Tuesday, August 31, 2004

weight loss

Cliff said, a while back, that he'd like to lose weight.  We've both put on the pounds in these past two years, but we haven't really gotten motivated to do anything about it.  He asked about the Atkins diet (both of our kids have had success with it).  I said, "You don't have to eat special food to lose weight; just eat small portions."

So, he started monitoring what he eats; so far he's lost thirty pounds.  At first he didn't weigh:  too disappointing, he said... you check the scales and find out you gained a pound overnight.  Besides, I couldn't find the scales!

About two weeks into his diet, I noticed my clothes seemed looser, and my curiousity got the best of me.  I hunted around until I finally found the scales, which I had stored away in my "junk room" upstairs (when I'm in the weight-gaining process, I never weigh myself.  It's sort of a denial process... if you don't weigh, perhaps you won't gain?)

Lo and behold, I had lost twelve pounds, and hadn't even been trying!  And by this time, Cliff had lost twenty.  That gave me the motivation I needed, and now I've lost 19 pounds.  He's lost over 30.  We're digging out clothes we hadn't worn in years, and really feeling good about ourselves.

I had gotten into the habit of coming home and snacking all evening; but since I got Mandy, I started spending time playing games with her, and working on her training.  And then there's Blue, my horse.  I've ridden a lot this summer, which is good exercise, and keeps me away from food.  And when there's plenty to do at work, my job involves constant walking, lifting, bending and pushing.  So once I limit my intake, I lose weight pretty easily.

Whatever the reason, I'm enthusiastic now, and hoping to lose another fifteen or twenty pounds.  Wish us both luck! 

I know there's nothing more boring than someone else's diet, so there will be no more entries about weight loss until I get under 150 pounds.  Haven't you noticed how people on a diet tend to sit around and tell you what they had for each meal?  "All I had for dinner was.... "  So I really try to keep my food selections to myself. 

Sunday, August 29, 2004

My Many Rides to Work

I've worked at my job over four years.  I don't drive, so I depend on someone else to get me to work.  A neighbor right across the highway, so close I can see her house from my front porch, was my first ride to work; I set the price at $5 a day, and it is well worth that.  We had lots of laughs, and enjoyed one another's company, often making side trips to Wal Mart or the grocery store on the way home.  Then her daughter started working at the same place, on second shift.  So the daughter brought her son to work with her and handed him off to Grandma, and it was three of us.  The trouble is, this child never really cared for me.  He'd sit in the car seat behind me and kick at my back; he tossed his chewing gum in my hair.  If his grandma and I were trying to visit, he'd yell, "Shut up!"  He wanted to go to McDonald's or Wal Mart (for a toy) every night, and showed extreme displeasure if we didn't.  Plus, we found ourselves waiting in the parking lot for 20 to 30 minutes after work for our little charge to arrive.  Finally I got my nerve up and started riding with someone else, a sweet, quiet lady named Pam who always drove straight home.  The trouble with her was that she missed a lot of work, and I'm paranoid about that.  I have perfect attendence for all four years I've been at the distribution center.  I'd have to scrape and scrounge another way to get to work, and ended up riding with Tracy, an assistant supervisor at work, more that with Pam.  One day Tracy said, "You know, you may as well just ride with me all the time."

You'd have to have been a mouse in the car to know how much fun it's been riding with Tracy, in spite of the fact that she's had a year from Hell:  she's lost her dad, her mother-in-law, and her favorite little dog in the past months.  And now one of her best friends from work is dying of cancer.  Even so, I've had more laughs with this lady than anyone has a right to.  She graduated with my son, and we often reminisce about rock music from the 80's.  Sometimes we stop by Sonic and she gets Cheddar peppers, and I'm her ranch-dip holder.  I hold the dip so she can drive and dip.  And we've ridden in everything from a '67 Mustang to a Dodge pickup (yeah, it's got a hemi) and everything in between.  Her husband recently bought a motorcycle, and I wouldn't have been surprised if Tracy had shown up on that and handed me a helmet.   

She recently scheduled a weekly appointment on Thursday nights after work, and as I tried to decide who I'd ride with on those nights, it only made sense to ask my neighbor, Judy, the one I first started with.  Her grandson is now in school, and her daughter has a different, daytime job.

