep thinking it would be nice to buy a cheap little Jersey bull calf, have Cliff make it a steer, and keep it just as a pet.  It wouldn't have any sex drive to make it run away from home, and if I raised it alone, it would settle for human companionship and wouldn't be looking for a herd of cows to run with.  That's about the only possible way I can see for me to keep a cow around.  And I'm pretty sure I know what Cliff would say about that, although I can guarantee you if it was something I felt I really wanted, he'd see that I got it... just so I don't want a goat.  I'm afraid we'd have some words about that subject.  

I just finished reading "Educated" by Tara Westover.  Best book I've read in a long, long time, and I've read a lot of good ones lately.  If you'd like to see what Bill Gates has to say about the book, click HERE.  All I have to say is this:  read it, even if you normally never read anything but a cookbook.  It's all true, except for the names being changed.  It's thrilling, it's sad, it's amazing.  It shows how much strength a person can really have.  

Keep warm, and remember, spring WILL come again.

Friday, January 25, 2019

I've been given another day

This day is a little different for me.  Cliff, his sister, and her son went to visit Aunt Gertrude again, and I'm here at home with my dog.  These days it feels very strange to be alone in the house because it's such a rare occurrence.  Of course I have three or four hours to myself most mornings, but I always know Cliff is in the bedroom (and alive, because I check on that first thing).  But most of our days are spent with each of us on a computer or reading device of some kind.  We read a lot in winter.  We're not always saying a lot, but we're in the same room.  I plan a day around the noon meal, which is about the most exciting thing that happens.  This is a good thing, I suppose, because there are some things that cause excitement which I want no part of...  for example, tornadoes, heart failure, slips on the ice, and cows getting out.  

Just hang on for the ride and let's see in which direction my mind wanders today.

Speaking of cows, the two Holstein steers are only here until Monday evening, when we'll take them down the road to the butcher.  I imagine there won't be any more bovines on the place, unless someday the grandson decides to have cows.  Oh, I suppose if we run out of beef in the next three years we could buy a calf to raise, but I seriously doubt it.  So my chores, after next Monday, will consist of walking Gabe a few times daily and feeding the three cats twice a day.  Oh, and checking in on Apollo, the grandson's wife's great Dane, a couple of times on the days Heather works.  Sometimes I bring him over to play with Gabe for a little while.  Heather only works three days a week, never the same days, sometimes on weekends.  So tending to Apollo three times a week isn't much of a chore, especially since I rather enjoy doing it. 

Oh, the cats:  Most of the time I buy Kit and Kaboodle or some similar brand for them.  It's relatively cheap; I don't research what is best for cats, the way I do with Gabe's dog food.  They are barn cats; a lot of things can happen to barn cats that could shorten their lives, and I can't see spending a lot on their food.  I feed them twice a day.  They each need a dish, since Mama Kitty thinks it's vulgar to share a dish with another cat.  Sometimes only one or two of the cats have been showing up at feeding time, but I'll see the tardy one later, heading to the barn to eat.  Last time we were at Costco, I decided to try their Kirkland cat food.  When I tore the bag open at home, the stuff looked unremarkable... no cute little shapes and colors, like some brands.  But when I served some of it up to see how they'd like it.  I swear, you'd have thought those cats hadn't eaten for a week!  All three of them were chowing down as though they were eating hamburger!  Ever since then, all three cats are waiting for me at the barn when I go out to feed them twice a day; even her majesty, fat Mrs. Mama Kitty. 

On another subject, my Amazon Echo, Alexa, died last week, victim of a power surge.  It was plugged in next to our TV, so I'm glad it was only Alexa who died.  I'd had her since July, 2015, so she had a good run.  I have an Echo Tap, which works like Alexa except it isn't voice activated and it doesn't have to be plugged in all the time.  It's great for carrying from room to room or taking outside in the yard.  Cliff, me, and Cora used to go outside and march to John Phillips Sousa tunes playing from the Tap, which I had hooked to a belt-loop.  

A Facebook friend offered to give me his old Echo, since he'd bought a new model, but I told him I wanted the latest one, which I heard has even better sound quality than the original.  Now that I've had it a few days, I can say it does, especially on the bass notes.  And it only cost $79, less than I paid for my original one.  We use Echo for music more than anything else, although I do always keep my grocery list on there, transcribing it to paper when we're ready to go shopping.  I also use it often to find out if certain famous people are dead or alive, or how old they are.

I think Cliff would admit he enjoys Alexa too, mostly for the music.  It's just the neatest thing to think of a song you haven't heard in years and tell her to play it.  In the past, Cliff been hesitant to talk to her himself.  He's more likely to say to me, "Tell that thing to play (naming a song)" and I do.  But the other night he got on a roll, having her play one song after another.  All of them were old country songs, of course, because that's what we like.  Once in awhile he'd get a title wrong and I'd have to give her the right title, but for the most part, he was commanding her very well for an hour or longer, one song after another.  He finally went too far, though, when he told her to play "Wolverton Mountain".  I hate that song!  I can't believe he likes it.  I expressed my displeasure, so he asked me, "What's your favorite song?"

That required some thought, because I love lots of songs.  In my head I filtered out the old hymns I love, because I was pretty sure he was after pure country songs.  What I finally came up with was "Coat of Many Colors" by Dolly Parton.  You know, even if you love a song, familiarity with it will eventually get it to the point that you don't pay attention when it plays.  But the minute I hear the lead-in guitar strumming at the beginning of that song, I melt.  I suppose I can relate to it in part because my family wasn't prosperous, and because my mom sewed all my clothes when I was small, many of them made from pretty, cotton, brightly-colored chicken-feed sacks.        

I wish my readers a wonderful day.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Tiny pieces of the history of Wellington, Missouri

Years ago a group of local ladies were selling a book about the history of our town, in a booth at the Wellington Fair.  I remember paying more than I should have, since times were lean at the Wood house then.  But it has some fascinating stories.  I hadn't picked it up in years except to move it around, but today I got it out, looked at a few pages, and thought it might make an interesting blog entry.  