Cliff and I discussed this (he works with the same neighbor's son, and rides to work with him).  We both agreed that she's the sensible one for me to ride with.  "But," I said, "If I'm going to swallow my pride and ask to ride with her, it seems to me I should just start riding with her all the time."  Cliff agreed.

This lady had been somewhat offended when I stopped riding with her a couple of years ago, and it was hard for me to make the call.  I've gone to dentists before without as much heart-pounding fear as I had calling Judy.  After trying in vain yesterday, I made the connection today.  So I'm back with her.

But it was even harder to tell Tracy I was switching, because she has become like one of my own kids.  She has been so good to me, and for me.  I'll see her at work, but we won't trade our little secrets like we did in the car on our trek back and forth.  She's the one who's responsible for me getting Mandy.  She's a fountain of useless information.  She knows every single citizen of my town AND most adjoining towns, and who they've had affairs with, and what house each of them lived in twenty years ago.

Tracy, I hope you're reading this, because I love you.  You are a gift to me and to the world, and the best ride to work I ever had.  God bless you.


Today is my granddaughter, Natalie's, birthday.  We had steak for dinner and her mom brought the cake and ice cream.  Cliff was helping our friend at the winery again today, so Natalie and Monica got to stomp the Concord grapes Cliff picked off our vines.  Last year, his first attempt at wine-making was quite successful.  I may never have any grapes for jelly again!

It's Nattie's birthday, but both of the girls got in on the action.

Monica even made a sign for the occasion:

Finally, it's starting to look like juice instead of just grapes!

What a way for a girl to spend her seventh birthday.

Saturday, August 28, 2004


I have three granddaughters here spending the night:

Natalie, fresh out of the shower....

Monica, wearing the star-hat she made....

and Amber, sitting on Grandpa's lap.  Nope, you don't get too old to sit on Grandpa's lap.

toadstools in the yard

Cliff is working six hours today.  It's rough on him to work Saturdays because his normal shift is 3:30 to midnight.  In order to work Saturday, he has to go in on the day shift.  They let him come in a couple hours late, though.  So he gets four hours of sleep... wakes up at 5, leaves at 6, works till 2.

Rain still threatens, so I didn't want to leave on horseback this morning.  I took Mandy out for a couple of "sit-stay-heel" lessons, and saw what, at first glance, looked like golfballs in the front yard.  That's my neighbor, Marvin's, place in the background.

On closer inspection, I saw we had a toadstool invasion.  They seem to be growing in pairs.

I let Mandy off her leash to see what she'd do.

Of course she was a bit cautious, but soon curiousity overcame her fear.

Obviously no smell....

.... and no sound....

They must be safe to play with!


Friday, August 27, 2004


August 27, 2004

I've learned, while on the Internet,
To hold my feelings tight
And not divulge my politics
Nor lean toward left or right.
If I should state opinions,
Someone's bound to take offense.
So I refrain from typing
When the situation's tense.

I watch the silly squabbles
As adults behave like kids.
I see abuse heaped on my friends,
Yet keep my feelings hid.
It's sad to see the damage done
By those who must control.
Each one has faithful followers
To help him play his role.

I've seen it in the chat rooms
And on every message board.
It seems like folks can't get along
And stay in one accord.
Dear Lord, it's hard to watch it...
After all, I'm not a saint.
For this one thing, I'm thankful:
I believe I've learned restraint.


Thursday, August 26, 2004

scared of the bull

Each evening I turn my horse, Blue, out in a small fenced pasture area to graze.  He's been foundered in the past, so his time on grass has to be limited.  I shut the gate to the big pasture and leave him grazing for an hour or more.  Then I take the rope, snap it to his halter, and lead him back to his pen.  Sometimes the cows are there, but I just shut them in with Blue, rather than chase them out.

For the past couple of months, Cliff's brother's bull has been here doing his yearly duty.  This big guy has never chased anyone as far as I know, but I'm scared of him.  I've been around cattle all my life, and shouldn't be so silly... but I get bad vibes from THE BULL, and avoid him as much as possible.