Here's the dedication:  "We are extremely grateful to Mr. C.M. Bowring and his father Dr. Bowring who felt a great love for the people of Wellington.  To them we are thankful for setting down these scraps of history of the lives of people who touched them.  Their concern and interest in the events and residents of this picturesque river town have made it possible for us, nearly a century later, to enjoy a new insight into a period of history all but forgotten."
Dr. Bowring, an early day physician, came to the area in 1832.  His son compiled the scraps of information into the form of a diary in 1898.

And now, on to stories that interested me:

During this year Rev. John Warder erected and put in operation a still house on the left bank of the Big Sni creek, downstream from the church he built.  

Baker Matin also built a still house on the Tan Yard Branch very nearly south of where the German Church now stands.  (obviously people in the area were VERY thirsty!)

Dr. Bowring first landed in Wellington, off the steamboat Globe, after a long and tedious journey, it having required 21 days to make the trip from the city of St. Louis to Jefferson City, though the remainder of the passage was completed in a little better time proportionately.  As you can see by the following picture, Wellington was right on the bank of the Missouri River at the time; then the river changed course.  So much for arriving in Wellington on a steamboat!  The river changed course in 1915; you can read about that HERE.

1837 The former name of Tyro being discarded, the town becomes Wellington.

May 20, the first baby is born in Wellington, a girl.  Her father was a chair-maker.
On one June Sunday, Uncle Ike, an old slave belonging to Colonel James Lauderdale, preached the first sermon ever delivered in Wellington.

Jacob Wolf, while mounting his horse to go hunting for rabbits, accidentally shot himself in the knee of his left leg, inflicting a woulnd from which he subsequently died.  (No antibiotics in those times)

The first schoolhouse was erected.

1845... here's a longer story, which I will present as it's written in the book.
May 15:  James A. Moorman after coming to Wellilngton and contracting the sale of his farm to George W. Neal returned to his home, accompanied by Neal who had made partial payment of the purchase money and in doing so revealed that he still had funds on his person, enticed Neal into the woods on the pretext of looking over the land while hunting squirrels, shot him (Neal) in the back of the head with a rifle inflicting a wound that caused instant death, and buried his body in the branch just east of the Harris schoolhouse.  Moorman was indicted by the grand jury 11/5/46.  Moorman having during the time been arrested near the Iowa state line found an opportunity and, snatching a pistol from the coat pocket of James Merriman, shot and instantly killed himself in the town of Kingston, Missouri while being brought back for his trial.

Charles E. Cundiff died in Waco, Texas.  He had enlisted in the armies of the United States then at war with Mexico.
September 25:  The daughter of Wm. Bowring died of fever, aged six years.

The county court granted Benjamin Emison license to establish a ferry crossing on the Missouri River at Wellington.

July:  Cholera broke out in Wellington, being brought and spread by a man named Patterson.  Mrs. A.N. Duck died July 15 and about the same date a male slave belonging to Mr. Alex Sheer died.  Many others had attacks but recovered.  

April 12:  Big circus in town during which Thomas somebody and some guy with the last name Stigall had a great fight in which Stigall received injuries from which he never fully recovered and he finally died.

A Mr. White bought a property and commenced to remove the old log house, known for a long time as "Morality Hall", owing to the many stories in circulation in regard to the immoral conduct of many of the intemperate frequenters of the place.  (Obviously the town wasn't ready for two stills.)

June 15:  Thomas M. Cobb, Dr. Fulkerson, Col. Elliot were enroute from Lexington to Little Blue to join the Confederate forces, and stopped to have breakfast at the old Wellington Hotel.
September 18-19:  Most of the miserable days were spent by the people of Wellington in silent awe listening to the sound of carnage and death in the city of Lexington where General Sterling Price's Army was assaulting the entrenched Federal forces under Col. Mulligan.  The townsfolk awaited with ill-concealed impatience the meager news brought by those coming and going who were taking active part in the fray, or others who came and went as spectators only.

June 24:  Edwin Bowring dies of typhoid fever at Tupelo, Mississippi, while in General Price's army.  He had been very sick, but was recovering when only a day or two before his demise, hearing that Mr. Thomas Johnson was coming home, he walked a mile and a half and back to see and send a message to his mother by Mr. Johnson.  He took a relapse and died.

As you may have noticed, folks who lived here had people in both sides of the war.  

Not everything in the book is that interesting.  There are lots of mentions of property changing hands, and births and deaths and weddings and funerals.  But I really enjoy seeing the stories of things that happened, telling how things were back then.  


Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Death is only an old door in a garden wall

Cliff and I are now in the season of our lives where we realize a natural death could surely happen at any time for either of us.  I have no serious medical issues so far, and Cliff's doing well too; but when I wake up at 3 AM, I listen for his breathing, and if he sleeps past 7:30 AM, I sneak in once again to check on him.  He does the same with me in the late night when he comes to bed.

Yesterday we were in the car going to do some shopping, talking and watching the world go past our windows.  "Cliff," I said, "I want to tell you something.  If you wake up one morning and find I'm dead, I want you to imagine you can hear me telling you, "It's OK, Cliff.  It's going to be all right.  It's all going to be OK."

He hesitated, and then said, "All right."  Then followed with this:  "It seems awful to think that one of us is probably going to find the other one dead."  

"Well, I guess we could have a deliberate car wreck, but I'm afraid one or both of us would survive in a condition that would be worse than death."

He agreed.  

I'm reading "Population 485" by Michael Perry, in which he reminisces about his volunteer service as a firefighter and EMT.  Today I read the following words, and thought how appropriate it is that we were just talking about this yesterday.  "As an EMT, you are at war with death.  Collateral damage is inevitable.  And sometimes, in the middle of the battle, you wonder why we fight at all.  On a sweet spring morning, I am struggling to push a Combitube down the throat of an elderly woman when I glance up to see her husband, silent and teary-eyed in the corner, and I wish we hadn't been called at all.  I wish he had simply put the phone down and held her hand as she died.  Instead we push back the little wooden table where their coffee cups still rest, and we tear at her clothes, poke and prod her, shock her weary heart, strap her to a plastic board and scream away, and she will die anyway.  The first time you press on the chest of an elderly person, the ribs separate from the sternum, popping like a string of soggy firecrackers.  There are times when rescue is nothing more than organized physical assault.  Sometimes I wish we would just leave people be, let them slip quietly over the vale.  Sometimes life is not ours to save."

I read this passage to Cliff, and he said.  "Okay, so if I find you laying in bed like Phil found Faye a while back, and I think you're dead, I shouldn't call anybody?"

Well, he got me there.  See, one night his brother Phil stayed up a couple of hours after his wife went to bed.  When he went upstairs, she wasn't breathing and he couldn't feel a pulse.  He called his kids and told them their mom was dead.  When the EMTs arrived, they had trouble finding a pulse.  It was weak and slow, but they did find one.  She spent a few days in the hospital, but she's fine now.  I'm still pondering on this dilemma.  How would one know?  

I can imagine a person getting to the point where the pain is unbearable and the body is almost incapacitated, telling her partner, "If a time comes when you think I'm dying, don't let people try to make me live any longer.  I'm tired."  That scenario is one I can imagine.  But hey, I'm not ready yet!

Ah, the discussions people can have once they look the Grim Reaper in the face and say to him, "Whenever you're ready."

Death Is A Door - Nancy Byrd Turner

Death is only an old door
Set in a garden wall
On gentle hinges it gives, at dusk
When the thrushes call.
Along the lintel are green leaves
Beyond the light lies still;
Very willing and weary feet
Go over that sill.
There is nothing to trouble any heart;
Nothing to hurt at all.
Death is only a quiet door.
In an old wall.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Suspense and horror

That sort of describes our feelings by the end of the Chiefs playoff game.  I’m not even sure anybody over sixty years old should have been watching it, at least those of us living in the Kansas City area who have fallen in love with our football team this year.  We were behind, we surged ahead, the game went into overtime, and thanks to the toss of a coin, we lost.  Neither Cliff nor I slept well after we went to bed that night; too much excitement, I guess.  

So you wouldn’t think we would have chosen to watch a movie that sent us on the same sort of roller-coaster the day after the game.  

Several days ago the grandson came over to visit.  Cliff and I had been watching an old episode of Gunsmoke, which led the two of us on to a discussion of Dennis Weaver and his fake limp.  He was type-cast in that show, with his hillbillly drawl and phony limp.  This conversation wasn’t something Arick would have been interested in, so he was fiddling with his cell phone with no input into our discussion.  Cliff mentioned that Weaver went on to do other things, which led to his recalling a movie he and I watched on TV during the nine months we lived at Coffey, Missouri, in 1974.  We had gotten our first color TV, and were looking for something to watch one evening when we came upon a movie that kept us on the edge of our seats all the way through, so much so that we’ve never forgotten it.  Dennis Weaver was the star.  The entire movie was about a truck trying to kill a guy.  “I’d like to see that again,” I said.  “We only saw it that one time.  It was scary!  I’d look it up, but I don’t know what the name of the movie was.”

Arick, with phone in hand, put “Dennis Weaver” and “truck” into a search and came up with the answer:  Duel.  

I looked on Netflix and Prime TV, but didn’t find it.  I didn’t try YouTube, which often has those old movies you can’t find anywhere else.  I don’t like the way YouTube keeps trying to force me to get a paid account.  Instead, I checked Amazon looking for it on DVD, and found it for under $10.  I decided it would be worth that much even if we only watched it once.  I ordered it immediately.

Yesterday evening we decided to watch it.  I told Cliff, “I’ll bet after all this time it will just be really corny and not that scary.  That’s what happens with most of the old shows and movies we watch from the 70’s.”

Oh my goodness!  It was like something Hitchcock would have done, and had our hearts pounding like crazy.  We thoroughly enjoyed it.  But there’s a bonus:  This DVD was a collector’s edition, since it was the first movie Steven Spielberg ever directed.  So it included quite a lengthy little spiel where Spielberg told how and why he ended up doing it, how he staged the scenes and why, and so forth.  That was more fascinating than the movie itself.  There was also an interview with the guy who wrote the original short story for Playboy magazine:  he tells how he came up with the story line (on the day of Kennedy’s death) which is almost as interesting as Spielberg’s explaination of how he directed the movie for ABC’s “movie of the week”.  

And that’s about the best $10 I’ve spent lately.   You will find the trailer for the movie HERE.

Have a great day.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

People from the past

Such exciting blog entries I have these days.  Feel free to move along, because I’m just wool-gathering.

What’s going on around here?  Well, I cooked a whole chicken in the instant pot yesterday for the first time.  The five-pound chicken cost me almost five bucks, and the Instant Pot did it justice; it was delicious.  For those who’ve never used an Instant Pot, that name can be pretty deceiving.  The chicken cooks under pressure for thirty minutes, but it takes at least twenty minutes to build up the pressure, and then you don’t open the lid and take the chicken out until twenty to thirty minutes after it gets done cooking.  Don’t get me wrong, I like it, but it surely isn’t as “instant” as my old, “not-so-safe” pressure cooker.  Also, I’m used to those Costco cooked chickens, which give us at least three meals every time:  When we bring one home, we just eat some chicken with a baked potato and a vegetable.  Next day I make one of the several recipes I have that call for cooked chicken, then we usually have chicken salad sandwiches from what is left.  Today, from yesterday’s left-over chicken, I made a healthy version of jambalaya that we really like.  However, there isn’t enough of this scrawny chicken to make much of anything else.  OK, there’s about half a breast that I might grind to make a couple chicken salad sandwiches (with the addition of two boiled eggs), but that’s it.  Costco must start out with a six-pound bird.