Tonight the cows and bull were in the pen, so I turned Blue out with them and shut the far gate.  When it was time to get my horse, guess who was standing right near the gate I had to walk through:  yep, THE BULL.  Well, I acted as though I didn't see him and strolled to my horse, lead rope in hand.  I snapped the rope onto his halter, then led him to the far gate leading to the pasture, which had to be opened for the cows.  THE BULL snorted and pawed, and I trembled.  So, I put Blue between me and the beast.  Now, you're supposed to lead horses from their left side, but I broke the rule this time.  I lived through it, but I will surely be glad when that bull goes back home. 

Weekend assignment #21

Weekend Assignment #21: Everyone had a subject in school they like better than all the rest. What was yours? And what's the most memorable thing you learned?

My favorite class, I guess, was English Literature, as taught by Miss Mary Ellen Dedman.  I've always enjoyed reading and writing, and I especially liked Miss Dedman's laid-back, meandering style of teaching.

The most memorable thing I learned from her is this (paraphrased, of course):  "After you graduate, your education doesn't end, even if you don't go on to college.  As long as you read, you are learning."

I don't know how many times over the years I've said to myself, "I haven't read a book in ages; I'd better read one for Miss Dedman."

chat room reunions

I believe I got my first computer in 1998, after much urging from my then-daughter-in-law.  I was apprehensive, having read horror stories about the horrible people on the Internet.  "I'll never go into a chat room," I assured my family.

But I did.  Most of the chats I checked were overcrowded and unfriendly, and downright obscene in their language.   But finally, some way or other, I stumbled onto a Christian Senior chat room.  To get there, I recall you had to go to a website first, and enter the room from there.  I believe that's what kept the room a manageable size, because it wasn't as easy to access as most AOL rooms.

Before long, I felt like I knew some of the folks there:  Galen, WESTBILT, LonaMay, Sprkl... the list goes on.  And when they started talking about having a Dallas chat room reunion, I wanted badly to go.  LonaMay, who lives south of me, in Arkansas, offered to let me ride with her, but my husband wasn't about to send me off with some stranger, to meet a passle of other strangers!  So, he took me to Dallas.  He found the crowd to be a harmless group, and after that, he allowed me to go on my own to several of these functions.  Here's a picture from the second Dallas reunion I attended:

Thanks to the fact that I got a job, I've been to Kentucky and North Carolina, for reunions.  I've been back to the Dallas reunion at least three times, and to an Arkansas gathering.  I never flew until I started going to reunions, but I sure have earned my wings now.  Many of the people I met in that old chat room have died, and some have just disappeared.  But I still chat with a lot of folks from that old group.  Here's a picture from Charlotte:

Wow, I was skinnier then (I'm in the middle, front row).

Well, the old chat room is long gone, and some of the old group still chats in a couple of AOL rooms, and in private rooms at times.  We still have reunions once in awhile though; now my friend, BooDotte, and I have decided it's time to try hosting a Kansas City reunion, perhaps for next July.  We're in the first stage of planning, trying to decide which to Kansas City landmarks we should introduce our friends:  The Truman Library, we've agreed, is a must-see.  And perhaps the Hallmark Visitor's Center on the Plaza.  In three days, there's only so much you can do and see, and still leave time to visit with one another.  Do we dare take them to Arthur Bryant's barbecue?  That's the place that made Kansas City barbecue famous, but it's in a pretty sleazy part of town.  I can hear my husband now, saying, "You're taking those people WHERE????"

But it's exciting to think about, and it seems a lot of folks are interested in coming to the great midwest for such a shindig.  Here's hoping it all comes together; the good Lord willing, it will.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

just rambling

The older I get, the more I think adults act like children.  The years I stayed home raising  children (and later, calves) I forgot how cruel and spiteful people can be.  Four years of working at a job out in the real world serves to remind me.

I have a co-worker who is, for the most part, hated by everyone.  Now, I'll grant you she's not the fastest worker in the place, but she's far from the slowest, too.  Let's call her "Shirley", since there's nobody by that name in my department.  She's one of those people who, just by speaking, seems to get on one's nerves.  However, she doesn't have a clue that she strikes people this way, and she truly can't help it. 