Lately I’ve been going down lots of rabbit-holes on Facebook.  I’ll be looking at my status and perhaps see a surname that reminds me of somebody from the past with the same last name, and I’ll think, “I wonder if she’s on Facebook...”  Then the search is on.  If I chance to find good old so-and-so, that I might be reminded of that person’s sibling, so I search for that one.  Sometimes if I don’t find them on Facebook I just type a name in the browser, and I may find them that way.  I like it when I find them on Facebook, though, because even though most people have their privacy set to “friends only”, any picture they’ve used as a profile picture can be seen by everybody.  So I get to see how they look after all this time.  

Here’s an example of my facebook searching:  I worked for a now-defunct mail-order company, National Bellas Hess, after I graduated high school.  For two or three years I worked in the yard-goods section.  Customers would order yards of fabric by the yard, and three other ladies and I would pull down bolts of material and cut the required amount of cloth for each order.  This was my first full-time job, and evidently, those ladies, all older than I, must have made a big impression on me.  I remember so much about each of them.  They were Lois Hedrick, Josephine Romig, and Edna Thomas.  Lois was from the Lake of the Ozark area; she had a daughter “down home” living with her mom, and she was living with her uncle in the city.  She was worldly-wise, and wouldn’t  put up with of my oftentimes childish, self-centered ways.  One time my feelings had been hurt by someone... it may have been her... and tears began falling.  She noticed this, and rather than sympathizing, she said, “Oh, THAT’S all we need:  a damn cry-baby.”  That may sound cruel, but that has stuck with me all my life and kept me, many times, from crying over something that really wasn’t important.  I’ve often wondered whether Lois is still living.  She wasn’t so much older than me.  She smoked a lot of Winston cigarettes, though, so who knows.  There’s another thing I recall about her.  She was a fast worker, and would get her tickets filled a good fifteen minutes before I finished mine.  That’s when she’d take her frequent cigarette breaks:  She’d pick up her pack of smokes, singing “Winston tastes good like a (clap clap) cigarette should” as she headed to the rest room.

Josephine had a great sense of humor, sometimes embarrassing me.  She was a white-haired lady whose husband Otto worked as a stock-man there.  She had a son, Craig, who was her pride and joy.  She talked about his accomplishements a lot.  She thought farting was the most hilarious thing, the louder the better.  However, one time she was showing off her flatulence, and the boss turned and walked down the aisle where she was working just as she “cut the cheese”.  Turns out it was a really aromatic fart.  It was great to see Josephine so embarrassed, since she was always making me blush.  I found Craig on Facebook, and sent him a private message to tell him how proud his mother had been of him when he was a kid.  Unfortunately, he had his settings fixed so he didn’t even see my message.  I didn’t want to “friend” him, so that’s as far as that went.  I poked through his pictures that were public, though, and found one of his mom.  She still looked the same, only older.  I’ll try to get on the big computer later and add the picture.  
That's Josephine, and her son with her.
Edna, the other woman I worked with, was a sensible, no-nonsense lady, the kind of person you knew you could count on.  I corresponded with her a few times, years ago.  If she’s still alive, she’d likely be in her nineties, as would Josephine.  

The other day I noticed somebody on Facebook with the last name Hicks, which made me wonder about a family from my youth.  My dad had a boss named Chester Hicks.  When Alton box moved to Blue Springs and my parents moved to be close to Daddy’s job, Mother would go pick up the Hicks kids on Sundays and take them to church.  Those three boys were so sweet and well-behaved, I’ll never forget them.  They are all on Facebook.  Why on earth do I spend all this time hunting them up?  I don’t know.

These are only examples:  I’ve looked up preachers from my childhood (and their children) to find out what they’re doing now (most of the preachers are dead, but their children can sometimes be found).  I’ve looked up my old boy friend and his wife, who have very little web presence at all.  None on Facebook, and hardly at all on the World Wide Web.  The only way I found them was by remembering his older brother’s name and typing that in the search.  I found the brother’s obituary, so of course all the relatives and their wives were mentioned.  Do I want to get together with the old boy friend?  No way!  It’s just my nosy nature, wondering what people from the past are doing and where they are.  I guess I’m a stalker at heart.

There you have it:  The workings of my mind on slow-moving winter days.  I’m hoping I cause no problem for the people whose full names I’ve used, but I did that in case someone does an Internet search for any of them some day that leads them here, because then somebody will know I have good memories of my association with them.

Peace.  Oh, and GO CHIEFS!

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Bits and pieces of my life

After our gigantic snowfall last weekend that cut off power to many folks (a fate from which we were spared), there is now a grim forecast for the coming weekend... this time with bitter temperatures.  Cliff and I have been hunkered down for days, reading, watching TV, and eating too much.  Apparently today is going to be the best day to get out on the roads before the coming storm, so we shall venture forth.  The last of our milk has spoiled, and yes, we also need bread.  Not to mention sugar, flour, etc.  It hasn’t been bitterly cold, but the temperatures have hovered near enough to freezing so there’s still considerable snow on the ground.  The main problem for us is the sidewalks and porch/decks, which we cleaned off days ago; but at night the moisture on them refreezes, creating a black ice for us to walk on when we go outside.  After a certain age, one becomes very cautious in conditions that could cause a fall.  So far we’ve survived without incident.  I refuse to use salt to melt ice, even for my own safety.  Salt ruins sidewalks.  

I’m no football fan, but I’m always happy when the Kansas City Chiefs do well, and this has been a banner year.  This weekend will decide whether they go to the super bowl.  I don’t actually watch the games with Cliff, but I’m right there in the living room, reading and glancing at the TV to see how things are going.  The team has done so well, I even bought myself a shirt celebrating the season because I saw a picture of Patrick Mahones holding it up for viewing.  I wore it last weekend, but it’s a short-sleeved T-shirt.  We keep the house at 70 degrees and I’m used to wearing sweat shirts in winter... so I froze, but by George, I wore my Chiefs shirt anyhow (while covering up with a blanket).

Oh my goodness, the books we’ve read.  Cliff has been sticking to non-fiction lately, learning all about the political history of our country.  I am reading about three different books at once.  If I need a break from one, I go to another, then back.  It’s not something I usually do, but it seems to work for me at present.  Recently I was waiting for library books I’ve put on hold to get to me, but I needed something to read while I was waiting.  I remembered my nephew’s wife recommending “Memory Man” to Cliff, found it available, and checked it out.  When I was half-way through the book, I realized I’d read it before.  Up until that point, nothing even seemed familiar to me!  The book was released in 2015, so it couldn’t have been too long ago I read it.  The trouble is, I don’t even remember how it ends.  I tried going to the end of the book to see if that would prod my memory, but alas!  I shall be forced to continue.  Maybe I got bored with it and never finished it.  These “golden years” will keep you wondering about your sanity, believe me.

My favorite recent book is “The Sun Does Shine”, written by Anthony Ray Hinton, a man who spent thirty years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. I seldom get emotional, but I will admit I had to hold back tears at times as I read this book.  I also laughed out loud a couple of times.  I’d recommend it for anyone.  The author has quite a Christian testimony, but I think even an atheist would enjoy this book.  It isn’t “preachy”.  At the last church I attended, a man who had spent time in prison took the pulpit a few times.  He had the same upbeat attitude as Ray Hinton.  I loved hearing him tell about his prison friends, and I can’t help wondering if he’s read “The Sun Still Shines”.  But I digress.

It’s about time for Cliff to get up, so I’d better finish this “letter to my readers” and get ready to make some coffee.  

Peace and love, 

Monday, January 14, 2019


We had at least ten inches of wet, heavy snow dumped on us Friday and Saturday.  It created beautiful scenes, but I've heard the roads were pretty treacherous.  We had no reason to leave home.  I went out and shoveled the sidewalks around the house, and Cliff cleared our driveway with the tractor.  He also did enough snow removal in some places so Gabe can tend to his business without having to sink through snow deeper than he is tall.  Other than that, we've just snuggled in and tried to stay comfortable.  Saturday Cliff watched the Chiefs make us proud.  Sunday our daughter and her husband brought chili and potato soup over for dinner; grandson Arick hung out here for awhile too.  I made chocolate chip cookies and banana bread so we'd have dessert.  

Now they say there may be another storm coming this weekend.

Cliff has been occasionally bringing up one certain tractor show for a long time.  It isn't until August, but it's a huge show and well-attended, so anyone who is planning on staying in a motel needs to reserve a room well ahead of time.  Yesterday he was perusing Facebook and noticed someone had posted the number to call if you intend to rent a golf cart.  "Somebody says you'd better reserve your golf cart now," he said.

"Cliff, are you saying you want to go to Rantoul again?"

"I wouldn't mind going."

The Half-Century of Progress tractor show isn't my personal choice, but if I have a chance to travel, I'll agree to anything.  And renting a golf cart would make the show a lot more pleasant for both of us.  The reason this show is not my favorite is that it's just tractors.  It's a show that sets up for the four days of the event, then it's gone.  I prefer the ones like Rollag, Minnesota, and Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, with permanent structures on the grounds and real trains, and horses.  But hey, I'll be riding in style in a golf cart, and having my meals bought for me while we're there, so I'll take one for the team.  We went to this show nine years ago, and I did a couple of blog entries about it.  Click HERE and HERE.  Anyhow, needless to say I called and reserved a motel AND a golf cart for the show in August.  I don't even buy green bananas at my age, and here I am making travel plans for seven months from now.

winter wonderland

Looks pretty weird, doesn't it?  The temperatures got high enough to start the snow sliding off the garage, but not all the way off.

On days the grandson's wife, Heather, is working, I go over there and let Apollo out to relieve himself.  Today I took Gabe along and then watched them run and play in the snow for a little while.  Gabe stole a chew-toy from him, and is taunting him with it in this picture.

And now I'll leave you with a video of their wild chase:

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Stone Soup

Honestly, I thought everybody had heard the story of stone soup, but when I mentioned it to Cliff, he wasn’t familiar with it.  I think I first heard it on Captain Kangeroo, while waiting for time to catch the school bus.  For others who aren’t familiar with it,  I’ll share the story here:

“Once upon a time, somewhere in post-war Eastern Europe, there was a great famine in which people jealously hoarded whatever food they could find, hiding it even from their friends and neighbors. One day a wandering soldier came into a village and began asking questions as if he planned to stay for the night.
"There's not a bite to eat in the whole province," he was told. "Better keep moving on."
"Oh, I have everything I need," he said. "In fact, I was thinking of making some stone soup to share with all of you." He pulled an iron cauldron from his wagon, filled it with water, and built a fire under it. Then, with great ceremony, he drew an ordinary-looking stone from a velvet bag and dropped it into the water.
By now, hearing the rumor of food, most of the villagers had come to the square or watched from their windows. As the soldier sniffed the "broth" and licked his lips in anticipation, hunger began to overcome their skepticism.
"Ahh," the soldier said to himself rather loudly, "I do like a tasty stone soup. Of course, stone soup with cabbage -- that's hard to beat."
Soon a villager approached hesitantly, holding a cabbage he'd retrieved from its hiding place, and added it to the pot. "Capital!" cried the soldier. "You know, I once had stone soup with cabbage and a bit of salt beef as well, and it was fit for a king."
The village butcher managed to find some salt beef . . . and so it went, through potatoes, onions, carrots, mushrooms, and so on, until there was indeed a delicious meal for all. The villagers offered the soldier a great deal of money for the magic stone, but he refused to sell and traveled on the next day. The moral is that by working together, with everyone contributing what they can, a greater good is achieved.”

Gabe and I were out of bed at 3 AM, as we are most mornings.  Once I’ve taken him outside and have my morning coffee made, I usually surf and read and play games online until Cliff gets up.  However, while my fingers are dancing on the keyboard, my mind is often working on what we’ll have for our noon meal, which we call dinner.  Sometimes I’ve taken care of that decision the previous night, but not this time.  I went to the deep freeze on the back porch and peered into the depths.  In a basket on the top were some small freezer bags with parts of our Christmas ham parceled out amongst them, which made me wonder whether I had any split peas in the cabinet.  It’s been awhile since we’ve had split pea soup.  