Yesterday my supervisor teamed Shirley up with two of the most spiteful people in the building.  Shirley said to me, "I have to work with two people who hate me."

I thought, "You poor thing, it'd be hard to find someone around here who doesn't."

Toward the end of the day, Shirley and her team-mates got done with their job, and she approached me (I had worked alone all day).  "Chris said to find someone to help for the rest of the day; are you working alone?"

"Sure," I said.  "Open those boxes and then go split the mod for two people."

We finished up the day together.  Standing in line at the time clock, another co-worker said, "I'm sorry you got stuck with Shirley."

"I have no problem with her," I replied.  "I feel sorry for her because everybody hates her; I remember times when I was the little girl nobody liked."

End of conversation.

Mandy is asleep with her head on my foot as I type.  She's starting to understand "heel" and "sit".  It's awfully hard for her to restrain herself from jumping up on me, but I think this is mainly because the neighborhood boys encourage her all day long to jump on them.  However, this dog is smart enough that I believe she'll figure out who she can jump on with impunity.  She seems to be entirely housebroken now.  She will whine at the door, and if I ignore her, she gets louder and louder until I respond.  I believe it was Celeste who said I had better get Mandy used to baths, if she is going to be an inside-outside dog.  Boy, was she right!  Today my pup will get her booster shots, and as soon as I have $90 to spare, she will be spayed.  She's worth every penny spent on her.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

My first school

In April, 1949, the Des Moines Register Sunday supplement featured Skinner School (my first school) as an example of how the "little red school house" had gone modern.  That rather sad-looking five-year-old in the green-and-yellow dress in the right-hand row, next to the back seat, is me.

Here's the outside of the school.  Looking at these pictures brings back more memories than you can imagine!

Back to the present, we got lots of rain and thunderstorms yesterday and last night.  I'd look west toward Kansas City and think it was clearing... and then another round would start!  Of course when I'm at work I have no idea what the weather is like outside, except on my two twenty-minute breaks, when I can look out a window.  And on days like yesterday, when you can hear thunder rolling outside.  I used to get depressed on rainy days, but now I rather enjoy them.  Wow, I hear thunder in the distance even now!

Monday, August 23, 2004

more on the winery

When we arrived at Tim's yesterday, migrant workers were picking the Seyval grapes.  Monica and Natalie, of course, had to taste the product.

That's Tim, the owner of the vineyard, with them.  When the guys hauled the grapes to the shed, their first destination is the de-stemmer.  Notice the stems at the lower left.


Next they go to the press (nope, they don't have lovely ladies stomp them any more, like Lucille Ball on the old "I Love Lucy" show).

Here's a peek inside the press:

The juice goes to be chilled....

Here are some onlookers standing by the cooling tank:

Below is a holding tank with last year's grapes, almost wine now; that tag you see tells what's in the tank, as well as the last date when anything was done to it (8-6-04   Guiseppe  60 gallons).


Sunday, August 22, 2004

a visit to New Oak Vineyards Winery

Cliff often helps our former neighbor and long-time friend at his vineyard, which is just getting established.  Tim works at General Motors, but he figures this winery will be a good retirement for him.  He just set up a retail building this year, and it's doing great, especially considering that he isn't advertising yet.  He feels he'd run out of his product right now, if too many folks came.  But word of mouth is doing quite a job for him, and he's already making the payments on the place.  It's worth visiting, just for the view.  Barbara will let you sample all their varieties, sell you wine by the drink (and cheese trays to go with it)...

and you can sit on the deck and watch fish flop on the lake (that's my daughter in the picture).

Below you'll see my granddaughters standing by the retired wine vat at the entrance to New Oak Vineyards.

Tomorrow I'll show you some pictures of the wine-making process, which my husband and son-in-law helped with today.

Old stuff again

I was nosing through my mom's old keepsakes again, and found my very first report card.  In Iowa at that time, they had a grade called "primary" instead of Kindergarten.  That's what this report card is from.

I remember my first teacher quite well, and wrote to her a few years back to thank her for her efforts.  She had eight grades to teach in a one-room schoolhouse (picture to be posted at another time).