I kept digging in hopes I’d find some frozen peaches for our cereal this morning, and I did find one bag from a couple of years... slightly freezer-burnt, but they would have been fine, except that I was distracted by a larger freezer bag with some chicken skin and bones (all that was left of a Costco chicken) I’d saved for soup.  Undecided, I took that out, and a pint bag marked “ham for beans”.  Back in the kitchen I checked for split peas and found exactly one cup, the amount needed for the recipe I use.  I tossed the frozen chicken bones into a large pan, ran water over them, and started them cooking.  I remembered a large beef bone in the cross top freezer I’d been saving, and put that in with the chicken bones.  Then I went to my easy chair and began my morning computer time.  

My original thought was to strain the bones and skin out of that broth, get what tiny pieces of meat I could off it, and maybe freeze it for another day... but it smelled so good!  You see, I do get up early, but I never eat breakfast until Cliff is out of bed, usually around seven.  It doesn’t take much to start my stomach growling.  So I put some potatoes, carrots, and onion in the broth.  I kept thinking of other things to add, as the soup bubbled and simmered:  cumin, salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, celery.  Toward the end I thought of a little dab of meat from the beef short ribs I cooked three days ago and tossed that in.  When everything was almost done, I remembered there’s a head of cabbage in a crisper drawer, so a little of that went in.  

As I added first one thing and then another, I realized that’s the way the stone soup in the story came about, and happily spent the rest of my time until Cliff got up thinking about Captain Kangaroo, Bunny Rabbit, and the Stone Soup story.  Meanwhile, my stomach growled.  

When Cliff came through the kitchen, he said, “What smells so good?” 

“Stone soup,” I answered.  Then, since he wasn’t familiar with that, I told him a brief version of the story and explained how I’d taken some bones and turned them into a meal.  “I’ll fix you a bowl of cereal if you like, but I’m having soup for breakfast.”

“That’s what I’m having too,” he said.  

And that’s how we had stone soup for breakfast, without the stone.  I’ll still make the split pea soup, and maybe freeze it for a day when I don’t want to cook.

Yours truly,

Monday, January 07, 2019

People who inspire me

One reason I try to stay on the positive side when I'm using any public forum is that I know many people who have a real reasons to complain, and yet they don't.  Lots of my Facebook friends have serious problems:  Some are lonely, and simply wish there was someone to help bear the load and care about them.  Others have lost loved ones.  And I'm sure many others have problems I don't even know about, because they keep them totally to themselves.  

One man I've followed in blogs and on Facebook for many years met a lady a few years ago: they fell in love, and were getting along great, happy as can be, until the guy's ex-wife died and he took his grown, autistic, non-verbal son into their home.  His bride just couldn't handle the tantrums and other problems, and left.  I can understand her struggle, and am not placing blame.  I'm just saying that my friend is having a rough time of things.  That's really all I know about their situation, but it reminds me daily there are so many with gigantic challenges to face: things that would, I'm afraid, break me.  

I have single friends who simply wish they had somebody to love them and help share the load, and I feel for them.  Others are in constant pain, yet seldom let on.  I don't think they would want me to call them heroes, because these situations aren't something they chose, like a soldier would sign up for a war.  But they inspire me to keep going on, against all odds.  I might someday face a problem like any of theirs, but if I do, perhaps I will remember to handle it with grace, because that's what I've seen them do.  They just keep putting one foot in front of the other, one day at a time, always looking ahead.  I asked a California friend to write about her situation.  I didn't tamper with the words at all, because it's her story to tell as she wanted.  Meet my friend, Nancy.


On December 13, 2014 our lives were turned upside down. My husband Bill was taken to the hospital emergency room. He had not been feeling well for a few days with what we thought was a cold. He didn’t go to the doctor, as he felt like he was getting better. 
In the ER they started running tests to see what was causing, at that time, weakness in his legs etc. As tests went on his condition worsened. After hours in the ER, he was put on a ventilator. The tests finally lead to the initial diagnosis of Pneumococcal Meningitis . This later was change to the final diagnosis of Transverse Myelitis. 
Bill was on the ventilator in ICU for 12 days. When he was taken off the ventilator we were told he would be going to a Rehab Hospital in a few days for therapy to see if he would regain use of his legs, as he was paralyzed from mid-chest down. He was in that hospital for 30 days. He did not get any feeling back in his legs. He was discharged at that time.
We brought Bill home January 29, 2015. We had a physical therapist come to the house twice a week to work with him.  After a few sessions Medicare quit paying for the therapist. Bill’s neurologist recommended we go to Hanford, CA to a sports specialist for more therapy. Hanford is 45 miles from where we live so we drove there twice a week. For 16 sessions. Again, that’s all Medicare would pay for. Nothing helped. Doctors had warned us it might take 9  12 months before the nerves would ‘wake-up’. And sometimes they don’t ever come back.
A year went by and still no signs of improvement. After a year and a half, the neurologist told us that there was no more he could do in our situation. After that length of time the chances are it’s permanent. So here we are.
Bill has a motorized wheel chair, hospital bed, a Hoyer Lift and sling to transfer him from bed to chair etc.He has a catheter to deal with too. A nurse comes out once a month to change that for us.
We have a converted van to take him to Dr. appointments. (our daughter Valerie and son in love Charlie bought it for us) We have a CNA (Certified Nurse’s Assistant) that comes every other day to help with his bowel elimination needs. We pay out of pocket for this service. It really is frustrating that Medicare won’t do more to help us. We are blessed in so many ways and I’m not complaining, but it seems like after all we have paid into the system we can’t get more in home help. Bill is 74 now and I’m 71. I’m here with him 24/7. Our daughter Valerie comes on Wednesdays and helps me give Bill a shower. (Every day during the week we use cleansing body wipes for daily grooming etc.) Valerie comes back on Thursdays and stays all day so that I can go out and run what errands I need to for the week. We are so blessed to have her here in town. Our other daughter, Erin lives in Las Vegas, NV and comes about every two months for a few days visit. She works full time, is working on her degree in Social Work, and she’s mama to our 5 grandchildren.
Bill is able to feed himself , brush his teeth, shave, comb his hair. Put his shirt on and pull his pants up just above his knees. Then I finish pulling his pants up and put his compression socks and slippers on for him. He lifts a 5# weight every day to keep his arms strengthened. He also has a breathing machine (the kind they use in hospitals after a patient has surgery to keep the lungs strong and clear.) He uses that every day too. To keep his lungs clear. 
He is able to be up in his chair daily for about 4 hours. Because his paralysis is up high on his chest, it’s hard for him to breathe while he’s in his wheel chair and he tires easily after he’s been in it for a while. His upper body strength is also compromised so it’s hard for him to keep his balance while in the chair. The chair is motorized and has several position adjustments which help him to sit in it. But he is more comfortable in bed. He gets tired of being in bed by himself all day too, that’s why we get him up as often as we can.
We have wonderful neighbors who have lived next door for 41 years. They are like family and we would be lost without them. We have so much to be thankful for. I have not been sick one day since we brought Bill home. And I usually always get a cold or bronchitis every winter. God has been with us every step of this journey. Also, Bill is doing great health wise. He has no other issues other than the big one, that being, the not being able to walk etc. He gets frustrated at times. I do to. My biggest frustration is the not being able to travel like we were planning to do when he retired in 2015. We are pretty much held captive by this condition. Transverse Myelitis is very debilitating.
We are so thankful that through all of this Bill has not had to deal with pain because of the paralysis mid-chest down. On the other hand we have to be careful of how we move him around so as to not injure him in some way. Also, because of this condition his body regulates his temperature differently now. Even in the hot summer his right hand and arm always feels cold to him.  It’s frustrating to him at times.
We are so thankful that we have a network of friends and family that pray for us every day. Otherwise we would not make it day by day. We know God is able to heal and make whole that which illness and disease has destroyed. We trust in HIM. We lean on HIM. No matter what we face every day. HE is with us and will do what is best for us.
Going in to our 5th year on this journey called life. Facing all obstacles with God’s strength.
Thank you to ALL who love us and pray for us. Bill & Nancy Skaggs

How my childhood shaped me

In a comment on my previous entry by Internet friend Margaret, ever the teacher, she posed this question:  “How do you think your experiences have shaped you?”

Boy, did that ever make me ponder, and I came to realize something:  Even though I was a natural loner as a child, I never realized how out-of-step I was with other people until we became city-dwellers.  In a small-town and farm community, people seemed to accept others even if they are different.  But after we moved to Kansas City when I was in the middle of the sixth grade, I looked around and realized “one of these things is not like the other”... and I was the odd one out!  Most of my clothes up to this time had been made by my mother, so I dressed differently than the other kids in the big city school; I was still wearing the clothes of a little girl, cotton dresses that had a bow tied in back; the other girls wore styles similar to what teenagers and adults wore,

can-can slip

Daddy’s first job in the city didn’t work out, and he was out of work awhile before he found a permanent factory job.  We must have been living pretty close to the bone, because I recall being the only girl in school who didn’t have a can-can slip.  Now at that time, girls would wear two or three of those slips at once, and my parents couldn’t even afford one!  This was also the time when sack dresses came into style; one of my friends had a burlap-sack dress, the only one of its kind I ever saw.  

Oh yes, in sixth grade I did still have some friends.  Three or four of us girls would hang out together on the playground at recess.  It was when I got to Junior High that I really turned into a wallflower.  

Part of the problem was the fact that we moved so often, so I changed schools, from North Kansas City high school (which included junior high) to Northgate Junior high.  It’s a terrible feeling to show up at a new school where nobody knows you, and this happened to me all through school.  Then it was back to North Kansas City High School again, a huge school indeed!  Changing classses all the time, with different people in each class, didn’t make for close friendships, and this is when I truly became a loner... and learned to like it that way.  I had NO friends (except a couple of my sweet girl cousins, and I only saw them in school).  I kept to myself more and more.  While other people were dating and running around with friends, I was going home, shutting myself away in my bedroom, and listening to my records of all the teen idols of the day (and don’t forget Elvis).  I never once had a date while I was in high school, although I was asked a couple of times; I turned them down cold.  My mother tried to fix me up with a “nice church boy”, but that was a disaster.  I wasn’t interested.  He came by for a visit a couple of times, but I retreated to my room and he was left talking to my mom.  I was just more comfortable keeping to myself.  Mother was a very social person.  She loved people, and had loads of friends wherever she went.  I’m sure she was dumbfounded at my behavior.  

Cliff and I sometimes discuss the difference in our upbringings.  We were both from relatively poor families, but my parents always paid their bills; his parents didn’t.  My parents went to church three times a week... except for one brief period of a year to two Cliff recalls, his parents didn’t attend church much.  He says this is the reason I love to go to church and sing the hymns, while he’d rather stay home and work in the shop.  

On another note:  a Facebook friend commented on something I recently posted, telling me, “You always seem so happy.”  

That’s a deliberate choice.  I’ve been on Facebook enough to realize what a downer it is to see somebody always looking for sympathy or talking about every little problem they have.  How can I act like I’m dying “every time I have a fart crossways” as my mother-in-law used to say, when I have friends going through real tragedies who never complain or beg for sympathy?  I believe I’m as happy as most, and happier than many, but I am sometimes depressed.  I have aches and pains.  I simply don’t think it would serve any purpose to go to social media and talk about it.  

All in all, I wouldn’t change anything about my upbringing.  I don’t mind being the free spirit, the hippie element, the old crone, the hermit... whatever box you’d like to place me in, feel free, but don’t expect me to stay there.  

And now I’m going to go peel some potatoes.  Mashed potatoes and gravy will be really good with the short ribs I’m cooking for dinner.

God bless you, every one.