In many ways, I haven't changed:  I got a "V" for "very seldom" on "has independent work habits".  And another "V" for "show leadership within group".  Yep, that's me alright!  My teacher was very insightful to recognize this when I was five years old.  I wonder what the "U" stood for?  Unsatisfactory?  I guess Mrs. Eighmy made up a special classification just for me.


Friday, August 20, 2004

Our pride and joy

Here's Mandy, lying on her favorite rug which she's in the process of shredding to her liking, with a sponge she stole from Cliff's shop and carried in, herself, to chew on:

Our dog, Brandy, died in May...
Hit by a car, she slipped away.
That old Chow had been around
Through fourteen years of ups and downs.
The vacant place where once she lay
Haunted us, by night and day.
We heard about abandoned pups
And went right off to pick one up.

Part Blue Heeler, mostly Heinz,
With not a trace of blue-blood lines.
Off to the vet... no time was lost,
And our "free dog" began to cost.
Still, she's made us laugh and smile;
The money spent is all worthwhile.
Purebred dogs are fine for yuppies:
We will keep our mongrel puppy.

Cliff and I are both regaled
By swapping tons of doggy tales.
Never was a dog so smart
Nor seemed so cute, to steal our hearts.
Her half-curled tail that stays askew...
The way she plays, and loves to chew...
That funny way she'll romp and strut...
She's quite a dog, our little mutt.





Thursday, August 19, 2004

Weekend assignment #20

Weekend Assignment #20: Tell us about your favorite entry of your own from the last 366 days (it's a leap year). Tell us why it still resonates for you.

I like positive people, and I try to be one; it makes me feel good to think I might have brightened someone's day... especially if it's one of my family.  The entry I've chosen as my favorite holds that position partly because of the comment my daughter left.

So here it is, my favorite entry

Extra Credit: Show us your favorite picture from your Journal in the last year.

This one was more difficult, but I settled on one of my horse rolling in the dust.


Christmas is coming

I work in a distribution center for a nation-wide retailer, and the Christmas selling-season has started.  They're talking about overtime already, and hiring temps for the upcoming rush.  I've doubled up on the Celebrex and glucosamine in hopes my knees make it through December.  Ah well, as I wrote in one of my poems, "Pain is a Faithful Teacher".

I like my hours, 6 AM to 2 PM, because this schedule gives me quite a bit of evening time to play with my animals and mess around on the Internet, even when I work Saturdays.  I'm a morning person, so I have no problem getting up early.  Of course, I'm usually in bed by 8.

My puppy, Mandy, is eating and growing fast.  She understands what "no" means, and isn't jumping up on me nearly as much as she did.  We're working on "heel" and "sit", but there's a long way to go.  I'm afraid I'm not the wisest teacher in the world!; I read instructions on the Internet about how to train puppies, but in real life things don't always work as well as they do in print.  Cliff built a pen from which Mandy can't escape, so my horse has his stall back.  Our renter, Vicki, calls it "doggie jail".  Mandy can come in the house, but Cliff and I don't want a full-time house dog, and we don't want her running our country neighborhood all night long, like the other dozen or so dogs around here.  I do love this mutt, and I really want her to turn out well.  She's a great companion already... all she needs is some refinement and restraint.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Our Last Day At The Fair

President Bush looks a bit pale here, doesn't he?

The first thing we did on Saturday, our last day at the fair, was window-shop for a tractor we thought Cliff would like.  Here's the one we chose (never mind the fact that you could barely turn this rig around on our 42 acres, or that it costs more than our place is worth)

Then we found the spot for the Adriatic tiger show and got a good seat on the bleachers, because it attracts a huge crowd. 

These big cats are amazing!  They cuddle up with their trainer like pussycats before the show.  (It's also amazing how much they can poop... and how much it stinks!  And they frequently mark their territory by spraying... the girls and I said, "Eeewwwww" several times.)  Unlike last year's big-cat show, these were well-trained, and put on a good show. 

We saw Professor Farquar for the second time during our visit.  He performs a vaudeville-type act in the Mo-Ag Theater, with songs, jokes, and a bit of magic.  I've been watching him for at least ten years now, and he's always enjoyable.  Monica asked to sit on the front row, while Natalie chose to take off her shoes and play in the big tractor-tires full of corn and soybeans (it's like sandboxes, only with grain instead of sand). 