Saturday, January 05, 2019

Making believe

I was two years old when my sister got married.  From then on, our household consisted of Mother, Daddy, and me.  We lived in rural areas, so there weren’t a lot of children around, except when we lived in the tiny “town” of Guss:  There, the people across the road had kids I sometimes played with.  Most times, though, I was left to my own devices.  I passed time reading (lots of Bobbsey Twins books) and pretending.  Oh, yes... I pretended a LOT!

I was thinking yesterday of all the ways I used my imagination as a child.  My favorite fantasy, as I’ve often mentioned here, was being an Indian.  I surrounded myself with a whole (invisible) tribe, and often switched from one role to another... from chief to medicine man to squaw with a papoose on her back.  I recall around the time I was eleven when we lived on Glen Wyant’s farm, I was wandering around in the woods when it occurred to me that an Indian living in the woods would surely have a campfire.  So I went to the house, got some matches, and returned to the woods.  I found  a nice, secluded, low spot sheltered from the wind, gathered dry leaves and sticks, and made myself a lovely fire.  Looking back, it’s a wonder I didn’t catch the woods on fire.  Something about the smell of a campfire burning enhanced the whole experience.  Several years ago when I had my cabin in the woods here, it occurred to me I might be trying to replicate my happy childhood experiences of playing Indian.  

One time at the one-room country school in Iowa, probably when I was five or six, we’d had a big snow.  At recess, we children went out to play.  Another little girl and I decided to burrow a cave into the tall drift, and I guess I kept saying, “Let’s play like we are cowboys”, or “Let’s play like this is our house.”  Apparently I was using the term a little too often, because I recall the little girl saying in a sarcastic way, “Play like.  Play like.  That’s all you ever say.”
Isn’t it strange, although I don’t remember the girl’s name, that I still feel humiliated when I think of this?  Anyhow, I believe I stopped using the words “Play like” from then on.  This may have been the same little girl who had a birthday party the following spring:  There were hollyhocks growing along the lane to her house, so we decided to make hollyhock dolls:  This may have been the day I realized what a loudmouth I am, because as we fashioned our dolls, we chattered away; the birthday girl said, “You are talking so loud I can’t hear myself think!”  So I stopped conversing and kept my mouth shut for the rest of the party.

I never could take constructive criticism very well.  Just ask Cliff.

I would spend a week at Grandma’s house every summer.  Her front yard had a steep bank slanting steeply down to the road.  One day I saw an airplane flying overhead and got thinking what a wonderful thing it would be to fly.  I ran several yards back from that bank, turned, and ran as fast as I could toward the road, then jumped off the bank in hopes it would feel like flying.  It didn’t, not at all (after all, I only had about one or two seconds in the air), but I tried several times more to catch the feeling of flying by jumping from the top of that incline.  

I often imagined I was riding a horse when I was walking down the road alone at Grandma’s.  I’d sort of jog down the gravel road, trying to get the feel of a horse trotting, my right hand posed in front of me as though holding reins.  I could almost feel like I was riding a horse.  I wandered in the woods at Grandma’s and of course, at Glen Wyant’s farm when we lived there.  When it was just me, I did a lot of making believe.

At some point when we lived in Eagleville, I read a book about the circus, and for a few months I was fascinated with the idea of “running away to join the circus”.  That’s when I invented one of my most “real” pretend games.  I gathered cardboard boxes and cut “bars” in the sides to make cages.  I caught one of Mother’s laying hens and put her in one cage, pronouncing her an ostrich.  I put the cat in another cage and turned her magically into a lion (the lion kept escaping).  I had a pet pigeon Daddy’s Uncle Bill had given me to raise, so I made a cage for him.  I let him remain a pigeon, as I recall.  

We moved to Kansas City when I was in the middle of sixth grade.  I was devastated, leaving the Wyant farm.  I guess that’s when I stopped pretending so much, since there were people around all the time.  The only place I found solitude was on the river side of the levee, which was right across the street from our first apartment in Harlem.  If I wanted to be alone, it was the perfect place, and there were plenty of big rocks to sit on and dream.

That’s it for today.


Thursday, January 03, 2019

Hello. Welcome to 2019

I’ve been negligent about blogging, but there just isn’t that much happening in winter.  Thank goodness for books!  Cliff and I have both been reading one book after another.  I’m almost done with “Killers of the Flower Moon”, a book that proves truth is stranger than fiction and that people are capable of all kinds of terrible deeds.  Most of the fowl deeds the book tells about happened in and around Pawhuska, Oklahoma, home these days to Pioneer Woman and her businesses.  

When we visited my sister, my nephew’s wife recommended three books written by David Balducci, known as the memory man series   Cliff already read the first two and just started the third and last book in the series today.  If I ever run out of other books to read, I’ll see if I like these as well as Cliff does.  Meanwhile I have three actual paper-and-hard-cover books (biographies of country music artists) that I’ve bought and paid for, and have no idea when I’ll get to them.  My cup runneth over!   My next library book is waiting patiently on the iPad:  “Before We Were Yours”.

It’s been cold.  I checked the propane tank yesterday and found it at 60%.  They only fill it to 80%, so in the last month or so, we’ve taken it down quite a bit.  Now we’re looking forward to a warmup through the next week or more.  I dread the mud that comes with a thaw; I’ll have a muddy dog every time I take him for a walk.  Or maybe I’ll skip the walk.  

On days Heather works, I walk to their house and let Apollo, their Great Dane, out for a potty break.  He’s a big old lazy pup, and today he didn’t seem to interested in staying outside once he’d gotten in a few big stretches.  I like taking Gabe over there with me, but as I said, it’s muddy.  Yuck.  He has an appointment with the groomer Monday.    

I’ve spent the past couple of days figuring out our new Medicare provider.  We switched because this company offered what sounds like the best deal, but I’ve had to sign up on websites and call customer service and all sorts of not-so-fun things.  This plan offers some benefits for dentists and optometrists, and even pay some on hearing aids and glasses.  I had to pay $250 recently as my part of a CT scan; this company would only make me pay $75.  

Having nothing of interest to write, I believe I’ll get back to reading.

Your friend,