Farquar asked for a volunteer for his magic act, and Natalie, with chocolate ice cream around her mouth, barefoot and covered with corn-dust, volunteered from far back.  Perhaps not the tidiest assistant he ever had, but certainly willing.

After that we saw a wonderful group of street entertainers, The Procrastinators:  These college-age guys made music with drumsticks, empty Culligan-bottles and old pots and pans. 

On our way back to the camper, we ran into a robot that must have been nine or ten feet tall; I wanted to take a picture of him with the girls, but they were scared of him... so the only photo I got was his backside, retreating in the distance.

I've only hit the high spots of our three-day adventure at the fair:  we watched a cooking demonstration, petted a live snake, talked to Otto the talking car, and so many more things.  It was a busy and fun time for me and my granddaughters.  I hope I'm able to do this until they reach the age where the fair no longer interests them; and that will happen, as it has with other grandchildren.  So I'll enjoy it while I can.



Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Friday was Ride Day

I had paid $20 each at Lowe's for wristbands for the three of us, so we'd have unlimited rides for one whole day.  Our main goal, on Friday, was to get all the use we could out of those!  Since the midway doesn't open till noon, we had a little time to kill, and chose to see the "extreme canines" dog act.  These incredible creatures have been on the Tonight Show, Animal Planet, and other TV shows.  They're frisbee champs, and also run obstacle courses, going through tunnels and leaping high barriers.

Then we rode...

and rode....

and I even watched the girls get stuck in one ride; the guy running it had a messed-up hand (a run-in with a sledge hammer, he said) and even after he called for help, they couldn't get the door to open:

Finally they just lifted the girls out OVER the stuck door; it makes one wonder just how safe it is to ride these contraptions at the fair, doesn't it?

One thing the girls kept going back to each day (free, thank goodness) was the Bungee Run:  kids climb up onto this inflatable platform, tie a belt around their waists that's attached to a bungee cord, and see how far they can get before they're pulled back.  This was a very popular item with all the younger fair-goers.

Of course, you're always running into interesting new characters along the way, like Bartholamule.

I did get on some of the rides with the kids.  I've always lovedthe Ferris Wheel and the Merry-go-round, and the tilt-a-whirl is my VERY favorite.

By the time Ride Friday was over, we were all dragging as we went back to the camper for the night.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Charley Daniels concert

We saw most of the Governor's speech Thursday evening at the fair, but the parade had run a little late, and I could see we were in danger of not getting a seat in the grandstand, to see Charlie Daniels.  And in fact, we did end up pretty high and far away; but with the big screens on each side of the stage, we got to see the show anyhow.


A little way behind us were some guys in a real party mood, buying those $5 beers from the vender like they were going out of style.  They cheered and whistled for the canned music that was playing before the concert.  One man had an ear-splitting whistle that Monica wasn't too fond of, and she kept giving him dirty looks.  I wondered if they'd ruin the whole thing for us, but really, they didn't.  The noisiest one must have been a real hard-core Charlie Daniels fan, because when the show started, he seemed to be familiar with every word of every song.  And every once in a while, we'd get that loud whistle!  I kid you not, he was buying beers (did I mention they were $5 apiece?) four at a time, setting them on the bench in front of him, and chugging them down.

Old redneck Charlie is OK, although he never was a favorite of mine;  I do like "Long-haired Country Boy", from thirty years ago.  He leaned a bit toward rock music on the instrumentals, and the girls got bored at times.  But then he did a number where he dueled each instrument in the band with his fiddle, and that got us all perked up.  It was great fun, and went on quite a while. 

Charlie announced that he was going to sing "a song of praise to my Lord and my God" and led into "How Great Thou Art".  This brought a new wave of whistles and shouting from my inebriated friend, and I looked back to see him standing, hat off, head bowed... and at one point, hands raised.  And suddenly I stopped judging, and realized that God most likely accepted that man's heartfelt worship just as surely as He accepts mine in church. 

After the concert there was quite a delay, so we headed back to the campground; but we hadn't gotten too far from the grandstand before the fireworks started, so we stopped and watched awhile before ending our amazing first day at the Missouri State Fair.